Monday, May 14, 2012

Insert Dubious Archeological Practice Here

Adrian crept along to the edge of the ruined building. He had had the bad luck to emerge from the plothole about as far away from the source of the Sueish readings as it was possible to get. Now he had the whole of the blasted wastes of Neo-Tokyo city to navigate across. The Akira fandom was difficult enough to get through at the best of times, particularly so during the events of volumes four through six of the Manga. This was, unfortunately, the source of the readings.

Looking up at the night sky, he was suddenly doubly thankful he hadn't brought Aster along. As if Tokyo being blown up several times in the course of this fandom's history wasn't enough, there was now a gaping hole in the moon, which she certainly wouldn't take well...

Come to think of it, the moon would probably be the safest vantage point to watch Aster take her revenge upon Tetsuo for this if she ever found herself in this fandom, if only because the latter would respond in kind, and probably bring Akira himself into the fray as well.

Akira was blacklisted for good reason. A Mary-Sue here would be powerful almost beyond belief, and the Librarian felt that he would need back-up when he did find the Sue. That is if it didn't turn out to be a decoy like the crystals the Pro-Cliché Society had modified in the Metroid fandom. Hence the reason for solo reconnaissance on a night he could be in bed with Tash.

The Librarian growled low in his throat. If this was a false alarm, then whoever set it off had better have a care for themselves. He leapt from the building and landed on the roof of another that lay at a 65 degree angle against its neighbour, a dark shadow in the night, focusing body to execute the moves he needed, and mind to evade the roving bands of psychics that patrolled the territory of the Great Tokyo Empire.

"Nice moves!" Tyler commented, watching Adrian's leap on the monitor. At least, that's what everyone assumed he said, as his mouth was half-full of popcorn at the time. Willie agreed, but he seemed to be slightly bored, a sentiment shared at least partially by most people in the room. They were waiting for the fighting to start, as this was the part of Adrian's missions that drew a big crowd of off-duty agents. In this case, mostly American agents, due to the fact it was the middle of the night by British time.

Tash was keeping herself awake as best she could, fretting about her other half. Tyler had accumulated a crowd of agents who were watching the screen and making a sizeable dent in the piles of popcorn he had with him at the same time. Dave however was monitoring as many fandoms as he could, which wasn't easy on night shift at the best of times. Usually because his thoughts turned to his first arrest whenever he did so.

Mesha. The reformed Sue that had turned out to be a traitor. She had allowed herself to be captured in order to get information on the society from the inside. The only grain of comfort was that because of the raised security in the library after Chi and Xavier's antics at Halloween, and the PCMSPS attack soon after Mesha had arrived, she had been under very close guard and hadn't gotten away with much more than a look at the paperwork she herself had generated. As this concerned events she had caused, it wouldn't have told her much she didn't already know. The society may have been lenient, but they weren't naïve.

Unlike me! Dave thought gloomily.

Jared poked Dave and asked him if he was awake.

"Yeah, just suffering some depressive thoughts." he replied, "Always happens when my blood sugar's low." he added, rummaging in his pockets for a mint.

Jared looked as if he was about to ask if he could have one, but a small and tinny beeping noise cut him off just as he opened his mouth.

Tash jumped awake with a cry of, "Whawhowhere... Cupboard full of cats!"

"Relax, I've got the Architect's Drawings here." Dave replied.

"One of your card games?" Jared asked. (Tash and Dave were members of the same University Gaming society.) Dave nodded, turning his attention to the source of the noise.

"Which fandom?" Tash asked, frowning at a lit warning light with a sword engraved on it.

"Hard to tell, the fan base is kind of small..."

"Let me try." Jared's fingers flew over his keyboard, until a single word appeared on the screen. "What the hell is Bonekickers?"

