World 14: Metal Gear Solid

THEY AIN’T HEAVY, THEY’RE MY BROTHERS

Previously: Get Thee Behind Me, Buffy

Themesong: We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel

While pondering what to do with the Slayerpop (and after checking that Glorificus, the Judge, and The First Evil were all safely in their Masterballs), I took a few days to relax with the crew before looking at the newest Jump. Metal Gear Solid, not something I’d ever actually  played, but I was familiar with the reputation those games had for being weird… and having lots of boxes or something? Someone named Snake? SNAAAAKE! I didn’t know much about the games, but they couldn’t be that bad, right? There are like a dozen of them, I think. Aside from Resident Evil, bad games didn’t keep getting sequels. And on that note, it was time to start with the ceremonial rolling of the Dice of Ages. I make it sound impressive, but it was a pair of d10s made of steel and a token that said +12. I got a four… I guess that meant I was 16? Well, that’s young… again. I thought this was about secret agents and grizzled veterans? 16? Well, whatever. Sweet Sixteen again! Weee!

Hmmm… that’s new. Location includes a starting year… I guess the different games are spread across much of the 20th century? Where (and when) do I start, oh great spinny wheel? 1995 South African Coast? Huh. Okay… wonder what happened there. Then again, the other choices ran from 1970 to 2009 and the free pick was any time between 1940 and 2010… and the only places on the list I was certain I knew where they were were Costa Rica and Afghanistan. I had no idea where San Hieronymo, Zanzibar Land, Shadow Moses, or Big Shell were. That was assuming that Zanzibar Land was different than Zanzibar Island. That was near Madagascar.

There were four Backgrounds; Drop-In, Combat, R&D Unit, and Intel Unit? Which did I want to be… Combat? Naw. Too Aggressive. Drop-In? Kinda boring but got a free second language. “R&D sounds cool… what are the discounted perks? ‘I’ve Got Science’?” I considered. No, I already actually had science. ‘Omni-Keyed’ was a hacking perk… mmmm I usually use Victoria for that, which was ironic or whatever because she was an Omni-Tool.

I looked at the next entry and shook my head. “Seriously? ‘Box-Tech’?” I mean, it was gadget tech, but the name was silly and I was a Starfleet engineering expert. Didn’t really need that… nor did I really need ‘A New Age of Warfare’ which explained (at last) what Metal Gears actually were. They were the series resident giant mechs… and they were expensive… I mean, sure, they were cool and all, but how hard really would it be to retro-engineer them with Star Trek and Mass Effect Tech? So that was no to R&D.

“How about Intel?” I commented to Ziggy, who nodded in agreement. Then again, he nods in agreement with everything. Seriously. “Ziggy, would you like to be President of Russia?” See? He nodded. Not that he has a clue what President or Russia are. “Let’s see… ‘Lay of the Land’, a local’s understanding of the local terrain, culture, and goings on for wherever I start and the ability to pick that up for wherever I go could be useful, but ‘Trained Eye’ (Memorizing small details on sight) was not so much.” I scratched the Zigg’s tummy as I considered. ‘Fairy Disguise’ was all about, you guessed it, disguises and mimicry and ‘Phantom’ was impressive level stealth and mixed well with Fairy Disguise… but even after discount that would be five hundred CP for some pretty basic stealth stuff. No thanks. So Intel was right out, but the last perk on the list, ‘No Nation We Inhabit’ was 200 CP and was quite nice, since it would give me two more real world languages (native fluency) and allow me to pick up new ones twice as fast, as well as give me a talent for cryptology (something I’d never been very good at). 

Like I said, Intel was out, especially since it would cost 200 CP just to buy the Background and then another hundred to get ‘No Nation’. It was 300 either way, but if I went Drop-In I’d be able to get the discounts for it. That would be three new languages… Already knew Estonian, Chinese, Turian, Klingonese, Vulcanese… plus I have faint memories of Japanese, French, Asari, and whatever I was speaking in Pokemon Land. Why, you ask, did I know Chinese and Vulcanese when I was a Chinese and Vulcan in those jumps? Because, as crazy as it seems, the languages I heard as English? Yeah… in Ranma it was Japanese and in Star Trek it was English! Why? Buggered if I know! Anyway, the second language I got as a Drop-In was something appropriate to my starting location… That’s South Africa. English, Afrikaans, Xhosa. I’ll take… Afrikaans. Shame to pass up Zulu or Xhosa, but Afrikaans essentially gets me Dutch too, since it’s a dialect. For ‘No Nation’ I pick up Russian and Japanese.

