Yes, the author actually requested that this story be dealt with. See, Suethors? The PPC make mistakes too! The difference is, they correct them. Or get other people to. It's the same thing
Anyway, the 'fic only runs to two chapters, and isn't as bad as some, but it's still bad. Oh, and a) Yes, astatine really is an element as described, and b) the Geographical Aberration didn't have much attention drawn to it, but it was there, in the form of a rather major compression. ~Terri Ryan, DOGA Archivist
I finished buttoning up my black shirt and looked at myself in the full-length mirror that stood against the bathroom wall. My uniform was neatly ironed, my new DOGA flashpatch sewn in place, and my hair, while still short, red and messy, was clean. I nodded to my image, crossed my fingers, and opened the door to my Response Centre again. "Well?"
Lou looked up from her book – oddly, it seemed to be a textbook on inorganic chemistry – and studied me. "Yes," she said at last, "I think you'll do now."
I sighed with relief. Ever since we got back from our sojourn in Valinor, my partner had been, well, mothering me. After forcing me to take a shower, she sent me off to get a new flashpatch from the Bonsai Mallorn before teaching me how to use an iron. I'd been half expecting her to come up with some other task I had to fulfil – cutting my nails, perhaps – but it seemed that, at last, she was happy and I could relax. Smiling at her, I moved to sit down at the other chair, prepared for a bit of peaceful reading from the Silmarillion. Big mistake.
Changing course, I muted the console and looked at the screen. "Huh," I said, "that's odd."
"What's odd?" asked Lou, coming up behind me and reading the summary.
Eyes of Fire, by Cat2000
Legolas met a young girl trapped in cheetah form. In order to save her people, the girl, Astarai, turned Legolas over to an evil wizard who handed him over to a human kingdom, where he was tortured, almost breaking his spirit. Aragorn rescued him, but Leg
Lord of the Rings - Fiction Rated: T - English - Action/Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 2 - Words: 3137
"I don't see anything odd," the strawberry-blonde-haired girl said. "Standard Suethor name, standard faux-dramatic title, standard garbage summary cut off in mid word. Looks a bit short, but…"
I nodded, and then pointed at the top of the screen, where a line in glowing red letters read 'PPC attention requested by author'. "You don't see that very often," I said. "Usually a repentant author will either take the 'fic down, or just try to forget it. This…" Actually, 'not very often' was an understatement. In all my time at the PPC – don't ask me how long, I've never heard of anyone who can mark time in HQ, suffice to say that I was here before the Fellowship of the Ring movie came out – I'd only ever seen two other author-requested PPCs.
Apparently, Lou hadn't seen too many either. "You're right," she said, approvingly. Then, suddenly businesslike, she skimmed the rest of the 'fic. "Only two UnCanons," she said, "and a bunch of orcs show up at the end. I think…" She shook her head. "There's no background characters in this thing. Just Legolas, Mary-Sue, Aragorn in his 'castle' – no mention of Minas Tirith – and the nameless wizard with his... we're going to have to go as orcs."
My face twisted in disgust, but at least Lou didn't seem any happier with it than me. Most agents didn't seem to mind orc disguises that much, but I'd spent a lot of time studying the battles of the First Age. I knew the sort of things those creatures did – the sort of things that never made it into Tolkien's translation, either because he didn't understand them or, more likely, because no one back in Beleriand wrote them down. There are some things that you just don't record. Then, of course, there was the fact that I'd worked in Labyrinth, and occasionally had to deal with shapeshifting 'goblins' which flickered from one continuum to the other at will. But mostly it was the history.
I guess Lou saw my expression, because she shrugged helplessly. "I'm sorry, Nar, but there really is no choice. At least it's short, yes?"
I nodded. "There's that, at least. You going to kill her?"
My partner looked at me thoughtfully. "No," she said, "I killed Kilter. I think you should get a chance at this... Astarai, she calls herself." At my expression – something between gratitude and terror – she added, "I'll take the wizard if you want. We could probably take them down in the transformation sequence right at the end – they ought to both be vulnerable."
