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PPC Interlude: Fire and Whispers
space beauty

(Author's Note: The PPC was created by Jay and Acacia. Fix, Lake and the Carver belong to me, as does the world Fix came from. The Dresden Files was written and created by Jim Butcher. 'Fire and Whispers' was written, recorded and performed by IAMX.)

The young man ran over the roof, somehow keeping his balance despite the occasional hole, broken tile or slanted shape. Blood coated his naked skin, mixing with the sweat that constantly dripped onto the tiles.
He hadn’t rested for hours, nor had he eaten. Despite this, he felt more alive than ever. Adrenaline coursed through his veins, heightening his senses, making his nails and teeth lengthen and sharpen themselves, becoming claws and fangs capable of ripping through bone.
They’d killed the others- all twelve of them. Five had been cut down by bursts of blaster fire as they’d tried to escape. Five more had been killed by the mobs. The last two had stopped to rest, and the soldiers had caught them.
He shivered at the memory, gazed ahead and set his mind to the task: escape. He was the only survivor, and he was damn well going to stay that way- alive and kicking.
Despite the screams of the mob behind him and the blood- some of it his- on his skin, he still felt jubilant. When he’d awoken, he’d remembered nothing- except one thing. A man had been standing over him. He didn’t know who the man was- but he did know that he hated him more than anything. And he hadn’t been restrained.
In less than a minute, everyone in the room besides him was dead. The alarms had started sounding, and faced with no other option, he’d fled.
It was only as he ran through the streets that he discovered that he’d killed the President.
He inhaled sharply and was brought back to the present as a wave of new scents slammed into his nose: the tang of metal, the stench of fear, the odour of man. Humans. Armed humans. Two of them, by the scent.
He saw them in the distance, standing on a roof that was a more than a few metres away. Both were pointing blasters at him.
He increased his pace, leapt from one roof to the next and was on them before they could fire. Within seconds, both men were dead, and the fugitive was gone.
Several roofs later, he stopped and looked around. He couldn’t hear the mob, but that meant nothing. Death came from all directions, after all.
Beyond the next roof, something pulsed with eerie blue light. Confused, the man leapt to the roof and edged closer to look. From where he stood, it appeared to be a hole. He tried to get closer to see exactly what it was, slipped, fell-

-and landed in the Marquis de Sod’s office.
Some people, when seeing a homicidal, naked, blood-covered maniac falling through a hole in mid-air into their office, would be upset, confused, horrified or stunned. The Marquis merely folded his fronds and glared. And who are you?
The stranger sat up, blinked, opened his mouth to speak and passed out.
The Marquis sighed. Oh, fantastic. What a brilliant start to my day.
He pressed a button on a small gadget on his desk and ‘spoke’ into it. Doctor Fitzgerald? Ah, yes. It is the Marquis here. I have a strange man in my office who appears to be unconscious. Yes… yes, if you could send somebody to take him to your department, I would be most grateful. Hmm? No, I don’t know what happened- he just fell into the office. At a first glance, I’d say he had a run-in with someone like Agent Kirill or Agent Laburnum, but at this point I have no way to tell. Yes. Yes, thank you. Goodbye.
He hit two more buttons and spoke again.
Hello, Lieutenant Andretti? It is the Marquis. There appears to be a plot hole in my office leading to an as of now unknown universe. Yes, I would like you to investigate. Your agents are already on the way? Good. I will talk to them when they arrive. Thank you for your assistance.
The Marquis hung up, folded his fronds and waited. And because he was the Marquis, he did paperwork to pass the time.

