Thursday, February 23, 2012

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

Ben let his body go slack, hoping he could cushion the blow and protect Bella as much as he could from the falling rock. Suddenly, there was a whoosh of air and a crushing sound. Ben looked up to see Asasca standing over them, sword drawn with stone fragments raining down around them harmlessly.

"Can't have you dying on me," Asasca smirked. "All my hard work would go to waste."

Ben opened his mouth to say something, but Asasca cut him off, holding out his Plothole Generator. "This one has the safeguards removed." He explained.

Ben decided to save the questions for later and grabbed the Generator from Asasca. Firing, he threw himself and Bella through the resulting portal. Both winced as they hit the floor of the Library Arcanium and were thrust from the darkness of the cave into light.

Ben got to his feet slowly, his head slightly spinning.

"Are you OK?" He asked as he helped Bella to her feet. "I think so," She replied, looking around. "But..."

Ben followed her gaze to see Tyler and Pete sitting on a nearby couch, both with Xbox controllers in hand.

"Bella, get behind me." Ben said urgently as Pete and Tyler got to their feet, eyeing the two as one would a wild animal.

"Ben?" A voice gasped behind him. He spun to see Tash with a confused, slightly fearful look on her face. "What are you-?" She blinked. "Is that Bella?"

Ben opened his mouth. "I-"

"I thought you killed her!"


"Ben, look out!"

Ben turned at Bella's warning just in time to take a kick to the head from Pete's Darkhopper form. The blow knocked him back against a wall and when his vision cleared, he saw a black fist rushing towards him. He ducked and Pete's fist slammed straight through the wall where his head had been seconds before.

Pete pulled his fist back for another blow, only to find a crouching Ben with a finger pointed straight at him.

"Um...Ben?" Bella called uncertainly as she kept an energized palm on Tyler and Tash each.

"Tash," Ben said calmly, keeping his eye and finger fixed on Pete. "Believe me when I say this isn't what it looks like."

"Then what is it supposed to look like?" Tash demanded, keeping her own gaze on Bella. "First you try to nuke everybody, then you show up here again with a Mary-Sue who's supposed to be dead! What is going on here, Ben?"

Ben gritted his teeth. "I-"

Pete, sensing hesitation, slammed his knee into the crouching Ben's face, sending him sprawling.

"Ben!" Bella shouted, taking her gaze off Tash.

Tyler, following Pete's lead, fired a spell at Bella. The magic blast knocked her into Tash who quickly restrained her.

"Nice work, Tyler!" Tash said as he started forward, Prohibitor in hand.

Ben saw what Tyler was trying to do and started to get to his feet, only to have Pete knock him down again.

"Looks like it's light's out for you, traitor." Pete growled, pulling back a fist for another strike.

Ben squeezed eyes shut and braced himself for the blow.

"Enough!" Adrian's voice ripped through the air as he and the rest of the strike force walked in, with Asasca and Shirley tagging along behind them. Shirley looked distinctly uncomfortable.

"Tash, let her go." Adrian said to the blonde leader. "And you too, Pete."

"But, Adrian-!" Pete objected as Tash released the Sue.

"Just do it!" Adrian cut him off. "There's been a... development."

Ben got to his feet slowly, touching his face gingerly.

"Your nose is bleeding." Adrian noted.

Ben dabbed at his nostrils and groaned as his fingers came away stained with blood. "Not again..."

"C'mon, let's get you to Valerie." Adrian said. "You can explain everything there."

"You're coming too!" He said to Asasca. "You've got your share of explaining to do as well."

Asasca donned his innocent face again.

Adrian turned to everyone else. "The rest of you round everyone up for a meeting. There's another matter we're going to have to deal with..."


Valerie was stocking the Society's pharmacy of painkillers and other assorted medical paraphernalia when the group walked in.

She turned around, blinking in surprise when she spotted Ben.

"Ben?" She asked, confused. "What are you-" Then she spotted Bella, and her eyes widened. "Bella? What is going on here?"

