Sandra looked up from A Wrinkle in Time. "Our console thinks it's a referee?"
"That's because it's cute." Freckles hopped down from the workbench and scurried across to the keyboard. "Let's see… we have a mission!"
"I kind of figured." Sandra put the book to one side and got up. "Any more details than that?"
"Mm… bad romance, Star Wars 'verse. The Intelligence report says it's Obi-Wan and Anakin."
"It usually is," Sandra said, then chuckled. "Though I suspect that'll change when Episode Seven comes out. So will we need to exorcise?"
Freckles, still bent over the console, waved one hand at the door to their RC. "Go check the department name and ask that question again."
"You've gotten snarkier recently," Sandra said. "I'm not sure I like it."
"Then maybe you should persuade the Lace that 'I'm sorry, Agent Blemishes, but the Sunflower Official simply can't accept your re-transfer right now' isn't as hilarious as it thinks it is."
"Because I have control over the Flowers, yes?"
"Sure you do. If you were a Time Lord, we could call you 'the Botanist'. If you were a Pokémon, you'd be Grass-type. If you had furies, they'd be wood-"
"Point made, joke stretched to the point of snapping, stop talking." Sandra flicked a finger against the screen. "The fic takes place entirely in their bedroom. I'm thinking astromech droids is the way to go."
"Because I love being a tin can." Freckles stopped, head cocked. "You're right, I have gotten more sarcastic."
"Told you so."
"I'd better do something about that. Um… droids! Squee!"
Sandra ruffled Freckles' hair. "Keep trying, my friend. Keep trying."
Using the Force, Anakin shoved Obi-Wan off the bed.
(Actually, Sandra's reaction could better be transcribed as 'tweedle-weedle-beep?', but for your sake, gentle reader, the agents' speech will be translated into English. Hence:)
Freckles rolled backwards until a soft click indicated contact with the wall. "I think that counts as domestic abuse."
"Probably." Both agents were keeping their beeps quiet so as not to intrude on the story. "But what I meant was - did we miss something?"
"Uhm." Freckles tipped backwards and focussed a photoreceptor on the Words. "Anakin is pregnant, and Obi-Wan refused to wake up when prodded."
"Wait, Ani's pregnant already?" Lights flashed over Sandra's dome. "How short is this fic, anyway?"
"Five hundred and fourteen words," Freckles replied promptly. "Provided you treat punctuation correctly, of course."
"Of course. You sound like Threepio."
"Could be worse." It should be impossible for an R2 unit to grin, but Freckles made a decent go of it.
Over by the bed, Anakin was demanding food, to which Obi-Wan responded that it was three in the morning. Anakin rolled back across the bed and began blinking rapidly, which sent Obi-Wan into something of a reverie.
How the boy had managed to get pregnant Obi-Wan would never know…
Sandra gave an electronic chuckle. "Reminds me of OFUM. Frodo and Sam set us a test, and question one was 'In what ways is the male reproductive apparatus suited to becoming pregnant?'."
"Sounds simple enough," Freckles said, dome swivelling to face Sandra. "Should I assume ninety percent of your classmates failed?"
"Worse: the hobbits got Elrond to grade the quiz." Sandra's lights flickered at the memory. "The only answer deemed acceptable was 'IT ISN'T' in all caps, though I think one of us got extra credit for adding a hundred-word rant in Sindarin about the subject."
"Maybe if the OFU Far Far Away ever starts up again, they can take lessons." Freckles' focus returned to the canons: Anakin had started sniffling, and Obi-Wan was trying to be comforting.
"You know, this isn't a believable relationship," Freckles mused. "Ani and Obi… those sound kind of like Japanese terms for parts of a relationship."
"Not really, and more to the point: focus."
Freckles shifted the focussing rings around a secondary photoreceptor. "Focussing - whoa, that looks really weird."
"I think I preferred you being snarky," Sandra muttered. "Believable relationship?"
"Oh, yeah. Ani and Obi should be in a student-teacher dynamic, but Obi-Wan is being far too passive."
"Obi-Wan does talk about that," Sandra said. "'...along with pregnancy came all of the hormones and mood swings associated with it, which was exactly what someone as already emotionally volatile as Anakin Skywalker did not need.'"
"Which would explain Anakin being a bully," Freckles agreed. "But Obi-Wan isn't a passive character. Can you see the Jedi Knight who took down Darth Maul being this soppy? Or the one who defeated General Grievous?"
"I suppose not." Sandra's dome swivelled to look back at the bed. "Though I see Obi-Wan didn't go and get Anakin food; perhaps there's still some backbone there after all?"
"Not a chance. Turn up your audio receptors; that's the world's lightest hurt/comfort scene going on."
