A/N: This was such an angsty fic initially – especially the middle and the ending. Then I took a step back and remembered that I was writing for a crack series. So the angst meant for the ending is going in a footnote, otherwise it's just going to make the overall tone very jarring. Anywho, this fic is for the Anti-Cliche and Mary-Sue Elimination Society, if you haven't heard of us it will not make sense, so don't complain that I didn't warn you because I like to set my complaints on fire. They're much prettier that way.
By the way, recently fanfiction has had a problem with sentences in italics, removing the spaces and running all the words together. I will go back and check this fic once its been posted, but the changes may not show up for a little while. So its not me, its the website. As always (a)'s name is written in brackets due to the symbol not showing up in fanfiction formatting, and the same will apply to the hash tag in Tash's tweet.
This is set right after Poetic Japanese Metaphor (for obvious reasons). Enjoy.
Insert Humorous Evil Banter Here
The Society spent most of their days in a state approaching total chaos – never actually crossing the threshold, but dipping a cautious foot in occasionally. Chaos was a natural state for a group of teens and young adults who had decided to put themselves as a barrier against beings of God-like power.
Today however, the Society had jumped over the pool of total chaos, and plunged feet first into the realms of utter panic. The cause? One blonde Society leader with a bitchy attitude and a loud mouth, who was currently missing from their ranks.
The monitor screens had long since ceased giving their best impression of a snowstorm in a silent movie circa 1950, but what they showed now was far from calming. A deserted street, in the middle of a busy feudal Japanese castle town. No signs betrayed the fact that not ten minutes ago there had been people in that alley.
Harriet, the Society's esteemed founder, and lady of all things cricket and lush-smelling in this world, did not panic. Her life had taught her that there was little that could be solved or gained from sulking or throwing a hissy fit when all went wrong – something several of her agents could stand to learn, she thought, reflecting on the massive row that he been brought to her attention that very morning by a snooping Emily. But she did not have time for her Society agent's petty squabbles now. Her priority at the moment was to find her second in command.
She took a moment after viewing the playback on the screens, to close her eyes, and compose herself. She took three long deep breaths, holding them each for at least ten seconds before releasing them. She finished this exercise with a sip of her favourite green tea. Despite the danger and the panic that was radiating from the agents around her, she felt zen and ready to face the challenge head , she set her mug back on the countertop, opened her eyes, and spun around in her swivel chair.
The monitor room was not a huge room, and was currently packed well beyond comfortable capacity. Standing closest to the screen was Michael, who had been on duty when the problems had first arisen, and indeed was the one who had sent Tash on this mission in the first place. Combee was hovering near the ceiling, and for once, was relatively silent – she seemed to have guessed that something bad had happened to her Auntie Tashy, and she was waiting to hear how bad it was and whether she could be of any help.
Directly in front of Harriet was Adrian, who eyes had grown darker and darker since the screens had come back on and the monitors had registered no signs of their Self Insert agent, the Sue (though they wouldn't have, given that last they had seen, Ocean had been prohibited, and therefore wouldn't be giving off any energy readings at all) or indeed any threat which could have caused them to disappear. Clustered behind the Librarian were about half of the on duty agents, all watching with varying degrees of worry or amusement.
"Well, if we are to assume the worst from the fact that both agent and Sue have vanished without a trace, our scanners were blocked and we cannot track them, we must conclude that Tash has got herself kidnapped," Harriet began.
"Again," Emily chimed in with a grin, and several people snickered.
"Honestly Emily," Louise's voice was snappish. "Kidnap is not a laughing matter!"
"Yes it is," Emily was positively gleeful. "Oooh and they kidnapped Tash of all people! They're gonna rue the day they ever came near her!"
Seeing Louise look less than impressed with Emily's response, Harriet coughed.
"Lou, whilst I appreciate that you have your own reasons for fearing kidnap, I do have to agree with Emily. Tash will be completely safe until we find her – in fact if I know her at all, she's probably having the time of her life as we speak. Our concern now is how best to get her and Ocean back."
"Does anyone here know the fandom?" Michael asked. Much to his relief, a hand shot up at the back. "Karissa, is there anything canon that might have done this?"
Karissa shook her head – she had only come on duty fifteen minutes ago, and some of the finer details of the situation had escaped her. None the less, she knew the Tales of the Otori fandom well enough to answer the question with a definitive shake of her head.
"The only ones who'd be able to pull off a kidnapping that cleanly and quickly would be the Tribe, and they wouldn't have the technology or magic to disrupt our scanners. This was an outside job...and I'm willing to bet that if it was an outside job, they've probably taken Tash and Ocean out of the fandom, which would explain why we can't detect them anymore."
"Even so, we should get in the fandom and check," Harriet declared. "Even if they're not there anymore, we need to look for clues."
"I'm on it," Adrian was already sweeping from the room, his trenchcoat billowing out behind him like a cape, bullheaded determination on his face.
"I think I'd better go with him," Michael muttered, remembering all too well the last time Adrian had gone off to rescue Tash by himself and the injuries he had come back with. He slipped out in the Librarian's wake, picking up his sword at the doorway and strapping it to his back.
Nodding to herself, Harriet took another sip of tea before continuing. "I want everyone in the briefing room five minutes after they get back from the fandom. Until then, Dave, Marcus, Stephen, I want you guys to man the monitors."
The three boys saluted and took to the seats in a flash.
"Emily I want you to start up a multiverse scan – Tash still has her phone on her, so its got to be transmitting a signal, and we know that Ocean has a prohibitor on her. Eventually we'll find it. And boys? Set the systems to top alert – if someone even sneezes funny anywhere in the multiverse, I want to know about it."
"Miss Hari-Hat!" Combee hovered in front of her, her faces wide and hopeful. "What can I do to help?"
Harriet blinked a few times, before a smirk crossed her face.
"Combee, why don't you go and talk to the Sues in the basement? I'm sure they'd love the company. Come get one of us if there are any problems."
"Yay!" Combee cheered. "I'm going to play with the Soup people!"
And she shot off like a cork from a bottle, leaving several people windswept in her wake.
"...well, the Sues will either come out cured of their Sueish behaviour...or they'll come out with diabetes," Ben concluded. Harriet gave him a solemn expression.
"That's a risk I'm willing to take," she declared dramatically.
The plothole swirled into existence, and the duo strode out into the alley. The air was warm and humid at this time of year despite the darkness of night. There was no one in sight, which was perhaps fortuitous given the nature of their entrance.
"Water," sharp eyed, Michael spotted the puddles, drawing Adrian's gaze to them. The puddle was long and ended in a massive splash zone at the end of it, by the wall.
"Purity," Adrian hissed. He knew the Sovereign's trademark attacks anywhere.
"Emily," Michael had plucked his communicator out. "Any luck locking onto the Prohibitor?"
"...btzzzts-s-sorry Michael..." Emily's voice was patchy. "The interference is still strong. I'm having trou-BZZZTCRACK..."
There was a sharp buzz as the line was overcome by static. Adrian was already striding off in one direction, and Michael hastened to follow him.
"Dude..." Michael knew Adrian well enough to be able to tell his moods, and right now, the Librarian looked as though he could pull lightning from the heavens and fry anyone who dared cross him. "Don't do anything stupid..."
Adrian made no response, and Michael found his irritation peaking.
"Don't give me the silent treatment," he said. "I'm here to help."
Another bout of silence followed, and Michael stopped just short of the end of the alley.
"Oi! I know what it feels like."
The Librarian rolled his eyes, and Michael finally snapped. Tentacles of Darkness shot from his back grabbing Adrian around the throat and wrists and slamming him into the wall, causing a crater of cracks to appear around him.
"Michael! What the fuck?"
"I am trying to help you!" the Chief Agent roared, orange seeping into his eyes. "We're all trying to help you! But you're too busy being the angry hero to notice that we all care about her too! Accept our fucking help like a man, and stop sulking like a twat!"
"None of you can help me!" Adrian struggled, but the Darkness was pinning his sword to the wall. "None of you kno-"
"Yes we do!" the tentacle around his neck constricted, silencing Adrian's protests. Michael advanced until he was barely a foot away from the pinned Librarian. "I know what it feels like when the woman you love is kidnapped. And I went to deal with it on my own, and look where that fucking got me! Almost killing everyone and saddled with a fucking parasite! So don't you dare insult me by acting like I don't have a fucking clue!"
Breathing heavily, he slowly released the Librarian and let him back to the ground. Adrian was scowling as he rubbed his head, but he didn't argue, or even say anything – he knew Michael was right, but he was too prideful to admit it. It irritated the Chief Agent, but he tried not to let it show.
"As much as I love watching male bonding between you and the Librarian," the Darkness sneered. "There's someone nearby...weeping."
He heard it, and turned his head towards it. "The Darkness says that way."
Adrian's kitty ears were twitching, and Michael realised he must have heard a long time ago. He hoped that the Librarian had been listening to him while he'd been all but strangling him against the wall.
Ocean was curled up in a doorway, her yukata dust streaked and dishevelled. She heard the approaching footsteps and hastily scrubbed away the tears, the prohibitor dangling off her ankle and catching the light as she did. As she recognised the two approaching men, she gave a squeak of fear and curled up again.
"Please...don't hurt me...please..."
"Ugh, she's hysterical," the Darkness shuddered with the final word. "Think I'm going to vomit..."
"Vomit in this body and I'm taking a vacation to Majorca – without suncream!" Michael snapped. Seeing Adrian move out of the corner of his eye, he flung out an arm to stop him, before venturing forward himself. He had crossed the street and knelt in front of Ocean in three swift strides.
"Ocean what happened? Where's Tash?"
The Sue curled tighter as though trying to melt into the door behind her. "I didn't do anything. I swear, I didn't-"
"We're not stupid," Michael said patiently. "We know you couldn't have done anything. We just want to know what happened."
Slowly, Ocean's head uncurled a fraction. Her eyes were filled with tears, though with the Prohibitor around her wrist, they lacked their depthless Sue charm.
"It was a Stu with white hair. He fought with ice..."
Michael exchanged a dark look with Adrian, and the Librarian chanced moving closer.
"Where are they? What did he do to Tash?"
The Sue hiccupped, her eyes darting between the two men. She seemed to decide that Michael was the less threatening – the Librarian's reputation preceded itself – and she directed her answers to the Chief Agent.
"The man – the Stu – he...he caught her. She told me to run, and I did...I didn't see what happened. I'm sorry..." She curled back up again.
Adrian stood tall, scowling with his fists clenched.
"Michael, get her back to the Library. I'm going after-"
"Out of the question Adrian!" Emily had apparently got around the interference in the fandom. Harriet's voice was clear and firm, with no hint of static. "Both of you get back here with Ocean. We've got Lily on standby for counselling with her. You're not going anywhere until we've worked out where Tash is. Then when we have, we will all go together."
"Harriet –" Adrian began to argue, but the leader cut him off.
