Thursday, January 31, 2013

Insert Useless Crack Commandos Here

Doug was standing outside the classroom, watching Harriet invigilating a Society written test. The classroom was empty; there was only one student sitting at a desk, head bent down and concentrating on her test. She wore a gray sweater and gray skirt, and had short brown hair. Ever since the attack on the Society and the loss of the Librarian, the Society pretty much shut itself out from the rest of the world, almost refusing to take in any new Agents. But since Doug pleaded with Harriet, she allowed the new student in.

The time was up. Harriet collected the papers from the student and started marking the papers. Doug pulled out a cigarette and put it in his mouth. He was about to pull out a lighter when he heard footsteps. He quickly pulled the cigarette out from his mouth and hid it in his pocket. The footsteps grew louder and Aster came into the scene.

"Doug-kun, who is that?" asked Aster, curious on the new student.

"That's Ingrid Nunn. She came in today and took the Society test," replied Doug. Then Ingrid looked up and turned to the window. She gave thumbs up at Doug. Aster was shocked when she looked at Ingrid's face.

"Doug-kun, isn't that Maya?" asked Aster, looking ready to shift form.

"Was, Aster. You do know that we brought her back to have her memories wiped," said Doug. Aster relaxed, but she was skeptical. Then she remembered that she was holding a manga volume.

"Oh, I better return this before Adrian-kun yells at me again," said Aster before running off. Doug saw her leave; thinking about a dead comrade may be heartbreaking, but denying that he's truly dead is more painful. Doug couldn't blame her. She was too young to really understand about the acceptance of something this dreadful.

Harriet walked out of the classroom with the test paper in her hand. She walked towards Doug, who was standing by the window.

"How did she go?" asked Doug.

"She passed the test. Walk with me," said Harriet before heading off to her office. Doug walked beside her.

"Doug, she seemed very familiar. It's like… I've seen her before," said Harriet.

"Because she was Maya Mariana?" stated Doug. Harriet stopped immediately.

"Surprised?" asked Doug.

"No, my office is here," replied Harriet, turning to the left and opening the door. Doug followed her inside. Harriet set the papers down her desk and sat on her office chair.

"Actually, I'm not surprised since we already have two Heel Face Turn Sues in our ranks. But the matter is why do you insist on letting her join now? You do know the state of the Society is pretty unstable, so why not later? Why now?" asked Harriet. Doug stayed silent for a moment before answering.

"Harriet, I'm retiring from the Society," stated Doug. It came as a shock to Harriet, but she remained calm.

"And what made you think so?" asked Harriet. Doug shrugged.

"Adrian taught me a few good life lessons. So I've decided to retire," said Doug. Harriet nodded.

"You may leave," said Harriet. Doug nodded, turned around and headed for the door. Just before reaching for the door, Harriet asked a question.

"How much longer will you be with us?" asked Harriet. Doug turned and replied.

"About a couple," replied Doug before leaving. Harriet knew what he meant as the other anticipated word would result in the shattering of the Fourth Wall.


"We've got a situation here. High levels of Suenergy are appearing out from the GI Joe fandom," stated Tash in her mission briefing. Ingrid, Doug and Kyle were standing by her, looking at the projector screen.

"And the story is lagging behind schedule?" asked Doug.

"Yes, apparently Duke and Ripcord hasn't even made contact with the Joes," continued Tash. Then she projected some readings from the Society computer on the fandom. The figures looked numbly disappointing.

"I want you guys to find out what's going on in it. Ingrid, this will be your training mission. Don't get yourself hurt on your first, OK?" stated Tash. The three nodded.

"Okay then, off you go," said Tash while she closed the presentation. The two Agents and the rookie came out of the mission room and walked through the corridors.

"Kyle, I know you'll have lots of stuff in your Astral Vault, but you're going to need some tactical gear that your vault can't offer. Follow me," stated Doug. Kyle and Ingrid followed Doug to his lab, where some workmen were removing the plates from Doug's laboratory door.

"Once I'm gone, this belongs to Ingrid," stated Doug. He put a pen-shaped key into the keyhole and touched a card on the sensor beside the door. The automatic locks unlocked with a click sound and Doug opened the door. Upon opening the door, the room that was Doug's lab is now a hangar. It had a Black Hawk helicopter; a modified, black GMC Terrain; a modified, silver W212 E-class Mercedes Benz and the armory entrance at the far side of the hangar.

"Doug, isn't this a little over excessive?" asked Kyle.

"Well, it's not going to be one person who gets to use all this," replied Doug as a plothole opened, and four soldiers came out. Two males and two females, they were all armed to the teeth and their uniform and body armor were all black.

"The Dark Guardians – Rapid Deployment Team. Meet Janice, Jocelyn, Jake and John," introduced Doug. The four waved at them and they got into the Black Hawk. Kyle was startled.

"Yes, let's go get your gear," remembered Doug as he led Ingrid and Kyle to the armory. He opened the vault door and flipped the switch. Rows and rows of light switched on one after another, revealing rows and rows of automatic weapons, bladed weapons, explosives and gadgets. Doug walked to a gadget rack and took out a bracelet-like device. Doug wore it first and gave a little demonstration.

"This is a ray shield. Just press this button…."


The ray shield formed into a shape of a regular riot shield, but only made out of pure energy.

"….and this will protect you from any projectile other than anything bigger than Fuel Air Bombs IN THE DIRECTION THE SHIELD IS FACING. It doesn't protect you 360° like the ones in Halo," explained Doug as he turned off the ray shield. He then gave two bracelets to Kyle and Ingrid and they wore the bracelets. He then gave out two pod-like devices that have wrist straps.

"GPS locator and watch. Helps us find you when you're lost. I don't think we can lose you again in these times," said Doug as he handed the devices to Kyle and Ingrid. Then he took out two MP5 SMGs and gave one each to Ingrid and Kyle. He then took out two different scopes ad fitted them on the SMGs. Ingrid got an EoTech holographic scope while Kyle gets an ACOG scope. He then fitted two silencers on the muzzles and two miniature screens on the guns and tested it.

"Heartbeat sensor. The ones I used to find Cristoph when he's hiding," stated Doug. He then took out two M9 pistols outfitted with silencers and handed them to them.

"Drawing out you pistol is faster than reloading," stated Doug. Then he gave out SMG clips to the two.

"All these are loaded with Copyright darts. Use it wisely. I spent a buttload just to get them manufactured," stated Doug.


(At a courtyard)

Author Doug was surfing through the net when a butler came by and set a letter on the desk.

"Invoice from the Cliffhanger Defence Technologies, sir," said the butler before walking out. The author opened the letter and sipped his tea. He then suddenly spit the contents on the statement.


Doug then took out a Bushmaster ACR rifle and fitted it with a holographic scope, an M203 grenade launcher and a silencer. He pulled the bolt on the rifle and slung it to his back. He then took out a SPAS 12 shotgun and pumped it before slinging it to his back. And finally, he took out a USP .45 pistol and checked its clip. Satisfied that it's full, he put the clip back and kept it on the side holster.

"How come you get live ammo?" asked Kyle. Doug turned to him and replied.

"Because it's going to be me and the four J's on the Cobra facility, just in case. You will be backed by Ivan, Terry and their teams on The Pit. Good luck," said Doug. They all walked out of the vault and then Kyle opened a plothole. Doug put thumbs up and got thumbs up in response from Ingrid and Kyle. The two entered into the plothole as Doug approached the Black Hawk.

"Are we ready?" asked Doug. The team nodded. He got into the helicopter as the rotors started spinning.

"If all else fails; get some extra hands," stated Doug before the helicopter took off and into the plothole on the ceiling.


"Whoo! This is hot! Do we even know which part of the Sahara we're in?" asked Kyle, sweating over the intense heat of the sun. Ingrid paid no attention to Kyle, and was looking at her GPS locator. Currently, it said they were within a kilometer away from The Pit.

"We're almost there, Kyle. Stay frosty," replied Ingrid.

"But it's freaking… Ew, what's that smell?" Kyle stuttered as the overpowering smell engulfed him. Ingrid stopped and spoke.

"Not very sneaky, Ivan," said Ingrid. Ivan popped out from his camouflage next to Kyle, which gave him a fright.

"Sorry, this place is very hot. Needed to drink," replied Ivan groggily. Kyle stared at him in amazement.

"Is he even combat competent?" asked Kyle. Ivan immediately shot back.

"Eh! I can take you out with this gun from a mile away, OK?" replied Ivan, pointing at his Barrett M82 anti-material rifle.

"Where's your team?" asked Ingrid. Ivan was quite for a moment, and then he choked on a snore and woke up.

"They're near the entrance of The Pit. Come, I'll take you to the vent where you'll make your entrance," replied Ivan. He then started trekking, with Kyle and Ingrid behind him.


A Black Hawk helicopter quietly hovered above the white Arctic ice, low enough to avoid being detected by radar. The Black Hawk started to slow down, and five soldiers in white camouflage jumped out of the helicopter. They all observed their surroundings with their guns held up as the helicopter left before taking their items and started moving.


"Ivan, which fandom did you decide to stay after traveling for so long?" asked Kyle, who was curious about the Wanderers.

"Since you asked, I stayed in the Fate/Stay Night fandom as a Legendary Hero. It is a very demanding fandom; requires you to be on your toes and sometimes a fanfic writer or two decides to corrupt it," replied Ivan.

"If you're right here, who's protecting it?" asked Kyle.

"That's why we have two Wanderers in the fandom. The other is having her hands full," replied Ivan.


(In a Fate/Stay Night fandom where modern weapons replace the original weapons)

A short redhead was running through a trench in a battleground outside Fuyuki city. Bullets were ricocheting off the ground, kicking up dirt to her face.

"I hate being target practice for snipers," murmured Yulie as she kept running with her Enfield L85 rifle close to her. Then another Legendary Hero appeared before her with a SPAS 12 shotgun, pointing it at her.

"Hey, shorty-…" A blood vein popped out from her forehead as she booted the Hero on his face. She landed on top of him and pointed the pistol on his forehead.

