Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Insert Mutilated Bedsheet Dresses Here (part 1 of 5)

The slave pulled open the heavy wood panelled door, allowing the last of the day's light to spill into the large airy room. The snow white marble pillars framed the gleaming atrium pool, pot plants adding more splashes of colour to the magnificent scene.

As the slave melted back into the shadows, where he was expected to be, two figures entered the house. A tall man in richly embroidered robes of dark red entered, an air of fun loving arrogance radiating from him as he moved. His companion was equally tall, dressed in the clothes of a military man, and was undeniably handsome, however something about him seemed unaware of this effect, and the power that it contained.
A soft lilting voice filled the room.

"Tribune Antony," the words were breathless with excitement. "What an honour."

Across the mosaic floor two couches were positioned at the far end of the atrium, occasionally obscured by fluttering silk curtains. Upon one lay a man identical to Antony's companion, however this man had no hint of self uncertainty. Instead his face was arrogant and possessed a hint of cruelty which was barely concealed beneath his good looks. A slave knelt at his side, a platter of fruit in hand.

A woman rose from the second couch, her white dress flowing around her ankles. The material was near sheer, and her stola was a deep purple, pinned at one shoulder. She carried her five foot four frame gracefully, but with the authority of someone taller. Her dark brown hair was half pulled back and hidden under a veil, and sky blue eyes seemed to darken with undisguised desire, at the sight of one of the most powerful men of the empire.

As they crossed the atrium, Antony stopped dead in his tracks and almost tumbled into the pool. A woman wearing purple? And so much of it? Such a thing was unheard of in the empire. But then the woman's beauty seemed to override this and he dismissed the thought from his mind, filling it instead with thoughts of that curvaceous womanly form barely concealed beneath that flimsy white linen.

"Something wrong my friend?" Remus, Antony reflected briefly, was a good man. Not very cunning, but had an excellent way of gathering information. No one knew where he had come from, but he had saved an entire century of Roman soldiers from marauding Gauls.

Remembering that he was in the house of a good friend, Antony screwed a slightly more appropriate face on, swept up to the lady, and graciously kissed her hand.

"Remus, you never informed me that such a Goddess dwelt in your house!"

Remus approached, clapping Antony on one shoulder as he did. He seemed reluctant to introduce the beauty standing before his superior, so instead he motioned to his twin, who was rising from the other couch, and began introductions in a formal manner.

"Antony, may I present my brother Romulus."

Antony politely inclined his head to the twin, who echoed his gesture in return.

"Tribune Antony."

Romulus' expression was blank as he spoke. The slave that had held the platter for the twin stumbled slightly as they moved away, jostling Romulus in the side. The man slapped the slave, sending the food tumbling to the floor. This was normal practise in Rome, and nobody batted an eyelid.

"And this," Remus's voice was heavy with reluctance as he spoke. "Is my late father's wife, Merle."

Merle shot him a sardonic look as she heard his tone, but Antony missed it, instead replaying the exotic name in his head.

"Oh my beautiful black bird," his usual charming smile was turned on to maximum effect. "Such a pleasure. Such an honour."

Merle smiled in a coy manner. "I am most touched." But her tone indicated that she wished for more than touch, which was music to Antony's ears. She would be his – of this the Tribune was certain.


Alarms were blaring in the Library Arcanium. Not unusual. It happened most days since a group of students had decided that policing the multiverse against powerful and God-like beings was a good idea.

The agents of the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society scrambled to the Briefing Room, some more elegantly than others. Alice and several of the American agents were still in their pyjamas, rubbing sleep from their eyes, and not noticing or caring that their hair was less than presentable. Rhia carried a heavy frying-pan, still containing a rather sad looking solitary pancake.

There were several screams as the wall crashed inwards, and Chevilla's bonnet protruded into the room, almost flattening Cristoph and Dave. A frazzled looking Jared at the wheel, began profusely apologising.

"Sorry!" he yelled. "Forgot to put the parking brake on! I had to chase her down the corridor!"

No one wanted to know how Chevilla had crashed through the wall when Jared's lab was on the basement level. Despite almost being turned into a human pancake, Dave adopted a wise expression, and began stroking his beard.

"Ah... Confucius says: 'Man who run in front of car get tired. Man who run behind car get exhausted'."

On the other side of the room, Shirley was restrained by Ben.