"You wouldn't have the first clue where to start looking Adrian, and you know it. Remember what happened the last time you went off on your own?"
"That was different!" the Librarian protested, but Harriet was done arguing about this.
"Adrian, I am your boss. You do as I say. Come back now both of you. That is an order."
Adrian's shoulder sagged in defeat, and he almost pouted...almost. "Yes Harriet..."
"Oh don't be a grumpy puss," it was almost possible to see Harriet grinning. "You know I'm right and Tash will be fine."
And although Adrian would have rather swallowed his communicator than admit it, he did have to agree. After all, he'd think twice about kidnapping someone as annoying as his girlfriend...
The world was hazy...
Sand...golden even against the murky purple of the nights sky...
Everything was burning, leaving a bitter taste in her mouth.
Gold and purple flames flickered...
"Hey I think she's waking up!"
Tash blinked slowly, and found a pair of eyes barely an inch from her own.
The leader scrambled until she felt stone against the back of her head. She was on a sofa, candles flickering off the walls from torch brackets. The room was chilly and her racing heart did not slow down as she saw who her minders were. Confusion quickly gave way to irritation at the one who had been watching her.
"Sweet merciful crap!" she exclaimed. "Don't. DO THAT!"
Passion rubbed his ear.
"Jeeze, you didn't have to yell. I think you deafened me!"
"Well how would you feel if you woke up and found someone staring at you?" Tash barked. She made to rub her chest and realised for the first time that her hands were bound by a thick length of rope. Panic rose as she felt that Nephthys was gone from her neck. The stone against her back was freezing, and she realised that someone had removed her yukata, leaving her in the undershirt and leggings she had worn on her mission.
From the other side of the room, Harmony was giggling softly.
"It was Order's idea to bind you," she put in. "Purity was furious. He gave Order a good telling off for knocking you out."
Bile rose, and Tash felt unbearably filthy. "Wait...was Purity the one who undressed me?"
Passion snorted. "Oh no. He was far too chivalrous to do that! Order was yelling at him that he was only checking for weapons, and Purity started muttering about impure thoughts. So Order made Creation do it."
He nodded to the third Sovereign occupying the room, who was doodling idly in one of her sketchbooks. Seated next to her was Wisdom, crosslegged on a cushion and apparently deep in thought.
"Where the hell am I?" Tash demanded next. Against four Sovereigns she knew she stood no chance, especially unarmed. The most she could do was get information and prayed that she got a moment to gain the upper hand.
"Our temporary base," Harmony explained. Tash braced herself for the touch of Harmony's calming powers, but to her surprise, she didn't feel it.
"Well that tells me nothing," the leader snarked. "Where's Runoa? And Purity for that matter? I expected that creep to be by my bedside."
"Oh he wanted to be," Creation did not look up from her drawings. "But Order insisted they go report to Runoa."
Tash arched a sceptical eyebrow. She could not see her watch under the thick rope bindings, but she knew she must have been unconscious for a good number of hours. "And they're taking so long, because...?"
"Well you see," Passion bounced from foot to foot like a hyperactive child. "Runoa's in her own quarters – looking at her research probably – and gave us orders not to disturb her unless its the end of the world as we know it, or the Librarian is captured or killed...you're not the Librarian, and I'm pretty sure the world isn't ending yet, so Order and Purity can't go into her quarters and disturb her. They've got to wait until she comes out and then they can give their report." He looked thoughtful. "She can be in there for ages when she's making up new plans, so who knows how long they're going to be."
Tash didn't know what was more impressive – the fact that Passion was willingly spilling all this, or the fact that he didn't pause to take a single breath in the course of explaining it.
"And you really think they're just going to wait for her to come out before they tell her I'm here?"
"It's in their best interests," Passion shrugged. "She can do nasty things when you interrupt her plotting sessions...and besides," he pulled a face. "Order's a boring old sod who follows rules to the letter. If Runoa says don't go in there, he won't go in there. He's so lame!"
He pouted and leaned against the stone walls. Harmony, who was nodding quietly in agreement with his statement, cleared her throat and began humming to herself.
"Why hasn't she sensed me and come out?" Tash asked. "I know she can sense when I'm around. She could in Sue Factor," she glanced at Harmony, who paused temporarily to smile.
"Probably because she's not looking for you," Creation suggested. "She's looking for the Librarian. If he were here, she'd sense him a mile away. Your magic is so small you'd probably have to be closer to her than this, and she'd have to be focusing purely on you."
The words were a blow to a childish part of her pride, but Tash tried not to let it show.
"So we're just going to sit here until she feels like coming out...?" she asked.
"Pretty much," Passion grinned.
Harmony's humming stopped abruptly, and the scratching of pencil on Creation's sketchbook vanished. Passion blinked at the prisoner.
"Wait...that's it? You're not scared or angry?" he turned his head to Harmony, who shrugged – she wasn't doing anything to influence such a calm and neutral response. Seeing the confused looks on their faces, Tash decided to elaborate.
"Well I'm kind of used to being kidnapped by now," she admitted. "I mean, Runoa's kidnapped me before, and I used to get snatched quite a bit in my old self insert fics...not as much as Jenny mind, but the bad guys really regretted it each time they kidnapped her..." she tutted and shook her head. "Poor Lord Voldie has never been the same since..."
The look that passed between Creation and Harmony was comical, but it was nothing compared to Passion's face. He opened and closed his mouth goldfish-style apparently lost for words.
"In fact now I think about it," Tash put her best pondering face on. "It's been ages since I've had a proper kidnap. Last time was when Runoa snatched me back in season one, and she was no fun at all. That's two and a half years ago. That's got to be a record since I started writing! Jenny would be ashamed of me! I have to let her know!"
And she dove into her handbag (conveniently positioned next to the sofa), whipped out her phone and began hitting keys as fast as her bound hands would allow. Passion had the common sense to zip to her side just to make sure she was in fact not texting for help. Instead what he saw was Tash slam her thumb onto the Twitter icon, and begin typing a hasty message.
"Got kidnapped again! Well excited! (hashtag)funtimes"
She hit the 'tweet' button, before flopping back against the sofa. Four incredulous gazes were fixed on her. "...what?"
"...you're a terrible prisoner!" Passion declared. "You're supposed to be miserable!"
He turned to Wisdom, who had finally got to his feet. "What's her game, Gramps?"
The oldest Sovereign surveyed the Society leader through wrinkled eyes, and Tash fought the urge to scowl as she remembered all the trouble that Wisdom had given Michael in Minecraft. He studied her like an interesting museum piece, before putting a hand to his chin thoughtfully.
"She doesn't have one, my boy," he eventually declared. "She knows we're not going to kill or hurt her – there'd be no point in kidnapping her if we just wanted her dead. She knows that there is no escape, so she's waiting for a better opportunity...and I suspect she hopes that her carefree attitude to her situation will frustrate us into making a mistake that she could later exploit...or get a good laugh out of."
"Ah Wisdom – or should I call you Keria? Always a voice of reason and truth," Tash said, irony lacing her tone. The Sovereign did not flinch, and the leader shrugged before brightening.
"Y'know I do have a game...there's a copy of Monty Python Fluxx in my handbag."
Passion's eyes went wide. "Wait wait wait...there's a Monty Python version of Fluxx?"
A boyish gleam lit up the Sovereign's eyes.
"Awesome! Let's play!"
Curled up in her seat in the monitor room, Emily felt completely invisible. Everyone rushed here and there behind her, discussing strategies and possible locations where the Sovereign's could have taken Tash. She usually liked sitting quietly and watching the Society work, but not today. Today's circumstances were far from desirable.
Needing something to do with her hands, Emily pulled open her bag and selected one of the sketchbooks. It was bound in brown leather and a small wooden pencil dangled from a frayed bit of string attached to the spine. It was the sketchbook she had taken from Creation when she had encountered the Sovereign and her leader in the Twilight fandom. She had not decided what to do with it yet, so she flipped it open now to examine the pages.
Most of the pages were crisp and fresh. Clearly this sketchbook was not used very often. On the front page there were a few shield bubbles – the ones that had saved her from being crushed by the tree in Twilight. She was not sure yet how the book worked. It seemed to take the drawing and manifest it in a physical form – clearly some of the artists intention had to be put into the magic, otherwise the shield bubbles would probably come out as those tiny bubbles that children blew through plastic wands.
She turned a page and found a beautiful sketch of a lavender bush. Creation's talent was incredible, and Emily's breath was taken away at the sight. It looked as though the flowers would jump out of the page and come to life...maybe they already had, she mused, and somewhere in the multiverse, this beautiful bush was flourishing.
Carefully as though terrified she would damage the precious images, she turned the page and found a sketch of a magpie, its plumage glossy on the paper. This one had been painted, and Emily recognised the detail and effort that had gone into it. On the next page were a few colour swatches that Creation had done to test the mixing of her paints, and on the next page were a series of doodles. Emily could almost imagine a restless Creation jotting these down in a fit of boredom. She did the very same thing herself.
She turned to the next page and her heart seemed to stop beating.
It was an incredible piece of architecture – the archway of a house, grand and imposing like a shadowy guardian of the front door that lay beyond it. The flower beds blossomed in a way she had never seen, and the wall was whole, standing proud and strong in the grasp of the newly laid bricks that had been added to patch the holes that she knew so intimately. Her eyes were drawn back to the archway and she saw the scratches that she had dug into it with a rusty old key. P. T. F.
Sweat building under her arms, Emily tore her eyes away from the image, sudden determination on her mind.
The monitor room was deserted, the screens humming away innocently as the only other occupant. The twelve year old scowled and slammed the book shut. They'd all gone to the emergency meeting without her! She had asked to be there! Huffing she slumped against the chair and began to sulk.
"Why so serious?" a voice giggled, and Emily's bad mood dipped further.
"Go away (a)," she said, vowing to herself for the millionth time to get rid of the annoying Sue. She had successfully removed her from the Manta, now she just needed to upgrade the 'anti-sue' software and have a system wide purge...
"Oh that's not nice," the holoprojectors gave a sigh, and the Sue appeared, twirling a lock of silvery hair around a finger. Her bodysuit had changed slightly, now sporting an 'H' emblazoned on the front – presumably for "Help", though some Society agents had other suggestions for its meaning, such as "Heathen" and "Hussy".
"I'm not nice," Emily grumbled, internally smirking. She had obviously been hanging around with Anna too long if that was her default response.
"They left you out of the meeting," (a) paced the room behind the chair, hand on hip with the other still curling her fringe. "How mean of them. Poor Emily..." she patted the girl on the head before leaning over curiously.
"Ooo! Pretty sketch! Did you do that?"
"No..." Emily shook her head, and wondered how much to tell her. She didn't like the digital Mary-Sue – in fact now that Phoenixia was gone, Emily was her prime target given that she was the one who maintained and managed the computer system. But she was lonely, and still a little irritated that she had not been called into the meeting, so she decided to explain.
