Monday, January 30, 2012

Insert Random Scream of Pain Here (part 1 of 5)

Neb sat nursing his wounds. The plan to kidnap Deebs and lure Ben and his friends into a trap had miserably failed. Neb sighed. After Shirley had hurled that last nuke at him he had fled to the nearest place he could open a plothole to. He looked around, it was pitch black. He wasn't even entirely sure this was a fandom. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, just darkness as far as his eye could see.

He pointed in a random direction. "Mess with Nukes." He muttered, hoping that the resulting explosion would generate some light. Nothing happened.

Neb growled and leveled a palm. "My coffeemakers-"

Suddenly, something grabbed him and slammed his head into the ground, hard.

Neb groaned in pain. Well, if nothing else, at least he was standing on something solid.

"I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't ruin my home." A voice sounded close to his ear. There was the sound of fingers being snapped and a soft glow appeared.

Neb blinked. Even with his sunglasses, the light hurt after being trapped in darkness for so long.

"Where've you been?" He rasped. "That plan of yours was worthless! We nearly got killed!"

"My plan was worthless?" The voice chuckled. "All I did was tell you how to enter the mansion in Ben's imagination! You and your friends botched the so-called plan all on your own."

Neb growled.

"Now, now, it's no use getting mad at me, my leather-clad friend. But enough of this. I have some new information for you."

Neb listened to his contact in shock for several seconds, before an evil grin split his face.


It was one of those odd times in the Library Arcanium, where half the Society was sleeping and the other half was just getting up. That was one of the problems with bringing people together from different time zones.

Ben wasn't asleep though. He had too much on his mind. After being banned from the tech lab by Camille for repeated requests for updates on Bahamut's status, he had wandered aimlessly around the library for hours, before settling down and trying unsuccessfully to occupy himself with several books.

He tossed "A Breif History of Nukes" aside and turned up the volume on his MP3, hoping the lyrics from Lamb of God's lead singer would drown out the sound of his own thoughts. It didn't work.

Ben sighed, leaning back in his chair to stare at the ceiling. No matter how hard he tried he just couldn't stop thinking.

Neb had vanished after their battle, so Ben had no clue where he was or what he was up to. And with someone like Neb, that only made him nervous. Deebs was safely back at the mansion under Seymour's watchful eye, and Shirley was there working on strengthening the mansions defences, but who was to say that Neb wouldn't try again? And on that note, what about the rest of his non-Society friends and family? He couldn't guarantee protection for all of them, especially not without Bahamut. Without his weapon-instrument, Ben could'nt even protect himself against his evil twin.

Camille had assured him several times that Bahamut could be fixed and that progress was being made on the repairs, but what if Neb struck in the meantime?

At least Bella was still safe, as far as he knew, he hadn't seen her since their battle in the Buso Renkin fandom.

Ben frowned as he thought of the emerald-haired Sue. Had he really done the right thing, helping her to escape? He didn't dare visit the mini-fandom himself for fear that the Society would notice the world and investigate. And for that matter, what was he thinking, falling for Mary-Sue? It wasn't as if they could ever have a real relationship, what with him being a Society Agent. And how did he even know what they had was real? For all he knew, it might just be the effect of her Sue powers on him after being around her so much.

Ben's stomach growled and he realized he hadn't eaten for several hours. Mabye things would be clearer after he got something in his stomach.

Ben hauled himself out of the chair and headed for the kitchen. He grabbed a packet of instant ramen from one of the cupboards and set a pan of water on the stove.

"Oh, Hi, Ben-kun!" A voice chirped behind him.

Ben started, whirling, nearly spilling scalding hot water on himself as he did so.

"Oh, hi, Aster. You startled me there..."

"Sorry~" The blue-haired fae apologized.

Ben chuckled. "It's OK. Do you want some ramen?"

Ben added more water and noodles to the pot and turned up the heat slightly.

When he turned back, Aster quickly looked away, as if she had been caught staring.

The two Agents sat down as they waited for the water to boil.

