Vol 1: A RECKLESS RETCON
Vol 2: Here Lies Version One
Vol 3: Space Opera Rerun
Vol 4: Split the Party
Vol 5: Happy Endings
Vol 6: Killing Time
Vol 7: Intertextuality
Vol 8: Loose Ends
Part 4: Split The Party
Episode 1: Parallel Lives, Convergent Coffees
There were a lot of franchise coffee shops on Planet Buffy. They sold an identical array of dazzlingly complex beverages, each as underwhelming as the next.
Flibbage sipped a galaxy hued latte topped with whipped cream. It tasted like too much syrup. On the curb next to her, Beansprout nursed a black coffee. It had a distinct gritty texture and the flavour of burned topsoil. Spanning the street in front of them, happy citizens were throwing an impromptu parade. Word had got out pretty quickly that Buffy and her clones were gone, and people seemed momentarily giddy at the thought that they might get to control their own lives and fashion choices again. Our heroes however, seemed neither giddy nor sure of their next move.
"Imagine renaming a planet
after yourself. The nerve of that woman." Beansprout muttered. She inspected the
sword laid across her knees, it was almost blue when it caught the light. "Cool
space loot though, at least we got this out of it."
Flibbage didn't comment on
the sword, and took another swig of the cloying latte. "Look on the bright side,
since they've already renamed it once, maybe they'll decide to name it after us
as thanks for bailing them out. "
Beansprout's brain still felt fuzzy, she'd hoped the coffee would clear it, but it wasn't working. Every time she tried to concentrate on what had actually happened in Buffy's office, things seemed to jump and fracture apart. Had she attacked Buffy? Had Buffy attacked her? One part of her memory kept suggesting this and arguing with her knowledge that Jay had been the one who opened fire.
"Let me think about it," Flibbage replied, also rubbing her head. "That Section Break spell really tired me out. We could go see our mums?"
"No they just tell us a load of complicated faerie gibberish whenever they turn up."
Flibbage puffed up in protest. "It's actually a beautifully functional philosophy of metafiction that allows us to both predict and manipulate the world around us, I'll thank you to know."
"Yes exactly like that, very good impression."
Yakky strode angrily and without purpose down another street, choosing directions at random. He'd seen her hand go to her sword hilt. After everything the three of them had been through together, and she took Jay's side? She was going to pull that stupid gaudy sword on him, after he'd just seen his mother killed in cold blood! His mother who had tried to blow them up, and throw them into a black hole, and took over a planet and named it after herself, and ...wanted to kill Beansprout.
Yakky kicked a can into a wall, and watched it ricochet down the street. Jay had MURDERED his mother.
"How'd the rescue mission
go?" A smooth voice asked from the
shadows. Yakky's eyes darted up as Dee stepped out from a recessed doorway.
"Find the girl who isn't your girlfriend?"
Dee pushed open the door
behind her, revealing a room filled
with banks of computers. At one end was a bar with a small menu of drinks. A
strong smell of coffee and ozone wafted out.
A few other Were's sat in chairs in front of computers, typing away on
complex looking screens of code.
"Some... of those things
She leaned over the bar and pulled back a mug and a glass jug of extremely dark coffee. "Here, try this. It's the best coffee you'll ever have."
Yakky accepted the mug hesitantly and took a small mouthful. it was indeed better than anything a human had ever made him, blisteringly hot and extremely strong, with an aftertaste like the air before a thunderstorm.
" Everyone, this is Yakky. He has my permission to be here so don't maul him." Dee remarked brightly as she took a satchel off her shoulder and began emptying it out, spreading electrical components and circuit boards across a desk. The other Weres didn't react, which Yakky reasoned was probably a good sign.
Dee unrolled a parcel of
tools and began to size the broken pieces up next to each other. "So tell me
about space, what happened there?"
