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'Twas Many and Many a Year Ago, in a Nondescript Random Town by the Sea

The response center was darker than usual; only the colored lights of the console glowed in the room. Suicide was alone in the dimness, lying sprawled on the rug with a bottle of Hamster Death Gulp and the new three-volume set of The Campaigns of Hannibal. A smallish golden dragon about the size of a Labrador was sitting on his stomach, gnawing on a milkbone and occasionally licking Suicide's face as the agent read. Thiranduil the mini-Balrog was lurking disconsolately on his hibachi, apparently sulking about something. Various junk, including a pair of boxer shorts that had apparently been set on fire and a shadowy copy of the Generic Book of Moria, was scattered around in the universal Bachelor Apartment.

Four hours ago, Suicide's partner Diocletian had disappeared, claiming that she had to visit the bathroom. Suicide hadn't heard from her since, but he wasn't too worried; disorientation and dimension issues were not unheard-of in Headquarters, which had been supposedly co-designed by Berghold Stuttley "Bloody Stupid" Johnson and M.C. Escher. Rumor had it that the Historical Fiction division had had professional contractors in to look at the structure, resulting in the subsequent discovery of thirty-two new dimensions and at least sixteen parallel universes. (And thus explaining where half of the department's Overtime budget had gone.) Even more so, Diocletian had a tendency to wander, and a bathroom trip could very well wind up as a hang-around-and-bug-Makes-Things session with her in charge.

[Bing!]

Startled, Suicide looked up from his book. Narnia No-Longerfled burped uncomfortably and exhaled a jet of flame, singeing the tips of Suicide's long bangs. (Not that he noticed.) Normally, their console BEEEPed, BRRRRINGed or, as on one memorable occasion, exploded. Bing was a new one. Clambering to his feet, he approached the console cautiously, balancing on the balls of his feet in case it might decide to attack him. No facehuggers appeared to be lurking in the wiring, so he turned on the main monitor and read the tiny message window that had appeared there.

To: Agent 'Suicide' (file no. 6670219CN, subdiv. 'Deceased')

From: Sunflower Official, Dept. of Mary Sues

Subj.: Re: Partner

Agent Diocletian has been placed on a five-day suspension pending a psychological evaluation, as it seems that she has become rather more unhinged than we like, due to recent developments. In my office. Now.

Groaning, Suicide tossed Narnia No-Longerfled another milkbone and ran a hand through his long gray hair. PPC agents were insane as a matter of course; having one (especially a bookworm like Diocletian) lose it badly enough to warrant suspension was never a good sign. He had had previous partners, but all of them had either been transferred out of his department or gotten identity changes and moved to third-world countries. Diocletian had seemed fairly stable—given that she was an ex-Mary Sue and psychotically devoted to the Duty, it wasn't surprising that they had gotten along well. But now he was out a partner. Again. Pausing only to pull on a pair of clean pants, Suicide loped out the door and down the hallway to the elevators.

* * *

The corridor leading to the SO's office was an unnervingly uniform gray color, with no delineation between walls, ceiling, and floor. Most PPCers got lost, but Suicide had his own methods for dealing with confusion. Whistling "Waltzing Matilda," he bent down and retrieved the short dagger hidden in his sock, and proceeded to unravel a long strand of dental floss and tie it firmly around the hilt. Then he closed his eyes, spun around three times, and threw the dagger in a random direction. It landed in the wall with a satisfying *thunk,* trailing the dental floss behind like a white banner.

"Today on Jerry Springer: Walls Who Just Can't Say No," he commented lightly to himself, hopscotching over to the dagger and pulling it out of the gray concrit surface. "If that's a wall, then the other wall's here . . . and the elevator's that way, so the door . . . aha. Gotcha." He absentmindedly began to wind the floss into an improvised garrote, scraping the dagger against the wall with his free hand. The blade cut a long swatch in the wall, making a sound best described as EEEEErrrrNrrNRNRHHHHH.

Immediately, the door flew open. All right! All right! a very annoyed psychic voice called. Just stop that racket already! I'm in!

"Just checking," Suicide said mock-innocently, flipping the dagger around and tucking it into his belt. "So," he continued, stepping through the doorway into the SO's office, "What's this about my partner losing her mind?"

The besuited Sunflower behind the desk shifted uncomfortably. Not . . . entirely, it said, fanning itself with one frond. Agent Diocletian has a good deal of experience in pretending otherwise, but it seems that your last mission—featuring "Mothiel"?—had a severe effect on her. Dr. Fitzgerald currently has her on suicide watch.

"Suicide watch?" the Greek repeated. "This isn't another plot by the Bad Slash department to put a camera in my shower, is it?"

No. Suicide watch, as in "Let's make sure she doesn't kill herself."

"She's not suicidal. Homicidal, yes, but that's a completely different barrel of monkeys. Trust me, I'd know." Suicide scratched his chin thoughtfully. "What makes you think she is?"

The Sunflower steepled its fronds in the universally accepted Montgomery Burns fashion. Agent Diocletian has evidenced self-destructive tendencies.

"Such as?"

Mixing Bleeprin and scumble. The sunflower winced visibly. I only just stopped seeing large urple things with teeth. She has been placed on suicide watch in the Psychology Department and is on an I.V. drip of Logicillin. In the meantime, we've assigned you a new partner to cover until Agent Diocletian is in full command of her senses. Another wince. Such as is possible. He will be in your response center when you return. Try not to damage him—he's rather sensitive.

