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[Goodness, season three is taking forever. My apologies. It's been a busy year. Dollporn, wedding planning, travel, and strange unexpected things have happened.

Anyway, because this is taking forever it is obviously not time for it to be Christmas or Chanukah in the Minaverse. So the closest I will come to a seasonally-appropriate update will be the Pierce and Jab fanfic which will follow this in the next day or two.

Unless I lose my mind altogether and write soppy holiday commentfic or one-shots, which will be completely out of chronological order and therefore non-numbered. Suggest suggestions for commentfic? When I'm dying of exhaustion doing nightshifts next week (LOL "holidays") it might give me something to do.]

'Don't look now, but the gardener's quitting,' Ciyerra said smugly, flouncing past me. 'And it's my day off, so I don't have to tell you where I'm going. Not that I'll have to for much longer anyway,' she added smugly. Useless at this juncture to tell her to use the servants' entrance, I supposed, so I had to satisfy myself with shutting the front door in her face as she stood there waiting futilely for me to question her. I waited a moment before peering past the curtains in the general direction of my gamekeeper's cottage, and found, blast it, that it looked as though she'd been right. His luggage was piled in heaps, barring the articles that were being eagerly carried to my front gate and beyond by scores of females. I frowned, perplexed and, I'm not ashamed to admit, concerned. Something was afoot.

By this time Liz had joined me, and was peering over my shoulder, She sighed, dreamily. 'He's so masculine,' she told me. Good heavens. Her setting must be really jacked by this point, if she was going all swoony and insipid with desire for Warr1or. I mean, I'm fond of him and all, but he's not exactly love's young dream in the eyes of most fangirls, what? Although I confess his avatar's latest garb, a sort of blue collar cowboy look featuring tight jeans, wasn't half bad. I wondered if he owned that outfit in real life. It would, I confess, suit him.

I shook my head, irritated. I had more important things to do than stand around thinking about Warr1or. I needed to go out and confront Warr1or, and find out if he'd really quit me, and why.

True to form, he gladly abandoned the milling females and, putting friendship first, came to sit next to me on a convenient stone bench. 'What,' I asked him, not wishing to beat around any bushes, 'are you doing?'

'Moving. I know it will pain you to lose me, Mina, so let me assure you I'm not formally resigning my position as your gardener. But I'm shifting my things to the house across the street, and that will be my centre of operations from now on.'

'Ah, so you're buying property,' I said. I had to admit the wisdom of that. What with in-game financing being so strangely easy to obtain lately, he'd be foolish not to, really.

'Fans of the new television series having chosen my archive as their centre of activity,' he said pompously, 'I feel it's my responsibility to encourage the fandom to gather in a mature manor. And with the recent changes in Sanguinity Online economy, well...' he trailed off awkwardly. I nodded. I understood only too well. The SO economy hovered on the brink of complete collapse, and properties were going on-market at shockingly low prices. Thank heavens Malfois Manor was paid off in full, though it made me wail and gnash my teeth to think of the credits I'd expended on it, compared with the bargains the hoi polloi were snapping up now. But there's nothing you can do to fix the economy, once it turns zombie. You can't even throw salt on it.

'I blame the Sparklefen.' I blinked at that. I blamed them for a lot of things, too, but Warr1or was the first person I'd heard link them to our credit-point woes. Apparently it wasn't an original idea, though, because he went on, 'People are saying the mods offered them cut-rate credits and free start-ups just to lure more vampire fans into the game. I don't approve of that sort of manipulation of online populations, Mina. What about all those of us who got here through honest effort and Paypal?' It sounded like nonsense to me, and anyway would have meant the mods were at fault, not the Sparklefen, but if I'd said so he'd only have argued that I was biased by my friendships with people who wore glitter. I politely refrained from pointing out that his archive's 'male authors only' policy was pretty damned manipulative itself. Pierce and Jab fans, I'd noted before, can be a bit sensitive to that brand of criticism. Or any brand of criticism, really.

