Sunday, April 29, 2012

Insert Slightly Flaming Metaphor Here


It was your average day in the Library Arcanium. Paperwork was being surreptitiously stuffed down the back of sofas, pocky was being chomped on, and Harriet was shouting. Loudly.

"Jesus, Jess, where are you?" The leader of the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society crashed into the main reading room, where a small selection of Agents were happily absorbed in the delights of the Library's many bookshelves. In one of Harriet's hands was a cricket bat... which was being repeatedly poked into the ribs of the bizarre being attached to her left ankle.

"Wow, Harriet-san, you've made a friend," Aster piped up from her stack of manga.

"Where is Jess? He won't leave me alone!"

The creature hanging happily from Harriet's leg was named Leonard – a freaky-looking partially-formed conjoined twin, who had sneaked his way into the Library via The X Files fandom and a large purple handbag. It was still unclear exactly why he'd decided to stick with a hapless Society Agent, but the large quantities of pharmaceutical products gathered around the bottom might have had something to do with it... it was one theory as to how he was staying alive without a host body, at least.

"Last time I saw her she was going that way," Aster pointed towards the corridor, her eyes narrowing. "She was refusing to join my anime class... again."

"She's probably got a musician trapped beneath her somewhere," Ossa pointed out matter of factly. Harriet nodded grimly and limped off, Leonard swinging happily along.

In fact, the Agent in question was, for once, not in her room (or, as it was commonly known, Den of Sin) with a captured metal musician. Harriet finally tracked her down in one of the smaller reading rooms, sitting alone, cross-legged on the floor. Soft, atmospheric music was playing, and the lights were dim.

"Jess, will you take this thing away please?" With an almighty kick, Harriet detached Leonard, who flew through the air for a brief second before landing with a thud in his mentor/owner/feeder's lap.

"Be calm, Harriet," Jess said in a slow, ethereal voice. Harriet stopped in mid-stomp-from-the-room and turned around in amazement. Jess hadn't moved from her position, and had her eyes closed, completely ignoring the ugly little creature positioned on her lap. He and Harriet both instantly adopted identical expressions of 'What the hell?' (although on Leonard it was a lot more disturbing).

"What are you doing telling me to be calm?" Harriet raised her eyebrows.

Jess took a deep breath, then opened her eyes.

"Sorry about that," she stretched her arms behind her head, then stood up. "I've been learning how to meditate. Trying to get control of my powers and all that," she barked a raucous laugh, shaking her head as if to clear dust from it. "Hasn't worked much. I singed one particular bassist's beard the other day and I didn't even mean to..."

Sensing that life was back to normal again, Leonard let out a gruesome snarl, and shimmied up to Jess's shoulder like a disturbing take on a monkey. He gave Harriet a glare.

"Did he bite you?" Jess sighed, as the two Agents headed out of the reading room towards one of the Library's several kitchens. "If he did, don't worry, he's had all his shots now..."

"No," Harriet shook her head. "He just seemed to want a ride." Jess raised her eyebrows. "Get your mind out of the gutter!"

"At least he's starting to make friends," Jess shrugged. "He's getting more civilised by the day, I'm sure he's going to start talking soon..." From her shoulder, Leonard gave an angry sounding hiss. "Well, maybe not, but he's trying. Thanks for not ripping his head off though, I owe you a drink." Jess reached for her handbag – there was bound to be some kind of alcohol in there. There always was, after all.

Suddenly, a skinny blonde whirlwind flew around a corner in the corridor, nearly smashing straight into Jess. Leonard wobbled dangerously and growled.

"There you two are," Tash panted. "The Sue Monitor is making quite nasty noises, we need someone to go and check it out; and it needs to be one of the older Agents. That means one of us."

"What's the fandom and what's going on?" Harriet asked, almost lazily.

"It's a relatively new fandom, and the Sue doesn't seem to have too many powers... but she's got the ability to shake the fandom quite seriously. She's found her way into the time before the books actually started, and if she carries on the way she's going she's going to stop them from happening at all! She's setting things in motion that aren't meant to happen for nearly ten years..."

"Fandom, Tash?" Harriet clucked.

"See the reason we can't send any of the younger Agents in is that in this fandom, teenagers are kind of... bashed about a bit. Understatement. No teenager is safe, they could be sucked into something quite horrific. Imagine Big Brother with blood. So we need someone in their twenties to go."

"I know what this is!" Jess exclaimed suddenly. "It's got to be! It's 'The Hunger Games', right?"

"Well done," Tash nodded. "I'm going to take that as volunteering."

"Sure thing," Jess grinned. "Those books are brilliant. So it's before they started, you say, but in the same world?"

"Exactly. I haven't read them myself..." Tash consulted the printout in her hand. "It's in a place called 'The Capitol'. Do you know what that means?"

"Yup," Jess nodded. "Aww, I hope I run into Cinna, he's a cool dude-"

"Focus on the mission, madam!" Harriet gave Jess a quick glare.

"I will," Jess attempted to pout, but was grinning too much. It had been a while since she'd been on a mission and she was looking forward to a bit of danger. Which, of course, she'd find pretty easily in the Hunger Games fandom...


The Capitol was in an uproar. It was the day before the sixty-eighth Hunger Games were to begin, and their whole organisation had been turned upside down... by one insignificant teenage girl.

For nearly seventy years the Hunger Games had been the focus of the year for the whole of Panem. As a punishment to the twelve Districts that had rebelled against the Capitol all those years ago, twelve boys and twelve girls were selected randomly each year and thrown into the Arena. The aim was simple: be the last survivor. The Gamemakers did their best to mix things up; conditions for the teenagers, or Tributes, were always hard. Even if they were on their own, they'd find it hard to survive.

But that was without the threat of the other Tributes hanging over their heads... for to be the last survivor, of course you had to kill off your competitors...

It was such a major event throughout the whole of Panem – the Capitol had turned the whole thing into a celebration, televised and broadcast throughout all twelve Districts, and of course the Capitol itself. It was there that the Games were the most enjoyed. After all, the Capitol didn't have to provide any Tributes. All they had to do was watch, bet, and take pleasure in the senseless deaths of Panem's teenagers.

Yet this year, everything was changing – in ways it was not supposed to.

One sole girl from the Capitol was making noises, and those noises were being heard. Nobody knew quite where she had come from. Some people seemed to think she had been there all her life, though others had a sneaking suspicion she'd just turned up to cause trouble.

At first glance, Hazel la Mendiante was not beautiful, but then you caught a glimpse of her shining green eyes... and you were captivated. It was only then that you would notice her glossy mahogany curls cascading down her back, and the humble way she held herself in a world of excess and ostentation. Unlike most Capitol residences, her smooth, pale skin was untouched by gaudy tattoos and make up, and her clothes were simple. One glance into those eyes and you would be overwhelmed by her intense air of vulnerability and innocence, and the urge to protect her would come upon you...

Hazel's life in the Capitol had started quietly – moving carefully through the city, she had started to spread whispers of unrest. The Hunger Games were brutal, pointless, murder, she insisted. They needed to be stopped. After all, how would the Capitol residents feel if it was their children who were herded into the Arena to be slaughtered like animals?

Where others had failed, Hazel's innocence and humility touched the Capitol residents like never before, and they were starting to see the light. When she personally volunteered to go into the Arena herself, the city broke down en masse. Faced with her pleas, the Gamemakers were powerless to ignore her, and they allowed her to start the process of becoming a Tribute, never mind the rules.

The Capitol was facing rebellion... seven years early.


"Ensilumi satoi kahdesti, maalasi sieluni taulun..." Jess sang to herself as the lift shot upwards, clutching her faithful purple handbag to her side. Despite being well past her twentieth birthday, she couldn't help but be a tiny bit scared that somehow she'd end up chucked into the Arena. Humming a bit of Finnish metal usually calmed her down, but for some reason she couldn't shake the feeling of foreboding creeping over her.

She'd been told the Sue had been given quarters in the Training Centre tower, just like all the other Tributes. She had a small set of rooms at the top, behind the District Twelve area. Typical, Jess sighed. Talk about attention seeking.

Within second the lift door were opening on Floor Twelve... and Jess came face to face with a massive guard.

"What are you doing here?" he looked down, raising his stencilled eyebrows. Jess opened her mouth to give her story... then shut it immediately as the guard's face went slack. "Oh, of course, you must be a relative of Miss Hazel. The resemblance is uncanny," he murmured. "Though you've done something with your hair and your eyes aren't quite as..." He tailed off and adopted a very moony expression as Jess gripped at the end of her purple bob in shock. Her mouth fell open. What the fuck was he on about?

She decided she might as well make the most of it.

"Yeah, I'm her sister," she nodded, closing her mouth.

"Funny, she's always claimed to have no family, but the evidence is here," the guard laughed. "I'm not supposed to let anyone see her, she's such a celebrity now... but I can make an exception for family. Especially such... well clad family..." His eyes roved over Jess's figure and she sighed. Maybe she should change her battle outfit, she reasoned as she was led along the plushly carpeted corridor. After all, a black leather corset might work at a metal gig, but it could cause some problems in a fandom... especially teamed with very tight black jeans...

"We'll talk later, dear," Jess patted the guard firmly on the shoulder as they came to a halt in front of a door. "Now, she's in here?"

"Yes," the guard nodded.

"Right," Jess squared her shoulders. "Now, if you hear any strange noises from in here, don't worry. You know, crashes, explosions, screams... we tend to greet each other quite vociferously, my sister and I." With that, she pushed the door open and strode into the room.

"Finally," Hazel sighed, turning around from where she had been standing at the window, her curls gently floating behind her in a slight breeze (where had that come from? Jess wondered briefly. Sues always seem to get 'slight breezes' just when they need them...hang on-). "I was beginning to think you weren't coming and I'd have to actually take part in those awful Games. I've been waiting for you to come and find me."

"Gah," Jess managed to say, flopping onto Hazel's bed.

It was the first time she'd ever been encountered with a Sue of her own creation. And it was scaring the shit out of her.

"What... the... fuck?" she managed to spit out. Hazel watched her from her position by the window with a measured expression.

"I thought coming here would attract your attention," she said simply. "I knew out of all those 'Society' people, you'd be the one most interested in the Hunger Games. I thought I might as well come here and stir things up a bit, that'd get you."

"If you wanted to talk to me, couldn't you have just sent me a letter or something?" Jess protested weakly. "I'm your author. Fairly easy to contact. Just send a plot bunny my way. Smoke signals. Anything."

"Where's the fun in that?"

Suddenly, Hazel was millimetres in front of her creator, an emerald-encrusted dagger at her throat. Jess wasn't fast enough to move – Hazel had taken advantage of her shock and had grabbed her by the fringe. Damn, I need to get that cut, Jess thought in a moment of madness.

"You abandoned me," Hazel hissed. "You left everything at a cliffhanger. Siranna had the Stones, Xara and Seamus's children were still kidnapped, and I was just about to have sex with Darion!" her voice rose to a shriek. "And you stopped writing!"

Jess flinched with embarrassment at the memory of her first novel. She had meant to write a sequel where Hazel's issues got resolved... but having read back over the story two years after its completion, she'd laughed at herself and shoved it away, never to be seen again. She hadn't expected another two years to pass and to find herself face to face with her old creation – the protagonist of a strange little story called 'The Dragon Stones'.

"God, you really can tell whose creature you are," Jess murmured in spite of herself. "Your major concern is getting yourself laid."

"Think about it," Hazel said softly, dropping Jess back on the bed. "In a way, I am you. You created me in your image..." She tossed her hair. "Only better. We have the same hair, the same face, the same body... well, we had the same hair." She wrinkled her nose. "What have you done to it? It's purple for goodness sake!"