Dave snorted with laughter. "Oh, its an archaeology drama. Think CSI meets Indiana Jones meets Primeval. It only had one series of six episodes, and it got criticised for historical inaccuracy and dubious archaeological practice." He raised an eyebrow in the direction of the readers and the fourth wall shook. Tash hit him on the shoulder and told him not to do that.

"Anyway," he went on, "Archaeology students like me can't watch it without picking holes ("Isn't that your job to begin with?" Jared asked), but I enjoyed it in an "its so bad its good" sort of way."

"What would a Sue want there?"

"Excalibur." Tash answered, tapping the warning light. "Since the Sues stole one, Adrian and I decided we should investigate any non-canon activity in any fandom that even mentions it."

"Well if a Sue's after that one she's in for a surprise." Dave put in, "Its got no powers save for exceptional cutting ability, if your opponent has a ranged weapon then its pretty well useless in a fight."

"Looks like we get some action after all!" Jared said, relieved the author had stopped making him ask questions. Tash in turn stopped him.

"If the main characters are Archaeologists, then they'll notice disturbances caused by earth magic, and you won't be able to get close enough to use the Boomhammer without losing a limb."

"My axe won't do any better," Dave pointed out. "Since I'm probably the only one who knows this fandom, I'll need to find someone with a ranged weapon to help out that is A) awake, and B) willing to miss watching Adrian, and no offence Madam chief agent, but you're ruled out on both counts."

Tash chose this exact moment to yawn. "True." She looked around the room, finding most of the American agents, but not all...

"I hope Karrisa remembers to check on the cake while I'm gone..." Rhia fretted.

"Someone's birthday?" Dave asked, suddenly panicking that he'd forgotten to buy someone a card. Rhia shook her head.

"Part of Michael and Claire's wedding cake. I'm building it bit by bit as and when I get the chance and storing it in that timeless vault I had Q make for me until the big day... Don't tell Tyler!" she added, suddenly horror-struck.

"He values his life too highly to risk annoying Claire..." Dave broke off as he examined the street map of the city of Wells again. "The Cathedral's this way..."

They turned right, and caught sight of the building a few streets away. This was where the Sword was hidden, but the canon characters wouldn't know this until the sixth and final episode of the series, and they were currently experiencing the events of the fifth episode in northern France, several hundred miles to the south. It seemed that their mystery characters (there were several of them, but none of them were showing Sueish readings) were taking advantage of this fact to do goodness knew what.

"Shame this show didn't get a second season." Rhia commented. "Its got potential. What if they did an episode about Stonehenge?"

"An episode concerning the return of King Arthur to defend his country against the forces of darkness and oppression?" Dave suggested, "Or better yet, one about Henry VIII and his big brother Arthur? That would be interesting..."

As a Merlin fan, Rhia nodded at these ideas. "I thought you were an Archaeologist, not a Historian."

"Combined honours degree. I'm doing my dissertation in History."

Dave's communicator interrupted. It was Jared.

"Got an update for you. There's a prohibitor signal coming from the group. MAS 145, still trying to match it, but-"

"Don't bother, it's Mesha."

Rhia looked at Dave, and was about to ask if she should be worried he knew her prohibitor code by heart, when she saw his expression. It being close to midnight, the street lighting made it look all the more menacing...

"Personal is it?" she asked instead.

"Not in that way." Dave said, clearly meaning it. "I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and she abused that. That's all there is to it."

"We all trusted her Dave." Came Tash's voice, "Stop blaming yourself."

"Okay. Maybe I just don't like being brought down to earth as rudely as she did it."

"Lets just bring her in," Rhia added, hefting her sniper rifle, "Then its over, one way or the other."

It was Mesha alright. There was no mistaking that electric blue hair, even through the distorted colour of Rhia's sniper scope. She was standing by the side of the wells that had given the city its name, an Arc lamp shinning through a candle in the stained glass window illuminating one of the wells beneath the surface of the pool that they were submerged in. A length of rope lead down into the illuminated well, apparently she had someone else to do her dirty work.

