...Mightier Than the Sword
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Disclaimer: The Pretender is the property of TNT, NBC, and Craig and Steve. No infringement is intended and no profit is made. Please don’t sue me; I’m poor enough as it is.

Spoilers:
"Red Rock Jarod"
Special Thanks: To 23, for beta-ing for me.

Summary: "Before I found myself thumbless in the desert, I was Head Rat at the Cheese Factory." —Mr. Lyle ("Red Rock Jarod")

Thumbless in the Desert
by: chopsticks
p g - 1 3

-----


God, I love this. Everything about being the one inflicting so much torture on these "good" people. I suppose it might have something to do with my childhood—after all, Raines and company were always breathing down my neck. Not like my parents knew or anything, but I thought they did and I blamed them for it. But that's history, and I'm not here to think about history. I'm in this little town to get what I want: power.

I'm completely prepared. I adapted the gas generator, created the pod and set up the feeding tube. Now all that's left is to finish digging the hole and bury this damn bitch. I light the lantern, prepared for my fifteen minutes of digging (much like a person's fifteen minutes of fame, just more fun) and then the burial. I dig and dig, patting down the dirt around me so it doesn't look like I've been digging. When I finally finish, I have to start the generator. I slowly pour in the translucent gas. The smell overwhelms me, bringing back memories I don't want to remember. I ignore these things that are creeping on the edges of my mind and focus on the task at hand.

Pictures, I need pictures. Always need pictures when it comes to kidnappings. I take several, using the Polaroid camera I stole a few days ago. I finally decide upon one. It shows the bitch with duct tape over her mouth and a "deer-caught-in-headlights" look plastered on her face. It's perfect. This photo will be on the sheriff's desk by morning.

I pick up the struggling woman—she kicks like a kangaroo!—and drop her into the pod. Hmm, might cause a miscarriage. Oh well. She'll get over it. . .maybe. I grin evilly at this and shove the pod into the hole. It's not very big, so only an inch of dirt or so will cover it. She screams out in terror as she falls into the hole. What a goddamn sissy! She only fell about a foot-and-a-half for God's sake!

I grab the shovel again and start sprinkling the dirt, no, sand over the silver coffin. I cover her faceplate last, just for the hell of it. God, I love seeing them struggle. Lucky for her, if her husband cooperates, she'll come out of this alive. Pity too. She's so stupid, she deserves to die.

I sigh unhappily and extinguish the lamp, heading back to my four-wheeler. Time to lure in Jarod. But, before that, I must sleep. One cannot outsmart a pretender if he doesn't sleep!

-----


I am now staring at the computer monitor in front of me. The local library has some of the shittiest computers known to man. Took me almost an hour to bypass all the security and hack into Sydney's e-mail account. It's pretty boring in here. Just a bunch of stupid e-mails about boring projects that are obviously just to fill up his time. But that's not the problem that daunts me so. It's what to write.

Aha! I think I've got it! I quickly type out the message, hoping that I sound like a distinguished, mildly senile, old, Belgium male.

Subject: REFUGE

HAVE URGENT INFORMATION CONCERNING YOUR PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE.
PLEASE MEET ME IN
DRY RIVER, ARIZONA.

SYDNEY

I really hope Jarod doesn't see through this. Just like I hope Miss Parker doesn't catch on that it was really me and not Jarod that left that sweet gift for her in the alley. I know she'll just love that one.

-----


I can hear that stupid mutt that came with the place barking his damn head off again. Guess that means that the sheriff has arrived with Jarod. Or at least he better have. Otherwise, that wife of his will be dogmeat. Hey, it might shut that bitch up, right?

They're in my trailer now. I can hear them. I stay in the back and out of sight. Like they say, "out of sight, out of mind." I'm betting I'm the furthest thing from Jarod's mind. I listen closely to everything he says, noting happily that he isn't suspecting that I'm around.

"Somebody cut themselves?" he asks stupidly. Well, duh. There's blood all over the goddamn place! Something had to have happened! For a genius, he can be pretty dumb at times.

"Sit down over there."

