|Summary:||In which the agents finally get a crossover and nothing goes as planned.|
|Source:||"Harry Potter and the Dragonriders of Pern" (deleted) by Lesalanna.|
|Continua:||Dragonriders of Pern and Harry Potter.|
|Timeline:||March 2008; ends just prior to the events detailed in "Gestalt Therapy" and elsewhere.|
|Published:||November 21, 2008.|
|Rating:||PG-13/T - Injury, emotional trauma, and adults who occasionally allude to adult things.|
|Betas:||Sedri and Tomato.|
|Cameos:||Agents Sedri, Maria Falcone, Lunac, and Circe.|
The final screws went into place and Makes-Things hopped down from Nume's desk chair. "All right, that's it," he said without looking at Ilraen. Instead, he pushed a few buttons on the console and gathered his tools.
The Andalite was impressed by the speed with which the work was completed. Makes-Things had completely removed and disconnected the sliced front panel of the disguise generator, replaced several blown-out wires and other electronic bits, and hooked it all up to a new panel in about twenty minutes. That was half the time it had taken to find the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology and convince the man to make a house call. The latter had been the most difficult part. Ilraen couldn't imagine why, but Makes-Things seemed reluctant to talk to him, let alone venture out of DoSAT. However, Ilraen was beginning to understand why his partner had insisted that the task of fetching this man be his. Agent Supernumerary was not the most easy-going human Ilraen had met, and Makes-Things' abundant nervous energy seemed the sort of thing to set his fingers twitching toward his hip-flask.
"Don't go attacking my machines again, Agent. Don't even think about getting a new CAD out of me any time soon, either. When will you realize I'm not made of CADs?" And Makes-Things rushed out as if afraid for his very life.
<Thank you,> Ilraen said to no one.
[Beep?] said the console, as though testing the probability of homicide in the room. Then, more confidently: [BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!]
<All right, I hear you!> He brought his seven-fingered hand down on the big button as hard as he could and instantly regretted it. It wasn't that it hurt, though his physiology wasn't really meant for brute force. It was just that the place seemed unfriendly enough without him adding to the problem.
With a quick visual sweep of the console, Ilraen assessed the situation. For the first time since he'd become an active agent, the green indicator light was flashing. This, he remembered, meant a crossover, and was exactly the sort of thing he was supposed to expect, being in the Department of Implausible Crossovers. He was not at all surprised to see that the red light was flashing, too. The blue light, however, was unexpected. Curious, he toggled the screen display and skimmed down the mission report until he found a message from the Head of Department.
I do apologize for the fault in your assignments. Those responsible have been informed and the matter has been corrected. However, this combined mission requires your immediate attention. Please contact Nurse Jennifer Robinson of the Department of Fictional Psychology as soon as possible. Her particular areas of expertise will be of some use to you.
Head of Department
Department of Implausible Crossovers
This was good news! Ilraen remembered Jenni fondly and was pleased by the thought of working with her. He would have to wait for his partner before they could start, though. Agent Supernumerary had gone to Talk, capital T, to the Flowers That Be about their previous misdirected missions and then to resupply himself with Bleepka. Clearly he had accomplished the first part of his objective, so he should be back soon. In the meantime, Ilraen prepared for the crossover as best he could.
Nume and Jenni arrived together, he in her tow rather than the other way around and looking more sullen than usual behind the cardboard box in his arms. His right hand was splinted and wrapped in gauze. He gingerly put the box down in the far corner of the room without speaking.
Jenni, however, was in good humor. "Ilraen! How are you?" She greeted the Andalite with a hug.
He'd seen it done and managed to return the gesture with a minimum of awkwardness. It felt weird having someone that close to his skin. Itchy, sort of. Fortunately, she stepped out of his personal space after a brief moment. He relaxed.
<I am well,> he replied. <I am pleased to see you. Did you repair Agent Supernumerary's hand? He hit himself with a hammer and almost drove a nail through his palm by accident. The nail was sticking up. We built a loft,> he concluded with pride, indicating the structure with an elegant hand gesture.
The loft had been erected in place of Nume's old cot, providing RC 999 with a good deal more floor space. This was quite a feat. It must be said that Nume's ineptitude with weapons extended to tools as well, and the loft really did have his sweat and blood in it. Now, though, he had all the space he needed for sleeping and a guard rail to ensure that neither the console nor anything else could startle him into falling out of bed.
Beneath the loft, the agents had spread a blanket of turf across the floor, providing Ilraen with a comfortable place to rest and eat all in one. Since the grass was engineered to grow inside an Andalite starfighter, the Jahar, it was low-maintenance and very hardy. Furthermore, Nume would tell anyone who asked, it was in no way stolen. Alloran wouldn't be needing it anymore, now, would he? "Salvaged" would be the more appropriate term, thank you very much. And don't tell Ilraen. Or Agent Iskillion in Floaters. In fact, just don't mention it at all.
Nume gaped at the string of thought-speech, but Jenni smiled. "That's good," she said. "And, yes, I did the hand. We would've been here sooner otherwise, only someone was stubborn and didn't think he needed to visit Medical despite the puncture and the broken finger."
"It wasn't that bad," Nume protested. It hurt now, but he was fairly certain that had something to do with the recent re-setting of the bone. At least it was his off-hand. "If I had thought it was broken—"
"Bleepka," Jenni interjected, ending the argument. Bleepka, of course, would dull the pain. "You don't think you're using too much, do you?" she added, scrutinizing the box.
Nume shrugged. "Why ask me? You're the shrink. Which reminds me: why, exactly, are you here?"
<Nurse Robinson is coming on a mission with us,> Ilraen supplied, eyes all smiles. But then his face fell. <Why do you look upset?>
Nume buried his face in his hands, covering his dismayed expression. "If we need a FicPsych agent in the field, I dread to think of how awful this is going to be. Why? Why, why?"
"It's because it's Pern." Jenni was solemn in a way that neither Ilraen nor Nume had seen before. She looked and sounded old. "I gather that neither of you is familiar with the canon, and the agents in the Pern division have enough to deal with without the Potterverse crossover. I used to live there in an alternate universe."
"Wouldn't be there, then, strictly speaking," muttered Nume.
Jenni gave him a Look. "I know my canon."
Ilraen made a valiant attempt to lighten the mood. <Perhaps it will be good for Jenni to see home again. I would very much like to see my home continuum some day.>
"Perhaps," Jenni said with a smile for her friend, "but I very much doubt it in this case."
Jenni had come prepared and it took Nume only a few minutes to gather his equipment, so without further delay, they set disguises and entered the fic.
It was completely dark, not a hint of light anywhere. Dark, but not silent. The writer's voice filled the void.
Chapter 1 – Left at Albuquerque
((I do not own Harry, or any of the others. They are property of J.K. Rowling, not me, (though I wish they were mine!) I do not own Pern, Anne McCaffery does, (too bad, eh?)
"Actually, I'm pretty sure Anne McCaffrey owns Pern, and thank goodness," Jenni growled. "We'll have to find the mini before we leave." Then, "Ow."
All three agents hunkered down in the dark, covering their heads against the things bouncing off them.
"It's a punctuation shower," Nume reported. "Parentheses." The author's note droned on over his voice, accompanied by the staccato of stone parentheses hitting the invisible floor.
But I do own the dragons, so no stealing them, (unless you want me to Bat Bogey Hex you!) And thank you very much to the lovely, wonderful, amazing Issy for letting me use her character idea, (though I tweaked her mightily…) Happy reading, and please, rate & review!))
"Look at the Words," Nume said. "Apparently Hermione is 'one massive bruise'."
"And she's still alive how? I mean, a mass of blood and broken capillaries shouldn't be able to live."
“Is-is everyone alright?” She asked, throat rasping.
“Yeah…” Ron answered with a slight moan, “Except I can’t feel my hooves.”
