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Disclaimer: The characters Miss Parker, Sydney, Jarod, Broots etc. and the fictional Centre, are all property of MTM and NBC Productions and used without permission. I'm not making any money out of this and no infringement is intended.


Pretender Payback
PART 24: Between Shadow and Light
by KB



As the lights went down again, the characters waited for the inevitable ring to appear. So they were a little nonplused when only about one tenth of the usual number began to appear.

"What happened?" smirked Lyle. "Did the others get a little sick of your games?"

KB shook her head in mock sorrow at his ignorance. "Oh no. But it’s Saturday."

"So?" The superiority in Lyle’s face faded a little as he tried to figure out what was so special about Saturdays.

"Oh, dear." She grinned around at her fellow fan fic writers. "Shall we tell him, folks? What’s so special about Saturday night?"

"It’s Pretender night!" chorused the others.

"Except in Germany."

"Yes, that’s how we can be here."

"And in Australia, where we don't get any new episodes until February," moaned someone else.

"And it’s also the end of a long, baseball-infested, Pretender-deprived month in America," added another voice. The accent was familiar but the voice was not.

"Who are you?"

"I’m Nicolette."

"She’s one of the main archivists." The writers indulged themselves in a round of applause.

"Great work."

"Yeah. It’s fabulous the speed with which you put things up."

"We really appreciate it."

Gradually several other people began to leave the shadows and joined the others.

"So, how was it?"

"Fantastic. Not worth the four-week wait, but - "

"Oh, I thought it was."

"No, but didn’t you see…"

"But how about…"

Jarod put two fingers into his mouth and a piercing whistle cut through the argument. Miss Parker looked at him in amazement.

"Where’d you learn that?"

"Oh, some kid taught it to me. Never mind. I’ll explain it to you later, if you give me a chance. But, in the meantime, I’ve been wanting to ask you guys something for a while…"

"Just a sec, Jarod. Where’s Danielle : - ), someone?"

"Oh, apparently the show inspired her and she’s off to start a new fic." Rebeckah stepped out of the darkness. "She’ll be here whenever she gets stuck. Anyway, Jarod, what were you going to ask?"

"What I wanted to know was, is there anything about the show that you guys don’t like? I mean, you guys write heaps of fic and sometimes there can be more that twenty messages from pretendfic egroups every day - "

"How did you know that?"

Jarod glanced at Mandy’s red face and laughed. She stepped forward. "Guilty. He was giving me some ideas and without thinking I checked my email. Sorry."

"Anyway," Jarod said the word in italics to stress its importance. "Isn’t there anything about the show you don’t like?"

"Oh, sure. Heaps of stuff."

"Like the marriage between Mr. Parker and Brigitte." One of the writers made dry-retching sounds and the two named characters glared around at the group and tried to leave. However they were prevented from doing so and had to make do with just whispering things in each others ear, which made several of the writers really get sick.

"Or the unanswered questions that the writers seem to like leaving."

"Hey, it’s just as bad for us when you guys leave a fic unfinished," mentioned Lyle in a painfully superior tone.

"True."

"I hadn’t thought of that."

"Good point."

"Hmmm."

"Okay, what else?" broke in Miss Parker when the muttering began to get louder.

"There’s also the things that annoy you, like the lack of two names thing."

"And, then, of course, there’s the one problem that you guys could never understand."

"Try us." Miss Parker crossed her arms and glared at Apollo’s Girl, who smiled sweetly back at her.

"Oh, there’s no way you could ever understand this." Apollo's Girl stepped forward and looked around. "Are we all writers here? I’d hate to reveal this kind of feeling to one of them. I mean, no writer is ever going to do something like what I’m thinking of."

"What we’re all thinking of," corrected KB. "We’re all on the same wavelength here. And we all know the feeling."

"But what is it?!" Broots was shaken out of his normal, quiet state and yelled with a force that surprised the other characters, although the writers grinned at each other meaningfully. It was always nice to get an unexpected reaction.

"Flaming." It was a comment by every person in the circle but the expressions on the characters’ faces was evidence that they really had no idea.

"Flaming is the curse of every writer. It’s basically negative criticism."

"Oh, it’s more than that," interrupted Trisha.

"I know, but I’m trying to explain it to people who have never experienced it." She turned back to
the characters. "It’s criticism which is wholly negative. Not constructive criticism, where suggestions
are put forward, but pointless…"

"…stupid…"

"…unhelpful…"

"…tedious…"

"…insulting…"

"…cowardly…"

"...unpleasant..."

"...right down rude..."

"…comments. Usually it’s some idiot who has nothing better to do with their time and decides that they want to make themselves completely objectionable in every way and hated by as many people as possible."

"But…"

Lhani held up a commanding hand. "I’m talking now. You’ll get a chance to ask questions at the end."

"Yes ma’am." The words were muttered.

"What?!"

"Nothing." Lyle tried to hide behind Jarod, who gave him a scornful look and moved three paces to the left.

