Friday, May 31, 2013

Insert Another Classic War Story Here (part 1 of 5)

"Warning! Warning! Personnel, please stand clear of the bay. Portal receiving returning personnel in five... four..." wailed the warning siren in the portal bay area. Red alarm lights flickered in the relatively dim environment as the blast doors opened, revealing a blue,glowing portal behind it. Guards began to march out of the area as ground crews prepared their fire extinguishers and hoses. Silence grew as the computers counted down.

"Three... two... one... zero."

A helicopter appeared from the portal; its body scratched and riddled with bullet holes. Its main rotor was still spinning, giving a 'WOOSH!' as it cut through the air, trying to remain airborne. The helicopter crashed and gorge into the ground, sliding on the bay area. Ground crews who were apparently in the way of the crashing chopper ran off to avoid getting hit. Metal over metal screeched as the helicopter stopped just metres from the control tower. The ground crew then immediately raced towards the downed helicopter, spraying fire retardant foam to prevent the vehicle from exploding. The shield door began to close when suddenly, a missile flew through and hit the ceiling.


It blew up some piping and wiring, causing the ceiling lights to flicker. The ground crews jumped when the sound reached their ears; looking up in both curiosity and shock; they gasped as sparks rained down to the ground.

"Oh shit!" yelled one of the crew, quickly sidestepping to avoid a piece of shrapnel. He glanced over to find his comrades doing the similar movements as debris rained down like hail. The dust settled, leaving a pile of rubble. A mini-excavator mopped it up as the crews pried open the doors of the helicopter with foam all over its body. James crawled out, giving a little call for help.

"We've got survivors!" roared a crew member, and medics ran towards the crashed helicopter. The medics quickly got to work; they looked into the helicopter wreckage. James and Yee Lin were among the living, followed by two Guards. The two pilots and several other Guards didn't make it. The medics grabbed them and lifted them in stretchers, rushing to the infirmary in the base.


The Author was taking a few blinks in his office when a knock resonated into the room. The Author jerked up, causing him to lose balance and fall off his chair. He grabbed hold of the desk, lifting himself up while scratching his head, shifting the mess of paper and dropping some on the ground. After some grumbling, he announced for the person to enter.

The door opened, allowing a rare sunlight to fill the darkness of the space. He squinted through his tired eyes, looking at the figure that approached his desk. He rubbed them, and his sight cleared up. Vespin, one of his characters, reached his desk and stood firmly.

"James and his team came back with heavy casualties, managing to retrieve intel on Doug's location,"spoke Vespin.

"How heavy?" was the Author's first question. Vespin lowered her head and replied.

"James, Yee Lin and two Guards survived with heavy injuries; the pilots and another four didn't make it." The Author let out an annoyed grunt, grabbing his chair and taking a seat. He rubbed his tired face and rested his head on his hands. He knew that his nemesis would go to great lengths to stop him from getting his character back; but he never anticipated this much. Now it has taken its toll on him and his troops.

His soldiers had been dying everyday since he launched a rescue operation into the 'Modern Warfare 2' fandom. He wondered how he was going to explain to the populace of the Kingdom, a nation of his creation, for the loss of their family members in this long battle. His troops began to demoralize, most of his Wanderers were placed into hospital beds; the main source of morale for his troops, and finally, a nation in doubt of its governance.

"Author?" spoke Vespin. The Author broke his train of thought and faced his character.

"What do you have?" inquired the Author.

"James acquired intel from the enemy's computer; Doug's final destination is in the level 'The Gulag'," answered Vespin. The Author knew this mission; he played it before. But to get to it, he had to complete the mission before, 'The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday'. He knew that this oil rig mission is going to take a heavy toll on his troops before even reaching Doug. He might as well do it; if he didn't do that mission before, he would see his army falling out of the skies. He has decided; he would no longer be holding back.

"Get Terry and Ivan to assemble a team and clear that level. Rina, Maddie and Lydia will be on standby in the next level. I want them cleaning out the outer walls of the 'Gulag' when Ingrid and the Society arrive."


Ingrid paced to the Tash's office to present the latest information on Doug's whereabouts, gripping the brown file in her hand tightly. She reached the door and knocked.

"Come in," said a voice. She opened the door and headed for the leader's desk. Tash signed the last piece of paperwork and put it onto the 'Out' stack, and then looking up Ingrid.

"Oh, Ingrid. Any news?" questioned Tash.

"Yes, we found him," said Ingrid, handing a brown file. Tash took and opened it, reading the contents.

"Modern Warfare 2, 'The Gulag'. Expecting heavily armed PCMSPS troops to guard the facility...he seems out of reach to me," commented Tash.

"The Author will be clearing a path," replied Ingrid.

"And it will be up to us to retrieve him. How much do you know this game?" questioned Tash, setting the file on her desk.

"Enough to survive it," replied Ingrid.

"Good. You're leading the charge. I'll get the meeting up right away."


"Okay guys, here's the situation," said Ingrid, feeling a bit timid in front of the entire Society. The projector screen showed a mission from Modern Warfare 2, specifically named 'The Gulag'. A map layout of the entire castle-like gulag appeared on the screen, followed by videos of the mission undertaken during the game's storyline.

"As you can see, it's quite dangerous even for the in-game characters. And for the PCMSPS army and Aryan to congregate at such a dangerous place," explained Ingrid as she pressed a few keys and a video feed from the Wanderer's server flowed into the projector screen. It showed destruction and carnage, fires breaking from wreckages of downed helicopters. Some gasped, some stared, some remarked while others remained unaffected.

"Our Author's Wanderers and his troops have gone life and limb to get this information. So let's help them get Doug back," said Ingrid. The Society Agents broke out into furious bouts of whispering, and a hesitant hand was raised.

"I'll go," said Rhia. The Agents turned and looked at her complete surprise. Cristoph could be seen trying to talk her out of it, for which she responded that she would be okay with it.

"Well, someone with experience should go. Isn't that right, Ben?" stated Rhia, turning the Agents attention to Ben. Ben shrugged and replied.

"Yeah, sure. I've known Doug for a long time now, and I say we need to get him back."

"Yeah, we'll go too. Isn't that right, Karissa?" asked Charis as she looked at her sister. Karissa was staring blankly into space, so Charis nudged her for her attention.

"Huh? ...oh, right, yeah," responded Karissa. Charis glanced at her sister disappointingly, folding her arms.

"I'll go too. I need to get myself worked out," said Kyle, stretching his arms.

"I'm bored and I need my fill. Count me in," said Ossa, looking very bored.

"I need to clear my head," said Jess, who in previous weeks, hadn't been in a good mood.

"I need some action. Count me in," said Tom.

"Every team needs a medic... or healer... or whatever you call them there," said Valerie.

"It's settled then," said Tash. "All of you get geared up. We're going in quick, and we're coming out just as fast." The assembled team nodded and walked out of the meeting room. Both the leaders looked on, silently praying for the Agents' safety.


"Is the Author over-watching this mission?" asked Ben, curious of the possibility of extra eyes on the mission.

"Most likely no," replied Ingrid. "He's probably tired himself out searching for Doug."

"Oh," responded Ben. They reached the armoury which used to be Doug's lab and slid a key card on the door's security mechanism. The device blinked green and Ingrid opened the door. The armoury was much smaller than it used to be, only having weapon racks with stocked weapons and explosives. She headed to the vault at the end of the armoury and punched in a numeric code. The locks sounded, and Ingrid opened the vault. Racks of devices that looked pretty sci-fi were found in the vault.

"This was a collaboration between Doug and Jared on Jared's 'riot gear' idea. They called it, 'The Plot Armour Project'," said Ingrid as she pulled out the equipment. A lot of these were familiar Society gadgets; Anachron device, BLAMs, Plothole Generators, etc.

"This is a non-Newtonian armour aka liquid armour. The researchers back in Real Life have yet to crack it, but we already have. When a high-velocity charged object, a bullet for example, nears the armour, the liquid solidifies, forming the armour while maintaining its light weight," explained Ingrid as she took out the armour that looked like a normal Kevlar vest. It had pockets that were clearly labelled so that precious time will be saved from searching.

"Anybody like to try it?" announced Ingrid. The Agents turned to each other looking to find one who would volunteer to wear something foreign over them. Then a hand popped up.

"I'll try it up," stated Ossa bluntly. Ingrid handed the armour and Ossa grabbed it. She slipped the armour over her head and it suddenly tightened around her body. She gave a faint yelp of surprise.

"Okay... I didn't expect that," remarked Ossa.

"It fits all sizes. Thank Jared for that," said Ingrid, handing out the rest of the liquid armour to the Agents.

"However, fair warning though. I'd keep it away from bladed weapons," stated Ingrid while looking at Ossa's katana.

"So it's useless?" remarked Ossa.

"Well, if it was too useful, we would be immediately elevated to Sueishness, and costs will be deemed inappropriate. That's where the Ray Shield steps in," explained Ingrid while taking out a silver bracelet from the drawer.

"Works like a riot shield. It should be able to defend almost anything except during EMP strikes. Those who don't like gore, blunt trauma from it should work too," explained Ingrid as she handed a few out. The Agents tried out the deploying their shields and wielding them in front as if an attack was coming towards them.

"Okay... each of you get an Anachron device," said Ingrid, handing the devices.

"The side effect has not yet been solved, so use as last resort," explained Ingrid. Charis could still remember when Doug used it the first time; he was shrunk to a six-inch tall figure for a week. They wrapped it around their wrists while Ingrid gave each of them a GPS locator.

"These are GPS locators. They help you locate your position multiverse-wide. Right now it's showing the infinity sign. That's where the Library is," explained Ingrid. Then she handed a hardened laptop to Charis.

"This one was specifically modified to track our locations and our life status," said Ingrid. Charis nodded and stuck it to her back. Ingrid then took out an item wrapped in brown canvas cloth from the bottom rack and unwrapped it. It was an M14 EBR sniper rifle, and Ingrid gave it to Rhia.

"My Author would appreciate it if you accept this gift," said Ingrid.

"Tell him I said thanks," replied Rhia as she slung the new rifle to her back.

"You can morph any weapon from your Omni-weapon, right?" asked Ingrid.

"Yup," replied Kyle. Ingrid just handed him a load of ammo for him to use. Kyle put some into his Kevlar pockets while the rest was placed in his Astral vault.

"Ready?" asked Ingrid. The Agents just gave an affirmative nod. The plothole formed in front of them and they jumped through it.


"Be advised! These guys are step up! They're using thermals to see through the smoke!" announced Terry as he hid behind the containers atop an oil platform. Smoke filled the area between the building and the containers, making a blind charge into the smoke a risky decision. Terry, Ivan and their team of Guards were laying siege to make way for the air calvary to pass through, since the rig has been turned into an anti-air missile site and in the way of the support force. Furthermore, the PCMSPS troops took the drill workers hostage so they wouldn't be able to blow the rig wholesale.

Ivan ran up the stairs and ran to another container opposite Terry. A bullet whizzed past Ivan's head, causing him to trip and fall as he ducked for cover. He then got back up, and stayed where he was. Terry tried to peek through the corners, but a hail bullets zoomed towards his position. He immediately drew his head back as the bullets ricocheted on the container, streaking sparks and dents on the dull surface. Ivan took a deep breath as he neared the edge of his hiding spot. He then quickly peeked out and aimed through his thermal scope, watching hostiles on the second floor shining as brightly as the sun on a cloudless day. He pulled the trigger a few times; the second floor was cleared. The rest of the Guards managed to reach their team leaders and took cover. They took out the rest of the enemies on the ground, making sure no one was in the blanket of smoke to surprise them once they're in. Once the area was cleared, the two Wanderers and their Guard teams went through the blinding smoke and approached the two doors of the building, preparing to breach.

"Ready?" announced Terry on the radio.

"Ready." Ivan confirmed his status. Terry planted a frame charge on the door and stood aside. The frame charge detonated, blasting the door apart and sending splinters into the room. Terry entered the room first, seeing the enemies preparing to assassinate the seated, blindfolded hostages. He acted fast, pulling the trigger and aiming his weapon at different enemies at the same time. Just as he cleared his section of the room, Ivan finished his, and they both just realized that the place was rigged with explosives. It sent shivers down their spines; they would both probably be dead if they weren't careful enough. The Guards entered the room and released the hostages, taking them out to the helipad outside. The Guards brought the hostages into the helicopter, extracting them from the location once and for all. Another helicopter arrived; Terry and Ivan got on to it as a soldier handed both of them winter ghillie suits. They suited up and heard a command from the radio.

"The Guards will disable the SAM sites. Approach to phase two of the mission," said the feminine voice on the radio.

"Copy that, Vespin," replied Terry as he sat on the doorway on the left side of the helicopter. Ivan then sat by next to him, patting him on the back.