And speaking of the television show, which he'd been doing before this economic theory had sidelined us, I had heard of it, but I confess I'd not yet had time to catch an ep of Occult, as it was calling itself. Possibly I'd dropped some sort of ball there, I reasoned now. I mean to say, if it was popular enough to induce fangirls to flock after Warr1or and act as impromptu Sherpas, it must be a pretty heady brew. Maybe I should read some fanfic and try to catch up.

'Hang on,' I said, putting together the relevantish facts. 'Isn't yours still a fanboy-only archive?'

'It is, yes,' he said, further seriousness settling comfortably across his avatar's features. 'I have sound reasons for making that decision, Mina.'

'I'm sure you do,' I lied blithely, not wanting to hear them. 'But how can it be a gathering point for the television spin-off fandom, then? I thought Occult had a huge female following.'

'But my archive is the single largest repository for Pierce and Jab fanfiction, and the associated wiki is, I feel confident, going to be even more huge. So it's where the fangirls want to be, naturally.' He preened, manfully.

'But what good does wanting to be there do them, if you won't let them in?' I persisted, held up by the largish flaw here.

'Ah. Well,' he said, 'I've opened up paid reader accounts to women, and I'm letting them use a designated readers' lounge, provided they behave appropriately. No lewd or tempting dress, no immodest conversations. This way they have a place to discuss the fanfiction they've read without intruding on the attention of Princely Plots's central user base.'

I digested that in silence for a few moments before it hit me. 'You mean to say,' I said, waving a hand towards his female luggage toters, 'that you're charging female fans money to read fanfiction at your blasted archive, and not even letting them comment directly on stories, but shunting them off to some second-rate bulletin board?'

He was unmoved by my indignation. 'It's a major concession for us to have gone even this far,' he said. 'Male fanfiction authors have their own viewpoint with regards to the canon, Mina, and input from the female fans threatens that. Besides, it's not as though they're the only ones who have rules to obey. Everything that goes on in my space is carefully monitored by a select, trusted core of loyal men. The female fans are merely subject to tighter scrutiny.'

I snorted. 'And they're paying you for this?' I asked, despairing of humanity, or at least of fandom.

'Mina, Princely Plots contains classic Pierce and Jab fanfic of incalculable value to the influx of fans who've never played Sanguinity, and know the characters only through the show.' He sounded more than a little smug. 'Frankly, some of the fans would do just about anything to get close to our archive and its people. Body Count--that's our Women's Lounge--is thriving. I've reserved you an account there, in fact, just so someone else doesn't snag your username. And, Mina,' he went on, eyes glowing with pride, 'they say people working on the show are hanging out at the archive. Maybe even the actors themselves.'

This was alarming news, but perhaps a word of explanation is in order to help you better appreciate its alarmingness. Occult was still in its first season, but it had come with a premade fandom, because Sanguinity's creator had licensed Pierce and Jab for use in the show's entirely contemporary setting. Rather than Prince and serf, they'd been re-envisioned as cousins or something, boyhood pals maybe, I don't know. Anyway, one was firmly working class and the other more upscale, and they travelled around investigating paranormal activity. It sounded several degrees south of lame to me, but the actors cast as Pierce and Jab oozed sexuality and interpersonal tension, and thus far the buzz was surprisingly favourable.

Granted the re-envisioned PrincessB had been horribly and graphically murdered in the very first episode, but that had been, the fans pointed out, at the hands of or at least the handlike ectoplasm of evil occult forces, so it didn't count really. And admittedly, every female character Pierce or Jab had done away with had been an evil occult force, more or less. So that was all right.

'So what do you think of the show?' I was actually mildly surprised he was tolerating it at all. I'd have pegged him as one of those stuffy fen who don't like their heroes tinkered with.

'It's very well done,' he told me. 'Of course, the real purists insist that neither the television series nor the game can begin to compare to the original radio plays.' First I'd ever heard of those, personally. 'But I think it's fascinating to see how well the essential characterisation of Pierce and Jab can carry over to a new setting.'