I nodded, still somewhat stunned. Me, kill something? I was an Untangler! I wasn't Assassin-trained like Lou, I didn't even have any-
A bow stabbed into my field of vision, and I jumped backwards. "Know how to use this?" Lou asked, holding the other end of it. Mutely, I shook my head. I'd always meant to learn to shoot with a bow, but every time I tried, my arrows ended up in the ground, in trees, or on one memorable occasion three feet behind me. Lou sighed. "How about a sword, can you handle a sword? Or should I do the killing after all?"
"Huh? No!" I was fairly emphatic on that. I had to start killing sometime, after all. "I mean, yes, I can use a sword. If you have one."
She nodded. "Orc blade," she clarified, "but that's unavoidable. I'll be using a bow, of course."
I raised an eyebrow at the of course, but knew enough not to expect any more information on that count. "Shall we get on with it, then?" I asked, reluctantly setting the orc disguises and opening the portal into the 'fic. Lou nodded.
"I guess we shall," she said, shouldering her pack. She picked up her bow – not the same one as last mission, I noted, this one was heavier and altogether more evil-looking – nodded at me, and stepped through the portal. I followed, more than a little apprehensive.
This time, fortunately, we emerged on dry land in a lightly forested area. Legolas was standing about a dozen yards away, aiming an arrow at a tree. I winced, and was about to point out that a Wood-elf shooting at trees was highly unlikely when the cheetah that was sitting between us and the Prince cleared its throat and said, "Excuse me?"
Legolas jumped, and spun round, accidentally loosing the arrow. It missed the cheetah behind him, whizzing past just over its head. It also missed us, although I had to throw myself backwards to ensure that. Fortunately, Legolas, as a canon character, didn't notice the two orcs watching him, and went on with the planned scene. "Was it my imagination, or did you just say something?"
As I got to my feet, Lou muttered, "Hypothetical question: If confronted by a large feline predator of a type not native to anywhere within a thousand miles of your homeland, would your first reaction really be to ask it politely whether it could speak?"
I shook my head, and hissed, "I'd probably shoot it. Especially if it had eyes the colour of fire that appeared to be glowing with a strange light."
"One for the charge list," commented Lou, and I looked at her properly for the first time in the 'fic. Big mistake. I think she noticed my shudder, but didn't say anything. Like I said, I don't like orcs, especially not when they're talking with my partner's voice. But, for the sake of the mission – and because I really didn't want to see what this orc disguise had eaten for lunch – I restrained my revulsion.
"Should I write the list, then?" I asked, guessing the answer. Sure enough, orc-Lou nodded, and I pulled out a notepad from my pack. After scribbling down the first few charges, I looked up in time to watch the cheetah say 'I need your help'. Legolas, apparently, 'knew that it was a woman the moment she spoke because her voice sounded like a woman's - low and husky.' I blinked. "Lou…"
"No," my partner said, "I would not describe my voice as low and husky, and I'm fairly sure I'm female. Thus, the charge list."
I rolled my eyes, but obediently noted it down while the two characters babbled inanely on through the 'Sue's scene. A moment later, I added 'Making up alphabet soup words and using them as names' as the 'Sue identified herself as 'Astarai' of the 'Mistaytas'.
"And he thinks they're a myth," I said, "but still believes her story. Why, Thranduillion, why?"
"He can't hear you, sadly," Lou pointed out, "and she's too focussed. But while you're asking pointless questions, how about wondering why Legolas should be expected to know that Astarai doesn't like staying in animal form?"
I sighed. "Suethor logic."
Legolas was relieved that she had closed her eyes for a moment. Her eyes disturbed him. They seemed to see too much. Their colour was also extremely unusual.
"That's the second time he's commented on the eyes," I muttered. Lou tilted her head.
"Third, if you count the title. There's another one at the end of the chapter. Should we call it in to the Department of Redundancy Department?"
I considered for a moment, but shook my head. "No. I hate dealing with those guys."
"Doesn't everyone?" Lou asked, and slipped into an imitation report. "Hello, Department of Redundancy Department? Greetings and salutations. I wish and desire to make a report, that is, to inform you, the Department of Redundancy Department, via radio, at this time, of an instance or occurrence of… well, yes. No one likes the DRD."