"Won't be long, Terry. Won't be long..." comforted Ivan. Terry nodded as he watched other helicopters hover above the oil rig, dropping troops to disable the defences. Terry sighed in content as he looked over the vast ocean beneath him and the sun piercing at the break of day, with the drones of the flying machines heading towards their next objective.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Insert Dandy-Talking Kendama Here

Thirty had entered.

One passed out when the Fourth Wall broke and made a ceiling light crash down on his head.

Four passed out when they saw that happen.

Two had passed out during the opening speech, delivered by Michael. One ran away screaming and hasn't been seen since.

Six had passed out when they saw Phoenixia come in to haul out the bodies of the unconscious hopefuls.

(Two of them were faking it)

Three bit the dust when they saw the tests.

Of the remaining thirteen, one was a Mary Sue infiltrator, one was a lost Viking who had no idea what was going on or how he had gotten there, and one was staring off into space.

After fifteen minutes of writing in impeccable handwriting, the Sue turned in her paper with a dazzling smile, her teeth so white they could have been used as mirrors. Michael took one look at her, took her paper, and directed her to walk through the door on the left. She did so, and was met with several waiting Agents on the other side. She now has a nice cell in the Basement.

At varying intervals during the test, hopefuls turned in their papers to Michael, and were either directed to go through the door on the left or the right. It didn't really matter which one they went through; they both led to the same place, and would have their memories wiped by Tash, who was waiting on the other side with orders to wipe whoever walked through the doors. The only way to keep her from doing that was a button hidden under Michael's desk.

At the forty five minute mark, the distracted hopeful was jolted out of his daydream when the Fourth Wall broke again. His attention span was nothing to write home about, and it was even worse during tests. A quick glance at the clock on the wall behind Michael told him that there were only fifteen minutes left in the exam, and he quickly took out his pencil, ready to go through the test as fast as he could.

After rapidly jotting down his answers, he brought his paper up to Michael. He was the last person taking the test, excluding the Viking

"I'm done," He said, holding out his paper with his hands only slightly shaking. Michael took it from him, looked over it for a minute, and pointed a thumb towards the door on the left. The Rookie, with his heart beating in his chest, opened the door and walked out, prepared for the worst.

What he was not prepared for was Tash, sitting in a foldout lawn chair and reading a book, obviously unaware of his presence.

"…Hello?" he said, trying to get her attention. He wasn't sure if she was there to mind wipe him or welcome him to the Society, but he sincerely hoped that the latter option was correct. Tash looked up, glanced at her Communicator to see that she had received the signal from Michael, marked her place in the book, and set it aside, standing up to greet the Rookie.

"I can assume you're not a Stu?" she guessed.

"Last time I checked, my name was Stephen, not Stu," He responded with a slight grin. Tash grimaced as a screech reverberated through the Library.

"WHO SAID THAT!" it screamed, sending shivers down the spines of everyone hearing it, and sending Ben and Dave cowering under the nearest piece of furniture. A second later, Shirley the Cliché Stick rounded the corner to the hallway outside the testing room, murder in her… eyes? Does she have eyes? Anyway, the stick was looking positively murderous. When the stick saw the Rookie who had told that horrible joke, she started rubbing her claws together evilly.

…I just felt so silly writing that sentence.

"Fresh meat, huh? Looks like the Rookie is about to get a mandatory appendectomy…" She plotted, taking slow, imposing steps forward. Stephen quickly stepped behind Tash for some manner of protection.

"Easy, Shirley. You know the rules: New kids get immunity for one hour after passing the entrance exam," Tash reminded the angry piece of wood. The rule in question had been created soon after Dave had joined, and the Cliché Stick had removed one of his kidneys not even five minutes after he left the testing room.

"I passed?" Stephen repeated, his eyes lighting up, quickly forgetting that a second ago, his life had been in mortal danger. Tash gave him a thumbs up as Shirley skulked off, grumbling something about the Rookie's kidneys. Michael stuck his head out of the testing room, as loud battle cries and sounds of things breaking came from behind him.

"Aneki, there's a very upset Viking in here going berserk. Can you give me a hand?" He requested, wincing at the sound of a table breaking.

"Sorry, can't help. Gotta get this Rookie, uh… What did you say your name was?"


"Stephen, thanks, out on a mission. Just get the big guy into the Norse history section and I'll deal with him later. And DON'T let Jess see him. I don't want to have to drag a Viking out of the Den of Sin."

"Got it. Good luck, kid. Try not to space out!" Michael called out before returning to the angry Viking.

"Now then. Walk with me; we've got a mission all lined up for you and ready to go. Do you know anything about the Märchen Awakens Romance fandom?" Tash asked Stephen, motioning for him to follow her. He quickly started beaming as he fell into step behind her.

"Do I know it? That was one of the first anime I ever watched! Something I've never really gotten around to finish watching! My first venture into the land of fanfic!" He admitted.

"Care to give me the basic background?"

"Okay, let me think. It follows the adventures of Toramizu Ginta in a world called Mär Heaven, with a lot of references to old fairy tales. There's Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, et cetera. The weapons in the fandom are called Ärm, which are accessories that can turn into weapons, monsters, and other things with different effects. The main antagonists are called the Chess Pieces, who hold a series of fights called the War Games to take over the world. Ginta's weapon is –"

"Okay, okay, I'm glad you know it. There's a Level Two Stu there; you know what to do?"

"Track it, whack it, clack it, right?"

"'Clack' it?"

"Yeah. Clack a Prohibitor on it. I couldn't think of anything that would fit that ended in -ack."

"O…kay. Anyway, Charis has all your equipment and can also give you a weapon if you need one. Have anything in mind?" Tash asked him, still confused about his word choice. A grin formed across the Rookie's face.

"Well, there's something I've always wanted to do…"


In the Mär fandom…

For the first time in ages, Mär Heaven was peaceful. The Chess Pieces had all been annihilated, all due to the actions of one man from another world.

Absicus Musclus Lithicus Hotticus Sexyicus Oldspice-icus had literally fallen into Mär Heaven, summoned by the Gatekeeper Clown that any fan would know should have brought in Toramizu Ginta. Practically the second that his muscular, limber body touched the ground, things started to get better. Absicus entered the War Games on his own, telling the world's peacekeepers, and the enemy of the Chess Pieces, the Cross Guard, that he could easily take out the entirety of the Chess with his bare hands, and look damn good doing it. Nobody questioned him.

True to his word, Absicus was able to win the War Games, putting the Chess Pieces, as he had eloquently put it, in checkmate. Soon after, all of Mär Heaven made him their king, and his first action was to rename the land Märtopia.

By this time, the author who'd written this little gem had gotten bored, and all of the readers had reached for a large bottle of Brain Bleach.


On the outskirts of the King's Vacation Castle…

A plothole ripped open, creating a tear in the very fabric of the fandom, which Stephen stumbled out of, hunched forward to bear the weight of the enormous sword strapped to his back. How big was it? Let's put it this way: Most Final Fantasy characters would be very jealous. As soon as Stephen's feet touched the ground, his back straightened up, as if the sword had become lighter.

"Thank you, weaker gravity of Mär Heaven," Stephen said to himself as he started stretching out his legs. The sword hadn't gotten any lighter, but he had gotten stronger; people from other worlds were exponentially stronger in Mär Heaven than they had been in their own worlds. With his warm up completed, Stephen made his way towards the castle that Absicus had built for himself out of solid gold.

The town around the castle was fairly crowded, and Stephen stood out from the crowd due to his clothing: a faded orange wide brimmed hat with a black stripe where the brim met the bowl of the hat, a deep blue t-shirt, and a pair of cargo shorts that currently held his Society Gadgets.

"Sorry, sorry… Oh, sorry… Don't worry, that'll wash out…" Stephen apologized as he moved through the crowd in the market place, occasionally bumping against random passerby. Heading towards him through the crowd was a man wearing a black cloak that covered his features. Stephen didn't see the cloaked man until he bumped into him.

"Sorry 'bout that!" Stephen apologized, continuing on his way to the castle. The man looked back at him, and then looked down at the Plothole Generator he had slipped out of Stephen's pocket. The man smirked, tucked the device in the folds of his cloak, and vanished.



"Who goes there!" A guard called down from the other side of the moat surrounding the castle. Absicus had dug it himself using a toothpick.

"I'm the plumber you guys called. You said something about a backed up chamber pot, I believe," Stephen answered, praying the guard would be an idiot.

"Nice try. We don't even have chamber pots anymore! His Highness made a plumbing system out of cardboard!"

"I'm the… mailman?"

"You just said you were a plumber."

"It's a hobby."

"Well, the mailman just came."

"Pizza delivery?"

"Where's the pizza?"

"Crap. Oh, man, I was afraid I'd have to do this…"

"What was that?"

"I'm here on business from the King. Highly confidential. I have the papers to prove it, if you'd let the drawbridge down so I could show you."

"Hmmm… Fine. Lowering drawbridge!" The guard called, as the large wooden bridge dropped down. Stephen crossed it, pulling out a piece of paper as he did.

"Thank you very much. Here're my papers…" He said, holding out the folded paper to the guard. The guard took it, unfolded it, and looked at it, confused.

"Wait… This is bla-" The guard said, before a fist punched through the paper and knocked him out cold. Stephen knelt down next to his unconscious body.

"Look, I'm really, really sorry about that, but I didn't have much of a choice. If it's any consolation, by the time you wake up, you won't remember a thing, and you won't know why you were tied up with your uniform gone. Really, really sorry."


Meanwhile… Library Monitor Room…

"Oh, he got that trick from Indiana Jones."

"It's still effective."

"I bet five bucks that he puts the guy in a broom closet."

"I'll see your five bucks and raise you a cleaning shift, Ben."

"Drake, I'm already taking everyone's cleaning shift, remember?"

"Quiet, you two! Jess, pass the popcorn… Jess?" Tash repeated. The majority of the Society that wasn't on a mission or busy was in the Monitor Room, watching the Rookie's mission. The Library had expanded the room so everyone could fit, and had even supplied theater-style chairs.

"Kyaa, I think I saw her go into her room with some bearded guy with a funny hat," The Society's resident idiotic Fae told the Librarian. She groaned.

"Oh, bollocks. Michael, I thought you put him in the Norse history section!"

"I did! Jess didn't see me!" Michael defended himself.

"Did anybody else see you?"

"I ran into Phoenixia…"

Tash and Michael both looked at the ex-hologram, who was whistling innocently.



With his newly acquired disguise, Stephen was able to make it to the Throne Room unhindered. He changed out of his disguise before entering the room, returning to his usual clothes. He pushed open the door and entered the throne room.

Absicus Musclus Lithicus Hotticus Sexyicus Oldspice-icus was lounging in his throne, being fed grapes by a beautiful pink haired witch in a black dress. He didn't even look up as Stephen entered.

"Shut the door, would you?" He asked, waving a hand dismissively.

"Absicus Musclus Lithicus Hotticus Oldspice-icus…"

"Absicus Musclus Lithicus Hotticus Sexyicus Oldspice-icus."

"Whatever…icus. You are hereby under arrest for a count of major fandom manipulation, having a stupid name, and…" Stephen noticed the woman dangling a bunch of grapes over the Stu's mouth. He paled.

"Is that Dorothy? NOW you've pissed me off!" Stephen screamed, steam shooting out of his ears. Absicus turned his head to take a look at Stephen, and both parties froze.

"…Oh God. It's you," Stephen groaned. If you removed the broad jaw, the wide shoulders, the perfect waviness in his dirty blonde hair, the seven feet of pure muscle, the flawless ivory skin, the bronze tan, and the previous contradiction, the Stu would look just like Stephen. It was the main character from his first fanfic, set in this fandom. Stephen couldn't put his finger on it, but something just seemed off

"My, my, my. I never thought that you'd come far enough out of your comfort zone to find me. Hello, author," Absicus spat, swinging his legs out and standing up to his full seven feet of lean muscle.

"Y-y-you can't be from that story! The character that I wrote about was more like me, not Arnold Schwarzenegger!"

"I went on a workout program. It would do you a world of good, you know…"

"Hey, shut up."

"Doro-chan, could you leave us for a few minutes? I'll make up for it later…" Absicus promised suggestively to the woman at his side, completely ignoring his former author now. Without a word, a blushing Dorothy left the room. Stephen and Absicus were left all alone. Absicus ripped off his shirt, showing his sculpted, tanned body. Stephen retched.

"Will you put your shirt back on?" Stephen grumbled. Absicus responded by flexing.

"Look at this beautiful body! Why should I cover it with a shirt!"

"Did I seriously write you?" Stephen asked himself, grasping the hilt of his sword and pulling it off his back, dropping into a ready stance. In an instant, Absicus was in front of his creator, smacking the weapon out of his hands. The sword embedded itself in the ceiling above.

"Oh shi–" Was as far as Stephen got before receiving a large knuckle sandwich to the face. Stephen reeled backwards as Absicus continued to attack.

