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.

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