Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Insert Hell or High Water Here (part 1 of 2)

Peering through the thick twisting branches of the mangroves, Nigel Marvin watched the creature of the Eocene with undisguised joy. For him, a zoologist, this was one of the moments that reminded him that for every vicious predator or (more recently) man-eating sea monster that threatened to bite his legs off, watching creatures of ancient history had its rewarding moments too.

He inched a little closer. The animal he was stalking was an Arsinoitherium, a creature that looked for all the world like a rhino with two horns instead of one. It swam like a hippo, but was in fact more closely related to the modern elephant. Turning and nodding to the camera man behind him, Nigel began to creep forward a little further. If he could get close enough, he wanted to see if he could try throwing some fruit to the beast – hopefully it would not charge him. Checking quickly once again that they were still downwind, he turned back again to address the camera.

He paused.

Not too far away, half hidden by the spidery roots of the mangrove trees, was something that definitely did not belong in the Eocene.

Gesturing to the camera man again, Nigel turned away from the Arsinoitherium, and began to creep towards the oddity, his gentle crouching step becoming a hasty stumble as he recognised hair and clothing. The camera man picked up his pace too, the bulky equipment slowing him considerably compared to the panicked presenter.

"Nigel!" he called as the zoologist fell to his knees beside the prone body. The young woman was still breathing, and looked uninjured, which Nigel was incredibly thankful for as any blood would have attracted hundreds of predators by now and it would be impossible to save her.

"Call the Mariner," he ordered, as the flustered cameraman came into earshot. "We need to get her to safety."


Deep in one of the Library's many laboratories, a figure wrapped in a white coat, with Steampunk-esque goggles on his head, pulled open the door to a heavy steel cage. Somewhere in the distance a bolt of lightning sent a dramatic flash across the stone walls.

"Fly my pretties!" Gareth declared grandly. "FLY!"

The flying monkeys were not the most intelligent creatures of all time, but they were smart enough to understand that an open door meant freedom from their imprisonment, and they took off one by one with squeaky hoots of glee. They rose ten feet into the air, and Gareth let out his most evil and sinister laugh...

...which promptly died as the monkeys exploded in mid flight. A messy mixture of blood, guts and fizzing red liquid splattered over the floor.

"...RED!" Gareth wailed to his fiancée. "The monkeys exploded again!"

His cry for assistance caused the rookie agent to appear in the doorway, clothed in jeans and a rainbow shirt. Hands on her hips, she shook her head.

"Well you can't say I didn't warn you," she shrugged.

"Eww..." Gareth was taking care not to tread in the mess as he cross the floor. "There's blood everywhere..."

"Actually I think that's the Red Bull you're standing in," Red, completely nonplussed by the carnage, snapped a can of her own energy drink. "So that's batch...fifty three?"

"Fifty four," the tall blond man's shoulders slumped. He knew what this would mean. He would have to ask the leaders for more money, and that never went well.

"Redling!" a voice singsonged from the staircase. "Gareth! Where are you dumplings?!"

"Down here Alice." Sensibly, Red put down the drink, before allowing her friend to glomp her. She was being tailed by Robert, who took one look at the mess on the floor and arched an eyebrow into his hair.

"...I take it that the energy drink diet was unsuccessful?" he asked. Alice released Red and her face fell.

"Aww! I was sure that would work!"

"So was I..." Gareth was pouting as he shucked his lab coat.

"Well I'll see if I can research something else to feed them," Alice offered. "For now, we'd better get a move on. We're late for the morning meeting."

She turned to exit the lab, but skidded on the soggy floor and landed painfully on her backside, red liquid soaking into her jeans and the top of her t-shirt.

"...oh yeah! There's blood on the floor Alice," Gareth replied belatedly.



"Okay, handover notes from last night..." Harriet shuffled her paperwork importantly. "Gas leak in kitchen one was reported. It's been fixed now and the room has been aired – thank you Aster," she added, causing the fae to glance up momentarily from her manga volume.


"Training room seven has run out of dummies," Harriet continued. "There's been a complaint about the amount of noise coming from the labs – Adrian could you look into strengthening the soundproofing spells please?"

The Librarian nodded.

"And finally, McLaren was admitted to the hospital wing last night after he went into anaphylactic shock," folding up her first sheet of notes, Harriet rolled her eyes. "Apparently he's allergic to peanuts and he never told us."

Around the large table of the briefing room, several people rolled their eyes. Despite the nastiness of anaphylaxis, few really had it in them to feel too sorry for him, especially since the Stu had never told them about his allergy in the first place. Alice, feeling responsible for him, had cared enough to stay at his bedside until he regained consciousness.

"Progress report?" Tash turned to Valerie. The Society leader was far louder than normal, and several people winced. Valerie just smiled.

"He's fine. He's breathing without help again, and the swelling is going down. He's on a regular dose of epinephrine, and I'm monitoring him closely. He should be good to go back to his cell tonight if all goes well. I'll leave an auto injector for him in the first aid box just in case."

The Society's illustrious founder was happy with this. "I'll show everyone how to use them at the next meeting, which brings me nicely onto item one," she balled up the top sheet of paper and threw it carelessly over her shoulder. "As I'm sure you've all noticed, half of our Society are currently located in the hospital wing due to a large outbreak of smut Plot Bunnies in the Library..." she gave a snort. "Probably got that bloody Rule Thirty-Four competition to thank for that..."

