Chapter 2: "The Dark of the Moon"
"There!" Nenya marked the last square on the monthly calendar and turned it to the next page. "Six months since that over-eager wisteria yanked us through the front door."
"Really?" Rosie looked up, lazily interested, from her comfy bean-bag seat, and stretched. "You would never know it, would you? I mean, by the contact we have with the outside world."
"Well, we wouldn’t even know it by the calendar dates, if it weren’t for Glorfindal keeping track of how long we’re gone on missions." The mini-Balrog had, apparently, picked up basic counting and addition skills at OFUM before he’d come to Nenya’s care. Nenya was trying to teach him his multiplication tables. "That, and the dates on our pay cheques."
"That’s one thing we can say for the Marquis—or maybe for Jay and Acacia, they bugged him about it enough—at least we get regular pay cheques around here." Rosie pulled herself up from the comfy depths of the chair and went over to the storage closet in the corner. "Aha!"
"Acid test." She swiped a finger across the dust on top of the cabinet and held it up to her face. "Hmmm. Yep, six months." Looking sidelong at Nenya she added, "Plus or minus three and a half days."
Nenya grinned. "Hey, it’s not my fault I like physics! Besides, we’re trying different ways to stave off insanity, right? I do science, you do art." She glanced guiltily at the stack of textbooks and papers that marked the latest resting place of the paraphernalia for her correspondence physics course. "Though I have to wonder sometimes what my markers think of the odd coloured smudges on the papers I send in—I doubt the blood and mud really look all that much like red pen and chocolate cookie stains."
"Not to mention the singe marks from when Glori’s looking over your shoulder."
"Maybe I was just getting into the spirit of things and was searching for the deep secrets of the universe by candle-light?"
Before Rosie could give her opinion on that theory, the console (nicknamed "Rincewind" because of its unlucky connection with the Universal Laws of Narrative Comedy) let out a shriek.
"That’s a new noise…." Rosie, who was closer to the noise source, was already looking over the monitor screen. "Oh, for Vana’s sake!"
"Don’t you mean ‘Manwe,’ or ‘Eru,’ or. . . . ‘Someone was king’?! Says Aragorn? What the. . .?" Nenya had made it over to the console by now, and was gaping in a rather unbecoming fashion at the Words.
"Yeah." Rosie absent-mindedly handed her the Tylenol, knowing that anything having to do with Aragorn in this fic was going to affect Nenya badly, Ranger fanatic that she was. "‘Aragorn took a deep breath of the cool autumn air around him. . . .It had been about a year since they had destroyed the ring. Frodo nearly didn't escape, but with one less finger. Early on, Boromir was shot 3 times by a horrid creature. . . .So much had passed in a year's time, and someone was king.’ Someone!? Ye gads."
"It gets worse, doesn’t it?" Nenya trailed a finger down the monitor. "She’s only read FOTR and the beginning of TTT. But she’s writing a post-ROTK fic—wait a second…." Nenya began scribbling on a piece of paper. "Gotta tell Jay and Acacia about this one—a post-War fic that still manages to be non-canonical! And from the looks of it, it’s a Mary Sue, too."
"Yep, half-dead girl by the side of the road, and everything. Look, they’re heading to Rivendell—does that make us Random Elves ™, or are we Uruk-Hai again?"
"Elves, I suppose. She doesn’t leave Rivendell for the duration of the fic, so we’d better go for inconspicuous. It’ll be a nice change, anyhow."
"It will, at that. Being ugly and terrorizing people loses its charm pretty quickly. Well, OK, maybe not terrorizing people." Rosie had a rather more bloodthirsty reputation than her partner.
"Alrighty then. I’m gonna set us to arrive in Rivendell—inside the House of Elrond, to be exact. We’ll miss out on Aragorn picking up our lovely Sue, but since the canon breach of him not knowing who was king in Gondor is only something he thinks, it won’t much matter if we’re there or not. Besides, I doubt we really want to try to follow his horse on foot all night."
On went the portal, through went the agents. As they stepped through the portal, Rincewind’s screen display changed from the Words of the fanfic to a large flashing red warning sign. The portal snapped shut, cutting off the emergency siren the console emitted before it reached the agents’ ears.
Rosie and Nenya found themselves just inside the doors of the Last Homely House. Before they had time to adequately admire the decor (impressive, even in a Suvian universe) Aragorn burst through the front door, carrying the unconscious Mary Sue over his shoulder.