"Another thing I hate: STOP-CALLING-ME-SHORT!" she yelled in anger before pulling the trigger.


"Okay…" said Kyle. The three finally reached their destination; an air vent. Ivan pulled out a spray can and sprayed over the side of the grills, then pried the grill off. The gaping hole was big enough for the both of them to enter the vents. Ivan tied down an anchor to a rope and threw it down the vent shaft. Ingrid and Kyle secured the harness on their bodies and locked it to the rope. As Ivan looked out for any hostiles, Kyle went in first, followed by Ingrid. Before disappearing into the complex, Ingrid asked Ivan.

"Is Terry and his team ready yet?" asked Ingrid.

"Terry's preoccupied at the moment," replied Ivan.


(In a forest outside Central, Amestris, FMA)

Red sparks filled the Amestrian night as alchemical reactions took place. Large structures of spikes and walls grew from the ground, followed by some thumping sounds and explosions. Closer in, a blonde man was running while clapping his hands, making spikes pop up from the ground. This was followed by Gluttony, a homunculus, flattening down the structures that impede him.

"EAT!" was all Gluttony ever exclaimed.

"I'MNOTFOOD!I'MNOTFOOD!I'MNOTFOOD!I'MNOTFO..." yelled Terry as he ran, horrified.


"I'm sure he'll come as soon as possible," replied Ivan. Ingrid nodded and scaled down the vent. Ivan then put the grill back, welded it back in place, stuck a plastic explosive on the grill and then ran off.


Crawling in the vents, Ingrid was leading while Kyle followed. She then reached a location and suddenly stopped. Kyle almost collided with her backside. The proximity made Kyle gulp. Slowly, Ingrid opened the vent and crawled out. Kyle followed soon after. They found themselves near the generators that power the base. They hid behind a pillar as two Joes walked past. With Kyle trailing behind her, Ingrid navigated her way through the Joes and reached the switch box. She then pulled out a tiny explosive charge and planted it on the switch box.

"Plan C," stated Ingrid. Kyle nodded. They then went to the entrance when there were two Joes coming in. They quickly fired their weapons, taking them out. Both of them stuck Copyright stickers on them and took back the darts. They left the two lying at the entrance and pressed on.

They were now on the catwalks of the base. They saw the Joes busying themselves on the floors below.

"Bad idea to get their attention now," commented Kyle.

They pressed on. They reached the commanders quarters, searching for the Sue; who is most likely commanding place. Just as they turned at a corner, two Joes with standard bullpup rifles spotted them and aimed at them. Ingrid and Kyle quickly dispatched them.


Suddenly, the alarm started blaring. More Joes pursued them. Kyle and Ingrid started running away, returning fire as necessary. They then reached a lone hangar with a group of Joes standing in the open, pointing their weapons at them. Kyle and Ingrid were about to open fire when the Sue spoke.

"Stop, Society!" said the Sue in an intimidating voice. The two stopped, and looked at the direction of the voice. The Sue stepped forward from behind the group of Joes, with another two Joes holding Duke and Ripcord, two canon characters; in their custody.

"I can't let you waltz your way down here. What do you think you are? Joes? Don't make me laugh," stated the Sue.

"Well, if you're all so powerful, they why do you need hostages, Commander Sue?" questioned Kyle.

"Oh, just in case you're bringing some of your Society friends along. I'd drop all those weapons and that Communicator if I were you," replied Commander Sue. Shadowy characters watched the drama unfold as the two dropped their weapons and raised their hands. Commander Sue smiled to herself.

"Good. Go frisk them," commanded the Sue. Two Joes stepped forward and walked towards them. As the Joes approached them, Ingrid gave a wink to Kyle and pointed her thumb at her bracelet. Kyle was confused for a moment. Then, gunshots rang.


The two Joes that were holding the canon characters were incapacitated, causing the other Joes to disperse. Commander Sue jumped as a shot rang and hit the spot she was standing on. Ingrid quickly ran towards the canon characters as Kyle, still confused, saw her run into the crossfire.

"Ingrid!" yelled Kyle as she jumped in front of Duke and Ripcord and activated her ray shield. Kyle quickly ran, activating his ray shield, to help her take the two characters to safety.

"What the hell were you doing? You could have got yourself killed!" exclaimed Kyle as the bullets ricocheted off the shields.

"I was signaling you to use your ray shield when the Dark Guardians open fire! Just protect yourself from the Joes' fire!" replied Ingrid.

"How was I supposed to know THAT!" shot back Kyle as they slowly backed themselves to the hangar gate. They came across two Joes cowering for cover from the Dark Guardians. Ingrid pulled out her pistol and fired two darts at the Joes, then taking the rifles from them and giving them to the canon characters.

"Non-lethal shots at the Joes. Commander Sue is our priority," stated Ingrid.

"I think we know that very well," replied Duke as he started using suppressing fire at the Joes. Ripcord quickly incapacitated some Joes firing at them.

Commander Sue was firing back at the Dark Guardians but kept missing them. They were concealed perfectly in the darkest corners of the hangar, and were visibly hard to aim. When the number of Joes started dwindling, four Dark Guardians scaled down the hangar and reached the ground. The Sue managed to get one in the shoulder, but the suppressing fire was too great. She then threw a flashbang grenade and made a run for it; running up the stairs to a corridor. Recovering from being blinded, the Dark Guardians were about to pursue her when Terry yelled out a command.

"Stay put and help take back the base! Ingrid, Kyle and I will pursue her!" commanded Terry as he raced up the stairs with Ingrid and Kyle trailing behind. Upon entering the corridor, Snake Eyes came and blocked their path. Terry stood firm as Snake Eyes charged at him.


Snake Eyes slammed on a hard, glass barrier, and was knocked unconscious. It was then revealed that Terry had done a transmutation; his palms were together. He then deconstructed the glass, allowing passage for Kyle and Ingrid to pursue the Sue while he stuck a Copyright sticker on Snake Eyes.

Ingrid and Kyle managed to catch up with the Sue, but she was already taking off in a Joe VTOL aircraft.

"So long, suckas!" yelled the Sue in triumph as she left the base. But what she didn't account for was that Ivan was standing in front of the entrance pod. He watched her grin turn into a frown as he took a shot at her with his sniper rifle. It hit her right in the abdomen, destroying some of the flight gear in the process. The aircraft spun out of control and crashed nearby. Ivan just lifted his rifle and rested it on his shoulder.

"All while drunk... hic!"said Ivan before suddenly falling asleep.

As the Sue crawled out of the wreckage, Ingrid and Kyle were standing before her; with a Prohibitor at hand. Kyle slapped the Prohibitor on her wrist, and her Sueishness faded away.

"You think that we'll lead you straight to our plan? I'm just a small cog in a very big machine!" exclaimed the Sue before biting onto something and dying in front of them. Kyle and Ingrid were surprised.

"Cyanide pill," explained Terry as he held up the drunken Ivan. Kyle shook his head in disappointment, took out the Prohibitor and kept it in his pocket.

"The takeover of the Joe base was just a diversion. Doug found the real prize at the Arctic," said Terry. Kyle and Ingrid turned to him; surprised.


"So this is what they've been hiding," commented Doug as he looked around the Cobra base. He and his team saw the the base filled with clone soldiers with the PCMSPS logo on their uniforms. Cloning vats, training facilities, tank bays; it looks like the Society foil was preparing for a large-scale war. Doug quickly formulated a plan to destroy this base once and for all.

"Let's go to the main control. There must be a protocol for self-destruct sequences there," said Doug to his team. They all quietly walked through the base and to the main control. Doug put a frame charge on the door, then stepping aside for a breach. The frame charge exploded, destroying the door, and Doug and his team mowed down the soldiers at the control center.

The alarm started blaring; they have very little time for staying at the center. They quickly got to work; Janice and Jocelyn guarded the entrances while the boys were hacking through the system. Jake found the protocol, and set the mode to self-destruct. They quickly navigated through the base, gunning down any opposition they encountered. When they were about to reach their escape route when Osiris stepped out and blocked their path.

"Targets acquired. Terminate," said Osiris as a particle cannon popped out from his shoulder and aimed at them.

"Get back!" yelled Doug as he activated his ray shield. The particle cannon fired, hitting the shield with enough force to throw Doug meters away from where he was standing. The Guardians fired at Osiris, but the bullets just bounced off his body.

"Action registered as annoying. Eradicate threat," said Osiris as he aimed the napalm launcher at them. Doug continued to hold up the ray shield, but they were further pushed back into the base. As the first ice shards hitting the base, springing leaks into the base, it doesn't look like Doug and his team will be able to get out of the base in time. Then a voice was heard from the back.

"Get down!" yelled the voice. Doug looked back and saw Maddie, carrying an AT4 rocket launcher. They all ducked, and Maddie fired the rocket at Osiris. It hit him square in the face; Osiris dropped to the floor with his face smoking almost immediately. Maddie then waved at them to follow her.

"Is he dead?" yelled Jocelyn.

"Don't care! Let's get outta here!" yelled Doug as he trailed Maddie from the back. They kept running with a torrent of water rushing from the back. They entered a room and Doug closed the door shut. Maddie's Dark Guardians were already working in the room; the room was the launch facility.

"Launch the rocket!" exclaimed one of the Dark Guardians. The booster engines fired up, and then left the launch pad and into the tube.

"Get to the launch pads, hurry!" exclaimed Maddie as they exited the room from another door. They reached the launch pad and a rope fell down from the tube.

"Belt up!" exclaimed Doug as they all locked their hooks on the length of rope. After securing themselves on the rope, Maddie gave the command to pull them out. The rope began to tense up, and then one by one, they were jerked up to the Arctic surface. As they exited the tube, leaks sprang and water came gushing out from it. All of them made it out safely, and the helicopter slowly descended, allowing all of them to get off the rope. The last two were Doug and Maddie, and they laid on the ice, next to each other, panting heavily from the exhaustion. Then Doug spoke.

"Thanks for getting us out," thanked Doug.

"We're even now, OK?" replied Maddie. Doug just smiled, remembering the time he had to rescue her. He then reached out to her hand and held it tightly. She turned and smiled at him; he smiled back. Then Jake and Jocelyn approached them.