"Look, it's pretty obvious from the way I've been treated that something terrible has happened. Why don't you tell me what it is?" Yeah, that's it, Jarod. Be all high and mighty. Gotta shove your nose where it doesn't belong, don't you? Well, one day, someone's gonna get annoyed by that and you'll end up missing that ugly nose of yours. I'm going to be the one with the knife, or in this case, scalpel, that lops it off, happily.

"I can't." Very good. At least that dolt is good for something. I think it's about time I make my entrance. Shock the hell out of that Pretender bastard.

"Why not?"

"Because I won't let him." I step out of my hiding spot, half-smirking the entire time. Jarod's face is priceless.

He's stunned and shocked, obviously not wanting to believe that I'm still alive. That his precious Miss Parker didn't kill me. Well, believe it, baby. I'm back, and I'm badder than ever before!

"Lyle."

"Gone but not forgotten," I say in a sing-song voice. That boy sure has a penchant for stating the obvious, doesn't he? I grab the crowbar and hit him over the head with it. It isn't the nose, but it'll do. I throw it to ground and turn to the mirror over the stove. My hair is a little out of place, so I try to straighten it out. Controlling my hair in this heat is next to impossible. Bothers the hell out of me.

"And. . .so it begins." I glance at the sheriff and see he's looking muddled, as usual. He never understands anything. It's a wonder that they let him carry a gun. Oh well, it's now time to implement my plan, and boy, is it a doozy. They're gonna love it!

-----


Jarod's starting to wake up. Oh, goody! Time to have some fun with my little genius. He finally wakes up, and I instantly blind him by taking a picture. I've been doing it for a while, but when he's awake it's much more fun. An unconscious form simply doesn't appreciate the artistry behind taking a good picture. Always in a stupid position or with some weird expression plastered on its face. Doesn't make for the best pictures.

"How long have I been out?" Hey, it's a semi-intelligent question! Score one point for Wonderboy!

"Couple hours." I answer, not really knowing how long it's really been. I take another picture and he blinks again. "Ooh! That'll be a good one." I'm doing this just to antagonize him, of course. But it's so much fun!

"You sent the message." Well, duh. Took him long enough!

I gasp out loud in mock shock and say: "You really are a genius!" Call the news! We've got a bona fide genius on our hands! Stupid bastard. . .

"How did you find out about Refuge?" God, did he take his stupid pills today or what? What the hell did The Centre ever see in this dolt?

"You forget. Before I found myself thumbless in the desert," I glance around in disdain. God I hate this place. "I was Head Rat at the Cheese Factory. You may have taken off with the DSAs, but I had access to surveillance videos of every conversation you and Sydney ever had." Ahh, now the idiot understands.

I sit down on his leg, just to annoy the hell out of him. After all, what the hell can he do to me when he's handcuffed to a pole? I take yet another picture. I'm gonna run out of film at this rate.

"I wish you could have seen your face when you first saw me. Priceless!" I chuckle at this, remembering the way his face looked when he saw me. I can only hope that when I march back into The Centre, Miss Parker will look the same way. Well, assuming I don't kill her on sight, that is.

He glances at my thumb, obviously trying to get away from the uncomfortable situation. He makes yet another dumbass comment. "Your thumb looks pretty bad. If you don't take care of it, you could lose the whole hand."

No shit, Sherlock. But, to cover, I simply say, "It'll be fine."

He then directs his gaze out the, ugh, barn door and notices the good sheriff standing guard. He really doesn't do anything in this town, does he? No wonder they let an idiot like him be sheriff. He doesn't have to do anything!

"You seem to have captured loyal support from the locals."

"Sheriff Delmont? 'Fraid his involvement has less to do with loyalty than it does survival." That wasn't too cryptic. Lord knows Genius Boy here has made more cryptic statements than that. Let's see if he follows.

"I don't follow."

Guess he doesn't. I'll just have to explain it all to him.

"My first acquisition after arriving in this little oasis was securing some leverage in the form of Mrs. Delmont."

I take another picture, just because his face looks so funny right now.

"You kidnapped his wife."

"I buried her in the desert." I practically giggle at this. God, I have too much fun sometimes! Is that even possible? I don't know, but this sure as hell is a lot more fun than being shot by Miss Parker!

