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c5s_ppc_agents
The Love of his Life 
8th-Jun-2010 09:42 am
I must not shirk the Duty
Disclaimers:

- The PPC belongs to Jay and Acacia.

- LOTR belongs to Tolkien.

- Any brand names mentioned belong to their companies.

- Marsha is the creation of agenttrojie.

- The fic is The Love of his Life. It is owned by DarkElvenPrincess4.

- Cassie, Nat, Tyler, Galeya and Rina are mine.

Thanks to Inkling, who betaed.


Nat was chanting to herself as she walked. “I’m not lookin’ for my RC, I’m not lookin’ for my RC, I’m lookin’ for something else, what am I lookin’ for?” She stopped and thought about it. “What am I lookin’ for?” She was so busy trying to think of somewhere other than her RC that she didn’t notice the door next to her until it opened. The person coming out of the room abruptly came to a halt.

“Nat? I was just coming to look for you.”

The lanky agent looked down at her partner, who appeared to be rather less cheerful than usual. “What ‘appened?” Cassie scowled and stomped back inside. Grumbling about the stupid design of HQ, Nat followed. Almost immediately, she spotted the console’s red light flashing. “Another mission already?”

“Yep.”

“’Ow bad?”

“Go look for yourself.” Cassie waved one hand towards the console. “It’s on there.” Pushing her glasses back up, the shorter agent set to work picking her weapons. This was rather less easy than it sounded, as she had to locate them under the mess first. Deciding not to argue, Nat went over to investigate. After a few moments of reading, she shrugged and joined Cassie.

“At least it’s short. We won’t need the sleepin’ bags this time.”

“Don’t care. Stupid Mary Sue.”

Nat raised an eyebrow. “You’re not screamin’ an’ makin’ threats. Should I be worried?”

“No…” Nudging her glasses back up again, Cassie sighed. “I just don’t like Legomance.”

“Never ‘ad ya down as a Legoluster,” Nat teased.

“I’m not. Just because he’s a pretty Elf doesn’t mean I’ll start glomping… That reminds me, where’s my camera?” After a moment of searching, Cassie pulled the little digital Polaroid™ out of a pile of junk in one of the cupboards with a flourish. She stuffed it in her pack triumphantly and zipped the bag up.

Nat smirked slightly - Yeah, sure you’re not a luster, she thought - and went to set the disguises. “Cass, you’re the expert. What should we go as?”

“Gondorians,” was the prompt reply. “I’m pretty sure we’ll blend in, even if she has got Elves wandering around.”

“Okay then.” The portal opened a few seconds later. Cassie grabbed her pack and marched through without a backward glance. Nat followed, although she did quickly check to see if the minis were all right. Fortunately, they appeared to be fast asleep.

They stepped out into a grey world of nothing, their disguises settling in as they did so to portray them as typical Gondorian women - dark-haired and grey-eyed. “You put us in before the Author’s Notes, didn’t you?” Cassie asked apprehensively, pulling out her notebook.

“Evidently.” Nat’s accent hadn’t been affected this time, so her Welsh lilt made an interesting combination with her Gondorian appearance. They both covered their ears as the bellowing authorial notes sounded.

Disclaimer: I don’t own Lord of the Rings or any characters from the books or movies. Anyone you don’t know, I probably own. I’m going to put all the chapters up whether you like them or not. Thanks to Kelly, who beta’d this back in 2005!

“What the bloody hell?” Cassie said weakly as they managed to regain their feet. She scrabbled for the bottle of Bleeprin she’d put in a pocket and quickly downed a few pills. Around them, the setting began to form - and quickly stopped forming.

‘I wonder why the King has summoned me,’ thought the Prince of Mirkwood. Legolas had just arrived in Gondor and was heading towards the palace. He had not been in Gondor for some months and was very glad to return. He was shaken from his thoughts by the sight of the palace looming above him.

Nat shook her head. “Okay, just what is goin’ on? For one thing, Aragorn wouldn’t summon Legolas anywhere, an’ for another, where’s Gimli?”

“I think there’s a bigger problem here,” Cassie replied, gripping her notebook rather tightly in an attempt to keep her temper down.

“That bein’?”

“Where the hell is Minas Tirith?”