"Do you remember sixth grade, author? Back when you wrote the emblem of perfection that is beating the crap out of you right now? Your own friends were ignoring you, finding better friends, as you retreated into your shell, blocking out the entire world by burying your face in a book. Is that still what it's like? ARE YOU STILL A COWARD?" Absicus screamed, punctuating his final shout with a shattering punch, knocking Stephen into the wall, his wide brimmed orange hat covering his face.

"You weren't able to make your own world to retreat to, so you cowered in somebody else's! You were weak! You still are!" He continued to shout, grasping Stephen's throat and starting to squeeze.

Stephen's hand shot out and grabbed Absicus' wrist like a vice. The Stu's eyes widened in surprise.

"I can't believe I wrote you… A muscle-bound idiot…" Stephen looked up and shot his enemy a deadly glare, his left eye blackened and blood dripping out of his mouth from a split lip, "That can't even throw a good punch!" With his free hand, he pinched Absicus in the part of the elbow where the funny bone resides, causing the Stu to drop him. Free from his captive, Stephen started going on the offensive, with Absicus doing his best to block the Rookie's punches.

"There's one difference between you and me! When I wrote you, I was a shy, scared, and lonely kid! I felt like I could relate to Ginta, so I wrote something off the top of my head, and you came out! But it's been almost five years since I wrote that, and I've grown up! I reconciled with my friends, started opening up, started actually writing better!" Stephen proclaimed, continuing to punch at the Stu's every opening with no effect other than hurting his own hands on Absicus' rock hard muscles. Absicus jumped away, gaining some distance between himself and the rookie Agent.

"You were one of the lowest points of my writing career. Now, I'm going to fix that mistake!" Stephen swore, charging at Absicus. With a battle cry, Absicus ran at him as well, his arm pulled back for a punch.

The punch moved the air around it, creating a wind that ruffled every banner in the room. Much to Absicus' surprise, Stephen wasn't hit. He had moved out of the way before the punch had even been thrown, and aimed a low kick at the side of Absicus' knee, not shattering it, but making it so it wouldn't be moving easily for a while, and sending the Stu reeling, screaming in pain.

"You may be stronger and faster than me, but I have a few more years of experience in martial arts under my belt, and a few more belts…"


In the Library Monitor Room…

"I swear, when that kid gets back…"

"Shirley, he's still got half an hour of immunity."

Shirley growled.


"…Than you do. I must've been a yellow belt back when I wrote you," Stephen finished. Absicus growled and started opening up a plothole.

"As much as I'd love to finish this fight, creator, I don't quite feel like wasting my time with you. But I will kill you the next time we meet," Absicus swore, limping towards the open plothole.

"There won't be a next time," The open plothole said. A man in a dark cloak stepped out of the plothole, a sheathed katana at his side.

'Wha–?" Absicus started, but was literally cut short when the stranger unsheathed the sword and cut him in two without even breaking pace. By the time the dark blade was returned to its black sheath rimmed with silver, Absicus' body had faded away into nothingness. The plothole closed behind the stranger.

"Now that that pathetic clone is out of the way…" The man said as he threw back his hood. Stephen's one good eye widened before his face turned steely.

"…I thought he seemed off. You're the main character from that fanfic, aren't you?" Stephen asked, even though he already knew the answer. Standing before him was a perfect copy of himself, except with sunken in eyes that showed utter hatred for the world.

"Correct. That was just a low quality fake that I created to test your strength, creator. And I must say, if that was the best you could do…" The newcomer vanished, and reappeared in front of Stephen, his sword lightly touching the Rookie's neck.

"You don't stand a ghost of a chance against a real enemy," He said, then blurred in the air, reappearing ten feet away.

"…Why didn't you kill me?" Stephen asked, feeling a slow trickle of hot blood from his neck. The Stu smiled.

"What fun would that be if I just killed you right now? I want some challenge, creator," He said, sheathing his sword, "And, I wanted to ask you something…"

"What is it?"

"What. Is. My. Name," The Stu asked, burning hatred in his eyes. Stephen started fishing in his pockets for his Plothole Generator, sensing that he couldn't fight against this opponent.

"Looking for this?" The Stu asked, pulling the Plothole Generator out of the folds of his cloak and crushing it in his hands. Stephen groaned.

"Yes. Why, yes, I was looking for that. Thanks so much," He said sarcastically.

"Now tell me what my name is," The Stu ordered.

"I don't know what your name is. I wrote you years ago," Stephen admitted, thinking furiously about how to escape. He had no idea what the power level of Nameless was, but he didn't think that he would be able to fight him in his current state.

"I thought so. In that case, I guess I'm still Nameless," The Stu said, a hint of disappointment in his voice. "Oh, well. You have thirty seconds, creator."

"Thirty seconds? For what?"

"To escape. If you can't find a way to get out of this mess in that time, I'll kill you without a second thought," Nameless answered, grasping the katana's hilt. Stephen gulped, and started fishing through his pockets for something that could help him get out. Two Copyrights… No good. The Prohibitor… He didn't feel like getting in range of that sword. A Scene Transition…

Perfect. All he needed was the perfect chance to use it.

"Five. Four. Three. Two. One…" Nameless said, dramatically pulling his sword out, creating a soft sound of metal on metal. Just before he hit zero, Stephen pulled the gold watch out of his pocket.

"See ya later," He said, and clicked the button.


Scene Transition = Win…

When the Transition faded, Stephen found himself standing in a cavernous room filled with gold, jewels, and silver trinkets that he recognized as Ärm. The Scene Transition filled him in on what had happened, telling him that Nameless had stepped on a conveniently located switch on the ground, that had opened an even more conveniently located trapdoor under Stephen's feet that led to the Treasury.

"Now then, if I'm really lucky…" Stephen said to himself as he started digging through the nearest pile of silver Ärm. Absicus had collected an impressive collection of rare Ärm, but Stephen paid no attention to the various powerful weapons, guardians, and other useful items. He was looking for a copy of the one ultra rare Ärm that could get Stephen out of this fandom and back into the Library. After several minutes of digging and trying to ignore the gleaming piles of gold and jewels (It was a miracle that his ADD hadn't made him start swimming in the mounds of shiny objects), Stephen found what he was looking for. It was a small ring, with a tiny doorway with two chains covering it, with a circular face with a long tongue and two crosses for eyes in a hood over it. Grinning, Stephen slipped it on his finger and smuggled the pinky of his other hand under the two chains.

The Ärm he had found was the Gatekeeper Clown, one of the rarest Ärms in the fandom. It was able to open a gateway to other worlds, and was the very same Ärm that had brought Ginta to Mär Heaven from the real world. If Stephen was lucky, it would be able to open a gateway to other fandoms as well, such as one where the Society would be able to find him.

"Man, I hope this works…" he prayed, and pulled, snapping the small chains and causing a circle of light to surround him.


In the Library…

"Where'd he just go? Rhia, can you detect his Communicator signal?" Tash asked. The Society had just lost sight of Stephen after he used his Scene Transition, and his Communicator signal had disappeared from the fandom. Rhia, who was officially on Monitor Duty, started tapping some keys on the keyboard in front of the screen. After a moment, she looked back up, a mixture of relief and fright on her face.

"Well, I've got good news and bad news…" She said.

"Bad news first!" Tyler called out. Rhia shook her head.

"Sorry, good news first. The good news is that his signal has disappeared from the fandom and has appeared in another one," She said. The assembled agents let out a sigh of relief.

"So what's the bad news?" Michael asked. Rhia bit her lip.

"Well, that would be which fandom it's appeared in…"



A plothole opened up in the Monitor Room, which Drake and Michael stepped out of, supporting a barely conscious Stephen. They gently set him down on the ground as Valerie rushed up with a first aid kit and started checking his vital signs.

"Is he okay?" Tash asked Michael. He nodded solemnly.

"He's a little shaken up, and we found him surrounded by 'vampires', but he'll probably be okay. It's just the usual exposure to the Twilight fandom," Michael said. Sure enough, Stephen was showing signs of the exposure. His skin was sparkling very softly, hardly enough to recognize, and his face seemed to be completely devoid of all emotion.

"Poor guy… Why'd he send himself there?" Tash wondered. Usually, Agents only went into the Twilight fandom if they were forced to. Michael shrugged.

"He probably thought that we wouldn't help him when he was still in Mär, so he sent himself to a fandom that he knew we couldn't resist rescuing him from," Michael guessed. Tash lifted an eyebrow in confusion.

"…Even though we were just about to go help him?"

"Hey, he didn't know that."



Stephen was sitting up in his bed in the Medical Wing, surrounded by Tash, Michael, and Valerie, and was currently being given a checkup by the latter. His skin had lost most of its sparkle, and he was now able to show slight emotion, but not much. Valerie removed her stethoscope from his chest and draped it over her neck.

"He'll be fine, I think. The effects should wear off in a little while, but in the meantime, I'm going to be giving him a constant infusion of decent vampires. I'll need an audio book version of Dracula, every Castlevania game we can find, and a whole lot of Count Chocula," Valerie noted, scribbling down Stephen's prescription on a clipboard.

"That's good. In the meantime, I believe this belongs to you," Tash said, holding out a badge bearing the Anti-Cliché and Mary Sue Elimination Society's emblem on it: a crossed quill and rapier. Stephen took the badge and tucked it away, his face hardly showing any emotion.

"I'm happy. Really, I am. I just feel too chagrined to show it," He said flatly.

"Now, would you mind telling us more about that Stu you fought?" Michael asked him. Stephen nodded slowly.

"That was the main character from one of the first pieces of fanfic that I ever wrote, set in Märchen Awakens Romance. The main protagonist, Ginta, was a lot like I was in those days, so I wrote a story that was sort of set a few years after the show ended. I wanted to make it original, but it ended up just being a character that was a lot like me doing basically everything that Ginta had done with minor variations. I only wrote about six pages before I got bored of it, though. I'd guess that Stu got out of the Vault of Abandoned Ideas somehow, and now he wants revenge. Now I have a question for you: What did the monitor say about his power levels?" Stephen asked. Michael grinned, and opened his mouth to say something, but was stopped by an elbow to the side from Tash.

"Hey, what was that for?"

"You were going to say something about it being over nine thousand, weren't you?" Tash asked him. Michael started looking sheepish.

"Was not."

"Were too."

"Was not."

"Can someone just answer my question, please?" Stephen asked, putting a stop to the childish banter between the Chief Agent and the Librarian.

"His level was around four; that's the usual level for the average mission we go on," Tash told Stephen. The new Agent clenched his fists.

"Next time he shows up, he's mine. I wrote him, and I'll put a stop to him," Stephen swore.

"Don't worry. If he ever pops up again, you'll be the first to know," Tash promised, "In the meantime, get some rest. I've got to go deal with finding a room for you."

"And I've got to go take care of the paperwork. You're very welcome," Michael added, following Tash out the door.

"And I've got to go find your prescription. Just try to get some sleep, okay?" Valerie asked him, leaving to go procure the impromptu medicine. When he was finally alone, Stephen reached for a pad of paper and a pen that was on the bedside. He started writing down a list of different fandoms, with various weapons from each on a bulleted list beneath them. Gilgamesh, the Ten Commandments sword, Zeus' Master Bolt…

He wouldn't be able to defeat Nameless with only his bare hands and martial arts skills. He'd need something else, something more powerful to help him in battle.

He'd need a weapon.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Eneny Of My Enemy Is My... Date?

Hell, Adrian decided, lived up to its well-deserved reputation.

Granted, it wasn't eternal fires, brimstone, a looming Devil and little winged demons armed with pitchforks prodding him, but considering that there was probably hundred upon thousands of demons, living nightmares, eldritch monsters, murderers, rapists, killers, all manners of sorcerers, a few fallen gods and lots of lawyers, there were a lot of interesting and colorful characters to meet, all of them on the dark side of the rainbow.
Sadly, the group Adrian was currently with was not filled with any new faces. He knew them all.

He had put them all here, after all. And considering how long-lived the Librarian was and how many few million grunts and whatnot he had cut down and how many villainous schemes and power ploys and 'end of the universe' scenarios he had foiled during his career, Adrian would have been surprised if he hadn't run into any he knew.

It was a small comfort, since everyone in the group was very much looking like they all wanted to kill him. Again.

Oddly enough, Adrian was currently seated in a chair behind the defendant's table of the courtroom, shackled by his ankles and his wrists cuffed together. Behind him, the courtroom seats were full people he had killed-soldiers dressed in futuristic armor, swordsmen, assassins, monsters, a few fallen angels and in far back of the room, he thought he could make out the form of a giant spider. All of them were silent, but either sneered at him or smirked darkly at him.

Across the way, the prosecuting attorney was shuffling through a stack of papers in his briefcase. He looked human, with neatly cropped brown hair, spectacles and wearing a fancy black suit and tie. Adrian knew him as Monty Marlain, a lawyer who had made it big by making deals with demons to win every case he ever took and often sealed his demonic bargains with witnesses who could ruin his cases. Not a big threat in and of himself, but Monty had been working to summon one of the big boys of Hell, Asmodeus and Adrian put him down before the demon could be freed.

