Saturday, January 21, 2012

Insert Irate Victim of Supernatural Spam Here

All was right in the realm of Charis.

Her sister – at once her biggest source of concern, and yet the greatest impediment to her work at the same time – was finally out of the infirmary. Before she'd had a chance to follow Charis back to her lab and have her interest aroused by her latest project, Karissa had opened her laptop to check her e-mail. Some message from a subscription to some thread had set her off, and then the next thing Charis knew, her sister was rushing out the door with a look of murderous intent in her eyes and the words "My Immortal" on her lips.

Charis would have to get the full story from her sister later. However, at this moment, she was semi-grateful that Karissa hadn't caught sight of her newest invention. She might have broken something in her enthusiasm, and Charis couldn't afford any damage to this particular gadget, because it wasn't hers to break. At least, not entirely.

This... thing, this unnamed tool, was a collaboration that Charis had recently begun with Douglas, another member of the Society. Technically, he was an active Agent, whereas she was concerned solely with the Society's scientific affairs, but Charis had been pleasantly surprised to find that Douglas nonetheless "knew his stuff". He had been the one to come up with the Copyright Darts and Grappling Prohibitors (which Charis had been dying to steal and dissect, for ages). On the table, it looked like your typical Plothole Generator ray gun; however some conspicuously new circuit boards were evident through a hole in the casing.

Charis patted the side of the device affectionately. Today was the last day it would spend in her lab; now that Doug had come back from his latest mission, he wanted time to work on the machine too, and so it would soon be moved into his own lab for convenience's sake. He had promised she would still have input on their project. At the time, she had just shrugged. Now, though, Charis was seriously considering making use of her office inside the Library which was considerably closer to Douglas'. Surely a few days indoors wouldn't harm her indefinitely. She'd lock up her outdoor lab tomorrow and move a few of her things back Inside.

Silently, Charis stripped off her yellow gloves before setting about on an inventory of her most necessary possessions. Of course she'd have to take her tool kit, a change of clothes, some SpagBol, a bar of chocolate (just in case), and her precious laptop. Charis carefully arranged the items in the bottom of a valise, and just as her cursor hovered to Shut Down her computer, a notification binged. Surprised, she pushed the lid of her laptop further back, and observed a bright pop-up ad.

"Have you heard of Hell Correspondence?"

Charis frowned. "That's from Jigoku Shoujo, isn't it?" She didn't keep up with as many manga series as Karissa did. "How did this end up on my desktop? I'm not even connected to the internet." When she moved to minimize the ad, three more windows generated for every one she closed. Charis' trembling hands flew up to her face. "I did not get hacked. I did not get hacked. I did not get hacked!" With a muffled cry of fury, Charis swept towards the door, before an idea occurred to her.

She went back to her bed and grabbed the handles of the light suitcase, and then with her computer still on – birthing new ads at the rate of one per minute in the dark enclosure of her bag – she set out to find the Society's leader, Tash.


"Is anything odd happening in the Jigoku Shoujo fandom?"

Natasha Marquand started in surprise. She was accustomed, by now, to Agents seeking her out at any and all times of day. However, she couldn't recall ever meeting with Charis spontaneously in the Library. Automatically, she said, "If you're looking for Karissa, she left half an hour ago, and not to that fandom."

"I know." Charis brought her laptop out and balanced it on one hand in front of her superior. "I'm asking out of my own interest, because I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll be going there shortly."

Tash wasn't sure what exactly she was supposed to be looking at. By this point, the screen of Charis' laptop was awash with a mess of blurred red hues. "Is it broken?"

"I think I've been hacked. I'm not entirely sure if a Sue is involved, but the source of this virus was definitely Jigoku Shoujo."

Tash frowned dubiously. "A computer virus doesn't exactly fit a Sue's MO. Before you leave, we should check the Society's computers to be certain." But rather than heading towards the more powerful machines within the Library, Tash belatedly pulled out her Plot Summary instead. Charis stared at it covetously all the while that Tash consulted her personal device. After a moment, the older woman spoke, slowly, "There is some irregularity in the series. But judging by these readings – if there is a Sue in the fandom she's rating as less than a Level 1; she'd have less power than Emily prior to us taking her in."

Since she'd never once been in the field before, the word "level" in conjunction with "Sue" held no meaning for Charis. All she knew was that she had to put this distasteful problem to rights as soon as possible. "Alright, then, I'm going to go in and check the situation out. If there is a Sue, and she's as weak as you say, then I'll bring her back to the Library on my way out of the fandom," she added the last part casually.

The Society leader prepared to ask Charis if she would be okay on what was technically her first-ever mission. Members who had no plans to become full Agents were not required to go through a training mission, after all. However, she decided not to insult the girl's capability. The Plot Summary claimed this Sue was the weakest they had ever encountered, so what really was the worst that could happen?

It was only after Charis had disappeared promptly through a Plothole – a good technician always kept basic equipment, as the minimum, on her person – that Tash realized such a stupid question would likely be met with a stupid answer in return.