"Fashion, darling," Jess gave a wry grin. "I'm older and wiser now – and some kind soul invented GHDs. And by the way, in case you haven't noticed, we don't have the same body anymore, either. You were me at fourteen... I've developed a bit since then." She stuck her tongue out.

"Not... the... issue," Hazel shook her head and flew across the room again. "I couldn't really care less about your bloody chest. You left me sitting on the edge of a bed in my nightie for the rest of eternity, Darion inches away from me... naked! For that, you are going to bloody pay!"

Hazel flung herself on top of Jess, her dagger at her throat again... but this time, Jess was prepared. With a ferocious kick of her spiky-heeled boot, she sent Hazel sprawling to the floor. In one swift move, she leapt up from the bed and stood over her creation, a scowl on her face.

"Nobody tries to kill me and gets away," she spat. "Well... not often. And you're not going to be one of them!"
But before Jess could whip out her trusty Prohibitor, Hazel was back on her feet again.

"In case you don't remember, you didn't exactly write me unprotected," her eyes glittered, and she tossed back her hair to reveal her ears. Noticing the way they were slightly upswept and pointed made Jess groan.

"Bollocks and buggeration," she groaned, as Hazel closed her eyes, almost beginning to pulse. With a screech, Jess started to levitate slightly off the ground. "Hey, you're not supposed to know you can do that until the sequel!"

"I've learnt some things in the past four years," Hazel murmured softly, as Jess felt her throat begin to constrict. Jess groaned again as she remembered that she herself had planned for Hazel's half-elven powers to manifest themselves in psychic manipulation.

Suddenly, a massive gust of wind battered against the Training Tower, and the window of Hazel's room shattered under its immense pressure. Hazel jumped and Jess dropped back to the floor.

"I've learnt some things too," Jess grinned, feeling the rush of elemental power flow to her fingertips from her Pentagram tattoo. She took a step forward to where her Sue cowered in a pile of broken glass. "You'd be surprised."

"So would you," Hazel hissed, and Jess felt herself begin to spin, her body losing control.

"At least I haven't been stuck as a virgin!" Jess managed to yell as she span faster and faster towards the gaping hole where the window used to be. "I have a sex life!"

Abruptly, she stopped spinning as Hazel gave a wordless cry of rage. "You created Darion, you know how damn sexy that elf is!" she shrieked. "You try being stuck unable to touch him for four years!"

The distraction gave Jess just enough time to leap out onto the bed. "Wow, this is bouncy!" she exclaimed, giving a little jump – just high enough to avoid the dagger that Hazel had thrown from across the room. "Thanks, Hazel!" Jess picked it up and glanced at it. "Hey, this is your Irish dagger! How cute!" Her eyes narrowed. "Have it back."

With a simple flick of the wrist she sent the dagger speeding back through the air towards the Sue, who dodged out of the way. She regained her composure with another toss of her hair (Jess resisted the urge to use her powers to make an atmospheric slight breeze) and closed her eyes again.

"Oh no you don't!" Jess shouted, quickly focussing her energy to her tattoo. She'd been lucky with the wind – now, she felt it was the time to use a different element... fire. Jess began to concentrate on her Pentagram, and focussed the energy on the carpet directly in front of Hazel's feet...

However, again Hazel was too quick. This time Jess felt her eyes begin to droop, and she gave a yawn in spite of herself.

"Are you feeling sleepy, author-darling?" Hazel said sweetly.

"Hey," Jess complained drowsily. "I never gave you that power."

"My new boss has taught me some things," Hazel murmured, her soft voice lulling Jess's eyes almost entirely closed...

Then they snapped open again. Jess looked around, confused that Hazel had given up – but then she saw the door slowly opening.

"Miss Hazel, I brought you and your sister some-" It was the adoring guard.

"GO AWAY!" the author and the Sue yelled at the same time. The guard stopped in his tracks, totally perplexed. In one glance, he took in the shattered glass all over the room and the gaping hole where the windows used to be. Hazel's previously perfect face was covered in blood from several scalp wounds, and Jess was standing on the bed in a quickly assumed battle crouch. The guard's eyes narrowed and he started to move towards the supposed perpetrator of the mess... Jess.

"Oh, give over," she sighed, and bounded forward. Within two seconds the guard had a Copyright beautifully affixed to his forehead. His expression went briefly blank, then he wandered happily out of the room, totally ignoring Hazel, Jess, and the chaos of the room.

"What did he just do?" Hazel asked, confused. "He just... left."

"Not even this room is meant to be here, as it was built for you," Jess explained. "He won't register anything that's not entirely canon, now. Anyway, where were we?"

"Here," Hazel growled, her forehead wrinkling as she began concentrating again.

"Oh, so not going to work," Jess chuckled, advancing towards her self-made Sue. While her eyes were closed, she dropped one hand gently on the back of her neck... and concentrated. "I don't want to kill you," she murmured. "But I'm prepared to if you don't stop this."

Hazel's eyes snapped open and she stared up at her creator, who seemed to be fairly thrumming with energy. Suddenly her eyes bulged. "I... what are you-" She tried to speak, but her words were cut off abruptly by the flow of water into her throat.

"Do you want me to stop?" Jess continued to use the same soft, calm voice as she had while meditating, feeling the power of the water flowing through her and into the Sue.

But Hazel didn't capitulate. With an effort that must have hurt her, she focussed the last of her energy on her author. Jess felt her throat begin to constrict again – tightly. As she struggled to breathe, she felt her flow of water begin to falter. If she could just hold on longer than Hazel... if she could just give one final surge and let her lungs fill with water...

She couldn't do that.

"I can't kill you!" she gasped, releasing her grasp on the Sue. At the same time, she felt the grip on her windpipe relax. "You were right – you're me, and I'm you. It would be like... like a form of suicide."

Hazel said nothing, but coughed up a stream of pure water onto the carpet, looking like she was about to pass out.

Weakened, barely able to fill her own lungs with air, Jess saw her chance. With the last of her energy, she whipped out her Prohibitor and fixed it firmly onto Hazel's wrist. "There we go," she whispered, and fainted.


"Holy Hietala's Trousers!" Jess exclaimed and shot bolt upright in bed. "What the fuck? Where's Hazel? Oh bollocks and buggeration..."

"Calm down, woman!" Tash grinned. "You're safe."

Jess took a look around her. Sure enough, she was in the hospital wing. Valerie was on one side of her bed, measuring her pulse. Tash was on the other.

"What-" she began, before launching into a coughing fit.

Valerie scowled. "She messed up your lungs pretty well, I have to say. You're going to be out of action for a little while."

"Is she in the Basement?" Jess managed to croak. "Please tell me she didn't get away."

"Don't worry," Tash reassured her. "She's safe."

"I can't believe she turned so... odd," Jess sighed. "When I made her, I didn't make her like that. I'm sure she wasn't quite such a Sue..."

"You were fourteen, dear," Tash reminded her. "We all have our demons."

"Some have more than one!" With very little ceremony (for once) Harriet crashed into the room... Leonard's skinny arms wrapped tightly round her neck in a very bizarre imitation of a piggy back ride. "Have this one back!"

With a soft flump, Leonard landed on the bed and shimmied up to hang around Jess's neck.

"Aww, if I didn't know better I'd say Leonard was giving you a hug," Tash laughed. "But I can see his teeth..."

"Get... off!" Jess detached the parasitic creature from her neck and gave him a stern glare. "Bad Leonard! We talked about biting people! Have you been a good boy for Aunty Harriet?"

"Huh," Harriet brushed her hair back in an attempt to regain her leaderly composure. "I'm glad you weren't gone long, let's just say that."

That night, Jess had been allowed to return to her own room. For once it wasn't the Den of Sin, just a cosy little room, draped in purple curtains, illuminated by gentle candlelight. Leonard was snoozing contentedly in Jess's handbag in the corner, and soft music was playing.

"Staring, dreaming, cold rain, skin steaming, just some fog in my eyes," sang Marco Hietala over Jess's iPod speakers – his usually raucous voice soft and steady. Jess closed her eyes briefly.

She couldn't help thinking about Hazel. She couldn't imagine being suspended like the Sue had been, without a way out for so long. No wonder she had been driven to hate her author. For Jess it would have been a fate worse than death to be caught in a moment in time, with no resolution and no way to escape... and as Hazel had pointed out, author and creation had a lot in common. It must have been a relief to be released – Jess didn't want to start contemplating who or what had released her.

With a sigh, she opened her laptop. Maybe she'd give Hazel her happy ending after all... the ending she had always planned.


Locked securely in the basement, one Sue began to smile, as new memories began to fill her consciousness. She let her eyes drift closed... as she ceased to exist.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Insert Super-Powered Female Soldier Here

"Prepare the final sequence."

Cristoph Asahina, greenhorn agent of the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society knew better than to fall asleep. While this may seem strange to the average and inattentive layman, for Cristoph, kami only knew what terrible things awaited him in the land of dreams. The black-clad ninjutsu wielder was sleeping fitfully, twisting this way and that on the futon that served as his bed.

"Just think. The newest addition to our Group… and here I thought we would never reach this stage."

"Patience, Luna. I would not celebrate until the experiment is complete."

At first, all Cristoph felt was cold. Cold, chilling liquid encompassing him as he floated in whatever was holding him in place. Suddenly, however, his eyes opened, and things started to get warmer. That's when the trouble started.

"Sir! Coolant line seven's been severed! The energy capacitor's been completely fried!"

Klaxons blared around him, reduced to simple vibrations in his chilled prison. Cristoph tried vainly to see beyond the electric green substance around him, but saw only darkness.

"The entire system's being fed backwards into the computer! We can't cut the power!"

"Pulse is increasing! Oxygen flow's being cut off! The entire life-sustainment system is shutting down!"

Cristoph was struggling to breathe now. Blood screamed in his ears, attempting to inhale air that, well, wasn't there anymore. His head was pounding with his increasing heart-rate.

"Shut the system down, idiots! If he wakes up now, the experiment will fail! SHUT IT ALL DOWN NOW!"

He couldn't take it anymore. Cristoph somehow let a loud scream, trying to blot out the sound of panicking people in his head, until suddenly… he woke up.

The ninja found himself back in his room at ACMSES headquarters, the Library Arcanium, with his giant eagle ally, Algazdun, staring at him from its nest in the corner opposite Cristoph, its great yellow eyes blinking under the small gray helm it wore as part of the armor it wore. The Kivat-bat III clock on the shelf next to him (a welcome gift from Drake) said eight thirty AM.

Algazdun squawked, conveying its worry to him.

"I… I was dreaming," Cristoph said. "It was… that dream again…"

He clenched his fist.

"It was… nothing."


Excerpt from the writings of Cristoph Asahina, ninja and Agent of the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society.

I had that dream again. I cannot escape it, the nightmare that plagues me every time I have the misfortune of falling asleep during my nightly meditations continues to haunt me, much like the comings and goings of Aster whenever I'm trying to meditate or make sure my weapons are in working order. I tried looking around the Library for something that might help to explain these things. I took a look at some psychology books at Lord Marcus's discretion, but so far I have found nothing.

As I write in this notebook I received from Lady Rhia for something called "Christmas" (I had to have it explained to me by Lady Karissa and Lady Charis. Apparently it's some kind of religious holiday everyone celebrates by feasting and exchanging gifts as part of something called Secret Santa. I drew Lady Rhia, so I quickly snuck into the Golden Sun fandom and constructed a pair of bracers for her in Yallam), I am also reminded of these strange feelings I have for her. After all, I have no similar experiences to set this up against, and Rhia is…well, for the lack of a better term, attractive. And those feelings also appeared, I note, when I first met her…


About a month earlier

It was still early in the morning, so Cristoph decided to go hunting. After Adrian had found out that Cristoph had somehow stolen his tabasco sauce from his stash, Adrian had gone ahead and taken back the bottles the ninja had taken, and now the ninja was out hunting for a suitable alternative. And he was doing it the only way he knew how… stealthy ways.

