"... so you see, there really is nothing to object to in what we do. We're just trying to keep the peace, so-"
"Oh, shut up."
Dassie blinked. "What?"
"I said shut up," Nyx snarled. "I am sick and tired of listening to you witter on about how wonderful the DIS is. Last time we were out here you couldn't stop talking about how terrible everyone is! What changed, Dassie? What happened to you?"
Dassie stared at her. "I..." Then his eyes widened as if in fear, his mouth dropped open, and he crumpled to the floor.
Some distance away, in Medical, Agent India was trying to calm down an angry ex-patient. "Please, Master Jade, if you'll just let us help..."
Mara Jade's piercing green eyes focussed on his, and she lifted her blue lightsaber into guard position. "You will not lay a hand on me," she said, in tones that might equally be used to declare the doom of entire star systems.
Nyx was on her knees beside her partner in an instant (causing some mild bruising later – Generic Surface is not known for its softness). "Dassie?" she said, reaching out hesitantly to touch his shoulder. "What...?"
The other Agent's blue eyes flickered open slowly, as if with great effort. "I... remember," he murmured.
Nyx frowned. "Remember what?"
Dassie didn't seem to notice her speak. "He took my mind... made me love him. Blocked memories... I wanted to serve him."
If anything, Nyx looked even more confused. "Who did, Dassie? And, you know, how?"
"Master Jade," Penny said, trying to salvage the situation, "we just healed you. Do you remember what happened on..." She stopped. The 'fic had been so badly written, the planet they had been on wasn't even named. Nevertheless, Mara lowered her blade a little.
"I remember," she admitted cautiously. "What is it you want with me?"
"In charge," Dassie mumbled, his voice so quiet that Nyx practically had to press her ear to his lips to hear. "He runs..."
"Runs what?" Nyx pushed. "A Plant? Did a Plant do this to you?"
The DIS Agent shook his head where it lay. "Not plant... person. Mysterious... Somebody."
Nyx sat up in shock. "The Mysterious Somebody? I only heard... how do you know about him?"
Dassie gave a dry – and very weak – chuckle. "DIS... common knowledge," he explained. "Didn't know... who he really was." He paused for breath, and then added three words. "I found out."
"Only that you be safe," Penny assured the disoriented Jedi. "We just want to take you home, and then we won't trouble you further."
"It'll be as though we were never there," India added over his shoulder, fiddling with the neuralyser. If all went well, Mara wouldn't even remember their intervention.
"You found out?" Nyx repeated blankly. "You know who the Mysterious Somebody is?"
"Yes," Dassie confirmed. "He... dangerous. Must tell... SO."
Nyx folded her arms. "You're in no state to be telling anyone anything. Rest first, you can see the Sunflower later."
"No... you," Dassie clarified. "Don't know why... gone, but will take back. Not free."
Nyx shook her head adamantly. "No. You're safe now. He won't get you again." I won't let him.
Her partner gave another weak chuckle. "Can't stop him, Nyx... SO needs to know."
The glowing blue blade extinguished. "All right," Mara Jade said, "I believe you. Take me home."
Penny nodded and moved over to the work surface next to India. "She's not in character, is she?" she murmured, picking up the Remote Activator.
India shook his head, and then lifted a hand to touch his throat. "Good," he said fervently. Penny laughed, flicked open the portal, and then groaned as she heard the snap-hiss of Mara re-igniting her saber.
Nyx leaned down again to hear Dassie's words. "Who is he, then? If I need to tell the SO..."
A smile floated across Dassie's lips, and then vanished. "He's a Canon," the Agent said, still looking at Nyx. "He... C'baoth."
Nyx blinked. "Cupboard?"
Dassie scowled. "C'baoth," he repeated. "He-" He fell silent suddenly, and then stood up gracefully.
Penny breathed a sigh of relief as Mara Jade finally stepped through the portal. "Who'd have thought it'd be so difficult?" she muttered.