I shook my head, amused by her spiel. Sadly, my mood was ruined – 'smashed into little pieces and scattered across the deserts of Far Harad', more like – by the 'Sue's Angsty Past. She was trapped in her animal form, it was revealed, by a wizard who had been present at, and by implication involved in, the battle which had led to the destruction or capture of her people. Personally, I thought that wiping out the Mistaytas could only be a good thing, but to have a so-called 'wizard' involved made a mess of the whole thing. Quickly, I wrote another charge – 'Creating a 'wizard' not identified as an Istar' – and looked up just in time to see the 'strange, almost sly glint in Astarai's eye' before the chapter ended and we were thrown headfirst into a bush somewhere in Mirkwood.
"Can we have 'trying to kill PPC agents' as a charge?" I asked grumpily. Even as an orc, with their thick skin, branches trying to rip me apart didn't make me very happy. Having that while a second orc fought to get off me and out of the bush just made it worse.
"I don't know," replied Lou, finally disentangling herself from the bush and making it to the grass. As I struggled in turn, she mused, "We used 'trying to drown PPC agents' last time, I think, and I remember Dafydd and Selene had 'almost killing a PPC agent' on their 'legolas' mission… yes, why not?" she concluded.
"Good," I muttered, finally escaping from the bush only to discover that I'd left my notepad tangled in the branches. I wasn't exactly pleased, and I'm fairly sure the ferocity with which I attacked the bush – using my orc sword, I hadn't lost that - constituted an overreaction. I didn't really care at that point, but when the woodchips settled I realised I'd hacked up the notepad, too. Not a good idea. I had to borrow another from Lou and write up the charge list from memory. Of course, it wasn't even that simple. The whole bush episode had caused us to miss a section of rather urple prose, in which Astatine or whatever her name was had decided that she 'felt like she had turned to liquid' whenever Legolas smiled at her. A generic sappy 'Sue-loves-lust-object-but-is-in-denial scene, basically. I would have been glad to miss it, but of course I had to read the Words to add in the charges. When, finally, it was done, the 'Sue was in a phased-out state of Mope. My partner, in contrast, was fast asleep.
Whether Lou had been exhausted by the mission so far, or had simply – and correctly – discerned that I'd be at the charge list for a while, she was now curled up by the remains of the bush. I realise that, according to narrative conventions, I should at that point have given her an adoring or caring or something look. I didn't, for two reasons. One, the fact that someone's asleep doesn't automatically make them cuter, despite common belief to the contrary, and Lou isn't cute enough to make me give her adoring looks – again, probably despite common belief to the contrary. Two, and perhaps more important, she was an orc at the time. Sleeping orcs certainly don't look cute. Trust me on this.
Deciding that the 'Sue could look after herself for the time being, I picked a spot for myself in among the roots of one nearby tree and dropped off to sleep.
I was woken by a hideous creature shaking me and complaining in an incongruously feminine voice. "Will you get up already? They've left!"
"Wstfgl," I said, which, in half-asleep-Narto-speak, meant 'I need more sleep'. Lou, however – I was awake enough by then to realise that it was she, still disguised – didn't seem to understand this.
"They've left," she repeated in an urgent tone, and this time I registered the words.
Sitting up, I rubbed my eyes to get them used to the sunlight and asked, "What have we missed?"
"Not too much," Lou replied, apparently satisfied that I was responding properly now. "Some more details on her angsty past, Legolas referring to Aragorn as 'the king', with no indication of where he's king of, Legolas' horse having a decidedly non-elvish name – 'Lorla' – and not being afraid of the cheetah, and 'Sue plotting evilly. The next scene's apparently in the evening, so you've got a nice long time to write up the charge list before we need to portal over there." She gave me a smile that would have been dazzling were the teeth showing not all yellow, pointed and crooked.
"Thanks, Lou," I muttered, now fully awake and hating every minute of it. "Thanks heaps."
Some time later, we stepped out of a blue portal to see Legolas lying against a tree. It hurt my eyes to see the elf in such a contorted position – sitting is more usual against trees – but most of the pain was from looking up at the Words to see that he was falling, very randomly, in love with the 'Sue. Considering all we'd seen of her was an aggressive cat, I couldn't work out where the attraction was, but it takes all sorts. Nevertheless, it went on the charge list. And then…
Lou looked at me curiously. "What's what?"
