Debris sighed and dropped her backpack and the file she had been reading as she walked on one of the chairs next to the console. She glanced around at the bland, undecorated room, running her fingers through her frizzy hair and vaguely wondering where her new partner was. After spending the past few weeks being forced to re-watch the often traumatizing No-Drool videos in between Phantom of the Opera cram sessions, she wasn't exactly chomping at the bit. She missed her old partner, and from what she had read about her new one, the transition was hardly going to be easy. The fact that she had received a file on him at all was a disturbing sign in itself. From what she could understand of the rather confusing account she had been given of his recruitment, he had hardly even been a character in the usual sense of the word when he was discovered, much less what she usually thought of as human. She sighed again, rather a bit too dramatically, adjusted her glasses out of habit, and sat down in the remaining chair.
It was then, of course, that the console let out an ear-splitting "BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!" Debris glared at it as the text of a fic (or "phic"—it was going to take her some time to get used to the new lingo) came up on the screen. In response, she slapped the control panel several times before hitting the proper button to notify Upstairs that she had received the phic and shutting it up.
"I can't go without a partner!" she yelled at the impassive machine, her eyes nonetheless drawn to the words appearing on the screen. The phic really didn't seem so bad. Sure, it was a songphic, but….
She froze, staring at the bottom of the first page, and groaned. Skimming ahead, she could see that from that point on, it only got worse. "At least it's short," she grumbled to herself. "But I still can't go in until what's-his-name…Gammut…gets here."
As if on cue, the door opened again to reveal a tall, lanky young man with a gaunt face and scraggly white hair, clad in the standard black with a patch on his shoulder that was decorated with the image of a potted cactus. The clothes somehow failed to fit him properly, despite the effort that had obviously gone into the attempt to force them to do so. Debris stared at him with morbid curiosity, right up until the moment their eyes met. When they did, though, she gave a convulsive shudder and jerked her gaze away, trying not to heave.
"Are you Debris?" inquired the man, entirely unconcerned about her discomfort. She nodded, and he stepped into the room.
"You must be Gammut," said Debris, still averting her gaze. "They didn't say…about your eyes…."
He gave her a perplexed look, and she ventured another look, finding herself a bit less affected now that she knew to expect that they would be such a hideous mix of pink and purple. She wondered why it hadn't been in the file.
"They're urple," she complained. "How is that even possible?"
"Don't ask me," replied Gammut crossly. "I only started manifesting like this a week ago."
"So it's true that you're a…what would you call it?"
"Hell if I know," he snorted. "Do you mind?" He shoved her backpack off the first chair and sat down. She glowered in response and tugged her possessions away from him.
"Troll," she muttered, scooting away. Gammut glared daggers at her and shook his head.
"Not quite," he growled. "Trolls write dreck. I just point it out for what it is."
"So in other words, you go around flaming innocent authors."
"That's a terrible way to put it," pouted Gammut. "Besides, they were hardly innocent…or at least most of them weren't." He grinned in a way that wasn't at all sheepish. Debris shook her head at him and scowled.
"This makes no sense, though," she grumbled. "How could you be doing it on your own? You're not…you know…." She trailed off, unwilling to say it to his face. Gammut raised an eyebrow that was almost invisible due to being made up of white hair on deathly pale skin.
"Not a real person?" The question seemed to bother him less than it bothered his new partner. She nodded, and he paused a moment before speaking again to collect his thoughts. "I didn't come out of nowhere, you know. Not my fault certain people can't handle leaving their own names on bad reviews."
Debris tried not to stare and failed. Gammut glowered at her and changed the subject. "What do we have?"
"Huh? Oh!" Debris turned her attention back to the screen. "It's pretty bad. No actual 'Sue, but there are possessions all around. You are familiar with the canon, aren't you?"
"Yeah," said Gammut, his attention absorbed by the story. Debris watched him as he read, and was surprised to see a smile growing on his face. By the time he had reached the end of the story, Gammut was positively giggling—a disturbing sight, to say the least. He turned back to her, his malice from just moments before vanished as he savored the thought of lampooning the phic he had just finished reading. Debris found herself backing away from his eerie grin, but he seemed to be too absorbed in his own thoughts to notice. "Are you ready to go?" he asked.