So, Cristoph was now sneaking through the air ducts of the Library Arcanium, searching for one of the kitchens that he had spotted on his journey through the halls earlier. He was still getting used to navigating the halls of the Library, in spite of his inexperience, but Cristoph continued sliding his way through the vents (crawling made too much noise), peeking through the vents in search of his target.

"That kitchen… is officially mine…"

He looked down into the vent before him. He recognized the face of fellow ACMSES agent Rhia, whom he had fought alongside in the Call of Duty fandom; if maybe indirectly. She was scribbling something on a piece of paper with a Sharpie.

"And what is this?" he asked himself, slowly removing the vent cover and peeking over.

Rhia, unaware of the ninja's presence, proceeded to slap the paper on the door and tape it on the door. The paper had two words on it: Rhia's Kitchen. Eyes narrowed, Cristoph pulled up his ninja cowl and said, "Pardon me, Lady Rhia, but I think you'll want to revise that statement before you enjoy the spoils of your victory."

Rhia looked up as Cristoph, trailing a line of rope, slid out of the vent. Unfortunately, as he was about to continue, he was interrupted by a slight "ahem" from behind him. He looked behind him: it was Tash.

"Excuse me, but I am leader here, and I say that Kitchen Two belongs to Rhia. She called dibs on it, after all," the blonde-haired fire wielder said.

Cristoph pulled down his cowl in respect to the ACMSES leader. "Pardon me, Lady Tash. But ever since Adrian discovered where I've been keeping his tabasco sauce, I've been forced to search elsewhere for materials. And I'd rather not go back to my old standby."

"And what, pray tell, is this 'standby?'" asked Tash.

"Well, the original recipe called for crushed glass, but any kind of irritating substance works as well. I'm sure you know just how effective my black eggs are after my last mission…"

"How about habaneros?" Rhia offered.

"What?" both Tash and Cristoph turned to face Rhia, watching as she disappeared into her kitchen and returned with a bag of something in her hands.

"I make salsa a lot, so I have a lot of these," Rhia said, putting it in Cristoph's hands. "In the real world, the police use these to make pepper spray, so it should work just as well as tabasco sauce. Just wear gloves when handling it, okay?"

Cristoph wasn't entirely sure of what to say to her. He just hung there like a gormless wooden monkey, clutching the bag of habaneros in his hand as Rhia went off back to her kitchen and Tash, suddenly without a reason to be there, went to go find Adrian for cuddles.

This is...what is it I'm feeling? Cristoph thought.



Cristoph leapt a foot in the air as Emotion Marcus, the, well, emotional half of veteran agent Marcus, appeared in the doorway of his room, interrupting the ninja from his thoughts, the brush he had been writing with flying out of his hand, twirling in the air and landing comically, hairs first, on his head, dousing him in ink.

"Can I help you, Lord Emotion Marcus?" Cristoph said, trying to still his beating heart.



"Valkyria Chronicles, you say?" Cristoph asked, after slipping into the bathroom to wash off the ink.

"Do you know about it?" asked Adrian.

"I do," Cristoph said. "Valkyria Chronicles can be likened to a variation of the events of World War II. It takes place in an alternate 1935 and is centered around the adventures of a militia squad from the independent country of Gallia headed by a biologist-cum-commanding-officer against the Eastern Europan Imperial Alliance, an enemy bent on their destruction for the sake of fuel. It's a fledgling fandom, but it has a lot of inroads to it: anime, manga, video game...with the third coming first and the first two following in its wake, a rather interesting way to create a fandom if you ask me…"

"We get the idea," Adrian said flatly. "We picked up a Sue in there, and if this is another war fandom, we may need to mobilize the entire Society again…"

"With all due respect, Lord Adrian, I believe that such a move may be unwise. If this Sue is on the side of the Gallians, she could have one of the most potent military forces in the world around her little finger. A straightforward attack is suicide. However, you are right in assuming that this fandom is Blacklist. Therefore, I will need someone to aid me in this endeavor."

"…alright then," Adrian said. "Do you have anyone in mind?"


"HOW THE HECK DID I GET EIGHTH PLACE PLAYING MARIOKART WHEN IT'S JUST THE TWO OF US PLAYING!" Ben shouted, looking at the DS in his hands in abject confusion.

"This game is easy!" said Lily Adamson, a paroled Sue that Ben had rescued.

"How interesting," Cristoph called from behind them, leaning against the wall. "Are you sure that permanent Prohibitor was attached properly, Ben?"

Ben stood up to greet the ninja. After the events of what had transpired between them had been revealed, Cristoph still wasn't sure he could trust Ben or Lily, Lily because she was a (former) Sue, and Ben for fraternizing with the enemy, which was how he summed up the situation when he first heard it. Well, she wasn't an enemy anymore, but the fact that Cristoph believed Ben had a tendency to use nukes with alarming frequency was enough to not let Ben off the hook just yet. Hence, the lack of a title before his name.

Needless to say, the feeling was mutual.

"What do you want, Cristoph?" Ben asked.

"There's a Sue loose in the Valkyria Chronicles fandom, and I need your help in dispatching it," Cristoph said plainly.

"Right... and why come to me?" Ben asked skeptically.

"Quite frankly, because you're the only one who's open at this point. I'd ask Lady Rhia, but... well, I'm pretty sure you know already," Cristoph said.

"...alright then," said Ben. "I'll help out. But if I do this, you and I are all square. Lily too. Agreed?"

"Agreed. I'll come get you when I'm ready as well," Cristoph nodded, and turned to leave. "Oh, and Ben?"


"I beg of you… no nukes, please. We're going low-key into this mission."


Melanie Raquel Amaryllis Henrietta Pauline Koda the Ninth.

Long name. Even longer list of admirers.

Starting out as a simple girl living in the village of Bruhl around the same time as the attack on the small border village by the Empire. While most people ran for the hills (with the exception of Welkin and Isara, who were running to get their father's tank), Melanie stood her ground, fighting with the heavily outnumbered and outgunned Bruhl Town Watch. However, right as Welkin and Isara rolled into the mostly-destroyed town in the Edelweiss, they were amazed to find Melanie, aglow with cobalt Valkyria flame, taking aim with a discarded Gallian-1 rifle at the radiator of an Imperial tank.

One gunshot later, the tank exploded in a fiery mass of scrap and Ragnarine.

But Melanie didn't stop there. After beating back the Imperial advance at Bruhl with help from Welkin and Isara (and Alicia too, I suppose, as she put it), Melanie decided to enlist in the Militia, despite the fact that her beyond-impressive skills with practically any weapon and her own tactical expertise could've easily surpassed most high-ranking officers of the Gallian regular military, and eventually became the commanding officer of Squad Eight, a squad formed from a small splinter of Squad Seven soldiers under Welkin's command. With Melanie's skills as a commander, Squad Eight eventually left Squad Seven behind in the many tales of derring-do, whether it was beating back the Imperials or trying to dodge the plans of the corrupted General Damon to return the attention Squad Eight received back onto him.

Yes, Melanie was a Sue alright, and it was going to require some precise planning to make sure Melanie didn't unleash Gallia's fury upon them prematurely, or they were all dead Agents.


"Cristoph, come on, at least try to look normal wearing the uniform," Ben said.

"This is highly annoying to me," Cristoph said tersely. "And you are not helping."

"Guys, do you mind? We're almost there," Karissa hissed as she and another relatively new agent, Ossa, led the group towards the Gallian milita home base in Randgriz, the capital city, which was where the plot hole had taken them.

Currently, the four agents, Cristoph included, were dressed in the usual Gallian militia uniform, which bore the Squad Eight symbol on their uniform, which, much to Karissa and Ossa's chagrin, had culminated in short skirts for the two females. To play up the militia soldier disguises, they had added the customary weapons of a Shocktrooper (Karissa), Lancer (Ben), Scout (Cristoph), and Sniper (Ossa) to their disguises. That didn't stop Cristoph from bringing some of his lighter ninja gear with him: sais, shuriken, kunai, and the like, hidden in various parts of his uniform.

"Why'd I have to be the sniper?" Ossa asked. "Rhia's much better at this sort of thing."

"Well, Lady Rhia is still recovering from her broken leg after the mission into the Babylon 5 fandom," Cristoph said. "Besides, I believe some cross-weapons training would be good for you."

"…you know, speaking of Babylon 5, when did you get medical clearance to go on this mission anyway?" Ben asked. "Valerie said you had two broken ribs and a fractured one to go with it."

"That's my secret," Cristoph frowned.

Thankfully, Karissa took over before Ben and Cristoph got into fighting each other. "Save it for another time, you two. We need to find out what the Sue is up to if we're going to find a way to catch her without having the entire Gallian Militia on our tails. And it'll be considered moot if you guys let her know we're here if you guys keep arguing!"

"…she does have a point," Ben grunted, while Cristoph merely huffed his acknowledgement.


"What is your deal with Ben, anyway?" asked Karissa as she and the ninja filed into the tank hangar to meet with their commanding officer with the rest of the squad (and by commanding officer, I mean the Sue). Ben and Ossa, meanwhile, were out observing what the Sue had done to the fandom thus far. "Not to pry or anything, but he does have a point when he said you recovered from your ribs a little too quickly."

"…" Cristoph said nothing, just rested against a nearby tank, waiting for the Sue to arrive.

"…for that matter, why are you so stiff today, anyway? Normally you can handle our normal antics, but today you even sent Aster scurrying for cover," Karissa added. "Come on, Cristoph, talk to me."


However, before she could inquire further, the Sue came in. And Melanie was an absolute visage of beauty that put even the greatest goddesses to shame. Her hair was purest silver, with twin ponytails that seemed to be prominent on many of the females in the fandom, and her eyes were a bright green. She was clad in a Squad Eight uniform as well, complete with short skirt (Cristoph rolled his eyes at this, muttering something dark under his breath).

"Alright, everyone, form up!" she said, with the kind of voice that reminded him of Aster. Cristoph gritted his teeth and took his place in line between Karissa and whom he recognized as Audrey Heitinga, a canon Lancer. "Okay. We just got word from command that we're ready to begin our siege on Ghirlandaio. Damon is throwing everything at the fortress and that includes us."

A loud groan went up from the amassed characters.

"What's going on?" Karissa whispered.

"Ghirlandaio is a heavily fortified fortress on the northeastern border of Gallia," Cristoph replied. "The Imperials took it from the Gallians and now use it as their main base to plan their offensives in Gallia. It took the Imperials only three days to conquer it, if I recall correctly."

"However," Melanie continued. "We're not completely out of luck. We just managed to strike gold back in Barious, courtesy of Mister Landzaat. May I present to you…a relic of the great age of the Valkyrur returned to us!"

And so, she quickly led the squad outside, where lo and behold, there was a humongous mechanical blue lion-tiger hybrid, towering over the tank hangar. The mane was really just a pair of triangular flaps, streaked with white, and on the top of the head to replace the eyes was a single orange visor. However, what made it particularly vicious, if the claws and fangs almost as big as a man would be long weren't enough to give one pause, was the two tank-sized yellow blades tucked near the shoulder blades.

Cristoph swore, which was a good thing because the other squad members were completely in awe of the mechanical mammoth before them and would've heard otherwise.

"What is it, Cristoph?" Karissa asked.

"That's a Blade Liger," Cristoph said. "It's a Zoid."

"From the fandom of the same name?" Karissa looked from ninja to Zoid, and when she got no reply, she shook her head and drew Cristoph aside. "Okay, we really need to do something about this."

"Are we equipped for dealing with cross-fandom items?" Cristoph asked hurriedly.

