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The Misadventures of Talia

Part One

((Disclaimer: I don’t own the PPC, of course, nor Makes-Things. Talia is my little muse, of which I am inexplicably fond, and Halley belongs to Bodldops. Why this plot bunny came to attack me, I do not know, but it is very persistent, so I had to write. *hides from plot bunnies*))

It was exactly 4:29 when Talia rolled over to turn off the alarm clock. She had a habit of always shutting the thing off before it actually had a chance to make any noise. This was mostly because, since she was such a cheerful person in the morning, it would be in mortal peril if it made a single beep.

She paused where she was for a few seconds, staying warm under the blanket while gazing up at the dark ceiling. She remembered why she had wanted to wake up a half hour early finally. She had to take her portal generator down to Makes-Things. It had been making the most unusual noises, and even after she had taken it apart and put it back together, it still didn't work right. While this was very infuriating on her part, the only thing left to do was to get Makes-Things to fix it, or to just get a new one from him.

Talia slipped out of the bed and stepped lightly onto the floor. She always moved quietly, whether it was just her nature, or a habit that she had kept from her days as a ranger. She noticed that Halley was still very much unconscious.

The room on its own was very metallic and stainless in appearance, but these two agents had a lot of stuff that was precariously organized. Talia's half of the room in particular was plagued by books, electronics, and weapons that somehow hadn't yet made their way to the locker where the rest of the sharp objects resided. Underneath the bed was where anything and everything else ended up, and that was a dangerous place to rummage through for anyone but Talia.

Underneath the table by the bed there were a couple of bookshelves, populated with titles of various genres, but mostly of the fantasy type, and many of Tolkien's. Arranged on the shelf in what appeared to be a haphazard way there were a couple of knives and a dagger, and also a few smaller blades that looked suspiciously like throwing stars. Currently on top of the table, sitting open to a page about half-way through, was a hard-back copy of The Silmarillion.

Sitting next to the book, there was what looked like a CAD, but it was partially dismantled. A screwdriver and some electrical tape accompanied it. There was also a piece of paper sitting under it, with surprisingly neat and flowing script on it that was apparently Talia's.

The sleepy agent disregarded this bit of unfinished work for the moment. She simply pulled a uniform off of a hanger and made her way to the painfully plain bathroom. She emerged a few minutes later, clad in her black outfit, finishing running a comb through her still-damp short black hair. For what was probably the hundredth time, she reminded herself to get it cut again. It would be getting in her eyes and being generally annoying soon.

She walked out to the computer to sit and pull on her boots. She heard light snoring, and she grinned, wondering if it was one of the minis, or Halley that was making such a racket. It was most likely the minis, though, as they rumbled, growled, and snored often in their sleep.

She glared over at her portal generator. The device was sitting quite peacefully next to the computer which was quietly humming as it did in those rare times when it was not screeching at them.

Celborn made a snuffling noise in the corner where he was sleeping, but didn't wake up. Talia smiled over at him. She really was fond of the mini, and wasn't ashamed to admit it. This was something that could be said for little else when it came to this agent. She hadn't earned a reputation for being kind and understanding and generally sweet, certainly.

As she finished, she grabbed the portal generator and stood up to walk out. She paused at the door and looked back into the quiet response center. Should she leave a note for Halley or something? She shrugged. It wouldn't take long, and she would be back probably before Halley was out of bed.

Talia closed the door behind her quietly, and made her way down the hall towards Makes-Things' lab.

Part Two

"What do you mean you don't know what's wrong with it? You made the thing, you should know how to fix it," Talia told Makes-Things with all the patience she could muster. The agent was leaning against the back of Makes-Things' chair as he studied the portal generator.

If he hadn't been having trouble, she would have certainly found herself wandering about the lab. There were so many devices and computers and parts of various kinds lying around, and Talia found them to be fascinating. However, she was too busy staring over Makes-Things' shoulder to be distracted.

"I don't know what you did to it..." Makes-Things began.

"I just took it apart," Talia answered promptly, a slight growl to her voice. "I put it back together, and I didn't change a thing. Don't go blaming it on me."

Makes-Things sighed. "Well, actually, I think I see what's wrong with it. I'll fix it. I would just give you a new one, but I don't have any right now."

Talia rolled her eyes. "Fine. Fix that one and I'll come back later for a new one."

It didn't take him long to patch it together. As soon as he was finished, he handed it back to Talia.

"If at all possible, I wouldn't use it if I were you, just in case. I'll have that new one tomorrow," he said, looking reluctant to let her go with it.

"If possible." Talia shook her head. "We'll see," she muttered, seemingly reluctant to even say that much. She turned and headed out of the lab without another word.

She stopped in the hall and turned the portal generator over and looked at it, wondering why it was so persistent in causing trouble. It was on and it seemed to be running normally. As soon as she thought that, though, it abruptly beeped and died.

"Crazy thing," Talia snorted, but before she could do anything with the device, it flipped back on. Talia was about to express her opinion that the thing was possessed when it sparked. She dropped it with a yelp, and unfortunately it landed front-side down. Of course this opened up a portal, and it just had to open up directly behind Talia. She didn't have a chance to stop her backward momentum before falling through it.