"There's at least two of them besides her." Dave noted. "One working the Arc lamp in the clearstory of the Cathedral-"

"The where...?"

"Suffice it to say he'll have access to the roof if he wants to fire down at us." he clarified, "And one down in the depths as well, although he probably won't be armed when he first emerges."

"There's definitely more than three." Rhia stated, recalling the readings before they left the library.

"Good point..." Dave conceded, "Times like this I wish I wasn't such an appalling shot with a gun."

"Why an axe though?" Rhia asked, referring to Dave's choice of weapon.

"It was the only thing to hand at the time Shirley chased me..." Dave thought for a moment. "If I went out there and tried a stupidly direct approach, would you be able to throw confusion into them long enough for me to take a couple out?"

"As long as they don't know I'm here, I should be able to surprise them. Just be careful."

Dave smiled, and crept towards where Mesha was standing. About five metres away, he ran out of bushes, so he abandoned all caution and stood up.

"Well well, if it isn't the little lost girl of the Jurassic."

Mesha was dressed in the same electric blue outfit she had worn around the library and in Primeval, but as her powers were non-existent because of the prohibitor, it was getting extremely grubby. Being devoid of her Sueish senses, she started violently at Dave's appearance.

"Don't do that!"

"I think I have a right to, given how you messed us around like you-"

At this point, Mesha's accomplice emerged from the water, holding the sword. Being both an Archaeologist and a Historian, Dave couldn't help but feel slightly awed at the presence of such an artefact. Forged from meteoric Iron by the Assyrians in 2000bc, or thereabouts, and journeying to this place through the hands of such figures as Joan of Arc, Boudicca and a Saxon warlord by the name of Arthur. His awe quickly wore off as he was reminded of Mesha's presence by her stepping forward as if to receive it from her friend.

"Step away from-" he suddenly realised something worrying. He forgot the plan in panic.

Mesha is right-handed. She's put out her left hand to take it. That's the hand with the prohibitor!

"SHOOT HIM!" Dave roared, realising what she planned, a split second behind Mesha's calmer command of "Do it".

Excalibur fell, Rhia's gun sounded. For an infinite second both sword and bullet raced each other, but neither would be stayed. The man in the dry suit staggered backwards, but it was too late. The prohibitor fell into the water with a splash, together with the hand it was attached to. Mesha turned, apparently unconcerned that she was about to bleed to death... Except she wasn't bleeding! Her skin was shining with a gold light, illuminating the triumphant smirk and gleaming brown eyes. As Dave watched, the light erupted from the sleeves and neckline of her blue blouse.

A short shriek betrayed the fact that Rhia had been watching this through the magnified scope of her rifle. Blinding enough to Dave, Rhia risked serious damage to her eyes. He fell back to where she was. If she had been blinded she needed help, and Cristoph would never forgive him if anything happened to her.

"I'm fine!" she insisted, "Spots in my right eye, but my left one works..." She paused, watching their foe through her shaded eye. "Is she doing what I think she's doing?"

"Regenerating?" Dave asked, "Yes, I think she is..."

Adrian had returned to the library. The readings had been genuine, but the Sue in question had badly underestimated the Akira fandom, and Tetsuo had finished her off before he got there, so all his work had been for nothing. He practically collapsed into a chair next to Tash.

"Is mine kitteh tired?" she said sweetly, petting his ears. Adrian yawned just as whatever reflex made him purr kicked in, causing a small burp. Tash collapsed giggling. "Aw, windypops!"

"I hate you..." he mumbled. Whatever reply Tash had was drowned out by the alarm.

"Boss?" Jared reported. "Massive non-canon energy release in Bonekickers. Its swamping the equipme- Oh Shoot! I just lost the lock on Dave and Rhia!"

"No rest for the wicked..." groaned Adrian, staggering to his feet again.

"Tyler, Wille, Cristoph, with us!" Tash yelled, "Jared, get us in!"

