Giritinuvielwen – let's call her Giri, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that this would give her conniptions – was unaccustomedly nervous as she stepped from the grass of Dalek-occupied Earth into the huge, glass-fronted building. She wasn't used to such trepidation, since she was a Mary-Sue, and therefore perfect in every way (including 'perfectly in control'). In this case, though, she wasn't in a story of her own devising, or one written for her. She was in the lobby of Dreams Come True, Inc, the largest and oldest surviving Mary-Sue Factory – and headquarters of the Venomous Tentacula's League of Mary-Sue Factories. In short, she was outnumbered, outclassed, and (she began to feel), hideously outdated.
The attendant behind the desk – a factory Sue whose creation had gone awry, one of the colourless creatures known as Defectives – listened carefully and with obvious disinterest to Giri's explanation of her presence. Then, almost Sue-like in her languor, she pointed down one of the Factory's many corridors.
"The Venomous Tentacula's office is that way," she said. "The others are already there."
"Others? What others?" Giri demanded, but the Defective didn't even bother to acknowledge the question. Giri thought about grabbing her, forcing some answers out of her – but no, wanton violence was Celia's field. Better to stick to her strengths: her brain.
The corridor was a long one, with windows onto various parts of the plant's production systems. As she walked, Giri saw Sues being born naked and perfect from their glittery pods, Sues with close-fitting helmets over their flowing hair as knowledge and skills were burnt into their malleable brains, Sues lying prone in front of sparkling portals as machines dressed them for their stories and roles. It was all very efficient, very controlled – and it made Giri sick.
Factory Sues, as she'd always said, weren't real people. They were basically living robots, going through the motions, hardly noticing the Worlds around them. Sure, Giri's students might look like that when you read their stories – what Sue wants to be seen reacting to events when she can shape them to her will instead? – but inside they had all the feelings, all the emotions and concerns of baseline fangirl stock. The only difference was that, once they'd finished training with her, they were better.
The corridor ended in a large, well-lit antechamber. At intervals around the walls were soft armchairs, in which were seated a surprisingly non-varied variety of fangirls and Mary-Sues (with the occasional 'Stu thrown in for… Giri searched for a word other than variety, but had to give up). The Suvians were roughly evenly split between those who were glaring suspiciously at each other, and those who were grinning vacantly as they watched the songbirds flitting around near the ceiling.
Giri took one of the few remaining seats and hastily revised her plans. She had assumed she would be the only visitor to the Factory – the likelihood that others were also here to secure the Venomous Tentacula as an ally changed things considerably. She would have to-
"Giri?" exclaimed a soprano voice. "Giritinuvielwen?"
"That's Headmistress Giritinuvielwen," Giri snapped, and turned to see a golden-haired vision of waiflike beauty. "And who's asking?"
"Don't you remember me?" the Mary-Sue asked. "I'm Claribella – I graduated a few months after you came to TAMS."
Giri frowned prettily and studied the other girl. She supposed Claribella's features could be visible on that Suvian face, but it was a stretch. "Of course I remember you!" she gushed. "How could I forget? What have you been up to? Been in any cool stories?"
"Oh, you know, a couple," Claribella (if it was even her) admitted airily. "This one time I was Queen of Gondor and Legolas had to rescue me from Aragorn's evil ways, so then I was Queen of Milkwood instead and we had lots of pretty babies." She beamed at Giri, who was listening intently – if there's one thing a fangirl-turned-Mary-Sue enjoys, it's Mary-Sue stories.
"Of course, that was all a long time ago," Claribella went on. "I've moved into a new place since then. Have you heard of Sparklee?"
"I don't think so," Giri admitted reluctantly. "It sounds sparkly, though."
Claribella giggled. "You're so clever! Anyways, it's this whole city of Mary-Sues, and it is so cool. Of course it's not what it used to be – those meanies at the PPC tried to ruin the whole place, but it's our city! We can write whatever we want!!" She paused for breath. "So we have all these Mary-Sue-only activities, and lots of hott guys who are just as perfect as us, and it's like fantastic! You should come and join us!"
