"It's happened again." Jay leaned back from her console, indicating a flashing red light. "Someone's mucking with the plot continuum."
Acacia sighed. "Exactly what is so wrong with the canon that everyone wants to break it?" she demanded rhetorically. "Which world?"
"Lord of the Rings." Jay winced. "The massacre of Tolkien continues. We have... a Mary Sue."
Acacia sighed. "Usually the case. What species is she this time, and what's she done to break it?"
"Human. Magically transported from Earth, along with her band. Of COURSE she's joining the Fellowship... and you'll love this. She's stringing Boromir along while enjoying herself with Legolas." Jay looked sideways at her partner, hoping that this news wouldn't be too disturbing.
Acacia glared. "Let me see this," she insisted, pushing Jay out of her seat without waiting for an answer. She started pressing buttons seemingly at random, glared at the screen as if hoping to burn the words off it by sheer force of stare, then stood up. "Well, let's go then!"
Jay tapped something on the console, causing an odd hum. A rather unimpressive flicker appeared in the air, taking on the appearance of an oblong doorway. "Come on, Acy," she said, using her friend's dreaded nickname. "Let's hunt some Sue."
Acacia muttered something that sounded like "Don't CALL me that," but stepped through the doorway very quickly. Jay followed suit.
As Jay stepped through the portal, she felt her chosen guise fall into place around her... she made a rather impressive Uruk-hai, if she did say so herself. She took the formidable black bow from her shoulder, testing the string, and counted the arrows in her quiver. Then, she took her Character Analysis Device and set it. "I'm all ready, Acacia—you?"
Acacia looked around. It was always a bit disorienting, being in a world made of someone else's words, particularly when the canon was so stretched by the presence of not only a Mary Sue but—as a glance at her own Canon Analysis Device showed—canonical characters acting out of character. She took an arrow from her own quiver and first smelled, then gingerly tasted the point. The smell and bitter taste confirmed that it was in fact poisoned, and she put it back in the quiver, satisfied. "All ready."
The pair had arrived just outside of Rivendell—its gentle glow lit the early morning. Acacia led the way, Jay following, as they crossed into the beautiful city. Jay felt the familiar comforting tingle; the world knew that they were there to help, and so it concealed them, welcomed them... Jay stopped, pointing quietly through a window at a quiet conversation.
Arwen stood inside, talking to the three obviously non-canon humans. "I must go and make ready the banquet for tonight. I will come by to help you get ready, Lady Laurel. The seamstress should have the gown ready within the hour."
One of the humans, the only girl, struck a confused pose. "Gown?"
Arwen smiled, a glassy look in her eyes. "Yes, you cannot wear your clothes. A gown would be much more suitable. Cole and Geoff will wear robes, of course. Until tonight, then..."
Jay gasped. "That's... that's not right... Arwen doesn't act like that... why the hell is she putting the bint in a gown?"
"Since when do the males wear robes?" Acacia volunteered. "They certainly weren't in robes when I read the story. And it doesn't matter that Arwen doesn't act like that, we wouldn't be here at all if the canon were intact."
Jay looked pained, and drew Acacia away from the window. "Any excuse to be in a pretty dress..." She blinked, as the memories-of-what-could-be flashed in front of her eyes. "Oh, GODDESS... Arwen does her HAIR later..." Jay whipped out her Analysis Device, and reluctantly went back to the window. The tiny readout flashed solemnly.
[Geoff. Human male. Non-canon. Bit character.] She turned it to the next person.
[Cole. Human male. Non-canon. Bit character.]
Then... to the female. She was prepared for the urgently flashing red letters.
[Laurel. Human female. Non-canon. Mary Sue.]
Acacia sighed. "I wish we could just shoot the girl and go. Having to get all the non-canons is a pain." She approached the window and flicked her own Analysis Device—a different type from Jay's—at Arwen.
[Arwen Evenstar. Elf female. Canon. Out of Character 49.72%.]
They retreated into the shadows. "The Council is meeting tonight, on that nice outdoor dais," Jay whispered. "It'll hurt watching them steal the spotlight... but I don't think we can do the Duty until they're out of Rivendell."
"Why?" said Acacia, knowing the reason full well but wanting it explained again anyway.
"They haven't officially ruined the continuum until they've joined the Fellowship. Be patient."
Acacia sighed. "I just want to know why sending everyone out of character doesn't count. Oh, well..."
They waited through the little remaining daylight, observing, taking notes (and, as this palled quickly, playing Egyptian Rat-screw with a pack of cards they had foresightedly brought along). As Protectors of the Continuum, true characters found it difficult to notice them... even disguised as a pair of hulking Uruk-hai. They had to keep out of the way of the non-canon characters, of course, but this was not difficult. The girl was usually inside (and, to Jay's disgust, Arwen did INDEED do her hair), and without the girl around, the bit-character-males were blank and lifeless.
