Friday, 12 July 2013

Rambling Band

People often - well, sometimes - well, once - look, it's a figure of speech, all right?

People often ask why we at the PPC are so hung up on Jay and Acacia. What is it that makes them the iconic Assassins, or even Agents? Why were they special? Acacia was barely with the Protectors two years; why are these two so emblematic of our organisation? Actually, it's quite simple:

They were the first.

Not the first PPC Agents - that was Elizabeth, Anya, and Osbert, way back in the day. Nor were they the original Assassins, or anything like that. But they were the first to write it down. The very first mission report ever released on the Network was Jay and Acacia's. Actually, the first half dozen or so were all theirs, before other agents caught onto the idea.

Mission: Rambling Band
Agents: Jay Thorntree and Acacia Byrd, DMS
Continuum: Lord of the Rings

It is hard, now, to remember how things were back in Jay and Acacia's time. It had only been a few years since the Reorganisation, and the PPC had not truly recovered. We were more like a loosely-associated collection of departments than a true organisation, and what went on under the direction of the other Flowers was something of a mystery. If you were a Slasher (so the thought went), your business was to know about Bad Slash. You talked mostly to other Slashers, studied only techniques related to Bad Slash stories... we were insular.

Jay and Acacia changed all that. They talked to everyone, whatever their department, and when they wrote their first mission report, they tailored it to provide an introduction to the 'secrets' of the Department of Mary-Sues. Thus, we have the famous introduction:

"It's happened again." Jay leaned back from her console, indicating a flashing red light. "Someone's mucking with the plot continuum."

Acacia sighed. "Exactly what is so wrong with the canon that everyone wants to break it?" she demanded rhetorically. "Which world?"

"Lord of the Rings." Jay winced. "The massacre of Tolkien continues. We have... a Mary Sue."

And later, lines such as:

"[...] I don't think we can do the Duty until they're out of Rivendell."

"Why?" said Acacia, knowing the reason full well but wanting it explained again anyway.

"They haven't officially ruined the continuum until they've joined the Fellowship. Be patient."

Far be it from me to accuse the famous Assassins of lying, but these don't really sound like the sort of things people would say. They sound like what they are: an introduction to the workings of the DMS, a way for unfamiliar readers to get a grip on what Jay and Acacia did for a living.

Of course, simply writing a 'Beginner's Guide to Mary-Sue Assassination' wouldn't have been enough for their purposes. A bad, or worse, uninteresting mission report would have soured HQ to the whole concept. But Jay and Acacia were up to the challenge; even more than their dialogue, the narration reveals their frankly wicked sense of humour:

[Acacia] fired. Laurel, being a Mary Sue, didn't intend to die so easily and dodged. That was why the shot went into her shoulder, and not her heart. (Meanwhile, the men of the party had as a body rushed forward to save her; things would have gone pear shaped if another orc hadn't strolled out of the bushes, tripped Legolas, and watched the rest of them fall over him.)

Acacia's poison could kill a full-grown man in seconds with only a few drops. That was why it didn't matter. Acacia's poison had several other lovely redeeming features; for one, it paralyzed the vocal cords, snuffing any risk of tear-jerking "dying words."

And their spoken lines reveal the combatative cameraderie that made them such a compelling team to read about:

Jay gasped. "That's... that's not right... Arwen doesn't act like that... why the hell is she putting the bint in a gown?"

"Since when do the males wear robes?" Acacia volunteered. "They certainly weren't in robes when I read the story. And it doesn't matter that Arwen doesn't act like that, we wouldn't be here at all if the canon were intact."

Apart from the sheer entertainment and delight I find in reading it, 'Rambling Band' is interesting for another reason: it shows how the PPC has changed since the Flowers became able to read exactly what happened in our missions. Acacia thought nothing of calling the writer of Rambling Band 'crazy', which nowadays would be seen as a flame worthy of a reprimand, and the entire Charge List for this iconic mission runs as follows:

The Fellowship stared as the orc began to recite: "It is my duty to inform you that you have been charged with disrupting the canon by joining the Fellowship, bringing twenty-first century knowledge to Middle-earth, interfering with the characters of... at least ten people, so I won't list them all, but most severely Legolas and Boromir; and also being a Mary Sue."

Some of these changes are undoubtedly for the better - we should never flame, even in the slightest - but others are more ambiguous. Do we need a ten-foot-long charge list read out for each mission? The Flowers seem to think we do, but I'm not so sure...

'Rambling Band' is iconic. It was the beginning of a wave of change that is still sweeping through HQ. And it introduced the PPC to the magnificent Jay Thorntree and Acacia Byrd. It - and every other mission report by this legendary team - is well worth a (re)read.

-T. Ryan, Dept. of Personnel, DOGA Archivist - and long-time fan

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