Jay huddled under the desk. Acacia was going to have a fit...
"You haven't," said Acacia sourly, "told me who her parents are."
"No, I haven't," Jay's voice came out.
Acacia sighed, and went to check the screen. "What the hells?!"
There was an ominous silence. Jay counted down quietly. 13. 5. 2.5. 7. 8. 3... 1.
Acacia slammed her fist down hard on the screen. (Fortunately it wasn't glass but plastic, and didn't break.)
"So. You've noticed..." Jay let her eyes peep out. "Want to be Dead Men this time? It'd be a nice change."
"What are you—oh, she goes to Erech. Fun."
Jay crawled out and started packing gear. Programming the disguises took a moment longer than usual... the Dead Men of Dunharrow were a thing that most Mary Sues had never HEARD of, let alone dealt with.
Acacia snatched up her gear as though she had a personal grudge against it.
This happens with partners: there was, between the two, a balance of tension. Jay was at her giddiest when Acacia was calm, and Jay became remarkably quiet when her partner was excited, and vice versa. It has been speculated that this is the intentional device of the gods, because they think people driving each other insane is first class entertainment.
At any rate, Jay packed quietly and smoothly, and made herself very careful not to get within a few feet of her partner.
"Jay," said Acacia sourly, "why haven't you opened the portal yet?"
"Sorry," Jay said simply, fingers flashing out to tap at the console.
Acacia smiled grimly and stepped through. Jay leaped through after her—and paused for a moment, to appreciate her handiwork. Out of deference to Acacia, her partner was a vague, nondescript, and sexless wraith—unlike Jay herself, trying out a somewhat more clearly male shade.
The portal had opened behind the Mary Sue, which was fortunate because they were out in the open and there was no apparent place to hide. The agents backed off a ways, then sat down to watch her yell at Aragorn a bit.
"Hello?" snapped the Sue to a dazed Aragorn. "Did you hear me? I asked you if you want to fight!"
"I don't even know you!" Aragorn snorted. "Why would I fight you?"
"My name is Alexis," retorted the girl. "Now, you know me, and I know you. Now, do you want to fight?"
Aragorn stared at her, speechless. "Fight?" he mouthed.
"My father was right!" she snitted. "Humans are weaklings! Its better to stick with elves or the Istari!"
"Okay," said Acacia quietly, "when did Gandalf express any remotely similar sentiments?"
Jay made a show of considering this. "Hmm. Ahh... never?" Instead of the exaggerated British accent, she now had a deeper timbre. Acacia thought she recognized the voice. She might have commented, but:
"Rohans?" said Acacia. "Excuse me? Rohans? I mean, good grief, there's only one Rohan and it's a place. Get it right!"
"Protect the innocent, comma," muttered Jay.
The Sue was yelling at Aragorn because he had dared to presume that she was younger than he was...
"She's an immortal Istar, but she's got the maturity of a five-year-old. Bah." Jay scowled, the expression hard to read on her ghostly face.
"Well, I think for this one it's clear that the author did in fact read the backstory. And didn't understand a word of it."
"It's somehow worse when they've actually read the book and STILL write this sort of thing."
"Alexis!" It was Gandalf's voice.
Jay lay down on the ground and shut her eyes.
Acacia followed suit, once Gandalf had declared enthusiastically that the two of them were to be traveling companions. Despite the fact that Alexis had been threatening to kill Aragorn scant moments earlier.
Jay's eyes were still shut. "I'm waiting for the earth to swallow me and put me out of my misery. You?"
"I'm waiting for the plot to be properly screwed up so we can put her out of our misery."
"Like it isn't already..." Jay shuddered. "Moonbeam...? Alexis Moonbeam...? It hurts."
"If she's an Istar, why the hell has she got a last name and not a color?"
"She's special." Jay rolled over and buried her face in the grass. "I mean, it wasn't like there wasn't anything left to choose from... he only took brown, white, and grey."
"Don't forget the blue ones. Or Manfred the Slightly Ecru," said Acacia, brightening slightly.
"What, have you never read the 'Very Secret Diaries'?"
"Not in entirety, no."
Acacia grinned. "'Am bored. No cable in Isengard. Nothing to do but write rude anonymous letters to Radagast the Brown and Manfred the Slightly Ecru.' And even better stuff."