Around two weeks later, Doctors Freedenberg and Fitzgerald met in Freedenberg’s office in FicPsych.
After exchanging small talk and pleasantries, they got to the point.
“You have the report from the DIA?”
“I do,” Freedenberg replied. “The plot hole led to a universe where the idea of the story had been created, filled out somewhat, and then abandoned- and so the story ended in the plot hole we saw. Apparently, our patient was the protagonist. What did you find after your examination?”
Fitzgerald adjusted his position slightly and began. “The patient is around nineteen years old. He was suffering from a bad case of malnutrition and showed signs of having lived for a long time in a state of extreme poverty- little to no dental care, ditto medical care, and he had a couple of badly-healed fractures and breaks. He had many scars that appeared to be the result of fights, but several that appeared to be the results of surgery. And what I found to be most interesting was the parasite in his heart.”
Freedenberg leaned forward. “Parasite, you say?”
Fitzgerald nodded. “A very interesting little creature. It is quite unlike anything I have seen before. You see, when our patient feels anything that causes the release of adrenaline in his system- fear, excitement and so on- the parasite activates. It enhances his senses, improves his agility, quickens the healing of any wounds he has and turns his teeth and nails into lethal weapons. However, it doesn’t allow him these enhancements for long, hence his passing out in the Marquis’ office.”
Freedenberg nodded. “That fits with the report. Apparently, part of the plot involved our patient being turned into some kind of super soldier.”
Fitzgerald nodded. “He also had a bad wound on his arm that was refusing to heal. He’s now in perfect condition- physically, at least. What did you discover from your sessions with him?”
“Well, for a start, he has total amnesia. He told me that when he first woke up, he literally knew nothing until he looked around and began to remember things like walls and floors. I’ve done my best to help his recovery, but I don’t think I can cure the amnesia.”
“Was that in the DIA report?” Fitzgerald asked.
Freedenberg nodded. “Apparently the surgeons who implanted the parasite also wiped his memory in order to attempt to ensure his full loyalty to the state. It didn’t work- he told me he remembered nothing except hating the people he first saw.”
“Induced amnesia that removes everything except emotions? Interesting,” Fitzgerald mused. “Very interesting.”
“It was an unplanned flaw,” Freedenberg replied. “He was very conscious of having no identity, so I gave him a name- ‘Fix’. He was quite grateful.”
“So now what?” Fitzgerald asked. “Will he become an agent?”
“I’m not sure,” Freedenberg admitted. “You see, some of the nurses told him about the PPC and gave him some books to read, including a few encyclopaedias. They said he expressed an interest in the agency. But I’m not sure what we could do if he doesn’t want to join the PPC- he has no home canon to be released to, and I’m not sure if there’s another canon he could be assimilated into.”
“Well, we will just have to see,” Fitzgerald said.
“We will,” Freedenberg agreed.

The man now known as Fix had slipped out of FicPsych and was walking the hallways of HQ, lost in thought.
Eventually, he walked into a door.
“Ow,” he said as he rubbed his head and looked up.
It was quite an unremarkable door. It had nothing to differentiate itself from any other door.
And yet, he felt somewhat apprehensive upon seeing it.
Nevertheless, he opened the door and walked inside.
Oh, now what? Haven’t I got enough to deal with without- oh. You. What do you want? The Marquis glared at him.
Fix blinked. “Oh. I’m sorry for interrupting. I was just walking, and I somehow ended up here.”
And now you can go away.
“Hang on. You’re in charge of Personnel, right?”
“Should I become an agent or not?”
The Marquis blinked. Why are you asking me?
“Because you’re here.”
Hmph. Well. Given the harassment I receive from agents on a daily basis, I am inclined to say no. Given the levels of understaffing we have, I am also inclined to say yes. Why can you not decide?
“Everyone I know is dead,” Fix said finally. “My entire world, everything I knew, was summed up in about five lines. My author decided I wasn’t worth any effort. My existence was badly-written and badly thought out, but I don’t have anything else. I have no place here. I have no future. I don’t even have a past. I don’t know what to do.” He stared at the Marquis with a hopeless look in his eyes.
The Marquis did not sound sympathetic. Then consider this your second chance in life. You can continue to mope for a world never expanded and people you don’t remember. You can allow yourself to become a nameless bit character and waste all the effort you or anyone else put into your life. Or you can join the PPC, where you will undertake a number of gruelling tasks for no thanks and little pay-
“Wait. Did you say pay? As in, money? For doing things?”
Yes, that’s generally what ‘pay’ means.
Fix looked genuinely stunned. “Bloody hell. Where I come from, you didn’t get paid. You got kidnapped by the government, forced to do what they wanted and killed if you refused.”
Well, then. I am sure the PPC will be a great improvement.
“So I’d get paid.”
“And fed.”
“And medical care.”
“And psych- psychi- that thing. Care.”
“And all I’d have to do is…”
Kill Mary Sues, exorcise wraiths, and do whatever else the missions require of you.
Fix chewed his lip for a moment and made up his mind. “Where do I sign up?”