Harriet, Tash and Michael legged it into the room, all looking flustered, followed closely by Phoenixia, who snapped her fingers and silenced the deafening alarms.

"Everyone present?" Michael asked, tallying the heads in the room. As soon as he asked this, Louise made her unfashionably late entrance, pyjama-clad like many of the agents present.

"Dumpling! You're alive!" Alice exclaimed, her glee undisguised.

"Shut up Alice," Louise muttered, stealing the last pancake from Rhia's frying pan. With her mouth already full, she asked, "May I?"

"Don't eat too much Louise," Harriet advised. "This'll be a mission for you."

The agent blinked slowly, before turning on her heel and heading for the door. "I'm going back to bed."

"It's Merle," Harriet added.

"I'm definitely going back to bed." Louise reached for the handle, only to be blocked by Tash. The leader had flashstepped across the room and was barring the door with one arm.

Harriet stepped backwards and Phoenixia loaded the information to the view screen. Several people recognised the fandom instantly.

"That's Rome, isn't it?" Tash asked in dread, as she remembered all the reasons that this fandom was Black Listed. The series was a modern, violent and sex-filled take on the events in ancient Rome during the times of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

"That was a good series," Alice stated with a naughty grin, bouncing in her seat as she always did when she got excited over anything. "Full of sex and giant cocks." She paused to wink. "And I don't mean the bird."

"Uhh... cock-a-doodle-do?" Dave quipped weakly, letting out a pain filled yelp as Shirley raked her claws down his spine. "What? Someone had to say it..."

"Merle isn't alone," Harriet continued. "She's got two companions. Both male."

Only Tash was close enough to see Louise's face drop.

"Richard?" Alice squeaked in genuine fear. The Society founder nodded.

"And some other bloke we don't know," she continued, before turning her head expectantly to Louise for an explanation.

"Another friend of yours?"

Louise sent her a near death glare, but it came off as too sleepy to be effective.

"According to the data received," Phoenixia interjected. "The family are posing as Patricians, with Merle as widowed head of the house. Richard and the other guy are posing as twin sons from the Patrician's first marriage."

"Robert," Louise stated in a strong voice. "He's Richard's twin. Not half as much of a Stu, but still an annoying little..."

As the insults were issued, Tash steered the agent back to her seat, before standing beside Harriet and addressing the room.

"This is a Black Listed fandom. Death, violence, sex of all description happen frequently here, and there is no pixie dust to bring you back if you die." She drew herself up tall. "Because of this, I'm going to the fandom. But since there are three of them, I'm going to ask for a team. You must be able to blend in, and ultimately, you must be able to look after yourself."

She turned to her little brother. "I want you by my side for this one, Michael. I need strong fighters. You with me?"

Michael grinned. "Always Aneki."

"Good," Tash nodded. "Louise, since its Merle, you're coming too."

Louise began eyeing the door again.

"Oh come on!" Harriet sighed. "You know her best, so you should go. In fact, as leader, I order you to go!"
The rookie gave the founder a look that clearly told her that she was not the boss of her, before getting up and heading for the exit once more.

"Emma Louise, if you don't get back to your seat in five seconds I'm telling everyone here the truth about you and Merle," Tash folded her arms across her chest, and Louise halted in her tracks. The entire room was watching her, half of them quietly wishing that Louise would continue her walk so they could hear what was obviously a juicy secret.

"You bitch," Louise whispered bitterly, plodding back to her seat.

"Woof," Tash replied dryly. Alice poked her in the side for stealing her line, before she spoke up.

"If Louise is going, I am too," she declared. There was a general rolling of eyes from the group – where Louise went, Alice was never too far behind, and this was becoming a regular theme for their missions.

"Yes, gods forbid you two be separated," Tash voiced what everyone was thinking. "No wonder the Job Centre think you're a couple."

A few people giggled, but Harriet had spotted a potential issue that she wanted cleared up. Sending WARGS together on missions almost always ended in problems.

"Hold on," she raised her hands (cricket bat still clasped in one). "This isn't going to be a repeat of your trip to the Cthulhu mythos last week, is it?"

Tash blinked innocently at her friend. "What was wrong with that mission?"

Harriet rolled her eyes and poked her cricket bat at Tash's chest. "Most people run in terror when they see Cthulhu! Not stand there, clasp their hands together and go "awwww!"."