“Ron, you don’t have hooves.” Harry replied to him, chuckling, or trying to, since it was quite painful. Ginny was heard to giggle throatily at Ron’s exclamation of horror.
Jenni attempted to giggle throatily. Though she still couldn't see, she felt the alarmed looks of her peers. "Yeah, I won't be doing that again. Sorry."
The scene continued. Hermione viciously mocked Ron's attempt to make a non-canonical transporter potion, which was apparently how they were meant to have arrived here.
"Hermione is not cruel," Ilraen protested, necessarily in a Generic Pernese Human disguise. He didn't like being blind and he didn't like the way this was going.
Fortunately, the four wizards got their act together and all cast Lumos.
“Now what is that?” Hermione said, leading the way over to a deep, snuff colored lump on a stone couch. “Hmm, this is interesting. It looks like a Welsh Green, but not green, and obviously larger.”
"Oh, well done." Jenni's tone dripped sarcasm. Ilraen gave her a surprised look. He was used to sarcasm from Nume, but hadn't expected such a thing from her. "They don't look like Welsh Greens," she added.
Harry, in a fit of brilliance, poked the dragon, which woke it and attracted the attention of its rider. Said rider, with further brilliance, misconstrued snatches of the students' conversation to mean that they intended to kill the brown. Naturally, the rider burst in to prevent it, but the agents didn't get to see exactly what happened next. First, they were blinded a second time, this time by Ron and Ginny's heads, which suddenly became "as bright as the Red Star." When the flare faded, the dialogue was rather overshadowed by subsequent and equally bad descriptions. Hermione, no longer a mass of bruises, turned into liquid klah in human form, the eyes picked out by "a hint of milk." A gust of cold air chilled the agents as Harry became a boy-shaped patch of dark between.
"You have got to be kidding me," Nume groaned, edging toward the other agents. "Don't think metaphorically. The world is so warped it's interpreting everything literally."
Ilraen pointed at the dragonrider. "Isn't that Sirius Black?"
Jenni looked. "What? He's—no! How'd he get a dragon? He's way too old."
"More importantly, how did he get here?" Nume added, giving Jenni an odd look.
The canons had also identified Sirius, but Sirius wasn't convinced. So, Harry tried to jog his memory.
“Sirius? Sirius Black, of the oh so Noble House of Black? Don’t you remember me? Your godson, Harry Potter? Son of the great James and Lily Potter, killed by Voldemort, betrayed by one of their closest friends, Peter Pettigrew? The son of Prongs, friend of Moony, and survivor of Wormtail’s betrayal? The betrayal for which you, Padfoot were blamed, the justice which the real perpetrator deserved harbored in your heart for twelve years? The thing that allowed you to keep your sanity while in Azkaban? Remember me, Snuffles? Moony misses you, he misses you so much…so do I. Please, please, Sirius, tell me you remember me, ’cause I-I remember you.”
Sirius—now S'rius, brown Broneth's rider—remembered his former life at the sight of Harry's scar.
Jenni curled her lip. "I feel ill."
Nume nodded, pulling heavily at his hip flask.
Ilraen, afflicted by the same unease, shifted in place from foot to foot. "Should I . . . should I take a CAD reading?"
"No, don't!" Nume broke off his drink with a cough and waved his injured hand forbiddingly. "The saccharine, urple wangst . . . if it's doing this to us, imagine what it could do to the circuitry."
Ilraen nodded, eyes wide at the thought.
"Can't we get out of here?" Jenni asked. "There's nothing but sap ahead." She regretted her choice of words immediately as the floor in front of her turned into crystallized amber. The agents blinked mutely. Ilraen pulled the RA from his shoulder bag and offered it to Nume, who shook his head and held up his bandaged hand.
"She knows the world better in any case," he said.
Jenni took the RA with a nod to Ilraen and opened a portal to the next chapter. "We're missing an author's note," she informed the other two as they all stepped through. They weren't complaining.
In Chapter Two, the Weyrwoman of wherever-they-were came to ask S'rius why he had four candidates in his weyr. Apparently, the golden queen dragon had informed her rider that the four students were prime candidates as soon as they'd arrived.
"And this is bad?" Nume asked Jenni. He'd finally recovered himself sufficiently to begin writing charges in his notebook, making the best of his one-handedness. He looked at her over the top of his glasses, awaiting information while Weyrwoman and rider talked. Ilraen listened politely from his half-stooped position as Nume's desk.
"Let's see," Jenni began. "A gold egg, even though all the Weyrs have enough golds; the kids immediately Searched by the queen herself—in this world, those are definite signs of Sueism. And, oh, look—she's a Sue, too." She indicated the Weyrwoman and the description which accompanied her.
Hair of contrasting shades, coppery red and deep black fell in waves down her back to about her hips. Eyes of mottled hue, violet and emerald, speckled with living gold, bore into theirs, studying, analyzing. Her clothes were tight fitting, but not too tight; a leather, v-necked vest of deep royal blue over a white shirt bell sleeve shirt, seemingly of cotton. A skirt, bright with swirls of emerald, violet and royal blue floated around the floor, stopping at the toes of black boots. An intricate belt of black leather was settled around her hips, the woven buckle of copper and gold. She was very tall, she stood inches above S’rius, and he was rather tall, at least 6’. The thing that more so dominated their view of her was the golden mini-dragon that was settled on her left shoulder, tail wrapping like a choker around her neck, more vibrant gold then any necklace could be.
"Also, her name's stolen. I'm pretty sure Alanna is the heroine of a different popular fantasy series."
However, Nume was rather too busy blushing to hear that part. Alanna's skirt, "floating around the floor" as it was, did nothing to cover her. It was fortunate that the world filled in an article of underwear. Ilraen, unacquainted as he was with the niceties of human culture, peered with his intrinsic curiosity at the strange spectacle. Nume, acutely embarrassed for him, cleared his throat pointedly and jabbed him in the back with an elbow.
"Ilraen! Go get that." He indicated the skirt.
Ilraen brightened at the task. "Sure!" He proceeded to follow it until it stopped, then gathered it up and put it in his bag before returning to the group.
"Bet she's completely shaved," Jenni muttered. "Never bothered at all in my time, let me tell you."
Nume nearly choked on his Bleepka.
Meanwhile, in the fic, introductions were made, backstory was given, Harry somehow managed to read S'rius' mind with Occlumency, and someone called Roma was summoned to speak with S'rius and Hermione in private. Harry, Ron, and Ginny left with Alanna, and Roma's green dragon landed on Broneth's ledge. The agents watched as the relatively nondescript greenrider entered the weyr. If her appearance reassured them, they soon realized their mistake. Roma and Hermione locked gazes.
“Nadia…” Roma said, staring.
“Hello, Mother.” Hermione said, with a wane smile.
The cliffhanger toppled the agents into Chapter Three, where they sprawled across the generic rock surface of the floor.
Chapter 3 – The Truth comes out
((A/N:You should get it by now. JKR has HP & crew, AMcC has DroP, I have Alanna and Roma, and everyone else in the weyr. Deal with it.))
"What?" Jenni hissed, anger lending her the adrenaline to be back on her feet in a hurry. "Who the hell is Nadia?"
"Who the hell is Roma?" added Nume, who picked himself up more carefully. "This is unusual. Canon's-mother!Sue?"
"And sister," Jenni corrected. "Listen to this explanation!"
They did. It seemed that Bellatrix had pushed Roma through the Veil in the Department of Mysteries after stealing Roma and S'rius's daughter, Nadia, and leaving her at the door of Hermione's parents. Roma, as it happened, was Remus Lupin's sister.
"That can't be right," Ilraen said, frowning in confusion. "Sirius didn't know about his own child? How long ago must this have happened?"
Jenni nodded. "She must have just been born, and assuming this takes place after Book Six, that would make it at least sixteen years beforehand. What were they doing in the Department of Mysteries?"
"I'm charging for bad logic," Nume said. "This is beyond stupid."