Suicide groaned. "A new partner? Oh, this is bloody wonderful. Who, what, where, when, how, why, whozis, watchamajigger, and what the lokos am I going to do with a new partner?"

I'm sure you'll think of something. It is a testament to the Sunflower Official's fixity of purpose that it didn't think of a single thing wrong with this sentence in context. Run along now. I understand there's another mission waiting for you.

"And that's an incentive to hurry?" Suicide muttered, but he palmed his new strangulation tool (now in Fantastic Minty Fresh) and turned to go. "But wait a second," he said, turning back to the Sunflower. "Who is this guy?"

A former original character, abused unfairly by his creator. He has joined the PPC in exchange for getting his hands back. The petals didn't even so much as twitch. His wife will be moving into the response center, so I suggest you get your laundry off the console.

There was a pause. One awful, frightening pause. Then . . .

"His WHAT?"

Cue subwoofers.

* * *

Fifteen minutes later, while the Security Dandelions untied the Sunflower Official and disarmed the bear traps, Suicide stood stock-still before the door to the response center. The neat number-plate still gleamed, but someone had already taken down the cheeseburger wrapper on which "Suicide an Dio, psychos in training" had been scrawled and attached to the door with a Band-Aid.

Great. A married PPC agent, and a newbie from a Sue story to boot? This wasn't going to be easy. If he knew the PPC, they'd have already moved Diocletian's stuff out, which meant that the new agent was waiting inside by now.

New partners were always a crap shoot: in his early days, just after he'd been resurrected from his home canon, Suicide had spent time in the Bad Slash department and quickly antagonized every agent there with his reckless habits. Nearly getting your partner killed nineteen times in six consecutive missions tended to rub people the wrong way. That was why he'd been partnered with Diocletian: as a former 'Sue, she was practically indestructible, and she'd been having her own partner issues. (All he knew was that radium was involved.)

But Dio had flipped her lid, and now Suicide had to deal with some newbie.

Oh, well. Better get it over with.

Suicide turned the handle and moved purposefully into the room with an easy, loping stride. The first thing he saw was a blur of orange light and motion—Thiranduil, enthusiastically assaulting a silver-haired Elf, who was squealing and trying to pry the mini off before his pants caught fire.

"Thiranduil! Down!" Suicide commanded. The mini-Balrog didn't respond, so he wrapped the new dental-floss garrote around its neck and let it sort things out for itself. Grumbling, Thiranduil released its grasp and went back to its hibachi, leaving Suicide to help the new person up.

The newbie was a tall, pale Noldor Elf, with fine white scars around his wrists and a permanently spooked expression. Standing up, he was taller than Suicide, but seemed to hunch slightly and twitched rather more than strictly necessary. There was a bottle of Bleeprin clutched tightly in one hand. His eyes were an incongruous bright purple.

"Welcome to Hades," Suicide said frankly, holding out one hand. "I'm Agent Suicide, your new partner. Got any experience?"

"Ith—Agent Ithalond," the Elf replied. His handshake was oddly strong and cold. "This is my first mission. I was only just released from Medical." He turned, and a slender dark-haired woman stepped forward and bobbed a curtsy. "This is my wife, Mithiriel."

Suicide nodded briskly to Mithiriel. "You two original characters?"

"Yes . . ." Ithalond said guardedly. "Is that a problem?"

"Only if you're of a live-and-let-live persuasion. Then we probably won't get along."

Ithalond glanced at his wife, who was twisting her hands nervously. "Not . . . I . . . I wasn't a violent person," he began.

"'Wasn't'?" Suicide repeated. He looked the pair up and down, noting the shaky appearance and unusual pallor. Yep. Traumatized, both of 'em. He felt his heart sink: trauma victims were never good shots.

"Wasn't. You see, I—I was kidnapped by Orcs." He grimaced. "And then she came along."

"She?"

"Celebrian," Mithiriel said. Or rather, spat.

Suicide glanced back and forth between them. "Elrond's wife?"

"Not Elrond's wife. A monster in her form. A slut like there never was." Mithiriel clutched Ithalond's arm, looking grim. "She controlled the Orcs, though she claimed not to. She made them cut off my husband's hands—all the while, she did unspeakable things. She should have Faded, but she didn't."

Suicide's heart sank even further, but for a different reason. "You two are from 'Celebrian'? Celebrian, as in silver hair, black silk 'garments,' lavender—"

"Yes," Ithalond said darkly. Somehow, one syllable contained about thirty pages' worth of information. "The PPC rescued me . . . I was to be killed. I do not know what happened to the slattern. They gave me my hands back. Now all I want is a safe place to live—and revenge."

There was a long moment of silence. Then Suicide nodded almost imperceptibly, first to Ithalond, then to Mithiriel.

"I think we're going to get along," he said. To Mithiriel, he added "You're going to be living in here?"

"Yes." Mithiriel gestured to a small pile of luggage by the console. "Your Technology Division gave us furniture and a tent—for privacy," she added, blushing a little. Suicide filed that under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," changed his mind, went back, double-checked his conversation with the Sunflower Official, highlighted the phrase "wife moving in", and tried to casually kick a pair of discarded socks out of sight. He only hoped that the Elvish sense of smell wouldn't detect the other items on the floor of the closet . . .

At that very, very inopportune moment, the console BEEPed. The Elves jumped a mile at the sound, but Suicide merely groaned and moved to check the readout, stepping around several mallorn-print suitcases as he did so. A roll of paper was unreeling from the printer, containing the reconnaissance division's report on their latest target.