Giri had to admit it sounded tempting. On the other hand, who would want to live somewhere the PPC already knew about? At least the Ladies' Academy for Mary-Sue Enrichment was hidden. Of course, that didn't mean Sparklee couldn't be a valuable ally…
"So what are you doing here?" Giri asked, getting in just before Claribella began to talk again. The other Mary-Sue beamed.
"Oh, this Factory, it's so fantastic, isn't it? We use some of the same technology in Sparklee; actually some of the long-term residents say the Factories got it from us. So we thought that if we're basically doing the same thing as the League, why shouldn't we be in the League? That way we could all share our stuff around, and they can defend us from-" She stopped, looking guilty. "I mean, we can fight together against the evil flaming troll meanies."
Giri understood her self-correction. No Mary-Sue ever wanted to admit they couldn't cope with something, whether it was cold weather or a potential invasion by the so-called Canon Protection Initiative. "So what about… you know, them?" she asked, waving a hand at the other Mary-Sues. "Are they from Sparklee too?"
"Haven't the foggiest," Claribella admitted. "The only one I know is Snixie over there." She nodded at one of the suspicious fangirls, one dressed in a black leather trenchcoat. "She's nasty."
"She looks it," Giri murmured.
Claribella laughed her tinkling laugh. "No, silly – N.A.S.T.Y.! The Neo Abduction Schemers Treaty of Youth. Apparently they're a group of fangirls who are out to kidnap some hott guys – I'm not sure who. Anyway, she wandered into Sparklee once upon a time, stuck around for a little while – that's how I know her. I don't know what she's doing here, though."
Giri studied Snixie, and Claribella, and in fact all the Sues and fangirls. They were liable to cause problems for her – if the League was overwhelmed with needy girls out for aid, they'd be less inclined to listen to her offer. Of course, that worked both ways – if the League rejected her, there would be plenty of other candidates to ask. "I've been thinking," she said at last, ignoring the gasp of shock from Claribella and a couple of the nearer Sues. "Your Sparklee and my Ladies' Academy – we have a lot in common…"
The hours passed. Giri conversed with half a dozen Sues and fangirls (including Snixie – she was just as grumpy as she looked), and every so often a Defective came out to call another one of the girls into the office. Eventually – finally – it was Giri's turn. She followed the colourless woman – it looked much the same as the one on the front desk – into a small, dimly-lit room. Behind a steel desk waited the undisputed master of the Factory, and slightly disputed leader of the League – the Venomous Tentacula herself.
Welcome, my dear, the Plant said, and Giri shuddered slightly at the feel of that smooth voice slipping directly into her thoughts. Do take a seat.
Giri looked around for a chair, but found nothing more comfortable-looking than a dirty old flowerpot. "Um, you don't have any," she pointed out.
The Tentacula looked at her – or at least, pointed a flower in her direction – with what seemed to Giri to be faint disappointment. Then you will have to stand. So, my dear, you are here representing the… Ladies' Academy for Mary-Sue Enrichment, correct?
Giri relaxed slightly. Clearly the Tentacula had been reading up on her – that was definitely a positive sign. "That's us," she acknowledged. "We've been making the Multiverse a better place for, ooh, more than ten years now – we may be small, but we make a big impression."
Indeed. My dear, are you aware that your name translates as 'Shuddering Nightingale Girl'?
Giri glowered, then hastily switched on her disdainful look and tossed her hair. "Well, that's what boring people say, anyway. I say, it's fanfiction! I can translate my name however I want!"
This time the Tentacula's look was more positive, though Giri was sure she had noticed the initial, uncontrolled response. I can see you have been well-trained, my dear, the Tentacula said. So – what would you bring to the League?
Giri blinked. "Chocolates?" she hazarded. "Or, um, plant food? The good kind?"
How thoughtful of you. But my meaning was: were we to accept your application to join the League, what contributions would you-
"Wait, wait, wait." Giri held up a hand. "Join the League?"
Well, yes. The Tentacula sounded perplexed. Is there a problem, my dear?
"I'm not here to join you," Giri said, somehow managing to supress a shudder at the very thought. "My Academy is… too dissimilar to your Factories. I thought you understood – I'm here to offer an alliance."
There was a long silence.
"Against Ispace – and the PPC," Giri added hastily, aware that not everyone had quite as much experience of Ispace as she did. "They're fighting each other now, so this is the perfect time to strike!"
