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Disclaimer: the usual, who owns who, blah, blah, blah. I derive no profit etc. etc. etc.

I’ve recently been roaming around these fiction archives and got rather intrigued by the Pretender Payback series – to the extent that I decided to add my own ten cents worth. I’m sure some folk will find it a tad controversial in both tone and content but I figure that controversy is sometimes good for the soul, not to mention provoking some interesting discussions. In case you’re wondering about the story referred to in this Payback episode, I’m currently finishing it up and will hopefully be posting it in the not too distant so if you’re interested in finding out more, stay tuned . . . .

Alternate Theories
by Ally

A noise somewhere in the dark interrupted the conversation. Someone had tripped over something and had cursed in what sounded like Arabic though it could have been virtually any language, for the words were rather indistinct.

"Who’s there?" The voice that responded to the question was one no-one had heard before. It had a noticeable British accent.

"Damn. And it had to be a new pair of shoes too." Everyone craned their necks trying to see into the darkness.

"Who are you?" There was a musical chuckle. A tall slim blond strode into the light. She carried herself with an easy confidence.

"Name’s Alicia. You can call me Ally." Everyone exchanged curious looks. They had no idea who she was or how she had managed to infiltrate what was, admittedly, a very select gathering. Then someone clapped a hand to their forehead.

"Wait a minute. You just posted a story to the site. I thought you weren’t a fan." The accusation hung in the air. Everyone’s attention suddenly focused on the blond who grinned back at them, seemingly unfazed by the hostile glares coming her way.

"Nope, not really." Ally said cheerfully. "Writing’s not that great, concept’s a little iffy and it’s way too predictable. I like my TV to be intelligent and thought-provoking not wrapped up each week in a neat little package. In fact I think I’ve only watched bits of three or four episodes in the past couple of seasons when I’ve found myself at home on a Saturday night with nothing better to do than watch whatever is on. I’m much more of a DS9 fan, a Homicide fan and a Law & Order fan. Even in reruns they beat The Pretender in terms of quality of writing, storyline and character development. Hell I’d even rather watch Profiler. It’s better written and Ally Walker has a wardrobe to die for. Oh wait a minute, she’s left or something hasn’t she?" No-one answered. They were all to dumbstruck from Ally’s comments about their favourite show.

"So why write a story?" someone wanted to know. Ally shrugged.

"You know how it goes, boring temp job, not enough to do, so you find ways of killing time. And it bugged me as to why in four seasons this guy, who is supposedly a genius, still doesn’t seem to have a clue about life. Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t have one. So I decided to give him one. You know, Jarod," she came forward and addressed him directly for the first time.

"You really need to figure out that families are not always all they’re cracked up to be and knowing who your family is doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll ever figure out who you are in the grand scheme of things. You need to find your own place in the world not wait for someone else to give it to you. I mean you may have escaped the Centre in literal terms but in four years you still haven’t managed to really escape it have you? I’m beginning to wonder if you actually do or whether you get some perverse pleasure from torturing the dysfunctional idiots that run the place."

Twenty pairs of eyes suddenly focused on Jarod, awaiting his response.

"I-er . . ." Jarod could think of nothing to say to her accusations. She was completely right. How come no-one else had ever seen this before, he wondered? Probably because they’d all bought in to this world without question. Hell, he’d bought into it without question. It was a sobering thought. But despite the blow to his ego for having some rather obvious home truths pointed out to him, he had to admit that he was highly intrigued by this newcomer who so boldly strode in and gave her controversial opinions without so much as blinking. So, he noticed, was everyone else. Lyle was staring at her as if he was bewitched while Sydney and Broots were no less obvious in their interest. Even Miss Parker was doing her best to pretend nonchalence, which definitely meant she was dying of curiosity. He went to his laptop to look up the story Ally had posted. If it was anything like its author, it ought to be rather intriguing.

As soon as Jarod moved away, Miss Parker strode forward scowling, never one to be out of the limelight for too long.

"I read that story. It’s quite well written . . . . for an amateur." Ally grinned at her.

"Why thank you Miss Parker, I’ll take that as quite a compliment."

"But" the voice was as smooth as silk. Broots started to back away nervously. He knew from experience that this tone meant the cobra was ready to strike. "I have to take issue with your depiction of me." She raised her voice and addressed the knot of writers. "For that matter I would like it on record that I take issue with every single one of your depictions of
me. I’m not as tedious and boring as you make me out to be. I actually lead a very full and interesting life that is richly rewarding."

Someone coughed and muttered "So why are you here then?" which Miss Parker chose to ignore. She continued, "but all I get to do is chase the Boy Wonder round the countryside while he tortures me with cryptic messages or I’m thrust into equally silly romances with him or I get shot or pregnant. You people really lack imagination. Not to mention the fact that you have absolutely no idea who I really am." Lyle and Sydney exchanged looks. Trust Miss Parker to be the first off the presses, so to speak. Ally looked Miss Parker squarely in the eye. Miss Parker, not to be undone, stared back. Miss Parker gave way first, wilting under the coolly amused stare.