Twenty minutes later, the new Agent Fix was walking through the corridors. He’d returned to FicPsych, explained the situation to Doctor Freedenberg, picked up the backpack that held his few belongings and was heading toward his new home.
RC 987, the Marquis had told him. Despite knowing the destination, Fix couldn't find it. He checked every door, but to no avail.
I'll never find it, he thought gloomily. I'll just be stuck here forever...
Fix was startled out of his reverie by something that ran past him so quickly he had to jump back, lest he be caught in its wake. As the dust settled behind it, Fix caught sight of the door directly across from him. A nameplate attached to the door simply said ‘RC 987’.
Ah, here it is, he thought.
He crossed the hallway, opened the door and stepped inside.
The RC came as a surprise. Someone had painted the walls wine-red. Several rugs, each thick, lush and vibrantly colourful, were spread over the floor. Two of the walls were lined with bookcases. A couch made out of some expensive-looking material sat in front of a fireplace, where a fire was burning merrily, and another stood to its left, facing the far wall. The console sat in a corner, where it seemed oddly out of place. Another corner held a huge, box-like thing that Fix had never seen before. A table stood in the middle of the room, and on it sat several misshapen blocks of wood, a large cage holding a small yellow bird, and several books.
“Hello?” he tried, setting his bag down on a couch.
The bird let out a chirp, and fluttered away from him.
“Well, fine then,” he muttered, and kept looking around.
There were four doors, each of which was closed. Several paintings of unfamiliar landscapes hung on the walls. The RC was lit by five small jars, each containing a flame that burned despite the lack of fuel. They lit the room well, despite their size. And on each side of the door was a rack at least two metres high, filled with knives.
Fix stared at the knives. No two were alike. Some looked very old, others very new. And each had been sharpened and polished to perfection.
“Please do not touch them," a voice called from behind him.
Fix turned. An older woman was standing next to the weird box thing, looking at him with alarm.
“Young man, may I ask your name and your reason for being here?" she asked, her voice rich and musical.
“I’m your new partner,” Fix said.
She looked confused. “Partner? I must say, nobody informed me... oh, Lord...” She crossed the room to the console and began to type away.
Fix watched her.
She looked thirty, maybe, and somewhat attractive, but there was something off about her.
Fix turned back to his new partner and inhaled. She smelt human, but there was something strangely alien about her, as though she were a monster hiding behind an illusion.
She turned back to him. “Oh, my- you are my new partner. I wish the Sunflower Official had seen fit to tell me this earlier...” She paused. “Young man, why do you stare so?”
“You’re not human,” Fix stated flatly. “Are you?”
“And what would make you think that?” she asked, eyeing him with a look he didn’t like at all.
“You smell wrong,” he replied.
“May I ask, are you a werewolf?” she asked.
“What kind of question is that?” he threw back at her.
“Well, young sir, you asked me if I’m not human,” she pointed out.
“Fine. No, I’m not a werewolf.”
“Far be it from me to contradict you,” she said, "but I cannot help but notice your visible claws and fangs, and the remarks you made earlier about your sense of smell." 
“I’m not a werewolf,” Fix repeated firmly. 
“All right. In answer to your earlier question, young man, I am a wizard."
Fix was momentarily intrigued. “Really? Which continuum?”
The Dresden Files.”
“I’ve read those books,” Fix said. “Well, some of them. The first eight.” A thought occurred to him. “Wait. If you’re a wizard, how can you use a console?”
“Ah,” the woman mused, “the tough questions.” She walked over to the couch and sat down, taking a moment to arrange the long black dress she wore around her to her satisfaction. “I began life as a character in a particularly execrable fic. My sister was a horrific Sue- she painted herself as an Archive who was perfectly normal despite the trauma most Archives sustain. I was a wizard who performed uncanonical magic. Eventually, I was rescued and my sister killed.” She spoke in a singsong tone, as though she was reciting history that had happened to someone else.
“You didn’t answer the question,” Fix pointed out. “How can you use a console?”
“It is a... long story, I suppose."
Fix sih. “I would like an answer, please.”
“If you insist,” she replied, sounding slightly annoyed. “I cannot cast spells. Instead, I draw pictures and infuse them with my magic. The magic takes the meaning of the picture. For example…” she pointed to one of the knives. “Look at the blade, but please do not touch it. What do you see?"
Fix paused for a second before squinting at the blade. “A circle in a bigger circle, etched onto the blade.”
“Precisely. It is a spell of protection. In a battle, I can cast the spell simply by touching the image and directing it at a target. Unfortunately, spells once used cannot be revived.”
Fix had a thought. “Could someone else cast one of those spells?”
“I’m not sure,” she admitted. “I’ve never had the occasion to try." She lifted a hand slightly. “You may call me the Carver.”
“That’s your name?” Fix asked, trying to be polite.
“It is the only one I need.”
“Why the Carver?” he asked.
“Ah, that would be another long story."
Fix waited.
“If you insist. I was called the Carver because of these.”
She held up an arm. Fix leaned closer and saw similar symbols on her skin. They looked like tattoos, but they shimmered faintly.
The Carver waited patiently.
“These are scars,” Fix said finally.
“You carved spells into your own skin?”
“Yes,” the Carver said.
“Simple. I have many spells- on pieces of paper, carved into my clothes, on tokens I keep in pockets- but should I be held captive and all my spells taken from me, I would need some way to escape. Hence, these.”
“Sick? Wrong? Disgusting? Nauseating? The product of a damaged mind? The creations of the truly insane?”
“Yes,” Fix said finally.
She shrugged. "I suppose one may call it that. But one must work with what one has." She closed her eyes for a second, before opening them all of a sudden. "I’m so sorry, I never asked you your name.”
“Fix,” Fix replied cordially.
She raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, like the Summer Knight.”
“What an interesting coincidence," she commented. "And your last name, young sir?"
“Crane,” Fix replied.
“Fix Crane. I see. What continuum are you from?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. It was thought up, one scene was written, and then it was scrapped.”
Despite his casual tone, it hurt to say it.
“I see,” the Carver replied. “What happened in it?”
“I was supposed to lead a revolution against a corrupt and despotic government,” he said. “But the author never got that far. I just ended up killing a lot of people and falling into a plot hole.”
"Oh, my. I'm sorry to hear that." Evidently changing the subject, the Carver pointed to a door. "This is my room. That," and she pointed to another door, "is the bathroom. This is the kitchen, and that will be your room."
Fix nodded and adjusted his backpack. "I suppose I should get settled in, then. One thing, though- what is that?” He pointed to the odd, boxy object."

