Tangled Webs

The Reorganisation

Chapter Eleven - Revelation

The Orchid tried to keep up with the Nightshade as the latter paced through the Factory. We're lucky he fell for your bluff, eh? she said, trying to lighten the mood.

He didn't, the Nightshade said. He backed off on the off-chance of it being true, but he'll be back. They'll be back.

The Orchid's leaves trembled. But... how are we going to defend ourselves? The staff are useless, the Products would need training... those shield walls won't last forever, you know.

I know, the Nightshade acknowledged. Fortunately, they won't have to. Long before the DIS can get in here, we'll be gone.

... gone? The Orchid tried to make sense of what her friend was saying. You don't mean... dead, do you?

The Nightshade stopped suddenly, turning all her blossoms towards her friend. Do you really think I'd do that to you? No, I don't mean dead. I mean that we will be out of this place, and hopefully three universes away, before anyone can get in.

The Orchid froze. You... abandon the Factory?

That would be my meaning, yes.

But... no, we can't. The Director of the Factory tilted her flower upwards. What of the Defectives? We couldn't take them with us – there's too many, for one thing.

Then they'll have to stay, the Nightshade replied coolly. Noting the distress in her friend's mind, she added, They're essential to the running of the Factory – they won't be harmed unless they get in the way. They'll be fine, believe me.

I do hope so, the Orchid said. I know they're 'Sues and everything, but I do care for them. They're all the company I have, most of the time.

The Nightshade touched leaves with her friend comfortingly. Don't worry. They will be fine. But we, she continued, will not. Not unless we are away – far away – when the DIS arrive.

All right, then, the Orchid said, subdued. As you advise, so shall it be. I only hope you know what you're doing.

So do I, the Nightshade murmured. So do I.

~

Nyx Nightingale crouched in a steely grey corridor, muttering to herself. "I'll show him," she said, "I'll prove it to him. He won't be able to deny it, not after this. And then Dassie will be safe, and I'll go back to my old job, and everything will be all right again." She'd done some investigating back at DIS Central – one of the few advantages to being part of the Internal Security department – and found an interesting coincidence. At the exact time Dassie had collapsed – give or take a few seconds – the cameras in the Medical Department had showed a startlingly red-haired woman waking up. She had gotten into an argument with two DAVD Agents, drawn a lightsaber, and eventually been sent home through a portal, at apparently the same moment Dassie had gotten up so suddenly. A little more digging – not that much was needed, red-headed Jedi weren't exactly common – had revealed that she was Mara Jade, brought into HQ by Agents India and – a touch of irony for Nyx – Penny.

The conclusion was fairly simple, at least for Nyx. The Mysterious Somebody – C'baoth – was using the Force to control Dassie. When a Jedi Knight was brought into HQ, he had pulled his senses inward, hiding himself from her. That had severed his connection to Dassie, and Nyx had a feeling it could do so again.

Dassie himself had returned from his sudden flight, seemingly as cheerful as ever, but Nyx knew there was something wrong. Once she knew he was out on patrol again – accompanied by one of the nameless nobodies of the DIS, someone she could safely assume would flee when he collapsed – she set her plan into motion, portalling into the Star Wars canon. Fortunately for her, Star Destroyers were set out in much the same grey as HQ, which meant her target wouldn't notice much of a difference.

And there he was now. A green glow appeared on the wall ahead of her, and then Luke Skywalker charged around the corner, lightsaber in hand, fleeing from or running towards something. Nyx didn't know and didn't care – all that mattered was her timing. As the Jedi ran past her, she flicked the portal open. Luke vanished into the blue doorway so fast that she doubted he even knew it had happened, and as she hopped through after him she saw him, still running, but now in HQ. With a grim smile of satisfaction, she flicked open another portal and stepped across space to the lobby outside the cafeteria.

As predicted, Dassie's partner – whoever she was – had fled, leaving the Agent curled up on the floor. A small crowd had gathered, watching the incapacitated DISer with expressions somewhere between scorn and fear, but they scattered as Nyx charged through. She grabbed Dassie by the arm, opened yet another portal, and dragged him through to the SO's office.

The Sunflower was behind his desk, and froze as Nyx appeared. Agent Nightingale. What-?

Nyx shoved Dassie forward, and he slumped down over the desk, only trying weakly to catch himself with one hand. "You are going to listen," she snarled at the SO, "and you are going to believe."