Just as Acacia had fallen asleep, and Jay was nodding off, Acacia's Analysis Device suddenly let off a shrill—just as Legolas went by. The tall elf blinked at the half-heard sound, and wandered unsteadily away; Jay grabbed the indicator.
[65.2% CHARACTER RUPTURE!] it flashed at her, still shrilling. Tapping the button to reset the alarm, Jay left her friend sleeping and hurried after the elf. He walked as if dazed; his eyes were glassy and unfocused.
"What's WRONG with you?" Jay gripped him by the arms and stared into his eyes, making herself felt.
"Laurel... beautiful Laurel... beautiful voice, Laurel... dream of the archer... gentle archer... Laur—lau..." He gasped and shuddered in Jay's grip. His eyes lost the dazed look, and he stared fearfully into Jay's eyes. "Help me..."
"It's all right. We're here to fix it." She let go and retreated into the shadows, feeling not a little depressed as she watched Legolas fall back under the sway of the Mary Sue.
As night finally fell, Laurel and her happy little band walked out onto the dais. Laurel was escorted by a blushing Frodo, obviously bespelled. Legolas met her eyes from across the room, looking painfully lovestruck. Laurel and the two men took their places together, and began to sing, a modern song (Led Zeppelin, if Jay had any guess).
It... wasn't that good. Led Zeppelin just wasn't meant for the harp.
Acacia made a face at the sound of the music. It wasn't even as if she had anything to drown it out—she had finally been forced to turn off the sound on her Analysis Device, or risk being deafened by its by-now-constant shrills.
As the music ended, all of the canon characters beamed at the band. Jay winced as Strider and Gandalf cheered... even Elrond and Arwen were smiling interestedly, although Elrond's smile looked a bit forced. Ah, thought Jay, sharing a glance with her friend. The man's no fool.
Acacia smiled faintly, but resumed her grim expression as she aimed her Analysis Device at each canon character in turn and read the rather depressing results. Jay couldn't help noticing the ridiculous number of times it was pointed at Boromir, always with the same result: basically, that he was so far out of character he couldn't poke the canon with a very long pole.
Jay patted her friend's arm comfortingly. "It'll be all right..." She turned her attention back to the Council.
Gandalf had stood up and taken Laurel's hand. "You are quite talented, young lady. You have woven a spell over everyone with your song. Are you sure you know no magic?"
Laurel smiled demurely at Gandalf. "I am positive. I didn't write it, so it is not my magic."
Jay tried not to retch. You even affected Gandalf, you slime mold. You richly deserve what you've got coming...
It was then that she noticed Laurel wandering off towards a balcony... and Boromir following, with a dazed expression on his face. She poked Acacia in the arm, and pointed.
Acacia's jaw dropped. "But you said that Legolas—" she began, then hurried off to a vantage point from the bushes under the balcony.
Jay followed hurriedly. "BOTH of them, I said. Remember?" Oh, dear.
When Jay caught up with her, Acacia was not glaring venomously at the scene on the balcony, but had the slightly unfocused expression that meant she was looking at the words that made the world, and in fact reading ahead of the here-and-now. Jay shook her gently, and she focused again, and now started glaring at the balcony.
And scrabbling for her quiver.
"Are you crazy?" demanded Jay, snatching Acacia's bow away and hoping Acacia wouldn't just try to throw the arrow like a dart.
"No, but whoever came up with this Sue is. And look at this." She showed Jay the Device. "It's even worse than at the Council, they've just about made up a whole new character and named him Boromir, I am NOT standing for this, give me back my bow!"
"Not until they're out of Rivendell! NOT UNTIL THEY'RE OUT. We'll be able to save him then." A faint beep erupted from Jay's pack. She pulled out her Character Analysis Device, which was warbling strangely.
[Boromir. Human male. Canon/noncanon/canonnoncanon/canon/nonononnoncanon/ 404 Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly! divide by eggplant, please reinstall universe and reboot fatal errorerrorerrorerrorerro—*]
As Jay looked on in shock, the handheld computer died.
"You see?" demanded Acacia. "It can't even tell the difference anymore! It's bad enough changing the canon this much, but replacing it? Come on, it's not like I have bad aim, I can hit her from here!"
"No." Jay looked grim. "But soon." Don't blame her, though. If she'd mucked with Elrond's mind like that, I'd've shot her then and there.