"Doug, Maddie, the chopper's waiting. Need a hand?" asked Jake. Doug put out a hand and Jake grabbed it and pulled him up. Jocelyn did the same for Maddie. They all then walked to the Black Hawk, got into it, and disappeared as the Black Hawk took off and entered a plothole.


"They did really want to hit us at our weakest," commented Tash as she read the reports.

"I can say that this is the work of Aryan, rogue author. No one else other than authors can manufacture something this big, and with him teaming up with the PCMSPS; they could be quite troublesome," replied Doug.

"Are there any plans to combat this threat?"asked Tash.

"I think we've destroyed the main bulk of the forces they were creating, but the Author has set up an underground network to keep this growing threat in check. I'm pretty sure the Author will mobilize once he finds it," replied Doug.

"I sure hope he knows what he's doing. I don't want another assault on this Library again," said Tash.

"We'll keep you updated with our intelligence network. If it needs the Society to intervene, then the threat will be notified," replied Doug. Tash nodded and Doug left the office. Then Ingrid entered the office.

"Ingrid, stepping in the middle of a crossfire almost gave me a heart attack," said Tash.

"I'm sorry," replied Ingrid; her head was down.

"It's okay. You did what's right anyway. So..." Tash got up, walked towards Ingrid and gave her a badge. "Welcome to the Society."


"I told you it was a bad idea!" yelled Eolhc as she worked on Osiris' eyes.

"So, how are you going to explain yourself, Aryan?" asked Deraj, looking very annoyed.

"Not to worry. This is a minor setback," replied Aryan.

"Minor? We lost at least 85% of our bulk there!" exclaimed Deraj. Aryan drew out his revolver and fired a shot close to Deraj's head. Deraj whimpered.

"It is because the Wanderers found out, not the Society," said Aryan before twisting the revolver around his finger and slotting it into its holster.

"This is an opportunity. Since we know what they're capable of, we just have to... create a counter," said Aryan.

Note: The rest of this plotline (aka the events of "Insert Gigantic Autonomous Robots Here" and "Insert Another Classic War Story Here") will be placed on a separate page as an out-of-continuity "movie".

Monday, January 28, 2013

Family Tree

"Alright, we all know why we're here," Phoenixia stated gravely.

"...I don't," Harriet declared, casually tossing a cricket ball from one hand to the other. "You just told me to come to Tash's office."

She turned her head to study the aforementioned Librarian, who was sitting on her desk, her head resting in her hands. Flanking her was Michael, who was rubbing his glasses against his shirt.

Phoenixia rolled her eyes, and snatched the cricket ball from midair.

"We're here," she continued. "To talk about Emily."

Michael raised an eyebrow. He had not been brought up to speed on the contents of this meeting either, but now he had a very good idea where this was heading. "You noticed too huh?"

"That we haven't seen hide or hair of her since the war except for mealtimes?" Phoenixia nodded. "Yes, we all noticed."

Harriet snatched the ball back from the hologram, and rolled it over in her hands. "She barely says a word in our lessons too... I thought she was just in mourning..."

She trailed off, her eyes drifting over to Tash, not wanting to upset her. Tash however was worrying her lip between her teeth.

"It's me," she stated finally. "She leaves the room every time I enter. It must be me."

Phoenixia sighed. "Don't be silly Tash. What could you have done to upset her? You've been away for the past week."

Tash gave her a look of disbelief. "Oh I don't know, it might have something to do with the fact that I put a sword through her sister, just over a month ago?"

The hologram winced, though this may have been because Harriet had just dropped the cricket ball onto her foot, as she stood up suddenly.

"Well, I think over a month is long enough, don't you?" and she reached over to Tash's bag, and began rooting through the contents.

"I'm almost afraid to ask..." Michael admitted. "But what are you doing?"

"Looking for Tash's Plot Summary," the leader explained. "Emily missing is part of this plot, so I can track her with this!"

Somewhere in the distance, the fourth wall rumbled ominously. Phoenixia rolled her eyes, but the three leaders paid little attention.

"Got her!" the leader announced, before charging for the door, pausing only to swing her own handbag over her shoulder. "Onward, my underlings!"


"I've never been here before..." Tash admitted. "In fact... was this room even here two weeks ago?"

Phoenixia appeared on the screen of the Plot Summary, which was still being clasped by a determined looking Harriet.

"Nope. There's no holoprojectors or even security cameras in there. Whatever this room is, someone instructed the Library to keep it a secret."

"And Emily is in here?" Michael summarised. "Either something dodgy is going on, or she's been keeping something big, a secret."

"Either way," Harriet declared, thrusting the Plot Summary back to a surprised Tash. "I'm going in! Follow my lead!"

"And what lead would this be?" Michael inquired, as Harriet tried the doorknob with no success. The leader thought for a second, before hauling back and kicking the door hard. It swung free, and banged against the wall with a thundering crash.

"...not going for subtlety then, are we?" Michael smiled. Tash shrugged, wrestling the Plot Summary back into her bag (ignoring the complaints from Phoenixia, who was dying to see what the big secret was).

The three could hardly believe their eyes as they stepped over the threshold.

The room was decked in flowers of all varieties, though roses, lilies and carnations were the dominant selection. The smell was slightly overpowering, and all three newcomers had to pause for a minute, their sinuses reeling, and their eyes tearing slightly. Strangely, they could hear birds calling to one another from the tall trees that lined the room, and they could faintly detect the hum of insects.

"Bloody hell..." Harriet muttered, as they slowly walked further into the room.

"Its amazing..." Tash breathed.

"Achoo!" Michael sneezed loudly, the scent of pollen leaving a nasty tickling sensation in his nose. Tash reached into her bag and handed him a tissue, feeling the tell tale signs of her own hay fever threatening to make themselves known.

"Better find her quickly," she suggested, as Michael sneezed again.

"She's probably already heard us," Harriet shrugged. "She'll come looking after she heard Michael sneezing."

Michael gave the Society founder a look. "Right...and it wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that you kicked the door in?"

There was a moments silence, as Harriet recalled the bang she had made upon entering, and blushed. "Oh yeah... that might have too."

"Hey," Tash was examining a nearby tree, which seemed to have been made the centre point of this particular clearing. The flowers surrounding it all had one thing in common – they were red. "This is a juniper tree..."

Harriet scanned the room, and walked past the juniper tree, into the next clearing. Her heart sank as she walked through the flowers, and found another tree.

"Yeah... there's a holly bush at the centre of this one," she said gravely, eyeing the white flowers on the ground, which reminded her strongly of snow, for some reason.

"Wow..." Michael was in the next clearing, craning his head to see the top of the towering deciduous tree, and trying not to step on the blue flowers. "That's a big ash tree..."

In unison, they all moved to the final clearing, and sure enough, pride of place at the centre of the clusters of pink flowers, stood a single striking snowbowl aspen. Harriet reached forward and stroked the bone coloured bark.

"She must have been vanishing to plant these... I wonder how they all grew so quickly."

Michael sighed heavily. "And I'll bet we can all guess what kind of tree she's at right now..."

They all made their way deeper into the room, stepping over small bushes, and kicking up more pollen, which caused Tash and Michael to break into fits of sneezing (Harriet got tired of saying 'bless you' after Tash's violent exclamation frightened a group of birds from a nearby tree).

Finally, they broke into a new clearing. Unlike the previous ones, the ground here was clear of flowers, and the attention was left to the single weeping willow, which swayed gently, despite the fact that there was no breeze (Harriet could not help but liken this to the hair of the Sue who's name was derived from this very tree).

And sure enough, there sat Emily, hidden behind a curtain of willow leaves, her back flat against the trunk. She appeared to be reading several sheets of paper, with tears in her eyes. So distracted was she, that she apparently had not heard or registered the noises that the leader's had been making since their arrival.

Harriet's first instinct was to hurry over and embrace her charge, however Michael firmly took her wrist and pulled her back.

"Let's wait outside," he suggested quietly. Harriet pouted, but allowed herself to be tugged away. Tash followed, her hands shaking.

"I knew it..." she thought to herself.


When Emily finally emerged, the leaders were clustered just a little way down the corridor. Michael was trying very hard to give Harriet a Duel Monsters tutorial, and Tash was idly tapping her Plot Summary, repeatedly huffing in annoyance every time Phoenixia tried to contact her to find out what was going on.

Upon seeing the welcome committee she had apparently picked up, Emily made to back into the room quietly so that they would not see her. Harriet however, was supernaturally attuned to any sound from that direction by now, and her head immediately snapped upward, her green eyes fixing on Emily's blue ones. The ten year old paled, and shut the door before anyone could see inside it.

"It's okay," Michael had seen where Harriet's attention had been directed, and was now gathering up the scattered Duel Monster cards. "We saw it all."

Emily might have gone a few shades paler, were it not for Harriet sprinting the length of the corridor and hugging her tightly.

"Harriet, gerroff!" she complained, readjusting her glasses which were being squashed painfully into the bridge of her nose.

"Sorry..." the leader backed away. "But I was worried about you...none of us knew where you were, and you've barely said anything lately..."

"Let her breathe Harriet," Michael suggested. Emily dragged her left foot slowly across the floor, and wondered just how mad everyone was. She got a surprise however, when Tash knelt down beside her, her head bowed.


"I'm sorry Emily... I really am..."

The youngster tilted her head, standing on both feet again. "What for?"

"For killing her... I'm sorry I've made you so sad. I don't know what else to say..."

There was a huff, and Emily poked her hard in the shoulder, surprising the leader.

"You think I've been avoiding you because I'm angry with you?" she rolled her eyes. "You're cool and everything Tash, but you can be really self-centred..."

The Librarian at least had the decency to blush hard at that.

"This," Emily waved a hand at the room behind her. "Has nothing to do with you. I've just been avoiding you because I was worried you'd drag me back to work on your secret project, when I wanted to spend time on this..."

Tash gave a shaky laugh. "You could have just said... I'd have understood why you'd rather spend time here than in my hanger..."

"Regardless!" Harriet butted in, hating the fact that she was left out of the loop. "Why didn't you tell us about this room? Why keep us worrying like this?"

