To Be Noir Not To Be

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Some time in the 1920s, almost a century before there were such things as Markov plot generators or infrafictional constructs, a dirt-broke novelist in the middle of L.A. somehow discovered the first known method of transport between various metafictional layers. We're still not entirely sure what he actually did with it in the first place and for almost all intents and purposes he shot himself into fictional space and fucked right off, but suffice it to say once they'd finished cleaning his corpse off the side of a printing office on the Hollywood Boulevard, more than a few people got interested in whatever method of narrativic ascension he'd unintentionally pioneered.

The kids from Prometheus were interested, because of course they were, and they'd managed to just about gut half of his manuscripts and the widget he'd used to punch himself into the metanarrative. That being said, even after they were done, there was still enough there for two groups to figure out how it worked and build their own separate copies of the machine in question. Those groups being a loose collective of private investigators and the Mafia.

The timeline's still pretty fuzzy, simply because of how much it jumps around between various layers of fiction and reality – that being said, we've pretty solidly established that the start of this whole debacle is in 1953, when the first shots got fired between the two groups and you have one P.I. dead and a Mob hitman apparently vanished into thin air.

A few years after that particular confrontation, the other members of the P.I. collective disappear, one by one. At the time, nobody's quite sure how the hell what's happened to them and their bodies are never actually found: what they're very sure about is the very visceral deaths of multiple members of the mob. And then the rest of them disappear and it's all tied off very neatly, right before an explosion in the number of novels featuring battles between hardboiled detectives and the Mafia.

Like I said, pretty much everything after that point in time has dissolved into a sea of tenuous links and mostly ineffective theorising, but the main thrust of it is that we now have an array of detectives and wanted criminals duking it out over thousands (if not millions) of novels and decades of literary tradition.

Your job as a member of this particular division of the Department of Analytics is mainly going to be watching these novels. They tell me that the AIs are pretty good at filtering both by genre and by characters, so you're probably not going to be sorting through all that many truckloads of original fiction each day you're on the job.

When you think you've got a lead, you'll fill in a form, boot it upstairs and if Command reckons it's worth investigating, a few Agents like myself will probably get sent off to interview the author, see whether or not they show any of the signs of metafictional fuckery with some basic MID-terms – Memory, Inspiration, Diction. If it turns out your tip was accurate, you'll soon find yourself chasing further fictional leads to ensure that we've got a comprehensive collection of their movements 'n' such.

Okey, you're probably wondering why we're going to all the effort about this, and I'll explain.

In a metafictional fight like this, you're not going to be settling the feud over a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant. No, the only way to settle this kind of dispute is with good old-fashioned murder, but that gets pretty complicated when you're trying to murder a fictional character. Authors can pull plot twists out their ass to save any character, especially ones as well-loved as these guys seem to be, and if their reader base suffers, it doesn't matter – so long as they're alive and able to fight the other side, they're not going to give a rat's ass about the authors they have to manipulate to stay that way.

Clearly, you can't kill a fictional character in fiction. So you have to lure them out into reality and then kill them, before finishing off any potential authors who might want to bring them back. We've had reports of authors who've been literally taken hostage and forced to write out the adventures of the kidnapper's comrade at gunpoint, and good old Kurt Vonnegut had to have a covert security detail monitoring him simply because of the possibility of metaphysical infiltration of his work.

Which brings me to this thing right here on the table. The last "re-entry" into reality these guys made, an entire hectare of land got levelled within the first fifteen minutes of the fight, and at least half of it was thanks to this thing right here.

Remember, when you have control over what can come in and out of reality, you're not gonna bother with using something as pissingly weak as your dead-average pistol. These guys have been through so many genres and so many books that they've got the sense to not use anything even close to mundane.

So, if you keep good tabs on these guys, we can lock up them and any paratech they've got right as they pop back into reality, and maybe you can be the one who's going to stop the next honest-to-god plasma cannon battle.

No pressure.

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