“I - er… good point.” The author had clearly misunderstood something, as the White City simply was not there. There was only a vague area that appeared to be on the border of Gondor somewhere and a traditional fairytale palace. “Come on. An’ don’t ya want ta get the charges?” The lanky young woman headed for the palace, hefting her pack in a businesslike manner, as Legolas entered the building. Cassie was trailing behind, scribbling down charges and trying to catch up to her partner at the same time.

“We need to portal, Nat. We don’t know where he went!” the shorter agent puffed as she caught up to her friend. The Disguise Generator hadn’t altered their heights at all, so Nat still towered over Cassie.

“Huh? Oh, right.” Nat produced the portal thingy (neither of them could remember the proper name for it) and set it to home in on the three canon characters.

The duo stepped through the portal into a random room, where Aragorn, Arwen and Legolas were in the middle of a conversation.

‘Do you know what today is?’ he asked the Elf. Legolas thought for a moment. It was the twenty-fifth of June, but he doubted that was the answer Aragorn was looking for. Then his memory saved him.
‘Gâlae’s birthday,’ he answered.


“Who’s Gâlae?” Nat said quietly. They were staying out of the way, back against a wall - if they could call it that. The room had no description whatsoever, which meant it was made of Generic Surface™ and reminded the agents strongly of HQ.

“Aragorn and Arwen’s daughter, apparently. Nobody here would ever call their child that, though.”

“Non-canon?”

“I think so.”

“You mean we ‘ave ta kill a kid?”

Cassie leaned against a wall, considering. “I… dunno. Maybe. Why?”

“I don’t think I can, Cass. Mary Sues an’ bit characters, fine, but I don’t think I can kill a five-year-old who ‘asn’t done anythin’ wrong except exist.”

Aragorn and Arwen rose and started toward the door with Legolas following close behind. They walked down a long corridor, which Legolas knew well. He had walked down this long corridor when he had painted the walls of the nursery with a mural.

The agents followed, still discussing the problem quietly.

“…well, what if she was a ‘Sue?”

“Cass, the point I’m makin’ is that she isn’t. Now ‘ave ya got any ideas as ta what we do wi’ ‘er?”

“Um… no?”

Nat sighed. “Perfect. ‘Ang on, what about the nursery?” This earned her a blank look. “You know, the Bleedin’ Hearts place? I saw it on my way back ta the RC.”

“No, I don’t know, but I think I get what you’re after. All right, we’ll pull her out.”

They stopped in front of an open door. Five-year-old Gâlae sat at a small table with her twelve-year-old sister Ranâ, thirteen-year-old brother Eldarion, and an elf- maiden Legolas recalled seeing before, but he could not remember her name.

“Oh, goody, more of ‘em. Do we need ta get all three?” Nat looked slightly worried by this prospect.

“Nope, Eldarion’s a canon. So it’s just the girls. I think you’re right, though.” Cassie sounded quite serious.

“About what?”

“Killing kids.”

“Good.” They began paying attention to the scene, and Cassie began writing charges, though not with her usual frenzied scribble. Evidently the discussion had been rather a sensitive one for her.

‘Prince Legolas!’ cried Gâlae as soon as he had entered. She flung herself at him and he scooped her up in his arms. When he put her down, Arwen said, ‘Legolas, you remember Elenî, don’t you? She takes care of the children for us.’
‘How do you do,’ Elenî said, curtseying a little.
‘Very well, thank you.’ Always a gentleman, Legolas kissed the back of her hand. He knew it was rude to stare, but he couldn’t help it. Elenî was beautiful. Her long golden hair flowed in the breeze and her bright Elven eyes were filled with happiness. Legolas didn’t know why he had never noticed this before. ‘Perhaps I never paid attention,’ he thought.


Nat pulled out her Character Analysis Device and aimed it at Aragorn. It beeped quietly.

[Aragorn/Elessar/Estel/Strider/Thorongil/ohfuggit you know who I mean. Human male. Canon. OOC 2%.]

She showed it to Cassie, who shrugged. “I’m not surprised,” the smaller girl said. “This writer obviously knows something about the canon. I just wish she hadn’t dumped a load of OCs into it.” Nat nodded sympathetically and checked Arwen.

[Arwen Undómiel. Half-Elven female. Canon. OOC 2%.]

“Again, not surprising.” The CAD was then aimed at Legolas.