The left foot was dragged across the floor again. "Because I thought you'd disapprove... you hated them all... heck, I dislike Ashley and Aspen for what they used to do..." she broke off, before continuing in a quieter voice. "But they're still my sisters... they were my family, and now they're all gone..."

She turned to look at the door to the garden, not wanting any of them to see her face. "I built that room to remember them... not how they were when they got their powers and turned into the people you hated. I want to remember before that... when they were my sisters... and how much we loved each other..."

The tears would not be held back any longer, and Emily's body trembled as the sobs slowly worked their way out of her throat. Harriet scooped her back into a hug, and this time, Emily did not protest. Michael tapped Tash on the shoulder, and jerked his head to indicate that they should make themselves scarce.

"Poor kid..." he muttered, as soon as they made it back to the communal areas of the Library. Tash nodded quietly.

" I a bad leader, Michael?" she asked quietly. "Am I horrible, for not stopping and finding a way that would have caused her less pain?"

"No," Michael shook his head immediately. "You did the only thing you could at the time. Its not your fault. None of us really thought about it."

He sighed, as he contemplated the truth of the whole situation.

"In all our own grief... none of us realised that Emily was grieving for her whole family too..."


Harriet eventually carried Emily to her bedroom, slipped her jacket and shoes off, before putting the exhausted girl to bed. She struggled over to the wardrobe, trying not to trip over the clothes, books and bits of machinery that littered the floor, and placed Emily's shoes in the bottom, before reaching for a hanger for the jacket. She paused as her fingers brushed paper, and curiously, she pulled an envelope out of Emily's jacket pocket.

Her eyes went wide as she saw the neat cursive on the front. She'd recognise that handwriting anywhere.

Willowe had written to Emily? When? How? This couldn't be an old letter, because Emily had brought nothing with her into the Library after she had been found in the Final Fantasy X fandom, except for the clothes on her back. This must have been given to her recently. But how could Willowe have got a letter to her, when she had been living all this time in the Library?

Questions were screaming to be answered in the leader's mind, and her fingers inched toward the flap of the unsealed envelope. She could look and find out the answer...maybe she would read something that she had never known about her own Sue. Willowe had always been very good at keeping secrets after all...

But the letter was not for her, she firmly reminded herself, scanning Emily's name on the front. It was for the youngest Foxblade sister. And she could not intrude.

So carefully, she slipped it back into the pocket of the jacket, and picked her way carefully back across the floor, toward the door. Checking over her shoulder that Emily was sleeping peacefully, Harriet closed it quietly, before heading off to the kitchen, curious as to whether her creation would continue to surprise her like this even after death.

Back in the room, Emily cracked one eyelid open very slowly, before slipping out of bed, and tiptoeing across the room to her wardrobe. The door creaked as she opened it, and she pulled the letter from the pocket of her jacket, before creeping back to her bed, and curling up again beneath the duvet. She pulled open the pages, and began to read slowly...

Dear Palm Tree,

I am sorry.

I'm sorry for not being a better big sister to you, for not protecting you better and not giving you a proper home to grow up in. And most of all, I'm sorry for not saying 'I love you' enough.

I know you're very bright for at ten-year-old, but my recent actions and those our sisters must leave you so confused... you're terrified of becoming that and you can't help but wonder why we even do it... and I'm not even sure, either.

When a Sue matures and gains their powers, their minds change too... we become power-hungry and desire to corrupt and conquer worlds to match them to our own visions of perfection... even the things we regard as already beautiful, we want in our fists.

I don't know when it first came upon me or I first figured it out... maybe I went insane, trapped in my story and only now became sane again... or I'm still insane... I don't know. But regardless, I can't escape this... impulse to conquer, to control and twist and bend other things to my will... but I can't live with it, either... I can't watch my family do the same..and I refuse to even let this be a possibility for you.

That's why I'm doing this, little sister. It's all or nothing. I will take over the Real World and use it to control every possible fandom and world and then, with everything bent to my will, I can only hope the urge will be satiated and because everything will already be perfect, you will grow up and not wind up like me. Or the Society will stop me and that'll be the end of it, too.

When I heard the Society had taken you in after Ashley and Aspen's abuse of you, I found myself, not angry or upset, but relieve to hear the news. You haven't changed into a Sue yet and I hope so much that living with the Society will stop you from becoming like the rest of us, people who desire nothing but power and a twisted ideal of perfection.

But don't be afraid of your power, either, Palm Tree. If there is anything that I have learned, it's that power is just power- it's intent that matters. And I just know you'll be able to use it wisely.

If there is anyone I know who can avoid becoming like me, it's you, littler sister. It's my biggest hope that you'll grow up and live the life you always wanted and it will be your own life, not one ruled by this lust for power or anything else. Just you and what you want.

You make me so proud, Palm Tree and I love you so much. You're the best little sister anyone could ask for.



Friday, January 25, 2013

Circular Logic

"Donna toki datte 
Tada hitori de 
Unmei wasurete 
Ikite kita no ni 
Totsuzen no hikari no naka me ga sameru 
Mayonaka ni..."
—Utada Hikaru, "Hikari"


Adrian is dead.

Those were the three little words that refused to leave the minds and hearts of the agents of the Anti-Cliche and Mary-Sue Elimination Society. Silence reigned in the usually bustling Library Arcanium out of respect for its late Librarian, and a more pervasive, crushing atmosphere could not have been had if the entire Library had been submerged in the ocean and sunk to the bottom of the mid-Atlantic trench. Even the footsteps of the agents as they went about their day seemed muffled. People took their meals alone or in small groups, and usually went to bed early, although no one snored anymore. Many, for that matter, couldn't even sleep.

Tash was the new Librarian, but much of her firey energy had been greatly subdued. And who could blame her? The love of her life had just been cruelly ripped away from her while they were still in their first flush of romance. A handful of Counter Guardians had taken up temporary residence in the Library to give her some on-the-job training in her new duties, and she accepted her lessons quietly. When not handing out orders or maintaining security, not a single sound came out of her, save for a short gasp of air every now and again, as if she had only just remembered to breathe.

Meanwhile, Michael had taken over Tash's duties as Chief Agent. He was very good at it, much to the relief of the lower-level agents—strange as it seemed, Sues and Stus were still out there, and regular missions continued regardless of this tragedy. Several of them thought to take advantage of what they thought would be disarray and lax security in the Society, but thanks to Michael and a few quick-thinking agents, they were quickly and quietly prohibited. Privately, though, he was just as conflicted and confused as any of them. Adrian was his friend, his brother, the one who continually pushed him to be better. It didn't seem possible that a little thing like a few thousand Sues could put down a man like that. Michael clung even more to his sisters and his fiance, but couldn't help but wonder what the wedding would be like without a best man...

Aster, if anything, was the quietest of all, at least when compared to her previous effusive personality. She had no soul, but she felt this loss, more deeply than she had ever felt anything before. And that fact scared her. It scared her a whole lot. But, lacking the emotional experience or the knowledge to deal with her confusing emotions, she simply burried herself further into her manga, refusing to speak to anyone but Tash, Chrys, or Mizuho unless absolutely necessary.

All over the Library, silence reigned.

It echoed.


Monika walked into the monitor room to a sight that had made itself very familiar over the past week.

"No matches found."

The digital voice coming from the computers bore no emotion, and neither did Valerie's response to the news, despite the number of times Monika knew she must have heard it. The healer simply selected another fandom from the list and ran the search again, and picked up the book she was reading while she waited for the results.

The book was something Ari had insisted on, and Monika had supported the little dragon's reasoning on the subject. Valerie's mind worked at its best when she wasn't trying too hard, and reading was an excellent way to keep it flexible and relaxed. Of course, whether or not she was actually reading the books was a matter of chance—sometimes she was, sometimes she wasn't, and sometimes she simply stared at the pages, completely lost in her thoughts.

Watching her team leader's eyes as she began cleaning up empty plates of food and neatly stacked the various books that surrounded her—reference books and other volumes, not pleasure reading—Monika guessed that today was a staring-at-pages day. Instead, Valerie was using a soft song to keep her thoughts in focus.

"Shizuka ni... deguchi ni... tatte..."

Monika had no idea what the words meant, but they probably had some significance to the situation. Val's songs usually did, even if she didn't realize it most of the time.

"No matches found."

Valerie's soft voice ceased, and she put her book down again. "You don't have to do that, you know."

Monika paused in her routine, an old blanket draped over one arm and an empty plate in her opposite hand. "So?"

Valerie cracked a small smile, and Monika congradulated herself on a job well done. Cleaning up after her friend during her search was not the reason she kept coming, after all.

"Kurayami... ni... hikari o... ute."


Time passed.

Life went on.

Tash emerged from her shell eventually, but as a very different person. No longer was she bright and cheerful, but moody and sullen, as though a piece of her soul had died that day. She threw herself into her work, as though desperately trying not to think about everything she'd lost. And yet, at the same time, she wore her lover's old trenchcoats everywhere, and was rarely seen without one of his books in hand—particularly the Codex of Index, his last gift to her.

Aster emerged as well, and contrary to the Leader's behavior, she went on exactly as she had before the war, as though nothing had happened, as though no one had died. Michael eventually withdrew from even Claire, claiming that Tash needed her support more than he did, but if there was anything wrong, he didn't show it. Some of the quieter agents such as Cristoph and Rhia took refuge with each other. Others, who did not know Adrian as well, continued to go about their duties in silence out of respect, almost as though they were waiting for the unspoken signal that it was okay to be happy again.


"How is she?" Terrie asked her teammate quietly as she emerged from the monitor room.

"The same, mostly," Monika replied. "I think she's getting better—she's less obsessive, at any rate—but with my limited abilities, I really can't be sure..."

Stacey and Danielle, who were also there, exchanged a glance. "Has Pheonixia said anything?" Stacey asked. "She's gotta know what Val's doing, they're her computers..."

The tall blonde shrugged. "She's keeping out of it. I think it's because she understands about coping strategies and whatnot. I have to say, I kind of agree."

Danielle tilted her head. "Agree with what?"