"Well yeah, but situations like this are rare, and I mean rare. I can probably count on one hand the number of times this shows up in the ACMSES archives," Karissa nodded. "So we may have to double back and get something to counteract it while we focus on the Sue. Unless the Zoid belongs to someone in the Zoids fandom?"

"It could, but I rather doubt it. We should contact Ben and Lady Ossa and compare our notes while we request something to deal with the Blade Liger."


Ben and Ossa were not exactly pleased to hear about the arrival of the Blade Liger.

"Okay, that is going to throw a major stick in our wheel," Ossa said. "Now what?"

"Lady Karissa is preparing countermeasures as we speak," Cristoph said. "More importantly, we need to construct a plan around the Sue's capture. If we can keep her away from the Blade Liger, it will make our job suitably easier, for what it's worth."

"Not if the whole army's moving out to Ghirlandaio tomorrow morning," Karissa said, putting away her Communicator. "Which means we have to make our move tonight or we're going to lose our best opportunity to take her down."

"Do we have a level on the Sue yet?" asked Ben.

"Not yet. Half our computers are having maintenance done today and Charis is still crunching the numbers. She's forecasting level 4 on the high side, though, judging by her relative power and how well she's covered her bases," Karissa shook her head.

Cristoph just sat there, twiddling with a shuriken in between his fingers as he reflected on the situation. They were in a sticky situation and no mistake, and the fact that he himself had made the call for a small team only was probably not a good call on his part. At best, they were little more than reconnaissance, spying on the Sue to pave the way for a much larger force…

And on the word "spying," the veil was lifted.

"Everyone, listen up," he said, quickly garnering their attention. "I have a plan. But it requires a lot of stealth, misdirection, and it's likely to get fatal if even one part of it goes wrong. This is what we'll do…"


The moon rose high and bright over the base that night, and most of the army was asleep, preparing for their attack (or in the minds of the Milita, suicide attack), with the exception of sentries around the bases' entrances, but many of them were just sleeping standing up, because they're sentries and that's what a lot of them do, or perhaps they're only human as well.

Regardless, it made Cristoph's entry into the base relatively simple as he leapt up and swung himself up and over onto the roof of a nearby barracks to make his entrance. Gone was his Squad Eight uniform, he was now back in his traditional black ninja garb, and his cowl once again over his face, and now he was bristling with classic ninja weapons: ninjato, kusarigama, which he figured would function just as well as a kama as well, and the ever classic shuriken dangling on a line inside his shirt. His yari was still broken, but that was okay. He felt perfectly good about his equipment, unlike the heavy rifle and semi-bulky scout uniform. He was in his element.

Leaping across the rooftops to the officer's barracks, Cristoph waited until the guards patrolling the compound passed by the door, and then flipped over the side of the roof onto the ground, waiting at the door, completely masked by the shadows. It was a ninja thing.

Looking around, he pushed the door open slightly and slid inside. It was plenty dark save for the windows, but with the moon at its zenith, the moonlight filtering really wouldn't stretch far enough to make Cristoph visible to anybody who might have been looking his way….

Okay, so he snuck through the building completely undetected. That's all that really needs to be said. Now let's get back to the main story.

Cristoph came to a halt outside Melanie's room, placing himself against the wall as he slid the door open slowly, creeping in as he drew a kunai from within his boot, thumbing the edge to test the sharpness as he approached the sleeping Sue… and suddenly, the Sue came awake, drawing a pistol.

"Put the knife down," she growled.

Rolling his eyes, Cristoph let the knife drop with a thud into the wood. Melanie got out of bed, keeping her pistol on the ninja as her eyes traveled to Cristoph's free hand, which was clenched tight.

"What's that you're holding?" she asked.

"A surprise!" Cristoph lashed out, tossing one of his black eggs at Melanie. The Sue raised her gun and fired once. The bullet shattered the egg, revealing a cloud of white and red dust as it washed over them. The effects were immediate as Melanie dropped the pistol, clutching her burning face and screaming in pain. Cristoph then made his escape, tossing some shuriken into the window before leaping into it, allowing the ninja to escape in a flurry of glass.

Now that he had managed to escape, if only for the moment, Cristoph quickly made his way through the compound as Melanie's pained screams echoed throughout the base. "There's a spy in the compound! An Imperial spy is here! Stop him! STOP HIM!"

Cristoph's Communicator buzzed against his chest. Cristoph pulled it out. "Are we in position?"

"Yup," Karissa's voice said. "Though I have to ask…what was in those eggs? Sounds to me like you really nailed her."

"Habaneros. I ground them in a bowl and mixed it with flour," Cristoph said, watching a few bullets fly past him as Squad Eight soldiers, who to their credit, had roused themselves quickly and now were trying to shoot the ninja. "But more importantly, are we in position?"

"We've been ready for the past five minutes," Ossa said. "We're just waiting on you now."

"Right then. Stick to the plan, everyone, and stay alert for the Sue!" Cristoph hung up, reaching for smoke pellets that he had also taken with him. Picking three of them, he held them in between his fingers and then turned around, tossing them at the oncoming soldiers' feet. There was a loud POW! as smoke and gunpowder flew up, obscuring the soldiers as they dashed right into the middle of it.

Immediately, lights around the base blazed alive, trying to pick out where Cristoph was hiding. That was Karissa's signal. Having immediately turned invisible, she took the MagsM20 she had been supplied with, Karissa took aim at the ground and opened fire, aiming at the ground around the confused soldiers to keep them further stunned, thus buying Cristoph further time to escape.

And then Melanie burst out into the scene. An epitome of grace her long silver hair unfurled behind her as she pulled out a humongous black and gold machine gun. Her features were a tad blotchy from the effects of the black eggs, so she didn't look as perfect as before, but Melanie was past caring. At the moment, she was after the ninja who had put her in pain a few moments back.

"Get out here, ninja-boy! I've got a ticket to hell with your name on it!" she howled, brandishing the heavy weapon.

Cristoph's ear twitched visibly at that. "What the kami did she just call me?"

This was the first time the other Agents had seen Cristoph visibly annoyed by verbal threats. Most of the time, Cristoph just gave a curt reply, if anything at all, in response to such a thing. This time was different, though. Apparently, something the Sue said had really gotten his goat.

"I mean it, ninja-boy! Get out here! I can see your friends, and I'll kill them all if you don't get out here and fight me!" Melanie continued, brandishing the weapon.

"What is that gun she's holding?" Ossa asked over Karissa's Communicator. "That thing looks nasty…"

"I don't know, that's Cristoph's area…" Karissa replied. "But you just keep that sniper rifle on her and hopefully we won't have to find out…"


"What was that about rum?" asked Ossa in confusion.

"Again, why do you ask me? Cristoph, fill in Ossa for me, will you?" Karissa asked.

She found herself talking to open air. Cristoph had disappeared.

"How does he do that?" she asked herself.


Cristoph was already on the move once he had identified the gun Melanie had wielded, leaping off the rooftop and rolling on the ground to conserve his momentum, smoothly righting himself as he did to continue running at the machine-gun toting Sue.

This is bad, the ninja reflected, pulling out some of the shuriken in his shirt. The Ruhm is the most powerful firearm in the entire game, combining both machine gun firing capacity with sniper rifle accuracy and RPG lance level destruction! I need to separate her from that weapon at any cost!

"Sue!" Cristoph said, drawing his ninjato as he let the shuriken, which was dangling from a line of black string, hang from his pinkie. "Turn and face me!"

Melanie turned, swinging the Ruhm gun with her. "Well, ninja-boy, decided to quit playing around and face me properly?"

"I am not 'ninja-boy,' Melanie Raquel Amaryllis Henrietta Pauline Koda the Ninth," Cristoph said crossly. "I am the dark void. I am the cold steel. I am the just sword. I am the blade cloaked in darkness that…"

"Yeah, yeah, I get it, you're a ninja who's here to kick my ass for messing around with a fandom," Melanie said. "Let me ask you something, ninja-boy, do you always start it out like this or am I a special occasion?"

"Stop calling me that!" Cristoph snapped angrily, whether it was because of his new pet-name or being interrupted (again) is up to you. "I am Cristoph Asahina, agent of the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society! And you are under arrest for two counts of fandom manipulation, gross negligence of established canon, and unwarranted fandom crossing!"

"Oh, you mean the Blade Liger I've got parked outside the tank hangar?" Melanie asked, jerking her thumb at the gigantic blue machine. "Don't worry. I'm not planning on using it… well, not yet anyway."

"And yet you don't hold the same reservations for Selvaria Bles's Ruhm weapon," Cristoph observed, eyeing the heavy weapon in Melanie's hands.

"What, this? I didn't steal it, Selvaria gave it to me after I beat her one-on-one in Naggiar. I haven't had a chance to test it out yet, so how about I use it on you to see how the greatest weapon in the whole fandom works in a Gallian's hands?" Melanie smirked, hefting the humongous weapon and taking aim at the ninja before her.

"Holy-!" Cristoph barely had time to get out of the way, cursing quasi-modern weapons as the Ruhm opened fire, spraying the area Cristoph had just left in a hail of bullets. The bullets flew through a wall behind him and collapsed it in practically the same second. "Everyone, now would be a good time to try and set our plans into motion!"

"I'm already on it!" Ossa, taking aim with her sniper rifle, trying to center on Melanie's head as the Valkyria Sue gave chase, still firing with the Ruhm gun while Cristoph threw the shuriken that he had been carrying, hoping to distract Melanie briefly. She pulled the trigger, and at once, there was a loud report and the bullet clipped her face. Melanie froze, blinking as she touched her face, which was barely bleeding. But her eyes blazed hot red as she broke off her attack on Cristoph to focus on the ACMSES sniper, firing through the upper wall and, somehow, around the roof where Ossa had been staking out. Ossa gave a scream of surprise as the roof around her crumpled in and collapsed, taking her with it. Karissa quickly reappeared behind Melanie, taking aim with the machine gun in her hands when Melanie swung out with the huge weapon, clocking her and sending her right through the wall behind her.

"Even when it's not firing, that thing is dangerous," Cristoph frowned. "Ben! I need a distraction!"

"One distraction, hold the onions, coming up!" Ben said, dashing outside from his hiding place in the hangar. "My coffeemakers are not controlled by Hoover Dam computers!"

Melanie raised her Ruhm gun, preparing for something, but when the attack manifested itself as a tidal wave of coffee, even she had a huge WTF? look on her face before her wits returned and jumped over the attack, taking aim at Ben, who was now out in the open.

"Surprise!" Cristoph was also airborne, ninjato drawn for a quick strike. Melanie raised the Ruhm above her head, blocking the blow and swinging it the same way she struck Karissa, but Cristoph had used the gun and his own blade as leverage to get above the Sue, reaching for some shuriken.

"Nice try!" Melanie grabbed the ninja's wrist as he flew past, and then threw him back to earth, where he collided with Ben, flooring the pair of them.

Melanie also returned to earth, once the coffee had flown by, taking aim with Ruhm. "Take this!"

But when she pulled the trigger, nothing happened. Melanie stared, looking at the weapon in her hands, where she found a rather strange sticker near the gunbarrel…

"Copyrights are bothersome, aren't they?" Cristoph asked smugly, shouldering his ninjato. "Good luck wielding a weapon you've no right to wield anymore!"

That's when Melanie figured it out. Cristoph had had Ben distract her so that he could get up close to her and put the Copyright on the Ruhm, preventing it from being used by all Sueish beings. Tossing aside the useless weapon, she instead reached for something that made Cristoph swear very unprofessionally (again): a lance and shield.

"What's the big deal about a lance and shield?" asked Ben.

As if in answer, Melanie suddenly blazed with blue fire, her eyes now aglow with red energy as her hair flared out behind her in the sudden burst of energy. The lance she carried suddenly extended into a fine point, flames curling around the spiral weapon.

