08. Why am I Here?

Acacia was getting rather sick of waiting. She'd rather counted on being able to leave Ranger at the Department of Personnel, not have to wait till his new partner arrived.

Next to her, Jay fidgeted. The Director of Personnel, a daisy in a pinstriped suit and brown bowler, looked up.

The agent will be here in a minute... no, really, I promise... after all, we're a model of efficiency. Remember? It smiled commiseratingly. Probably.

"You said," Acacia pointed out, "half an hour ago, that he'd be partnered up and off to a response center in five minutes. I remember that."

The daisy's petals drooped. I lied. It tapped its fronds in a tattoo on the desk.

"Acacia, don't be mean," Jay spoke up. "I'm sure it's trying."

Ranger looked from one face to another, and said nothing. He was still looking a bit pole-axed... the daisy's attempt to strike up friendly conversation hadn't helped.

Acacia sighed, pulled out a book, and began reading. (It was titled Deadly Doses: A Writer's Guide to Poisons. The fact that this was spare-time reading for her probably says a lot about her.)

Outside in the hall, there was the sound of running feet. The door was pushed open quickly, and a rather tired-looking young woman hurried in. She sagged against the door, her weight pushing it shut, and breathed deeply.

Acacia put down the book. "And you're...?"

She straightened a bit, smiled, and ducked her head at Acacia. "Agent Robyn. You're... Acacia? Or are you Jay?"

"Nope, Jay's me," Jay put in.

Acacia smiled thinly. "This here's Ranger. He's the evil twin of a Sue we just killed, and we didn't have much of a charge list, so we recruited him. If I'm correct in assuming you're the person the daisy called in, he's all yours."

Robyn's eyes grew wide. "That's why you called me here...? I get a partner?"


"AWWRIGHT!" She punched a fist into the air, then looked embarrassed. "Sorry. Uh... I'm just a bit overworked by myself."

Acacia blinked. "I thought they gave everyone partners to begin with."

Understaffing, the daisy understated.


Ranger got up, and warily extended a hand to Robyn. "Hello?"

Robyn took his hand and shook it rather enthusiastically. "Hi!"

Ranger still looked wary.

Jay thought for a minute, then came over and whispered something in Ranger's ear. He brightened, smiled back at Robyn, and followed her happily out the door.

"What'd you tell him?"

"Explained that she was sane."

"I see," said Acacia, grinning. "Though I'm not sure why he wanted to take your word for it, of all people. Now, do we go back to our response center now?"

Jay nodded, but her stomach rumbled. "Hit the café first?"

"We have one?" said Acacia, who lived on pizza and chocolate brought from the real world.

"We have one. And it sold tuna fish and chicken salad... and lo, poured out a multitude of junk food... and the agents looked upon the café, and it was good."

"Has it got chocolate?"

"Hershey's, Ferrero Rocher, Nestlé, Cadbury..." Jay thought for a minute. "Oh, yeah, and pizza, too."



Both of them were in a much better mood when they got back to their response center. Jay was still munching on chicken salad sandwich, and had spent several dollars on a half dozen foil-wrapped eggrolls now squirreled away in her backpack. And a Twinkie.

Acacia sat back in her seat, contented. This must have been too tempting a scene for the Narrative Laws of Comedy, because—


Jay nodded. "Acacia, stop looking content when we get here..."

"Will try," sighed Acacia. "Check what the fic is, will you?"

Jay looked. And blinked. "Is this a misfiled parody?"

"That bad?"

"YOU look."

Acacia stepped over to Jay's terminal, read a bit, and winced. "I think... that it would be a good idea... to get this done as soon as possible. It's things like this that cause a sudden work ethic to form."

"Mt. Doom?" Jay started packing. "Ooooooow. She's got a pet dragon. And a katana. She must burn."

"I'll say this for her: at least she picked an original character for a boyfriend. Granted, he's an orc, but..."

"And he wants to become an elf again. How does THAT work? He wasn't one to begin with..."

"He thinks he was."

"Uh. HUH. Sure. This gal has problem with timespan..." Jay winced. "How small does she think Middle-earth is? Rivendell to Orthanc in a day's ride?"

"Something for the charge sheet. Distorting geography." Acacia looked at the few excerpts from the Words on the screen. Most of them were there for a reason, so it was a good idea. "Oh, gods..."

"Oh, dear..." Jay got out of arm range. Acacia had gotten to THAT part.

Acacia glowered for a moment, then took out her book and flipped to a spot near the end, apparently looking for something.

Jay smiled happily. Ahh, the stress relief of gruesome death... She turned her attention to the story. "I don't think orcs are going to cut it this time."

Acacia ignored this, being rather absorbed in looking through Appendix C: Poisons by the Symptoms They Cause. "Ah. Pain. Acid, adder, alkalies, ammonia, beaked sea snake, brown recluse, cadmium, camphor, cationic detergents, cinchophen, cobra, corn cockle, fer-de-lance, Gila monster, hemlock, jellyfish, monkshood, Portugese man-of-war although I'm sure that's just another jellyfish, scorpionfish, scorpions, silver nitrate—"

Jay grinned. If Acacia ignored her, there were consequences. She hit the necessary controls and motioned Acacia through.

Acacia rummaged in a drawer to find a vial, stowed it in her gear, and stepped through.