"I can't!" he replied, "Too much interference, the best I can give you is ten minutes away!" He did a double take at the Sue level readings. "3.5 and rising? I thought Mesha was just a level two?"

"This is shaping up to be a long night..." Adrian muttered.

The light faded, and Mesha took several deep breaths.

"Wow! Okay that was... Testing testing. Brilliant! My voice stayed the same." she said, jumping up and down on the spot. She pulled out a mirror, and commented that her face was largely unchanged. Her hair however had turned a deep and rich purple, which combined with her outfit made her look very like someone cosplaying as a Suicune. She was able to pull this off with remarkable success owing to the fact that her Sue powers had returned. Suddenly she grimaced in discomfort.

"Okay, I might have to go up a bra size..." she caught sight of Dave and Rhia staring at her. "What? Never seen a pretty girl before?"

"You're a Time Lord?" Rhia gasped.

"Half Time Lord." Mesha corrected her. "I'd have thought my author would have told you that, even if he didn't say which one." Seeing the agents blink in confusion she added. "Eight words; Mesha Alicia Maria Susan Maylene Violet Abigail... Yana."

Dave took a step backwards and fumbled for his axe, while Rhia pulled her rifle upwards to aim at Mesha's now ample bosom as best she could. Both of them being Doctor Who fans, they knew what that meant. "You're the Master's daughter?"

"Only fair. The Doctor gets Jenny, the Master gets wonderful little me. Except I'm not a clone. Still, I've easily got enough cellular energy for one or two partial regenerations. All I need is a little device that makes two metres around it count as the Doctor Who fandom." She showed off a small capsule on her belt that was gently smoking. "Oh look, I've got one!"

Dave finally found his axe. The shrinking spell Adrian had put on it for him might help storage, but it made it harder to find in his pockets... He expanded it to its full size. Mesha's suddenly bubbly personality abruptly vanished.

"Predictable. Don't you want to know how I escaped the library before the bloodshed starts?"

"Sure go ahead and gloat," Dave replied, Mesha's choice of words sounding ironic given his earlier cynical thought, "it'll give us time to think of new and interesting ways of arresting you."

If we can keep her talking, Rhia has more time to recover her vision, and Jared, Tash and the others have more time to notice we're in over our heads. I have the feeling she's way higher than level two now, and there's the rest of her friends to worry about as well.

"Ha ha. The Gleam doesn't lead into a cell, that much I do know." She bent down and picked up the sword that Alfred Lord Tennyson had christened the Gleam, apparently uncaring that her underling was slowly expiring at her feet.

"Well," she went on, "with my being half Time Lord you probably guessed I used a fob-watch to hide my memories, and suppress my powers a bit. Plus, I have this good friend who makes gadgets for me. See this? I'll just boost it a bit." She held up a necklace that was patterned after St Michael. Immediately, every electronic gadget capable of doing so in the immediate area emitted a shrill and constant beep.

Bee-Bee-Bee-Bee, Bee-Bee-Bee-Bee, Bee-Bee-Bee-Bee.

Two hearts beating, slightly out of synch. The noise that had lived in her father's head since he was eight. The drum notes that he had used to hypnotize the world into believing he was Harold Saxon, subtle enough to be nigh on undetectable. All through a set of satellites called Archangel. St Michael the Archangel, talk about hiding in plain sight...

"Good for obscuring a name that would otherwise be a dead give-away, it gave me enough of an influence to stop you executing me as you wanted to, and good as a tracking signal t-."

"Execute you!" Rhia interrupted, "Where did you get that idea from?"

"Well, let me think." replied Mesha sarcastically. "That Darkness infested pet yank of yours massacres us in the goriest way possible whenever he gets the chance, the Cat-Eared Freak that's supposed to be guarding all the Multiverse's knowledge takes every opportunity to show off how he can cut us into tiny bits." She paused to look at Dave, "You're holding an executioner's axe. I could go on but I think you get the point."