India gave an embarrassed smile. "I know," he said as the portal winked shut. "I..." His voice trailed off, and he groaned. Penny looked at him curiously, and he lifted his right hand to reveal the neuralyser. Penny's eyes widened, and she lunged for the Remote Activator.
"We can't let her get away!"
Dassie gazed evenly at Nyx as she scrambled to her feet. "Dassie?" she asked. "You're okay?" Then she looked into his eyes and found them as hard as stone.
"Wasn't that an amusing joke?" Dassie asked pleasantly. "Ha, ha, ha."
"Um." Nyx stared at him in confusion. "But you..."
"Ha, ha, ha," he repeated more forcefully. Then, to Nyx's utter amazement, he turned and began to walk off, away from their patrol circuit.
"Dassie!" she called out, suddenly very, very frightened. "Where are you going?"
"You can finish the shift yourself," her partner said without slowing or turning his head. Before she could object further, he rounded a corner and was gone.
As soon as he was out of Nyx's sight, Dassie broke into a run. He had a sudden, urgent need to see his Master, a need which he couldn't explain and didn't feel the need to. He was sorry to have to abandon Nyx – she seemed distressed, something his vague memories of the last few minutes couldn't really account for – but she was a competent girl, and surely knew her way around by now. For a moment he wondered about the danger a lone DIS Agent might be in – he was aware that not all PPCers loved the DIS as they should – but decided she'd be fine.
A few startled Untanglers jumped out of the way as he dashed through the Department of Implausible Crossovers, and he allowed himself a quick laugh. Doubtless they thought he was off to arrest a wrongdoer or some such, when in fact his mission was far more important. His Master needed him, or he needed his Master. The difference was negligible.
Although he had only passed that way twice before – on his way to and back from his current destination – Dassie found that he knew the route to Room One, his Master's office, almost perfectly. He thought for a moment that he should probably be curious about that fact, but he was too busy being glad that he wouldn't have to stop running.
Due to his single-minded devotion to his Master, and consequent lack of actual attention to his path, Dassie reached the correct corridor in record time. He slowed down, despite his inclinations to the contrary, as he approached the Nightshade's desk. The Flower herself looked up as he walked forward. Ah, she said, with inexplicable distaste, Agent Dassie. Do you have a reason for being here? One not requiring you to sneak into His office?
Dassie smiled easily. "Don't worry, Nightshade," he said, "I won't be doing that again. I need to see him. Or he needs to see me."
The Nightshade tilted her flower to one side. Well, which is it? she queried. Dassie blinked.
"Um?" He shook his head. "I don't... does it matter?"
Yes, it does. I can't just let you in without- excuse me. Although Dassie hadn't heard any alarm or anything, the Nightshade looked down at the screen set into her desk. Yes, sir, it is. No, sir, I- yes, sir. All right, sir. Her leaves went limp, and she looked back up at Dassie. Very well, you may enter. She gestured at the door, which had opened without Dassie noticing. The DIS Agent nodded, smiled, and stepped through...
... into a room as dark as the depths of C'baoth's soul, he realised as the Mysterious Somebody's mind disentangled itself from his – more gently this time, more planned than when it had been ripped away while he was with Nyx – and he was himself once more. He had only a moment to wonder at this sudden release before there was a burst of brilliant blue-white light and he was thrown backwards, body writhing in agony as the lightning wrapped itself around his limbs. From the darkness a voice spoke, words intoned as deeply as if from a tomb.
"Dassie Hyrax," the Mysterious Somebody said, "I am most displeased with your performance."
Blue sighed. He didn't know why Palaver kept wanting to talk to him, but the Agent did so nonetheless. Blue had tried to ignore him, but to have someone talking to him again – instead of just talking at him, like the DIS did – was having an effect on him. It was as if Palaver had become an anchor, dragging Blue slowly back towards sanity. He wasn't sane yet, not by a long way, but the thing was, he knew that. He could tell that he was still massively traumatised by his experience, but at last, it seemed like there was a possibility of recovery. He didn't like it one bit.
