The world was... blank.
Well, not entirely. The ground was dirt, gathered in heaps and hills, here there and everywhere. Sand lined the edge of a vast ocean, and trees spouted up, some larger than others, reaching for the sky where clouds drifted towards the north (always to the north, for some arbitrary reason). A mountain range loomed nearby, and a herd of sheep let out a bleat that no one would hear.
A whirling vortex appeared next to the spawn point, and from it emerged a figure. Her white hair stood out starkly against chocolate coloured skin, and as she fluttered her lashes, silver eyes took in the surrounding area. Brushing sand off her white bodysuit, she seemed to surmise her situation, and her lips curved into a perfect smile. Striding purposefully to the nearest tree, and she slammed her hand against it. A single neat block of wood fell away and she studied it with a satisfied expression.
A sinister hissing sound appeared behind her, and she whirled gracefully around, the block in her hand, and struck the source of the noise with it hard. It flew back some paces before poofing into dust. A pile of silvery powder was left in its wake.
She smirked. If that was all this world could throw at her, then it was in for the ride of its life. Collecting the powder, she turned back to the tree, and began hacking away at the trunk again. She had a lot of work to do before she could rule a world this size...
"Isn't it beautiful?"
The purple avatar raced around the screen, stamping torches into the side of the wall with surprising vigour. Her companion was adding the finishing touches to the battlements, his iron armour glistening against the sun...
...but Tash and Michael couldn't really see this – computer screens were not great for detail, especially in a game like Minecraft where everything looked as though it were comprised of Legos. The Library was all but silent, parodying the lack of activity that had been going on lately. Most agents had been called back to real life for one reason or another, and it was shaping up to be a very lazy day, culminating in the Assistant Librarian and Chief Agent staking out the reading room as their own, and instigating a marathon round of Minecraft.
"Of course it is!" Tash said, directing her avatar backwards so that she could take a proper look at the handiwork. "It was built by nerds after all!"
Compared to some feats of engineering undertaken by Minecraft nerds with far too much free time on their hands, the castle built by the two siblings was rather humble. But it had been crafted without cheating (save for the odd teleporting cheat, since their spawn point was miles away) all the materials had been gathered by hand, and it had taken them many months to complete.
"All we need now is another flaming tower!" Michael declared, pausing in his building to reach for his bottle of friji. He flicked quickly between his cobblestone to his flint and tinder, and Tash immediately retreated her avatar to a safe distance. Michael and fire was a force to be handled carefully... that poor forest had never been the same again...
As she backed her avatar to the edge of the building, Tash turned her head around to check the surrounding area. There were a few Creepers on the ground, scurrying around like misshapen cacti and stopping occasionally to peer around for any unwary players in the area. Tash was grateful for the battlements – due to a glitch in her game, her controls had a nasty habit of sticking, often sending her marching off the nearest ledge and plummeting to her death.
Turning back to the slowly climbing tower, she began to add her own slabs of stone to it. They had a good view of the area from up here. A few cows and sheep bounced around in and out of the few trees that remained beyond the boundary wall, and beyond that lay ocean. A couple of dark shapes in the water were gliding around, in a manner which identified them as squid, and Tash wished she could go after them. She could use some more ink to start making decorations for the castle interior...
Wait a second...
One of the dark shapes burst out of the water, text glittering above her name.
"What the fuck?" Michael demanded, before recognising the flowing white hair. He quickly tapped a few keys and sent his avatar scurrying to the edge of the tower for a closer look.
"Warmest greetings dear agents!" The text appeared in the chat box in the lower left side of the screen. "A very nice castle you have here..."
It was @, the digital Mary Sue who had been plaguing the Library's computer system non stop ever since downloading herself into the wifi. She stood tall on the shoreline, her white bodysuit covered by thick diamond armour which glittered in the sun.
"How did she get on here?" Tash demanded. "This is a private server!"
No sooner had the words left her lips, when the figure vanished into the water again. Thoughts of finishing the last tower were instantly abandoned, as the agents leaned off the edge of their vantage point and strained for any sign of the digital menace.
"I don't like this," Tash decided, rummaging in her avatar's inventory for some ladder. "We have to get down and after..."
She never finished, as an echoing boom rang out through the speakers of both laptops. Flashes of light obscured parts of the screen, and from within the lower levels of the fort flames began to lick their way out from the ground.
"The fort!" Michael screamed.
Silvery hearts filled the screen.
"That'll teach you to put down wooden floorboards!"
Tinny laughter flitted between the exploding TNT, which had now reduced the lower level of the fort to a smoking crater. Up and up the explosions went, until finally both avatars were thrown from their newly constructed tower and crashed into the sandy beach below.
"Bollocks!" Tash roared.
"Least we're still alive," Michael said, pointing to the two hearts left on his life bar.
The screens faded to red, and a helpful menu asked if they would like to respawn.
"Bloody Creepers!" Tash almost flung her laptop out of the door.
"Bloody @!" Michael added. "What was she doing in our server?"
"She's infiltrated the Minecraft world," Phoenixia said, appearing in the doorway of the reading room with a stack of paperwork in her hands. "Specifically your server. She's been there for two weeks, from what I've seen, but we never picked her up because each world is eight times the size of earth. It was only when she approached you two that I got a lock on her."
