“Nine Companions! You shall be called…The Fellowship of the Ring,” intoned Elrond pompously. Everyone at Elrond’s Council was standing around the small, racially diverse group. In the center was Frodo, the Ringbearer. He nervously glanced around at his new comrades. Except for Gandalf, each of them had a strange smile pasted onto his face, suggesting that possibly, just possibly, this quest was not the brightest idea.
“Damn!” Frodo thought. “Maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut.”
Gandalf was looking very pleased with himself. Those Men, Dwarves and Elves not chosen to be in the Fellowship began to break into smaller groups, talking quietly about how they were really, really glad they didn’t have to go to Mordor. Suddenly, a strange voice broke through the soft babble.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen.” The strange voice belonged to a Man. He was average in height and regular in features, until you looked into his cold blue eyes—he was anything but average then. He was dressed in unusual looking dark clothes, with a long black leather coat that had Aragorn narrowing his eyes in jealousy. With the stranger was another Man, dressed in a similar manner. He was carrying a black case in his right hand. His leather coat was pushed back on the left side, revealing an object strapped high on his hip-- it was not a sword but appeared to be a strange, holstered metallic object attached to his belt.
Legolas watched them closely. He was pretty certain the metal object was a weapon of some kind, but it was like nothing he'd ever seen in his hundreds of years of life.
“I understand you have a situation that needs a...remedy.” The first Man walked slowly into the courtyard, his smaller companion following at his back, eyes alertly watching everyone and everything, left hand hovering slightly near the object on his hip. He seemed very dangerous and the Elf Figwit moved slightly away from him.
“Who and what in Elbereths’ name are you?” Elrond gasped. “And how did you get in here?”
Gandalf looked like he was going to faint.
“That’s not important. What is important is that you seem to have need of us. Here’s my card.” He handed it to Elrond, who took it limply and just kept gaping at the man.
Frodo snatched it away and read aloud. “’Major Matthew Coke, Representative, Frisian Defense Forces.’ What in Middle Earth are Frisian Defense Forces?” he asked, thoroughly confused.
“Mercenaries. We represent the FDF for President Hammer of the planet Nieuw Friesland. Our organization is sometimes referred to as ‘Hammer’s Slammers.’ We heard through the intergalactic grapevine that the Ainur were planning a large-scale offensive on one of the planets they use for their role-playing games. They called this particular planet Middle Earth. Colonel—rather President--Hammer decided to send us here to see if there was anything we could offer you—but there is a price.”
Gandalf advanced toward Major Coke and growled, “Now just a moment!” He stopped in his tracks, looking cross-eyed down the end of a metal tube pointed right at his rather large nose. Clearly recognizing a threat, the wizard paled and held up his hands.
“It’s all right, Johann. This is my associate, Sergeant Vierziger. He’s also my head of security.” Coke waved the other man back. Vierziger holstered what was now clearly a deadly weapon smoothly and efficiently.
Legolas was impressed. Everybody else was just scared. No one knew exactly what had happened or what kind of weapon Vierziger had, but they could tell it wasn’t anything to mess with.
Gandalf walked close to Coke and whispered urgently into his ear. “What are you doing here? You’re going to ruin everything! Does the Bonding Authority know you’re here?”
“Gandalf! Do you know this man?” Elrond sounded angry.
“Um, no, no, heh, give me just a moment, please.” Gandalf turned back to Coke and whispered angrily. “Look, I have been planning this for three Ages! It’s all set in motion and I won’t have you changing things. This is my game and we’re going to do it my way!”
Coke sneered and responded disdainfully. “Have you told them what you’re doing? Have you given them a choice in this? They’re sentient beings, after all.”
“Listen, they have all the choices they need—they don't need to know anything else!”
Coke raised his brows skeptically and said nothing.
Frodo stepped forward. “So you’re mercenaries, right? Does that mean we could hire you to fight Sauron for us?”