"Muahaha." Jay's new voice made the laugh enjoyably sinister. She propped herself up on her elbows and watched as Aragorn (logically) objected to taking Alexis along... and was promptly shot down. In a brilliant show of Istari Maturity, Alexis stuck her tongue out at him.
"Spoiled brat," muttered Acacia.
"Yeah... And..." Jay blinked. "How does that work...? Do the Istari have children normally? If so, why does she say she was 'placed' in this body?" Jay rolled over again, not wanting to look at anything.
"When have the Mary Sues ever needed continuity?"
"Mmf." Jay sighed. "Do we want to watch Aragorn and Gandalf argue tonight...? Or shall we go out among the army?"
Acacia considered. "I'd say watch the argument, but that might be too painful."
"Yeah. Think so. Shall we mingle?"
"Looking like this?"
"It's not as if they'll see it. Of course, if you'd rather stay put, I've just got a new Voltaire disc..."
"Okay, let's move."
Jay put on her earphones, and let the gypsy fiddles begin. "I'll follow you," she told Acacia.
Acacia wandered fairly aimlessly; the place was nice, but nothing she hadn't seen before, and she was getting bored.
Jay noticed Acacia looking listless. That never boded well. "Do you think Moonbeam has a bedroll? We could put burrs or bugs in it..."
Acacia brightened. "We can check."
"And since she's due to crash the argument about, oh, NOW, she won't be occupying it."
Acacia grinned. "Sea urchins would work wonders, but I inconveniently did not think to bring any. Let's go find spiky things."
"I think the one with embroidered flowers is hers."
"Probably so; no one else would do something like that to a poor defenseless bedroll."
"She probably embroidered it while singlehandedly fighting off orcs." Jay looked at Acacia. "Go ahead."
Acacia quickly scattered the various sharp prickly bits of plants they'd found in the bedroll, then arranged it as it had been before so the Sue wouldn't notice people had been messing with it.
"Now... let's sleep ourselves, so we're all bright-tailed and bushy-eyed for tomorrow."
"Bushy eyes. How does that work?"
Jay was already spreading her sleeping bag. "Dunknow."
Acacia shrugged, and spread out her own sleeping bag. On the opposite side from the Sue's.
"You know, watching what these poor saps sleep on makes me really grateful for Headquarters-issue gear," Jay remarked.
"Yes. Now shut up and let me get to sleep."
Jay obliged, drifting quickly off to sleep herself.
Acacia took slightly longer to get to sleep, and was awake to hear Alexis Moonbeam go to bed. Muffledly; she had her pillow over her head, to stop the Sue seeing what she actually looked like.
"Ow!" First burr. "What the...?" There was the sound of frantic squirming, and little sounds of discomfort.
Soothed, Acacia closed her eyes and slept.
They were both woken up a bit earlier than they'd have liked, by an ear-piercing scream.
"Mmf?" Jay looked around, saw nothing, and so turned her attention to the Words. "Acacia! Wake up, it's Pippin..."
Acacia sat up, turning her attention rather to Alexis than anything else. When there was (for no apparent reason) another scream, the Sue jumped from her bedroll and ran off, ostensibly To The Rescue of some sort. Acacia winced.
Jay was already on her feet. "Come on!"
Acacia got up, yawned, and followed the Sue.
They arrived just in time to see Alexis take the "plantir" from Pippin. She sat, holding it. "The hell? Even Gandalf wouldn't touch that thing..."
"Yes," Acacia whispered, "but she has Special Mary-Sue-Like Powers."
'You,' came a sepulchral voice from the stone. 'You are more powerful than the last fool. Who are you?'
'Its really none of your business!' It couldn't be heard, but Jay and Acacia could both read it, in all its grammatical incorrectness.
"This... this is just painful. Jay? Let's leave. This is causing actual physical pain. Let's get out of here."
Jay looked upset. Maternal vibes were practically radiating off of her ghostly body, and she'd have liked to keep an eye on Pippin, but seeing the pure unmitigated GOD-PLAYING of a girl who could brush off Sauron was (as Acacia had said) very painful.
"Well, if it's this point in canon, we won't be getting much sleep here tonight. I'm taking my sleeping bag off somewhere. You can come if you like."