Acacia spun around. She felt unexpectedly light-footed and unorclike. "Okay, Jay. What'd you do?"

"We're being canonical," the somewhat stocky (for an elf) elf said in a musical voice (the music in question being British protest rock. But what did you expect?)

"Elves? It's a nice change, but... how come?"

"Chicky and her sex slave get locked up Mihkwood," Jay said.

"Ah," said Acacia. "And we seem to have arrived in Rivendell again, so even if we're noticed we'll fit right in."

Jay grinned happily. "Don't suppose we could talk to Elrond..."

"He can't see us, Jay."

"We can make him notice us."

Acacia sighed. "Okay. Fine. You can if you like. I'll be right here."

Jay bounced away. About five minutes she came back, looking happy, holding a Polaroid and a file card. With a signature on it. Acacia rolled her eyes.

"EE!" Jay bounced and pointed. "He signed my cahd. I'm... so... happy!"

"Whoopee," said Acacia, who had spent the five minutes pilfering a rather more elvish bow, and filling her quiver with more appropriate arrows. Several random elves were going to be upset.

Jay smiled, and bounced away again before Acacia could stop her. Just as Acacia was getting worried, she bounded back.

"You yelled at meee for stealing," she said.

"That was different."

"How?" Jay asked.

"That was when it was you doing it," said Acacia, smirking. "I think the Council will start soon. Shall we go and witness her rather undignified entrance?"



It was a nice change, not having to hide in the bushes. The canonicals wouldn't see them, and the Mary Sue would hardly notice two more elves.

After a moment, there was a descending, Dopplered scream. A young woman fell into Gandalf's lap. Jay and Acacia exchanged glances.

"Oof!" said Gandalf, and they both winced.

"What a pity she didn't land on someone who'd enjoy it..." Jay said vaguely.

"Like who?" said Acacia.

"A straight guy?" Jay blinked. "No, sorry, it's the actoh who's gay... never mind."

Acacia grinned. "Depends on who you ask. Remember I started out in the Slash Department?"

"Ah. Yes." Jay nodded. "However, I KNOW Sir Ian McKellan's -hem- preferences, whereas Tolkien really made all of his charactehs ratheh sexless."

"Some people have the oddest ideas," said Acacia—quietly, so this Alex person wouldn't hear. "Radagast. Saruman. Frodo, and that was really strange. Elrond..."

"Radagast, Saruman, and Elrond I get." Jay shrugged. She had a bit of a guilty penchant for the odd slash story.

Acacia just shrugged and turned her attention back to Alex.

Alex and Boromir had been arguing—or rather, Alex had been throwing rather nasty comments his way. "Why do you mock me?" Boromir asked, his hackles rising.

"Because I hate you."

"Well, you," Boromir said, spitting in her face, "are an ugly, insensitive, wench!"

Jay applauded quietly. Acacia cheered outright. Fortunately, the Mary Sue was too busy punching him in the nose to notice, and when he hobbled off, positively sobbing, Jay had to drag Acacia out of the area and tie her up to stop her trying to eviscerate Alex.

After she had calmed, Jay untied her and thrust a rag in her face. "You. Kind and gentle elf. Go tend to the prince's broken nose. It'll make you feel betteh."

Acacia brightened up immediately. She liked that idea.

"I'm going to talk to Sue for a minute."

"Fun," said Acacia, heading off to go find Boromir.


"'ere, you, Alex."

Alex turned as a dark-haired elf, tall and broad-shouldered, addressed her. "Yes?"

"My Lohd Elrond 'as requested that I speak to you about cehtain actions at the Council..."

"Why do you have a British accent?"

"I don't know what yer talkin' about, M'lady."

"You do! It's British."

"M'lady?" The elf looked at her strangely.

Alex gave up. "Never mind. What was it you wanted to tell me?"

The elf grinned positively evilly, and launched into a long speech about how violence was bad. Alex was rooted to the spot, dizzied by sudden tangents in the monologue on such fascinating subjects as the classification of jellyfish, and the 305.2 national cheeses of Gondor. Just as Alex thought she was done, the elf reached into her robe and pulled out sock-puppets...


"Boromir?" The elf opened the door and entered without waiting for an answer.

"My lady." Boromir looked angry. And confused. And his nose was bleeding.

"I can help with your nose," the elf offered. This was not the most brilliant comment in the world, but she was distracted by trying to think of a name.

"Thank you." Boromir was too preoccupied to ask for one. "She... broke my nose. And I was reduced to... something weak. What is this?"

"Mary Sue," Acacia said sympathetically, sitting down next to him.

He looked up. "What?"

"They come from another world," Acacia said unhelpfully. "They screw with everyone like that, don't worry. And I'm going to kill her painfully, so don't worry about that, either."

"You... you will? You can?" Boromir was trying to look anything but happy about this, and failing miserably.

"Absolutely," said Acacia, grinning broadly. The rather malicious expression was markedly out of place on her elven face.

"What a shame." Boromir let her wipe the blood from his face. "But... would Elrond approve of such a thing?"

"Absolutely no reason at all why not," said Acacia mock-cheerfully.

Boromir looked confused, but much more cheerful. Suddenly, something struck him. "My lady, what is your name...?"

"Um," said Acacia, "it's... Vananovien."

