Saturday, September 7, 2013

Insert MIA Agent Here (part 2 of 4)

Events in the Library had taken a dramatic turn not six hours after Alice had last seen her housemate. She hadn't known much about what was going on until she had joined the back of the commotion only to see a tall gentleman with white hair: Adrian. Rumours, and then the true story, filtered down swiftly, until there was a general muster to go and rescue one of their own from the Society's current nemesis. Louise's name had come up, but Alice reported that she was taking a break to see her family; some agents valued a little time in Real Life, and it was known that Louise would always put a family emergency over a Society one. Luckily however, being on holiday was accepted, and no more was said.

When it had come to Alice, Tash and then Adrian himself had looked her over and the decision made that she was not currently fit for duty. Phoenixia had guided her back into the Monitor Room (which had a nice, new, rather fluffy dark blue carpet to replace the one she had bled all over) and gave her the rather important task of manning the screens to help co-ordinate the mission and alert them if anything came up.

That had taken little over a day. It was now the weekend; it was Sunday afternoon, and Alice hadn't heard even a breath from Louise. She was more than a little concerned.

Alice sat in her room, resting her arm in the sling. Much of its strength had now returned, a little over five weeks since the attack. She still tired easily, but was now doing physio to regain the ability to use her sword so she could be of use again. Phoenixia – who she felt truly indebted to now – was still taking care of her injury, and the sling was more for basic support than absolute necessity, but Alice wished she could get back to how she was faster than this.

She picked up her phone and called her friend. It didn't even ring.

This person's phone is switched off. Please try later.

What? Louise always had her phone charged up. She tried the landline to their flat, and it just rang and rang until Alice broke the connection. She glared at her phone; determined to get hold of her friend, she tried a third number: Louise's mother.


"Hello Anne, it's Alice. I was wondering whether Louise was home?"

"Lou? No, she hasn't been here since you came for Lou's birthday. Why?"

"Oh, her mobile's switched off is all. I think she said she was going into town, so she should be back soon. Thanks…"


Alice stood, throwing her phone onto her bed. She stepped out of her room, looking up and down the corridors. If she wasn't answering her phone, if she wasn't in their flat and she wasn't at her mother's house…then she had to be in the Library. She went to the next door along the bookcase-lined walls and knocked, expecting the door to be locked… it swung partially open.

Venturing inside, Alice saw that everything was in its place in this terracotta mirror-image of her own blue slightly messy one. Bed linen, computer chair, alarm clock, mobile phone…

"No…" Alice whispered, picking it up from its cradle on her bedside table. She never, ever left for Real Life without it.

An ugly thought then slid into her mind. Turning, she checked the place where Louise kept her trusty pistol; it was gone.

She rushed out of the room and headed up the long corridor to the Monitor Room. She passed Rhia on the way, who called after her; Alice skidded to a halt.

"What's the matter?" she asked, immediately concerned by the panic on Alice's face.

"I don't know – I'm not sure – I'm – " Alice gathered her thoughts. "Have you seen Louise?"

"She's on vacation, isn't she?"

"Has she been sent on – what? Vacation – oh, I…"

"Alice…" Rhia said urgently, approaching the injured agent. "What's happened?"

"Rhia… I don't know… is – " Alice gasped as she thought of something. "How can I check if someone has gone and jumped into a fandom?"

"Easy, it's logged on the computers in the Monitor Room."

Alice took off again, heading for the room in question, followed by the worried Rhia. She ran through the log on a screen in the corner swiftly; so fast that she almost missed it. But there it was, starkly damning in black and white.

Record #404724.892

Fandom: 'Warhammer Fantasy'
Agent: Louise
Sue(s) Detected: 1. Merle Ravensclaw
Date: Six (6) days ago

Alice collapsed into a chair, and Rhia just stared at the record. "Alice… this means…"

"I know what it means." She stood, tears on her face but determination in her eyes. "I know what Merle thinks of her. At least, how it looks like what she thinks of her. Can you try and track her communicator?"

Rhia nodded and turned back to the screen. She could not miss the expletive that exploded from Alice's mouth outside the door.