"So, Ben-kun," Aster said slowly. "Is there... anything you want to talk about?"

Ben shook his head mutely.

"You sure?" Aster probed. "Anything... at all?"

"Nothing in particular..." Ben said.

"Not even about what happened between you and Bella?"

Ben quickly looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "What do you mean?" He asked warily.

Aster shrugged. "All I know is that something happened between you two. Do you want to talk about it? Or...?"

Ben stared into empty space for a long while before talking. "When... before we fought, we got to talking. I got to know her a little better and she told me why she was fighting."

He looked over at Aster. "She wasn't like the other Mary-Sues." He said. "She was different. She didn't want power or control, all she wanted to do was to use her powers to help people. The more we talked, the more I came to understand her, and I..." He trailed off.

"And you fell in love with her." Aster finished for him.

Ben shrugged. Just then, the water began to boil and he got up, spooning the noodles into two bowls and handing one to Aster.

The two Agents ate in silence for a while before Ben cleared his throat.

"Tell me," Ben queried. "How did you know? About me and Bella, I mean?"

Aster giggled. "I've read just about every shojo manga in existence. There is very little about romance that I don't know. When I saw you after you got back from Buso Renkin, it was pretty obvious what was going on."

"Really?" Ben asked, uncomfortable with the idea that his emotions were so easily read by all.

"Well, to me at least, I doubt anyone else noticed anything."

"Ok... good." Ben went back to what was left of his soup.

"But there's still something on your mind..." Aster surmised.

"Yeah." Ben sighed. "I'm not entirely sure if... what we had was genuine."

"Why not?"

Ben shrugged. "I just-I don't know. I mean, how do I know that she wasn't just manipulating me? I saw her wrap ridiculously powerful canon characters around her finger like putty. How do I know that she wasn't doing the same thing to me?"

Aster cocked her head to one side. "Do you have any proof that she was?"


"Then you shouldn't doubt her, Ben-kun. If you can't trust those you care for, who can you trust?"

Ben shrugged. "I guess so," He said. "It's not as if it really matters anymore..."

There was another long silence.

"Tell me," Ben said after a long moment. "If... she were still alive... would we... could we have been able to... you know, work it out?"

Aster smiled sadly. "Ben-kun, if there's one thing I've learned from reading years of shojo manga, it's that if you're truly in love, and you're willing to make it work, nothing, and I mean nothing, can stand in the way."
Ben stared into his bowl for a long moment.

"Thanks, Aster." He said, getting to his feet. "I haven't really been able to talk to anybody about this, so..."
Aster smiled.

"Say," Ben said, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Do you think you could, you know, not mention this to anyone? I'd rather not this got out."

"Well, if Tash-san or Adrian-kun asks, I'll have to tell them, you know that, right?"

Ben nodded unhappily.

"But I doubt they will, so..."

Ben nodded. "Ok, thanks, Aster."

"Any time!~" Aster said as Ben walked out, but he didn't hear her. His mind was on something else. He doubted anyone in particular would be up yet, so if he was going to do it, now was the time.

It was finally time for Ben and Bella to meet again.


Bella gathered up her things as the last bell of the day rang. She had made friends at the high school Ben created for her. Real Friends. There had been some rough starts at first when people weren't attracted to her naturally, but everything had worked out in the end.

As she shoved her green gel pens into her jade messenger bag, the intercom buzzed.

"Bella Aubrey, please report to the office. Bella Aubrey to the office, please."

Bella frowned as she straightened up. Was she in trouble? She didn't recall doing anything. Maybe she offended or insulted someone and didn't realize it. That was always possible, things like that were never an issue when she wasn't surpressing her powers.

Bella slung her the bag strap over the shoulder and headed for the office.

"Did you want to see me?" She asked the secretary, an emanciated old woman with a prunish appearance.

"You've got someone here to see you." The woman said in a voice that clearly indicated she'd smoked too much over the years.