"That wasn't the first thing to cross my mind when I picked it up..." He said, as Rhia struggled to come up with a come-back.

"Uh hun? Yeah right. You started a war to give you the excuse to wipe us all out, I don't think-"

"Willowe started the War!" Rhia exclaimed, as Mesha jumped up and down like a small child with the frustration of being interrupted again.

"Yes, but that's the whole point!" she returned, her eyes (now a beguiling crystal blue) flashing, "Three Fan-Fiction authors that hate the beings that they so inanely label "Mary-Sues" get together. A figurehead for these beings emerges and unites them under a common banner, namely the Sainted Willowe Foxblade. The authors take this as a perfect excuse to form a defence force to protect the fandoms. They succeed and trap Foxblade somewhere (and don't tell me she's in your dungeon, even prohibited, I'd know if she was), but continue to prosecute their crusade against our kind with the excuse that there are others just as dangerous out there."

At this point she paused for effect. "All well and good, but one small issue I have with that myth. Saint Foxblade just happens to be one of your leader's creations. Am I supposed to believe that this is a co-incidence?"

"Why don't I believe a word you say?" Dave replied. "Could it be because I'm not as naïve as I was any more? Or maybe because I know Tash and the others better than that?"

"What's that got to do with you anyway?" Rhia added. "You don't need to get involved, even if that were true."

"Because at the end of it she'd be in command of a faction big and powerful enough to take on the society and win." Dave put in, keeping his eyes fixed on Mesha. "Altruism on behalf of Sue kind has nothing to do with it. If she gets enough followers by telling everyone we're out to execute every Sue we find, she'd be in a position to push for the post of Lieutenant, or Empress! That thought would turn any Sue on..."

Mesha visibly deflated. "If it's that obvious I won't bother to deny it..." she said, slightly miffed. "But there is an aspect of revenge as well. The society's presence created a stigma around Mary-Sues, even those created accidentally. Any character that shows even the slightest trace of Sueishness is deleted, including my mother."
Dave abruptly stopped smiling, and Rhia seemed a bit more sympathetic.

"I'm... sorry for you..." she said quietly.

"Me too," agreed Dave, "But whatever she did, or didn't do isn't the issue here."

"That's true, but we've been talking for far too long already." Mesha clicked her fingers, and a troop of soldiers emerged from the bushes. There were six of them, and they were all identical. Being Primeval fans, Dave and Rhia recognised them as the same clone troopers that Helen Cutter had commanded in series 2-3. Now they were even more dangerous, armed with a varied array of weapons from the Star Trek universe.

"I only meant to borrow the Excalibur from this fandom to ditch the prohibitor, but since I have these guys, lets see how you like being wiped from existence for a change."

Rhia reacted instantly. Their opponents were too close for a killing shot with her rifle, so she used it as a projectile. Luck or some deity was with her, as it landed laterally across the phaser rifles of two troopers and dragged their barrels downwards with its dead weight. Before any of the guns hit the floor, Rhia had whipped out her Wakizashi and was moving. The spots induced by the glare of Mesha's regeneration were fading rapidly, so she was able to close and strike with little or no hindrance.

At the same time, Dave brought his axe into a wide arc, sweeping a Klingon Bat'leth from the arms of one trooper and forcing another to duck as the bilateral sword, now caught on the blade was wafted over his head. This had the fortunate side-effect of stopping him aiming a Romulan Disruptor rife at Rhia. The added weight made a strike on a high arc impossible, so Dave allowed the axe handle to rotate in his grasp until the Bat'leth fell free. He then swung round as a third clone levelled a hand phaser at him, cracking the unfortunate man's hard military issue hat and causing the shot to fry a fourth clone's leg.

