Crossovers are a ROYAL PAIN. Keeping tabs on ONE continuum at a time is tricky enough; trying to keep tabs on two or more is a great way to get yourself ulcers or a nervous breakdown--and I'm afraid I'm not entirely kidding here. PPC has a notoriously high turnover rate at least partly due to the high incidence of nervous breakdowns among the operatives. Those operatives who do keep their sanity often simply get fed up and leave.
Standard PPC procedure for handling crossovers is to first send agents from the Department of Intelligence to investigate the problem. Typically, PPC sends one agent per continuum. For instance, if the crossover involves Star Wars, Star Trek, and Babylon 5, there'd be three spies, each one specializing in a specific continuum, sent to investigate. Typical concerns include the cause of the crossover and its plausibility, the canonical characters and/or creatures involved, and the effects on the canonical plots and relationships. All this can be extremely difficult to sort out, especially when cross-continuum relationships and romances are involved.
Crossovers, despite their inherent complexity, can be surprisingly crude. Often, there is little point to them beyond having Character A fight Character B, or have Character C cuddle with Character D. Even worse is the "Blender Crossover" in which different canonical characters from different continua are "revealed" to be actually the same person. Bulldog, a PPC veteran who has investigated many a crossover, told me about one he'd recently investigated, in which Gandalf and Albus Dumbledore were allegedly one and the same. This despite the fact that they are not the same species or the same age. There are also "Supplantation Crossovers" in which characters from one canon supplant those from another canon, and "Cohabitation Crossovers", in which all the characters from the involved canons coexist.
What the hell does Sub Rosa do: move her office every second week? Ah, there it is--and I'm not ridiculously late for a change. Sub Rosa is the Director of the Department of Intelligence, and like every Director I've met or heard of, she's a sentient plant, a rosebush in her case.
*Ah, here you are at last. You and Zaneth will be investigating a crossover involving the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter continua. The offending fic is called "Harry Potter and the One Ring of Power".*
"Subtle title--not. With all due respect, ma'am, what happened to Bulldog? Isn't he usually the one who breaks in the rookies on this type of job? And isn't Zaneth in the Sue Department?"
*Zaneth is in the Sue department, but we're "borrowing" him since Bulldog, unfortunately, has been incapacitated. He returned from his last assignment suffering from the delusion that he is a house-elf.*
I practically choked upon hearing that. A house-elf is maybe two feet tall; Bulldog is six foot eight.
"Damn. Sorry to hear that." I turned to Zaneth the illithid. "You ever done one of these before?"
*No--and I know you haven't, either. I thought there was a policy about that requiring at least one agent in a team investigating a crossover to have prior experience.*
*There is,* Sub Rosa 'said' curtly. *Unfortunately, both of you work with continua that are being strained to the breaking point by floods of bad fanfic--and the personnel are also severely strained. Simply put, with Bulldog out of commission, there is no one available to serve as a mentor. You will simply have to do your best. Good luck. And, Zaneth?*
*Remember, you are NOT on an assassination mission, which means that you are NOT to suck out anybody's brain. You are only to gather intelligence. Understood?*
*Yes.* Zaneth's tentacles were lashing, though, so I could tell he wasn't thrilled about being denied an opportunity to kill.
Oh, charming. What a great way to start the story--by ditching all four hobbits! Obviously, the writer is one of those who thinks hobbits are useless wimps. S/he starts off with some wizards' meeting in which Albus Dumbledore, Alastor Moody (who would sometimes blurt "Constant vigilance!" at odd and inappropriate moments), and a bunch of other wizards discuss what to do with the One Ring, as Frodo and his friends are all now catatonic, having been left so by the shock of their trip from Middle-earth to Knockturn Alley. So they are now out of commission--and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who is going to replace Frodo and his friends...
On the upside, the spelling and grammar appear okay. No egregious errors that I can see. Another point in the writer's favor is that the English characters actually sound English; I've heard Joe Bob complain about Harry Potter fics in which the supposedly English characters used a lot of American slang. That would be right down there with having Aragorn talk like a hiphop singer--which unfortunately has been done. On the downside, "the pick a card" routine strikes me as stupid; surely Dumbledore could have used a more INTELLIGENT way to choose the Ringbearer.
*Ilsensine preserve us! How DARE it!*
"You probably mean 'she', Zaneth. Humans are not 'its'."
