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Darkness Awakened

[Bing!]

"Eh," said Acacia, "that's a new one by me."

"It's not a mission. It's a message." Jay hit the print button.

[Your presence is requested Upstairs.

Yes. Right now.

—S.O.]

"Never thought they'd want us Upstairs," said Acacia reflectively.

"It is a surprising thing." Jay rubbed her eyes and dropped her bag. "Maybe something to do with the week or so we were away with this Sue..."

"Hope not," said Acacia. (Never underestimate the ability of those Upstairs to make an agent's life hell.)

"We were within our rights, really. And it wasn't all skittles and beer."

"You try explaining things to a director."

"Okay!" Jay looked around. "But... there isn't one here. I could pretend the wall was a director—"

Acacia groaned. "You know what I mean."

"Only half the time."

"Very funny."

**

Acacia eyed the open door warily. "It's never left open! Half the time it's not there!"

Are you coming in, or are you going to spend another two weeks arguing on the threshold?

Acacia shrugged and stepped through.

I think we've made a serious mistake, the official said thoughtfully, fronds steepled.

"Who is this, and what have they done with the SO?" Jay whispered.

I heard that.

"Well, I'm generally in agreement, but to what were you referring?" said Acacia, reverting to her bad habit of referring to a statement several statements back instead of the statement that was just stated.

It is bandied about that we assign missions based on the stress factor that they will cause to agents. This is true.

"You hardly needed to tell us," said Acacia sourly.

HOWEVER, the sunflower interjected with some annoyance, we feel we may have miscalculated.

"Shall I repeat myself?"

MISS Byrd, I would thank you to shut up for a moment! Its fronds coiled angrily. Contrary to popular belief, we DO try to preserve the sanity of our agents. You've both been under undue stress, and I am therefore transferring you temporarily to a new department.

This was big enough news to shut even Acacia up. Momentarily.

"You—" she blinked. "You what?"

"Is this about Andromielle?"

And Laurel, and Aria, yes.

There were no chairs, so Acacia had to settle for the floor on which to half-collapse, half-sit.

"Acy! Are you all right?"

"Yes..." she said, sounding rather stunned.

"You don't look it."

"I'll be fine, Jay."

We'll be stationing you in the Department of Implausible Crossovers—

Acacia looked even more glum. "Been there. Got kicked out. Don't you remember?"

Yes. I remember that you attempted to kill a canonical character—Potter, wasn't it?

"Yes," said Acacia, in that long-suffering tone which means "we've been through this before, now drop it or I shall have to hurt you."

Despite this, the fact is that IC's workload has increased with the rest of it, but it has not benefited from the recent influx of recruits—most of these have become assassins.

"But IC department was actually getting new volunteers!"

A wild crossover has gone out of control. Most of the force is working on it.

Acacia blinked. "On... one... crossover? And how many untanglers constitutes 'most' these days?"

Some dozen. Yes. ONE crossover. You'd be practically on your own.

"And this is meant to be reassuring?"

No. But most crossovers do not interfere greatly with your registered favorites.

Acacia sighed. Arguing with directors was a notoriously pointless activity, rated by most of Headquarters as somewhere in between "attacking an army of orcs with a toothpick" and "trying to get an alarm clock to work in this godsforsaken place."

In an hour, you will be expected in the Director of Implausible Crossovers' office. Until then, your time is your own.

"How," said Acacia sourly, "do we know when it's been an hour?"

Mostly by the intercom page. You could go now, if you wanted.

Acacia was only too happy to—the floor was just bare Generic Surface, and not comfortable at all.

"Need a hand up?"

"Jay, I can stand at least," snapped Acacia, doing so.

"I was just worried. What's wrong? You went pale when it said we were being transferred..."

"It was unexpected," she said, and headed out the door.

"You usually deal with the unexpected much better than that."

"Yes, but it's less unexpected. We expect Sues to be flaming bitches where we're concerned and screw up the canon beyond all recognition; the only unexpectedness is how they decide to do it."

"Whatever." Jay shook her head. "I'M looking forward to it."

"You've never been in IC before."

"Hey, I miss the days when you could be called to any canon. YOU weren't around, then."

Acacia shrugged. "Whatever you say."

"Look, I love Middle-earth. But I miss the days of crawling around Jeffries tubes after a Sue, or running around ancient Greece."

"And I don't miss the days of trying to convince Draco Malfoy to just go through the shiny portal, no, you are not in fact part elf, just go through it already."

"He's small enough to throw."

"Yes, but you try getting his wand off him."

"Oh, like getting past people armed with swords or phasers to get to a Sue was joyous. If I could count the security force-fields I've bounced off of..."

**

"Well... it's a nice change from the gray..."

The way to the Implausible Crossover director's office was not the distance-distorting gray that most of the halls were. It was, instead, a nice shade of black.

"I like it," Acacia announced.

"That's nice," came Jay's voice from the darkness. "Although a few more lights would be appreciated."