"Our fort..." Tash whined. "Its ruined..."
"No, she's ruined!" Michael declared, getting to his feet. "Come on Aneki. She's a Mary Sue, and she's ruining other people's fun. This is a job for us. Time we met @ in person instead of letting her mock us from behind a screen."
"Well would you look at that?" a feminine voice smirked. "@ does have her uses... albeit inadvertently. Passion, do you think you can send someone to pay them a visit?"
A chair creaked and a male voice replied quickly. "Sure. I can load one of you into Minecraft. But who d'you want?"
"If I may..." a new voice interjected, ancient and punctuated by the steady clunk of something wooden hitting a stone floor. "I would be happy to take this assignment. It would be nice to see Michael again..."
There was a long pause, and then...
"Very well Wisdom. Enjoy your reunion...but don't play too hard with them..."
"Of course my dear...of course..."
@ watched as the last of the fort burned away. She had ventured inside to loot the treasure chests, after the Society agent's avatars had died, and she had come away with plenty of valuables – she had not caught fire of course. She was a Mary Sue. She was perfect.
Giggling to herself, she counted the redstone she had salvaged – that more than compensated for all that she had had to use to lay down the TNT switches. Only four diamonds, and a stack of gold. She had no idea why the Society were collecting gold, as it was pretty useless for making anything, but they were a strange lot, so she would fathom it out later.
Turning on her heel, she headed back for her own base, and wondered what other fun she could have while she was here.
The two agents brushed themselves off and looked around as the plothole sealed up behind them. Minecraft was an odd fandom, in that it wasn't really a fandom. It was a world. Fandom's had one thing that made them different from ordinary worlds, and that was a plot. There was no storyline in Minecraft – just a massive sandbox where the only goal was to survive and build cool things. They had definitely emerged at the spawn point however – the towers marking their way back to where the castle had stood were still visible from the sea.
"Dude, you look weird," Tash declared folding her pixilated arms.
"So do you," her brother returned. "Seems we aren't our avatars in this game – we're just ourselves..."
"With no weapons or resources to speak of," Tash said, patting down her pockets and finding them empty. Her usual arsenal of Sue catching tools were all gone. Her sword, usually in pendant form around her neck, was also missing. "You've got no sword?"
"I broke it last night anyway," Michael shrugged, before tapping on the side of his head. "Hey! The Darkness is gone too! Sweet peace and quiet!"
While her brother celebrated, Tash scanned the area in which they had landed. It was pretty barren, thanks to Michael and his flint and tinder. There were a few tall mountains in the distance, but beyond that was obscured by fog.
"Damn, I should have put my render on Far..." the woman muttered, rubbing her eyes.
"I can change it for you if you want..."
Both agents jumped.
"Nixie?" Michael asked. "Where are you?"
"In the Library, of course," the woman huffed. "I've got your server on the monitor screens so I can keep an eye on you. Your communicators have vanished off the radar, so I'm inserting my voice as sound bites to the game..."
"You don't wanna come in?" Tash asked, as the two Society agents struck out for the mountain range.
"I find this game a little ridiculous," Phoenixia admitted. "All you do is build stuff, and it looks really weird...I mean, what's that little red spotted thing to your right?"
Squinting through his glasses, Michael sighed as they passed the offending shrub. "That's a mushroom Nixie. You use them to make stew."
"Oh..." they could almost feel the ex hologram blushing. "And that white thing with the pink face?"
"And that green thing that looks like a penis?"
Both agents froze.
"...Nixie," Tash asked. "Where exactly..."
Unlike his sister, Michael had had the common sense to run when he heard the hissing, and had dived behind a tree as the Creeper had exploded. Tash was not so lucky. The explosion sent her flying and smacked away all but two hearts of health. She landed painfully and her head throbbed.
"Aneki!" Michael was by her side instantly. "Are you okay?"
"...somewhere, Sigmund Freud is turning in his grave..." came the muttered reply.
Humming as she clambered back up from her mineshaft, @ emptied her horde onto the crafting table and began to place the diamonds in the formation required to make a block. Her home was quite grand, made entirely out of blocks of diamond and obsidian. It had taken her a while to find enough, but she was a Sue. Finding diamond and mining obsidian came naturally to her, and now her whole palace was going to be built out of it.
Satisfied with her blocks, she turned towards the door, intending to head outside to add a few towers to her already magnificent work of architecture...until her foot sunk into the floor, and an explosion ripped through the room.
Since diamond and obsidian were reknown in the game for their toughness, they were not even scratched by the TNT. @, on the other hand, found herself down to half a heart as she picked herself up from the ruins of her crafting table and the three chests that had been unfortunate enough to be within the blast radius.
"Had I not been wearing diamond armour... that might actually have killed me..." she gasped. "How could they be so cruel? All I did was blow their castle up! That's no reason to attack me!"
She staggered to her feet, and slowly crawled over to pick up the contents of her chest. "They are such... copycats! They think I'll be taken down by some TNT? Well, they're in for a big surprise!"
"I'm a dwarf and I'm digging a hole... diggy diggy hole. I'm digging a hole..."