"That's why! Get cover! GET COVER!" Cristoph was already on the run, as Melanie suddenly unleashed a blast of blue energy from the lance's tip, turning everything in its path into ash and flames. Ben quickly ran out of the way via Fast Step, but still felt the scorching heat on his back as he joined Cristoph behind the doorjamb of the tank hangar.

"What the hell was that!" Ben asked.

"I should've known this would happen. The Sue is a Valkyria," Cristoph said. "The Valkyria are a race of super-warriors from which the fandom gets its name. Though honestly, the silver hair and red eyes should've been a dead giveaway."

"What kind of powers do these Valkyria have?" Ben asked, wondering if the last part of Cristoph's statement was directed towards him, or towards Cristoph himself.

"Enhanced strength, speed, and reflexes, as well as an accelerated healing factor and affinity for ragnite weapons, usually a ragnite lance and shield like the one she's wielding right now."

Ben got the idea. He groaned. "Great. Super Saiyan with a bit of vampire added to it. How do we fight her?"

"The Valkyrur's powers are mainly internal. But that beam attack she uses comes from the lance and her shield can block most attacks. We find a way to separate her from them both, though, getting a Prohibitor on her is simple enough," said Cristoph, checking his weapons over a moment.

"…how do you know these things?" Ben asked in awe. Most Agents were intimate with a number of fandoms, but Cristoph's knowledge of this fandom was just outright spooky.

"…trust me, I just know," Cristoph said after a pause. And he meant it.

That's when the place around them lit up cobalt blue; Melanie Racquel Amaryllis Henrietta Pauline Koda the Ninth, in all her Valkyria majesty, had arrived, pointing her lance at them.

"I suggest you cover your ears, ninja-boy. It doesn't look it, but this lance is very, very, loud," Melanie said, her voice echoing with unholy grace, classic for a Valkyria.

"Will you stop calling me that infernal name!" Cristoph shouted.

Suddenly, there was the sound of a machine gun, and bullets flew past, though they only flew through Melanie's magnificent silver hair. Karissa had snuck up behind the group, invisible of course, and now was pointing her supplied MagsM20 at the Sue before her.

"Hands in the air, Sue! You're under arrest!" she said in her best voice, though she was still in pain from getting thrown into the wall, by the sound of it.

"Cliché, aren't we?" Melanie said, closing the distance slowly as she turned the lance towards Karissa. "Do you really want to fight me with such a small gun?"

"How about two small guns?" Ossa asked. She was on her feet again after her drop from the roof, and was pointing the GSR-4 at Melanie.

Melanie didn't reply, instead opened fire with her lance as she swung it around, firing a number of small bullet-like fireballs, causing Ossa to roll away to avoid fiery bullet death. That gave Karissa time to fire her gun, but rather than dodge, Melanie crouched, allowing the bullets to ring off the shield, ricocheting harmlessly into the walls, and in a rather sadistic twist of fate, one bullet bounced and returned to the shooter, collapsing Karissa as it seared right through her leg. Giving a slight derisive chuckle, Melanie stepped forward, lance bared.

"I was meaning to warn you about that. Oh well," she smirked.

That's when a ball and chain suddenly wrapped around her shield arm, yanking it back.

"Your fight is with me, Sue!" Cristoph said, tugging with all his might. "Ben, get her shield!"

Ben quickly dashed forward, snatching the shield from the Sue Valkyria's arm, which, in her surprise, she accidentally let go of.

"Aha, got it!" he said, raising the hefty ragnite circle in his hand. However, his triumph took a bit of a comedic turn when he realized that, after being doused in Valkyrur flames for so long, was now red-hot, so he dashed by, half-running, half-Fast Stepping, bouncing around yelling, "Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot hot hot hothothothothothot!"

Cristoph was also at the end of his tether. Even though he was wearing gloves, unlike Ben, the flames of the Valkyrur were quickly heating up the ball and chain on his kusarigama, so, he finally let go of the weapon as the leather gloves started to burn through. Spitting on the smoking gloves, Cristoph pulled out his ninjato again, spinning the bladed weapon slightly as Melanie also adopted a ready stance with her lance. The two circled each other, prowling like hungry sharks.

Meanwhile, Ben was still hop-skip-Fast Stepping in place, still carrying the hot ragnite shield. "Hot! Hot! Somebody take this off my hands!"

Cristoph rolled his eyes. "Lady Ossa, take the shield from him before his arms start blistering, please."

Ossa obliged, taking the shield off of Ben's hands and quickly dropping it with a heavy thunk. Meanwhile, Cristoph briefly looked up at the hole in the roof that had been Ossa's vantage point a few minutes before.

"Ben. Remember when I told you that nuking in this fandom was a bad idea?" Cristoph said.

"Yeah. Why?"

"Well, now would be a good time to forget about it."

Ben grinned. "Got it. Don't mess with nukes!"

Melanie pointed her lance, taking aim at Cristoph as he rolled towards Karissa to get her out of the way. However, the sound of a whistling artillery shell suddenly caught her attention. Looking up through the hall, she saw a nuclear warhead searing down towards her, heading right for her through the hole in the tank hangar roof.

"Idiot," Melanie said, taking aim with the lance in her hand unleashing a bright blue beam of light into the sky, destroying the nuke in a spectacular blast of blue and orange flame. By the time the light show had ended, though, she found that the four Agents had disappeared.

"Not bad, ninja-boy," Melanie observed. "You had the strange one use the nuke to cover your escape. Not bad. Not bad at all. But now it comes to play my favorite game…hide and seek."


The four Agents were now taking cover in the mess hall, Cristoph peeking out from behind a window while Ossa tended to Karissa nearby, using whatever linens she could to halt the bleeding on the wounded limb.

"Okay, I think we've lost her for the moment," Cristoph said, coming away from the window. "How is she?"

"I think I got the bleeding to stop," Ossa said. "But I don't think we'll be able to get away from her. Not with Karissa like this."

Cristoph sighed, proceeding to bang his head against the wall. "Come on! There's got to be a way out of this!"

"Yeah, you just keep banging your head against the wall while you think of a plan," Ben said bitterly towards the ninja. "Never mind that my forearms and my hands are one giant blister right now."

"You know what, Ben, why don't you hold your breath, or something similar!" Cristoph snapped. "I am not in the mood to deal with your contempt for me at the moment."

"Hold my breath? You're the ninja, you're supposed to be the silent one!"

Ossa rolled her eyes, muttering something dark under her breath about boys as she came away from Karissa for a brief moment to look outside, which caused to her promptly blanch: Melanie had left the burning tank hangar and was headed their way, scanning the area for the ACMSES agents.

"Ummm... guys?" asked Ossa.

"And you pretend to be a stealth expert? Huh, indeed!"

"If anything, you're a jerk."

"Guys, I think that Sue knows we're here..." Ossa said, hoping to silence the two before Melanie heard them.

"If anything, you're a Neanderthal."

"I'll bet Bahamut your Author was a Neanderthal."

"OH, THAT DOES IT!" Cristoph pulled out his ninjato angrily. "YOU'RE ASKING FOR A DECAPITATION NOW, YOU NUCLEAR BABOON!"

Ben stomped on the ground like a sumo wrestler preparing to charge, adopting a rather silly boxing stance. "BRING IT ON! YOU COULDN'T HACK YOUR WAY THROUGH A STACK OF PAPERWORK!"

"GUYS~!" Ossa screamed.

"WHAT!" both Agents turned from each other to face Ossa. On a normal day, this would seem almost comical, but unfortunately, the comedy of what could've been a fight worthy of a Team That Guy With the Glasses Brawl was quickly lost as a familiar beam of blue fire and light took out the wall next to them and the wall across from them, flooding the room with more moonlight as Melanie stepped back inside the mess, looking for all the world like an angel of vengeance.

"...this is all your fault," Cristoph deadpanned at Ben.


"Bollocks!" Tash looked ready to pound her head against something herself. She had been watching the whole thing unfold on the computers before her, and now things were practically going to hell in a handbasket right before her eyes.

That's when Valerie burst into the room, the normally calm Society healer looking rather flustered.

"Tash, have you seen Cristoph?"

"He's currently on a mission, why?" Tash said, pointing to the monitor.

"You've got to call him back!"

Tash blinked. That had to be the first time Valerie had ever said something to that effect. "Why, is something wrong?"

"I don't know how, but... Cristoph somehow managed to escape the hospital ward during the night, even though I told him he couldn't leave until he'd fully recovered! He's still in no condition to be fighting right now!"

"You four are like a pack of little rats, scurrying under my feet while I try to kill you," Melanie snarled. "I was going to kill you rather quickly so I could get on with my life, but now I'm royally pissed off!"

Cristoph pulled out his ninjato, turning to face Melanie, but Melanie quickly charged forward, driving her knee into Cristoph's face and sending him right into Ben for the second time that night, throwing them into the opposite wall. Ossa quickly stood up, drawing her katana.

" would fight me?" Melanie asked, merely shifting her eyes at the Agent in her periphreal vision. "You look as though you can barely wield that weapon..."

Suddenly, there was a keen whistling in the air, but it was different than before. Swinging her lance, a set of shuriken thrown by Cristoph fell harmlessly out of the air.

"Don't be so quick to judge..." Ossa growled.

"She's mine, Lady Ossa!" Cristoph shouted, charging at Melanie from where he and Ben had landed with ninjato ready. However, the Sue merely swung out with her lance again, knocking Cristoph across the room again as the lance connected with his side. Something cracked audibly.

"And you're the absolute worst of the group, ninja-boy. Because you never seem to learn when to stay down," Melanie added. "I wonder if you're even a real ninja..."

"Shut... up... Sue..." Cristoph grunted, staggering onto his feet. Melanie actually stifled a giggle at this.

"Your breathing is starting to get shallow," she observed. "And there was barely any force behind that swing. Did you wound yourself already somewhere?"

"So what... if I did?" Cristoph said, preparing his ninjato.

Suddenly, Karissa spoke for the first time since she was wounded from her sitting position near the wall. "Wait. Anybody seen Ben?"


And what a surprise it was. Suddenly, there was a loud boom from behind them and the whistling of another shell, granted this one sounded different than a nuke. No, this one sounded like...

"A tank shell?" Cristoph wondred.

Melanie turned, swinging her lance as she did. There was one large CLANG!, but Cristoph felt two things surge past him as it flew through the wall behind him. Outside, everyone could make out the sight of Ben in the tank hatch of a light Gallian tank. Now Cristoph understood: while he and Ossa were fighting her inside to keep her away from Karissa, Ben decided to sneak outside and commandeer one of the tanks in the ruined hangar.

"I always wondered vaguely what it would be like to be James Bond when he took over that tank in GoldenEye," Ben observed. "And now I know: it feels AWESOME!"

Melanie facepalmed, turning away from Cristoph. "You know what, screw it. I was supposed to go after ninja-boy anyway, so I'll just take care of all three of you at once and focus on ninja-boy afterward. In other words, EAT FINAL FLAME!"

Cristoph's eyes widened. The Valkyria Final Flame was the most devastating move in the Valkyria arsenal. Granted, it ended up taking the caster's life in the end, but the Final Flame would destroy everything for miles in all directions. And knowing Melanie, she'd use her Sue powers to bend the rules so that she'd survive, probably citing true love for Welkin or some other BS factor, while leaving ACMSES short three agents and a whole mess for him to clean up afterward in their wake.

I've got to stop her! Even if I have to...! Cristoph thought blithely.

Suddenly, something happened. In his mind, there was a loud shattering noise, almost like a small glass object breaking, and at once his body began to move on its own. He shifted his feet slightly into a different stance. Hefting the ninjato in his hand, he traced two of his fingers on the blade's edge, feeling the steel as he closed his eyes. He then stepped forward with his left leg, levelling the blade with his eyes, pointing the weapon at the distracted Melanie.