"You're the one with the flashlight."

There was a click, and a beam of light illuminated—not much. "At least I can see you, now."

"If not where we're going. You'd think they would light the place better, really."

"Like they'd want to." Jay walked forward a few more steps, and ran shin-first into the far wall. "Damnation."

"Some advice: don't walk into walls."

"I couldn't SEE it." Jay sighed. "But we're here."

"Air currents, Jay. They can't go through walls. Pay attention and you can tell where the walls are."

"Thank you. I feel much better now." Jay ran her hands over the wall. "Do we knock, or is there a doorknob?"

"If you can't find a knob, knock."

"There's a knob today." Jay discovered this in the time-tested way of bashing her elbow against it. "Ow."

"Idea: instead of telling me about it, open the door."

Jay opened the door. "My. That's certainly green..."

Acacia just smirked as she entered, as if she knew something Jay didn't.

"Where's... the director?" The room was empty, except for what looked like shag carpeting across the walls and ceiling.

"He's right there," said Acacia mildly. "What, can't you see him?"

"Humor the flake. Tell me."

"You're looking right at him!"

Good MORNING!

"It's... lichen?"

Acacia looked smug.

"It's lichen that sounds like John Cleese." Jay said this experimentally, not quite willing to trust it.

"Yes, dear. It's lichen that sounds like John Cleese."

"I hate you."

"Whyever is that?" Acacia asked sweetly.

"You COULD have said something."

"That would have been no fun."

"You know? You're a dork."

"You know, that's possibly the stupidest insult I've ever—"

Ladies? Ladies? If you'd excuse me for a moment, I do have some rather pressing news.

They both turned to face the director. Since he was plastered all over the walls and ceiling, they were facing in completely different directions, but still.

Yes. First, I am supposed to show you the Tangled Web fiasco: a sort of cautionary measure, as it were.

"That doesn't sound good," Acacia observed.

I assure you, it is not.

On the back wall, the lichen drew aside to reveal a portal. Just through there, now, and mind your steps.

Acacia shrugged and stepped through. Into a chaos zone.

For the first time in five minutes (a fair duration, with Jay), her partner spoke. "That's Doctor Who!"

"Eh? Where?"

"There! Ooh, there's another one. And THERE'S the ditz from Touched by an Angel, and—hey, there's Xena, long time no see."

"And—who's that—?"

"Which one?"

"That person. Over there. The one that looks like James Bond."

"I think that is James Bond."

"Good grief."

"Would you like to use the camera...?"

"Not particularly."

Jay took Acacia's arm and pulled her back through the portal.

"I think you've made your point."

Why, you left before you saw the Star Trek characters.

"Which Star Trek?"

All of them.

Jay shot a frightened look at Acacia. "Jeez."

"I think I see why so many agents are on it," said Acacia weakly.

Now you see why we want you to stop this sort of thing before it starts. Oh, and Acacia, dear...

"What?"

Please don't try to commit homicide? You aren't an assassin anymore.

"We've been through this! That was over a year ago!" She considered. "I think. It's kind of hard to tell without day and night or working timepieces..."

Yes. We have all heard your complaints on the subject. Are you still equipped with the universal translator?

"Yes."

Your partner will need one, I think.

While the shows and books were written and directed in English, in CANON language was not so for forgiving. Westron, Greek, Interworld, and the ever-vague "Federation Standard" were merely some of the languages an agent would encounter. This had been solved with pirated translating spells, and the perfect deus ex machina device—the Universal Translator.

She turned to Jay. "What, did you lose it?"

Oh, did she have one? My apologies, ma'am, I thought you were working under a spell.

"Nope. Got one back in the day."

Wonderful. You can start right away.

"I am thrilled," said Acacia sourly. "Are we switching response centers?"

Absolutely not. I'll have that young man in engineering rewire the consoles.

"I'm sure he'll be pleased."

Why don't you run along? I'm sure he'll be done soon.

Acacia did so, without actually saying anything, although she did grumble something sounding like "Run along..." under her breath.

"Well, he seemed nice. I'm surprised you don't like him."

"Really?"

"Yes, really."

"Why?"

"The SO is snippy, and the Marquis needs medication, but he seems sane—"

A niggling suspicion was itching its way through Acacia's head. "You just like him because he sounds like John Cleese, don't you? Don't think I don't remember that you're in the cult of Python."

"I resemble that remark."

Acacia scowled. "Anyway, we're here."

Jay grinned and kicked open the door.

"AAYI!!"

"Hello, Makes-Things."

"What are you doing here?"

"We belong here. This is our response center," Acacia pointed out.

"It's not done yet. Go away!"

Acacia turned to her partner. "Can he kick us out?"

"I don't believe he can!"

"Didn't think so." Acacia sprawled on the rug again.

Makes-Things gave a feeble grin and turned back to the console. He began to mutter. The muttering was in Korean, but the Universal Translator conveyed it as "stupid thing-breakers oughta be tossed outa window won't let me work..."