"Michael, you are neither a dwarf nor British," his sister told him, closing the door behind her and joining him down their little mineshaft. They had been there for three days (one hour in Library time), and day one had been spent trekking to a convenient location near @'s base of operations. They had dug a hole to weather the night away and had spent the whole of the next day hunting Creepers and digging up sand in order to make TNT. Today, they were passing time while they thought of another plan – they would not rest until @'s sparkly palace of indestructible material came crashing down!
"Ooo there's some more iron down here!" Michael said gleefully, hacking away at a few blocks in the wall. "Did you find some more pork?"
"Sure, its in the furnace," the blonde shrugged. "If we could find some lava today I'd call that a positive result. We need to ration our coal and wood for smelti-EEEEEEEEEEEE!"
Her scream was drowned out by the blocks of sand which were sliding down the shaft and crashing down on her head. She flailed wildly, but there was little she could do, as she breathed in and began to choke.
"Aneki!" Michael, switching rapidly to his shovel, began to hack away at the sand, clonking Tash several times over the head in the process and causing more damage. Another landslide of sand appeared from above, blocking all light from above, but not in time to disguise the glowing nameplate at the top of the shaft.
Michael tried to curse the digital Sue, but his mouth was full of sand, and he viciously hacked at anything he could reach in the hope he would succeed in saving himself. By some miracle, his shovel hit sand and he burst free of his suffocating imprisonment and doubled over gasping for breath. He whirled at the panicked scream and began shovelling away at the mound of sand burying his sister. She appeared in a gasping filthy mess.
"My life... flashed... before my...e yes..." she muttered eventually.
"So she wants to play dirty does she?" Michael asked, flumping to the floor and tossing his shovel out of his sweaty hands. "We'll show her!"
Unlike other Mary-Sue's, @ did not dream – she was a digital program, and dreaming was a little beyond her programming. It was a constant source of pain for her, which only further enhanced her sympathy powers with any canon characters she may run into. Still she was happy to fall into a Minecraft bed after a hard day of building her palace. Creating something perfect was tiring, even for a Sue.
She smiled to herself as she closed her eyes and imprinted the image of her room on her mind. She slept in one of the towers of her palace, encased in glistening diamond with two windows in front and behind her bed. The floor was wooden, as was the staircase, and there was a chest and a bookcase under the opposite window. When dawn came and she awoke the window was perfectly positioned to see the reddish pink glow of sunrise. She could picture that glow now, so soft and gentle like a warm hand on her face...
...getting hotter and hotter until she thought she would burn. Her eyes snapped open. The glow was not soft any longer, but the fierce glare of red hot death. Lava was pouring through holes in the roof of her tower and trickling down the sides of the walls towards her bed!
Screaming, @ leaped from her bed, and yelped as the lava hit the floor and the boards beneath her feet burst into flames. She backed away from her bed, which went up instantly in flames, and she rummaged in her inventory for a bucket of water. Outside her tower she could hear the cackling of the Society agents as they made their escape down the side of the burning tower.
Seeing red, @ threw the bucket over the flames to hold them back a little longer, and began to snatch things from her chest. The Society would regret coming here! Enough was enough!
"You don't think that was a little too mean?"
"Oh please Aneki! She wouldn't hesitate to do it to us! Personally I thought her scream was very funny!"
The two agents were fleeing down one of the palace corridors. They knew @ would have their blood later, but they didn't care at that stage. They also knew that they were lost, but they didn't care too much about that either. They would find a way out eventually, and if not they could do things the Minecraft way – dig their own exit.
"I've got all the diamonds from those blocks that we hacked open in her tower roof!" Michael was saying gleefully. "I can make some armour out of this!"
"Don't get too excited," Tash muttered. "We've still got to get out of here...and bollocks!" she added, as the already non existent night time light levels dimmed considerably further. "Its raining!"
Sure enough, the heavens had opened, and seeing anything beyond the window was impossible.
"We've got no chance of finding our way back in this," Tash declared.
"Oh stop complaining!" Michael said, yanking torches off the wall as they went. "What?" he asked seeing her disapproving look. "By the time we're done here, she's not going to notice. Let's try going this way..."
"Why this way?"
"...I dunno. American instinct?"
"Yeah well my British instinct says that you need a cup of tea..."
They passed a few rooms, most of which had various things sculptured inside, or pools of water with flowers dotted around. Clearly @ had been making artistic use of her time. But Michael did not stop at any of these rooms, instead following the twisting corridor around until Tash was certain that they were going in a loop.
"Michael..." she groaned, glancing out of a window long enough to see that the moon was descending through the nights sky. "We've been at this for ages..."
"Aha!" her brother appeared not to be listening, and threw a door open triumphantly. Inside were rows and rows of chests, which the Chief Agent opened and began rooting through happily. Seeing the helpful signs above each chest, Tash rolled her eyes.
"Yup... trust an American's instinct to lead us to an armoury..."
"Shut up and take this," he threw an iron sword to her, which skidded along the floor and clattered to her feet. She picked it up and added it to the one already in her inventory.
"There's a crafting table there if you wanted to make a sword out of that diamond," she pointed. But Michael wasn't listening as he withdrew something else.
"Don't need it!" he declared, waving the diamond sword he had uncovered. The blueish weapon glittered in the torchlight. "Shiny!"
"You sure its okay to be stealing her stuff?" Tash asked, in a sudden attack of conscience. Michael lifted one eyebrow in disbelief.
