|Summary:||In which the agents confront bad science and loud noises.|
|Source:||“What Friends Will Do” by Juanita Snape.|
|Timeline:||Mid-2007, several months after “Operation: Neuralyze!”|
|Published:||January 6, 2008.|
|Rating:||PG/K+ - Sarcasm content may exceed daily recommended intake for children.|
Among things stranger than a shredded Speedo in one’s response center is several shredded Speedos in one’s response center. Agent Supernumerary regarded the latest addition for a moment. It was black. It had come from the same mislaid cardboard box as the others. It had been stretchy before it snapped and ended up on the console. Now it was just a listless scrap of material dangling over the edge of the keyboard. Nume sighed. There was probably a metaphor in there somewhere.
“Well, that was better,” he said. “Better try it again.”
After an awkward shuffling of hooves, newly-recruited Agent Ilraen-Aroline-Fothergill replied: <Was that a deliberate play on words? I am still having some difficulty interpreting your mannerisms.>
Nume looked at his partner over the top of his green-rimmed spectacles. “Yes. Yes, it was. A poorly executed one, for the record.”
<Oh. Thank you for explaining. I would like to try the morph again, but we appear to be out of Speedos.> The Andalite contrived to look embarrassed. The morph in question was human a la Frolis Maneuver, cobbled together from samples acquired in the PPC Lounge. In theory, Ilraen possessed the ability and the know-how to morph with enough skin-tight clothing to cover the socially taboo part of the male anatomy. In practice, Ilraen was slow, uncoordinated, and generally terrible at morphing. In his species’ culture, he would have been the laughing stock of his class.
Nume didn’t laugh. He took a drink from his personal flask of Bleepka. He had already explained to Ilraen that this behavior was a palliative response to stress and, sometimes, a comment on the degree by which the stressor was breaking his brain. It was only a small drink. It could be wo—
“AA-hck!” That was the sound Nume made as he threw himself down on his cot and choked on Bleepka, narrowly missing decapitation by tail blade. Above him, there was a crack and an electric zzzt. When he stopped coughing enough to look up, he saw his partner yank the blade out of the disguise panel. He promptly went into another paroxysm. You asked for this, he told himself. Super-intelligent alien partner, ooh, spiffy. Skittish super-intelligent alien newbie with sharp-and-pointy attached, not so good.
<Agent Supernumerary?> The Andalite peered down at him with three eyes. The other one remained on the console, which at least had the decency to shut up. <Are you not well?>
“Agent Ilraen,” he replied, “did you just attack the console?”
Ilraen pawed quietly at the floor. <I do apologize. I was not expecting such a loud noise.>
“Right.” One last cough as he got to his feet. “Then how well I’m not remains to be seen.” He adjusted his glasses and moved around Ilraen, gingerly plucked the ruined Speedo off the keyboard, and brought up the mission. Blinked. Glanced at the indicator lights—flashing red, not green. “Frell.”
<What is it?>
“They screwed it up again. It’s another Mary Sue, Young Wizards continuum.”
There was a short silence as Ilraen processed the information. <Perhaps we should report the error to Prince Lichen?>
Nume stared. Ilraen was perfectly innocent. An Andalite warrior had to have a prince, even if it was a sentient bit of green on a rock. “I should have expected that. It’s still weird.” He shook his head and went back to scanning the Intelligence report. “I suppose it’s just as well that you broke the disguise generator. We’ll need your tail. Grab the bag and let’s get it over with.”
Due to Nume’s complete and utter incompetence with weaponry, he had only ever carried a black over-the-shoulder bag containing a Floater’s tools: CADs, canon source material, the odds and ends required for exorcisms, a neuralyzer, a syringe of super-concentrated salts for emergency dispatch work, and the all-important little black notebook and red pen. Now Nume carried only the neuralyzer, notebook, and pen, leaving the rest to his partner. They had tacked a Flying Pig flash patch onto the bag’s strap, enabling Ilraen to wear it as his uniform.
The two stepped through the portal and into Kit Rodriguez’s living room. Nume immediately dropped to one knee behind the couch, where Kit was sitting with a very nondescript teenage girl-shaped figure. Ilraen imitated his partner as best a six-foot-one blue centaur-like alien could, and they listened to the conversation.