"Makes-Things?" said Acacia sweetly. "We have translators, dearie. You cannot speak in other languages and expect us not to understand."

"Bother you both."

"I'd really rather bother you—"

"I know."

They let him work. For about two minutes.

"So, how much longer is this going to take?"

"It depends on how often you pester me."

There was silence for another few minutes.

"Are you done yet?"

"Not yet!"

Two more minutes passed.

"Are you do—"

"SHUT UP!"

They did, but—as might be guessed from the fact that they were Jay and Acacia—not for very long.

"By the way, we—oh, yeah. I was about to say we need new Analysis Devices, but if we're being transferred..."

"You'll need the added database models, then. Damn."

"The Mary Sues kept burning them out," Acacia added by way of explanation.

"Right."

"It's true."

"Uh-huh." Makes-Things' head snapped up. "I tell you what! Why don't you get them from my workshop? Remember to pay attention—"

"You're trying to get rid of us, aren't you?"

"Who, me?"

"Yes, you."

"Let's go get them, anyway."

"Sure." Acacia got up off the rug, the agents left the room, and Makes-Things sighed relievedly and went on working in peace.

**

"We're back!"

"It's done."

"Oh, good," said Acacia, flopping on the rug again.

[BEEP.]

She swore.

"Hmm." Jay looked over at the screen. "Star Wars...? And Lord of the Rings? Oh, dear."

Acacia winced. "How bad?"

"It doesn't look good, let's put it that way." Jay frowned. "Am I going to miss homicide?"

"Probably. I know I will."

"But—but no, we're in luck! There are two killworthy avatars."

"Oh, good." Acacia brightened considerably.

The avatar was only one of many breeds of self-insertion—unlike Sues, they tended to be mostly male, and with no romance involved. Of course, they too often had superpowers, making them pains in the arse if killing became necessary.

Jay read through the story, and stared. "I lied. One is the reincarnation of Isildur. Nickname 'Izzy'."

Acacia glared at nothing in particular. "Doesn't the idiot know that humans stay dead?"

"He teams up with a Jedi named Matrix. May I just point out that Jedi are bitches to kill?"

"I am really not looking forward to this. Have you ever tried explaining to someone that they have to come back now to where they're supposed to die?"

"No. I haven't." Jay sighed. "Do we have to kill all the gratuitous extra female Darths? Or do they go poof after we sort out the avatars?"

"We have to kill them all. Not going to be easy, I'm sure." She looked around. "Where'd Makes-Things get to?"

"Oh, the Darths are pushovers... look at all these bit characters! Are automatic weapons in this canon?" She looked around. "Behind the console. Come ON, that's my spot. Out!"

Makes-Things came reluctantly out of his hiding place, picked up his toolboxes, and made as if to leave.

"Come back. We still need a whatsit and all the rest of the stuff, you know that," said Acacia.

"A whatsit?" Jay wondered.

"It's this thingy, you use it if the characters have eaten anything in another continuum they might not be able to handle."

"Yes. The Whatsit." Makes-Things dug in his toolbox. "Here's one... shouldn't you be on your way?"

"And we need—" Acacia pointed out.

"Fine. FINE! Just take a Despatch kit and go!"

"Why're you so upset?"

"I've got a lot of work to do! Things've been breaking left and right, and then you two had to have a psychotic episode and get transferred..."

"We're not asking you to stick around."

"I'll be back in five minutes with the stuff. Stay!" Makes-Things scuttled away.

"What a strange person," Acacia observed.

"Pot? Kettle. Kettle? Pot."

"Oh, you shut up."

Jay grinned. Then she tapped the "disguise" settings, and made a puzzled face.

"Jay...? What are you doing?"

She raised an eyebrow and looked pointedly at Acacia. Then she very slowly pointed at the settings.

"Well, I know that, but to what—oh, you're hopeless."

Jay sat silently, arms folded.

Acacia leaned against the wall. If Jay was going to be stubborn, so was she.

Jay massaged the bridge of her nose. Then she reached over, grabbed Acacia, and dragged her to look at the disguise panel. She flipped through the settings with an expectant look.

"Jay... if you won't talk..."

"You did tell me to shut up."

"You know perfectly well what I mean. Or you should, by now."

"I will not deal in idiom while you CONTINUE to be stubbornly literal."

Acacia just sighed. "Anyway, what did you mean?"

"Which disguise should we use? I note that this universe uses catgirls as gratuitous eyecandy, but I doubt you'll be wanting that."

Acacia looked wistful. She did like cats, but she didn't like the idea of using the shape of, as Jay had aptly put it, gratuitous eyecandy. "What are our other choices?"

"Human, mostly. In fact, human with just about any trappings..." Jay considered. "Do you have a favorite Star Wars race?"

"Eh." Acacia stared into space. "Hard decision."