"You want us to put it back?" he waved his new prize. "A diamond sword?"
"I just don't know if its right... ninjaing her walls is one thing..."
"A diamond sword, Aneki!"
"...I mean we'd hate it if someone came onto our server and took our stuff..."
"Oh so we can't steal, but her TNTing our fort is no problem at all?" Michael snarked. "Stop being such a goody goody, and help me steal this armour."
The Assistant Librarian sighed. "I'm still not sure about this..."
"There's cake in this chest if you help me."
Storming down the corridor, sword in hand, @ glanced left and right looking for any signs of her quarry. The rain had finished, and the moon was descending through the window of her castle. It would be morning soon. In the courtyard she caught sight of some movement, but it was only a few zombies wandering aimlessly around. @ made a mental note to visit the courtyard once the sun was up to collect the feathers they left behind...
There! She put on a burst of speed as she saw the name tags faintly through the walls in the next corridor. They were wandering towards the south courtyard – supposedly they had got lost. She laughed to herself. That was so typical of normal people. Sues never got lost.
As she sped past the last sculpture room and around the corner, she did not hear the door clicking open behind her, or a rhythmic clunking noise, that accompanied gentle footsteps on the diamond floor.
The courtyard was lined with redstone torches, with a huge water feature in the middle. Though the walls were made of obsidian, the floor was crafted from cobblestone, which looked remarkably patchy next to the beautiful purply blocks of the wall... it was also full of mobs, which had brought Tash and Michael to a screeching halt in the doorway.
"Told you you should have brought a bow!" Michael grumbled.
"My aim is crap!"
"Its Minecraft! Anyone can aim in Minecraft with two functioning limbs!"
They spun around and saw @ leaning against the wall in a casual fashion – her armour was blackened in places and her hair was still singed from the lava, but even as she moved towards them it seemed to vanish back to its normal shiny state – though the smell of burning did not vanish.
"My dear agents, you look ridiculous," she greeted. "Though I suppose not everyone can pull off diamond armour."
She moved as though the now glittering armour barely weighed a thing. Michael and Tash were struggling to stay upright under their heavy diamond chestplates.
"Told you we looked like Lady Gaga," Tash muttered.
"You started this @!" Michael snapped at her. "You had no right to blow up our castle! We spent weeks on that!"
The Sue tossed her swirling white hair and huffed. "That's the point of this game! You make beautiful things, and they get destroyed – by other players or Creepers!"
"That's not the point!" Tash wailed. "The point of any game is to have fun, and you ruined ours!"
"Well my idea of fun is blowing things up!" the Mary-Sue retorted. "And if that displeases you, well sooooo-rry!"
"Um guys..." Phoenixia's voice appeared in the system once more, but @ continued.
"Its like I can't win with your Society! I try to be helpful and nice in your PS3 and your iPods and you have Phoenixia delete me! I try to play with you in Minecraft and you come chasing after me-"
"Guys," Phoenixia was more urgent this time.
"- and now when you've burned down most of my floors, and stolen my favourite armour, you still say I'm the bad guy? You're so... so..."
"What?" the two agents and Sue looked skyward toward Phoenixia's voice.
A switch clicked, and an explosion ripped the courtyard apart.
Water and cobblestone flew everywhere, and there were two screams as the ground beneath their feet vanished and @ and Tash plummeted into the deep hole below.
"Aneki!" Michael, by virtue of being the furthest from the explosion at the time, had survived, clinging onto only a single block of cobblestone. He hugged the wall, his heart pounding as he leaned over and saw the damage the explosion had done. That hole had to go all the way to bedrock, with a glow of red at the bottom indicating the puddle of lava. Sweat broke out on Michael's forehead. She couldn't have fallen in that... she couldn't...
Swearing, Michael jumped and almost fell off his platform. Standing where the fountain used to be, was a newcomer, seeming completely unflustered by the explosion. He was hunched over, and though it was hard to tell with Minecraft pixilation, Michael thought he might be old – his robes were black and white, with the hood shadowing his face, and as he stepped closer, he leaned on a heavy looking cane, which clunked against the ground with each shuffling movement. Under one arm (oddly enough) he carried an ancient looking book.
"Who the fuck are you?" Michael managed to demand. He didn't need to ask. It was floating above his head in condemning white text.
The man inclined his head slightly. "That would depend, my young friend. I am sure you can already see my name now... as for who I am. Well, that is a slightly... deeper question."
"Oh spare me the semantics!" Michael snapped, pulling together the remnants of his courage that had not been blown away by the blast. "You just sent my sister plummeting possibly to her death. That's not a safe place to stand with me!"
"Still brimming with confidence in the face of certain defeat," Wisdom shook his head, his joints clicking slightly. "A wise man turns a problem into an opportunity. I saw the opportunity to meet with you, as you raced around the corridor stealing things from that charming young lady. If your sister was wise she will have taken a bucket of water with her to put herself out with... as for you... well, if you are wise, you will realise that you have no weapons save for the traditional ones of this fandom, no Society trinkets, no Phoenix Morpher, no Darkness, and most importantly Michael..." he paused for effect. "You have no strategy."
Unnerved, but determined not to show it, Michael interrupted. "How do you know I have no strategy, old man? You've never..." he trailed off. Had he met Wisdom before? He was having a very strong sense of déjà vu, and not just because the man had effectively listed all his usual methods and tools of fighting.