"But he was so cute!" Alice giggled. "I knew under all those tentacles and slimy green scales he just wanted a glomp!"

"Moving swiftly on," Dave encouraged, trying to banish thoughts of that rather disastrous mission.

"Yes," Harriet shook her head. "Do we need more people? A big team will attract attention."

"On the contrary," Alice interrupted. "A big team will help us blend in better. If we're going to get to Merle, we need to be upper class Romans, like her. And upper class Romans will have several family members, plus loads of slaves."

Seeing everyone's slightly stunned faces, she smirked.

"That's why you need me," she continued. "I have enough information on Roman culture to sink a trireme."

"A what?" Harriet asked blankly.


"Fine, you're in," Tash said, before seeing a hand wave next to Michael. "Clairey?"

"I'm coming too!" Claire put her hand down firmly into her lap. "If you need a big group, I'm in."

"You sure you can handle it?" Harriet cautioned, but Alice interjected again.

"Actually, it's a good idea. They can pose as a married couple. Solidify our cover story."

Her hand was already scribbling furiously in her notebook, and everyone just knew she was plotting an overly-intricate backstory for the whole party. Harriet pouted.

"Well if you're all coming, I'm coming too. I don't want to miss the party."

"This isn't a holiday," Tash reminded her sternly. Harriet waved a hand dismissively.

"Fine, then I'm coming to make sure you don't all get killed. Point is, I'm still coming!"

"Me too!" Emily piped up suddenly. "I want to come too!"

"NO!" all the adults shouted in unison. It was so uncanny that it took Emily a few seconds to register that she was being rejected.

"Why not?"

Horror was written onto every face in the briefing room, and it was clear that several agents were trying very hard not to think about what could happen to Emily if she went along.

"You're eleven years old," Harriet protested, waving her cricket bat around so hard that she almost took Phoenixia's head off. "It's way too dangerous!"

"I've been in danger before!" Emily argued, her stubborn streak beginning to appear. "I want to help!"

"You'll be no help to us against a Sue of Merle's power," Louise said coldly. Normally she might have been nicer, but she was way too agitated to care at this moment.

"I'm tired of being left behind!" Emily's voice was angry now – angry at Louise for being so cruel (if honest), at Harriet for not allowing it, and everyone else for not sticking up for her. "I want to help – do something other than sit in the Library and poke the gadgets!"

But Harriet's resolve was not wavering. She drew herself up to her full height, and spoke in a tone which left no room for the argument to continue.

"If it were any other fandom, I would consider it. But not today. Not this fandom. And not these Sues – no Emily!" she added as her charge opened her mouth to argue back. "I forbid you from going. End of story."

"You can't forbid me!" Emily spluttered.

"I just did!"

The briefing room was silent and awkward. Emily sank back into her chair and began to sulk in the petulant manner that only an eleven year old girl could manage. Eventually, Alice gave a pitying grimace, and broke the silence as if nothing had happened.

"We do need more people. For the cover I'm planning, nine or ten would be ideal. And the more men the better."

Tense whispering flew around the table, and Harriet began to scan the men in the room, mentally weighing up the pros and cons of sending them to the fandom.

"Marcus?" she wondered. "Nah. He'll refuse to take off his shades or bandages. That won't work for our disguise. Willie?" she flinched as his eyes met hers, and moved quickly on. "No way! The fandom is violent enough without adding him to the mix! Tyler?" she watched the short agent nibble the arm of his chair in a peckish manner. " Dave says, moving swiftly on... wait a second..."

"Dave?" she asked. "You're an archaeologist. You'd be good for this fandom."

The tone of Dave's voice however, gave his true answer before his words.

"Apologies, madam leader, but I've got to be back in Real Life in half an hour. Job interview."

Sighing in defeat, Harriet turned to the next man.

"Ben? Please say yes," she implored. "We need more men..." Something occurred to her and she turned anxiously to Shirley. "He is still a man, right? You haven't ripped that off yet?"

Ben's cheeks when an interesting shade of crimson, while Shirley looked thoughtful, probably pondering just why she hadn't thought of that yet. All the men at the table winced, and inched their chairs away from the fearsome Cliché stick, while the girls just giggled... well, all but one.

"For your information Harriet," Lily placed her hands on her hips. "If Shirley had ripped that off, I would have snapped her in two – lengthways!"