"Just let me get the equipment together," she replied. At least he seemed eager, and it was beginning to make even her start to itch for the familiar feeling of getting in the game and really doing something. She managed a smile of her own, and pulled open her backpack. After tugging on her black jacket with its own potted cactus flash patch, she thrust a pair of sunglasses at Gammut.
"What for?" he asked, taking them and slipping them on. "Won't they be a bit conspicuous?"
"Not as conspicuous as urple eyes. Anyway, I think I remember reading that people with disfigured eyes wore them even back then."
"Disfigured?" chuckled Gammut, but Debris was already up and across the room. She pulled open the closet and got out two backpacks, one of which she tossed to Gammut after checking the contents of both, and continued rummaging until she found a two more devices, both of which she stuffed in her own backpack before slinging it over her shoulder. Gammut re-checked his backpack himself. Besides the standard gadgets, he found a hardback copy of The Essential Phantom of the Opera, which he hefted experimentally as if to get a feel for its weight before putting it back. Debris returned to the console and started pushing buttons on the disguise panel.
"I suppose we can just be servants," she said, setting the controls. "Nothing else for it, really."
Gammut grunted his agreement and stood up. Debris pushed one last button, and the air next to the console shimmered and took on the shape of a door. Grinning like a child, Gammut hopped through the portal, followed by Debris.
They emerged in an empty, nondescript guest room, garbed in the clothes of a pair of Victorian French house servants. Debris quietly shut the door that was open to the hallway as Gammut tugged at the neck of his suit, which looked as if it had been very carefully tailored for a man with a much different shape. Debris smoothed her apron and shook her head at him. He shrugged, as perplexed as she at his continuing lack of clothes that actually fit him, and asked softly, "What now? How are we supposed to see what's going on when they're in another room?"
"Not a problem," Debris whispered back, pulling what looked like a remote out of her bag and pointing it at the wall. A few button pushes later, a television-sized segment of the wall became transparent, revealing a bedridden Christine. "It's a See-Through," Debris explained. "The wall's still there, but now we can keep an eye on them."
"Why isn't she doing anything?" asked Gammut, loosening his bowtie and peering at the former singer.
"I don't know…" Debris's eyebrows furrowed and her eyes focused on a different plane as she concentrated on the words that made up the world they were in. "She should at least be angsting…oh, no."
She plugged her ears and shut her eyes, and after a moment, Gammut did as well.
"Disclaimer," boomed the voice of the Suethor. "I own nothing. The lyrics are not mine, the characters aren't mine. The lyrics belong to Journey and the characters of course belong to Andrew Lloyd Webber."
"Funny," commented Gammut through clenched teeth. "The name on the book is Gaston Leroux."
"Summary," the disembodied voice went on. "There is none. -Pouts- Read and find out what happens. oh btw hope you have tissues just in case. :D"
Both agents cringed at the pronunciation of the jumbled punctuation.
"Next time, let's go in after the author's notes," growled Gammut. Debris nodded meekly, and both braced themselves for the title.
"Send Him My Love," proclaimed the voice. It fell silent, only to be replaced by another disembodied voice, which began to sing. The voice stumbled over words that had clearly been changed as Debris pulled out another gadget, this one a black blob with a rod sticking out of its top right, and waved it around. "Musictionary," she said, somewhat unnecessarily as Gammut did not seem to particularly care.
"Send her My Love, by Journey," said the device. "Rhythm and tune retained, parts of rhyme scheme and intelligibility lost." It whirred and clicked for a moment before launching into its own rendition of the song. Lime ticker tape issued from the thing, but Debris listened only a few moments before turning it back off.
Meanwhile, the not-so-mini scorpion Christine de Changy scuttled off of Christine's bed, having been created by a spelling error, as sentence fragments caused the agents to wince. The music started up again for a few lines, and Raoul stepped into Christine's room.
"What's he looking for?" muttered Debris. Gammut shook his head as he read ahead.
"Whatever it is, he never finds it," he replied. "Unless…."
Debris found herself suddenly alone. She glanced frantically around the room and through the transparent section of the wall, but her new partner was nowhere to be seen. Cursing, she remembered that the file she had been given had mentioned something about Gammut being capable of temporary possessions, and looked to the words, which somehow managed to writhe as they were forcibly changed. Raoul gave an odd, disturbing shudder and began to mechanically dig through Christine's dresser.
