Monday, July 25, 2011

TAOM: Marcus - Love & Loopholes

Okay, Marcus thought, opening a portal and tiptoeing into the Library Arcanium. A few more feet and I'm home free!

"MARCUS!" Tash's voice rang out. "MY OFFICE, NOW!"

A sweatdrop appearing on his head, Marcus slumped his way into Tash's office, dreading what was about to come. Tash couldn't know! She just couldn't!

"HOW COULD YOU EVEN THINK OF BECOMING ROMANTICALLY ENTANGLED WITH A CANON CHARACTER?" she demanded as soon as he walked in, seeing her and Adrian absolutely furious.

She knew.

"You know the rules!" Adrian added, the tip of his tail twitching in irritation. "We can't interfere! We maintain the status quo, not inject ourselves into the stories!"

"What you're doing is a terrible risk to a fandom!" Tash declared, her wig nearly flopping off her head.

"Don't be a hypocrite, Tash!" Marcus argued, momentarily gaining some courage. "You've made out with dozens of canon characters!"

Tash glared back at him, her eyes burning with ire. "That may be true," she said. "But I leave it at that! I have my fun and then wipe their memories as soon as I'm finished, not take them to dinner!"

"And she doesn't even do that anymore!" Adrian chipped in.

Marcus began to sweat. Aster had told him about these hearings. They were never pleasant.

"Maybe so," he said. "But it's not like I'm disrupting it or anything! Junko never gets any romantic interest in the series—his sexuality is never even revealed! Why is this a problem?"

"Why is it a problem!" Adrian repeated, stunned. "You're taking up a character's time and energy, and putting non-canon thoughts in their head! Minimal interference can add up, you know!"

"Why didn't you wipe his memory the first time?" Tash inquired.

At this, Marcus surprised them by smiling.

"I did," he said. "But he still seemed to recognize me when I came back. I guess it's harder to penetrate a Wallop's skull…"

"How long ago was that?" Adrian asked.

Marcus' smile dropped and he began sweating harder. "A f-few months…"

"A FEW MONTHS?" Marcus's two bosses screamed.

"How could you have been doing this for so long!" Adrian scowled "This is utterly unprofessional!"

"I'm sorry!" Marcus groveled. "I just… couldn't resist…"

"Well, you'll have to start resisting!" Tash said sternly. "I want you to personally wipe your own influence from the Storm Hawks fandom right now! Take an advanced memory eraser spell and get going!"

"And no making out on the way!" Adrian insisted.


It was with a heavy heart that Marcus trekked back into the Storm Hawks fandom with a Level 2 Memory Bomb, which would wipe out all memory of non-canon interaction in the fandom as soon as it was set off. This was a painful thing to do—after all, saying good-bye is never easy.

His eyes quite dry, but his heart breaking (he never cried without splitting himself, no matter how much he wanted or needed to), Marcus walked across the Wayside terra to find the Condor and its crew, who had grown quite familiar with him due to his frequent visits.

"Back already, Marcus?" Aerrow said, carrying an armload of fresh fuel crystals for the ship. "Usually it's once a day, if that."

Marcus tried to grin, but said nothing.

"Well," Aerrow continued. "Don't know how you keep finding us, but Junko's inside…"

"Thanks," was all Marcus could muster as he wandered into the airship and made his way to Junko's room.

"Hey!" Junko said, spreading a grin. "Can't believe you're back already! Couldn't wait for the trip to Terra Ray?"

Marcus shook his head, but didn't speak for a minute.

"I can't come back," he finally choked out. "Not ever."

Junko's face went to that adorable confused look that is so common among his kind.

"Why not?" he asked, his ears drooping as his voice cracked. "You've been coming for weeks…"

"I know," the agent replied. "And I risked my job doing it. I can't do it anymore."

A tear appeared in Junko's eye.

"I'll miss you…"

Marcus shook his head again.

"No," he said. "You won't."

Hesitantly, Marcus reached into his pocket and pulled out the red sphere that was the Level 2 Memory Bomb. He grappled with himself to press the detonator, but just before he could, Junko grabbed him in a bone-crushing hug and burst into tears. Marcus took comfort in his strong arms, and the two leaned closer, their lips about to meet when—

"Marcus." Adrian's voice called out

Marcus whipped around to see his boss behind him, looking at him sternly.

"A-Adrian," he stuttered. "I-I thought you were letting me handle this!"

"And I thought I told you to stop what you were doing and just wipe everyone's memories." His sharp gaze softened a bit. "I know how hard it is to say goodbye. I've said a lot of them in my time… but the rules exist for a reason. Go back to the Library… I'll erase it."

Frowning, Marcus silently opened a portal back to the Library Arcanium and leapt through.


A few hours later, a few other agents came to talk to Marcus.

"So," Willie asked. "How much trouble are you in?"