[Legolas Thranduilion. Elf male. Canon. OOC 23% and rising.]

“Aaaaaand there he goes. What is it with all these girls trying to get into his pants?”

“Jealous, are we?” Nat teased, trying to cheer her friend up a bit.

“Puh. Not likely.” Cassie rose to the bait at once. “I’m not a drooling fangirl, you know.”

‘You may have my chair, Master Legolas,’ offered Elenî. ‘I believe Eldarion and Ranâ have had enough of this game.’ The two older children smiled gratefully, and bidding Legolas goodbye, left the room.

The two children passed the Agents, who tried to look like they were just waiting for Aragorn and Arwen. Fortunately, neither child took any notice of them, and just wandered aimlessly once out of the ‘Sue’s direct influence.

‘Thank you, Lady Elenî,’ Legolas said. She turned to go when Gâlae called her back.
‘Please stay, Elenî,’ the little girl pleaded.
Elenî smiled. ‘All right, but only for a little while. Prince Legolas is probably tired from his long journey. He might like to rest before supper.’


“…bwuh?” Cassie shook her head in despair. “That just made no sense at all. She’s meant to be looking after them, and she’s perfectly happy to wander off and leave the five-year-old instead of the older ones.”

“Just charge, Cass.” They sidestepped as Aragorn and Arwen quietly slipped from the room and passed them. “So ‘ow are we killin’ ‘er?” Nat added, nodding towards Elenî. “She’s not a really bad Canon-breaker, just an annoyin’ one.”

“Fine. Make it quick and shoot her.”

“What, now?”

“No, not now, you lanky muppet. When we charge her.”

“Okay then. Let’s watch the puke-making scene, shall we?”

Legolas was entranced by Elenî’s beautiful voice and soon forgot his embarrassment. Her voice was gentle, yet firm and full of love for the child. He watched as she let Gâlae braid her beautiful hair and place ribbons at the ends. Then, she knelt as Gâlae placed the small crown on her head.
‘Someday you will be a princess just like me,’ proclaimed the littlest elf.


“Right, even I know for a fact Aragorn and Arwen’s kids weren’t Elves,” Nat declared. “What’s wrong wi’ this writer? She can obviously write, and she knows some o’ the canon, so why can’t she get things like that right?”

“Probably her beta reader buggered things up, or had less of a clue than she did,” Cassie replied, a little venom returning to her voice.

AN: Ada- Father

The girls yelped as the Author’s note almost deafened them, and again as they were thrown through a simultaneous chapter change and location/time shift.

Chapter 2: In the Garden Chapter 2: In the Garden

“And she needed to repeat that because?” Nat complained, helping her partner up and pulling her out of sight of the characters, who were sitting around a table, again in a random and undescribed room.

‘Is there something wrong, Legolas?’ asked Arwen. ‘You’ve been quiet for some time now and hardly touched your dessert. Do you not like it?’
Startled by her voice, Legolas glanced quickly at the Queen. ‘Oh, it’s nothing Arwen. I’m fine. And the custard is delicious.’ He gave a small smile to reassure her.


Both girls started giggling uncontrollably at Legolas’ last sentence. “Custard?” Nat wheezed, holding her sides. “Of all the things they could be eatin’…” Cassie had both hands over her mouth to try to muffle her laughter.

When they manage to get themselves under control - though not without the occasional snicker - they checked back through the Words for anything they had missed. Fortunately, they had only missed Arwen telling Aragorn that she thought Legolas had a crush on the ‘Sue, and their mutual agreement to encourage it.

‘Shall we take a walk in the garden, darling?’ Aragorn asked Arwen casually. ‘Perhaps we shall see Elenî.’
‘She likes the gardens?’ Legolas asked. He was trying to be nonchalant and failing miserably.
Aragorn nodded. ‘Yes, she walks in them every night after dinner. Why do you ask?’
‘Mere curiosity.’ Stuttering, Legolas excused himself and rushed from the room.
Chuckling, Aragorn asked, ‘Did I ever chase after you when our love was new, dear?’
‘Yes Estel, you followed me for a week after you met me before you had to leave.’ Arwen smiled at the memory. ‘Come now, it is time to see Gâlae and celebrate her birthday. Leave Legolas to himself. You can ask him what happened tomorrow.’