Blue raised his head and looked out across the hallway again. "Yes," he muttered.
"At last!" Palaver was leaning against the bars of his cell. "I've been thinking about what you said – about how there's someone higher up than the Bracket Fungus, telling him what to do – and I think you might be right. See, I don't think the DIS can actually be evil, not like you say. How likely is it that so many people can go bad? I think they're actually acting under duress, or even, hey, mind control. If we can just get through to them, let them know that we can help-"
"That's very thoughtful of you," said a very dry voice which Blue recognised instantly. As the former Agent scuttled to the back of his cell, Nendil came into view and went on. "Unfortunately, you're wrong. We are, in fact, a bunch of complete monsters, rotten to the core. My partner here will attest to that." Blue, cowering, saw a six-foot rodent of some sort swagger into view. "Twp'atwt takes great delight in demonstrating his not-inconsiderable skill at torture."
"That's right," Twp'atwt said. "It's fun to see how many bits you can chop off before they die."
"Indeed," Nendil said. "Now, Palaver, we've been investigating, and it seems that you are completely useless. You know nothing, you're not close to anyone important, and even the shock to your friends is diminished by the fact that your partner has gotten herself killed. In short, we have no need to keep you here."
Palaver looked up at the elf with what Blue vaguely recognised as hope. "You mean... you're letting me go?"
"Oh, no," Nendil said calmly. "Where would we be if we let people go? No, we were thinking of using you to... practise our skills, as it were. I understand Agent Ontic is looking forward to meeting you." Palaver's eyes widened, and he took an uncertain step away from the bars. Nendil turned away, looking instead into the dim depths of Blue's cell. His grey eyes seemed to bore into the bright-haired prisoner's skull, illuminating his innermost thoughts. "Twp," the elf said, "bring him." Then he turned and strode away, leaving the pine marten to escort the quivering Palaver.
Nyx leaned against a wall, face locked in a frown. She knew she'd probably get in trouble if her superiors found out she wasn't patrolling as she ought, but this was more important. Dassie had told her vital information about the Mysterious Somebody, and she had to tell the SO about it. Unfortunately, she hadn't a clue what she'd been told.
"Okay, Nightingale, think," she muttered aloud. "He said Canon, right?" If the MS was an ex-Canon, that meant he'd show up in the Canon – be it book, film, comic or song. But she didn't know which Canon. It could be something huge – Star Trek, say – or a single book hardly anyone had heard of. There was no way she could ask everyone in HQ, so...
As soon as she realised the solution to her problem, Nyx felt she could hit herself. "The Canon Library," she murmured. Fairly close to DIS Central, the Canon Library contained copies of every Canon document in existence. It was mostly used for acquiring material for exorcisms, but when it came to looking something up, the Librarian took a special interest.
At a brisk walking speed, Nyx reached the Library in only a few minutes. As she knocked on the door, she wondered what the Librarian would make of her request. Would it even have an answer? It might be that she'd misheard the name – 'C'baoth' wasn't exactly easy on the memory – or that Dassie had mispronounced it, or, well, countless things.
The door slid open with a soft hiss, and Nyx took a step into the darkened room beyond. "Ah, hello?" she said.
"I don't think we have that one," said the Librarian in a dry tone. There was a rustle from somewhere off to Nyx's left, as if the unknown entity running the Library had turned to face her. Nyx had a sudden uneasy thought – There are far too many mysteries in this organisation.
"I'm, uh, looking for someone," she said, dragging her mind back to the point. The Librarian gave a disapproving sigh.
"There's no one here but me, I'm afraid. Have you tried the cafeteria?"
Nyx shook her head. "No. A Canon. I've got a name – C'baoth – but I don't know where he's from."
"C'baoth?" the Librarian repeated, sounding interested for once. "Sounds familiar. Do you have any more information?"