"Is that . . . is that the alarm?" Ithalond said cautiously, taking his hands away from his ears. Suicide nodded, quickly scanning the printout. Blah blah blah, true love, blah blah blah, gimpy grammar, blah blah—

Oh, blah.

"Mission alarm," he grunted, dumping the printout onto the console. "Lucky for you, rookie—it's not Middle-earth. It is, however, a flaming Mary Sue." He looked sideways at the newbie, judging his reaction. Ithalond didn't flinch, but his face grew paler and one hand tightened into a fist. The pencil he was holding shattered.

"What kind?" he said tightly.

"Oh, we've got a Ladylike Sue this time. Not a warrior type, thank the gods; a real headache, but it should be an easy kill."

Mithiriel glanced at her husband. "Should I come with you, herven? As an ally?"

"Please, love, stay here," Ithalond said quickly. "I do not think that the Sunflower would like you to go. It is the task of Agent . . . Suicide . . . and I."

His wife looked as though she were going to disagree, but decided against it and nodded. "Be well, then. And make it a swift, clean kill, for the honor of the Elves."

Suicide groaned. Now he remembered why Legolas gave him a headache. "All right, enough of that, rookie. You've had basic training? Orientation?"

"A little—"

"Close enough. We're going into the world of Pirates of the Caribbean; undefined time, presumably before Will Turner is born. I know Makes-Things showed you the training video—everybody's seen the training video—so you should know a bit about it. Dei ex machina plotholes are wonderful when they're on your side. Grab yourself some gear; I'll program the disguises."

Ithalond had picked up the discarded printout and was swiftly skimming it. "I know little of this world to which we journey," he commented, "but I know the breed when I read it. The false Celebrian was a lady as well. What sort of gear should I bring?"

His new partner looked up from the console. "Weapons, food, anything to distract you if the Sue makes a habit of describing her teh hawt beauty . . . the usual. And by the way," he added, "we need to work on your banter. Field agents don't dance around the issue. If she's a hooker, call her a hooker." Suicide tapped at the keyboard. "We're going to undefined-town-presumably-Port-Royal. You're going to be a human, so don't lose your mind, all right?"

"I have no intention of becoming unhinged," Ithalond said darkly. "I may, however, do some unhinging of my own."

Despite himself, Suicide chuckled as he opened the portal. The kid's promising; you'd never know he was a nancy Elf, he told himself. This should be good.

* * *

Anna-Belle walked desperately along the street praying for something new to come, she always saw the same things over and over again.

"Whoa!" Suicide whispered, trying to steady himself against a brick wall as the beautiful-yet-vaguely-described Anna-Belle walked past. Beside him, Agent Ithalond turned an interesting shade of gray as he watched the Sue's gracefully undulating hindquarters; he appeared to be undecided whether to scream, retch, or get to work with a set of rusty dental appliances. Suicide scribbled the first charge—"Gimpy grammar"—as Anna-Belle "sometimes wished she just had a pirate come and kill her. She hated Pirates, for they killed her mother."

"Uh?" Ithalond managed. "She hated pirates, so she wished—"

"I know. Don't try to think logically in a Sue-zone; makes your brain hurt."

She had vowed if she ever had a child if she ever found someone she loved, not just for her beauty, but for her herself. Just some one who would gaze upon her and not only care of her beauty but what she liked to do.

"I'll second that 'uh' and raise you an 'oh god, the pain, the pain,'" Suicide whispered to his partner, whose incongruous purple eyes were wide with what appeared to be shellshock. "Relax. You feel better if you just riff it. Go ahead, try it—say something smartass."

Meanwhile, Anna-Belle had been accosted by "a man's deep voice," although where the body that the voice should have belonged to had gone was never an issue. "Excuse me miss" it said, and Suicide winced at the disrespect showed to the Uncommon Comma. Ithalond was vibrating at high speed now, making chittering noises and sweating like he'd spent time in a sauna. Suicide sharply dug his elbow into the Elf's side, and hissed between his teeth:

"Riff, damn it! You won't survive if you don't!"

“Yes, what is it you want? I am quite tied up as it is.” She replied curtly, she hated men just talking to her so they could hear her voice.

The impact of the elbow jolted the traumatized Ithalond into action. "H-hear her voice saying what?" He stammered nervously. Suicide nodded beside him and made a revolving motion with his hand, indicating "keep it up." Encouraged, the Elf took a quick, frightened glance at the Words.

“I was wonderin’ would ya like to give us ,err, a donation?” he said, now he held out a can filled with one shilling.

Ithalond managed a grin. "Your—your immortal soul will be sufficient," he managed.

"That's the idea!" Suicide cheered in a whisper, elbowing his partner again. "Take these things too seriously, and you end up crazy. Me, I'm supposed to be crazy, not a problem, but you types have trouble. Take a look at that." He angled his chin towards the scene, where Anna-Belle was displaying how wonderfully sweet she was by dropping three shillings in the bodiless secondary character's can. "A tin can? In the seventeenth century? Normal people would go nuts after a while, but PPC agents have to just mark down 'anachronistic objects' and move on." He nudged Ithalond once more. "You gonna be all right?"

"I . . . I think so," Ithalond managed. "It was a shock, seeing one of those . . . creatures again."

"Gonna be worse in a minute. Scene change—"

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“My, my this is the place I’ve dreamt of plundering. I’m going to find me a woman here, an’ just play with her.” A man said to his captain Jack Sparrow.

"By the Valar, what was that?" Ithalond croaked from his spot in the gutter. The sudden jerk of the undefined scene change had thrown both agents head over heels, and the buzzing created by the row of X's wasn't helping. "An oliphaunt?"