Jay looked back at the hobbits for a minute, but had to grudgingly admit that no harm would come to them in the presence of a Mary Sue. "Onwards."
The next morning Jay, as always, woke up first. She had to look at the Words again. That wasn't something you should have to confront this time of morning.
"Acy, come on, they're leaving. On horseback..."
"Blast," said Acacia indistinctly. "I don't wanna have to try and keep pace with horses. Do we portal?"
"Portal jump, so we can keep tabs on them... do you have your binoculars?" Jay didn't wait for an answer before she dug hers out. She examined the Words quickly, looking for some indication of the path the riders would be taking. "Oh... My... Goddess." She cast around for a tree, didn't find one, and had to settle for banging her forehead on a convenient rock.
"Read *bang* the Words. *bang* Arrogant *bang* little God *bang* player..."
Acacia checked the Words for a moment—
"'Spawn of Shadowfax'?!" she spluttered. "Good grief! Okay, one, Shadowfax was the last one, and if you look at the footnote, the author knew that and is doing it anyway, the arrogant bitch! And, two, spawn? Fish spawn. Demons spawn. Horses foal. Although I think the female foals are fillies, or something, unless I've got it wrong."
"Yep, it's a filly..." Jay shook her head. "Although mare is acceptable. Still. That's just not right... and what is 'Quolful' exactly...?"
"Something the idiot thought sounded good." Acacia looked at the Words again. "Oh, gods... 'They thought she was precious most of the time, but there were moments when she thrust them into unabashed affectionate awe.' Dammit, this is bad. And Legolas is a coward now, if you hadn't noticed. I wish she'd hurry up and get to Erech, and not damn-well single-handedly kick ass on a Ringwraith."
"Yeah. All the characters are out of whack... I'm glad we missed her conversation with Theoden, THAT would have hurt." Jay's brow furrowed. "Do you realize she kills herself at the end? We have to get her before that, or her legacy will just stay with them."
Acacia checked the Words at the very end. "Killed by a wraith, despite the fact that in a moment she doesn't even break a sweat confronting one. I hate the ones that die, all the canons stand around saying alack, we did not appreciate her properly..."
"And she has Last Words. Bah. We won't let her get away with last words, will we?"
"No. No last words. Or last kiss, last cigarette—pipe, I suppose it would be, in Middle-earth—or any other form of last request."
"What do we do with this one? If we threw her off Mount Doom she'd probably fly..."
"Stick her so full of arrows she closely resembles a feathered sea urchin, cut her head off, and set fire to her? I'd like to see her survive that."
"Hmm. Old fashioned funeral pyre, that'd be nice..." Jay cocked or head. "Or we could cut off her head, stake her through the heart, and put a piece of communion wafer in her mouth... no, scratch that, where would we find the wafer?"
"That's for vampires, anyway," said Acacia. "And Alexis is too sweetness and light to be undead."
"Bah. Humbug. We could say 'I don't believe in Mary Sues,' and maybe she'd die..."
"I don't believe in Mary Sues," said Acacia experimentally. "Nope, didn't work."
"Somebody probably clapped." Jay considered this. "We could tie her, knock her senseless, and throw her off of Orthanc, thereby demonstrating to all Mary Sues what REALLY happens when you fall off a big-bloody-tower..." Of all the laws that Sues could break, Jay was most offended when they broke the laws of physics: their last mission had left scars.
"That sounds appealing, but do you really think we'd be able to tie our goddess-player up?"
"Knock her senseless first...?"
"Sounds good. Um... if we're doing this in the Paths of the Dead..."
"I can distract her, you can knock her out. Any other problems?"
"There'll be a lot of canons there to protect her..."
"Yes, but she's the curious 'Do It On My Own' type. You think she'd let anyone follow her if she went off exploring?"
Acacia shrugged. "Or maybe we get her when the Dead Men say she has to leave for being an 'accursed half breed'... then we'll only have Elladan and Elrohir to contend with."
"I'd still rather make her wander off the path and catch her alone... two is too many. Besides, I wouldn't want to hurt either of them by accident."
"It's dark, and they can't see us."
"I've got half a premonition that they've got pretty good night vision."
"Even for us? You know canonicals can't see us..."