"We're going to have to go through a horizontal rule soon," Jenni warned the other two. There had been others in the fic, but they served more as a barrier between scenes than a scene-changing device. They could be rough to push through unaided, but at least they didn't allow the agents to bounce willy-nilly through the story.
"At least this thing has some structure. What's on the other side?" Nume frowned at the Words. He didn't fancy another stony landing.
"Um . . . " Jenni peered at the Words, too. "I have no idea. Harry reveals to the rest of the group that he knows about Hermione and Roma being related and claims that Sirius' middle name is Canis, then he has an attack of angst and leaves. We could go to the lake in the Weyr bowl. It's a defined setting, and it's outside."
"I like outside," Ilraen said. "I would like to see more."
Jenni smiled. "Well, that settles it." She programmed the RA.
On the other side of the portal, the bowl was dusty and full of weyrfolk going about their daily business. Angsty!Harry had found himself a nice spot on a rock outcropping in the lake. There was plenty of cover for the agents. Ginny joined Harry on the rocks, and Harry confessed that he still loved her. Ginny surprised the agents by showing some uncommon sense.
“Oh-well then. And here I thought you’d be telling me how you were afraid we were dreaming we were here, and didn’t know how to deal with the fact that Sirius is back.” She said, blushing crimson as her hair.
Jenni snickered at the hair color, which now looked like it had come from a set of paints.
"That surprised me, too," Nume murmured, misunderstanding. "No one has any problem with the fact that they've been transported to this strange place with these strange people and that they have no idea how to get home. They aren't even curious about where they are."
Ginny pinched Harry to prove that he wasn't dreaming, then admitted that she still loved him, too. The rest of the scene proceeded almost in slow motion, like the build-up to a horrible, inevitable thing.
“You mean it? That last bit, I mean, about still loving me?” Harry asked her, looking up, his emerald eyes meeting her mocha ones.
“Of course I still love you, you great flobberworm, I told you I would wait for you, and I meant it, Harry.” She said.
“Flobberwrom!” He asked indignantly, though a sparkle of laughter lurked in his green eyes.
“I thought it was better then saying idiot, dearest, and it’s not like you’re a prat. You can be just as stupid as a flobberworm at times, but it must come with being male.” Ginny said with a teasing grin.
“Oh you!” Harry laughed, and Ginny squealed as he tugged her down to his lap. He then proceeded to show her he was not a flobberworm in any regard.
"Jesus Christ." Nume averted his eyes and clapped a hand over Ilraen's while he was at it.
Ilraen struggled against his partner's grip. "What? What is it?"
"You don't want to know, trust me."
"Wait a minute." Jenni tugged Nume's sleeve at the shoulder. "Look."
Nume's silence might have withered a cactus.
"No, really. It's not what you think. I . . . think. Just look at the Words."
He did, and so did Ilraen.
After a time of tounge-tangling, the pair finally came up for air.
Nume blinked and let his partner go. "That's it? Misspelling aside?"
"What?" Ilraen asked again, looking from Nume to Jenni and back again.
"That was awfully suggestive for mere necking," Nume went on, irate. "Not that I want to see that, either."
"At least it's over now," Jenni said. "That has to be some kind of charge, though."
Nume agreed and, after a moment's thought, added to the rapidly growing list of the fic's offenses.
They followed Harry and Ginny back to S'rius's weyr via portal. The characters, they decided, must have done so via plothole, since they didn't have the aid of a dragon and, in most cases, only goldriders and a select few bronzeriders got weyrs accessible by foot. They went over Hermione's name and relationship to S'rius and Roma again, and S'rius gave the four students the standard candidate's lecture. Then, in the middle of the lecture, the humming started.
Jenni pulled a nauseated face. "This is so convenient I could puke."
Nume raised an eyebrow. "The Hatching, I presume?"
S'rius pulled candidate's robes from somewhere and forced the students to change, then loaded the boys onto Broneth.
Regina and Oranth had Ginny and Hermione.
The agents were confused when an unfamiliar person appeared with Roma's dragon. Ilraen voiced what they were all thinking: "Who's Regina?"
"Who cares?" said Nume. "The writer probably got the names confused."
An over-extended simile caused the green dragon to turn into a broom as Hermione got on. Regina turned into Roma, who gave her supposed daughter a boost.
“Thanks, Mum.” Hermione said with a smile.
“You’re welcome, Nadi-Hermione.” Roma said, stopping herself.
“It’s ok, call me Nadia. Harry and Uncle Remus have been doing it in secret, to get me used to the name. I’ve taken it as my middle name, actually.”
"Hermione Nadia Granger?" Nume wrinkled his nose.
Jenni nodded her agreement with the sentiment. "Is it even Hermione anymore? Really? Her identity is completely frelled."
"They're leaving," said Ilraen, watching the green as she glided away.
"Ugh." Jenni shook herself. "This is ridiculous. Can't we stay in a scene for more than a few minutes?"
Nume gave her a horrified look. "Bite your tongue, woman! I don't want any of this to drag out longer than it has to!"
Jenni rolled her eyes. "It's bad writing. Come on, we have a Hatching to attend."
They portalled yet again, this time to an out-of-the-way corner of the stands in the Hatching Cavern. Except that it wasn't exactly a cavern, lit as it was by the sun shining through the non-existent ceiling. The agents barely overheard Roma telling the students that they had to approach the eggs barefoot.
"Charge," Jenni snapped. "Candidates get sandals, and even those don't help much! Their feet are going to be cooked by the time this is over."
"Mmm . . . fillet of sole," Nume deadpanned. Jenni groaned.
And suddenly they weren't in the Hatching Grounds anymore. They weren't sure where they were until the beginning-of-chapter author's note passed and their ears were assaulted by a piercing noise.
“My babies!” Molly Weasley cried out, leaning against her husband for support once they had been told the news. “They’re gone! Oh, they’re gone…Ginny…Ron…”
Wincing, Jenni raised her eyebrows. "Seriously?"
As it turned out, the chapter was very short and served only to throw Mrs. Weasley out-of-character while Remus reassured her that the kids weren't dead and angsted about his uncanonical sister. It seemed he'd had Dobby place an Information Insect on one or all of their zipper pulls.
"What's an Information Insect?" Ilraen asked. "I don't remember that."
"Because they don't exist," Nume said. "Remind me to get one or two, though. Something that allows you to listen to people in a different dimension could be useful."
With that, they were yanked back to Pern and the Hatching.
Chapter 5 – Slythering Snake
It was Nume's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Typo, or deliberate misspelling?"
Jenni shrugged. "Dunno, but I don't like the sound of it." She took the opportunity to look around, since the story was actually providing some description. Alanna's gold dragon was there, of course, and so was her bronze mate, who was "almost black, only the light bronze ‘veins’ running all across his hide told a different story."
"Stupid Sue," Jenni grumbled. "Dark bronze, yes. Veins, no. Charge for uncanonical colors."
Between the dragons stood Alanna and the Weyrleader.
At this point, Nume and Ilraen cried out in surprise as Jenni nearly threw herself off the stands for no apparent reason. Only a guard rail prevented her from falling as she extended her upper body over the edge.
"She. Did. NOT!" She looked at the Words. "She DID! Augh!"
"Would you shut up?!" Nume hissed, grabbing the back of her shirt and pulling her down. "You're drawing attention!" Sure enough, the candidates were looking around, wondering what the commotion was. Fortunately, all they saw was a trio of harpers. Nume, once he had Jenni's attention, continued: "Care to explain your dysfunction?"
Jenni, who was somehow managing both to be white with rage and to sport a blush, replied through gritted teeth. "She's messing with Erik. It wasn't bad enough to mess with Potterverse and Pern; no, she had to go and drag Erik into it, too! Is she trying to piss me off?"
"Oh, for Pete's sake. Get a grip," said Nume, who was mildly disgusted. "If I'd known you were like that, we would've done without you. There are enough charges within Potterverse alone."
