Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bless The Stars On High

Rhia shook the pan that held the grilled cheese sandwich. She was gearing up for some culinary tricks, like Mario Batali in Iron Chef. Lighting food on fire and such. Today's trick was to get the sandwich in the air, flipping it side over side twice, and then over once more so that it landed on the uncooked side.
Pick the pan up… jiggle the sandwich around… 3… 2… 1… flip!

The grilled cheese sandwich flipped over itself twice, and then once again above her head, and then landed on the floor behind Rhia.

"Oops…" The self-proclaimed cook of the Library sighed. "There goes that sandwich. Again." She bent down to pick the screw-up off the floor when the bell above the kitchen door rang.

Now, Rhia had a policy. Only five people were allowed to come in here without warning beforehand. They were Adrian, Tash, Harriet, Lauren and Cristoph. Rhia ran her kitchen like a military operation, and unknowns like Tyler or Jess threw that into complete disarray. Now, don't get her wrong, she loved those two. Jess was always willing to try stuff and Tyler would eat anything, but their organizational skills were a bit lacking.

"Tash?" No answer. The footsteps continued. 'Hmmm. Maybe it's one of the guys…' "Cristoph?"

A chuckle. "No, Rhia. But I hope you're glad to see me none-the-less. It's been a long time. And I owe you something."

The girl flinched. She hadn't heard that voice since her first mission. Whipping around, she came face to face with one of the only people who had a massive grudge against her. "Russell!" Eyes like sapphires looked back at her, and there was no warmth there.

"Aww, Rhia, I'm hurt. I'd thought you would love to see me again. After all, you kept me from dying. But then again," the Stu paused to think. "Death would be preferable to what you put me through. So let me do you a favor, and kill you now." He sneered. "Of course, it isn't going to be painless."

Time stopped. The Stu was right there, barely a foot from her face. How'd he get out? Who let him out? Are the other Sues and Stus free as well? Rhia tightened her loose grip on her pan. She wasn't going to go down without a fight.

Her eyes narrowed in a glare. "Too close, Russell!" All those months of lifting heavy pans laden with food finally paid off. The pan Rhia was holding came up and whapped him upside the head in a good imitation of Adrian's 'Boot to the Head.' With a ringing 'GOOOONNNG', Russell fell straight to the floor. He probably had a pretty nice concussion, too.

"Man… he dented one of my favorite pans…"

Strapping a couple of kitchen knives to her belt, and hooking her newly christened battle pan to her hip, she grabbed her wakizashi and ran out the door. Someone had to know what was going on, and the Sue incursion had to be stopped.


A grim smile crossed Adrian's face. "You guys didn't really think that I hopped dimensions using Plot Holes, did you? I'm not a Stu. I'm the Librarian and I can summon these doorways to move from place to place when I need to... and this particular door leads back to the Real World."

Rhia hissed out a breath. 'Retreat? Damn. Adrian's nervous. Otherwise, he'd let us go and unleash everything in a free-for-all against the Sues.' She listened to the others as they protested the move when a sinking feeling dropped into her middle. 'What about the original characters? Where will Emily and Lily go? And Aster, and Tyler, and Doug, and… Cristoph.' The sinking feeling turned bad and went to dead worry in the pit of her stomach. Rhia clenched her fists to keep them from shaking.

"But what about Emily and Lily? They're Sues - they can't exist in the Real World!" Hati demanded. "And why do we have to go to the Real World? Surely there are other places we can retreat to, ones were we can get an army or weapons or something!"

"I will get Emily and Lily to a place until the crisis is over where they'll be safe."

The worry in Rhia's stomach only eased a little bit at this. 'If Adrian says they'll be safe, I have to trust him. I have so far.'

The assembled agents slowly, reluctantly, stepped through the door that led to the Real World. None of them liked this decision, and Tash disagreed so strongly that Adrian had to knock her out so that she would go.

Rhia walked toward the door just as slowly as the other agents, but looked back just before she went through the threshold. The look in the Librarian's eyes was oddly soft for such a desperate situation. It was then, Rhia knew, that not everything was going to end nicely.


The Smiths were everywhere. The agents were sorely outnumbered, and they knew it. The Counter Guardians had their hands full with the Sues up on Stonehenge, and Tash was hopefully winning against Willowe in the Sahara.

The Smiths weren't just fighting physically against the agents; it was a psychological fight as well. Taunts floated on the air, destroying the self-esteem of any agent that heard them.

"Come now, Agent Rhia. Surely you see that this fight is simply pointless? We've found the other agents that did not come through with you here. They are one with us now, and you cannot win."

Rhia heard this, and then all sounds went painfully quiet in her shock. The fear that she had been denying the whole time for Cristoph surged through her system. It stung. A moment more, and it turned to an icy rage. It flushed liquid nitrogen through her veins, numbing all the aches and pains she had gotten so far in the fight. This same freezing liquid shattered a floodgate somewhere deep inside her, unleashing something that had no problems killing everything in sight. In any way it could.

Rhia screamed, a hoarse, angry yell that made all the nearby agents jump and the Smiths' eyebrows go to their hairlines. The lioness was free and was thirsty for blood.


Rhia's bloodlust didn't die until the skies in the Real World returned to their normal blue. Aches and pains revealed themselves at the same time the number of Smiths she had killed was realized. Some had their heads smashed in from her pan. (Said pan was now an unrecognizable lump of metal.) Others had kitchen knives in their chest or had their throats slit.