The jury was, unsurprisingly, also comprised of people whom he had killed and were now shooting him death glares. Unlike the crowd behind him, who were the rank and file of most villain's armies, Adrian knew the twelve jurors personally, all of them having been a Big Bad in their own right. A black-winged archangel named Yydal, who had tried to summon raw incarnations of the Multiverse power in order to conquer it. A massive, hulking dark-skinned man with burning red eyes and dressed in cameo named Patriarch, a gun runner who had actually be one of the beings employed by the Powers That Be, but a few steps lower than a Counter Guardians. A soccer-ball sphere of light that was Eragis the Devourer, who made it a habit to eat immortal and divine beings so he could then consume their universes unchallenged. And several more big names and monsters whom had required a Counter Guardian's touch.

But it was the judge who held Adrian's attention. He was tall and lean, with pale skin and dressed in an ornate black robe with the collar flipped up. Gold rings decorated each of his fingers and his narrow, hawkish face was completely blade. He smiled as Adrian caught his eye and pressed his fingers together as he looked down up the silver-haired man. "It's been a long time, hasn't it, Adrian?"

"Valentine Temnas…" Adrian smirked back. "Necromancer extraordinaire who nearly succeeded in becoming an actual god. You were my first assignment as a Counter Guardian. A shame that Hell hasn't improved your looks. Or turned you into a wasted pitiful shell. To be honest, that girly scream of 'No' you gave when I threw you into that black hole was rather amusing…"

Valentine didn't appear bothered by Adrian's jib, though he did frown a little. "Oh, Hell did try and break me, Adrian. It tried very hard. Years and years of torture that I can't even possibly begin to surmise. But my will is strong… it kept me sane, in control of my mind. That…and my hatred for you." He grinned again. "And it looks my - excuse me, our - patience has been rewarded."

"Well, kudos to you for keeping what little sanity you had to begin with while in eternal damnation and torment." Adrian rolled his eyes. "Not that any of you were sane to begin with."

"We're quite sane, Adrian. I did tell you our hatred for you is strong-strong enough to keep our minds from slipping into madness." Valentine waved a hand, encompassing all of the courtroom and its occupants. "All of us, you killed and sent us here. We banded together for survival and swore eternal vengeance on you." He leered at Adrian. "And believe me when I say eternity gives you a long, long time to plan many, many interesting ways of extracting revenge on someone."

One of Adrian's kitty ears twitched in annoyance. "All of you together for all that time and the best you could come up with is a trial? Seriously? What are you going to do, give me the death penalty? In case you hadn't noticed, I'm just as dead as you are!" The ear twitched again.

"We know, but your death-besides delivering you into our hands-has left us with a unique opportunity, my dear boy." The bald man replied, the corner of his lips twitching into a smirk. "You have a chance at being resurrected. So anyone of us, if we get rid of you like you are now in Hell, one of us may have a chance of getting resurrected ourselves."

Violet eyes narrowed slightly. "And how do you do that? Even if you get rid of me like this, you'll be able to have one of you summoned in my place? Any ritual used to summon me would only target me."

"It's really quite simple-we'll kill you and eat you like you are now. You see, all you are right now is your spirit. And one can become stronger in hell by eating their competitors. So one of us eats you, becomes infused with your unique spirit signature and viola-it's back to the world of the living." Valentine said, as if explaining the process to a very small child.

"Uh… huh…" He quirked an eyebrow questioningly. "So, disregarding the fact that any attempt by any of you to eat me will result in me ripping off your heads and seeing if I can't kill you twice over, how does this little trial factor into things?"

"Why, my dear Librarian." Valentine gave him a big toothy grin. "It's only proper, don't you think, since it was your judgments of us that prompted you to kill us and send us here. And as the saying goes, 'Even the damned deserve their testament.'"

"And I don't get a lawyer because…?"

"We couldn't find anyone who was unbiased enough to provide you with an adequate defense. So you're representing yourself."

"Okay - I move to dismiss the case against me as there is no way in this Hell that I am going to get twelve jurors who would be unbiased and thus this whole façade of a trial violates my right to a fair trial by my peers-which I doubt I will find in this place, either."

"You're right-we're all your betters here. And the move to dismiss is denied." Valentine banged his gavel. "Anything else?"

A sigh escaped Adrian's lips. "Let it formally be known that I strongly disagree with the fact that any of you consider yourself my better, since, you know, I killed each and every one of you. I also strongly object to the fact that this trial is even happening." He leaned back his chair as best his could. "Now let's hurry up and get this over with - I want to see if I can't find the chief executive of 4Kids down here and have some words with him about what he did to my anime."

Valentine banged his gravel again. "Alright then, court is now in session. The United Alliance of Evil V. Adrian the Librarian. Bailiff, read the charges against the defendant."

A red-skinned demon in a pinstripe suit stepped forwards and pulled out a manila folder. Putting on a pair of spectacles made out of fire, he flipped it open and began to read. "Defendant is charged with 4231 counts of murder in the first degree and countless counts in murder-second degree, Treason, Conspiracy to overthrow a legal government, conspiracy to commit murder, Grant Theft Auto, Genocide, Regicide, Plotting to destroy government property, resisting arrest, Kidnapping in the first-degree, Unlawful use of a bladed weapon-"

"Hold on just a minute!" Adrian interrupted, shooting a glare at Valentine. "What kinds of charges are these? I'm not warlord or wannabe god like you bastards. These charges should be filed against you, not me."

"Oh really?" Valentine smirked as the court chuckled at Adrian's words. "I do suppose you deserve to know why we're charging you like we are. Let's see…" He held up a hand and then lifted a finger. "First, you can claim that we were warmongers and mass murderers, but you did the same thing against our soldiers and minions and slaves. They were only doing their jobs and going about their lives and in our rush to get to us, you killed very, very many of them."

"Second," Another finger rose. "Many of us ruled empires, kingdoms and what-have-you, which were the accepted and lawfully established governments of their words. Yet you oftentimes invaded them without provocation, an act of war and many a time tried to incite rebellion against said lawful government, smuggling arms, provisions and more illegal items into said government's domain."

"Third," A third finger rose. "You stole government secrets-plans, weapons, devices, vehicles and more, hacked into and diverted money that belonged to our loyal citizen's accounts into your own, money that had legally earned by their respective government's laws. You also impersonated several high-ranking officials on various worlds, often times by assassinating them first. You also committed terroristic acts against several governments, including bombings and poisonings."

"Fourth," A fourth finger joined the other three. "You endangered the lives millions upon millions of innocent sentients with your actions by destabilizing the lawful governments of their worlds, destroying shipyards, space stations and more and leaving them vulnerable and without the support of a government.

"And lastly," Valentine held up all five fingers. "You arrogantly proclaimed your authority over us and our worlds and the so-called sovereignty of the Powers That Be, a governing body that none of us here recognize as such. Yet, you still removed lawful governments from power or destabilized them or killed their leaders and by doing so, subjugated our peoples to the so-called Powers That Be whims and authority and obviously, as this was done against their will, this is slavery."

Adrian remained silent, his eyes still on Valentine. "…"

"So you see, Adrian that these charges very much apply to you. You claim that we are the ones who should be charged and yet, we have been already by you and the Powers That Be. You created charges and crimes that we committed through a governing body that none recognized as having an authority over us. You call us evil and murderers and warlords and more, but it's obvious that you have yet to realize that you are using the very same tactics that you accuse us of using. If you claim we are evil that are just as evil as all the people here." The bald man smirked and crossed his hands in front of him as the courtroom cheered at the judge's declaration. "So…what do you have to say to that, Librarian?"

There was a long silence and Adrian just kept his eyes on Valentine as the cheers died down. Several minutes passed and occasionally one of the villains would shift uncomfortably or glance away from Adrian, who hadn't even batted an eye.

Finally, he spoke. "Any action or word can be considered 'good' or 'evil' depending on the viewpoint. A surfer is attacked by a shark and he tries to beat the shark off, thinking the shark is evil for trying to eat him. Yet the shark tells him to stop fighting and let him enjoy his meal and continue to live. So I'm not going to sit and argue semantics and viewpoints and perceptions with you. In the end, those things are left to the individual."

"However," H\his eyes hardened slightly. "To find the answers to such questions as what is right and what is wrong, there must be life that exists to determine them and find those answers. It is for that reason and that reason only, that I did what I did. My duty is to the whole and to that end, I committed the acts I felt were necessary to preserve the whole of life and thus, the future. You can judge me and taunt me all you want, but all of you know in your hearts your actions were not of benefit to the majority and only beneficial to the few at extreme expense to the majority. For costing the unborn innocents their future, you committed the ultimate crime in denying life itself of existence. And if my orders had not been to kill you all…" His eyes darkened and his voice became low, quiet… dangerous. "I would have made you all scream till doomsday. And reveled in it."

A chill silence hung over the courtroom and everyone present felt a shiver travel down their spines as they remembered what made Adrian so dangerous. Adrian didn't get mad  -he got even tenfold over.

"Ummm… Monty, why don't you call your first witness?" Valentine said after a moment and the lawyer got up, shuffling his papers and adjusting his collar.

"I call Tim Quasar to the stand."

A thin man with spiky blue horns instead of hair, razor-sharp teeth and one hand replaced with what looked like a buzz-saw detached himself from the crowd and entered the witness box. He glanced around, blinking confusion slightly. "Aren't ya gonna swear me in?"

Valentine rolled his eyes. "This is Hell; there isn't a Bible to be found here! And if we did try to swear you in, you'd probably explode for swearing to God or something. But we trust Tim; we know you'll tell the truth."

"Thank you, your honor."

"Now, Mr. Quasar." Monty adjusted his glasses. "You said in your report that defendant committed several crimes against you."

"Yes, sir."

"Could you list them for the court, please?"

"That man killed my lover, my pet lizard, destroyed my home and killed me." Tim looked about ready to cry. "Lizzie was the best pet ever…."

"Oh, you've got to be kidding me…" A few anger tics popped into existence on Adrian's forehead. "Your 'pet lizard' was an eight-mile long Star Dragon was eating planet's moons because it could! Your home was a super-weapon capable of causing a star to go supernova! And your lover was a demonic space goddess who wanted to eat the souls of everyone in existence!"

"She was still a good lover and you killed her!"

"The hell she was your lover! She had two sets of teeth and one of them would have made that act a one-time only deal, because by the time you got done, you'd be singing soprano!"

Tim growled and his buzz-saw whirred to life. "You still killed me!"

"Me! You're the one who blew out the view port to try and suck me into deep space and forgot to bolt down the command chair to the deck! It's not my fault you're an idiot!"

"Grrrrr! I'll kill you! Then I'll bring ya back and kill you again! Kill you dead!"

"I'm already dead, nitwit! The only way could kill me more is if you started singing your horrible version of 'Without You' again!"

"Hey! I got a great singing voice! My lover said so!"

"Your lover could plug her own ears when you sang!'

"You shut your mouth or I'll gut you!"

Adrian rolled his eyes. "Your mother!"

Tim blinked. "Huh… what about my mother?"

(Well that was a bust…) Adrian sighed to himself. (I was hoping to goad him into attacking me so I could get these handcuffs off. Better start thinking of plan B…)

"Enough!" Valentine banged his gavel. "Order in my courtroom! Adrian, another outburst and we'll eat you!"

"You're going to do it, anyway." Adrian reminded him.

"Nnnnnnn…" The bald man rested his head in a hand. "Tim, don't' overreact so much and just give your testimony so we can convict him!"

"I am afraid you won't be convicting anyone today." A feminine voice spoke up from the rear of the courtroom and everyone turned their heads to see as the sound of heel-wearing feet thudded against the courtroom's wood floor.

Adrian's eyes widened at the woman he saw walking up the center aisle. She was dressed in a forest green skirt and suit and her auburn hair trailed after her as she walked. The tightness of her clothes showed she had curves aplenty and violet eyes were cool and calm. "No way…"

Willowe Foxblade gave Adrian a smile as she walked past him and up to the judge's bench, fishing a piece of paper out her briefcase and holding up. "Willowe Foxblade. Lawyer for the defense. And this is a motion to dismiss the case and let my client go free."

"Pfft." Valentine ignored the piece of paper and shot her a look. "Go away, Foxblade. He may have killed you too, but we've been waiting a lot longer to get a piece him. So you're gonna have to wait."

"Oh, no I'm not. " Willowe waggled the paper at him. "This is straight from Purgatory. You are dropping this case."

Valentine grabbed the piece of paper and looked at it before holding it at arm's length and squinting. "This writing is so bad it's nothing but scribbles. I can't read a word of it. And there's no Purgatory seal on it."