"Such a name. May I call you Vanna?"

Acacia blushed brightly, and shook her hair out from behind her pointy ears to hide this fact. "Um. Yes." Then she thought of Wheel of Fortune, and tried not to laugh.

Boromir looked up at her. "My lady... is something wrong?"

"Vanna" was seized with a sudden fit of coughing. "Um—no—I'm... perfectly fine..."

Boromir smiled at her. "Thank you, Vanna."

"You're welcome," Acacia mumbled.


"So you see, violence is the symptom of an unhealthy mind," said Socko the sock puppet.

"Speaking of violence, let's talk about the .2 strain of Gondor's national cheese," said Millie the sock puppet.

"You see, once a cheesemaker had five substrains of Gondor Blue Vein. So he called them all one cheese. But then he discovered another strain of Gondor Blue Vein. Oh, hello Acacia, is something wrong with your face? And so he said, 'Oh, NO! I have discovered another .3 piece of cheese!' But then his friend, a mathematician, said, 'No, silly, that's .2 of a strain of cheese...'"

Acacia's eyes flickered from Jay to Alex, noting with a fair amount of satisfaction the Sue's expression of stunned bewilderment. Torture. Fun.

Alex's eyes swiveled from one elf to another. Then she turned and ran away.

"Wait! We have pamphlets!" said Millie the sock puppet.

"I don't even want to know why you brought sock puppets with you on a mission," said Acacia. She sat down on a handy flat rock and sighed. "PTerry got it exactly right."

"Improvised them. And I know he did, but what is he right about this time?"

Acacia sighed again. "'Ninety percent of true love is acute, ear-burning embarrassment.'" She pulled out her book again, clearly hoping not to be asked more questions. She should be so lucky.

"Acacia, he's a fictional characteh!"


"It's not healthy to be in love with fictional charactehs."

"Is it healthy to bring up cheese in a discussion of why violence is bad?"

"Thehe's neveh been a Stah Trek episode about THAT." Jay arched one fine eyebrow.

"Yes, that's because it's so bizarre that it never even occurred to them."

"Thehe HAVE been episodes about how bad it is to be in love with fictional charactehs..."

"They are talking through their hats," said Acacia sourly.

"I beg your pahdon...?"

"I don't care what they think. Anyway, TV show episodes are more about what makes a good story than anything else."

Jay sighed, and shook her head. "Sue's heading out to Isengahd today... then she fohgets she went, and does it again. When shall we hit her?"

"I'd like to say immediately, but right now all we have as charges are various OOCnesses and distorting time. Anyway, that orc's either a Marty Sam or getting really damn close. We ought to wait for him."

Jay blinked. "DAMN!"


"That little dragon thing. It's still running loose!"

Acacia scanned the words. "And it doesn’t appear for the rest of the story. It was just there for impact. Shall we kill it, then?"

"We have to. That's paht of the Duty."

"Okay. Any idea where it is?"

"Not a clue."

Acacia considered. "It was last seen scuttling away at the Council, after Gandalf recited that inscription."

"What do you suppose it eats?"

"I have no idea."

"Think a can openeh would work?"

"Do you have a can opener?

"Um. I think I left it behind. Twinkie?"

"Worth a try."

Jay solemnly unwrapped the dubious edible. "Have you heahd the theory that lembas is actually Twinkies...?"

"Yes. And I think it's stupid. It was specifically said that lembas tastes good."

Jay laughed. "The fatal hole in theih logic." They walked out into the woods around Rivendell, and Jay tossed the Twinkie into a clearing. It bounced.

They waited there for awhile. Acacia picked up several small stones and used them to brain several small forest creatures who had started to eat the Twinkie.

"If the Twinkie doesn't attract it, maybe the brained animals will," Jay said quietly, trying not to fall asleep.

"Could very well be."

"Mmm." Jay leaned against a tree and closed her eyes.

Acacia, not quite as tired, was watchful a bit longer, and saw Leviathan show up. Why it was named Leviathan she really didn't see. It was not all that big.

She nudged Jay. "Mm." Jay shook her head, and shrugged. Acacia sighed and headed toward the creature, which didn't back away. There was one advantage of being an elf, then: they were inoffensive to animals.

She looked it all over to see if there was anywhere the scales didn't cover. Having found a score on the belly where the scales had separated as the dragon grew bigger, she pulled a dagger from her gear and calmly stabbed the thing.

Jay rolled her eyes and started to stagger back to Rivendell, and some spare bed.

Acacia smiled happily, stowed the dead dragon in a hollow beneath some tree-roots to be got rid of later, and followed Jay.


The first thing that struck Acacia when she awoke the next day was an intense feeling of confusion and disorientation. She fished out her new Canon Analysis Device (she'd run into Makes-Things at the café) and tried to work out what the hell was going on. "Oh, gods. She's mucking with time. I hate when they do that."

Jay, from a nest of a blankets on the floor, moaned. "My head huhts."

"Temporal/Spatial Distortion. Hope you get used to it soon, it's not over for five more days."

"I know..." Jay said muzzily. "Dealt wi' it befoh... still huhts..."

Acacia sighed. "We could always portal to Isengard-five-days-later," she offered.

"I've been thinking about tha'. I think ouh best bet is to hit them in Mihkwood..."

