"I can't believe you killed her!"
"I didn't kill anyone," Phoebe snapped. "She fell down a hole. I just did the cleaning up."
"But you let her fall!" Liliac insisted. Phoebe scowled and lengthened her stride.
"It's her own fault, and she'll be back soon anyway. Look, what's Mercuria to you, anyway? You barely know the girl."
Liliac shrugged uncomfortably. "She's an elf," she failed to explain. "You know how it is."
"She's not an-" Phoebe bit off the sentence. "No, I don't know. Can you be any clearer?"
"Somewhat like your Death 'thing'," a new voice said, and the girls turned to see the Administrator walking at their side. He had an escort of mini-Luggages, and a pained expression as he looked over the seventeen remaining members of Class Two. "Speaking of which, I don't suppose there's any chance you could cut back?"
"Um?" Phoebe squeaked. "No? No. It doesn't work that way. Um, sir."
"Ah, well," the Administrator sighed. "Your colleagues will be returning shortly. It wouldn't do for them to miss their schooling, after all." He turned to go, but a thin girl stepped in front of him, blocking his way.
"Hi!" she said brightly. "I'm Andy! My friend wants to know if you'd like to go out for a meal with her, only she thinks you're totally hot." She grinned over her shoulder at Saphie, who was cringing and trying to hide behind Tisea.
The Administrator glanced between the two of them, and then said flatly, "No. That would be beyond wildly inappropriate."
"Okay," Andy said cheerfully. "Then do you want to come back to the dorm tonight? Because I'm sure she-"
"I'm leaving now," the Administrator stated, stepped down a side street, and was out of sight. Andy's grin grew wider as she finished her sentence.
"-would love to play cards or something with you." She glanced around at Class Two. "What? Did you think I meant something else?"
"Right, that's enough comedic banter," a stern voice said, and a door ahead of them opened to reveal a white-haired woman in severe black clothes. "Hurry along, don't dawdle."
"Susan!" squealed two voices, and Phoenix Flight hurried forward carrying the brass shape of Esme Something. "You are totally awesome!" Phoenix went on. "I've been dying to meet you! Are you teaching us? What class is this?"
"I hope it's romance," Esme cut in, using what was probably meant to be a seductive voice. "You know, there's a lot of things you can do with clockwork..."
"I'm sure there are," Susan said in a cold voice that utterly silenced her two fangirls. "Now, if you will all take your seats... I believe your classmates will be arriving shortly."
"We're here already," a low voice said, and Phoebe turned to see Yukimona, nine other girls in evening dress (including a black-painted Traveler – the label on her lifetimer had finally settled the debate - and an Iplis who threw Penny a befanged grin and a wink), the spectral form of Hawkelf... and a very nervous-looking Kaitlyn, who scurried forward into the cramped classroom and took a too-small seat behind Phoebe and her friends.
"They're all vampires now!" she whispered, in what was probably the least-necessary exposition on record. "The Administrator brought them back, and then he had Yukimona- well, you know," she cut herself off, as the aforementioned vampire shot a look at her.
"Seriously?" Liliac said, studying the back of Mercuria's head as the vampire posse settled in (managing to come across as elegant even though the chairs were designed for ten-year-olds). "Why vampires?"
"They have seen the light of darkness," said Yukimona without turning her head. "Perhaps someday, you too will join us."
"Somehow I doubt it," Liliac muttered, but Cazzie reached over to touch her arm, and she sat back.
"Settle down now." Miss Susan's voice cut through the chatter like a suitably interesting simile, driving straight into the fangirls' brains and silencing them instantly. A slow smile blossomed on her face. "Good. Now, who can tell me what a Mary-Sue is?"
Every hand in the room shot up, Phoebe's among them. She was thinking of her character Firebird, who had been (eight years ago, she vaguely recalled) a member of the City Watch, had defeated an invading army from her homeland of Krysanthemum (a sort of enlightened totalitarian theocracy), and had won Vimes' heart. People had called her a Mary-Sue, which really meant she was a strong, empow-
"Anyone who uses the words 'empowered', 'liberated' or – gods save you – 'amazing' will be spending the night in the company of the mini-Luggages," Susan added, and Phoebe's hand dropped – along with most of the rest. Well, if Mary-Sues weren't awesome characters every girl wanted to be, what were they?
Miss Susan looked puzzled, but Phoebe realised it wasn't at the number of lowered hands – rather, it was the five still raised that were giving her trouble. "All right," she said sceptically, "I'll bite. You. Tell me."
"Mary-Sue is a fantasy," said Nenya Quende, "created independently by individual fangirls to give them an outlet for their most outlandish dreams. She-"
"Now you," Susan cut her off.
"She is a blight on the Word Worlds," Raen said grimly. "Death is too good for her."
"True enough," Susan agreed. "You?"
"Er, well, they're just badly-written," Kaitlyn offered, looking uncomfortable at the attention. "They're characters who take the canon and warp it to their own ends."
"Good," Susan said, and pointed at a white glove on the end of a wood-and-brass appendage. "Assuming that's someone – your thoughts?"
"It's Something, actually," said Esme, "and I don't know about Merry Sues, but would you like to-"
"No," Susan cut her off, and pointed at the last hand – Penny. "Do you have anything relevant to say?"
Penny shrugged. "Just that Sues are often wish-fulfilment," she offered quietly. "The problem is, in the course of getting what they want, very few writers bother to consider what is actually possible."
There was a long pause, and then Susan nodded slowly. "I'm actually marginally impressed," she admitted. "Your fellow students" – a word she pronounced as if it were a synonym for 'delinquents' – "in the other classes couldn't offer a single non-sparkly description." She considered the four for a moment before asking, "How many of you are with the PPC?" A ripple went through the room at the mention of those three simple letters – at least through the half of the room which didn't already know the answer.
"Department of Mary-Sues," Penny admitted, and Raen nodded along. Nenya frowned.
"Former DMS," she said. "Can't quite remember why I applied now, but..."
"Never mind that," Susan cut in quickly. "And you?"
"Oh," said Kaitlyn, "um. Character Protective Services? We're – we were, really, I... think things have changed a bit – sort of... quasi-PPC."
"Yes, I've met a few of your fellow caseworkers," Susan said. "Very well. The rest of you should pay close attention to what these young women say. As associates of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum, they seem to actually have working common-sense lobes in their brains, which is a rarity around here.
"Now, to continue. We will first consider the Spectrum of Suvian Species, with particular focus on the Puella perfecta and Filia gratuita breeds..."
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. The Protectors of the Plot Continuum is the creation of Jay and Acacia. 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: Thanks also go to the PPC's Department of Mary-Sue Experiments and Research for information on the biological classification of Mary-Sues and Gary-Stus.
For more information on the Protectors of the Plot Continuum, please visit the Ispace Files blog linked from my profile, where you will find a summary of who we are, along with links to further resources.