"A lot," Marcus replied. "Tash put me on a heavy probation, and Adrian set up an alarm spell in the Storm Hawks fandom. If I set one foot in there, he'll know, and I'll be dusting the reference section for months!"

"Tough, man," Michael sighed. "But you gotta admit, you broke a major rule here."

"What is it like to have the passion to do such a thing?" Doyle asked. "I'm afraid I'll never know…"

"Honestly, though," Claire chipped in. "You never considered finding somebody from your own world?"

"Of course I considered it!" Marcus snapped in one of his rare outbursts. "Things aren't easy back there! If it's not prejudice over my sexuality, it's a lack of connection on a personal level! But no, it's easy for you three!"—he pointed to Willie—"You're a fictional character with plenty of charisma,"—he turned to Doyle—"You don't have emotions,"—his eyes rested on Michael and Claire—"And you two dug half an inch in your own backyards and struck 24-karat gold! Honestly, I joined the Society to escape my problems in reality, not find more of them!"

Claire took a long, hard look at him before speaking.

"You can't escape reality," she finally said. "No matter where you go, your problems will find you. You have to face them head-on. I mean, look at me," she chuckled. "My boyfriend's possessed by an evil entity, but I make it work."

Marcus shook his head, but managed one of those totally fake smiles.

"Well," he asked. "What do I do with my time now?"

"That's up to you," Willie told him. "You mentioned that you were aiming to be the next Librarian. You could spend some time studying."

"And maybe work on your wardrobe," Claire suggested. "Those sweats are not flattering."

Marcus thought for a moment, then smiled and ran off.


Adrian wandered into the intermediate spells section of the Library to find an agent he had never seen before—or so he thought. Marcus had indeed changed his wardrobe. His new outfit seemed heavily based on the Invisible Man, with a large trenchcoat with a puffy white shirt underneath, bandages wrapped all around his face, long, dark pants, black leather gloves, and shiny black shoes. Not an inch of his skin was showing, and he had an umbrella slung over his back and a book propped up before him.

"Emotion Marcus?" the Librarian inquired (he knew because instead of the wire-frame glasses with clip-on shades, he was wearing regular glasses with lenses too thick for anyone to see his eyes through. "Where's your other half?"

"W-working on an a-a-art p-p-proj-ject i-in m-my o-office," Thought Marcus said, not looking up. "Y-you kn-now, w-w-with-thout th-thought h-holding h-h-him b-back f-from r-r-raw em-m-motions, h-he m-may b-be th-the w-w-world's g-great-test a-artist…"

"Yeah, I've seen his work," Adrian said admiringly. "So, what're you reading?"

"J-just s-some s-spells," Thought Marcus replied. "L-learning the th-theor-ries b-b-beh-hind th-them…"

Adrian frowned.

"You're not studying how to break my alarm spell, are you?" he accused.

"N-no, n-no," Thought Marcus replied. "J-just l-look-k-king u-up u-usef-ful sp-spells…"

"Oh, okay," Adrian said, a smile returning. "Good to see you're using your time wisely, and to see how well you're dealing with what you've been through. Carry on."

As Adrian walked out, Thought Marcus's eyes returned to the book. It was true that he wasn't looking up how to break the alarm spell, but he was searching for a way to exploit it, and he had a feeling he'd just found it. The hunch he'd had earlier was right. You see, Emotion Marcus was not actually working on an art project, but retrieving something that would be very useful, and Thought Marcus had found a spell he'd need soon. It was only a matter of time now…


That night, Marcus waited until everyone else was asleep and pulled his portal gun out of his desk. Carefully, he adjusted the settings to manipulate the size of the portal, finally shooting open a vortex no bigger than a nickel. Chuckling to himself, he pulled out the other necessary component to this plan: a talisman copy. Emotion Marcus had snuck into the Jackie Chan Adventures fandom and borrowed it so that Thought Marcus could perform the duplication spell that he'd studied up on and make a copy of it.

If there's one thing Marcus Pate knows how to do, he thought to himself. It's exploit a loophole.

Using the talisman copy, he projected his astral form, a spirit that cannot be sensed in any way, as his body collapsed, useless. He wormed his way through the tiny portal (he'd made it small so nothing else could pass through and cause trouble), and flew across the Atmos, finally locating the Condor on Terra Amazonia. He swooped down and passed right through the walls to Junko's room, seeing just what he'd hoped to find: Junko snoring loudly on his bed, clutching his teddy bear tight. With a snicker, Marcus dove right into the Wallop's head and entered his mind.

Within the fantasy, Junko's dream self was sitting at a table eating a mountain of burgers, barely pausing between bites. Marcus smiled and landed beside him, then tapped him on the shoulder. Junko stopped eating and stared at him for a minute.

"…Do I know you…?" he asked. "You seem… familiar…"

Beneath the bandages, Marcus smiled.

"I'm the man of your dreams, Junko."

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