Wednesday, 17 April 2013

OFUDisc Chapter 6

"She called herself Llama," Phoebe explained quietly as the girls walked to their next class. "Said she was the anthropomorphic personification of insanity."

"And she's a student?" Penny repeated. "I wouldn't have thought they'd allow that level of... well, okay, there's you, but..."

"So where is she now?" Liliac asked, looking over the class. "She sounds like my sort of person."

Phoebe shook her head. "I can't see her unless I'm on call," she said. "See, I just put the Death of Fangirls thing in the notes, but hers is her species. She's on the job all the time."

"Must be nice to be able to skip class, though," Cazzie mused. Phoebe smiled wryly.

"Apparently she's still required to go," she pointed out. "All the work, none of the social perks..."

"And speaking of society," Liliac put in as they entered the classroom – still in Unseen University! Ridcully must have been livid – "has anyone else noticed we're getting a bit thin on the ground?"

Phoebe looked around and frowned. At least a third of the seats were empty. "Did you go on a spree while we weren't looking?" Cazzie whispered, and Phoebe could only shake her head in bewilderment.

"... on the Disc is that?" Lucy2 exclaimed loudly, standing up and pointing to the front of the room. All eyes turned to the podium, where a large chest on hundreds of little legs had just walked in.

In amongst the students, the one member of the class incapable of sitting on a chair started to bounce on her own countless legs. No one was quite sure of her name – 'Traveller' or 'Wanderer' was as close as her rather wooden mime could come – but given what she'd put her species down as, she clearly had some sort of Thing for-

"It's the Luggage," Liliac said loudly, and Phoebe turned to see her friend leaning forward with an enraptured expression. "And just look at those rivets," the girl with the blonde streaks added in a sigh. "What I wouldn't give to-" She cut off, actually blushing, and Cazzie snorted.

"Of all things, Lili – you fancy the woodwork?"

"Oh, like you can talk," Liliac snapped back. "At least the object of my affections wouldn't snap in half if I gave it a hug!"

Cazzie's temper flared. "Legolas isn't a-" she began, and then stopped dead.

It wasn't just her. The entire room had fallen silent, as if the Luggage at the front had cleared its throat ominously – but it didn't even have a throat to clear. What it did have, as its lid slowly creaked open, was OFUDisc Class Two's undivided attention.

One of the girls in the front row edged forward, and Liliac tensed. "Be careful!" she hissed. The student – Mercuria – threw her a puzzled look, then peered into the animate chest – from a safe distance, naturally.

"It's full of, um, saws," she reported. "I don't know what-"

The Luggage bucked slightly, and Liliac let out a strangled cry as one of the saws flew out – but Mercuria's reflexes were lightning-fast, and she caught it one-handed. The Luggage angled its lid slightly and gave her a Look, or what would have been a Look if it had possessed eyes, and she stepped back hurriedly. "Um," she said. "I think it wants... everyone to have one?"

Liliac stood and practically skipped forward, all her tension of the moment before gone. "Well," she said over her shoulder as Phoebe rose to follow her, "if I absolutely have to..."

The lesson only got more surreal after that. Somehow – no-one could ever be clear on exactly who had fathomed it, or how – the girls got the idea that their intimidating teacher wanted them to remodel their desks into items of baggage. Of course, it was hardly in a position to offer guidance (although it was very good at letting them know when they'd done something wrong), and fangirls aren't the multiverse's greatest carpenters...

After giving up on her own pitiful efforts in favour of watching Lucy2's attempt to use 'magickckck' to reshape the wood, Phoebe was quite relieved to feel the now-familiar call of the Duty. She threw a nod to Llama – who was running around giggling and knocking over people's efforts and generally being a royal pain – gripped her scythe, and slipped out of the classroom.

The pull of her enhanced senses led her right out of the University and into the seething heart of Ankh-Morpork. As she stalked the bustling streets – then realised she was doing it and carefully switched to plain walking – she caught occasional glimpses of mini-Luggages keeping pace with her. Then she was crossing a wide street – and the Patrician's Palace stood before her. Swallowing, she strode through the wall and went on the hunt.

The first dead student wasn't hard to find. She lay just inside the doorway, a bored-looking guard standing by with his pike – or halberd, or whatever – still stained with her blood. Phoebe ignored him and focussed on her charge. The student's spirit was sitting by her body, a picture of utter misery – despair, even. Phoebe knelt by the sobbing form and waited.

"It's not fair!" the girl wailed at last, looking up at her with a translucent, tear-streaked face. "I come this far, and I didn't even get to see him! Why do they get all the luck?"

"Uh." Phoebe shook her head slightly and peered at the girl. "You know you're dead, right?"

"Well, duh," the girl snorted. "We all knew that would happen, but I should've gotten to see him first!"

Clearly, Phoebe decided, this fangirl was even more addled than most. She pulled an hourglass out of her robe and glanced at the label, then lined up her scythe and swung.