“So what were you doing earlier? Wasn’t it her birthday then?” Cassie hissed, annoyed.

“Never mind them, come on. We need ta follow your precious Leggy.”

“He’s not my precious Leggy!” Nat fled out into the gardens, pursued by an infuriated Cassie wielding a backpack. Both agents skidded to a halt as they almost ran into the two Elves, who were heading towards a flowering bush.

It had the most beautiful pink flowers on it that she had ever seen.
‘Out of all the plants and flowers in all the gardens, this bush is my favorite,’ Legolas told her.
‘It’s so beautiful,’ she said softly.
‘As are you,’ replied Legolas, flushing slightly. ‘I enjoyed spending time with you yesterday. You are so good with the children. You are very patient with them, especially Gâlae. And you are so beautiful and so gentle and loving and kind. How do you do it?’


Nat yawned. “Easy, Legolas. She’s a Mary Sue. Ya should know; ya see ‘em all the time.”

“Will you shut up? She’s right there, she can hear us.”

‘Elenî?’ Legolas inquired, sitting next to her. ‘Are you alright?’

“Yep, she’s feelin’ all speshul ‘cause she’s charmed ya inta fallin’ in love wi’ ‘er.”

“You’re not in an MST, you know.”

“I need some form of entertainment that doesn’t involve windin’ ya up.” Cassie caught the teasing look in her partner’s eyes and swung her bag warningly.

“One more joke about me being a Legoluster…”

“Fine. Spoilsport.”

During this debate, they had managed to miss out the whole conversation about how oh-so-humble Elenî was and why Legolas shouldn’t be bothered with her.

Elenî stood up abruptly and walked away.
Legolas followed and caught her by the arm. ‘Elenî, you are the only princess I want. I know we haven’t known each other very long, but I want to spend more time with you, not some princess who doesn’t care about what I say. Please Elenî, don’t run away from me.’
He was holding her hand now, waiting for her to speak. She turned slowly to face him. Looking in his eyes, she found only compassion and concern; there was none of disgust that she had expected.


“…none of disgust? What?” Nat saw the danger signs - the stiff posture, clenched fists and incredibly tense expression of rage - and yanked her partner further back into the gardens. Once out of earshot of the couple, the skinny agent offered Cassie a bottle of Bleepka and a chocolate bar. Luckily for them both, the enraged young woman was able to keep her voice down to a furious whisper.

That doesn’t make any fucking sense!” She immediately grabbed the Bleepka and downed about half the bottle, following it up with the chocolate, which disappeared in about two bites. After a few tense moments, she relaxed slightly, only to start ranting as she read the Words again.

“She’s not a bloody princess, and Legolas has never met any sodding princesses!”

“Not real ones, anyway,” Nat offered as Cassie flexed her fingers ominously.

“What do you mean, real ones?”

“Well, the kids are technically princesses, but they don’t count as real ones.”

“Whatever. Have we missed the snogging scene?”

“Eh…” Nat stood up and looked in the direction they’d come from. “Think so. He’s just huggin’ ‘er now.”

He was glad she had not rejected him or run away. He knew it was too soon to tell, but maybe he would marry her one-day.

Cassie made a retching sound. “Please. Stop it now before I actually puke.”

“An’ they were bein’ watched.”

“They were?” Nat just pointed up to a Random Balcony, where Aragorn and Arwen were standing.

Unbeknownst to them, Aragorn and Arwen had been watching the exchange from their balcony. They were happy the two elves had found each other and thought back to their own first meeting. They smiled at each other and returned to their bedchamber, leaving Legolas and Elenî alone.

An abrupt time shift, made worse by the lack of paragraph separation, threw both girls straight into a wall. They tried to restrain themselves from complaining too loudly, as they were in Aragorn’s “private chamber” where he and Legolas were talking.

‘You never were a good liar, my friend,’ Aragorn sighed. Legolas stayed silent. He had no intention of telling his friend or anyone else about the night’s adventure. Although Aragorn knew what had transpired, he wasn’t going to let the blonde elf off the hook that easily.

“Legolas is a male Elf,” Cassie gritted out. “Therefore he is not blonde.”

“Save it for the ‘Sue. Actually…” Nat read through the remainder of the Words. “We could go an’ get ‘er now. All that ‘appens here is that these two natter on about flowers, an’ then the story stops. Ya could even take some photos.”