"That's what were wondering ourselves." Adrian said, folding his arms. "We got part of the story from Shirley, but there's still a lot Ben needs to tell us."

Ben sat down on one of the beds with Bella next to him. He grasped the Sue's hand in his own, took a deep breath and began to speak as Valerie went to work on his nose.

"And that's what happened." Ben finished, not meeting anyones gaze.

The words had barely left his mouth when a loud *SMACK!* sounded through the room and his head was snapped to one side.

"Woah! Tash!" Adrian exclaimed as he pulled Tash back from Ben, a red palm print plastered across his face.

"What is wrong with you!" Tash raged. "Why didn't you tell us what was going on? If you'd just been honest with us from the very start we might've avoided all of this!"

"Sorry..." Ben muttered, rubbing his face where Tash had slapped him.

"You should be!" Tash barked, shrugging Adrian's restraining hand off. "God, do you have any idea how worried everyone was? Jared was agonizing over what he would do if he had to fight you! Karissa looks up to you, how do you think she felt during all of this? Not to mention that you terrified poor Emily half to death when you and Repiv held her hostage!"

"Settle down, Tash." Valerie said soothingly as Ben stared blankly at the floor. "Ben did make some foolish decisions, but everything turned out all right in the end, didn't it?"

Tash snorted and folded her arms, still angry.

"There's something I'm still wondering about, Ben," Valerie said, turning to face the guitarist. "I can understand why you didn't come to us when you first defeated Bella, but why didn't you say anything when Neb kidnapped her?"

"Because... I wasn't sure if you would care." Ben said sullenly.

Tash let out an outraged squeak and started towards Ben again, only to be restrained by Adrian.

"Easy, Tash..." he said placating.

"You weren't sure if we'd care?" Tash demanded. "You weren't sure if we'd care!"

"If I'd told you," Ben protested. "You would've-"

"We would've done everything in our power to help both you and Bella." Adrian replied calmly. "If we're going to win this war, we have to be willing to help, and trust each other!"

"You're forgetting something, Ben," Valerie put in. "We don't want to just capture or kill the Sues, we're trying to reform them. We want them to give up their powers and live normally as characters, and from what I've heard, Bella already did that voluntarily when she lived the the world you made for her."

Bella looked at the healer hopefully as Ben nodded thoughtfully. Then something occured to him.

"How did you know where to find us?" He asked, turning to Adrian. "Even I had no clue where we were!"

"That was my fault." Tash explained. "Valerie came to me a little after Repiv joined. She had noticed you were acting strangely and was concerned about you. I was worried too, so I had Camille install a tracker in Bahamut while she was working on it."

"We were able to track you right from the get-go once you left." Adrian agreed. "Of course we got lost in those caves for what seemed like forever. We finally managed to find Shirley and she pointed us to you."

"I see..."

"So is that it, then?" Valerie asked, looking around. "Has everything been cleared up?"

"Not entirely," Ben said, turning to face Asasca. His character was leaning in a corner behind them, watching the entire exchange with a silent, confident smile.

"What role did you play in all of this?" Ben asked.

"What role did I play?" Asasca smirked, pushing himself off the wall and walking towards them. "You should be asking what role didn't I play?"

"What do you mean?" Ben asked warily.

"Who do you think told Neb where to find you in the Pendragon fandom? Or how to get into the mansion in your imagination? Or even where Bella's little world was?"

"That was you?" Ben gaped.

That was all me!" Asasca corrected.

"But why?" Ben sputtered. "Revenge for being locked up in the Vault of Abandoned Ideas?"

Asasca shrugged. "Not entirely. That part was a lie."

Ben frowned. "So how did you-"

"When you started your transition to fanfiction," Asasca cut in. "I saw all your favorite characters vanishing one by one from your imagination, all bound for the Vault. The fact that I was your absolute favorite character prevented me from being consigned to the Vault too quickly, but I knew it was only a matter of time. So, I used the power you had granted me to escape. I wandered the Multiverse for a while, instigating a few minor rebellions here and there and doing some sightseeing. That was when I encountered the Sues. As time went on, I met more and more of them and it became more and more apparent to me that if they were allowed to take over the Multiverse, it would become a dull, lifeless place, free from any excitement or originality." Asasca rolled his eyes. "And to someone like me, that would be unimaginably boring."