Acacia sighed, and subsided. When she started watching the Words again, Jay figured it was safe to give back the bow. Acacia's murderous mood seemed to have passed, although her constant muttering along the lines of "If you think he's such a jerk, why are you kissing him?" indicated she was still quite upset.
"Cheer up, Acacia," Jay said gently. "Take your mind off of her. Look, she's going for a walk on the beach... he'll snap out of it for a little while..." A faint smile flickered across her face. "Besides. I think it's time to sample some of the finer pleasures of Protecting the Plot Continuum." With that, she pulled out a Polaroid camera.
"A camera." Acacia stared at Jay. "PLEASE. You have the maturity of a blueberry muffin!"
Jay sensed too late that her partner wasn't in the mood. Damn. She's gone all the way to 5 on the S. Vimes Cynicism scale. Not even some... nice pictures of Boromir will pull her out of it. "Suit yerself." Jay smiled and backed away out of arm's range. "I'll just go get a few more nuggets for my scrapbook, mm?"
Acacia scowled, but muttered assent, took the cards from her gear and, after Jay had left, played Solitaire until she got bored with it and started using the cards for target practice. Jay would be rather upset when she found out about this.
Behind her, Jay heard the sound of righteous irritation as manifested by a 50-pound-pull bowstring and a few truly big-ass arrows. Wonder what she's using as a target...? She plodded on, with only a vague idea of what she was looking for. The Polaroid caught a few nice shots of some eye-candyish elves, and of course Rivendell in itself was photogenic... Then she saw it. Or him, rather. You could see a lot through the wide open architecture, if you weren't too prudish to look through a few windows. Elrond. YUM. The Polaroid whirred.
In the meantime Acacia, having run out of arrows, was having a less fun time prising them out of the trees where they had stuck, taking the impaled playing cards off them, verifying that they hadn't lost all their poison in the trees, and returning them to her quiver.
Not wanting to have to go through all that again, and without any intact playing cards (Well... a few. But there had been fewer arrows than cards), she abruptly became bored and—because there was a streak of mischief in her, particularly when so upset—began looking around for prickly things to hide in the shoes that Laurel had left behind as she went off on a nauseatingly sentimental walk on the romantically moonlit beach.
Jay, for her part, was still peeping through the window. Yes, please turn this way... awright! Only then did she stride away into the night, feeling satisfied. Hope Acy's having this much fun.
Indeed, Acacia had successfully found some burrs. Resisting the temptation to add a piece of sharp rusty metal or one of her arrowheads, she lined the bottom bit of the shoes with them, then smiled in a faintly smug way. "Can't shoot you yet," she whispered to herself, "but no one said I can't make life difficult."
Jay rejoined her just as she had finished this enjoyable task. "The Fellowship sets out tomorrow. Want to camp in here? Or out in the woods?"
"The woods," Acacia said promptly. "It's nice here, but I want to be as far away from all this disgusting sentimentality as possible tonight."
They distanced themselves from the Homely House; Jay broke out the sleeping bags; a discreet fire was lit, canonical mutton was toasted, and non-alcoholic beverages were quaffed. After a unanimous refusal to sing campfire songs, the pair drifted off to sleep.
At dawn ("Dusk, damnit, it was dusk!" whimpered Jay, as Acacia's Canon Analysis Device flashed accusingly), the Fellowship set out from Rivendell. Laurel was, strangely enough, limping. Not attractively, either.
Acacia grinned at the sight of the strange way she was walking, as if trying not to put weight on either foot. "Now we can shoot her, right?" she asked.
"Waaaait for it," said Jay. "Now, let's go!"
Acacia stepped out of the concealing bushes directly in front of the Fellowship, bow leveled at Laurel. "Hello, everyone," she said in a light conversational tone. "If Laurel would step out in front of everyone, I would be much obliged."
The Fellowship stared as the orc began to recite: "It is my duty to inform you that you have been charged with disrupting the canon by joining the Fellowship, bringing twenty-first century knowledge to Middle-earth, interfering with the characters of... at least ten people, so I won't list them all, but most severely Legolas and Boromir; and also being a Mary Sue." Laurel looked delicate and frightened. From her vantage in the bushes, Jay noticed Legolas and Boromir (and Merry... and Pippin... and the rest of the Fellowship) fighting not to come to her aid.
Acacia continued. "I won't be reading you your rights, because you don't have them. Yes, I do know what I look like, in order not to further disrupt the canon I had to appear as something that might realistically shoot a member of the Fellowship. Now," she added, taking more careful aim and grinning broadly, "any last words? And nothing disgustingly sentimental, please."