"Its Creation's sketchbook," she said, tapping the black and white sketch. "I know this place. I think its Runoa's hideout."
"Really?" (a) asked, sitting on the arm of the chair. "How do you know it?"
"Because I've been there – my sisters and I used to hide there when we needed a break between fandom hopping. It was a pretty weird fandom, so they could practise their powers however they wanted, and not worry too much about getting caught. We never manipulated the fandom outright – we weren't strong enough to manipulate that level of crack by ourselves, so we never got found there."
"Really? What fandom is it?"
"Some part of Monty Python I believe..."
(a) snorted. "Ooo I love Monty Python! It's hilarious! So what makes you think that Runoa's there? Creation could have just seen the place, thought that it was pretty, and drawn it."
"Exactly," Emily grinned, allowing herself to feel triumphant over her deduction. She pointed at the sketch again and began to explain.
"Creation has the power to bring sketches to life – I've seen her do it. She draws them into these books and they come to life. That's her Sue power. But this building..." she pointed to it. "She hasn't just drawn it. She's added things."
She drew the Sue's attention to a part of the picture. "This bit of wall here? It was knocked down when Holly was practising in the courtyard. Creation has drawn it back in. And these flowers? They weren't there when I was last there. And why would Creation go to the trouble of repairing it-"
"Unless they were going to live there!" (a) finished off, grinning. "Wow! You're smart!"
The twelve year old blushed and shrugged. "Nah I'm not. I just steal the sketchbooks of deranged Sues, and like to scratch my initials into keystones..." she jerked her head towards the meeting room. "They're the ones who do the smart stuff...I'm not allowed to join in properly till the entrance exam in March..."
She grumbled as she flipped the sketchbook closed, and (a) smirked to herself. Here was a chance to make mischief that she could just not pass up. She took a deep breath as Emily paused to mumble things under her breath.
"So..." she drew out the word. "Why don't you just go?"
There was a long pause, before Emily registered that the question had been addressed to her. "What?"
"Why don't you just go get her?" (a) repeated.
Eyebrows arching into her hair in disbelief, Emily snorted. "Me? Go get Tash? Are you nuts? They'd never allow it!"
"Who says they have to know?" (a) wriggled her eyebrows, her face the most mischievous of grins.
"Now you're taking the piss," Emily stated firmly, spinning the chair around to get away from the digital woman. The Sue was fast however, spinning the chair back around to face her.
"Come on Emily! It makes sense!" she straightened up, her hands waving as she spoke. "Okay, say that the Society all go rescue her. There's about twenty of them. Hardly subtle is it? They won't know where they're going, where its safe to hide. They'll be found instantly. And the Sovereigns will beat them. You remember the casualties they've inflicted before on their own? This time it would be all of them fighting all of the Society. How many of the agents will get hurt this time? It would cripple the Society forever."
"Now, consider the other option," she leaned in again, and Emily pressed herself into the cushioned backrest. "If you go alone. Just tiny, four foot eleven, easy to hide, you. You land the Manta somewhere safe, and you sneak in. You know the area. You know the house, where to hide and where they will probably be keeping Tash. You get her and you sneak back out. They'll never know you were there."
Tapping the pencil against the spine of the book, Emily pondered. "Maybe...but Harriet –"
"I'll tell Harriet," (a) promised. "And I'll be tracking you every step of the way, so that if anything does go wrong, I can get help."
She leaned back against and smiled. "What do you think is better, Emily? Sending people like Harriet and Michael and Adrian to get Tash and hearing that they died in the attempt, or you going by yourself, taking the stealthy route and getting out again without a scratch?"
Emily was torn. The back of her mind was screaming that she shouldn't trust (a). The Sue had never done them any good ever since she had appeared in Warhammer 40K, and Emily was not stupid. She knew that this was dangerous – after all, her last attempt at a solo mission had not gone well, and she had needed to be rescued by Michael.
But on the other hand, (a) was now a part of the Society help system – Emily had been over her base coding a million times since her reassignment into the Library computers, and she knew that (a) was very much bound by the coding to offer helpful advice and suggestions – surely it could not be that dangerous if the help programme was suggesting it? A small part of her mind was pridefully reminding her that she was only a month shy of thirteen and taking the Society entrance exam. Surely a month couldn't make that much of a difference?
But most importantly, the front of her mind was willing her to do this. It was the part that had hugged Adrian and shed tears when he had come back from the dead. The part that had quietly replaced all of Dave's broken gadgets after the disastrous events of the Captain Scarlet mission. The part that had not wanted to go into Rhia's kitchen after the chef had 'died' for fear that she might find someone else had met the same fate. It was the part that had downloaded Willowe's winning Sue Factor song and played it over and over again until her pillow was soaked with tears.
"I can't lose anyone else. I can't. I don't want to be alone again..."
She swallowed, before standing up and scooping a handful of prohibitors from under the desk. If she was going to go, she would not go unprepared like last time. She would take her best weapons and the safest method of transport she knew. "Please, promise me that you will tell Harriet straight away?"
The Sue nodded. "I promise."
Shouldering her supersoaker and bagging all the gadgets, Emily's eyes landed on one last thing – Creation's sketchbook. She wasn't sure if she should take it – as far as she was aware, it didn't work properly for her. Still...it might prove useful, and against Sovereign's she would need every advantage. The girl chewed her lip for a moment, before scooping it up and hurrying towards the hanger.
Pleased with the results of her mischief, (a) grinned to herself. "Teehee! I'm so clever!"
"...tracking somewhere in this area of fandoms," Harriet looked formidable with her cricket bat and her most determined face. "Stephen, Marcus, I need you to narrow it down and – what (a)? What it is?"
Just because Harriet was zen, did not mean that she liked being interrupted by the tinkling giggle of the Sue. She took three deep breaths again. (a) gave a lazy smirk as the projectors hummed to life and she appeared lounging on the table in front of Dave and Robert in what she obviously thought was a sexy pose.
"Ding dong! The munchkin's gone!" she giggled, sitting upright and stretching.
"What?" Harriet's voice was flat. She had no time for (a) and her silly games, and she was not going to let the Sue wind her up.
"As the Library help system," the Sue flopped onto her stomach, kicking her feet up into the air. The table creaked. "It is my duty to inform you that Emily has taken the Manta for a joyride."
There was a long silence around the table until Harriet's dangerous tone broke it.
"She's gone to rescue Tash from Runoa's secret hideout in the Monty Python fandom," (a) elaborated further.
"Why does she keep saying that?" (a) turned her head to whisper to Dave in confusion. The PR director simply let his forehead connect solidly with the table.
"I play the Resting Parrot!" Tash placed the card in front of her as best she could with her hands still bound.
"He's pining for the fjords!" Passion interjected, causing Harmony and Creation to burst out laughing.
Snickering, Tash laid down another card, this time in the middle of the table. "And I play a new rule – Outrageous Accent!"
Cheers rose around the tiny crowded card table that Creation had drawn to life half an hour ago. The chairs creaked in a manner that was exceptionally familiar and comforting to the five gamers.
"So what's your accent?" Passion asked. The Society leader grinned.
"Foolish fools!" she screeched in her best Abridged Marik voice. "There are no women in Yu-Gi-Oh! There are only extremely girly men! And I am the most girly of them all!"
"Keep telling yourself that," Wisdom rumbled, tossing his long curly beard over his shoulder in the nearest approximation of a hair flip that he could manage. Passion snorted and fell off his chair in hysterics. Right on cue, Tash's phone beeped, and a new tweet flashed across the screen, this time from Jenny, the self proclaimed Hug Monster and Worlds Best Kidnap Victim.
"Haha! Lol! About time you got kidnapped again! Skype later? LandH!"
Quickly as she could while juggling a hand of cards, Tash replied.
"Sure – my rescue party will be here soon. Pity. I'm having lots of fun!"
"My turn! My turn!" Harmony chimed, drawing three cards from the deck and examining them quickly. "And for my fake accent," her voice suddenly became decidedly Scottish. "I think I'll pretend to be David Tennant. So I can play one extra card."
Everyone at the table dissolved into giggles.
"Best kidnapping ever?" Creation poked Tash in the side. The leader wiped tears from her eyes, and when she spoke, her Marik-voice wavered slightly with giggles.
"Almost. I think Jenny bewitching Death Eaters to dance the Macarena still takes the top spot."
Harmony cleared her throat, and began with her accent again. "Speaking of singing and dancing, I play a new rule," she placed the card down on the table. "I Just Want to Sing!"
"Yay!" Passion and Tash cheered in unison.
"So, we sing Monty Python songs and we draw an extra card," Harmony said. "Two if its one we haven't sung before." She cleared her throat and held her hands together in prayer. "Every sperm is sacred. Every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate."
She received a round of applause for her efforts.
"I'm surprised no one else has heard us," Tash commented as Harmony drew another two cards.
"Oh they'll just think we're watching Passion blow something up on a video game," Creation waved a hand dismissively, as Harmony placed two more cards on the table.
"I play The Catapult," Harmony said. "And a new goal – Who Leaps Out?"
There was a long 'ooooo!' from around the table.
"She just needs the Trojan Rabbit!" Passion was bouncing in his seat.
"She ain't gonna get it," Creation stated, taking her cards from the table. "By the way, I'm Australian now." She said, affecting the correct accent, and prompting a round of snickering. "Awww! I drew a Creeper!" She placed the offending card (The Knights Who Say Ni!) on the table next to her and drew another.
"Speaking of knights..." she cleared her throat. "We're Knights of the Round Table, We dance when ere we're able. We do routines and chorus scenes, With footwork impeccable. We dine well here in Camelot we eat ham and jam and spam a lot!"
Everyone applauded once more.
"Seriously guys," Tash said, dropping her accent as Creation continued her go. "We're making enough noise to rival the WARGS in the pub on Saturday. Someone's going to get curious sooner or later."
"Oh they're all spoilsports!" Passion huffed. "Don't worry about them. We're the fun lot!"
"I play, Double Agenda," Creation placed the new rule down. "Grail-Shaped Beacon. And then I play Bring Out Your Dead!"
"That's good," Harmony said. "The deck was getting really thin."
"You don't like the other Sovereigns much, do you?" Tash enquired as they selected the cards that they didn't want and handed them to Creation.
"Oh we don't mind them," Harmony said, and for the first time, Tash could feel the Sovereign's calming presence begin to work its magic. "It's just a general personality clash sometimes. That doesn't mean we don't cooperate and work well together."
"...I see," Tash said, her mind ticking over this. "It's just all you guys seem to do is complain about Order. And you must find Purity creepy..."
"Oh Order just has an entire redwood tree shoved up his arse," Passion declared, causing Creation to snort as she shuffled the deck again. "And Purity's obsessiveness is really irritating."
"And Life is a bit too smug sometimes," Creation put in. "Always acting like she's better than the rest of us...my powers are just as cool as hers!"