"So you did this purely out of selfish motivations." Adrian accused.

Asasca shrugged, unashamed. "When I found you again, Ben, you were already dedicated to fighting the Sues. That was one part of my job done, so then it was time for me to do what I did best. I had to make you as powerful as you could possibly become. Since you were a self-insert and thus, an author, you were immune to my usual forms of empowerment, so I had to...adapt." He smiled condescendingly at Ben. "And I must say, this little scheme of mine was one of the most enjoyable I've had in a long time."

Asasca began to pace back and forth like a lecturer as he continued. "I told Neb how to find you in Pendragonin the hopes that when faced with an adversary of his level, you would rise to the occasion and find the power to defeat him. Unfortunately, you didn't and you had to be rescued by your little friends." Asasca raised an eyebrow. "Apparently your own life isn't very precious to you."

"Hanging around with Shirley will do that to you." Ben replied dryly, keeping his eyes on Asasca.

Asasca continued. "I reasoned that if your life wasn't very important to you, then the life of your loved ones would be. So I showed Neb the way into your imagination and sent him after Deebs in order to lure you to the Megaman fandom. Unfortunately, you remained in the real world as a NetOperator as your friends fought for the life of your daughter in your place. Not very chivalrous, I'm afraid." He said mockingly to his creator.

Ben ignored the taunt and continued to meet Asasca's gaze levelly.

"I searched long and hard to find the solution to your particular problem, Ben. And the answer," He pointed at Bella. "Was her."

"Me?" Bella asked incredulously.

"Since I was a former character of Ben's and by far one of his most powerful, it was easy to slip back inside his mind. I searched Ben's imagination for a long time, looking for something I could use as an incentive. Imagine my happy surprise when I realized that you were still alive! You were the perfect bait, and with you I could finally move ahead with my plans."

He turned back to Ben." "I cut you off from your friends using Repiv and took something precious from you with Neb. And then," Asasca smiled triumphantly. "You had something do die for."

He flopped onto a nearby chair, crossing his legs and lacing his hands behind his head as he continued. "In the end, you in spectacular style. I especially liked the way you tore off Neb's arm."

"Well you know me," Ben muttered sarcastically. "I'm all about style."

Asasca showed his condescending smile again. "Quite."

"But what about Neb and Repiv?" Tash frowned. "Repiv was-"

"Repiv was a bungler." Asasca scoffed. "I purposely assigned him a task which was far beyond his abilities, knowing that when he failed he would grab at anything he could to keep himself afloat, dragging it down with him. And in his case, the only thing he had to grab onto was Ben."

"How did you get Repiv andgo follow your orders in the first place?" Adrian asked.

"I discovered Repiv on the edge of a Role-Playing fandom," Asasca explained. "Of course then he was known as Viper. His creator had grown disgusted with him and abandoned him. He was on the edge of being consigned to the Vault of Abandoned Ideas when I offered him an out, which he wisely took. And since he owed me a life debt, he did anything I told him to without question. So I changed his name to Repiv and sent him to the Protection Society, whom I was already on good terms with."

"You were on good terms with them?" Ben asked skeptically. "How did that happen?"

"I was the one who gave them Neb."


Asasca laughed. "I know what you're thinking. 'Why would you do that?', right?"

Ben said nothing, but agreement was written all over his face.

"When I was pondering over how to unlock your true potential," Asasca told him. "I decided that the best way to do it was to confront you with a foe who was: A. Extremely powerful and B. Had some personal link to you. And what enemy is more personal than yourself?"

"But how did you find him?" Ben asked.

"Easy, I just used some of the powers you so generously gave me and hopped over to his alternate dimension to track him down."