"Elrond! Elrond I need you IMMEDIATELY! It is IMPORTANT!" Once he had reached the House of Elrond, he didn't bother to knock. He walked in.
"Just a minute, just a minute... Oh, It is you Aragorn. Such a pleasant surprise, couldn't you have given word of arrival, enough to let us make a room for you and you're ah... guest?" Elrond replied.
"Ouch, ouch! My ears hurt, Aragorn. Inside voices, inside voices," a shaggily red-haired Elf whispered from a corner. "Why’s Elrond expect him to ‘give word of arrival’ if he’s been out in the wild?"
"Dunno. But one would hope the Lord of Imladris knew his pronouns," the short blonde Elf beside her answered. She pointed her Canon Analysis Device at the Elf Lord.
[Elrond Peredhel. Half-elven male. Canon. Out of Character 13.19 %.]
"Eh, not so bad. He does take care of people who are brought to his doors by friends." Rosie switched the Canon Analysis Device to the limp creature now being passed to a servant of Elrond (did Elrond even have servants?) and blinked at the display.
[Aniron Renoldi Sauron. Human female. Non-canon. Mary Sue.]
"Oh, Eru, does that mean Sauron’s been watching the Princess Diaries? Aniron Renoldi Sauron? And does the author know that ‘Aniron Sauron’ means ‘I desire Sauron’?"
Nenya giggled. "I doubt it. Besides which, I doubt that ‘Sauron’ is a last name. Apparently she goes off to be healed now—do we follow her and watch her wake up? Actually, I’m going to portal; it doesn’t say how long she’s going to be asleep."
"Alrighty." Rosie stepped through, lugging her backpack behind her, and Nenya slipped through behind her. A voice floated from a nearby doorway and they crept up to listen as the Sue replied to Aragorn’s request to tell him about herself.
"My name is Aniron, which is Elven for desire. But since you speak to them in their tongue, you probably already know that."
Rosie began to administer the time-honoured anesthetic of thumping her head against the doorjamb.
"You can call me Desi for short," continued the Sue, oblivious. "Desi, as in Desire. But it's pronounced like Deci-mal."
Aragorn’s eyes, glazed though they were, reflected brief puzzlement at "decimal," not least because his brain seemed to somehow understand English when the most the Sue should have been speaking was Westron. Nenya joined Rosie in beating the doorjamb into submission with her forehead.
"When do we get this paragon of linguistic ability, anyway?" Rosie wondered. Her eyes glazed, looking at the Words.
"Well, she’s committed her first major breach of canon already—‘someone was king’—but we should probably stick around for the part where she beats the crap out of Gandalf (whose name she misspells) and is revealed as Legolas’s half sister, and also the daughter of Sauron. And has another Ring—the, er, Ring of Life, which undoes bad stuff." Nenya winced a little.
The Sue, so talkative about her name, had suddenly decided to be contrary when it came to revealing any more about herself. Elrond’s attempt to read her mind had apparently failed, though it was Nenya’s private theory that this had more to do with his general inability to do this than with any mental shields Desi might have put up. His strange attempt to call "silently" to Arwen made him a candidate for HQ Administration, however.
When Aragorn left the room (to "sit pacing" in his own room, a rather interesting feat of flexibility) the agents followed. Apparently he was wishing that Gandalf...er, Gandolf...were there, for suddenly the in-line author’s note roared through the quiet morning air. "(A.N: I know Gandalf comes back again...Or does he???)"
"Are you trying to deafen us, woman? Now I’ve got ringing ears along with the headache," Rosie complained. She rubbed her forehead. "Mind if I tune out for a bit?" She slipped her headphones on over her ears and tuned into Gollum’s Song, just because Nenya couldn’t hear it. Aragorn and Elrond discussed the Sue, and why she wouldn’t tell them who she was.
Apparently Aragorn's wishes had gotten through to someone Up There, for Gandolf appeared out of thin air, amazingly looking like a wizard and not a miniature Balrog. Nenya poked Rosie. "I am Gandalf, hear me roar. Shut off the volume on your Canon Analysis Device."
"Listen, who is your father? If you do not tell me, I will use my Magic and MAKE you tell me." Gandolf told her
[Gandalf the Grey. Maia. Canon. Out of Character 42.03 %.]
" I will not tell you, and don't come near me or I'll hurt you."
" Very well... you leave me no choice..." Gandolf said advancing towards her.