Drop-Ins got ‘Survival Viewer!’ (yes, with the exclamation point included) for free, which was a knowledge of foraging and preparing food in the wild, plus knowing, in general, how to avoid poisoning myself. It also said that, even if I did poison myself, my digestive system would prove especially hardy. It even provided a boost to my natural healing rate if I ate good quality food. I wondered if that would help with regen? Eh… whatever. The food poisoning I don’t have to worry about, thanks to TES but the wilderness survival stuff sounded good. I have good memories of camping and foraging sounded not terrible. Especially since I couldn’t accidentally poison myself and could, in theory, survive on almost anything organic thanks to my Body Mod… you know, some small part of me misses going to the bathroom… it’s vestigial, I know, but still.

The next to perks, ‘Jumping Spider’ and ‘BEES!!!’ were interesting, but not ultimately worth it. Jumping Spider would boost my climbing, leaping, flexibility, speed, and agility even higher than they already were, but those enhanced abilities would burn stamina pretty darn rapidly, so it was a no go there. With BEES!!! (a name I loved saying) I could get myself a pack of wolves or a couple tigers or something, but I’d kinda feel bad if they got hurt, even though I’d get more over time. They would be replacements, not respawns, and that ruled that out. 

I know, I know. Soft heart… but that just meant more CP with which to buy ‘Psychic’ Yes, it’s true. Apparently Metal Gear had giant mecha and psi powers… and it wasn’t even Gundam! So, bonus! I’ve always wanted psi powers… I know, I already had biotics, thanks to being Asari, though I haven’t used them much, and as a Vulcan I was a little Telepathic, though I never really focused on it. But this would be a huge boost, since, for my three hundred CP, I’d unlock ‘the true power of the mind’, providing me with powers such as psychic communication and TK up to 40 kilos or so. I could specialize in Telepathy to read minds or commune with the dead, or Telekinesis to shield myself from incoming projectiles (though that would require constant focus) or levitate (which apparently wouldn’t). It was damned awesome, and it said that an otherwise normal person should be able to soft-cap everything within about 17 years. Well, I figured I’d start with Telepathy and work on TK later.

What else could I take? I glanced at the Combat Background’s perks, just to be certain I didn’t need anything there. I could take ‘Marksman’, but I’m already a damned good shot. Should be considering how much shooting I’ve done. ’10-Year Vet’… hah. I’ve fought two wars and countless skirmishes against gangs and death-eaters and all manner of baddies. Meh. I skipped over the other two perks. Not worth it. 

Then I found out there was an entire section of undiscounted perks, perks that would make me good at maintaining and using unfamiliar weapons tech, or all me to ‘tag’ people or places as if I had a mini-map inside my mind. Most of them were… overpriced or pointless or just too weird to wrap my head around… but ‘Here’s to You’ sounded like fun. For one hundred CP, any stored music I collected would be automatically added to a mental music player that would faithfully replay the song as if I were hearing it played live. I know I’ve got a perfect memory, but trust me… remembering a song is not the same as hearing it. Of course, for a c-spot, I’d want more, and HtY offered it. In addition to the mental playback, if I touched a set of functioning speakers I could have them begin playing music from my mental collection, only returning to normal once the selected playlist ended, I moved out of earshot, or someone turned them off.

So, that was cool. In the item section, I didn’t really see anything else that screamed buy me. Weapons, Outfits… Metal Gears? Hmmm… I could probably build one of these things… Set that as a challenge maybe. Too expensive otherwise really. Like 400 to 1600 expensive… ack… how many drawbacks were there?!

I figured that was a clue to check out the Drawbacks and right off the bat found something promising. It was called ‘War Has Changed’, a clear ‘take-that’ to the Fallout Series, but it effectively put two jumps back to back, giving the Metal Gear Solid jump a built-in sequel. As soon as I finished up in MGS, I’d proceed with the same continuity to Metal Gear Rising. I had no idea what that was, but if the powers that be (i.e. the Boss-man… thing… whatever) wanted to give me points to have things be a little less random? I was going to take it! I’d spent seven hundred, and War Has Changed got me another hundred, bringing me back to four hundred.