“I’m not really in the mood for photos right now. Let’s go.” Cassie was in no mood for hanging around either, it seemed.

***

Elenî was surprisingly easy to find. She was still in the gardens, as the author had not thought to even send her indoors overnight. The two Protectors strode towards her, checking for the presence of other characters. Fortunately, there was nobody around except for them and the ‘Sue. As Nat reached for her sword, Cassie muttered, “This one’s mine. Just keep her restrained, will you?” Nat shrugged. She wasn’t particularly in the mood for an argument.

The ‘Sue heard footsteps and turned to see two fairly angry women bearing down on her. Before she could react, the taller one had leapt for her, caught her arms in a painful grip with one arm and was covering her mouth with the other hand. Elenî struggled, but she was no match for Nat, and her eyes widened in panic as Cassie drew a sword and levelled it at her throat.

“Any attempts to escape or draw attention, and I’ll kill you,” the smaller woman informed the prisoner coolly as she pulled a notebook from a pocket and tried to open it to the right page one-handed. After a few moments of fumbling, she managed it, and began to read the almost illegible scrawling.

“Elenî, known also as Mary-Sue, it is my duty as an Agent of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum to inform you that you have been charged with numerous crimes against this continuum. These charges are as follows: having noisy and arrogant author’s notes, changing social conventions and structures of both Gondorian and Elvish societies by being an Elf servant in a human kingdom, buggering up Gondor’s geography by removing Minas Tirith and sticking the royal family in a random palace, separating Legolas and Gimli after the War of the Ring without explanation, creating gratuitous uncanonical younger siblings and offspring of canon characters, to whit, Gâlae and Ranâ, and upsetting PPC Agents by creating said uncanonical children and making us think we’d have to kill them.”

She took a breath and forced a smile, which looked particularly unpleasant considering the ugly look in her eyes. “You are also charged with giving original characters mangled Elvish names, being blonde when blonde Elves are rare in Middle-earth, having an extremely beautiful voice, causing Legolas, Aragorn and Arwen to be out of character, causing Legolas to behave like a lovestruck fool over you, causing Aragorn and Arwen to spy on Legolas, making Aragorn uncharacteristically nosy about Legolas’ love life, causing canon characters to eat uncanonical food, causing canon characters to use modern slang, being so sappy you nearly made us puke, changing timelines without cause, making Legolas ‘blonde’ when he is in fact ‘blond’, annoying PPC Agents, and being a Mary Sue. For these crimes, you are sentenced to death. Do you have any last words?”

Nat removed her hand from the ‘Sue’s mouth and the blonde Elf instantly started wailing. “Please don’t hurt me! Legolas loves me! We need each oth-!” She was cut off by Nat’s hand re-covering her mouth. Cassie looked calmly at her for a few moments before shrugging and stepping back quite a few paces. Once a reasonable distance away, the agent took out her bow, strung it and nocked an arrow. Raising it to a firing position, she drew back the arrow on the string and sighted.

Her aim was better than she expected. Elenî slumped, an arrow in her throat, and Nat dropped her quickly. “Not a bad shot,” the long-limbed girl said with a grin as her partner rejoined her. “Now where are we puttin’ ‘er?”

“Get rid of her, you mean? Just dump her somewhere she won’t be found.”

“Like where?”

“The sea? Honestly, do I have to come up with everything?”

“Okay, keep your ‘air on.” Cassie was clearly worrying over something, as she normally never got snappy. She was either irritatingly perky or somewhere on the road to spontaneous-combustion level rage. Deciding not to push the issue, Nat just went ahead and opened a portal to a point about midway between the Grey Havens and Valinor. She heaved the dead Sue through and heard a satisfying splash just before the portal closed.

Cassie said suddenly, “How are we going to get the kids out without scaring them to death?”

“That’s a good point,” Nat replied, biting her lip thoughtfully. “’Ow about if we just explain the situation to ‘em before we take ‘em back?”

“Oh yeah, that’d work,” was the heavily sarcastic reply. “I can just imagine it. ‘Hey, girls, we’ve killed your nanny and you don’t belong here, so you need to come with us.’” Her face fell. “I think we might have to neuralyse them.”

