Monday, February 10, 2014


For the first time in a very long time, the basement had fallen into a stony silence. Some of the braver of the prisoners were pressing their faces against the bars, bearing teeth at the group of Society agents who stood awkwardly in the corridor. Others cowered under blankets or behind pillows in fear. Were they in trouble? Or worse... were the rumours true, and the Society were about to have another purge of their basement?

One figure shuffled forwards, and it took several of the prisoners a second to recognise her. Usually the Society founder was clad in brightly coloured dresses and high heels. Today she wore jeans, a threadbare cricket jumper, trainers and a face of deep regret.

Several of the Sues looked curious. This didn't look like a purge. No one had weapons. What on earth could have caused the Society's founder to look so grave? Crouched behind her mattress as a shield, Tabitha gasped, remembering that Robert had been taken away the day before for his parole hearing. They assumed since he had not returned that he had passed, but what if they were wrong and something awful had happened?

"Hey guys..." Harriet cleared her throat, and managed a weak smile. "Wow this is hard... I suppose all apologies are though."

A few Sues peeked out from behind their defences, and further down the corridor, Ash hissed from the semi darkness. "Don't believe a word she says!"

Harriet tactfully ignored this, and continued. "We're here, because we didn't realise until yesterday, just how bad things had got down here. We didn't realise the level of cruelty some of us were putting you through. But most importantly, we didn't realise that we had been neglecting to feed you."

None of the prisoners dared move an inch, as though afraid that whatever spell the Society leader had been put under would break the second they twitched.

"I say we didn't realise," Harriet continued solemnly. "But I know that's not an excuse. Some of us didn't realise, its true. But some of us did realise, and did nothing about it. Some of us actively denied you simple things needed to survive, and that's just wrong. Food. Water. Warmth. These things that are basic human rights."

She paused to take a breath. "And I think that's our problem. We forgot that you are human. This is a prison. But we've turned it into hell, and that's just not on."

There were a few gentle nods, and Tabitha dared to press her face against the bars of her cell to get a better look. Most of the Society agents were looking uncomfortably at the floor, while a few (whom Tabitha could recognise as the less nice members) were scowling.

"Don't think we're going soft," Harriet warned, a hint of teasing in her voice now. "You're still prisoners. This is a punishment, and we do expect you to think about what you've done while you're down here. But this is a promise that things are going to change down here. We're not perfect... if we were we'd be Sues. We aren't going to get it right all the time. But we're going to try."

She paused, and made sure to cast her gaze around the basement, to every occupied cell. "We are really really sorry."

There were a few murmurs of disbelief. An actual apology? From the Society? This was not what anyone had expected when the group of agents had begun filing in five minutes ago.

Harriet turned on her heel to face her agents – the people she and the other leaders had handpicked to defend the multiverse against Mary Sues. And she looked at them all with such contempt that several of the nearest prisoners shivered. Harriet despite being a leader, was rarely seen in the basement, and it was rarer still that she took missions. None of the Sues in the basement had ever been brought in by her, so most of what they heard of her was whisper and rumour. But now as she surveyed her ragtag ensemble with her hardest glare, they understood just why this woman was so powerful.

"As for you lot," Harriet's voice came a little easier now. It was not shouting. It was quiet rage, and the kind of regret that was usually felt coming from parents. "I am very disappointed in you all. You wouldn't treat animals as badly as some of you have treated them."

A few agents shuffled back and forth on their feet. Even if their neglect had been a result of forgetfulness or sheer bone idle laziness, they all felt the guilt. It was the kind that came from knowing that someone you held highly had trusted you, and you had let them down in a way that they would never forgive you for.

"I know only a few of you have done this out of vindictiveness, and I am not here to point fingers..." Harriet continued. "I just want you to know that you're far bigger monsters than any Sue... even Willowe would have treated prisoners better than this, and I think we all know what kind of person she was."

She began pacing back and forth in front of the group, reminding everyone of a tiger ready to pounce on anyone who stepped out of line.

"Starting from now, we're sorting things out." She turned now to face the Sues, to explain. "In the Society, when an agent causes trouble, or is out of line, we run a three strike system. Three strikes, and then they are out. Several agents already have strikes to their names," despite clearly trying not to, she couldn't help but glance at Willie as she spoke – he already had a strike to his name after going on a murder spree and putting up the shrunken heads of his victims as Christmas baubles – Emily had needed therapy for two months to get over the sight.

"Disciplinary measures will be taken against any agent who neglects their duties down here, is unnecessarily cruel, or does not provide the required meals. And a strike will be added to their record."

She turned back to the agents. "I will be setting up the new rota later, and we will be sticking to it. But for now, I want every single one of you to go around each of these cells and apologise – don't groan at me!" she snapped, as several people let out exasperated sighs. "You brought this upon yourselves. And I hope when you do apologise it'll make you think about what you've done... yes Alice, what is it?"

Alice's hand, which had been timidly raised into the air, shot back down to her side. "Do we have to apologise, even if we were the ones who were feeding them properly?"

"Especially if you were the ones feeding them properly," Harriet folded her arms. "Because we should have seen what was happening first. So either we're stupid, or we subconsciously didn't care, and wanted them all to rot down here. We should be just as ashamed as the ones who were withholding food... now go on, all of you. Apologise. We aren't leaving until everyone has done each cell."

