Notes: for the Mod Squad. Contains more in-jokes than you can shake a stick at, including one which is basically aimed at Australians only. In fact, if ever there was a fic entirely composed of in-jokes, this would be it. Maybe I should do an annotated version… All jokes and references are meant in the nicest possible way.
Also contains Real People, Smurfs
and Poolboys, including my newest, shiniest poolboy. Connected to
all the other S31 poolboy fics. Non-original characters are the property
of their various creators, and come to think of it, some of the real people
might consider themselves the property of a Creator as well. (You
know it's a slow day when I'm getting theological in my author's notes.)
Section 31 had really gone downhill lately, Clark decided. He hadn't been with the Organisation for very long, but everyone agreed that things had been frightfully dull lately. Or maybe that was just what they wanted him to think.
Clark pondered this as he carried the morning's mail into Director Smallburn's office on what would be his last day with the organisation. It didn't do think too much about Section 31's practices, but when you were a junior spy and mail boy, there wasn't much else to do.
Director Smallburn was a large woman whose best qualities were not flattered by the Organisation's regulation vinyl catsuit. Clark wasn't certain what her best qualities were, except that her personality probably wasn't one of them.
"Jan! Mail! Coffee! Now!"
On Clark's first day, Smallburn had looked him up and down and said, "A new one. Huh. Suppose that fellow with the vertical hair has moved on to greener pastures, then."
Clark agreed that this did indeed seem to be the case. He refrained from mentioning that he'd had lunch with Agent Liam the day before, spending a good two hours listening to Liam's complaints about the Organisation's administration.
"First Gilchrist went into politics," he'd said, "and Director Barlow went—" He glanced around and lowed his voice. "Well. I don't like to spread rumours, *but*…"
According to rumour – and in the Organisation, the rumours were worth listening to – Director Barlow had taken herself off to Scotland, where she spent her days cavorting with a harem full of black haired men, all of whom wore swirling robes. Or maybe it was Tahiti. Or Atlantis. The robed men were a fairly constant factor, though.
The point was, Barlow was well and truly gone, and Smallburn was the replacement. She was The New Guard, although she'd been well and truly entrenched by the time Clark came in.
"I'll call you Jan," she told him on his first day. "I call all my assistants Jan, saves trouble remembering names."
Clark didn't like to ask what had happened to the last Jan, or any of his other predecessors. Smallburn did rather go through assistants.
"Um," he'd tried to say, "Jan's a girl's name, isn't it?"
"So? It was good enough for the first Jan. She was grateful to have a name like that, let me tell you…"
After that, Clark kept his mouth shut. It occurred to him that with that sort of attitude towards gender labels, Smallburn might be following in the footsteps of the legendary Captain Gilchrist, but he quickly came to realise that, while both women were complete nutters, Gilchrist at least had other qualities.
Smallburn was just a lunatic.
On Clark's last day with Section 31, the new phonebook had been included with the mail. Phones had been obsolete for several centuries, of course, but phonebooks remained in production because they made such handy stands for computer monitors.
Smallburn cackled as she opened the Yellow Pages.
"I love the phonebook," she said, "I'd read it any day. Got my favourite editions, of course. You can't go past a phonebook by Seema, that's what I always say. I just love the way the Organisation isn't included." She turned to Organisations, Covert and turned the book around so that Clark could have a look. He quickly skimmed the page:
Council of Watchers: for all of your supernatural bureaucratic needs!
Department of Mysteries: God only knows what we get up to.
Microsoft Help Line: Catch us if you can!
Section 31: Espionage and pool maintenance, reasonable rates, free t-shirts.
"Erm," said Clark politely, "there seems to be an ad in here. For us."
Smallburn took another look.
"Well? Why didn't you stop this from happening?"
"I'm sorry, Director?"
"That’s your job, isn't it? Stopping this sort of thing from happening."
"I've only been working here for a few months, Director. I didn't know anything about a Yellow Pages ad."
"This is Barlow's work," muttered Smallburn. "She's working against me from her hideout in Outer Mongolia … her and Gilchrist, and that Perry. I tried to ban Perry from the Organisation all together, you know, but she just went off and created her own Organisation. I hate it when people do that! And now we're advertised, like some common double agents. I tell you, Jan – Jan?"