Illithids are hermaphrodites, and their native language is EXTREMELY gender-neutral. For instance, they have no words for 'son' or 'daughter'; they just have words meaning 'offspring' or 'child'. Their pronouns are also gender-neutral. They have two forms of the word 'it': one form corresponds almost exactly to the English word, while the other is applied only to sentients and is the nearest equivalent to 'he' or 'she' in the illithid language.
As one might guess, Zaneth has found gender and gender-related terms very difficult to get used to. He's been known to call women 'hims' and men 'hers' to the consternation, annoyance, and amusement of the other agents. Lately, he's gotten better, largely because Joe Bob took him aside one time and gave him a quick run-down on how to tell men and women apart, after one of the male agents offered to feed Zaneth a fist sandwich. Joe Bob also told Zaneth that we humans attach a fair degree of importance to gender differences.
*No, I mean, 'How dare it'. How dare this cretin do that to Draco Malfoy!*
"Draco Malfoy's part Elf? Yeah, right. Okay, so, he's blond and thin, like some Elves, but so are plenty of humans. My mother's blonde and thin, but that doesn't mean she has Elvish blood. I'm betting the writer simply wanted a quick and dirty way to make one of the Potter chars able to speak Elvish. Hmmm, now this bit about Voldemort makes no sense... How long would you say Voldemort's had his new body?"
*Voldemort regained physical form at the end of Goblet of Fire. This fic is set sometime during Harry Potter's fifth year, which means it can be no more than a year since Voldemort's restoration. Granted, he SAID he was stronger than ever upon his restoration, and he was strong enough to kill Cedric and fight Harry to a stand-still. Even so, he was still described as being considerably weaker than Sauron. Yet, he is depicted as being strong enough to send four hobbits to another dimension--and send a Dark Mark to the Nazgul, too. I agree with you: that does seem unlikely.*
"Agreed. It's pretty obvious that Harry and his pals are going to crash the Council of Elrond. How about we join them and see how bad this really gets? We've got a good selection of disguises, too: dwarf, elf, hobbit--"
*I REFUSE to be ANYTHING small and hairy!*
Assuming Zaneth's typical of his people, illithids feel the same way about body hair that other people do about tentacles and slime: they find it extremely repugnant. So his reaction to the very idea of posing as a hobbit or dwarf wasn't exactly a surprise.
"Okay, if it's minimal body hair you want, let's be Elves, since they've the least body hair of the races represented at the Council."
*Elves, it is then.*
Of course, no sooner do we step through the portal with our disguises on, then I see Zaneth examining his new long black hair with obvious distaste.
*Can I shave this stuff off or something? It's... irritating.*
"Sorry, but you're stuck with it for the duration. Elves generally wear their hair long. As far as I know, there are no bald Elves in Middle-earth."
*Jarlaxle is bald.*
"He's also from the Forgotten Realms continuum, not this one. And the other drow consider him peculiar because he does shave his head, among other things."
*Very well, then. Where are we?*
"Rivendell. Watch yourself; this place is nuts. I'd say at least 90% of the LotR Mary Sues turn up here--and they've turned the place upside down."
*Hogwarts is in a similar condition, for the same reason.*
We easily spotted Harry and his friends and just as easily tailed them. (Given that Harry Potter was probably the only person in Middle-earth wearing GLASSES, he was rather hard to miss.) The four Hogwarts students spent the next several days getting acquainted with everybody and learning more background information--including a lot of stuff that they could have likely more safely learned in the Hogwarts library. Hermione especially asked a lot of questions.
"Refresh my memory, Zaneth, but isn't Hermione supposed to be SMART?"
*Yes. In fact, she is the top student in Harry's class.*
"So why is she being portrayed as an ignoramus here?"
*Either the author dislikes her, or is using her as an exposition device. The trouble is that Hermione practically LIVES in the Hogwarts library and has had prior experience with temporal/spatial travel, making her the character who'd be the MOST likely to already know stuff about Middle-earth. By the way, does Aragorn TRULY consider it improper for a woman to ask questions?*
"No, I've a feeling he might be the story's Designated Sexist Jerk, a role that more usually falls to Boromir or Gimli."
A little later, Zaneth telepathically groaned after Malfoy explained his motives for joining the Fellowship. *This is truly awful. The writer had BETTER come up with a credible reason for Voldemort's turning on Draco's parents or else! After all, Voldemort is trying to rebuild his power base, so it would be illogical for him to randomly turn on loyal followers. In the past, he has tended to use painful, but non-lethal, punishments on even those who had disappointed or betrayed him.*
"Yeah. 'He's the bad guy' doesn't quite cut it as a reason for such an out-of-character attack. I'm afraid the writer simply wants to make Draco a good guy, or an anti-hero at least."