"Do you know how often I see Erik in FicPsych?" Jenni demanded. "Forgive me if I think the man has suffered enough!"
"Er . . . ." Ilraen quietly leaned into the conversation. "Who? Please, I really don't understand what's going on."
Jenni let out an exasperated sigh—not at Ilraen, just the whole mess. "The Phantom of the Opera," she explained. At Ilraen's blank look, she continued. "See the man down there with the scars on the right side of his face? This nitwit Sue has had the nerve to make a—a bad copy of the Phantom of the Opera, who was born disfigured, brilliant, and tragic, just so she can have him for herself. 'E'rik of Skepnadth'. And his dragon has a stupid name," she finished, as though that were the insult added to the injury.
"From Swedish skepnad," Nume muttered, not wishing to add to the drama but unable to resist. "Means 'likeness' or 'semblance'. But look: eggs."
Indeed, the eggs were beginning to hatch. One in particular, conveniently right in front of Harry, tipped over and shattered, revealing the dragonet inside. Jenni, along with the Generic Crowd, gasped. She couldn't help it. When you'd lived on Pern, a Hatching was always exciting. The dragonet, of course, Impressed Harry, and everyone heard it.
Harrymine, why are they afraid of me? Your Ewanth wouldn’t hurt them. A voice sounded in his head, sounding wounded, but still carrying the hiss of a snake.
"Oh, no," Jenni groaned. "Charge for the dragon calling his rider 'mine'. None of them ever did that. Ever. Also, the snake thing? No. Just no."
It got worse.
Ewanth's hide was diamond patterned like a rattler’s, the bronze hue varied, from so light it seemed white, to so dark it looked black.
"For the record," Jenni said stiffly, "dragons come in five colors: gold, bronze, brown, blue, and green. That's it. There was Ruth, but he was unique, so never mind. If you see anything other than those five, it's a charge. If they're patterned, it's a charge. If there are scales, Powers forbid, it's a charge."
"Got it," Nume said.
For some reason, Alanna had cubes of meat to feed Ewanth, and Harry got to stand beside Skepnadth to watch the rest of the Hatching. Chapter Six happened, dragonets were suddenly everywhere, and Ron Impressed a brown called Treanth.
"Oh, how clever," Jenni said. "Brown, tree, haha. Also, charge for 'dark brown with a "gilding" of red' and the wingsails made of parchment. And for letting him gorge! Moron."
Nume charged. Chapter Seven happened.
The golden queen egg was the last on the sands, of course—the Laws of Narrative Drama demanded it. The drama, however, died a-borning due to the redundancy of the writing.
When would this one hatch? It seemed to be taking the longest of any of the eggs. All the eggs had hatched, except for this one. Then it hatched…or half of it hatched.
As the agents looked on, a "shimmering emerald shard" tumbled out of the half-an-egg.
"Is that normal?" Nume asked with a wicked grin. He could plainly see the look of "WTF" on Jenni's face.
"It's pretty," Ilraen offered in an attempt to console his friend.
The shard did turn into a tiny green dragonet as the description sorted itself out. She had "'flecks' of gold" in her hide, and her wingsails were "pale mint glimmering with a golden sheen." And apparently Walt Disney was actually a wizard, but nobody remarked on that. The hatchling spent some time cavorting like some kind of demented kitten, then finally got around to choosing her rider. Again, the agents were privy to the exuberant words of Impression.
Ginervamine! Ginnybond! I’ve found you; your Rhianth’s found you! The pixie cried, running and tripping over her own feet in her exuberance to get to her Impressor. Owch. Ginmine, help me, pwease. I can’t get up, an’ I’m hungry! Rhianth said with a slight lisp to her mindvoice, the sweet bells of pixie magic floating through Ginny’s mind.
"Nume. Gimme your flask."
"What?" Nume raised an eyebrow at Jenni. She had passed through pale and gone on to looking unhealthily grayish. He handed the flask over without another word. She chugged a few gulps and collapsed to the stands with a sigh. "Er. Do you . . . need to leave? Or something?"
"No. Sorry. It's just—" she paused, because the Weyrwoman's voice caught her attention.
“Ginny, she seems perfectly healthy, but I do have one suggestion for you. Don’t feed her firestone, instead, I’ll teach you how to use a flamethrower. [...] The other greens are given firestone because if they clutched, we’d be up to our necks in greens, since they’d only clutch that color. Our hope is that since she has some gold in her, she’ll clutch other colors as well.”
"Disgusting," Jenni finished. "And I'd probably be beating my head against a wall right now if not for the Bleepka."
"Wouldn't that hurt?" asked Ilraen. "Why would you want to do that?"
"To forget the pain of bad fanfic," Nume answered for Jenni. "People used to actually spork their own eyes before we got Bleeprin, you know."
"Stop scaring him," Jenni scolded. "That's not true. Well . . . probably." She made a mental note to go through Medical's files sometime. "Anyway, I'm better now." She gave Nume his flask back.
Meanwhile, the fic had motored on to Chapter Eight, and the rest of the gold egg hatched. Nobody was really surprised at the speshul markings on the dragonet, geometric shapes in red-gold and "glasses," in this case. No one was surprised that she Impressed Hermione, either. But then it became clear that Hermione really was no more. In a voice with "a hint of snobbery," the gold spoke:
Mine, why do you have two names? One is enough for your Kiooth. Which should I call you by, Mine? Nadia is your given name, but you have been called Hermione all your life, so you are used to that name. I shall call you your given name, since we dragons know that no one else has our given name, but someone else may have the same wordname as we have. So, Nadiamine, may I have something to eat? I am hungry now, all this thinking after just being born tires.
The agents stared. Alanna revealed that she could hear all the dragons. Again, no one was surprised. Jenni pointed out that this was a classic Mary Sue trait on Pern and that Alanna should be charged for it.
"And that pretty much wraps it up," she concluded. "Canon is shattered, the world is overrun with Sues, and he" —she pointed at E'rik— "isn't even playing a role that would justify his presence. He's a—an ornament for Alanna." Suddenly, a thoughtful expression took the place of irritation on her face.
Nume raised an eyebrow at her. "Now what?"
"It just occurred to me, he hasn't done anything."
"We could save him."
"Like me?" said Ilraen. "Can we?"
"Whoa!" Nume put up his hands. "I think you're forgetting a few things. First, the word you wanted there was recruit. This isn't the time to have a savior complex. Second, won't people, I don't know, recognize him like you did? Finally, and most importantly, there's the little matter of, oh, gee, wait, the dragon. What do you plan to do about that?"
"That reminds me," Jenni said to Ilraen, apparently ignoring the point. "How are you doing with morphing?"
Ilraen looked at his feet. "Well . . . ."
"He's terrible at it," Nume said. "Why?"
"The thing about Pernese dragons," said Jenni, "is that they won't generally let anything happen to their riders, and certainly not their Mary Sue Weyrwoman. They aren't mean or vicious, but they are big and powerful, and the only thing that can control a dragon is his rider—or a queen dragon. So. It would be really helpful if we had a queen dragon on the team." She looked beseechingly at Ilraen.
"Well," he started again, half-expecting Nume to cut across him with another scathing remark, but he didn't. Instead, the other DIC agent watched him with curiosity. In a moment of clarity, it hit Ilraen that this was the first time he'd been asked to do something that nobody else could do. He wasn't just along for the ride anymore. He was needed. The feeling was new to him, and he didn't quite know what to do with it, except that he didn't want to let it get away before he had a chance to figure it out.
He straightened up, pulling his back and shoulders out of the half-cringe he didn't even know he'd assumed. "I'll do my best, Nurse Robinson," he said. "Only, I don't think I can acquire a dragon in disguise."
"Of course." She beamed at him. "Come on, everyone's gone to get ready for the Hatching Feast. It's the perfect time." So saying, she took him by the hand and led him down from the stands.