Nyx wracked her brain. "Mind control?" she offered. "He can do--"
A trio of books flew out of the darkness to land at her feet. "That ought to be it," the Librarian said. "Check especially the middle of The Last Command for the mind-control aspect. Please bring them back when you're done."
Nyx nodded hastily, picked up the books and backed out of the Canon Library to avoid being hit – or worse, locked in – by the closing door. Shaking her head, she looked down at the trilogy in her hands. "Huh," she muttered, "guess I wasn't too far off. Now I'd better hope I can skim these and get to the SO with them before the DIS figure out I've gone."
Get out of my way!
The Nightshade brushed the DIS guards out of her path, knowing as she did that it was a very bad idea, and rushed through into the Factory. She raced through the corridors, navigating almost on instinct, and burst into the Orchid's office, startling the two Plants inside. Stopping in a tangle roots and tendrils, she rapidly altered her plans as the Tree Fern turned towards her.
Ah, Nightshade, the Head of Acquisitions for Bioengineering Inc. said, I was wondering if you'd be joining us. We were just discussing the Orchid's failure to--
Yes, very nice, the Nightshade snapped, but I need to talk to her. Get out.
The Tree Fern's fronds quivered in shock at her tone. Well, I don't think-
Get out, the Nightshade repeated, moving towards him, or I will inform my superior of the interesting discrepancy between your reported and actual income.
The Tree Fern stiffened. You... Then he seemed to wilt, falling silent, and left, brushing past the Nightshade as he did. As soon as the door slid shut, the Nightshade lunged forward to the desk.
Orchid! she exclaimed, petals fluttering. I'm sorry, but I had to get out! The Mysterious Somebody, he's gone mad, completely mad. He's got this DIS Agent in his office – the one I told you about before? – and I'm sorry, but that Agent is not in his right mind any more. I think the Boss has got some sort of mind control thing going on... and that's not all. The DISer came Upstairs just today, and he went into the office, and... I heard screaming, Orchid.
Calm down, calm down, the Orchid said, coming around to the front of the desk. You're splashing terribly, and this isn't something we want the whole of the Factory hearing about. The Nightshade folded her leaves in contrition, although her friend was right – she was in such a state that she'd broadcast her rant to anyone who happened to be in range.
All right, she said once she had control over her thoughts, but this is serious. I don't know what he was doing in there, but... I'm scared, Orchid. If he finds out what we've been discussing, I don't know what he'll do.
How very like me you sound, the Orchid said dryly. Look, I realise you're worried, but there's no indication that he'll ever find out what we're doing.
I just... to be honest with you, I'm thinking about resigning. I don't think I can handle things up there any more.
The Orchid shook her head. You can't do that. If he is as dangerous as you say, do you really think he'd let you go? No, you're going to have to stay there and- hmm.
The Nightshade's leaves rustled as her friend suddenly peered intently at the door. Orchid? What is it?
I'm not sure, the Orchid admitted. I thought I felt... go over and wave the door open, will you? It's probably nothing, but I'd like to check.
The Nightshade nodded, and drifted over to the door. She waved a leaf in front of the sensor there, and the metal door hissed open to reveal the frond-crowned trunk of the Tree Fern standing there. He turned and fled, but the Orchid rushed up to the Nightshade's side, her white flower somehow growing even paler.
He was listening! We have to catch him before he can leave the Factory!
The Nightshade nodded quickly and set off in pursuit, while the Orchid dived back to her desk, slamming a leaf onto the emergency lockdown button and sealing the entire Factory off with thick metal shutters. Secure in the knowledge that the eavesdropper would be trapped, she set off after her friend to track him down.
Chapter Ten - Confrontations
The Tree Fern dashed through the Factory in a panic. He had, naturally enough, headed first for the main entrance, only to find it sealed off. He was certain, however, that there would be another exit, and that certainty was the reason for his desperate flight over the main floor. The number of Defectives he had to push aside, often with a crack indicating a broken bone – 'Sues were unbelievably fragile when deprived of their powers – was certain to bring down the Factory's output and his profits, but that was the least of his worries. He was certain someone was following him, always just out of sight, mind too focussed for leakage he could sense.