Uh-oh. Jarod looks. . .horrified. He closes his eyes, as if that'll stop the horrors of the world from invading. He is such a na´ve child sometimes. That may come from being cooped up in The Centre, or from simply being the idiot that he really is. I don't know which. It's indistinguishable in my head.

To put his rather small mind at ease, I decide to tell him: "She's currently being fed oxygen supplied by a five horsepower gas generator which, with an adapted fuel capacity of fifteen gallons, should run for about-"

"Sixteen hours."

"-sixteen hours. Give or take." Bastard has the audacity to interrupt me. I'm just going to continue like he didn't say one goddamn thing. At least it shows he's got half his brain working. "Gonna check my watch. She should have life support remaining in the area of seven hours, twenty minutes. Oh, you'll appreciate this! She's pregnant."

I'm sitting on his lap again, just because I know it pisses him off to no end. It's great stuff seeing a bound pretender seething. So rare when you're in The Centre. Of course, the experiments with anger were always fun to watch, but that's another story.

Ooh, he's gonna close his eyes and wish it all to go away! Good luck with that, buddy. Just so you know, it doesn't work. I would know. I did it God knows how many times as a child. But I must continue. He hasn't been fully horrified yet.
"Guess about six months." I drop one of the photos I took of that bitch on his leg and he glances down at it, looking slightly ill. But I still continue on. He almost has the right to know, being involved now and everything.

"So you see, our good sheriff is in no position to be anything but cooperative."

He glances up at me and says, quite bravely: "You're insane."

Uh, duh. I roll my eyes and say: "Psychological diagnosis can be really subjective." Of course, he would know, wouldn't he? He can be anything, including a psychologist. He knows all about those damn tests and how long they are. I took one several times, in fact. Guess what it said each time.

"What do you want?" Another stupid question! I don't think I can take many more of these. They really start to work at the nerves.

"Isn't it obvious?" Yes, he's just too stupid to see it. I take another picture. Damn, out of film. "I want everything," I reply in answer. He's been such a condescending bastard today. If he doesn't get over it soon, I may take more than I planned on.

"Look, you got what you wanted. Let the woman go."

Now why would I want to do that? It's so much fun watching him fret over some chick he's never even met.

"Not until I finalize negotiations."

"Negotiations?" Ergh. Another dumb question. You'd think for a genius he'd find some kind of intelligent way to ask that, but he chooses to sound like an idiot. Or maybe he doesn't choose to, he just is. I wonder if I can prove that. Then they'd all see that I was right. I'd rub their faces in it and kill 'em. That is my ultimate goal, you know. Kill 'em all.

"The Triumvirate is preparing to meet to chose my permanent replacement. I intend to make that vote unnecessary."

Unnecessary indeed. I need a position at The Centre to get what I want. My thoughts are deterred by this damn tie that I can't get tied! I struggle with it for a bit, ignoring Jarod.

Quickly, he quips: "Well, where's a clip-on tie when you need one?"

I glare at him. God, that man doesn't deserve to live.

"You really think the Centre is going to let you walk right in there like nothing's happened?"

Of course not, idiot. That's why I have you. Think for once! Ugh! I chant within the confines of my skull: Must remain calm. You can't kill him yet. . . over and over again. It's working, but for how long?

"I bring back their golden boy, and it's business as usual. Of course, there'll have to be changes made. Obstacles removed."

"Like Sydney and Miss Parker?"

"Among others." I begin to think of all the people that must be removed. There's that wheezing bastard Raines and his lap-dog Willie. And then there's-

My thoughts are interrupted by Jarod. Again.

"How long do you think it's going to be before someone decides to remove you?"

"Nothing's forever. However, there is a way that we can assure our power base." I'm appealing to his sense of. . .something. I don't know what. I don't dwell on these kinds of things.

"We?"

Did I say "we?" I don't recall saying "we." Where the hell did he get that from? I said "our." If you're gonna question something, at least do it correctly.

"With your brains and my leadership skills, there isn't anything we couldn't accomplish. I can be your friend, Jarod."

I'm not lying. For once in my entire life I'm actually telling the truth. We would make a dynamic duo, despite my rather low opinion of him. If he agrees, life will be so much sweeter for the both of us. I begin to dream up the possibilities, but he has to interrupt me again.