"Anyway," Lhani expressed her annoyance by the stress she placed on her words. "Anyway, every so often one of these morons decide to interrupt the muses and makes some stupid…"

"…invariably ungrammatical and badly spelt…" KB grinned

"…remark about someone’s story which is usually a very good way to show us how many active brain cells they have." Lhani stepped back with a slight bow and the other writers broke into a round of applause.

"And all without taking a breath," remarked one writer to the room in general, admiration written all over her face.

"The worst of it is," commented another writer, "that they always seem to pick on the younger people who don’t have the courage to be insulting back."

At this juncture Schuyler began to move away but KB prevented her from leaving and Jarod, who had begun to feel affection, as well as admiration, for the young writer, came and put his arm around her shoulder.

"I wouldn't worry about it Schuyler. After all, it's really only showing us what kind of a person they are. And that they were dragged up and not brought up. Not to mention the fact that their IQ would hardly register on any chart. I mean no-one with any clue would do what they do. I can understand constructive criticism. That's positive and helpful. And can sometimes provide some great ideas about what to do in another story. "

"The best thing to do with low-life losers like them is to get their email addresses blocked. It stops being so much fun if you have to keep registering for a new email address every time you send a message. And, of course, no response also ruins the fun."

"Besides, these people are too pathetic to try and fulfill any of their threats. That's why they do it in such a cowardly manner. Because they're too weak to do it openly."

As the comments came from many people and encouraging murmurs came from others, Schuyler cheered up and Miss Parker, out of consideration, decided to change the subject. "It sounds a little like what Lyle would do," she commented, earning herself a glare from her brother, which she returned with interest. Raines and Sydney stepped between the two to prevent an argument.

"Remember our last conversation. A united front before the writers," muttered Sydney as he pulled Miss Parker away.

"Well, it’s only the really pathetic people who do this sort of thing."

"I rest my case," muttered Miss Parker, earning herself a glare from Lyle as Jarod looked around for the case, which he hadn’t seen her holding when she came in.

"You have to be cowardly… "

"…a wimp…"

"…weak…"

"…have no guts…"

"…May I finish?" KB’s voice broke over what looked like becoming a list of every alternate word in the thesaurus that meant ‘coward’. Silence allowed her to continue. "It’s kind of like the anonymous letters that people sent in the days before email. Remember those?" she turned to the other writers. "The ones made out of cut-out newspaper letters?"

The writers began to chortle as they remembered the days before computers. Or didn’t, in the case of some of the younger writers. It was at this juncture that Danielle : - ) finally appeared. She was bombarded from all sides about queries regarding her story.

"I’m not telling you anything yet. You’ll just have to wait until it’s finished." She looked around at the group. "What did I miss?"

"Oh, we were just introducing these guys…and girls," KB corrected herself hurriedly, indicating the characters with a wave of her hand, "to the mysteries of ‘the Flame’."

Danielle : - ) dropped a few well-known and insulting epithets which, due to the rating, can not be relayed here, but they did cause some of her friends (who thought she was such an angel) to gasp.

"But," continued KB after letting Danielle : - ) finish, "I think we’ve expended enough energy on that topic. It’s not like they even deserve space in this arena, but unfortunately they are a reality. However what I want to know is something - anything - about any of the new stories that we’re writing at the moment."

"Could I ask a question first?" inquired Broots.

"Sure."

"Why does the productivity level change so dramatically?"

"Pretender-deprivation," interjected Sarah with a grin. "During the summer, there’s no Pretender on American TV. We survive as best we can on reruns but it’s more fun to create new stories for ourselves."

"Or do quizzes, like those made by Lois."

"Thank-you," replied Broots politely

"Now that that’s sorted," stated KB, "can we get back to my original question?"

"Halloween."

Jarod looked a little confused. "What?"

Gena rolled her eyes. "Season Two premiere. Where you found out about Lyle and Raines performing the experiments on you where they killed you and then brought you back to life. Remember?"

Jarod looked relieved while Lyle and Raines muttered that they thought Gena could have let bygones be bygones and not have brought that up.

"It’s Halloween soon and I’m taking advantage of it all."

The writers began to crowd around the person who had spoken and gradually the group began to move away. As the lights returned to normal, Miss Parker looked around and noticed that Jarod was gone.

"Damn!" she yelled. "I thought that he might have been so caught up in the conversation that I could have got I him."

The voice appeared from nowhere. "Haven’t you realised yet? We’re not going to let that happen. Jarod came along with us. After all, he’s been working with us since part 12 of this series. Remember?" The voice faded and Miss Parker looked around at the other characters, confused.

"What did she mean by part 12? And what was all that about the ‘season premiere’?"

Lyle draped his arm around Miss Parker’s shoulder. "My dear sister, let me explain it all to you…"

Sydney muffled his amusement until the two were gone from the room and then, recalling the look of horror on Miss Parker’s face, he and the others rocked with laughter.











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