"But how did you get him to go along with your plans? Neb wasn't exactly the type to take orders from anyone."

Asasca smirked. "You're going to love this. Neb wanted even more power than what he already had, and I told him that if he destroyed you, then your power would be added to his."

"He would be The One?" Ben asked dryly.

Asasca flashed his condescending smile and shrugged in fake modesty. "At any rate, my plan has succeeded. You have now reached the apex of your strength, Ben. You've become as powerful as it is possible for you to become."

He stood and dusted off his armor. "And with that, my job here is done. If I could have my Plothole Generator back..."

"Hey!" Tash protested. "You can't just-"

"Let him go." Adrian said as Ben handed Asasca the Generator. "Who knows? He could prove useful later on down the road."

"Where are you going?" Ben asked as Asasca opened a plothole. Asasca turned back to his author, still smiling condescendingly.

"You should know the answer to that, Ben."

Ben nodded as his greatest creation vanished into the Multiverse. "Wherever the wind takes you..."

Nobody said anything for a long time. Ben continued to stare at the place where Asasca had vanished, a contemplative look on his face.

"Well, that's one issue taken care of." Adrian said at last, breaking the silence. "Now there's just one other detail to deal with."

Adrian's words had brought Ben back to reality. "And what would that be?" He asked, though he had a sinking feeling he already knew.

"Deciding what to do with her." Adrian said, nodding towards Bella.

Ben's eyes hardened and he gave Bella's hand a reassuring squeeze as she gravitated closer to him.

"Come on." Adrian said, walking out with Tash close behind him.

Ben stood silently. Bella followed suit, giving a pleading look towards Valerie who gave her a reassuring smile.
"Don't worry." She mouthed to the Sue. Bella wasn't convinced,


Shirley and the rest had done their job well. The entire Society was gathered in one of the commons area and there was a chorus of gasps and questions when Ben and Bella walked in.

"Ben? What's he-?"

"Hey, isn't that-?"

"I thought she was dead!"

Adrian held up his hands for quiet and the buzz quickly died down. He gave everyone a quick synopsis of what had happened and why Ben had done what he did, though he skipped over the parts with Asasca.

"The question now is, what are we going to do with Bella?" Adrian asked. "If it were just up to me, I would make the decision in a heart-beat. But the Library is no longer only my home, it is yours too, and as such, I leave the decision up to you." With that he sat down.

There was silence for a long moment.

"Should we really just let a Mary-Sue just walk right into the Society like that?" Michael asked uncomfortably.

"Why not?" Aster challened. "We let Emily in, didn't we?"

"Emily's powers as a Sue hadn't fully developed yet." Drake said. "We're talking about a fully developed Mary-Sue here. How do we know we can trust her?"

"Weren't you listening?" Karissa demanded. "Bella willingly gave up her powers at one point!"

"Bella isn't a bad person." Valerie put in. "All she wanted to do was help people, she just went about it in the wrong way."

"OK, fair enough." Christoph conceded. "But what about Lord Ben? I mean, fraternizing with the enemy? Why isn't he in bigger trouble over all of this?"

"Ben's a self-insert just like most of us here," Tash said. "He's subject to fan urges just like the rest of us, and I should know!"

"Which brings us back to Bella." Valerie said. "We can't throw her in jail because that wouldn't be fair. We can't just let her go because the Protection Society will be after her. And I'm sure by now they've told the rest of the Sues about what Bella did, so what else are we supposed to do?"

The healer turned to Adrian. "I know you said this isn't your decision, Adrian. but how do you feel about all of this?"

Adrian turned to look at Bella for a long moment. "Ben was willing to die for her." He said at last. "That's enough for me."

Nobody could think of how to argue with that.

"But how do we know we can trust her?" Marcus asked at last.

"Oh, for the love of God," Charis groaned. She had been pulled away from an important experiment for this and was impatient to get back to work. "If you're that worried about her, why don't you just Permanently Prohibit her?"

There was a pause. "Is that even possible?" Ben asked at last.

