by French Pony
The battle raged through the PPC Headquarters. Suvians screeched and flamed, and desperate agents shot back. The cries of the insane and wounded filled the air.
"N.D. Financial Bank! D**n the torpedoes! Live Free or Die! Leggy wuvs me!"
The crash cart, all bleeping bleepers and flashing lights, rumbled crazily through the featureless gray walls of Headquarters. PPC Agents scurried frantically to get out of the way. The crash cart nearly collided with another cart in the corridor, but the young man and young woman accompanying it managed to wrestle it out of the way just in time. They flattened themselves against the wall as the screeching, bleeping, flashing crash cart hurtled by them.
"Whew, that was close," the young woman said.
"What's up?" the young man wondered.
"Another case of Sue overload?" the young woman guessed.
"You're probably right."
The two exchanged a sympathetic shrug and resumed trundling their cart off to a nearly forgotten corner of the bowels of Headquarters. Half an hour later, they were happily unloading the cart's contents and distributing them along miles of shelves, racks, hooks, and lockers. The incident with the crash cart had been completely forgotten.
There was a zap, a crash, and then a longer, richer, more prolonged and varied crash. A young man emerged from a heap of fallen audiocassettes and looked around wildly for the source of the telepathic disturbance.
"PPC A/V Department, home of the Cryptomusic Archive, Adam speaking, how can I help you?"
Adam, Frenchie. You are still here. Good.
"Holy—! Frenchie, it's Her!" the young man now known as Adam shrieked, waving frantically. The young woman, who by default must be Frenchie, switched off her Walkperson, pulled the headphones down, and stared at him.
"The Rose of Sharon?"
Your presence is required in the office of the Sunflower Official. Please appear promptly. And quietly, if such is at all possible.
"The Sunflower Official?" Adam asked.
"Quietly?" Frenchie asked. The A/V Geeks looked at each other wide-eyed. Suddenly, their day had become much more interesting.
"Is this the right door?" Adam asked, staring at the featureless slab of oak.
"Only one way to find out," Frenchie said, raising a fist to knock.
'Quietly,' I said. The door swung open. The Geeks tiptoed into the room and stared at the eminently reasonable-looking Sunflower. Frenchie squinted and stared harder. Adam flashed a weak smile at the Rose of Sharon standing nearby.
"Uh, you rang?"
The Rose of Sharon waved her fronds at the Geeks. Here they are. My best and brightest.
The Sunflower did not stir a petal. Your only, I believe. What is the female doing?
"Frenchie!" Adam stage-whispered.
". . . five, eight, thirteen . . . what is it? You made me lose count."
Adam poked her and gestured towards the Sunflower. Frenchie blushed.
"Oh. I . . . er . . . I'd heard that sunflowers . . ."
". . . er . . . I'dheardthatsunflowerseedsgrowinaFibonaccipattern . . ."
A Fibonacci pattern. Indeed. You are correct, Rose of Sharon. They do need to get out more. They will do.
"Ah, we'll do what, exactly?" Adam asked.
The Rose of Sharon bloomed at him. You are being activated for Emergency Mary Sue Duty.
"Mary Sue Duty?" Adam gasped, horrified.
"Cool," Frenchie said. "Why?" The Sunflower Official turned to her.
Perhaps you were unaware, but there has been an attack by the Suvians. Makes-Things has been sent to Medical for an indefinite period. I have dispatched my agents to hunt down the Suvians and cleanse Headquarters of the vermin. However, our work does not cease for such trivial incidents. You will proceed to your department and gather such equipment as you have. Your mission will be revealed to you then. Dismissed.
"So what kind of equipment should we bring?" Frenchie asked as the pair made their way back to the Cryptomusic Archives.
"I should know?" Adam replied. "I know as much about this as you do."
"Oh. Well, I just thought, seeing as how you were dating that one Assass—"
"Frenchie. You should have stopped a clause ago."
"Sorry. How about a little of everything, then?" Frenchie rummaged around and started shoving various bits of assorted electronica into a duffel bag.
"And weapons." Adam was nothing if not forgiving. He took two weapons from the rack and tossed one to Frenchie.
"And Canon Analysis Thingies," Frenchie added.
"We don't have any down here."