~

Twp'atwt sauntered into DIS Central with perhaps a little less swagger in his step than usual. His face showed no worry, not even to those skilled in reading the expressions of rodents, but he passed quickly through the main room and into the Control Centre without so much as a sneer for anyone present. Once through the metal door, he looked around for his superiors.

"Ah, Twp," said Nendil's familiar voice as the elf glanced up from a console. "We weren't expecting you back. Did something go wrong?"

The pine marten prepared to launch into an explanation of what had occurred at the Factory – painting himself in a good light, of course – when there was an ear-splitting [BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP] and half the consoles in the room started flashing. Nendil swung around to face the nearest.

"Priority alert from Upstairs... spiders' blood! We've got a Canon loose in HQ."

Twp froze, staring at the dark-haired elf. Anything getting into PPC HQ was cause for an immediate and all-hands alert among Internal Security. "Who is it?" he asked, stepping over to another vacant console and pulling up the Canon Encyclopaedia. The DIS had strategies for dealing with most of the main characters in the major Canons, and general versions by character type ('Star Trek – Red Shirt. Allow free run of the building, and problem will solve itself'). If he could find the appropriate page, the problem could be dealt with quickly.

"The MS says it's Luke Skywalker," Nendil called. "I'm pulling up the visuals now... looks like he's got... some sort of glowing sword? Green."

"Star Wars," Twp muttered, skimming down the page to the correct section. Fortunately, Skywalker was at the very top, the names being organised by risk, not spelling. "This one's nasty. Jedi Knight/Master, could very easily kill us all with his lightsaber or the Force... any hints as to where he is in his career?"

The pine marten could practically feel Nendil's scathing look. "I've never even heard of him," the elf said, "how would I know when he's from?"

"Hardly my fault," Twp muttered to himself, bypassing the time-specific counteractions to find the general one. "Could be tricky," he said a moment later. "Seems we need some sort of exotic creature... ysalamiri?"

"Ysalamir, plural ysalamiri," piped up a small voice as a fairy entered the room. "Furry lizard-like creatures native to an obscure planet in the Star Wars universe, they have the ability to produce a bubble in which the Force doesn't exist."

Nendil raised an eyebrow. "Flickerbright, the flying encyclopaedia," he commented. The fairy snorted.

"Just because I know things you don't, Blacksoul." Twp rolled his eyes, and then cleared his throat to cut Nendil off.

"Do we have any of these isal... lizard things, or do we need to go and fetch some? Only we're under Priority Alert conditions here, and time is running."

"Why would we have any?" Flickerbright asked rhetorically. "I'll set up a portal so we can go fetch some. They die quickly once you pull them off their trees, but I doubt that matters too much."

"Why would it?" Nendil asked bemusedly. "Come on, Twp, we've got a Jedi to catch. Preferably before the Fungus finds out."

~

The Sunflower Official leant over the desk, head supported on steepled leaves. So. This is your 'proof', is it, Agent Nightingale?

Nyx blinked. "Er, yes?"

And why, pray tell, should I believe this DIS Agent more than I did you?

For the first time since her entrance, Nyx looked uncertain. "He's practically unconscious in front of you," she pointed out. "Surely that's proof enough."

Proof that the Guards are trained in acting, perhaps, the SO allowed. You still have not explained to me why he is in this state.

"Yes I did!" Nyx exclaimed. "I said, I found out that a Jedi was in HQ when he collapsed before, so I dragged another one in and it had the same effect!"

A breach of the rules that would have seen you released from my department, if not your own, the SO said mildly. Either way, I fail to see how Jedi are in any way relevant.

"That's because you're not trying," Nyx said bluntly. "If you'd think about it, you'd realise that the Myster-- that C'baoth can't allow anyone to know about him. When there's a Jedi around, he stops using his powers so he can hide from them."

Even when doing so could lead to his downfall? The SO shook his head. I find it highly unlikely, even if your friend here is managing to fool even himself into believing it. I-

"Hey..." Dassie said, waving one hand weakly, "can I... say something?"

The SO sighed. If you must.

The DIS Agent nodded. "It's just... I remember when... he was torturing me... he boasted about... how he got into power. Said... if he'd fooled you, and... driven so many insane... I'd never be able to... resist him."

The Sunflower waved a leaf dismissively. A good act, Agent Dassie, but-

"He said," Dassie went on in a strained voice, "that he'd destroy you... in good time, and that... he'd use your favourite... Agent, just as he... did with the Poppy. He was... quite pleased with... himself."