“Not if we can avoid it. Hey, ‘ang on… you’re good with kids, an’ you’re an ex-drama student. Ya could probably come up wi’ somethin’ on the spot.”

“I don’t know… but I can give it a try. In fact, I have an idea. You go neuralyse the canons, ‘cause that needs doing anyway, and I’ll get the kids and meet you back at the RC.” Nat gave her a smile.

“Okay, then. See ya there.” They headed back to the palace and split up.

After an unspecified time of wandering around in End-of-Chapter Limbo, Cassie found the children in the nursery they had been in when they first appeared. Eldarion wasn’t there, probably because the Agent wasn’t looking for him. The two children were sitting quietly, having no direct influence from the author. Cassie’s expression changed immediately from hard and slightly impassive to a much gentler, warmer smile.

“Hey,” she said softly, kneeling down next to the five-year-old Gâlae. Both girls turned to look at her.

“Who are you?” Ranâ asked. “I don’t think I know you.”

“My name is Cassie. I’m a friend,” Cassie replied seriously. “I need you to come with me. It’s very important.”

“Why?” Gâlae asked. Ranâ’s expression showed that she was wondering the same thing.

“Well, I’ll tell you, but it’s quite important that once I do you come with me.” The girls nodded solemnly. “Good. Now, there are some people who believe that you should not be here.”

“We shouldn’t be with ada and naneth?” Ranâ was paying close attention. Cassie shook her head.

“They think you should not be alive. They’ve sent people here to get rid of you.” The twelve-year-old automatically reached for her little sister and pulled her close, both looking quite frightened.

“Ada could stop them.” The lack of conviction in her voice suggested that the older sister didn’t really believe that.

“I’m afraid your ada wouldn’t even know about them. That’s why I’m here - because I know about them. I’ll take you somewhere safe.”

“And they won’t find us?”

“No, they won’t find you.”

“Well…” Gâlae shifted and leaned in closer to her older sister. She would go along with whatever Ranâ decided, Cassie guessed. Both girls would be sufficiently frightened to go along with her, with just a bit more persuasion.

“You’ll have to be quick. I don’t know when they’ll get here.”

“We’ll come,” Ranâ decided. She stood up, holding Gâlae’s hand firmly. “Can we say goodbye to everyone?”

“I think it would be safer if you didn’t. A friend of mine is going to explain things to them. They’ll know you’re safe, and that’s most important, isn’t it?” Cassie stood up and moved closer to the girls, giving them a gentle hug. “I know it’ll be difficult, but I’m just worried about getting you somewhere safe. Do you understand?” Ranâ nodded, trying to hold back tears. “Come on. The place we’re going to looks a bit strange, but nothing will hurt you, all right?” Both girls nodded.

She opened a portal back to the RC. “Is that magic?” Gâlae asked with awe.

“Not quite. Come on.” The Agent moved towards the blue glowing doorway, but her charges hung back. “It’s not dangerous. Shall we all go through it at the same time, then?” Without waiting for a reply, Cassie picked up the five-year-old Gâlae and put an arm around Ranâ’s shoulders, steering her towards the portal.
They stepped through, and the girls instinctively clutched their guardian tighter. “It’s okay,” she reassured them. “You’re safe here.” They looked up at her and puzzlement spread across their faces.

“You look different,” Gâlae ventured.

“Oh. Yes. I was in disguise.” The little girl nodded, accepting this excuse for her rescuer suddenly changing clothes and hair colour. Cassie glanced around, and noted that the minis were nowhere in sight. Probably hiding in a cupboard or something, she thought gratefully. She didn’t want to try explaining mini-Balrogs to the girls at the moment.

Nat arrived a few seconds later, trying to stuff her neuralyser into a pocket that was already full of junk. “Well, that was fairly easy,” she remarked cheerfully on spotting her partner. “I take it ya didn’t ‘ave any problems wi’ these two?”

“No, I explained things to them before I brought them here,” Cassie replied, before turning to the girls. “This is the friend I told you about. Her name is Nat.” Ranâ curtsied.

“I am pleased to meet you, Nat.”

“Nice to meet ya too… Ranâ? So this must be Gâlae, then.” The little girl nodded. Nat smiled encouragingly at them both before turning back at her partner. “They’re going ta need new names, ya know.”