The Sovereign chuckled. "You called me old man, last time too... though I swiftly taught you a valuable lesson about underestimating your opponents..."
"...wait..." breathing was suddenly very difficult for Michael. His eyes travelled up the Sovereign. A hunched over body which could deliver punishing blows... an unassuming stance, which concealed a skilled fighter, master of every type of combat known to man. Wrinkled fingers which had plunged into the Darkness's sensitive spots and caused it to crumble away like an old cookie...
Wisdom lowered his hood, and Michael felt recognition crash like a punch to the jaw.
Pain shot up Tash's legs as she crashed into something solid. She opened her eyes and found herself staring at a dangerous pool of lava, barely ten blocks below them. Perched on the edge of a block of gravel, she hastily shuffled backwards away from fiery death, and was almost knocked clean off as @ landed next to her.
"Don't move!" Tash shrieked, and the Mary-Sue fell still, as she caught sight of the molten death below. She gave a fearful squeak.
"What happened?" she asked weakly.
"I don't know," Tash was struggling to keep her voice steady – with death waiting nearby, and lacking her wings in Minecraft, she felt extremely vulnerable. She tried not to look over the edge. Seeing nothing but lava beneath them was making her feel sick.
"Wait!" @ said suddenly, as she tried to move back. This time, Tash froze, as the Mary-Sue leaned over and ran a hand down the side of their block. Tash felt a chill as @'s hand crept beneath the block, and she gave a frightened whimper.
"The block's glitched," she whispered fearfully. Tash knew what that meant – gravel and sand, unlike other blocks in Minecraft, were governed by gravity. Without something underneath it, it would plummet downward until it hit a solid surface... and all they had beneath them was the lava. If the game realised the glitch, they would fall to their deaths.
"Have you got any stone?" Tash asked. @ shook her head.
"I didn't have time to grab any..."
"I think I've got some wood," the leader said, reaching as slowly as she could for her inventory. "Just don't move, for Gods sake..."
"Don't attach it to the block, or the glitch might repair itself," @ warned, though she was sure the woman knew this already. "Can you reach the wall?"
"Almost..." Tash shuffled as close to the edge as she dared and leaned out with the block, trying to stick it to the wall of the pit. "Just a little closer..."
Stretching another couple of inches, the block finally stuck into place. Tash wobbled precariously, but @ grabbed her arm and steadied her. Swallowing at the near miss, the Leader began slapping more wood to the block.
"What is this hole?" she thought to ask.
"I don't know," @ admitted. "I didn't make it. My shaft is the other side of the building. Whoever planted that TNT must have done this..."
"Whoever they are..." Tash muttered darkly, slapping the last block into place. "Come on... let's get out of here. One of us is starting to smell sweaty..."
"I think it's you, dear..."
"How can you be here?" the Chief Agent whispered. "I haven't even finished that Society story! How can you possibly be outside of it?"
Wisdom, wrinkled face uncovered with wisps of frail silver hair stroking his forehead, gave a hint of a smile.
"Continuity is a funny thing, Michael. The Society know that better than most."
Michael swallowed thickly. As Wisdom, Keria seemed to have gained a hundred years of wrinkles and his eyes had deepened to pools of infinite knowledge. His beard, which had previously been bushy, was now white and wavy, creeping down past his waist, Dumbledore-style. Still, Michael knew by the way he stood battle ready even while leaning to a cane, that the old man was far more dangerous than he had been the last time he had seen him.
"This is bad," he thought. "He's completely right. The only weapon I have is a diamond sword, and he could probably block any attack I make without even trying. The Darkness isn't here, and I don't think Rick Rolling him is going to work a second time. All I can do is distract him until I think of something... or until he gets bored..."
"How the hell did you become a Sovereign?" he asked, his throat going dry. Wisdom's smile seemed to grow, and he nodded sagely.
"Trying to distract me until you can come up with a strategy," he stated, chuckling at the astonished look on Michael's face. "I'm an old man. And as I'm sure you know, old people have a knack for being wise, after so many years of experience...and as I'm sure you remember, I have plenty of experience in the field of battle."
He gazed far away into the sky, recalling a fond memory. "I wasn't that upset at my loss in the Dark Tournament. You surprised me, my young friend, with that little dancing move of yours. That doesn't happen very often. And whilst a loss is a loss, it did not stop me from learning something. I decided to broaden my horizons and set off once more in search of any fighting styles I had missed."
"During the course of my travels, I happened upon a young lady with remarkable battle talent. Though I fought well, I was beaten by her eventually. But she was none the less impressed, and invited me to recover under her care..."
Despite knowing that interruption was rude, Michael snorted. "Runoa? Care? Psh! And I'm Father Christmas!"
"Show some respect for your elders," the Sovereign chastised. "Runoa was as good as her word, and I told her my tale. She offered me the chance to be the best fighter there ever was – to master any strategy, any technique, and to have the knowledge to guess what my opponent would be thinking...she offered to make me one of her Sovereigns. I took the Immaculation process, and I have not regretted it at all."
"That doesn't make you wise," Michael objected. "That makes you batshit insane!"