"You've been an Agent for how long and you still don't know these things?" Charis asked disbelievingly.

Ben shrugged. "I've only ever used one other gadget besides my Plothole Generator and I wasn't even writing that part of the story!"

Immediately there was a rumble and the sound of things breaking. Adrian groaned. "He hasn't even been back for an hour and he's already at it again!"

"Just what is Permanent Prohibition anyway?" Tash asked, ignoring Adrian.

Charis shrugged. "At the moment, it's still a prototype. I was just working on it a second ago myself. It's a new type of Prohibitor. It works in the same way as regular Prohibition, except it releases magic that's absorbed through the skin. After about two hours have passed, any and all Sueish powers or traits will be gone. Forever." Charis cast an appeasing eye over Bella. "This would be the perfect opportunity to test it."

Ben frowned. "If this thing works so great, why haven't you used it on the Sues in the basement yet?"

Charis looked uncomfortable. "Mostly because it has to be voluntary."


"Because compared to a regular Prohibitor, a Permanent Prohibitor is extremely easy to take off."

Ben frowned. "I don't think-"

"Ben," Bella said quietly. "It's all right. I was thinking about what you said in Buso Renkin and you're right." She looked at her hand. "If all these powers are going to do is hurt people, then I don't want them anymore." She looked up at Charis. "If it's the only way I can stay with Ben, then, I'll do it."


"We were separated once before." Bella said, meeting Ben's gaze. "I don't want us ever to be apart again."

Ben still looked concerned.

"I'll be fine." Bella reassured him. "This won't do anything else to me, right?"

Charis shook her head. "All it will do is block off any Sue-ish traits in you. Anything else about you will be unchanged."

The rest of the Society began to murmur amongst themselves Camille left to go get the prototype.

Jared walked up to Ben and Bella, grinning with relief. "You did it for love, huh Ben?" He asked. "That sounds like the type of stupid thing you'd do."

Ben returned the grin. "Sorry to put you through all of that." He frowned. "You look pale. You OK?"

Jared shook his head. "A lot happened while you were gone. I'll tell you about it later. By the way, there's someone who wants to talk to you."

Ben frowned. "Who?"


Ben turned to see Shirley, looking very miserable.

"I'm sorry, Ben!" She said in a rush. "But I had to tell Adrian what was going on or else they'd keep on thinking you were a traitor and attack you so-"

"Shirley, Shirley!" Ben cut her off, laughing. "It's OK, girl. I don't blame you. You did what you had to do. No hard feelings."

Shirley looked hopeful. "So... I'm forgiven then?"

Ben grinned. "Yeah, you're forgiven."
"Good! Then I can add your larynx to my collection for making me worry like that!" The Cliche Stick roared, lunging forward.

Ben stumbled and fell backwards in shock as Shirley loomed over him. "This is for nearly nuking me!" Shirley hissed, raising one clawed hand, when a hand clamped down on her shoulder.

"Hey, twiggy!" Bella snapped. "Hands off my boyfriend!"

"Your boyfriend?" Shirley whirled to face the Sue. "As I recall you nearly ended up killing him at least a dozen different times!"

"Oh, yeah? And how many times have you nearly killed him?"

Ben could only sit on the floor, stunned, watching the two females bicker.

"You know, Ben," Jared muttered to his friend. "Shirley may be cool, Bella may be hot, but right now I wouldn't be in your position for the world."

"You sure about that?" Ben asked nervously. "Because I'm pretty sure I could make a world or two for you."

"WHAT WAS THAT?" Bella and Shirley shouted, both whirling on Ben.



Ekard and Relyt stood before a shadowy figure in a dark room.

"We've failed you, Sir. We have no excuse." Relyt apologized, his head bowed.

"No matter," The figure sighed. "It would've been nice to have the Fandom Stabilizer for our own, but que sera sera. It appears we broke even in this particular venture."

"Broke even?" Relyt asked. "We lost Neb!"