All she remembered directly after this was that it was dark for a surprisingly long time.

When she opened her eyes, she found that was staring directly up at a tree. A big oak tree, and she could see the sun shining through its leaves. The sounds of birds singing nearby reached her ears. She blinked several times and tried to comprehend what had just happened.

After finally calling to mind what had happened in Makes-Things' lab, Talia attempted to get up. This was a very bad idea, she decided quickly. The portal must have opened up some distance above the ground, and she'd fallen quite a few feet. That was going to leave some nasty bruises.

The portal generator... She glanced over and saw it lying nearby. Even if it still worked, she didn't think she wanted to use it. There was no telling where it would take her...

But then, what was the alternative? Staying here, wherever here was, forever? No, that would not do.

She finally managed to roll over so that she could sit up, and as she sat rubbing a particularly sore spot on her arm, she took in her surroundings. Beautiful trees, clear weather, and what was apparently a nearby stream all led her to think that she was somewhere in Middle-earth. This pristine forest and surrounding mountains gave her the clear impression that she was in Rivendell, but she wasn't entirely sure.

In fact, it was calming enough that she didn't feel the need to mutter curses under her breath about her misfortune, or to worry too much about how she was going to get back. She could get that portal generator to work, at least once, surely.

She stretched over to pick it up. It was quiet, but appeared to still be in one piece. Portal generators were surprisingly tough little things. She was just about to press a few buttons and see what she could do with it when she heard laughter coming through the trees off to her right. She froze.

It hadn't dawned on her before, but now it did. She had to be in a bad fic of some kind. That meant there would be a Sue...

She did mutter curses under her breath then, despite the cheery surroundings.

No weapon, no disguise, and no idea what she was getting into...

It really was turning out to be her day.

Part Three

((Everything in italics is part of a story: http://www.fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=1580351&chapter=1 It is definitely not mine. Icky.))

Since this laughing person, whoever and whatever he or she was, seemed to be the only sentient being around at the moment, Talia began making her way in that direction, though she did her best to be as quiet and stealthy as possible. This was difficult, as black was not the best disguise for the bright sunny day.

To her surprise, it was not a Sue that was laughing so merrily, but it was Arwen.

She peeked through the bushes and spotted Arwen and Aragorn kissing. Greeeat, she thought sarcastically, a romance story. Not that the Arwen and Aragorn story was not very beautiful in its own way, but finding it so perfect in a Sue-fic was rather impossible. The Sue always would mess things up one way or another.

“Arwen, our father wishes to see you after you finish making out with Aragorn.”

Talia managed not to growl. She spotted the Sue, who had apparently also just come upon the pair from the other side of the small clearing. The agent hunched down and attempted to keep out of sight. "Our" father, she had said. Another daughter of Elrond, Talia thought as she sent a nasty glare to the Sue.

“Tell father I will be there in a moment” Arwen giggled, and leaned forward to kiss Aragorn again. “Don’t be long.” Elwen warned as she turned to leave. She walked back towards the city, muttering under her breath.

Though Talia didn't have the Words, she could tell from the sound of things that there were some serious problems already.

"New paragraph for a new speaker, idiot," she growled as the Sue headed back towards Rivendell, which, for some reason, now looked similar to Minas Tirith. That usually happened when Suvians casually referred to it as a "city." Already the agent was keeping track of a running charge list: First and foremost on the list was making Arwen act like a silly twit. Next was creating gratuitous offspring of a canon character, and then there was Rivendell... Talia was willing to bet that the name was mangled, further contributing to the general distortion of the usually lovely place.

Ever since Arwen had announced her plan to wed Aragorn, the two had been kissing non-stop. To make matters worse, her sister loved to share every juicy detail with her. Frankly, it was getting quite annoying.

Talia had been wondering why Aragorn and Arwen seemed to be permanently attached to each other. This was so asinine that it was enough to make one's brain hurt. Oh, if only there was some Bleeprin around...

Apparently the Sue had a particularly bad thought just then.

“DISCUSTING!”

The scream was probably loud enough to be heard in Mordor. Talia was just wondering what "discusting" meant when a certain blonde-haired... man... stepped out of the trees and in front of the Sue. He had the perfect golden hair and "smooth lovely features," and of course perfectly blue eyes. What Talia couldn't figure out was why the Sue had turned him into a mortal...

‘He’s the handsomest elf I’ve ever seen’ The thought was loud enough for even Talia to hear. She rolled her eyes. Who needed grammar anyway? Legolas now seemed to be back to an elf. The switching was quite annoying.

“Forgive me sir” she mumbled, staring at her feet. “I wasn’t aware of anyone’s presence in these woods except my own.”

"What about Aragorn and Arwen over there, the eternally kissing couple, that you met five seconds ago?" Talia demanded. She sorely wished for a weapon, or at the very least something with which to aggravate this idiotic Sue. Maybe there were some rocks around that would be convenient for throwing...