No sooner had the words left her mouth when the floor of the Library lurched beneath her feet, sending her sprawling back into her chair. The room jerked violently and books tumbled off the shelves sending people scurrying under the table for cover.

"...Jeeze we break the Fourth Wall all the time, and it's never that violent," Dave commented, reappearing from the floor where he had almost been squashed by a heavy copy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

"We'll come to that in a second." Straightening her rumpled clothing, and trying to affect a look of dignity, Harriet cleared her throat. "But continuing on, keep an eye out for the smut bunnies – they're small, red and they're the most prolific breeders... unsurprisingly. You see one, kill it. You get bitten by one, go straight to the hospital. If you see anyone with red eyes, don't touch them, just go get a leader or a medic and they will fetch an antidote."

As everyone nodded, a confused Robert leaned over to his parole supervisor and whispered. "What does 'smut' mean?"

Alice went pink, and a smirking Jess leaned over and whispered helpfully in his ear. The former Gary Stu looked horrified at her words.

"They make you do what?!"

"Anyway," Harriet called attention once more, balling up another sheet of paper and tossing it over her shoulder – she missed the bin by a mile. "Item two, Adrian has reported that a large hole has developed in the Fourth Wall. Until this morning we didn't know why, but I think I've got the answer now. One of the Sues has broken parole and she's jumped into a documentary for safety."

There was a murmur of confusion from the table – documentaries, as works of non fiction, did not have plot, and therefore no plotholes to escape into. Thus usually they were totally safe from a Mary-Sue's influence. It was completely unheard of for a Sue to show up in a non-fiction world, and the crossover between factual world and fiction would put an enormous amount of strain on the Fourth Wall.

"Which world is this?" Michael asked curiously. Harriet obligingly pressed a button, and the large screen scrolled down from the ceiling. It flickered once as the projector came on, and the details were streamed from the monitor room.

"Wait is that... the Ancient Mariner?" Tash leaned forwards in her seat, staring at the large yacht that filled the screen. "That's the Sea Monsters world!"

Harriet covered her ears. "Okay, Tashy, why are you yelling? It's not that big a table."

Her friend blushed. "I'm sorry. I can't hear myself. My ears have blocked again and I'm not getting them syringed until tomorrow, so you'll all have to speak up..." she shook her head. "Anyway, that's the Sea Monsters fandom. It's part of the Walking with Dinosaurs television series. Only unlike the others it's got a very loose story to frame the documentary around – basically the zoologist who presents it goes back in time to actually visit these places and interact with the Sea Monsters. It's actually a pretty good framework..."

"Good maybe," Harriet nodded. "But unfortunately, it's enough of a storyline for a Sue to take advantage of. And worse, when she jumped in she was level two, but she's getting stronger again. She's up to level five now and still growing."

She stretched, before addressing the depleted table. "Usually I wouldn't take a team on such a low Sue, but I'm going to have to for this. Pretty much all the action takes place on the Ancient Mariner, so I'll need a crew to help me man a boat."

"You're taking a boat?" Adrian asked, his kitty ears twitching. "And just who paid for that?"

The founder huffed and folded her arms. "Relax Kitty-Boy. I took it out of the Society's budget..." she pulled a face. "But I did have to slash the tech budget in half to help pay for equipment...oh and Gareth's budget too."

"Aww! But Red needs a new bazooka!" Gareth pouted. He decided not to mention that he now had to add another batch of monkeys to his shopping list – he still owed Rhia for buying all that Red Bull for him...

"Well I'm the leader, and I need a boat!" Harriet sighed. "I also need a team for the boat. I need people who won't freak out at the sight of vicious predatory monsters. I could also use people who have boating experience and experience swimming, or better yet, scuba diving. So if you're a rubbish swimmer, or you get sea sick easily don't bother putting your hands up."

Despite the warning, a small group raised their hands obligingly. Harriet went around the rota quickly to check who was free before jotting the names down, and mentally weighing up the pros and cons.

Valerie – she's scuba dived before, so that's good. Gareth and Red live in a naval port, so they're no stranger to boats. Tashy's an island girl and as Inspiration came and went constantly married to his boat, so he's perfect...

She frowned at her list. "Ideally we'd need at least three more. It's a rather large boat..." she blinked as three more hands were raised. "Thank you Ingrid. And..." she turned to the last two hands, and her eyebrows arched up into her hair.

Robert blushed magenta.

"Alice, please let go of my hand..." he squirmed.

"But then you'll put it down, and that's counterproductive to volunteering," the pet search engine explained.

"But I'm not allowed to leave the Library until my parole is up!" magenta now intensifying into a beautiful shade of crimson, Robert managed to wriggle his arm free of Alice's vice-like grip, now wishing that he could evaporate and escape everyone's pondering and (in some cases) amused stares.

"Nonsense!" Alice waved a hand airily and almost concussed Aster. "You've been very well behaved so far. What's wrong with a little expedition?"

"I suppose it wouldn't hurt..." Tash sounded thoughtful (or as thoughtful as a person can when their hearing has reduced them to speaking loudly). "We are really short on agents thanks to the bloody plot bunnies. And besides, even if Robert wanted to escape – which I know for a fact he doesn't – he'd have a very hard time. We're going to be on a boat in the middle of the sea for most of this trip with not a landmass in sight."