I skipped ‘Superstitious’ which would make me too credulous, but decided to take ‘Metal GEAR?’ which would force me to repeat things as if I was an idiot or just not paying attention. I was surprisingly cool with that. Anything to get the other side to underestimate me, right? That was another hundred, so up to five hundred. ‘Weirdness Magnet’ promised ghosts, people with supernatural powers, and random weirdos going on about memes. I had no clue why that was worth two hundred, but I’d take it! That put me to seven hundred.

And then there was ‘The Phantom Pain’, clearly a reference to the last game in the series… I did pay at least that much attention. Gamer Cred? Metal Gear, Solid Snake, Sons of Liberty, uhhh… Snake Eater, Guns of the Patriots, Ground Zeroes, and Phantom Pain… huh…  that’s seven… How are there seven games with only five numbers? No idea… I’m certain there were other games in the series… I seem to remember something called something called Ghost Babel… I honestly didn’t pay any attention… but I did flip past the adds in game magazines… that counts, right? Anyway, The Phantom Pain was a reference to missing limbs and that’s exactly what the Drawback did. It was 150 for each I gave up and I figured why not. Interesting challenge, though I’d have to deal with the memories of being dismembered. That might be an issue… but eh, why the hell not. Eyepatch and an arm… the left I think. That got me up to a thousand again. Back in the Black, big time! Let’s spend some points!

The first thing I did was go back and snag the incredibly expensive Combat capstone, ‘CQC’ (Close Quarters Combat). I know you’re thinking, ‘You did what? But you’re a Ranma-Level martial artist already!’ I know, I know, I’m already a martial artist, but I’ve never done it in life or death or with guns. CQC is a martial art for the modern age developed by The Boss and Naked Snake (Is that really someone’s name?), and by buying it, I’ll have managed to achieve true mastery, like to the point where I could floor a four-man fireteam before they can even react… and that’s before taking into account my other martial art training. It also came with a boost to spatial awareness which was nice.

Of course, buying that took my thousand point surplus and cut it back to four hundred… almost right back where I’d started, but that was okay. There wasn’t really much that I had to have from here. I certainly wasn’t going to buy cyborg gear. Prosthetics alone were damned new for me… I didn’t want to jump right into having machines installed in my body. Save that for another jump maybe. This is testing the waters.

I didn’t get much in the way of freebies in Perks, but Gadgets said I got ‘The Box’ times four free. Yay! A cardboard camo blox. Idiocy. ‘What Was That Noise?’ was also free. A hollow plastic box that’s always in my pocket when I need it, light enough for long throws, makes and loud clacking noise that always seems to fool guards, and disappears when it settles. Well… that’s weird. Totally pointless, but free so whatever.

Also free was the Civilian Clothes and Naked Camo (Olive Drab pants and tactical webbing) from Outfits and a Signature Weapon free from Weapons, though if I didn’t pay CP for the SigWeap, it would only for the duration of the jump. Paying for the SigWeap would provide experience as if I’d trained from childhood (yes, even a rocket-launcher… FOOOM!!!) as well as allowing me to easily produce and customize ammo for my chosen weapon (that would come in handy if I was ever in Falloutopia). The first purchase also came with a high tech precision squirt gun… no, I’m not kidding.

I couldn’t decide on what I wanted my weapon to be, so in the end I bought two. The first was the Bambetov SV, which was discounted for Drop-Ins and was a semi-automatic sniper rifle that claimed that, by using existing components, it reduced cost and made repair easier. Whatever dude, as long as it provides effective long-range fire without sacrificing speed. I imported my plasma sniper rifle from Mass Effect into it, because why have two sniper rifles when you can have one at twice the price that can shoot the bullets and the plasmas… None of my ME gear was fiat backed… if it broke, I’d have to go back and replace it. My SPECTRE Armor had been imported into Harry Potter as a Jacket, my Omni-Tool with VI as my wand… now I had one of my guns (the one I used most often, to be honest… I’m a big fan of shooting people from much further away than they can shoot back) protected.

A second (my combat rifle) got protected as I imported it into the squirt gun… I guess I can load that with Jusenkyo water… And I imported my Goblin Sword into my Stun Knife (its a knife and a stun gun in one! Even has an auto-recharging battery!). The Stun Knife was free for Drop-ins.