"Who?" Bella asked. Unless Ben created a new character, she doubted anyone could find their world. No one besides-

The secretary pointed behind her.

Bella whirled.


Ben gave her a nervous grin. "How's it going?"

"What're you doing here?" Bella exclaimed.

Ben took a deep breath.

"I just... I wanted to see you again." He said, meeting Bella's eye.

The two of them looked at each other for a moment. Then, Bella took Ben's hand in her own.

Ben smiled at Bella who returned the gesture, noting the slight blush dusting his cheeks.

"You wanna take a walk?"


"...So then Doug and I got stuck on cleaning duty for like, a month." Ben finished as he and Bella walked around the outside of the school.

"Seriously?" Bella asked.

Ben nodded as the Sue laughed.

The two of them turned a corner into a small hidden garden. Various flowers and plants clustered around a stone bench and a small fountain gurgled and trickled around the edge.

The two of them sat down on the bench, still holding hands.

"This place is so beautiful," Bella murmured. "When I first saw it, I could hardly believe someone like you made it..."

Ben chuckled. "Most people are surprised when they see this side of me."

"Oh!" Bella exclaimed, realizing what she'd said. "I just insulted you, didn't I? I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to!"
Ben laughed. "It's alright, don't worry about it."

Bella covered her face with her hands. "People hated me when I first showed up here, because I kept on saying such mean things to them. I didn't even realize what I was doing at first!"

"But you learned, didn't you?" Ben asked bracingly.

Bella nodded unhappily. "It took a long time though. I never realized being normal was such hard work."

"Well, that's half the point!" Ben said. "All those thing's you've been talking about? That's called making mistakes, and best of all, you've learned from them, which makes you smarter than about 90% of mankind!"

Bella laughed and smiled at him. "Thanks. So how're things going back at the Society?" She asked.

Ben shrugged. "So far so good. Nothing too abnormal going on lately."

"But that's a relative term given the Society, right?" Bella giggled.

Ben laughed. "True. So, what about you?"

Bella shrugged. "Same here." She said. "Like I said, I did have a little trouble at first when I couldn`t use my powers, but everything`s worked out."

"I'm glad" Ben said, giving her hand a squeeze.

"It's strange," Bella said slowly. "The very first time I lost at something to someone else, I found myself being happy for them, rather than resenting them... It was a nice feeling..."

"Sounds to me like you're learning how to be human." Ben said.

"Yeah, I guess so..." Bella said, looking over at Ben.

The Mary-Sue and Society Agent looked at each other for a long moment.

"Why did you want to see me?" Bella asked at last. "It must've risky for you to come and visit me here."

Ben took another deep breath. "When I got back to the Library after our battle, I told everyone you were dead." He began. "But there was one Agent who guessed what happened to us. She still thinks you're dead though." Ben assured Bella, noticing the look on her face. "But...we talked a little and I got to thinking."
Ben put his other hand over Bella's own.

"Listen to me, do you really want to make this work?" He asked.

"Make what work?" Bella asked.

Ben gestured around. "This. Us. Do you want to be together?"

Bella bit her lip. "I..."

"I already know you do, I just need to hear you say it."

"But, you're from the Society!" Bella protested. "I'm a Sue!"

"I never said it would be easy." Ben conceded. "It's going to take a lot of work. But I'm willing to do what it takes."

"But what about your superiors? Your friends?"

"We'll figure something out. You know as well as I do that this is only a temporary hiding place. We were going to have to face this eventually."

Bella looked away, staring at the flowers surrounding them, but Ben gently turned her face back towards him.

"I'd much rather face what the future holds with you, than without." He murmured gently, staring into her sparkling green eyes.

Bella swallowed, looking back into Ben's eyes. What was this? She'd never felt like this before. It scared her, but at the same time, she liked it.

Neither said anything for a long moment. Then, they gently moved closer to each other, their lips slowly drawing nearer. Ben could feel Bella's cool breath on his lips. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes-

"Awww... how sweet." A voice snickered.

Ben and Bella broke apart from each other as if they were magnetized.

