Disclaimer: LotR, Office Space, Monty Python, the Borg, Fight Club, the ASPCA, Yankee Doodle - Not mine.
They walked over to the house Lobelia had indicated and Bill Ferny came out to meet them. Ferny greeted Saruman enthusiastically and tried to give him a high-five, which he awkwardly attempted to disguise as batting away flies when Saruman made no move to reciprocate.
"Good day, Ferny. I trust everything has been coming along well?"
"Yes, Mr. Sharkey. I started out working with that hobbit, Lotho, to ship Longbottom Leaf to your place at Isengard almost a year ago. He's been buying up land here in the Shire, gradually taking over, and I've been helping by sending some of my -" Saruman raised an eyebrow. "-or rather, your-" continued the Hobbit, "Men to make sure he wasn't challenged. Now I pretty much run things here, even if Lotho is theoretically in charge." He practically beamed with pride over his last statement.
"Well, I'm in charge now," announced Saruman, deflating Ferny's ego more quickly than a French taunter with embarrassing baby pictures. "Has there been any resistance from the Hobbits?"
"Not much," replied Ferny, in full underling-reporting-to-a-superior-officer mode. "At first the Mayor objected, but we arrested him. For a time, a certain Fatty Bolger was leading a band of rebels up by the hills of Scary(1), but he, too, was captured. Any Hobbits that didn't agree with my policies are now imprisoned in the Lockholes at Michel Delving. There's still some resistance coming from Tookborough, but all of Tookland has been shut down, so that shouldn't last too much longer. By now they should know that resistance is futile (2). I now have about 300 men and half-orcs under my control here, and I've enlisted some of the greedier or more gullible Hobbits to act as Shirriffs to enforce the Rules."
"The Rules?" questioned Saruman, sensing the capital R. Ferny grinned and grabbed a thin book from a nearby desk, shuffling some papers as he did so to cover up his copy of "Orcs Gone Wild" with his MESPCA(3) Newsletter. He handed the book to Saruman, who began to read:
1. No admittance to the Shire between sundown and sunrise unless bribed by obscene amounts of money.
2. I, Lotho, am your Chief, you shall have no other Chief besides me.
3. All pipeweed is to be collected.
4. Each Hobbit shall not exceed his daily allotment of firewood.
5. All food and goods shall be collected and "fairly" distributed.
6. There is no rule #6.
7. No jaywalking.
The list continued for pages. Saruman looked up while Wormtongue and al-Sahaf tried to read over his shoulders. Due to the fact that they were shorter than he was, they failed, but achieved greater success when they moved to his sides.
"I take it Lotho is a bit of an egomaniac," stated the wizard.
"That's one way of putting it," said Ferny. "You should see his house. It's entirely decorated with portraits of himself. His sense of self-satisfaction could be used to power an entire kingdom."
"And the "fair" distribution of goods means that you have almost everything stockpiled."
"Right again, boss." Saruman continued to peruse the list. Most of the Rules were pretty standard – No opposing the Shirriffs, no chaining yourself to trees in protest of the recent logging increase, no withholding valuable items from the Shirriffs – but a few were confusing.
"Do not pass go, do not collect 200?"
"What about number 101: 'Don't talk about Shirriffs' Club'?" asked Wormtongue. Saruman glared at his underling for speaking out of turn, but was secretly relieved at being able to conceal his own ignorance.
"I don't know," shrugged Ferny, "They won't talk about it. It's also rule 102."
"No shirt, no shoes, no problem?" read Gríma.
"Well, it was written mostly by Hobbits," explained Ferny. "I had a terrible time when the Shirriffs tried to unionize and demand mandatory breaks for Elevensies." Just then, a knock sounded on the door. "I'll get that, and you three can add whatever you want to the Rules." Ferny opened the door to find a Hobbit with one feather in his hat, marking him as a lower-ranking Shirriff.
"Here's my TPS report," announced the Hobbit, handing Ferny a stack of papers." The Man smiled. It was his idea that every Shirriff complete a Terror, Pillaging, and Shirriffing report as a way to keep track of their actions and keep demand for his new paper mill high. "It doesn't have the cover sheet because I only remembered about it as you opened the door," admitted the Hobbit sheepishly.
"Did you get the memo?" asked Ferny. Memos, carried to each of his man and the Shirriffs via the Quick Post Service Runners, were another of his sinister inventions to waste paper.
"Yes, I got the memo, I just forgot," sighed the Hobbit.
"I'll send you another memo, and if you could just use a cover sheet in the future, that'd be great." The Hobbit nodded, knowing it was pointless to argue. Luckily, he had schooled himself so that the expression on his face was serious instead of insane with rage. Ferny pondered the Hobbit for a moment, and then declared, "You could use more flair, so I'm going to promote you." He handed the Hobbit another feather, which the halfling promptly stuck in his cap, but oddly enough, he didn't call it macaroni. (4)
(1) Not to be confused with the Hills of Terrifying, or the Hills of That Panicked Feeling You Get When You Are Dreaming That You Have A Huge Project Due Tomorrow And You Haven't Started Yet.
(2) Which would make conductance 1/futile. (Sorry, bad science joke. Ignore the author.)