"Aha!" said the twice-possessed canon character in Gammut's voice, holding up a pair of anachronistic boxers with masks printed on them. "I thought as much!"
"Gasp!" gasped Christine, also in the tones of Debris's invisible partner. "Whatever will I do now?"
"Gammut!" cried Debris. "Stop it!"
She made to dive for the possessed characters, but banged into the wall, which, while transparent, was still quite solid.
"Relax," grinned Gammut!Raoul. "It's not permanent. Watch."
The urple-eyed man reappeared beside her, and she resisted the urge to hit him for fear he would leave again. He adjusted his sunglasses and watched with glee as the canons shook themselves in confusion and reverted to what they had been doing before he had gone into the words.
"You can't do that," hissed Debris. "It's cheating! You have to let the suethor bring the charges on herself!"
"Yeah, yeah," said Gammut dismissively, waving her away. "Look—it doesn't matter. See? They're just going right back to how they were. I was just having some fun."
"Some fun?" demanded Debris, hysteria creeping into her voice. "Do you realize what could happen—"
"I know," Gammut growled, turning on her. "Relax, Deb. Nothing's going to happen."
"Promise you won't do it again," commanded Debris.
"Aren't you supposed to be taking down charges?" asked Gammut, giving her a meaningful look and handing her a pen and pad of paper from his backpack.
"Not when there's no actual Sue," she replied. Gammut pushed the office supplies at her anyway.
"Can't hurt to keep notes," he said. Debris sighed and took them.
"What do we have so far?" she asked.
"Well, for one thing, changing the lyrics so they don't rhyme or make sense," replied Gammut. "And ruining Raoul and Christine's relationship." He watched impassively as Raoul slapped his wife and insulted her.
"You are not worthy of my love! If you still feel for that monster, take the rose and the dress you are hiding and go to him!" shouted Raoul, sounding even less natural than when he had been possessed by Gammut.
"Maybe that's what he was looking for," mused Gammut as Debris scribbled furiously. "But what dress? And why would she have a rose in her closet…or at all, unless he gave it to her?"
"Maybe she got it from Erik," replied Debris, pausing and looking up.
"Nah. It's implied in a moment that she hasn't gotten any from him for the past four years."
Another thought occurred to Debris and she went back to writing.
"How can she have hidden anything anyway if she's bedridden and can't do anything?" she asked. Gammut laughed as Mme. Giry appeared in the doorway behind Raoul and chased the vicomte and the not-so-mini grasshopper Monsieur de Changy off with an empty threat. Debris squinted at the words and marked down another charge. "And how did she try to send him her love when it just said she hadn't done anything to do so?"
Gammut patted her on the shoulder. "Come on," he said. "We need to exorcise Raoul before we follow them to the opera."
Debris turned off the See-Through and put it back in her bag. She opened the door to the hall and grabbed Raoul, who had stormed off without having anywhere to storm off to and subsequently stopped before he had even gone ten feet. She dragged the vicomte inside the room despite his loud protests, and Gammut thumped the man soundly on the head with The Essential Phantom of the Opera.
"Out, 'Sue!" he shouted, drawing the book back and clubbing Raoul with it a second time. "The power of Leroux compels you!"
The ghostly shape of the suethor coalesced next to Raoul and gave Gammut a dirty look. Gammut hit Raoul once more for good measure, ignoring Debris's protests.
"Why are you defending the fop?" demanded the authoress. "He's just a—"
Gammut hauled back and hit the apparition with the book. He seemed almost disappointed when it dispersed into mist after only one blow, and eyed Raoul with an almost hungry look. The vicomte, however, was rapidly going back to his usual self.
"Where's Christine?" he demanded, grabbing Debris and shaking her. "Is she hurt!"
Gammut pulled the neuralizer (a device conveniently lifted from the Men in Black universe) from his pack and put it in front of Raoul's face. Debris shut her eyes just in time to avoid losing her memories of the past few minutes along with the character, opening them again only when her partner nudged her. She extricated herself from Raoul's now limp grip, shot Gammut a glare, and filled the vicomte in.
"You are not an abusive husband. You and Christine are happily married, but she has gone out for a while. You hit your head and aren't feeling well enough to go out, so you're waiting for her to come home."