" NO, you're mistaken. I warned you, now you'll have to pay for it..." WHAM! Gandolf rammed against the wall with such force he was knocked out, Deci, seizing the chance leapt from bed, landed a kick in his groin and ran from the room.
[bip. Out of Character 55.03 %.] said the Analysis Device.
"Classical vicious stronger-fighter-than-you Suvian," said Rosie. "One for the charge list: being able to beat up an Istari. Istar, whatever. Mind you, she does get points for having Elrond and Aragorn notice later that that’s an unusual thing, but still."
"And the servant girl changing the bath towels ‘calls silently’, too. Is this whole place full of plant wannabes? Seriously, there’s a reason I don’t hang out Upstairs very much. It gets creepy after a while."
"At least Elrond had the excuse of having a radioactive mother-in-law for being creepy. The servant girl doesn’t. Well, at least movie-Elrond did. I actually think this fic pre-dates the films, which is a pretty scary thought."
"What, that people can mess things up without PJ’s help? You don’t want to see some of the crap in the other universes, then." Nenya tried to appear world-weary, with the success born of having several thousand fanfic readings under her belt. Rosie had only one thousand thirteen at last count.
"Shshhh! She’s gonna take a bath now. You just missed Elrond telling her she’s under house arrest till she tells them who her father is. We gotta be quiet now, ‘cause I really don’t think she’ll ignore us if we keep discussing PJ, even if she is absorbed in a flashback."
"Crap! The flashback! Is this one of those where we get dragged along with her?"
"Yep, and it’s to Mordor, too. Hang on."
Removing her clothes, Deci slipped in to the water and fingered the ring around her neck... it was like her father's. Thinking of him, she slipped into a daydreaming stage
With a gut-twisting lurch and a distinct lack of sentence-terminating punctuation, the scene changed from a Rivendell bath to the top of a tower in Mordor. Probably Barad-dûr, as it seemed to be the scene of a lot of the Sue’s ‘Sauron Family’ memories, which were suitably gross and rather glibly passed over. Sauron raping the Sue seemed in character, but how he’d managed it in eyeball form was hard to visualize. In the Sue’s current memory, Sauron was indulging in a bit of legacy-shaping.
He took her to a ledge, and held her close. Sighing, he said 'Someday Andiron Renoldi Sauron, Someday... this will all be yours...'
Rosie was sick over the edge of Barad-dûr (another high-altitude Galilean experiment to tell Acacia about), while Nenya bent over double trying to keep the snorts and wheezes of laughter in. Sauron bequeathing something to a descendent! Sauron willingly giving his kingdom to anyone! Sauron speaking like a mortal who was going to die and hand his goods over to another! And a Sue who couldn’t even spell her own first name!
With another lurch that made Nenya wish she’d been the one who’d already emptied her stomach, the story settled back into place around Desi’s Rivendell bathtub. She remembered mourning the death of Boromir—though how she’d known of his death at the time was unclear—and in a surprisingly concise and well-punctuated paragraph, finished washing her hair and got dressed. Nenya made a note to commend the girl (before she killed her) on her taste in clothing. The green and white dress was far less flashy than the general run-of-the-mill Mary Sue outfits, and actually seemed to suit her complexion.
While Desi feasted on Elvish dinner delicacies, Rosie and Nenya went over the charge list and gnawed the granola bars Rosie had thoughtfully brought along. Upstairs kind of frowned on agents sneaking food from a fictional universe, and after the last Hobbit-centric fic in which Rosie had strategically entered the story at a moment when attending a feast would be inevitable, the two had resolved to keep canonical refrigerator raiding to a minimum. Even the amazing lack of variety in their diet back at HQ wasn’t reason enough to get themselves dragged up before Legal. The temptation was pretty strong, though. These days, the pizza delivery guy was on a voice-recognition basis with them.
Rosie had given up on the charge list and was touching up a drawing of Britney Spears as the Balrog of Moria, and Nenya was counting the strands of hair on the bust of Elrond that stood in a nearby alcove, when a lightening of the atmosphere signaled the lapse of the Sue into slumber. "She ate a good dinner, of fresh baked bread, nectar, and many other things. She slipped into an easy sleep" reported the Words.
"At last!" Nenya cheered. "Nighttime! We’d better go get some rest, too, before we get woken up by people running around screaming in the morning. Somebody shoots at Desi, and then all hell breaks loose when they discover who she is, and she does a Boromir with the prophecy-from-a-strange-land thing. The author’s really bad at signaling the passage of time, so we have no idea how long the night will last here."