Shirley's contemplative look vanished, replaced instantly by a scornful look. "I'd like to see you try!"

"Really?" Lily rounded on her. "You want me to prove it right now?"

"Wahoo! Cat fight!" Willie chanted gleefully. Harriet bopped him over the head with her cricket bat, while Lily and Shirley continued to glare at each other, lightning leaping between each of their eyes.

"Enough!" Harriet huffed. "Ben, you're coming. I have made an executive decision! And you must leave Shirley behind!"

"What?" the Cliché stick demanded, in disbelief. Ben's face, however, was lighting up.

"Wait, I get to be in a story where my muse doesn't hog the spotlight?"

"Pretty much," Tash confirmed, as the Fourth Wall sent several people tumbling off their seats.

"Sweet!" Ben cheered. "I get some screentime!"

"I'll give you screentime..." Shirley muttered mutinously.

"And my next executive decision!" Harriet's pointing finger landed on a certain ninja. "You!"

Cristoph blinked. "Me, Lady Harriet? Are you sure that's a wise idea?"

"All my ideas are wise!" Harriet puffed her ample chest out proudly. "And besides, we need more men! You are a man, and you can fight well."

The praise did little to soothe Cristoph's anxiety, but a new voice broke in. "I'm coming too then."

The leaders exchanged worried looks. Rhia had not been out of hospital long, and this was not exactly going to be an easy mission to get her back into the swing of things.

"You sure?" Michael asked. "You were a little shaken from..." He didn't need to finish. Everyone could fill in the sentence with little difficulty.

Rhia nodded once, her eyes nearly as steely as Cristoph's. "Yeah. I'm ready."

And there was no arguing with that.

"And last but not least!" Harriet whirled to point at someone else...unfortunately she was a bit too close, and her finger landed squarely on her target's left breast.

"Really Harriet, buy me a drink first..." Phoenixia winked.

"In time dear," the founder smiled. "But for now, you're coming to Rome too."

"Wait wait wait!" Tash held up her hands. "You've effectively stripped the Society of most of its senior members! Who's going to run this place while we're running about Rome?"

"I nominate Jess!" Rhia grinned.

"Seconded!" Aster said.

"Why are you nominating her?" Tash enquired of the fae. Aside from the fact that Jess was neither a leader or senior agent, to her knowledge, Aster had never expressed any particular feelings towards Jess. Aster shrugged.

"I like her. She's one of the few women here that doesn't hit on me."

Mentally shaking her head, and running over her list of the Society's most senior members, Tash turned to Valerie.

"You're in charge until we get back, Val-chan."

If Valerie had wanted to voice an objection, she didn't get a chance to, as Harriet clapped her hands gleefully and pointed dramatically to the door.

"Well now that's sorted, I hereby declare this meeting adjourned! Show me the bedsheets!"


The table gave a thunderous creak as Alice dumped six inches worth of research in front of the team, the sound echoing ominously around the wardrobe. A number of agents jumped in surprise.

"Right," Alice declared. "I've been doing a little research..."

"...a little?" Rhia's voice reflected the disbelief on the faces of every agent present. Alice straightened up from the table, and rested one hand on the Automatic Tailorisation machine.

"Trust me, this is a little. Now," she clapped her hands together. "I've got an idea for how we can manoeuvre ourselves around Rome, without getting caught out – because if we get caught out, it will not be pretty."

She spread her arms wide and gestured to the wardrobe around them, the various costumes in all colours and sizes lined up as though in anticipation of their antics. "And that is why we have gathered here. Because the first step of any successful undercover mission is your costume." She clapped her hands together once more, the noise bouncing off the outfits that covered the room. "Now everyone – strip to your undies!"

She sounded entirely too cheerful about that command. Harriet, Tash and Phoenixia immediately obeyed, pulling off their clothes and piling them messily on the floor. After a second's hesitation, Michael and Claire followed suit.

"...what?" Michael asked, seeing Ben, Rhia and Cristoph looking politely at the ceiling. "There's nothing here you didn't see the day Phoenixia got drunk and stole everyone's pants."

"Do forgive us, Lord Michael," Cristoph stated, his eyes fixed on a particularly interesting ceiling panel – it had a suspicious looking stain on it. "But we are a little more modest than you apparently."

