by Cassie Cameron-Young
Tyler's day had been exceedingly strange. After he had completed his mission, he had just... wandered around the Black Gates for no apparent reason. Two Orcs had stepped out of nowhere and threatened him. Then they had asked him to join their organisation, and when he agreed, they had created a strange door out of blue light and sent him through it with a few bizarre instructions.
After that, he had been confronted by a talking flower and sent on a series of tasks that involved wandering around the strange grey building looking for places called Departments. Just after he had managed to find everything, a young man who'd identified himself as Techno-Dann from the Doh-Sat had asked him to come and help with something, seeing as he didn't appear to be busy at the moment.
Now Tyler was standing in front of a console with the young man, who had been trying to explain the concept of a charity for the last few minutes.
"... so if people are more aware that there is a problem, then they'll probably help with making the problem go away. You see?"
"I believe I do understand, yes."
"Good. Now, we just got this message from someone on the PPC Board about—"
"What is the PPC Board?"
"You haven't heard of them?" Tyler shook his head. "Oh. Well... it's like... a group of ordinary people from the Real World who know a bit about the PPC, but they don't work for us. They managed to cause a few problems a couple of years back, when they accidentally cut off our power supply for a while. They're usually quite helpful, though; quite a few of them've found Agents for us. Sometimes they send us fics to deal with—kind of like the Intelligence Department—and sometimes they send us other things, like this charity idea."
Tyler took a moment to process this information before replying. "So one of them sent this charity idea to you?"
"Yep. One of the Boarders—JulyFlame—came up with it, and a few other people apparently thought it was a really good idea, so we got this message asking us to set it up."
"What is the name of the charity, and why is it being set up?"
"It's the... hang on." Techno-Dann pressed a few buttons on the console, and the message came up. "The Makes-Things Fund For Abused Technology."
"And what is its purpose?" Techno-Dann looked blank for a moment, then sighed and settled down to yet another lengthy explanation.
* * *
Several hours later, Tyler was walking down to the cafeteria, armed with a huge bag of leaflets, several dozen rolled-up posters, and a Never-Ending Roll of Sellotape™. Every so often, he stopped, unrolled one of the posters, and stuck it to the wall (generally after a bit of groping around to check where the wall was), before surrounding it with leaflets.
On reaching the cafeteria lobby, he was met by Techno-Dann, who pointed out a large heap of material on the floor, along with a couple of long ladders. "Just hang that over the fountain there, and then stick around here for a while so you can explain things. Any questions?"
"How am I meant to hang it by myself?"
"You'll think of something," Dann said vaguely as something in his pocket chimed. He pulled out a small metal object and looked at the screen. "Sorry, I have to go. Someone down in Floaters is complaining about their console beeping too loudly and threatening to blow it up—oh, it's Sabbat from RC 642... figures. See you later!" He hurried off, leaving a very puzzled Tyler to work out just how to hang a giant banner on his own.
* * *
After several attempts, one of which resulted in the banner hanging upside down and another in which it was twisted so much it resembled a rope, it was in place. Rather out of breath, Tyler stepped back and looked up at it, wondering for the umpteenth time why nobody had come into the lobby yet, as he would have asked them for some help.
The Narrative Laws of Comedy had obviously been keeping a close eye on the proceedings, because quite a few agents entered the room at that precise moment. They took in the sight and stopped, gaping up at the huge banner stretched above the Fountain of Bleepka, bearing the slogan "Support MTFFAT!"
* * *
A little while earlier...
It had been a while since Lasa and Mombi had had any spare time. They decided to head down to the cafeteria on the million-to-one chance that there was anything edible there at the moment. This precipitated a frantic rush out of the RC and down the corridor before the console could react.
They got about three corridors away before slowing down to a casual walk. As they rounded a corner, a very strange sight met their eyes. Stuck all over the walls were leaflets and posters with pictures of random pieces of PPC technology. Underneath most of these images were slogans like 'A CAD is for life, not just for a mission' and 'With just a few simple donations, you could bring new hope to a console in desperate need of repairs'.
"Who put these things up?" Lasa asked nobody in particular as the duo examined one of the posters, which displayed a miserable-looking, battered Remote Activator and the legend 'Where would you be without it?'.
"Not a clue," Mombi replied chirpily, "but they've certainly made identifying the walls easier."
"True." They continued down the hallway, trying to distract themselves from concentrating on their destination and passing dozens more of the posters.
On reaching the cafeteria lobby, they came to an abrupt halt at the sight of the huge banner.
"Honestly, this is getting stupid," Lasa complained. "Em-tee ef-fat? Who came up with that?"
"Empty effort," Mombi grinned. "Sounds about right."
"In answer to your question," came a voice from behind them, "it was one of the PPC Boarders."
They turned round to see a rather pale-looking man, carrying several rolled-up posters and a thick sheaf of leaflets. His appearance suggested that he was a recruit from a fic who hadn't been described, and was therefore almost colourless. He was wearing the usual PPC uniform, with a DoSAT flashpatch overlaid with the image of a screwdriver.
"Who are you?" Mombi asked.
"And what in HQ is going on?" Lasa added, gesturing at the banner.
"Well," the stranger replied, seemingly unruffled, "which question should I answer first? Or would you like to ask some more?" After a few moments of silence from all three, he smiled slightly.