"Keeping out of it," Monika replied. "Valerie knows what she's doing, whatever it is. She's not the type to have a psychotic breakdown, and since we all made her start wearing her obsidian pendant again, she's not about to have anyone else's psychotic breakdown either." She shrugged. "At this point, the most helpful thing we can do is leave her alone and trust that she'll pull through when she's ready."

The redhead scowled. "I hate waiting."


 "No matches found."

Re-setting the search was almost automatic by now, though Valerie sort of wished it wasn't. Then again, it was probably a sign of recovery if she could be genuinely impassive while waiting for each result instead of just squashing her emotions down. The difference, however, mattered little at this point. As long as she kept searching, she wouldn't have to face all those uncertainties...

It wasn't supposed to happen like this... she thought sadly.

The sound of flapping wings was heard, though nothing new could be seen in the room. If you want guarantees in life, then you don't want life at all, chosen, Ari's voice whispered gently into her mind. You want a rehersal for a script that's already been written.

The healer nodded sadly. She'd come to terms with that fact already, though it didn't help her state of mind, particularly when she'd never felt so helpless before in her life. How are things on your end?

The same. Ari's form slowly materialized on top of the monitor, though her image was translucent, like a bad TV image. I got a few of the younger Eirans to agree to help out, but even they haven't found anything. It'd help if we actually knew what happened to Adrian that day, but as it is... she trailed off.

Valerie paused, thinking. And the others?

Lae can't be spared, but Ezra's been asking around in whatever fandoms she's familiar with. A few of Danielle's people have been doing the sameViktor even tried riding the Currents, but no luck with that either. Ari hesitated. I wish we could do more, but there's only so many people we can spare, what with the

"I know," Valerie said aloud. Absently, she fiddled with the obsidian arrowhead pendant strung on a long ribbon around her neck, so that it rested right over her solar plexus. Ari... she thought hesitantly, what's happening with the other agents? I feel blind with this on, but I don't dare to take it off...

Ari's translucent image glided gently off the monitor to land on Valerie's shoulder, though the empath did not feel her weight as she would have if Ari were fully present. It's not as bad as you think, Ari replied. It's taken a long time, but things are getting back to normal. You don't need empathy to see that, just walk into the common room on any given day.

"...And Tash?"

She's gone home for a much-needed vacation, chosen.

"No matches found."

Valerie's hands slowly built into fists, tears threatening behind her eyes. "I feel so selfish..." she whispered in a pained voice. "They've all been needing my help, now more than ever, and I've just been sitting here doing nothing..."

You haven't been doing nothing, chosen, her guardian interrupted forcefully. You've been doing the most important thing.

"But what if I'm wrong? All of this will have been for nothing. Everyone will have been hurting for nothing..."

Valerie... Ari's image flickered briefly, then solidified as she turned her full attention to her charge. Your friends would have been hurting with or without you. The death of a comerade, superior, and friend is not something you can just magically make go away, not even with empathy. You're strong, but you're not omnipotent. And you spend so much time feeling and understanding others' emotions that you often forget to feel and understand your own.

Tash came back.

Emily came out of hiding.

Fewer and fewer Counter Guardians roamed the corridors and Tash needed their instruction less and less.

And then it happened.

It started when Tyler stumbled upon one of Adrian's traps, one he had not yet discovered. The sight of the dimunitive agent hanging upside down by one ankle would normally have been a hysterical one, had it not been Tash who found him helpless there. They exchanged a silent look, and even Tyler had the sense to be terrified of what her reaction might be. However, after a moment that lasted an eternity, a small, helpless giggle forced its way past the Librarian's lips. Soon they were both laughing until their sides hurt (not an easy thing to do from Tyler's position), and neither of them knew or cared if her tears were from sadness or laughter, or even if there was a difference. The laughter spread down the corridors, through the basements, up into the rafters, reminding each and every one of them that survivor's guilt can only take them so far, and that maybe, just maybe, it was alright to be happy again.

That was the turning point. Not just for Tash, but for everyone.

Noise slowly returned to the endless halls of the Library Arcanium.


"Anything new?" Valerie asked.

"Not since last week," Danielle reported.

Valerie repressed a sigh of disappointment, as it would have made wolfing down her food difficult. The two women before her - Stacey and Danielle - had brought their lunches and her's up to the portion of the monitor room that had been all but sectioned off as Valerie's "second office." With Pheonixia's help, the healer had gotten through about a third of her list in just under two months... with no success.

A part of her reminded herself that, if there was anything to be found—anything alive, anyway—it would surely have decomposed by now. But, no matter how much time passed, no matter now much things finally started going back to normal, Valerie simply couldn't shake this odd feeling in the back of her mind. Ever since they had returned to the Library after The War—there really was no other way to describe that day other than The War. Capital T: capital W—every since that day, something had been tugging on her empathic senses, something that didn't seem to be blocked by the obsidian around her neck, which served as a shield booster. That in itself would warrant further investigation, but for the incessent pulling. It never weakened except during her nightly meditation, but every day the call seemed to get stronger.

"What about you, Stacey?" she asked around a mouthful of cereal. "Have you gotten any visions lately?"

Said blonde lowered her eyes. "My visions come and go, Val. You know that." She took a deep breath. "And no one from the other side's heard anything either. Are you sure—"

"More sure every day," Valerie responded instantly. "I can't tell where it's coming from, but it feels like him. You can't feel it at all?"

Stacey shook her head. "Nothing."

They hear the door swing open, and Monika and Terrie arrive to join them, pulling up a couple of unused chairs and balancing their meals in their laps.

"No matches found."

Valerie grumbled and rolled her eyes, then swiveled around in her desk chair and recalibrated the search with one hand. Monika eyed her team leader sharply. "Val," she said, "when was the last time you slept? I don't think I've ever seen you this jumpy, except on a sugar high..."

Said healer tapped a few more keys, then swiveled back around and continued eating. "Umm... probably yesterday, I think. Or maybe the day before. Don't worry!" she added hastily, "I'm not sick or anything! I think it's just because I've been meditating more, trying to figure out this pulling sensation I've had. I keep trying to find out what it wants, but I keep hitting brick walls..."

"You still wearing your obsidian?" Terrie asked.

"Yeah, but it has no effect on this. It's like..." She paused momentarily, trying to think. "Y'know that feeling I get when someone I'm close to needs me for something?"

Stacey nodded. "There's an imbalance, and empathy compells you to set it right. But obsidian should block that."

"Exactly," said Valerie. "That's weird enough by itself. Now combine it with that feeling I usually get when Ari's watching me—sort of like there's someone standing behind me, watching me from over their shoulder, but not focusing on me entirely."

Danielle wrinkled her nose. "That has got to be weird..."

"So you've been meditating to try and get inside your own head?" Stacey asked.

Valerie nodded. "To figure out what I'm supposed to do with this feeling. I can't help but feel like I'm missing something... Like this feeling is trying to lead my thoughts in a particular direction, but I always get sidetracked when I get too close..." She shook her head. "For now, all I can do is continue with my search, because that's the only thing that feels right right now. But even when I find him, it'll only be half the puzzle..."

"If you find him," Monika reminded her.

Valerie shook her head. "I can't explain it, Mon, but I know he's out there. That's part of what this feeling has been trying to tell me, I just know it."

"Val," Danielle said gently, "you gotta admit, you are prone to wishful thinking..."

"Or Creation," Valerie shot back fiercely. Though none of the others understood the meaning behind that, Danielle was immediately silenced.

"I can't explain it," the healer repeated after a time, "but I feel him there. Somewhere. It's just..." She struggled to find the words to explain the turmoil in her mind and heart. "I feel like I have to find him because I'm going to find him, and I'm going to find him because I have to. Does that make any sense?"

"Kind of smacks of circular logic, to be honest," Monika replied.

"Or time-travel," Danielle joked, grinning.

"I dunno," Terrie said lazily, balancing her spoon on one finger, "All of life is a gigantic circle if you think about it. And if you find yourself walking a circular path, that must mean that where you want to go is someplace you already were." The spoon tilted dramatically, and the brunette flipped it upwards and caught it deftly. "Right?"

Valerie smirked at her friend. "When did you get so wise, Wiseguy?"

Terrie smirked even more broadly in response. "I didn't. Got that one off a fortune cookie."

They laughed, and the laughter felt good. It felt right, in a way that Valerie hadn't felt for a long, long time. There was still much to do, she knew, and her pent-up emotion were far from drained. But the time of mourning was over: the blood-soaked twilight had ended, as had the darkness of night. It was time for the sun to rise again.

Feelings like these don't have to make sense, Valerie thought to herself. All that matters is that I finish what I started.

The end... and the beginning... was in sight.


"Donna ni yokuttatte
Shinji kirenai ne 
Sonna toki datte 
Soba ni iru kara 
Kimi to iu hikari ga watashi o mitsukeru 
Mayonaka ni."
 —Utada Hikaru, "Hikari"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Insert Inconclusive Science Experiment Here

Note: Jared returns from his vacation at some point before this chapter, off-screen.

Sometimes, when an author attains popular status his or her earlier works become next-to-forgotten. This is uncommon enough in the realm of prose fiction; however, it's a bit more of a usual occurrence when applied to mangaka. Bisco Hatori is one example. She is well-known for her ongoing work, Ouran High School Host Club, but she had stopped working on the series Millennium Snow in order to continue with what was her breakout hit. Also, Katsura Hoshino is relatively famous for being the artist of DGray-man. Actually, DGray-man was derived from previous oneshots called Zone and Continue. This Author isn't saying that she doesn't understand the reasoning behind these happenings, but the fact of the matter is that relatively small pocket fandoms are created as a result, and even the Library's computers find it hard to reach to the corners of every fandom like this. In cases where a Sue might pop up, it is the prerogative of the author responsible to personally report any Sueish activity to the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society.