Smallburn realised for the first time that she'd been speaking to herself. She waddled over to the window, vinyl creaking, and leaned out to yell at Clark's retreating back:
"Not! Happy! Jan!"
Clark ran for several blocks, shedding pieces of vinyl as he went. Finally, though, he had to pause to think: what would he do now?
He found himself standing outside a seedy little bar. The fading sign read The Bordello. A cute brunette smiled at him.
"Hi," he said. "I'm Clark."
She took a long drag on her cigarette. "Mandy. Looks like you're in a bit of trouble."
Smallburn was probably working herself into a fit right that very second. There was no way he could go back.
"You could say that."
"Need a job?"
Mandy inclined her head towards the dirty window. For the first time, Clark noticed the Help Wanted sign.
"What kind of position?"
"We need a new Maurice."
"Maurice. Our bartender."
"My name's Clark. Not Maurice. Not Jan, either."
Mandy rolled her eyes. "I *realise* that. Look, the first Maurice was an original. Made a Mai Tai to die for. But then he kind of disappeared, and we had a new Maurice. This was a British guy, cute, but – bookish. Played guitar and sang a bit if he'd been sampling the merchandise."
"And his name was Maurice."
"No, it was Rupert. We figured that Maurice was almost better, on the scale of these things." She gave him a sidelong glance and inhaled some more smoke. "Better than Clark, too."
"But there were more Maurices."
"Yeah. One day, Rupert was gone, and we had a new British guy. Bit older, didn't sing, had a great voice, though. Made cocktails to die for."
Mandy shrugged. "You ever had a martini?"
"Sure. They're compulsory for all Section 31 agents. Shaken, not stirred."
"Huh. Amateurs. Bet you start your recruits on vodka martinis, too."
"Anyway, that's not the point. You know the olive in the martini?"
"You ever seen it replaced by an eyeball?"
"Yeah. And he kept trying to add eye of newt to the cosmopolitans, and suddenly all the Mai Tais had green umbrellas, and don't even ask me what was in the tea."
"What was—" Clark caught the dangerous look in Mandy's eye. "Right. Not asking."
"Good. So anyway, Maurice had clearly gone mad. Christine reckons it was Liz's fault. But anyway, suddenly there's this new place opening up down the road, and Liz and Maurice have taken themselves off. So we need a new Maurice."
"You mix drinks?"
"I got an A+ in Alcohol 101 at the Academy. But…"
Clark shuffled his feet. "I really don't want a job that comes with a built-in name."
Mandy threw her cigarette to the ground and stubbed it out under her shoe. "Suit yourself. Makes no difference to me, anyway. I'm not going back in there for a while."
"Oh, there's this big custody battle going on. Over me, actually. Like I even want to be around those losers."
"Right." Clark smiled gamely, but Mandy had evidently lost interest in him. She seemed like a bit of a bitch, actually.
He looked up and down the street, wondering if any one was interested in hiring a corn-fed Kansas boy who could kill a man with his little finger. (Organisation training again: Killing A Man With One Finger 101.) Beyond the Bordello was an enormous, busy department store. The sign over the entrance read Fiction Alley. Beside that was a slightly smaller department store, called the Sugar Quill. While Fiction Alley looked like a vast, new facility, Sugar Quill had the aura of a classy family business, although the bright orange bricks rather hurt his eyes.
Across the road from the Bordello was an attractive nightclub. A shimmering, round sign proclaimed it to be the Glass Onion. The Glass Onion was situated between a new stucco building called Silverlake, which seemed to be attracting a steady stream of shiny teenage girls and boys. On the Glass Onion's other side was a high wall, from which the sounds of shrieks and splashing emerged. A tasteful sign told Clark that this was the Zen Resort.
He was about to ask which was the new place – maybe they were still hiring, and maybe they were new enough that employees could keep their own names – when the Zen Resort's gate opened, and a girl came out. She was tall, very thin, and rather pretty, with red hair and green eyes. She was about to walk right past them, but Clark smiled at her, and she paused and lingered.
"Hi," she said.
"Hey. I'm Clark." Reluctantly, he added, "and this is Mandy."
"I know. You said." But her amusement was much more gentle than Mandy's, and her smile deepened as he blushed.
"You'd be from the new place," said Mandy, answering Clark's next question. "The Zen Resort."