"Yes, but despite all this," Harmony had an undercurrent of firmness in her voice. "We still all get along. We're allies in this, and we all respect each other even if we have the occasional issue."
She nodded sharply to Wisdom, indicating that it was his go, but Tash felt herself smiling.
I smell hostility in the ranks, the leader thought to herself. Interesting...
"Always look on the bright side of life..." Wisdom sang, in a surprisingly good voice for a man of his age. The rest of the players immediately began whistling. "Always look on the bright side of life..."
Passion began waving his arms in time to the music, while Creation, Harmony and Tash nodded their heads and sang along.
"When life seems jolly rotten, there's something you've forgotten. And that's to laugh and smile and dance and si-"
The song and dance died abruptly, and the Sovereigns looked instantly guilty. Any joy Tash had had at her situation evaporated as she saw Runoa in the doorway, flanked by a furious Order, and a bemused Purity.
"Uh oh!" How Passion managed to say this with such a cheery smile on his face was beyond Tash. The vocalisation appeared to break whatever spell the newcomers were under, and Runoa's face morphed into a disapproving frown.
"As glad as I am to see that you are all having fun with the prisoner," she did not sound glad in the slightest. "I believe I gave you strict orders to watch her."
"We are watching her!" Creation piped up. "We just...got bored too..." she quailed under the irritated look from her superior.
"It's my game," Tash lifted her bound hands. "My fault."
The former Librarian arched an eyebrow at the assistant. "You know for some reason that does not surprise me..." she remarked dryly.
"What is wrong with you all?" this time it was Order who spoke, his face a mask that barely concealed his anger. "You do not treat prisoners this way! They are not equals! You do not sit down and have games with them!"
"She's fun!" Passion objected. "Which is more than we can say for you."
"This is not a game, Passion – this is war!" as Order spoke, Purity seemed to edge away slightly, and the rest of the Sovereigns all inched backwards from Passion. Tash gulped and hastily began to sweep her cards together. If there was going to be a fight, she did not want to be in the centre of it.
"Passion, just leave it," Harmony's voice was low, but with all the authority that the woman possessed. Passion was in his stride however, and he was not stopping now.
"Oh don't give me that," he huffed at her. "You're all thinking it, I'm just saying it. This war is boring!"
"You are a soldier," Order snapped. "And you will do as you are instructed by your superiors, and not waste time with the lesser beings!"
"Y'know Order, I know a great surgeon who can help remove the blockage from your ass. He's a tree surgeon."
"Enough of this!" Runoa had lost her patience now, and everyone in the room flinched – her anger was like a black cloud. "Order, Purity, put Natasha in my quarters where I can see her. I want a word with the rest of you."
Up until this moment Tash had been determinedly not looking at the ice Sovereign. Now however her eyes snapped towards him as he nodded to his commanding officer, and approached with Order right behind him.
"Over my dead body," she folded her arms as best she could with her wrists tied together.
"Do not tempt me," Order warned, marching to her side and seizing her upper arm. Tash squirmed, but his grip was like iron, so she decided to take the mature and sensible approach...and stamped on his foot. Order yelped, and he squeezed so hard on her arm that Tash thought her bones may shatter. She expected a backhand across the head for her efforts – instead he swept the Fluxx deck from her hands and crushed it to a pulp in his own fist.
Tash gave a wordless squeak of horror, as Order threw the squashed ball of laminated paper away. There was a blur and then the Sovereign's grip vanished from her arm. Order went sprawling across the floor, his head slamming backwards into the stone with a horrific crack as a tight fist broke his nose.
"You bastard!" Passion, one hand around the Sovereign's throat, the other repeatedly ploughing into Order's face, was ablaze with anger. "I WAS ABOUT TO WIN!" Blood was smeared across his knuckles, and he was crushing Order's windpipe so hard that his fist started to turn white.
"Stop the violence!" Harmony wailed. Wisdom was already into the fray, seizing Passion's shoulders and trying to separate the two. Order had regained enough of his senses to start hitting back, but Passion fought savagely, kicking, punching and biting at every bit of Order he could reach. Purity threw his arms around Order and wrestled him back, away from the punch up.
"LET ME GO!" Passion was screaming. "HE DESTROYED THE GAME!" But Wisdom held him firm.
"Control yourself, boy!" Runoa barked, and a strange look of blankness seemed to pass over the faces of every Sovereign. Passion ground his teeth together, but even he fell silent. Pinching the bridge of her nose, Runoa turned to look at Order. Blood was pouring from his nose, and his face was a patchy red, already starting to settle into deep bruising.
"This behaviour is unacceptable!" the former Librarian continued. "You're on the same team! Start acting like it!" she seized the back of Tash's shirt, and hauled her to her side. "You all wait here while I deal with this little upstart!"
But Tash was fed up of being thrown around like an abused teddy bear, and with as much leverage as her bound wrists would allow, she elbowed Runoa hard in the stomach. The grip on her shirt vanished, but something harder collided with the side of her head and she went reeling into the wall, her face ringing from the blow. Order stood beside Runoa, blood still dripping from his nose, fist extended. His loyalty to her seemed to penetrate even his own injury.
"Order! I warned you not to touch her!"
With a crash as his body splintered the card table into matchsticks, Order went down for the second time. But this time it was Purity who pinned him to the floor, both hands squeezing hard around Order's throat, his eyes furious and deadly. Wriggling free of Wisdom's grasp, Passion raced to join in, the two of them beating and kicking Order with all the energy they had.
Harmony was in tears, barely able to support herself in the midst of such a chaotic atmosphere. Creation was nearby, holding her friend and unsure of which way to jump. Wisdom had jumped into the fight again, but he was one man trying to split three people up, and he grunted as stray punches and kicks caught him in the sides. Ice was spreading slowly from Purity's finger tips, down Order's neck and torso, while Passion continued to punch him as hard as he possibly could. The Sovereign's face was nothing more than a bloody mess.
"ENOUGH OF THIS!"
Light flared before magic smothered the room. Tash felt a curious sensation around her neck, before she was forcibly yanked down face first onto the floor. From the thumps and whimpers of pain, the other Sovereign's were experiencing this as well. Runoa stood tall over all of them.
"I did not pick you all up from the ground and put you through Immaculation to watch you fight like children!" she thundered at them.
"He started it!" Passion spat, jerking his head as best he could towards the bloody and bruised Order. Snarling, Runoa snapped her fingers, and the energy in the air began to crackle. White hot pain lanced up Tash's back and seared its way along her limbs, and she screamed with the rest of the Sovereigns – even Immaculation did not protect you from the wrath of the former Librarian.
"Each time you insult each other, you'll all feel that again," the former Librarian hissed. "You all need a lesson in cooperation."
She turned and blinked as she saw that Tash's fingers were still very much active despite the spell now pinning her to the floor. Somehow, she had grabbed her phone and was typing away merrily. Her Twitter feed now lead with the line, "Wow Runoa's handsome when she's angry. See where (a)EmiushereLibrarian gets it from."
The phone was unceremoniously kicked out of her hand, as the former Librarian stalked from the room muttering to herself. "Gods I need a vacation..."
The door slammed shut behind her, leaving the pinned Sovereigns and prisoner behind.
"...well this is just fabulous," Creation drawled sarcastically.
"Yeah, way to go Order, you dipshit."
Passion's less than diplomatic words earned all seven of them another bolt of lightning each. Tash gasped for breath once it was over. Her head was still reeling from the multiple blows to her cranium that day. It was hard to concentrate, but slowly she added head injury, lack of concentration and awareness and nausea up, and eventually came up with possible concussion. She groaned as her stomach rolled again.
"I think I'm going to be sick..." she mumbled.
"Well could you turn your head and do it on the other side please?" Harmony asked, pulling a face. "I don't want to get hit with it..."
"Neither do I!" Passion spluttered on Tash's right. "Can't you just hold it in?"
"Stop talking to the prisoner!" Order cried, straining against his bindings.
"All of you be quiet!" Purity snapped, and the room instantly fell silent. "We have to work a way out of this..." he frowned and concentrated. "Can anyone use their powers to break the spell?"
"Do not be a fool," Order sneered. "Lady Runoa intends to punish us. She would not make it as easy as that for us to escape."
"Well do you have any other bright ideas?" Creation demanded.
"Has she ever..." Tash paused to gather her scattered thoughts. "Punished you guys like this before?"
There was a long silence.
"...no," Harmony answered eventually. "I mean, sometimes we get a slap, but she's never been this mad at us before."
"Yeah, well we've never fought like this before..." Creation pointed out. "Its usually over something stupid like my drawings going wrong, or Passion running around without clothes on-"
"Oh my God, Creation, that was one time!"
"-but no," Creation carried on as if she hadn't heard her friend spluttering. "We don't usually fight. Not enough for it to come to blows."
Tash gave a morose snort. "Yeah I have that effect on people. I usually get people pissed off somehow. It's a talent. Still I guess this is my fault."
"Well," Passion said slowly. "Since Purity was the one who kidnapped you, technically it's his fault."
"Yes that's right," the ice Sovereign hissed. "Blame me for everything."
"I think you will find that it is all Purity's fault," Order interjected, turning his head to look at Tash. "And no, I am not supporting you in any way. It is a simple fact. If he had not let himself become so obsessed-"
"With me?" Tash cut him off bluntly. Nobody corrected her and she let out a frustrated sigh. "Why me? I'm nothing special."
"You choose not to think of yourself that way," Purity corrected. "But you've never looked at yourself. You burn with life."
The leader snorted. "That's the worst come on I've ever heard in my life...not that I have that many to sort through..."
"Ugh, if you're going to start flirting with her gimmie some warning," Passion groaned. "Or I might hurl."
"Well turn your head – then Order will get a face full of it."
"Be quiet Creation! Passion if you even think of vomiting in my face-"
"Guys!" Harmony called. "Stop it or we'll all get zapped again!"
Everyone fell silent for a long time. Occasionally Passion or Creation would squirm, but their bindings had not lessened in any way. Tash sighed and wondered just how long Runoa would leave them like this.
"...Order is right," Passion finally said, finally getting tired of his fruitless wriggling. "You have been obsessed Purity. From the moment you went to Final Fantasy X, you haven't stopped banging on about it."
Tash groaned. This was not what she wanted to hear. Apparently, Purity shared this sentiment.
"Shut up Passion."
"I mean seriously!" there was no shutting Passion up now. "You'd think you'd just got shot down for junior prom or something! You were a right mopey bastard when you came back!"
"Yeah..." Creation was nodding. "And you wouldn't stop talking about it! What was it you kept saying?"
Passion adopted a falsetto. "'It was like standing by a volcano after months of living on a glacier'." He gave a snort. "Seriously? Who talks like that? And you got all that from just touching her hand on the pier?"
"Yes! Yes I did!" Purity finally exploded. "Sometimes a single touch is all it takes to fall for someone!"
"You're not in love with her Purity."
