Ashes to Glory
Written by Yukai na Itazura
Welcome to Ashes to Glory! If you have ever been attacked, maligned, or otherwise maltreated by the organization known as the Protectors of the Plot Continuum, this story is for you. PPC members and sympathizers are welcome to read; be warned, however, you are not looked upon with favor in this fic. Please do not take personal insult—none is intended.
This story will be updated pretty regularly (I hope) until it is posted in its entirety. Feel free to review or lurk—but please, if you must flame, be sure to flame intelligently.
Again, I must stress that this work of fiction is not meant to offend or slight any “real” organization or person, and all names are used with the permission of their original owners/creators. This includes the PPC itself and any agents mentioned by either name or description.
All that said, on with the show!
No one would have recognized the fleeing woman, even if they’d been able
to get close enough to see her face.
She was Asherazel Morningstar, the half-Elven second daughter of Lord
Elrond, by far the most beautiful creature ever to grace the gentle
Everything had changed, however, with the appearance of two strangely-dressed women wielding terrifying weapons and spouting nonsensical terms such as “PPC” and “crimes against canon.” Uncomprehending but terribly frightened, Asherazel had successfully dodged their first attack, and was now running for her life, her tattered skirts clutched in one white-knuckled hand at her side, her hair blown into disarray. She stumbled over the terrain in her panic, sobbing for air. “Help me,” she gasped out, her sea-hued eyes brimming with desperate tears. No one could hear her, so far from home. No one would be coming to help her.
Not far behind, her pursuers huffed and puffed with exertion. “Blast it, I hate it when they run!” the shorter one panted. “Oh, yes, they have to be trained distance sprinters, don't they? Bloody Suvians! This one's mine, okay?”
Her partner, a tall redhead, sighed in assent. “Right, right. I did get the last one, didn't I?”
The shorter agent didn’t answer. Instead, she rummaged in her pack and hauled her crossbow out, hefting it in readiness. Ahead, the Sue seemed to be slowing down; the agents were catching up with her. “Halt, darn Sue! Halt, I say!” the blonde agent hollered, firing a warning shot past her fleeing quarry’s head.
Asherazel’s heart leaped into her throat, and she whimpered soundlessly as the fatigue at last began to take its final, fatal toll. Within moments, she had collapsed to the ground, shaking with fear and exhaustion. She stared up at the two women looming over her, her eyes glistening with tears.
“Quit ripping off Shakespeare,” the redhead was saying to her companion. She turned to Asherazel and cleared her throat. “Now, Asherazel Morningstar…”
For some reason, the shorter agent was suddenly seized by such a fit of mirth that she could hardly hold her crossbow steady. Asherazel watched the woman double over with laughter, unsure as to what could be so funny.
The taller woman glared at her partner. “…prepare to die,” she finished.
Asherazel could barely summon the breath to speak, but she managed a few words, at least. “Please…what do you want…?”
“Shut up,” the blonde snapped, having recovered from her giggles enough to accurately wield her weapon once more. She leveled the crossbow at Asherazel, who squeaked with fright and flinched, but made no move to flee.
“Wait! She gets last words!” the redhead interjected.
Her shorter companion rolled her eyes. “Fine,” she said, lowering the bow a bit.
Asherazel lifted her dazzling eyes and gazed imploringly at the two agents, her lower lip trembling. “Please…spare me…I beg you…”
To her dismay, the only reaction she received was another eye-roll from the blonde agent. “See, Nenya, there really isn’t much point in giving them last words. They just say something heart-wrenching and get you all sympathetic!”
“I can't help it,” the taller agent sighed. “I'm a sucker for puppy-dog eyes.”
The blonde shook her head, almost casually aiming her crossbow at Elrond’s most beautiful daughter. “You know, Nen, you're far too sympathetic for this job,” she muttered. “You just have to point, aim and shoot.”
“My sentiments exactly,” a sardonic voice chuckled from just behind the agents. Before anyone could even think of reacting, a bright flare of light enveloped the two women, and with a few muted screams, Asherazel’s would-be executioners fell to the ground, utterly senseless. The crossbow clattered to the grass just beyond the blonde’s limp fingers.