As Michael rolled his eyes, and wondered if he was losing his modesty after being surrounded by so many British people, Louise reappeared, dragging an oriental style screen behind her. Without a word, but with a parting glare to the leaders, she retreated behind it, and began to strip.

"Jeeze," Harriet muttered. "Who rolled her out of the wrong side of bed?"

"You did," Michael reminded her, stepping forward to the machine. "Me first? I'm getting cold here."

"Sure," Alice was trying very hard not to laugh at Michael's Horus the Black Flame Dragon boxers. "Patricians first, then the female patricians, then the slaves."

"That's your grand plan?" Harriet asked. "That we go as a family unit?"

Alice patted her stack of research happily. "That's the plan! If we want to get to Merle, we've got to be noblemen...or women," she amended. "And noblemen never live alone. They've always got family and slaves. We can get to Merle publicly, and the slaves also mean we can get behind the scenes too. I've done all my research on how Roman families are organised, and the easiest cover story we can get away with."

Everyone took a moment to process this. Behind the screen, Louise rolled her eyes. Harriet and Phoenixia exchanged looks, wondering if it was about time Alice got herself a boyfriend. Tash finally summed up what everyone was thinking, quite simply.

"You have way too much free time on your hands, Alice," she told her friend.

"That's what the Job Centre keep saying," Louise chimed in, a pair of socks taking flight behind the screen. Alice pulled a face.

"The Job Centre can burn in hell for all I care," she declared, pointing Michael, and then to the Automatic Tailorisation machine. "Now, march Mister Patrician! And you three, stop standing there like statues and strip already!"

That stain on the ceiling tile was getting more and more interesting the longer Cristoph looked at it – although the cramp in his neck was certainly not interesting at all. Ben finally yielded and slowly peeled his shirt off. Rhia had ceased looking at the ceiling, but a thick red blush coated her face instead.

Alice peeled off a wad of paper from the towering stack of research, and began inputting the data to the machine. Michael cautiously entered, remembering all too well the last time he had been in here, and the large Tudor dress he had been accidentally sewn into upside down...mind you, he had looked a lot better than poor Clairey...

Alice pulled a few dials and levers, before banging a fist on the closed door.

"Good luck mate!" she shouted.

"That doesn't boost my confidence, Alice!"

There were a few creaks and groans as the machine's arms got to work. The agents all eyed each other nervously, their anxiety not helped by Alice's smug little grin. Louise took advantage of everyone's distraction, to slip out from behind the screen and hide behind Tash and Harriet, where no one would see her. Rhia hastily skipped behind the screen and began to pull her clothes off.

Steam billowed from the automatic tailorisation machine, as the door opened again. The Chief Agent was now dressed in a dark teal coloured tunic and a dark red toga which wrapped around most of his body. Michael looked surprised, then highly pleased with the results.

"How do I look?"

"Handsome!" Claire giggled.

"I think that turned out pretty well!" Alice sounded incredibly happy at the outcome, doing a little crazy dance in her enthusiasm. Louise sighed.

"You look like laundry!" Tash cracked up in the corner. Ben, Harriet and Phoenixia snorted in amusement, while the sounds of Rhia creasing up behind the screen were clear.

"Hey!" Michael's expression could almost be called pouting. "I am not laundry!"

"Careful what you say, Tashy," Alice warned. "Michael is now our Patrician and head of the house!" She pulled a single sheet of paper out, which displayed a simple family tree. "Clairey shall be his wife."

Claire was not listening, moving instead to adjust Michael's toga to her liking. Too busy grinning, Michael allowed her to primp.

"Hati, you can be Michael's sister," Alice declared. "You look alike...ish...and I shall be Clairey's sister."

"And the rest of us?" Tash asked, a note of dread in her voice. She had already guessed the answer. Alice could almost feel the glares stinging her, and hid her face in its customary hiding place – down her shirt.

"You guy would be our slaves..." she muttered into her chest.

There was a slight uproar from the small, half naked group.

"How come you guys get to be Patricians?" Ben protested.

"Because we can act it better," Harriet said wisely, folding her arms. "Michael and Clairey are so in love, that they make the perfect head of the household. It would be odder for two of the household slaves to be a couple. And Alice is waaay too upper class to ever take orders from us... no offence," she added.

"None taken," Alice assured her. "Now, female Patricians next!"

"Yay!" Claire practically skipped to the machine, as Alice reappeared from her shirt and put the altered data to the machine.