"Would you wait just a minute!" Nume bellowed, stopping them at ground level. He joined them and scowled down at Jenni, who frowned back at him. Ilraen shifted away from the crossfire zone.
"I realize," Nume said slowly, in a forced normal tone of voice, "that missions in the field aren't your area of expertise, so I'll explain a few things. To begin with, I shouldn't need to remind you that my partner, as willing and well-intentioned as he may be, is inexperienced. What you're describing could prove problematic. What kinds of instincts do these dragons have? Do you think he can handle them well enough to do what we need?"
Jenni saw Ilraen cringe and opened her mouth angrily, but Nume put up a hand to stop her.
"Listen to me. I do not want my partner torn to shreds in an unstable morph," he said. "You implied that the entire population of dragons in this 'Weyr' will have an interest in protecting their queen, who will, in turn, stop at nothing to protect her rider. Think! It isn't just one rider we'll be threatening, but seven: three Sues directly and four Potterverse characters indirectly. What about their dragons? And, I ask again, what about the one belonging to E'rik? Assuming we pull this off, can you imagine a dragon that size in Headquarters? Before we do anything else, we need a plan."
The silence that followed, though spanning only a few seconds, could have swallowed the sounds of a battlefield.
Finally, Jenni sighed. "You're right. I got a little ahead of myself."
"You still shouldn't talk like that in front of Ilraen."
"We're not his parents. Jesus."
"Close enough. But shut up. Let me think."
Nume wondered if it were possible between her maternal instincts and her infatuation with the Phantom look-alike, but he wasn't sure the FicPsych agent wouldn't hit him if he said so. So he didn't. He glanced at Ilraen, who looked wretchedly confused. No surprise there; he probably hadn't realized the scope of what was being asked of him before Nume pointed it out. Jenni had a way of idealizing things that just wasn't practical.
"We need backup," Jenni declared. "And we don't have a DORKS, so Ilraen would have to go back to Headquarters anyway. We should be able to handle the Sues, but we could use three, maybe four more agents to control the Potterverse characters and the bits."
Nume did the math. "Me with a wand and my notebook, you with nothing, and three Sues with dragons. And you remain awfully confident that one ersatz gold can handle a Sue'd queen and a host of other dragons."
"He'll have help. Me. And I think, with Ilraen, I can get E'rik and Skepnadth on our side."
"Based on what?!" Nume threw his arms in the air.
Jenni stepped forward and patted him on the chest before he could guard himself. "Drink some Bleepka and finish the charge list," she said. "Let me worry about understanding human nature." Again taking Ilraen by the hand, she led him through a portal to HQ.
Nume, left with no RA and little choice, folded his arms and sat down to finish the charge list.
Jenni and Ilraen emerged in RC 999 and restored the Andalite to his true form. Jenni gazed steadily at him as they took to the halls, then spoke.
"Your partner isn't quite as much of an ass as he sounds. He cares what happens to you; he just doesn't have much room in his nature for nurture."
Ilraen blinked all four eyes. Jenni smiled.
"Sorry. Slang and complex puns, I know," she said. "After all that, do you still want to try my plan? You can say no. There's time to think of something else."
He thought about it, this time without the pressure inside the mission, and came to the same conclusion. <I want to help, Nurse Ro—Jenni,> he corrected himself at her look. <If you think it is a good idea, I will try it.>
"I'm glad. Thank you."
The search for backup consisted largely of knocking on random RC doors until they found available people who knew the continua in question. This was not as simple a task as it sounded. Most of the time there was no response at all. Only slightly less often, they were treated to the sound of a console going off just as Jenni raised her hand to knock. Then there was the shouting and the swearing and the throwing of random implements; the hiding; and the RCs they simply passed by because of strange sounds from within, which, for some reason, Jenni refused to explain to Ilraen just then. But finally, they collected four people who would do. Pausing only long enough to brief the pick-up team about what they were getting into and set minimal disguises for them, they returned to the Hatching Grounds.
Nume looked up from his notebook at the distinctive disruption of space caused by the portal. It was the sort of thing you heard in your bones and felt in your ears. The agent raised himself to his feet and an eyebrow to critical height at the group that came through.
Two of the four were in the guise of Generic Wizards, but the young woman carried some kind of crossbow and the tall, freckled man held a double-bladed ax. The other two women were dressed more like Jenni and simply wore belt knives. One, who had more curly black hair than should be allowed, gazed in rapture at the setting and munched on chocolate, seeming totally oblivious to anything else. The others stood together, waiting.
Jenni and Ilraen came last.
"I've sorted the charges into three lists, one for each Sue," Nume told Jenni. "This lot doesn't look very experienced."
"They'll be fine," said Jenni. "Sedri and Maria have plenty of experience, Lunac seems capable, and Circe . . . well, she's really excited about being on Pern."
"Shush. Let's get going."
They went to the Weyrling Barracks first, since it was the easiest place to access. The new weyrlings were nowhere to be seen, but the agents quickly discovered Rhianth and Kiooth sleeping on "their prospective couches," which appeared as dotted chalk lines defining the space where the stone dragon couches would presumably appear at a later date. This meant that the dragonets seemed to be hovering in midair as they slept. Nume added it to the charge list while Sedri groused to the others about the stupid markings on the hatchlings. "The Sues definitely need to die" was the general consensus.
"First things first," Jenni said. "Ilraen? Time to get started." She gestured at the sleeping gold.
The Andalite nodded and knelt beside Kiooth. There was no noticeable change in the sleeping dragonet when he laid his hand on her shoulder. Soon, he got to his hooves again. <It is done.>
"I wanna dragon," muttered Circe as the group left the barracks. "So pretty!" She popped a chocolate into her mouth to console herself.
They could hear the sounds of the Hatching Feast carrying across the Bowl. That was where the quarry sat, happily unaware of the fate soon to befall them.
"Do we take them now?" asked Lunac, hefting his ax.
"Ilraen and I have some more work to do first," Jenni said. "The rest of you should probably get into position, though. According to the Words, six of the seven we're concerned about are at the same table, which makes it easier—you just have to sneak up on them. I'll handle the head table."
Nume stepped forward to speak. "As it's technically my mission," he said with a bit of an edge, "I have to read the charges. I can deal with Nadia, but you lot have to subdue the other five." He looked at Lunac, who was easily the largest of the group. "Think you can take an out-of-character Sirius Black?"
Lunac shrugged. "Does he have to be conscious?"
Somebody snickered. Nume blinked. "Come to think of it, no. Roma does, though. You grab her; the rest of you can fight over Ginny, Harry, and Ron, for all I care."
Circe jumped up and down with her hand in the air. "Ooh! Ooh! Pick me!"
Everyone stared at her and, except for Nume, edged backward slowly.
Nume gave her a devastating over-the-rims look. "Hyper One."
Apparently pleased by the attention and oblivious to its quality, Circe grinned. "I want Ron."
"No one's interested in your fantasies," said Maria, not impressed. Circe pouted, but Maria ignored her. "I'll take Harry."
"No love for Ginny?" remarked Jenni, who also went completely ignored.
Sedri shrugged, accepting her fate. "Are we sure Ginny isn't a Sue herself? Given her horrible dragon, it seems likely."
"She'll be exorcised with the other canons," Nume said. "Just don't let her bite—you might get a dangerous overdose of Lustin."
"Well, since that's settled, I'll see you in the dining hall," said Jenni. "Wish us luck. If this doesn't work, we're Threadbait."
<What is Threadbait?> Ilraen asked as the group left them.
Jenni grimaced. "Something very, very dead."
The two portalled into the Senior Weyrwoman's quarters, where Ilraen acquired Yunith without a problem. The queen dragon had just had a nice big meal after a long fast, and she was out cold.
Yunith's mate was another story. By a stroke of luck—it could have been good or bad—Skepnadth appeared on the ledge just as Ilraen broke contact. The bronze paused in his approach, seeming to sense that something was out of place. Jenni took the initiative and stepped forward.