There was an even longer silence.
My dear, said the Venomous Tentacula, are you aware that we have more than fifty fully-modernized Mary-Sue Factories in the League, each capable of producing 300 Sues per hour?
"Well, not as such," Giri admitted, "but I-"
And your 'Academy' has 165 students total – and takes over a year to pass each one?
"Ah, that's one hundred and sixty six," Giri pointed out. "I know, my handwriting's terrible, but I've never been one for the 'flowing calligraphy' thing, so-"
Please be quiet, the Tentacula said softly, and Giri's mouth snapped shut. Thank you. My dear Giritinuvielwen, whatever makes you think the League would have anything to gain from an 'alliance' with you?"
Giri blinked. "Well, you could help me to-"
Yes. This is why we in the League leave Mary-Sues in your proper place, rather than promoting you above your station. Look what happened last time we made that mistake. She shook her tentacles in disgust. What use is a leader who only thinks about herself?
"That's not fair!" Giri exclaimed. "While building up my Academy I was nice to loads of people who helped me."
Exactly. The Tentacula's friendly, almost motherly façade had fallen away, exposing cold steel. You are no use to us. Get out.
As the Mary-Sue flounced out, slamming the door behind her, a thought came from the shadows of the office. She does have a point, though. Ispace and the PPC at odds? We could do… many things with that.
The Venomous Tentacula swivelled in place to face her guest. Take on the PPC in battle? You know how that ends up.
A Flower emerged from the darkness. From the tips of his roots to the very top of his stem, he was dressed in flexible armour, matt black so as to render him invisible. His yellow petals had been trimmed into sharp points, and capped with lethal, knife-edged steel. Burned onto one scarred leaf was the emblem of his master – the sword-wielding cactus of the Sunflower Emperor.
Your experiences have made you cautious, General Dandy acknowledged, tilting his bloom towards the Tentacula. That is good. But beware caution does not turn to cowardice. We of the EPC have never had any trouble dealing with the Protectors.
You have never faced them in open war as we have, the Tentacula noted icily. Perhaps when it is your people who do the dying, you will be less cavalier about the danger.
Why go after the PPC at all? wondered another mind, and the Horsetail shuffled into view. Ispace are just as big a nuisance, if not more so. Last quarter alone they cost us over a billion standardised credits-
I was under the impression that was due to corporate infighting, not Ispace, General Dandy observed. How was it they caused a third of your sales staff to schism – again – and form their own company?
The Horsetail's branches twitched as he faced the Dandelion. Ispace's interference, their 'protection of elves', severely curtailed our supply of several important… ingredients, he blustered. Without them, BioInc would have-
Oh, calm down before you lose your top, the Tentacula cut in. You're right that Ispace are just as meddlesome – if smaller – as our mutual originators. And with all our new League members, we won't even need to use valuable stock for the attack…
General Dandy looked between the two Flowers, then shrugged his leaves dismissively. Very well, he said. I'll work up an assault plan.
Thank you, dear. The Venomous Tentacula tapped a button on her desk. Veronica? We're ready now, my dear. Send in the next hopeful.
Disclaimer: Giritinuvielwen belongs to Hirilnara. The Enforcers of the Plot Continuum (EPC) were created by Tawaki. The League of Mary-Sue Factories was created by me and expanded on by Lily Winterwood. N.A.S.T.Y. belong to Techno-Dann, Sparklee to Ekwy, and the PPC, as always, to Jay and Acacia. All details of plot are my own.
Author’s Note: Just in case things weren’t complicated enough… do the League and colleagues count as a fifth side in this conflict? You can see why it’s called The Ispace WarS…
The League of Mary-Sue Factories: The original Mary-Sue Factory was built by the PPC, though most of them knew nothing of it. Devised, along with its sister company Biotechnology, Inc, to make money for the PPC’s efforts, it broke away from PPC control during the Reorganisation. Since then, the League has grown into a multiverse-spanning organisation bent on… well, something, which probably involves glitter. BioInc (rebranded to make themselves cool) work alongside them, pillaging canon worlds for their own profit. And the EPC? They’re from the Mirror Multiverse, where everything is seen through a dark mirror – a version of the PPC out not to free the Word Worlds, but to enslave…