The SO froze, all petals angled towards Dassie. How did you...? We suppressed the records. No one could know who that Agent was... and no one knew the Poppy's thoughts about the Department. No one except me... The Flower shook himself. Agent Dassie, I am very sorry. I seem to have misjudged you. I-

Nyx was still staring in shock at Dassie. "When were you tortured?" she asked, her voice taut.

"Just after... last time," Dassie said. "Thought he was going to... kill me."

Nyx shook her head in disbelief. "He... oh, Dassie..."

Agents? the SO cut in, waving a leaf in their direction. There is much that needs to be done with this information, so if you-

"Shut up," said Dassie, straightening suddenly and glaring at the Sunflower with eyes that suddenly seemed a lot darker. "This goes no further."

What do you-? the SO began, but Nyx had figured it out. Wide-eyed, she began to back away from the desk. "Oh, no, Dassie," she mumbled, "no, no..."

"But yes," the DIS Agent said, grinning widely. Then he drew his dagger – Nyx had just enough time to wish she'd taken the time to disarm him – and lunged.

Nyx's arm came up almost instinctively, and as she struggled for the knife she was thankful for the DMS combat training. Assassins were never intended to actually engage in hand-to-hand fighting with their targets, but whoever had planned the training knew that missions didn't always go to plan. Unfortunately, the DIS mindset was centred around combat, so Dassie's training had been far more extensive. He was faster, stronger, and far more skilled with a knife. After he got in his first hit – it was only luck on Nyx's part that he only grazed her forearm, rather than hitting the artery – he pressed the attack. Over his shoulder, Nyx could see the SO moving, and although she didn't know what he planned to do, she knew it wouldn't be in time.

Then there came a flash of blue light, bright enough to make Nyx flinch in spite of the danger. Dassie half turned to find the cause, and thus managed to avoid being hit full on the back of his head with the thrown rock that followed. Instead, it glanced off his temple, and he collapsed into a heap, knife falling from his hand.

Nyx stared down at him, and then up at the two Assassins who'd just appeared in the room. "... Jared?" she squeaked.

Her former partner blinked, but it was the other Agent behind him who spoke. "You're just going to leave it at that?" he asked, sounding both caustic and confused. "Shouldn't you be finishing him off?"

"No!" Nyx exclaimed, jumping over Dassie to put herself between him and the two newcomers. "You can't!"

"Quiet, Dafydd," Jared said, not looking at his partner, "and you too, Nyx. Sir? What do you want us to do?"

The SO shook his head slowly. I... this is troubling. Agent Nightin... Nyx?

Nyx shook her head, stunned. "He... he's not like this, I swear. He's..."

Being controlled. Yes, I know. Moving around behind his desk again, the Sunflower leaned forward. All right. I believe you. Now, what are we going to do about it?

"I don't... I don't know," Nyx replied, trying her hardest not to burst into tears. She'd done what she came for, but what was going to happen now? Through half-closed eyes, she saw Jared take a step towards her and then stop, uncertain.

Right, then, the SO said authoritatively. I've taken a look at that book you waved in my bloom, Nyx, and it seems there is a type of creature which blocks the force. They're known as ysalamiri... have you heard of them?

Nyx shook her head. "No, sir... but I could probably find out. You're thinking someone should go and get some?"

Yes. Specifically, you. The Flower tapped a button with a leaf and a sheet of paper covered in text scrolled out onto the desk. You will find them on a planet called Myrkr, in the Star Wars universe. You would be best leaving via your former partner's Response Centre; he has not moved since you were transferred. When you return, go directly to the Medical Department and ask for Nurse Sims.

Nyx frowned. "Constance Sims, right? She told me once she does part-time work in Medical and FicPsych. I don't know that she'll appreciate seeing me, though... she and Palaver were friends..." The former Assassin shivered slightly.

Be that as it may, the SO said, she is loyal, and will not reveal this turn of events to the DIS. Now, go... and good luck.

Nyx nodded, took a deep breath, and stepped away from Dassie, moving towards the door. She had to pass Jared and his new partner as she did so, and they gave her looks that were at once pitying and suspicious.