"I beg your pardon for the intrusion, Skepnadth," she said with a curtsy. "We meant no offense. We only wished to pay our respects."
Skepnadth regarded her with a skeptical yellow-green gaze, but made no move. Jenni gestured at Ilraen to come forward and do what he had to do before the dragon figured out who "we" was. Though quaking in the presence of a large predator like Skepnadth, the Andalite hurriedly reached out to the nearer bronze forearm. Though the dragon looked down sharply at the unexpected touch, he stood still, and soon all trace of yellow faded from his whirling eyes. Jenni addressed him again when the trance ended, taking advantage of his adjusted mood.
"Skepnadth, we hoped to speak with your rider about a matter of great importance," she said. "Where—"
Woman and Andalite turned to see the Weyrleader himself cresting the stairs. Ilraen hid himself behind the dragon, sensing that the presence of a blue alien was not going to be helpful at this time. What was left of the canon helpfully cloaked him in obscurity once more.
"It had better be extremely important to have you lurking around the Senior Weyrwoman's quarters in the middle of the Hatching Feast, Harper," said E'rik, who had not missed Jenni's shoulder knots. "Explain."
Jenni missed a beat when E'rik made eye contact, but quickly recovered. "Of course, Weyrleader. But, might we talk somewhere else? I wouldn't wish to disturb the senior queen any further."
E'rik looked sharply at her. "Skepnadth says there were two of you here. Where is your friend?"
"He'll meet us in the Bowl. By your dragon's shell, I swear I'll explain everything, but not here," she said.
"Very well," he acceded after a thoughtful moment. "Follow me." He led back the way he had come and stopped at the bottom of the stairs. Jenni and Ilraen followed behind, the latter still effectively invisible since the Weyrleader was looking for him anywhere but where he actually was. Jenni soon achieved his full attention. She leaned toward him with the attitude of expressing a confidence.
"Has anything around here seemed strange to you lately? New arrivals, perhaps?"
"You mean those candidates. S'rius and Roma's child. They were . . . unexpected, to be sure. Alanna seems quite taken with them." He was not yet impressed.
"Yes, well. Listen, Weyrleader. Have you ever heard of anything like this Hatching in any of the teaching songs? The March of the Wings? The Duty Song?"
"I think I know my ballads," he said with a touch of amused sarcasm. "I . . . funny . . . I'm drawing a blank on the lyrics just at the moment, but I'm sure I know them. Alanna would know."
"Of course," Jenni muttered, thinking murderous thoughts.
E'rik shifted his weight uncomfortably, looking almost embarrassed—it was a little hard to tell. "In any case . . . I'll admit that it was an unusual Hatching. Most unusual, in fact. Skepnadth and I were concerned, but Alanna seemed to think it was all right."
"That's what worries me," Jenni told him. "You're right to be concerned, and you need to stop letting Alanna tell you what to think. Suppose your Weyrwoman isn't a proper Weyrwoman at all. Suppose that she came from somewhere else like S'rius, Roma, and those candidates, and they did something to make everything go so strange."
"Oh, come now," said E'rik. "What are you suggesting? Alanna isn't from Pern?"
"Not remotely," said Jenni. She explained about Mary Sues, the PPC, and the Duty as best she could within E'rik's frame of reference, which fortunately included travelers from other worlds and so was broader than the average canonical Pernese's would have been.
"So, these Mary Sues. They come from elsewhere, use us—control our very thoughts—and they change things to suit themselves without a care for the world they choose to inhabit?"
"That's the gist of it. They're almost like a kind of Thread, only instead of eating living matter, they eat living ideas, and they leave behind only the shiny dead bits to decorate themselves."
Naturally, the dragonrider was horrified.
"I wanted to ask for your help," Jenni pressed. "You see, my friends and I have to eliminate the Sues to put the world right again. We can't do that if Yunith rallies the whole Weyr against us. We have a plan, but we need you and Skepnadth to help control her when she realizes what we intend to do."
E'rik appeared to think it over. Jenni didn't envy him his position, but he came to a conclusion sooner than she would have expected.
"If it will help Pern, it is my duty, too," he said. "You know," he chuckled brokenly, "I can't even remember meeting Alanna for the first time. That's something I should remember."
Against her better judgment, Jenni put a hand on his upper arm. "There's something else I should tell you. When this is over, you can't stay here. I can't even be sure that here will stay here. This Weyr has no name, nothing to connect it to the rest of Pern. It might just disappear. You can disappear with it . . . or you can join us and fight Sues instead of Thread. I'm afraid those are the only choices."
E'rik shook his head. "Your tale is full of grief, Harper. That's no choice at all, as you well know. By the First Egg! 'Dragonmen must fly'."
Jenni nodded sadly. "I can help you make the transition when this is over—or, if not me, someone else in my department. I promise you won't have to go through it alone."
"Speaking of which, isn't it about time I met these friends of yours?"
"One of them, at least. You'll see the others later. Now, this may come as a bit of a shock . . . ."
One thoroughly shocking introduction later, Agent Supernumerary spotted E'rik as he took his place next to Alanna at the head table. Nume was no expert reader of expressions, but from the paranoid way the rider kept glancing in their direction, he was able to surmise that Jenni had made contact. The agent instructed the team to be ready to go soon. He wasn't exactly sure how the plan went at this point, but he suspected it would become obvious enough when it did go.
At that time, Alanna stood up and began formally introducing the new weyrlings to the gathered riders. E'rik stood beside her, looking tense and worried, but resolute.
The dragons exploded.
Not literally—these weren't swamp dragons, after all—but the sound they made would have made anyone think a volcano had erupted. Voices roared, talons raked stone, wings pounded the air, and loudest among them were the shrill cries of one panicked gold.
And everything had been going so well, Jenni thought privately to herself, remarkably calm for someone dangling from a dragon wing's wrist joint. Fortunately, she had strong hands.
~Ilraen!~ she 'pathed at him, projecting deep into the combined dragon-Andalite mind. ~Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill, listen to me! You've got to calm down, Ilraen. Talk to me. Tell me what's going on so I can help you. Can you hear me?~
He heard her, all right. Her eyes went wide and she nearly fell as his response drove back through the mental connection she had opened up, like a tidal wave reaching its crest and driving toward the shore.
The morph itself had been difficult. The dragon had the same number of limbs, at least, but its biological makeup was entirely different. Transitioning from a double- to a triple-helix genetic code meant an intermediary stage where the two forms simply did not agree with each other, and the usual uneasiness was more like queasiness. He had backed out the first time, but with Jenni's encouragement, he made it through on the second try. The dragon's mind was quite placid and amicable at first, the senses excellent, but then . . .
Something was horribly wrong. There was a hole in his head, and he felt like he might spiral dizzily into it and never climb back out. He, she, the gold, screamed her terror. The dragon looked instinctively to fill that hole, turning frantically about until Jenni's mind touched hers. With the force of desperate need, she touched back.
<Jenni!> gold/Ilraen cried. <What is this?> He could feel the dragon's mind struggling to connect with Jenni's, searching deep inside her for the key that would turn and lock them together. It frightened him, but the gold hurt so badly, needed so much, and he had never felt anything so strongly before. He sensed Jenni's emotions now, too—her own fear and deep sadness that she had to do this.
Her refusal came down like an iron brick between the eyes, leaving Ilraen and morph momentarily stunned. The hole felt as though it would tear the dragon's mind in half. Ilraen would fall into it forever, and he almost wanted to. It would be easier than enduring this awful emptiness!
The paralysis wore off, and he became aware of dragon voices in his head. Most reflected his own feelings, but one challenged him. He didn't feel like fighting it. Better just to go away, like it wanted.