"I like the looks of the cloner aliens, but I don't see us being able to do much damage that way. The Naboo are just human... I'd be too hot as a Wookie. What are those things with the head extensions?"

"Which things with the head extensions?"

"Sort of looks like a tentacle? Jabba's secretary was one? Long nails, sharp teeth?"

"Those would be Twi'leks."

"Would you like to be those? I like those. And how do you know that?"

"Sure, we'll be those. And I know because I'm a complete and total nerd."

Jay set the disguises. "So many choices, now."

"Yes, indeed," said Acacia, grinning broadly.

"Do we get lightsabers?"

"Only if we steal them from the OCs." Acacia grinned. "I claim Matrix's. What kind of a name is that, anyway?"

"A really annoying math concept?"

"You're only allowed to be called that if you're from Reboot canon," said Acacia moodily. "Now open the portal."

"Portal, hoooo!"

Acacia stepped through, and grinned happily. The effect was rather spoiled with her new teeth, but it's the thought that counts.

They were in a parking lot, quickly getting soaked by an impressive rainstorm.

"Is there anyplace to get out of the rain?" Acacia wondered. "Nearby, so we can still watch—" she sniggered— "'Fabio'?"

"There's an awning over there."

A young man slogged past them, newspaper over head, heading to a rather battered car.

"Bad idea," Acacia observed, "using cheap paper as an umbrella. It never works."

He got into the car and tried to start it up. It refused to start, and he swore at it.

"Such language," said Acacia happily.

"This is weird. The grammar is good, and the descriptions are fair. It's such serious and carefully crafted nonsense..."

"Some idiot just wanted to use Lord of the Rings and Star Wars as backdrops for their own odd little daydreams."

"It's... well, I won't say it would be great, but passable original fiction. But this is just abSURD."

"Yes. Isildur should never be named Fabio. You've got to wonder where this author got the whole idea."

"It's better than Izzy."

Fabio, a.k.a. Isildur, a.k.a. Izzy, had given up on his car and was now grumbling away with a gas can.

"Nor should he drive a car. Nor marry a cat-woman, nor know anyone named 'Matrix'."

Three unpleasant-looking somethings slid out of an alley just in front of them, following Fabio. "Ahah, the bad guys."

"Yes. You can tell they're bad guys because they're hiding in the shadows and enjoying the morbid weather." Acacia blinked. Why is mere rain 'morbid'?"

"I like it. It doesn't seem obsessed with death."

"Lack of grip on adjectives." Acacia sighed. "This isn't Middle-earth or anywhere in the Star Wars continuum. I feel sure I would know if there was a planet someplace with old rusty cars that run on actual gas. This is real life. They should have given it to Despatch."

"Nope. This is Prop City Vysible, or however he's spelling it."

"What'll they come up with next?"

"Singing dancing mouse with his own amusement park?"

"Given the general level of intelligence to be found, I suspect it's been done."

The pair trailed along behind Fabio, who was "moving like an enraged giant" in search of a gas station, and his pursuers.

Fabio sighed, only to find a dead end.

He kicked the brick wall in front of him "Life sucks," he said to himself out loud.

"Does it, now? Perhaps we can end it for you?"

This had been said by one of the pursuers. Acacia glared. "I was going to say that... although I probably shouldn't, he's technically canonical, although this is the worst case of Canon Possession I've ever seen."

"Yes. I liked how a brick wall appeared when he sighed, though."

"Manifesting landscape—why am I mentally assembling a charge list?"

"Habit, force of."

"Probably."

Dropping the gas canister in shock, Fabio whirled around to face this newcomer. He blinked in surprise to find nothing. Darkness sat in front of alleyway entrance, darkness so deep he could barely see anything in front of him. It HAD NOT been this dark earlier, and it was impossible for it to change so quickly.

"Obviously it IS possible..."

"If it happens," Acacia said sourly, "clearly it's possible. This would be why I have no patience for people who stand around saying 'That's impossible!' when it just happened."

"Yes, that would have been my point—"

He walked forward, figuring he would simply return the way he came and pass through the darkness.

He walked straight into some unseen object, hit his head, and fell to his ass.

"Fell to his—" Jay cocked her head. "Well, that's the first time I've ever heard it used that way. Interesting. Usually it's 'fell on'."

"Huh?" he questioned, dumbly.

"Okay, this is just bad," said Acacia.

"I don't disagree."

He picked himself off the ground, and grabbed a grabbed a broken pipe that lied nearby.

"... Now THAT was bad."

"Worse than the rest of this?"

"Well, it is rather silly." Jay sighed. "It lied nearby? What exactly did it say?"

"Maybe it claimed to be a vegetable."

Jay giggled.

Fabio jabbed the shadow with the pipe and felt it smack against the apparently solid shadow. It was as if a wall of shadows had formed in front of him.

"He said things twice. It was as if he were redundant."

Acacia leaned back against the wall to enjoy the show.