"I am called Tyler. The event you are most likely referring to is the awareness campaign for the Makes-Things Fund For Abused Technology."
"First I've heard of it," Lasa muttered.
"It is a new charity. At present it is supported by the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology. Techno-Dann received a message from someone named JulyFlame of the PPC Board suggesting the idea for the Fund. It was decided that such a charity should be set up within Headquarters."
"And just how did you get involved with it?"
"I had not yet been assigned a partner, or even a Department, when the message arrived. Therefore, I was requested to take on the task of spreading awareness of the charity."
A small crowd had been gathering around them, homing in on Tyler, as he seemed to be the only person who knew what was going on.
"So what's the point of this fund?" a voice called out.
"To remind Agents that the technology they use is meant to help them, and that they should not abuse it in such a manner as it is reported that they do."
"We don't abuse the bloody things!" snapped a short, slightly wild-looking teenager wearing the Floaters patch. "They're the ones that blow up on us!"
"That occurrence is a result of the abuse they are subjected to." Tyler was still looking remarkably calm considering the expression on the girl's face, which was being echoed by not only Lasa and Mombi, but several other Agents nearby.
"Are you saying that it's our fault the CADs malfunction all the time?" another Floater asked. He appeared to be more curious than angry. "How did you come to that conclusion?"
"If you leave them switched on for too long after taking a reading, they cannot cope. It is your responsibility to turn them off, and therefore, when you fail to do so, they will break. You allow this to occur on a regular basis, and therefore it is abuse." An angry rumble started at this, but Tyler still seemed oblivious to the danger he was in, despite comments such as,
"Five bloody CADs I've gone through and he's standing there telling me I'm abusive—"
"What's it called when they start insulting us, then?" and
"We don't try to make the damn things blow up—" After a minute or so of muttering, Tyler started talking over them.
"I have also been informed that the items known as consoles are frequently abused, although they do not explode—"
He was cut off as the rumble grew into a roar and the gathered Agents charged.
* * *
Tyler still wasn't sure exactly what had happened. One minute he had been giving the Agents the information Techno-Dann had asked him to give them, and the next the Agents had been running at him waving weapons and someone had grabbed him and dragged him off and they were still running and where was he now—
They stopped abruptly, both Agents completely out of breath, and sank to the floor. After a few minutes of gasping, Tyler felt recovered enough to attempt a conversation.
"No problem," his rescuer puffed. "Just don't ever do that again."
"I think I will take that advice." Now able to focus, Tyler examined the stranger, who appeared to be a fairly average young man with brown hair, wearing the usual PPC uniform with a strange flashpatch. "Who are you?" He received a rather weary smile.
"I'm Crispin. Department of Mary Sues. You?"
"I am Tyler." Crispin raised an eyebrow.
"What's your Department? I'd have said DoSAT, but they don't have screwdrivers on the patch. Or is that some new thing I've not heard about?" Tyler glanced down at his emblem.
"This patch is unique to the Makes-Things Fund For Abused Technology."
There was a muffled [Beep!]. Crispin reached into his pocket and pulled out a small machine which Tyler, despite his lack of technical knowledge about PPC technology in general, identified as a DOGA-modified CAD. Bizarrely, Crispin started talking to the CAD, holding it so that Tyler could see the screen as well.
[You should join!]
"Should I? Why?"
[It's for Makes-Things. I don't want him to be forgotten. *sniff*]
"Don't get so upset. I'm sure he wouldn't be forgotten anyway. I heard one girl in Floaters was bawling her eyes out over him not that long ago, and she barely knew him."
[Really? He's remembered?]
"Yeah, he's remembered."
[Good. But I still think you should join the fund. Think of all the other CADs who can't express themselves like me.]
"Like that's a bad thing," Crispin muttered to Tyler, who was feeling more bewildered by the minute, before turning his attention back to the little machine. "Okay, I'll join. But don't expect me to go over the top with it."
[Okay! Thank you! *is happy*]
"Right, I'm glad we've got that sorted. Now I need to get on with things." Without preamble, Crispin stuffed the sentient piece of equipment back into his pocket and faced Tyler. "Okay, I'll join the Fund. What exactly am I going to be expected to do?"
Tyler had been puzzling over the last few minutes' events, but quickly brought his attention to Crispin's question. "You will be expected to be more aware of your technology's limits. Violence towards it is to be refrained from. And any items which malfunction in any way, shape or form should be recovered and returned to the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology as soon as possible, in as whole a condition as possible."
"Well, that sounds doable."
"You are also requested to wear this image which shows your support for the Fund." Tyler took out a small pin-on badge which resembled his flashpatch. "And to spread awareness of the Fund wherever possible."
Crispin took the badge reluctantly and pinned it on his chest. "Is that all?"
"I cannot recall anything else for the moment."
"Good. Now I need to get back to my RC, and you'd better get back to wherever you're meant to be before the others find you."
The Ironic Overpower must have been zoomed in on the pair, because at that moment the crowd of Agents from the lobby—as well as a few who had joined in just for the sake of it—rounded the nearest corner, still shouting and waving dangerous objects.
"Run!" Crispin yelled, and the two men raced off in different directions.