My other Signature Weapon purchase couldn’t, unfortunately, protect anything or merge with anything… it was called ‘An Explosion?!’ and for two hundred CP gave me fifteen items from the following list every day; Frag Grenades, Smoke Grenades, Stun Grenades, Sleep Gas Grenades, Chaff Grenades, C4, or Claymores. No having to buy them, no having to pick a load out… just wave my hands into hammerspace or wherever and boom, an explosion. the terminal unfairness of it was compounded by the fact that it didn’t list the tech-level of any of those and a quick harassing… I mean questioning of the boss confirmed that they could be of any tech level I could build… heh. excellent. It wasn’t even a power… it was just equipment. If I could build it, I just happened to have it on me whenever I needed it. Only problem was I couldn’t stockpile… ah well, can’t have everything.

That took me down to one hundred left and importing a companion was 25 CP each, so I figured I’d bring in four of them, with each getting their own Signature Weapon and ten years of experience in the military of their choice. That spent me out, but allowed me to bring in Zane (IDF, Arms Material MRS-4R Combat Rifle), AJ (Mossad, Burkov 9mm pistol with integrated non-deteriorating suppressor), Petra (SAS,Fakel 46 Grenade Launcher), and Ryoga (Navy Seal, Windurger No.2 Tranq Pistol).

I figured I was done at this point, but the VMoD had other plans, as instead of offering me the ‘Insert Now’ button it offered a screen titled ‘Scenarios’.  Hmmm… the last time I’d seen those… first time I’d seen them for that matter… only other time… that was it… was in Harry Potter. I hadn’t gone with any of them then… Well, I had, but not for the reward, but rather just to prove I could. I shrugged and figured I’d at least give these a looksee.

There were three of them: FOB, Force of the Times, and Legacy of the Boss.  I didn’t know what the other two were references to, but F.O.B. was military parlance for Forward Operations Base… i.e. the place your spearhead attack comes from and your primary ‘safe’ retreat point, but in practice not always that secure. I checked that one out first and pretty much immediately rejected it as both insane and not particularly interesting. 

The challenge was to defend the contents of my Warehouse for the duration of the Jump… and if allowing anyone in this era a chance to get their hands on the crap I had in my Warehouse wasn’t profoundest insanity I don’t know what is… I had photon torpedos and gigaton nukes in there for Guu’s sake! The text even heavily implies the thieves would be able to study my tech and make more of it… yeah, that sounds safe. The prize for that lunacy? An ocean base! Why would I want an ocean base? No thanks.

Both of the other two were recruitment scenarios, one for someone named ‘Venom Snake ‘(is that really a name?) who looks like Big Boss but isn’t (what the hell?) and the other for ‘The Boss’ (who is apparently a lady, unlike ‘The Big Boss’). Force of the Times would change my starting point to Arlington (I assume they mean the cemetery and not the town) at the funeral of ‘The Boss’ (where ‘Big Boss’ was in attendance) and I’d have to survive until 2014… no idea how long that gap is, but survival seems pretty easy. This is the real world, or close to it and I’ve survived the Conduit Gangs of Infamous. Didn’t know if I cared that much about this Venom Snake, but hey, maybe he’s a cool dude? Also, how hard could it be? Famous last words? Maybe… but it didn’t sound that hard.

Legacy of the Boss sounded a bit harder though. To win that scenario, I’d have to stop a bunch of AI’s called ‘The Patriots’ from existing, or from creating something called ‘The War Economy’ or ‘World Marshal’. Apparently, I’d have to stop someone called ‘CIPHER’… I honestly had no fucking clue what any of this meant, and had no idea if ‘The Patriots’ were the same patriots as in ‘Sons of the Patriots’ or not… it was all very confusing.

I honestly didn’t even care who any of these people were… or what I was really signing up for, but I was pretty certain that most of the main characters of the Metal Gear series were fairly normal humans and I was anything but. I had resources, I had powers… I could handle this. And the entire thing sounded like a really interesting challenge, a chance to really explore the depths of this reality and get the whole Metal Gear experience. I didn’t know how many years I was signing up for, which was a little worrying, but presumably it was going to be no more than 75 years, given the earliest date was 1940? I’d be… what? 91 years old at the end if it was that long? I could hack that… probably. It was a failstate (which was like “AAAAAAH!”), but…

Fuck it, it sounded really interesting and I was looking forward to seeing how Vivian would do against these AIs. That and this ‘The Boss’ sounded kinda near. I didn’t know who she was, but she clearly kicked ass. Survive an unknown amount of time, until 2014, against unknown threats? There was something soo… attractive about the whole concept. And the scenarios gave me something to shoot for, something to keep me from just turtling up and saying ‘Not my Monkey, Not my Problem’. And that was worth more than any reward, to be honest. 