As if he wasn't already surprised with what had happened, he became even more so when the shadow grew an ooz-like vine. Two more of the black vines shot out from the wall, while the first slapped his pipe out of his hand and knocked it to the side.

"Are they giving us redundant fics on purpose?"

"No idea," Acacia said, "but I wouldn't put it past them."

Fabio was struggling impotently against the black "vines," pausing only to waste his breath with a dramatic "Damn... you..."

Acacia sighed. "I thought we were going to get to see the Star Wars continuum."

"Poor dear. Maybe later."

Acacia looked disappointed. Then someone in a trench coat with a lightsaber arrived conveniently to come to Fabio's rescue.

The newcomer wore a tan-colored trench coat, soaked with rain as much as Fabio's own jacket. His brown hair was tied in a long ponytail, also soaked.

This was unsurprising. EVERYTHING was soaked.

His saber, which had just been used to hack up Fabio's assailants, hissed loudly in the rain.

Acacia looked at it intently. "I want."

"It is very pretty, I agree. But you would be scary with a lightsaber."

"Good."

The stranger frowned, then spoke for the first time since he arrived.

"Only one dead?" he complained with a scoff. "I must be loosing my touch..."

"That doesn't sound very Jedi-like to me," Acacia complained.

"How do you loose a touch? Was it on a leash?"

"Honestly. Betareaders are your frieeeends."

The two remaining shadow beasties oozed up to confront the newcomer, morphing into vaguely human shapes.

"Maybe we should have used THOSE disguises."

They did look interesting.

Black skin scaled their face, and their eyes glowed with a bloody red light, brighter then the stranger's weapon. Hooked claws protruded from his hands (but not hers, apparently,) and feet and wire-like hair hung from their heads. A strange, dark armor adorned their body; etched all over with strange runes.

Acacia considered this a moment. "Nah," she decided. "Look how easily they get sliced up."

"But they look cool, you must admit."

Unfortunately, they were both easy to kill and stupid. One fell for the "behind you!" trick and was dispatched with a few blows from a metal pipe. The other one ran into the lightsaber. It was sad.

"Hey, Izzy, are you all right?" the stranger asked Fabio.

Acacia snorted. "I take it back. 'Fabio' is a better name than 'Izzy'."

"Especially as derived from 'Isildur'. But maybe he was jealous of 'Leggy'?"

"Don't even remind me."

"Who the hell are you?" he demanded, "What the hell are you? And what hell do you want?" His frustration was evident and stance was hostile. The stranger didn't seem to be fazed by this, and simply laughed.

"My name is Matrix. I'm a Jedi Master." Fabio's memory flashed at that as the man's comment hit Fabio with yet more Déjà vu.

"Maybe the author meant deja-fu?" Jay quipped with a grin, trying to distract her partner (who was looking nauseated).

"No, you're not a Jedi Master, else you wouldn't complain about the number of whatever-they-ares you killed!" She blinked. "And you said no more Thief of Time for me."

"Look. It fits! Hit with deja-fu!"

"What fits what? What are you talking about?"

"Oh, forget it."

Continuing, Matrix spoke some more.

"Being redundant, this fic said the same thing repeatedly," Acacia observed.

"What I want is victory. You may not remember me, but we fought together once, against a great evil. We lost."

Matrix paused, letting his words sink into the nerve-rattled Fabio. "We've been given a second chance. The evil has awakened, and so have we. We can fight the fight we lost before, and we can win this time round. But to do that I need you. I need you to remember the man you once were and the warrior you once were."

"We shall fight on the seas and oceans—we shall not flag or fail: then they shall say of us, OOF!" Jay broke off as Acacia elbowed her in the ribs.

"So, the man he once was and the warrior he once was are different people? Just how many times did she reincarnate the poor sod, anyway?"

Jay sighed, rubbing bruised ribs, and read ahead. "Wait a minute!"

"What?"

"Those shadow things? The easily killed shadow things?"

"Yes..."

"Those are the wraiths!"

Acacia put a hand to her head. "Severely reducing the—no, bad Acacia, must quit making charge lists."

"All we have to do is get Isildur back into Middle-earth. You might charge Matrix, though, if it would make you feel better."

"It would. Muchly."

"What will happen to this world with Isildur gone? It doesn't violate Star Wars canon."

"Either it'll vanish or reincorporate. But Matrix, at least, has to go. We cannot have bloodthirsty Jedi Masters running around."

"That's true. He IS a canon buster—you get to kill him after all." Jay sighed. "Now all we have to do is keep Matrix from killing us long enough to get Isildur through the portal."

"We could steal his lightsaber," suggested Acacia brightly.

"When?"

"Um...?"

While this was going on, Matrix had been dramatically informing "Fabio" that "You are Isildur, High King of the Realms in Exile, son of Elendil, one of the three rulers of the Visible City. And I need your help."

"We really need weapons... is there a point at which they separate?"

Acacia checked the Words for a moment. "Yes. Just after whatever-we-ought-to-be-calling-him gets upset at all the history Matrix is repeating to him and starts yelling."