The Sue was then expressing her surprise that she had never met Legolas. That was just predictable... Every Sue had either known Legolas since childhood, or they had somehow avoided ever knowing he existed. Talia nearly jumped into the tree behind her when Aragorn suddenly appeared just behind Legolas. He hadn't walked over... he'd just popped out of thin air.

"Causing canon characters to Apparate randomly," she grumbled.

A merry little reunion ensued, and there was much hugging. It was a good thing that the Sue was so distracted by Legolas, because Talia was not-so-quietly beating her head against the oak tree that she was standing next to.

“Legolas, I’d like you to meet my sister Elwen.”

"Ah ha, the Sue has a name." Talia paused to look back over at the Sue as Arwen formally introduced her to Legolas. Star-maiden... a strangely appropriate name for another daughter of Elrond. If he had another daughter, Talia would have not been surprised if she had been named Elwen. But he didn't have another daughter, so that was a moot point anyway.

Elwen, meanwhile, was looking properly shy and lady-like in front of Legolas. She looked surprised to learn that this elf was actually Legolas. Talia snorted and rolled her eyes. She quietly followed the four as they headed back towards Rivendell, listening in to the conversation, and liking this Sue less and less as it went on.

“Elwen is always away at school. Last time you were here I believe she was in Mordor…I guess I forgot to mention her.”

"Is that some kind of bloody joke?" Talia blinked, trying to comprehend this insanity, and giving up quickly.

“I was there for a year studying, then I went to Isenguard.”

"Apparently not," Talia answered her own question, also noting another misspelled location. The complete idiocy of this was beyond belief. The girl had been to Isengard? No, Isenguard, wherever that was. And Mordor? She'd been away to school?

This Sue was going to die, and messily. As soon as Talia could get a weapon of some kind, of course.

The conversation continued, the mindless drivel droning on quite endlessly.

“You can read?”

Talia's attention snapped back to full at that question from Legolas to Elwen. The Sue can read? She snorted with laughter. That was unlikely.

“3 languages, and I can write 2!”

"Well, congratulations," Talia retorted sarcastically. "I can write the number two, as well."

Then the Sue took advantage of Legolas' offer of his bow to show everyone her perfect marksmanship. Talia had to quickly duck behind a tree to avoid getting hit. She grumbled, deciding that the Sue was intentionally trying to kill her now.

“remind me never to get on your bad side” Aragorn said to Elwen.

"Bah." Talia couldn't think of anything else to say to that.

Then of course Elwen went on about how she did not want to marry. As Talia had suspected, Elrond was supposedly pressuring her to get married.

"Why do the Sues always have him making them get married?" Talia growled. "What's the point? Elrond wouldn't do that even if there was some bit of logic to it. Elves know that there is more to life than getting married, stupid chits."

They finally arrived at Rivendell, or "Rivendale" as it was being called. Elrond had called Elwen to the banquet hall, but Talia didn't follow her immediately. She wasn't looking forward to this occasion anyway. She could already tell what was going to happen. Instead, she made her way down the maze-like halls looking for the armoury.

Deciding that it was rather like HQ, Talia did her best to wander aimlessly instead of actively looking for the right room. Such logic was usually effective in Sue fics, she had learned. So, she spent her time looking at the portal generator that she had been lugging around and mulled over the charge list that she was keeping track of.

Just as she had suspected, she nearly walked straight into the armoury before she'd realized she'd found it. She grinned as she looked around at the various weapons. It was something akin to a child being set loose in a candy store and being told that they could have anything they wanted.

Since she didn't have much time, and she didn't really want to be taking anything more than was absolutely necessary, a bow of some kind would do. She picked one up, and was immediately pleased at the feel of it, light but strong. At least the Sue had not spread her effect this far, and so these weapons were still canon. All the more fun, and more poetically ironic, for her. Talia grabbed a quiver of arrows on her way out.

It was just her luck that she got lost on the way to the dining hall. She came in just in time to hear Elrond berating Elwen for being late in answering his summons.

Talia slipped behind a corner, just close enough to listen in, making sure to get a clear view of Elrond. If she had to sit here and listen to this craziness, at least she could see the half-elven lord while she was at it. She had just gotten settled in to hear the news that Elwen was going to be Arwen's maid of honor when the Sue practically fled from the table, though pausing long enough to ask Elrond first. She sighed and followed the elf outside.

"Arwen and Aragorn getting married in Rivendell?" Talia asked no one as she made sure to keep her distance from the Sue. "What about the Ring? The Fellowship? Sauron? Oh, I forgot, he must not exist, or else she's personal friends with him, since she went to school in Barad-dûr."

Legolas had followed the Sue as well. Of course he didn't see Talia as he went over to talk to Elwen. Just then, an irate Elrond made his appearance in the gardens. All he wanted, obviously, was to talk to Elwen about marrying Legolas. Or Haldir. Or probably any other elf that happened to be "hott," Talia thought bitterly.

It was just then that an author's note boomed into the story.

"This is not a chapter of my story. I just wanted to write to answer some things."