"Where are we going to sleep? I really don’t want to camp out in the forest this time, not after hanging around all these lovely Elvish bedrooms. Pity we’re not actual guests of Elrond."
A crafty smile crossed Nenya’s face. "You know, you’ve just given me a most excellent idea! Wait here a second—" She scuttled off down the hall and around a corner.
"Weirdo." Rosie shook her head. She dug around in her pack and produced a package of bubble gum, which she proceded to chew with great gusto. It was generally dangerous to blow bubbles around Nenya, since she had the unfortunate tendency to pop them for you. Rosie had finished up the Britney picture and was doodling on the edge of the charge sheet and blowing a particularly large, satisfying bubble, when Nenya appeared a few minutes later with an ear-to-ear grin on her face.
"Quick! This way! Follow me! Shhhh!"
"What’s this about? Did you find a place for us to sleep?"
"Oh, yeah, baby," Nenya answered, grinning, if possible, even wider. "Just you wait and see!" She pulled Rosie down the hall, out across a porch, and up a short flight of stairs. Glancing both ways, she ducked through a doorway into a spacious bedroom. "Like it?"
"The El twins? You know, Elladan and Elrohir? Sons of Elrond? Well, this is their place, and we’re staying here tonight. Perk of the job."
"You can’t just—how do you know they’re not here? And won’t someone mind if they find out?"
"The author doesn’t mention them in this fic, does she?"
"So I thought, maybe they’re off doing something canonical like scouting for the last few Orcs in the area, or maybe they’re off in Ithilien like Legolas is supposed to be."
"Or maybe the author doesn’t know they exist."
"Well, yeah, that, too. But I went down to the gardens and asked some random Elf where the Lords Elladan and Elrohir were. Luckily this place is Sued-up enough that they didn’t think it was weird that I didn’t know, or even stop to think what a strange Elf was doing here. They’re off on a scouting mission."
"Well, if you say it’s all clear…." Rosie wandered towards a beautifully carved divan near the windows. "Is this a bed? Looks awfully comfy." She bounced on it a little. "Gorgeous view out the balcony."
"It takes a lot of work for even a Suvian to wreck a place where Elves live, to loosely quote Gandalf. Yeah, I think that’s a bed. Looks kind of like what Arwen had in the movies. There’s another through here." Nenya stuck her head through an adjoining archway. "I guess they have separate bedrooms. Though with the whole Elvish-dreaming thing I don’t think they sleep as much as humans do. Oh! I filched some bedclothes from the stores downstairs, so we can make up the beds and take them down again, and no one will be the wiser even after canon snaps back." Nenya dropped a set of linen on the divan and handed another to Rosie.
Rosie had been strolling about the room while Nenya was talking, and had now stopped in front of a bookshelf packed with scrolls and books. She looked interestedly at the top shelf, running her finger along the spines of the books. OFUM had taught the Fëanorean tengwar, and while she was a little rusty (this job required more action-hero work than reading) she could make out the titles quite easily. "Classification of Trees Native to Eriador; The Lay of Fingolfin Son of Finwë; Of the Powers of Arda; The Tongue of the People of Haleth; Of Ulmo and Voronwë....wait a minute—" Some lettering across the top of the shelf had caught her eye. "Nenya! Personal Library of Elrohir Peredhel! This must be Elrohir’s room! Mine mine mine!" The student of elf-lore began to do a little dance, rather more resembling the "Frodo funky chicken dance" from the movie version of Bilbo’s party than anything Lúthien might have done.
"I get the other room then! Ah, Elladan, starry grey-eyed son of Men and Elves…." Nenya’s eyes glazed over, and not from reading the Words.
"Nen, you’re soaking your uniform sleeve with drool." Rosie remarked, casually.
"So are you, or you would be if you weren’t using your mouth to talk so much. Don’t lean over the antique woodwork or the ancient manuscripts when you think of your hero, OK?" Nenya replied, not at all perturbed.
The agents had only seen the sons of Elrond once or twice, and that from a distance, and they had to agree with Tolkien that the two looked almost identical. Nevertheless, Rosie was an Elrohir fan, while Nenya had fixated on Elladan. It might have had something to do with the names—Tolkien himself had said that people formed ideas of the sense of words from their sound before they were told what the words were supposed to mean. The Professor had probably not factored drool into his theory.