He dashed around another corner and was forced to come to a sudden halt, roots scrabbling at the concrete floor. The Nightshade was moving up the avenue towards him, branches out to fill the space between the pods. Behind her, he saw the Orchid darting out of sight to one side, evidently trying to get behind him. He knew he couldn't let that happen, and so turned as fast as a Plant with his bulk can and fled once more.
Behind him, the Tree Fern could sense the Nightshade speeding up – now that he knew where she was, she was easy to detect. The Orchid, however, had gotten away, and by the time he had the focus to scan for either of them, her location was so uncertain that he couldn't catch even the edge of her mind. He ran blindly, heading deeper into the Factory, and vowed that he would get his research team to develop a mental-output infrared scanner as soon as he got back to his office.
Due to his momentum, the Tree Fern could not turn abruptly, and was thus forced to either run in straight lines or slow down. Neither was particularly appealing – any emergency exit would probably be down a small side-passage – but he combined the two, and managed to get quite some distance before running headlong into a transparent wall.
Trembling, he shuffled back from the barrier to find the Orchid standing behind him, blocking his escape. He sagged slightly as the Nightshade came up alongside her friend. Hello, he said weakly.
The two Flowers didn't seem to notice that he had spoken. Is everything ready? the Orchid asked.
Of course it is, the Nightshade replied. You're just lucky he did come this way.
Luck nothing, the Orchid retorted. It's my Factory, I know how it's laid out. And besides, she admitted, he would have gotten here eventually no matter what.
The Tree Fern, all dizziness shaken off, decided that enough was enough. He hadn't wanted to harm the pair, but it was rapidly becoming clear that he was going to have to push past or over them to escape. Just as he was about to start his run, however, the wall behind him rose with an audible hiss as another one dropped between him and the Flowers.
We're sorry about this, the Orchid said, flower turned towards him, but we can't have you getting out. There's a shallow bed of earth at the far end of that alley, so you should be all right for the time being. There will be, however, an SEP field around the area, so no one will find you. You can count on that.
Dassie smiled up at his Master even as he slumped to the floor. He wasn't entirely sure why the Mysterious Somebody had to cause him such pain, but he knew it to be for his own good. His beloved Master would never do anything to harm him without good--
His mind his own once more, Dassie glared up at his tormentor. "You... despicable," he managed to croak out.
The Mysterious Somebody laughed. "Why, Dassie. Barely a moment ago you would have done anything to have me hurt you again."
"Oh, come now, that's such a harsh term. I much prefer-"
"Yes, your pretty little friend," the Mysterious Somebody said, his voice suddenly harsh. "You think she's going to tell the Sunflower Official about me, that he'll come up here with an army and rescue you? Well, let me make this clear, that isn't going to happen."
"Can't... stop it," Dassie said, with a dry chuckle. The head of the PPC surprised him with a deep laugh.
"Dassie, Dassie, don't you understand? He gave me this job. HQ was such a mess when I arrived that the SO just handed me his position. To be sure, it took a bit of work on my part, but when the time came, he invited me to take over. He knew then, and he knows now, that the PPC has no hope of surviving without me."
Dassie scowled at him. "Liar," he managed to get out, but the Mysterious Somebody simply shook his head sadly.
"Ah, Dassie," he murmured, "I'm doing this for your own good, you know. You have to learn obedience."
Dassie tried to retort, but the thought faded even as it came. Why would he mind what his Master did to him? His entire being was dedicated to serving the Mysterious Somebody. As he shifted to reduce the pain of his burns, he felt, rather than saw, the other's smile.
"Now, Dassie," C'baoth said, "there is a large tank in the corner, a bacta tank. It will heal you, and then you will go back to the DIS. Do you understand me?"