Agent Calinson, the Sunflower said, I will need you and Agent Illian to go to some of the other Departments of the PPC and take a message to their Heads. If you will wait but a moment, I will-

The door closed behind Nyx, and she was alone again. Before continuing to RC #8718, she looked around carefully, found no one nearby, and tore off her DIS sash in a single violent movement. Letting it fall to the grey floor, she smiled in grim satisfaction before setting off at a run.

~

The halls of the Factory for Mary-Sue Generation were quiet. Too quiet, in Nendil's opinion. After Twp'atwt had told him what the Flowers had done – and had been appropriately berated for not informing either him or the Bracket Fungus immediately - Nendil had expected to encounter an army filling the building. His other expectation, which seemed more likely by the moment, was that Twp had been lying for some reason, and that everything would be perfectly normal when they arrived. The DIS couldn't ignore an alert of that magnitude on the basis of a hunch, however, and consequentially all available Guards had been called out to 'investigate'.

The command group, led by Nendil, had left the rest of their force to investigate the main floor of the Factory, and had themselves headed straight for the Admin section. They were almost there when Flickerbright, flying back and forth above their heads, alighted on a nearby pod and pressed her face against the surface. "Hey, Nen," she said after a moment, "you should see this."

Nendil stopped, turning to the fairy with a raised eyebrow. "Contrary to what you might think," he said caustically, "looking at unclothed young women is not my idea of a pastime, not even if they are 'perfect'."

"Yeah, I know," Flickerbright replied, "but this one's more interesting than most."

"I'm sure she is, Flicks," the elf replied, "but-"

"See, she's dissolving," the fairy interrupted. "Five more minutes and there won't be anything left."

Nendil stared at her for a moment, and then snapped back into action. "Check the next one," he said, waving an anxious hand at the fairy. Lifting his radio, he spoke tersely to the other Agents in the Factory. "It seems that the 'Sues may be being rendered useless. Check the pods near you for signs of dissolution, and report back as soon as you may."

Lowering the device, he looked at Twp'atwt. "It seems we are too late," he said to the Pine Marten. "Those Plants have anticipated our coming and fled, leaving us with what is rapidly becoming an entirely empty building."

"It's not my fault," Twp said, but Nendil cut him off with a sharp hand motion.

"It is your fault, but I do not wish to discuss it at this time. We have a job to do, Agent Twp'atwt, and we are going to complete it. Now," he went on, raising his voice slightly, "everyone get moving. Once we reach the Admin section, we-"

"Nen-dil," said Ontic lazily, cutting him off. "Found something that you might like to see."

Nendil frowned. "What is it, Ontic? We have to be getting on."

Ontic pointed behind her, to a narrow gap. "There's a tree down there shouting. You said we were looking for plants, soooo..."

Nendil blinked. "A tree? We weren't after a tree, Ontic, we're looking for a pair of Flowers."

"Really? Okay, then." The woman grinned, then looked around. "Very shiny, these pods," she said in the tone of one making a deep and meaningful observation."

"Sir," Twp'atwt said quietly. Nendil suppressed the urge to scream and throttle the oversized rodent, and instead nodded to indicate that he should continue. "I did say about the Tree Fern being locked away in here, sir..."

Silently, Nendil Morifλa berated himself for not making the link himself. To the rest of the group, his stern countenance stayed the same for a second or two, and then he spoke. "All right, team, we've got a Plant imprisoned off to our right. Half of us will be going over to see what we can do. The other half..." He frowned, scanning his group. Of the dozen or so DISers assembled there, only Ontic, Twp'atwt and Flickerbright were experienced enough that he'd give them command over even a small team. There were problems with all three, though, so... "The other half," he repeated, making a decision, "will be going with Twp and Flicks to the Admin section. Ontic, you're with me. Flicks, report in regularly."

"Will do, Nen," the fairy said, dropping down to eye level. "Come on, ferret-boy, we've got a factory to capture."


Chapter Twelve - Judgement

In the end there were six of them. Six Plants, Department Heads all, deciding the fate of the PPC. They met, at the Sunflower Official's request, in a disused cafeteria near the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology. They didn't know why they'd been called, but they came, as secretly as they could.

Thank you for coming, the SO said once the other five were gathered. I realise you have no obligation to me-

Especially not since you're the one who's put us in fear of our lives by letting the Mysterious Somebody take over, the Marquis de Sod, head of Personnel, put in caustically. The SO stiffened.

Now, now, said the soft yet stern voice of the Sub Rosa, Intelligence department. You know as well as I that he had no choice.