"Shinmei..." he intoned. "Muso...Ryu...Shoden!"

His eyes flew open, and he brought down the weapon, slicing the open air once.


The air suddenly rent with some kind of transparent wind slice, bending the light cast by Melanie's Valkyria flame as it flew towards its target...and sailed left, instead surging through the lance she was holding and not much else.

"Oh, come on! What is the deal!" Cristoph howled in protest, which turned into a gag and a gasp as Cristoph fell to one knee, trying to catch his breath.

By now, Melanie had finished charging her Final Flame maneuver, raising her Valkyria lance and pointing it skyward almost like a certain green-clad video game character would raise his sword.

"This is it!" Melanie said. "Say your prayers, Agents!"

"NOOOO!" Cristoph stumbled to his feet, still clutching his ninjato as he started forward in hopes of preventing the calamity...

And suddenly, the lance cracked and all the energy that Melanie had been channelling suddenly burst out, the flow of power interrupted as the lance exploded in her hands, shrouding everyone in a bright cobalt light.

"Geez...should've brought my sunglasses..."

And on that note from Ben, the four agents stumbled forward to the place where the Sue had been standing only a few minutes before, disoriented but otherwise okay, with Karissa leaning on Ossa to support the weight of her wounded leg. As for Melanie, however, the only thing left of the Sue was where she had been standing, which was now coated in a ring of soot.

"How's that for anti-climactic? The Sue blew herself up," Ben continued.

"How many times... has that appeared... in the ACMSES archives?" Cristoph asked Karissa between his gasps.

Karissa just shook her head, completely unable to put into words what she had just witnessed.

"I guess... it's mission complete," Ossa said. "I mean, the Sue's gone, all we gotta do is use a Prohibitor to wipe her influence from the fandom and then we can go home?"

"And maybe do something about your ribs," Ben said to Cristoph matter-of-factly.

"My ribs... are fine..." gasped Cristoph, but when Karissa (helped by Ossa) gave his ribs a hard poke, Cristoph amended it to, "Okay, okay! You've proven... your point! Now stop that, I need... to breathe!"

Karissa shook her head. "You actually snuck out of the ward to partake in a mission? I thought I was speechless before, but..."

However, Karissa was once again interrupted as a familiar blur of blue zoomed by, grabbing Cristoph and scattering the other three. Melanie Racquel Amaryllis Pauline Koda the Ninth was not pleased at all about how the situation had unfolded for her, and it was clear by the look on her now not-quite-so-perfect features, marred by the aftereffects of her backfired Final Flame, and the fact that she drove the wounded ninja through a wall and against the wall on the other side of the room, which happened to be the kitchen.

"You've totally ruined my plans, ninja-boy," she said coldly, one hand wrapped around his neck. "I was told to bring you back alive, and make no mistake, I will. But now that you've garnered my full attention..." she paused to slam Cristoph against the wall to make her point. "I'm going to make you regret for ever crossing me. Then I'll take you with me."

Cristoph's mouth moved slightly, although it was somewhat gargled by the Sue pressing her hand against his throat as he waved his arms, trying to reach for something.

"What's this? A snarky comment? Go ahead, say it, ninja-boy. Make my day."

Cristoph managed two barely audible words. "Open wide."

"What-!" and suddenly, the rest of the statement was lost in a loaf of Alicia's best bread as Cristoph managed to pull one that just happened to be in the oven, most likely to be cooled before the canon character went to bed that night. Surprised, Melanie made the mistake of letting go of Cristoph, who proceeded to kick her away as he collapsed against the wall, gasping for air. And then, a rolling pin came down on Melanie's head and finished the job. Cristoph looked up to see Ben holding the rolling pin as he tossed it back onto the counter.

Karissa and Ossa stepped into the kitchen, eyeing their handiwork.

"Did you just take out a Sue with bread and a rolling pin?" Ossa asked the obvious question.

"I dunno... maybe?" Cristoph replied.

"," Ossa smiled.

Karissa, however, was a bit more pragmatic, as she hobbled over to Melanie's unconscious body and put a Prohibitor on the Sue. At once, the destruction of the base that had been wrought during the melee began to disappear and the fandom was purged of Melanie's Sueishness.

"Finally, we can all it a night. Ben, the Plothole Generator, please?" Karissa asked.

"Sure thing, I'll go get it," said Ben, scooting off just as the mess hall finished repairing itself.

Cristoph attempted to rise, leaning on his ninjato for support, but found it difficult enough to even summon his strength after having his ribs re-broken and having survived being choked by an angry Sue. Karissa saw him from the counter she was leaning against, and gave Cristoph a look that stated he should stay down and recover his strength, or at least wait for Ben to return, and desisted.

Then, something inexplicable happened.

No, Cristoph's wounds didn't just heal over. Melanie suddenly began to spark electricity. Her body suddenly jolted with lightning, as if struck by lightning.

"Umm... Lady Karissa?"


" she supposed to be doing that?"

"That's impossible. The Prohibtor should be stifling her powers, and I checked that Prohibtor myself before we left. Why is she...?"

For the third time, Karissa found herself interrupted as suddenly, Melanie rose with a vengeance, shooting a burst of lightning at Karissa from her hand, knocking her out instantly. Ossa, to her credit, reacted swiftly, but Melanie was faster, catching Ossa's blade on the way down, twisting it out of her hands, and then headbutting her, knocking her out as well. Ben then entered the room, carrying the Plothole Generator, which he then dropped to engage Melanie, but she simply tripped him and then knocked him out with a gratuitous boot to the face.

Cristoph could only watch as Melanie then turned to face him, grinning as she walked towards him, her hands sparking with blue lightning as she kneeled down, reaching for his neck...

And Cristoph felt something he'd never thought he'd feel for a long time.

It was sheer terror.



Cristoph jolted awake, blinking owlishly to find himself in the medical ward of the Library, staring at not only the concerned face of Valerie, but of Rhia and Tash as well. Rhia was in her wheelchair with her leg still bound in a cast following their mission into the Babylon 5 fandom.

"I'm... alive?" was the first words out of his mouth.

"Well, yes, but for a while we thought you weren't," said Valerie. "I was awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of your monitors going bonkers, and when I went to see what it was, lo and behold, I found you seizing in your bed, like you were a patient on last night's episode of House."

Cristoph sighed, looking down at himself, finding his limbs strapped to the bed with leather.

"We normally save those for Michael when he comes here, so he doesn't try to escape. We were afraid you were going to hurt yourself or Valerie when she was treating you," said Tash.

"So... the mission, it was..."

"Mission, what mission?" Rhia asked in confusion. "You weren't on any mission. You're still on sick leave after our mission into the Babylon 5 fandom."

Cristoph slumped back in his bed, looking at the ceiling. He heard Valerie say something to Tash and Rhia, and the two ladies left. Valerie then went over to him and said, "Cristoph...when I was treating you, I felt something. Pain, fear... and it was especially violent. Cristoph, did... do you know of anything that might be causing this?"

"...I don't know. I wish I did, but... I don't know."

Valerie nodded. "Very well. But if you feel anything, let me know."

And so, Valerie vanished to...wherever she had come from. Rhia then entered from outside the ward.

"Are you feeling better now?" she asked.

"I'm tired, and my ribs feel like they're on fire, but other than that..."

Rhia sighed with relief. "That's good..."

"Lady Rhia, why are you here?" Cristoph asked. "I mean, Lady Tash and Lady Valerie I can understand, but you?"

"I'm your friend, Cristoph, what more reason do you need?" Rhia asked, wheeling over to his side. "Besides... I was scared."

"Scared? What for?"

" looked like you were in so much pain. Like... I don't know, maybe you were dreaming about what happened last month, but whatever it was...I just wanted to make sure you were alright. 'cause friends like you are hard to come by these days."

Cristoph blinked, unsure of how to respond. It was just like what happened the month before; once again the ninja found himself tongue-tied in her presence. Why did this keep happening? And what was that feeling he was getting in his stomach? It didn't feel like anything, just like... well, he couldn't identify it.

"I guess I better go. Try and rest a little more, okay? I'll come meet you in the morning."

"Yes... yes that would be nice."

So, Rhia wheeled off to her bed. But once she was out of earshot, something rang out in Cristoph's mind. Laughter. And he recognized it immediately.


Surprised, ninja-boy? That was only a fraction of what power I actually have...

"Where are you?"

Don't bother. I'm a long way from here. But answer me you want to know about what you are?

Cristoph's eyes widened, but he tried to hide his surprise. "You don't know anything about me!"

Oh, I do, ninja-boy. I do. I know everything about you. You want to know about what brought about your existence? I'll tell you. All you have to do... is catch me.

"Show yourself!" Cristoph demanded, but the laughter of Melanie Racquel Amaryllis Henrietta Pauline Koda the Ninth was all that remained.


Tash, meanwhile, was busy looking through some of the filing cabinets in her office in the Library, her fingers digging through the files before her.

"You're up late."

Tash whirled around, only to relax in finding out it was Adrian. She then turned back to the cabinet, finally pulling out a file marked "Asahina, Cristoph" and looking through its contents... or lack thereof.

"Is this all we have on Cristoph?" she asked.

"Aside from what, his mission statements? Then, yeah, that's all of it."

Tash sat at her desk, the folder's piecemeal contents before her. "Unbelievable... we have absolutely no personal data on the ninja at all. I mean, even Aster has a little bit of personal data, for what its worth, but Cristoph... it's like he's a total mystery. Why? And how? It doesn't make any sense."

"I don't know about why," Adrian shook his head. "As for how, I'm not sure about that either, but I do know this... whatever Cristoph is, I doubt he's anything like what we might have witnessed before..."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Insert Beatdown of a Different Kind Here (part 2 of 3)

"Do you have any information on their location, Mr. 'Bodyguard'?" Cerebrum asked in an impatient tone. She was staring at the city below out of a massive window. Behind her, the cloaked figure materialized out of nowhere.

"Nothing definitive, but I've been hearing from my network of spies that there are some people from out of town who are looking for former residents of Gensokyo. I believe that might be them." His voice still held its monotonous edge.

The sue frowned as she thought aloud, "Why look for residents of that unnatural place? Shouldn't they be looking for me? I am their true target, aren't I?"

"I can't begin to hazard a guess, ma'am," said the cloaked man stoically.

"Of course you can't. You weren't assigned to me because of your brains," Cerebrum snapped back. She moved away from the window and swept towards the nearest refidgerator she had. Before opening it, she reached into a pocket and pulled out a deck of intricate cards. "Maybe I'll have to demonstrate to them just who they're dealing with."


Hong Meiling was practically on cloud nine as she made her way over to a group of hobos in an alley she knew. When they heard her approach, they all looked at her and were surprised by the happy expression on her face. She greeted them merrily, performing some flips to close the distance between them. The hobos applauded after she stopped.

"Well, someone's full of energy today," the apparently "leader" of the group spoke up. "What's the reason for it?"

Meiling responded with a smile, "I've found some employment! Two people I met are looking for former residents of Gensokyo and I told them that I could help."

"That's wonderful, but I'm assuming that there's more to this visit than you just informing us of your situation."

"That's why you're the leader...Yeah, you're right about that. I was hoping that you guys could help out."

The leader looked at the other vagrants, who all nodded. When he turned back to Hong Meiling and nodded, she immediately hugged him.


Kyle and Aster were at a fast food place, waiting on Meiling. Aster had more interest in her manga as her food was barely touched, while Kyle was eating enough for a small army because of his abundant use of Accelerator. As he was finishing up, however, the Mood Music Maker started playing and it wasn't a song he wanted to hear. He knew the song and he knew the character that the song went with, however it wasn't truly the theme song of the character. Even as he listened, images from when he first learned of the song played through his head; images of a middle age woman with ice blue hair in a mostly blue and white dress whose time had stopped years ago.