Suicide shrugged, removing the angry dog which had clamped itself onto his shoe with the swift application of a brick wall. "Happens all the time."

"I believe I do not enjoy this task."

"Get in line. The only reason the Flowers That Be don't get sued is that the claimants are never sane enough to make a coherent statement." Suicide tossed the notebook and pen to his partner. "Charge for dumbing down Jack Sparrow—he's out of character thirty-six percent."

"Do you not have to use the Analysis Device to discover that?" Ithalond said, extracting himself from the gutter with some difficulty.

"Not in this kind of fic." Suicide pointed to the aimlessly yammering Captain Jack Sparrow and the undescribed, undefined "man," who was apparently Bootstrap Bill Turner.

“Gotcha’ when will we be leaving?” Bootstrap Bill asked.

“In two day’s we might jus’ stay here fer’ a week too. This port in England is nice.”

"Ladies and gentlemen: Generic!Jack." Suicide's whisper somehow assumed the strident tones of a carny barker. "Bad grammar, overuse of apostrophes, not a single sign of witty conversation or amusing daftness, and no description whatsoever. Remember—buy only genuine Jack Sparrow! Captain Jack Sparrow. Accept no substitutes, as this chick apparently has. Folks, this is what's known in literary circles as 'uninformed consumer purchasing.'"

Ithalond was simultaneously giving Suicide the Elvish Look-o-Death, most commonly modeled by Elrond or Thranduil, and sidling a few steps away from his psychotically grinning partner. "Should all of that be written on the charge list?" he ventured after a moment.

"Nah. It's a given by now." Suicide leaned over and placed his hands on his knees, witnessing the stilted conversation between Jack and Bootstrap with all the scholarly intensity of a biologist studying a particularly graphic panda mating. "Aaaand . . . Jack tries to dispense Fatherly Advice. Never mind that he's probably the same age as Bootstrap, give or take a couple years, and hardly a great role model himself . . . "

“Just, be careful, in if you bring in a child to the world, care about.” Jack said. He knew what it was like to bring a child into the world, and he left the gal’ and the kid. Never heard from them again, he felt horrible about it too.

"All right, rookie. What's wrong with that paragraph?"

The Noldo squinted at the Words. He was looking much more at ease now that Anna-Belle was no longer around, and had been scrivveting with a steady hand the charges Suicide dictated. "Well . . . 'gal' does not have an apostrophe," he ventured. "And the commas make me wish to send the Author on a blind date with Morgoth."

Suicide flashed a grin. "Good, good. Excellent. Creative punishments and grammar obsession, always wise in the field. Anything else?"

"I doubt Jack Sparrow had a child. And," Ithalond added, looking a little disgusted, "'He knew what it was like to bring a child into the world'? Not unless he gave birth to a young one himself, and that enters a whole new realm of the disturbing. We are not in 'Junior.'"

"Very good. But there's one thing that you missed."

"What?"

"SCENE CHANGE!"

XXXXXXXXXXX

This time, both agents were significantly the worse for wear. Ithalond somehow wound up upside-down against a wall, with the charge list crammed down the back of his shirt; Suicide disappeared completely for a moment. He rematerialized a second later, swearing creatively in Greek and heaping (fortunately incomprehensible) insults on the Author, the Author's parents, the Author's native country, the Author's sexual orientation, the state of the Author's bowel movements, and the likelihood of the Author ever (a) growing a brain cell or (b) getting properly laid.

He can do that because he's a soldier, okay? Don't flame us.

"I want to go home," Ithalond groaned.

"Back to [CENSORED] 'Celebrian'? Are you out of your tree?" Suicide grumbled. "It's just getting interesting, albeit in a car-wreck-reminiscent way, and you chicken out of the Duty? What does that make you?"

"Isildur?"

"Ha bloody hah. Look, the Sue's about to meet Bootstrap—keep your eyes peeled for canon violations, of which there's plenty, mark my words."

Ithalond mimed peeling his eyeballs.

"You learn fast, rookie."

"There is only one question left," Ithalond added. He looked nervous, but seemed to take his courage in hand before speaking again. "Cucumber or potato peeler?"

Suicide gave the Elf a thumbs-up sign. "Nice going, rookie. Really, I'd love to yammer all day, but Teh Loverz have Met."

“Sir, Are you alright, was there something particularly funny you noticed, or are you just….” She began but found herself moving her lips but no sound coming through.

The Scythian mimed pointing a wand. "Silencio!"

"If only," Ithalond groaned. His color was starting to fade again. "If only."

“Aye, I am…… uh.” He swallowed hard, he was stunned this must be beauty and the beast. ‘O-course, me bein’ the beast he thought in his head pondering up enough courage to possibly say such, however, he decided against it.

The Canon Analysis Device in Ithalond's backpack squealed like a dying puppy as a rough-and-tumble rogue of a pirate (he was in Captain Jack's crew, wasn't he?) suddenly developed self-respect issues and an audible whine. Huddled against the walls in their Random British Wharf Rats disguise, Ithalond and Suicide trembled in fear of the grammar. "Run on run on run on run on run on . . . " Ithalond was muttering under his breath, purple eyes wide with horror.

“Excuse me?” She asked in an irritated tone.

"Whuh—proper grammar?"

"A base trick, varlet," Suicide muttered.

“Could I be asking for your name ma’am?” He said trying to sound as sophisticated as a king, or a prince. So he would seem like a proper man.