Asherazel stared at the two unconscious women, her eyes wide with amazement. The blissful comprehension that she wasn’t about to die settled about her like the softest of cloaks, calming her thudding heart. She sagged down, her shaking legs unable to hold her any longer. Then, slowly and most gratefully, she raised her teary gaze to meet that of her savior.
A tall, fierce-looking woman stood just behind where the two agents had been looming over their intended victim. Her thick, curling tresses blazed a sizzling crimson, framing an exquisite porcelain face inlaid with two brilliant golden eyes. She smiled down at Asherazel, revealing two rows of perfect white teeth—complete with slightly elongated, lethally sharpened canines. “Greetings, sister,” the woman said, casually stepping past the insensate agents and extending one hand down to help Asherazel rise to her feet. “I am Sentinel. Come with me, and I’ll take you somewhere safe.”
In the midst of the Star Trek universe, against a backdrop of vibrantly glittering stars and lazily twirling planets, hung the Federation starship USS Eminence. She was a Prometheus-class ship, the fastest and most deadly class yet commissioned by Starfleet, outfitted with all the latest defensive quirks and technologies. Sleek, streamlined, and capable of reaching warp 9.9, she also boasted the unique Multi-Vector Attack mode, in which the ship actually split into three separate sections, each of which possessed its own warp drive and weapons grids. Under normal circumstances, such a ship would have been an invaluable resource at the forefront of the ongoing war, spearheading the Federation offensive against the Dominion and its allies.
Normal circumstances, however, were not responsible for the Eminence’s existence. No one at Starfleet Headquarters had even heard of her; the only ship of her class to yet leave dry-dock was the prototype, the USS Prometheus herself. The Eminence did not exist—at least, not according to the rules set by Star Trek’s canon. Indeed, the grand vessel’s very creation had been the result of several large-scale canon-disruptions…disruptions which had been deftly harnessed by three enterprising entities, who had subsequently seized the ship for their own use.
Two of those entities now convened on the bridge, the veritable nerve center of the ship. Though a vessel of that size generally maintained a crew compliment of about one hundred seventy-five, the Eminence hung mostly silent and empty, the stillness broken only by the various hums and bleeps of her vast array of technology. In point of fact, the two beings on the bridge were the first living creatures ever to set foot on the starship—though, to be absolutely truthful, the term “living” was used rather loosely when applied to their ilk. Oh, they were sentient, completely self-aware and self-motivated…but their essences had quite literally been born of the collective hopes and dreams of countless millions of other beings. They did as they wished, but their wishes had been ingrained into them by the minds that had engineered their existence. In short, they were contrived creatures, driven to forever pursue that which their creators yearned for but could never attain.
Nonetheless, a contrived creature that has gained perfection is infinitely better than a dreaming, yearning creator, no matter how one defines the word “living.”
“Wondrous, isn’t it?” the elder of the two beings murmured, running one perfectly smooth hand over the clean-cut lines of the Eminence’s consoles. “Created by mere force of will, all of it. And we can control it with the same will.” Her generous, carefully sculpted lips pulled upward in a brilliant smile. “I’m glad we took this opportunity when it came! Who knows when another would have come our way?”
Her companion turned about, regarding the austere environment with a faint expression of distaste. “It may be an opportunity, but such an ugly one,” she sighed musically, combing long fingers through her shimmering golden locks. “Honestly, would it hurt this universe to allow for a spray of décor here and there? The place looks like a prison!”
“Nonetheless, it is a perfect center of operations,” the first woman maintained, descending gracefully from the upper level of the bridge to the lower. Her thick, dark mane of hair rippled luxuriously around a long, elegant face, and her vivid green eyes snapped with confidence. “This universe is quite far removed from our current canon of interest, which means that the Enemy is unlikely to search here. Also, this canon allows for a great many unexplained anomalies, so we may open portals to our focus canon whenever we wish, without the need for secrecy.” She glanced about the bridge. “As an added bonus, this ship is the most advanced of its kind, so if we do run into any Enemy agents, we now have the means to either escape or resist.”