Others were in the same position, with the bodies of dead Smiths around them. Michael's darkness was fading, and all that was left around him was pieces of bodies.

It was with relief that every agent went back to the Library, with Tash leading the way. However, nothing but hurt was there to greet them. The Library was almost utterly destroyed.

A door opened on a mostly intact wall and out came Aster. It shut behind her and then opened again to reveal Lily, and then Doug, Tyler, Kyle, and then Cristoph.

Tash told them the news of Adrian's death, and then walked off somewhere to be alone.


Rhia started to cry when she saw the level of destruction the Library had gone through. Had the Smiths been telling the truth when they said they had found everyone? But then a door appeared and Aster came through it. The others were a blur, Rhia's hope rising to an almost fevered pitch until Cristoph came out, looking slightly confused. She held herself back to Tash could talk to them for a moment, and then threw herself at him.

No words were needed at the moment. Maybe later, but for now, the two of them just wanted to make sure of the safety of the other.


Cristoph, Pete, Doug, Karissa, Rhia and Drake were in Adrian's office. They were some of the few that could function through their hurt, at least during the first few days. Each split off to a different part of his office in an attempt to right it after the attack.

Rhia went for the filing cabinets that had been dumped everywhere, spilling mission files like paper snow.

'So many missions. How have we kept the deaths down until now?' The reports went together first by date, then by agent. Gathering them together from around her, she picked one up with the name of Blake at the top. Her breath hitched. 'We haven't even told him. But…maybe…it should stay that way. If one person can be saved this hurt…' Blake had left the Society not on the best of terms, but he had still been an agent, and therefore deserved to know when something like Adrian's death happened. Rhia shook her head. 'No, I won't send him a message. If anyone should tell him, it should be one of the senior agents.'

More shuffling of papers, and she came upon her first mission. She didn't have to read the report to remember so vividly what, exactly, had happened. 'And Adrian had been so lenient that time. I forgot to wipe the Stu interference from the fandom, and he let it slide…He could have kicked me from the Society at that point.'

Rhia constantly sniffled her way through the rest of the clean-up. She blamed it on the dust.


"Let it go, Cristoph." Rhia said, softly.


A week later, and Rhia had finally cleaned up enough of the mess Russell had made in her kitchen to start restocking. He was dead now. Adrian had killed all of the Sues that had stayed behind except for a few, and they were dead too.

Grief permeated the Library like a miasma. No one had so much as smiled in a week. Rhia was not immune to this, but there was another emotion prodding at the back of her head. Relief.

She had asked Cristoph to help her by checking off the items in the cupboards by the ceiling. She couldn't reach those without the use of a step ladder, and that would take a lot of time.

"I feel so selfish." Rhia put down her clipboard to rub at her arms. Cristoph walked over and looked at her from the side with an eyebrow raised. "Adrian would come in here every now and then. He liked my bread…"Rhia trailed off. She couldn't lift her head to look him in the eye. Her shame wouldn't let her. "The Smiths, in the real world… they taunted us. Said that they had completely invaded the library, and that they had found where you had gone. And that they would make you like them. Cristoph, I've seen all three Matrix movies! What the Smiths do, it's worse than death." She took a strangled breath; she was trying to hold back tears. Her voice was tight. "I understand how Tash felt, when Mary-Ann talked about Adrian. I near about lost it with the Smiths. If one was in front of me, it died. I came back hoping against hope that you were all right, that they hadn't found you—hadn't turned you."

Cristoph still wasn't quite used to showing affection, so when he placed his arm around her shoulders, he wasn't sure if it was appropriate. To his relief, Rhia leaned into it. "I'd be where Tash is now if anything had happened to you. I bless all the stars on high that you are all right."

"Then what's wrong? I'm here. I'm fine."

"My relief for you overrides my grief at Adrian's death. It doesn't feel right."

Cristoph waited. He knew that she had more to say.

"Cristoph… this is hard… God his death hurts, but I'm grateful that if someone had to die, it was him. And not you.

I understand where Tash is right now, and if you had died, I'd be right where she is. And for that, for the fact that I do not have to deal with that pain, I thank him with all my soul. I'd give almost anything to bring Adrian back for all of us, but I can't.

I almost thought I'd lost you, when the Smiths said they'd found you, and turned you into one of them.

I know exactly where Tash is, in her grief. I don't have to imagine it."

Cristoph's brow furrowed, and he blinked. He wasn't really sure how to respond to this. On one hand, he knew what it was like to go into battle, and worry about the safety of his companions until the battle was over. On the other hand, to be presented with this kind of concentrated relief from worry for just himself from someone else was mystifying.

"Is it right to think such things? If only I knew. Such things are beyond my ken. But if it helps any, Lady Rhia… perhaps, the feelings I have when I think of you are enough to justify your feelings. When I entered that door, I knew there would be no way for me to aid you, or anyone, and even as I stood there in the primordial darkness, I constantly fretted for you and prayed for your safety. Is it the same way of thinking when compared to you?

I don't know. I wish I knew. Because I want a sense of justification, too. It is something I feel like I'm missing... and wonder if I'll ever get it back."

Rhia nodded, and took a few deep breaths to calm herself down. Then, she picked up her clipboard and got back to work.

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