"This little scene is all you got me up for today? I could have stayed asleep!"
Lou snorted. "Yes, until Irmo knows when. You needed to get up today anyway."
I frowned. That phrase – 'Irmo knows when' – brought flashes of memory to my mind. Something about Lou, in a forest, sleeping… clothes hanging from a tree… but nothing more than that. I got the distinct feeling that whatever I was remembering had occurred on the previous mission, but that was ridiculous – I could account for every moment of that mission, and at no point had Lou gone to sleep in a forest.
The girl herself chose that moment to cough. "Nar? Arda to Narto, come in please, Agent Telyan. Preferably before I have to hit you."
"All right, all right." I waved a hand irritably. No point explaining to her that I was going insane. "We need to portal on, do we?"
"That's right," Lou agreed, "but I'm not sure where to. They have a nice conversation over the next section, but they do so while still moving. We don't have any horses, so I doubt we could keep up with them."
"So… what?" I asked, confused. "Where should we portal to?"
"Probably Aragorn's castle," she said. "They stay there long enough that we'd be able to catch up with them, and you could check the Words for the other scene while we wait for them to arrive."
I nodded. It made sense. "We seem to be doing a lot of reading the Words for charges, don't we?" I said conversationally as Lou opened the portal. She smiled.
"You do, at any rate. It can't be helped, though. Now get on through, Nar."
I did so, and stopped as soon as I got out of the portal. Lou hopped through behind me and slammed straight into me, almost knocking me over. "What are you doing?" she asked, irate, but I just pointed in shock at the monstrosity before us. As promised, it was Aragorn's castle. Not Minas Tirith, but a fully-fledged English castle. Huge stone blocks, towers, crenelles, even a moat. Lou saw, and joined me in staring. "That is… horrible."
I nodded mutely, and then managed to tear my gaze away from it. "I, uh, really don't want to have to look at that for much longer, so could we please portal inside rather than walking?"
Lou nodded, still distracted. "Yeah, I'll… get right on it. Dear Varda." She shook her head as if to clear it, and then lifted the Remote Activator and opened another portal.
We emerged in a walled enclosure, with the main keep of the castle directly in front of us, but I found that if I kept my gaze low, I could handle it. I found a spot against the wall – on a pile of sacks filled with some sort of grain – sat down, and worked on the charge list.
There's a curious thing about charge lists. Agents work on them for large amounts of the mission, but the actual charges we read out don't seem to justify the time taken. The reason for this, of course, is obsession. Specifically, we write out every charge we can think of – every minor spelling or grammar error, every instance of OOC behaviour, everything. Then we edit it, deleting most of them again. So what we in fact end up with is page after page of scored-through charges, with here and there a single legible line. Not exactly the most efficient way to do things, but it gets the job done.
Almost as soon as I'd finished, then, the great gates of the castle – wood, not anything like as impressive as those in Minas Tirith – swung open and Legolas rode through, Astatine at his side. I couldn't hear them from where I was, but I could read the Words.
Astarai was a little worried. "I hope that no one will try and kill me," she muttered.
Legolas gave her a sideways look, but understood Astarai's fears. While she was in her animal form, anyone could see her as a threat. "You'll be all right," Legolas said soothingly. "As long as you don't look like you're going to try and attack anyone..."
"I wouldn't try and attack anyone," Astarai mumbled after a pause.
"Then you probably have nothing to worry about."
"Oh, other than the fact that she's a deadly predator which anyone in their right mind would shoot on sight. No, nothing to worry about. Nothing at all."
"You're ranting, Nar," said Lou, wandering over as Aragorn greeted the newcomers with an enthusiastic 'LEGOLAS!'. "By the way," she added, "does that seem out of character for Aragorn to you? It's hard to say, but I don't think he acted much like that by the end of the Quest."
"Good question," I replied, even though it wasn't really a reply. "I'm not sure- hang on." I picked up my rucksack and rifled through, coming up eventually with my DOGA-modified Character Analysis Device. Flicking it on, I pointed it at Aragorn.
Aragorn. Male human. Canon. OOC: 27.84%. No real cause for concern.