"Yes... Master," Dassie said, standing up slowly. It wasn't, of course, that he didn't want to move fast, but simply a case of what was physically possible in his state. He started to walk towards the tank, then stopped as his Master spoke again.
"While you're there, Dassie," the Mysterious Somebody said, "I'm going to need to take a blood sample. It's for a little project of mine – something small, almost insignificant really." Dassie nodded, accepting the need, and his Master's smile filled his mind with the warmth of a dozen suns.
The two Flowers were moving away from where they had the Tree Fern trapped when the Orchid held up a leaf. Wait. Something's wrong. The pair came to a halt, and after a few moments a pair of bright eyes appeared between two nearby pods. The creature they belonged to – a large brown rodent of some sort, as different in size from his species' average as the Flowers were from theirs – crawled out and rose to his feet, revealing his heavy boots, the sword at his belt, and the silver sash across his chest bearing the silhouette of the black cat.
"Well, well," he said, a smile spreading across his face. "Looks like I've been spotted."
Who are you? the Orchid demanded, moving away slightly. The rodent grinned, teeth gleaming in the harsh light of the Factory.
"Agent Twp'atwt. Department of Internal Security, if you hadn't figured it out. And before you ask, I was just doing my job. There was an alarm, I was inside, I came to find out what was wrong. You'll never guess what I saw, though. Who'd believe it, the administrator of the Factory and the Mysterious Somebody's secretary imprisoning the Head of Acquisitions for Bioengineering Inc.?" He grinned again. "I have a feeling the Bracket Fungus would."
The Orchid tried to lunge at him, but the Nightshade, her mind's eye on the sword, put out a frond to stop her. What is it you want, Twp'atwt? she asked wearily.
Twp put on a shocked expression. "Me, want something? I'm hurt, Nightshade, that you should think me so mercenary." The Orchid lifted her head, about to speak, but he went on. "However, since you're offering, I'm going to need some information. Dassie failed me, so Nightshade, you're going to tell me who, exactly, the Mysterious Somebody is."
The Nightshade was startled by the mention of Dassie – if Twp'atwt was responsible for sending him up to the Mysterious Somebody's office, did he know what had happened? Could he be that callous? – but hid her reaction and simply nodded. Of course. What is it you-
"And then," Twp went on pleasantly, "the Orchid is going to use the technology in this Factory to make me an exact physical replica of him who will obey my every command."
The Nightshade froze. You want... no, you can't want to use it to take over the PPC. No one except myself – and Dassie, she thought but did not say - ever sees him. It would be a waste of-
"What I want it for is my own business," Twp snapped angrily. "All that matters to you is whether you're going to do as I ask, or whether I should do my duty."
The Nightshade leaned towards him, her mind whirling. She couldn't do this – there was no way this Guard was planning anything benign – but the only plan she had for dealing with the situation was... desperate. She ran rapidly through her other options – lie? Ask for time to think? – but concluded in less than a second that 'desperate' was her only choice. The situation was unsalvageable.
Twp'atwt blinked, and stared. "What do you mean, no?"
I mean no. We won't do it.
"But... you..." The rodent shook his head. "You think I'm bluffing, right? I'm not, I-"
No, I don't think you're bluffing. Tell whoever you like, but leave the premises. Now. As of this moment, this Factory is no longer associated with the PPC. All of her flowers turned towards him. And nor am I. We will not be requiring the service of yourself or your fellow Agents any longer, Twp'atwt. Get out.
If Twp's eyes had bulged out any further, they would probably have left their sockets entirely. "You... you can't do that."
I just did.
"You'll never get away with it! We could march over you in five minutes flat!"
You forget, PPCer, that this is a building full of Mary-Sues. You can deal with them one at a time, but en masse? I doubt it.
Twp'atwt leaned backwards, almost falling over in shock. Quickly, however, he recovered his poise. "A nonexistent threat," he sneered. "You and I both know that they don't have any powers here, and without them they're just fragile little girls."