(3) Middle-Earth Society for the Promotion of Cruelty to Animals
(4) He did, however, call it Linguini. Yes, he was a sad, strange little Hobbit.
Meanwhile, Saruman, Wormtongue, and al-Sahaf were having fun with the Rules. Saruman grabbed the quill and ink and wrote "No admittance of any Wizards or Kings, especially Gandalf or Aragorn." He, of course, was exempt from the wizard rule, and he was using an alias, anyway.
"Or Riders of Rohan, especially Eomer!" exclaimed Wormtongue.
"Write it yourself, Worm. I am no secretary." With that statement, Saruman stood up and shoved the quill into Gríma's hand. What Saruman didn't mention was that he actually was the secretary of the White Council, and he was still bitter about it. He was the leader of the Council, and by rights he could have delegated it to someone else, but the blue wizards couldn't be bothered to do anything, Radagast would spend hours talking about the bird to which the quill had belonged, and Gandalf kept blowing smoke rings and muttering about how taking notes was not a proper affair of Wizards. In the end, Saruman had been forced to take the minutes himself. Gríma looked downcast, but took the quill and wrote his suggestion down anyway.
"Also, write down 'No Elves,'" demanded Saruman.
At that point, al-Sahaf finally spoke up. So far, he had just been observing everything. He wasn't sure about the "fair" distribution of goods. A man knew something suspicious was going on when the quotation marks were actually written down. That sounded a lot like communism, and he remembered the bitter struggle against the godless communist infidels of the USSR. But then again, certain precautions needed to be taken in an occupied country. The goal was of course to free these oppressed Hobbits from the tyranny of Gandalf and his minions such as the former mayor. Sometimes drastic measures had to be taken in order to secure an area for military operations while at the same time minimizing the number of civilian casualties. He had high hopes for being able to speak to the resistance and convince them to turn from the deceptive lies of their leaders. "Add 'No believing American lies and no trusting any authority except Saru-er, Sharkey.'" The last correction was due to a well-placed kick.
To be continued . . .
A/N: The author stands nervously in front of a group of reviewers waving large flaming torches and shouting "Burn! Burn!" I'm so sorry it's been forever since I've updated. I really will try not to leave you all hanging that long again. I could use the excuse that as the war has dragged on, people are dying, and it's really not funny by a long shot. Of course, the premise never was that war is funny, just that MSS is funny. But even that has a dark side, because propaganda that urges people to fight when they have no chance just means that more people die needlessly. That certainly had something to do with my lack of updates, but I'm also lazy. However, I do want to finish what I started. If I stop again, feel free to send me all the threatening emails you want. Thank you so much to everyone who has read or reviewed. I haven't quite finished the Rules yet, so if you have any suggestions or pet peeves that you want outlawed, leave them in a review. By the way, if you do review, please sign in, as I'd like to read something you've written.
Tindomiel – Thanks for the comment about great taste. I'm afraid I ruined any chance at that claim with Ferny's choice of reading material. Sorry about that.
BoromirDefender – I'm glad you like the Python. There are a lot of great opportunities for stories using minor characters. Thanks for putting me on your favorites list.
Queen Isis – Have you had a chance to watch the movie yet? The scripts are great, but you really have to watch to hear the galloping hoofbeats across the foggy morn resolve themselves into the figure of a man followed by a coconut-clapping lackey. The exams actually went so well that I graduated and got a job. Sorry I've been gone so long.
Wilwarin – Let's hope you never find yourself in a situation where you're surrounded by Orcs and need air fresheners. Trust me, it's not pretty.
Bubonic Woodchuck – Everybody loves Baghdad Bob!
French Pony – Thanks for the constructive criticism. I really appreciate it, and I'll try to take it into account. Although if I was rusty then, my hiatus probably hasn't helped any.
Kitsune-Chan 8 – I hadn't been to the website before, but I checked it out, and it was pretty funny. Thanks for your suggestion – I'll definitely have Uday & Qusay show up somewhere.
Eirtae – Don't worry, I've been bad in the past about leaving reviews. I'm trying to get better, though.
PrincessEilonwy – I'm glad you liked Lobelia, and thanks for the compliment. I'll do my best to update quickly from now on.
HathorCol - is glomped Thanks. I'll take this shrubbery, and put it by my original one, only slightly higher, so you get sort of the two-level effect with a little path running through the middle.
Proserpina – Thanks, and I hope your pet boy is ok. I haven't figured out quite how yet, but before the story is finished I will work in something about acrobatic German businessmen.
Tolkanonms – Wow, you went through and reviewed every chapter. I really appreciate all the little comments about what you liked. Yes, the mysterious universal translator problem is something that I like to see addressed.
Catmint – Thanks for all the complements and comments on individual chapters. No, you most certainly were not the only one having black-knight flashbacks.
GreenCat3 – Welcome aboard.
Terreis – Thanks for checking me out and for the compliments. I really enjoyed your work that I've read so far. I'm pretty sure Muhammed isn't a Goa'uld (at least in this story), but I wouldn't rule out Saruman. I will, however, try to work in a few Stargate references in upcoming chapters. As for where this comes from? Well, late one night I was reading a LotR fanfic when my friend IMs me with the IlovetheIraqiInformationMinister website, and things just sort of took off from there.