"I’m sure you have the potential to have a highly colourful and extremely interesting life, but let’s face facts Miss Parker, if you spend all your time obsessing over Jarod and running around the country after him, you’re never going to have that exciting life, are you? My advice to you, for what it’s worth, is to get a new job in another country that has nothing to do with the Centre, get a new wardrobe, find yourself a man that makes you go weak at the knees and quit trying to please your father, the guy’s a jerk anyway. Take charge of your own life. And," she looked Miss Parker right in the eye with a smile, "whether you want to admit it or not, you do have the hots for Jarod." Miss Parker folded her arms and glared at Ally.

"I do not." Ally raised an eyebrow while various sniggers were quickly stifled as Miss Parker swung round trying to figure out who was laughing at her.

"I have absolutely no interest in him." Each word was underlined and punctuated with an exclamation mark for emphasis."

"And I’m the Queen Mother," muttered Lyle under his breath. Miss Parker swung round, fixing him with an icy glare.

"That explains a lot." Miss Parker was at her contemptuous best. Ally seemed highly amused by these exchanges.

"Well let’s face it Miss Parker, all this conspiracy junk is so over. The X-files has done it much better, as have several other series over the years. You’re just doing the same old same old every week and the tune’s getting a little tired."

"Oh and having the Boy Wonder here fall in love and move to New York isn’t?"

"Hey!" Jarod came forward into the light. He’d skimmed the story quickly.

"I rather liked it. I actually got a real life for once that had virtually nothing to do with the Centre. Or any of you," he added. "It was highly enjoyable not to have to keep looking over my shoulder every ten seconds for one of you creeps to come crawling out of the woodwork and try to drag me back to the Centre."

"Yeah not to mention that blond floozy you hooked up with." Miss Parker muttered. Jarod shot her a dirty look.

"You’re just jealous."

"Am not." Miss Parker stamped her foot in a fit of pique and glared round at everyone, daring them to contradict her. Jarod shook his head and sighed.

"And to be honest I have been getting rather bored with being chased from one end of the country to the other nearly every week. It was kind of fun at first and I’ve certainly wracked up enough frequent flyer miles to last me a lifetime but I mean how much longer do you mean to go on trying to get me back to the Centre?"

"As long as it takes." Lyle muttered under his breath.

"That’s exactly what I mean." Jarod turned round to look at him pityingly.

"I’ve just been told I need to get a life and I couldn’t agree more. What about you Lyle, or you Miss Parker, for that matter, don’t you want something more than spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week chasing me round the countryside? And you Sydney? Don’t you long for a different life? Or you Broots?" No-one gave him an answer. They couldn’t. They were written to behave in a certain way and simply couldn’t really conceive of being anything else, despite Miss Parker’s delusions. Then he looked at the knot of writers on the other side of the glass.

"And you guys aren’t exactly helping either. I feel as if I’m just treading water rather than actually getting anywhere here. I’m not really growing and developing as a person if I’m not really learning about what life has to offer on a larger scale than ice cream and twinkies, am I? Virtually every story you people write seems to have me being chased by this bunch of bozos sooner or later. And as for impregnating Miss Parker, I’m sorry but the woman gives me the creeps even if she does have the most spectacular legs in the business. Can’t you come up with something new?" Again there was a deafening silence while everyone thought furiously.

Jarod turned to Ally with a hopeful smile "Are you going t o write a sequel?"

"Maybe." Ally returned his smile. "I gather you’d like me too." Jarod nodded.

"I really liked not having to put up with this lot on a daily basis for a change. Plus I found Kate to be a very intriguing person. I’d like to see where that relationship goes." Miss Parker sniggered in the background. Jarod ignored her. He wasn’t going to dignify her jibes with an answer.

"Normal life has a lot going for it. It’s also easier on the blood pressure." He was treated to a wide grin.

"OK, I’ll see what I can do. Providing" she grinned at him "you give some serious thought to what I said about getting a life. You really need one kid."

"I will." Jarod promised. He felt more optimistic than he had since this whole nightmare started. For the first time in four years there looked as if there might be a way out for him. Ally turned to go then stopped as a thought struck her. She beckoned Jarod over and whispered something in his ear. Everyone strained to hear what she was saying but to no avail. A huge grin broke over Jarod’s face and he nodded happily. Ally placed a finger on her lips and winked at him before turning back to the knot of writers.

"Well, this has been fun but I really should be going. I’ve got a commission to write. It was good to meet everyone. Maybe we’ll do this again some day." And then she was gone.

"What did she say to you?" everyone crowded round Jarod demanding an answer. He folded his arms across his chest and grinned maddeningly.

"You’ll find out soon enough. Now I too have a commission to write." He turned, strode over to the laptop, picked it up and then, much to everyone’s amazement, he left.

"How did he do that?" someone demanded. "I thought we were in control here." Broots tried to leave the same way and walked straight into the glass wall. He let out a yelp and sat down on the floor feeling his nose.

"Obviously not. Looks like we need to figure this out folks. Can’t have our hero running off and doing whatever he wants whenever he feels like it." The fan fiction writers crowded together in a corner and engaged in a heated, albeit whispered debate. The characters crowded together trying to eavesdrop on their conversation.

In the meantime, Jarod found himself a nice quiet corner. He sat down and opened up the laptop. This was going to be fun. He cracked his knuckles and started to type. One by one the characters in the glass box winked out of existence. The fan fiction writers didn’t even notice, they were too busy trying to figure out how Jarod had managed to leave. He kept typing, chuckling as he did. He’d finally managed to take charge of his own existence and he was going to make the most of it. He was going to create the kind of world he wanted to live in . . . .

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