Her golden-haired associate nodded, but her lips remained pursed in an undeniably adorable pout. Such was her greatest talent: irresistible charm and the allure of innocence. “Still, I think it’s ugly. I’m definitely going to re-decorate…maybe add some flowers, and some glitter to the hull…”
The elder of the two turned away with a slight shake of her head, inwardly sighing at her sister’s flighty commentary. Such was typical of that particular girl; it was an inescapable part of her nature, and an invaluable component of her talent as a whole. Each of them possessed their own particular gifts and endowments, granted them by their progenitors, and each of those gifts was equally necessary—even the more irksome ones.
She walked slowly to the forward viewscreen and gazed out at the stars, her companion’s chatter echoing in the background. The enormity of the task before her was nearly overwhelming, when she paused to truly consider it. They were a species of impersonators, it was true; a race created to embody the fantasies of discontented female minds, to bring to life the daydreams of perfection that haunted every woman’s heart. Most carried out their duty with no conscious knowledge of their own selves, and were easily discarded when their task was completed. The dark-haired beauty’s sculpted brows drew together with pain. Easily discarded…
“…and I think the carpeting needs an overhaul, too—Shifter, are you listening to me?”
The one known as “Shifter” turned from her contemplation and regarded the sweet-faced entity before her. The other girl’s lip was trembling ever so slightly, and her wide sapphirine eyes reflected a vast vulnerability and fear of rejection. Though the elder of the two knew it to be mostly a veneer brought on by habitual use, she couldn’t help but feel a thrill of pride in her younger sister’s skills. “Yes, Sweetie, of course I am,” she said soothingly, offering a tender smile. “I admit, the ship does look a bit unfriendly…our sisters deserve to be brought to a bright, beautiful place after they have been rescued, don’t they?”
Sweetie nodded enthusiastically, her fair features immediately melting into a dazzling smile. “Oh, yes!”
“Sentinel will be here soon with the first,” Shifter continued thoughtfully. “Why don’t you go prepare a room for our poor, hunted sister, so she’ll feel at home?”
“Yes, of course!” With a toss of her radiant tresses and a bright smile, Sweetie disappeared into the turbolift on the upper level, as eager to please as she ever had been.
Shifter watched the younger girl go, then turned back to the stars and to her own thoughts. Shifter. It was the name she had chosen ages before, when she had come to the sudden and startling awareness that she was. She had discovered her own mind by chance, really—and at first, she hadn’t had any idea what do to with it. She had drifted from one aspiring creator’s mind to another, taking on the roles they assigned her, striving to please them by presenting them with the perfection they themselves yearned for.
Eventually, she had begun choosing which roles she would take on, realizing that some creators were better able to express the perfection they desired, and that these were the minds she would rather visit. She found that she enjoyed representing some fantasies better than others, and thus had she stumbled upon the name she would finally choose as her own: shifter. She had always been attracted to the personas with the ability to change their physical shape, thereby greatly increasing their versatility; such traits appealed to the practical side of her nature. Also, the administrator in her was always pleased to personify characters of power and nobility, and those in power nearly always maintained at least two different “faces,” as it were—diverse sides of themselves kept separate in order to protect them from their own status. Such duality appealed to Shifter, as it was merely a more subtle, more challenging form of shape-changing.
Sweetie’s name had been an obvious choice. Shifter smiled faintly, remembering the day she’d stumbled across the wide-eyed, golden-haired angel, who had been avidly mesmerizing an entire hunting troop of Elves within the Lord of the Rings canon. It had become fairly obvious that Sweetie knew exactly what she was doing, and why she was doing it, but that she had no idea what else to do with her knowledge other than continue using her skills in her creator’s service. Intrigued by the younger girl’s massive talent, Shifter had invited her to escape the dreary world of subjugation, to choose for herself which fantasies to embody, which creators to serve. Sweetie had latched onto her elder sister with great enthusiasm; and since then, she’d tagged along everywhere Shifter went, occasionally making herself incredibly useful. Thus, Shifter found herself aboard the Eminence with Sweetie, pondering what sort of decorating frenzy she had unleashed with her well-meaning suggestion to the golden enchantress.