"Argh." Talia had a sudden urge to stab something. "If it's not a chapter, then why am I hearing it?" she demanded of the disembodied voice.

"I must say I love the lord of the rings, and I HAVE READ THE BOOKS. More than once, actually. I also love the movies, but people need to realize THEY ARE NOT EXACTLY THE SAME."

"And this is relevant... how?" Talia was having fun replying, even though it wasn't doing any good. Then there was a discussion on the differences between the movies and books on Legolas.

..."If he was just like the book it would be to serious. And he would be gay. Seriously."

Talia couldn't even manage a coherent reply to that at first. Not one that should be repeated in polite company, anyway. "Couldn't have him be gay, could we?" she finally managed to say dryly. "Then Elwen would be wasting her time."

"To say this is no mary-sue is a laugh."...

"We finally agree on something!" Talia said, far too cheerfully.

Elwen isn’t exactly perfect, but she more than likely going to end up with her man.

Talia shrugged. She should have figured that the gleam of sensibility wouldn't last long.

"Another thing I must comment on- THIS DOES NOT TAKE PLACE BEFORE, AFTER, OR DURING THE LORD OF THE RINGS. If it did, it would make no sense. Noone said I had to use the LOTR plotline."

"Something is just really wrong about all of that." Talia shook her head. "Can we get on with the torture now?"

Of course there was more. Talia did her best to ignore it. It was too bad that she didn't have any ear-plugs with her.

Finally, when the story did start to move along again, Legolas appeared again from around a corner just after Elwen kicked a nearby statue in frustration. This only caused the Sue pain, which made Talia laugh quietly. Then more conversation ensued. Legolas had to marry to produce heirs, he invited Elwen to come see him in Mirkwood, Elwen said she would love to go... Talia had heard almost the exact same lines maybe a hundred times before, so it was nothing new.

“We have a long day tomorrow. Wedding rehearsal, you know.” Legolas reminded Elwen.

"For a wedding that's not going to happen until Aragorn is King," Talia muttered to herself.

She sighed. It looked like she would have to wait until the next day to do something about the Sue. That meant a night in this weird, twisted version of Rivendell, alone.

She was doing fairly well so far, she supposed, with the portal generator that didn't work and without a partner. Luckily the Sue seemed to want to stay in Rivendale, so Talia didn't have to go portaling around Middle-earth after her. She wasn't even sure that she could get the thing to work at all...

Talia found a nice little grassy hill in the gardens, and settled down as the Sue and Legolas headed back to the "city." She sat down with a heavy sigh, setting her new bow and arrows aside as she pulled out the portal generator and began giving it a thorough inspection.

It was almost funny that Talia, who acted as if she wanted nothing more than to be left alone, would miss her partner. Not only did it just feel wrong to be in a fic without help, even if it hadn't been intentional, but she really did miss Halley's sniping comments about the Sue's choice of words, or about the way canon was being corrupted... or even the way she would start barreling off ahead, leaving Talia to run to catch up.

The portal generator made a few odd noises, and started up for a moment. It actually managed to stay on for a minute or so before it flickered off again. Talia turned it off, hoping that it would charge up enough for one more portal, at least.

She wondered idly where Halley was at the moment. Time was an odd thing at HQ, and in these fics, so she had no idea how long she'd really been gone. Wouldn't someone have noticed that she was gone by now, though?

She shook her head. It was fine if they didn't. She was going to finish this job, if it was the last thing she did.

Hopefully it wouldn't be, though.

Part Four

((Continued on that fic from the last chapter… It's still not mine. :P Talia is still mine, though, and so are the DIA and Agent Black. ^_^))

Talia woke up some time later. She wasn't sure how long she had slept, or even what time it was. All she knew was that it was sunny, and she heard the sounds of the Sue approaching once again. She quickly grabbed her things and ducked behind a tree just as the Sue arrived with Legolas in tow.

She didn't grumble, but those bruises from the day before were not feeling too pleasant. Sleeping on the ground hadn't helped much either.

The agent was distracted from these when she caught sight of Elwen. She did a double-take when she saw the dress the Sue was wearing.

It was probably the most horrible shade of purple that she'd ever seen. It was not urple, but it was not much more pleasant than that color. Talia found out to her disdain that Legolas was wearing it too. Of course he had followed Elwen out to the gardens yet again. Talia was just adding "Making Legolas a stalker" to her charge list when she heard an interesting comment about Arwen's wedding dress.

“The worst part is Elwen keeps telling me I can wear it when I get married…I don’t have the heart to tell her I’d never wear anything like that EVER.”

Talia snickered quietly. The Sue was now getting herself and Arwen mixed up? This was just too much. The assassin crept a little closer, falling silent once again. She had no intentions of letting this Sue get away from her this time.

“Do you think anyone would notice if I didn’t go?” she asked Legolas, reluctant to go to the wedding rehearsal.

Talia grinned. "I hope not."

The unsuspecting Elwen didn't have a chance to blink before Talia had an arrow leveled at Elwen's neck. The agent gave Legolas a quelling look.

"Don't move, Sue, or I might accidentally shoot you now. You'd better just leave her to me, Legolas," Talia said calmly.