In one such fandom, Lela Persim Spica Clover Ginger Sarah Minnie Kai-Lee had recently made a reappearance. She didn't immediately set about any noticeable agenda, so the negligible number of authors who actually wrote for the fandom had ignored her presence altogether. Only one individual was made aware of Lela as soon as she set foot on fandom soil, and she was the person that Lela would have hidden from the most. Unfortunately – for which party? – Lela could not break her bond with the Author Cay. A week after her arrival, Lela was joined by her companion Viva Fontaine Sirius Heather Shevon Cello Miriam Skerry. By that point, Cay had still not decided what to do about the situation. Lela didn't seem to be causing any trouble yet, but Cay kept tabs on all her characters, and she'd heard that the Society had been going through some hard times. The Librarian had died. The capture of an outstanding Sue might raise the morale of Karissa and Charis, a little, and if she worked it right she could possibly ensure a happy ending for all three of her creations.

On a particular Wednesday afternoon she set to typing in a Word document...


"What do you want to do?" The question hung awkwardly in the air rather like a baited trap – no one wanted to touch it – but unless Karissa, Charis or Lily could answer it, they were going to continue wandering aimlessly in this generic shopping mall for a very long time indeed.

The third Sunday of each month was traditionally supposed to be the Society's "Ladies Night Out". Normally nothing short of a full-scale Sue invasion could prevent this evening from happening, but in fact, the Society had just faced down a full-scale Sue invasion. Willowe had finally been defeated, but Adrian had died in the relevant battle as well. That meant that no one had been in the mood to point out the date on the calendar this month; or if anyone had felt like having some fun might be beneficial, they didn't think it was respectful to admit to it. Karissa and Charis should have been in one of these two groups. Their Author had certainly imbued a sense of tact into them, along with other things, when she'd written her characters to life. But in any case, it was Charis who had suggested going ahead with the ladies' night, if only on a smaller scale. She claimed to have her reasons.

Mostly, Charis found it hard to keep mourning when the catalyst of everyone's grief was but a haze in her mind. The events of what was dubbed "Red Skies Twilight" were completely lost to her memory and thus the news of Adrian's death following seemed unreal. Karissa had displayed less dispassion to the chaos that reigned in the Library once they'd been dumped back into the storyline by Cay; however, over time her sympathy had shifted solely onto their leader, Tash. A few days ago Tash Marquand had left the Society "for a well-needed break", as it was being spread around. No one doubted that the British Agent needed space to recuperate from her lover's death, but Karissa fretted all the same that the leader's departure was symbolic of something else. When Karissa got overly emotional her invisibility inherited reign to do as it pleased. Charis had misplaced her sister a dozen times yesterday when stress quite simply caused her to disappear from view, and then deciding enough was enough, she had roped Lily into accompanying them on an outing today to "blow off some steam".

It had been easy enough to get everyone out of the Library, once Karissa regained her visible form. It had been peanuts to open a plothole into Greendale Mall, courtesy of the Sabrina the Teenage Witch fandom. The only thing Charis had forgotten was how hard it was to coordinate peoples' interests in order to make any decision whatsoever about their plans. Should they get something to eat (not hungry), should they watch a movie (not in the mood), which way should they walk (I don't know, my feet were headed in this direction). Deciding to "be spontaneous" and wait for something to occur to them was contradictory to the very essence of spontaneity. Eventually they were window shopping because it was a "safe" pastime, and they were capable of staring into the displays without mustering much enthusiasm.

Although Karissa and Charis both liked Lily – and they hoped the regard was mutual – at first the atmosphere was so tense that Charis was ready to admit defeat and open a plothole back "home". She turned back from her position ahead of the other two, to say as much. But she saw that Karissa and Lily had already stopped outside a store a few paces back. Lily was eyeing a bedecked mannequin thoughtfully, and as if sharing the same thought Karissa said, "Wouldn't that top look good in an entirely different part of your outfit?" Lily made a noncommittal noise, but it was true that she'd been wearing the same clothes ever since she'd joined the Society. There was nothing wrong with her dress, but the all-green theme that she'd maintained mostly by force of habit reminded her vividly of her past as a Sue. There wasn't any harm in going in to enquire about what the mannequin wore... Oddly enough, once they had transitioned from window shopping to actual shopping, the three girls were able to begin enjoying themselves.


They returned to the Library with collectively higher spirits. In the end, Lily had not bought just the top from the display, but she had replaced her entire wardrobe as well. She wore a slender-fitting long-sleeved dress shirt in a neutral colour that ranged between white and grey. It was the kind commonly advertised as "Her Boyfriend's Shirt". Lily had blushed at the name, and protested the flared sleeves that fell down over her hands, covering her Pin-studded bracelets. "They're only improvised, sure. I could do better than a couple of hair bands but, still, I'd like it if they showed," she said.

"But you can still see them. Notice how every movement you make causes the sleeves to shift, so that your bracelets are alternately revealed and concealed? It would be better if your method of attack isn't so visible so that you can catch your opponent off guard. Remember how Doug reacted the first time he fought against you and your Pins? Same idea." With some clever words Karissa managed to mollify the embarrassed Agent. Lily really did look nice, and she'd helped her pick out a white skirt – short, but not a miniskirt by Michael's standards – which was paired with a pair of clean white canvas sneakers tied by long black laces onto her feet. Lily's growing green hair hovered a few centimetres above shoulders now clothed in white-grey linen. Her hair colour would still set her apart from most, Aster being one exception, but against a background of pale hues her signature shade of emerald green didn't look too startling.

After saying goodbye to Lily – who was most likely headed to Ben's room next – the two girls left behind took a turn to lead them to one of the Library's common areas. Being a library, despite all of the other extraordinary qualities it possessed, you might have expected the inside of the Library Arcanium to be a bit quieter. However, this was the Society after all, and a group of Agents seemed to be in the process of trying to conduct some sort of... event. Karissa couldn't immediately figure out what Tyler, Drake and Michael were trying to do, and Charis didn't even bother trying to evaluate the situation any deeper than its face value. Superficially it appeared that the three male agents were chasing after a paper airplane, and that was all.

Still, Karissa frowned. "I didn't think paper airplanes could move like that." The paper craft was climbing higher and higher, exhibiting sharp rolls and swerves to escape the reaching fingers of any who came close. Tyler had pulled out his staff to try and knock the thing down, but all of a sudden the plane shot to an altitude of at least fifteen feet. Tyler waved his arms a little ridiculously before deciding that his effort was better spent elsewhere, and he pulled out a cookie to eat, which he had probably stolen earlier. Metaphorically, he passed the torch on to Jared for his turn to attempt catching the rogue aircraft. For his part, it didn't look like Jared was doing much. He was fiddling with a considerably undersized walkie-talkie.

"Bring out the helicopters... I repeat, bring out the helicopters."

"Charis, duck!"

By the time Karissa had realized who exactly Jared was communicating to, four LPGB Cobra helicopters proceeded to burst out of the nearest air vent. The miniature menace known to her as General Idea helmed the helicopter in the lead. "Men, I want that vessel grounded!" The LPGB flew literal circles around the paper plane, but for three minutes or more it continued to fly figurative circles around the LPGB. Evasive manoeuvres brought the plane up ahead of the helicopters tailing it, and then the paper plane performed a loop-the-loop that the toy helicopters were simply unable to reproduce. "At this rate we'll run out of fuel before we can catch that blasted thing. You, soldier, can't you pilot our vehicle any faster?" A harassed-looking Private Property furiously shook his head no.

"This isn't going anywhere soon." As a bystander, Charis was allowed to say these things.

In the middle of the action, Michael looked as if he'd come to the same conclusion. "Jared, can they bring that thing down or not? This is taking too– ah!"

Michael broke off in mid-speech as a distortion in the air above them was revealed to be Cristoph. The ninja was crouched on top of one of the Library's massive – and newly restored – bookshelves. In a single leap, he jumped to the top of another shelf. Methodically, he came closer and closer to where the LPGB still harried the enchanted airplane. Just as the helicopters herded the paper plane his way at last, Cristoph snatched it from the air with an incredible speed. With ease, he then dropped to the floor of the Library, landing with barely a sound. "Here you are, Lord Michael." He presented the plane.

"Thank you Cristoph," Michael replied, effectively ending the whole affair. As Tyler and Jared stole off in the background, Cristoph vanished, and the Society Leader alone gave the object in his grasp a cursory glance. Despite a thorough study, its exterior yielded no clues to its origin, so he unfolded the design. Somehow he was able to tell that the charm fled the paper at that moment, leaving an absolutely normal note behind. He read the writing that had been enclosed on the plane's insides, and then surprisingly he turned to Karissa and Charis. They hadn't been sure he'd noticed them standing to the side. "I think this is for you two," he said.

"Really?" Karissa took the sheet of paper curiously. Written in precisely neat print was one sentence and no more: There are two Sues together in クリムゾン シェル. "That translates to Crimson Shell, doesn't it? That's one of the manga Cay introduced me to."

"If there are Sues there, our computers haven't picked anything up," Michael remarked mildly. "Yet that paper plane was obviously the work of someone knowledgeable. Is your Author trying to tell us something?"

"It's not her writing," she said shortly in return. Charis took the paper from her sister's hands and confirmed the fact. "However, the description of two Sues in close company can only fit Lela – and Viva. We'll go and check things out."

Michael watched them with an odd look on his face. "Some other Agents are out on missions today too. We won't be able to watch all of you on the monitors at the same time, so don't hesitate to use your Communicators if you run into trouble."

"Of course," would have been an appropriate response if Karissa hadn't already dragged Charis away and down the stairs to the Science corridor.


Crimson Shell, being a one-volume story in all its entirety, was somewhat mysterious. The mansion where events took place was somewhere in southwest Britain, but that's as much as anyone knew in regards to the manga's setting. In this world, a mad scientist – genius first, mad later – bred a flower whose seeds he implanted in human beings. The majority of the children of the Premier Rose grew to be Black Roses, and the hosts of the Black Roses seemed to retain their humanity for the most part. However, in order to survive they had to let their roses feed on other people for nourishment; as well, when they had aged to a certain extent they would succumb to a disease called the "black spot" and die.