"Hey, can you read any of those books? I didn’t do so hot in Basic Sindarin—Celebrimbor was less vicious than Elrond," Nenya said, after a few moments of reverent contemplation of the owner of the next room. "Not to mention being rather nonplussed and distracted by the fact that he was teaching one of his own magic rings."
Rosie giggled. "Yeah, I remember that. Well, I’m better at Westron, but I could probably read the easier ones of these—maybe the ones that we’ve gotten in our world in English already. I’d love to read Of the Powers of Arda and see how it compares to the opening bit of the Silmarillion. Of course we could always exercise Mary Sue powers and use whatever linguistic ability comes with our disguises to—what’s wrong, Nen?"
Nenya had stopped listening to Rosie (not an unusual thing in itself) and was staring out over the balcony. "Rosie, is the sky supposed to be doing that?"
"Doing what?" Rosie left the bookcase to come and stand beside her sister at the window.
"Turning pitch black and dropping stars in funny patterns."
"I’ll check my General Purpose Reality Meter for ya if you like, but no, I don’t think it’s supposed to be doing that. Especially since the stars seem to be tracing out tengwar as they fall."
Rosie’s assessment was interrupted by a squawk from the Canon Analysis Device. Nenya grabbed it and was rewarded with the single most frightening set of words she’d seen in her entire life.
[STORY DELETION IN PROGRESS. Evacuate Immediately!] said the display. [Author Entering Post-Suvian Stage] it added helpfully.
"Augh! ‘Fic deletion in progress’? Can it do that? While we’re inside?" Rosie was peering over her shoulder. "I mean, don’t they stabilize these things back in HQ before we go into them?"
"I don’t know! I always thought there was some kind of firewall up so that no one could change the stories once they were in the HQ computer system, but maybe I was wrong. We have to get out! Now!" Nenya tossed a Portal Generator to her partner and began to point the Canon Analysis Device at the sky, hoping to get a reading on what was going on and see if the tengwar actually spelled out any useful information.
Before Rosie could open a portal, a rumble shook the building. Both agents were knocked to the floor, and the Portal Generator flew across the room, sliding under the divan and into the corner.
"Oh, shit." Rosie crawled across the floor and peered under the bed. It was difficult to make anything out as the only illumination came from a sky rapidly losing its stars. "Have we got anything long and broomlike to stick under here? It’s too far back for me to reach."
Nenya struggled to her knees and peered intently at the sky, distracted. "I dunno, are there any swords or bows or anything around here? Look, the sky—it’s…it looks like the Matrix now. Falling code. Except it’s not green code letters, it’s tengwar, and they’re trying to be silver and, I dunno, neon yellow, at the same time. My eyes…."
"Ow. Can you read anything?" Another rumble shook the room, and Rosie slid gracefully from the other room, where she’d been looking for long objects. The Portal Generator slid out from under the divan, did a flip through the air, and sailed out through the window and over the edge of the balcony outside. Rosie swore creatively in several tongues of Men and Elves.
"Crap! Nenya, you didn’t bring another one, did you?"
"What? Portal Generator? No, mine was on the fritz so I didn’t bring it. The code—you can read what’s happening if you look at the sky. It looks like a list of the contents of the fic, and stuff is being deleted item by item. What’s that noise?"
Indeed, the quiet night was not so quiet any more. A loud rushing sound could be heard, as if someone had turned on a staticy TV channel. Nenya suddenly realized that with each item deleted from the falling tengwar code, the noise increased in volume and changed tone. It was almost as if objects were being converted into sound, or were protesting being erased. It reminded her of something, but she wasn’t sure what. She shook her head to clear it a little, but the noise and the impossible colour combination in the sky were making her uncomfortably dizzy. The ground was trembling pretty much constantly by now, adding to the sense of disorientation.
Rosie grabbed her pack and pulled Nenya away from the window. She made a note not to look at the sky any more than she could help. They needed someone with decent vision if they were going to get out of this alive. She briefly wondered if the world would be deleted slowly or if it would just crash in on them like a black hole. As she pulled Nenya out into the hall, she noticed that the bookshelf with all Elrohir’s books on it had disappeared, and the divan—still unmade—was fading into nothingness before her eyes.
Nenya shook herself out of the slight trance she’d fallen into and gripped Rosie’s arm. "The Duty! We gotta kill the Sue! I’ll meet you downstairs, OK? Go find the Portal Generator, and I’ll get Desi." She patted the dagger at her belt. "C’mon! Hurry!"