There was a very long pause. Clearly no one wanted to be the first one to go ahead. A few of the Sues, including Ash, snorted. The Society were arrogant to their the back of the basement, Roxelana gave a little giggle, lost in her own little world of madness.

Tash was the first to move, slipping out of the group and heading for the nearest cell, which happened to be Tabitha's. The Sue drew back slightly, but she kept her fists tightly clenched around the bars. The Assistant Librarian's mouth twitched a few times, before she managed to get the words out.

"I'm sorry."

Head hung, she moved on to the next cell. Adrian followed behind her, with Michael, Jess, Dave, Alice, Tyler... all manner of agents forming a neat line as they passed each prisoner, looking just a little more humble each time they uttered the words.


"I'm really sorry."

Harriet smiled at them, before frowning at the few agents who were dragging their feet towards the queue. As the last of them joined the procession, the line came to a halt at the other end of the basement. Rhia had stopped outside Roxelana's cell, her gaze registering nothing but contempt for the Sue inside. Until now, Roxelana did not appear to have properly registered the rest of the Society, or their words. But now, as her arch nemesis drew up to the bars, her black eyes seemed to focus.

"Rhia," Harriet warned, and the agent jumped as she realised that she was holding up the queue. Something very basic seemed to be holding Rhia's words back, and for a moment, Harriet was worried. She had expected resistance from some of the agents, but she hadn't prepared for Rhia resisting – and to be honest, she could not blame Rhia for not wanting to do it after everything Roxelana had put her through.

But to her surprise and relief, Rhia muttered something that vaguely resembled "sorry" before shuffling on to the next cell. Behind her, Cristoph slunk forward, and Harriet was infinitely thankful that looks could not kill. Still, the ninja managed his apology, though it was laced with disgust as he went.

She knew some the agent's hearts were not in this – Willie said each apology with a hint of a threat in each syllable, and Aster looked as though she couldn't care less about being sorry. But equally there were several who were taking this incredibly seriously. Dave was managing a smile at each prisoner, and Valerie had tears in her eyes as she walked past each prisoner.

As the line thinned out, and the agents went back to their safe cluster in the middle of the corridor, Harriet herself went around each cell and spoke her own apologies. When was done, she had a wide smile on her face.

"Well, I think I've accomplished something here today," she said, clapping her hands together. "You can all get lost now. Think on what I've said, and I'll be going over the new procedure for meal times, showering and exercise tomorrow in the morning meeting. Dave, we – as in me, Tashy and Michael – will require an audience with you after dinner. We have plans to discuss."

She waved her hands, and flapped the agents up the stairs with all due haste. "Go on all of you. Scoot!"

As she ushered them away, the basement broke into chatter.

"What do you make of that?" Kerrie asked quietly. In the neighbouring cell, Reena could only shrug.

"They looked sincere. I mean, they did all apologise."

"Only because Harriet told them to!" Ash was scoffing. "Mark my words, that was probably just a show to stop us from yelling at them. We'll be going hungry tonight guys."

Twenty five minutes later, Ash was sulking in his cell, glaring at his dinner tray as though it had personally insulted his mother.

"Here we go," Harriet handed out the last of the trays, and Tabitha fell on it eagerly. "Don't burn your tongue!" she warned, as a yelp from another cell indicated another Sue had done just that. "It's Rhia's potato soup. I did suggest we all pitch in and make a massive Society Apology Soup, but some of the boys have no idea how to cook. Honestly! They suggested putting all sorts into it! Sugar, marmite, oreos... one of them even suggested we throw Twilight books in for flavour!" She huffed. "And they rejected my idea to put Innocent into it! So I'm having everyone take cookery classes. I can't believe some of our agents don't even know how to make a cup of tea!"

Pouting she headed off to the office to go and fill in the check sheet. Tabitha took a greedy sip of the soup. It was the best thing she'd had in months, and as she swallowed she watched Harriet sashay her way down the rows of cells.

"What was that you were saying Ash?" Reena called, her mouth half full with bread and cheese that had been provided on the side. "Something about us going hungry tonight?"

"Fuck off," came the grumpy response.

"Really though," it was Ryouga who spoke, his own soup bowl half finished. "Oreos in soup?" he gave a chuckle. "Innocent smoothie? I don't know how the Society have lasted this long...especially with someone as nutty as Harriet as their leader."

"She might be nutty," Tabitha agreed. "But did you see her face when she was telling them off? She looked really upset with them. I think she really meant what she was saying."

She paused, swirling her bread around in her soup. "Y'know I never used to believe that someone like Harriet could create someone as perfect as Willowe... but now I see it. She commanded all those agents like she was born to do it. She's really powerful. And if she put even a fraction of that power into Willowe...who knows what she could really be capable of?"

The basement had gone very quiet, as everyone temporarily forgot about the food, and the sounds of hungry chewing died off.

"Do you think the rumours are true?" Kerrie whispered. "Do you think Willowe... might come back?"

Tabitha gave a shiver, and was suddenly very conscious of everyone staring at her.

"I don't know. But seeing her author today, and the power she has... I believe anything is possible."

There was a clang from down the cells, and everyone jumped. Harriet had returned from the basement office, a triumphant grin on her face, that usually indicated a win in the cricket. She was drastically out of tune as she skipped down the cells.

"I drove my trac'er through yer haystack last night... ooh arr ooh arr!"

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