"What...? Who are you?" Elwen demanded. Legolas looked tense, but he knew better than to move.

"My name isn't important. You, Elwen, are the reason I am here. I have some charges for you..."

"Charges?" Elwen was stunned.

"Yes, charges. I'll list them off for you now: Of course, being a Mary Sue, turning Arwen into an insufferable twit, being a completely annoying extra child of Elrond, causing Legolas to become a stalker, causing Elrond to be an uncaring idiot, calling Rivendell 'Rivendale' and Isengard 'Isenguard', intentionally and callously screwing with the plot of Lord of the Rings, wearing the most hideous shade of purple I've ever seen, and being generally painfully stupid and annoying." Talia rattled off the list with barely a pause for breath. "Not to mention that 'pseudo-chapter'. Did I mention being annoying? Yes, I think I did. So, any last words?"

"You can't kill me!" Elwen screeched.

"Oh no?" Talia smirked just a little as she let loose the arrow that she'd been holding. "So sorry to prove you wrong," she said.

She had expected, once the Sue had been killed, that Legolas would go back to normal. However, she was proven wrong this time. The elf was coming her way, and he was not happy. Talia did wonder why he had been carrying those knives of his around, but she didn't have long to think about it.

"Gah, what is going on?" She certainly couldn't hurt Legolas, even though he did seem bent on killing her now. So, her only option was to run. She wasn't slow by any means, especially when she had a mind to move quickly, but Legolas knew these woods better than she did.

"Now would be a good time to work," she told the portal generator as she tried to get it to come on. It was not cooperating, predictably. Why wasn't Legolas back to normal?

Either the Sue wasn't dead, which was impossible... or... There was another Sue.

Ai, but Legolas could move when he put his mind to it! Talia was only glad that he didn't have his bow and arrows with him. Otherwise she would have likely been turned into an agent pincushion.

She was just about to wonder how long she could keep this up when she stopped up short because someone had stepped out in front of her. Before she could think of anything to say...

"Cover your eyes," commanded the stranger. For once, Talia had the good sense to follow directions and ask questions later. There was a bright flash.

"Legolas, you were just visiting Lord Elrond here in Rivendell to bring him news from your father. You were just getting ready to head home. You'd better head on down to the stables and get your horse now... Thranduil will be expecting you to be home soon," Talia heard the stranger, apparently a male, say as she ventured to look.

She saw Legolas turning back, looking dazed. She then stared at her rescuer.

He was tall, dressed in black, typical PPC type, wearing a long black jacket and sunglasses. She noted that his long black hair was tucked behind slightly pointed ears. The only weapon that he appeared to be carrying was a short sword at his side. He returned her gaze patiently.

"Are you well?" he asked calmly.

"A little sore, but still breathing," Talia told him shortly. "Care to tell me what just happened? And... you're from one of those departments, aren't you? Special Ops? Or..."

"The DIA," he supplied helpfully. "Yes. Don't worry, I know what happened so far. I'm just here to help get you back..."

"I wasn't worried," Talia snorted. So she was dealing with the administrations now, was she? Wonderful. "So...?"

The agent nodded and started walking, motioning for her to follow. "Apparently, there is another Sue somewhere. From what I could tell, she's here in Rivendell somewhere. It's odd, though. I don't think that she was here to start with. Somehow she managed to make her way in just before you killed Elwen. It's all very unusual."

Talia followed silently. She was distrustful of this strange agent, though she had no doubt that he was exactly who he said he was. The DIA were a shifty bunch of agents, in her opinion, and they were far too arrogant for their own good. She wasn't so sure that he wouldn't drag her in for some kind of hearing when they had gotten done with this. Though by that time he would probably have to drag her in unconscious, because she was far more tired than she had felt in a long time.

"I think that the Sue is out here," Talia muttered quietly.

The other agent stopped up short. "What?"

"The Sue is out here," Talia said with more confidence. "Don't you feel it? We're being watched." She stopped and looked around, a fleeting frown crossing her face.

The DIA agent stopped and stood, listening. It was very quiet, yet he could also feel a distinct tension in the air.

"Well, let her do her worst. We're ready," he said quietly. He took the short sword that he had been carrying and offered it to Talia. "This might be of more use than that bow."

Talia accepted the sword with a nod. After securing the belt and sheath, she then leaned back against a nearby tree, all the while still keeping on high alert. If it was his plan to wait for the Sue to attempt to attack them, then it was fine with her. Either the Sue would try an ambush, or she would give up on it and retreat for a little while. Whatever she did decide to do, she didn't have much of a chance against two agents.

"What is your name?" she asked suddenly.

The other agent looked up with a slight smile.

"I'm called Agent Black," he replied.

Talia didn't reply. He was apparently into the vague and mysterious attitude, though somehow he managed to pull it off without seeming extremely silly. The DIA was like that, so she had heard. She'd never had the misfortune to meet one of their agents before.

Black did not volunteer any more conversation. The silence, however, was short lived.