I didn’t immediately sign on for either, but left the thought, the idea, the risk-vs-reward calculation, to stew in the back of my mind for a few days. I even considered playing the games… I was almost certain Vivian had them somewhere in her [Earthly Entertainment, – 21st century] folder… but I thought better of it. Or rather, I decided that flying blind would force me to go deeper, to look for out of the box solutions. And that’s when I realized I was already sold. What really got to me was that my initial roll puts my Jump between the years 1995 and 2004… but both these scenarios impled that all the cool stuff would happen in 2014. That’s like jumping into Harry Potter six years before the first book, and having to leave after the TriWizard Tournament. Screw it. I’d take the hard way. I locked in the choices and hit the switch.

INSERTION

The initial crash of insertion is normally abrupt, but things level out again fast. One minute you’re in the Warehouse, the next you’re in the Jump… but not this time. Oh… oh… Boss of Jumps… sneaky. Sneaky. I was expecting to be there, a sixteen year old me watching a funeral… but what I got was a warm feeling, floating, mostly darkness, barely in control of my limbs, a feeling of pressure. And a voice, muffled, saying something in Russian. I knew Russian now… I did… cool… but it still took me a minute to realize what the voice was saying. “We’ll bring you back, Joy. Oh yes. You’ll make them all pay.”

Being born sucks. You probably don’t remember it. I didn’t remember the first time… I remembered this time. I also remember being slapped… and breaking the doctor’s thumb. I couldn’t remember who I was… but I understood I was special. Oh yes. That I understood. I was Joy… Joyous Snake… I was told this every day. My mother (in the genetic sense) had been The Boss (aka The Joy, a legendary American operative in the early post WWII era). My other mother (in the traditional biological birth sense) was Eva (aka Big Momma, a Chinese PLA agent posing as a member of the KGB). I didn’t have a father. The year was 1965. I had 50 years to go.

What I had was training. All the time. Every day. Training. To be the best. To make Momma proud. Mother was dead. Killed by Snake, the other Snake, the Big Boss, but it wasn’t his fault. It was America’s fault. They’d betrayed Mother. They’d made her lay down her life to cover for them. I didn’t know the details, merely the anger. I’d make them pay. For Mother. For the Boss.

We lived in Israel, hiding from the Americans, from the Russians, from the Chinese. We’d started in China, but Momma and I had escaped, escaped through the landmines that had taken my eye. We went to Israel, where there were many Russians like us. I had many imaginary friends as a kid; Iron Hound, who spoke to me of wars against evil AIs and of tyrants bent on world domination; Acid Jaguar, who taught me the secrets of peering into the thoughts of others and told me of adventures of a young girl collecting magical guardians to protect her on her quest; Stone Scorpion, who taught me to move things with my mind and to work my will upon the world; and Crusher Piglet, who would hug me whenever I was sad or angry and taught me that all prisons can be escaped.

As I grew, my friends became more and more real and Momma would be absent for longer and longer, doing missions to keep us safe. When I was seven, Momma gave me two brothers, but it would be years before I ever got to meet either of them. Later that year, the assassins came for the first time. There were twelve of them. I was alone, watching the news that terrorists had kidnapped several of Israel’s athletes from the Munich games. I had just thought to my friends, “You should go save them.” when I heard a noise downstairs in our house in Netanya. I went to look. Momma often left me alone for days; she trusted me to take care of myself. I was very smart, smarter than all the other kids, smarter than all the adults too.

As I said, there were twelve of them. There was one of me. They never stood a chance. I played with them, reading their minds. They worked for the Zhéxué Jiā… the Chinese Philosophers and were looking for Momma. They didn’t know I existed. I made sure they never told anyone.

One by one I destroyed them, making the weakest willed amongst them turn their weapon against the others. He was quickly cut down, but in the destruction I made another burn and froze a second so hard he shattered. I punched a third many times until his chest shattered and a fourth… well… the were going to hurt Momma… what would you have done. Still, I played too rough, too sloppy. I had counted only eleven. The last was quiet, so very quiet. His sword made my arm hurt… it would have made my head hurt, but I saw his reflection in the eleventh man’s eyes as they went dark and moved at the last moment.