Still, the Marquis grumbled, his actions are the reason we've got the DIS around here. If I'd been in charge-

But you weren't, the SO snapped, and as I recall, you were actually in favour of the MS at the time. Now, he went on as the Daisy recoiled, I have, despite your doubts concerning my worth in the matter, been given evidence that the MS is far more dangerous than we ever imagined.

Than you ever imagined, perhaps, the Marquis said, irrepressible. I may only be a lowly Daisy, but even I could see-

He's a Sith Lord, the SO said bluntly, cutting off the Marquis again. A very powerful one. He's almost killed one of... one of the Agents of the PPC in an effort to control his mind – a successful effort, I might add.

A question, if I may, said the Wisteria from Operations. What, exactly, is a 'Sith Lord'?

A verrrrrrry dangerous thing, rumbled Hornbeam from over their heads, and the other Flowers looked up at him. They come from the Starrrr Wars universe, and are masters of evil. They can control both minds and bodies, and the worrrrrld around them. If what the Sunflowerrrr says is true...

It is, the SO confirmed. You can see the Agent in question later if you wish. He's being held in Medical, waiting for another Agent to bring in something that can block the MS's hold on him.

Ysalamiri, the giant Ironwood said knowledgably. We trrrrrried to duplicate the effect in our labooooratories, but the demand has not been high enough.

Would that you had, and we'd been saved this trouble, the SO said fervently. Still, the news is not all bad. Had it not been for this Agent's sacrifice, we might never have known what we were serving under.

And would that be so bad? asked the Lichen, or at least the part of him that had been able to move there from the Department of Implausible Crossovers. I mean, none of us are in danger...

Have you forgotten the Evermind so quickly? the Sub Rosa asked. She was replaced with one of the Mysterious Somebody's henchplants – why couldn't the same happen to us?

Oh, he couldn't do that to us, the Marquis scoffed. We're indispensable, not like-

Not like what? the Wisteria cut in. Not like the Flower who controlled the budgets for all of HQ? Not like the Deputy for Infrastructure? She was more important than any of us. Surely even you've noticed the drop in funds coming your way since the Bindweed took over.

And the corresponding increase in the DIS budget, the Sub Rosa put in. I had some of my Spies look into it, and that's definitely where the money's going. That and something called 'FGenMS01'. I was going to check up on that when this meeting was called, but-

It's a Mary-Sue factory, the SO said bluntly, the piece falling into place. Even as he professes to protect the plot continuum, the MS is funding a project to wreck it even more.

Then we have to do something! the Lichen – the only other Action department head present, the SO noted wryly – exclaimed. We can't let him go on doing things like that!

Indeed we cannot, the Sub Rosa said, and unless I miss my guess, that's why we've been called here. Am I wrong?

You're not wrong, the SO said, bowing his head slightly. I want to drive out the Mysterious Somebody and his followers, and I need your help. You five are the only ones I know I can trust.

An honour I could have done without, the Marquis said dryly. How did you plan to go about it?

That's why you're here, the Sunflower admitted. I can't think of any way we could overpower him.

With luck, we won't need to, the Sub Rosa said thoughtfully.

The Wisteria tilted his flowers slightly. You think he'll just leave if we ask him to?

Not at all, the Rose said. But think about it. He can't control the Organisation if people know who he is.

Except for the whole mind control thing, the Marquis de Sod said caustically. The Sub Rosa shook her head.

It won't help him. He can't control the entire PPC without completely wiping out our effectiveness. And if that were his goal, we'd all be zombies long ago.

There's a flaw in your plan, the Lichen said. He can't control the entire PPC, but there's only six of us.

Not... necessarily, said Hornbeam. The others waited for him to continue. Although the Department of Internal Security controls the communication systems within Headquarters ever since the Evermind fiasco, my department still has the ability to tap into it. If we issue an all-Agents alert...

Then we should just be able to order him out, the Sub Rosa finished. That was what I was thinking, sure enough.

He won't be going alone, the Wisteria said. Several department heads owe their positions to him, and know that they'll lose them once he leaves. So we'll end up with gaps at the very top of the Organisation.

I see no problem with that, the SO said. It's long been time for an overhaul of the system. The Deputies, for instance, have lost almost all power in the last few years, so those positions can be abolished.

Still, we'll need to promote some Flowers to head up the vacated departments, the Lichen said. Do we have enough available?