Sandra bit back (or whatever the equivalent is when you're a robot) a sharp retort, and tuned in to the dialogue on the bed.
"You don't love me."
"Of course I love you."
"You won't feed me. Or our baby."
"I would gladly feed you both; I'm not allowed a little time for the shock of hitting the floor to wear off?"
It was annoying to admit it, but… "You're right," said Sandra. "That's pretty unrealistic."
"No, no." Freckles' dome spun all the way round, scattering flecks of light across the walls of the ill-defined room. "It would be a perfectly realistic relationship if it was someone else. Anakin and Padmé? Probably. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon? Maybe; Qui-Gon was pretty passive towards Anakin's desires, for instance, and that could work with Obi-Wan. Han and Leia from the bookverse? Definitely. But not this couple."
"All right! If I had hands, I'd be throwing them up." Sandra leant back to glance at the Words. "So is that all our charges? Unjustified mpreg and OOC Obi-Wan?"
"I'd like to add making Anakin overly-whiney," Freckles mused, "but I honestly can't justify that. Other than just generally beige writing… yeah, I guess that's it."
"Hardly seems worth the bother of exorcising them." Sandra glanced back at the Words one more time, then trundled forwards. "But that's why they pay us the big money."
"They pay us now?" Freckles asked in a weary-sounding beep. "Okay, worn-out joking aside, you have the hologram?"
"If you've got the music." Sandra reached the bedside and focussed a photoreceptor on the canons. They were spooning quite peacefully, each with one hand on Anakin's stomach. "Yeah, I almost feel bad about this. Oh, well."
The hologram that Sandra projected onto the bed was of a small figure in what would have been white, had the hologram not tinted it blue. "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi: you're my only hope," the image of Leia Organa said, and knelt down on the covers.
Behind Sandra, Freckles' speakers began to blare out the Star Wars main theme. "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi," the hologram said again, and on the bed the two canon characters began to shake and tremble.
"Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi."
"Help me, Obi-Wan."
"Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only-"
"You're my only hope."
And with a cry of rage, the wraith possessing Obi-Wan and Anakin leapt into the air.
"I dunno, do you feel bad?"
Freckles was sitting on the desk again, humming softly. "What? Um, no. Why should I?"
Sandra waved one hand vaguely. "The fic wasn't that bad. With a bit of work it could've been an interesting wild-AU. But we killed it anyway."
Freckles' lip twisted pensively. "You do sort of have a point. But…"
"Well." Freckles hopped down, crossed to the console, and pulled the Intelligence report back up. "The fic was written in 2005; that's, what, ten years ago? What are the chances it would ever be rewritten, or edited, or even thought about again?"
"I suppose. But…"
"Think about it this way," Freckles suggested. "What if instead of Anakin and Obi-Wan, it was Pippin and Denethor?"
"... that's a completely different relationship."
"Because Denethor is your lust object."
"Because lots of reasons!"
"But mostly because Denethor is your lust object, and you know that behaviour would be totally out of character."
Sandra's mouth opened to reply, but then the agent paused. "Wait. Are you saying Obi-Wan is one of your LOs?"
"I'm not saying that," Freckles replied, putting on a prim-and-proper expression, "but… yes."
"I suppose that figures. You always did like them pretty…"
Disclaimer: Star Wars belongs to Lucas and, now, Disney. The PPC was created by Jay and Acacia. Three AM was written by Vee017, and is quoted, paraphrased and dissected here for the purposes of parody and humour; no claim of ownership is made by Huinesoron or any other members of the PPC.
Author's Note: So did you spot it?
The purpose of this mission was to find out whether gender, as a grammatical concept, is really necessary for writing stories. Throughout the mission, I made sure to use no gendered words - including pronouns - if I could possibly help it. The only three that had to be in there were one 'boy' in the fic itself (I used careful quoting to cut out all the 'him's, but that one was necessary), one 'male' used purely to describe reproductive equipment, and one 'mpreg'. Those latter two are really sexed, not gendered, words: it doesn't matter whether you call yourself male, female, or anything else, you still can't get pregnant if you have the wrong organs.
And did it work? Surprisingly, I think it did. I weighted the dice a little by disguising the agents as robots - but equally, I biased things the other way by taking on a Bad Slash Romance mission. So I think, overall, this was a success.
In the event that gender really was dropped from English entirely, of course, things would be a lot easier: we'd use a gender-neutral pronoun, which would probably be they/them. But this mission is being written now, not in a hypothetical future.
The exorcism method used here is #011 from Sandra and Freckles' story Getting Some Exorcise; it's the Lord of the Rings canon artefact/canon music approach. Given the disguises, it seemed appropriate.