I screamed, a dark green angry scream, words in a language I didn’t know, the words “Avada Kedavra!” blasting out of my seven-year old chest and he stopped… I fell down then, weak from all the red stuff gushing from where my arm stopped just below my elbow. That was September 5th.

Momma found me there amid the bodies two days later, my arm having healed into a stump. The world had been stunned by the speed of Israel’s reaction to the Munich Hostage crisis. A group of agents had arrived on scene and obliterated the terrorists before the terrorists could even respond and that all nine of the surviving hostages had been liberated.

I adapted quickly to the loss of my arm, as I had to the loss of my eye, but the pain continued to bother me, intruding on my focus and making me irritable. More irritating were the number of times I tried to do something with my left hand by reflex, only to fail. The doctors fitted me with a prosthetic, but I didn’t like it and I was continually tinkering with it, working with it, making it better, cleaner, more realistic. As the years passed and I grew physically, I learned to control my fake hand with my mind, the same process that allowed me to snag things across the room allowing me to grasp things though not with the same skill as I could with my physical hand.

We moved a lot over the years, hiding from the Bad Cat and the Big Boss. It wasn’t time, not yet. When I was ten, Momma sent me to a place called Mother Base to support some people named XOF and make sure they succeeded in their mission. I didn’t understand much of it, but I did as I was told. I did that a lot. But I was young then. I even assassinated a Pope, for reasons I’ll never know beyond that I had orders.

As I got older, more and more of my personality emerged from the darkness, like islands being exposed by sinking sea levels. I was a creature of this world, this world of intrigue, this world of shadows and lies… but also not of it. I was a clone of The Joy, also known as The Boss, born to take revenge upon the world that had betrayed her… and, as I realized on my sixteenth birthday, memories of past lives crashing over me, remembering everything a dozen other EssJay’s had known… I’d been created by the nascent organization I was supposed to have stopped from coming into existence… when I’d been five, apparently. Clearly, some rules had been changed… but maybe they had to be. If CIPHER was to create the Patriots, they’d need to exist… and I still had no idea what World Marshal or the War Economy were… or who CIPHER was… It was 1981.

But now I had my team… and Momma. Momma knew more than she was letting on. It’s a very strange thing to interrogate the woman that raised you… but she’d raised me to be what I was. I’d committed genocide against two species (Reapers & Turok Han), tried to do so against at least two more (Dementors & Vampires). I’d assassinated people who believed they were above the law in their own beds. And I’d done so out of moral outrage… but Joy… this new me… we didn’t have those morals. Or at least not enough to stop us from asking some pointed questions… and then when those were avoided… some enhanced questions.

You have to give it to Eva; she had a mind like a vault. But vaults can be broken into. Electro-torture, waterboarding, pain… those are all primitive. I could have Crucio’d the information from her… but she was still my mother, the closest thing I’d had to one in decades really… So I mixed up Veritaserum and questioned her again… then I Obliviated her memory of the event. Thanks for that, Gilderoy.

I learned a lot from that. Of a Gentleman named Zero and of my Son-Brother… Ocelot. I learned of my brothers, David and Eli, and their father, John (aka. Big Boss)… and of what had been done to them. I decided it was time for me to take my place on the global stage.

The Joy Division name already being taken, I named my group Hijas de Invierno, the Daughters of Winter. HDI contracted with the American Government to stabilize regions and remove despots and guerilla forces acting against American interests. We did our first job pro bono, more of a demonstration than anything else.

In October of 1981, the Salvadoran Civil War was heating up, with China and Cuba supplying the rebels and the US, Israel, and Taiwan supporting the Government. By december there weren’t any rebels. One dead leader is a martyr. All the leaders either dead or publicly recanting is a failed rebellion. In exchange, someone may have convinced the military government to peacefully transition back to a democracy. It wasn’t optimal, but a 12 year civil war with nearly 90,000 dead and more than a million displaced was less so. The needs of the many and all. Didn’t even need to deploy Metal Gear Dragon.

I sunk most of the money I could get my hands on… which was considerable… into stocks of AT&T and IBM, planning for the future and curious to see if those companies would still thrive. In the next few years, HDI would guarantee a rapid and decisive Israeli victory in Lebanon that resulted in the creation of non-Syrian controlled independent nation instead of a bombed out ruin, the singlehanded resolution of the Cuban takeover of Grenada, the clandestine destruction of Severomorsk Naval Base in Russia, and many more highly black book operations.