Aster looked up from her manga when the song started playing and saw the sad and shocked look on Kyle's face. That got her attention; she never saw him with a sad expression before.

"What's this song?" she asked, almost hesitantly.

Kyle closed his eyes for a moment as he wrestled with his emotions. When he opened them again, he spoke, "It translates to Cirno's Advanced Math Class... Excuse me."

He got up and headed outside, leaving his Mood Music Maker with Aster. Since it was an item connected to him, he could track it if he got lost. As for why he didn't take it with him to look for the character the song was for, he figured that he wouldn't need it. She easily stood out in a crowd with how she looked. Exiting the fast food place, he looked around the street for his target. He spotted her some ways down on the other side of the street. Considering her bright blue colors and the shards of ice that floated along behind her, you'd have to be blind to miss her.

Of course he chased after her, pushing his way through the uncaring throng of people as they scurried about their daily lives. Because he would seriously hurt anyone he touched as a result of the incredible speed he moved at, he couldn't use his Accelerator to close the distance so in his hurry, he ignored stop signs and traffic to get to her. After following her for several minutes, he managed to get close enough to say.


She stopped walking and turned to see who had called her name. It took her by surprise when she saw that it wasn't someone she knew.

"Who are you?" She asked as Kyle caught up. Kyle held up a finger to indicate a need for a moment as he tried to catch his breath.

"My name's Kyle," he said when he had recovered a bit. "I'm tracking down former Gensokyo residents."

"Gensokyo?" Cirno reacted by turning the rest of her to face Kyle with a shocked look on her face. They had stopped walking in front of an alleyway, the rest of the world could have disappeared for all the attention the two of them gave it. Cirno's face took on a look of utter sadness. "Oh, what I'd give to be able to go back there... I haven't felt right since I left."

Kyle stood there silently, not knowing what to say to the grown up ice fairy. After a few moments, Cirno sighed before saying, "Anyway, why are you looking for former Gensokyo residents?"

Giving himself a moment to answer, Kyle replied, "Well, to some degree, it's Yukari's plan. The rest, I wanted to meet you. You and Hong Meiling are my favorite Gensokyo girls...but to see you in states like this..."

Cirno puzzled on that a bit, "Yukari...Yakumo? What kind of plan does the Mistress of Boundaries have that requires Gensokyo residents?"

Kyle shrugged in response, "I don't know, she didn't tell me...If I remember correctly, her exact words were, 'With what I have in mind, They'll all want in on it'. All I can assume is that the plan will involve vengeance on the person responsible for removing the Gensokyo barrier."

"So that's why your looking to round up all the unnatural beings that made their nest in an isolated daydream. I might as well not have shown up to give this demonstration," came a disembodied voice came out. Out of nowhere appeared Cerebrum. All passing pedestrians avoided walking into her, but she might as well have not been there at all for all they noticed a woman suddenly materializing out of thin air. Kyle could immediately tell that she was dangerous, his body reacting by placing himself in front of Cirno.

Cerebrum saw this display and scoffed, "I have no interest in unnatural bugs. The only reason I'm here is to give you a warning." She pulled an intricate card out of a pocket. Kyle could figure out what she was going to do, so he turned on his heel to pick up Cirno before heading down the alley. However, he hadn't even been running for a minute when he hit a deadend. Before he could turn around to look for another path, he heard Cirno gasp as Cerebrum stepped in the way. Gently setting her down, he turned to face the Sue while pulling the Omni-weapon out from where he put it on his suit.

The Sue's expression was unreadable as Kyle held up his hand to point the sphere at her. A few seconds passed. With the speed of a bullet, a spike-like tendril shot out of the sphere towards the Sue. A clang of metal on metal rang out in the empty alleyway as the cloaked figure placed himself between the tendril and the Sue. The figure's hand was also raised...and it too held a metal sphere as that was what blocked the attack. Unlike Kyle's Omni-weapon, this one was about 6 inches in diameter and was a gunmetal grey color. The bodyguard stepped aside as the spike retracted.

"Well, you aren't making this warning easy. Looks like you want to get hurt." The Sue casually spoke. She held up the card, which started glowing. "Perfection Sign: Blades of the Divine!"

Kyle had only a nanosecond to react as swarms of spinning, ethereal scimitars burst from the card. The Omni-weapon's metal spread out in a half-dome in an attempt to block the oncoming cutters. Unfortunately for Kyle, the blades were truly ethereal, bypassing the Omni-weapon to slash across his body.


Everyone watching the monitor gasped as the blades plowed into Kyle continuously. Though no damage appeared outside of his body, though his body was tensed and his teeth were grit, so it was obvious to anyone looking at him that he was in pain. They could see Cirno cowering behind him, his body preventing the blades from harming her.

"Why haven't we gone to help yet!" Adrian yelled at the people on monitor duty.

One of them spoke up, "I don't know what's going on. Every time we connect a plothole to that world, it directs to Gensokyo. It's not even registering the city."

"What the heck is going on!" Adrian muttered as he focused on the screen. All the people there could do was watch until the stream of ethereal cutters stopped. They watched as the Onmi-weapon's shield retracted and Kyle collapsed.


"Painful, isn't it." Cerebrum taunted at the fallen Agent. "It's good for you that my warning card can't kill a person. After all, it doesn't really cut them, it just makes their body feel as if they were getting sliced apart. So it basically fills them with pain until they wish they were dead!"

She started laughing as she and her bodyguard walked away. Cirno looked on in fright as Kyle just lay there. Slowly, she crawled over to him. In a hushed whisper, she asked.

"Are you alright! Please, say something!" Her pleading seemed to work as he started moving.

"Note to self; ethereal blades hurt." Kyle muttered as he pushed himself to a sitting position. He took a few deep breaths and then he turned his head to look at Cirno. "None of them got you?"

She shook her head. He sighed in relief as she looked at him curiously.

"You felt the entire time of that Spell Card. How were you able to withstand it? You didn't even scream!"

He remained silent for several moments. Then he turned to face her fully, "It was painful, but I've had some experience with levels of pain like that before. For instance, I have a transformation that restructures my whole body to degrees that human bodies aren't supposed to go. That barrage probably felt worse, but I can't really compare them as they both hurt like heck."

It took some effort, but Kyle managed to stand up...barely. He almost fell down again, but Cirno caught him. Kyle gave her a weak smile.

"I'm both glad and annoyed that you don't have your powers now." Cirno gave him a strange look before he continued, "Glad because if you did have them, I'd be freezing right now. Annoyed because your ice powers would ease the aches left by that Spell Card."

Cirno sighed at the reminder that she was currently as helpless as the next human compared to the power she just witnessed. She carried him down the alley back to the main street, where Kyle told Cirno to take him to the nearby fast food place.


"Adrian...Is what Kyle said true? About his, what was it, Soul Form transformation?" asked Marcus, who had entered around the time of Cerebrum's Spell Card. Adrian answered with a flashback.


After Kyle had recovered from his trip into the Samurai Pizza Cats fandom, Phoenixia and the Leaders met with him in the medical ward. When he asked why, they told him that they wanted to test how the Soul Form affected him compared to the Heaven and Earth, Worldly Secret Art. Kyle shrugged, saying his energy levels were lower than usual due to just recovering so his Soul Form wouldn't be that much bigger than he was and thus it wouldn't be the even near the same level as the mission. They told him that it didn't matter, tests at smaller power could be used to estimate things at a higher power. Kyle took off all his clothes, which earned a quip from Phoenixia about him never doing that for her, and braced himself like he did during the mission.

Valerie was present, as it was the MEDICAL WARD, to make sure that he wouldn't be in any danger. When the process started, she screamed for all of three seconds before passing out. That was the first sign of all the changes that happen when he shifts. The next one was Kyle himself screaming. Apparently, in his still weakened state, he couldn't keep himself from screaming either. It was a dreadful, partially human scream as his vocal cords were also changing. It was shortly cut off as his body was changing from a humanoid one to that of his Soul Image. Sounds of bones shifting and cracking could be heard throughout this. After about a minute of this, the transformation was complete and then Kyle promptly collapsed into unconsciousness, his form not changing back.


Everyone in the room was shivering from the flashback imagery and sounds. Marcus finally managed to say, "Well, that explains why I didn't see him the day he was supposed to be released."

Adrian merely nodded before saying, "He has a whole list of Dangerous Forbidden Techniques and they all take their toll on him. Sooner or later."


Aster was starting to worry. Between the unexpected sadness in Kyle's eyes and his sudden rushing off, Aster wasn't sure he was alright. That worrying was added to by Hong Meiling, though most likely not for the same reasons. When Cirno appeared while doing her best to keep Kyle standing, the Fae and former gate guardian rushed over to help. They quickly got him over to a chair before asking him what happened. Cirno explained about the Sue appearing and hitting him with a minute long Spell Card. As her explanation was winding down, Kyle suddenly shot out both hands and accessed his Astral Vault. He pulled out a pill bottle for aches and pains and something to wash it down with. He popped a couple of pills before chugging most of the drink in one breath.

Setting the drink down and returning the bottle of pills, Kyle finally spoke up, if a bit tiredly, "There's something confusing me."

He looked at the others, who were giving him their attention, and said, "Instead of trying to actually take me out, the Sue just used the attack as a warning."

"A warning of what?" was Aster's question.

Kyle, Hong Meiling and Cirno could only shake their heads as they couldn't see the answer to that question.


"Here, this is my apartment. It's not much, but it's home," were Cirno's words as she brought Hong Meiling and the Agents in. It was rather non-descript and empty, the living room where they first come in only having a plain blue couch in front of a relatively small TV. Behind the couch is a counter that leads straight into the one person kitchen. On the inside wall close to the kitchen is two doors; one leading to the bathroom while the other leads to the bedroom with a small stand between them. A picture was hung above it on the wall, with enough glare from nearby light to hide the image it contains. Opposite the inside wall, on the other side of the kitchen, was a sliding glass door to a balcony.

Hong Meiling was in awe, as she hadn't had a place to live since the Scarlet Devil Mansion was abandoned. Aster immediately grabbed the TV remote and started looking for some anime to watch. Kyle facepalmed at the Fae before walking over to the kitchen. That's when the picture caught his eye, the glare from the light hiding its content from the audience's eyes. As he looked at this picture, he got this smile on his face as he started chuckling. The former ice fairy glanced over, from listening to Aster grump about the lack of anime on the TV, at the male Agent to see what he found funny. She was surprised to see him staring at her picture. Almost in a daze, she practically floated over to him.

Kyle heard her approach, so he looked over at her. He was still chuckling a bit as he pointed to the picture and said, "You has a bucket!"

The glare hiding it from the audience was gone and in its place was a picture of four children with variable degrees of happiness on their faces. Two were immediately identifiable as a young Cirno and Wriggle. The other two were a blonde girl in a black dress with a ribbon in her hair while the other one had pinkish hair with small wings on her back in a brown dress. Just as Kyle had said, the Cirno in the picture had a metal bucket on her head. The combination of seeing the picture, Kyle's comment and chuckling caused Cirno herself joined in.

Their chuckling lasted for a little while, Aster ignored them after an initial glance in their direction while Meiling joined the Fae on the couch. When they finally got their chuckles under control again, Cirno gave the male Agent a smile and said, "Thanks, it had been a long time since I was able to do that. The world I seem to live in doesn't allow for it."

"I know what that's like." Came Kyle's reply. Just then, Kyle's Music Maker turned on. An otherworldly rock song started playing. Kind of surprisingly, as soon as the song started playing, Hong Meiling hopped off the couch with an angry look on her face.