Elle sat down across from
him, and lifted her designer shades onto the top of her head. "We can't stop
here, we have to take these Burgundy folkers out, and get back to black. It's
classic, its timeless, it was already
in our name. Burgundy might have a certain opulence, but it's no colour
for a secret organisation! "
"What, me? they think I'm dead!"
"Exactly! how could you possibly be involved with the Blue faction, you've just got back from space!" Elle winked "No one from the tower made it out alive, so no one knows you're with us. It's perfect." She slapped her hand down on the table. "Agent Tea, bring it out!"
From the back of the room, an agent approached, horrified whispers of the Agents in Blue grew louder as she drew near.
"Nooo, it's so gaudy!"
Several of the agents nervously fussed with the cuffs of their own immaculate black jackets, brushing away unnoticed lint or dust, as the agent stepped into the light. At arm's length she held an exquisitely tailored Burgundy suit jacket.
"Funny you should be here,
I heard you died today." The mysterious head of the NGSPIB quirked an eyebrow at
Buffy from behind dark shades. The cool effect was slightly ruined by the
fact that he then grabbed the rainbow latte and stuck a curly straw in it.
Episode 2: Drafting Plans
“Huh?” Beansprout looked up from the sword to see Flibbage waving a hand in her face. “What?”
“You drifted off again.”
“Did I?” Beansprout looked back down at the blade. Its blue edge seemed to shimmer in the evening light, in a way that was almost mesmerising…
“Beansprout!” This time Flibbage flicked her hard between the eyes.
“Ow!” Scowling, Beansprout slid the sword back into its sheath. They’d clearly given her decaf by mistake when she’d ordered her coffee. Her brain felt fuzzy and floaty.
“Didn’t you hear a word I said?”
“Pretend like I wasn’t paying attention.”
Flibbage sighed. “All right, one more time. With Yakky and Jay…absent, we need to find replacements.”
“What? Why? You think we can’t do anything without two boys to help us?”
“No, I think we need characters to fulfil specific narrative functions to stop the Plot getting too far off-track.”
Beansprout blinked at her. “I haven’t had enough coffee for this conversation.”
“You will never have enough coffee for this conversation, so we’d better just get on with finding our replacement boys.”
“Okay, smartarse, how are we supposed to do that?”
Flibbage flexed her fingers. “Thanks to all the sugar in that machi-frappa-latte-nonsense I drank, I’ll be ready to cast spells again soon enough. In the meantime, we’d better get moving. I don’t think it’s going to be safe to stay here much longer.”
“Why?” Beansprout indicated the parade. “Everyone’s having a great time.”
Flibbage pressed her lips together in a thin line. “Look closer.”
Beansprout looked. The joy on people’s faces was still there, but there was an angry edge to it now. As she watched, a man accidentally knocked into a woman, who shoved him to the ground with a snarl on her face.
“What’s going on?”
“The Plot’s spiralling,” said Flibbage. “It’s trying to stabilise. And, now the sci-fi element’s gone with Buffy’s death, it’s going to fully commit to the most likely new genre for this scenario.”
“What do you mean?”
“We need to get somewhere safe before this city goes full dystopia.”
In Dee’s Internet Café, thanks to the superior blend and roast of werewolf coffee, Yakky was having no trouble focusing. He watched Dee stripping the broken iPad for parts, and the other Weres tapping away at their computers, and he could even follow a little of what they were doing. One was diverting some cash from a corporate account into several tiny little bank accounts, scattered across the world in a way that would be almost impossible to trace. One was taking control of various CCTV cameras and looping video through them, so skilfully that it would be impossible to detect unless you started recognising faces in the constantly-rerunning crowd. And one was monitoring something that looked like a group chat, full of acronyms and odd memes that Yakky guessed were in-jokes, from a group called Up the Blues.
“What are you all doing here?” he asked Dee.
“Everyone.” Dee looked up from her work. “It’s the only way we’ve managed to survive so far. Surely you get that?”
“I haven’t always exactly been the best at surviving,” Yakky muttered.
“Sounds crap. You’re probably going to be a lot better off without not-your-girlfriend.”