The backlash return of the stilted phrasing snapped at the PPC agents like a whip. Ithalond jerked visibly, his whimpering redoubled, while Suicide remained stock-still. Only his eyes gave him away.

Rage.

Total, complete, insane rage.

"And you are s-supposed to be my role model?" Ithalond managed to say, even as the absence of an S molded the Sue's chest into one lump of flesh. "Oh, Eru, the same thing happened in her story . . . "

"Yes, I'm supposed to be your role model," the Greek responded. "Do you know why?"

"W-why?"

"Because I'm crazy as a loon, but I can face this kind of thing. I don't collapse, I plot slow and quiet horrible deaths."

Ithalond gave him an odd look though his fear. "How so?"

"Literature. Too much literature. All over. Stories. Poems. My partner likes them. I picked them up."

"You're also picking up the Sue's grammar—"

"Such as?"

Suicide didn't reply. Instead, he slowly revolved on the spot until he was staring directly at the Sue and Bootstrap Bill. Poor Bootstrap was head over heels already: “Ah, I’ve never heard such a sweet name, My name you see. It is just a regular name,” He began confusing not only her but him-self. “My name is Will Turner, Will is short for William, but I just go by Will.”

"I have read the mission logs. You did this on your last mission, did you not?" Ithalond said. "You formulated a demise and then refused to tell your partner about it. I do not doubt that the suspense partially drove her to her eventual insanity."

"Fine." The Scythian leaned over and whispered several sentences into Ithalond's ear. The Elf looked confused, but his face quickly brightened up.

"Aaah, that is ingenious. To have her be slain by good literature will doubtless be a sight most cathartic to us."

His partner grinned. "Edgar Allan Poe, my friend. Edgar Allan Poe. And now—lest we forget our duty—the sight of a woman suddenly backpedaling on her morals and experiencing Twu Wuv at first sight. Yuck."

"Sweet Eru in an oliphaunt howdah. What now?" Ithalond muttered.

She was overwhelmed. Although he looked exactly like a Pirate, she liked him, she thought that maybe he was the man she would marry, he just made her fall in love, he was so cute, he looked no older than 28. Which she was then just merely 24 but, that would be set off to the side easily, she loved this man just, she wondered did he love her?

I wonder if she likes me as a friend, or like a lover? Will pondered. I wonder, should I ask her? No no no….. that would be even to bold for me, even as a pirate. I wonder, should I take her aboard the ship or not? No, women on ships are just as bad as murdering a woman.

"Get those charges, rookie . . . read 'em back to me."

"Gimpy grammar times ten," Ithalond narrated quietly as the two agents watched from their post in the mouth of the Undefined Alley. "Falling in love in the first ten seconds of acquaintance. The use of modern words—'cute' would not be a term for handsome yet. The use of random capitalization. Much abuse of the common comma. The use of numerals instead of simply writing out the numbers. Being 'merely twenty-four'—such was old maid age in those days."

“Anna- Belle, do you think of me as a friend or more or just some strange man next to you?” I asked simply, sounding normal.

"GYAAAAAHBUGGEROHERUHEEELP!"

"GAMO TO SPITU SU!"

*THUNK*

*crash, tinkle tinkle*

"Aaaoohhwww . . . perpetrating a (my friggin' FOOT) jarring change from (ow) third to first, oh dammit, person . . . "

Several decidedly un-fair and un-wise but definitely ancient Elvish words emanated from a clump of random garbage. Suicide clambered to his feet shakily and hauled his partner out of the muck, still half-dazed by the tense shift. Ithalond was in no better shape, but once the generic goop was scraped off of his clothes, a crazed expression was revealed that the Greek was well familiar with. It was the look he saw in the mirror every day, especially those days spent in the Bad Slash division, reviewing mission tapes. (Thirty-two kilos of plastique and a free reign with Arianna Silvermoon's Lunar Kingdom of the Shadows had made it go away for a while, but he'd left his copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook in the response center this time around.)

“Oh, well” What the hell am I supposed to say? “Will you are a great guy you know, but I’d like to get to know you a little better before I tell you what’s on my mind.” She half lied.

“Well, yeah, most people do like to do those types of things” Will started, “getting to know me isn’t so hard” he said grabbing her and gently pressing his lips against hers.

"Suicide?"

"Yeah?"

"I have reached the wilver side of the Force. The ultimate end. The point at which every attempt at romance, every overloaded adjective, every pathetic excuse for calling this any sort of story and not a collection of inanities becomes moot. I have reached true enlightenment, and I will wreak my vengeance."

"Ithalond?"

"Yes?"

"No, you haven't. You're funneling off unused description."

"Oh."

"'s okay. Happens all the time."

“Well, this is the house my mother left for me when she past away.” Anna-Belle said gently.

Flash Back----

This time, neither agent even lost their footing as the narrative jolted into a stilted memory scene. A standard Sue house scene materialized around them, complete with dying mother and tearfully emoting Anna-Belle. Ithalond finally extracted the charge list from his shirt and began to write down all the charges they had observed since.

“Mum, please, where are you your frightening me?” Anne-Belle, pleaded half screaming.

A pleaded half scream, a phenomenon yet unobserved by science, made both agents wince. But Suicide never wavered, and Ithalond continued to grimly charge for sonic impossibilities.

“Dear child, I’m right here just on my bed, come into my room Anna, come in with me please.” Her mother’s sweet sickened voice began. “I would like for you to know something, something important”

"A sweet sickened voice?" Ithalond said finally.

"Not unusual among Sues—voice that produces a vague sensation of nausea. First time I've seen it classified, though."

