Everything starts somewhere. For the Department of Geographical Aberrations, that 'somewhere' was Response Centre #2020, buried deep in the heart of PPC Headquarters.
Of course, since every RC is ‘deep in the heart’ of HQ, a complex which does not in fact have an outside, that isn’t much of a description. But then again, since knowing where you’re going in HQ is a good way to never arrive, that may be the point.
Agent Jared Calinson sighed and rose from his chair. “It’s not like I actually wanted to relax,” he said. Crossing to the silver console, he pulled up the message. “And we have… not a Sue.”
“Be still, my beating heart,” replied his partner, from his perch on their desk. Jared had always thought that Dafydd Illian had a distinctly unnatural sense of balance, even being who (and what) he was. Surely sitting on one foot on the very edge of a desk while reading a book wasn’t normal? “What is it,” Dafydd went on, “a crossover?”
“No; it’s for you.” Jared pulled up the message on the screen. “‘Agent Illian, you have been summoned to the Office of the Sunflower Official, effective immediately. Please report post-haste. Signed for the SO by the Bonsai Mallorn, secretary to the same’. What’ve you done to draw the attention of Upstairs, Dafydd?”
Dafydd shrugged, closed his book, and hopped down from the table. “Not a clue,” he said. “I guess I’ll go find out. Thanduril? Let’s go see the Plants.”
The mini-Balrog untangled himself from his asbestos blanket - apparently it had been his favourite back at OFUM, and had been sent along when Dafydd adopted him - and fluttered across the RC. Dafydd favoured him with a quick smile, then tugged the door open. “Back soon,” he said to his partner.
“I certainly hope so,” Jared said. “On the other hand, if you get sacked, maybe I can get a holiday…”
It was a long walk to the SO's office. Dafydd knew he was paying too much attention to the route, and he knew why - to stop himself thinking about exactly why he was being called upstairs. The problem was, he had a feeling he knew. But that was months ago - they would have said something before now. Unless... no, no, he wouldn’t think about it. Happy thoughts, that was the key. Maybe they wanted to give him some extra bleeprin or something.
Of course, happy thoughts can be hard to keep up when, the moment you step into your boss’ office, the Sunflower in a pinstriped suit fixes you with a glare (somehow) and says, Agent Illian. Consider yourself suspended from the Department of Mary-Sues.
“What? But… why?”
I’m sure you recall the Rivendell Incident - the fire that burned down some seventy percent of the settlement. Having to station five agents on location for a full month to supervise the reconstruction took a severe toll on the effectiveness of Building Maintenance’s operations. You can only imagine my surprise when I learned that one of my own Assassins was responsible.
“Er.” Dafydd wished desperately that he hadn’t left Thanduril outside - a well-placed fire would be just the thing to take the heat off himself. On the other hand, that might not be the best idea. “I can expl-”
The time for explanations was three months ago, the Sunflower Official said. Since you did not report the incident, I am forced to conclude that you are unable to accept your wrongdoing; thus, this suspension. Since we do not, in fact, have a Department of Pyromaniac Excess, I suggest you spend your time thinking about appropriate behaviour for the department you are in. You will be contacted. Dismissed.
Dafydd stepped out of the door in something of a daze. What was he supposed to do with himself now? He’d devoted himself to killing Mary-Sues since his recruitment, and his old pasttimes were… not an option. Stumbling over to where Thanduril waited, he almost tripped over the small potted tree against the wall. Or Tree, he supposed, since non-sentient plants don’t often move around.
Normally, he would have spent a few minutes wondering how even an intelligent Plant could move when it was in a rather nice blue-glazed pot, but right then he didn’t care. He beckoned to Thanduril, and prepared to wander vaguely through HQ.
Uh... Agent Dafydd? Might I have a moment of your time?
It was the Tree. Dafydd let out a mournful sigh. "Sure. It's not like I'm doing anything else right now."
The tree hesitated. As it happens, that’s what I want - need, really - to talk to you about. I’m the SO’s secretary, you see.
Dafydd frowned. “What, the Bonsai Mallorn who sent that message?” Looking closer, he could see the hint of gold just appearing on the leaves of the Tree - apparently it was just approaching autumn.
That’s correct, the Bonsai Mallorn confirmed. I’m afraid I couldn't help but overhear much of what was said. I was wondering... were you planning on taking the SO up on his implied offer?
Dafydd's brow furrowed. "What offer? He just said I was suspended, and that since there wasn’t a Department of- oh. Huh. Oh."
Exactly. And while, obviously, a literal Pyromania Department would be, uh, untenable, there is an area of fanfic that has no department to look after it, and would benefit from the… liberal application of fire from time to time.
Dafydd considered this. On the one hand, the little Tree sounded either crazy or desperate, he wasn’t sure which. On the other hand… "I'm interested. What area are we talking about?"
With one simple word, the Bonsai Mallorn set the foundations of the Department of Geographical Aberrations. Over the next half hour, he explained in detail how both badfic-generated locations and plothole-distorted distances could best be dealt with by fire - fire to which no one could object, fire which would in fact be officially sanctioned.
It took a while, but Dafydd was convinced, and after a quick visit to the Department of Personnel (during which the pair were told that under no circumstances would they be assigned any support personnel, or indeed any additional agents), one of the oddest departments in PPC history was officially founded: the Department of Geographical Aberrations.
Author’s Note: This version of the Interlude has been heavily rewritten from the original, which can be found here.