"Oh, there is. Let me point it out." The woman took the piece of paper back, set her briefcase down…then grabbed Valentine by the collar, hauled out of his seat and pinned him to the floor. Grabbing his arm, she wrenched it painfully behind his back and held the form in front him. "Do you see it now?"

"No, you stupid bitch, I don't!" Then Valentine howled in pain as Willowe pulled his arm back harder, nearly ripping it out of its socket. "I see it, I see it!"

"Good." Releasing him, she grabbed her briefcase and returned the paper to it before snapping it shut and walking over to Adrian. "You ready to go?"

"What about…" Then Adrian heard a clacking noise and felt cuffs fall over. Rubbing his sore wrists, he gave the woman who had killed him a look. "And why the heck should I go with you? In case you haven't noticed, we're both dead and you're the one who killed me!"

"Well, yeah…" Willowe gestured around to the courtroom and leaned close to him to whisper. "But you can stay in the company of all these people who have been hundreds of hundreds years learning how to make dead people scream forever and have spent every waking minute in Hell waiting for a chance to get revenge on you…"


"Or, you can come with me, as I'm going to take you Purgatory and then explain some things to you that you're gonna need to know if you get resurrected so you beat Runoa."

Adrian glanced around at the courtroom. Since he was dead, he obviously had no sword and he couldn't feel the little hum that was the reminder of his magical power as a Librarian and Counter Guardian. "You know what, I never like disappointing a pretty lady, so why don't I escort you out of here?"

"You are a smart man." Willowe grabbed his arm and dragged Adrian down the aisle, ignoring any of the bad guys who shot glares and nasty looks at her and only paused to cuff one on the side of the head when he tried to play grab-ass. "Come on, this way."

Adrian blinked as she pulled him through the door. "How are we supposed to get out of Hell, anyway…" Then he broke off as the moment they stepped through the door, they were standing a vast expanse of… black. "Huh…" A glance behind him revealed that door was gone. "That was rather anti-climatic…"

"Yeah, well, did you really think that even I could win a trial when everyone in that room hates you?" Willowe told him and then held up a hand as he opened his mouth. "I'll answer your questions in a bit. But first I need to get changed. You go wait over there."

"Over where? We're standing in nothingness…" Adrian blinked as he turned around and saw what looked like a table and two chairs. "Hmmm… that's convenient."

Striding over the table, he frowned slightly at what he saw. It was covered in a white, linen tablecloth and there was a vase of red roses in the center, a pair of candles on either side of it that flickered a bit despite the fact there was no wind. The place settings had fancy blue plates and the silverware looked like real silver, though Adrian wasn't quite sure as they were wrapped up in a napkin. "This looks like…"

"A dinner date."

"HOLY HELL!" Adrian yowled and leapt three feet in the air, his tail sticking straight out and the fur standing on end. Landing a tense crouch, he growled and whirled, pointing his finger at Willowe, who was giggling at him. "Don't do that-" His voice vanished on him.

"What do you think?" Willowe smiled at him, still snickering slightly. She was dressed in sky-blue strapless dress that revealed her unblemished skin and that was edged with black and revealed a fair amount of her cleavage and her hair was brushed to a shine and done neatly in curls on her bangs while a pair of sapphire earrings dangled from her lobes. "Do I look good?"

"Uh… ummm. yeah…" Despite himself, Adrian felting himself blushing and attempted to chalk it up his embarrassment at her sneaking up on him. "How did you get changed so fast?"

"When you're dead, you find a lot of things are easier." Willowe's smile turned sweet. "You don't look so bad yourself, Adrian."

"What…?" The silver-haired man glanced down at himself and found he was dressed in a white trenchcoat with gold detailing along the edges and a ruffled black silk shirt and silk pants. A pair of ruby cufflinks glinted on his wrist and judging from the feeling he got from his tail, it had been brushed to silky-softness. A quick pat of his hair and ears revealed the same thing to them. He fixed Willowe with a look. "This is your doing, I presume?"

"Yes. When I died, I didn't go straight to anywhere. I was offered a choice - reveal you some information and get one thing I wanted and then go to Purgatory or go to hell for my crimes. It wasn't a hard choice to make."

"So you choose a dinner date? With me? Why?"

"Because you're cute, Librarian. Strong, smart, powerful, clever and such a nice sexy voice. All qualities I find attractive. Plus, you are probably the only person who would have a date with me and actually be nice about it and enjoy it." Willowe walked over to the table and stood expectantly by the chair.

"And why's that?" Adrian followed over and pulled out her chair for her, partly because it was just in his nature and partly because playing along couldn't hurt and might net him some more information.

"Well, you forgave me before you died, if you recall." The auburn-haired woman scooted closer to the table as Adrian sat down across from her, moving the roses out of the way so they could see one another.

"I did." He replied calmly and as he sat down, a basket of rolls and some tabs of butter appeared on the table. Grabbing a roll, he pulled it apart and then reached for his knife and a butter tab.

"Why?" Willowe asked softly, reaching for a glass of water that magically appeared as she reached for it. "I invaded your Library, attacked your friends, threatened the Multiverse and you knew that I was going to kill you… how could you forgive me of all that?"

Adrian took a bit of his roll and chewed slowly so he could find the right words. Failing to locate them, he decided to just be honest and swallowed. "I forgave you… because… if I were in the same situation, I'd have probably done the same thing you did. And I've come very close doing it, too…" He managed a small smile. "And besides, it was one hell of fight. After something like that, it's hard to be angry at people."

To his surprise, Willowe chuckled as she prepared her own roll. "Getting so happy because of a fight…that's just like you…" Taking a dainty bite, she chewed and swallowed. "Well..I know this does not mean much now nor does it fix things… but… I'm sorry… and thank you for forgiving me."

"You're welcome." Adrian took a drink of water. "Now, can you tell me how I ended up in Hell? Last I checked, I was one of the good guys and you were the bad person."

"It's because you have no soul currently, dear. I destroyed your body and then your Reality Marble, which is your soul, so your soul didn't know where to go. You can't get into Heaven or Purgatory without a soul and so you bounced around for a while and then ended up in Brimstone Town." She took another bite. "You're here now because the people upstairs finally got their asses in gear when they realized what happened."

"But it worked out for the best, didn't it?" The kitty-eared man smirked. "Because my soul didn't know where to go, it remained on the Mortal Plane. And because I'm guessing the Library is restoring my body, all the others have to do is find my soul and reunite with my body to bring me back to life."

"You are smart." Willowe told him honestly, smiling a bit.

"When you live alone in the Library, there's not a whole lot to do besides read." Adrian leaned back in his chair and smirked, finding he was enjoying their little date. "And don't underestimate a man who has a few hundred years to prepare for things. I have tricks I probably don't even remember creating anymore."

"That doesn't surprise me in the least…you were always like that, forgetting where you set your coins down a second after you did or losing your medallion… I always thought that you'd lose yourself if gravity didn't keep you pinned to the ground." The auburn-haired woman chuckled and smiled happily, as if remembering a very fond memory.

"You keep talking as if you know me and know me well…" Adrian frowned at her as the rolls disappeared and a bowl of soup appeared in front of him while a salad did the same for Willowe. "But you and I never met much before we died. The fighting in the Library was the longest interaction we had."

He narrowed his eyes. "When you died, you got some memories, didn't you? From a past life?"

"Yes…" The woman replied slowly, grinding some pepper over her salad before reaching for a container of Dorothy-Lynch dressing. "I… it was disorienting at first… I couldn't tell who I was or who's life I was living… but eventually, it straightened itself out… and I learned a lot of things that I never thought were possible." She drizzled the dressing atop her salad before taking a bite.

"Like you and I knowing each other well in past lives…" Adrian took a sip of his soup and found it was a very delicious potato soup. "When was that? And what else did you learn? It must have been something that would help me defeat Runoa if the Powers gave you this chance."

Willowe gave him a look as she took another bite of her salad. "Adrian, I'd tell you everything if I could, but you know better than I that it just doesn't work that way. There are some things that you have to learn on your own."

He sighed and had some more soup. "I figured as much. Never hurts to ask, though." Stirring his entrée with his spoon to aerate it, he kept going. "Can you at least tell me what in my past I need to look up? I've lived a long time and my memory isn't exactly perfect."

"You need to look into the past before you became a Counter Guardian."

"That time?" The violet-eyed man frowned again."But I know what happened…I was a hero and I made a deal with the Powers to save a group of people I couldn't save on my own..and one of those people ended up betraying me…"

"That's Archer's story, not yours, Adrian." Her violet eyes stared at him. "Most Counter Guardians share a similar background, it's true, but you know deep in your heart that it never really rang true…"

"No, that's not the case." He said firmly. " I may not remember everything about the past few centuries, but I do know what happened before I became a Counter Guardian!"

"Do you, now?" Willowe finished off her salad and returned her fork to her plate before looking him the eye. "Me tu swori ty'dala, yinki y yankia."

"What?" Adrian's brow furrowed in a frown. "'I am your blade sister, now and forever' But how could you know that…that language is just something Chrys and I made up…" Then he jerked straight and his eyes widened as a barrage of sounds and images hit, too fast to make distinctions except for battle cries and swords flashing against one another and what might have been a long, pained scream.

Then he was over and he collapsed back against the chair, panting like he just run a mile. "What…how did…what did you…" He caught himself and forced himself to relax, his breathing evening out. "Those were memories..but why couldn't I see them? And if you got memories of the same thing when you died, why didn't I?"

His eyes widened. "I wouldn't get them back… if there weren't any memories to get back… all I have are traces of what's left in my head…"

"That's correct." Willowe explained as Adrian ate some more of his soup to steady himself. "You didn't get those memories back because they weren't there to get back. Someone removed them from you after you became a Counter Guardian for some reason and sealed them somewhere." She shook her head at the questioning looking in his eyes. "No, I don't know why there were removed. My memories stop some time before that, so I don't know where they are, either. The only clue I can give you is that your memories lie in the same past does."

"Okay, I can get that…" Adrian watched as their entrees disappeared to be replaced by steak and their water replaced by wine glasses. "But why do I need these memories to defeat Runoa? What do they hold?"

"I don't know that…" Willowe cut off a piece of her steak and popped it in her mouth, moaning slightly. "Oh, this is so good…" Swallowing, she continued. "All I know is that memories hold the key to you getting all your power back. Not your Librarian or Counter Guardian powers, your powers- the powers you had before you become a Guardian."

"So they'll make me stronger…" Adrian mused as he started in on his steak. "But I guess its how I use them or what I learn that may make a difference in beating Runoa."

"That's about the gist of it." Willowe replied, taking a sip of her wine.

For several long minutes, there were no sounds save for the two of them eating and drinking. It was an odd silence, at the same tense and yet companionable. Adrian didn't know what Willowe felt like, but he was eating dinner with the woman who had killed him and yet, he found he didn't really mind it.

It kinda creeped him out.

He was nearly finished with his rather delicious steak and glass of wine when Willowe spoke up. "Tell me about Palm Tree."

"Uh, yeah, sure." Finishing another bite, he thought for a moment. "Well, she's Hati's ward now, her name is Emily Smith. she's really inclined towards technology-probably going to be quite the inventor some day. She's struck a good relationship with Phoenixia… and oh yeah." He flushed in the cheeks slightly. "She's a real good artist… day of your attack, she drew this really nice, but really racy picture of Tash on my office wall."

"I know. I saw it. It was very impressive." A smile graced Willowe's lips."It sounds like she's growing up in a good family, now… after everything, that's all I wanted… for her to grow up and be happy and not wind up like some kind of monster… like me…"

"Hey." Her auburn curls bounced as she looked up at him and to her surprise, he was smiling. "You did the best you could, Willowe and a lot of other people in your situation wouldn't have done near as well as you did. You sacrificed everything so that Emily would have a chance at a life that so few get. There's a lot of love in that. And despite what you may think, I know in my heart that Emily loves you just as much."

"Heh." Willowe smiled faintly. "You were always like that… always supporting and encouraging and ready to dash at a moment's notice to help us… even in the darkest moments, you made it seem like the sun was shining…"

"Uhhh, thank you…" Adrian felt himself blushing slightly and glanced down at his empty plate in an attempt to hide. "While we're on the subject, will you tell me what I was like in the past? I want to know…" Then he frowned as the plates vanished to be replaced by bowls that contained a single scoop of plain vanilla ice cream. "This is dessert? Who picked the menu?"

"Me." Willowe grabbed her spoon and started in on her ice cream. "Girl needs to watch her figure."

"But we're dead!"

"Are you saying that I can eat as much as I want because I'm dead and fat?"

"What! No! Where would you get an idea like that!"

"You're complaining that the portions are small."

"I'm a growing man!"

"You're dead, remember? You aren't growing."

"Neither are you! So portion sizes shouldn't matter!"

"I'm a woman. Things matter at whatever moment I decide they matter."

"But… I… you… the… why…" Adrian spluttered for a moment and sighed, also digging into his ice cream. "Will you please answer my question?"