The statement was spoken so firmly that in a conversation of shouting it sounded completely out of place. Everyone swivelled their heads around to stare at Harmony, who blinked back with a cool, unyielding look.
Unsurprisingly, Purity was quick to challenge her.
"How dare you!" he snapped. "What gives you the right to speak of my feelings?"
"Two reasons," Harmony explained. "One, I know who you used to be before you became one of us Purity. And I know that its physically impossible for you to feel desire or lust of any form-"
"Harmony..." Purity was growling, a feral look appearing in his eyes. It was the most emotion Tash had even seen on his face before, and her curiosity began jumping up and down in the back of her head like an excited child.
"Second," Harmony carried on. "You forget what my power is. I can sense what you're feeling, and its not love in any way."
"Shut up," the ice Sovereign hissed, but Harmony ploughed on regardless.
"Its more like a craving – since its not possible for it to be emotionally motivated in you, I'm guessing its more chemical – an addiction that your body can't shake. But because you've never felt anything like it before, you've mistakenly interpreted that as something you can understand – love."
Everyone else just blinked at her in confusion, save for Purity, who looked downright murderous, and Wisdom, who gave a soft 'aaah...' of understanding.
"I see," the elderly Sovereign said. "Just like a drug addict craves his next dose, Purity craves warmth and life again..."
"Again?" confused, Tash craned her neck to look at the ice Sovereign. "He looks pretty alive to me..."
"Shut up!" Order hissed. "We do not talk of our time before Sovereigns. We serve Lady Runoa and nothing else matters!"
There was a long silence, and then Passion muttered under his breath in a bout of petulance.
"You shut up."
The Manta's cloaking device was basic, but it did the job, for which Emily was grateful. She did not want anyone stopping her, and she would need all the stealth she could muster to get close enough to the house.
The house was located on the edge of a massive sheer cliff that dropped as far as the eye could see. It was just barren and ominous as Emily remembered, and she steered the ship carefully in the right direction. Her bag with her sketchbooks in slid across the floor with the movement, but she ignored it, focusing on the environment. She didn't want to drive off course – given the nature of this fandom, she could literally run into anything if she was really unlucky.
In the distance a speck of grey grew out of the barren cliff face, and she fidgeted in her seat. Now she was almost there she realised she'd need a plan to get Tash out...she knew the entire area like the back of her hand, and she could start guessing where the Assistant Librarian may be, but first she'd need a place to touch the ship down and leave it – a decent distance from the house, but close enough that they would not have far to run...
The speck that was the house wandered out of her vision, and she realised that she was letting the ship drift in the air currents. She banked into a hard right, and heard her bag slide around the floor again.
Something beeped, and she frowned. The ship was not supposed to be doing that. She tried to bring up the source on her small monitor screen, but before she could, the screen faded to dark. Feeling the early signs of panic, Emily hit a few buttons in an attempt to bypass the batteries and take power from the engines. But the screen remained blank, and to her horror, the comforting sounds of the engines died to a low hum, before switching off sharply.
The bottom dropped out of Emily's stomach. Either there was some kind of force field that automatically powered the entire ship down outside, or...
Her head snapped to where her bag lay innocently on the floor. Behind it, a single button flashed red, the glow just visible behind the cloth.
"Oh no!" It was all Emily could think to say. Of all buttons in the ship, why had her bag had to hit the Emergency Water Landing button?
"That button," Tash's face had darkened as she had explained it to Emily. "The second time I took this ship into a fight, Kiara managed to land on it. The next time I was in a fight, I had the button moved to the ceiling, but I had to flip the ship, and Jenny landed on it instead. The time after that, I moved it to the wall, someone walked into it. No matter where I move it, someone manages to press it. I wouldn't touch it Emily. In fact you're better off just avoiding that side of the cockpit if you ask me. I swear its cursed."
The vertigo settled in and Emily glanced out of the window and found that their serene glide had turned into a deadly fast plummet, straight for the house. Screaming she dove under the monitor and covered her arms over her head. With no water to cushion the landing, this was not going to be pleasant.
Having her head pressed into the floor by an unseen magical force was not helping Tash's headache any – it pounded from all sides where she had been smacked and knocked out repeatedly throughout the day, but she didn't think she had a serious concussion – at least not so badly she wasn't able to think anymore. The other Sovereigns had fallen silent – there wasn't much they could really say after Harmony's declaration. Order and Purity were silently seething (for completely different reasons) in the background, while Harmony had resumed her humming (it sounded like Camptown Races). Passion, Wisdom and Creation seemed content to sit in a contemplative silence, though Wisdom occasionally shifted to click his aging joints.
Tash for her own part was sitting in the contemplative camp, but her mind was nowhere near as calm as the other two looked. Instead it was racing.
"Harmony said Purity doesn't feel anything for me...that he's just addicted...but how do I know that for sure...?" she twisted her head as best she could to catch a glimpse of the ice Sovereign. He was scowling up at the ceiling, pausing occasionally to shoot Harmony a glare. It made Tash shiver, but Harmony appeared oblivious, her humming never breaking for an instant.
"He's so creepy..." Tash thought. "Gods know he'd be creepy enough without this apparent fixation he's got on me...but then he was creepy even before I knew about it – back on the Highbridge in Bevelle. And when he came after us in Macalania Woods he certainly seemed serious..."
She paused as her mind stalled suddenly, wrapping itself in the blanked of objectiveness that enabled her to be a good media critic, later pruned in her editorial classes at university – one that allowed her to study the situation logically and honestly.
"Or was that just how I interpreted it? I mean, I know that I'm paranoid – not that I don't have a damn good reason for it..." Unbidden she felt her eyes close and dark images pulse into life behind her eyelids. She scowled and shook them off. "Maybe it wasn't just Purity assuming how he felt. Maybe I automatically assumed the worst about him. It never occurred to me that maybe he was just addicted to heat and warmth like Wisdom said..."
Her mind stalled again, throwing off the objective cloak and dancing around in the wake of the revelation. "My magic! By Isis I'm thick! He even said it in the woods! He'd never felt warmth – I was channelling magic all around my body on the Highbridge to keep me warm! He's never wanted me at all – just my magic for his next hit of heat! My paranoia made the whole attraction thing up in my head!"
She almost laughed aloud in relief, and she jumped instead when Order finally got irritated with the humming.
"Would you please stop that, Harmony? It is highly grating."
Sighing, Harmony went quiet. "As you wish."
"Man I hope my rescue comes soon..." Tash thought hopefully. "It was fun at first, but without Jen and Kiara around, I just get bored of being kidnapped so quickly." She sighed. "Maybe now that Purity has had enough character development, Runoa will come back and let us off the floor..."
It seemed that the Gods of Contrived Coincidence saw fit to grant this prayer, as the door opened again and Runoa appeared once more. For a moment she paused, as though wondering what her Sovereigns were all doing laying on the floor with the prisoner. Then she seemed to remember. Rolling her eyes, she snapped her fingers, and the magic dispelled. One by one, the Sovereigns got to their feet, eyes downcast, shuffling nervously. None of them dared look at each other.
"Interesting," Tash thought. "For all their irritation at being punished earlier, they're completely obedient to Runoa now, and they're not even trying to fight back. Just what hold does she have over them-ACK!"
The last thought was loudly vocalised, as Runoa grabbed her by the hair again and threw her to Purity. For a moment, Tash stiffened in his grasp, before she saw caught sight of Harmony out of the corner of her eye, and remembered what she had said. She instantly felt better, and her smirk returned in a flash as Runoa ordered Purity to dump her in her quarters. With a cheery smile on her face, Tash waved as best she could with her bound hands to the other Sovereigns, and as the trio marched down the corridor, she hummed Rick Astley under her breath as loud as she dared, barely stopping herself from giggling as Runoa's frustrated scowl became deeper and deeper.
Tash had just reached the end of the second chorus, when Runoa turned down the corridor and unlocked the door on the immediate right. The singing stopped and Runoa glanced over her shoulder to give her prisoner a dark sneer.
Tash burst into a giggle fit.
Purity, still holding her in a firm grasp to prevent escape, lifted two worried eyebrows.
"Umm...Lady Runoa...I think the repeated blows to her head have knocked her silly..."
"Don't be stupid Purity," Runoa rolled her eyes. "She's deliberately trying to provoke us." She caught sight of Tash's surprised look and snorted. "Oh don't look so shocked, dear. I've been in the Vault of Abandoned Ideas. I've read your little self insert fics from yesteryear. I know that this is your usual modus operandi with kidnapping."
"Thoth's graces! She has a brain!" Tash cheered, as Purity pulled her into the room after Runoa.
It was flanked with bookshelves, and reminded her strongly of the Library Arcanium, only without the distant sense of magic and intelligence that emanated from the walls of the real deal. Tash couldn't help but be impressed regardless. Clearly Runoa took her research seriously.
"Toss her in the corner," Runoa ordered, waving a hand casually at the aforementioned location.
"Can I sit on the purple one?" Tash asked. "Orange clashes with my skin – eeek!"
She was tossed unceremoniously onto the orange sofa, accidently biting down on her lip. She sucked on it for a while as Purity stood guard at the door like a royal sentry. Runoa flicked on a light and went back to her research pouring over her desk in a manner that bordered on obsessive. It practically screamed to be interrupted, and the Society leader was only too happy to oblige.
"Okay so as getting to know the future inlaw goes," Tash finally decided to break the silence. "I'm going to rank this at four out of ten."
"Silence," Runoa did not look up from her book.
"Oh I'm sorry," Tash gave a mocking half bow from her position, half hunched on the sofa. "You're right. Inlaw is a bit generous of me, isn't it? I mean being a mother usually implies that you actually gave a shit about your offspring."
She did not miss the way Purity stiffened, and she smirked. It seemed she had hit a nerve, and she knew just how to poke it some more.
"I mean one would think that it wouldn't be hard – I mean over half the women on the planet manage to do it, and yeah, I'm sure its challenging, but if half the normal, non-sueish women in the multiverse manage to raise a child well, then one would think that it would be well within the grasp of the Lieutenant Mary-Sue. But I guess you're not as all powerful as you'd like us to believe-"
For the third time that day, Tash's head went flying, sending her slumping against the cushions breathing heavily. Vision swimming, she twisted her head around and smirked – she had got the reaction she wanted. Runoa may not give a shit about her son, but she did care about her pride. And being reminded that even with all the power in the world there was something she could not achieve clearly made her seethe.
The fuming Sue raised her hand again, but before she could bring it down, a strange noise fell into hearing range. Frowning, Runoa turned her head towards it, and Purity tensed in readiness for whatever threat was incoming. It was a noise that Tash had only ever heard a handful of times before, on the World War Two videos that they had played in school about the blitz and the Battle of Britain.
For the first time ever, she saw Runoa pale, until she was almost as white as Purity.