A little later, Harry and his friends met Bilbo Baggins--and indulged in some egregious showing-off with Harry's Invisibility Cloak, which Harry draped over Draco, saying "I don't NEED a ring to make myself invisible, do I?"
That kind of smug arrogance is NOT a trait one wants in a Ringbearer, especially since Harry's behavior just then suggests he isn't taking the responsibility all that seriously.
Eventually, the Council of Elrond started--and things REALLY hit the fan.
"Boromir's eyes lit up. 'This Ring--it contains much of Sauron's own power. Would it be possible to use it to overthrow the Lord of Mordor, and free my country of Gondor from his threat forever?'
"Gandalf shook his head, as Harry piped up: 'If you could sense what I sense about this Ring, Boromir, you wouldn't ever say anything like that. I'm a wizard myself, if not as powerful as Gandalf. My friends and I can sense this thing's evil will. If we, or anybody, tried to claim it and use it as out own, we'd end up twisted and evil.'"
Hmmph. There's nothing wrong with Harry's argument--except that he pretty much stole Aragorn's lines. But things got even worse when the Council started discussing who was going to be the Ringbearer.
'"That would be a perilous journey." Boromir looked doubtful. "And who will go there--go into the heart of the Dark Lord's own country, to destroy this Ring? I'd be willing to take the chance, for the sake of Gondor." Boromir looked around the table. "But who can bear the Ring? These four?" He snorted. "Why they are but children, and one of them, a mere GIRL!"'
Ouch. Looks like Boromir was also a Designated Sexist Jerk--AGAIN. Ron not surprisingly got mad, and caused Boromir's sword to fly to him with an "Expelliarmus" spell.*Wrong spell.* Zaneth seemed utterly disgusted. *"Expelliarmus" simply disarms a person. Ron should have used "Accio", a Summoning Spell, to make Boromir's sword fly to him like that.*
Then Ron REALLY poured it on, saying "Swords are all right, for people who can't REALLY protect themselves, but give me a wand and I'll make sure that anybody that bothers me OR my friends wishes he had never been born!"
Yikes. What is the writer trying to do here? Make everybody look like a jerk? If so, they're succeeding brilliantly. Finally, after Draco and Hermione put in their two cents (Hermione stooping to actually use the juvenile and out-of-character 'Girls rule, boys drool' line, much to Zaneth's fury), the Council hashed out who would be in the Fellowship. Harry then made the classic error of announcing that the Fellowship would leave Rivendell at dawn. I know a couple of assassins to whom that mistake is a killing offense.
Things didn't improve during the journey. Draco and Harry began bonding, as they discussed their families and backgrounds, much to Ron's amazement. We soon turned the volume on the Character Analysis Device way down, because the damn thing sounded almost every time Draco said or did anything.
*So far, Ron is the ONLY 'Harry Potter' char who HASN'T been somehow butchered in this thing. Draco is a nice guy, and Harry is now his confidante, while Hermione is both less intelligent and less mature than she usually is. I REALLY want to kill somebody--starting with whoever is masquerading as Draco Malfoy.*
"I hear you--but they're ALL canonical characters. Some of them just happen to be misplaced."
On the upside, the writer seemed to have a handle on the actual times and distances involved. (The downside was that Zaneth and I had to camp out. I think I could have cheerfully lived the rest of my life WITHOUT learning what the illithid equivalent of trail mix was...) We both agreed we already had a good-sized charge list going, but Zaneth had his heart set on visiting Moria. Big surprise. Illithids typically live underground, and I bet Zaneth missed his home cavern. We knew the Fellowship would unsuccessfully try to climb Mt. Caradhras, and be forced into going to Moria by a blizzard. We also knew that given our limited mountaineering experience that it would be highly dangerous for us to try to climb Mt. Caradhras. So, after a quick change from Elves to orcs, we simply went to Moria. (Okay, that's dangerous, too, but at least Zaneth knew his way around places like it.)
Moria, or Khazad-dum, was once THE major Dwarvish settlement in Middle-earth. It had two main sections, a residential area and a mine. The residential part was toward the surface and therefore had fairly decent lighting. Everything here was carved out of grey stone, and to me, at least, looked more imposing than homey. The mine was mainly a mithril mine, and it was HUGE. And dark. And creepy. (Truth to tell, I don't think I would have gone there without Zaneth. Moria is one of those places I would not like to visit alone.)