"Okay…" Licking her spoon clean, she looked thoughtful for a moment and then smiled. "You were a lot like you are now… Reckless. Dashing. Elegant in combat. Never saying die. Passionate about fighting and being a hero." A wicked grin crossed her face. "And you were so good in bed... I wonder if that's carried over to today…"

Adrian's face burned bright red and he spluttered again. "You have to be joking!"

"Maybe, maybe not… you'll have to get your memories back to find out." Willowe snickered at his discomfort. "No matter how much time passes, you'll always be so easy to tease…"

"Oh, hush, you!" The Librarian felt his face burn as he finished his ice cream and then watched as the bowls disappeared, followed by roses and candles and then table itself. "Guess that means dinner is over…"

"Yes…" She dabbed at her lips with her napkin as they both were forced stand due to the chairs fading away and then she flicked her napkin away, which faded into the darkness. "I was kinda hoping for some after dinner mints… I didn't want it to end…"

"Honestly?" Adrian smiled a bit. "Me neither. You're a good dinner companion when you're not trying to kill me." He grinned as her cheeks pinked. "Yes, score one for me!"

"Yeah, one compared to the ten or so I have on you." But she was smiling a bit and stepped closer to him. "Hold one, you've got some ice cream on the corner of your mouth…"

"Oh, I do? Which side is it-" Then Adrian no longer had to worry about the ice cream on his face as Willowe pressed her lips firmly to his own and wrapped her arms around his waist to hold him tight to her body, pressing against him so tight it was like she was trying to fuse them together.

After a breathless, eternal minute, they pulled about, the Librarian flushing like crazy as Willowe just stepped back and smiled at him, her own cheeks faintly pink. 'I'm sorry… I just… look, it's hard to explain, but I just needed to do that.."

"Yeah, I get yeah…" Adrian's hand brushed his cheek slightly. "Willowe… that was good, great even, but there as a lot of sadness in that kiss, too… why?"

She glanced to the side. "Your memories will return your full power and your past to you, Adrian and perhaps will even give you an edge against Runoa somehow. But it's all or nothing with memories..and I know that there are going to be some you will not like and some that will be downright horrible…" She looked at him, a semi-desperate look in her eyes. "So if I can stave off some of that… give you some good memories to counteract them…"

"It's okay…" He grabbed her shoulders and smiled comfortingly."I understand. I don't know what we were like in the past, but I can't change it… so no matter what I see when I get my memories back, it won't change my opinion of you… you'll still be the same tragic big sister bitch of a Sue who killed me."

"Thank you… and speaking of bitchy…" Willowe stepped close, one hand grabbing his chin and the other grabbing between his legs. "You are going to take good care of my sister, Adrian the Librarian, or so help me god, I will claw my way back from wherever I end up, track you down and rip these off with my bare hands! Are we clear?"

"V-very…" Adrian nodded furiously, already a shade whiter at the mere thought of it. "Crystal c-clear."

"Good!" Releasing him, she patted him on the cheek. "In a bit, a door is going to show up. Go through it to take to the place where you can wait till you're resurrected-if it happens." With that, she moved past him and started to walk away.

She had only gotten a half-dozen steps when Adrian's voice stopped, though he hadn't turned around. "Hey. Where are you going to go from here?"

"I'll probably just go back into the creative ether, like all finished or discarded ideas do…who knows. I could really wind up anywhere." She didn't bother to turn around, either.

"Well…" Adrian readjusted his coat. "If you get reincarnated, come look me up. I may have a job for you."

"I'd like that…" Willowe smiled. "Good-bye, Adrian. Tell Hati hello from me and tell Tash I'm sorry…"

He gave her a thumbs-up. "They probably already know, but I'll tell them anyway."

"Thank you." Then she continued to walk away and then she was just gone a few steps later, dissolving into sparkles of light.

Adrian blinked a large white door materialized in front of him. "Well, this is easy." He grabbed the handle, opened it and stepped inside.

The room was pure white, as were the chairs, though both were just enough off white that it wasn't incredibly blinding. There were no doors or windows or even a visible light source, though he could still see. No one else was in the room.

He figured the door he had come through was already gone and glanced around. "This is gonna be boring if they expect me to wait in this place…" Then he blinked as he saw of splash of black color. Another blink got rid of the headache and blurry vision caused by it and realized that it was stack of books on the table that reached his chin. "Ahhh, reading material. This should last me about two hours."

Slipping into a chair, he grabbed the top pick and got read to open the cover… then frowned when he saw the title. Setting it aside, he grabbed the next book… then set it aside and grabbed the next one… only to set it aside.

Desperately, he dug through the entire stack of books and moaned he realized they were all from the same series. "Why the heck would Purgatory's waiting room be stacked with Twilight books!"

He stared at the stack of books, wondering if he'd something horrible to deserve this. Not only was he not much a fan of the series in general, but he'd already read them and he hated reading something he'd read before.

Finally, he grabbed the nearest book….


Ten minutes later…

A snow-white kitten poked it's head up from a fort compiled of the books, standing on its legs and glancing this way and that like a prarie dog. "Super-Kitty observes his surroundings carefully, as a mysterious enemy as disabled the power to his Bookcase of Solitude. It must be the dreaded zombie killer snowman, seeking to draw our hero into their territory where the snow will help them hide. But Super-Kitty has eyes of awesomeness and with a battle cry, he pounces on the nearest zombie killer snowman…."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Insert Implausible Search Pattern Here

It dangles on a string 
Like slow-spinning redemption 
Winding in and winding out; 
The shine of it has caught my eye 
And roped me in. So 
Mesmerizing, so 
Hypnotizing. I am 
Captivated. I am...
—Dasnboard Confessional, "Vindicated"


Valerie nearly jumped out of her seat when Danielle thumped a fist on her desk.

"I," the redhead began, "have had just about enough of this."

The healer blinked. "Enough of what?"

"Enough of you shutting yourself in the monitor room and ignoring the rest of the world." Valerie turned to see Stacey, along with the rest of her team, standing by the door. The shorter blonde continued, "You can be borderline antisocial as it is, and though I don't really blame you for that, enough is enough."


"No buts!" Danielle interrupted her team leader fiercely. "You're going and that's that!"

Valerie frowned. "Going where?"

Terrie stepped forward, brandishing a manilla envelope. "On a mission to the Heroes fandom. The sensors picked up a Level 1 Sue somewhere in the post-bomb timeline from season 1, and you are going to bring her in."

"What for? If she's just Level 1, then—"

"Because you need to get out of this room," Danielle said firmly. "You need to get out of the Library, get some fresh air in your lungs, and screw your head on straight."

"Danielle I'm f—"

"Do not start with me, Val!" the redhead barked. "Fine people do not sequester themselves in a little corner for months at a time! I know you've got an important job to do, but if he's waited this long, he can wait a little longer for the sake of your own health!"

Valerie frowned, starting to get annoyed. "Look, just because you guys gang up on me, doesn't mean—"

"We don't have to gang up on you," Terrie smirked, "because we all know it only takes one person to convince you." The shorter brunette glanced behind her at Monika, who had not yet said a word, but who was walking over towards them at Terrie's cue.

The healer's eyes widened. "H-Hey, c'mon guys, that's not fair..."

Danielle folded her arms. "Just take it as an indication of how serious we are about this."

Monika stood before her best friend, settled into a relaxed, casual stance, and donned a crooked sort of half-smile. "You really should go," she said gently. "Get some action, a little exercise, and come back with a clearer head."

Valerie shifted uncomfortably and tried not to meet her tall friend's eyes, even though she knew eye contact had nothing to with what was happening. "Monika..."

"Just go," she said in that same gentle voice. "Everything will be waiting when you get back, I promise."

It only took a few more seconds of Monika's unavoidable gaze for Valerie's will to cave in. She snatched the envelope roughly out of Terrie's hands and strode out the door. "I'm gonna get you guys for this," she growled.

Monika simply grinned. "No you won't."

Valerie tried to ignore her friends congradulating each other as she went off to her room to collect supplies.


The Sue's name, according to the file, was Princess Angelina Contessa Louisa Francesca Banana Fanna Bo Besca the Third, and Valerie wondered vaguely if "Princess" was actually her first name. She shrugged the question aside as she shoved various tools of the trade into the pockets of her cargo pants—she wasn't likely to need them for such a routine outting, but staying prepared was an old habbit of hers.

She paused when she reached the pale blue bracer sitting next to her laptop. Seiryu had gotten more use in the past week and a half than all the time she'd had it—which, admittedly, wasn't very long (and the thought of exactly how long it had been since her weapon was first given to her sent another pang through her chest, which she did her best to ignore). Their encounter with the Sovereign Death had been one of the most devestating battles the Society had ever fought, and the recovery was still underway. In between maintaining the suddenly crowded Med Ward and her regular duties, she had taken up practicing archery again, more determined than ever to master her bow. Those shots against Death were pure luck. Next time she wouldn't get an opening like that.

Naturally, in the midst of all this, her fandom scans and searches had come to a grinding halt. Probably why Terrie and them took their chance to halt that in its tracks while they had an opening, she thought, halfway between annoyed and amused. Speaking of which...

Valerie turned her attention inward, to a special place in her mind and heart that was very rarely occupied.  How are you doing, Ari?

Her only reply was a mental image of someone rolling over in a large squashy bed and pulling the covers all the way up. Valerie smiled, though her internal concern for her guardian kept it from reaching her eyes. She had known Ari was powerful, yes, but she'd never seen the tiny dragon attack with even half that ferocity, nor use her considerable abilities to such an extent. Likely her berserker state was induced by the enormity of the threat Death posed, but as a result, she was now completely exhausted. She had rendered herself unable to maintain even a single ethereal presence, let alone a physical one, and had retreated to the depths of Valerie's heart for a long rest.

The healer sighed. It was not the first time that Ari had been reduced to this state, but it was the first time that Valerie had wittnessed the enormous effort that brought it about. She knew precious little about what Ari did when she was off on her own, but the thought of her guardian fighting like that on a regular basis made the empath tremble.

She bit her lip for a moment, then strapped the bracer onto her left wrist, holstered a fully-charged portal gun, and headed out toward the Med Ward to give Miriku instructions in her absence—mainly that, despite any and all protests to the contrary, Kyle and Ben were not to be allowed out of their beds without adult supervision.


Footsteps sounded in the dark room. "Milady, she is gone..."

"I know she is. Let her go."

A beat. "Are you sure that is wise, milady? She may have survived the Immaculation process physically, but her mind... ah... decidely less so. She is confused, disoriented. Her thoughts are..." He ground out the word like it was posion. "...chaotic..."

A chuckle from the woman on the throne. "She is nothing more than a failed experiment. After all, I myself investigated her claims when she started making them and I did not find anything that validated them."

"Then she should be eliminated. Those like her are to be discarded when their purpose is fulfilled, refuse that is useless save for the fact it can jam the works of our plans and disrupt their order." His eyes flashed briefly in the gloom. "That cannot be allowed."

"Calm yourself, Order. Even just the act of discarding something can be twisted to a useful purpose. She will mostly engage our adversaries and distract them further. Or even kill one of them." Runoa smirked, her eyes amused. "And I like to discard my things in manners that amuse me..."


"Do not worry, Order. You, I have no intention of discarding. At least, so long as you remain useful to me..."


Valerie exited the plothole and took a look around. In this timeline, it was ten years after the nuclear bomb from season 1 had gone off. New York City was left in absolute ruin, and its economic, political, and environmental effects on the globe were devestating. Even after so many years, no one had yet bothered to try and clean up the area, and only a handful of refugees even went anywhere near city limits.

The healer frowned. What would a Mary Sue want with this place? There was nothing of use whatsoever, nothing but rubble and desolation for miles around. Further, this timeline had effectively been averted with the beginning of season 2, so any fanfiction taking place here was set firmly in Alternate Universe territory, which Sues usually avoided, since it made their powers unpredictable, not to mention increased Author powers.

"Hmm... so they sent you, did they?"

Valerie whipped arond.

Standing at the precipice a large, triangular piece of shrapnel was a woman in her mid-twenties. Her black and white hair was tusseled by the faint breeze and her lean face was devoid of emotion as sharp blue eyes studied the healer. She was dressed in dark-colored catsuit that hugged her form well and the leather of her gloves creaked as she folded her arms across her chest. "You're not the one I was hoping for, but you were my second pick, so it's not that big of a loss..."

The empath quickly brough her bow arm up, Seiryu forming with a soft shwfmmm of blue energy, and drew back the weapon's string, causing an energy arrow to appear. Valerie was still wearing her obsidian pendant, so the woman's emotions were blocked from her, but she got the feeling she wouldn't have been able to read her even if her shields were wide open. Regardless, her stance alone told Valerie that she defininately meant bussiness. This is not the Sue I was sent after, that's for sure... "Who are you?" she demanded.