"Okay. But I kind of want to see her on Orthanc, actually. It could be fun watching her suffer. And we'll have access to her food source before her Marty Sam brings it to her. Which means, obviously, that we can poison her."

"Aren't we getting them in Mihkwood?"


"You and poisons. Good old-fashioned violence has always wohked for ME..."

"I like them. They're fun."

Jay sighed. "Let's staht walking towards Mihkwood... if we don't make it on time, we can pohtal at the last second."

"Orthanc, remember," Acacia said.

"Then we walk towahds Isengahd."

Acacia nodded, and they set out.

Jay sighed and smiled. There was only so far they could go in five days, but hey...


"'Here's to the nights we felt alive, here's to the tears you knew you'd cry—' how far've we come, Jay?"

"Not fah. It's weeks away by walking." She sighed and hit the portal. "Let's bounce."

"Fine by me," said Acacia, stepping through. Owing to some plot hole or other, or the time the portal had been set to, they arrived just in time to watch Alex arrive on her horse, whose name did not mean "wind" in Latin, at least as far as Acacia knew, although she was only a first-year Latin student so she could be wrong. But it ended in O. Acacia was fairly sure that Latin nouns did not end in O.

"Sounds like she's a student in 'authentic' gibb'rish," Jay mused.

"Could very well be," said Acacia sourly. "It'll be fun to watch Saruman get her. 'Banging on the doors of Isengard...' tres Freudian, although I'm sure our sweet innocent Sue author wasn't thinking in those terms."

"What an idiot." Jay sighed. "I applaud Saruman foh all his actions in this wise."

The door was answered by an orc.

"Hello, I am here to see Mr. Saruman of Many Colors. Is he at home?"

Acacia sniggered audibly. Alex looked around suspiciously, but saw no one, and followed the orc inside. "Idiot."

Jay snickered. "I propose we go knock at the door in about ten minutes and say "Hello, we are here to make your prisoneh miserable."

Acacia glanced at the Words a moment. "Try an hour. I thought Mary Sues were supposed to be intelligent. She goes up to Isengard to ask why she has a magic sword? Doesn't she know never to look a gift horse in the mouth?"

"She are stupid? Yes yes!"

"Anyway. We have an hour, if you really want to knock on the doors and say that."

"Do you mind? It might be well received."

"Go ahead."

Jay dropped down next to the black stone wall, and leaned back. "Well. An 'our. With what shall we fill it?"

Acacia shrugged. "You still got the cards?"


"Why did I let you talk me into playing pokeh again?" Jay asked, sourfaced.

"Search me," said Acacia, smiling.

Jay moved over and made to start patting Acacia down.

"Jay, I'm surprised at you. Why would I bother to cheat? I always win anyway."

"You said 'Seahch you'," Jay reminded her, frisking her.

Had this been an anime continuum, Acacia would have sweatdropped. She was forced to settle for putting a hand to her forehead and sighing. "By the way, it's been an hour."

"Has it?" Jay had no time sense. She gathered up the cards, stowed them carefully out of sight, and headed towards the front door.

Acacia followed, leaving the bow behind so as not to appear threatening, but keeping her dagger in a boot so as to be threatening.

Jay knocked primly at the door. An orc opened it cautiously.

"Hello! We're here to make your prisoneh miserable! May we come in?"

The orc looked frightened. This wasn't its job. It wasn't supposed to have to deal with people like this...

"Waitaminute," it muttered, and scurried inside.

Time passed. The doors swung open. Saruman stepped out, looked around, and blinked.

"You have business here?"

"We want to make your prisoner miserable," Acacia offered.

"It's not our job, our job's to kill her, but we can wait."

"We have to wait, for the other person we need to kill, actually," said Acacia.

Jay nodded emphatically. "But in the meantime, may we?"

Saruman looked... dazed. Jay and Acacia tended to have that effect on people, in person and in conjunction.

He sighed, and glared at them. "I find myself not trusting you two."

Jay pouted. "You should."

"Very few people do," Acacia remarked.

"Why should I let you intrude upon my domain? The prisoner suffers discomfort as it is."

"Not enough." There was deadly sincerity in Jay's voice.

"I have poison," Acacia said helpfully.

"But not fatal, we promise," Jay supplied.

"Well, not always," said Acacia. "And not soon, even when it is. But it hurts."

"She deserves it," Jay said, mood swinging back to point due "grim."

"Young women. Stop."

"Why?" said the assassins simultaneously.

"Leave, now." Saruman looked almost kindly, exerting his famous canonical charm. "The prisoner will be dealt with."

Jay shrugged sadly. "Oky." She stepped out of his line of sight... and then back. He looked right through her.

Acacia grinned, and ducked behind Jay. When she stood back up to her full height, she was again quite unnoticeable.

Saruman raised an eyebrow and stared into the apparently open space in front of him. Then he gave up and walked inside.

Jay and Acacia ducked in after him, just before the door closed.


"This is really quite fun," said Acacia, making herself comfortable in one of Orthanc's many rooms—one quite high up and near the roof, so she could hear the Mary Sue complain. "We should do this more often."

"Therapeutic, I'll say." Jay smiled. "Why, I was mis'rable just a bit ago. Now I'm 'appy. It should be on our 'ealth plan..."