"Em, what are you doing?" Kit asked his girlfriend as she sat on his couch playing with her shoes.
"Kit...hon...you love me right?" she asked him nervously.
"Of course I do, Em. What makes you think I don't?"
“This is very strange,” the man murmured. “Take a CAD reading. No, the other one.”
Ilraen found the Character Analysis Device and, using his stalk eyes like periscopes, pointed it over the couch at the girl’s head.
[Emily. Female human wizard. Non-canon.]
“Very strange,” Nume repeated. “Intelligence pegs Emily as a potential Sue, but she doesn’t even have a descrip—wait.”
Emily had just informed Kit that he should drop Nita as his “bestfrind” due to her fear that Nita would somehow break them up. She spontaneously developed an accent as the Words revealed she had moved to New York from England. Kit’s response was an unenthusiastic “Alright hon, for you...I will talk to her today...”
Nume nodded. “I see.”
<What do you see?> Ilraen’s stalk eyes swiveled.
“No, I mean I understand. She may not be a Sue yet, but making Nita and Kit break their partnership is unforgivable.”
It seemed that Kit would do it, too. Emily left and he immediately went to the phone.
"Neets?" Kit started, "We need to talk."
The agents couldn’t hear her response.
"Neets...I...uh, think it's best you come over."
He hung up, and a small object fell from his hand. He seemed to freeze in place.
<What is wrong with him?> Ilraen asked.
“Oh, he’s fine. This can happen when the narrative eye is elsewhere. It must have—yes, it’s using Nita’s POV now.” Nume walked up to Kit and, after looking him over, bent down and picked up the thing he’d dropped. It was a metal cube, about the size of a marble, with a broken heart on each face. “Huh. I suppose this is a dropped bestfrind.” He slipped it into a pocket. “I suggest you get comfortable, because, against all common sense, Nita is walking here instead of teleporting.” Nume hoisted himself over the back of the couch, settled down, and scrawled the first charge into his notebook: Causing Nita’s common sense to take a cigarette break in the face of potential crisis.
The agents entertained themselves with Kit’s TV (or, rather, the TV fascinated Ilraen and Ilraen entertained Nume) until Nita finally got there. Her knock gave them just enough time to switch it off before Kit reanimated to let her in. Zombie-like, the two went up to Kit’s room without speaking a word.
“That’s out of character already,” Nume commented as he and Ilraen followed. “She would want to know what the problem is.”
It only got worse from there. Poor Kit didn’t even get a word in edgewise before Nita was angry at him and, when he did try to explain, she cut him off. The agents listened at Kit’s door.
"Neets...Nita...Em doesnt want us to be friends, and I told her that-"
"That you would give up our friendship? That you would give up everything we've been through, for a girl you've been dating for 4 months?"
"Neets, its isnt like that!"
"Dont bother Kit, if Im not good enough to be your friend anymore, fine. Dont come crawling back to me when that sorry bitch dumps your ass!"
“Quick, get a reading before she leaves!” Nume hissed. Nita stormed out the door and past them just as Ilraen pulled out a brand-new Canon Analysis Device.
[Juanita "Nita" Callahan. Female human wizard. Canon. OOC 72.666% CHARACTER RUPTURE!]
The device gave off a horrific shriek, forcing both agents to cover their ears. Ilraen reared on his hind legs and dropped the CAD, which had the sense to land on the volume toggle (two settings: “off” and “piercing”) and fall silent rather than risk going the way of the disguise generator. The agents looked to see if Kit had noticed them, but the narrative had left him. He stood like a zombie with his mouth slightly open. Nita was too wrapped up in her own drama to notice. After a few moments, the agents relaxed.
“Dammit,” Nume hissed, and picked up the CAD. He had glued his old one in the “off” position and hadn’t thought to fix this one when he got it. He made a mental note to get to the Farscape continuum as soon as possible.
He copied the readout into the notebook, shaking his head. “I expected it to be worse, honestly. They did have their communication problems in canon, but—”
<Agent Supernumerary, what is a ‘sorry bitch’?>
“—Um.” He blinked, rerouting the train tracks of his thought process. “Well. In this case, ‘bitch’ is an informal term referring to a mean or ill-tempered woman. ‘Sorry’ may be interpreted to mean unfortunate or, at a stretch, ill-favored.”