Anna-Belle walked into her mother’s room. Looking around at how pale and thin her mother had become, ‘what kind of sickness could do this to mother’ she was thinking. “Yes mama, what do I need to know?” she asked a bit frightened, but not all the way.

“I want you to know this my darling,” she began speaking but was interrupted by a cough. “I am dying Anna, and I want you to know in my will, this house and all of my possessions. Including yours belong to you.”

Suicide grinned. "'Dying Anna.' I think we can arrange that."

"Some other time," Ithalond muttered. "Sweet Eru, I tire of this travesty. Should we portal?"

The Greek examined the words. "Yeah, I'm not sitting through any more of this crap . . . I think all she does is mangle grammar some more, and we've got those charges. Let's portal to the Pearl." He flipped out the remote activator and punched in the coordinates, opening a shimmering portal in the air. The two agents leapt through.

They landed on the deck of the Black Pearl, where Jack and Bootstrap Bill were having what amounted to a heartfelt conversation in the Anna-Belleverse. A quick session with the D.O.R.K.S transformed the agents into scruffy-looking deckhand pirates, and they proceeded to lounge against the bulkhead and record the insults to canon, dignity, and—most importantly—Captain Jack Sparrow.

There were quite a few.

“Jack, you’re not going to believe this” Will was saying.

“Oh god, what did ya’ do?” Jack asked with a bit of fright written on his voice.

The agents poked each other and snickered as a giant word balloon appeared over Jack's head, with the word FRIGHT written on it in big letters. Suicide whipped out his cell phone and took a quick picture; sometimes these typos got pretty damn bizarre. One of the perks of the job.

“I met a girl, a girl who I actually like” Will said smiling.

“Turner, what the ‘ell did you do wit’ ‘er?” Jack asked.

“Not much, but I promised her I would return as soon as I ever could.” Will said.

“Well the soonest will be in ‘bout, 3 ta’ 4 months” Jack said, “aint ya’ goin’ ta’ tell ‘er?” Jack asked.

"I take it these are two mature, experienced rogues who have had more women than hot meals, discussing an immature female human who was alone, unaccompanied, on the streets of a port town after dark?" Ithalond deadpanned. "Because this dialogue is so very evocative and atmospheric, it must be that. Or two teenage girls with speech impediments."

"Sarcasm. You have gleaned much from me, grasshopper."

"I learned from the worst."

"Bah. Obvious."

"Well, you did say I'd learned from you . . . "

As they argued, Will/Bill had asked permission from Jack to go and tell Anna-Belle that their ship was leaving port. Jack, being a savvy captain, didn't trust this woman one inch and told Bootstrap that a gal is all very well, but this "true love" stuff didn't happen in one hour, and certainly not with some lady who might well be a poxed-up tart for all they knew.

Yeah. And the Balrog just tripped.

Where the hell can I find her? He thought Maybe I could find her where she took me, I’ll try there, she might not have left. He continued running along the dirt road until he reached that house she took him to. He knocked on the door and heard her voice ask, “

“Who is it?”

“It’s me Will, I’ve gotta tell you something.” He said.

The universe convulsed as erroneous grammar met head-on with pirate slang. There was a *blorp* sound, a sensation of stretching—and something hopped out of the scene and came racing towards the agents.

"By Elbereth, what's that?" Ithalond whispered.

Suicide groaned and covered his eyes. "It's 'me Will.' This world thinks 'me' translates to 'my,' thank you so very MUCH Disney, and so we get 'my Will.'"

Me Will turned out to be a two-foot-tall, chibi version of Will Turner, with ridiculously plump cheeks and huge brown eyes that took up roughly one third of his face. It stared suspiciously at the agents before fading away into a plothole. Suicide groaned again, more out of exasperation than any sort of general headachiness, and turned to Ithalond; the Elf was looking at the spot where Me Will had stood with a confused expression.

"Is 'creation of a slang-based grammatical creature' a charge?"

"It is now. Come on, let's portal again. I'm not watching the soppy-yet-emotionless goodbye-sex scene."

"I will agree." Ithalond massaged his forehead as his partner fiddled with the remote activator. "How long have we been in here?"

"Couple of hours. Why?"

"It feels like an eternity."

"Lack of time differentiation. You'll get used to it."

The two agents stepped through the portal, landing in Anna-Belle's room. There, true to Sue form, she was no longer sweet and charming when out of the presence of her Lust Object; instead, she was upbraiding a maid because her (Anna-Belle's) dresses wouldn't fit right. One of the agents was a Scythian warrior whose idea of "fashion" was "wear something that doesn't have arrow holes in it," and the other came from such a wretchedly defined universe that he wouldn't have known women's fashion if it bushwhacked him in an alley, but Sues invariably committed fashion crimes so hideous that they had to watch.

“Why do you need it ma’am? If you don’t mind me asking” Maria said cautiously.

“Because, I have gained some weight and it makes me look a thinner", Anna-Belle informed her maid.

Then the woman spontaneously transformed into a bottle of paint thinner.

Five seconds later, the random servants in the hallway were disturbed by an eruption of laughter. The two agents' pent-up hysteria at the increasingly wretched grammar and general horror of the story had burst out; they were leaning on each other and laughing maniacally at the sight of a jumbo-sized home decorating tool trying on dresses. Or, as the narration put it, "elegant green dressed."

"That's gotta—ow—that's gotta be one for the ages," Suicide wheezed. His ribs still ached. Ithalond wiped the tears from his eyes and scribbled "causing chemical solutions to wear clothes" on the charge list, all the while making a sound remarkably like *shnerk.* Meanwhile, the paint thinner had stomach pains and proceeded to vomit out the window, then to begin crying and calling for its aunt.