"You c-can't kill me!" Laurel gasped piteously. "We were transported here by... by accident... I don't even know this universe... I was just in it for the sex, drugs and rock'n'—"
"Sorry," said Acacia airily, not sounding sorry at all. "These things happen. Jay," she addressed the shrubbery, "stop anyone trying to save her in some nauseating fashion like throwing themselves in front of the arrow, please."
She fired. Laurel, being a Mary Sue, didn't intend to die so easily and dodged. That was why the shot went into her shoulder, and not her heart. (Meanwhile, the men of the party had as a body rushed forward to save her; things would have gone pear shaped if another orc hadn't strolled out of the bushes, tripped Legolas, and watched the rest of them fall over him.)
Acacia's poison could kill a full-grown man in seconds with only a few drops. That was why it didn't matter. Acacia's poison had several other lovely redeeming features; for one, it paralyzed the vocal cords, snuffing any risk of tear-jerking "dying words." Geoff and Cole, the two bit characters, stood slackjawed as Laurel died—or, at least, they stood there until two thick black arrows hit them each squarely between the eyes. Jay never used poison on her arrows. When you aim for the head, you don't need to.
Legolas had, by this time, managed to extricate himself from the pile of characters. Pausing only to snarl tearfully at the orc that had tripped him, he rushed to Laurel's side and flung himself onto her chest; Boromir (on top of the pile) regarded him with a glare of jealous hatred. Finally, as Legolas wept helplessly, Laurel departed this world.
It was as if a switch had been flipped. Legolas blinked, and threw himself back from the body in disgust; he ripped a mangled flower out of a chest pocket and stared at it. Boromir shook his head in disbelief, and shot an apologetic look at the elf. The other canon characters, by this time untangled, blinked as if out of a spell... Merry and Pippin looked at each other...
"We let her smoke our weed..."
"And she touched our pipe!"
Gandalf looked ill. "'You have woven a spell over everyone with your song'? Ugh..."
Frodo was looking at the body with malice in his gentle eyes; Sam was already kicking it. Aragorn had settled for banging his head against a tree. Gimli, largely ignored by the late Mary Sue, watched this with some amusement.
Acacia grinned. "Okay, now give me that camera," she said.
Jay handed it over with a smile.
A few strange clicking noises later, the pair of orcs were gone. No one saw them go. No one had seen them arrive. And they certainly hadn't shot Laurel, because Laurel had never turned up.
Back in Headquarters, Jay and Acacia eyed the three dead bodies lying on the floor.
"What do we do with these?" Acacia wondered. "We can't keep them here, they'll stink up the place."
Jay grinned. "Eco-friendly disposal." She hit a few more buttons, and another portal opened in the air. She pitched the girl and one of the guys through, slung the other over her shoulder with a grunt, and waved Acacia through.
Acacia stepped through the portal, and grinned.
They had arrived at the picturesque walls of the Mines of Moria. Jay smiled, and tossed a stick into the gate pool. "Cooo-ee! Heeere, baby, heere, sweety, momma's back... she brought you lovely snacks, sweety." Acacia shot an odd look at her friend.
They both grinned as tentacles reached out to accept the mortal remains of the unoriginal characters. It was safe enough for the canon; the Watcher in the Water would be hungry again soon enough, and Acacia's poison was harmless to eat, which was why she'd chosen it.
"Ooosagoodboyden?" Jay tickled a tentacle. "Smile!" The Watcher's grotesque head appeared from out of the dark water. Jay snapped a picture happily. She hit the remote trigger, and they stepped through the portal.
Acacia leaned back in her chair, smiling happily in the knowledge of a job well done. Jay started unpacking their gear and storing it in the cupboards marked "General" and "Middle-earth" for the next time it was needed, whistling to herself.
Until she noticed what Acacia had done to the cards.
[Acacia's A/N: Yes, Boromir is my favorite character in the whole of the canon. Anyone flaming me on the basis of that will be laughed at. And there really is a poison that does what the one I used in this story does; kudos to anyone who guesses it correctly. Fanmail will be used for the lovely warm glow it gives, constructive crit will be appreciated and possibly even heeded, ideas for new fics to do this to will be put on a List, flames will be used to cremate our next Mary Sue victim.]
[Jay's A/N: Acy loves Boromir... and, yeah, ya guessed it, I'm all for Lord Half-elven. Egyptian Rat-screw is really a game (think a ballistic cross of Slap-jack and War). If you haven't read the fic this is derived from, by the way... DON'T!! It HURTS! We do appreciate fanmail—and suggestions, too, please show us your favorite Mary Sue: this was too much fun to just do once... Critiques go to Acacia, because a failing of mine is inability to deal with criticism. (Even good criticism.) Flames are funny. I will laugh at your flames as they charbroil the deserving.]