The other members of the Council all began to talk excitedly at once.
Coke pushed past the angry Gandalf and the babbling stopped abruptly. “Yes indeed, if you can afford us. We could provide you with military advisors, selected advanced weaponry, maybe some combat cars. It would have to be approved by President Hammer, of course and also contingent upon proof of payment. We’re the best in the galaxy, gentlemen, and we don’t come cheap. If you want Sauron dead, we’ll kick his ass, but for a price.” Coke's smile was totally professional.
“What’s a galaxy?” Sam whispered in Merry’s ear.
“I dunno, Sam. Who cares? All I know is that maybe we don’t have to go to Mordor. Shut up already.”
Boromir strode aggressively forward and shouted, “How do we know these men are not charlatans and thieves, out to steal our money? What proofs have they of their claims of superior weaponry?”
“Johann?” Coke gestured lazily.
Vierzieger drew the strange object on his hip so fast even the Elves couldn’t see the motion. The noise was deafening and cyan flashes from the hole at the end of the tube seemed to be continuous stream of light as the heads of four pseudo-Pre-Raphaelite sculptures shattered. The weapon was holstered smoothly before the last bits of now charred marble hit the ground, smoking.
Legolas's eyes flashed in unholy glee and avarice. He had to find a way to get one of those things!
“Hey! My wife sculpted those…ulp.” Elrond’s voice trailed off as Vierziger’s dead eyes met his.
Boromir and Aragorn had hit the ground at the first shot. The others had ducked and put their hands to their ears, eyes bulging. Aragorn was the first to rise. Giving Boromir a hand up, he spoke to the strangers.
“I think you’ve made your point, Master Coke. But I don’t think we can pay for your expertise. I mean, look at us! We have nothing compared to that. What could we have that you would even need?”
Coke sat down in Figwit’s chair and stretched out his legs, crossing his ankles. “We need to negotiate. What have you got? I was led to understand that there were gold and jewels on this world.”
Everyone was silent, especially the Dwarves, who were not about to share anything with anybody, especially gold.
Gandalf had finally had enough. “Look! We don’t need you sticking your nose into this matter and we don’t want you here!”
Frodo shoved him aside rudely. “Shut up, old man! Who died and made you Iluvatur? This is my life we’re talking about here! Look, if we can scrape up the cash, you’ll go and deliver the Ring to Mount Doom? I won’t have to go?”
Coke looked the small being over carefully. “Not necessarily. You will still have to go, but we can help you secure the area. How much help we provide depends on what you can afford.”
“I don’t suppose you’d take this Ring as a down payment—it’s made of gold,” Frodo wondered wistfully, holding out the One Ring.
Coke looked at it thoughtfully and shook his head. “Hmmm. Somehow I don’t think Possessed jewelry would be considered collateral in a situation like this. What else have you got?”
Frodo thought hard. Suddenly his face lit up with a brilliant smile. Gandalf groaned.
“Master Coke, I have another family heirloom…” he whispered something into Coke’s ear. The Major’s eyes widened and he sat up quickly, staring at the hobbit.
“Are you sure?” he asked in astonishment. Frodo nodded. “In that case, I think I can assure you of President Hammer’s full cooperation in this mission. I can also promise to provide you with any and all current weaponry, combat cars, tanks, personnel, troop carriers and starships that you determine would be necessary to carry out your objective. I’ll have Johann draw up the papers to sign our preliminary agreement.” They shook hands.
“Frodo, I cannot let you do this thing!” Gandalf exploded. “Coke, I will tell the Bonding Authority about this!”
Coke’s face looked like a death’s head as he smiled. “No, I don’t think you will, Gandalf.” He pulled the old wizard to one side and spoke quietly. “I would hate to think what would happen if these gentlemen were to find out what you were planning for them. It would be a shame wouldn’t it?”