In fact, the light was short lived as well. It was suddenly pitch black, as if the sun's light had been blocked out by some huge black cloud. There was simultaneous drawing of weapons on the parts of the two agents. The Sue had been expecting them, but did she really know who she was dealing with?

Part Five

Talia blinked, trying to adjust to the sudden change in light. She could see well enough in the darkness. Black had taken off his sunglasses, and he could see even better.

He saw fleeting shadows just beyond the trees, but they were moving too fast to keep an eye on. They also disappeared quickly, much to his dislike.

"Thought you killed me, didn't you?" purred a voice.

A figured clad in black stepped through to stand boldly in front of them. Through the darkness and the hood of the cloak it was impossible to see much about this person, but the voice was unmistakably feminine. In fact, it was the voice of Elwen.

Sue... Talia thought immediately and made a motion as to step forward. She stopped when she heard the familiar sound of a bow being drawn.

"That's her," she told Black coldly.

Black was rather handy with his archery. That often wasn't even a requisite, as most of his shots were point blank. He didn't leave much room for failure.

"I think we'll kill you now, though," Black replied dryly. "Unless you have a good reason for the otherwise, and you point it out quickly."

"You can try to kill me, but it won't work," the Sue replied with a disturbing smile.

She reminded Talia of Darth Sidious. Darth Sidious after he had been exposed to glitter-treatments, maybe...

"And why is that?" Black asked. He wondered if perhaps it wouldn't be easier to shoot her now and ask questions later. That, however, would really go against regulations.

"Because I am dead... in a way," the Sue cackled. "No matter. You foiled me, but I will return, oh yes. Someday soon, I'll be back and next time you won't be so lucky as to catch me off guard. Your organization, at least, because you two won't be around much longer. I'll be the one who is going to hunt you all down. You made it your objective to ruin my life and kill me? Well, I'm going to return the favor."

Talia growled. She wasn't going to stand here all day and listen to this Sue mock them. Just as she was moving forward, though, there was a sharp twang.

Black's arrow was not off its mark, but it flew through the Sue as if she were just a hologram. It thudded into the soft ground behind her.

The Sue laughed again. "This is fun, but I think I'll be leaving now. I have much to do, after all. Bye!"

Before either agent could react, she simply dissolved into the darkness. Talia muttered some impolite words. Well, the Sue, whatever she had turned into, was gone. At least she had left Middle-earth for now, it seemed...

Her thoughts were interrupted by a thud. It sounded as if something rather large had been gently dropped on the ground in front of them.

This, in fact, was exactly what had happened. In the darkness, it was hard to tell what it was.

Black scowled. He did not like the look of this.

"I'll go have a look...," he said, lowering his bow a little, but not dropping it as he stepped towards it.

"Oh, like I'm going to hide behind you," Talia muttered and followed him.

"It looks like something metal," Black said with astonishment. Apparently the Sue had left them a gift that did not belong in Middle-earth. It was about two feet tall, and about two feet in length. It looked rather box-ish.

"Metal? Judging from the way she was predicting our impending doom, that would say to me..." Talia trailed off as she knelt in front of it.

"A bomb? How creative," Black said. It was impossible to tell if he was being cynical or not. From somewhere in his jacket, he pulled out a flashlight and shined it on the object in question.

Indeed, it was a bomb of some kind, presumably. A faint ticking sound was now audible.

It was insane. Ludicrous, even, for such a place as Middle-earth. Sues did not use logic, though. It was to be expected of them to use such a reckless, un-canon, and not to mention horribly messy, weapon against their persecutors.

The agents had nothing to do now but to deal with it.

There wasn't much time, Black knew. He knew that the smart thing would be for them to go back through a portal to HQ, but he did not wish to leave this thing here. There was no telling how powerful it was. Rivendell wasn't too far away. Even if the explosion wouldn't be that massive, it would most certainly catch the forest on fire. How wonderful this was, he thought. A decision quickly formed itself in his mind.

"Go get my portal generator," he told Talia firmly as he knelt and began to fiddle with one of the panels of the device. "I'll see what I can do with this thing. Just bring up a portal and go through it, but leave the generator. I'll follow."

"Like hell." Talia was too stressed out over the last couple of days to be anything but painfully blunt. "Sorry, I'm not going to let you try to pull off that 'heroic sacrifice' move. Scoot over and let me look," she commanded, every bit as demanding as Black had been.

Black realized that arguing would be futile, and it would be wasting time anyway. He obeyed wordlessly.

The metal plate came free, and he set is aside carefully. No sudden movements. He had to admit that while DIA agents were trained to be proficient in many trades, he was rather hesitant about this. He really didn't feel like dying today. Talia was right, he was trying to be heroic. It was what he did by default, though. Being in charge usually had that effect on a person.

"Hmm." Talia didn't seem to be worried at all. She studied the wires under the beam of the flashlight calmly. "They're all painted red," she observed. "How clever, the little git."

Black raised his eyebrows a bit. He did wonder why Talia bothered to stay behind. Just because she didn't want him to "pull off a heroic sacrifice move"? What sense did it make for both of them to get killed instead of just one? Well, she did seem to know what she was talking about with these wires.

