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DISCLAIMER:- in part 1

by Krystal McDermott

"North as in Cairns international airport. So like I said sit back and enjoy the ride." Cairns! Cairns is a two day drive from here. You mean to tell me I have to sit in this delusional car, next to you imaginary people for two days. Oh great and the day just keeps getting better and better.! It's been four and a half hours and we haven't even stopped for petrol yet. These people are not the most jolly of travelers either. Hmmm 99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall..........................1 bottle of beer on the waaalllll,...........1 bottle of beeeeer. Take it down....... pass it more bottles of beer on the waaalllll. Well that kept me from dying of boredom for about 20 minutes. What can I do now and what on earth is that horrible noise? Oh it's Broots, snoring, well at least someone's comfortable. I on the other hand have pins and needles in my feet and my butt's gone to sleep.

"Jarod" I whisper, my eyes darting left and right to make sure Miss Parker and Sydney didn't hear me. Good, Miss Parker is too busy watching the road and Sydney is absorbed in a book. Eww how can he read while travelling, I can't, it makes me sick watching the words jump around.

"Oh Jaaarrrooddd." Answer me, damn it! "Jarod!" I whisper sharply. Finally he turns to face me. Well it's about time.

"What's wrong, Mis..."

"Krystal, please call me Krystal"

"OK Krystal, I'm sorry for the mess that I got you in, are you OK?"

No I'm not OK. I'm bored, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty and actually that reminds me, I never did get to go to the toilet. Great, now I need to pee. This is all your.....oh his eyes are so sweet and damn I can't blame you, it's not your fault. It's her fault. I'll blame her. Don't ask me how it's her fault, I haven't worked that out yet. I just know that I've got to blame someone and that someone may as well be her. Oh but I like her. Ooo hang on, I better answer him before he starts to think I'm strange. Hold that train of thought.

"You didn't get me into this mess Jarod, I got myself into this mess" Like hell I did! "I'm fine really, just a little bored and I really need to go to the bathroom" I reply.

"Don't worry we should be pulling into a gas station soon, she can't drive too much further without refilling the tank, I'm sure. Get some rest if you like" he says reassuringly.

I give him a grateful smile and then turn to look out the window. Now what was I thinking about before? That's right who to blame for this whole fiasco. Not Jarod, I like Jarod. Not Miss Parker, I like her too. Hmm who don't I like, Lyle! I'll blame Lyle. I know he's here in Australia, I heard Broots say so back at my house and judging by the way Miss Parker loaded us all into the car and took off like a bat out of hell, Lyle has to be involved somehow. Yes that makes sense, Lyle's to blame.

Now what can I think about. Wait! Is that a petrol station I see? It is, it is!

"Pull over please" I yell to Miss Parker.

"Hey shorty, I decide when and where we pull over" she snaps.

"Oh but I need to go to the bathroom, please" I look at her pleadingly, she glares back but I can see that the harshness is fading. She's not as cold as she makes out to be.

"Fine, I'll pull in here. I need to fill the gas tank anyway."

The car pulls up and we all begin to pile out, all except Broots that is, he's still sound asleep. While Sydney gently wakes him up, Miss Parker gives Jarod a stern look as if to warn him not to make any moves or sudden dashes for freedom. I know this sounds terrible and selfish but he'd better not run away, I can't be left alone with these people. Miss Parker takes the cuffs off Jarod and we all walk into the cafeteria as though we're one big happy family.

As soon as we're inside, I head straight for the bathroom. God I need to pee. Miss Parker follows me inside. Oh great what does she want? I suppose now would be a perfect opportunity to ask what exactly is going on here. I flush the toilet and wash my hands, Miss Parker is leaning against the wall watching me. Oh I wish she wouldn't do that, it freaks me out. I can't resist the urge any longer.

"What is going on here?" I ask, rather impatiently. She just stares at me as if I never said a word. OK I'll ask again. "What the hell is going on here?"

"That's better" she replies coolly "You want people to notice you, you have to be more assertive."

Yeah, thanks for the advice, but that does not answer my question.

"Where is my family?"

"Don't worry, they're safe, Sydney, Broots and I found them before Lyle did. You'll see them in a couple of days."

She gently pushes the door open and we walk out into the cafeteria. Sydney, Broots and Jarod are seated in a booth in the far back corner. Miss Parker slides in beside Sydney and Jarod, I in beside Broots. I think about what she just said to me in the bathroom. What did she mean they found my family before Lyle did? What would Lyle want with my family? There's definitely no pretender among my sisters and I, my mum certainly wouldn't be involved in anything dangerous and my dad well he passed on over 14 years ago. So what would Lyle want with us?

"Why would Lyle be trying to harm my family?" I ask. They all look from one to the other, uncertain of what to say. "Answer me!" I yell, shocking them and myself. A few people in the other booths turn around to face us. What are you looking at? Mind your own damn business. I'm trying to get some answers here. "Well" I whisper.

Sydney clears his throat "You see Krystal, the Centre used to.... well still does have a complex down here in Australia, in a place called Cessnock in the Hunter Valley"

"Uhh huh. That's where I was born, but still how does that involve my family?" Sydney goes to answer my question, but Miss Parker interrupts.