She paused before hitting the red button. "Clairey! What colour would you like?"

"Purple!" the excited voice piped up from inside the machine.

"Can't do purple, hon," Alice informed her.

"Purple!" Claire giggled again.

"...purple... right..." said Alice, scratching her head and turning a few dials here and there, before hitting the big red button. The machine whirred into life, the arms sewing and threading fabric around an excited Claire. The doors slid open with another dramatic puff of steam. Louise coughed pointedly, and reached for her inhaler... only to remember that she had discarded her clothes on the other side of the room.

"Wow!" Claire twirled as she emerged from the smoke. She wore a lovely lavender tunic over which was wrapped a lighter toga-like garment in white and paler lavender, a gauzy mantle of the same pinned to her hair.

"Wow..." Michael echoed, blushing as he realised he had said that aloud. Ignoring everyone's snickers , he swept up to Claire and took her hands. "Marry me?"

His fiancée poked him in the side. "You already are! But of course you may." She kissed him quickly, and gave him a sweet smile.

"Pretty Clairey is pretty!" Tash giggled, glomping the two where they stood, and totally ruining their moment.

"Thanks Aneki... thanks a lot," Michael muttered, as behind them, Alice ordered Harriet into the machine.

"Colour Hati?" Alice asked.

"Purple!" Harriet shouted.

"No!" Alice retorted. "Purple is the colour of the Gods! Colour?"

"I'm your leader! I am God!"

"Not in Rome!" Alice snapped, getting impatient now. "Seriously. Purple was their ceremonial colour and the dye was worth twice its weight in silver. It's so wrong to go parading round the Forum in it! Colour?"

Harriet sighed, seeing Alice's point. "I don't know… something similar to what my supposed brother is wearing?"

A bang of the red button later, and Harriet emerged in an outfit that almost matched Claire's, except that it was yellow and dark teal, instead of lilac and white. She had no sooner appeared before she was pushed to one side by an excited Alice, who only just remembered to take her clothes off before the door closed behind her.

A puff of smoke later (through which Louise coughed harder), and Alice bounced out in a dress of pale blue, the green toga-like stola draped differently to Claire's and Harriet's to sit her larger frame.

"Whee!" Alice swept around, to the pile of research. "I am loving this linen..."

"Get to the point, Alice," even Phoenixia was getting tired of standing around in nothing but her bra and panties (it was no fun when no one was appreciating it!).

"Be silent, wench!" Alice ordered, before she calmed down. "Hokay. Sorry. Um. Right. The six of you are going to be pretty much just above the lowest of the low."

Louise sank further behind her human shields.

"However. There will be some difference," Alice assured them. "Three of you are going to be personal slaves – slightly higher up. You can talk to your masters and they may take your advice and opinions...keyword, may."

"And the other three?" Ben asked.

"General bodyguards, gophers..." Alice shrugged.

"Umm... Alice," Louise lifted a hand timidly from her hiding place, but her face was smug as she spotted a flaw in this plan. "Gopher slash bodyguard slaves were usually men, and last I checked, we have a high ratio of women to men."

"I am aware of that my dear," Alice assured her. "I think we will need to disguise a few of our women as men...not you Lou," she added, seeing Louise's glare. "I was thinking you could be personal slave to me and Harriet. And Ben," she turned to him. "You can be Michael's."

Ben looked relieved at this – he didn't think he'd be a very good bodyguard slave. Most of his fighting abilities involved nuking or coffeeing to death, not close combat. He couldn't help but notice that Cristoph was looking particularly annoyed that Ben got to be of a higher rank than he was.

"That just leaves Clairey..." Alice paused as Claire made the decision for her, glomping Tash around the waist and holding on tightly. "Okay... so you other three are our general slaves. Phoenixia, Rhia, sorry, but you'd better shrink those boobs."

Phoenixia gave a long suffering sigh and immediately shrunk her chest down to size, broadening her shoulders slightly, as well as adding muscle to her arms, and shrinking her hips. Peeking out from the top of the screen, Rhia just looked lost.

"Rhia-chan, don't worry," Tash hurried over to the screen. "I have a pill that will take care of it." She passed said pill over, and smiled encouragingly.

"...dare I ask how you got this?" Rhia enquired, swallowing regardless. Tash blushed crimson.

