01. If I Die Before I Wake

Dour K leaned back in her chair and sighed, rubbing at her aching eyes with knotted fists. "I can't take much more of this," she groaned aloud, blinking blearily at her fellow agents, who slumped in chairs throughout the cramped brick enclosure that they affectionately called "the Cell." In reality, it was the main office of the Disturbing Acts of Violence Department (DAVD), located in the basement of PPC HQ. Dour K tossed a thick sheaf of papers onto her desk, uncaring that the individual pages scattered on impact. "What was that, the third out-of-character torture fic this week?"

"And in the Star Trek: Voyager continuum, no less," Mad H supplied, nodding with no small amount of disgust. "I swear, if we have to investigate one more 'the Maquis mutiny and Chakotay turns evil' story, I'm gonna crack."

"You're already cracked, Mad," Dour K pointed out. She thumped a closed fist against her desk and pushed her seat out from beneath it, then swung her feet up to rest atop its worn surface. "Why's it been so busy this week?"

"Luck of the draw," Mad H shrugged. "Most of this crap isn't violent or disturbing enough to warrant our attention. The few that are, we take care of. We've just had a high number of 'take-care-of' pieces this week."

The conversation attracted the attention of Rile X, a young man hunched over a tall stack of continuum reports. "Hey, Dour, when're we gonna get some of the Upstairs' fancy-schmancy techno stuff in here? The filing cabinets are filling up pretty fast, y'know."

"Ask the Big Thorn. He's the one in charge, not me." Dour K eyed the mounds of paper adorning practically every desk in the Cell. "How many filing cabinets do we have right now?"

"Not enough," Rile X grumbled. "I had to start boxing up the older files and shipping them to a storage depot in Siberia."

"Perfect spot for 'em," Mad H said without looking up from her own pile of reports.

Dour K picked up her Koosh ball and began to fiddle with it. She'd only recently joined the DAVD, but already she felt as though she'd been with the department for a hundred years. As a DAVD agent, her job involved recon work for the departments located on the upper floors of the PPC HQ. Unfortunately, she wasn't licensed to kill, maim, or otherwise inflict punishment on the perpetrators of the crimes she was sent to investigate; that job fell to more reputable departments. Too bad, Dour K thought grimly. I'd gladly take care of some of these Mary Sues and Bad Slashers myself.

"Oh-ho! Got an urgent one here!" Rile X called out, breaking Dour K's line of thoughts. The spectacled agent waved a sheet of paper around, flashing the big red URGENT stamp at Dour K and Mad H.

"Great. What is it this time, another 'Winnie-the-Pooh is a homicidal fruit loop' story?" Mad H asked.

Rile X peered at the sheet. "Nah. Looks like this one's a Lord of the Rings piece."

Dour K shot out of her chair despite her aching back. "Gimme that!"

Rile X surrendered the report without a fight. "What, are you part of that fandom or something?" he asked.

"Yeah, you could say that," Dour K answered distractedly, flicking an angry gaze over the report she had snatched from her fellow agent. "Oh, for cryin' out loud, it's another lousy Thranduil-bashing child abuse story!"

Mad H and Rile X looked at each other and shrugged. "So, you wanna take this one yourself?" Mad H asked.

Dour K nodded jerkily. "Heck yeah. It's a Mary Sue, too, so that means I'll be reporting to Jay and Acacia." She gave a mirthless smile. "They're vicious."

"Awrighty, well, you'd better get going," Mad H said. "We'll hold down the fort."

"Dour, while you're upstairs, holler at somebody to give us some techno stuff, eh?" Rile X put in.

Dour K nodded, already heading for the storage locker where they kept their equipment. "Sure thing. I'm sick of the paper cuts."

Whereas the Cell was somewhat technologically deficient, the storage locker was not. Upstairs for small favors, Dour K thought as she pulled her green duffel out of the locker and unzipped it. Lessee, everything in here? Portable portal-generator, hand-held disguise generator, Canon Analysis Device, notebook, pen, Tylenol, Band-aids, blanket, Polaroid camera… She would not use most of the things inside, as her job was only to investigate, not to carry out a full-blown observation stint, but it never hurt to be prepared. Dour K removed the disguise generator from the duffel and began poking at the controls.