Yakky’s shoulders tensed. “I don’t want to talk about her.”
Looking around for anything to change the subject, Yakky’s eyes fell on the Up the Blues conversation thread. “I know you said everyone, but why do you care about a bunch of football fans?”
Dee frowned, followed his gaze, and then chuckled. “Up the Blues? They’re nothing to do with football. You should have guessed that, Chelsea Boy.”
“What are they, then?”
Jay’s new phone buzzed in his pocket. He opened the group chat, and saw the latest message from Elle – a gif of a cat scrabbling at a window latch, with the caption ‘When it’s 3am and you forgot your keys!”
That was the signal. Time to go. Jay smoothed down his plush burgundy jacket, turned the corner, and started walking towards the mirror-faced office building that, he was assured, was the main HQ for the Non-Gender Specific People in Burgundy.
He pushed the front door. It didn’t give.
“Your fingerprints indicate that your access has been suspended,” said a robotic voice.
Jay gulped. I can’t fall at the first hurdle!
“Why’s that?” he asked, as casually as he could manage.
There were a few agonising moments of silence.
“You have missed several mandatory check-ins, and so your access has been suspended.”
Jay let out his breath. Nothing serious, just bureaucracy.
“I couldn’t make it to my mandatory check-ins,” he said. “I was lost in space.”
Another long silence.
“Your stated reason is valid,” said the voice. “Please report to reception for mandatory check-in and briefing.”
The mirrored door swung open, and Jay walked into the building.
“Here seems safe enough,” said Flibbage, stopping at the end of an alleyway.
“Oh, yes, very safe,” said Beansprout, looking around at the contents of the alley – a bit of wood with nails in it, a mattress that seemed to be covered in bloodstains, and a skip that was smouldering gently.
Flibbage flexed her fingers, and grinned as a few sparks shot out of her hands. “And I’m magicked up. Let’s get started.”
She took a deep breath, and intoned:
“Mists of time,
Winds of Fiction,
Bring us a guy,
Who meets the description!”
Beansprout coughed. “Uh, Flib, are you sure your magic really is-”
Before she could finish, there was a shimmer in the air. A ball of light appeared, and slowly formed into the figure of a tall, blond man, who stumbled across the tarmac towards them.
“Never mind,” Beansprout said.
The man looked around blearily. His gaze fixed on Beansprout and Flibbage.
His lips pulled back in a snarl, showing sharp, pointed teeth.
The man let out a growl, and sprang towards them.
Episode 3: On a mission.
Beansprout sprang into a ready stance, as the man leapt towards them. The sword seemed the thrum with anticipation. Behind her Flibbage was saying something inconsequential-
"-let the air hold him like water!"
The man's movement slowed
as he suddenly stumbled mid stride and hung suspended in the air, looking
confused and angry as he floated in space.
"Fey Witch! How dare you summon me!" He spluttered, windmilling his arms, which only succeeded in making him spin.
Beansprout shook herself, head feeling a little clearer, and stowed the sword back in her belt. "Flibbage, you need to be a bit more specific in your spellcasting. That's a werewolf."
Flibbage sighed through her nose as she peered at the were. "Sorry. I thought it might turn out different if I thought of a description instead of you. It's better than last time, at least he's from the right universe."
"Not this 'last time' stuff again. I'm pleased for you that you can remember your past life or whatever, but can we stick to what's going on now?"
"It's not a past life it's a retcon- oh never mind!"
"Who the folk are you two?" growled the Were.
"Well I'm Beansprout and this is Flibbage, and we just liberated your planet." Beansprout paused for effect, but the Were just stared at her. "You're welcome. Anyway, we apparently need a token bloke with us to prevent the world becoming a dystopia by default, but Flibbage here was thinking about werewolves when she was supposed to be concentrating, and we summoned you."
"Look, he's blonde and grouchy, what more do you expect me to have to go on at this point in the story?" Flibbage gestured vaguely in the direction of the Were's face. "I could have been more specific about choice of hats but I don't think you'd want a football hooligan! What do we call you, Wolfy?"