Purity's cry was seconded not a minute later by the monumental crash that ripped through the entire building. The very foundations shook and dust billowed into the air, prickling at their eyes and smothering every breath. Bricks, cement and roof beams tumbled into the room, slamming into furniture and soft bodies without mercy, and the lights went out plunging the chaos into darkness.
Tash curled on the sofa, her arms over her head as brick and stone rained down on her side. She could barely draw breath, and she felt something hard slam down on her foot. The noise was terrible and she could only imagine what had caused such a disaster. There was a shriek of metal grating and tearing in ways that it was never meant to, and a frightful shudder as the corridor wall gave way, sending another explosion of brick into the room. Something creaked and then everything fell silent.
Coughing, Tash slowly peered through the gloom. Dust swirled through the air, and she yelped as her head collided with something solid – one of the giant bookcases had crashed onto the sofa forming something of a shield between her and one of the collapsed roof beams. Sending a quick prayer to whatever deity was kind enough to watch over her, Tash pushed herself down the sofa. Pain radiated up her body, and she barely repressed a scream. Her foot had not missed the bookshelf entirely, and it was wedged between the cushion and the deadweight of the heavy oak. With a few grunts and wriggles, she managed to squeeze it out of the gap, and she turned it gently. It hurt, but she pushed it aside. Her ankle would get over it. This was her opportunity, and she had to get out.
Squeezing out from underneath the bookshelf, she tried to find the door. The entire corridor entrance seemed to have caved in, and she did not fancy her chances through the twisted mess of brick and roof beams. The east facing wall was half standing, with a gap large enough to get through. Squinting upwards, Tash tried to make out whatever it was that had caused such devastation, but the dust floated through the air like a serene fog, and she ignored it in favour of the exit.
Barely scratched, Purity dropped the bubble of ice around his body, cursing himself for not getting to Runoa faster. The dust in the air made gathering water difficult, but he finally managed to pull enough of it to slash his way through the rubble. He knew that Tash had just picked her way out of the east wall and into the corridor beyond, but he did not care. She would not get very far on a bad ankle, and his first priority was always to Runoa, no matter how concerned he was about the prisoner.
Runoa lay, barely coherent, her lower body trapped beneath a heavy looking roof beam, along with what looked like most of the roof tiles on her head. Scrabbling furiously at the bricks, Purity finally unearthed her. Her black hair was almost grey with dust, and she stirred slowly as he set about freeing her.
"Don't bother," she hissed. Already Purity could see her pulling her magic together in an attempt to heal herself. "Get after that bitch. The Society won't be far away, and I will not lose my bargaining chip now!"
Obediently, Purity was back on his feet, and striding through the rubble with a determined look on his face. His instructions were plain, and he would not fail at keeping his Phoenix this time.
Trembling, Emily uncurled her head a fraction.
The ship was dark, and she could just about see the back of the cockpit through the gloom. The console had lurched forwards in the impact and the chairs were gone, their bolts snapped clean of the floor. She gulped as she realised just how close she had come to being crushed – there was barely a foot of space through which she could wriggle out feet first. In retrospect, not the best place to hide during a crash...
As she got to her feet, clinging to the twisted console, her fingers slipped over small fragments of glass that had come free from the lamination. The floor was covered in dust and bricks – she had taken a good portion of the house down in her 'landing'. The windscreen had been crushed to half its usual size from the impact, and through it she could see another wall panelled in greyish blue and gold, and the flagstone covered in dust and debris.
"The old dining hall," she realised. "So I'm near the front of the house..."
"...that doesn't look like a bird to me, Order."
"Oh do shut up!" came the terse response.
Emily went cold, and she ducked down again behind the console, as a dark shadow leaped onto the crushed front of the ship with a thunk. Cowering in her hiding place, Emily held her breath as Order darted gracefully through the shattered windscreen. He did not even need to scan the room, his steely eyes turning to fix on Emily immediately. The twelve year old barely repressed a gasp – his face was bloody and bruised an ugly shade of dark purple.
"Foxblade," he greeted coolly. "I am the Sovereign Order. Now you will di-"
There was a bang like a gunshot, and something small and yellow burst out of a compartment in the wall, slamming in to the side of Order's thoroughly abused head. The Sovereign plunged to the ground like a sack of sand, and the ball of yellow rubber unfolded as it automatically inflated on his back with a gentle hissing sound.
Emily looked at the unconscious Sovereign, the dinghy sitting innocently on top of him, and the Emergency Water Landing button which still blinked obliviously in the corner of the room.
If the Society had been in total chaos before, now it resembled all the levels of hell merged with the sheer insanity of a Twilight convention.
Harriet could handle Tash being kidnapped – she knew Tash was more of a curse than an asset to any villain in possession of half a brain or a decent amount of sanity left. But Emily was another matter entirely. Emily was her adoptive daughter, and unlike Tash, did not have any experience in pissing off a kidnapper – though after she passed her test, Harriet knew she would definitely be sending Emily off to train with Jenny, the Worlds Best Kidnap Victim in the art of harassing villains (after she was done being grounded of course).
And so Harriet paced about the Monitor room. She had drunk five cups of different flavoured tea in the last hour, and she was still not calm in the least. She had the boys working flat out to find her daughter, but to no avail. She had even bribed (a) with access to the NC-17 section (apparently she found badly written sex to be hilarious) in exchange for her help. But there was no sign of Emily or the Manta anywhere in the Monty Python fandom. She could only assume that the sheer amount of crack in the fandom made looking for one specific signal like searching for a lone contact lens in a field of long grass.
"No wonder Willowe's sisters managed to hide here without us finding them," Harriet thought to herself, remembering (a)'s brief explanation from earlier. "It's like wading through a swimming pool of treacle to find the regular sized sponge pudding in the middle."
She growled as another section of the fandom came back with a negative noise – (a) had 'helpfully' changed the alerts to gameshow sound effects, complete with a large red 'X' on screen just in case anyone got confused.
"(a) would you please stop that?" she demanded. A tinkering laugh was her only response.
"But it's funny!"
The long suffering Stephen and Marcus both twitched as though fighting the urge to hurl their chairs at the screen.
"This is ridiculous," Stephen muttered. "We'd be faster just to enter the fandom and find them that way."
"Nobody is entering that fandom until we at least know that we are jumping into the right area code!" Harriet said firmly. "Now stop complaining and get on with scanning!"
"Uh oh..." (a)'s voice appeared once more, no longer chirrupy and innocent. "I just lost my feed from the Manta-"
"YOU HAD A FEED ALL ALONG?" Michael exploded, while Adrian looked ready to reach into the computer and strangle (a) himself.
"Yes..." (a) said, her voice turning innocent again. "What? You asked me to clear all scanners to the Monty Python fandom and begin scanning the fandom for any anomalous activity. You never asked me if I knew where the Manta was."
She gave a mischievous giggle, which was broken by a stream of static as Harriet held one of the microphones right up against a speaker.
"Listen, you Trojan on steroids," Harriet's voice was low and level but with a deadly edge. "My best friend has been kidnapped by our arch nemesis, and my daughter has just vanished without so much as a text message – and no, the fact that she vanished off in several tonnes of armed spaceship does not comfort me in the least. So you have two minutes to find where that ship was before you lost the feed, or so help me, I will find every copy of you in the multiverse AND LOCK YOU IN AN INHERITANCE CYCLE FORUM!"
"...yes Harriet." (a) squeaked before running off to do her job.
Checking that the final prohibitor was secure, Emily seized Order by the armpits and hauled him towards the console. To her tiny four foot eleven frame, he weighed a tonne, and as his feet dragged across the floor the prohibitor's on each ankle rattled.
Emily wasn't sure that the prohibitors would do anything – after all, they'd attached one to Death's neck and he's broken it off like it was made of chocolate. However, Emily knew that four prohibitors (or "The Willowe Method" as it was becoming known to the Society) had been effective at containing her sister, and she had been far more powerful than Order. Despite this thought, Emily had to admit her effort was probably futile. Runoa had been successful at getting the prohibitors off of Willowe before the battle of the Library, and whatever method she had employed would probably work again. Emily promised herself that if she made it out of this alive, she'd find out how Runoa had done it and get to work on upgrading the prohibitors somehow.
"...do you think he's alright up there, or do you think his ego got wedged in a door?"
Sweat building on her forehead, she strained to pull Order's heavily built frame up the console and to the broken window. Her grip slipped and his head clunked against the controls. She winced. He was going to have some very decorative bruises to add to his collection by the time she was done. Heaving again, she draped him over the metal frame that usually held the glass of the windscreen, turned around, and began to push him over with her legs. He rolled over once, before gravity began to take over and he slid majestically down the twisted front of the ship.
"Look out below!" Emily had the thoughtfulness to call out. Clearly however she was too late, as there was a loud thump from below.
"Eww! Order's butt is in my face!"
"Yeah that's what she said..."
Unable to suppress a giggle, Emily slipped back into the cockpit and located her treacherous bag by the Emergency Water Landing button. She swung it over her shoulder, and carefully picked her way over to the cupboard at the back of the cockpit, where she knew Tash kept rope for emergencies.
"Hey...I know he's our comrade, and we should be helping him...but does anyone else want to...take advantage of his unconscious state?"
"...what did you have in mind Pash?"
"Well...Creation, do you have your sharpies on you by any chance?"
Tash grumbled – the last time she had hurt her ankle had been thirteen years ago at school, on the climbing frame. She had sprained it badly and it had hurt like hell for weeks. This injury was not as bad – she might have pulled the muscles slightly from where the bookcase had caught it and twisted – but it still hurt. She was trying not to hobble – she remembered the constant nagging from the teachers to walk properly to keep the muscles strong and used to the movement while it healed – but it was making her progress very slow. She wished she had her first aid kit, but it was in her handbag. She also wished that she could flashstep, but on a damaged ankle, it would do more harm than good – she might flashstep into a wall, and she had had enough blows to the head for one day, thank you very much.
The vehicle that had crashed into the house was huge, and now sat wedged through the building like a knife in a block of cheese. She could hear sparks spitting from within, and she knew it was probably damaged beyond immediate repair. As she rounded the corner of the corridor, she came across the underside of the vehicle, poorly propped up by the remains of a wall. Her eyes locked onto the scratched paintwork, the familiar contours, and the badly damaged registration number printed to the hull.
She went nuclear.
"Oooh! Someone is getting such a spanking!" she seethed, her anger cooling as she made to stride down the corridor and remembered too late that her ankle was hurting. She scowled as she continued to limp. She did not get very far, as her good foot came down quickly on the floor to take the weight off her bad ankle, and slipped wildly. She flailed and went down with a thump, cold dampness sending goosebumps up along her bare arms.
"Hmm...I haven't been pressed up against this much ice since Adrian took me ice skating," a completely wicked grin curled at her lips momentarily before she caught sight of Purity at the end of the corridor, his hand flat on the floor which had been covered in a sheet of ice that shone like a well polished mirror.
"Did you really think that we would just let you slip out that easily?" the ice Sovereign snapped.