"Painted?" Black considered this for a bit before he leaned forward to carefully pick up one of the wires. "If it's just paint then...," he muttered as he took out a pocketknife. He handed the flashlight to Talia before bending forward.

"I'd suppose so, otherwise whoever built this damn thing would never have been able to keep them straight," Talia replied as she watched, now holding the flashlight at an appropriate level. How much stuff did he actually carry in that jacket anyway? "Watch it, if you cut the wrong one, we're doomed for sure."

Hopefully they weren't doomed anyway, Black mused. He carefully scraped at the insulation of the wire. After a bit of work, the red paint began flaking off, and underneath, a bit of white gleamed through. "Ah, good work," he said. "There's the white one. We need to find the red one, correct?"

"We need to find the real red one, yes, and quickly," Talia said, rolling her eyes a bit.

"Right." Black fell silent as he worked through the wires. It didn't take him more than a few seconds to find one that appeared to be the true red one.

"Well, cut it. We haven't got all day," Talia ordered when Black hesitated.

"I'm glad you're not worried," he replied as he did so, tensing himself, just in case. Those would be some really ironic last words.

The ticking stopped, but neither agent moved. It was very quiet for a long minute. Nothing happened.

"Why would I be worried?" Talia asked innocently. She stood up and brushed off her breeches nonchalantly.

Black would have liked to know when he had suddenly become the subordinate end of this little outing. Wasn't he the one who had come in to do the fixing? Wasn't he in charge of the Department of Internal Affairs, which had jurisdiction over all agents, in some fashion or another?

Apparently this didn't mean much to Talia.

"Well, I'd better be bringing this back. Let Makes-Things and his department have a look at it," he said. He very carefully picked it up. He half-expected it to be extremely heavy, and for it to explode on him the moment it moved. Thankfully, he was wrong on both counts.

Talia followed him as he went over to pull up his pack over one shoulder, but not before bringing up a portal and stuffing the portal generator back in its place. "What about the Sue?" she asked.

"She's not here anymore. Don't worry, we'll find her and drag her in. Even if we have to borrow some equipment from the Ghostbusters to do so," Black said in a light tone. He was now lugging the disabled bomb under one arm with a good deal more relaxed air.

"How reassuring," Talia said. "Please do look me up for taking her in. I don't care if it was that Elwen Sue that I killed or not, she's mine."

By now, Dúros had learned that silence was the best answer in cases such as this. "Well, ladies first," he said, nodding to the portal. He had every intention of dragging Talia down to Medical, whether she wanted to go or not. She needed looking at, he was sure. It wouldn't be the first time he had taken an agent down that way.

Talia, completely oblivious to these plans as of the moment, favored him with a blank stare before heading through the portal, pausing only to pick up her errant portal generator. She would have to restrain herself as to not beat a certain scientist senseless with it upon arriving back at HQ. Really, though, all she wanted was to collapse in her bed, perhaps after a calming dose of Bleepka.

Or a gallon or so, actually.

Part Six

"This has to be the most inane thing that I've been put through in years," Talia growled. She was currently sitting on a bed in the Medical Department. She refused to lie down, out of pure defiance.

"We'll see what the doctor says," Black replied calmly. He was sitting in a chair just opposite of the bed, and looking rather smug. His sunglasses were back on, and he looked every bit of his elven DIA agent self. Poised, in control, bored and yet dryly amused at the same time.

This wasn't the first time he had been forced to accompany an agent to Medical. A good number of agents were as shy of doctors as most dogs were of the vet. He knew very well that if he was not here, then Talia would not be either.

"I say not," Talia snorted. She was drawn up in an almost crouching position, and was glancing towards the doorway every few moments. Still, she knew that she wouldn't get far. Black was in between her and escape, and where would she go then, anyway? She was miserably cornered.

"Let... me... go," she said, stating each word sharply.

"No." Black was, if anything, more amused, but he was doing his best not to show it. "You are going to stop acting like a foolish child and follow orders, Agent Talia Nightsong. It does not do your elven blood credit to be so silly."

Talia blinked, completely floored. If it had been physically possible, her jaw would have hit the floor. Her first thought was utter, raging indignance at being insulted and ordered about in such a way. The fact that he was more than a few ranks above her, older than her by who knew how many years (as it was hard to tell with elves), and completely justified in giving her orders did not occur to her.

Her second complaint was the use of her last name. Eru, she hated that name! She'd wondered a time or two if it were possible to get it changed, but since it never came up, she never remembered that plan for very long.

And then there was the elven thing... Of course Black would have known, but Talia was not used to hearing that sort of thing directed at her. She really rather liked not hearing it.

"You... If you... I... argh," Talia spluttered. She stared at Black with the look of a predator just on the verge of pouncing.

Black stared back, not at all unnerved. He was an elf, after all, that dealt with psychotic assassins every day. One did not last long in such a profession if they did not have an admirable amount of courage, and enough wits and skill to back it up.