"Like you were my friend when you tried to stop my heart?"

Oh, that again. I heard that he found out about that. Thinking back, that was a rather fun couple of weeks. Watching him die over and over and over again. Gives me a small amount of satisfaction every day knowing that I killed him over a 100 times in those few short weeks.

"Why'd you try to kill me?" he demands. Before I can answer, the sheriff comes bumbling in.

"Hey. I just got a call from my deputy. She says there's a tall, dark brunette woman asking questions about someone named Jarod and a man with a missing thumb."

Aw, shit. She's here already. I was hoping she wouldn't show up until after the meeting.

"Parker. And this was going so well."

"Nothing's forever," Jarod quips from behind me. I suppress a groan and speak to the idiot in front of me.

"Well, if you ever want to see that wife of yours again, get rid of her. Now."

Why the hell is he always so slow to move? He'd be horrible in any kind of situation requiring quick thinking. That's just about every single one in life. It's amazing he's survived thus far.

Off the bumbling idiot goes to stop the big bad Miss Parker. I feel as if I should be shaking in my boots, like they do in those stupid movies, but why the hell would I? She's no more ferocious than a housecat. And a very beautiful housecat at that.

I push those thoughts out of my mind and focus on the task once again. Jarod decides now is the time to speak again.

"This really doesn't surprise me."

"What's that?" I ask with mild interest. I really don't care what surprises him. For all I know, the dirty floorboards surprise him. Big fucking deal.

"This rising from the dead game you keep playing."

How the hell does he know that? Nobody but me and Mr. Raines knows about that. That's why he sometimes refers to me as the Boogeyman, for Christ's sake! Goddamn that bastard. I know he's smart and looking for his past, but does he have to root up everybody else's in the process?

"You pulled the same scam in high school. Only back then you got really creative. You murdered your best friend, and then you set your own father up to take the fall."

Damn right I was creative. But what does he really know about my father and our "relationship," so to speak?

"What do you know about my father?" I seethe. God, I hate him. I hate him so much. I hate him for locking me up in that shed, for drinking all the damn time, for beating on my mother and me. I just hate him.

"I know he's rotting in a jail cell, serving a life sentence for a crime you committed."

"He got what he deserved."

"And what about your mom? Did she deserve what she got?"

No, please don't bring my mother into this. . .Please! She was so kind and sweet. She didn't deserve to beaten every night. She didn't deserve to have a child like me. She deserved so much better than what she got. God, she deserved so much better. So much better. . .

"Did I tell you I went to visit her? Very nice lady. Only she seems a touch confused. Seems she was trying to feed a coupla dogs that didn't really exist."

I slam the object that I'm holding to the ground and it echoes loudly. I don't care. I didn't mean for that to happen to her. I didn't want that to happen to her. She was the only person who understood me and still loved me for who I was. I can't go back to comfort her though, no matter how much I want to. God, she deserves so much better. . .

"You should not have gone there!" I say angrily, barely able to keep from shouting. He's really pushing it.

"She kept your bedroom just the way you left it. It's all very cozy."

Why the hell won't he shut up? I grab the metal pipe on the ground and slam it against his throat. He coughs slightly in reaction.

"One more word, and you die," I vow to him.

"You kill me you and you have nothing to bargain with."

He's right. The bastard is right. But I can't let him think that, at least not yet. I hold the bar there for a while, my anger marring my face. Good. I want him to think that I just might kill him. I finally drop the pipe to the ground and walk around him, all the while he's grunting and coughing slightly, trying to regain his breath.

I glance over to the table that's situated a ways away from Jarod and notice the case that contains the instruments I'll be needing for step two.

I walk over and say: "Which brings us to step two of the process." I open the case and pull out the syringe, holding it up. Jarod notices and I reach for the needle, taking it out of its cushioned position.

"Look, I hate to throw a wrench in your plans, but it's against the law to impersonate a doctor."

I glance up at him and chuckle, actually amused. "Now that's funny. See, I'm going to need something more substantial than photographs to demonstrate my resolve to the Triumvirate." I fill the needle with the golden amber liquid, making sure it's in Jarod's line of sight. "An offering, if you will." I tap the syringe lightly and press the plunger to expel the excess fluid.

