23. To Know Where You Are Going

by Jay, Acacia, and Rhysdux

Acacia walked into the center and sat down. “Garet agreed to join—don’t think he liked the idea of being stranded in a different continuum. For once Personnel didn’t keep me an ungodsly long time...”

Jay looked up at her with something less than her usual jollity. “It beeped while you were away,” she said sweetly.

“Can’t even wait till we’re back anymore?”

“No. It really couldn’t.” Jay smiled. “Did you know that Arwen was seven when Celebrían went away? I didn’t.”

“Bah. But really, by now I’d about given up on people remembering she existed...”

“It gets worse,” Jay said in a delicate tone, smiling gently as if she’d break her face by trying any other expression.

The one she had was beginning to put Acacia off. “Um... worse how?”

“You know what some fan writers have Thranduil do to Legolas?” Jay said carefully.

“Do I really want to know this...?”

“Well then, do you remember Andromielle, Acacia? I remember Andromielle.” Jay’s smile became manic, and her hand slammed into the wall, making it ring. “Well, Andromielle had some things going for her. She was of age. She wasn’t related to Elrond. Do I need to go on?”

Acacia began to rise out of her seat, but halfway up apparently decided she didn’t trust her legs. She also made interesting indignant spluttering noises, as if she wanted to shout at someone but didn’t know what to shout at whom. Then she sat back down in her chair and settled for thumping the console.

Jay’s smile had settled back to “fine porcelain.” “We’re going to have to get someone to exorcise Elrond, dispose of Sue!Arwen—that’s the seven-year-old, as there’s no way that slutty brat is Undómiel—and find the real Arwen.” She sat back, waiting to see if Acacia had noticed how neatly she had pronounced the exclamation point.

Acacia was not in a suitable emotional state, however, to notice much of anything short of the end of the world.

“Which means we have to get either a crisis level agent, or a bad slasher,” Jay added helpfully.

“I hate incest-rape fic...”

“You think I DON’T?” Jay sighed. “I suggest we contact Lux and... is she still with Sean?”

Acacia blinked a few times. “Um. Okay. And I’m not sure, I never pay attention to Headquarters gossip.”

“I never have time to.” Jay turned back to her console. “I’ll do a search, see where she’s supposed to be at the moment—off duty. Hell.” She tapped in a query. “Let me ask... if anyone... knows where she might be... Hello! I bet she’s in the medical center.”

“Off duty? What is this off duty? Is it possible that, only being here two years, I’ve missed the phenomenon?”

“We have the odd hour here and there.” Jay sighed. “That is, people who don’t work in Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings do.”

“Whatever.” Acacia held her head. “Just let’s hurry up, shall we? I want to kill someone.”

They hurried to Medical, Jay helpfully trying to distract Acacia with a cheerfully rendered and folksy version of Tool’s “Aenema.”

“One great big festering neon distraction, and a whack fol-a-diddle-dildo...”

“Shut up, Jay, we’re here.”

The Medical door slid open, exposing, yes, an accurate word, Lux and one of the nurses from Medical sitting slightly closer than a doctor/patient relationship usually called for on a medical bed. The nurse was giggling madly at something and turning bright red. Lux looked proudly at the two assassins. Jay stopped mid-verse out of surprise.

“It’s a checkup!” the young woman shrieked out of the blue, blushing a tomato-shade. “A physical checkup!”

Jay raised an eyebrow. “I thought you were a medical diagrammer?”

The nurse blushed harder, an interesting sight.

Acacia gave a long-suffering sigh. “Luxury, put some clothes on.”

Lux looked around blankly, and then back to Acacia. “Can I borrow some of yours?”

The assassin did not dignify that with an answer.

The nurse turned away to fish behind a paper screen. “Look! Here! Clothes!”

The Bad Slash operative began to walk to the door to obtain clothing from her room when the nurse, still bright red, caught her with a shirt-over-the-head. “Oh, fine,” Lux said pseudo-defeatedly.

Acacia thought a moment. “Incidentally, where’s Sean?”

The nurse froze. Jay slapped a palm onto her forehead.

Lux was speechless for several moments, opening and closing her mouth like a fish.

The nurse glared slightly at Acacia.