Who says a photograph can't be art?

Anna-Belle was taken downstairs by her aunt and rushed to the doctor in a carriage. The two agents, after taking a moment to reset their disguises to Random Elegant Gentleman, followed in a Random Coach they commandeered. The ride calmed them both down; Suicide needed the time to recover from his hysterics, and Ithalond was calmly going over the charge list. Soon, the madness would end. Soon.

Their coach arrived just as the doctor dramatically announced that Anna-Belle was pregnant.

"But wait a minute," Suicide muttered, paying the driver with a random pound note as Ithalond peered in through the window of the doctor's house. "She just screwed poor Bootstrap what, eight weeks ago? And her dresses already aren't fitting?" A look of horror crossed his face. "Oh, lokos. That means—"

"An unnaturally gestating baby," Ithalond filled in. His own expression was grim. "I have read the mission log from the Department of Technical Errors. The moment we introduce logic into this story, the child will be doomed."

"Anna-Belle dies. The kid . . . I don't know." Suicide grimaced, shifting his feet anxiously on the undescribed street. "The Duty never mentioned anything about this."

"We might be able to save it . . . do you have any experience with children?" the Elf said after a pause.

"Me? Hell no! All the women I ever met were camp followers, and they knew how to use the calendar, if you catch my drift. And a baby eight weeks along, and already big enough . . . bloody hell! I'd better call Medical." Suicide pulled out his cell phone again and punched in a number. "Doc? Yeah, Dr. Fitzgerald. This is Suicide, Agent Suicide . . . I'm on a mission in scenario two-seven-four-seven-six-two-two. We have an unnaturally gestating baby, possibly intended to be Will Turner. No, we haven't jumped in yet, the kid'd be dead in seconds . . . yeah . . . yeah . . . dunno, try asking her . . . Maybe. Hah, that'd be the day! . . . All right, doc, you're scaring me. Yeah. Okay." He shut the cell phone. "You're not going to believe this."

"Most likely I shall not," Ithalond said. "What about the child?"

"Fitzgerald's prepping for an in-vitro teleportation. They're going to keep the baby suspended in an Illogical Incubator until it comes to term, or something. We'll be free to jump in soon."

Well by to looks of it, it sounds like you are about maybe 6 weeks pregnant.” Ingram said, “However, don’t rely on that estimation, it could be more or less. All we can do is estimate at the moment.”

“Thank you Ingram” Macy said giving her 5 shillings.

Then things . . . changed. There was an almost imperceptible shift in the room, a *zam* noise, and a flash of blue light. Anna-Belle shrieked and clutched wildly at her stomach, which had suddenly become a lot smaller.

"My baby my baby"

"That's our cue!" Suicide hissed.

Instantly, with a unified fixity of purpose that comes only from the Wilver Side of the Force, the two agents moved in. Suicide drew his sword and bashed the hapless Dr. Ingram over the head with the hilt; the bit character dropped like a sack of lead, and he leapt nimbly over the body and advanced on the shrieking Anna-Belle. Ithalond was at his side in a moment, having stopped only to dispatch of the personality-bereft Aunt Macy. The Greek kicked the Sue's legs out from under her, knocking her to the floor.

"Now listen up," he said conversationally, pinning Anna-Belle down with one well-placed foot. "Normally, I don't hit women, even if they also happen to be women of loose morals. It's just not done. But you—oh, stop squalling, for Zeus's sake!—you are not a woman. You are a collection of grammar abuses that would make even e. e. cummings roll over in his grave. Capiche? Ithalond, read the charges."

"Anna-Belle Dialer—" Ithalond read, suppressing a groan at the name, "you are hereby charged as a Mary Sue by the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. You are additionally charged with willfully and lawlessly perpetrating gimpy and/or godawful grammar, abuse of the common comma, abuse of the apostrophe, performing a disappearing act with punctuation all told and thus striking us with severe headaches, reducing Captain Jack Sparrow to a cipher with less of a personality than a lembas wafer, reducing Bootstrap Bill Turner to a weepy—what is the word, Suicide—wuss, having unnaturally gestating offspring which we are now forced to take care of—"

"Headquarters is NOT a bloody adoption agency!"

"Thank you, Suicide. Love-at-first-sight used as an excuse to have sex, random capitalization, robbing every character in the whole story of common sense, and forcing me to have flashbacks to singular breasts and lavender body parts. You are condemned to die. Your punishment will be to suffer what my partner tells me is an ironic fate. Thank you."

Anna-Belle shrieked and squirmed, trying to escape, but Suicide transferred the restraining foot to her throat and ended the getaway attempt fairly quickly. Her beautiful eyes bulged.

"Now, then, partner—if you would kindly reprogram the remote activator," the Greek said jauntily, handing the appropriate piece of equipment to Ithalond. "Type in what I dictate."

"All right. Ready when you are."

"'It was many and many a year ago, in a kingdom by the sea, that a maiden there lived whom you may know'—"

And the world dissolved away.

* * *

It reformed after only a few heart-stopping seconds, but the small group was no longer in the nondescript house of Dr. Ingram. Instead, they were alone on a wide, sandy beach, with the salt sea lapping at the white sand around their feet. Anna-Belle whimpered, finding her shapely hiney suddenly immersed in cold water, but Suicide prodded her absentmindedly and the twitching decreased.