"An offering?" he asks dumbly. Man, the guy never quits!

I lean towards him. It really bothers him when I invade his personal space.

"You should consider yourself fortunate. You'll be asleep when I cut off your thumb." I let a bit of compassion seep into my voice as I stab the needle into his arm and inject its contents.

"No. . ." he weakly protests. Too late now.

A sound comes from outside and I glance up to see a car driving up. I put down the needle and head to the door. Thankfully, it's only our local sheriff and I walk outside to meet him.

"Miss Parker?" I question.

"She's gone. She showed me a picture of you with a bunch of murdered people." Ugh. She had to show them that picture. Oh well. I'll make sure it proves to be a service rather than a hindrance.

"Casualties of war."

He's fidgeting like a madman, and his hand brushes against his holster, unsnapping it. Great. Oh well, this can be easily dealt with.

"Is there something else?"

"I want my wife back! You said when you had what you wanted you'd let her go!"

God, this guy is getting annoying. Can't he see that I don't have what I want yet? Really, it's quite obvious. Must be in the water, because Jarod was pretty dense about this subject too. Then again, he is pretty stupid. . .

I move closer to the sheriff, knowing that he is actually truly afraid of me. Perfect.

"You ever seen a human being suffocate?" I glance at him pointedly, hoping he gets the message. He probably doesn't. Either way, I shake my head and continue. "It's not an easy way to die. Now your family has slightly less than three hours of life remaining, unless of course you want to arrest me." I hold my hands up to him, and he glances at them. You could cut the tension between us with a knife. He's twitching, which is a rather amusing sight, but I know better than to start laughing right now. There'll be time for that later.

He obviously knows that he can't do anything about the situation, and it's bugging the hell out of him. I simply stare at him coldly to let him know that I will let his wife die. Good riddance.

The roar of an engine cuts into the moment and I glance over the sheriff's shoulders to see a red car approaching quickly. I recognize the driver almost immediately. Shit.

"It's Parker!" I say angrily and turn my head the other way. Futile, I know, but it's the only way I can express my rage at the moment. Pummeling the sheriff when Parker is fast approaching with a gun is definitely not the way to go.

He glances over his shoulder and simply states: "She followed me."

Well, duh.

"Get rid of her! Now." I say angrily. I am getting so tired of him staring at me for a few moments before actually moving his ass to do something. I swear, that is the most worthless lump of flesh I've ever seen. He even beats out Miss Parker's techno-wiz Mr. Broots. That is a real feat.

He finally ambles off and I head back into the barn and close the door enough to hide Jarod and myself. From the outside, all she'll see is just a big old empty barn. I peek out a bit later and see Miss Parker sitting in the sheriff's SUV, obviously handcuffed by the way she's sitting. Thank God. She'll be out of my hair for a while.

I head back inside by Jarod. His head is tilting to the side, and he looks like he's about to fall asleep. Finally. Took that damn stuff long enough to work!

I pass by him and go to the table and reach into the case. I pick out a scalpel and look at it in the light. Perfect. I go back over and stand in front of Jarod.

"Please. . . Don't do this." He's begging me now. I suppose I could show a bit of compassion. . .or something that can reasonably pass for compassion.

"Don't fight the medication. There's nothing you can do to stop it now."

That sounded like I cared, didn't it? I think making it sound like I actually give a shit is going to be highly effective with Jarod in the long run, helping me reach my endgame all the sooner. I quietly watch as Jarod begins to succumb to unconsciousness. I move the scalpel slightly and he begs me again.

"Please."

This could be more fun than I thought! I reach over to Jarod's left hand and move his head out of the way. Of course, it bounces right back into my way again.

"No. . ."

I glance at him again, almost second-guessing my actions. Ah, screw that. I line up the scalpel and I am prepared to begin cutting, when someone comes up beside me. Kyle? What the hell is he-

-----


Ugh. Why is everything so fuzzy? I try to open my eyes but I can't. Fuzzy. My head feels fuzzy. I try to remember what happened to me. It eludes me for a bit, but then I remember.

Kyle.

Jarod.

Ouch.