Wisdom seemed to have had enough cheek. In the blink of an eye he was soaring through the air, and his foot collided with Michael's jaw. Bone and cartilage cracked and the blow rung back into Michael's skull and sent him reeling.
"Fuck! Why does he always go for the jaw?" was his only thought as he crashed into the nearest tree, a lone sapling landing neatly on his head.
"Hmm... that should have killed you," Wisdom appeared in front of him. The kindly old man was gone, replaced by a ruthless fighter of immeasurable skill. "Fortunately for you my powers are severely limited here in this world of blocks and cubes..."
Effortlessly he lifted Michael up by the throat, and with his free hand jabbed in the centre of the diamond chest plate. The armour cracked like a biscuit and with a heave of his arm, Wisdom tossed the Chief Agent high into the air.
Landing heavily on his head, causing his helmet to shatter, Michael rolled over and found himself facing a canopy of trees. There was an interesting shaped hole in the leaves where he had crashed.
"Oh for fucks sake!" He thought to himself before he was thrown through the air again by the explosion.
"Why is there always a fucking Creeper..." he muttered, barely holding back a scream. His jaw was definitely broken, and from the way the world was spinning, he definitely had concussion. As he slowly sat upright again, his chest plate crumbled away into dust beneath him.
Wisdom hobbled through the trees, his staff clunking like the footsteps of an executioner as he entered the small clearing. For a brief moment Michael wondered if running was a suitable strategy, but no sooner had he started to scrabble to his feet, when Wisdom brought the end of his walking stick down hard on his left diamond boot. It shattered effortlessly, and before Michael could even gulp, the right boot went the way of its fragmented partner.
"No strategy..." Wisdom slammed his staff hard onto Michael's foot, and the Chief Agent bit back a scream as another bone cracked beneath the force of the blow. "No thought... no success."
Michael screwed up his eyes before the second blow to his other foot could connect, but strangely, there came no pain. Carefully he peeked one eye open...
He was no longer sat beneath the trees, but in a snowy biome, up to his waist in the thick fluffy white stuff.
"...huh?" he managed to croak out through his jaw.
"Thank God!" came Phoenixia's voice, causing Michael to leap a foot into the air. "Michael quick, eat something! You're down to half a heart!"
It was the most painful thing he had ever experienced, but as Michael chewed slowly on the pork chop from his inventory, he felt his bones begin to knit themselves back together.
"Is Tash..."he began, swallowing the last mouthful and feeling his jaw click back to where it was supposed to be.
"She's fine!" Phoenixia interrupted. "She's on her way back. She's not an OP though so I can't teleport her to you. Wisdom isn't an OP but he's on his way. You need to think of something fast!"
"What did you think I was letting him beat me up for?" Michael snapped. "Fun? I can't think of anything! He's mastered every form of fighting!"
"Then drop him down a shaft! Bury him in sand! Blow him up! Push him into lava! Anything! Just do something!"
Growling in anger, Michael opened his mouth, intent on telling the bossy ex-hologram just where she could shove her ideas... but his mouth hung open and the words never left.
"Wait a second..." the wheels in his head began to turn.
"Nixie, you genius!" he declared aloud. "Teleport me to the following location..." he rattled off a stream of computer code, and smirked to himself. "Then I want you to enter this cheat code..."
"Hmm... teleport server command huh?" Passion gave a wide grin, and took a quick slurp of Red Bull. "Two can play at that game... hold on to your cane Gramps. Time to make you an OP."
"WISDOM!" Tash shrieked. Obviously, she could not hear Michael, as she was nowhere near him, but as Phoenixia's method of communication was by inserting her voice as sound bites, everyone in the game could hear her. "What the fuck is he doing here?"
"Wisdom?" @, despite having wandered into the Library before, had never got as far as the main computer system, and thus the name was a mystery to her.
"He's a Sovereign!" Tash explained, as the clambered onto the next block of wood. "He's one of Runoa's Sovereigns. We've never met him before. Why the hell is he here?"
"Don't ask me!" @ protested, as the Assistant Librarian shot her an accusing glare. "Do you think if I was working with him I'd ask him to blow up my courtyard like this?"
"Its not like you couldn't rebuild it!" Tash retorted, slapping another block of wood into place, and ascending another tiny fraction. "You built the whole bloody palace in the space of three Minecraft days."
"I'm a Mary-Sue!" @ wailed. "I can't help being... efficient! I was born this way, the same way you were born with blonde hair!"
"Yes but my blonde hair doesn't give me a routine compulsion to conquer the multiverse!"
"No, only conquer innocent fictional characters who are just trying to enjoy themselves!"
"Oh... shut up! Before I push you off this staircase."
There was a long silence, as both of them seemed to remember that they were enemies, and realise for the first time that they were precariously placed with a pool of lava at the end of the death drop below.
"Look..." @ said first. "I don't want to die here. And I'm sure you don't either – unlike me, you don't have multiple copies of yourself emailed around the multiverse to fall back on. You've got the wood to climb up, so I need you. I've got the diamond pick to dig out of here once we run out of wood, so you need me too."
"Are you proposing a truce?" the Assistant Librarian asked sceptically. The Sue nodded.
"Just until we get back to the top. I'd quite like to get my own back on that Wisdom guy for blowing up my beautiful courtyard!"