We quietly and discreetly chose a good vantage point that would let us see all comers, and broke out the PPC issue laptop to check the Words. Actually, I checked the Words, while Zaneth explored the immediate area. The current display described the Fellowship's battle with some Wargs--and also showcased the writer's inability or unwillingness to have LotR characters use appropriately archaic dialogue. Instead, they spoke like modern people. (I REALLY can't imagine Gandalf threatening to "fry" anybody, be they human or animal.)
Afterwards, Zaneth and I decided on a game of cards. He already had a game in mind, in fact. *Joe Bob taught me a very amusing game in which you place wagers on different combinations of cards. The loser has to disrobe.*
"No. I am NOT playing strip poker here. If we run into any hostiles, I'd rather face them with all my clothes ON."
At times like this, I wondered if Joe Bob was such a good role model or mentor for Zaneth. Unofficially, as Zaneth's partner, part of his duty has been to teach the illithid human ways. Some of his 'lessons' have had rather unfortunate results, though--like the time he decided to introduce Zaneth to beer. Poor Zaneth got very drunk very quickly--and then he got very sick. Dr. Fitzgerald just about had kittens, and Upstairs wasn't happy either.
In the end, we settled on Five-Card Draw. Every few minutes one of us checked the Words, to keep tabs on the Fellowship. Boromir threw a stone in the pool at Moria's entrance, disturbing a certain kraken--and giving Harry an oppurtunity to steal some of Frodo's lines. Then Gandalf and the wizard kids made mincemeat of the poor Watcher. Then we heard Gandalf say, "Well? Get in while the getting's good! That spell told everybody with the right sort of eyes to see for five hundred miles around where we are!" And with those anachronistic words the Company went inside Moria.
We began tailing them again and listened to Harry and Draco bond some more, as they discussed Hogwarts--and Voldemort's attack on Draco's parents. I could tell this discussion was making Zaneth mad, for I could feel the beginnings of a lovely headache. Hermione and Ron both seemed to like Gimli, and listened to his stories about Khazad-dum in the First Age. Then the group reached Balin's tomb, and Hermione found the account of Balin's death--which she could somehow read. I knew what was coming next....
"In a few minutes, Zaneth, there's going to be a huge battle right here--and I'd rather not get caught in the crossfire."
*Pity. This place is extraordinary. How old did you say it was?*
"It was built sometime in the First Age, so it's several millennia old. Seriously, we better bail. Maybe you and Jay can tour Moria together, some other time." I found myself hoping that Jay never learned about what had happened to the Watcher, for she'd probably blow a fair-sized gasket. That thing had been her PET.
Zaneth and I then portalled back to Headquarters--with maybe five seconds to spare. Morbid curiosity impelled us both to read the Words, and we saw things didn't get any better. The four HP kids, including the injured Hermione, helped Gandalf fight the Balrog--and Ron later boasted about this deed to Celeborn. Harry actually forced the Balrog back with his Patronus. Despite their efforts, however, Gandalf was seemingly killed. The Fellowship then headed to Lorien, where Harry and Ron respectively impersonated Frodo and Sam, charming the socks off of Galadriel in the process. Poor Celeborn was depicted as being a jerk, when he was simply a guy married to a woman who was smarter and more perceptive than he was. There was also an interlude in which the male HP characters apparently... lost their virginity to some Elf-women. The debacle finally ended when the four HP characters took off for Mordor after Boromir tried to take the Ring from Harry, and then ran into Gollum.
We then filled out the charge lists. Zaneth, like other agents I've known, added "annoying PPC agents" to the charges. I mentally shrugged; Upstairs saw that one all the time. But I couldn't let his contribution to "Additional comments" stand....
"We can't put down 'kill the writer'."
*And why not?*
"Fanfic writers have certain legal rights that we can't violate. Their creations, on the other hand, have none, which is why we can kill them. We can't kill canonical characters, either, no matter how outlandishly they act. We just clean up the resultant messes."
*Or look for them, as we just did. I like 'cleaning up' better; it is far more satisfying.*
Spoken like a true Underdark predator--or PPC assassin....
PPC Intelligence Report
Extracanonical character: Hermione Granger
Extracanonical character: Draco Malfoy
Extracanonical character: Harry Potter
Extracanonical character: Ron Weasley