"It's Lance, actually," muttered the were indignantly, and clawed the air a bit more, causing him to start spinning again.
"I take it all back," said Beansprout, "they have loads in common. Listen, if we let you down, can you stop attacking us? We just need you to hang out with us long enough for us to find a couple of people and talk them out of killing each other."
"Will you send me back?" asked Lance suspiciously.
"Yeah I guess, we certainly don't need any more werewolves around the place." Flibbage agreed.
Beansprout furrowed her brow, "What do you mean any more?"
"Oh nothing." Flibbage waved her hand and Lance fell to the floor. To his credit, the werewolf reflexes made it look pretty cool.
"Ahaha, taste my claws, fools!" cried Lance, and lunged towards Beansprout, transforming mid air into a huge grey wolf, in a way that was both awesome and disturbing.
Time slowed for Beansprout as Lance's huge form descended towards her, and this time Flib's magic had nothing to do with it. She drew the sword from her belt, and shifting her balance she grabbed the outstretched leg just above the claws and threw Lance's transformed form over her shoulder, sending him smashing to the concrete floor. Spinning round she held the blade to the fur just under his muzzle.
"Down boy" she hissed, and the sword seemed to sing, blue flickers dancing along the blade.
Lance transformed back into human form, and it definitely just looked gross and weird this time. He lay cowering on the floor with his hands raised. "Yeah okay, sorry! That was uncalled for of me, uh... sorry about that, yeah." His voice was ingratiating, a total change from the swaggering from a few moments before.
Beansprout started to lower the blade and found her arm unwilling to move, the sword's energy seeming to hum gently along her arm, urging her to finish him-
"Sprout!" Flibbage's voice cut through the blue tinge at the edges of her vision, and a shiver ran over Beansprout, returning her to her normal senses. Stowing the sword she tried to do her best wolfish sneer at the downed Lance. "Listen, we need you around until we find the people we need and get them to act like grownups, so don't try anything else. You wouldn't be the first person I killed today."
"You haven't killed anyone yet," Flibbage said under her breath.
Lance smiled weakly at Beansprout, "Yeah sure, okay sure, good plan..."
Sprout rolled her eyes."Okay Flib, what's the plan? Who do we need to find first to avert whatever you think is happening here?"
Flibbage considered the options. "I hate to say it, but I think Jay is the person most likely to mess up the Plot around here, secretive government agents and dystopias kind of go hand in hand."
"Okay lets hit it. Lead the way, wolfy boy, we've got an agent to track."
Jay approached the reception desk, trying to look confident. An agent he didn't recognise was sitting behind it, oddly she was still wearing a black blazer compared to the sea of burgundy around him . Oversized dark glasses flashed as she glanced up out of a voluminous cloud of ginger hair.
"Good morning, Fred."
"No Its Agent West? Jay West." jay showed her his ID card. She took it from his hand and stowed it under the desk without breaking eye contact.
"That's what I said, Fred."
"What?" the agent looked at him quizzically.
"Never mind, I need to refresh my entry codes. I've been lost in space for the last two years."
Agent O looked him up and down."And yet, you took the time to update your uniform?"
Jay hesitated, was this a trick? "Well I heard Burgundy was very in this season."
She smiled enigmatically."Oh absolutely, Fred. Everyone's wearing it."
"How come you don't have to?"
"But I am wearing Burgundy." The agent gestured at her black jacket and winked.
"No that's-" Jay trailed off, and looked around briefly. Maybe there was another receptionist he could talk to? An abrupt noise snapped his attention back to O as she slapped his ID card down on the counter.
"Anyway your files are up to date Agent Fred, so go about your business." She said pointedly, and waved him away dismissively.
Confused, Jay moved away. It seemed like the agent was trying to tell him something, but Elle hadn't mentioned any other insiders. He flipped open his phone and posted a short video of a parakeet mimicking it's owners voice in order to confuse the family dog. I'm in, are there any other agents I should know about here?