"What about 'Dark Isildur'? The supposed embodiment of the ring's evil?"

"He's currently a statue. Maybe we could bring him back to Headquarters for decoration."

"To put with the Long Table Elrond?"

"We could send him to Miss Cam, yes..."

"You mistake me. After OFUM ends, Miss Cam is lending him to the PPC."

"Oh! Fun!"

"Ist not?"

Acacia thought a moment. "We may need to find a way to stop the thing spontaneously reanimating on us and trying to kill us, of course."

"Oh, wonderful."

"I'm sure Makes-Things will be able to come up with something."

"Or we could just take a large mallet to it."

"We could nick a stasis device out of some continuum or other..."

"Or we could take a large mallet to it."

"Are you going to continue to suggest large mallets whatever I propose?"

"I don't like it. It's ugly and evil."

"Fine, we can smash it. We'll have plenty enough souvenirs anyway."

Jay bit her lip. "Getting to the statue's going to be about as easy as getting through Matrix. Which do we try first?"

Acacia considered. "Well, I'd wait till Matrix and 'Izzy' separate, then reinstate Isildur into the canon. He seems to be the focus of this disruption, anyway, so it may be easier to get the rest then. After that we can mop up Matrix and the various gratuitous Darths."

"Mopping up Matrix isn't going to be a cakewalk. He's an avatar—super-duper powers."

"We'll burn that bridge when we come to it."

"Okay. They're heading into Fabio's apartment building. Do we follow?"

"Absolutely."

"At least it'll be out of the rain."

"Yeah..."

**

Jay and Acacia huddled quietly in an alleyway as Matrix got into a taxi and left. They'd spent a rather cold and miserable hour on the stoop waiting as he and Fabio reminisced, and were quite glad that the exposition was over.

Acacia shrugged. "I suppose it's time. But what're the odds he doesn't want to go back? Given that he's just going to get killed, I mean."

"Oh, yes, we'll TELL him that. Uh-huh."

"Good point."

Jay took a deep breath and started up the stairs. Acacia followed, and at the top she took a deep breath of her own then knocked on the door.

It opened only partially, as it was chained. Fabio peered out sullenly. "Can I help you?" He blinked. "What ARE you—!"

"Your worst ni—oops, that's not right. We're assa—no, that's not it either..."

"We're Twi'leks," Acacia volunteered. "We've got something to tell you that you may find interesting."

"What the hell is a Twi'lek?"

"We are." Acacia's circular logic was impeccable.

Fabio glared. "All right... what have you got to tell me?"

"First let us in."

"I don't think I should."

"We do."

"Go away." The door shut.

"Well, that was productive," Acacia observed.

Jay pounded at the door. "We know you're Isildur!"

"What's the plan if that doesn't get him to let us in? Break the door?"

"Yes."

They didn't have to. There was the sound of a deadbolt sliding, and the door opened again.

"Thank you," said Acacia sweetly. "Can we come in now?"

"Yes. You may." Fabio still looked sullen.

"Thank you." Acacia grinned. The effect, with her teeth, was markedly unpleasant.

"Sit down. Thank you. Now, what did you want to tell me?"

"Well," said Acacia, leaning back in her chair, "we're from an... organization... that wants to bring you back where you came from."

"Meaning...?"

"Isildur, you are not from this world. Nor do you belong here."

"So where am I from? And what about what Matrix told me?"

"A place called Middle-earth. And as for Matrix's story..." Acacia considered a moment. "It's... the truth, but it shouldn't be."

Only then did she realize that Fabio was staring at her with mouth open and one eyebrow raised in a rather silly puzzled look. She turned to Jay. "I don't think he gets it. Help me out here."

"The world has been altered. History has been changed. We're trying to fix it."

"We have a... device," added Acacia, "that can take us back to Middle-earth. We need to bring you there."

"But my life is here—"

"Nope. Trust me, you'll remember everything when you get there."

"What about this 'one ring'?"

"It'll be dealt with."

"Trust us."

This was not something geared to inspire confidence.

"We'll explain more when we arrive," Acacia offered.

Jay stood up, produced the activator, and opened a portal. "Coming?"

"I... suppose so..." He still looked vaguely reluctant.

He walked over to the shimmering doorway, but paused on the threshold. "Should I do this thing? Can I trust these strangers? What if it is a trap? WhaAAAAAGH!"

The partners stepped through after him, closing the portal behind them. Acacia began rummaging in her pockets.

"YOU PUSHED ME!"

"You were dramatizing. We didn't have time."

"That doesn't—"

"Ah," Acacia interrupted. She tossed a rather cheap pair of sunglasses to Jay. "Put those on."

"You're joking." Jay put them on nevertheless.

"I'm not. I've worked in Crossovers before, remember, we do have to do this." She took another pair out of her pockets, along with a small device.

"What are you talking—"

"Look at me."

"What—"

[FLASH.]