"Where-?" Ben sputtered.

"Up here."

Both turned to see Neb, leaning out of a window above the two, leering at them.

Before either could move or think, the leather-clad Protection Agent leapt from the window, plummeting towards them.

Instinctively, Ben grabbed Bella's and and pulled her out of the way.

Neb crashed to the ground, landing on the stone bench and snapping it in two. Without missing a beat, he grabbed one of the huge stone chunks and hurled it at the two.

Bella raised a hand from where she and Ben lay on the ground and fired a beam of emerald energy, smashing the rock to pieces.

Neb snarled and started forward, as the two struggled to their feet, but Ben struck first.

"My coffeemakers are not controlled by Hoover Dam computers!" He barked, thrusting an arm towards his doppelganger.

Neb's eyes widened as Ben grabbed Bella's hand again and pulled her out of the way. The floodgates materialized, issuing forth a flood of java.

Meanwhile Ben and Bella dashed back into the school through a side door.

"How'd he find us here?" Bella panted as they sprinted down a hallway.

"It's Neb!" Ben replied. "He tracked me down in Pendragon, who knows how he does it?"

As they ran Ben noticed in the corner of his mind that Bella was keeping up just fine. All those merry chases he lead her on when they were on opposite sides must've made her a better runner. One corner of his mouth quirked in a smile as he ran.

Suddenly, as they turned a corner Ekard appeared out of nowhere, right in front of them.

Ben skidded to a stop, already raising his hand, his mouth forming the first syllables of an attack, but Ekard struck first, driving an armored fist deep into Ben's gut.

Ben's eyes bugged out and he slumped to his knees gasping for air.

Bella screamed, but Ekard silenced her with a forceful backhanded slap to the face, sending her flying into the wall.

Neb came running up, his jacket still dripping coffee. "What took you so long?" He rasped.

"Screw you." Ekard snorted. "You're the one who let them get away."

He glanced down at Ben who was starting to stir and planted a boot on his back, grinding him into the linoleum.

Neb grabbed Bella from where she lay slumped against the wall and hauled her to her feet.

"What's wrong?" Neb snickered, "Scared?"

Bella responded by blasting him full in the face with another beam of energy.

Neb was knocked backwards, and Bella turned to run, but Ekard lashed out with his foot, knocking her down. Before she could move, Ekard struck her sharply in the back of the head, rendering her unconscious.

"Geez, man, get it together, would ya?" He sneered at Neb as he got to his feet.

Neb stalked over and slung the unconscious Bella over his shoulder like a sack of grain. "Geez," He grumbled. "For a Mary-Sue, she sure is a panty-waist."

"...Let her go..." Ben reached out from where he lay on the floor and grabbed Neb's leg.

Ekard hauled back and kicked Ben in the face as hard as he could, snapping Ben's head to one side.

Neb turned back to his counterpart. "Oh, I'll let her go alright." He rasped, as blood began to pour from Ben's nose.

"But you've got to do something for me first. We've got a man of our own about to enter the Society soon as an Agent, so he can feed us information from the inside. He'll contact you and you help him with whatever he needs done. If he says to kill someone, you do it! Otherwise, we'll kill your little girlfriend here."

Ben growled and tried to get up, but Ekard planted his foot on his back again, shoving him back down.
Neb turned and opened a plothole.

"Neb!" Ben barked. "Turn around!"

Neb turned slowly, the lenses of his sunglasses staring at Ben impassively.

"I'm going to say this slowly." Ben said, enunciating. "Because I want you to understand me."

He took a deep breath.

"You can run but never hide. I will hunt you down and tear you limb from limb. Nothing shall remain, not your memory or name, it will be as though you've never, ever lived."

Neb snorted. "That would've been a lot more impressive if I didn't think those weren't the lyrics to some metal song."

Ben didn't reply, just continued to glare at Neb. For some reason, the gaze made Neb uneasy. He nodded to Ekard.

Ben felt a sharp pain, then everything went black.

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