One of Elle's agents quickly replied with a link to an article full images of hilariously misspelled birthday cakes. By decoding the missing or incorrect letters Jay could decipher her message. Not that we've sent in. They could be defectors or it could be a trap, tread carefully.
Jay pressed his
fingerprints against the lift access panel. His photo and the name
Agent (F)red, briefly flashed
up, before the lift door opened. She'd changed his name, why? Did someone in
here know who he was, or that he was working for the Blues? Impossible- Elle's
team had neutralised everyone in Buffy's tower, and it wasn't like she was
around to let anyone know.
Yakky couldn't believe the NGSPIB in this universe managed to be more ridiculous than the original. Two factions, warring over a colour choice? He peered at the computer screen, where more secret conversations were taking place under the guise of cat videos.
The werewolf operative turned his screen towards Dee and Yakky, "The Non-Gender-Specific-People-in-Blue have decided they're anti government secret agents I guess? They think no one knows but they all go about with stupid pocket handkerchiefs and communicate through memes so the Burgundy can't find them."
Yakky thought back to Jay bursting into his mother's office. "This explains it," he huffed to himself, "trust him to find the first chance he can to act the hero and find a new secret society to kiss up to."
"Who are you talking about?" Dee asked.
"He killed my- and Beansprout she- ...I don't want to talk about it." Yakky defensively took another swig of the scorching coffee.
"Suit yourself." Dee said with a shrug, and turned back to the screen.
The front door opened and shut as a flustered looking werewolf rushed in "Dee, have you seen Lance?"
"I'm not his keeper Shaun, just phone him!" Dee rolled her eyes.
The were held up a phone, "I found this lying in the street, it's his!"
Dee's head snapped towards the door. "For Folks sake!" She grabbed Yakky's arm and started heading towards the front of the cafe.
"Wait, who's Lance?" asked Yakky, hastily putting his coffee cup down on the side as he stumbled to keep up with Dee's vicelike grip.
She looked back and with a tone bordering on disgust, answered him.
Flibbage, Beansprout and Lance had tracked Jay across town, both impressed and disgusted by the NGSPIB(lue)'s use of the sewer system to avoid detection by Burgundy agents. They now stood on the roof of a building opposite the NGSPIB(urgundy) headquarters surveying the comings and goings below.
"You sure he's in there?" Sprout remarked, "He kept talking about Blue, not Burgundy, so if there's some kind of schism going on, I don't think he'd-"
"I'm sure!" Lance interrupted, "Why did you women even summon me if you aren't going to trust my superior tracking skills?"
"Token bloke," Flib retorted. "We really don't care about your skills at all." Lance bristled, but a look from Beansprout silenced him.
"We've got to get in there, and convince him to quit whatever Mission Impossible conspiracy subplot he's involving himself in," Flibbage continued "before it merges with the Main Narrative and it turns out my mum is actually a crime lord or something."
"I'm pretty sure she's already a despot, Flib." Beansprout said, peering through binoculars Flibbage had conjured.
"Yeah point taken."
"I'm actually a pretty good hacker," Lance volunteered, "if you can get us in, I'm pretty sure I can get us through any doors you need. It's really impressive, Dee says-"
"Awesome, sounds like we have a plan," Flibbage cut him off and snapped her fingers. Suddenly the three of them were wearing Burgundy suits similar to the agents below. Flibbage crammed her wings into the jacket and arranged her hair to cover her ears. She clicked her fingers again and a burgundy fedora appeared on Lance.
"There. No one will know you're a werewolf if you're wearing a hat," she said with a chuckle. "Let's go."
"You have a boyfriend?" Yakky was out of breath from being dragged up and down the streets by Dee and watching her sniff inanimate objects.
Dee sighed, "It's a ceremonial pack thing, he beat up some guy somewhere in Germany and took over their pack, and now I have to date him to maintain the truce between our packs. He's kind of an idiot. But he wouldn't leave his phone behind."