"Ah," Frenchie said, her eyes lighting up in a most unhealthy manner. "But Makes-Things does. And Makes-Things is in Medical. And I have various lockpicking devices on my person." Adam groaned and followed her to the workshop.
Five hairpins, two coathangers, one pocketknife and one credit card later, Frenchie and Adam were equipped with unattended CADs and ready to go. All they needed now were disguises and the Words. Adam spliced audio wiring, Frenchie hooked up an illegal cable tapper, and the Words began to flow, projected against the wall. The Geeks studied the Words for a moment, puzzled.
"When and where is this exactly?" Adam asked rhetorically.
"Gandalf is with them, so it must be between Rivendell and Moria," Frenchie, who took some things entirely too literally, said. She scrolled a bit further down, squinching up her eyes against the pain. Even so, Adam could hear the distinctly uncomplimentary Yiddish phrases she muttered. He leaned over her shoulder to take a peek.
"Freeeeeow," he said. "I mean . . . technically . . . It was never very specific about what they saw during the two weeks before hitting Caradhras . . ."
"I'm sure it wasn't Elvish ghost towns," Frenchie growled through gritted teeth. Adam scuttled over to the disguise generator.
"Ghostly Elves it is, then," he said brightly, twisting a knob. A blue light flared. He applied his boot firmly to the still-growling Frenchie's rear, and the Geeks tumbled into another world.
It didn't look so bad. Bright sun, blue sky, ruined village. Adam was just looking around for a picture postcard kiosk when the world gave a sickening lurch and knocked both Geeks flat on their faces. A tiny Elf child appeared in the now-smoking ruins of the village and began to sing a lament. The piercing, keening wail shot through the Geeks' eardrums and made their bones vibrate. Through the dim red haze of pain, they watched the Elf child somehow manage to bury the village's other occupants, dead by an unknown attacker. Frenchie was valiantly attempting to crawl over to an unused scimitar when the Elf child collapsed attractively on her mother's grave. Canon suddenly gave a great roar. The shock wave sent the Geeks tumbling into the blessed dark of unconsciousness.
It was several hours later when they awoke. Everything seemed back to normal. Frenchie sat up first and looked around. "What the sam hill was that?"
"Time distortion," Adam groaned. "I've heard the agents talking about those. An unannounced flashback, during which she—oh, sweet everlovin' Jizo—she dies and goes to Mandos and gets a ring and gets disguised as a human. No wonder we went down. Canon must have torn itself a new one."
"My ears hurt," Frenchie complained. "Maybe Elves weren't such a good idea. Sensitive ears." A thought struck her, and she pawed through the duffel bag, coming up with a handful of audiocassettes. The plastic casings had melted, and the smell of fricasseed magnetic tape filled the air. "Oh, no! My Rossini overtures! And the Tullio Serafin recording, too!"
"I never understood why you liked Rossini to begin with," Adam grumbled. "We can replace it back at Headquarters if we ever get there. Now, hide. According to the Words, she'll meet the Fellowship soon."
"Can't we kill her now? Pleeeeeeeeeeze?"
"We gotta wait. She produces a sub-Sue, and we have to get that one, too. It's only a couple of days." Adam was prepared, and wrapped a hand over Frenchie's wail of anguish as he hauled her into a ruined house. The Sue appeared and spread a picnic.
She sighed and set up some food and water on a cloth and took her place in a large tree.
"Fur-ball-wen?" Frenchie wondered. Adam was busy scribbling in a notebook and did not notice when the Sue briefly sprouted a lustrous brindle coat. Frenchie could see the signs of Pherbalwen's growing crush on Legolas, and her eyes narrowed to slits. She scowled through the obligatory introductions, she tapped her foot impatiently as several random Orcs were disposed of, she sighed theatrically through the gratuitous use of pidgin Elvish, and she fumed as Pherbalwen reiterated the story that the Geeks had just witnessed. Frenchie nudged Adam with her toe. "Add Aggravated Abuse of Exposition to the charge list," she told him. "Why do Sues never understand that Basil Exposition is a joke character?"
Having known Frenchie for some time, Adam did not bother to answer the question. Instead, he reached into his duffel bag, pulled out a CAD and tossed it to Frenchie. "Here. Play with this while they're still occupied."