The Carver raised an eyebrow. “It’s a piano.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“It’s a kind of instrument.”
“How does it work?” Fix asked.
The Carver opened the piano lid and began to play.
As the last notes died away, Fix stared at her, mouth agape. Finally, he spoke. “How did you do that?”
“Come over here and I’ll show you,” the Carver invited.
Fix walked over to her.
“Each key produces a different sound. You hit the keys in a certain order to play different songs.” She pressed a key to show him.
Fix poked a few keys experimentally. “Do you think I could learn?”
The Carver pursed her lips. “Depends. When do your claws come out?”
“The doctor said it was whenever I get excited, or nervous, or scared- or anything that produces adrenaline.”
“Hmmm. Maybe not, then. If you get nervous every time you try to play a hard song, you could break the keys,” the Carver replied. “I suppose I could teach you, if you promise to keep your emotions under control.”
“I could try,” Fix offered.
“That will do," the Carver decided.
"Also, what is that?" Fix asked, pointing to the bird.
"That? That is my pet canary. His name is Gerald."
"Does he talk?" Fix asked.
"No, I'm afraid. He is simply an ordinary pet canary."
Fix nodded. "I'll go put my stuff down, then-"



Astral Void: Hiya! I'm making my return soon, so I revised this interlude for the new Fix and Carver. Honestly, I like them both a hell of a lot more, now- and I hope you do, too!



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