~You must fight it,~ said Jenni's voice, lonely but strong, like the beam of a lighthouse in the storm of confusion created by the dragon voices teeming around his consciousness. ~Ilraen, you've got to control the morph. Now. You have a job to do, remember? You can't go away—that's just the morph talking. You're in charge, Ilraen. You don't have to go. Please don't. Come on—come back now. You can do it!~
In the dining cavern, the feast had erupted in total chaos. Frenzied riders left their chairs and rushed into the Bowl to see what was giving their dragons such anguish, but they got in each other's way. The only thing getting in or out of the cavern with much success was noise.
Unfortunately, the six wizards had been among the first up from their seats, nearly trampling the agents lurking behind them.
"What are they doing out there?" Sedri wondered aloud as they pursued. "Did we order a diversion at this table?"
Lunac scowled, leaping over a tumbled chair. "Somehow, I don't think this was in the plan."
Suddenly, there was a scream from behind them. Alanna called for her dragon, but her cry was cut off by E'rik's arm around her neck.
"Back off!" the bronzerider bellowed at those around him.
The five PPC agents lost a moment to staring in slack-jawed amazement.
"That's . . . he looks . . . isn't he the—?" Maria stammered. "Holy sh—"
"Shut up," snapped Nume. "Get the canons!"
Half the riders turned around and went toward the struggling Weyrleaders. This left the way to the wizards relatively clear. Lunac forced his way through, swung his ax like a sledgehammer and brought the flat of the blade down squarely on S'rius' head with a lovely ringing clang, whereupon the ersatz rider slumped to the floor. Roma rushed to her weyrmate's side and Lunac pinned her against his knees with his ax haft beneath her chin. Nume seized Nadia by her over-done hair and Sedri wrestled Ginny, kicking and clawing, to the ground. Circe and Maria put their targets each in an armlock and, in a moment of inspiration, knocked the boys' heads together.
"Stop it! Stop it!" Nadia yelled, twisting wildly. "They're coming for you! They'll tear you apart if you don't let me go!"
The weyrling dragons had arrived. Unlike the others, they were small enough to enter the cavern, and not even a clot of confused dragonriders could long prevent them from forcing their way to their Impressors. Kiooth and Rhianth led the charge with Ewanth and Treanth following in a Sued daze. The agents had nowhere to go, and soon they would reach them.
Circe looked around from her perch on Ron's chest, curls bouncing. "We're going to die, aren't we? I didn't sign up for death!"
"Get up and stand guard," Nume barked. "Give Ilraen time to get his act together."
Maria gave Circe a hand up and spoke confidentially to her. "If he doesn't, then yeah. We're gonna die."
At the head table, E'rik was having problems of his own. "No, Skepnadth! Stop her!" He cried out in pain as Alanna took the opportunity to bite his arm and wriggle free.
"Traitor!" she spat. "You wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for me. What made you think you could fight Yunith and me?" She turned toward the Bowl. "Bite her, Yunith! Make her pay for setting foot in our Weyr!"
Outside, the dragons roared.
Ilraen heard Jenni's warning in his mind. He saw the golden form of Yunith emerge to scream defiance at him from her ledge. He didn't see what she could do to him that would be worse than the agony he was in already.
~Ilraen, if you're going to let yourself get killed, at least put me down first!~
Jenni still clung to the golden wing's wrist, the one nearest to Yunith. How had she gotten there, anyway?
~Doesn't matter. Come on, move!~
But Yunith moved first. She dove toward Ilraen in a golden blur, and instinct took over.
Ilraen's, that is. Not the morph's. The morph was beyond caring, but the Andalite within had a deathly terror of being eaten by a large predator. It takes more than a different body to quash that kind of evolutionary programming. He reared up on his dragon-shaped hind legs, lifted his tail out of the way, and danced backward out of Yunith's trajectory, wings following according to the laws of inertia. He was barely aware of Jenni becoming dislodged and tumbling to the ground, trailing mental exclamation marks of incoherent surprise until she hit the ground—hard. (Due to the state of the continuum, the exclamation marks fell around her with a sound like that of a rain-stick.) Yunith back-winged with a screech of alarm and just managed to land without skinning her muzzle.
Usurper! hissed the senior queen. Try to steal my bronze out from under me, will you? He is mine! Leave now, or we will do to you what my rider wishes.
The other dragons gathered around the two queens, ready to spring to the aid of the dominant female. This was not the way things were traditionally done, but there wasn't a dragon alive who would disobey the chain of command without rider initiative, and the riders were in no position to make a call.
But E'rik was. Inside the dining hall, he pushed through a loose circle of riders and seized Alanna from behind as Skepnadth plummeted from above to tackle Yunith to the ground, just as Yunith had intended for Ilraen. The bronze was bleeding green ichor from a bite wound in his shoulder.
Dragons do not fight dragons, he growled, echoing his rider.
"Stop this, Alanna! I don't want to hurt you!"
Across the room, Nume could have cried. "No, hurt her! By all means, hurt her!" The agent had two rather short girls between him and four angry dragonets. He, Lunac, and Sedri had all they could do to control their captives. The random dragonriders around them had all left the area or else evinced no sign of the willpower to intervene one way or the other. His partner—the less said about his partner, the better. And Nume couldn't even spare a hand to grab his Bleepka.
But whatever advantage E'rik might have had was overthrown by what was happening to his dragon. Yunith did not swallow his betrayal easily, and Skepnadth was forced to grapple with his former weyrmate for his life. Skepnadth was a big, powerful bronze, but Yunith was bigger, and she had the power of Suedom with her. Skepnadth was not faring well. Nevertheless, he found the strength to communicate with Ilraen.
You, who are like us but hatched from no egg. You must do what you have been required to do! Your friends and my rider will be hurt if you do not. I protect you! Now do your duty!
The Duty. Right, the Duty. That's what he was supposed to be doing. He was Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill, Agent of the PPC.
He was back.
He couldn't reach his friends directly, but he flapped and roared at the dragons around him until they cleared the way for him to thrust his head through the cavern entrance as far as it could go. He could see the weyrlings hissing and spitting at Maria and Circe, only their own ungainly bodies and full stomachs preventing them from tearing the two agents apart. Ilraen growled.
<You four! You will stop this instant!>
Three of them did, cowering away from the authoritative mindvoice, but Kiooth turned around and hissed even as she cringed.
How dare you? This is to be my Weyr! None of you plebeians is worthy of taking it from me!
("She knows the word 'plebeian'?" someone whispered. Someone else hit the first someone upside the head. "This is hardly the time for MSTing!" "But really, I'm just saying—" "Shut up!")
<This is not your place,> Ilraen said. <You do not belong here. Your rider does not belong here. None of us belongs here. You will back down, my friends will do the Duty, and we will all go where we belong. Now, get out!> He could sense their submission. He backed out of the cavern, hissed at the surrounding dragons for good measure, and hurried to help Skepnadth.
Yunith had backed him halfway into the lake. Both dragons bore streaks of ichor along their bodies, but Skepnadth dripped. The water around him churned to a green froth as he fought to hold his ground against the mad gold.
Even years later, Ilraen couldn't find the right words for how he felt. Angry, sick, horrified—nothing came close. He knew that this was wrong, and that it was his fault, and, most importantly, that he had to do something about it. Yunith had to be stopped.
This dragon morph was made for the air, not the ground. He launched into the air and hauled with his wings, clumsily, like a kid learning to dog-paddle, but with enough sheer will to send him careening into Yunith's exposed back. She collapsed under the unexpected weight, shrilling her pain and fright as her legs buckled. Before she could rally, Ilraen clamped down his jaws on the back of her neck, fully immobilizing her at last.
<I am here now!> he called on a wide band to dragons and humans alike. <It is time to make an end of this mission.>
"Truer words were never spoken!" Nume shouted along with the general huzzah from the other agents. E'rik wrangled a less smug Alanna into the senior agent's line of sight. Nume gave her a proper glare.
"I can't even be bothered with reading three complete charge lists," the agent declared. "Roma Lupin, Alanna, and Nadia Granger Black or whatever the hell your name is supposed to be, you are all three charged with the most heinous crime of being Mary Sues. For that alone, you deserve death.