That is true, the Nightshade acknowledged, while they do not have their powers. However, the shields which keep them from utilising those powers can be switched off at the command of the Administrator... my companion here. She turned to the Orchid, trying to keep her leaves still. This was a gamble – she knew as well as the other Flower that there were no shields, that 'Sues were taken elsewhere to be trained. If her friend didn't get what she was trying to do...
The Orchid pulled through. Nodding her head and shaking, she said, That... that's right. As soon as I return to my office, every woman in this facility will become a ludicrously over-powered Mary-Sue.
Twp'atwt leaned heavily against a nearby pod. "I could kill you both now," he tried, but all three knew that his heart had gone out of the idea. The Nightshade had judged him correctly – he was a coward underneath everything, and the thought of an army of 'Sues had been too much for him.
Leave this Factory, Agent Twp'atwt, the Nightshade said, taking a menacing step towards him, and take your' friends' with you.
The Sunflower Official raised his head and looked at the door. The knock had been, well, a knock, but the mind outside was definitely familiar... and agitated. Enter, Agent Nightingale, he said.
Nyx Nightingale pushed the door open so fast it hit the wall and rebounded, closing behind her as she dashed into the room. Curiously, she then looked over her shoulder as if to make sure it was sealed. Seeing that it was, she turned and started towards the SO's desk.
So, Agent Nightingale, what does the DIS want with me that brings you here in such a hurry?
Nyx shook her head. "Nothing," she said breathlessly. "That is, I don't know about anything. I suppose... no. Sir, this is important."
The SO's petals assumed an air of indifference. I'm sure it is. So important that you couldn't make an appointment.
"Yes," Nyx said forcefully, and then frowned. "Wait... you don't do appointments."
But not so important that you can stick to the subject at hand, I see. Well, what is it?
"The Mysterious Somebody," Nyx said, leaning heavily on the SO's desk. "I know who he is."
So do I, the SO said, he's the Head of the PPC. Now that you've let me know, could-
"He's more than that," Nyx interrupted, an event unusual enough in itself to make the SO straighten up and start paying attention. "He's evil... and insane."
The Sunflower did a respectable job of portraying a raised eyebrow without any facial features. Then he hides it very well. To me, he seemed merely to be concerned with his fellow Agents.
"Yes, well, he-" Nyx stopped, with the distinctive mental echo of a train of thought backtracking. "His fellow Agents? You've met him? He was an Agent?"
He certainly was, the SO confirmed. This was back when I ran the PPC and the Poppy headed this department. I don't know if you remember...
"Of course I remember," Nyx snapped. "So you actually knew him?"
Well, naturally. It was I who gave him his current job, after all.
Nyx stiffened, staring at her former boss. "You mean... you put an insane Dark Jedi clone at the top of the PPC hierarchy?"
No, the SO corrected, I gave my position to the Agent who best kept his head in the crisis we had back then, and who showed great skill in keeping the morale of those around him up. That was very important, back in the days when Agents – and Flowers – were going insane left, right and-
"But why him?" Nyx insisted. "Surely you did a background check or something – why did you put Joruus C'baoth in charge of the PPC?"
He never gave a name, the SO replied, sounding a little vague. Official records - well, they list him as Agent Triad, but I have a feeling that was more the Marquis' insistence that something get written down than an actual name he used. Since he took over, we've only ever referred to him as the Mysterious Somebody. He shrugged his leaves. It's not like we talk to him in person - that's what the Nightshade is for. But since you're 'interested'... The Sunflower tapped a frond on his desk screen. Ah, yes. Recruited from a Star Wars 'fic, proved to be an exceptional administrator... his recruiters went insane shortly afterwards, so we never found out who he was. Everyone just assumed he was an ex-'Stu.
"Oh, he was more than that," Nyx said grimly, placing the Canon Library's copy of Star Wars: Heir to the Empire on the desk. "Insane evil clone of the Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth, Guardian of the Emperor's mountain fortress, ally of Grand Admiral Thrawn, prospective ruler of the galaxy... he's one of the main enemies in this trilogy."