My head is aching like a bitch, but I can't do much about it. From the feel of my wrists and the numbness in my arms, I'm handcuffed, and my ankles are probably shackled too. Shit.

I can hear some people talking in the background, but I'm not sure who. I'm finally able to open my eyes. Ow. The light is bright. Really, really bright. I blink several times to refocus my vision, and who do I see before me but the idiot brothers themselves: Kyle and Jarod.

I listen for a bit and realize that Kyle wants to kill me and Jarod is saving my life. Well, more like trying to save that bitch's life. He probably couldn't give a rat's ass what happened to me. That's all right. The feeling is mutual.

I watch as Kyle spins the knife around expertly. Boy, when Mr. Raines trains them, he really goes all out, doesn't he? Now he and his pet knife are approaching me. Great. I'm so fucking screwed. He's gonna find out where the hell that bitch is, and probably kill me in the process. Greeeeeat.

Jarod heads outside, mumbling something about getting transportation. He obviously doesn't want to see what Kyle is going to do to me. That is definitely not a good sign.

"Hello, Mr. Lyle," Kyle says, smiling evilly. I gulp but manage to return the grin. Never give up control. That's my motto. Oh, and "Shoot first, never ask questions."

"Where's the girl?"

"I dunno. Wherever you want her to be." Kyle takes the knife and drags it over my side, its sharp end cutting into my skin. Damn, that stings.

"I'll ask you again. Where is she?" he asks after removing the blade from my skin.

"Who?" I ask innocently.

"You know who," he says, that knife getting dangerously close to my skin again.

"You mean the bitch?" I know I shouldn't have said it, but I did. I have a high threshold for pain. I was trained by Raines. Kyle cuts into me again, a long bloody mark left on my abs. Goddamn, that's gonna hurt for days.

"Where is she?"

"Out there. Over the rainbow, maybe. Why don't you go look? You might find a pot of gold. . ."

The knife slices into me again. I barely feel it, there's so much adrenaline pumping through my veins. Kyle looks seriously pissed, but he did before. He always does. He has one expression: pissed.

I cringe as the blade cuts deeper this time. Now that I feel. I resist the urge to howl in pain, knowing that will give the psychopath in front of me great pleasure.

"Where is she?" he asks calmly once again. This time though, he presses the blade against my neck. I may be cocky, but I'm not stupid.

"She's South-South-East about two miles from here in the desert. You can't miss the sound of the engine."

I can't believe I just gave that information up. Oh well. Kyle smiles at me and then swipes the hunting knife across my side again, leaving another gash.

He winks at me and says "See ya later," and walks out. Damn, that one hurt.

-----


I finally managed to free myself from my restraints. After some careful lock-picking and some choice words, I had managed to free my arms. I hopped, literally, into the next room where I knew there was an ax. I only resorted to this because I dropped what I had been using to pick the locks and couldn't find it anywhere. Damn these cracked floors.

I walk out of the room and who do I meet but one certain brunette bombshell. She's got her gun out and it's aimed right at me. Wonderful.

"Going somewhere, slick?"

I throw the handcuffs to the ground and say in annoyance, "Miss Parker. How nice to see you again."

"I wish I could say the same," she replies in a biting tone. Damn, she's angry.

"What happened to you?" she asks, glancing at my torso. I can't help but feel a little excited by that. Don't ask why. It's not proper for children to read.

I glance down to where she's looking. Those'll get infected soon if I don't take care of them. I make a mental note to do just that once I get out of this shitty town.

"Jarod's little brother wanted some information."

She looks shocked by this latest revelation. Then again, I was too.

"Kyle is here?"

"We negotiated. I lost," I quip in a deadpan tone.

"Doesn't anybody ever really die anymore?" Whoops, she's annoyed by that. Oh well. It's The Centre. What does she expect?

A sudden realization hits her and she says: "You left that envelope on that sign."

I inhale sharply, bothered that she figured it out so easily. "What gave me away?"

"Jarod's a pain the ass, but he's not heartless." Ah, so the real Miss Parker peeks through. I always knew she had some feelings for the lab rat.

Before I can muse on this anymore, she slams her gun into my jaw, sending me backwards to kiss the wall. Yummy. She grabs me by the hair and pulls me back to face her. I groan in protest, but she's already aimed her gun at me again.