The story of Jigoku Shoujo predominantly consisted of case-by-case incidents where a minor character developed some reason to hold a grudge against another person, whereupon they would call on the Jigoku Shoujo. She could be contacted through her website Hell Correspondence at exactly midnight, and only on the condition that you held enough hatred in your heart. Once you'd typed the name of the person whom you held a grudge against into the coded box, Jigoku Shoujo would appear in your presence and offer you a voodoo-like straw doll.

The contract would be complete at the instant you pulled the string tied around the doll, releasing the knot. Before she would let you proceed, however, she always warned "When one person is cursed, two graves are dug. When you die, your soul shall fall into the pit of Hell. Your spirit shall wander forever in pain and suffering, never having known paradise. Well, that's after you die. The rest is for you to decide."

Her warning rarely had any effect on the will of her customers.

Jigoku Shoujo had a history - a reason for her strange occupation - but the manga's plot rarely touched on it. In fact, on average, Jigoku Shoujo herself received maybe 5 pages of "screen time", and her three assistants received about that much attention altogether. The real protagonists of each chapter were the pitiful human contractors, but most readers were in disbelief that a teenage girl would sell her soul to get rid of a rival who happened to want the same boyfriend she did. No lie, that happened in the latest chapter released on MangaFox.

"All in all, this is not the typical fandom that a Sue would commonly pick, either," Charis mused aloud. "There's no sense in assuming the role of one of the minor characters, because they come and go like the seasons here. Besides, Lela has been the first Sue I've known willing to sell her soul – most wouldn't bother. But if the Sue has taken on the persona of Jigoku Shoujo, well then, the job is actually a punishment. Why would she want to confine herself to a fandom where she gets virtually no glory and is powerless to fulfill nobody's wishes but her own?" After hours of searching, Charis was no closer to finding her hacker or the Sue, who she had combined into one person in her mind by now.

Dusk was falling over Japan, and she was getting cold. She hadn't grabbed a jacket or anything before leaving for this fandom, so she still wore a halter tank and shorts that were appropriate for the Library's perpetually sunny weather, and not for the touch of night. "I've got to find somewhere to get warm." Down the street Charis could just make out a sign with the kanji ネカフェ that read "internet cafe". Did she have enough money to buy a hot drink and a chair?

She sighed. Her questing hands had found CAD 3.91, but it would be pointless to exchange it for yen. Not factoring in a guaranteed service charge, she would only get 327 yen in trade, and the cheapest cup of coffee in Tokyo was approximately 350 yen. "I didn't want to have to do this, but-" Charis muttered and drew out a small pill. In what had to be the most mundane use of an Oneshot ever Charis popped the pill and acquired the power of Hone Onna, the "Bone Woman" of the series. Stepping into the shadow of a nearby storefront, she waited for the next passerby, whom she revealed herself to with a dramatic thrashing of arms.

"Aiiiieeeee!" The longest string of letters that FanFiction would allow did not account for the absolute terror in the young Asian mother's scream.

As the woman ran away Charis consciously concealed all the bones in her body once more, and then she hefted the quite fashionable Crystal Ball Sweet Chocolate Hello Kitty bag she'd purse-snatched onto a shoulder. Projecting a completely innocent air, she entered the cafe she'd spotted earlier.

"Irasshai-mase! Nanika Osagashi desu ka?" (Hello! How may I help you?)

In response to the employee's infectious grin, Charis returned a smile of her own and replied, "Koohii o hitotsu kudasai." (Please give me a cup of coffee.)

"Wakari mashita. Ima, otori shimasu!" (Ok, I will get it for you!)

In no time at all, Charis took a seat at a table in one of the corners of the cafe. She sipped her coffee reflectively, and hashed through her thoughts as the hands on the clock above flew by. Truly, assuming the Sue had come into the fandom to oust Enma Ai, she would be more or less stuck now. The original Jigoku Shoujo had been presented the fate of being the "Hell Girl" as atonement. It was an ongoing mystery as to whether she would ever be freed of it. That her Sue powers were constrained would explain the low "power rating" that Tash had referred to, so if the Sue was the hacker then maybe she'd taken up her unconventional hobby because she was... bored.

There was really only one way to settle this. The Sue had to be the current Jigoku Shoujo. So to get in contact with Jigoku Shoujo, Charis just had to wait two more minutes according to the cafe's pink plastic clock, and then access Hell Correspondence. Charis shuffled around in her chair until she'd dragged it the metre towards the closest computer with an embarrassing screech.

"Gomennasai!" (Sorry!) Charis winced in sympathy of the employee's ears. Once her apology was acknowledged, she returned her attention to the clock face. 117 seconds… 118 seconds… 119 seconds… 120 seconds. With a deft hand Charis clicked the Go To bar in her internet browser, and a website full of crimson bloomed across the page. Set in the centre was the large script for "Hell" that had featured in the ad that plagued her.