“He left me quite a while back, actually,” Lux stammered.

Jay elbowed her partner in the ribs. “TACT, Acacia,” she said, winning prizes for irony. Jay could hardly be considered a subtle person in the best of circumstances.

Lux shrugged cheerfully. “It’s okay. No more boys, though,” she said with a grin.

The directors were unlikely to split up partners simply for this reason, but Acacia didn’t inquire further (and not only because her ribs hurt). In a place like the PPC, it was very bad form to ask what she’d already asked.

Jay cut to the chase. “Lux, we need your help with some canon exorcism. Pretty bad stuff. A Sue’s possessed Elrond and made him drink and cut himself and rape Arwen.”

Lux’s elastic mind snapped into work-mode. “Two-Towers-Gandalf-style exorcism or The Exorcist? Or are we using euphemisms too loosely again?”

“No, exorcisms work well in the Rings continuum.” Jay pondered. “Let’s go with Exorcist exorcism... that’s what Agent Dead used. And happy thoughts of Brad Dourif will keep me from getting killed.”

“Wasn’t he in T2T, too?” wondered Acacia.

“Yes, in fact, he was,” said Jay. “But he looked sadder. And not so happy and manic.”

“Well, ‘sadder’ and ‘not so happy’ do tend to go together.”

“Besides. Only Ian McKellen can pull off the staff thing.”

Acacia sighed. “Can we just go now so I can kill someone?” It should be obvious by now that Acacia tended toward single-mindedness.

The nurse had, by this point, gotten Luxury clothed again. The Bad Slasher looked disappointed.

Jay looked her up and down.

“Gear up, Lux.”

Lux gathered up The Series and several cookies in the shapes of trees and stars. Her hand hovered over the animated Lord of the Rings series, but she thought better of it and said, “All ready.”

Jay put on her sunglasses. “Let’s rock and roll.”


Lux was busy trying to exorcise a bush as the two assassins stepped through the portal.

“Put the book down, Ms. Luxury,” Jay drawled. Then she blinked, took off her sunglasses, and looked at them quizzically.

Lux, looking dismayed, drooped.

Acacia sighed. “Okay. Now. Where’s the real Arwen and when can I kill the look-alike Sue?”

“She’s in Rivendell, over yonder. As elves, we’ll fit in... and Luxury? Be careful. This... character who’s incidentally named Elrond is violent.” Jay scowled. “You know what bugs me?” she said, leaping off the subject entirely. “The author’s read the books. She knows about the kinslaying, too.”

Acacia sighed again, and looked over at Rivendell.

And stared.

The buildings themselves were, well, timeless, and stayed more or less the same. But the canon, stretched as it was between the time of Celebrían’s departure and the time when Arwen’s age had been in the single digits, was slipping the time back and forth. The trees were visibly growing and shrinking.

“My head hurts,” Jay whimpered behind her. “Why would the author do this? Why? Oh... oh, hell, look.”

There was a woman, flickering in and out; an elf, blonde, beautiful in a rather quiet way. She looked sad: bruises danced across her face in strange patterns and disappeared.

“Who was that?” Luxury asked.

Jay’s jaw clenched. “It’s Celebrían. Flickering back and forth from when Arwen was seven, to when she was... when she decided to leave.”

It was a funny thing how agents became protective of the significant others of their lust objects. Instead of resenting them, most agents almost worshiped them. Acacia, for example, was incredibly fond of Sybil Ramkin. Jay thought that Galadriel and Rosie Cotton were but the bee’s knees.

But Jay really, really had a soft spot for Celebrían.

Acacia, slightly against her better judgment, glanced at the Words. “Ah. Right. How long will it take these people to realize that Arwen isn’t a princess?”

“I’d given up on the fangirls. But this chick read the BOOKS!” Jay seemed to be thinking about something. “Let me see... temporal stabilization; temporal stabilization, ah, hell.” She tapped Luxury on the shoulder. “Be a dear and see if you can grab the flickery woman, would you?” Without waiting to see if she was obeyed, she opened a portal.

Lux crept up behind the flickery woman indicated and, temporarily forgetting her purpose, began making obscene gestures behind her back. A white-hot glare from Acacia, and Lux had tackled the shimmering woman and wrestled her to the two assassins’ feet. The woman was grunting and struggling, while Lux seemed to be giggling and enjoying herself.