Gandalf looked sheepishly around at the confused faces, some of them now looking a bit hostile. “Oh dear, look at the time. I forgot I have an appointment…” He left the courtyard, shoulders sagging in defeat.
Coke turned to Vierzieger. “Well, it looks like we’re going to be here for awhile. Get the others together and we’ll sit down and determine logistics and necessary materiel with Master Frodo here.” He smiled fondly down at the hobbit.
Vierzieger spoke for the first time. He had a very quiet voice and his young-looking killer’s face also broke into a smile. “I think I’m going to like it here.” As he turned his eyes towards Figwit, the smile became a leer. Figwit looked somewhere else, very quickly.
Aragorn sighed morosely. “Can I still be in charge? I’m supposed to be a king after all.”
Frodo looked relieved. “Sure, whatever.”
Aragorn grinned happily.
Some months later…
“Another mint julep, please—a little heavier on the bourbon,” Frodo lazily held out his glass in the general direction of the new, shiny metal, top of the line, automated butler. It floated quickly over and hovered, refilling his glass and garnishing it off with small mint leaves.
“Put one of those little umbrellas in mine.” Pippin leaned over and had his glass topped off.
They were both lounging in lawn chairs in the Dale of Udun near the bridge at the neck of the Isenmouthe in Mordor. Both were dressed in shorts and loud Hawaiian shirts. Pippin was listening to music on his headphones and humming along, very much out of tune. The Teeth of Mordor and the Black Gates lay in smoking ruins a few miles back to the north and they could still hear the tanks smashing through the remains of the castle of Durthang, a bit off to the west. Heaps of mangled Orc and Uruk-hai corpses were already beginning to stink in the sun where they’d been bulldozed into a large pile earlier, awaiting incineration.
Thankful that he was upwind, Frodo took a drink and pulled down his Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses to take a look through his distance viewer across the Plateau of Gorgoroth towards Mount Doom and Barad–dur, many miles south. He’d just received the viewer from a well-established intergalactic Internet company, Sharpest Image, and was very pleased with their quality. He zoomed in towards the fighting. There were lots of pretty explosions and flashes of lightning that could be seen through the volcanic smoke. Missiles were raining down upon the fortress—Aragon had just called in an artillery strike.
“It’s just amazing how much you can see with these viewers—especially with the infrared capabilities turned on.”
“Lemme see,” Pippin pulled off his headphones, grabbed the viewer from Frodo and held it to his face. He proceeded to smear zinc oxide from his nose all over it. Frodo sighed and sat back in his chair.
Aragorn, who was standing nearby, surveyed the battle far away. He had the visor down on his command helmet and looked like a large insect, especially since he was wearing segmented ceramic body armor.
“Copy that,” he said, apparently into thin air. “Tootsie One- two. What’s your ETA? Roger. Out.”
He turned to the two hobbits and flipped up the visor. “Hey Frodo, give me a sip of your drink, I’m parched.” Frodo frowned and glared at him over his sunglasses. He reached into the cooler by his side and pulled out some iced bottled water. “Drink this instead, you’re still on duty.” He tossed the beverage to Aragorn who caught it and took a swig appreciatively.
“Well, Frodo, technically you will be also, in a short while.”
“Oh? You think so?”
“Yeah. Sam’s just called in. He’s finished mopping up at Isengard and should be here in about five. Also, Boromir says that last air strike pretty much flattened Barad-dûr. He feels the area is secure enough to go in.”
Frodo made a sour face. “I guess I should get ready then. I wish we could have just strapped the Ring onto a nuke and sent it into Orodruin—would have taken care of things a lot quicker.“
Pippin squinted over at Frodo. He still held the distance viewer, now covered in sun screen. “You know exactly why that idea was voted down. Most of us want to be able to live here after this is all over. A nuclear winter isn’t my idea of a good time.”
Frodo sighed again. “Yeah, yeah. Just a thought.”