"What're you disguising yourself as?" Rile X asked.

Dour K made a last few adjustments. "Watch." She hit the Begin key, and a glimmering light seemed to envelop her for a few seconds. As the light disappeared, so did the agent with short brown hair, wide-legged jeans, and Sanctus Real T-shirt. In her place stood an Elven maiden with long hair and a simple green dress. She grinned at her fellow agents and twirled around in a rare moment of giddiness. "Check it out, y'all. I'm all spiffy now, aren't I?"

"Not bad," Mad H told her. "What're you calling yourself, 'Dourina the Half-elven' or something?"

Dour K's good mood evaporated, and she glared at Mad H. "No! There are only a few Half-elves, and—oh, never mind! I've got a job to do here!"

"Okay, okay! Geez, no need to get all ticked," Mad H huffed. "I'm no expert on the LotR continuum, y'know."

"I know. That's why I'm taking this one," Dour K said more calmly. She felt a little bad about snapping at Mad H, but one could only hear about so many extra Half-elves before getting fed up with the whole concept. With an apologetic look at her affronted fellow agent, Dour K tossed the disguise generator into the duffel, then plucked out the portal generator. "Here goes. Catch you all on the flip side." With that, she pressed the appropriate key, and a glittery doorway appeared before her. She stepped into it, and in the blink of an eye Dour K vanished from the DAVD office…

…and reappeared in a dim hallway lined by glimmering torches on the stone walls.

Dour K blinked and shook herself, getting her bearings. Portals always left her feeling strange for several moments afterwards—must be the interdimensional blah blah something or other, she decided with a flourish of officiality.

The hallway was empty, thankfully; though most canon characters would not notice an agent unless the agent wished it, and though Dour K's disguise would attract little attention, she was glad for a few moments alone in which to prepare. She knelt down and stuffed the portal generator back into the green duffel bag, then rummaged around and retrieved her small notebook and pen. Good reporters never left home without them. I should've gone to work for CNN or something.

Faint sounds floated down the hall, catching Dour K's attention. She pulled out her Canon Analysis Device and pushed it into a convenient pocket located in the side of her dress' long skirt. Zipping the duffel once more and transferring it to her left hand, the agent gripped her pen and notebook in her right hand and stood, already gritting her teeth at what she knew she was going to see. She'd read the first few lines of the story. It was not pretty.

Dour K hurried down the corridor, faintly regretful that she didn't have time to stop and admire the lush hangings on the stone walls. They were quite intricately embroidered, actually; she didn't usually notice such things, but she wasn't usually in a palace made of otherwise bare stone, either. Dour K winced as the livid sounds grew louder. She was nearing her destination. The Canon Analysis Device in her pocket had started to whimper; she had turned its volume down after the first fifty times it had scared her with its default frantic shrilling.

There was a doorway ahead and to the right. The noise was coming from beyond it. Dour K took in a deep breath and set her duffel on the floor, then crept forward and peered around the door's edge to catch a glimpse of the room.

She was just in time to see a tall Elf with golden hair smash a glass bottle down on a kneeling Elf's head, causing the victim to cry out and crumple to the floor. "WORTHLESS!" the assailant screamed, the slight slur in his voice indicative of a highly inebriated state.

Dour K wrenched herself away from the door, fighting the impulse to shriek (in rage or horror, she wasn't sure which). She knew very well who the Elves were, and what was going on. Thranduil was beating the living daylights out of his youngest son, Legolas, the most abused character in the entire canon. Merciful mother, Dour K thought, shocked. It's worse than I imagined!

The frenetic—albeit quiet—whining of the Canon Analysis Device brought her back to her senses, and Dour K clamped down on the growing sickness in her stomach. She nearly tore the cover from her notebook in her furious attempts to get it open, and the pen cap flew from her hand as she yanked it off. Suck it up, Dour girl, she told herself sternly. Jay and Acacia will see that the creature responsible for this gets hers.