That depends on which departments we lose, the Marquis said. We can count on Finance going, for example, and we've got someone with the necessary ability to take that position. I don't know which others...

We'll find out in due time, the SO said. For now, I think we need to be in Hornbeam's department. Come along.

~

The forest was filled with noise as the creatures of Myrkr awoke for the night's hunting. The cackle/purr of a vornskr reached Nyx Nightingale as she settled the third and final ysalamir onto its nutrient frame. Checking that it was firmly in place, claws solidly embedded into the frame, she tried to work out how she was going to descend. That was when the vornskr dropped onto the branch behind her.

It didn't see her, of course – it was a Canon animal. But it did see the ysalamiri, and it was ready to leap for them. If it did, Nyx would have to go back empty-handed, but that was a secondary concern next to the sharp claws and whip tail of the animal now crouching to jump. She had only seconds to act, and so act she did.

It took most of a second to realign the Remote Activator to open its portal horizontally rather than vertically, and all of another to assign a location for the other end – she didn't want to have to drag the frames all the way from Jared's RC to the Medical Department, after all. Then the blue doorway shimmered into place beneath the branch, and as the vornskr launched itself at her, Nyx shoved the three frames off and dropped down herself.

She landed in a tangle of metal and fur on a mercifully unused bed in the Medical Department, and set about trying to extract herself. Fortunately for her, a black-haired woman in a nurse's uniform hurried over and lent a hand. "You do know that portalling in here is reserved for emergencies, right?" she said as she lifted the last ysalamir frame and leant it against the wall.

"This is one," Nyx promised, sitting up and brushing herself down. Then she looked up at the nurse in surprise. "Nurse Sims, right?"

"That's right," Constance Sims said, eyes narrowing. "And you're Nyx Nightingale, aren't you?"

"Um." Nyx nodded slightly. "The SO said..."

"He's this way," Constance said, turning and walking away. Nyx sighed, hefted one of the frames onto her shoulders, and followed.

Dassie lay unconscious on the white bed, an IV drip attached to his arm. Nyx didn't think he'd been injured that badly, so the obvious explanation for the drip was that it was a sedative, keeping him out so the MS couldn't work on him. Nonetheless, Constance Sims didn't remove it even after Nyx had brought all three nutrient frames over. Better safe than sorry, Nyx thought gloomily.

Constance was turning to leave, presumably back to another job, when Nyx held out a hand and said, "Nurse Sims, I... I'm sorry."

"The bed's fine, there's no reason to apologise," Constance said lightly.

"Not that. About... about Palaver." Nyx shook her head slightly. "I didn't want to-"

"I've heard all about it from the Sunflower," Constance said, cutting her off sharply. "I know it wasn't your choice."

Nyx bit her lip. "I... okay, what is that?" The noise which had been building in the background for the past several minutes had finally reached the point where it couldn't be ignored.

Constance looked curious. "Did you somehow miss the announcement?"

"I've spent the last few hours in an alien forest," Nyx pointed out. "What's happening?"

"The head of the PPC's being kicked out," Constance said, "and a few Plants with him. It's quite a big thing."

Nyx suddenly felt cold. "He's... why?"

Constance shrugged. "The SO says he's some sort of evil magic-user. I'm not sure."

"O... kay." Nyx shuddered. She'd been the one to alert the SO to the danger the PPC was in, but she hadn't expected him to act so fast. It didn't exactly bode well for anyone else who crossed him. But Dassie is safe now, she thought, trying to console herself. Without the Mysterious Somebody or the DIS, Dassie is safe. And so am I.

Constance was frowning. "They're very loud out there, though," she said, to no one in particular. "I don't suppose... no. They couldn't be."

"Couldn't be what?" Nyx asked.

"Couldn't be leading them out through the door near here," Constance said. "It's too much of a coincidence... the Legal Department will never get off my back if it is."

"Wait, you lost me," Nyx said, looking, well, lost. "First of all, why wouldn't they just portal them out?"

"You'd trust these people with a portal device, would you?"

"Fair enough. But." Nyx nodded in the direction of the corridor. "There are doors? Doors that lead out of HQ?"

Constance stared at her. "Okay, you are weird. What, did you think the only ways in and out were by portal? No," she added, waving a hand, "don't answer that. Just... come with me."