<I see. Er, ‘dumps your ass’?>
Nume sighed and took a moment to massage the spot between his eyebrows. “Why do they never include modern idiom in the translators? It’s a Terran mating ritual. Now, look. I’m not going to stop and explain every stupid turn of phrase the story uses, so kindly save that kind of question for later. Right now . . . .” He glanced at Kit, who had frozen again. “Now we follow Nita. Come on.”
He started down the stairs, but stopped halfway and turned around when the sound of hooves behind him ceased. Ilraen stood at the top, eyes wide.
<I am most terribly embarrassed, but I can’t seem to move forward.>
Nume was fast forgetting why he had thought his life would be easier with a new partner. Well, that wasn’t quite accurate. He was cursed with an eidetic memory, which meant he remembered everything, including his reasons for applying for a transfer. What he was in fact doing was wondering if this was any better. “It is natural for a young creature to be afraid of falling down the stairs,” he said. Ilraen protested, but Nume kept talking. “Said fear is entirely illogical for you. Think your way out of it as quickly as you can, please.”
<Perhaps it would be best to use the remote activator. So we do not lose track of Nita.>
“Good plan.” In a flash, the man’s long legs carried him up to the top of the stairs, where he reached into the bag and took the RA. Just as quickly, he opened a portal at the bottom.
<What are you doing?> Ilraen was alarmed. <You are leaving me here?>
“Very astute. I’m continuing the mission and you’re getting over this before it becomes an entrenched phobia. You can follow me when you get down.” He set the portal to remain open, secure in the knowledge that nothing much else happened at the Rodriguez household. “Bye.” He went through.
<But—you are going against regulations! What if you suddenly go completely insane and I am not there to take you back to Headquarters?>
Nume groaned. Telepathy worked through portals. He stopped to take a drink from his flask—precaution against suddenly going completely insane—and looked around. He had to jump out of the way as Nita came running by and continued down the basement stairs, where she tripped and fell to the bottom with a heavy thud. Nume’s eyebrows shot up as he peered down at her crumpled body. Well. Good thing Ilraen didn’t see that.
There were charges to be taken down, not least of which being that Ronan had inexplicably moved into the Callahans’ basement and acquired a Manual, but the temporal distortion hit before Nume had replaced the flask at his hip. Going from no-given-time to Saturday morning could make even the most seasoned agents dizzy with the combination of disorientation and deja vu. It was the Bleepka that saved him from being thrown down the stairs himself and allowed him to witness Ilraen come barreling through the portal in a wide-eyed bolt, tail raised and ready. The portal closed behind him.
“See you made it,” said Nume. “Let that thing down before you take someone’s head off.”
It was as well that Ilraen did, for Mr. Callahan appeared at that moment, suddenly engaged in a desperate phone call.
"Kit, please tell me you’ve seen Nita!"
“Has he even bothered to look for her?” Nume wondered, glancing down the stairs. “You should have stayed to hear Kit’s side of this, Andalite.”
Ilraen drew himself up. <I did as instructed,> he said.
“You were just more scared of the distortion than the stairs,” Nume countered. “But never mind. Listen.”
Mr. Callahan begged Kit for help just as Ronan found Nita and screamed like a little girl. Once again, both agents clapped hands over their ears and kept them that way as the characters had hysterics. Finally Ronan got Kit off the line and called 911, and then—
—they were in the hospital. More specifically, the agents were dumped unceremoniously in the hall outside Nita’s hospital room, legs all jumbled and Nume with a very sharp tail blade dangling in front of his nose. He froze, apart from momentarily going cross-eyed looking at it.
“Don’t move. For the love of Spock, don’t even breathe. I’m going to grab your tail for a moment . . . there.” With the blade under control, Nume was able to adjust his glasses (priorities, priorities!) and get his legs under him, where they belonged. Ilraen’s response to all this was little more than a discombobulated mental gurgle. Two temporal-spatial shifts in the span of a few minutes was a lot for someone merely on his second mission and with a highly sensitive biological clock. The last shift had been worse than the first, what with the unannounced change in setting. Nume guessed his partner was in the throes of a rather spectacular headache.