Harriet tapped her pile of paperwork with her pen. "Of course if you don't want to come, no one is forcing you..."

"Awww!" Alice whined, folding her arms and settling into her best sulky pout.

Robert glanced between her, Harriet, and back again. Despite the leader's words, he didn't really feel he had much of a choice. He couldn't really refuse a leader. And if he didn't go with Alice, that left Michael as the only leader in the Library to supervise him, and while the Chief Agent was not outright wishing him death any longer, their bad start was still showing.

"No, I'll come if you want me... someone has to attempt to be the mature one – urk!"

He was promptly smothered in Alice's cleavage. Harriet beamed and clapped her hands.

"Perfect! I assume you three can swim and are fine on boats?" she thought to ask, looking relieved when all three of them nodded. "Then that is perfect. We'll meet in the wardrobe after the meeting to get kitted out for the mission. Emily I want you to oversee the preparations to the boat – and don't forget the scuba gear!" She balled up another sheet of paper and chucked it over her shoulder. "Now onto item three..."

"Onto a tree?" Tash asked, cupping her hand to her ear.


"We can't attach the camera from the cage," Nigel, water dripping from his wetsuit and mask, pulled himself back onto the Mariner, clutching a harpoon with a bizarre attachment to the end. It looked like a very fat orange torpedo with a clear round plastic nose. It was in fact a shark camera.

The crew, two of them still straining against the rope with the heavy chum bag attached to it, all looked concerned. They had a right to be. This was the third most deadly sea of all time, and the biggest shark that ever lived was circling their boat. If they couldn't get the camera attached soon, the shark would probably lose interest and go off in search of easier prey.

"I'm going to try from the platform," the zoologist said.

"Let me try," a firm voice interrupted. The crew turned to stare at the young woman, who even dressed in a pair of loose shorts and a borrowed t-shirt managed to project an air of certainty.

Nigel was at a loss – as the presenter and the zoologist, he should be the one to risk his neck. But she looked so determined and sure of herself that it was hard to refuse her. He mentally weighed up the options – she wasn't as big as him but from the way she had been helping on the boat for the last few days he knew she was strong enough. She didn't remember anything about who she was or what she had been doing (Nigel guessed concussion was responsible for her amnesia – maybe from a fall from another boat?) but she seemed to have a natural knowledge of the creatures and the different seas that they were visiting, and she had proven valuable since being taken on board the boat.

Making up his mind, Nigel passed the harpoon over.

"All right Ocean...just be very careful."


"...Harriet are we there yet?"

"Of course not!" Harriet – clad in this season's most violent shade of magenta – stood at the bow of The Swanny her arms raised in a dramatic fashion as the wind carried the eighty foot yacht across the waves.

" you even know where we're going?!" the speaker was Alice, who like most of the crew was wearing shorts, a t-shirt and deck shoes. The apparent lack of any kind of organisation on the boat appeared to be sending the junior agent into a state of nervous agitation.

"Of course not!" Harriet repeated. "I don't even know which time period we're in! I just like standing dramatically at the front of the boat!"

Not for the first time on this trip, Alice facepalmed. Robert gave her a pat on the back, and steered her back indoors, where John was happily seated at the wheel of the yacht, completely in his element.

"Alice," Red and Gareth were seated in the next tiny room over around a table, the red head looking up from the prehistoric maps to speak. "Calm down hon. Why don't you tell us a bit about the series? I'm sure the readers must be curious by now."

A grin returning to the pet search engine's face, Alice plopped herself down at the table and began to speak in her usual textbook fashion. "Well, Sea Monsters is a three-episode documentary in which zoologist Nigel Marvin travels back in time to visit the seven most deadly seas of all time – but since Harriet has no idea where in the series we've dropped in, I have no idea which sea this is. It could be the Ordovician which is number seven, or it could be the Cretaceous, which is also known as Hell's Aquarium. And since we haven't seen any creatures yet, I can't tell that way either..."

"Ooo pull in here John!" Harriet was calling from outside, and John immediately began to steer the boat towards whatever it was that the leader had seen.

"Have you finished picking a suit out yet, Ingrid?" Gareth tapped on the small wooden door behind him. The younger agent appeared instantly, dressed like the rest of the crew, in shorts and t-shirt.

"No. I think I'll give diving a miss. Tash is still looking," she added needlessly as the leader peered out of the door to see what the fuss was about.

"...looking good, Birdy," Red was smirking at her friend, and Tash folded her arms grumpily.

"I think this suit was designed for a man..." she grumbled, pulling at the rubber, which hung like deflated skin off her shoulders. She vanished back into the small room and from the noises inside, had begun throwing the suits around again.

"Um...Tashy," Alice lifted her hand, with a frown. "Wetsuits don't really have a gender. Unisex." She gestured to everyone in the room who were all wearing a slight variation of the shorts and t-shirt combo.

Peering out again from behind the door, Tash lifted an eyebrow. "Maybe YOU need sex Alice. I had sex a couple of hours ago."

The pet search engine facepalmed again.

"I'll syringe your ears when we get back Tashy," Valerie offered, seeing Tash's puzzled frown at Alice's reaction.

"Drop the anchor!" Harriet called.

The rest of the crew ventured outside to find that they had stopped not too far from the shore. Faintly they could hear the sound of seabirds, and the shallow ocean below was an odd shade of green.