"All right," came the Sue's voice drifting down. "One of us has gotta blink soon. My eyes are getting watery here! BLINK, YOU STUPID EYE, BLINK!"

"What part of 'lidless' did she not understand?"

Jay cackled. "She tortures herself. It's great."

Acacia leaned back. "It'll take till tomorrow for the Marty Sam-orc to turn up. What do we do till then?"

"Not cahds," Jay said.

"What, then?"

Jay pursed her lips and frowned. "Drop pennies off the top and see if they leave cratehs?"

"Alex is on the top."

"Oh, yeah..." Jay concentrated. "Drop pennies out of top floor windows and see if they leave cratehs?"



There was a distant "BONK."

"Ooops... sorry, Mr. Orc, wasn't aiming for you..." Even if Jay hadn't been many floors up from the stunned orc, her apology probably wouldn't been heard anyway.

Acacia giggled, and dropped a penny of her own. It hit the black stone of the tower, and completely failed to leave any mark at all.

"Silly." Jay made another mini-crater in the ground with a nickel. Then she took out her notebook and put in a tally... couldn't leave real-world money lying around, after all.

Acacia sighed. It had started out fun, but she was not one to be easily amused for long by coin dropping.

Of course, now there was the less amusing task of coin gathering to be done.

Orthanc was a tall tower. By the time they had both trekked down the stairs, and found all the coins (most of them slightly melted by air friction and misshapen due to high-speed impacts), and gotten back upstairs, and found the room they'd commandeered, it was already nightfall.



"Dammit, Jay," mumbled Acacia, "don't yell so loud! Alex'll hear!"

"That's why I cupped my hands around your eah." Jay looked proud. "She will not heah."

"And neither will I, I'm beginning to worry," said Acacia.

"Now, whehe do we need to go?"

"We can hear the top fairly well here. We can listen to the Marty-Sam-orc meet our dear Sue."

"Do we HAVE to?"

"Why don't you want to?"

"She does? I can't say I noticed."

"Lucky bint." Apparently, Jay's British accent was extending to her slang.

Acacia shrugged. "So, what do you want to do?"

"Hide and seek? Dye Saruman's clothes pink? Shoht sheet his bed?"

"I think pink clothes would be a slight breach of canon, don't you? Anyway we're here to make her miserable."

"That doesn't rule out hide and seek... or we could go and explohe the pits outside."

"Exploring sounds good."

"Awwright. Lessgo."


*click* [FLASH] ........... *click* [FLASH]

The effects of a camera flash on the average goblin's pupils are quite interesting to see.

"Jay, you're going to give these poor people neuroses."

Jay glared at Acacia, and turned down the flash. "When these pictures develop badly, I'm going to blame you..."

"And I care?"


Even without the prospect of good pictures, Jay was enjoying herself immensely.

Acacia wasn't having too bad a time either, despite the fact that the next day Alex would be deliberately making herself as annoying as humanly possible.

"Do you want to hang around down here for the rest of the day, or rest up in Orthanc?" Jay asked.

Acacia shrugged. "I'm getting hungry, actually."

"Whehe can we get food?"

"Back in Orthanc, obviously." Acacia looked at the Words for a moment, and giggled. "In about three days, Alex demonstrates her amazing ability to tie-dye chainmail. I'd like to see that."

"I like tie-dye. How does she do it?"

"With berries. Don't ask me how she makes it stay on the metal."

"Bah. Plot hole. Still..." Jay looked hopeful. "Souvenirs?"

"Sure, why not. And the functional skateboard she somehow sculpted out of stale bread."

"I can't skateboahd. Can you?"

When Acacia didn't answer, Jay sighed and started to look through the Words. "Lady Motheh. Do you know how long she hangs around?"


"Six. Months." Jay scowled. "Six months on Orthanc. I feel some serious time skipping is called for..."

"Yes. Six months of her being as annoying as she possibly can. I mean, I like it here, but..."

"But." Jay sighed. "I doubt that Upstaihs would approve of us bouncing around here for six months... let's jump to six months lateh..."

"Absolutely. You've got the portal thingy."

Jay dug in her pack, pulled out an eggroll and the activator, and clicked it.

The portal opened to just in time to hear Alex taunting Saruman from the top of Orthanc. They stepped through quickly, because hearing it through a portal was vaguely discomfiting.

"Mfo..." Jay said, mouth full of eggroll. "Fix momfs 'ata? Whe'?"

"Right here."

"Mkay. Eggwo'?"

"No thanks." She watched, rather amused, as the Mary Sue jumped off the top of Orthanc to be blown by a fortuitous breeze so that Gimli could break her fall.

"She suhvives falls real well," Jay commented. "Maybe she's made'f rubbeh."

Charlie jumped off as well, to be caught by Alex despite the fact that anyone jumping off a tower that tall was likely to attain terminal velocity in a very literal sense.

Jay finished her first eggroll, and went spelunking for another. "Messing wi' gravity. Anotheh chahge for the list."

"Quite. Oh, look, at least Legolas is threatening him." She watched the scene unfold. "Okay, wouldn't any sane elf assume that someone just out of an enemy stronghold threatening them with death if they hurt an orc had gone bad?"


"Another character disruption," Acacia sighed. "Look, she's... why is she going back into Orthanc? Doesn't she realize that's a really stupid thing to do?"