Frenchie sighed and aimed the Device at Pherbalwen. It whirred, beeped, chittered and hummed for a long time before coming up with a report.
[PHERBALWEN. FEMALE. NON-CANON. ELF. NO, HUMAN. NO, MAIA. ELF. HUMAN. MAIA. ELFHUMANMAIA AW FUGGIT MARY SUE.]
The Device spat some sparks, then died. Frenchie tapped it. "What this Device needs," she declared, "is some duct tape."
"No," Adam said. "What it needs is a hammer. But it's done its main job, and we've got another one in reserve. What say you to some downtime?" He pulled out a portable edition of the Illuminati card game. This successfully distracted Frenchie from the ensuing elven angst, and she was soon so absorbed in the UFO takeover of the comic book shops that she confined herself to making a "this-is-the-smallest-violin-in-the-world-playing-My-Heart-Bleeds-For-You" gesture at Pherbalwen before night fell over the land.
The next morning, Frenchie woke up to find Adam carefully wiring microphones to the trees. Frenchie blinked sleepily at him. "Whuzzat for?"
"I'm collecting a sample of her pidgin," Adam whispered. "We can keep it in the Cryptomusic Archives as a training tape in case SIELU gets any more recruits. Wanna plug in that RCA cord?"
Frenchie picked up the requested cable, and was about to plug it into the tape deck, when the soft murmurs of pidgin Elvish were replaced by shouts from Pherbalwen and Aragorn.
"Hello, I was talking to you." She called out to him, Aragorn turned and picked up his pack and swords. "Have you got a problem with me?" Aragorn nodded.
"G-g-g-g-g-gh!" Frenchie quivered with rage as the two began to fight each other. She dropped the RCA cable and reached for a weapon. Just as she was about to charge, Adam made a flying tackle. He wrestled her to the ground, sat on her and stifled her shrieks for the second time.
"First of all, you're unarmed."
Frenchie waggled her weapon hand.
Adam sighed. "It's just a sport épée. It's got a clever little electronic tip that goes beep. If you hit her hard enough, you just might bruise her." Frenchie slumped, and Adam cautiously removed his hand from her mouth.
"Holy crapola!" Frenchie stage-whispered. "Sport épées? What are we supposed to do with those? Oooh, let me at her, I'll kill her with my bare hands . . ."
"Nope. Sorry. Later. The épées were a mistake, but I'll think of something. Now, get up and help me hook up the recorder. Or do you want to miss the moment when Legolas nicknames Gimli 'little father?'"
"Little father?" Frenchie shoved Adam off of her and sat up. Adam handed her the RCA cable.
"Yep. Little father. If you help me hook up these mikes, you won't even notice when she starts cuddling the hobbits."
"Oh, all right. But 'little father' is definitely going on the charge list."
"Right after Aragorn the Sexist Bastard." The Geeks shook hands and were friends again.
There was not much time for recording, however. Pherbalwen attached herself to the Fellowship (accompanied by the thwacks of Frenchie's head against a convenient wall and the scribblings of Adam in his notebook) and they started walking. Frenchie and Adam helped themselves to some of the rather startling variety of food left in the ghost town and followed at a respectable distance.
The countryside had not been altered from the movie's stunning vistas of New Zealand, and Frenchie and Adam decided to take advantage. Frenchie carried a miniature DV camera while Adam walked ahead with a boom mike.
"Off to your right, notice the Mary Sue in her native habitat," Adam intoned in his best David Attenborough voice. "Observe her primitive hunting behavior as she stuns a hobbit with an apple, then carries him back to the troop. This is but one part in her elaborate mating dance."
Frenchie giggled, then peered through the camera's viewfinder. "Uh-oh," she said. A few twists of the zoom lens allowed her to spot the arrival of the crebain an instant before Pherbalwen did. She turned to warn Adam, but it was too late.
"Crebain from Dunland, Hide" Pherbalwen bellowed.
The sound overloaded Adam's boom mike, which exploded in a puff of wire and synthetic fur. Adam ripped the headphones off, shaking his head wildly against the pain in his ears. Frenchie tackled him and pulled him under cover as the birds flew past, splattering the remains of the boom mike with evil guano.