"Oh, it's not so new. Silverlake is newer, you know. I've heard they have a twenty-four hour nude disco going. Lots of Real People, lots of music." She frowned. "Are you from the Bordello? How do you know the Resort?"
Mandy shrugged. "Christine and Teanna hang out there. Why'd you leave? I thought the Zen Resort was so wonderful that everyone wanted to stay."
"Oh no, lots of people leave. There's been a big Smurf exodus lately."
"You're not a Smurf, though," said Clark.
"Oh no, I'm a muse. But I'm supposed to be 'shipped with Snape, and Liz had to take some time out to get him back into character. I got bored, so I went exploring."
Mandy smiled. It was a much nicer smile than the one she'd given Clark.
"You didn't want to wait around for someone to deign to remember you."
"Keep it up," said Mandy lazily, "and by the time you're my age, you'll be as big a bitch as me."
"Oh no, I'll be dead by the time I'm your age. It's canon."
"Canon?" said Mandy. "We don't need no canon, babe. Cigarette?"
"I don't smoke. Well, not in fic, so far. But – what the hell, I'm a '70s muse. Liz should be grateful that tobacco's the only thing I smoke."
Lily accepted the cigarette, and allowed Mandy to light it for her.
Clark suddenly felt oddly excluded.
"So," said Mandy, "what do you like to do?"
"Oh … this and that. I'm hardly a fully formed character, you know." Lily leaned a bit closer. "There are lots of blanks to fill in."
"It could be, yes."
Clark shifted his weight. "I guess I'll be off to the Zen Resort," he said. "See what's going on there. I'm looking for a haven, you know? A place where muses can commune, and writers can play with meta, and poolboys can frolic. A paradise devoid of screaming harridans and phonebook-reading lunatics."
"That's nice," said Lily.
"Well, I'm off then."
"Yeah, bye," said Mandy. Lily didn't even give him a second glance.
The Zen Resort was like nothing Clark had ever seen before. Symposiums (such a more dignified word than 'riots') were taking place in meeting rooms, while muses and poolboys played beach volleyball and strip checkers.
An older poolboy with a Scottish accent told him that he'd find the Mod Squad by the pool. They were easy to spot, for they were enthroned upon special Mod Squad pool chairs. Their names were written across the tops: Seema, Lori, Christine and Liz.
A fifth chair, marked Jemima, was empty except for a small Union Jack. This chair was apparently made of ivory, as was the soapbox that lay beside it. A thick stack of paper sat on the soapbox, labelled, Property of Jemima. Original Novel. Do Not Touch.
The Mod Squad were all occupied: Lori was filling out enrolment forms and working on a novel. Seema was sorting through a large album of photos, and Christine was counting votes. Liz was deep in conversation with a sulky-looking teenage boy, obviously the Snape muse. Beside her poolchair were a pot of white asphodel and some pruning shears.
"Now," she was saying, "let's try that again."
The muse sighed. "I – I don't know exactly what I feel," he recited. He looked at Liz. "I forget. What's my motivation again?"
"You want Lily back, but you don't want to apologise. Or admit that you're wrong."
Snape shook his head. "That's not right. I just want to get laid."
Liz groaned. "I'm never working with sixteen year olds again," she muttered.
Everyone gasped. "I -- I -- a shipper? You must be mad! I'm not a shipper, I just think that you and Lily make a really cute couple ... and ... I am *not* a shipper. I just play one on my website."
Snape raised an eyebrow.
"And you are a pathetic excuse for a romantic lead, anyway," Liz ranted. "You have greasy hair, and a big nose, and -- and where the hell did you get those leather pants, anyway? You give them back to Cassandra Claire this *instant* -- no, don't take them off -- oh, well, if you like..."
Seema looked up from her photos and smiled at Clark. "Can I help you?"
"If this is an application to join the list," Lori added, "the queue starts around the block."
"And Lori'll boot you off if you don't stand in the right place."
"Uh, hi," Clark began awkwardly, but he paused as he noticed something strange. "I'm Jan, I mean Clark, and – are those Section 31 uniforms in your pool bags?"
"What?" asked Seema. "Oh, those. Vinyl's such a last year look, don't you think?"
"You're Section 31!" Clark cried. "You found me – but you'll never take me—" He prepared to throw himself into the pool, but Liz, whose bikini was tailored to match her black cloak and boots, looked up from her conversation.