"I thought we'd established she's bahmy already..."

"I always thought they were supposed to be unrealistically bright," muttered Acacia.

"Told you I thought this one was a misfiled comedy," Jay muttered.

"I'm starting to see your point. Oooh, fun, he's tossing her out the window. What did she expect?"

"Yay, Saruman!" Jay applauded and flashed a thumbs up towards the tower. She smiled. "I like Saruman. He's neat. What about you, Acacia?"

Acacia just shrugged; she seemed to be enjoying watching the confrontation more than conversing with her partner. "Oh, good grief. How likely is it that he comes up with a special language of his own—for gods know what reason—and it turns out identical to Japanese despite the fact that no other Middle-earth languages seem to bear the slightest resemblance?"

"Messing with Saruman's characteh! Another chahge! Annoying Saruman... yet another chahge!" Jay waved her hand in righteous irritation.

"For six months," Acacia noted. "And for the Marty-Sam: getting Saruman drunk. How likely is that?"

"How do you get these people drunk?" Jay wondered. "They drink wine on every occasion. They must have incredible tolerances."

"With amazing Marty-Sam-like powers?"

"Kill him."

"You want him? There's enough for one each. Or one for one of us and two for the other, if you count her pet dragon."

"You enjoy it more, I'll grant you the dragon."



"Can I sing a song?" asked the Marty-Sam orc, a few hours later. "No," "Can I sing a song?" "No," "Can I sing a song?" "No," "Can I sing a song?"

"Stop it already!" Acacia muttered. "And learn proper punctuation!"

"They annoy each otheh. How convenient."

Alex finally gave in, and Charlie started singing "If I Only Had a Brain." This sent Jay and Acacia into paroxysms of laughter. Quietly.

"If only!" gasped Acacia, through her giggles.

"She hit her head and is dreaming? That explains things..." Jay thought about that. "At least the head-hitting bit."

Acacia cackled, Wicked-Witch-of-the-West-style. "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little orc, too!"

Jay rolled her eyes and smiled. "How is that so appropriate? How is that so very, very appropriate...?"

Acacia was not paying much attention. She was too busy laughing hysterically and muttering random things about yellow brick roads.

Jay blinked at her. "PTerry was right."

"About what... particular thing... this time?"

"You can catch daftness, Hex."

Had this been an anime continuum, Acacia would have malleted Jay at this point. She made do with giving her a dirty look.

Jay could guess at her thoughts. "That's why I have knitting needles..."

"Very prudent of you. Now—oh gods, he's asking if he could ever get a girl. But of course we all know what he's really thinking of. Gods, this is insipid."

"Let's touh the forest for a while. And blow these bleedehs off..."

Acacia nodded. "And refrain from looking too closely at the Words, too; I'm sure he'll be pining soppily."

"Right." Jay got out the Polaroid. "Spideh hunt?"



"Buggy!!! Heeeeeeere, buggy..." Jay waltzed into the forest. It was dark. It was gloomy. It was great...

Acacia rolled her eyes at her companion's choice of words, but was enjoying the forest just the same.

"Acacia, don't walk into that." Jay's eyes could adjust more quickly than her partner's, so she graciously decided to warn her friend of the impending spiderweb.

Acacia squinted into the darkness. "Oh, there it is." She went into slightly-interesting-yet-utterly-useless-facts mode (most people who have had conversations with her will tell you that she does this on occasion). "Did you know if you twisted spiderweb to about the thickness of a pencil, it could stop a 747 going full speed?"

"Leonahd of Quihm said something to that effect..."

"He said its strength in relation to its weight was better than the best steel wire. He didn't say how much so."

"Yeh. But he said it nonetheless." Jay wandered into the darkness, her Polaroid out.

Acacia shrugged, and looked around. The darkening forest was intermittently brightened by Jay's flash, but this was so short it really did no good at all for someone who wanted to see properly.

Then, the flashes stopped. There was a tap on one shoulder. She turned. No one there. She turned the OTHER way. "What, Jay?" Something was pushed into her hand... Jay's flashlight. It actually turned on, this time.

"Hold this." Jay ducked back into the darkness.

Acacia blinked. "Do you want me to keep it on?"

"Yes," said the darkness in a British accent.

Acacia nodded, and shone the flashlight off in a completely random direction.

Large moths and bats began to congregate. There was the mad flashing of a camera, a string of muted cursing as Jay tried to change the film in the dark, and then the blinding flashes started up again.

"Jay? How long are you going to be taking pictures? It's nighttime already. I want to sleep."

"Wimp." Jay reappeared, anyway, with one last retina-burning flash for all the idiot night creatures still hanging around.

Acacia wished once again for a mallet, but simply handed Jay's flashlight back. "Do we just make camp here? It's not as if anything's likely to attack us."

"If you'd like. Or we could cast off in a last-minute futile quest to find the castle of the elves."

"Camping out here sounds good," said Acacia, and began to unpack.


Jay woke before her partner. She always did. Today, she was feeling a little hoarse, and not at all like yelling... so she carefully slipped her headphones over Acacia's ears, and turned on a random music selection full blast.

Acacia sat bolt upright and yelled something Jay didn't catch, but which sounded rude. She snatched the headphones off and glared at Jay.