Rhia had disabled her two assailants for the time being and was turning to assist Dave, when she noticed Mesha wasn't taking part in the battle. She was standing nearby, calmly analysing Excalibur with a Star Trek tricorder. She would have to puzzle about that later. Picking up one of the dropped phaser rifles, she took down one of the clones that had recovered his Klingon sword before a blast of white light incinerated a nearby bush and made her eyes smart again.

Dave meantime was acting purely on an instinct he didn't know he possessed. Now swinging his weapon on a high arc, the weight of gravity was behind the blows, and a glancing hit to the head brought down the clone with the disruptor. Reversing the weapon so the blunt side became a hammer, the clone soldier with the burnt leg was brought down with an audible crack. This unfortunately left him open to an attack from the dazed clone's hand phaser, until a retina stabbing flash of white light disintegrated him. There was no doubt however that the blast had been meant for Dave.

Now free of ground level distractions for the time being, both agents turned to face the roof of the cathedral, where two figures with destructive looking shoulder mounted weapons were silhouetted against the stars. As if that wasn't bad enough, the soldiers Dave had disabled were beginning to recover. Dodging a shot from the downed clone with the cooked leg caused Dave to trip and fall flat on his face in the grass, but before Mesha or any of her soldiers could follow this opportunity up, a third dark shape moved swiftly across the rooftop.

There was an unearthly shriek as one of the clones there slid down the lead roof and fell to earth, the power pack of his weapon detonating with a burst of flame next to a flying buttress. A final blast of white fire launched itself skywards before the second figure lay still also. The new figure threw himself onto the back of a flying eagle.

When Dave finally looked up from the dew soaked grass, he found a recovered clone being beaten senseless by Tash, while Tyler and Willie stood facing the Sue, reluctant to approach.

"Stay back!" she yelled, "I drop this and it shatters!"

"She's right..." Adrian growled, consulting Tash's plot summary as Cristoph jumped from Algazdun and landed next to him.

"I've got what I came for so I'll leave now." Mesha went on, "but make no mistake. You haven't heard the last of me!" She threw the sword into the air and opened a plothole beneath her feet, falling through it before anyone could react.

"Catch it!"


"Don't touch the blade! It'll take your fingers off!"

Tyler activated a localised whirlwind. This kept the sword aloft long enough for Algazdun to grasp the handle with a claw and set in down gently.

At this point, Dave's body suddenly discovered that there were no more hostile people around and decided, on the spur of the moment, to shut down completely to get rid of the adrenaline in his system. He was treated to a very odd perspective of Tash's legs as he fell, but wasn't awake enough to feel himself hit the grass.

"You were very lucky." Mesha's friend had this habit of standing in the shadows so only his silhouette could be seen. Curiously, even direct sunlight didn't seem to inhibit this ability, as this effect was uniform wherever he went...

"Its not as if we've lost anything we can't replace." she retorted, "Besides, we assumed they knew a lot more than they actually did, so realising we've been over compensating isn't exactly a disaster. Anyway, I recovered the prohibitor, whatever you want it for..." She threw the severed hand down onto her friend's workbench.

The figure in the shadows shook his head wearily. "Well fine, but for now we will have to wait until phase one is ready."

"I still don't understand how knowing about the small part of the library filing system I saw can help. Besides, how exactly are we supposed to get whatever it is in there? Its not as if I can just stride into the library..."

"Don't worry about that..."

Mesha only had the vaguest idea of what phase one was, and had long since given up trying to pry information out of him on this subject. "We're sure it'll work?"

"Positive." The man smiled, "Don't worry my dear, soon we'll be in a position to know everything that goes on in the library..."


Several hours later, Valerie found Dave in the library's makeshift autopsy room, looking over the bodies of the clone soldiers with a look of puzzlement on his face. Apparently something didn't quite fit in his mind.

"Problem?" she asked. Dave looked up, his breath smoking in the refrigerated atmosphere.