"You know they can see us if, say, the Sue points us out."
"Yes, but she'll probably just come after us herself, see."
"Yes, which was my point..." Jay blinked. "Bah. Circular arguments. Let's just go and see what happens."
"Fine by me."
The partners waited quietly inside the mouth of the cavern, listening to the approaching riders.
"The horses will not enter the cave," came a voice from outside the cave.
"Not that I blame them," Gimli's voice responded.
"You're not scared, are you?" Alexis taunted. Jay and Acacia nodded to each other. Sues NEVER LIKED GIMLI.
"Yes I am. Can't you feel the evil?" Jay snickered quietly.
Alexis stuck her hand into the cave—and withdrew it with a scream. Aragorn and Elladan both turned to her with a simultaneous cry of "Alexis!" Acacia looked pained.
"What's wrong with you?"
"Something inside there does not want me to enter that cave," Alexis whimpered.
"Yes. Us," Acacia murmured sourly.
"Muahaha. Feel our aura of evil." Jay smiled and leaned back, folding her long legs to her body. "Come ON, get on with it..."
Aragorn told Alexis that if this Generically Evil Presence frightened her that much, she shouldn't come in. Alexis was mortally offended at this show of concern for her welfare, and when she started a Dramatic Rant about how "I can stand up to the power!" ...
both assassins felt the strange, faintly sickening sensation of time out of joint.
"The horses will not enter the cave," came a voice from outside the cave.
"Not that I blame them," Gimli's voice responded.
"You're not scared, are you?" Alexis taunted.
"Didn't this just happen?" Jay demanded.
"Starting a temporal loop. Another charge."
"We have to listen to this TWICE???"
"Glah." Jay got out her CD player. "Would you rather listen to Voltaire, or that? They talk for about five minutes."
"I don't think—" Acacia began, and then realized that they'd reached the point when the loop had begun.
The Sue interrupted her own rant with a "What the heck are you staring at?" Aragorn told her she was beautiful when she was angry. Acacia looked utterly revolted.
Jay clamped the headphones tighter, and sang quietly: "'Pleeeease, kill that man upstairs / if you ever loved me, you'll do this one thing, won't you, sweetheart...'"
After a romantically prolonged kiss, elven and dwarvish laughter was heard, but then Alexis cried out "Elladan1"
Acacia got out some earplugs. "'So you sailed away... into a grey sky morning...'"
"Elladan1," Jay mused to the empty cave. "Sounds like a Tolkien Groupy Band..."
Acacia, with her earplugs in, did not hear this. "'Nothing's quite the same now... I just say your name now...'"
Jay kicked her and pointed at the entrance. The Grey Company was coming in.
Acacia hurriedly shut up, removed her earplugs, and withdrew further into the shadows.
"How much longer?" Jay whispered.
Acacia checked the words. "It's unclear... it only says it 'seemed forever'... do we follow them?"
"Yeah, the Dead will join them soon, and we can fall in. Not that she hasn't already broken canon by playing tonsil-hockey with Aragorn. Do these people know the meaning of the word 'engaged'?"
Jay was silent for a minute, trailing the party, just behind Gimli. When she found something handy to duck behind, she quickly produced her Polaroid and snapped a picture of Elladan and Elrohir.
Alexis looked around wildly for the source of the flash. "Did you see that?" she demanded of her companions.
The general consensus was "Did we see what?"
Alexis looked confused and upset and angry, though those last two seemed to be her ground state of being, but went onward.
"Want another picture of the El-kids?" Jay asked. "I like making her think she's going insane."
"SURELY you saw that?"
"She sees things that are not there. A wonderful choice of traveling companion, Aragorn," Gimli grumbled.
The ghostly army was beginning to coalesce behind the party. Jay and Acacia just fell in line.
Acacia read slightly ahead.. "Okay, I shall have to notify whoever trains the mini-Balrogs of 'Isiludur.' I mean, good grief."
"Oh. ... 'Every name spelled wrong in Rings / A mini-Balrog gets its "wings"'?" Jay grinned. "The crazy things that popped up at the FanFic University of Middle-earth..."
"The very same."
"Muahah. Remember Celebrain?"
"Think we could get a pet mini-Balrog...?" Acacia glared. Jay was cowed. There was a sudden stop, and Jay grabbed her partner to keep her from plowing into the ghostly soldier in front of her.