"Upstairs won't like you contributing to the insanity problem," she said darkly. "And people wonder why I'm always in such a bad mood..."

"You're in a bad mood because you have anxiety problems. I'm trying to HELP." Jay was apparently abandoning the role of insane Bursar long enough to play helpful Archchancellor.

"By deafening me?!?!" Acacia paused. Something about the punctuation of that last sentence had not seemed quite right.

"You're using fah too many exclamation points for someone who's supposed to be bordehline sane," Jay remarked.

"If I am, it's your fault," said Acacia sourly.

"Bah." Jay raised her eyebrows. "Now. Whehe to?"

"Either go visit the twits, or portal to Thranduil's place as it is just before they get captured," Acacia mused.

"Hmm. Thranduil's dramatic stronghold in the most gohgeous woods in Middle-earth. A ditz and a pining orc. Dramatic stronghold. Pining orc. GEE..."

"You've got the portaler."

And so she did. There was a click, and lo, they were gone.


"I like this place," Acacia decided.

"Can we retire here?" Jay snapped off a picture lazily.

"When we retire, I'm spending it as far away from you as possible," Acacia said. "And Upstairs likely would frown on us quitting ever, they don't have enough people as it is. But the Sunflower said we could have vacations if we got recruits, so..."

"We have recruits." Jay sighed and relaxed.

"Maybe we can ask when we get time off, when we get back," Acacia said. "What's that noise...?"

Quite a few elves came in the door, preceded by one katana-wielding girl and one orc at bow-point.

"Thehe goes the neighbo'hood..." Jay snuggled back into the convenient depression in the wall, and watched King Thranduil question the two non-canons.

"Please, forgive him. He's had a hard life what with becoming an Orc and all. But I've trained him, your majesty."

Acacia tried very hard not to laugh, but was unable to suppress a snigger. "Oh, yes, the orc is house-trained now. And he does tricks."

"Becoming an orc? I thought you were BORN."

"We've established that that's been mucked with already, remember? So... oh gods, he's letting an orc run around loose in the middle of his own kingdom. One more bit of OOCness to add to the list."

"He's also being a major arse. No, wait, that's IN character." Jay still didn't look happy about it. Her soft spot for older men of the sylvan persuasion was kicking in.

Acacia shrugged, and then snorted derisively as the girl asked the elf-king how many licks it took to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.

"A Tootsie Pop...?" Jay blinked. Bizarre...

"Ah. So now they get dragged off to prison. Because they mentioned confectionery. And they leave her the sword. Despite the fact the prison is made of wood and mud."

"Out of Characteh," Jay intoned grimly. "Nasties..."

"So," said Acacia, "I think they've screwed over the canon sufficiently now. Let's go get them." She looked at the Words for a moment. "But let's wait until after the orc carves a harmonica... out of a random bit of wood... with a long sword. Because I'd like to see that."


They set off toward the prison.


Alex was screaming "The Song that Never Ends" at the top of her lungs through the prison bars (somehow set in wood and mud) when the assassins came along. She finally subsided, and sat down. Suddenly, a dark and sinister voice drifted out of the gloom...

"Mr. Socko doesn't like people walking out on his lectures."

"You're that elf from Rivendell, aren't you?" Alex demanded. "The one who kept talking about cheese!"

"I am not. I am... MR. SOCKO!!" Two sets of glowing bobble eyes regarded her out of the gloom.

"And I am Millie," said the second sock.

"Jay, be mature," said Acacia, stepping out of the darkness.

"Look, I haven't said a wohd," Jay said. "If you have problems with Constables Millie and Socko, take it up with Upstairs."

"You ARE the cheese elf from Rivendell!"

Jay grinned. "In my native language, luv, DUH."

"Enough messing about," said Acacia imperiously. "Alex, it is my duty to inform you that you have been charged with... a long list of offenses... which include disrupting the canon by altering geography and time, stretching the laws of probability to breaking point, interfering with the characters of Boromir, Saruman, Thranduil, Elrond, Merry, Pippin, Legolas, Gandalf, Gimli... hell, practically everyone you met... having a Cute Animal Friend, annoying Saruman, breaking Boromir's nose and making him look like an idiot, pissing us off, being a flaming twit, Being Obstructive When it's Been a Long Day and I've Had Enough, and in fact most of the offenses the Protectors of the Plot Continuum officially recognize, as well as many they don't. I'll let Jay here charge your orcish friend."

"Marty-Sam, alias Chahlie: you are hereby chahged with misrepresenting the entihe race of orcs, bending the laws of biochemistry and getting Saruman drunk, ignoring the laws of gravity by falling off a big-arsed tower and not dying, and for being able to manifest a hahmonica. You both get points back for not joining the Fellowship or shacking up with canon charactehs, but I'm afraid you both still have to die."

Acacia didn't wait for Alex to have her last words, but merely shot her. In the shoulder. She looked surprised for a moment at not having been killed outright, then fell over, paralyzed.

Acacia looked vaguely apologetically at Jay. "I had to think of some way to get her to the volcano without her going for her sword," she said, confiscating said sword from Charlie.

"You could have LEFT IT SOMEWHEHE, f00!" Jay was exasperated enough to be able to pronounce a letter and two zeroes in a British accent.