Jay kicked her harder than she’d probably intended. “STOP that.” She knelt down gently, helped the confused elf to her feet, and gestured at the portal. “It’ll all make a lot more sense in there, my lady.”

Lux sputtered and gagged, looking at Jay questioningly. “That’s not what you wanted me to do?” she whined. Jay gave her a glare straight out of The Matrix.

As for Celebrían and the portal: temporal problems were annoying, but there was this in their favor: characters sufficiently bewildered would agree to practically anything. Lux, having realized this too, attempted to solicit the shimmering woman.

Jay noticed this, and put a hand gently on Lux’s neck. And started to squeeze. When Celebrían was safely through, Jay closed the portal. “No, that’s NOT what I wanted you to do. Hell, that woman might just have been through horrible torture!”

“She’s married,” added Acacia. “Now, can we get this over with?”

A very blue-faced Lux nodded. Then with the slasher leading the way, book-set in one hand and half-eaten Tree Cookies in the other, they ambled through the gates of Rivendell.

“Look at the damn Words!” Jay snarled. She thought for a moment, and put back on her sunglasses. When she spoke again, her voice was calmer, but seemed to drawl strangely. “It says...

How, though he loved his son, Eärendil constantly tried to buy his way into my father’s life; into his heart. And now, as it must have seemed to him, his beloved wife and his eldest children were leaving him, just as his father had....

“Now, how does one extrapolate THAT??”

Acacia was just as confused. “I dunno when he’d have had the chance...”

I was not blind to the cuts on his wrists and thighs. I was not deaf to his shuddering sobs, which haunted my dreams and thoughts each night as they continued, each time worse than the last,” Jay continued, watching with a sort of sick fascination.

“Jay, that can’t be good for you. Stop it.”

“But this is BAD!”

“It’s just as Pratchett said, Acacia. Hate,” Lux said, in a fleeting moment of lucidity, “is just love with its back turned.”

“What are you talking about?” Jay asked. “I loathe this thing. But it’s much like a car wreck.”

“Ah, then is it as Carlin said? With the entertaining bit about the police being there to... bring... bodies... closer... no? Eep.” Lux trailed off as she was bapped by Jay.

“Quiet,” Jay snapped, ignoring the fact that she was the one who’d been doing most of the talking. Then... “HELL!”

Time flickered around them like a badly shot version of The Time Machine. Elves whizzed past them, or stood like statues.

Jay grabbed Lux. “Three of us! Three books in the trilogy! Tell me you brought them all!”

A large grin spread across Lux’s face, and she produced from her box set all three books in the trilogy.

“Pass’m out!”

Acacia grabbed The Fellowship of the Ring and held it up as if it were a shield.

“I think that’s the bedroom,” Jay grated.

Lux led the way into the bedroom, being the most experienced of the pervy people—thus least afraid to see odd sex acts. An observer would not have been able to tell whether Jay or Acacia was more reluctant.

In the bedroom was a touching scene. It touched the guts, and made them wretch. It touched the nerves, and set them on edge...

“Good,” Elrond said, hugging me close to his chest. “Arwen? Will you sleep in my bed tonight, so that I will not be so lonely?”

“No, Atar.” I said, looking at my feet. “Maedhra said that if I did, I’d be bad.”

“Can’t DO that to names,” muttered Acacia.

“Forget about Maedhra,” said he, a touch of harshness returning to his voice. “Go change into your nightgown, love. It’s nearly bed-time.”

“Are you sure it’s not wrong?” I asked. I longed to be with him. He needed me, and if I were there, certainly he would not cry.

“Arwen,” he said in a mock-dangerous voice, “go change before I put spiders down your dress.”

Lux looked to Jay and Acacia for direction.

Jay seemed to be talking to herself. And she was saying Brad Dourif’s lines from The Exorcist 3 in Hugo Weaving’s voice from The Matrix. It was surreal.

“Then... a... three... foot... catheter... inserted directly into the inferior vena cava... or... superior vena cava... it’s a matter of taste, I think, don’t you?”