“Come on, pull yourself together. You’ll get over it.”
<Compassion,> the Andalite murmured. <The act of feeling another’s pain and sympathizing instead of mocking him.>
Nume raised an eyebrow in the face of Ilraen’s glare. “Was that a mangled Farscape quote? I didn’t know you’d seen any. I realize you’re out of it, but try to get it right in the future. Good use of sarcasm, though.”
<I am learning quickly.> In spite of some skidding on the polished hospital floor, he got to his hooves and rearranged the shoulder bag.
A brief look around told the agents where they were and what the characters were up to. There was a window through which they could see Nita’s room and everyone in it. Everyone was, in fact, in it, except the Sue. The canons had been joined by Nita’s sister. They all stood or sat around the bed, apparently having nothing better to do than to wait for Nita to wake up. That she did, right on cue, and screamed of a pain in her head.
“Your head, our ears,” Nume growled. There hadn’t been time to cover them.
A man in a doctor’s coat entered the room and, looking very professional, did absolutely nothing to ease Nita’s pain. “Hello, I'm Dr. Jenkins,” he said to the group. “I suppose you'd all like to know what's going on?”
“I’d like to know how you got a degree in medicine,” said Nume, scrawling malpractice time-bomb into the notebook.
<Indeed. He’s left the poor girl writhing there when she clearly requires aid.>
Nume peeked over the rims of his glasses. The Andalite had all four eyes forward, carefully, it seemed, not looking at his partner. “If you’re going to be bitter about those stairs—”
One stalk eye roved in Nume’s direction. <Bitter? Ah—a taste sensation. Astringent, sour, harsh, disagreeably alkaline.>
“Have you been reading a dictionary? Is that it?”
<You are missing the diagnosis.>
“ . . . Right.”
"I'm sorry to inform you, Mr. Callahan, but it seems Nita has a brain tumor, that instantly started reacting once she hit her head," Dr. Jenkins said, looking at Mr. Callahan sadly.
"What...what does this mean?" Mr. Callahan said weakly.
"Mr. Callahan, your daughter could have about eight months before the tumor causes her brain to swell, maybe more, maybe less. But, once it starts to swell, well, Mr. Callahan, it will be merely weeks after that. Two or three at the most." Dr. Jenkins said, looking at everyones faces.
Nume dropped all thoughts about the monster he might have created in Ilraen. He didn’t have a blood vessel that conveniently pounded at his temple at such times as this, but the discrepancy in the height of his eyebrows conveyed his ire most adequately. However, his voice was level when he spoke. “I’m afraid we’ve got a threatening SPAK situation here. Patient is terminally LOBNH.”
<I do not understand.>
“I need a consult. Dr. Gumby’s vital signs, stat!”
Ilraen could only look at him, hopelessly confused. <Dr. Gumby . . . ? Do you mean Jenkins? Er?>
“What, no one’s made you watch any Flying Circus yet? Never mind. Yes, Jenkins; a CAD reading, right now.”
Ilraen did it. Nume couldn’t help but smirk.
[Dr. Jenkins. Quack.]
<Agent Supernumerary . . . ?>
“Hush. There have to be more charges on this guy. What are they on about now?”
As it happened, Nita could somehow tell that Jenkins was a wizard and pressured him into revealing that her biggest problem was not the rapid-growth brain tumor.
"It seems that Nita's kernel in her body has suffered some emotional things lately, and has decided to shut down. It is whats been warding off the tumor, slowly fighting it on its own. Nita's one strong wizard, to be able to heal her own tumor and diseases. Anyway, it shut down and someone needs to fix it."
Nume scribbled down charges. “Don’t worry,” he muttered. “Everything will go right back to normal once you and Emily-Sue are corpsicles.”
Beside him, Ilraen shifted nervously. <Agent Supernumerary, you are speaking to the fanfiction more than to me.>
“I have a medical condition. My spleen requires regular venting.”
The Andalite gave him a long stalk-eye stare. When it went on too long, Nume looked back at him. “What now?”