"So where are we?" John asked via his iPad. Harriet beamed.

"That's what we're here to find out!"

She withdrew what looked like a long grey plastic tube and with as much dignity and grace she could manage (which was not much on an unsteady boat) she lay flat to the deck, with her head hanging off the side, pressed her eyes to the top of the tube and peered through into the water.

Everyone leaned as close as they dared.

"...what do you see?" Gareth finally asked.

Harriet turned her head and fixed the group with a look.

"Well I can't see anything. But I can definitely hear something. Put your ear to the deck."

There was a scramble as everyone did as instructed. They could hear the creaking of the boat's wood and fibreglass, the gentle sounds of the waves slapping against the hull...and a low shuffling and moaning sound, punctuated by the occasional droning chorus of "braaaaaiiiinssss..."

An irritated twitch worked its way into Harriet's eye.

"Red! I don't know how they got on this boat, but go sort your stalkers out before they join forces with plot bunnies or something!"

Saluting the Society leader, Red whipped a shotgun out of nowhere and strode off towards the cabin. Her fiancé meanwhile, had adopted a thoughtful face, and made a mental note to capture a plot bunny later (he didn't need to worry about catching a zombie – as long as he kept Red within eyesight for the next few days one was bound to show up eventually).

"...hope there's no bunnies on this boat..." Ingrid muttered as everyone got to their feet once more. She'd had a narrow miss with one of the furry menaces that very morning, and had only been saved by Rhia stepping in and taking the bite...most unfortunately Cristoph had swooped in not a second later, and had promptly been chased around the marksmanship section of the Library for an hour by his horny girlfriend before Miriku had come along and sedated her.

"Least they're not pink plot bunnies," Alice commented, watching Harriet lean back over the side of the boat. "I think that would be more embarrassing in a way."

Everyone stared at her.

"...what?" Alice put her hands on her hips, jumping with everyone else as the noise of a shotgun caused the wood to tremble. "Look, let's say Robert was bitten by a plot bunny-"

Robert went crimson again.

"If it were a red one," Alice began explaining. "And he touched me first, you guys would all try and stop him, wouldn't you? Of course you would!" she continued without waiting for an answer (which was probably for the best given some of the naughty smirks that were being exchanged). "But if it were a pink plot bunny and he started... I dunno... serenading his love for me or something, you'd all think it was hilarious and just keep watching. It could go on for hours until you got bored, and we'd both be really embarrassed."

There was another very long silence as everyone went over this in their minds. Poor Robert wanted to dive into the sea and never emerge again (sea monsters or no sea monsters) and he was determinedly looking anywhere but Alice.

"Yes but you'd get over being embarrassed eventually," John countered. "I doubt you'd get over having sex with someone as fast." 

"Depends who's doing the sex..." Gareth muttered.

"Okay, the kelp is too thick..." Harriet complained. "I'm going down there. Valerie, you come with me. I want a closer look at that wildlife..."

As the healer nodded, Red's head poked around the doorway to the cabin. Her shotgun was smoking.

"Umm... does anyone know the most effective way to get a zombie's head out of a toilet?"


"Whoa!" the crew of the Ancient Mariner leaped in their seats. They were gathered around the small table in the cabin, with the television above their head playing back the footage that they had picked up from the shark camera earlier that day.

"That was brutal!" the cameraman's mouth was open in a wide grin.

Nigel too was beaming at the footage. "Look at that. It comes up from below the prey – perfect ambush."

"It went straight in for the kill too," Ocean pointed to the frozen picture, indicating the back half of the whale which had been ripped completely away from the rest of its body by the ferocious set of jaws.

"Good job pinning the camera, Ocean," Nigel gave her a pat on the shoulder, and she smiled. Things were going very well indeed.


Valerie had to admit, Harriet's bright pink wetsuit did make it very easy to spot her through the kelp.

The tall greenish-yellow plants rose up high into the sea, swaying back and forth with the waves as the two women found a small open space and sank into the vegetation. It was strangely noisier than Valerie had expected – this was relatively shallow water, and the sounds of the waves slapping against the nearby boat punctuated the sound of the blood pumping through her ears.

"What the hell is that?" the healer demanded. She was grateful for the diving facemasks, which meant that speaking whilst underwater was no problem (and also meant that she didn't have to clasp an uncomfortable mouthpiece between her teeth).

Though she couldn't see it, she just knew that Harriet was grinning.

"The whale that walks on its teeth!"

In the earpiece, she heard Tash squeak.

"Oooh I know where we are! We're in the Pliocene! That makes this the third most deadly sea! We must have jumped in at the beginning of the last episode."

Confused, Valerie peered once again at the creature. The closest thing she could compare it to in terms of shape was a rather fat dolphin. It had a very round head and body which tapered off into a whale-like tail. But its teeth were what stood out the most. It had two tusks protruding from its mouth and pointing towards the rear of its body, but one was only a few inches, whilst the other had to be almost a meter in length.

"I repeat. What is that?" she turned her head towards Harriet. The leader's short hair billowed around her like a dark cloud.

"Its name is Odobenocetops. Looks like a walrus, but it's actually a small whale. Bottom feeders mostly – he's probably looking for molluscs or something down there."

"If this is the Pliocene," Tash's voice appeared again. "Keep low in the kelp. There are probably juvenile Megalodon around here, and you're just about the right size for a hearty meal."