The ghost king pointed at Elladan, Elrohir, and Alexis. "She must go. As must they."
"Why?" Aragorn asked.
"Half-breeds. Accursed half breeds," the spirits began to chant. Alexis looked at Jay and Acacia, the only two not chanting.
"Rhubarb, rhubarb," Jay started to chant, elbowing her partner.
Acacia shrugged, and joined in.
Aragorn demanded to know why Alexis was a half-breed. Alexis paused, but pulled back her hair to reveal her pointy ears. "Galadriel is my mother."
"Rhubarb, rhubarb," Jay muttered vehemently, trying not to think about it. "Don't think about Pink Elephants..."
"What do off-colored pachyderms have to do with it?"
"Just don't think about them." It was an old trick, and rather tired, but everyone knows trying not to think about something is the best way to erase all else from your mind.
Acacia watched as Alexis mounted her horse— "How the hell did she get her horse down here?!" —and headed off with Elladan and Elrohir. Jay and Acacia broke off, and followed quietly.
"You get out of the way, I've got a way to distract her..." Jay didn't wait for a response, but moved to an easily visible position.
"What... Elladan, look! A ghostly soldier has followed us!"
Elrond's other son squinted, and then blinked. "Yes, I see him."
The shade brandished his sword, and pointed it non-threateningly (no mean feat) at Alexis.
"I think he wants me to follow him." The wraith turned away, and began to sing in a sepulchral voice. "I must find out—stay here." The two males argued, especially Elladan, but were shot down quickly.
Alexis followed the singing through several tunnels, losing sight of the soldier once or twice—but she finally caught up to him, where he was sitting on a rock. Knitting.
"What do you want?" the girl demanded.
The shade kept singing. This close, she could make out the words. They were somewhat less than deep and meaningful.
"'There's no fear, there's no shame, there's no pulse, so is it so strange that only deeeeeeeeead giiiiirls like me, can't you see—'"
Suddenly a sword hilt slammed into the back of her head, and she fell down. Acacia sheathed the pale sword that had come with the disguise, and stepped forward to pick her up by the arms.
Jay opened a portal to the top of Orthanc, and helped Acacia get Alexis through.
The wind whipped through Jay's unruly hair (and Acacia's somewhat more docile coif), and the chill of it made the Mary Sue moan and flutter her eyes. Jay quickly tied her round and about with a coil of rope.
Acacia brought Alexis back to full alertness by the simple expedient of kicking her in the ribs and shouting.
"Good morning," Jay said pleasantly.
"What do you want with me?" Alexis (predictably) demanded.
"To toss you off this tower," said Acacia sourly.
"Don't mind her... although she's being quite honest. But first, I'm afraid we've got some complaints about you..." Jay smiled, pulled out the notebook in which she jotted down charges, and began to read.
"Alexis... Moonbeam..." Jay broke down snickering, and had to take a minute to reclaim her composure. "You are hereby charged with: Wanton cruelty to the common comma, causing an unnatural romance, to whit, Gandalf and Galadriel... Interfering with a canon relationship, to whit, one engagement between Aragorn son of Arathorn and Arwen Evenstar... Significantly reducing the power of Sauron to impress people, ruining the impressiveness of Shadowfax by giving him a 'spawn'," Jay took a breath, "Knocking EVERYONE so far out of character that they can't touch canon with a long pole, god-playing, instating a Temporal Loop, and being a Mary Sue."
"And mucking with group names," Acacia added. "The Rohirrim are not Rohans! Canadians are not Canadas, orcs are not Mordors or Isengards or anything else like that, hobbits are not Shires, and Rohirrim are not Rohans! Can you get that through your thick skull?"
"Stop it!" Alexis wailed.
"There, there, don't look so glum, you're going to participate in a very important study on gravity with us!"
"Sure. Do objects fall at the same speed regardless of whether they're god-playing Mary Sues?" Acacia said, grinning evilly.
"After all, our LAST Mary Sue jumped off of Orthanc and survived, hurting neither herself nor the dwarf she landed on." Jay stood Alexis up, and escorted her to the edge of the tower. Alexis started thrashing about and cursing virulently.
"My. Such language," said Acacia with a smirk.