I nodded. "OOC, but not by too much. Probably because he only has a walk-on part. I wonder if…"
I pointed the CAD at Legolas. There was a loud beep before I hit the mute button, and Lou and I read the display together.
Legolas Thranduillion. Male elf. Canon. OOC: 64.29%. Warning: Character Rupture Imminent. Cause of distortion: Astarai the Mistayta. Recommendation: Burn Astarai the Mistayta.
"We have a pyromaniac CAD," commented Lou. "I guess Makes-Things likes us."
"Or he just wants to keep us happy," I replied, thinking of the nervous inventor who kept HQ running. My partner nodded, and glanced over at the Canons.
"Well, at least someone worries about the fact that Legolas brought a cheetah in. Good on you, Aragorn!" Fortunately, the PPCer's standard invisibility kept Aragorn from hearing her encouraging call. Nevertheless, she smiled. "That felt good. Right, you've got some charges to write up, so get on with it. I'm going to go take a look around." Pulling out the Remote Activator again, Lou flicked open a portal and jumped through, leaving me alone.
I rolled my eyes and got back to business, but when, half an hour later, I put my notepad away, she still wasn't back. Concerned, I got up and wandered into the castle. It was fairly well decorated, showing some Elven influence, but none of that could disguise the fact that it was a castle, and thus utterly out of place here. Nevertheless, it was nice enough, and I managed to avoid worrying until I reached the third floor. At that point, I called out, "Louise!"
"This way," came the faint reply. I kept walking until I came to an open archway. My partner was leaning against one pillar, looking into the room beyond with what, for an orc, was a faintly wistful expression. Joining her, I peered in to see Arwen Undómiel seated at a desk, writing. Even in the mire of the 'fic, the half-elven woman still held that aura of sad beauty that had always marked her, the same one that her ancestress, Lúthien Tinúviel, had possessed. Lou sighed softly.
"I just wish," she said, "that I could go in there and reassure her that it will all be okay. That she'll be able to return to Minas Tirith, and her son will be there, and everything will be right again. But I can't."
"Well, no," I said. "You're an orc."
The girl grimaced. "Not that. I meant that it won't be all right. She's going to lose her husband, and then she's going to die, and never see her parents or brothers again. She knows it, too. It just…" Lou's voice trailed off, and she shook her head sharply. "Enough dallying. Let's go watch 'Sue's conversation with her master, then portal to the last scene and get this thing over with."
"Right," I said, but couldn't help taking one last look at Arwen as we walked off down the hallway.
"That was an utterly awful scene," said Lou conversationally as we wandered down a path after the protagonists, a few days later, or five minutes by portal. "I mean, what was the point?"
"Well," I said thoughtfully, "we learnt that the creepy necklace is Astatine's way of communicating with the wizard, that she's meant to hand Legolas over to the wizard, that Aragorn was able to tell Legolas his own name, and… what?" I stopped when Lou looked at me, amused. "What?"
"Oh, it's just that name – Astatine. It's funny."
I blinked. "Er, thank you," I said, "but I just made it up. I-"
"It's an element," Lou said, to my surprise. "Heaviest of the halogens, a group including several poisons, it's black and highly unstable."
"… oh. I didn't know that." I considered for a moment. "Appropriate, though."
"Hence why it's funny," she said impatiently. "Now hush, the scene's starting."
"I think that there's something I need to tell you," Legolas said softly.
"No there isn't," I muttered. "You don't want to say another word to her. You want to leave her right there."
Unfortunately, Legolas wasn't listening. "Astarai, I'm beginning to like you," he said. "A lot. And I don't think that it's just as a friend, either. As ridiculous as that sounds, considering the fact that I've only ever seen you in cheetah form. I... thought that perhaps you should know that before we go any further."
"Yes, it does sound ridiculous," said Lou. "This whole 'fic does. But hey, that's okay, we get to fix it now. Nar, do we have any charges for the wizard?"
"Other than existing and using Uncanonical magic?" I asked. "No. But what…?"
"You'll see," she said, maddeningly calm.
Suddenly, an arrow whizzed past just over Legolas' head. The elf prince cursed in elfish, and slid off his horse, drawing one of his own arrows and notching it to his bow.