With memory gone, and therefore nothing to hold him in his borrowed form, Fabio's fine modern clothing shimmered, shifting into the rougher duds of Isildur.

Acacia returned the neuralyzer to her pocket and removed her pack. "Do you think we need bother with anything else? Given that he's not got much to do..."

"Your name is Isildur. You just won a battle. You have a scroll to write. Get gone."

With a very slightly confused look, Isildur left. Acacia looked satisfied. "Now let's go see what we can do about the Jedi and the gratuitous Sith."

"Yep. Hey, I've got an idea on how to steal Matrix's lightsaber."

"Is that so?"

"Okay. He comes home, ditches his lightsaber and trench coat for a minute..."

Acacia grinned.

**

Jay opened another inter-continuum portal into Matrix's house. There was a homicidal catgirl Sith waiting there for them, but a quick "We're here to steal his lightsaber" kept them from getting killed.

Matrix was apparently a truly horrible housekeeper. The smell of leftover food lingered about the building, and laundry decorated the carpeted floor. Jay and Acacia had little trouble finding a hiding place amid the clutter.

There came the sound of tired footsteps, and the door swung open. Matrix plodded in and threw trench coat and lightsaber to the floor.

Acacia promptly snatched up the weapon, grinning broadly.

Matrix suddenly sensed the catgirl, stretched out his hand, and called his lightsaber—or, at least, tried to. Acacia was holding onto it quite tightly. When he felt the unexpected resistance, he whirled.

Acacia waved. "'Ello!"

"Who—?!"

Jay nudged Acacia. "Shouldn't we be leaving?"

"I thought we'd agreed he was a canon violation."

"He's also a Jedi!"

"But I want to—"

"He will kill you like a very dead thing!"

"Dead things don't kill people."

"No, you will be like a very dead thing."

Acacia looked sulky. "Fine."

"You like being dead?"

"I'm drowning in miscommunication here. Please stop."

Matrix had spent most of this conversation staring at them. Jay and Acacia tended to have that effect on people. Being a Jedi, though, he recovered his wits a little quicker than either would have liked.

"Give back my lightsaber, and I'll be merciful."

"You did drop it on the floor," Acacia pointed out. "You really should learn to take better care of your things."

"Do you really think you can keep it from me?" he asked, staring Acacia in the eye.

"As a matter of fact—"

Whatever she had been going to say was cut off as Jay dragged her out through the door.

"Ow." She rubbed her neck. "Jay, next time, if you really must drag me someplace, don't use the back of my collar, okay?"

Jay took a deep breath and sank to the stoop. "Running from Jedi. Not a good thing."

"Well," Acacia sniffed, "if you really wanted to get far away, why didn't you portal us out?"

"He'd have followed. He's an avatar. They jump through unknown portals."

"But not through their own front doors?"

"Nope."

Acacia considered. "Maybe the catgirl will kill him, now he's saberless." She looked at the stolen lightsaber. "Raptor. Apparently someone doesn't understand that—no matter who you've abducted—Star Wars is not Lord of the Rings and you do not name your weapons."

"It's not even a proper name," Jay agreed. "Maybe later we can get the drop on him and kill him—right now, let's take a large mallet to 'Dark Isildur'."

"And the various random Sith?"

"Indeed."

"Fun."

**

The lair of the Gratuitous Sith was mostly stone, and poorly lit. This was to illustrate, of course, that it belonged to the bad guys.

"Cheerful place, this," said Acacia mildly. She checked the Words momentarily. "Ah. That's why Matrix didn't follow us. He was busy having an insanely long flashback."

"Helpful, yes?" Jay lowered her voice. "The one in black who looks like Matrix is, unsurprisingly, 'Dark Matrix'. We may have to kill him too."

"Overuse of the 'evil twin' phenomenon: check."

"I'll distract the gratuitous Sith and Dark Matrix; you deal with the statue."

"Do you have a mallet?"

"You've got a lightsaber."

"Point."

Jay took a deep breath and rummaged in her bag. She retrieved a jar of flame, handling it gingerly. Then she tossed it deep into the darkness.

Both Bad Guys, predictably, came to investigate this strangely colored fire that would apparently burn on bare stone. Acacia headed off to hack up the evil statue.

"There! Vandal! Hold!"

"Why do they always say 'stop'?" Jay panted as she sprinted away.

Dark Matrix and Darth Rekka gave chase: they were faster than her, but SHE had the portal. They would almost have caught up with her, when they would turn a corner and see her disappearing through the glowing portal, to appear elsewhere in the tunnels.

"Yoohoo!"

The voice came from behind them. Darth Rekka spun around—and saw another portal.

"Come, master! We are close enough to follow!"

They leaped through the portal together—and fell. For quite a long way.

Behind the portal, Jay leaned breathlessly against the wall and smiled.