<I am trying to decide if I believe there is any such thing as a spleen and, if there is, whether or not it is a thing that could be vented via the mouth.>
Nume opened his mouth, then changed his mind and shook his head instead. “You’ll figure it out. Listen, I think we have enough charges to kill this thing. When does the Sue show up again? Have you figured out how to see the Words yet?”
<Yes, Agent Supernumerary. It is quite simple, after all. I’ve been watching them.>
He gave Ilraen another hard look. “I never noticed.”
Ilraen replied only with a slender finger pointed at his stalk eyes. His main eyes, Nume thought, contrived to look smug. The man frowned. “You mean, you see the Words and the World at the same time? Naturally?”
“You—that’s incredible. It doesn’t bother you, seeing both at once?”
Ilraen shrugged. Everyone he knew did it, so the gesture came naturally. <No more than looking behind me. The Mary Sue, alias Emily, does not appear again. She was last encountered over the phone by Kit.>
The lines in Nume’s forehead deepened as he looked back over the Words. “But that happened right after Ronan hung up on him. How did we miss that? We should’ve been thrown into Kit’s POV, not—oh.” He spotted the problem. Due to the lack of transition between the phone conversation and the hospital scene, the two overlapped. There was no physical environment to go with the former, so the agents were dumped into the latter by default. “This is a problem,” Nume said. “How do we kill a Sue that has no body?” He paced the hall, one hand at the back of his neck and the other on his hip, oblivious to the worried expression on his partner’s face. “Unless it isn’t a Sue.” He stopped. “What if it’s a Sue-wraith? She hasn’t bothered creating a full-fledged body because she isn’t interested in that kind of story. She’s just a damn ’shipper.” He snapped his fingers. “I’ve got it. Come on, we’re going to need help.”
He dialed up a portal and waved Ilraen through it, then followed. They emerged beside a fishpond in a suburban back yard surrounded by high hedges, the kind grown by people who can’t be bothered with neighbors watching them too closely. The pond, predictably, contained bright gold, black, and silver fish that goggled idly at the newcomers. Nume nodded politely to them and walked up to the house. While he knocked on the sliding glass door, Ilraen peered avidly at the koi. The koi returned the favor.
“Ilraen,” Nume called. When the Andalite joined him, he spoke quickly and softly into his ear. “Don’t speak unless spoken to. This could be delicate.”
Dogs were barking in the house. The sound of footsteps approached the door, and turned out that they were caused by feet. The door was answered by Tom Swale, who slid it open just enough to speak to the agents.
“Hello,” he said, eyebrows raised. It wasn’t unusual for him to receive visitors at the back door—particularly visitors as unusual as Ilraen—but these two were strangers. “Can I help you?”
“Dai stihó,” Nume replied. “As it happens, you can. We’re on errantry . . . of a sort. May we come in?”
Tom shrugged. “Sure. Just . . . um . . . mind the tail, all right?” He held the two sheepdogs back until the agents were inside, then let them go. They enthusiastically sniffed the agents for a couple of minutes, then politely got out of the way as Tom showed them into the living room.
“Don’t mind Annie and Monty. They’re just curious,” Tom said to Ilraen, who was shaking a bit at the knees. Something deeply embedded in his genome was telling him that his four hooves ought to be carrying him away from the canines, but there was nowhere to run. He stood with his tail low to the ground and one stalk eye on each dog.
“He’s fine,” Nume said. “Tom Swale, right? Senior wizard?” Tom nodded. “Is your co-senior around? He should hear this, too.”
“He can be. Carl!” he called. “Visitors!”
They were shortly joined by Carl Romeo, who was shorter and darker than Tom. He waited for introductions. Nume supplied them.
“Mr. Romeo, Mr. Swale. I’m called Nume; he’s Ilraen.”
“Hi,” said Carl.
The agents shook hands with the wizards.
Nume continued. “We’re not wizards, but we know about you, and we have a similar purpose. It has come to our attention that your universe is in danger; we’re here to fix it, but we need your help.” He explained the situation as best he could. After checking their Manuals to confirm the story, Tom and Carl were appalled that Nita was in the hospital and no one had told them.
“We’d wondered what was going on with those kids before now,” Tom said. “I guess this explains it.”