After the birds had passed, Frenchie and Adam sat up cautiously. "Are you all right?" Frenchie asked.
"Yurr. . . all right. . . jussa headache. Dint need that eardrum anyway." Adam shook some life back into his head, then grabbed at Frenchie's shirt as she tried to stand. "Frenchie. Stay down. There's a bit you need to see."
"The mysterious and vomit-inducing change of her eye color from humble brown to noble blue?" asked brown-eyed Frenchie.
"No, the next bit."
Frenchie and Adam watched from their hiding place as Gandalf confronted Pherbalwen about her quarter-Istar ancestry. Pherbalwen took offense at an imagined slight, raised her arms and—
The shock wave that Pherbalwen produced pinned the Geeks against a rock. The a-bomb flash dazzled their eyes. When they could see again, Adam pulled a stunned Frenchie to her feet.
"See?" he said. "That's why I didn't want you to fight her earlier. Me being more observant than you, I listened to what your CAD said right before it frizzled."
"She whupped the bejeezus out of Aragorn AND Gandalf," Frenchie muttered through clenched teeth. "She is so dead."
"Mm-hmm," Adam said, scanning the Words on the second CAD. "That's what we're here for, Frenchie. Now, pack up the gear, and let's take a hike. There's an Orc attack coming, and I don't intend to be anywhere near those things when they arrive."
The Geeks hied themselves to the safety of a convenient secluded glade, and were entertained by the distant screams, clangings and invocations of Mars that signified a Random Orc Attack taking place where they had left the Fellowship and Pherbalwen. Adam played with his official Harry Potter wizarding camera. After a while, it was filled with pictures of the scenery, the view from the mountains, interesting plants, his shoes, and an arresting portrait of Frenchie which moved from her shock at the flash going off in her face to the punch she aimed at him with Bruckheimer-esque directness.
"So I'll be sticking with the digital camera from now on, then?" he asked with a half-smile.
"You'll get run through the paper-recording machine if you don't quit it with the cameras," Frenchie growled. "How much longer do they fight, anyway? Can't we just portal in time to when the sub-Sue shows up?"
"And miss more photo opportunites?" Before Frenchie could answer that, Adam was already looking through the Words. "Let's see . . . she gets knocked cold right about—" A scream echoed through the woods. "—now, and lies unconscious for two days, cradled in the loving arms of Legolas, of course. The gentle dawn of the new chapter wakes her, the sub-Sue will appear, and we can get moving."
"So we're stuck for two days?"
"'Fraid so," Adam admitted. "They don't actually go anywhere that I can tell. That means a lot of time to play Illuminati." He shuffled the deck provocatively, but the gleam in Frenchie's eyes froze him with apprehension. "Oh no. You've got that look in your eye."
"The I've-got-a-plan-of-supreme-evilness look. What are you thinking of doing?"
Frenchie smiled innocently. "Well, since we've got two days, lots of recording and playback equipment and precisely no useful weapons, I thought some planning might be in order. I've just devised a quick, painless way to dispose of the sub-Sue. Help me rig the speakers in the trees."
Adam wired a small speaker to a branch. "Um. What exactly are you planning to use these for?"
"Diamanda Galas. Make her blood run cold."
"What?!" Adam spluttered. "That's inhumane! Which album?"
"Good choice." They continued placing speakers until they surrounded the glade. Adam was running wiring between them when he started to chuckle softly to himself. "I've got an idea, too," he said. "For Pherbalwen herself. Do we have a hand mike in our pack?"
"Sure," Frenchie said. "What for?"
Adam gave a wicked grin. "'When you die at the Palace,'" he quoted, "'you really die at the Palace.'"
"Ah, Mel Brooks," Frenchie sighed. "I knew there was a reason I put up with you."
The trap being set, the Geeks settled down for a couple of days of camping, making s'mores and playing endless, elaborate games of Illuminati, breaking the tedium with the occasional hand of Egyptian Rat Screw, the Official Card Game of the PPC.
Frenchie had just slapped a pile when a small, thin figure in a cloak darted past them. The cards forgotten, the Geeks stealthily crept near to the Fellowship to hear what the child had to say. In an "angelic" voice, she introduced herself as "Rinamarth, daughter of Alongiel."