Not at all comforted, the agent slipped into the room. The tall aggressor continued to berate the younger Elf, who remained in a shivering clump on the floor. And in the corner, watching the scene with frightened doey eyes, was a female Elf. Dour K fought down a wave of nausea—oh, yeah, Ms. Sue, I'll bet you just hate to see this!—and pulled her Canon Analysis Device from her pocket. She pointed it at the Elf female.

[Palanfirithiel. Elf female. Non-canon. Mary Sue.]

Ah-hah. Just as I thought. And no, honey, Palanfirithiel doesn't mean "Dawn" or "Morning Star," Dour K thought, glancing at the words scrawling across the screen. She jotted down some observations on her notebook: Definitely a Sue. Has no idea what her own name means. Effects on canon characters drastic. Thranduil beating Legolas to a pulp while Sue looks on, "frightened."

Dour K then pointed the analyzer at Thranduil, afraid to know the extent of the damage, but unable to complete her report without precise readings.


Dour K muttered under her breath, using words she would never have used in the company of anyone besides her Koosh ball, and repeated the process for Legolas.

[Legolas. Elf male. Canon. 46.37% OUT OF CHARACTER.]

The unusually low percentage was to be expected, considering that he was responding reasonably as Legolas would under the circumstances. Dour K rather suspected that he, too, would succumb to complete degradation before the story was over. She noted the analyses on her notebook's rapidly filling sheet.

The scene was quickly wrapping itself up. Thranduil—or the evil thing the Sue had warped him into—threw the prince at the Sue's feet and threatened her with death unless she kept poor abused Legolas alive. Dour K watched the Sue help a bleeding and bewildered Legolas to his feet. As the two made slow progress toward the door, the agent turned to study Thranduil for a moment. The Elvenking had frozen up the moment the author had stopped writing in action for him; apparently, his only purpose for being in the story was to beat up Legolas. Dour K was almost ready to scream for the injustice of it all. Thranduil's expression was locked into an unnatural grimace of drunken rage, but his eyes seemed a little clouded, almost misty. If Dour K squinted, she could almost imagine that she caught a glint of horror in the Elf's gaze.

Oh, your Majesty, she'll pay, I swear it. Even if I have to come here again and slaughter her myself…

With that cheerful thought, Dour K turned once more and followed after Legolas and his Mary Sue healer. Dour K grabbed her duffel as they passed it, shoving the Canon Analysis Device in her pocket so she could keep her notebook handy. When they returned to the prince's large room, the Sue was free to engage in a classic pre-romantic hurt/comfort scene with the briefly suicidal Legolas. Dour K watched, sorely tempted to interrupt with some excuse about being a servant and having heard a commotion… but that would be breaking the rules. As a DAVD agent, her job was to observe for a short time, then report back to the PPC proper and make a recommendation to the Upstairs departments. She wasn't allowed to interfere in any way with the story's flow.

This job sucks, Dour K thought, scribbling notes with an almost fevered pitch: Sue on an obvious h/c trip. Legolas' brush with suicidal thoughts completely blasé. Said thoughts derailed out of pity for the Sue.

The rest of the observation period passed in much the same fashion. Dour K felt her blood pressure skyrocketing a little more with each moment. The Sue left the room, and Legolas promptly began to think sympathetic thoughts about the beautiful girl—used the word "beautiful" twice in the first paragraph of Legolas' thoughts, there, The next lines nearly made the agent sick. For cryin' out loud, the Prince is fantasizing about his dad dying so he can marry that GIRL! Dour K's pen moved so fast she could barely maintain the legibleness of her penmanship.

After a very short period of time, the Sue was forcibly returned to the room by Thranduil's Evil Twin, who slapped her and snarled at her like a rabid dog, telling her that she must not leave Legolas' side for any reason. Dour K almost snapped her pen in half. Well, isn't that convenient? she thought, directing her darkest glare at the Sue.