The figure made a dismissive gesture. "Neb was always too obsessed with Ben to ever really be an asset. I should be thanking Ben for ridding us of some useless baggage."

Ekard and Relyt shared a glance. "So then what do we do next?" Ekard asked.

"Now?" The figure asked. "Now we wait."


"Well, here we are." Ben said, opening the door to Bella's room and flipping on the light. He stood in the doorway as she walked in and observed her new quarters.

"It's not much." Ben admitted. "It's pretty bare, but all the girls volunteered to donate some stuff. You know, so you can girl the place up a little. I did manage to wrangle you a room next to mine though."

"I see." Bella said softly, keeping her back to Ben, the Prohibitor on her wrist glinting slightly. "So, that's it? They're letting me stay here just like that?"

"I talked with Adrian and Tash while you were being Prohibited." Ben said, leaning against the doorjamb. "You will have some restrictions placed on you, but they're pretty much just going through the motions. In addition to your Prohibiting, you won't be allowed outside the Library without an escort of another agent, plus you're banned from the basement where we keep the other-" Ben caught himself. "-The Sues. They also want you to study up on Sue theory so you can take the test we give to potential Agents. That way you have a legitimate claim to be here. But I figure those things shouldn't be a big deal."

"No..." Bella said quietly. "I guess not..."

Ben frowned. "Is everything all right?"

"I guess I'm just a little tired," Bella said, rubbing her wrist where the Prohibitor rested. "It feels like this thing's sapping my energy."

"That's not it," Ben said, walking forward into the room, stopping a few feet behind Bella. "What's wrong?"

"It's nothing, it's just..." Bella stared off into space, her back still to Ben. "When I first escaped from my Author's control all I saw was misery and pain in the fandoms I visited, and I wanted to save them from that. But you ended up showing me that wasn't right. You gave me a place where I could learn what it meant to be human, and you rescued me from the Protection Society and I..."

"You what?" Ben asked gently.

"I'm looking around at all of this. Everything you've done for me. All these allowances Tash and Adrian have made just for me, and I'm wondering...why? Why me? Why did you choose to help me? Why did you...just why?" Her voice was soft and her back was to Ben, but he could hear the quaver in her voice.

"I saved you because you were worth saving." Ben said softly, moving closer. "I gave you your own world because I wanted you to experience all the joys and sorrows of mortality that I do. I brought you here because I want to give you your own wings and watch you fly with them. I saw something in you during our battle in Buso Renkin and I don't want anyone to take that away."

"But how do you know you're not feeling this way just because I'm a Sue?" Bella asked, turning to face him. "Tash said you were susceptible to fan urges! How do you know you're not just feeling that and as soon as this Prohibitor goes into effect you'll start to hate me again?" She asked, holding up the wrist the Prohibitor was attached to.

"Bella." Ben said gently, placing his hands on her shoulders. "I never hated you! Is that what you're worried about? That our love is a lie?"

Bella couldn't look at Ben, fixing her gaze on the floor instead.

Ben took a deep breath.

"Listen," he said. "Before I came to visit you and this whole fiasco started, I had a talk with Aster. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I was wondering the same thing myself. I was unsure if I was really in love with you or your powers. But Aster said something that made me stop and think. She said: 'If you can't trust those you care for, who can you trust?"

Ben crooked a finger under Bella's chin, raising her head back up. The Mary-Sue's eyes were brimming with tears and shone with fear as she met the Society Agent's gentle gaze.

"We can't let doubts plague us." Ben said softly. "We've come too far to let little things like that get in the way. I love you, Bella."

He lowered his head to meet hers and their lips gently pressed together. A single tear escaped from Bella's eye and slid down her cheek.

"But how do you know?" Bella whispered insistently, her eyes still closed.

Ben pointed at the clock.

"It's been two hours."

Bella opened her eyes and stared into Ben's face for a moment longer before bursting into tears.

Ben gently wrapped his arms around her shaking form and tucked her head under his chin, inhaling the gentle scent of her hair.

"Welcome home, Bella."

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