“Of course.”

“Why would we need new names?” Cassie put down her pack, got the two children to sit down and explained about the need for secrecy, emphasising that it was for their own safety. After a brief discussion, both girls had chosen new names from suggestions that Cassie made. Gâlae was now Galeya, and Ranâ had decided that she liked the name Rina.

[Bing!] Nat, having been busy putting her things away properly, went to see what the message said. “Er, Cass?” she said after a few moments.

“Yep?”

“The Marquis de Sod wants ta see us all.”

“When?”

“Right now.”

“Wonderful. Come on, you two.”

As the little group traipsed through the corridors, the newly renamed Rina began to ask more questions. Galeya was too busy staring at the strange place to talk much. Cassie had taken it on herself to answer the inquisitive girl’s questions.

“What is this place?”

“We - the people who live here, that is - call it HQ or Headquarters.”

“What do you do here?”

“It’s quite difficult to explain, but some of us do what I did - we help people who are in danger.”

“Who is this person we’re going to meet?”

“He’s not really a person. This place isn’t like your world. We have a lot of strange things working here, and some of them are Flowers.”

“Flowers? How can flowers work?”

“They’re special Flowers. They’re quite a bit bigger than normal ones, and they can think. They built this place to begin with.”

“Are these Flowers… magic?”

“To be honest, sweetie, I’m not sure. They’re strange, but they won’t hurt you.”

“We’re ‘ere,” Nat pointed out abruptly. She banged on the door.

Come in.

They complied, Cassie giving each girl a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder as they came face to bloom with the Director of Personnel.

Ah, Agent Freidar. Agent Young. Might I ask why you brought these two girls back to Headquarters?

“Didn’t anyone tell you, sir?” Cassie rushed in before Nat could say anything. “They hadn’t done anything wrong, really; they just needed somewhere else to stay.”

I see. No, I don’t think anyone did tell me. Cassie knew that the Daisy had picked up her thoughts as well, and she had been thinking hard about the story she had concocted for her charges. Very well. I suppose they can go down to the childcare unit. Fill in these forms, and hand them in to the worker in charge when you get down there. The Flower pushed a thick stack of forms across the desk.

“Yes, sir.” Nat picked up the forms and headed out of the door. Cassie moved to follow, her hands still resting on the girls’ shoulders.

Oh, and Agent Young?

“Yes?”

Do try to keep up the number of people you rescue. We’re on a permanent recruitment drive, you know.

“I know. Goodbye.”

Goodbye, Agent.

A long while later, having contracted writers’ cramp from all the forms-filling, Cassie and Nat had left Galeya and Rina at the Bleeding Hearts Nursery. The on-duty staff had been quite gentle with their new charges, especially after Cassie had explained the circumstances of the rescue (out of earshot of the children, of course), and had assured the Agents about their capabilities. After all, if they were able to provide adequate care for a hormonal teenage dinosaur, they could certainly handle two half-Elven girls. Nat had grinned at that, and Cassie had cracked a smile - they both remembered meeting Marsha during the Invasion.

Now the two Agents were back on their way to their RC. They had passed the door to Medical for the second time, engrossed in their discussion of whether it made a difference to call someone “Elven” or “Elvish”, when they heard the unmistakable sound of a stampede. They quickly discerned that it was not a Sue stampede, as there was no squeeing or shrieking involved, just a lot of very angry people shouting. Someone rounded a corner and crashed into them both, sending all three to the floor. The stampede was rapidly getting closer, so they all picked themselves up and ran, the stranger grabbing some bits of paper they had dropped.

Blind panic is a very good distraction, so it came as no surprise when they reached RC #10 within moments. All three piled in and flopped down to regain their breaths as the stampeders charged past the door. Nat was the first to look closely at the stranger. She looked closer for a moment, and then grinned.

“Tyler! Long time no see!” Cassie looked round. It was indeed Tyler, whom they had recruited on their last mission. “What have you been up to?”

The pale man leaned back against the sofa. “I have been working almost without cease since I arrived here.”

“Really?” Cassie seemed to have lost any traces of hostility towards him. “Which Department are you in?”

“I am now the nominal head of the Makes-Things Fund For Abused Technology.”

“The what?”

He sat up straighter and launched into an explanation. “Well, upon my arrival…”
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