"Adopted daughter to Legolas!" said Adam.
"Niece to John Kennedy!" added Frenchie.
"And a snappy dresser!" they chorused.
"Okay," Frenchie said. We've got an Orc attack and some backstory. We have to find a way to separate both Sues from the Fellowship and lure them into their traps."
Adam consulted the Words. "About here ought to do it," he said. "After the monster fight and some stickiness with Legolas, they go off to have a chat. Will that do you?"
Frenchie considered the problem. "Any use of mystic power I should know about?"
"One. Pherbalwen and Rinamarth throw a mystic red light over the land. Seems to work like a neutron bomb—kills Bad Guys, but leaves houses standing."
"That's okay, then," Frenchie said, glancing at the stereo trap. "There's no such thing as a neutron bomb, so the speakers will be okay."
Her prediction proved correct some time later. In a performance that would have delighted Bert the Turtle, both Geeks ducked and covered when they saw the flash. The shock wave roared over them, leaving them shaken but unhurt. After a moment, they got up and dusted themselves off. There was little time remaining. Adam made some last adjustments to a hand microphone. Frenchie checked the wiring on the speakers one last time, hooked them to her portable CD player and inserted the Plague Mass CD.
Later that morning, Pherbalwen and Rinamarth wandered off from the Fellowship.
"Okay, final plan," said Adam. "How do you want to work this?"
"I’ll lure her in," Frenchie said. "I’m a woman, so I’ll appear non-threatening."
"Frenchie," Adam sighed, "the only place you’d appear non-threatening is in a Sid Davis film, and even then it might have to be Boys Beware."
"The one with Ralph the Evil Homo-Sexual?"
"That’s the one. And that’s why I will do the luring." Adam handed the CD player to Frenchie and walked into the clearing. "Sue-eeeee!" he called. "Elf, elf, elf! Sue-eeeeeee!"
Sure enough, Rinamarth trotted obediently away from Pherbalwen. Adam put on his handsomest, suavest smile, and Rinamarth stepped toward him. When she reached the center of the clearing, Adam inserted earplugs and Frenchie pressed "play." The shriek of an angry Greek-American diva blasted from the miniature speakers the Geeks had rigged to the trees.
"There are NO MORE TICKETS to the FUNERAL!"
Rinamarth froze, her eyes wide with terror. Frenchie turned the CD off. Adam tapped Rinamarth with a splitter, and the little girl shattered and crumbled to dust at his feet.
"Man," Adam said. "You were right. Her voice does make people’s blood run cold."
"Told ya. Now for the big game. Got the charge list?"
"Right here." Adam patted his pocket. Frenchie picked up the altered microphone and the curious switch that Adam had attached to it and handed them to Adam.
"Trade you for the list. You get to do the honors on this one."
They crept slowly towards Pherbalwen, who seemed a bit unsettled that Rinamarth was missing.
So Pherbalwen opened her mouth and sang. For the first time in an age.
Adam retched. Frenchie's head throbbed, but she knew her Duty. Screwing her eyes up against the pain, she darted into the clearing and thrust the microphone into the oblivious Pherbalwen's hand.
The song carried through the place and all flowers burst into bloom.
Pherbalwen, a little surprised at the volume she had suddenly generated, stopped singing and stared at the microphone in surprise, then looked at Frenchie. Disheveled, fuzzy curls flying in all directions, mud-splashed and sporting the scowl of a terminal migraine, Frenchie glared back at her and whipped out the list.
"Pherbalwen the quarter-Istar," she announced. "You are hereby charged with the following: Creating an Implausible Backstory; Aggravated Abuse of Exposition upon repeating it; upstaging Glorfindel with your thingyamamie tales of resurrection; creating Elvish ghost towns where none should be; causing every single Fellowship member to act out of character, special aggravating charges in the cases of Legolas the Lovesick Fool, Aragorn the Sexist Bastard, and Gandalf the Arrogant Old Coot; Calling Gimli "Little Father;" changing your appearance; blasting one Maia, multiple Orcs and two PPC members with weapons of mass destruction; creating a sub-Sue related to a canon character; having a truly awful singing voice; melting my Rossini tape; annoying PPC members, and Being a Mary Sue! What have you got to say for yourself?"