"Thanks Tashy," Harriet's voice held a pinch of dryness as she and Valerie sank a little lower, not too far from the Odobenocetops. The whale, appearing to find nothing in this patch of sand, lifted its head and swam upwards to try and find a new place to forage.

"So why's this sea the third most dangerous?" now that they knew where they were, Valerie was feeling a pinch of nervousness. "And what's a Megalodon?"

"Well, Megalodon means 'big tooth'... take an educated guess." Harriet invited. "And as for why this is the third most dangerous – bwah!"

She pointed just as the predator exploded out of the gloomy kelp. Sleek and deadly, it had caught up to the Odobenocetops before either of the girls had time to turn their heads and follow it. There was a sickening chomp as its jaws clamped down on the middle of the whale, and bit it almost clean in two.

Sinking a little lower in the kelp, Valerie and Harriet fought to keep their lunches.

"...that, is a Megalodon," Harriet said faintly, not taking her eyes off the shark. It looked a little like a Great White, but bulkier and bigger – the one now feasting on the Odobenocetops was already eight meters, and still just a juvenile. Harriet knew from watching the series that the full grown adults could be as long as sixteen meters – ten meters longer than a Great White.

"Can we go back to the boat?" Valerie asked. A cloud of blood was rising from the carcass. That smell would attract smaller predators and possibly more Megalodon from miles around.

"I think we'd better," Harriet nodded. "Now we know where we are, it should be easier to find the Sue..."


"Okay!" Placing a stack of paperwork on the table as thick a piece of GCSE coursework, Alice rubbed her hands. "I've dug up loads of info on the Pliocene-"

"Bin it Alice," Harriet ordered bluntly. "We're changing timezones."

The Society crew were clustered in the bridge, with John and Tash fiddling with controls as they prepared to move the ship once more. Harriet and Valerie had changed out of their wetsuits and were rubbing the last of the sea salt off their skin.

The pet search engine's face fell. "What?! I spent ages on this!"

"And we spent ages pratting around in the sea," Harriet objected, rubbing the towel over her hair. "Meanwhile the Ancient Mariner and the Sue were out in the middle of the ocean with an adult Megalodon. They've already finished filming their encounters with the shark and we recorded them jumping timestreams about fifteen minutes ago. Which means they're in the second deadliest sea now – the Jurassic."

"So its Liopleurodon time!" Gareth rubbed his hands together gleefully.

"Right," Tash nodded. "We're getting out of here. Weigh anchor!" she commanded, as John powered up the engines, creating a gentle hum beneath the feet of the agents. A moment later there was a plothole before the ship.

Harriet, looking as important as she always did, even with a towel around her shoulders, pulled out a sheet of paper and rolled it out across the table.

"Now my dear underlings," she said, squishing herself between Robert and Ingrid. "We," she pointed to a section of the timeline close to the end of the paper. "Just four million years in the past. If we went on land right now, we'd find our ancestors jumping out of the trees and starting to walk upright. We are about to," she pointed to another section in the middle of the timeline. "About a hundred and fifty five million years in the past, at the height of dinosaur times."

She beamed at Alice. "Terribly sorry about the research dear, but if you could dig up what we might encounter in the late Jurassic aside from Liopleurodon that would be great."

Alice scowled at the leader, clearly in a heavy sulk. "Fine. Whatever."

"Thank you!" the leader patted her on the head as the bridge abruptly went dark before the plothole spat them out into bright sunlight not a moment later.

"What's our plan?" Tash asked, lacking a seat and instead opting to sit on Harriet's lap.

"Well there's no point in sneaking," the leader declared, as the plothole closed up and John shut the engines down – there was a strong breeze and it was more sensible to use the sails. "Their radar will see us coming miles off, and that's if they don't spot us first. I say we just go up, pretend to be a crew of explorers or something, and try to gauge what damage the Sue has done."

There were no arguments about that – in a world where most of the creatures were out to eat them, this was one situation where sensibility and caution were not overrated in the least.

"Now onto item two," Harriet pulled a large sharpie out of her pocket and glared. "Who sharpied on my ship while we were diving?!" She frowned at one member in particular. "As if I really needed to ask."

Rolling a can of Red Bull between her hands, Red looked as innocent as the day she was born. "Must have been the zombies..." she said with a totally straight face.

"...that would explain why they crossed out The Swanny and wrote Braaaaiiiinss." Gareth piped up, smiling weakly in the face of everyone's disbelief.

"Don't be silly Gareth," Ingrid huffed. "Zombies didn't write that. Where would zombies get a sharpie in the middle of the ocean?"

Several people headdesked.

"Wanna get going?" John was waving his iPad in the direction of the other agents.

"Yeah let's go, before I whack my head too hard and give the zombies something to really be excited about..."



The zoologist looked up from the table, where he and Ocean were studying maps of the Jurassic sea. They had spent the day testing out the smell suits that they would use for safety when they dove with the Liopleurodon later that night.

"There's a large object on our radar," the captain of the ship was pointing to the round screen, rarely used on this ship since most of the action was taking place underwater, and therefore on the sonar screen. Sure enough, a dot had appeared south east of their current position.

"What is that?" Nigel frowned. "A pterosaur?"

"Would have to be really big," Ocean said dismissively, picking up the binoculars and peering out of the door in the direction the radar indicated. Peering through them, her sparkling green eyes fell on a black spec in the distance.