This disturbing mantra wasn’t enough. After only a moment Jay gave up, lunged forward, grabbing the Sue-disguised-as-Arwen. Elrond snarled and backhanded her, sending her reeling to the floor.

Acacia, not liking that at all, rushed up and tried to get Elrond away.

Unfortunately, elves are stronger than mortals.

Jay adored Elrond. She lusted for him, she respected him, and she had pictures of him being noble.

But first and foremost came self-preservation. She staggered back, kicked him in the solar plexus, and leaped away, still dragging the Suething.

“Ow...” mumbled Acacia. She really had been hit rather hard.

Lux pounced on Elrond to defend Jay and Acacia and, legs wrapped around his stomach, clinging to his back, she began hitting him over the head with The Two Towers, shouting “Get thee behind me, Sue! The literary works of TOLKIEN compel you! I cast thee out! The literary works of TOLKIEN compel you! Get thee from this shell! The literary works of TOLKIEN compel you!”

The Two Towers, besides being a beacon of canon, was also a good blunt object. Together, these forced the author’s presence out of Elrond. It coalesced as a ghostly female figure, which promptly tossed Lux into a wall. Jay knocked the Suething to the floor, sat on her, and rummaged frantically in her pack.

She came up with a thick tome, still keeping one eye focused on the author-presence. “BINGO!” And then, in a moment of shameless fandom, she threw the book at it.

The hardbound Silmarillion smacked it between the eyes.

Acacia, still rather short of breath, drew a knife and pounced the Suething with it, stabbing repeatedly.

Few things are more therapeutic.

Under the ponderous weight of Jay, the Sue!Arwen began to scream. Jay bounced on her to quiet her, and said, “Let’s get out before they figure out what the hell’s going on.”

Acacia put up the knife. It wasn’t bloody—there was at least one good point to fighting ghostly presences. “And where’s the real one, does anyone know?”

“I think...” Jay bit her lip. “She’d be trapped somewhere that doesn’t exist—the BOOZE ROOM!”

Lux, finally recovering from her blow, rolled over and cheerfully said, “I’m okay! I landed on my head, no damage to vital organs.”

Ignoring her, Jay bounced to her feet. “C’mon! We’ve got to find wherever they’ve been storing this ocean of alcohol that Elrond’s been drinking. I bet dollars to donuts it’s a plothole, and Arwen’s in it.”

“Coming,” said Acacia.

Lux bounced along giddily behind Jay.

Sue!Arwen was squirming hard, now, and biting. Jay walked briskly along, holding it with both hands. “Someone get the litmus strips out of my pack. We can use them to find the plothole.”

Acacia unzipped a pocket and fished the strips out. All of them looked burnt.

Lux hopped around behind Jay and Acacia hopefully, trying to see what they were doing. “Why are your litmus strips smoking?” she inquired innocently.

“They fried!” Jay said angrily. “Well, if that doesn’t just leave the cake out in the rain.” Then she looked at Lux. “You! You have some kind of analysis device, don’t you?”

Acacia wrinkled her nose. “Fried litmus strips smell really bad.”

Lux, who was thinking deep thoughts, looked up sharply. “Wha? Er. I didn’t bring it?”

“How are we going to find the bloody place, then?” Jay asked, irritation creeping past the anger in her voice.

Lux, annoyed at the situation, leaned on a wall—and fell through.

“I think we found our plothole,” Jay understated.

“Looks like it,” said Acacia, stepping through it.

Indeed, Arwen was there. Lux had fallen on her, face first, but she dislodged the agent to stare at her under-aged doppelgänger.

“What is going on?” she asked, looking as irritated as an elf can. (And this is, actually, quite irritated.)

“Not much. It’s time... for a family reunion,” Jay drawled.

Luxury, being her typically annoying self, had reluctantly extracted her face from Arwen’s cleavage and found a blue flashlight. She began flickering the blue flashlight on and off at her face saying, “And in place of an older Arwen you would have a CHILD! Dumber than a pile of rocks! More impressionable than a lump of clay! Raped and tortured by all elder elves! All will love me and go to Pedophiles Anonymous meetings in despaaaaaair!”

Arwen looked at Lux blankly. “Who is she?” Arwen demanded. “And what is she talking about?”