Rosie nodded shortly and spun off in the direction of the garden below them. Nenya charged down the hall and down the stairs to Desi’s part of the house. She dashed across a stone terrace—and nearly collided with Aragorn.
He was leaning against a railing, hardly disturbed by the weird light of the falling tengwar code or the shaking of the ground. Tall, dark and handsome he stood, clad in Ranger gear. His hair was tousled and the top button of his shirt was undone—he’d been sleeping. Nenya skidded to a halt, the remains of her agently dignity falling from her shoulders and smashing to fragments on the ground. Strider! She’d fallen in love with him in Bree (and, like the Hobbits, continued to refer to even the crowned King Elessar as Strider) and still swooned for him more than for any other on the face of Arda. He really was wonderful….
The stunning Rangerly effect was somewhat spoiled by the look on his face, however, which could only be described as a leer. "Hobbits," he drawled. "Do you know how hard it was to keep my hands off the Ringbearer? So cuddly! And just the perfect height!"
Nenya’s jaw joined her dignity on the floor. That wasn’t Strider! She knew this universe was badly screwed up, but she was pretty sure it wasn’t slash. And bad slash, at that.
Strider’s countenace suddenly changed. He drew himself up, tall and straight, and his face became serious. "Et Earello Endorenna utulien. Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn' Ambar-metta," he intoned, looking every inch the last king of the Elder Days. Nenya smiled. Now that was more like it. She moved to duck around him and keep looking for the Sue. She still needed to get out of here, no matter how awesome Strider looked.
"Women in the Fellowship?" His voice, dripping scorn, stopped her. "Women are weak! They’ll just trip over their own skirts and cry all the time. This is a job for men!"
Nenya turned around, but by the time she had a chance to register what he’d said, he’d changed again.
"Hey, do I keep fucking your wife in the meantime, or what?" he said, sarcastically, to no one in particular.
Nenya stared. What in Arda? A Perfect Murder?
But Aragorn was still talking. He was himself again, and seemed to be remembering the days during the Quest. "Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men," he said, an Elvish light gleaming in his eyes. Then his voice changed yet again. "Oh, Legolas, you’re so hot!" he sighed. "Arwen was only a passing infatuation, you have to believe that! Oh, Leggy, don’t leave me!"
"Augh!" Nenya cried. Her head hurt. This was a little too confusing. The building and the trees were wavering in a sea-sick fashion, the air was rushing and murmuring with the cries of every inanimate object that was being deleted, and now she’d found Strider, but he couldn’t even stay in character for more than fifteen seconds. Now he was tossing a baseball back and forth between his hands and commenting on cocaine addiction. She really needed to get out of here. She took one last look at Aragorn and realized that he was staring straight at her. No, wait, he was staring at his hand—and his hand was fading into thin air.
"Help me!" he whispered. "They’re changing me! I’m fading! By the Valar, help me!" His entire arm was transparent now, and his legs looked like they’d been cut off at the knees. Nenya stumbled forward, desperate to do something to help him, but before she could reach him, he was gone. With a pain-filled cry, his body shuddered and dissolved into empty space. Aragorn had been deleted.
"Strider! Nooo!" Nenya gasped, wincing in sympathetic pain. She doubled over, clutching her stomach. No! They couldn’t do this! Whoever they were, they couldn’t do this! It was too much. She dropped onto the bottom step of the stairway and put her head in her hands.
"Nen! Are you OK? I found the Portal Generator, it was under a bush in the garden. Did you get Desi? We gotta hurry! All the trees in the garden are gone now, and half the building." Rosie came scurrying up the stairs from the garden in a storm of words. She shook Nenya by the shoulder. "Earth to Nenya! Nen!"
Nenya was staring out into space and appeared not to hear her, but after the third or fourth shake she answered in a faraway voice, "Strider…deleted…too many Aragorns…Legomance," she shuddered slightly. "A Perfect Murder. Head hurts. Baseball. Shouldn’t’a killed him. Chicken….tastes like everything…. shouldn’t a killed him either. Eighty-eight miles per hour…."
"Nen? Aw, c'mon, don’t tell me you’ve lost it." Rosie tugged at Nenya’s shoulder, but all she got were more mumblings—"Join me and fall down the rabbit hole, Neo Morpheus"?