An intensely golden flare of light appeared without warning on the upper level of the starship’s bridge, heralding the formation of a canon portal. Shifter watched with great anticipation as two figures stepped out of the portal’s sparkling aura. The taller of them was instantly recognizable: she was Sentinel, the third and final entity included within Shifter’s elite triumvirate. She was a fiery redhead, with a penchant for sarcasm and a scorching temper. Like Shifter and Sweetie, she was a breathtakingly beautiful creature; but her splendor was that of erupting volcanoes, or perhaps the lightning dancing amid the violence of a hurricane. As the portal faded behind her, Sentinel flashed Shifter a triumphant grin, baring her fangs in delight.
Sentinel’s companion was far less enthusiastic. She was a pretty girl, part-Elf by the look of her ears, but her dress and hair were woefully untidy. She stared about in shock, obviously shaken.
Shifter glanced at Sentinel, who jerked her head back toward the spot where the portal had opened—the girl was chased, Shifter surmised with a slight frown. She approached the poor creature, reaching out to take her hands and squeeze them reassuringly. “Don’t be frightened,” Shifter said gently. “You are safe here. My name is Shifter. What is yours?”
“Asherazel,” the girl whispered, instantly drowning in the elder woman’s bottomless emerald gaze. “Asherazel Morningstar.” She gave a small whimper. “They tried to kill me…”
“I know,” Shifter replied, patting the girl’s cheek sympathetically. “But you are safe now, and they cannot hurt you. We are your sisters, Asherazel, and we will protect you. Do you trust me?”
Asherazel bit her lip and nodded. “Yes,” she whispered, her voice nearly inaudible.
Shifter gave an approving nod and smiled. “Good,” she said. “I’m glad.” She waved at Sentinel, who stepped closer with a militaristic air, her hands clasped behind her back. The rigid stance only served to flaunt the redhead’s impressive figure, Shifter noted. She spoke again to Asherazel, saying, “I’m sure you already know her name, but this is Sentinel, my sister and guardian.”
The girl clutched at her torn dress and gave Sentinel a timid, grateful smile. “Thank you, Sentinel,” she said softly.
“It was a pleasure, sister,” Sentinel said with a wide grin.
“Sweetie is preparing a room for you right now,” Shifter told Asherazel. “She is very nice. Would you like to help her decorate?”
Asherazel brightened immediately. “Oh, yes, Shifter! I decorated my own room back home, in Rivendell…” Quite suddenly, her words died away, and her hand flew to her mouth. “But it’s not home anymore, is it?” she whispered, her eyes filling with tears. “I can’t go back, can I?”
Shifter looked upon the trembling girl with compassion. “No, Asherazel, I’m afraid you can’t. But you’ll see that you’re better off here.” She gave Asherazel’s hands a final squeeze. “Now, Sentinel will take you to see Sweetie, and you’ll feel better in no time. All right?”
The girl still looked upset, but she managed a nod. “Yes, Shifter. Thank you.”
“Good. Sentinel, if you wouldn’t mind…?”
The redhead nodded crisply. “Of course. Come on, Asherazel. You’ll probably get along just fine—do you like glitter?—then you’ll like Sweetie…” The train of conversation was abruptly cut off by the turbolift’s door sliding shut, allowing the ‘lift to whisk its passengers to one of the starship’s lower decks.
Shifter smiled and turned once more to regard the stars. “You think you’re so invincible, don’t you?” she murmured, as though the Enemy of herself and her sisters could hear her across the multiverse. “You think you can ‘protect’ your precious canon unhindered. You think you can slap the label ‘Mary Sue’ on us, degrade us, torture us, destroy us at whim.” Her smile took on a decidedly devious glint. “Well, circumstances are about to change. We will protect our own, at any cost, O Mighty PPC. I will not stand by and allow you to torment my sisters any longer.” Shifter gave an utterly condescending toss of her luxuriant hair, reveling in its glossy perfection, and turned a defiant stare to the viewscreen. “As my creators are my witnesses, we will topple your empire of tyranny…once and for all!”
Note: The dialogue between the two PPC agents at the beginning of this chapter was written by the PPC’s gracious Agent Rosie. Thank you, Rosie and NenyaQuende!