The organization that had originally researched the Black Roses to use them as possible weapons quickly turned against their subjects, becoming Red Rose in order to capture the dangerous experiments. One reason Red Rose so suddenly persecuted the Roses was because the Roses' creator disappeared without a trace; without his presence Red Rose was afraid they couldn't control the Roses. Another reason was that a Crimson Rose was discovered. The Crimson Rose did not need to feed on humans, and in contrast to the short-lived Black Roses it was rumoured that her Premier Seed granted eternal youth and immortality. Red Rose acquired the Crimson Rose and her Thorn, surrounded her with a group of guards called Crimson Shell, and then set about their extermination of the Black Roses. Most often, Red Rose dealt with the Roses' Victims – hapless people who had been infected with the poison of a Black Rose until it drove them insane – but the manga's primary antagonist was a Jet Rose, a host that had been particularly compatible with his Seed.

Claudia, the Rose Witch, was the name of the Crimson Rose. Shion Liddell was the name of the young Jet Rose who should have been killed. Should have was the objective word today, as Karissa and Charis wandered the halls of Red Rose's headquarters questioning canon characters. "Sub-leader Xeno and Shion Liddell's bodies were never found when we dug up the Second Laboratory," a faceless subordinate repeated to them. "Usually when the roses have finished feeding on someone's life, at least the corpse is left behind. In the case of Xion-sama and Shion-kun we uncovered no trace of them after unearthing all the rubble. We can only hope they're not still out there."

Karissa scowled as she and Charis walked away from the man. "I can't make heads or tails of everyone's answers. In the manga they hadn't found Xeno or Shion's bodies either, but I can't shake the suspicion that it's wrong! My instincts are telling me that despite this fandom's vague open ending, Shion Liddell is not dead, and that's something to do with Lela's interference. Do you think that Lela's back to her old seduction routine? Shion can't be more than 12 years old. He's exactly her type."

"If he's alive then what would explain the general inactivity reported of the Black Roses? Surely Shion would want revenge against Claudia. He learned his lesson in the end, but to avenge the death of Victoria I believe he'd try to attack Red Rose again. Even if he decided to let her death slide, Shion's never had complete control over every Black Rose. There should still be some erratic attacks and Victim casualties." Charis didn't know everything about Crimson Shell so she carried a copy of volume one, flipping through pages to find proof for her arguments.

"Hmmmm," Karissa didn't sound totally convinced about either of their theories. She'd been hoping Charis would just categorically agree with her.

"Excuse me." A hooded girl? boy? stood in their path. "Who [are] you? I've heard you're [asking] around about the Black Roses [and] the Jet Rose. Where do you sit [within] our organization?" Les was an androgynous child that Karissa vaguely remembered from the manga. He/she mumbled, so that explained the smattering of words that she heard missing from his/her questions.

"Ah, you're Les-chan. I'm Karissa, and this is Charis. We're new members of Crimson Shell, assigned here since... you've lost some of your members." Karissa fibbed, and fibbed well, but she couldn't help stumbling over the end of her sentence because she was reminded abruptly of the loss of Adrian.

After Shion, Les wasn't predisposed to trust any new members ever again, but he/she couldn't deny the logic in the girl's words. She was wearing organization uniform too, and her sister wore her identifying pin in the proper place up on her necktie. "You believe [that] the Black Roses remain active then? I heard [gossip] that there's been a change in [their] leadership. Nobody will believe me."

Karissa gasped. "I knew it! Lela's taken up with Shion, and she's trying her hand at being a Villain Sue for once!"

"You speak of the [Jet] Rose again. Are you really [part] of Crimson Shell?" Les' eyes took on a defensive slant, and his/her left hand reached for the pistol on his/her thigh.

"Sleep, Les." Before he/she could draw her gun, Charis placed a handkerchief smelling of chloroform in front of the boy/girl's face. Expertly, she held her hand in place until she felt Les go slack, and then she lowered the unconscious body to the ground. "So it looks like we have to get into the Black Rose headquarters. Where is it?"

"Crap, I don't know."


Thank goodness that Charis had brought a copy of the manga with her. As improbable as it sounds, what finally brought the sisters to the headquarters of the Black Roses were depictions of the interior of the building from no more than two panels in the whole volume. They spent a long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long time searching for rooms that matched the illustrations, but time flowed differently here, as evidenced by the fact that the series spanned only five days anyhow. Exhausted – and more than a little irritated – Karissa nonetheless favoured barging right in to the lair of the Roses.

"At least let's take a breather first," Charis scolded, mothering her sister. "Here's some water, and some rolls I snatched from the kitchen before we left the Library." She took a long drink, herself, and when she'd emptied her water bottle she wouldn't have minded having some more liquid inside. Their exploration had left her seriously dehydrated.

"Now, let's go," Karissa said impatiently. "Who knows that Lela could be plotting in there? She's never had a turn at being evil before, but she has a more than adequate role model in Viva. Ugh, she could be corrupting Shion in more than one sense, too."

"Gross! You have a dirty mind." For all her eagerness, Charis managed to overtake Karissa as a giggling fit seized her. Once they'd entered the building, still in the lead, Charis noted distractedly, "The layout of this place is a bit similar to the Library, don't you think?" Following that reasoning, she let her feet run on autopilot, on a course that would have taken them back to the common room they'd left hours before (if they were in the Library). There was a common room pretty much where she'd expected it to be and, on a couch covered in the flickering shadows of firelight, the unmistakable side profile of Lela could be seen leaning forward to blot out Shion's smaller face with a kiss...

"Cease and desist, Lela! You're not molesting any more little boys on my watch!"

Immediately, Lela's gaze snapped up and locked onto Karissa's but – being a Sue – she avoided the deer-in-headlights look. The expression on her face was hard to describe. All the other times she'd encountered Lela, upon confrontation, Karissa had seen her face twist into indignant fury, boredom, mischievous delight, or a brand of taunting cruelty. Here, she didn't seem that surprised to see them, but there was a trace of unexpected fear in her eyes. Lela wasn't scared to see Karissa per se, but for the first time she looked as if she were afraid of what Karissa would take away from her. Karissa had once theorized that, until she was forced from the Kuroshitsuji fandom, Lela hadn't known that the relationships she twisted weren't real; she'd treated her men like playthings, for sure, but she'd thought they were nevertheless devoted to her. After Kuroshitsuji, she'd known better, and to retaliate at Karissa she'd sprung a trap for them in the Midnighters fandom. Right now, though, Lela looked at Karissa like she was going to destroy something she'd really worked hard for. That was impossible.

Lela urgently placed a finger to her lips in the universal sign for "quiet". Seeing no reaction from either Karissa or Charis, she then slowly edged forward and placed a kiss on Shion's forehead – he was sleeping, Karissa realized. "That was all I was going to do, honestly. What Shion and I have isn't lustful; we're more like brother and sister."

Karissa laughed to hide her misgivings. "Sure. Like I haven't heard that before. You already tried to be a sister to Ciel Phantomhive, and that didn't work out."

"It's not the same this time," Lela insisted softly. "I haven't used my Sue powers to mess with Shion at all. I haven't used my powers since I came into this fandom, except to save Shion from the collapsing laboratory! And... Shion and I became friends after I saved his life. We've been teaching each other how to curb our destructive tendencies. He doesn't want to kill anymore, and I–" Lela glanced away. "I don't want to be a Sue any longer," she whispered.

You couldn't have floored Karissa more effectively if you'd socked her in the gut and, likewise, Charis looked like someone had torn her laptop from her arms and smashed it upon the ground into a million little pieces. Karissa's jaw gaped like a goldfish, helpless while trying to create words, and then she asked, "If you're that serious about reform, why not simply come back with us to the Society? We'd permanently prohibit you, that's all, but you'd be free to stick around after."

Lela scoffed, like other Sues had done before her. "Don't kid. If I entered the custody of the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society, I'd be signing my own death warrant."

"No," Karissa replied forcefully. "Palm Tree Foxblade is in the care of the Society right now, and she's thriving. She's learning how to be a normal little girl. Bella Francine Carolyn Michelle Tracy Hannah Anna Paula Jenny Darline Karen Ginger Aubrey the Fourth is now a member of the Society, and she's living happily! She's in love with our Agent Ben! Surrendering to the Society isn't the worst you can do. And if you want to be left alone, it's the smartest thing to do. Once you've retired from the public, Charis and I won't have to chase you around anymore. And if you choose to stay inside the Library at all times, I can guarantee Cay almost never visits." Karissa's voice transitioned from passion to a resentful bitterness at the last.

Lela looked shocked. "Karissa – that rush of emotion across my empathy – you feel the same way that I do, don't you?" When she wouldn't answer, Lela tried to reach out to the feelings she'd felt; ones that had resonated just like her own. "Cay never acknowledged me after the first few days that she started my story. It was hard being forgotten, so I tried to be independent by my own choice. I made myself a little bit of a Sue, at the beginning. In the time that passed, sometimes her attention would drift back, but every time she left it was even harder to cope. I disowned her so that she couldn't come back to me. I embraced being a Sue, and as I levelled up she never even noticed. I thought that meant she never cared."

Karissa looked sullen at being found out, but she couldn't disagree with Lela's heartfelt words. "Yes, I've been through that. I didn't get as far as you did, because Sueishness disagreed with me, but all the rest is close enough to the truth."

Agent and Sue shared a moment. Charis sensed that she shouldn't intrude, but she couldn't help wondering how two relatives by the same Author could be so different from her. Their problem was that they thought solely with their hearts; their brains didn't have much say in the matter. They let Cay wound them so much...

The corners of Lela's lips twitched, and she smiled uncertainly. "Is this my final answer? I suppose I can accept conditional detention." Compared to her whispers earlier, Lela's volume had reached room-level by this time. Perhaps attracted by her voice, a black cat entered the room, twining around Karissa's ankles.

"That's great, Lela," Karissa smiled gently in return. She didn't comprehend why Lela's features had turned back to fear, or why the brunt of her terrified stare fell on the domesticated feline making its way across the carpeted floor. "Is that your pet? I thought you were allergic to dander."