"Elfish," I muttered to Lou, but she wasn't there any more. Looking around, I saw her running off around the clearing, bow out and strung.
A large number of Orcs stepped out from behind the trees. Legolas did his best to fight them off, but there were too many of him, and he was quickly overpowered. His bow was wrenched from his grip and his quiver and remaining arrows from his back, and two Orcs grabbed his arms, preventing him from struggling.
I peered at the orcs, trying to see whether Lou was one of them. Could that be her plan? Apparently not, because she was still making her way through the trees, searching for level ground, when the wizard entered the clearing.
"You see, it's like this," the wizard explained to the elf prince. "It's your life in exchange for Astarai's people. Oh, yes," he added. "I almost forgot." He pointed a finger at Astarai, and a white mist surrounded the Mistayta.
An arrow sped from the trees and struck the wizard in the forehead. He collapsed, dead instantly, and the mist dissipated prematurely. Where Astarai had crouched, there was now a monstrosity. Everyone, the orcs included, stared at the mess that was the 'Sue. She was now a mixture between human and cheetah, with spotted skin, a muzzle on an otherwise human mouth, a stunted tail, a cheetah's body with human limbs. Like I said, a mess. Taking this as my cue, I stepped forward.
"Astarai the Mistayta," I said, following the age-old formula, "on my authority as an agent of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum, Department of Geographical Aberrations, I hereby charge you with the following: Transporting cheetahs to Mirkwood. Giving a cheetah glowing red eyes. Making all women have 'low and husky' voices. Making up alphabet soup words and using them as names. Creating a new über-speshul species. Making Legolas believe a completely illogical story. Expecting Legolas to know things he couldn't. Repetition and redundancy. Having an Angsty Past."
"It was true!" yelled the 'Sue, or tried to. Her face just wasn't made for speaking any more, and while I managed to work out what she was saying, she stabbed at least one tooth through her lips. Yes, she had lips on the muzzle. I don't know why.
"It was still angsty," called Lou, stepping out of the trees. "Go on, Narto," she added.
"Oh, right. Ahem: Creating a 'wizard' not identified as an Istar. Causing Legolas not to notice that an animal is evil. Trying to kill PPC agents. Utilising generic sappy angst. Blatant illogic. Failing to give Aragorn and Arwen their proper titles. Having a magical necklace of communication. Giving Legolas' horse a non-Elvish name. Causing Legolas' horse not to fear cheetahs. Putting Minas Tirith within two days of Mirkwood. Causing Legolas to fall randomly in love."
"She didn't cause that!" interrupted Legolas, jumping away from the two orcs holding him. "My love for her is true and deep and-"
"Blind," finished Lou, stepping in front of the elf and grabbing his wrists. "Now hurry, Nar, I don't know how long I can hold him."
I nodded, and rushed through the rest of the charges. " Getting angry at Legolas for no good reason, being 'the only Mistayta ever to take on cheetah form', making Legolas state the obvious, allowing someone to access Aragorn's castle unnoticed, making Aragorn state the obvious, using the word elfish, allowing Legolas to be ambushed by orcs, giving a wizard Uncanonical magic, and being a Mary-Sue. For these crimes and doubtless more you are sentenced to die. As your author repented of you and offered you up for execution herself, I'll do you a favour and make it quick. Any last words?"
She did have last words. I'm sure of it. The fact that I couldn't understand them doesn't diminish that. As she stuttered and lisped her way through them, I lifted my sword, aimed, and swung. I was aiming to cut her head off at the neck. I missed, but as it ended with the end of the blade embedded in the back of her skull, it didn't really matter.
The 'Sue died without a fuss, and Canon snapped back into place. Lou and I found ourselves in the middle of the grasslands of Rohan, the orcs winked out of existence, and Legolas vanished, probably teleported to Ithilien. Lou gave a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Narto. I think he was about to rip my arms out of their sockets."
I laughed. "You're welcome, Lou. Time to go home, then?"
"Time to go home," she confirmed, "but one thing first." Pulling out her CAD, she flicked it on and pointed it straight at the ground.
Middle-earth. Continent. Canon. IC. No PPC attention required
"That felt good."