"Your father was a Centre researcher. He was working on a project named Trojan when he discovered what the Centre was really using it for. They were using your fathers research to create a drug that would slowly take over the brain cells, making it possible for that person to be brainwashed. Once digested this drug left no traces behind in the body, thus making it impossible to track. They were planning on using it to 'convince' government officials that the Centre way, was the right way. After your father found out, he threatened to go to the authorities, needless to say the Centre wasn't keen on the idea and had him killed. Well at least they thought that he had been killed until he was spotted on the security cameras at a train station in Brisbane last week."

I sat there stunned for at least ten minutes, trying to let the sudden rush of information soak into my brain. My father was alive. My father had worked for the Centre and was still alive. How come I was never told all this before? And why is Broots just sitting there eating his sausage roll, didn't he just hear what they said. I'm totally stressing out from an overload of information and all he can do is eat. Well that's just..... I was so absorbed in my own thoughts it took several moments for me to realise that Sydney was talking to me.


"Yeah" I say quietly still shocked by the flood of information I'd just received.

"Is there anything else you'd like to know? If you need to talk to anyone about this just ask me, OK?" his voice full of compassion and concern.

I consider his offer for a while, trying to comprehend everything. In just one day I've been a part of one of Jarod's pretends, abducted/rescued by Miss Parker, Sydney and Broots, found out that my father is still alive after 14 years and worked for the Centre, my family and I are being hunted down by Lyle and God knows who else, what else could there possibly be? Then it just about slaps me in the face, the most obvious question of all how is all this possible?

"How can you all be real? I mean I see you on TV just about every week, millions of people world wide watch The Pretender, the Centre is just make believe, you guys are all make believe."

"That is not us that you see on TV" Jarod says calmly.

What does he mean it's not them I see on TV. Of course it's them, who else would it be. I've heard of identical twins but you can't honestly tell me that they all act on The Pretender, that's just scary. Hang on a minute, identical twins may not be all that far off. No, they couldn't possibly all be...... the Centre wouldn't, would they? This is the Centre we're talking about

"No way" I manage to whisper eventually.

They all look at each other totally confused. You'd think they'd be getting used to me talking to myself by now.

"Last year I saw an episode of The Pretender called Donoterase, where the Centre had made a clone of Jarod but that doesn't, I mean it wouldn't really happen, would it?"

They don't need to answer, I can see it in their eyes.

"Oh my God! But how, who, when......."

"Six years ago, Raines perfected the human genome project. He created clones of all of us, including himself." Sydney said bitterly.

"But why?"

"The NBC is owned by the Centre and they thought what better way to take away suspicion then to create a television series based on the company and the people within it" Miss Parker replied.

"So when ever people saw you or the Centre they would assume that it was just part of the television series or that they were delusional. But if he made the clones only six years ago, how can they look the same age as all of you?"

"When I was younger Raines had me develop a drug that accelerated the aging process" Jarod whispered.

Those sick, disgusting, freaks. How could they ewww. And Miss Parker wants to take Jarod back to that hell hole? Eww I have suddenly lost my appetite. Broots apparently hasn't he's on his fifth slice of pizza right now. How can he eat in a time like this?

"So Brootsie change of subject. Where's our nine fingered friend now?" Miss Parker says sweetly.

"Umm well according to the tracking device, Melbourne."

Melbourne, thank God opposite direction to where we're headed. Although I know a few people on the pretendfic list live in Melbourne. My won't they be in for a shock.

We all pile back into the car, this time however Broots is asleep along the back seat across from Sydney and I and Jarod is in the front seat along side Miss Parker, with his hand cuffs still off I might add. Well where was I before, that's right 99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall.

Slowly I open my eyes and look out the car window. It's dark outside and the car has.........stopped? Huh, where is everyone? I step out of the car. Oh where are we? Are we still in Queensland? This is like dessert. I look around for any clue as to where we are when I spot Miss Parker and the others heading inside a motel. Well it was so nice of them for waking me. I really should thank them. As I walk towards the motel door I read the name above it "The Highway Inn". Oh well that's very original, considering we are on the highway and all. Gee that must of taken all of 'two' brain cells to think that one up.

Miss Parker books us two rooms. Sydney, Broots and Jarod in one, her and I in the other. Lucky me. I've finally gotten over the original shock of everything I was told at the petrol station and now I'm starving.

"Sorry, everything around here closes after 6pm" I hear the guy at the counter say. What! He has to be kidding. I'm starving, surely there's something open in this entire town. What is this place anyway?

"Where are we?" I ask

"Hicksville, apparently" Miss Parker snaps angrily.

"Rockhampton" The clerk corrects her.

"Rockhampton, Hicksville same difference. Look Larry, we have been on the road for the past 8 hours. We're tired, we're hungry and now you tell us that there is not a God Damn Place in this ENTIRE town that we can get a bite to eat at!"

"I'm sorry, everything closes at 6pm"

Great, I have to share a room with a tired and hungry Ice Queen. She'll probably shoot me in the middle of the night just so as she can cook me up and eat me. Eww.

We go off into our separate rooms. I'm a little bit hesitant in following Miss Parker into ours.

"I know she can be scary at times, but she won't bite, she's not Lyle" Broots says reassuringly. Easy for you to say, you're not the one trapped in a room with her. For once in my life I'm glad I suffer from insomnia.


Yeah, well that's the end of that part. What did you guys think good, bad?


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