Alice went straight to Tash's door, but even as she raised her uninjured left arm to knock she saw the sign saying 'OUT'. It only took a moment for her to realise where she was, to whom she must be speaking with. He was intimidating somewhat; she had missed the time of the Society where he was always around and so had only heard the stories. She hadn't had an opportunity to get a measure of him yet, let alone glomp him.

Slowly she walked down the corridor to the door with the nameplate reading 'Librarian'. Adrian's room. No 'keep out' sign was stuck on the door, as it had been over the last few days. She placed her right arm back in her sling, resting it in the fabric; it was beginning to ache, and she didn't know whether that was from her emotions. She choked down the memories of the Ak'Zahar, then that of Richard's leering face, and tentatively knocked.

"Come in!" said the cheerful voice.

Alice stood on the threshold, taking in the scene of the two sharing a friendly game of Yu-Gi-Oh. Tash drew in breath to welcome the fellow WARG into the room, but the words died on her lips.

"Alice?" queried Adrian, just as apprehensive.

"I'm sorry… but I think Louise is in trouble…"


"Now," Tash looked around the room. She and Adrian had gathered the senior agents in the briefing room to discuss the information that Alice had given them. Sat beside her was Adrian, his face a serious image of the emotions coursing through her body. Facing them both were Valerie, Phoenixia, Harriet, and Michael.

The six of them made up the senior command staff of the Society, and were responsible for the majority of the decision making.

Tash locked eyes on all her friends. They could see, and also knew, that she and the Librarian would not call a senior agent meeting if it were not a serious matter.

"Now..." Tash repeated herself, "...we have a potentially serious situation. Many of you know the Sue Merle..."

Michael and Phoenixia nodded. They had both been in Rome, and had experienced the forceful personality that was Merle Ravensclaw. The others looked sombre. They had at least heard the stories about this particular Sue, and knew a little about what she was capable of.

"Louise is missing..." Adrian stated bluntly.

Tash sighed. Whilst it was wonderful to have her boyfriend back in the land of the living, it wasn't as if life had been simple since his return. First Aster's kidnap, and now this; she sighed again. Louise was her friend, and she was concerned that, in the hands of Merle, she would not fare well.

Tash got to her feet, cutting Adrian off before he could continue speaking.

"Louise has been captured by Merle Ravensclaw..." the agents who had joined Tash and Louise in Rome looked concerned. Tash took in their expressions. She knew that this was going to be more than your average rescue mission, and silently started working out in her head who she would take.

Adrian joined Tash on his feet, and wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulder.

"We need to mount a rescue mission," he said directly, "I only want seasoned fighters to volunteer, because from what Tash tells me, we will not cope with lesser..."

The door burst open, and in flew Alice. Dressed in travel clothes, her cloak, sword and goggles, she looked ready for an argument, as she squared up opposite the Librarian and his Assistant. She wasn't expecting much objection from Tash (she knew her well enough to know that Alice was as close to Louise as a sister).

"I want to come with you," Alice announced to the suddenly silent briefing room.

"Alice..." Adrian's voice was kindly, but said to all concerned that they were clearly pressed for time.

"I won't take no for an answer, Adrian!" Alice planted her feet, and tautened her shoulders.

"You are injured... you are in no shape to take on a Sue... let alone one as powerful as Merle."

"Louise is my best friend..." Alice continued to argue, "I will not abandon her to whatever Merle has planned for her. Also..." she looked down at her hand, on which the senior agents could see were scrawled her notes. "I know the fandom very well..."

"Alice..." the patience in Adrian's voice was straining now. "Knowing the fandom is not enough."

"I'm not finished. My sword..." she swung it around, forcing the nearest agent to duck. Phoenixia gave Alice a side-long glance from the desktop. "My sword is from Warhammer 40k, which is the same universe as Fantasy, and I know it would have been forged by the Inquisition to be proof against any Psyker we encounter." She paused for breath.

Adrian took advantage of this, "You are still injured Alice... you will be no use in a fight. What's stopping me from taking your weapon from you?"