Acacia shrugged. "Anyway, this way she won't be trying to escape." She picked up the Sue and slung her over her shoulder. "Portal us to the mountain, will you?"

Jay did. This was somewhat complicated by the biting, kicking, screaming orc she was trying to deal with.

"Oooh. Warm," were the first words out of Acacia's mouth when she stepped through the portal. She had the truly catlike tendency to be comfortably warm when most normal people would be unpleasantly hot.

Jay, for her part, gasped. She overheated naturally. She could strip to unders and beg for ice in the middle of a blizzard, if she'd been running for five minutes previously. Still, she'd deal with a lot to take pictures of Mordor.

Acacia smiled, and slung Alex off her shoulder. "Bye, chippy," she said, smirking, and tossed her off the precipice. "Jay, do you want the sword?"

"In a..." Charlie elbowed her in the stomach, and she shoved him off the ledge. "Minute. Ah... it does have that ratheh nice inscription on it..." Jay considered. "Not a huge fan of Japanese, but I like the vehse."

"So, you do?"

"Yes, I do." Jay held up the harmonica. "Can I keep this?"

Acacia shrugged. "Sure. I can't play them, anyway."

Jay had mastered only two instruments, trumpet and baritone, but she had the uncanny ability and pitch to pick out a tune on almost anything in five minutes. And she loved the sound of woodwinds.

"But I get the tie-dyed chainmail," said Acacia.

Jay said nothing.

"We forgot to get it, didn't we?"

"Sorry... I'll make you some, I promise. Give me some pliers and a few months, I can knit chainmail..."

Acacia shrugged. "No matter. Let's just go back, this has been one of our longest missions so far. Or, since we're here already, we could visit Minas Morgul like you've been wanting to do."

"You wanted to as well. Don't deny it."

"Would it do any good if I did?"

"Nope." Jay ran along the ragged edge of rock, along towards the tower. "Coming?"



"SHINY!" [click, click, click, click...] "I want to liiiive here..."

"You have strange taste," said Acacia, but without rancor because she was enjoying the odd glowing effect too.

"Meh. Speaks the woman in love with Boromir."

Acacia whapped Jay over the head.

Jay winced. "You are. Go ahead, deny it. Look me in the eyes and deny it."

"It's hardly a unique occurrence, you know. He even has plot-impaired lustbunnies—remember Emma?"

"Yes. I remember Emma." Jay smiled. "I'm damn lucky, considering just how few people have a thing for Hugo Weaving..."

"Yes, yes, lucky you. And I'm going to send a message Upstairs specifically asking for a Sue who goes after Elrond, just for that."

"Bite me, partneh." Jay looked around. "But the taste for elder British actohs has served me well."

"We going back now?"

"Um. " Jay looked down. "Sure. I'm out of film."

"You've got the portally thing."

Jay's mouth turned up at the edges, and she showed her teeth. "Remote activator. Say it with me. Re-mote... act-i-vate—"

"Look, just take us back, okay?"

Jay did. Not happily, but she did.

Acacia smiled, set down her gear rather randomly, and sat back in her seat. "And hopefully the next Sue is less noxious."

"Less... noxious? Not since 'Children of the Earth'."

"Ah, well," said Acacia.

There was a [bip]. Only then did Jay notice the note on the console.

Stopped in to fix console volume. Complaints. Hit red button to acknowledge a hit or it will start going "BEEP" again. Nice not seeing you.


Jay took this in. "Oh. A Sue." Her eyes got dinner plate wide.

"How bad?"

Jay edged away from the console. "She's got... interesting parentage."

Acacia dropped her book. "How interesting?"

Jay was already in the wrigglespace behind the console.

We'll spare you Acacia's reaction... For Now.


[Jay's A/N: Is it just me, or do these things get longer and longer...? J & A used to just be... semi-observers that eventually killed the character. Now, they dominate the story. Is that a bad thing...? Is that a BAD THING?

::Jay:: No!

Who asked you? Anyway. Off that tangent. I am STILL convinced this was supposed to be a comedy. I can't believe that anyone would actually sincerely write something as bad as that. It borders on funny in places... IT COULD BE A COMEDY. (Then again, I was convinced that half of Bush's speeches were Onion articles. Woe when I found I was wrong.)

To inject a point with a chisel and hammer, WE, the assassins, are certainly having fun. Are you, the reader, having fun? No, we actually want to know. (At any rate, I do.) We [I] could be convinced to shut up about myself for 10 minutes in the name of a good cause.

But obviously not now, because I've just filled 3 MSN IM text blocks with this A/N.

I'll stop now.

(PS: Thankyouforthereviewswelovethespinoffskeepwritingkeepreading sorryauthorswhoscharacterswekill.)]

[Acacia's A/N: The scene in Rivendell with Boromir was Jay's idea, and she wrote just as much of it as I did. It's just as much her fault as mine. So there. </childishness> I know not what to say that has gone unsaid before. I'd apologize to the writer, but this fic was beyond constructive crit or even flames, so apology would ring strangely hollow. Oh, yes, the MST. There is a MST of this horrible, horrible Sue, written by... ~goes to look~ Oh, saggit, I'll put it in a review when I find it. But it was veryverygood. Thank you good reviewers, thank you all spinoffers, and readers-but-not-reviewers: Review.]