“Don’t mind her,” Jay said. “She’s mad as a March Hatter.”

Arwen looked, if possible, even more confused.

“Don’t mind either of them,” said Acacia.

Lux walked away grumbling, saying things like, “Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? I read about heeer and she doesn’t read about meee. Oh, very fair, that is.” The spastic bad slasher drifted out of the portal, leaving the place quieter.

“I still do not understand,” Arwen said flatly.

“Long story. Two chapters, in fact.” Jay smiled, took one of the vague but very large bottles of alcohol that filled most of the space, and whacked Sue!Arwen hard on the head. The Sue collapsed, falling to the ground in a graceless heap. Now unconscious as well as exorcised, the Sue was no longer locked into the form of little-girl Arwen, and she shifted back to the normal state of an Elven Sue—a supremely beautiful, yet somehow nondescript, elven woman.

Jay grinned at the crumpled Sue. “Now THAT was satisfying. It almost makes up for this vicious headache she gave me.”

Arwen stared at the Sue for a long moment. “I can see that she is not of the Eldar, nor even a child. Why, then, did she pretend to be?”

“Don’t ask,” groaned Jay. “Just thinking about it makes my head ache worse. Speaking of which... I think it’s high time to try out the new import from Hogwarts Fanfiction Academy.”

She began rummaging around her backpack, finally pulling a bottle full of white pills. “This is Bleeprin; good for what ails you. Or it’s supposed to be. Bummed a bunch at a meeting I was at a few months ago.”

She gave a handful to Acacia, who downed them dubiously.

“Hey, these aren’t bad,” Acacia said in surprise. “I can feel the memories getting fuzzy already.”

“Really? Great!” Jay popped her own. “Wow. Brain bleach, as advertised. They should sell these at the commissary: they’d make a bundle.”

“So what do we do with her?” said Acacia, in a soft tone that she hoped Arwen couldn’t hear. “Not that I mind killing her, but—”

“But it seems inadequate, considering what she did to Lord Half-elven.”

Acacia rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “We could take her to Tol-in-Gaurhoth.”

“The werewolves would die from eating poisoned meat.”

“We could take her to the Dorwinions, buy some of their wine and drown her in it.”

“But that would be a waste of good wine. Besides,” Jay added grimly, “I don’t want her to die that quickly. I want her to suffer.”

There was a long pause. Then Jay smiled a warm, happy smile, and started to whistle absentmindedly to herself.

“What have you got in mind?” Acacia demanded. Experience had taught her that if Elrond’s character had been Sue-savaged and Jay was happy, the Sue was about to die a particularly heinous and agonizing death.

Jay continued to whistle cheerfully as she entered coordinates into the remote activator. “Acacia? Lead Arwen out of here. We don’t need her to be standing here when the wine cellar ceases to exist.”

Arwen started to object.

“To see her father,” Jay added cheerfully. Arwen raised an eyebrow and followed them.

Elrond had recovered from his exorcism and book pummeling, but not from the memories of the fic. He looked supremely ill. Arwen rushed up to him. “Father? What’s wro—”

“Acacia? Glasses.”

“What?! Wait!”


The two elves stood slack-jawed. Jay walked up to them. “Here. Eat this.” She handed them each a few tablets, which they ate obediently. Jay pulled off her glasses and looked Arwen in the eyes.

“All right, Arwen,” she told the neuralyzed elf. “This has all been a horrible dream and you feel a compulsion to go upstairs to your chambers at once and have a nice peaceful rest without any unpleasant dreams. When you wake up, you won’t remember any of this. Elrond, give your daughter a hug and then go back to whatever you ought to be doing.”

“That ought to take care of it,” Acacia said. “Let’s go fetch the Sue.” They walked back into the plothole, and Acacia grabbed the unconscious avatar. Jay opened an oblong doorway in the air.

“Next stop, Elfland,” said Jay as she stepped through.

She (and Acacia and the Sue, a moment later) emerged in a winter world within a circle of stones that resembled dancers turned to stone. Half-frozen snow crunched underfoot. An aurora borealis of wild and surrealistic colors unscrolled across the cloudless starry sky—which, despite its lack of clouds, was snowing. There was a crisp bite to the air and the wind. A hunting horn sounded nearby, followed by merry laughter.