"My name is Silri. And you, healer-girl, are going to help me get the person I want out here." The woman flicked a bit of hair over her shoulder. "Tell me where the Librarian is."

"Adrian?" Val frowned, but kept her weapon trained on Silri. "He's dead. And you should know that. A Sue killed him."

"Quit your lying." Silri sneered back. "Regardless of the rumors that have been spreading around, I know for a fact the Librarian is not dead. But he's been hiding or is recuperating or planing something in the shadows and I know you know where he is. So tell me!"

"I already did! He's dead. And no matter how much I wish it otherwise, denying that won't bring him back!" A small choak escaped the healer. She'd been trying to avoid saying that out loud, but there was no taking it back now.

"I told you to quit lying!" Silri snapped. "You're going to help find the Librarian. One way..." She thrust out her fist and something shot towards the healer incredibly fast, the air around disorting as it shredded the concrete along it's course, "or another!"

Valerie twisted to the side, flinching as the attack shredded it's way past her and open up a series of small cuts on her side and arm. What..? What did she shoot at me? Not wasting time to figure it out, she quickly unleashed a trio of arrows, one after another at the perched Sue.

"Don't even bother." Silri swept her hand in front of her and the three arrows veered off course, shooting past her by a wide margin and harmlessly shattering against a piece of rubble in the distance. "Your attacks are weak and useless against anyone with a modicum of power."

"We'll just see-" Val gasped as the Sue vanished and was suddenly right front of her, their faces barely a foot apart as Silri grabbed her bow arm, the energy of Seiryu actually crumbling in the Sue's grasp and Valerie cried out as Silri clamped down hard on her wrist and twisted it.

"Now that feeble attempt at resistance is out of the way..." The older woman brought her face close to Val's, eyes narrowed dangerously. "Where. Is. Adrian?"

"I told you, he's dead!" Val managed with a pained gasp. "He died fighting Willowe and her army!"

"Liar!" Silri casually flung the healer away through the air, her flight halted as she crashed roughly against a piece of rubble and hit the ground with a moan of pain. "I know he's alive! I can still sense his energies!"

She walked towards the downed Valerie, clenching her fist as the air distorted around it. "I'll prove it to Runoa and those lackey Sovereigns she has. I didn't go crazy from the Immaculation! I know he's alive! Now where is he!"

"Y-you're...a Sovereign...?" Val coughed and managed to push herself upright, desperately trying to materialzie Seiryu, but the bracer only glowed slightly. She also tasted blood, and each breath was painful to draw.

"Not a Sovereign, the Sovereign!" Silri snapped and her eyes narrowed hard. "The very first to survive the Imaculation process, the Sovereign prototype! Out of all of them, I am the only one who is capable of killing the Librarian! Not Willowe or Order or Runoa! Me! Now tell me where he is!"

"He's dead!" Valerie snapped. "I don't know why you think otherwise, but you must be crazy, because he... is... dead!"

The Sue let out a snarl of frustration and flung the ball of distorted air at the downed Agent. "Then maybe your screams of agony will draw him out of his hiding!"

Something silver flashed and sliced through the sphere and disperesed the energy Silri had gathered instantly. The Sue whirled just in time to see the silver blur arc back to it's user hand, and then she was on the defensive, the air distorting around her forearms as she blocked the endless strikes of the twin silver blurs.

Valerie dragged herself to her feet, one hand clutching the side where she was sure she felt something crack. Her rescuer was simply clad in a worn traveling cloak that flapped behind her as the battle raged on, the silver battle fan in her hand twirling and spinning faster than the eye could follow. A long tail peeked out from beneath the cloak's hem, and twitching underneath the hood were a pair of fluffy...

...kitty ears?

For a moment Valerie's heart nearly stopped, but then she noticed something: said ears and tail were furred in black, not white. And, upon closer examination, her rescuer's traveling cloak was not loose enough to hide a distinctly feminine form. With a start, she realized that it was Kuroneko, the cat-girl Counter Guardian, who had saved her.

Silri swept her arm down in front of her and the ground shredded, pelting Kuroneku with clods of earth and shrapnel, and the Sue siezed upon the brief interruption to slam a kick into her foe's gut and send her tumbling away. "A Counter Guardian? What the hell are you doing here!

Kuroneko straightened and removed her hood, her black cat ears twitching as she smirked. "I was just passing through and happened to stumble across a very poorly hidden Suergy generator. One would think you guys are above such obvious traps, y'know." She tossed a strange, spherical device at Silri's feet. "Though I will admit that was pretty intresting trick you pulled just now. You're manipluating the air around you, aren't you?"

"Hmph." Silri lifted her arms in a boxing stance, and Valerie noticed small currents of air twisting around the young woman's arms, something she had missed earlier. "As long as there is air," Silri smirked, "my power is unlimited!" Then she lunged.

Val watched the two woman battle and realized that she could barely see them moving, they were so fast. Only the occasion glints of light off Kuroneko's weapon and gouges of air marked where they were. I can't even keep up... she thought dismally. I thought I was could fight alongside the others after Adrian died, but... am I really that weak?

Off to her left, a pile of rubble suddenly disentigrated as a tornado of shredded debris kicked up, and the two women were briefly visible in the center of the crater their power left before vanishing from view once again. Valerie shielded her face as the wall of rubble she was using as support while she attempted to heal herself suddenly vanished, and the ground shook as the battling pair entered a nearby building.

Thunder sounded as blasts of energy or compressed air punched giant holes through it's sides, floor after floor in rapid succession before a giant slice of air slashed through the top corner and it groaned, falling away as the black blur of Kuroneko leapt impossible high and away through the widening gap, shreds of her cloak and energy trailing.

Silri leapt after her, small tornados of air around her fists. "That was a bad move!" she shouted, "because friction among the air is was what creates lightning!" She clasped her hands behind her and slammed them down. The air roared and boiled as a great bolt of electricity lanced down from the sky and crashed into Counter Guardian, a howl of agony escaping her.

Valerie watched as the cat-girl cratered into the ground while Silri landed easily atop the ruined wreck of a nearby building. "Kuroneko!"

"I'm... I'm okay..." She coughed hard, blood trickling out of the corner of her mouth, her cloak nothing but shreds and scraps. Debris crunched under her feet as she stood and glared at Silri. "It takes more than a Sue to take down a Counter Guardian!"

"You haven't figured out it yet..." Silri sneered and held out her arm, air twisting and snaking it's way around it and lengthening out past her hand to form a long thing blade. "I was designed specifically to defeat Adrian the Librarian. Meaning that I'm a match for more than any one of you! For all the air in my atmosphere is my weapon!"

"I know... but what do you think happened to mine?" Kuroneko smirked and held out her hands, revealing them empty.

Blue eyes widened and Silri gasped as the two fans ripped their way out of the ground, crackling with bloody energy. Even as Silri started to leap clear, the fans tore across her chest in an X pattern and she dropped to the ground, blood pouring from the open wound. "You... you bitch..."

The Sue staggered to her feet, one hand clutching at her bloody chest. "You may have beaten me... but I know Adrain is alive! My whole body burns with it! I will find him! And I will kill him!" Then a plothole opened behind her and she back through.

Kuroneko caught her fans as the flew back to her, stood up... and stopped. "My legs feel funny..." she muttered in surprise... and then crumpled to the ground.

Valerie's eyes widened, then squeezed shut in concentration as she assessed the damage in her own body, confirming that at least one rib was definitely broken. Don't move! she sent a firm command to the affected area, and felt the muscles in her side obligingly stiffen, protecting the damaged area from unnecessary movement. She knew she would pay for that later, with resulting muscle cramps being the least of her problems, but her own body could wait.

Hesitantly, then with more confidence as the pain in her side was only mild, Valerie made her way over to the wounded Counter Guardian. Kuroneko's breathing seemed normal—a bit fast, but that was to be expected after fighting someone like Silri. "Tell me everything you can feel," she said firmly, placing a hand at the cat-girl's temple.

"Something hurts at the small of my back," she began, "and... some kind of irregular, shooting numbness down the backs of my legs."

"Is there pain shooting down your legs too?"

"I... can't really tell."

Valerie nodded and closed her eyes. That kick Silri had delivered to Kuroneko's back might have cracked one or more of her vertebre. "You're going to feel a strong pulling sensation, but don't fight it. And whatever you do, don't move your spine at all."

Kuroneko started to nod, then stopped and said "Yes" instead.

The healer settled into a light trance, casting her awareness at her patient's body like a fishing line. As Valerie's physical body ran a hand over the cat-girl's torso, her mind trailed down her spine, searching for something out of place.

There! Two vertebre in the lumbaric section were indeed cracked, one of which had a chunk almost broken off and pressing against the spinal cord. Gently, ever-so-slowly, she formed her hands into two C-shapes right over the area, imaginging herself pressing the bone pieces back together. Inside Kuroneko's body, Valerie's power mimicked the position of her hands and caused the bones to move. The Counter Guardian grimaced as she felt something griding, the vibrations carrying all the way to the base of her skull, but the numbness subsided.

Valerie let out a slow breath and began the much less delicate work of prompting the bones to begin their natural healing process. Kuroneko's spine was safe for now, though she did a rudimentary check of the primary nerve connections to make sure... and frowned. She was having a difficult time establishing enough of a... Of course!

The healer nearly smacked herself. She was still wearing her obsidian, which kept her from fully connecting with her patient. Impatiently, she tore it from it's string around her neck, and her mind sailed up through the cat-girl's spinal cord effortlessly, taking note of all the necessary connections. And when she reached the brain...

"Ahh!" The healer gasped as memories that were not her own poured through her open shields like a torrential rain.

-...walking down a darkened hallway in the Library and watching as a door appeared on the wall in front of her, looking to be made out of white ivory unlike the wooden doors around her and with a silver handle. It seemed to be calling to her and she reached out and grasped the handle...-

-...a large white room, almost blindingly so, but offset by the gilded golden runes inscribed in circular patterens around the room's center, each one several feet in size. And in the center of the room was a tall crystalline cylinder with five smaller crystals arrayed around it...-

-...her hand reaching up and wiping a circle clear on the crsytal cylinder and her gasp and stagger of suprise at the face she saw...-

-...hurriedly flipping the pages of a book and tossing it onto the floor with all the other discarded ones, grabbing yet another off the Librarian's private shelves. Paging through it and stoping as the words catch her eye. "Resseruction of immortal beings is possible through reunion of body and soul..."-

-...staring at the rippling water in the rune-encrusted crystal basin, the diamond pendant hovering too-still just above it's surface. "His soul... isn't in heaven? Or hell? Then... is it still here on this plane...? But where... where can it be...?"-

Valerie wrenched herself from Kuroneko's mind with a cry, physically stumbling away from the Counter Guardian. For a moment she was utterly speechless.

The cat-girl refused to meet her eyes. "You weren't supposed to see that..."

"Why not?" Val nearly shrieked in a strained whisper-shout. "How long have you known that Adrian's alive?"

"Adrian is dead, Valerie."

"He was right there, I saw him! Inside the crystal pillar!"

"Valerie." Something about the Counter Guardian's voice made Valerie stop. She realized she was shaking. "I found his body," Kuroneko said firmly. "That doesn't mean he's alive."

"It's a start!" the healer snapped back. "Where is he? Take me to him!"

Kuroneko looked her over and raised an eyebrow. "Not in the condition you're in."

Valerie looked down, and realized that hand covering her side was covered in blood. The broken rib had popped out through her skin. "Oh my..."

The empath's knees suddenly buckled, and Kuroneko caught her easily in one arm. "Let's get you fixed up," she said softly, "and then we'll talk."

"You're damn right we will..." Valerie muttered as she felt the cat-girl pull her portal gun from her belt. As she saw the plothole open up, she started to protest that she could walk on her own, but thought better of it. Sleep was starting to sound very, very nice.


"Not a soul, Adrian, the soul. The soul is the one thing that's everywhere and connects everything."

"Only if you follow the idea that it's outside the body as opposed to inside, a theory that's vague at—ow!"

Valerie gave her kitty-eared patient a look as she momentarily halted her bandaging. "Stop complaining, Mister Tough-As-Nails Badass Librarian. You don't like my nursing, you can work harder to not get yourself killed on every mission."

Adrian rolled his eyes, but it was a token gesture at best. "I'm just saying that you can't completely re-write all the known laws of physics based on one single idea."

The empath smiled as she taped the gauze in place. "A leap of faith is how great discoveries are made, Emuishere. Every good scientist knows that the only way to get anywhere is to admit that nothing is for certain—that there's always something we might be wrong about, something we don't know. How's that feel?"

The Librarian flexed his injured arm, stretching it in different ways to test its mobility. He smiled. "Like new, mi'hala. Thanks."

Valerie smiled back. "Anytime."


Valerie opened her eyes slowly, wondering vaguely why the ceiling above her was white instead of lilac, like she had painted her quarters in the Library. Then she remembered that, due to her injuries in the Heroes fandom, Kuroneko had probably brought her to the Library's hospital wing instead of her room. And then she would take her to Adrian.