"Umm... well... Adrian and I used to use stuff like this to... well... make them grow..."

"Oooooh..." Rhia shrunk back down behind her screen, requiring no further explanation. "Heeey! I might just keep taking these! The bounce doesn't hurt at all!"

"You don't have to Rhia..." Cristoph seemed to realise what he had said a second after it had left his mouth, and his ears turned scarlet. Everyone else looked at him, some bemused, and some just shook their heads. One person though, had something else on her mind.

"Cristoph, why are you still dressed?" Alice demanded. "Take it off already!"

Cristoph glowered and crossed his arms. The pose screamed "make me".

"Cristoph," Alice got up from her spot beside the Tailorisation machine and approached him. "Sit down."

He huffed, but acquiesced.

"DOG PILE!" Alice roared, tackling the ninja to the floor and squishing him firmly. Phoenixia was quick to join in, followed closely by Harriet and Tash.

"Phoenixia!" Tash pouted. "You're not half as squishy anymore! That actually hurt!"

Rhia just watched from over the top of her screen. She wondered for a moment if she should join in...until she remembered that she was half dressed.

"Rhia-chan!" Tash called, as Michael and Claire joined the dog pile, Claire poking Tash in the sides and making her squeak in amusing ways. "You get to strip him!"

"Eep!" was all they heard from behind the screen.

"Please?" Alice begged. "I think he's getting a throwing knife out!"

"Okay! Hold on!" Rhia raced out from behind the screen, crouched down beside the pile of agents (some dressed, some not so much), and began feeling for Cristoph's clothes.

"Darling!" Harriet teased. "Buy me a drink first!"

"Sorry!" Rhia pulled her hand away, the ninja's shirt clutched in her hands. How she had managed that with everyone else crushing him, she had no idea. "Cristoph, I am so sorry!"

"No you're not!" he yelled accusingly. Rhia wisely did not respond, instead reaching back in to find his pants. She knew she had them when Cristoph seemed to freeze.

"I think she got 'em!" Tash cheered, as Phoenixia rolled Alice off slightly so that she could see.

"...yeah, she got 'em!" the ex-hologram grinned naughtily.

The dog pile slowly let up, and by the time everyone was on their feet again, Rhia was found clutching Cristoph's shirt to her chest and sniffing it. "Can I keep this for a while? It smells good."

At this point Cristoph had gotten to his feet and was blushing. Wisely, no one answered Rhia's question. Alice took advantage of the distraction, to shove the ninja into the machine.

"Aww..." Phoenixia pouted. "I was enjoying the view."

The doors slid open, and Cristoph stumbled out, still pink-cheeked as he felt he was wearing a dress: he wore a plain dark blue knee-length tunic, sandals, a belt and little else.

It was at this stage that Tash wondered if Rhia had ever seen so much of Cristoph on display before – usually the ninja was covered from head to foot in clothing. From the wide eyed look, she suspected not.

"Perfect!" Alice cheered. "Nixie, you next!"

It took Phoenixia a couple of seconds to realise that Alice was addressing her. "Wait... Nixie?"

Alice nodded. "Yeah, you're playing a guy, so you're wearing this outfit too."


"Why does she keep saying that?" Tash asked.

"...why Nixie?" Phoenixia finally regained enough control of her thoughts to ask. Alice just shrugged.

"Why not? Er, you don't mind do you? Now get in the machine please!"

Wondering just what drugs the epileptic was in fact on, Phoenixia hurried to the machine, emerging a moment later in an outfit identical to Cristoph's. The ex-hologram was unhappy however, and proceeded to rip off the bottom of her tunic so that it came to mid-thigh.

"Nixie, you aren't a girl anymore!" Alice whined. "No one is going to look at your legs!"

"I am," Phoenixia reminded her. "And besides, the shorter it is, the easier it is to run in!"

As this went on, Rhia slipped into the machine and emerged in her own outfit. She couldn't help but notice that Cristoph looked highly disappointed to see her clothed again. Ben and Tash followed after her, with little fanfare. They wore the same style of tunic as the other slaves, except Tash's came to her ankle instead of the knee and both had a small amount of embroidery on the hems to denote their slightly higher status. Finally, only one person remained.

"Last but not least, Louise," Alice jabbed a finger at the door. She was getting tired of gesturing grandly each time someone entered. Louise was scowling as she marched into the machine and slammed the door behind her.