Carl nodded. “What can we do to help?”
“I suspect that Emily has now fully possessed Nita. Normally we would simply exorcise her and things would go back to normal, but Emily is a wizard, and we’re not. We can’t do anything to her in a fight.”
“So you need us to provide wizardly firepower,” Tom said.
“Something like that.”
Two weeks later in the story’s timeline, Nita was “finally on the brink of unconsciousness” and Dr. Jenkins had called a conference in her hospital room. Along with Ronan and the Callahans, it “just seemed to happen” that Kit was there, too.
“I was right, see?” Nume muttered to Ilraen. “She’s not tipping her hand at all with a line like that.”
Nume, Ilraen, Tom, and Carl were just out of sight of the room, waiting to make their move. They knew when the time would come, Nume had explained, because he and Ilraen could read the language that made up the world. Just as the Words of a spell could ask the universe to change, the Words of the universe told it how to be in the first place. The only difference was that the universe wouldn’t listen to the agents when they spoke. The wizards had spells prepared and were ready to go. It was just a matter of listening to the conversation in Nita’s room.
The canons had a saccharine conversation with Nita, who made it obvious that she was losing it when she asked for her mother, who had died in canon of—yes—brain cancer.
Everything in the room got quite and everyone exchanged the same look with each other. Obviously Nita was out of it and couldn't remember that her mom had passed away a few years ago.
"Nita, sweetheart, your mom," her dad started, "she passed away a few years ago, from cancer."
Nita's eyes started to tear up and before she could say anything Dr. Jenkins jumped into the conversation.
"Nita, I need you to answer me some questions," Dr. Jenkins said.
“No,” said Nume, making sure the door slammed open as he marched into the room. “You need to answer us some questions.”
“Yeah, like how come not one of you called us?” said Carl, who came after the tall agent with Tom on his heels. “Didn’t you think we would have wanted to be here for you?”
“Carl?” Nita said faintly. “Tom? Is that you?” Nume was sure he saw a flash of panic behind her dazed-and-confused mien.
Her dad, having waited patiently for her to finish, jumped angrily to her defense. “Listen, guys, we’ve been under a lot of stress—”
Jenkins was right behind him. “Excuse me, my patient is very ill. I’m going to have to ask you people to leave, before I call security.”
“Cut the crap,” Nume snapped. “Ilraen, get over here.” He nodded to the senior wizards. “Do it.”
Ilraen stepped into the doorway just as twin flashes of magical discharge burst in the air. One—Tom’s—leapt overhead and resolved into a transparent dome that encompassed the room and, fortunately for Ilraen, a few extra feet around it. No one could enter or depart while it was there. The second spell had the effect of freezing Jenkins and all the canons except Nita. Carl, who was an expert in timegating, had simply asked chunks of their personal time to go elsewhere. (Somewhere, some other people suddenly found that they had extra time on their hands.) Nita sat up in alarm.
“What are you doing? What’s going on? Who are these people?”
“It’s going to be all right, Nita,” said Tom. “I know you’re scared, but we’re here to help you.”
“Remember, it’s not really her,” said Nume.
“But—what are you doing?” she shrieked at the agent, who quickly traced a rough chalk circle around her bed and placed a few candles from Ilraen’s bag around the circle. “You’re not supposed to be here,” wailed the possessed girl. “This isn’t supposed to happen!”
“Oh, shut up.” Nume glared at her from outside the circle. Nita shivered, but something behind her eyes glared back. Without breaking eye contact, the agent extended a hand behind him. “Manual, please.”
Carl wordlessly placed his in Nume’s hand, where it instantly became a special hardback collection of all the Young Wizards books to date. He hefted it with a surprised look of pleasure.
“This’ll do nicely. Now.” He turned his attention back to Nita and his voice to a tone of command. “Get thee out, Sue-spirit! The power of DUANE compels thee!” And he brought the tome down smartly on first one shoulder, then the other. Predictably, Nita flinched and cried out. Nume scowled. “The Powers That Be compel thee! Begone, foul Mary Sue! Get thee gone from this Canon Character! With the power of DUANE, I cast thee out!”