Her stomach dropped.

"What is it?" Nigel was right behind her, squinting at the horizon. Ocean frowned. There should be no other ships here, but the fact that there was could only mean one thing – the Society had found her again. She had no idea how – they usually only covered fictional worlds. She had thought she was quite safe waiting in a documentary to gather her strength. Obviously they were getting more diverse...

"It's another ship," another member of the crew called down, peering through his own binoculars. "About the same size as us. Heading this way, so they've definitely seen us too..."

Pulling the binoculars off her neck, Ocean handed them to Nigel, before striding away quickly to the bow of the boat. She had to get out of there immediately. Staying would only lead to her capture. She was getting bored here anyway – sea monsters were interesting and all, but the crew, as real people, were impossible to manipulate and almost completely immune to her charms. No, there were better places to hide – proper fandoms where she could stay unnoticed, like Twilight...

As she approached the bow, she raised her arms and the swirling plothole appeared before her. She raised a foot to step through it... and a loud BANG echoed above her head.

Ocean leaped a foot away and fell (gracefully mind) onto the deck. As she stared up the sky, she could see what looked like thick grey cement trickling off an invisible bubble around the boat. Panicky now, she leaped to her feet, only to find the plothole had vanished. She focused on summoning another, but nothing happened.

She turned her head and saw the rest of the crew carrying on like nothing had happened. They had not noticed the bang, or the cement-like substance. They had however seen her fall over, and one of the deck hands was rushing to check she was alright.

If Ocean had any doubts before about who was in that boat, now they were blown away along with the gust of wind that swept over the deck.


"Nice shot Ingrid!" Harriet beamed at the agent, before leaning over and patting her latest piece of nice long hard artillery.

"I can't believe you got another gun," Valerie shook her head.

"Oh I'm not keeping this gun," Harriet waved her hand airily. "I prefer something a bit thicker like the Canon Cannon. No I just thought in case the Sue decided to do a runner, we should have a way of stopping her. So I strapped this baby to the top of the boat and loaded up on All Purpose Cavity Plot Insulation!" She picked up her telescope and pressed it to her eye. "Yup, it's coated the area around the Mariner nicely! She won't be plotholing out of there!"

"Thank God she's only level five," Ingrid stated. "Plot Insulation doesn't really work once they're level six."

"It's probably helping that this is a non fiction world," Valerie admitted. "Less natural plotholes to help her."

"Ancient Mariner calling unidentified ship. Come in?"

Down in the bridge, John rapped his knuckles on the ceiling, but everyone had heard the radio crackle into life, and Harriet had swung herself through the door and swept up the mouthpiece before anyone could blink.

"Confirm Ancient Mariner. This is The Swanny-"

"No we're not! We're Braaaaaiiiinsss..."

"Oh shut up!" Harriet swatted the snickering Society healer away and went back to the radio. "We're an exploration team. Mind if we join you? It's been a while since we've seen creatures that aren't out to eat us." A thought occurred to her and she placed a hand over the mouthpiece. "Get the gun off the roof before they see it!"

"Confirm Swanny. Drop your anchor next to us. Over."

The line went dead.

"Well there's our invitation!" Harriet said gleefully. "Onward John! For glory, honour and a strong cup of tea!"

The junior agent looked a little bemused by this proclamation, but nonetheless he continued to steer the boat closer to the Mariner.

"Heads up Harriet," Tash said, who was sitting in the seat next to John tapping away at her Plot Summary. "I'm detecting an amnesia subplot worming its way around that boat – I reckon the Sue's told them she's lost her memory."

Harriet nodded. "Okay. That actually makes it easier for us to get the Mariner's trust. As they're non fiction people her Sue powers probably aren't working very well on them. So they'll at least hear us out, and they've got no reason to trust her if she says anything about us."

"Who is this Sue anyway?" John asked. "The author never got around to telling us."

"Ocean Daisy Etna Cumulus Sparkleflower Fields," Tash reported. "I've got her full specs on my Summary. She was caught ages ago – about the time Willowe was still at large – making trouble in the Pokémon fandom. She was in the basement for about six months before she was granted parole. She went back to the Pokémon fandom Prohibited and on a promise of keeping quiet and good behaviour. She must have been searching for a way to get her Prohibitor off."

"I thought that wasn't possible?" Robert had appeared in the doorway of the bridge with a tray off food in his arms. As his supervisor was busy doing research, the former Stu had been charged with making an early dinner.

"It's not usually," Harriet admitted. "Prohibitors are almost impossible to break – you'd have to put a serious tonne of force on its weakest point to stand a chance of snapping it – and they're resistant to magic. It takes someone like Adrian to take them off."

"Or any Sue above level ten could probably manage it if they had a thousand years worth of magical power behind them," Valerie added. "Ari got a Prohibitor around Death's neck and it didn't even faze him."

"But older Prohibitors are easier to get off than our current ones," Tash admitted. "About the time Willowe was caught breaking into the Library, we'd just updated the Prohibitors to their current form. Earlier Prohibitors were still pretty tough, but they were easier to break – Marcus had a Stu get a canon character to break one of his once." She pulled a face. "I imagine a level one hundred Machamp could probably break an old Prohibitor if it was well trained and tried hard enough."