"Wow, that sucks." Yakky was starting to see the downside of werewolf culture.
"Nah, it means if I kick his ass at the right moment, I can take over both packs."
Dee handed Yakky her phone, the screen still showing the Up The Blues chat. "Keep an eye on this, I need you to keep tabs on what they're up to, while I track him. If you see any text posts about the history of beetles, let me know straight away. last thing we need is a load of government agents showing up."
Jay listened carefully at the penthouse office door. Nothing. Tentatively he knocked. No reply. He tried the door, it opened silently. revealing an empty office. Large windows looked out over the city on one side, whilst a huge desk stood in the center, unoccupied but for two empty disposable coffee cups.
Incongruously, against one wall stood a green and blue plastic cubicle- a standard portaloo. Maybe there isn't a bathroom on this floor? Thought Jay, holding his gun in one hand as he checked it was vacant. Inside were a lot more buttons and levers than the average portaloo, but otherwise it looked like a normal toilet. Jay moved to the computer and finding it for some reason unlocked, started to search through for any useful files.
Suddenly there came a flushing sound from behind him.
Impossible, he'd just checked the damn portaloo! Jay dashed to the side of the room and ducked behind a pillar, drawing his gun. If he was lucky maybe he could take out the NGSPIB(lue)'s other target on the same day.
What he wasn't expecting was Buffy, laughing behind her hand like an anime villain as she stepped out of the portaloo, silver heels clicking onto the marble floor.
"You've outdone yourself! I mean why take over one planet when we have the technology to access the whole multiverse!"
"Well Buffy, you do like the straightforward approach to villainy. I on the other hand, prefer to stay in the shadows whilst all my plans come to fruition." Following her out of the portaloo came a man in a sharp burgundy suit. He shut the door behind them, and the pair headed towards the office door. He wore shades like the other agents but his ease in the room and with Buffy suggested this was the mysterious figure the Blue agents had been trying to expose. The leader of the NGSPIB. Together they headed towards the office door and the elevator.
Jay looked back at the portaloo, so innocent looking, yet clearly hiding some kind of secret. There was something bigger going on here. He needed to get out and regroup with Elle. Still, this was his chance to capture the identity of the NGSPIB leader. Holding his phone in one trembling hand, Jay silently took a photo as clearly as he could of their faces, and sent it to the group chat. Ciphers be damned, the other agents needed to see this.
Dee let out a frustrated growl. "I don't get it, it's like he just vanished into thin air!"
Yakky was trailing behind, engrossed in the chat thread. A lot of the content was pretty funny, if you didn't know it was actually underground agents communicating with each other. "Oh those wacky Wish adverts. What even is that?"
Suddenly something flashed up that made his blood run cold.
"What?" she stalked over and looked over his shoulder. "Weird. They never break cover, it's their protocol."
"This isn't a meme?"
"No? Why? it's just stupid Buffy and some Burgundy Agent."
Yakky looked around, his face draining of colour. "We need to find Beansprout!"
"The not-girlfriend? I thought you were done with her?"
"No you don't get it!" Yakky pointed at the phone. "That man in the photo? The man in the Burgundy suit? That's Her Dad."
Episode 4: Revelations
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” said Beansprout, as the three of them walked along the shiny corridors of the NGSPIB headquarters.
“Oh my creatrices, why did you say that?!” Flibbage slapped her own forehead. “Are you trying to get us caught?”
“Yeah, what are you talking about?” Lance asked.
Flibbage rolled her eyes. “Never mind. Let’s just find Jay and get out of here before the plot collapses any further.”
As she spoke, a poster on the wall shimmered and changed, the text morphing from details of an NGSPIB team-building event to read ‘Is Your Teen Prepared For The Choosing? A workshop on how to help your child decide their future career through invasive brain scans’.
“As quickly as possible,” Flibbage added.
Yakky wrinkled his nose.