“This is it,” Jay said. “Acy, you can put the Sue down now.”

With an involuntary sigh of relief, for the Sue was much heavier than she looked, Acacia did so. “Tell me we’re not where I think we are.”

“We’re not where you think we are,” Jay said dutifully.

“Without lying.”

“Well, I don’t know where you think we are,” said Jay, digging little patterns in the snow with her feet.

“You know very well where I think we are!” Acacia said. “And I think we’re in bloody fairyland! The home of the Discworld elves.”

“Then I can’t tell you we’re not where you think we are.”

Acacia rolled her eyes, suppressing a satisfied smile.

Discworld elves were the antithesis of the wise, gentle, benevolent elves created by Tolkien; in fact, they were the epitome of the cruel, sadistic, vicious bringers of pain, terror and insanity that the Fair Folk had been throughout most of human history. And that seemed actually quite fitting.

“This is one fangirl who’s going to learn not to slander Tolkien’s elves,” Jay added under her breath. “If Elrond—who is kind as summer—and his gentle daughter can’t get that concept across, maybe this will.”

Acacia grinned. Then the grin faded. “Oh, damn. We forgot to charge her!”

“Do we HAVE to?” demanded Jay. “I mean, she’s here, the elves of Discworld are nearby...”

Acacia just looked at Jay. There was no need to say anything. Both of them knew how Upstairs felt about agents who couldn’t be bothered to charge Sues. Jay’s punishment for not charging Elvira Flameheart had been a short, eventful stint in Real People Fic, in which she’d ended up trying to kill an actor.

Jay sighed and nudged the Sue with the toe of her boot. As soon as the Sue started to stir, Jay sat on her legs and began reading the charges.

“Mary Sue, also known as Arwen Undómiel, you are charged with the following: Causing personality alterations and character ruptures. Causing an improbable and downright revolting sexual liaison between Lord Elrond and his seven-year-old daughter. Causing Elrond to act like a lovestruck fool over his seven-year-old daughter. Causing a canon member of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth to sexually abuse his child—you DO realize that a seven-year-old would be roughly the equivalent of a baby of one year or so, in elven terms? Changing the social conventions and structures of a canonical society—elves do not rape or sexually abuse other elves! Tolkien said so. If little Arwen HAD been sexually abused, she probably would have died of shame. Oh, and by the way, whomever the elf has sex with becomes his or her spouse. Permanently. That’s why elves don’t have affairs, before or after they get married. And marriage lasts for eternity, unless the one who dies and goes to Mandos’ Halls gives up all chance of rebirth. So aside from all the other wrongness, if Elrond had sex with Arwen, he’d be marrying his daughter, which, aside from being squicky, is impossible because Celebrían is still alive!”

“Also,” said Acacia cheerfully, “Arwen Undómiel was born in the Third Age, in the year 241, and Celebrían didn’t pass over the Sea until the Third Age, 2510, so Arwen was a long way from being seven years old when her mother left.”

“Which brings me to two OTHER charges, namely causing time compression and changing timelines or characters’ ages without cause—”

“Not to mention causing events to eventuate solely for the benefit of the original character without regard to canon plotlines...”

“Employing melodramatics—”

“Causing canon characters to behave in an OOC manner—”

“For messing with Elrond—”

“And for being a supremely sluttish and disgusting Mary Sue—”

“You are condemned to live with the elves forever.” Jay grinned ferally.

“That... that doesn’t sound bad,” said the Sue hesitantly in the tone of one who has not had a good day so far and is hoping it will not get any worse.

“Wait.” Jay managed to instill a world of menace into one short word.

“Let’s make sure they find her fast,” said Acacia. For a few minutes, she scrounged around for a good-sized stone, until at last she found one.

Acacia flung her rock at one of the standing stones. It thudded, rattled down the stone’s face and fell to the grass below. Almost instantly, the agents heard hooves trotting across the ice-encrusted snow, and a gladsome, silvery tune celebrating the magic in life, the mercilessness of the elves, and the marvelous bliss to be found in murder and mayhem.