"...well yeah, actually, I kinda did," Tash admitted, crawling carefully back to her feet. Purity was advancing down the corridor, apparently completely unperturbed by the ice on the floor. A roof beam creaked above their heads, and the Manta lurched downwards as the wood splintered and snapped. Tash had just enough time to fling herself off the ice and onto the dusty, dirt covered floor as a fresh avalanche of bricks and debris poured into the corridor.
"My baby's gonna need one hell of a maintenance job once I get out of here..." Tash thought, gulping as Purity emerged from the cloud of dust. Tash gulped at the menacing look on his face – she guessed that he was furious that she repeatedly defied him. A glimmer of red and silver caught her eye, and her gaze snapped to his throat.
Nephthys was around his neck.
She clenched her fist in the dirt.
"You're a lie, Purity!" she sneered. "You're not pure. Look at you! You serve a bitch who's completely friggin nuts, and you've got an addiction to somebody's magi-"
"I'm not addicted!" the Sovereign roared.
"A sentiment expressed by many a junkie," Tash snorted. Fists clenched, she got to her feet again. Her ankle screamed, but she took no notice of it. Purity was almost upon her now, but it did not matter anymore. "You know Harmony was right – you just tried to fit me into your own fantas-OW!"
She had not expected him to get violent, but the truth of the situation only seemed to make him easier to anger. A hand shot out and seized her by the throat, slamming her back into the wall. Nephthys dangled tauntingly from his neck.
"Do you even know why my name is Purity?"
"Because your parents worked for Evian?"
Cold fingers dug into her skin and the familiar sensation of head being sucked away flowed.
"Because I purify things!" he hissed. "That's my nature! And you have a lot of sin to be cleaned!"
Her fist swung, releasing the handful of dirt tightly clenched within. It exploded into Purity's face and he stumbled backwards, releasing her with a splutter. His eyes were streaming, and as he rubbed at them Tash made a lunge for him, fingers scrabbling, scratching and finally clasping tightly around Nephthys. Flames burst outwards, sending the Sovereign sprawling into a heap. By the time he wiped his eyes enough to look up, Tash stood tall, Nephthys flaring like a torch in one hand, flaming wings protruding from her back.
"Ha!" the Society leader looked smug. "And who says you should never taunt your kidnappers?"
Her answer was a pillar of ice, tipped to a deadly point at the end, shooting out from the crater where the Sovereign had landed, aiming straight for her heart. Tash spun right, missing it by an inch and barely ducking in time to avoid the second one. Pushing up on her good leg, her wings heaved and she shot up into the spider web of broken wood and crumbled flooring. She landed on a sagging roof beam, which creaked under her weight.
Purity was back on his feet, glaring up at the fractured ceiling. Just for extra childishness, Tash pulled her left eyelid down and stuck her tongue out. The air around Purity seemed to shimmer, solidifying into hundreds of slivers of ice, which rocketed towards her. Jumping once more, Tash landed badly on a half standing wall, staggering and sending another shower of bricks down. Two stories above her, sunlight blinked innocently through the giant hole in the roof.
Purity seemed to guess what she was thinking however, as a sheet of thick ice cocooned the entire area, preventing outside escape.
"Aww that's not fair. I don't like to fight inside – too many books on these shelves that might get burned," Tash pouted, yelping as another pillar of ice appeared out of the wall behind her and knocked her off her perch. Her wings snagged wood and broken brick as they went down, and she yelped, trying to pull them in. Something cold and solid caught her in mid fall, spreading quickly up her legs. A second icy platform was beneath her, its grasp tight on her legs as the ice trickled up her torso and over her shoulders.
"Your fire gives you passion, and its that passion that leads to your mistakes," the Sovereign said, lowering the platform of ice to his eyelevel. Tash gave a smirk as the ice covered her face, and her body glowed a soft red as its only warning, before the ice hissed and exploded outwards. The shrapnel caught its wielder and pinned the bloody mess to the wall.
Tash shook the remaining ice shards out of her hair.
"I thought I saw a Twilight book," she said innocently. "I went a little crazy-"
The smart quips vanished, as slowly the ice began to melt. Purity was glowing a blinding white, sinking to the floor in a crouch like a miniature sun. Two sharp cracks of bone twisting and shaping itself into a natural position were followed by a gentle swishing sound of something soft on the wind. Tash rubbed her eyes against the glare, and opened them wide as the glow died and she recognised the shape of strong powerful wings appearing from the Sovereign's back.
The blasphemy stopped short at the murderous glare Purity gave her. White feathers brushed the wall as his wings flared into their most impressive stance. Even knowing that he was unconsciously trying to make himself look more intimidating did not stop Tash's stomach from dropping. His wingspan was far bigger than hers.
"Surprised?" the Sovereign asked. "I only let certain people see my true form."
The shock was settling in, and Tash found comfort in her sharp wit instead of her sharp pointy sword. "Surprised? Yes. Impressed? Hell no. In fact, this explains a lot of your self-righteous attitude." Grinning as she saw the look of barely concealed fury on his face, Tash gave a laugh. "You thought I'd be scared? Feel out of my league? Please! I don't care if you're an angel, demon or fucking Santa Clause! I'm not Christian in any sense, so if you were hoping I'd start bowing to one of God's messengers, you're sadly mistaken."
There was a roar of anger, and a tidal wave of ice crashed into the Society leader, smothering her into the ground. Ice poured its way over Tash's face and into her mouth, stifling her screams.
Wind howling...sand burning...night purple against the golden horizon...
Flames erupted through the ice, leaving a gasping leader in their wake. Tash's clothes were smouldering, but she paid it no mind. Something white flickered in her vision and she saw snow drifting gently above her head.
Purity smirked and the flakes lengthened into needle-like points. Tash yelped and a fireball whipped into existence around her as the needles struck, evaporating on the surface before they could penetrate. As the flames dispelled, Purity launched himself down the corridor, wings propelling him faster than Tash could follow.
The punch connected solidly with her abdomen, but there was no yelp of pain, or skidding back into the wall – to Purity's surprise, Tash's stomach seemed to roll in on itself, moving the force of the blow out of her abdomen and outwards again. She did not move an inch from her spot, rather she grunted, and gritted her teeth, as the Sovereign just stared stupidly at his outstretched fist.
"Oh, puh-lease!" Tash sounded a bit breathless, but still managed to look condescending as she pulled back her own fist and smacked him solidly across the face. He staggered backwards into the crumbling wall, which gave under his weight and sent him toppling backwards into the next room. He landed with a loud thump.
Rubbing her stomach gently, Tash flexed and rolled the muscles again to ease the ache. "And that children, is why we don't punch belly dancers in the stomach."
Gently and gingerly, she hurried as fast as she dared down the corridor, to where she was sure she would find the front of her ship, and the cause of all this trouble.
Emily had to admit, in all her plans of rescuing Tash, she hadn't quite factored in what would happen if she ran into the Sovereigns...much less what would happen if she ran into four of them...well, three at the moment – Creation had run off to her room (fortunately located on the side of the house that was still standing) to get her sharpies, which left Passion, Wisdom and Harmony standing over Order's unconscious body.
They got bored of that though, when Emily dropped onto the floor. She had planned on making a sneaky exit around the back of the ship, but no sooner had she touched down, when Passion leaped to her side, so fast that he was just a blur. Emily wrinkled her nose – he stank of Red Bull.
"Hey! I know you!" Passion was positively hyper now. "You're Emily! Kitsune272 right?"
Inside Emily groaned. Of course, if Passion were going to know her at all it would be by her Minecraft username...
"Wow, you're short!" Passion said, bouncing in a circle around her. "But really cute! Harmony! Isn't she cute?" He poked her in the side of the head, and Emily wondered for a second if she'd landed in the right house after all.
Harmony gasped. "Oh she so is! And she looks so much like Willowe – I mean her hair's more brown than red, and its shorter, and their eyes are different colours, but other than that –"
"Umm...thanks?" Emily didn't quite know what to say, so she shook her head and settled on the reason she had come here. "Umm...do you guys know where Tash is?"
Hey, it couldn't hurt to ask...
"Oh yeah, she was in with Runoa and Purity. We were waiting for them when you crashed through the roof – hey..." Passion's eyes suddenly narrowed. "Did you do that to Order?" He jabbed a finger at the unconscious body, who's hands had been artfully rearranged into embarrassing positions by his comrades.
For a moment, Emily contemplated lying, but then she remembered who she was in the presence of, and realised that even if she could magically fool Harmony, there was no way Passion – an experience gamer – would fall for a bluff. So instead she shuffled awkwardly. "Umm...yeah that was me..."
She squeaked as Passion engulfed her in a hug.
"Awesome!" he shouted, picking her off the floor. "You are my new best friend!"
"Hey! Passion! I thought I was your best friend!" Creation had reappeared in the doorway with a blue pencil case in hand. Her eyes widened as she saw Emily, and the girl gulped.
"My sketchbook!" Creation cried, sprinting across the room, waving her pencil case like a baton. Emily realised that her bag was still unzipped and the sketchbook was stuffed with one end sticking out of the top. Quickly she pulled it out.
"Oh yeah...I guess I'd better return it to you-EEK!"
For the second time today, she was swept into a hug by a Sovereign.
"You brought my sketchbook back to me!" Creation had tears of joy in her eyes. "I thought I'd lost it forever! Thank you!"
She cradled it in her arms like a lost child, before frowning.
"But I don't have anything to give you in return..." she pouted. Her eyes wandered up and down Emily before she snapped her fingers. "Oh wait! Yes I do!"
And she flipped open the book and began to draw. Carefully so as not to disturb her, Passion slipped the pencil case out of her hands, pulled out a handful of sharpies, gave half to Harmony, and marched back to Order, uncapping the pen with a look of sadistic glee on his face. Wisdom just surveyed the scene with an odd smile on his face, looking for all the world like an amused grandfather watching the antics of his enthusiastic grandchildren.
Creation didn't take long – her hands flew across the page at lightning speed, before she rummaged in her pockets, pulled out a handful of colours and began to shade in hasty blocks of colour. When she was done, the sketchbook glowed softly, and Emily screwed up her eyes in fear, wishing she could vanish back into the Manta again.
"Tada! Open your eyes!"
Cautiously, Emily peeked open one eye, expecting to see a cage, or something nasty pointed at her head...she found none of those things, and it took her a moment to realise just what Creation had done. She still wore her black jeans and long blue t-shirt, but over the top of both of them was a smart black waistcoat with blue pinstripes. It fitted like a glove, and as she touched it she almost crooned – she knew very little about clothes and quality, but she knew that this was very fine silk.
"You look fabulous!" Creation clapped her hands. "Doesn't she look fabulous guys?"
Passion looked up from where he was doodling on Order's nose, and beamed. "Yeah! Waistcoats look good on you!" he uncapped another pen and threw a green one to Creation. "Hey, wanna come help us draw on Order's face?"