"The fact that you know I would try and fight you off, and that you have honour enough to not hurt an injured woman." Alice was almost shouting now. She could be very determined when she wanted to and she made a good argument. She hadn't been lying to the Librarian when she had told him that she wouldn't take no for an answer. "And besides, Kitty-Boy," Adrian pulled a face at the not-so-flattering moniker, "My arm's not as bad as it was..."

Tash slid her hand into her boyfriend's. "Adrian's right, Alice, you are injured... you can provide updates from Monitor Room... but I am loath to put you in harm's way."

"You don't know what you will be facing..." the volume of Alice's voice increased, "and in the field you will need dynamic and immediate updates. I cannot provide those by looking through a tiny communicator screen into the fandom."

There was silence, and Alice was convinced she had scored a point against the senior agents.

Adrian sighed.

"Besides..." Alice looked as if she was about to deliver her final, and clearly most satisfying point, "Louise knows me... she hasn't even met you..." she extended a finger in Adrian's direction. "To her, you could easily be just another threat."

There was an intake of breath at the other end of the table. "She has a point..." it was Michael, "maybe a compromise is in order here..." he suggested.

Alice looked around at him, a soft smile building on her face. Adrian looked over.

"A compromise?" he pondered, "how so?"

"Alice comes with the rescue party, but if it gets to a point that she cannot continue, she agrees to return to the Library without further argument."

Alice turned back to face the Librarian and his Assistant. Tash too was looking at Adrian.

"He has a good point with this, dear." Tash noted, her arm still wrapped tightly around Adrian's shoulder. "Alice knows Merle better than most of us, and she is definitely improved in her health..."

Adrian sighed again. It was obvious to him that he was losing this argument, and knew that they didn't have the time to debate this as much as he would like.

"Very well..." he turned quickly to face Alice. It was a little daunting for her. In all the time that she had been in the Society, Adrian had been nothing more than a story. It was only in the past week or so, with Adrian's resurrection, that those rumours became true. She swallowed hard as she faced him.

"If any of the agents of the rescue party think you are a hindrance, or are too injured to continue - you will return to the Library, Alice..." There was a finality in Adrian's voice. She nodded, in full understanding.

Somebody kicked a chair out, and Alice swiftly sat down. Tash continued with her talk, and soon the rescue party were gathered in the Monitor Room. Adrian had ultimately chosen the strongest agents for the mission.

Tash was obviously going - she was the fastest agent, and as far as the Society knew, the only person who could even come close to matching Merle for speed.

Michael was one of the strongest fighters in the entire Society, and as such was included.

Adrian had insisted that Valerie remain behind. "We may need medical back-up when we return," he had told her. "We need you here, Val..."

"I'll be fine," Rhia assured Cristoph as he prepared to join the party. He wrapped a gentle arm around her, and squeezed tight. He loaded his clothing with all kinds of pointed items, and headed off to join the others.

As Cristoph arrived, Aster approached, carrying her staff in one hand. The party now numbered five, but as Adrian paced around the Monitor Room, it was clear that he didn't think it enough.

Alice arrived not long after Aster and Cristoph. She carried her sword at her waist, and was slipping her goggles onto her head. She took one look at the assembled party, and gulped. She was in some high powered company.

Adrian was getting more and more impatient, but eventually Phoneixia strode around the corner, tying her hair up with a purple ribbon.

She was not dressed in one of her usual beautiful outfits. Her trousers and top were a warm brown colour, and she carried Incandescent Silverreign under her arm.

Adrian looked up as Phoenixia entered, picking up his sword, he turned to the gathered agents.

"This is a rescue mission. If we capture the Sue, at the expense of our agent, we have failed. We must focus purely on the task at hand."

There were nods all around, even from Alice, who unsheathed her sword, and held it up before her. She looked ready to take on anything Merle could throw at her, and then some. If her friends hadn't known, none of them would have noticed that she held the sword more with her left hand than her right.

The Librarian opened a plothole into the correct fandom, and with weapons in hand, the ensemble stepped through.

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