Finally, on the fourth hit, Nita collapsed onto her pillow and a pinkish, purplish mist seeped from her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. This was a particularly nasty wraith: it shrieked in an octave that should have been restricted to bats and hurled itself at Nume. It broke in urple waves against the invisible barrier of the circle and, though the force of it shook the air, it did not escape.
“You’re ruining my story!” screamed the wraith. “Nita and Kit HAVE to get together!”
“Shut up! Sue-wraith, alias Emily, you are charged with being a Mary Sue. You are further charged with causing Nita’s common sense to take a cigarette break in the face of potential crisis; with causing Kit to be in love with the bitchiest thing in shoes; with forcing Nita and Kit to dissolve their friendship; with creating a ‘bestfrind’; with causing character ruptures in practically everyone, especially Nita and Kit; with making Ronan inexplicably use a Manual and live in the Callahans’ basement; with making Mr. Callahan act like a hysterical idiot; with causing temporal and temporal-spatial distortions; with employing absolutely, disgustingly, inexcusably bad biology—listen, let me explain this, because you obviously don’t get it.” He paused to catch his breath. “First of all, there are so many interesting degenerative diseases out there. Why did you choose brain cancer? So Nita’s mom had it—so what? The chances of that kind of cancer being congenital are slim to none, and furthermore, whether it was or not, neither emotional nor physical trauma would ‘trigger’ it. It just doesn’t work that way. Also, your ‘wonderful Dr. Jenkins’ is a fraud, and I’ll get to him later. Where was I?” The list came back to him. He hadn’t even bothered looking at his notebook. “Right. With causing Dairine to have hysterics; with possessing Nita and forcing her kernel to stop working for gratuitous Sturm und Drang; for making everyone forget about Tom and Carl; for making Kit forget about Ponch, who was absolutely necessary to the mission to Mrs. Callahan’s kernel; and, finally, for inflicting headaches on PPC agents with gratuitous screaming. For these most heinous crimes, you forfeit your right to exist. I really don’t care what you think, but I have one question before my partner dispatches you: what were you planning to do with Ronan?”
“He’d sacrifice himself to save Nita, duh! And then—”
At a nod from Nume, Ilraen stepped forward and whipped his tail blade through the air. His aim was wildly off, but the blade did pass through the urple wraith before slicing through the far bottom corner of the hospital bed. Nume cursed and jumped aside, colliding with Jenkins, who, being out of time, stood still as a rock. The wraith gave out one final piercing wail and vanished.
“Nita!” Tom rushed forward and leaned over her. “Please tell me you missed her!”
<I . . . yes, I missed her. I am terribly sorry.> Ilraen seemed to shrink into himself. <Will she be all right?>
Tom had opened his Manual and was running it over her body like a scanner. Symbols flashed across the open pages. “Hard to say. Healing isn’t my thing. I can’t make heads or tails of this.” He snapped the book shut in frustration. “Is there a tumor? Isn’t there? It’s all confused.”
By this time, Nume had righted himself, given Carl’s Manual back, and taken a heavy pull from his flask. “The cancer was caused by the Sue. It should be going away, but there’s still one loose end to deal with.” He kicked Jenkins’ immobile shin. “This lawsuit-waiting-to-happen is the tool of the writer. I can’t allow it to live. Carl, how long before the stasis ends?”
“Whenever I release it. The sooner the better, if you don’t mind. Timegates don’t come cheap.”
“Fine. Let everyone but Jenkins go now. Leave him for another couple of minutes.”
Carl nodded and began the counter-spell under his breath. Meanwhile, Nita stirred and groaned.
Tom grinned. “She’s waking up!”
“Good,” said Nume. He had reached into a breast pocket and pulled out two things: one was a fairly ordinary, if stylish, pair of sunglasses. The other looked like a nice silver pen. Ilraen quietly stepped aside and closed both sets of eyes.
The stasis ended. Ronan, Kit, Dairine, and Mr. Callahan started and blinked several times before their brains caught up. Then came the explosion.
“What in hell—”
“Mr. Callahan, we can explain—”
“Who are they?”
“Dad? Kit? Do we know why Ronan is here?”
“I’d bloody well like to know myself.”
“Neets? Hey, everyone shut up a minute!”