"Anyway," Harriet waved a hand. "It's water under the bridge. The point is that she's here now, and we need to get her. And now with the Plot Insulation down she can't generate any plotholes out. In the mean time!" she turned her widest grin on Robert, who suddenly felt very fearful. "That looks delicious my dear underling! Set it down over there and I shall call everyone to come get their noms!"

She bustled past Robert and out onto the deck, almost running straight into Alice, who was still sulking from earlier.

"Here's your stupid research," she snapped, shoving a cardboard folder into Harriet's hands, and stomping off towards the smell of food. The leader blinked.

"Well excuuuuse meeeee," she muttered, flipping open the folder. Her jaw dropped.

Inside was a VHS of Jurassic Park.

And alongside that was the giant sharpie from earlier.

Reeling from Alice's cheek, and her stomach dropping at the sight of the pen, Harriet raced towards the back of her ship.

"Damn it Alice!" she snapped, cursing as she whacked her head on the railings of the newly christened "Blarghensaft".


Ocean paced around the bow of the ship, feeling abruptly caged. It had been almost an hour since the Society had pulled up alongside them, and two of them had come aboard to talk to Nigel. She wished she could go and listen to everything being said, but she was eager to avoid a confrontation with the Society. No, far better if she could just slip out without ever having to see them.

She squeaked and ducked out of sight as the two agents appeared from the bridge, waving goodbye as they clambered down the ladder on the side of the Mariner in order to swim back to their own ship.

Releasing a shaky breath, she got up, brushed off her shorts and headed for the cabin. She had a dive to prepare for and she wanted to check her scuba gear – nothing would go wrong for her of course. She was a Mary-Sue after all. But had no doubts that the Society would use any means to bring her in now that they had gone to all the effort of tracking her down and blocking off plotholes.

She pushed into the cabin and found Nigel tinkering with his own scuba gear. Cameraman Mike sat behind him, checking the amount of time left on the tapes.

Screwing her best easy going smile onto her face, Ocean sat down and asked. "Everything okay for tonight?"

Glancing up from his gear to smile at her, Nigel nodded. "We're all set. And we've got two extra pairs of hands – two divers from the other boat are coming down with us."

Colour drained from Ocean's face, and she struggled not to run from the room. "They're coming with us?" she asked. "But we barely know them!"

Nigel looked up, apparently surprised by her tone. Quickly, Ocean smiled trying to diffuse some of the panic that she had allowed to slip through. The zoologist's eyes glazed slightly as her powers took effect, before clearing again.

"Well it's true. But they do want to see the Liopleurodon and there is safety in numbers..."

"But it's so dangerous down there!" Ocean's wide green eyes seemed to water as she focused on Nigel. "And no offence to them, but they seem to be amateurs. Bringing them down could endanger the rest of us." She paused, glancing away for effect, before adding softly. "I don't want to see anyone on this ship get hurt."

Putting down the scuba gear, Nigel squeezed her shoulder reassuringly, but he did look concerned now. "I'm sure it will be fine. They're not total amateurs. Harriet told me that they've both been diving before, and one of them is even trained to handle a camera..." he frowned. "Though I was a bit worried that they didn't have smell suits. We've only got the three..."

Relieved that she seemed to be getting her point across, Ocean turned her charm up to the fullest, watching Nigel's eyes glaze over once more. Doing this to a non fiction person was so much harder than doing it to a fictional character, she lamented. If this were a proper story, she would have had the zoologist wrapped around her little finger by now. Still it looked like it was finally working...she couldn't have the Society on this dive...she just couldn't...

"They could still come with us."

Damn it! Ocean cursed mentally. In her desperation to convince Nigel she had forgotten that Mike was still there, fiddling away with his camera. "There's three of us, and two of them. They can just stick close to someone with a smell suit, and they should be fine. The range of that putricine we filled them with is pretty big."

"Yeah...I suppose that would be okay then," Nigel nodded. "If one of them sticks with you Mike and one of them hangs behind you Ocean, we should be okay if something comes to attack. Having two extra pairs of eyes will be good too in case another predator tries to sneak up on us..."

Sinking back into her seat, Ocean absently began to check over her scuba gear, and wondered if she would still be free come tomorrow morning.


As it turned out, the night time dive with the Liopleurodon turned out to be rather uneventful, save for Nigel and Ocean almost being eaten by one of the giant sea monsters – but since that was canon, the Society did not worry about it too much. Footage had been taken and Nigel was happy – which was more than could be said for Ocean and the scowl she gave Tash and Gareth when they resurfaced.

"Ooo!" Tash mocked as soon as the Mariner crew were out of earshot. Gareth winced.

"I think she heard you Tash."

"...I need my ears syringed," the leader declared for the twelfth time that day. Slipping a little on the soggy rails, they clambered back onto the boat. "I'm getting dried up, and going on watch duty."

Gareth tried to hide his disappointment. The Society had agreed to set up shifts just in case the Sue decided to make a run for it anyway. Having someone watching would make it harder for him to sneak off though on his own little mission. He'd have to find out when Red was on duty...

As the Society agents began removing their flippers and their breathing masks, they saw the crew of the Mariner winching up the floodlights that had been used to illuminate the dark sea. Nigel and Mike waved as they vanished into the cabin, and both Society divers waved back.

"Ah underlings!" Harriet appeared from the bridge, dressed in her fluffy pink dressing gown, and clutching a steaming mug of tea. "You have returned!