"All right, Acacia, time for documentation. My camera's in my pack."
Acacia fetched the Polaroid, and pointed it down over the high drop. "What shall we use as the control?"
"Hmm. What do we have...?" Jay cocked her head. "I could run and get something."
Acacia took the sword back out. "Or we could use this. And who knows, maybe it'll land on her, or she'll land on it, or something."
The reply was not printable.
"Absolutely." Acacia held the camera to her eye with one hand and held the sword unpleasantly close to Alexis with the other. "One... two... three... drop!"
"Why, they're falling at the same rate! Galileo was right!"
"But I was wrong," said Acacia mock-morosely. "I thought they'd fall at different rates because one was a Mary Sue and the other wasn't."
"I'm sorry. But there's a wonderful scientific dissertation to be written, and if you'll look, you'll see that one made a rather larger splash then the other..."
"Let's go down and see."
The sword had acquired an interesting twisted shape from its long fall, and Acacia picked it up for a souvenir.
Alexis was definitely dead. No one spread that thinly should be alive.
Jay and Acacia nodded to each other... a job well done.
"The Ent army is still hanging around, yes? Want to go see them...?"
"But what about the horse?"
Jay didn't seemed to have heard her. "Do you know there's a grassy courtyard in the middle of HQ? The Marquis de Sod—that's the Personnel guy, the daisy—and the Sunflower Official hang out there sometimes."
"Thank you for that useful fact."
"Do you know that the Directors have been wracking their... brains, for the most part... trying to keep us on our toes when we're off duty?"
"Off duty?" said Acacia. "No... sorry, I don't think I'm familiar with that concept."
"Before the movies, it existed. There was a time when our consoles were mostly used for playing Quake..."
"Yes, we were."
"But what about the HORSE?"
Jay looked innocently at her, a charming but vague smile playing about her lips.
The horse was still where the Sue had left it but, her being dead, canon had partially reasserted itself and the sons of Elrond were back where they belonged.
Jay looked around the cave, nodded, and carefully set a portal over the only exit. "Either it's going to be untameable and 'escape' through that door... or it'll be a kitten and we can deal with it easily."
Acacia grinned, and stepped back. Jay could deal with the horse.
Jay approached the honey-colored animal: its eyes went wide and its nostrils flared.
"I don't have any sugar for you. They don't let me have sugar. But, you're supposedly intelligent..." Jay looked it straight in the eyes. "Choice: come with me. Or stay with her." She pointed to Acacia, who was nonchalantly holding her bow.
The horse, as intelligent as her sire, nuzzled Jay affectionately.
"Good girl." Jay beamed. She led the horse to the portal and let her step through. "First order of business: the new terror of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum cannot be called..." Jay shuddered "Quolful. It sounds like a piece of Quidditch equipment."
"What should it be called instead?"
Jay thought. "Alice...?"
Acacia blinked. "Why?"
"Quolful. Sounds like 'gyre and gimble,' or 'slithy toves...'"
"Alice, then? I'm not going to deal with a horse named 'Cheshire.'"
"The Cheshire horse." Acacia giggled. "Okay."
Jay smiled vaguely as she stepped through the portal. "We've recruited. It's time for vacation."
"Are we heading Upstairs to 'ask'?" Acacia wondered.
"Yes... and we have to let the teachers know we're coming."
Acacia grinned. "Excellent."
[Acacia's A/N: This one was truly, truly bad. And, I think, a bit shorter than usual. You will get to see Upstairs again, never fear, and an even worse Sue—by the same author. Thanks to Camilla Sandman for the idea of mini-Balrogs and to the Philosopher at Large for that little rhyme. Suggestions for vacation destinations are welcome. Any reviews at all are welcome. Suggestions for more Sues even more so. And suggestions for good fics to read are wonderful. Truly. We don't get any of those...]
[Jay's A/N: Well, I've asked Miss Camilla Sandman to vacation in her story. Don't know what she'll say... (FanFic U. Read it. Worship it. http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=644826.) We had fun. We did. *waves to all* We'll try to get a list of all the spin-offs up, because, hey, they rock. Oh, "Dead Girls" is a song. Really. It's a Voltaire song. So is "The Man Upstairs." Could I make this stuff up?]