Oh. Right. I guess I should wake up then.

She opened her eyes once more, this time adding a deep breath and a stretch in order to wake herself up. That is, she tried, until a spasm of pain in her side brought her fully back to wakeful cognition. She bit back a cry and attempted to look around for her glasses.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you that a responsible healer always heals herself first?"

Valerie's searching fingers finally contacted the arm of her glasses, but she didn't really need them, as she'd recognize that voice anywhere. Placing the lenses on her nose, she lifted her head to see Kuroneko sitting on the edge of the bed next to her's. "Not that it wasn't an impressive healing, of course," the cat-girl continued. "Spinal damage and nerve endings are tricky enough as it is, without having to tune out your own injuries."

The empath rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and tested the range of movement her torso had under the tight bandages she had just discovered were there. "There was nothing wrong with your nervous system, I just shoved the bone fragments back in place. And don't try to distract me; you're going to—"

"Take you to Adrian, I know," Kuroneko interrupted. "Not one for small talk, I see. And I will. But only if you keep your mouth shut about it. And not until you've healed up at least a little. It's a fairly long walk to where we're going."

Valerie's eyes widened. "You mean he's somewhere in the Library?"

Kuroneko glared at her. "When. You're. Healed."

The empath rolled her eyes, though it was a token gesture at best. Instead of retorting though, she examined the bandages around her torso—she'd recognize Miri's handiwork anywhere, and made a mental note to thank her—and mentally assessed how quickly her ribs were healing. She suppressed a grin; the bones were perfectly aligned and healing fast. By now they probably knew better than to try and heal crookedly.

A glance at the bed across from her told Valerie that Kuroneko wasn't going anywhere. She's probably being kept for observation, she thought. Until that vertebre heals completely, she needs some enforced relaxation. "So how did you find me?" Valerie asked, mostly for lack of anything better to do. "In the Heroes fandom, I mean."

The cat-girl yawned and fell back against her pillows, tail swishing idly. "Didn't I mention? There was some kind of pulse generator planted in the fandom. I grabbed it on our way out so your techies could have a look at it, but apparently it generates concentrated low-level Suergy, indistinguishable from the real thing."

"If it's indistinguishable, how did you spot it?" Valerie asked. "Counter Guardians don't hunt Sues."

Kuroneko chuckled. "I just said the energy generated is indistinguishable from Suergy, but the way it's generated is quite different if you know what you're looking for. For one thing, it's completely continuous—"

"—while real Suergy fluctuates with the Sue's emotions," the empath finished, grinning.

"Hehe. You're sharp for a kid."

"When I want to be."

"Clearly." Kuroneko flashed Valerie a toothy—or fangy, Valerie realized—grin. "Because if you had been this sharp for the mission instead of just wanting to get it over with and get back to your monitor, you probably would have remembered that Princess Angelina Contessa Louisa Francesca Banana Fanna Bo Besca the Third is actually the canon name of a character in the old cartoon Animaniacs." She smirked. "The whole thing was set up specifically to lure in the gullible and easily distracted... and it looks like you qualify, healer-girl."

Valerie flushed angrily, but there was really nothing she could say.


"You weren't kidding when you said it was a long way..."

"Do I look like a kidder to you?"

"I shall wisely refrain from answering that."

Kuroneko was leading Valerie through a winding maze of some of the dustiest shelves either of them had ever seen. The tomes held there had long since been forgotten by the rest of the world, though they remained in preservation here in the Library Arcanium. In fact, upon closer examination, everything there looked to be in stasis—no dust moved in the wake of their passing, and they left no footprints on the dusty floorboards.

"It'd be impossible to find this place once, let alone twice," Valerie muttered. "How on earth did you find it by accident?"

One corner of Kuroneko's mouth twitched upward in a half-smirk. "I followed my nose."

They continued walking through the maze, making twists and turns that even Valerie's sharp memory couldn't hope to recall. Each hallway seemed to get darker as they went on, and though Valerie had the foresight to bring a flashlight, the cat-girl refused to let her turn it on, claiming that it made scenting the correct way more difficult.

Finally, they arrived at a large set of double-doors at the end of a pitch-black hallway. Valerie couldn't see a thing, but somehow it didn't bother her. She felt completely calm and at ease in this darkness, as though she could sit and sleep in its embrace for as long as she needed to.

"What is the feeling...?" she asked in a whisper. It seemed like the sort of place where you should whisper. "It's not urgent, it's the opposite of urgent... but still powerful..." She looked up, suddenly realizing. "It's—"

"It's the same feeling you've been getting all along," Kuroneko confirmed. "The feeling of being watched, of something waiting for you to respond—it's this." She waved her arms. "The whole purpose of this entire area is to preserve what is gone until someone comes along to bring it back." Kuroneko's reflective eyes, all that Valerie could see of her in this darkness, locked onto her own. "Which is why I decided to bring you here today: Silri was right about one thing."

"What do you mean?"

"She was programmed to hunt down Adrian, but she didn't have the ability to do it herself, so she set a trap to lure someone who could help her. You heard her: you were one of her top choices in that regard. And if you've been sensing the aura of this place ever since Adrian died, then she was right to target you. She knew, that by leading her to the spot or through torturing you, she would get to Adrian."

"I still don't understand," Valerie said.

Kuroneko rolled her eyes. "Yes you do, Valerie. You're smarter than that, however naive you are. You just don't want to admit it." Before Valerie could say anything else, the Counter Guardian cut her off. "Here—let me show you." She reached for what Valerie presumed was the handle of the door and looked at the healer sidelong. "You might want to shield your eyes."

Valerie could suddenly see the door as though it were outlined in blinding white fire, and turned her head. The hallway was suddenly illuminated as brightly as high noon—brighter, it seemed after the blanket of darkness they had just come from. When she felt she could look at the lightened hallway without pain, the healer cautiously turned around to see the source of the light.

What she saw was astounding, terrifying, and beautiful all at once.

The room was circular and quite large. The blinding illumination had no discernable source, but seemed to emanate from every surface, banishing every shadow. Gold filigree was inlaid to the walls and ceiling in patterns and languages from every era in history, adding their sparkle to the overall brilliance of the room. In the center of the room was an odd array of crystals, also with gold decorating their bases. Five of them that were about a foot in diameter and came up to waist-height surrounded a much larger crystal in perfectly even spacing. The larger crystal was jagged and translucent as opposed to smooth and clear like the others. It was also easily five feet wide and nearly touched the domed ceiling at its point.

Though she knew what was coming beforehand, Valerie still froze in place when she approached the largest crystal and peered inside.

Though the outside of the crystal was frosted and translucent, the inside looked like nothing at all, and it looked as if Adrian were merely resting upright on a cushion of light. There were no wounds or even visible scars adorning his body, and he wore a trenchcoat Valerie had never seen before—purest white with gold lining, just like the room—that gave him an almost angelic glow.

He was not breathing. His ears and tail were perfectly still, embedded in the airless crystal with the rest of him. His eyes were closed.

Valerie tore herself away from the image, suddenly realizing that there were tears running down her cheeks. It was a moment before she realized that Kuroneko was talking.

"...directly under the Pillar of Knowledge, which is probably how he wound up here. When the Library rebuilt itself after the fight, it probably moved Adrian's body here to protect it while it healed."

"But he's dead," Valerie whispered. There was no possible doubt of it, not anymore. "How can he heal if he's dead?"

Kuroneko paused. "That's what I've been trying to find out," she said quietly. "Adrian was an immortal, but it's possible to kill him if he got injured enough.. He may have an accelerated healing rate, but none of that applies after death. And yet, here he is."

The empath glanced back at the stasis crystal, then looked away again. Beautiful as it was, she had no desire to look upon the preserved body of her close friend. "Then how did this happen?" she asked shakily. "No one could find even a trace of him when we got back to the Library."

"I think it's because of his status as Librarian. Adrian wasn't like the other Counter Guardians—the Librarian is responsible for all of the infiinte knowledge in the Library Arcanium and are bonded to the Library in ways I don't think anyone else could understand." Kuroneko flicked her eyes back to the crystal that held Adrian's body. "The Library rebuilt itself after that battle with Willowe... and no matter how small, pieces of Adrian's body must have remained in it. So when the Libray started restoring things, I think it knew Adrian was still there, and moved him to this room to hide him."

"But it's still only his body, Kuroneko. There's no life whatsoever inside that pillar."

"I know..." the Counter Guardian said quietly. "That's why I need your help. You and I are going to find Adrian's soul and reunite it with his body."

Valerie's eyes widened. "His... soul?"

Kuroneko simply nodded, staring intently at the crystal pillar.

The healer furrowed her brow in thought. The actual nature of a soul differed from universe to universe, and that wasn't even to say that the inhabitants of those universes were even correct in their assumptions; the people of her own world certainly weren't. Of course, Adrian had never professed a belief in any of the thousands of versions of heaven or hell, so that was moot point as well.

"How?" she finally asked.

The Counter Guardian smiled softly. I was right about her... "I just told you: you have the ability to find him."

Valerie rolled her eyes. "People call me an angel, but that doesn't mean literally. I can't just stroll up to whatever afterlife he's thought up for himself and ask for his soul back."

Kuroneko smirked again, like she knew a secret. "Counter Guardians can traverse places like that, but as it happens, it's not necessary—Adrian's soul is still on this plane of existence."

There was a long pause as the empath processed that one. "...What?"

"All Counter Guardians have a ultimate move," Kuroneko explained, folding her arms across her chest. "It may be a Reality Marble or something else, but this ultimate move always requires use of their soul in some manner. A Reality Marble, like the one Adrian had, means the soul literally becomes the Reality surrounding the Marble's occupants." She looked at Valerie sidelong. "Meaning he was technically 'soulless' while fighting in it."

"So if his body was destroyed before the Reality Marble..." Valerie mused aloud, "then his soul would have no place to reattach to." She looked up. "But if that's the case, wouldn't he have just died completely?"

Kuroneko hook her head. "No, because even without a soul, the body is still continues to live and breathe, even if most people are just puppets in that state. So Adrian's body died, but if his soul was detached at the time, then it's probably still wandering this plane of existence. Thus, it would be possible to find it and put it back where it belongs."

"But how do we even know if that's really what happened?" Valerie asked.

"It's the only explanation I can think of for the Library to have protected his body like this," the cat-girl replied.

There was another long silence. "And if we're wrong..." Valerie began hesitantly.

Kuroneko sighed. "And you've finally stumbled upon my reason for keeping all of this quiet," she said softly. She fixed the healer with a look. "Adrian's death sent the Society and the entire Library reeling. We can't give them false hope, Valerie. We can't."

"And Tash," the empath whispered. "She's only just recovered from his loss. Losing him again would destroy her."

The Counter Guardian nodded. "So are you in?"

Valerie took a deep breath and let it out slowly. This right here was exactly what she had been sensing, what she had been searching for all along. Kuroneko was right—her abilities as an empath aside, if she had been sensing Adrian's soulless body from so far away, then it was almost definite that she would be able to find his soul... if his soul could be found.

False hope, huh? she thought to herself. Probably worse for me, because not only do I now know, but I'm the one actually looking for it.

Deep in her mind, she felt a presence uncurl itself to offer her reassurance and support. Ari, of course, had been listening all along... but then again, Ari believed in every venture that Valerie put her mind to, and supported her no matter what. What Ari was to Valerie, Adrian was to the Society—the sword-arm and protector of something he truly believed in, and quickly came to love. And she knew, from the very beginning, that if there was any possible way to fix this, any possible way she could help... she would do it without a moment's hesitation.

She looked at the Counter Guardian. "I'm in."


Hours later, Valerie stood in front of the monitor that was running the search pattern she had programmed into it so many months ago. It was currently scanning the Final Fantasy fandoms in sequence, and then it beeped, the words 'NO MATCHES FOUND' flashing across the screen like they had hundreds, if not thousands of times before. Before she realized what she was doing, she let out a sigh and started to reset the search...

Then she caught herself and chuckled, because now she knew better: the reason she had never been able to find Adrian, no matter where she searched, was because he was not in a fandom at all. All along he had been right under her nose, in a part of the library that defied all known search engines and mapping tools. She could have searched her entire life and never found him.

But now I am going to find him, she thought to herself. And she believed it—deep in her core, she knew it with a hundred-precent certainty. Even if I don't know how or when or where, it will happen.

With a small smile, the healer reached to the controls to shut down the search engine... only to jerk her hand back as it beeped again suddenly—a different beep than the so many she had heard before. Her hazel eyes rose up to the screen and widened at the words she saw there...



I am selfish. I am wrong. 
I am right! I swear I'm right! 
I swear, I knew it all along. 
And I am flawed, 
But I am cleaning up so well. 
I am seeing in me now 
The things you swore you saw yourself."
—Dasnboard Confessional, "Vindicated"