"Something about their injuries." he said, "Look at this one." The healer walked over to the clone he was standing beside, picking up a pair of surgical gloves on the way. Dave had singled out one of the clones he had struck over the head. He gestured at Valerie's report of his autopsy.

"He died of a skull fracture, right? But most of what little force my attack had was absorbed by his hard hat, so that either means I don't know my own strength, or his bones are made of glass. Given that my arms are practically pieces of knotted string..."

"You didn't want to kill them?" Valerie's question was not accusatory, nor was it uttered with the tone of surprise. This was the first fatality Dave had inflicted so he was likely to be looking for a way of describing the event that made it clear that it wasn't his fault. He'd been shaking with excess adrenaline for a full five minutes after he woke up. The agent paused reflectively for a moment.

"I wasn't consciously trying to..." he said. It was clear to the healer's empathic senses that taking a life was an act he wasn't eager to repeat, but there was something else outweighing this fear. "But I was going purely on instinct, fight or flight... But that isn't what I'm confused about."

"Go on."

"Mesha is the only still living Sue we detected in Primeval in the last few months, and she didn't have the cloning technology when I found her." His face clouded. He was still embarrassed about this. "So she either went back to the fandom after she left the library, which we'd know about by now after all the scanning we've done, or this friend of hers that builds gadgets sequenced these clones." At this point Dave looked up over the nine bodies. "If they were a Sue, then these boys would be close to perfect, but I'd say they were worse than Cutter's troops. They at least showed a modicum of tactical sense instead of getting in each other's way and blasting each other to atoms."

"So you think she has a Non-Sue helper."

Dave nodded, "One that she obviously respects enough to lay aside any thoughts of conquest..." he paused for a moment. "Unless of course, they've told her she can have everything if they follow them..."

"Works as a theory." Val admitted. "You sure you aren't empathic?" Dave chuckled at this.

"I'm an archaeologist and a historian. I've got a bit of practice getting into the minds of those who are unavailable for questioning. Course, I could be wrong. Where there are two archaeologists, there's usually three opinions!"

There was a knock at the door. It was Tash.

"Am I interrupting anything?"

"I think we've got an idea of Mesha's thinking now." Dave responded, "Did Phoenixia identify the symbols these guys carried then?"

"She didn't get the chance, Lily knew them."

"Lily? Okay, so what are they?" Val asked, moving to join Tash at the door and removing the gloves again. Dave followed after a moment.

"She said they belonged to a group she knew as the Inventors Guild. Apparently a group got together after we started prohibiting Sues with the idea of selling technology stolen from Sci-Fi fandoms to prohibited Sues so they could keep fighting us."

"How did we miss that?"

"According to Lily, they only lasted a month or so before Lieutenant Cassie Anora got wind of them and tried to take control of their operations. She was told in no uncertain terms to eff off."

Dave grimaced. "Okay, I never met her, but even I know that's a bad idea..."

Tash nodded. "Cassie decided to make an example of them, and set a group of Gary-Stu's on them with strict orders to wipe them out to a man. Lily was under the impression they were all massacred months ago, so she didn't tell us earlier. Can't understand why Cassie didn't use all that technology though..."

Dave remembered the Stu that had been hunting Mesha in Primeval. He had been acting like it was the sole meaning of his existence to find and kill her, which if the Lieutenant had ordered him to do it it probably was. If his mission had been the sole focus of his attention, then it was understandable how he had missed Cassie's fall from power, and failed to consider the presence of Helen Cutter. He related this to Tash, adding his educated guesses about Mesha's thinking.

"If this guild weren't so big on sharing, then they probably hid the choicest items somewhere so they wouldn't be found by anyone but them." he finished, "If Mesha's the sole survivor, then however much technology they got is hers by default."

"Great." Tash sighed, "Another loose cannon..."

"Still, the more enemies you have, the more likely they are to get in each other's way, right?" Dave said, trying half-heartedly to be funny.

Tash's expression told Dave that it definitely wasn't that simple...

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