A little more of this, and I wished him every success with his program of conquest and subjugation, although naturally I didn't phrase it quite that way, and returned to my own manor. Liz was still gazing out the window, dewy-eyed.

'Is he really leaving?' she sighed tragically. I hastened to set her mind, whatever remained of it, at ease.

'He's moving across the street, the better to oppress willing fangirls. Anyway, what do you care? You've never noticed him before.'

'But now he's poised to be the authority on Occult,' she said, brutally honest, 'and somehow that makes him impossible to ignore.' I should have guessed she'd be an Occult fan, what with her table-rapping religiosity, but I confess I didn't much like how that was dovetailing with her inherent susceptibility to make her look at Warr1or in such a heated way. It was unnatural, really.

Still, she did appear to be right about his impending success. If even half what he claimed was true, his archive was going to be much in demand.

And I heard no more from Warr1or during the next couple of days, until one evening I staggered home from the library in exhaustion and found his truck parked outside my door IRL. Warr1or stood leaning on it, hat pulled over his eyes as if asleep. I touched him on the arm, and he raised the brim to look at me through red-rimmed eyes.

'The haters at the gates,' he said hoarsely, before I could even ask, 'had a man on the inside. Oh, Mina. It's gone. Someone deleted the archive.'

I hugged him, wordlessly. Well, I mean, what else could I do? However much he half-deserved it, I couldn't help but sympathise. 'Do you want to come in?' I offered helplessly.

He shook his head. 'I'm on my way to stay with PrinceC. He probably doesn't even know yet, unless he's tried to log on. But it will take a lot of work to restore it, and weed out the traitor, and who else can I trust?'

Now my heart was bleeding more for PrinceC than for Warr1or, but I still made a concerned face. 'What's missing, exactly?'

'All the fic,' he said, sounding dazed. 'Not just the full-length fics in the archives, but the commentfic on the message boards. All those conversations. What sort of person could do that? Our entire history, our documents, the record of our friendships--all gone. My God, Mina, I didn't know there were people that vicious and destructive in the world.'

I made another sympathetic noise, and he glanced up, his eyes filled with tears, and took my hand. 'There, there,' he said unnecessarily. 'Don't be upset. They may have levelled our civilisation, but the core of our fandom is its members, Mina. They can never touch what really matters.' I thought of reassuring him that I didn't give a damn either way, but it seemed unnecessarily harsh.

'Yes, that's true,' I said instead, soothingly. 'Your user base will survive, Warr1or. No one can touch your members.' He patted my hand gratefully, and I disentangled it from his discreetly, and suggested he grab a couch in the dorm's downstairs lounge and get some rest. He shook his head, bravely put his cowboy hat back on, and announced he'd rather finish the drive to PrinceC's condo tonight. I suppose he felt an urgent need for sympathetic male comradeship, or maybe he just wanted to keep moving so he had less time to contemplate his loss.

By the time I got inside I was almost too tired to focus my eyes, but I still touched base with my computer, and was rewarded with an IM from Arc, suggesting I ought to be in bed. It was something between a relief and a terror to hear from her, but of course she was too gracious to bring up any letters she might or might not have received. I felt a pang of what, in a non-BNF, would have been loneliness.

'You'll be back soon?' I asked her, casually.

'Hard to say. I'm as far away geographically as it's possible to get, and I still haven't tracked my quarry.'

My heart sank. I'm no geographer, but I know what's on the other side of the globe, and I well remembered Xena was, for the time being, to be counted amongst Australia's fauna. 'You're hunting, then? Or is this an archaeological dig of some kind?' Once the words were out I winced, hoping she'd take them as the light-hearted carefree metaphor they'd been meant to be, and not as some sort of remark on her age.

There was a slight pause before she replied. 'Not exactly. I'm shelving something properly, let's say, or labelling and closing a file. I like things to be..'

I waited, holding my breath.

'...tidy,' she finished. 'Talk to you soon.' And she was gone.
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