"What is up with her?" Harriet asked. "She's been all huffy since she got up."

"It's Merle," Tash shrugged. "And it's a Black Listed fandom where we're more than likely to stick out...speaking of," she frowned and turned to everyone. "A few ground rules." She pointed to Ben. "No nukes."

"Aww!" Ben whined. Cristoph on the side, snickered quietly. The glee was quickly wiped off his face however, when Tash turned to him.

"No ninja-ing," she said firmly. "And you two," she pointed between the two boys. "Be nice to each other!"
Both ninja and nuke master exchanged huffy looks.

"Hati, no cricket," Tash continued. "Rhia, no frying pans. Alice, no glomping. Phoenixia, no sex."

"But... but..." Phoenixia pouted hard. "The centurions!"

"Nixie, you aren't a hologram anymore," Tash reminded her. "You're just as susceptible as we are to pregnancy and disease. And they don't have condoms at this point in history."

"Okay... okay," Phoenixia muttered. "Spoil my fun before we've even... wait, you're calling me Nixie too?"

The leader ignored her. "Michael, Clairey, be as lovey-dovey as you want to." Her friends beamed at her. "And Louise," Tash finished, as the final agent reappeared from the machine. "Cheer up, for God's sake. You look as though you've come to a funeral. And everyone be careful, okay? This fandom is dangerous enough without Merle added to the mix."

"Yes, mother," Alice muttered.


Not for the first time was Mark Antony found flat on his back, with a woman astride him. But it was not Atia that shared her bed with the General, it was a woman far more terrible, far more devious. Merle smiled down at the Tribune, whose eyes remained shut. He wasn't sleeping, so he turned to her as she rolled off him. Their eyes met, and both parties smiled at each other. Merle could barely contain her glee. All things were falling into place for her now. Both her sons had returned, and now she had the People's Tribune, and soon-to-be Consol and most powerful man in Rome at her beck and call. As Antony turned to lie on his back again, she smiled to herself. The pieces were moving, and soon she would have all she needed to enact her revenge. And, she thought bitterly to herself, she didn't even have to ask the pathetic gods for assistance either.

"Water!" Merle called, and her personal slave instantly appeared, bearing a glass of cold water for her mistress. She drank deeply whilst still lying down, spilling not a drop on the pristine white bed linen. When she had finished, she sat up. Antony's eyes followed her, and he marvelled at the grace and beauty of the woman. "Antony," Merle's voice was hard, controlling.

"Yes, my Goddess?" Antony's voice, on the other hand, held all the devotion of an obsessed lover.

"I want…" Merle sighed. She was using Antony, more than the poor fool realised. When he had overstayed his usefulness, he would have to be gotten-rid of. He knew too much.

"Whatever it is, my beautiful Venus. Whatever it is, I will do it for you."

Merle smiled. It was too easy. He was butter in her hands, and moulding him was as simple as moulding putty. She pondered her position. She could easily make her foe's life a misery, but where was the thrill in that? A hand rested on her cheek, and she turned to look at the face of her pawn. Antony smiled at her, but instead of returning it with her usual faux-warmth, she sighed.

"What is it?" Antony's face was a picture of concern. Perfect.

"There…" Merle's voice sounded dry, hoarse, strained; it was so unlike her usual lilting melody that it made her companion start. He wrapped his arms around her.

"Tell me what the problem is, and I will make it go away." He pulled her into a warm embrace, and she didn't resist.

"There is a woman…" Merle made her voice quiet, distant, afraid. "She is coming to Rome… she…" the carefully constructed lie paused as Merle debated with herself how best to use the legions that Antony commanded. She let a small tear trickle down her cheek. Her companion spotted it, and wiped it clear with a finger. "She… wants… to… kill… me..." Her fake sobs were made all the more convincing by the shuddering and shaking that accompanied them. After a while, she went limp in Antony's arms.

"I will protect you, oh maiden!"

Over Antony's shoulder, Merle smiled. It was perfect. With the best of the Roman army at her disposal there was little she could not, and would not, accomplish. Soon she would be the most powerful woman in Rome, with or without this sex-driven idiot on her arm.

The pair laid back into bed, and as Antony drifted into a comfortable sleep, Merle murmured to herself,

"Come Mirani, bring your little soldiers, bring them to their deaths. Come… and I will see you die for a second time."

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