"No we haven't," Gareth shook his head, shucking the breathing tanks from his back. "We're still down there. This is an illusion, Harriet."

The leader blinked hard a few times, before looking at her mug. "My blood-tea level is obviously low..." She took another sip, and yelped as a sudden impact sent the boat rocking, and showered Harriet's lips and chin in the boiling water. "OW!"

Gareth seized the railing to stop himself from falling over. Tash on the other hand, in the middle of removing her own scuba gear, was not so lucky, and she had gone tumbling ungracefully onto her backside. "What the hell?!"

As the boat bobbed like a cork, the three Society members heard a keening wail come from beneath them, before another sharp thud sent them all sprawling. Gareth's feet skidded against the fibreglass floor as he clung to the rail for support, and Harriet gave an indignant screech as her mug went flying over the side.

"Is that an earthquake?" John, who until five seconds ago had been dozing peacefully in the bridge, now appeared in the doorway with a cue card in hand. He almost dropped it as the boat went lurching to one side again.

"What's doing that?!" Harriet demanded, glancing over at the Mariner to see if they were experiencing similar effects. To her surprise however, they were almost completely stationary, save for bobbing in a little bit of swell from the Society boat. Frowning, Harriet peered carefully over the side of the railings, scanning the black ocean for any signs of suspicious activity. As the boat rocked once more, sending the scuba gear skidding across the deck, she caught sight of a single black and white flipper breaking the surface before sinking back down into the murky depths.

"It's the Liopleurodon!" she called. "They're ramming the boat!"

"That doesn't make any sense!" Gareth yelled, over the bang that rocked their boat once more. "There's a whole carcass down on the sea floor! They shouldn't be bothering with us!"

Even as he said it, he caught sight of the deck of the Ancient Mariner – even at this distance it was just possible to make out the lone female figure standing at the bow like a dark spectre.

"It's Ocean!"

"What?!" Tash had given up trying to stand again, and was hugging the floor for dear life. Deciding that she had the right idea, Gareth hit the deck just as another particularly hard crash sent the ship lurching violently to the left.

"ACK!" arms flailing like pinwheels, Harriet staggered backwards into the railings and the momentum sent her toppling straight over them. Something firm seized her ankle and her downwards fall to the ocean was jerked to a halt, sending her swinging with a bang against the hull of the boat.

"OW!" she yelled, pain shooting down her skull like someone had whacked her one with a sledgehammer. Her head reeled as the blood began to rush towards it, and the cold sea lapped at the side of the rocking boat below her. She could hear gasping above her, and she had just enough time to look up to see Ingrid bent double over the railings, clinging to her foot, before her vision was obscured by her pink dressing gown. She gave a squeak before hastily trying to cover her knickers.

"Help me!" Ingrid rasped – almost throwing herself over the railing had knocked the wind out of her. Valerie and John appeared over the edge of the railing, and with an almighty tug, they began hoisting the leader back over the side.

"They're gonna get tired eventually right?" Gareth asked. "Or they'll hurt themselves?"

Peering at him from across the deck, Tash shook her head.

"If Ocean's using her Sue powers to control them, she could have them doing this all bloody night! At the rate they're going, we'll capsize long before the sun comes up!"

"Why aren't the Mariner trying to help us?!" Valerie asked, as she, Ingrid and John pulled Harriet back over the side of the railings.

"I dunno. Sue powers? Or maybe they're just in bed and can't see what's going on?" Gareth suggested. The boat gave another timely lurch, and Harriet and her rescue party went sprawling into the side of the bridge.

There was a strange whistling noise and a loud bang sent a geyser of water shooting up into the air. The Society hugged the deck of their rocking boat as a second shot was fired and a second column of water filled the air. There was the low moan of an anxious sea creature before the area fell silent.

Kneeling on the roof of the bridge, smoking gun in hand, was Red.

"Fear is more powerful than any level five Sue," she said confidently. "Didn't hit 'em. Just scared them. They won't be back for a while." She blinked at the stupefied expressions on the Society's faces. "What? You've never seen a girl with a rocket launcher before?"

"...I need tea..." Harriet declared weakly.

"Seconded," Gareth raised a hand, as he pushed himself upright. As the Society began to pick themselves up, Red swung her giant rocket launcher around towards the Mariner. There was an uproar from the Society, but the sight appeared to be enough for Ocean, whose dark silhouette fled from the bow towards the cabin.

Slowly, Red lowered her gun.

"Is everyone all right?" Tash was crawling her way towards the bridge. Ingrid, still winded from saving Harriet, just nodded, and everyone else murmured their agreement.

"Is everything all right up there?" a voice came from the cabin. A disheveled looking Robert stood in the doorway.

"Fine," Valerie assured him. "It was the Liopleurodon. They're gone now. You and Alice okay?"

Robert gave her a wry look. "Fine. She slept through it."

Valerie sweatdropped.

"Ocean's going to pay for making me waste a good cup of tea," Harriet grumbled, brushing herself off. "And forcing me to give an impromptu peep show."

"I see London, I see France, I see Harriet's underpants," John smugly produced the appropriate cue card, and Harriet whacked him over the head.

"Red, just one question," Tash asked, as her friend slid off the roof, shouldering her rocket launcher. "Where in the seven hells are you keeping all of these guns?"

The Society's resident zombie hunter shouldered her rocket launcher with her most mysterious smile.

"Wouldn't you like to know, Tashy."

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