The snarky retort of "now you know what it feels like!" was hastily smothered before it could escape Tash's lips, and she sighed. "Fine. We get out of here, we deal with Wisdom, then we resume our fight."
"Deal," @ said, pulling out her pickaxe and swinging it happily. "Well hurry up! I'm sure that Sovereign doesn't wait forever!"
"Alright! Have some patience, for the love of Cthulhu!"
The act of teleporting was odd, but Wisdom bore it all with grace, as the world flashed by his eyes at the speed of light...before he found himself standing in complete darkness. He took a cautious step, and felt something solid crunch beneath his feet. Turning his head, he saw not a single speck of light anywhere. It was a strange feeling.
"I know you're here Michael!"
"I'm sure you do," the Chief Agent's voice replied casually from somewhere in the blackness.
"...no really. I know you're here. I can see your nametag above your head."
The swear was said with a slight huff, and Wisdom gathered that the boy must have repaired his jaw...not that that was difficult in this world, where health could be replenished by snacking. Still at least he knew Michael had no more armour to his name, which would make this fight all the more easier...still, he was puzzled by his carefree tone.
"I'm intrigued boy. Had I not known you better, I'd think you had a plan to stop me."
There was a chuckle from the direction of the floating name.
"Heh... ya know, even when I don't have the Darkness, I can still be sneaky when I need to be."
Surprised at the declaration, Wisdom tried to peer through the gloom, but even Sovereigns could not see in the dark. "Oh really? You have been learning since our last fight then, not to rely on the dark friend in your mind? Well if you have achieved anything, now would be the best time to demonstrate it. Else I fear your friends may find their Society short one member..."
As he spoke, he stretched out his arms, feeling the joints pop and release. Flexing his muscles, he focused, trying to pinpoint where the best spot to hit Michael would be.
"Yeah, you'd think that wouldn't you?" Michael asked. It was almost possibly to hear him smiling. "Let's face it, you beat me in fighting hands down, even in creativity. I mean, I doubt you're named Wisdom for shits and giggles. But sometimes, the main way to beat the smart one, is to outsmart them, and be very creative."
He sounded confident, which was a surprise to the Sovereign. Michael wasn't stupid...crazy, yes, but not stupid. He had just endured being thrown around and beaten worse than he had been in a long while. He had no allies nearby (that Wisdom could see at least), no superpowers, and the boy was notorious for having no plan. And yet... he sounded as though he were sitting down for tea, rather than facing a talented warrior. What was he thinking?
For the first time since entering the fandom, Wisdom was on guard.
"You don't strike me as the kind to use insanity as a form of defence from certain defeat, so you must know something I don't know, or you wouldn't sound so happy."
"Well, let's take a look at the situation?" Michael suggested, adopting a thoughtful voice, that bordered on mocking. "Why on Minecraftia would I decide to take you to a completely dark area, where I'm sure you can see me perfectly?"
"Why indeed..." Wisdom mused, deciding to go along with this for now. "You must have realised that the darkness does not faze me anymore than the parasite which shares its name. I can hear your breathing, sense your movement... even smell your fear."
The boy was approximately ten blocks away and to the right. He could strike him before he even knew what was coming. Wisdom tensed, ready to spring.
"Exactly!" the sound of Michael clapping his hands together, told Wisdom just where Michael's chest was...the perfect target. "Now why would I force you to follow me here if I didn't have a plan? Why a completely dark area... unless I know everything about it?"
Rolling his eyes, Wisdom sighed. "I'm growing older every second Michael. Out with it!"
"Very well..." the boy was most definitely shrugging. "I'm not one for spoiling the fun."
Light popped into existence a few blocks away – Michael had plonked down a block of glowstone, which illuminated the walls with its soft yellow light.
For the first time in his life, the man once known as Keria was stunned into horrified silence.
The walls, ceiling and floor were constructed entirely from TNT. Blocks and blocks of it stretched on as far as the Sovereign could see in the tiny glow of the rock, and from the way no sound penetrated, it had to be thick... very very thick...
Wisdom's heart seemed to stop, and he clutched his chest abruptly, as he registered the mad glint in Michael's eyes.
"Yep!" Michael was positively gleeful, as he set down a block of cobblestone with a line of redstone across it. "A little side project of mine for when I was bored and couldn't think of anything creative to make in this game! A bomb that reaches the height limit of the game map! A hundred blocks wide, filled to the brim with TNT – cept for this little hollow in the middle where we're standing." He paused with a wistful look on his face. "I have to admit, I'm kinda pissed off that you're making me waste this beautiful little structure..."
"You wouldn't dare!" the old man accused, the certainty in his voice wavering. "You wouldn't just kill us, boy! This amount of TNT exploding at once would crash the server! It would wipe everyone on it from the game and existence!"
Even as he spoke, Michael had plonked down another block of cobblestone, a maniacal grin on his face. He lifted his head and his eyes met Wisdom's. The Sovereign felt a shiver at the sight of such recklessness.
"Totally-" Michael slapped a switch on top of the cobblestone. "-worth it!" He punched the switch, and the TNT at the end of the redstone began to jump and flash. Wisdom's walking stick slipped from sweaty hands and clattered to the ground.
"I'd hold on if I were you," Michael suggested in a friendly tone. "This is gonna get fucking brutal!"