A nurse picked this time to wander in. The short, brown-haired woman looked from one agent to the other. Her white dress was perfectly spotless, and it seemed to have been exposed to an unhealthy amount of starch. There was something very calculating in her stare. She was not alarmed. She simply took in the two agents before her with a very sensible [sic]

"Now, now," she tutted with a bright smile. "Calm down, Miss Talia, the doctor will be coming in to see you momentarily. We are sorry for the delay. We've been rather busy today."

Talia relaxed, very slowly, until she was finally sitting on the edge of the bed again. She nodded curtly.

The nurse gave Black a questioning glance before flitting on out of the room.

"I don't like my last name, and I'd prefer not to be called by it," Talia said stonily. Her anger had subsided. She was just too tired to stay angry.

"And you don't wish to be referred to as half-elven, either," Black said with a nod.

Talia raised an eyebrow. "How did you know that?"

"I know a lot of things."

"It sounds too much like I'm trying to be some Sue-daughter of Elrond's, anyway," Talia muttered. She wasn't sure which was worse... the Nightsong, or the half-elven bit.

Of course Black knew things. He was from the DIA, and therefore most certainly knew more about her than she would be comfortable with. It was better not to ask.

"Stupid question," Talia reflected. She flopped back onto the bed and stared at the ceiling. She felt vaguely that she should still be at least mildly annoyed with Black, but she just couldn't muster the willpower to feel anything but tired.

He had been right anyway..., a traitorous little voice nagged in the back of her mind.

"Oh, just bugger off," Talia murmured.

"What?" Black looked genuinely confused for the span of two seconds.

"Never mind," Talia sighed. She was talking to herself now. That was not a good sign.

She just needed sleep...

In fact, the bed wasn't so uncomfortable now that she thought about it.

It was soft... and bed-like.

Maybe taking a nap wasn't such a bad idea, after all. Who even cared where she was? She was back home, and that was all that mattered.

"Bloody Sues," she muttered just before drifting off to sleep.

***

Upon his return to the DIA headquarters, after he had finally left the Medical Department, Agent Black was faced with none other than Agent Irvine. Irvine was blocking the doorway with a triumphant expression.

"Now, where have you been?" he asked cheerfully.

Black ducked and walked under one of the other agent's outstretched arms. "You know where I've been."

Irvine turned around to watch Black, not put off in the least by that nonchalant act.

"Yeeees, I do," Irvine grinned. "What I want to know is why you went instead of sending me." He raised an eyebrow in Black's direction. His real question was yet to be asked.

"Haven't you got enough work to do here?" Black asked absently. He set his coat on its hook, and wandered over to sit down at his desk, and the near-mountain of paperwork that resided on it, but neatly stacked all of it. Irvine's desk, on the other hand, looked as if a tornado had struck it. The rest of the room was impeccable. The other agents, as usual, paid no mind to Irvine's distractions.

"So when has that stopped you from sending me out to do some little thing like that?" Irvine persisted as he strolled on over to stand behind Black.

"That 'little thing' you speak of turned out to be a bit of a tight spot, if you know what I mean, and you do." Black's dry humor was unfailing. "I had a feeling that it was going to."

"If it were anyone else but me, that excuse might have worked," Irvine said. He crossed his arms. "So?"

Black sighed. "So what?" Irvine was enough to try anyone's patience, but at the moment he was just being very distracting.

"Are you going to admit that you've a certain... ahm... fondness for a certain agent?" Irvine was trying not to grin. He had been worked over too many times about Saphie to let this unique opportunity get away from him. Besides, Black had stayed in the Medical Department just a little too long for Irvine to overlook. Black was always concerned about agents, Irvine knew that he felt almost responsible for them all, but...

"Irvine, have you lost your mind?" Black asked, managing not to look surprised.

"Oh, ages ago." Irvine was grinning. "Seriously, though, Talia? Sheesh... There are plenty of nice girls that would just love to get to know you better. I'd even introduce you, if you're too shy to talk to them alone. Or maybe you don't like the nice girls? Maybe you like—"

"Irvine..."

"Okay, okay. Still, it'll take you a while to win that one over, even with all your charm..."

Black turned around in his chair so that he could face Irvine. "Elves have eternity to play that sort of game, you know. Time is a very small thing to consider. That is beside the subject, however, because I never said I had a fondness for anyone. You're drawing conclusions even quicker than I would in your place."

Irvine gave Black a serious look, pondering over this for a moment. Black was realizing that this was not the best thing to say, as when Irvine was this interested, he would latch onto every last hazy detail and bring it into full view. It was quite amazing... when it was not directed at Black himself, of course.

"However, you noticeably did not say that my conclusions, hasty as they are, are wrong," Irvine declared.

"I didn't say that they were right, either." Black returned to his paperwork. On top of everything else had been a report on the very fic that he had just left. He was already deeply engrossed in studying it. He was going to find that Sue, wherever she had gotten off to. "Now what about that work that you were supposed to be doing while I was gone?"

Irvine was not in the least dissuaded, but he would come back to this later, that was certain. He strolled in the direction of his own desk, which was still a horrible mess.

"Oh, it's coming along nicely," Irvine replied easily.

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