~

The exiles moved slowly, surrounded by equal numbers of Guards and Assassins. At the head of the line, the Mysterious Somebody himself, a tall, handsome-looking man in flowing white robes. If you didn't know who he was, what he'd done, you couldn't believe he was evil. But Nyx knew.

Behind him, just over a dozen Plants walked slowly, led by the Bindweed from Finance. Most of them were relatively minor Department heads – two only led Divisions – but one, the Gladiolus, Head of the Department of Bad Slash, was almost as famous as the Sunflower Official. Nyx stared, horrified at how deep the rot had sunk.

She also stared, with a different kind of horror, when the line had passed by. The Bracket Fungus had not been in it. In fact, to judge by the number of Guards in attendance, the DIS was still as active as ever. That meant that she was going to run into them, and maybe have to go back... but at least, with the MS gone, Dassie was safe.

~

C'baoth looked around with an expression of mild disdain at the valley he and the loyal plants had been expelled into. "What, exactly, is this meant to be?" he asked.

"It's a world called 'Earth'," said a voice from behind a nearby cluster of rocks. "A lot of the doors out of HQ go here. No one knows why."

The same reason so many Agents are from here, no doubt, the Bindweed said. Step out, Agent Nendil.

Nendil Morifλa of the DIS stepped into view, accompanied by Ontic Laison and the fairy Flickerbright. "Nice to see you, too," the elf said, smiling cruelly.

If you truly think so, why didn't you stop them kicking us out? the Bindweed asked. I'm sure you have the-

"Don't be so quick to judge," the Mysterious Somebody – former Mysterious Somebody – said calmly. "I sense that Morifλa has not just come to gloat."

"If you don't stay out of my mind," Nendil snapped, "that 'not just' will involve your blood on my sword." C'baoth smiled slightly, and nodded. Nendil glowered a few moments more, then said, grudgingly, "The Orchid at the Factory has run off, accompanied by your secretary. As your alternative is spending a lifetime in hiding here on Earth, we thought you lot might like to take over there."

C'baoth steepled his fingers. "Interesting. Would I be right in thinking that your Department would also gain from this move?"

Nendil exchanged a look with Flickerbright, who sighed. "Yeah," she said, "we'd gain. You know as well as we do that there's going to be a face-off between us and the SO before too long. If that Factory's running, his Assassins will be too busy fighting 'Sues to move against us."

"As I thought," the Sith Lord said. "We will do this thing – provided you can transport us there – but in return, there is one final task I have for your department."

Nendil raised an eyebrow. "Tell me, and I'll consult my superior on the matter."

C'baoth nodded. "There are two Agents who have been... a thorn in my side for some time now. One was an... associate of mine, for a while, and the other, his companion. Together, they were the primary reason for my exile. I want you to... eliminate them."

Vengeance, sir? said a familiar voice, and the Bracket Fungus moved out from behind the rock. How very unbecoming.

"More than that," C'baoth said. "I have seen our fates, and they are the cause of our destruction. Take heed, for with my downfall will come your own, and at least one will be a direct effect of the actions of this pair.

Nendil raised an eyebrow sceptically. "This from a man who couldn't even foresee his own exile?"

"We all have our blind spots," C'baoth acknowledged, "but I tell you, these people will destroy you if they are not dealt with. You, Fungus," he added, nodding in the Plant's direction, "have the most to fear."

We will... consider your request, the Bracket Fungus said carefully. Who are these people?

"Agent Dassie Hyrax learnt my name," the fallen Jedi intoned, "and Agent Nyx Nightingale brought my enemies down on me. They are the heart of this matter, and they must be killed."

There was silence in the valley, and then...

"Dassie? And Nyx?"

"They are more dangerous than you think, Flickerbright," C'baoth warned.

"It'd be hard to be less," Flicks muttered. Beside her, Ontic smiled creepily.

"Dassie's all torn up inside," the woman said, "but Nyxie, she's like rock. Rocks can still be broken, though. Don't worry," she added, turning to the rock that the DISers had come out from behind, "we won't hurt you."

Nendil stared at the dark-haired woman for a moment, then shook himself. "Sir?"

We'll consider it, the Bracket Fungus repeated, sounding slightly distracted. For now, though, you have a Factory to be restarting, and we have a HQ to keep from exploding.

"Not that we have anything against explosions," Ontic informed the rock cheerfully. "We just prefer them to happen when we want them to. Everything's so much tidier that way."

We don't just have one disclaimer - we have three. Visit our Disclaimers page for details.