The world was practically spinning, now. It was very hard to tell which way was up, since the walls behind the agents had disappeared and the floor underneath them was non-descript dark stuff instead of wood or stone. The rushing sound was almost deafening, and mixed in with it were cries as of living things in pain. All the lights in Rivendell had gone out by now, and the only lighting came from the scrolling tengwar in the sky. Rosie squinted at it and realized what had happened to Nenya. Aragorn had just been deleted, and apparently right in front of her.
Rosie groaned. She could imagine what she would have been like if Sam had been obliterated right in front of her eyes. But how were they supposed to get the Sue before the whole world crashed? It looked like just about all the inanimate objects were gone, now, and if Aragorn was gone that meant people were going too. Shit, this was bad. She didn’t have much time.
Maybe she could just get Nenya back to Headquarters and come back for the Sue? Or maybe the Sue would just be deleted with the rest of the world? She stumbled a little with the next quake of the ground.
She heard a thunk behind her and realized Nenya had just toppled over. Good grief.
Rosie grabbed Nenya’s arms and pulled her to her feet, where she stood, swaying. Just as Rosie was about to ask her if she could walk, her knees buckled. Rosie caught her, putting one arm around her own shoulders. Portal Generator, where was the Portal Generator? She fished around in her pockets with one hand, and hoisted Nenya, who was starting to slip, back up onto her shoulder again.
Oh, right, she’d stuck the Generator in her bag. She leaned over to where it sat on the ground, careful not to let Nenya fall off her back, and fished around in the top of it. There! She grabbed the Portal Generator and stood up unsteadily, back creaking, and input the co-ordinates for their response centre back at HQ. She tapped the button.
Too tired to swear, Rosie thumped the Portal Generator soundly and tapped the key again. Nothing. She shook it, hoping she hadn’t broken it, and pushed the key a third time.
An unsteady portal flickered to life in the air in front of her, and winked out again almost immediately. But in the two seconds it was open, Rosie saw the inside of the response centre, and, wonder of wonders, Agent Jay on the other side. There seemed to be someone else with her. The two were gesticulating with their hands and peering through the portal at the agents stuck in the fic. They looked worried.
Rosie jammed at the button again and hitched Nenya higher on her shoulders. Suddenly a horrible screeching wail, like Saruman’s nails on a wet chalkboard, tore through the numbing rush of sound surrounding them. She jerked her head up to read the falling tengwar code. The Sue! The Mary Sue was gone! Frantically Rosie hit the portal button, jabbing at it again and again. Would it take, now that the Suvian presence had lifted?
On the fourth jab, the portal flickered open, wavering wildly. Rosie made a dash for it, not caring if she got caught between worlds. N-dimensional space couldn’t be much worse than what they were experiencing in the collapsing universe. With a lurch, she staggered into the response centre, dragging Nenya with her.
"Oh, thank Eru!" Agent Jay exclaimed. She grabbed for Rosie, helping her through. The other agent, a rather grim-faced woman in a uniform Rosie didn’t recognize, caught Nenya as she fell off Rosie’s shoulder. Jay caught the portal generator as it slipped from Rosie’s hand and shut off the doorway to the fanfic.
"Divide by cheese....re-install Arwen....the clock strikes 10:04," slurred Nenya, collapsing gently onto the stretcher by Jay’s cohort’s side. "Meepmork, little dancing sporkies...."
"I’m Agent Dead." A face loomed over her. "You’re back in Headquarters now and you’re gonna be fine, you hear? Just look here for a second." She propped Nenya’s head up with surprising gentleness for someone with such a name, and flashed a Y-shaped gizmo before her eyes. Nenya’s last conscious thought before blacking out was Pretty hallucinationses....hey, that’s a sleep-inducing alpha-rhythm generator! She was, after all, a geek.
"Are you okay, Agent Rosie?" Jay’s normally manic face was a picture of concern. "Dead, here, got an alert at the Department of Emergencies when the fic started deleting and you hadn’t come back yet. I’m here instead of Heal ‘cause she thought you two might recognize me and not freak out quite as bad," she added by way of explanation.
"Yeah....I think...." Rosie rubbed her forehead, wondering who Heal was, and sagged into the beanbag chair. "I’ve got a killer headache and I’d really, really, really like the world to stop spinning, but I think I’ll be all right. My partner, though—I think she’s in shock or something. She saw her favourite character vanish in front of her eyes."
"We got really worried when we couldn’t set up a link from here," said Agent Dead. "We tried a couple of times to link in, but the system was only recognizing the fic as a valid destination about half the time."