“Don’t,” Dee snapped.
“I didn’t say anything!”
“You didn’t need to. I can smell your expression from here.”
“I’m surprised you can smell anything over this stench,” Yakky muttered, as he reached the bottom of the steel ladder and tried not to slip on the narrow, distressingly slimy walkway. One wrong move and he’d be in the shit – literally. “Why are we in a sewer?”
“You wanted to get to the NGSPIB HQ without being seen,” Dee said, striding off along the path as if she was walking down an ordinary road.
“Yeah, but…a sewer?”
“Do you want to complain, or do you want to find your not-girlfriend? Because I’m quite happy to stop and go back to looking for Lance.”
Yakky sighed. “All right. Just…go easy on me, okay? I’ve had a lot to deal with today. My mum was dead, and now apparently she isn’t, and Beansprout’s dad is maybe evil, and honestly, it just feels like the world is falling apart.”
Dee didn’t answer, or look around, but someone watching closely would have noticed her walk become slightly less stompy and furious.
“Fine,” she said after a while. “But I don’t want to hear any more complaints about the sewer.”
“We need to call it off,” Jay whispered into his phone.
“We’re not calling it off,” Elle replied, her voice cold. “We’re too close.”
“And no more phone calls! There’s a reason we use the Up the Blues thread! It’s secure!”
There was a click as Elle hung up. Jay sank to the floor and put his head in his hands. He was still behind the pillar, with the Portaloo looming quietly in the far corner of the room. He didn’t dare move, in case anyone else unexpected emerged from its odd-smelling, plasticky depths.
Suddenly, two familiar voices faded into hearing.
“…all I said was ‘it’s quiet’!”
“Yes, and we all know what comes after that, don’t we?”
“No, I don’t, actually!”
A different voice, gruff and grumpy, chimed in. “I was going to say that it’s too-”
“WILL YOU STOP?! I don’t know why I even summoned you, Lance, you’re more trouble than you’re worth!”
Beansprout, Flibbage, and…some guy called Lance? Jay slowly got to his feet, clutching his phone, wondering whether he should step out and meet them. He hadn’t heard Yakky yet, but if he was around…well, he wasn’t sure that he wanted to have that conversation just yet.
“More trouble than I’m worth, huh?” Jay could hear the sneer in Lance’s voice. “Are you sure about that?”
“Fairly sure. Why do you ask?”
“Because that agent we’re tracking is standing right behind that pillar over there.”
The sword was in Beansprout’s hand before she’d even had chance to think. As Jay walked around the pillar, a sheepish expression on his face, she felt her grip tighten on the hilt.
Be on your guard.
Why had she thought that? It was just Jay. She’d just been startled, that was all. Being in the NGSPIB’s stronghold was enough to put anyone on edge. Beansprout forced her hand back to her side, flexing her fingers.
“Jay!” Flibbage spread out her arms as if about to hug him, and then folded them again as a scowl spread across her face. “You’ve made this a very difficult day!”
“There’s something I need to – what? What have I done?”
“The plot is spiralling and a lot of it has to do with you running off to play secret agent!”
“But I am a – what are you even talking about?”
Beansprout shrugged. “Beats me.”
“Mortals,” Flibbage muttered, rubbing her temples. “Listen, we need to fix this before the whole world falls apart.”
Beansprout glared at her. “You keep saying that, but what exactly do you want us to do?”
Before Flibbage could answer, two sets of footsteps faded in from the corridor on the far side of the room.
Beansprout blinked. The sword was drawn, there in her hand, and her feet had shifted into a fighting stance, and she didn’t even remember moving.
“They must be agents!” Flibbage hissed. “We can’t get caught here!”
“Uh – okay, I can pretend you’re my prisoners,” said Jay. “Act prisonery!”
“I am not trying a guard-prisoner gambit with you,” Flibbage snapped, and looked around the room. “Quick! Get into the Portaloo!”