"Lunar Clock - Luna Dial... That flat-chested maid!" She immediately rushed to and opened up the balcony door. Meiling paused for a moment, seemingly searching for something, before just jumping right off. Everyone rushed over to see if she was alright, only to see her rapidly making her way down the street towards a vague blue-dressed person. The visor Kyle used earlier dropped out of another hole for him to use. In augmented reality, he could see the person clearly; dressed in a blue maids outfit with her silver hair in braids.

"Sakuya Izayoi! Head maid of the Scarlet Devil Mansion! A regular knife nut that can manipulate time." The visor disappeared into its hole. Without looking at her, he said, "Aster, please stay here while I go after them. I'll need you here in case I get lost."

Before she could ask for what he meant, he leapt over the rail himself. As he chased after Meiling, Aster stood there in a typical anime sulk.

"Mou, I can understand why he left me at that burger place, but why's he running off after that China girl? He'll have to give me a dozen boxes of Pocky to make it up to me!"

Cirno looked at the Society Fae curiously, "You're a fairy, aren't you?"

Aster's expression didn't change as she turned her head away from the former Ice Fairy and stated, "I'm not a 'fairy', I'm a Fae!"


Marcus had settled in to watch the mission proceed with Adrian and the others on monitor duty. They were watching the scene above when Marcus asked, "Wait, why did Kyle say that he needed Aster there if he got lost?"

Ben, having been forced to sit down and watch some monitors without listening to his music, thought for a moment before continuing that line of thinking. "Yeah, according to the monitor I was watching, he could track down the Mood Music Maker because of its ties to his emotional state. While he took it with him there, couldn't he have left something else that he could track?"

As the Librarian was the only one present that knew the most about Kyle's abilities, Adrian answered, "While it is possible for Kyle to track energy, there are certain limits to it. First, he has to be aware that the energy is there in the first place and it has to be non-living. For example, drawing energy out of a streetlight is much easier than trying to determine where power cables are underneath the street. Also, even if he is aware of where energy is, if he is out of sight of this energy and then loses track of it somehow, he won't be able to find it again."

Marcus took that as his cue to continue the questioning, "But that doesn't explain why he would be able to track Aster's energy. How does he do that?"

Adrian's expression darkened as the answer to that came from the time that Pseudo-Tash had temporarily turned the Society against him, "How many of you were here when Pseudo-Tash had switched places with Real Tash?" He waited for the hands to show before continuing. "When Pseudo-Tash had convinced everyone that I had attacked the 'real' Tash, Kyle had activated the first stage of his Heaven and Earth, Worldly Secret Art out of rage. While he later came up to me and apologized, he also admitted, in his own words, that triggering the Art like that was an absolutely moronic thing to do as control is required to keep from burning out too quickly. Since it was stage one, the loss was minute. Anyway, as he had explained it to me, even though it was just stage one, the Art allowed him to sense the unique energy tags of everyone within a certain distance of his epicenter. Once he acquires those tags, he can focus on them if they're within the same fandom."

Ben was a bit overwhelmed by the implications of this, but another question popped into his mind, "Does that mean he also acquired Pseudo-Tash's energy tag?"

The Librarian nodded, "I had asked him that as well. He confirmed it and then said the Sue's tag made him feel like he was mildly, but constantly, sick. It'll probably only stop once she's dead or prohibited."

Marcus spoke up once more, "So, he constantly knows where all of these tags are?"

"Only when he consciously focuses on them. From what he told me, it's like being in the same room as a person who is rooms away. I had asked him how that works for the Sue tag and his reply was, 'Like being in the same room as someone who constantly has to be the center of attention'...Don't worry, his sanity is closely monitored now."

All the people on monitor duty sat there in silence before Ben said, "The more you know."


Well, this is a pain! Kyle thought as he finally caught up with Hong Meiling and Sakuya Izayoi. They were currently standing in the hallway of a somewhat rundown apartment complex. Well, Hong Meiling and Kyle were standing. When the former gate tender had reached Sakuya, she straight out punched her. That's the scene Kyle came across, Sakuya on the ground, rubbing a fresh bruise on her face with wide eyes while Hong Meiling panted from both the run and her anger as she stood in a "I just punched you" pose.

"Ho-Hong Meiling?" The maid sputtered in utter surprise and shock. Her tone definitely didn't sit well with the former guard.

"What? Surprised that I'm still alive? You human pencilboard!" Hong Meiling seethed as she towered over the maid. "My life has practically been Hell since that spoiled brat vampire fired me just before leaving! I considered you my only friend in that thankless job, but even you left me to rot!"

Sakuya finally snapped out of her shock and stood up, indignity apparent as she verbally retaliated, "It's not my fault you were left behind! I would have taken you, but I wasn't told what would happen to the rest of the staff! Lady Remilia only told me to take Lady Flandre and run! So don't take what you've been through out on me, I've had my own hell to deal with!"

They broke into an argument that looked like they were about to come to blows. Kyle got tired of it after a minute or two, so he placed himself between them with his hands up in a stopping gesture.

"That's enough, ladies. This argument is pointless." At that moment, the apartment they were standing in front of opened and out came a young woman. She wore a short red dress, with a pink shirt underneath a red vest and had a pink mop hat on her head. Out of her back was a pair of metal rods with various colors of prism shards hanging from them, making them look like small wings.

"You're all being too noisy!" She snapped in a voice that sounded half tired and half ticked off. Kyle recognized her immediately, as did Hong Meiling. Flandre Scarlet, younger sister to Remilia Scarlet. Her eyes focused entirely on the blue-dressed maid. "Sakuya, is it time to eat yet?"

"Flandre!" Hong Meiling gasped in surprise. She was looking over the vampire's older self as if she hadn't expected such a change. For her part, Flandre gave Meiling a once over too before recognition showed in her eyes.

"You're that gatekeeper Sis had hired to guard the front gate. Hong Meiling, wasn't it?" When the Chinese Youkai nodded, the vampire looked over at the male Agent. She tilted her head a bit before straightening out and saying, "And who's this?"

Hong Meiling cleared her throat before introducing him, "This is my current employer, Kyle. He works for this group that comes to worlds like ours and takes care of problems that changes them from what they had been."

"That sounds about right." Kyle remarked with a thinking expression on his face.


Back at Cirno's apartment, Aster and Cirno were having a conversation. They were sitting on the couch, Cirno at the right end and Aster on the left.

"So, before Gensokyo lost it's magic, you had power over ice?" Aster asked with a bit of awe in her voice.

"That's correct," Cirno answered with a giggle. "Back then, I used to say 'I am the strongest.' In many ways, it was true. I was the strongest fairy in Gensokyo. Heck, if I was actually fighting at my best and not acting like the child I looked like, I could even give some of the stronger Youkai a run for their money."

"'Acting like the child you looked like'? You mean, you were so powerful while just a kid?" Aster looked at the older woman with surprise and respect.

Cirno just laughed at both the look and question. After getting herself under control, she responded, "No, nothing like that. While I don't recall my age as a Fairy, I do remember being well over sixty years old. It was just, because I was a Fairy, I had the appearance, personality, and temperament of a child. Because of all that, I was usually treated as an idiot by any of the more mature residents that passed by my house."

Aster adopted an understanding look as she sat there. When the images of certain people popped into her head for reasons she couldn't think of, she asked, "Did you have anyone you looked up to?"

Cirno sighed as a smiling face came to the forefront of her memories. Tears welled up as she spoke "Yes. Her name was Letty Whiterock. As the Spirit of Winter, I looked up to her as she had control over the cold that only came with maturity and experience. To Fairies like me, she was as close to a mother figure as we could get. I miss her."


At Cerebrum's penthouse, the Sue was having a drink of wine while her bodyguard stood back a bit. After taking a sip, she questioned the cloaked man over her shoulder, "Have you found out if my warning stuck to that Society guy?"

"Not yet," came the monotone reply. "My network of spies has lost track of them. It seems like I'll have to expand it again."

The Sue stared into her wineglass in thought before saying, "As long as he was protecting that unnatural creature, I could have killed him easily. However, that man is responsible for the deaths of two dear friends of mine. If he hasn't gone back to that Library in shame, then I'm going to give him a death so brutal that anyone else from that Society won't even think to look in the direction of this fandom!"

Almost like it was for emphasis, she threw her wineglass into the fireplace and caused the flames to flare up from the alcohol.


Once again with Kyle's group, the explanations had finished. Hong Meiling wasn't furious at Sakuya anymore, plus the maid and vampire understood Kyle's mission and Yukari's request. When it started getting late, Kyle remembered that Aster and Cirno were waiting for him and Hong Meiling to get back. Sakuya then asked if there was a way for them to keep in contact. Kyle thought about it and then said that the best he could do at the moment was giving them each one of the cards he gave Wriggle. After an explanation about being able to track the cards that would just bog the plot down, Kyle and Meiling headed back to Cirno's apartment.

As soon as Aster saw him again, however, she stormed up to him and demanded a dozen boxes of Pocky to make up for him leaving her behind. With a sigh, Kyle responded, "How about I give you one box for every day that we're here and then give you the rest when we return to the Library...Deal?"

"Why should I accept such an agreement?" Aster countered with her hands on her hips. By this time, Hong Meiling had gone into the bedroom to lie down.

"Because giving you a dozen boxes right now would hinder your arms as well as put you at risk for a major sugar high which would interfere with the mission and get us both yelled at." Kyle got out in one breath.

Aster seemed to consider this for a moment before saying, somewhat reluctantly, "Fine, but only so I won't get in trouble."

With that acknowledgement, Kyle nodded and pulled a box of strawberry Pocky out of his Astral Vault. Aster immediately snatched it and walked away. Kyle sighed before sitting down on the couch. Cirno had watched the exchange from the kitchen as she was making dinner. From over the counter, she spoke, "She's a good girl, but quite the handful."

"Don't get me started on the kinds of trouble she makes at HQ," Kyle replied warily. He let his body relax into the padding before continuing, "Eh, this has been quite a day for me. I'll be very sore in the morning."

Cirno was silent as she was putting the finishing touches on dinner before it goes into the oven. After she set a timer, she went over and sat down by the tired Agent. It took a minute or so, but she finally spoke up.

"I have to thank you for protecting me from that spell card," the former Fairy's tone turned reflective as she continued. "It's been the first act of kindness I've had in a long time. Just the fact that my presence has been acknowledged as more than an employee or coworker has given me hope for what may come."

A faint, tired smile crossed Kyle's face as he replied, "As long as they are not forgotten by the minds of others, the living and dead have worth."

Cirno looked at Kyle with a bit of confusion, "I don't quite get what you said. Were you trying to cheer me up?"

Kyle weakly chuckled, "Yeah. It's not often that I show that kind of side."

Cirno gave him a small smile in response and said, "Thank you, then. You have no idea how much having someone to talk to helps me."

He probably would have made a comment about that, but he was letting his tiredness carry him away. The former fairy just let him rest. After all, he did shield her from the ethereal blades when she wasn't the target.


Meanwhile, the monotone bodyguard was doing his best to hold back rage. Now that Hong Meiling had agreed to serve Kyle and got her homeless friends to assist her, he was having trouble getting the homeless to serve as his eyes and ears in the city. Apparently helping her out was a bigger reward to them than the money the cloaked figure offered them. Though he scowled underneath the hood of his cloak, he did nothing except walk away.

As he walked back towards his employer's penthouse, he pulled out his sphere and gazed at it. An unseen smile crossed his mouth before he started talking to himself.

"I cannot wait for the word to strike. Killing him will prove the superiority of the Sues. After all, that is my new purpose in life."

A humorless chuckle could be heard from him as he deftly maneuvered through the crowded street and into his mistress's building.