Pherbalwen, still clutching the microphone, opened her mouth and started to sing again. Frenchie clutched her head as lances of pain shot through it.
"Adam! NOW!" she called. Adam, hidden in the trees, flipped the switch. 2,000 volts surged through the extra wire that he had painstakingly attached to the microphone the night before. Pherbalwen's song stopped abruptly as her entire body jittered from the shock.
"Look at her dance!" Frenchie cackled.
Adam flipped the switch again, and Pherbalwen's body collapsed to the ground, smoking gently. There was a moment of beautiful silence. Frenchie nudged the microphone away from the corpse with her toe. Adam emerged from the trees."
"Gawd, that was fun!" he said. "What shall we do for disposal?"
Frenchie gave the matter some consideration. "Do the Barrow-Wights seem hungry to you?"
"Poor things. Deprived of their tender, sweet Hobbit meat by nasty ol' Tom Bombadil."
Frenchie smiled and began to gather their equipment together. "I thought you'd see things that way. Shall we portal?"
"Let's shall." Adam aimed the portal generator dramatically, and the air obligingly split open. The Geeks dragged Pherbalwen's still-smoking corpse through the portal. As it closed behind them, they heard the faint, contented whoosh of canon slipping back into place.
"Home, sweet home." Adam dropped his bag on the floor, brushed a stack of DA-98s off of a battered armchair and sank into it gratefully. Frenchie squatted down and began to pull tapes from their bags.
"Look at all our new loot!" she gloated. "We've got the Middle-earth Scenic Tour, a field sampling of Mary Sue Elvish, and—" she pulled out something glittery— "an attractive gold necklace?"
"It was from the Barrow," Adam explained. "I didn't know if I'd have time to get my mother a birthday present, so I picked her up a little souvenir."
"Stealing from canon! The Flowers are gonna kill us!"
Adam considered the problem. "Tom Bombadil did haul all the loot out into the open air free for the taking," he offered. "Shame to let it go to the birds, really."
"Fine." A wicked gleam came into Frenchie's eyes. "But next time, you're getting me something sparkly, too. I'm your partner, after all. Deal?" She stuck out her hand.
Adam was staring past her in horror to the computer that lurked at the front desk. "Frenchie," he said in a hoarse whisper. "You said it. You said 'next time.' The Law of Narrative Comedy is gonna come crashing down around our heads and shoulders."
Both Geeks stared at the computer. Its silence was suddenly menacing.
"Run!" Frenchie cried. And the Geeks gathered their equipment and vanished into the dark recesses of the Cryptomusic Archives.
The computer sniggered an electronic snigger. They couldn't hide forever. It would wait, oh yes precious, it would wait . . .
THE END . . . FOR NOW . . .
Author's Note: That was a truly disgusting set of Sues. The A/V Department has an especial hatred in its heart for the Singing Sues, for their song is drippy and pop-ballad-y and causes pain. The recordings of the Sue and her language are available for borrowing at the Cryptomusic Archives, but call ahead before you go. Frenchie and Adam are rather isolated and may be shy of strangers. They are, however, very interested in odd bits of recorded media and will be happy to introduce you to their collection.
Frenchie would like to say that Diamanda Galas is a performance artist of Greek/Turkish/American ancestry whose early work involved electronically splitting her voice into a "matrix" and combining passionate AIDS activism with the traditional Greek women's vocal form of lament to create some astonishingly scary pieces of performance art. Plague Mass involves electronically enhanced screeching, wailing and growling, and has been known to send music students running from the room in terror.
Adam introduces Sid Davis as one of the weirder auteurs of 1950s social programming films. He had a paranoid imagination and rock-bottom budgets, and produced 10-minute suburban morality stories. Boys Beware (1961) is a bizarre film that cautions teenage boys away from the evil, monstrous Homo-Sexual, who apparently lurks around playgrounds ready to lure them into a Life Of Sin. Its stentorian pronouncements have absolutely no basis in reality, and as such, this film is a rare treat. You can watch it in streaming video by going to www.archive.org and looking it up by name in the Prelinger Archives.