"We’ve been reading about a Level 4 or 5 reality disruption ever since we got the alert, but it flashed up to about a Level 9 for about three seconds just before you came in. I don’t want to see anything like what I saw through that portal ever again," said Jay.
"Ever hear of Holmes’ Theory of n-dimensional space? Where all the senses get overloaded at once and it drives you mad? The space between universes? It was kind of like that."
"Heard of it, yes. There was an agent over in Intelligence a couple years back who got caught between worlds during a crossover fic investigation. We pulled her out after about forty minutes, but she was in very bad condition. Was in therapy for about eight months afterward and never did get back into mental shape for missions. Not quite as bad as the infamous flamethrower case, but close," said Dead. She shone a small flashlight in Rosie’s eyes and took her pulse.
Rosie’s face creased into a deep, worried frown. "Are we gonna be OK? I mean, I’ve kidded about flamethrowers before, but I really don’t wanna lose it, really." She shook slightly, from fear or from cold. Jay handed her a blanket and she wrapped it around herself. "Thanks, Jay. Um, I mean, Agent Jay."
Jay cracked a smile. "Eh, Jay’s fine. ‘Agent Jay’ just makes me think of Upstairs. Don’t worry, though," she continued, in her trademark fashion of referring to a statement two lines back, "you’re conscious, talking, and seem to have all motor functions intact, which is more than we could say for the Intelligence girl. Even Nenya didn’t black out till Dead put her under, and she wasn’t twitching more than the normal amount for a PPC agent, so I think you guys’ll be fine. You weren't really in very long once it started actually deleting. Get some rest, though, if that infernal console will let you." She handed a blood pressure cuff to Agent Dead.
Rosie sagged in relief and held out her arm for Dead to attach the cuff. Jay got up from the table she’d been leaning against and started packing various gadgets back into a briefcase.
"Are you taking Nen down to Medical? Do you want me to come?" Rosie asked.
"Taking her to Psych, yes. If you experience any of the classic symptoms of a head injury—continued dizziness, nausea, spots in front of your eyes, memory loss other than that caused by mental scarring from OFUM—beep the guys in Medical and let them know. Otherwise, just rest a lot, and don’t get into wrestling matches with that mini-Balrog of yours for a couple of days." Dead recorded Rosie’s blood pressure reading and tucked the cuff into Jay’s bag. The two emergency agents started to wheel the stretcher with the unconscious Nenya on it out the door.
"Okay." Rosie snuggled deeper into the beanbag chair. "Where is that bundle of flames, anyway?"
"Probably eating. We kicked him out of here pretty soon after we got here—he was wearing holes in the floor with all the pacing he was doing, and while he’s very bright for a mini, he can’t operate any of our equipment. So we sent him down to the cafeteria and told him to bring up some coffee. He hasn’t come back yet."
"Ah. Don’t be surprised if he shows up in Psych. He’s got a sixth sense about where Nenya is."
Dead and Jay nodded, and Rosie waved to the departing agents. Jay quirked a smile at the sign on the door—"Lonely men are we, Rangers of the wild, hunters—but hunters ever of the servants of the Enemy" and was gone.
Rosie snuggled down into the chair, wrapping her blanket more tightly around her. Suddenly she laughed. "We never did get that Sue after all, did we? The world-crash did it for us. Armageddon, the latest recruit to the PPC. Won’t that throw Upstairs for a loop." And so saying, she laid her head down and passed into the restful repose of a well-deserved nap.
Nenya's A/N: After I first read this story, I reviewed it and got an email from the author saying that she had finished the books, now, and knew that her story line was impossible. Since she was quite repentant, I felt bad about killing her Sue, so I decided to take the concept of what would happen if she deleted the story to its logical conclusion.
I don't know if the idea that the n-dimensional space between worlds isn't a vacuum but is full of such a huge amount of sensory information that it overloads your mind (thus driving you crazy very quickly) is original to Mary Jean Holmes, but since that's where I heard of it first, I thought I'd plug her stuff whilst giving the idea a cool-sounding name. :) Most of the other references are probably obvious, but the hacker named Neo Morpheus comes from the excellent Matrix parody story "The Fanfix".
Rosie's A/N: This story was just painful. Really. It hurt to read it. I'm glad I got Nenya to write the PPC version. Anyways, no worries about Rosie having to handle missions on her own—we found a partner for her, a LOTR freak. There are going to be some changes made on department and stuff in the next chapter, but it will change back.
Back to the JAAKSONS
Back to Rosie's page
Back to Nenya's page