Frodo heard a rumbling noise and turned around to see a company of combat cars approaching. Most headed off to the bridge at the Isenmouthe, but one came towards them. It drove closer, too close, the fans blowing dust and debris from under its skirts all over everything.
“Geeze! Will you just shut it down?” screamed Pippin. Frodo covered his drink with his hand and closed his eyes against the swirling sand and grit.
The fans shut off and Merry popped his head out from the driver’s compartment. “Sorry lads—they just let me drive for the first time today. I’m getting better!”
The hot metal of the combat car pinged as it cooled. On one side of the car Frodo could barely read “Flamethrower” in gouged and worn lettering. There was something strange attached to the front of the car…something… head shaped. Frodo decided not to look any closer.
Sam hopped off the back. Legolas, armed to the teeth and manning the right side tri barrel grinned and waved to Frodo and Pippin, who waved back.
Sam walked towards them, slapping the dust from his body armor with some leather gloves. “Hey guys. Hi, Gandalf. Long time no see.” Everyone turned in surprise to see Gandalf standing beside Pippin, looking morose.
Pippin swiveled around in his lawn chair and peered up at Gandalf. “Hey Gandalf. I’ve been meaning to ask you for the longest time. How come you never told us before that one ounce of mithril could be used as a clean renewable source of power—enough power for a whole planet? I mean, we all could have been really rich a long time ago! Major Coke said the value of Bilbo’s mithril coat was worth the Gross Planetary Product of the entire galaxy! And with the Middle Earth Mithril Mining Company in Moria that Gimil is getting into production, we’ll be even richer yet!”
Gandalf didn’t reply. He just looked grimly off towards the battlefield. Pip shrugged and turned back to watching.
“OOOH! Look!” Pippin yelled and pointed. Something was flying upwards from the remains of the Fortress of Barad-dûr.
Frodo shuddered. “It’s one of the Nazgul, I can feel it!”
Suddenly there was a bright flash. The Nazgul dropped like a lead sinker, then exploded into a thousand of bits of light. One of the tanks commanded by Boromir near Barad-dûr had fired at the Ringwraith, destroying it completely.
“That was beautiful. Those main plasma guns can shoot the eye out of a fly in orbit,” Sam said admiringly.
“It wasn’t meant to be like this!” moaned Gandalf. “This wasn’t meant to happen!”
Sam looked at him with hard eyes. “That’s funny,” he remarked. “That’s exactly what Saruman said before I greased ‘em.”
Gandalf looked sick and gulped.
Frodo eyed the two of them. “Now, now, leave him alone Sam, dear. I think he’s suffered enough. Well, that last Nazgul makes number nine. I guess it really is time to go.”
The hobbit stretched languidly and got up with a sigh. He pouted a bit. “Do we really have to do this? I mean, with everything smashed to bits, no doubt Sauron’s dead too. Why can’t I just keep it?” Frodo closed his fist over the Ring possessively.
Aragorn looked at Frodo with concern. “Don’t you remember that Sauron doesn’t have a body? That the only way to kill him is to destroy the Ring?”
Frodo still looked obstinate.
“For Eru’s sake, we’re not going to go through that again,” Sam said sternly. “Get your arse in the car. Don’t forget, we’ve got a starship to catch—The Empress of Earth, which just happens to be the finest passenger liner in the galaxy, thank you very much-- has agreed to make a stop at the new Rivendell Starport just for us. We’re going to go planet hopping as soon as this fucking Ring is gone. Now move it!!”
Frodo brightened. “Oh, yes! I forgot! Let’s get rid of this stupid thing and take off. Pippin, Aragorn, thank everyone for us. Must run! Let’s do lunch sometime, Gandalf.”
Sam and Frodo ran off and clambered into Flamethrower. As Merry powered up the fans of the combat car, Frodo noticed that it was Saruman’s head that was attached to the hood. And with silver duct tape. He decided he would have to talk to Sam about that sometime. Not anytime soon though. Sam was beginning to frighten him a bit.