Charis paused before the empty spot where she was supposed to type the name of her enemy. She had to sincerely hate someone, or else Jigoku Shoujo – Sue or not – wouldn't appear. Smiling evilly, she typed in Hannah Montana.

I've received your message.

Hell Girl

"Take this." Behind Charis, a hand proffered her a doll with a red string. She spun around triumphantly, and yes, this girl didn't have the long, straight black hair or ruby-red eyes of Emna Ai. The affected Jigoku Shoujo had coal-grey hair put up in a bun with pink chopsticks, and the eyes that stared back at the Society tech were emerald green.

"In the name of the Anti-Cliche and Mary-Sue Elimination Society I arrest you for malicious computer crimes!" Charis said in all one breath.

The Jigoku Shoujo blinked. Once. Twice. "That's not how it's supposed to go. You're supposed to arrest me for fandom defacement, aren't you? And you don't even know my name. You're seriously under-informed."
Charis agreed to the accusation. "What is your name then, O computer hacker?"

She sniffed daintily. "I'm Emma Diffi Nair Deri Unice Queenie Ai."

Charis sputtered. The Sue's name sounded like nothing more than a mishmash of incomplete words. Perhaps Emma "Different Nary Derivative Unique Queen" Ai. (That's right. Don't ask.)

"Well, it's clear that you're from the Society, but you must be Charis, am I right?"

"Yes. You know that, don't you, because you were the one who planted a virus in my computer?"

"100 percent correct. Lela-sama asked me to."

"Wait, what?" Charis connected the dots between this "Lela-sama" and the only Lela she had ever known. "Do you mean to say you work for Lela Persim Spica Clover Ginger Sarah Minnie Kai-Lee?"

Emma's eyes darkened contemptibly. "I don't work for Lela-sama. She has the right to command me because she is a Level 6 whereas I am Level 1."

"You're less than Level 1, according to our computers."

"Pah! There's no such thing as a level below Level 1. However, the peculiarities of this position in the fandom have shielding properties that work against anyone attempting to read my strength."

"That's reassuring. A place where Sues can hide in plain sight. So why in the world would Lela have you hack my computer?" Again, Charis spoke as if there were no spaces between her words.

"You care about your laptop the most, don't you? Lela-sama says it's the only gift you've ever received from your Author. The most effective way to hurt you is to damage your laptop, and the most effective way to hurt your sister is to get you out of the way."

The depth of Mary Sues' depravity hit Charis with a strong blow. She felt some of her pacifism crumble away, especially where her once-removed sister Lela was concerned. "If that's Lela's goal, she made a mistake in giving the job to a weak Sue like you, didn't she?"

Emma's eyes darkened again in what was probably the only way she could express emotion without succumbing to the Sueish tendency to be a chatterbox. "I'm more than a match for you!"

The two of them came together with a kick on both their parts. Emma wasn't a trained fighter, and Charis – are you kidding me – wasn't a fighter period, so their attacks were jerky. If you've ever played Mortal Kombat against an unskilled opponent, you will have noticed that they will simply button-mash, or else they will play it safe by sticking to just one button that they know works. Both girls kicked as if they were being controlled by someone forcing them to perform Power High Kick repeatedly. B, B, B, B, B, B, B, B,B,B,B,B,B.

At last, Charis executed an unexpected Snap Kick. A. The one change in monotony was enough to throw Emma off balance, and Charis monopolized her opportunity to clasp a Prohibitor around the other girl's wrist. "I said that Lela made a mistake in giving the job to a weak Sue like you."

In defeat the only recourse left to Emma was to cry. "At least Lela-sama won't be captured by the likes of you. She and Viva have many more plans for you wretched siblings."

Charis' expression remained neutral this time. "Of course she has. Lela knows us best next to anyone but our Author. But thanks to you spilling your guts, next time Karissa and I will be on our guard. Thank you Emma!" Her tone was playful as she sent the Sue sailing through her Plothole with one more Low Chip Kick. DO+B.


Back in the Library, Charis made a remark to Tash as she handed over her prisoner to be taken down to the Basement.

"If Lela was really smart she would have told Emma to take me to Hell, instead of fooling around with computer viruses and luring me into a trap. Maybe she doesn't hate me as much as she hates Karissa, and that's why the God of Hell wouldn't permit it."

Charis knew Tash wasn't familiar with the fandom, but one day in the future the statement might click in her head. If Charis had any inclination to fill out her requisite paperwork, all the information she would need could be found in there, but come on, this was the Society. No one sane did their paperwork.


In the Science Department of the Library Charis read the nameplates on each door to determine which belonged to her yet-unvisited Inside lab. "Camille... Douglas..." she read the respective names on the doors to her left and right. "Ah, so mine must be-" She looked up to see her name on bright metal right in front of her eyes. She'd been standing by the correct door the whole time.

Grasping the doorknob, she walked inside.

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