The Sunflower Official angled his petals towards the book. If he is so important, he asked, why does he not appear on the cover?
Nyx blinked, and looked down. "He is," she said, a hint of uncertainty edging into her voice. "He's right in the middle. With the robe and the medallion and the... the Force lightning, and..."
And the white hair and the beard, the SO concluded. That may be Joruus C'baoth, but it is certainly not the Mysterious Somebody. He tapped a leaf against the screen, and Nyx jumped as a printer set into the desk spat out a sheet of paper. Picking it up, she saw a young man in what seemed to be an official photograph – grey background and dour expression – with brown hair, kind eyes... As you can see, the SO said into the silence, he does not look anything like your image.
"But... that's impossible," Nyx protested weakly. "Da- Someone almost died giving me his name."
Perhaps they were mistaken, the SO suggested. Or perhaps you misheard. Or perhaps, he added with an edge to his tone, someone is practicing a deliberate deception.
Nyx stared at him. "Sir," she protested, "why would I lie to you? The Mysterious Somebody is dangerous. He almost killed a... friend of mine, took over his mind..."
One of your new friends in the DIS, no doubt, the SO commented, noting her hesitation. If I might venture an opinion, a PPC with less DIS Guards would be-
"He's not like the others!" Nyx snapped. "He was kind to me – kinder than you were after they kidnapped me – and he was nice and then your wonderful Mysterious Somebody took him and tore him up inside and-"
Silence, Agent Nightingale, the SO cut her off. It is clear that you are... stressed, and irrational. Perhaps overworked. I will contact the Bracket Fungus and recommend-
"No!" Nyx practically screeched. "You can't tell him I was here! He'll figure it out, and they'll kill me!"
The Sunflower folded his petals slightly towards her as if staring, and after a few moments she took a step backwards. "I'm sorry, sir. But..."
As I was saying, you seem to be highly over-wrought. I would recommend that you return to your accommodation and get some rest. However, he raised a leaf to cut off her interruption, out of respect for your wishes, I will not contact your Head of Department. I do recommend that you go now, though.
Nyx nodded sullenly, accepting the dismissal. As she picked up her book and turned to the door, though, she said, "Will you at least see if you can find out more about the story he was from? I still think he's dangerous."
If I find the time, the Head of the Department of Mary-Sues said. Good-bye, Agent Nightingale.
Ontic Laison whistled tunelessly as she wandered into the Department of Finance, tossing her knife vaguely from hand to hand. Around her, the Accountants all stopped work for some reason to stare at her, but she ignored it. She was good at ignoring things when they weren't important. Making her way over the main floor, she came to the Bindweed's office and entered without knocking.
Unlike the previous times she'd been there, the office wasn't coated in green creepers. Instead, there was a heap of dry, dead tendrils in one corner, and the Bindweed herself was merely wrapped around the desk, making no attempt to spread out again. All this Ontic noted disinterestedly and then turned her attention back to her reason for being there.
"Hello, Bindweed," she said, sheathing her knife. "I've got a request for you."
The Bindweed's main flower lifted from the desk and pointed in her direction. What might that be? the Head of Finance asked.
"Our department made a little purchase last week," Ontic said, smiling, "and we'd sort of prefer people don't find out about it. A bit of a secret, you know?"
The white flower nodded. You mean the... metal things, yes?
"That's right," Ontic confirmed cheerfully. The Bindweed hadn't named them, but that was all right – Ontic didn't remember the name anyway. She wasn't very good with names. "So can you get rid of the records?"
Of course, the Bindweed replied. I'll get one of the Accountants to-
"No, no, Bindweed," Ontic said, leaning forward, her knife somehow in her hand again. "This needs to be secret."
All... right, the Bindweed said, petals trembling. I'll do it myself... someone will need to go into the Archives and replace the original hard copies, though.
"That's okay," Ontic said, looking around for a moment before throwing herself down onto the heap of dead tendrils. "I can wait."