Jay glanced worriedly in the direction of the singing. It was clearly time to leave before the elves caught the two of them and demanded to know what two humans were doing in their realm without permission. Punching in the code for PPC Headquarters, she pushed the “activate” button.

Nothing happened.

Growling threats and imprecations at Makes-Things, Jay cleared the coordinates, entered them once more and pressed “activate.”

Once more, nothing happened.

The singing was closer now. Much closer.

Jay shook the remote activator violently. “Nice time for you to break down,” she muttered. She glanced at Acacia, who was still throwing rocks at the standing stones. “Will you cut that out? We don’t want to attract their attention any more than we have to!”

Acacia squinted at the stones, but said nothing.

The voices were almost on top of them now.

Acacia grabbed Jay’s arm, and pulled her to her feet. “Come on!” Still holding tight to Jay’s arm, she leaped between the two standing stones facing them...

... and they landed just outside the stones, on a broiling hot summer day in the Ramtop Mountains, near the town of Lancre.

Acacia heaved a sigh of relief. “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find the way out in time.” She glanced at the standing stones. “Let’s get away from here and see if the remote activator works now.”

The two of them walked down the hill, edging farther and farther away from the stones. At last, when the mini-Stonehenge on the mound was a barely visible dot on a distant hill, Acacia nodded to Jay. “Try it now.”

Once again, Jay punched in the coordinates for PPC Headquarters and hit the “activate” button. This time the portal opened.

Without hesitation, the two agents leaped through.

Once both of them were safely back at the PPC, Jay was all for heading to Makes-Things’ lab. “Damned activator. It’s not supposed to be breaking down this way...”

“Don’t blame the activator,” said Acacia. “Or Makes-Things. It’s not the fault of either one. I could have told you this would happen if you hadn’t been so secretive about what you were planning to do to the Sue.”

“Riiiiiiiight. How would you know that the activator wouldn’t work in the land of the elves? It works in Middle-earth, the Forgotten Realms universe, the Dungeons and Dragons continuum... why not there?”

Acacia sighed patiently. “Because you brought a device of iron and magnetism and technology into their realm without going through the barriers. The activator shouldn’t even have existed there; in a place where iron and the laws of magnetism don’t exist, of course it couldn’t operate!”

“Oh.” Jay flushed red to her ears. A moment later, though, she cheered up. “Still, it was a good place to leave Sue!Arwen.”

Acacia nodded. “Yep. She’ll be living in very interesting times indeed.”

“I just wish I could have seen them kill her,” Jay grumped.

Acacia shrugged. “Folklore elves take their time over such things. They’ll kill her—eventually—but not until they’ve had an awfully good time tormenting her in other ways.”

“I hope that satisfies Upstairs,” said Jay, sinking into her chair. The adrenaline rush that she’d been operating under had finally ended, leaving her weak and exhausted.

“I hope,” said Acacia, eyeing the monitor suspiciously as she too sat down, “that we get another assignment right away. I just love dashing about at all hours with no time to eat or sleep.”

The computer remained silent. Acacia sat down in her own desk chair, leaned back and closed her eyes.

The room was silent for a long time—so still that the only sound that could be heard was the agents’ breathing. But then, of course, the Narrative Laws of Comedy kicked in.


Unlike most messages from Upstairs, this one arrived in audio; a neat trick, when the speaker is using telepathy. And the tone of the Sunflower Official was outraged, albeit in an icily courteous way.

Miss Thorntree. Miss Byrd. Our detection equipment reveals that you have freed a Sue and brought her to another continuum. Report to my office immediately. Be prepared to explain why you spared a Sue’s life and why she is now contaminating another universe. I expect you five minutes ago.

Acacia groaned as she heaved herself to her fee. “Tell me he didn’t say that.”

“All right. He didn’t say that.” Jay stretched. “I wish that we had a good excuse for not going to his office... at least, not right away.” So saying, she trudged toward the door, Acacia plodding after her.

And once more, the Narrative Laws of Comedy kicked in...



[A/N: This PPC was started and abandoned some time ago, but with the help of the admirable Rhysdux and a few nagging prods to the buttocks, I’ve finally finished it.

You try being funny on a fic like that, eh?

Most of the last third or so is Rhysdux’s work; I just tweaked it until it said what needed said.]