“Yes, please do!” Nume bellowed over the lot of them. “Listen up, folks! This is complicated and I have no time for bullshit. I’m going to tell you exactly what happened, but I need your full attention. Look right here, please.”
He held up the neuralyzer and the canons, being human, all looked for just an instant. It was enough. There was a bright blue flash and silence fell.
Nume breathed a sigh of relief and replaced his shades with his regular glasses. “All right. Nothing of the last five months ever happened. Ronan never moved here from Ireland, Kit never had a girlfriend, and Nita certainly never had brain cancer. When we leave, you’re going to find yourselves back in your regularly scheduled timeline and forget everything you see here. Have a nice life.”
He went over to Ilraen and got the RA. “I gotta show you how to work this thing soon,” he muttered as he punched in coordinates. A portal sprang open beside Jenkins, letting a gust of frigid air into the room. Nume shivered, but tipped the statuesque bit character through and waited for Ilraen to go before leaping after them.
They emerged in a long, frost-covered corridor that curved away in either direction. The corridor was lined with large metal pods mounted to the walls. Each pod had a control panel and an oval window, but most of them were so rimed with ice that it was impossible to see inside.
“Don’t try looking,” Nume said. “You wouldn’t like it. We have to find an empty one. Here, help me carry him.”
Together, the two agents lifted Jenkins and carried him down the hall. The man soon began to stir and demand to be released, at once. He kicked free of Ilraen’s delicate hands, and Nume dropped his shoulders. It was obviously his own fault that he cracked his head sharply on the frozen floor. He lay there in a daze, staring at the ceiling.
“I hope you’ve got a concussion,” Nume cursed. “That makes my job easier. Right . . . Jenkins, so-called Doctor. Your only official crime, unfortunately, is being poorly written. However, on my authority as a pissed-off PPC agent, I further charge you with the following: with claiming to be a physician but failing to do anything at all for a patient screaming in pain; with claiming to be a wizard whose specialty ought to be healing and yet knowing jack-squat about biology, medicine, or wizardry; with being a malpractice time-bomb; with being an insufferable know-it-all; with being a useless idiot; and with requiring me to vent my spleen in a manner unbecoming of my dignity. For crimes against science, you are sentenced to remain here until you can serve a purpose.”
That said, the agent strode down the corridor until he found a pod whose window was black and empty. He heaved it open and went back for Jenkins, who struggled feebly as he and Ilraen forced him into the pod. Once he was inside, Nume slammed the lid and punched a sequence into the control panel. With a hiss and a rush of cold steam, Jenkins was frozen a second time, this time in ice.
Ilraen witnessed the process with something like awe. <Agent Supernumerary? Is he dead?>
Nume smirked. “Effectively.”
The Andalite, who had not, in fact, seen any episodes of Farscape, got the sense that he’d missed a joke, but he didn’t pursue the matter further. Nume said he had an errand in this continuum, so Ilraen followed his partner to the next setting, which was all warm brown and gold curves and rumbling, purring noises that almost made him suspect he was inside a living creature. The squat, scurrying, yellow-shelled denizens gave him a start when two of them appeared suddenly around a sweep of the passage, black stalk eyes twitching with what seemed like skepticism, but Nume spoke politely to them and one obliged him by squirting some kind of purple ooze onto the new CAD’s volume control. Once the ooze set, Nume sent the things on their way and the agents returned to their response center.
They stood silently for a moment, surveying the state of the room. The disguise generator still had a gaping hole in it, and there were still several torn black Speedos lying around in improbable places.
“What a pit this is,” Nume commented. “It’s like college all over again.”
<We will fix it,> Ilraen said brightly. <Don’t worry. It could be worse.>
There was a brief silence.
“I could be wrong, mind you. I’m not sure . . . but right now, I think I hate you.”
The abbreviations were found on lists of real medical jargon. This fic was particularly annoying for the terrible science and characterization, and Young Wizards has such a small fandom that I felt I’d better take it. I promise crossovers from here on out.
EDIT (2.18.2012): Fixing a fault in the origin of the purple stuff. I’d mixed up my bug-like critters. I can’t believe it took me this long to figure it out. >.<