When the warped Elvenking exited once more, the Sue tended a lingering hurt on Legolas' side, and they smiled at each other, the same sickening smile that appeared in every Mary Sue story Dour K had ever witnessed. It was the "gosh-yer-pretty" smile. Not at all appealing.

Almost as an afterthought, Dour K pulled out the Canon Analysis Device and pointed it at Legolas. This time, it was showing that the prince was teetering on the edge of a character rupture. The agent glanced at the words scrolling along on the screen, words that were supposedly Legolas' thoughts as he smiled at the Sue. Dour K gagged.

[Gosh, she's beautiful. Wow.]

Dour K turned and stormed out of the room, having seen quite enough for one job. She flung the duffel down on the floor and wrenched it open, exchanging her Canon Analysis Device for the portable portal-generator. All the while, she sang a little ditty to herself, almost chanting it mantra-style: "Gonna die, little Sue, gonna die die die…" …even if I have to tear your bloody heart out of your scrawny little chest, Sue-wench!

Dour K was gone before Legolas and the Sue emerged from the room in response to the dinner bell…

…and upon her arrival in the Cell, she nearly ran into Mad H. The other agent jumped back in surprise. "Dour! That had to be the shortest observation time on record!"

"Yeah, Mad, that's great," Dour gritted out, throwing her duffel to the floor and stomping over to her desk. She was far too upset to realize that she hadn't yet shed her disguise, and that the other agents saw a dainty Elf maiden acting like Attila the Hun on a rampage.

Rile X shook his head sympathetically. "That bad, eh?"

"Yeah, that bad!" Dour K snapped, digging through the papers stacked on her desk. "Thranduil is an alcoholic who beats up on his youngest kid! A poorly-done flirtation with suicide on top of the child abuse! The dumb Sue-wench doesn't even know what her own frickin' name means!" She yanked open one of her desk drawers and began to claw through the mess of papers filed inside.

Rile X, nonplussed by his fellow agent's ire, nodded. "Yep. Kill that one, for sure."

"I intend to," Dour K replied. She finally found what she was looking for—an official report form—and began to fill it out in earnest. Title: "If I Die Before I wake." Author: ElvenPrincessofMirkwood. Offenses: Mary Sue, OOC child abuse, general disruption of canonical characters...

Mad H and Rile X refrained from commenting as she worked, each knowing better than to bother Dour K when she got so upset. The last time had been over an OOC torture-murder in the Earth: Final Conflict continuum, and they were still trying to clean up the Coca-Cola stains from the spot where Dour K had thrown her soda bottle in a fit of rage on Da'an's behalf. Dour K, for her part, finished her report in a great hurry, being sure to include the analyses of the various characters, then got up and smacked her desk's portal generator, activating a glittery doorway to the PPC proper, Mary Sue department.

"Hey, don't forget about the techno stuff," Rile X called after her.

Dour K waved a hand in acknowledgement and stepped through the portal. Quite suddenly, it spit her out into a clean white hallway. To her left was a door that said LotR Mary Sue Department, Agent Jay, Agent Acacia. Dour K hesitated before knocking, trying to think of a good way to address Jay and Acacia, who had become legends among the LotR fans in the DAVD's various small offices. Your Divine Ladyships? Your Most Excellent Majesties? Your Wondrously Spiffy Highnesses?

Shut up, Dour K growled at her brain. She had a job to do. She raised her hand and knocked.

No one answered. Complete silence greeted Dour K's attempts to get the occupants' attention. Jay and Acacia were out on a mission, then. Dour K sighed with both disappointment and relief. She slipped her report under the door. Here's to a successful mission and a swift death for the Sue you're hunting! she thought at the absent agents. That done, Dour K turned back to the portal.

It was gone. It had closed after depositing her at her destination. And she had forgotten her portable portal-generator.

Dour K groaned. She would have to take the 1,012 flights of stairs all the way back down to the basement. "This job sucks…"

Many thanks to Jay and Acacia of the PPC for their hard work, and for allowing a nasty Alter Ego™ such as I to join your ranks! As much as I complain, I love my job!

~Dour K