Acacia, meanwhile, had with her lightsaber done quite an efficient job of reducing Dark Isildur to gravel. Dark flashes and wisps of black smoke had issued from it, as per Melodramatic Evil Artifact regulations, but Acacia studiously ignored them.

Jay plodded in, breathing hard.

"The two D's are at the bottom of a manhole. Want to steal their lightsabers and go through their pockets for loose change?"

"Absolutely." Acacia considered asking how they'd ended up there, but decided she probably didn't want to know.

Jay opened a portal and peered through cautiously. "Yep, this one's closer to the ground. Come on."

"You can go through first."

Jay did. There was a squelch. She poked her head back through. "Coming?"

"Yep." Acacia stepped through, into darkness.

"This cape should fit me once it gets through the laundromat."

"What do we do with their lightsabers? I'm sure you'll want one, but that leaves one spare."

"Extra. Tradable."

"Fun."

"What colors did we get?"

"Red, of course. What did you expect?"

"Oh, well, it's a good color."

Acacia smiled. "Should we go back to Matrix's house to see who won?"

"Yes. Sabers on?"

"Of course. Portal us in."

Jay opened a portal and stepped back. "You first."

"Oh, you're just scared," said Acacia, but stepped through anyway.

Jay counted to five, and followed.

**

The caution was unnecessary. Both the catgirl and Matrix were gone.

"Great. Where the hell are they?"

Acacia checked the Words again. "It seems the catgirl got away and—" she looked around— "given that she apparently set the place on fire during the fight, Matrix decided to find someplace else to live for now. He's gone to see if he can stay with Fabio. Who we already sent on his merry way in Middle-earth."

"Muaha. Bet he's not there yet." Jay showed off her teeth.

"Ambush?"

"Absolutely."

**

Matrix pounded on the door of the apartment with the arrogance and self-confidence of the terminally stupid.

After only a few beats, the door swung open.

"Izzy?"

"Nope."

"I've heard that—"

Acacia, having decided it would be a Bad Idea to wait for Matrix to recover from his surprise, had her stolen saber out and lit before he could finish the sentence.

There was a flash of green, and a thump.

"But aren't they supposed to disappear?"

"Don't look at me," said Acacia calmly. "Although, if you'll remember, I don't believe Qui-Gon vanished."

"No, he did not. Well, everything's probably going to vanish, once we're gone."

"And good riddance."

Jay nodded, and dusted her hands together. "Let's go home. I'm tired."

"Absolutely." Acacia swished her lightsaber through the air, enjoying the sound. "I think we've got the best souvenirs we've brought back in probably forever."

"Mm."

There was a flash, and they were gone. And so was the world of Visible.

"That was actually quite fun," Acacia remarked.

"You're just saying that because you got to play hackslash."

"So?"

Jay rolled her eyes, but remained silent.

Acacia smiled brightly and stretched out on the rug again.

Jay leaned back into her chair. "Bored."

Nothing happened.

"Booored."

An earsplitting beep failed to fill the air.

"Did you hear me? I'm BORED!"

The computer remained stubbornly silent.

"Okay, so maybe it won't be that bad after all," said Acacia happily.

"But now I really AM bored."

"After half a minute?"

Jay nodded. "I was expecting a beep. Now what can we do?"

**

"MY GOD, SHE'S GOT A LIGHTSABER!" screamed George of the Godplayer Department as he hid behind a copse of plastic sculptuary.

Acacia turned to Jay. "Am I that scary?"

"With a lightsaber? Yes."

"Good."

"That does not encourage me."

Five minutes of staring at each other had finally produced the idea of, as Jay put it, "Prancing around Headquarters with the new lightsabers."

It was fun. Especially the little mock battles. (Very careful mock battles, as not to break a) the lightsabers, b) the building, and c) various appendages.)

"Ah well. It is fun," said Acacia happily.

"I like the sound the best," Jay said. She waved her red saber about, producing a sound best described as "vrroum."

"Yep." Acacia clicked hers on and off several times. "And that sound."

Jay smiled. "And the people diving out of the way are funny."

"Very."

"It makes me feel like singing, how about you?"

Acacia gave her a suspicious look. "Singing what?"

"... It's not easy being green?"

"No."

"You are no fun."

"Whatever you say..."

"It's not that easy being green—"

"Stop. Just stop it."

"Phoo."

END


[Acacia's A/N: Well, now you know what the "changes" are. And may I just point out once again that this fic was quite ridiculous. This one's to be found in the Star Wars section of FF.N, so don't waste time looking in LotR. Really, HOW much did Fabio have in common with Isildur...? ~wanders off muttering~]

[Jay's A/N: In the official PPC document (which neither of us wrote, in a subclause I missed), it says what the Implausible Crossover director is, and what the flash patch is. The flash patch is a flying pig, which is fine by me. But I LIKE the lichen that sounds like John Cleese, and so it stays.

This was an interesting change of pace... no charging, no Sue, that sort of thing. It was interesting.

Now, I'm rooting for a LotR/HP crossover...]

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