There was a wide stone plateau not far away, built of closely-joined slabs of white marble. Atop it, crafted of the same marble, was a small exquisite tomb with no name or marking on it. Instead, a statue of a strikingly beautiful young woman lay on a slab before the tomb, white hands folded in prayer and eyes closed. Ithalond and Suicide were momentarily struck silent, and even the squirming Anna-Belle stopped squirming for a minute to stare at the motionless scene.

A sea breeze whipped around them, and the sudden cold brought the two agents back to life. "All right," Suicide said briskly. He removed his boot from Anna-Belle's throat and picked her up the front of her embroidered gown, unceremoniously dumping her on her feet again. Then Ithalond grabbed one of her arms and proceeded to haul her towards the tomb; his partner followed behind, sword pointed at the small of the Sue's back.

"Should be any minute now," the Greek added after a moment. "There's clouds all over the place, and we have an Annabel—okay, Anna-Belle—who had a perfect love others were jealous of . . . aaaany minute now."

"Let me go!" the Sue demanded, kicking frantically at the sand as the Elf pulled on her arm. "Let me go! Let me go! My darling love Will is going to come back soon, and when he sees that you've stolen his baby and hurt his future wife and been so mean and messed up my perfect story and totally RUINED everything!"

"That sentence had a subject and a verb, but lacked an object," Ithalond commented dryly. "When he does, he shall . . . what?"

"HE'LL KILL YOU FREAKS!!!!" Anna-Belle yowled.

"No, he won't. He'll volunteer to hold our goddamn coats." Suicide was squinting at the sky; a bank of clouds was building up rapidly. Was it his imagination, or had they started increasing since Anna-Belle started talking?

"He won't! He loves me! I'm having his baby! My baby is going to be named Will Turner too and then he'll discover that I was the baby Jack had all those years ago and abandoned and he'll come back and beg for my forgiveness and we'll all live—urk—"

The Sue froze in place, quivering. Her skin turned ice-pale as a cold wind whipped around her, tinging her extremities a sickly blue.

"'Yes! that was the reason, as all men know in this kingdom by the sea,'" Suicide declaimed dramatically. The effect was rather spoiled by a shit-eating grin; Anna-Belle's dress was already coated with a fine layer of frost. "'That the wind came out of a cloud, chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.' Poe, in case you didn't know. It seemed appropriate. The real Annabel Lee is dead, but we had a feeling that the forces of literature would grant us a free one."

Anna-Belle tried to speak, but her lips were frozen together. Her eyes began to glaze over, and her long, gleaming hair was suddenly caked with a growth of ice crystals.

"'It's the simple things in life,'" Ithalond quoted. Within seconds, Anna-Belle Dialer was a magnificent ice statue. The Elf turned to his partner. "May I?" he said with a grin. "It would be quite a healing experience."

"Be my guest."

* * *

Five minutes later, a portal opened in Response Center #2771a, dumping two snow-covered agents back into Headquarters. They appeared to be in the middle of an argument.

"They are not going to notice—"

"But how does an Elf like you know about Fargo, anyway? Isn't that cultural contamination?"

"The chipper-shredder scene is in the PPC recruitment pamphlet. 'Do You Envy These Men?' Anyway, I believe you have never had a snowball battle with a Sue's remains before."

"All right, it was something new, but I still think we're stretching belief here—"

Then, a quiet voice interjected from behind the squabbling agents.

"I made pork chops."

Cue mayhem.

Another fifteen minutes after that, two still worn but now much more amiable men pushed their folding chairs away from the card table, emitting happy sighs of contentment. Mithiriel smiled and cleared away the plates, carefully sorting the remnants of pork into a separate container for sandwich filling and ladling the apple sauce into a bowl. Her husband, who had apparently been unaware that his wife was practicing human cuisine, was staring at her with something akin to worship; Suicide was still blissed-out from the sheer sensation of actual good food instead of jerky and chocolate.

"Suicide?" Ithalond finally said.

"Uh?"

"How did we get to the other story without using the remote activator?"

"Two guesses," his partner said slowly, cudgeling his brain into gear. Most of it was still dwelling on the apple sauce. "Either the PotC universe was so damn sick of the story that reciting the poem was enough to slingshot us into it . . . or we got hit by a flying plothole. Frankly, I couldn't care less." He burped, and began to clean his teeth with one of the daggers from his socks.

Mithiriel delicately coughed, and Suicide instantly turned a bright red. "Uh . . . sorryma'am,won'thappengain," he muttered quickly, hiding the dagger behind his back. "Verysorry . . . "

"Good," Mithiriel said, flashing him a sweet smile. "And while you men were gone, I had a look around. Agent Suicide, whoever does your laundry has been very careless—all the whites and the blacks were mixed up in the last load. And, oh yes, somebody has been using the toilet bowl as an ashtray. Now, if we are all going to live together, we shall have to keep things neat—won't we?"

"Uhm, I guess," Suicide managed to say.

"Good. The only mop on this floor has fossilized, but it will do. I mixed up a bucket of lye solution; Agent Suicide, you can start on the bathroom, it's absolutely filthy. Ithalond, darling, I need some help getting the ashes and brimstone out of that spot behind the console . . . would you mind?" She smiled again, but behind the sweetness there was an eerie hint of familiarity that made both agents blanch.

That look.

The look which Suicide saw in his mirror. The look that Ithalond had when confronted with the grammar-oblivious Anna-Belle. The look which on Mithiriel, Elvish housewife, meant a whole different thing. The look which now said You are Going to Be Scrubbing, Buster, and Don't Hope for a Mission to Save You.

"Oh, bugger."

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