Deciding that the day couldn't possibly get any weirder, Emily gave in to the smile that had been creeping up her face, and decided to just go with it – after all, how many times did you get the chance to draw on your enemy's faces? "Sure!"
She had barely taken two steps when the door from the corridor exploded inwards – already weak from the impact of the spaceship, it slammed against the wall, and toppled over onto the floor with a deafening crash. Through the din, a voice bellowed.
Emily winced. For some reason Foxblade sounded a lot more naughty and in deep trouble than Smith ever had when screamed from someone's lips. She knew this was coming. Tash wouldn't be happy that she had come to rescue her. Or even mad that she'd taken such an insane risk by leaving the Library by herself. No, this was Tash. And her primary concern would always be –
"WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE TO MY SHIP?" the Society leader stormed into the room, her eyes furious.
"Umm..." Emily shrank against the hull. "...landed it?"
"...you call this landing?"
The Assistant Librarian waved a hand at her grounded vessel, which helpfully chose this moment to spit sparks from its left wing. Inside the cockpit, the lights flickered feebly before giving up again.
"Well...it's not flying anymore. It's stationary and...it's on the ground..." For the millionth time, Emily wondered if coming to rescue Tash by herself had been a good idea after all.
Tash rubbed her temples, and Emily could see the leader mentally counting to ten.
"Please at least tell me that you had the foresight to bring the fandom key?"
"Umm...its in the glovebox."
"Well go get it, please!" Tash said, waving a hand. "We're not getting out of here without my ship! In the mean time, where has my handbag gone...?"
She began rummaging through piles of rubble, blinking for a moment at the Sovereigns who had paused in their efforts to listen to the conversation. Order now had a brightly coloured carpet of flowers inked across the left side of his face, along with black glasses, a red clown nose, and the word 'TWAT' written across his forehead.
Wishing she could join the fun, Emily began scaling the side of the ship again. By the time she got back down with the key, Order had a black moustache and matching beard, and Tash had located her handbag, and was slipping a support bandage onto her ankle. Emily winced – the skin was a nasty purple and yellow colour.
"Got it?" the leader asked, putting her first aid kit away. "Great. Send the Manta back to the fanfic for now. We'll take it back to the Library later – and the repairs are coming out of your pocket money!"
"It wasn't my fault!" Emily whined, pressing the blue button on the key, causing the ship to vanish with a pop. "It was the Emergency Water Landing button!"
"So you should be – it almost killed me!"
"Alright, you can help me move it when we get back! Let's just go!"
"Umm...Wisdom," Creation tilted her head to the side. "Should we be...maybe trying to stop them?"
"...Hmm?" Wisdom looked up briefly from where he knelt colouring Order's ears purple. He did not seem to notice the two Society members hobbling as fast as possible for the exit. "Did you say something my dear?"
"...you know, I don't believe I did." Creation grinned and went back to carefully drawing anime eyes onto Order's closed eyelids.
"Hey, let's play a game!" Passion grinned. "Whoever's drawing pisses him off the most gets to pick what we eat for dinner all of next week."
"Woot!" Creation's giggling caused a line of blue ink to bolt itself down the right side of Order's cheek.
Just a few feet short of the exit, Tash skidded to a halt, and cleared her throat to catch everyone's attention. Fishing into her handbag, she pulled out something small, and threw it to Passion. He caught it deftly.
"By the power vested in me by the University of Winchester and our Lord Cthulhu, I now pronounce you an honorary member of the WARGs!" she pointed at the gamer Sovereign, before flipping him a salute. "Congratulations!"
And she seized Emily's hand and shot from the room. Slowly Passion peered into his hand and found a small golden badge in the shape of a wolf's head with a d20.
It had taken fifteen minutes to manifest a stable plothole in the Monty Python fandom, and Harriet had no sooner declared it safe, when it had burst into life, spitting out Tash and Emily into a heap on the floor. Harriet had looked remarkably put out – she had dressed up specially for this rescue! – but relieved none the less, and ushered the two girls off to see Valerie. Emily was perfectly fine, despite crashing Tash's spaceship into a building, and now sat on the end of the bed, while Valerie poked and prodded Tash's ankle.
"Is it just me?" Tash asked. "Or do all our missions end up in the hospital wing with Valerie giving a diagnosis?"
"Well maybe if you all didn't try so hard to injure yourselves..." the healer muttered.
"Right!" Harriet interrupted stretching her arms above her head. "I have a lot of questions. But first things first." She rounded on Emily. "Where on Earth did you get that waistcoat?"
Taken completely off guard by the lack of shouting and trouble that she had expected, it took Emily a few moments to realise that she probably should respond. She wondered if the aforementioned waistcoat was large enough to hide in. "Umm...I gave Creation her sketchbook back, and she was so happy, she decided to draw me something nice. She thought my outfit was boring and Passion said I look good in a waistcoat..." she gave a shy but pleased smile of someone who had discovered a little bit of pride that they didn't know they had possessed. "I do look pretty good..."
"I'll say!" Harriet nodded. "Go on! Give us a catwalk!"
She plopped onto the end of Tash's bed, and Emily – who had never been known to do anything remotely girly in her life – got to her feet and pranced down the length of the hospital wing, pausing at the end to turn and strike a pose before blowing a kiss to her audience.
"Thank you my darlings! Thank you!"
Harriet wiped a tear from her eyes. "She sounds like her mummy!"
"OW!" Tash whined as Valerie gave her leg another poke.
"Oh don't be a baby!" the healer huffed, hurrying off to fetch another support bandage.
"So what did we learn after today's little escapade?" Adrian asked, petting his girlfriend behind the ears (she seemed to enjoy it as much as he did).
"Well..." Tash ticked off her fingers. "I learned that Passion puts Red Bull in his tea. I learned that Wisdom plays with his beard when he's thinking a move through. I learned that most of the Sovereigns think that Order has an entire American state shoved up his arse. I found out Purity is an angel, though displays enough of a temper that he's clearly no saint...oh and I found out that I need to move the Emergency Water Landing Button again." She beamed. "I also reminded myself that kidnapping is fun – I should do it more often."
Adrian snorted. "Nobody's going to want to kidnap you again after they hear that you spent most of it tweeting and playing a card game."
"And getting the Sovereigns into bitch fights," Tash added, as Valerie reappeared with an armful of bandages.
"Yes that is interesting," Harriet put on a musing expression. "I suppose it shouldn't be unexpected given that some of their natures must clash under normal circumstances. We should keep an eye on it. It might be useful in the future."
"I hereby declare your ankle not broken, just a little sprained and bruised from where the bookcase landed on it," Valerie interjected. "No belly dancing for two weeks, and no flashstepping for four. Walking should be fine. Try to exercise it gently if you can."
"Aww!" Came the predictable response, and Adrian's ears drooped in disappointment too – watching Tash dance was one of his favourite pastimes.
"Anything I can do for you Tashy-baby?" Harriet offered sympathetically.
"Yeah, turn the bloody air conditioning off! My nipples could cut glass over here!"
An almighty crash echoed down the Library corridors, causing everyone in the medical wing to sit up straight. Furious footsteps were thundering towards the room, and Tash paled and slid underneath her covers.
"Tash Marquand! I want a word with you!"
The doors burst open to reveal five feet four inches of concentrated pink and green cuteness. Framed as she was, with her hands on her hips, and her carpet bag swinging dangerously from her shoulder, Jenny cut a very intimidating profile. Peering out from behind her, Kiara shot the cowering Society leader a pitying look before she retreated to a safe distance.
"Hi Jenny," Harriet and Emily alone seemed unfazed by the dramatic entrance of Tash's best friends.
Jenny shot them a sweet smile, before her focus turned to the slowly shrinking ball of blankets. With surprising gentleness, she picked the bed covers up between two fingers and pulled them away.
"Tashy," she singsonged, before switching back to the tone of a mother confronted with a disappointing report card. "That was a terrible kidnapping!" she huffed and dropped the sheets in Tash's lap, while the blonde leader just hung her head.
"I watched the whole thing when I arrived," Jenny explained, folding her arms across her stomach. "You didn't mock them nearly enough. You didn't hug any of them. You didn't even make them cry!" She huffed. "Obviously you have forgotten everything I taught you about being a proper kidnap victim!"
She whipped the covers back and onto the floor, causing Valerie to protest, and Adrian to turn into a kitty and scurry for safety before they could swamp him.
"Come on!" Jenny demanded, grabbing Tash's arm and pulling. "You need a refresher course!"
"Ooo can I come?" Emily raised a hand excitedly. "I want a lesson at the Jenny School of Good Kidnapping too!"
Beaming, Jenny took Emily in her other arm and frog marched them both to the door. As they left, Adrian's kitty ears caught Jenny giving her first lesson.
"Rule one of being kidnapped – make them sorry that they ever came near you!"
In a lone corner of the Harry Potter world, a room in the Malfoy manor had fallen abruptly silent at the sound of a series of footsteps approaching the door outside. One by one, the Death Eaters rose from their chairs, some counting the members for any missing persons, and others pulling their wands out and levelling them suspiciously at the door. The Dark Lord himself sat at the head of the table, his long fingers paused in the action of stroking his pet snake.
The footsteps stopped as the loud voice of the Death Eater on guard duty rose into hearing range.
A chirrupy voice answered.
"Hi there! Could I have a hug?"
It was the most terrifying thing that the Death Eaters could have heard. Lord Voldemort leaped from his chair, sending Nagini tumbling onto the floor to hiss indignantly. The Dark Lord began to tremble, as the door burst open and the guarding Death Eaters ran into the room, screaming in fear.
A pouting Jenny stood framed in the door, with her students watching from behind with a mixture of amusement and bewilderment on their faces.
"Well that wasn't very nice! I just wanted a hug!"
She brightened as she saw the terrified red eyes of the Harry Potter antagonist.
"Hi Voldie! Did you miss us?"
"Rule number two, ladies. Leave a lasting impression."
Sitting in the monitor room, Dave watched Karissa's eyebrows meet in a frown as she plucked the next card from her small stack. Simultaneously they placed the cards on the table.
"SNAP!" Karissa was fastest, and Dave groaned, pushing the pile of cards towards her. His own stack was dwindling fast and he wouldn't last much longer.
The monitor screen gave a small blip, indicating non-canon activity in a fandom. Sighing, Dave pressed a few buttons and pulled up the appropriate screen.
He could hardly believe his eyes, or ears.
"...ye Gods, am I dreaming?"
"...no Dave," Karissa shook her head, also slightly astonished. "But what kind of author would be nuts enough to make Voldemort's Death Eaters dance the YMCA?"
"...something tells me I don't want to know," Dave muttered.
A/N: Can someone add 'Our Angels Are Different' to Purity's TVTrope entry please? And also Aliso, I want to talk to you about doing a new sprite for Emily – a slightly taller one with the waistcoat for when she passes her entrance exam in my next fic.