"That was for my mother, and this is for me."

Holy fuck, she's gonna blow my fucking head right off.

But then that annoying mutt comes up and starts barking at us, distracting her. She looks at the dog for a split second, but that's all I need. I grab both her arms and we struggle. I manage to throw her against the wall, nabbing her gun. I aim it at her just like she did to me moments ago.

"Unh! You. . . Ow."

"God, you're beautiful when you're angry." I know that'll piss her off, but there isn't much she can do about it. I get her in a semi-headlock and drag her outside with me. Here's hoping Jarod and Kyle come back. Then we can have some real fun!

-----


I can hear them talking now. About how they'll be a family and all that other bullshit. Just as they're about to leave, I make my move. I come out of my hiding spot, holding Parker against me by wrapping my arm around her neck. I have the gun aimed at Kyle, and he has his shotgun aimed at me. Ooh, a standoff!

"Oh, this is beautiful! It's just one big happy family, isn't it?" I say, surprising them.

"It's the end of the line, Lyle. There's no place left for you to run." That's what he thinks. . .

Kyle and Jarod slowly approach us, making sure they don't provoke me. Well, Jarod is. Kyle, on the other hand, doesn't give a damn, but is just following Big Brother's lead. What I said earlier about feelings between my captive and her prey resurfaces in my mind. It all makes sense now. . . But now isn't the time to dwell on this.

"I'm disappointed in you, Jarod. You know me better than that. If there is one thing I don't do easy, it's die. Drop the cannon, kid."

Everybody's got this real hard look on their face, like they're deadly serious about this. Even Kyle. Strange, they seem to care if somebody dies here today. Guess I'll just have to make sure someone does die.

Miss Parker suddenly bursts out, shouting, "Shoot him, you moron!"

"Shut up!" I say to her, tightening my grip. A helicopter shines its spotlight on us from above and begins to descend. Great. Just what I need. More Centre personnel. Now it's time to start getting desperate, and it shows in my voice and actions.

"Stay back, or I put a very large hole in Big Brother."

Jarod warningly says "Kyle" as if it'll do any good. Yeah right. And I'm the king of the Oompa-Loompas.

"Threats and pain. That's all you've ever offered us. You stole our lives, and you killed our spirit and now you think you can threaten us with death? It doesn't matter, Lyle. Because we've never made a difference anyway."

Wow, the kid sure can make a speech. It's not a very good one, but it's better than normal.

By now the helicopter has almost landed and I'm getting just a bit worried. It's only natural.

"I'll kill him. I swear I will." Do I sound like I'm trying to convince myself? I hope not.

Kyle cocks his shotgun, keeping it aimed at my head. "And then I'll kill you."

"Don't do this, Kyle." What the hell is up with Jarod and saving my life? Is he feeling generous today or something? Maybe it's because I'm using Parker as a shield. Hey, you never know. . . I've seen footage of those two when they were kids.

After a moment of threatening looks exchanged by both Kyle and I, he says, "By the way Lyle. . .How's that knife wound?"

Miss Parker jabs her elbow into one of my wounds, forcing me to let her go momentarily and double over in pain. Ouch. Again.

She escapes from my grasp and I stand back up, bringing the gun up with me. Almost as soon as I move, Kyle shoots first. I'm flung against the tank behind me, literally kissing it. Thank God for bulletproof jackets. That's all I can say. They may not provide much protection against an angry woman’s elbow, but they sure stop the bullets.

I spin back around and quickly note that Jarod has moved forward slightly. Perfect. I bring the gun up and aim at Kyle and then Jarod. I pull the trigger and feel the recoil. Kyle has dropped the shotgun and jumped in front of Jarod, taking the bullet in his back.

Damn. And here I was hoping I could knock off Wonderboy.

Jarod screams "NO!" and lies Kyle down on the ground. How sweet.

I end up falling back against the tank and landing on my ass. I take a few breaths and watch the dramatic scene unfold. My attention is diverted when the helicopter finally lands.

Can't stay around for long. I crawl away, not being noticed by anybody.

-----

the end.

feedback welcomed at spacedoutwriter@hotmail.com


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