"Sirius Skylighter," she said as the spirit flinched from the blade, "get you gone. You're-" Then one of the minis lunged forward, and there was no point continuing. Phoebe lowered her weapon, preparing for the transition back to mortality – but the Duty pulled her onwards. Throwing a puzzled look at the minis, she stalked further into the palace.

The story with the next casualty, the improbably-named Sliver, was much the same, except that misery was replaced by anger. It was a great satisfaction to swing the scythe and declare, "Sliver, your time has-" And then a mini (Phoebe recognised her old friend Ygor) leapt forward. Phoebe scowled.

"You need to stop doing that," she scolded the little misspelling. It regarded her impassively with its dented name-tag, and scampered off.

The Duty led Phoebe down dusty, narrow corridors, past the occasional triggered trap (this was the Patrician's Palace, after all), until finally she came to a very recently-fired wall-mounted crossbow, a huddled figure against the wall opposite... and the madly-grinning shade of Kaitlyn.

"Did you see?" she exclaimed as Phoebe came to an uncertain halt. "Did you see him? He came right through here! That floorboard you're standing on – his shoe touched that!"

"Er." Phoebe actually took an involuntary step backwards. "Who are we talking about, exactly?"

Kaitlyn stared at her. "Him, of course – Vetinari."

"... this is all about the Patrician?" Phoebe asked, honestly baffled. The whole 'skinny and intimidating' thing had never appealed to her in the slightest. Kaitlyn sniffed.

"Well, of course," she said. "I spotted him in the crowd after shaking off Siri and Sliver, and I think I touched his coat! I mean," she noted, "it might have been Drumknott actually, but I believe."

"... were there any more of you?" Phoebe asked, compromising on what she wanted to ask, which was 'Do you ever stop talking?'. Kaitlyn frowned.

"Well, there was that goth girl, but she ran off as soon as we got inside. Hey," she interrupted herself, "did you know his hair is absolutely luscious? I'd love to know what he uses – I can't get that sort of result even with molasses..." She was still talking when the Seedier Waggler swallowed her whole.

The Duty didn't let Phoebe go, but it didn't guide her any further, either. Trusting (unwillingly) Kaitlyn's vague descriptions, she hurried up the corridor, ducked through a door (without bothering to open it, of course), and found herself in an airy attic. Her eyes darted from the painting on its easel, to the intricate mechanical contrivance, to the pair talking quietly by the window – one of whom was a thankfully-unmolested Lord Vetinari. Phoebe breathed a sigh of relief – and a black shape swooped down from the rafters.

Afterwards, Phoebe decided that Vetinari must have had his hand on the curtain all along. There was no other possible way for him to have twitched it back that fast, letting a brilliant ray of sunlight in at just the right angle to catch the descending vampire full in the face. The dust settled onto the bare floor, a black cape falling beside it, and the Patrician lowered his hand.

"Your attention will not be required for this one, I think," Vetinari said, not turning his head. "We will return Miss... Yukimona to your masters shortly." He lifted a hand and made a brief flicking motion. "Pray don't let me detain you."

Phoebe was pretty sure the fabric of space-time was seriously wounded by the speed of her departure. She ran, feeling her powers fading out as she went, and she was pretty sure her restored red ponytail got its ends trimmed by the last wall she was able to run through – the outer wall of Unseen U. She made her way down the corridors to the classroom, nodding absently in reply to Liliac's relieved look, and then blinked in surprise. Her friends had apparently decided to work together, and had finished a full-scale replica of the Luggage – one which Liliac was now carving hearts all over.

"Well," said a voice behind Phoebe, and she practically jumped out of her skin: it was the Administrator from Ridcully's lesson. "It seems your colleagues are learning something after all, Death of Fangirls."

"Um," Phoebe managed. "Yes?" Across the classroom a tower of sticks collapsed, leaving Andy stranded in the ruins as Saphie tried to charge the Administrator – only to trip over Phoenix Flight and land on Iplis (who didn't seem to mind). Phoebe turned to look at the Administrator, and found herself face-to-face with...

"Becky?" she exclaimed, and the other girl gave a sullen wave. The Admin sniffed.

"In accordance with OFUDisc policy," he explained, "I'm returning yesterday's casualties to your class. We can't have them missing too much schooling, after all, can we?"

"Uh, no," Phoebe agreed, and swallowed. "On the subject of missing school..."

The Admin's lips set into a thin line as he surveyed the room. "Ah," he said dryly, "I see."

Disclaimer: All Discworld canon characters and locations are the creations of Sir Terry Pratchett. The Official Fanfiction University concept is the creation of Miss Cam. Phoebe is based on an application to OFUDisc by Fawkes Phoenix. All other students are based on applications to OFUDisc. All details of (and mistakes in) plot, narrative and dialogue are mine. Thanks to the Irish Samurai for betaing.

Author's Note: And the deaths continue – and the returns. And yes, as it happens, Saphie did specify on her enrollment form that her lust object was the Administrator. Never let it be said we don't do things for people...

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