Gammut nodded and pulled Debris out into the hallway, shutting the door in Raoul's confused face. "Time to go to the opera house," he said. "With such a vague description of the time it takes them to get there, they could arrive at any minute."
"You could have neuralized me!" exclaimed Debris as she punched the buttons on her remote activator to create a portal to the Opera Populaire.
"But I didn't," replied Gammut calmly. "Come on, no time to lose."
The portal appeared, and both agents stepped through to appear in front of the abandoned Opera Populaire on the other side. They arrived just in time to hide from the two women they were pursuing.
"Did they really walk all the way here?" wondered Debris. "Look at Christine! She can't even stand on her own two feet."
"Giry carried her," explained Gammut. "Come on, come on, we have to follow them in."
The agents followed the two women as they made their way through the opera house, Christine suddenly filled with pep and verve. The girl squeak-hummed Angel of Music ("a poor choice," reflected Gammut from the agents' hiding place in the inner room where Raoul had once eavesdropped on a somewhat similar scene. "Phantom of the Opera would have been more recognizable."), and the mirror swung open to reveal Erik. Madame Giry, meanwhile, disappeared without any explanation. Debris made a note of it, but didn't try to track the woman down, knowing she was still in character enough to revert on her own.
"Don't try and speak. I know every thing," said the mysteriously present Phantom.
"…making Erik remain in the opera house for four years after he was supposed to leave…" muttered Debris with hardly a pause in her note taking.
He walked over to her and kissed her on the neck. She sighed and turned to look at him. He was handsome no doubt about it.
Debris groaned and Gammut giggled. Christine squeaked something at Erik, and he replied, "Shhh. I understand. I made a foolish decision when I was younger that made my life harder. I'm happy you went with him. You deserved him."
"Glad at least he has the right idea about their relationship, but what decision does he mean?" wondered Debris.
Gammut shrugged. "No idea. How are we going to exorcise her when she's in his arms?"
Debris's eyes widened as she took in this hitherto unforeseen complication. "We could…well…hmm."
Christine collapsed into Erik's arms and stopped breathing. Debris squinted at the words and marked down a count of semicolon abuse.
She had wanted nothing more but to leave this world in Erik's arms not Raoul's arms and her wish came true.
"I want Erik's arms not Raoul's arms because Erik's arms are much cozier than Raoul's arms which are not cozy like Erik's arms because they are Raoul's arms and not Erik's," squeaked Gammut in a breathless imitation of the deceased heroine. Debris laughed in spite of herself.
"Can you hold him?" she asked. Gammut nodded, and both agents charged out from behind the curtain. Gammut virtually tackled Erik, knocking Christine loose from his grasp. Debris hit the singer with her own copy of the heavily annotated novel.
"Out, angst!" she screamed. "The power of Leroux compels you!"
Christine coughed and spluttered as the influence of the authoress left her and life came into her once more. Erik struggled against Gammut with a crazed look in his eyes, one hand scrabbling for the Punjab lasso that never left him. Debris hit the spirit of the authoress with the book before it even had a chance to complain and backed away from the recovering Christine just as Erik broke free from her partner. She pulled out her neuralizer and flashed it at the two canon characters. They froze, bewildered expressions fixed on their faces. Gammut laughed.
"Now who's not being careful with the flashy thing?" he asked. Debris snorted.
"You're wearing sunglasses," she said dismissively. "And as for you two…Christine, Raoul loves you very much and you love him back. You're happy with your decision to marry him and want to go home to him. Erik, Christine never came to see you here, and you're only passing through on your way back to wherever it is you went after the movie."
Gammut picked up Christine and the three of them left the opera house and Erik behind quickly. Debris opened another portal back to the de Chagny residence and pushed Christine through. As soon as it was closed, she reopened the doorway back to headquarters. The agents stumbled through, their servants' garb changing back to the standard black uniforms as they left Victorian-era Paris. Debris sighed in relief and dropped into one of the chairs while Gammut stretched lazily and went poking around in the cabinet in search of a snack.
"There has to be a better way to deal with that sort of thing," commented Debris. "What if he'd punjabbed one of us?"
Gammut shrugged. It hadn't happened, so the thought didn't bother him. "I suppose I would have possessed him."
Debris shook her head but didn't say anything. This new partner of hers was going to take some getting used to.