“No!” Jay exclaimed. “We can’t-”
“This is no time to be coy!” Flibbage started shoving them all towards the Portaloo, Beansprout blinking and shaking her head as they went. “Quickly! Hide!”
The four of them piled into the Portaloo, Flibbage’s elbow ending up in Beansprout’s ear and Jay treading on Lance’s ankle.
For a moment.
Then there was a slightly disgusting flushing noise, and the plastic green walls of the Portaloo shimmered and dissolved like smoke blowing away in a breeze. A multicoloured vortex began to swirl around them, and the four of them felt like they were spinning in space…
There was a juddering feeling, like they’d hit a wall. The vortex froze. The four of them stared up at the four giant green letters that were plastered across the sky.
“What the folk is going on?” Beansprout yelled.
“We were travelling between dimensions,” said Flibbage. “And we were headed for Faerie.”
“How do you know that?”
Flibbage jabbed a finger at the letters. “Because that’s my mother’s handwriting!”
“What?” Beansprout pushed her fingers through her hair. “Why won’t she let us in?”
AND THAT MEANS PRECISELY ZIP WHEN YOU’RE DRAGGING A BUNCH OF DISSOLVING PLOTLINES WITH YOU, said the writing across the vortex. I’M NOT HAVING FAERIE THREATENED THIS TIME AROUND. YOU’RE BARRED UNTIL YOU SORT THIS OUT.
“I’m your daughter!” Flibbage yelled at the writing.
DON’T THINK I WON’T BANISH YOU, FLIBBAGE. SORT. IT. OUT.
The writing disappeared, and the walls of the Portaloo appeared again. Before the four of them could do anything, the door opened, and a grumpy face framed by long blonde hair looked in.
“Your girlfriend’s in the toilet, Yakky. Oh, look, and my boyfriend too.”
“Yakky?” Beansprout, Flibbage and Jay exclaimed.
“Dee?” Lance asked.
“Lance.” Dee raised her eyebrows. “Anything you need to tell me?”
“No! I don’t even know why I’m here!”
“Okay, let’s…well, let’s get out of the Inter-SOME-dimensions-but-not-ones-guarded-by-utterly-unreasonable-queens-Portaloo first, and then let’s talk this over calmly,” said Flibbage, extricating herself from the tangle of limbs and wriggling out into the outer room. Everyone else followed, looking a mixture of irritable, confused and embarrassed.
“Now.” Flibbage pushed her hair behind her ears and looked from Yakky to Jay, who were studiously avoiding each others’ gazes. “I hope we’re not going to have any more goes at killing each other.”
“Well…no,” Yakky mumbled. “Turns out…my mum isn’t actually dead.”
Jay blinked. “How do you know that? I only just found that out!”
“I know. I saw the photo you took.”
“How did you see that photo! It was on a secure channel!”
Dee snorted, and Yakky rolled his eyes. “Sorry, Jay, but your little secret society channels aren’t a match for werewolf hacking.”
“Werewolves?” Beansprout looked at Dee and Lance, before looking back at Yakky. “What were you doing hanging out with werewolves?”
Flibbage smacked her palm against her forehead again.
Yakky sighed. Slowly, he reached up and pulled the frayed, faded Chelsea hat off his head.
Beansprout stared. Poking through Yakky’s tangle of blond hair were two pointed, fuzzy ears.
“You have ears,” she said dully. “On your head.”
“Yeah,” Yakky said
quietly. “I’m half-werewolf.”
Reality flipped 180 degrees as the portal spat them out onto a grassy mountainside. The heroes flopped onto their backs and lay catching their breath. There was a prolonged silence as clouds floated past high above the snowy peaks.
"Sorry I shot your mum,
Yakky," said Jay, "I should have tried to capture her."
"Is it always going to be
"And now my dad is a supervillain." Beansprout pinched the bridge of her nose. "This is so stupid. I need to talk to my mum."
tried to open a portal, but was unsurprised when her magic sparks formed into
the words 'FOLK OFF'.