The animal hissed at them. Barings its fangs, its mouth became a wide black hole, and Viva Skerry's voice emitted from it. "I was sworn to protect you from the Society until the day you died, Mistress. I'm afraid I must assume that you no longer need that protection. This contract is broken." Viva performed the same trick she'd pulled in the Midnighters fandom – Karissa cursed, recognizing the danger now - and the demon's form became disparate from the cat. Before Karissa could blink, Viva fell upon Lela, and all that could be heard was a high shriek before silence resumed.

Karissa stared in horror at the bloody hole Viva had rent in Lela's abdomen. A silvery fume rose up from the Sue's chest, and Viva's teeth closed on it with relish. Charis turned green. "It's regretful that I had no time for a clean meal, but that would have taken too much time with you Agents here," Viva grinned wickedly. She stood. She still mirrored Lela in some aspects of her shape, but the demon was meaner now. The bones in her face stood out more starkly in a lean face, and her crimson irises were otherworldly. "Who wants to play next? The self-pitying sensitive? Or the repressed-emotional techie?" But it was neither of them that screamed and attacked Viva – it was Shion.

He whipped out an arm, and the vines of his roses burst through the surface of his skin, arcing through the air towards Lela. A thorny strand wrapped taut around her wrist, pulling her forward some distance – but that was only until she recovered from her surprise. With a full-fledged smirk she dug her feet in, and then it was Shion that was thrown off balance. "How dare you hurt my friend!" Shion raged, using his roses to propel himself upright. His voice caught in his throat. "–to Lela!" He threw himself at her, roses in frenzy about him, but just as the first thorns cut a swathe down her cheek, Shion came to an unnatural stop. He shuddered and looked down to find Viva's clawed hand firmly through his stomach. With a gurgle, he clutched the bloodstained area and crumpled. His weight pulled him off Viva's arm and to the floor, another body on the floor.

"That was barely worth the effort," Viva said viciously, as if Shion's life hadn't been worth the taking. But Karissa saw that Shion wasn't dead just yet. His roses were still flung far from his body, and they began to slither along the ground as he hacked blood from his lungs. If the roses could consume enough flesh he could revive and give Viva another run. But as the vines nearest Viva cracked through the air, they rose too high. Instead of aiming at the demon they struck the ceiling, and chunks of plaster began to rain down on them. Viva laughed in amusement. "Déjà vu. I didn't realise, but this pathetic boy dies almost exactly according to canon! The Mistress may have saved him from death once, but to die in the same manner a second time is too ironic!" Viva stalked closer, trying to get at the Agents. Successive vines sought the demon's warm body, but Shion's roses couldn't seem to damage Viva in any way that mattered. They were merely an annoyance she had to bypass to target Karissa and Charis.

A few of Shion's dead vines found their way into the fire, and soon the carpet began to burn as well. If Viva didn't kill them first, the building would come down around their ears. Karissa felt helpless, because none of her martial arts could have any effect when the enemy was so distant – but she didn't want Viva any nearer anyways. Charis never had any fighting skills to reckon with, but in the same manner as their mission in the Midnighters fandom, she recalled that she had one last "weapon" to use against Sues. Charis let the utility pouch around her waist unfold, and she took hold of an octahedron secured in a row of similar shapes. Folding her fingers around its surface, she tossed it to the ground towards Viva. Karissa imagined it was a rather undersized grenade; the demon spared no interest for speculation. Tumbling upon the ground, it became apparent that the octahedron had figures painted only two sides. As it flickered in the dim lighting, everyone saw the Chinese characters for four, and eight. The gadget landed eight face-up.

Charis' line of sight imploded with a barrage of information. Rapidly moving images swam in her mind like television on hyper fast-forward, and she struggled not to give in to the sensory overload. The Spoiler triggered a premonition of another exit, an escape route through a door that had not been blocked by fallen beams and flame. "Karissa!" she called, directing her sister to what would have been a closet in another time. The back wall had been knocked down to lead to the next room. "Karissa, over here!" she called again. Charis saw that her sister was delayed because she'd gone back to get Lela's body. She carefully dragged it towards Charis' position while taking care not to let it be snatched by Shion's berserk roses. Shuttering their eyes against the smoke, they "three" shuffled through empty rooms that set ablaze only slightly slower than they passed through. Scarcely when they'd reached outside they became aware of the complete spectacle – the Black Roses' headquarters would be destroyed more absolutely than just the library in Red Rose had.

As they solemnly watched the conflagration they felt a huge displacement in the atmosphere, and they guessed that meant Viva had left the fandom. But the story didn't reset. Charis looked down at the body formerly known as Lela, and she felt a bit sick to her core. She said awkwardly, "I don't think events will realign to canon until... Lela's body is removed."

Karissa looked down also. "We should say a couple of words for her, shouldn't we? She was going to turn over a new leaf. She deserves as much as one of us." But she had no idea what to say in this situation any more than her sister did.

"You can start by reciting her proper name. Lela Persim Spica Clover Ginger Sarah Minnie...Koi. It means 'love and tender passion'. She started to show her true colours in the end." From a newly opened Plothole, Cay stepped into the world of Crimson Shell. She was dressed from head to toe in black, and she carried a bunch of white roses cradled in two arms. She continued to speak evenly as she walked. "In life Lela was misunderstood, and she was not treasured when she ought to have been. She was hurt and therefore inflicted hurt greatly. Death put a stop to Lela's struggle to be recognized, but death cannot mend the hearts of those left behind who finally realized what a gift her personality was. One day we will meet again, in a better place, and we will cry no more. Until then memories will keep us going. Love will get us through the dark times. Rest in peace, Lela, until we meet again."

Karissa wasn't religious, but she sent a prayer to heaven for Lela's devoured soul; surely she would receive salvation. As Cay concluded her speech, Karissa realized that an Author still had things to offer, after all; maybe Cay did love them. "You're crying," she observed. When Cay took off her blank mask, it turned out Karissa was right.

"I failed you. All of you. Lela was supposed to live and leave with you two, but I left this story for too long and Viva grew a will of her own. She killed Lela herself – right at the very instant the story had stopped. You were all supposed to have happy endings...not like this." The moisture at the corner of Cay's eyes coursed over the edge as regret rang through her apology. Karissa and Charis extended arms to envelop their Author in a tight hug. "You have to go back to the Society. Promise me you'll give deserving Sues the second chance that belonged to Lela."


When Tash returned from her sojourn things at the Library had almost gone back to normal. There was chatter that drifted past open doors, and not everyone was afraid that disturbing the peace when Tash was around had meant that they didn't care. Tyler ran into one of Adrian's lingering traps, and he suffered no more harm than he would have Before. Ben made a particularly bad pun during a lunch break and Shirley was galvanized into action like she hadn't been for a long time. It was bad form to laugh at someone in distress, but it was merely a relief to laugh. People were breaking out of the shells that had formed over the last month. Like a butterfly breaking out of the cocoon, their renewed hope was a little more fragile; but it was beautiful to behold.

Karissa was a late bloomer, inside the metaphor of the butterfly. Because everyone had known and liked Adrian, Karissa had previously been able to show her grief openly. She did not feel so assured in displaying the personal tumult caused by Lela's death. She chided herself about it. Hadn't Ben thought the same things when he'd been afraid to disclose his relationship with Lily? There was no law against feeling something for a Sue. Even in the general sense, most Sues provoked anger in the members, and that was an emotion. But she disregarded her mental logic and kept locking her feelings up. Outwardly she seemed to improve, as with the rest of the Agents. Only Charis knew that Karissa was rotting inside and growing worse.

In an attempt to cheer Karissa up, Cay dropped by one day and left behind a gift. She dispatched a much longer letter, and it did not cause nearly as much havoc as the first, but Charis definitely felt more uneasy handing it over to Karissa. With more lines there was more potential for confusion; trouble. Karissa had reconciled with Cay following Lela's death, but any further miscommunication could open sore spots between them. Karissa, the note read.

As an Author, I know – while you don't, not now – that even more dangerous times are ahead for the Society. I don't want you to be unprepared. Charis won't accept a weapon even if I had one for her, but you're not like your sister. You have the spirit of a fighter in you. That may or may not be while we always conflict whenever we meet, but in light of recent events I would like to put the past between us. We may fight again in the future, but then our disputes will be about new things; there's nothing like the death of a loved one to put the past into perspective. I'd like you to accept this present tailored specifically for you. Its name is Gekkou, and if you look that up in the Japanese-English dictionary I gave you a year ago, you'll know why that's fitting.

You've probably lost that dictionary. But you'll always have the powers of the Internet at your disposal.

It was signed simply, Cay, and again it was not written in what they knew to be their Author's handwriting, but all the markers that stood in Cay's compositions glared out at Karissa. She examined what had been in the package. A length of chain so thin that it almost appeared ornamental was weighted on the ends by long slender spikes of dense metal. Experimentally swinging the chain proved it to be strong and deadly. When Karissa closed her eyes and willed herself to invisibility, the chain faded from view too. She stood up and tucked the weapon into the red silk sash that she wore over her mourning clothes – short black overalls over a spaghetti strap top, with rockinghorse shoes, all black – and she took everything else into her room, walking past Charis in her invisibility. Once inside, she phased out of reflex, but she didn't really need to see her hands in order to take down that dictionary atop her shelf. The book had many pages, and she had to take care not to tear the thin paper, but eventually she found the entry:

Gekkou. Moonbeam.

"I've always kept this dictionary, since the time you gave it to me. Silly to think that I would have thrown it away," Karissa murmured sadly. "Do you think so little of me? Is that how I pretend to regard you?" She sat on her bed in silence for a while, as if expecting Cay to answer through the walls.

"Karissa? It's dinnertime. Did you want to eat with everyone else today?" Charis' voice sounded hesitant. She didn't knock, because she hadn't seen for herself that Karissa had gone in, but she suspected.

Karissa didn't have to answer her sister, but she reflected that was the root of most problems – people chose not to answer questions that might change someone else's life, and so the questioner had to make their own decisions based on what they knew to be wrong or right. Sometimes their judgement was flawed. "Charis, I'll be right out! Save me a seat next to Ben or Doug or someone. If Jared's bringing the LPGB to the table again, make sure that we're sitting as far away from his as possible." She forced a laugh.