He had never sounded so happy in his life, and the satisfied smile was the last thing Wisdom saw as the first TNT exploded with a monumental bang.
They landed painfully, and were immediately blown off their feet again by the next explosion, then the next... loud and louder, more painful than the last, until all they could hear were bangs and crashes of stone and dirt exploding... ripping apart... falling into blackness... reality slipping away like grains of sand...
Wisdom screamed as the vertigo overtook him.
"What was that?" @ demanded, feeling the ground rumble beneath their feet. They had been digging up for what felt like forever, and both Librarian and Sue were exhausted. Rocks were crumbling... shaking... the world didn't feel stable.
Then @ screamed.
"No! The server!"
Tash gave a yelp and backed into the dirt as @'s digital body began to dissolve like leaves blowing off into the wind. The Sue was frozen... whether from horror or computer malfunction Tash didn't know, but as the last of her vanished, she threw her head back and screamed again.
As the last of her screams disappeared with her body, Tash felt strangely weak and sluggish, and she slumped against the dirt, hoping that whatever was happening to her, Michael wasn't going through the same thing...
"Where is he?"
"Did he die?"
"What did you do Passion? Where have they all gone?"
"WOULD YOU ALL PLEASE SHUT IT?"
The gamer Sovereign raised his voice a great deal (as one might expect from his nature) but rarely did it produce instant silence. His fellow Sovereigns, and Runoa all fell silent, and he continued to tap away frantically at the keyboard. Runoa, ticked off at being told to shut up by one of her minions, took a deep breath, and repeated her question in a slightly more reasonable tone of voice.
"Where has the game gone?" she asked.
"Michael crashed the server," Passion replied. "All that TNT exploding at once was too much info for the game to take, so it crashed. All the data and characters for that particular save file have all been erased... permanently."
Life and Harmony exchanged horrified looks, and Elegance narrowed her eyes. "All of them?"
"Well not all of them, obviously!" Passion rolled his eyes, still typing away like a madman. "@ got deleted, I saw that. Can't see the agents, but Wisdom is right..." he slammed his finger on the enter key, and pointed over his shoulder. "There!"
They all turned just in time to see a plothole open, and Wisdom stumble out of it. With no stick to support him, he toppled to the ground on his unsteady feet. Purity and Resolve were by his side instantly, steadying him on either side.
"Creation!" Runoa barked to the quiet Sovereign in the corner. "Get this man a chair!"
A second later, a squashy looking armchair had materialised in the room, and Wisdom allowed himself to be parked in it. He was sweating, and his eyes were wild, like he wasn't quite with it yet, but as Creation passed over a glass of water and Purity dropped some ice cubes into it, he seemed to come back to himself.
"Thank you... thank you..."
"What happened?" Runoa asked again, pacing in front of the armchair like a caged panther. Wisdom took a few sips of water before answer in a shaky voice.
"I think... I played too hard... my apologies my dear..."
Runoa huffed. "It's alright. I don't think any of us would have expected Michael to do something that suicidal..." she turned to Passion. "Any sign of them?"
"...no deletion," Passion replied, sighing and returning to the main menu. "They must have got out... they did have that Phoenixia chick watching them, inserting her voice. Maybe she got them out before they could be wiped."
"I see," the former Librarian sighed. "No matter. We dealt them a blow today that will make them think twice about how they deal with us... we should step up these little encounters. They're proving incredibly useful for us..."
"The Llama Song?"
"Maybe you should try something that's not an internet meme?" Adrian suggested smartly. His girlfriend stuck her tongue out at him.
"Less you forget love, internet memes worked very well for us in the Dark Tournament!" she settled back against the pillows and poked at her egg fried rice with her chopsticks. "There has to be some weakness to the Sovereigns... like with Death and downloading Nixie into him..."
"Death was the weakest," Phoenixia reminded them. "I doubt the others will have such a glaringly obvious weakness..." she paused as the heads of all the actors on the television screen were replaced with silver hearts. "@ for Gods sake! Haven't you done enough today?"
She whacked the top of the screen, and the hearts exploded like tiny fireworks. Though @ had been wiped from the server, her multiple copies stationed in equipment around the Library had found out what had happened, and were decidedly displeased about Michael's giant ball of TNT. Consequently they had been harassing the group ever since their return.
"Shove off lady!" Michael threw a spring roll at the screen, which bounced off and lay pathetically on the carpet next to the diamond sword. The Chief Agent was quite pleased that he had managed to hang onto it, and was determined to learn how to use it – maybe it would have a better lifespan than his usual swords.
If you intend to be good enough to beat the old man, the Darkness interjected in a snide tone. You will need to get very good with that thing very fast. None of your swinging blindly and hoping you hit something rubbish. You need proper training, and I'm going to see you get it...
"I missed you too," Michael replied dryly, before yawning loudly.
"I'd rest if I were you," Valerie suggested gently. "You've lived four Minecraft days in the space of about an hour and a half. Its like the worst jet-lag ever."
"Sleepy sleepy dwarf..." Tash singsonged, causing Michael to snort. He was abruptly silenced as every piece of equipment in the Library with a speaker suddenly began to scream with obnoxiously tinkling music.
"Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan..."
And quite appropriately, skipping across the screen in place of the pop-tart cat was a single Creeper.