"Easy there," she said. "Yeah, we're all Section 31. But we're good guys, honest. You might know me? Barlow?"
"You're Director Barlow?"
"Well, I just go by Liz now … that whole thing was really Christine's fault."
Clark put two and two together and got thirty-one. "You're Gilchrist!"
"I met one of your characters outside. Mandy?"
"Oh, that's where she went! She's such a bitch of a character – always getting away from me."
"Well, she's outside the Bordello. Talking to Lily."
Liz sat up. "What? Lily's talking to Mandy?" She ran out, narrowly avoiding tripping over her cloak.
"So," said Clark thoughtfully, examining the ivory soapbox, "Jemima Pereira. That's Captain Perry, right? Word around the Section was that she got sucked into an alternate universe."
"Nah," said Lori, "just a virtual one."
A flaming Smurf came running past, throwing himself into the pool.
"We really should be moderating that," said Lori.
"Nah," said Seema. "Maybe they'll all drown each other."
"That's not right," said Lori. "This is our resort, and these people are our guests. And if they don't play nicely, we should be allowed to evict them."
"Shouldn't we have more rules, then? I mean, this resort has been going for over six months, and not one single person has tried to ban Jemima."
A horde of writers, metas, DeniZens and Smurfs followed the first Smurf into the water. The Mod Squad moved back to avoid the splashes and flying body parts as the good people of Zendom expressed a mild degree of anger.
"We really should be moderating that."
Liz returned, leading Lily by the arm.
"CHRISTINE!" she shrieked. "look what your character has done to my Lily! SHE'S WOKEN UP GAY!"
Lily rolled her eyes and wandered over to the Mrs Lestrange muse. "You know," she said, "we're the only established females of our generation."
Mrs Lestrange smiled. "Girlslash is practically logical."
"So?" said Christine. "You like girlslash. I like girlslash. Now Lily likes girlslash."
"But – but – this is Lily. Harry Potter's sweet, virginal mum!"
"Virginal?" Snape muttered, "not for long."
"Not now, no. Christine! Make it stop!" Liz sank down into her Mod pool chair and buried her face in her arms. "I found her outside, snogging Mandy. I barely know Mandy, and now I feel this odd need to write fic about the two of them."
Christine, Laura Ellen, Teanna and Twinkledru J all perked up at the notion of crossover girlslash.
"Maybe it'll pass," said Christine.
"It'd damn well better pass. Who'd want to read Lily slash? Come to that, who'd I slash Lily with? We already have a shortage of females."
"Oh, and speaking of that," said the Snape muse, "the Potter and Black muses want to know when you'll have that boyslash fic edited and posted, and the Harry, Hermione and Adult Snape muses have hinted that they wouldn't mind a rerun of that threesome fic."
"Yeah, well, if I don't get Lily un-slashed soon, Harry'll have bigger things to worry about."
A scream from across the resort indicated that Harry had just caught his mum snogging Narcissa Malfoy.
Christine gave Liz a comforting pat on the shoulder. "Well, there's some good news, anyway."
"Teanna and I have decided to get back together for Mandy's sake."
"Oh. That's lovely."
"Of course, we'll be sending her off to boarding school." Innocently, Christine added, "can you recommend any good ones?"
Liz took off her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "I can't deal with this," she said. "I have three fics to work on, I'm auditioning original characters this afternoon, and I'm already past my deadline on 'No Such Place'." She glanced up at Clark. "Sorry," she said, "you came here for a reason?"
"I was looking for a job, but I can see you're busy…"
"No, no, I have a position open for a poolboy. Get out of that restricting vinyl and go frolic with the others."
"Gee, thanks, Director Barlow – I mean Liz – thanks—"
Liz gritted her teeth. "Go. Frolic. Now."
Clark went to frolic, while Liz sorted out her muses and the rest of the Mod Squad … well, moderated. Or not, as the case may have been.
As endings went, it wasn't nearly as neat as those he'd been accustomed to, working in the Trekiverse, but the sun was bright, the water was warm, and there was a cute, bald poolboy who reminded him of someone he'd once known.
The air occasionally rang with shrieks
as a few DeniZens gently debated the finer points of meta, or as Liz tried
to tame her rogue muse. But Clark paid no attention. Poolboys
were hardly there to think, after all.
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