"Roma, you are further charged with being the uncanonical sister of Remus Lupin, the uncanonical wife of Sirius Black, and the uncanonical mother of Hermione Granger; with falling through the Veil when you had no logical business whatsoever in the Department of Mysteries; with not even being well-written enough to keep your own name straight; with causing candidates to enter the Hatching Grounds without sandals, which was rather cruel even if this lot deserved it; and with annoying PPC agents.
"Alanna, you are further charged with being a textbook Pern Sue, to wit: with having unnatural hair and eye colors, with being Weyrwoman of an unnamed and probably non-existent Weyr, with owning a gratuitous gold fire-lizard in addition to your gold dragon, with Hearing All Dragons even though it is a very rare ability, and with having a dragon with uncanonical markings; also with abducting a Phantom of the Opera clone to be your personal ornament and causing his dragon to have uncanonical coloration; with being a party to four uncanonical Impressions; with allowing dragonets to gorge; with causing various and sundry instances of bad punctuation, grammar, and spelling, one of which manifested a floating skirt; and with being a real pain in the ass to PPC agents.
"Nadia whatever, you are further charged with impersonating a canon character, namely one Hermione Granger; with causing so many instances of bad description that the world started taking everything literally in utter confusion; with throwing everyone around you completely OOC; with causing multiple plotholes; with being Searched instantly by the queen dragon, even though they really don't do that sort of thing; with being a party to gratuitous wangst over all the wrong things; with being a party to the most ambiguous make-out scene ever written; with Impressing a dragon with uncanonical coloration in a most uncanonical fashion; with being a party to three other such Impressions; with having awful fashion sense; and with making the lives of PPC agents so miserable that I don't even know how to start describing the torture.
"For these charges and more, by the authority vested in me by the Lichen and the Protectors of the Plot Continuum, you are all three sentenced to die. Nobody cares what you have to say about it."
The Sues struggled and whined, of course, but the agents ignored them.
"What happens now?" E'rik demanded. "I need to go to my dragon."
Nume shrugged. "Good question. What would you do with three criminals you never want to see again?"
The dragonrider regarded Alanna bitterly. "Drop them between? Let Thread eat them? A little of both?"
"Thread. Sounds fantastic. Where do we go to do that?" He paused. "And where is Nurse Robinson with my remote activator?"
"We can go look," Maria said. "Come on." She and Circe went out to look around the Bowl. It didn't take them long to spot the one prone figure on the ground, despite the random dragonriders still milling about.
"Ouch," Circe diagnosed. She ate a chocolate in sympathy. Maria glared.
"Put those away and help me carry her."
"You're no fun at all!"
"We're still on the job, remember?"
"Meanie." But she did put the chocolates back in her pocket and took the nurse's legs at the knees. Together, she and Maria carried Jenni back to the others.
Nume groaned at the sight. "The RA had better not be broken."
"Nah, it's right here." Maria produced it. "It's fine."
"Good. You know how to program it for 'imminent Threadfall'?"
"I can," Circe said at Maria's hesitation. "I can," she insisted at the doubtful looks from the others. "Sheesh." She took the RA and plugged in the coordinates. Nume, Lunac, and E'rik dragged the Sues through to the other side.
"You're in the middle of the Keroon desert," Circe called. "You can pretty much leave them there. They won't get out of the desert in time to hide."
"Thanks; I really wanted to get sunburned today!" Lunac shouted back.
Nume agreed. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen so much heat in the air. But not all of the wavering silvery sheets were heat.
"That's Thread coming," E'rik told them, nodding at the sky. "We'd better get out of here."
At once, they dropped the Sues on the sand and made a mad dash back through the portal, leaving the sounds of their victims' protests behind them. E'rik abruptly left to seek Skepnadth.
Exorcising the rest of the Potter characters went off without a hitch, though everyone was chilled to the marrow when Yunith, Kiooth, and Oranth suddenly jumped between and the ground shook beneath their feet, a bass accompaniment to the shrill keening of the remaining dragons. The sound and motion were enough to rouse Jenni. She sat up carefully, vaguely surprised that she could move at all, and looked around. She saw Sedri.
"She's alive," said the DMS agent.
"Finally," said Nume, coming to stand over her. "It's about time. This world isn't going to hold together. Collect your pet projects while I take the canons home so we can get out of here."
Jenni blinked. "I'm fine, thanks. No, really, it's nothing. Just probably a concussion, that's all."
"I'll help," Sedri said, "but we really do need to go."
Jenni nodded with a sigh. "All right. Tell me what happened, too, will you?"
Sedri talked as they walked out to the Bowl, taking it slow in deference to the state of a body that had been flung to the ground by a dragon. Jenni couldn't help but notice the state of the remaining bit characters. There was no spark left to them at all. They were pure figments, given life only by the will of the Mary Sues. Without the Sues, they were no better than ghosts, drifting forlornly through an empty husk of world.
The sight of Skepnadth was worse.
With Ilraen's help, he had managed to pull himself out of the lake, but no further. The wounds inflicted on him by Yunith were too deep and too many. He lay at the edge of the water, his head cradled in his rider's lap and Ilraen, still in gold morph, supporting him on one side. Ilraen lifted his head at the agents' approach.
<He is very tired,> the transformed Andalite told Jenni, <but he says he cannot sleep here. He tells the man that he will go soon. Where will he go?>
Jenni couldn't answer. By the time the bronze heaved himself achingly to his feet, she was close enough to catch E'rik around the shoulders and sob with him as Skepnadth went beyond between. Sedri hugged Ilraen around his muzzle as he keened quietly in the dusty cold-stirred air.
The rest of the team returned from delivering the Potterverse characters back where they belonged. The world shook and didn't stop. In a hurry, Ilraen de-morphed and everyone went home to HQ. Behind them, the world gave one final convulsion and collapsed into nothingness.
Awkward glances were exchanged with awkward silences.
"My chocolates are gone," Circe declared. She abruptly walked away from the group.
Nume sniffed disdainfully and adjusted his glasses. "Well. It's been fun working with you all. Let's never, ever do it again."
Lunac shrugged. "Fine by me. Bye!" He departed.
Maria peered intently at Jenni and the broken dragonrider. "Is he really what he looks like? 'Cause he looks like Gerard Butler with scars instead of a bad sunburn."
"Yeah, he is," Jenni said. She unabashedly wiped her face on one sleeve. "We're going to FicPsych. Hopefully he'll be able to come around, but there's no telling now."
<I am sorry,> Ilraen said. <If I had not been so slow . . .> He trailed off, stalk eyes drooping.
"I told you it was a bad idea," Nume grumbled.
To everyone's surprise, Ilraen responded sharply. <It was a good idea. I was not fast enough controlling the morph. I will do better in the future.>
"At least someone has a good attitude," Sedri said. "I think you did well," she told the Andalite. With a parting pat on his shoulder, she left.
Maria followed her to the end of the corridor, where they parted. Jenni stood with the partners a moment longer, then shrugged.
"I'm sorry about what happened, too. Come see me anytime you want to, Ilraen. We can talk about it. Later, boys." She led the ex-Weyrleader away.
And then there were two.
Nume raised an eyebrow at his partner. "You're not going to get weird on me, are you? This is what Bleepka is for. I can pour some in a dish for you to stand in."
Ilraen faced him with all four eyes. <No. I am not going to get weird.> He glanced down the corridor. <I simply understand now why we kill badfic.>
This mission is ridiculously long—30 pages in OpenOffice, if you want to know. But I've been wanting to kill this fic for a long time. There is simply too much wrong with it to cover in a single pass. I might also have an MST of it eventually, but no promises.
The original fic has been deleted, but I'm happy to share my copy with anyone whose morbid curiosity insists. The author is Lesalanna.
This mission was beta-read by Sedri and Tomato. Thanks!