We faced stiff competition at first, but soon the mere hint that HDI and our all but invincible Metal Gear were operating in country was enough to make the timid run for the hills. Of course, we eventually got too big, too hated, and that meant we had to disappear. I took a page from mom’s book and we faked the destruction of our compound on Svalbard, Winter Base. PMCs around the world leapt over each other to claim credit and began fighting each other in a series of ever escalating private wars. The year was 1988.

I had sixteen years. I became Simon Joval, head of a new start up company called Global-Universal Networking. GUN released a computer system a decade more advanced than anything available at the time, a time where the top of the line computers gave one 33 MegaHertz of processing power with 500 MegaBytes of Hard Drive Space… with a CRT… all for the rock bottom price of 7,000 USD. The GUN-ONE, by comparison, started at 250 MegaHertz, 4GB HD, 32MB of Ram, CD-Rom (a brand new technology)… with a 16’ LCD display… all for 500 dollars. And each and every one of them came with a proprietary operating system… and internet connectivity. Everything was produced in house.

To say the GUN-ONE took the world by storm is not an exaggeration. And we kept churning out innovations, faster than any of our competitors could compete… and compete they did… because I was selling them tech too, tech stolen from GUN by none other than Little Boss, not so dead as the world thought. Within a decade, I was the richest person on Earth and my chips were in everything. Everything. Which meant Vivian was in everything.

The Patriots knew Little Boss was coming for them. They thought they were ready. They thought they were smart. They thought a lot of things. But I’d had decades to prepare for them before any of the little bastards went on line. Hell, GUNCorp created the very processors they were running on. One by one, the five AIs came on line. And I did nothing. They were waiting for me to make my move. Let them wait. I’d waited… and I continued doing so. I waited… waited… watching my little brothers. Watching Big Boss maneuver. I was good at watching. I was the spider in the web.

Then my moment came. My Brothers were both heading to Shadow Moses Island… the year was 2005… and that meant so was I. I followed David… Solid Snake… as he made his way through FOXHOUND’s operatives, helping him though he didn’t know it along each step of the way. My systems were already analyzing the nanoviral pathogen in his system. It was… primitive… crude… but it had utility. I neutralized it. Biowarfare is a nasty habit.

Eventually David and Eli faced each other, Eli… Liquid Snake, acting like a right prat. I interrupted their little boxing match by decloaking between them and flooring them both in seconds. “Boys. We need to talk.”

Liquid…. What a stupid name… Eli, Eli looked stunned. He knew my face. “Boss?”

I smirked. “In the flesh.”

“But… you’re dead?”

I laughed at that. “So was your father. Yet you live. Solidus lives… he’s your baby brother… President of the US too, for that matter. Okay, so no… I’m not The Boss. I’m Little Boss. I am to The Boss as you two are to Big Boss. Though both of you have been genetically… damaged.”

David, clever David, asked, “What are you doing here?”

“Strictly speaking, from a way of looking at it… you’re my little brothers. Clones can’t be grown in test tubes. All three of us were born of the womb of Big Momma. Eva… and since I’m the eldest, that means I have to look out for you two idiots. You’re both being manipulated. Eli… oh, sorry, you prefer that idiotic code name Liquid… you’ve been told you were the defective one… well it’s not true. David… Solid… Jesus… what’s wrong with just calling people Snake 6 or something. Stupid animal themes… anyway… Solid, Big Boss hasn’t really turned his back on everything he believed in… you’re both being manipulated by a bunch of AIs called the Patriots. Is that right, Ocelot… did you miss momma?”

Adam… Revolver Ocelot… which is, I’ll admit, a pretty cool codename, stepped out of hiding. “You’re not my mother. She died before you were born. You’re just a copy.”

“I like to think of myself as an improvement actually. Not bad for 40, huh?” I flexed. I was in damned good shape… even my cybernetic arm and eye were in top shape. I’d built them myself, top of the line tech for the year 2400, direct neural interface and everything. Eli looked like he was about to spring, Adam was reaching for his gun, David was looking confused.

I flicked out a corner of my will and summoned Adam’s revolvers too me, catching one in each hand, “Colt, Single Action, Army Revolver. Good gun. Big Boss gave you the idea back when he was Naked Snake and you were still using a Makarov, right?”

He just growled, “Kindly return my guns.”

“Sure… but just so you know, there are bombers on the way now. Look, Eli, I know you’ve spent your whole life hating David, but it’s not like either of you are any match for me, and until you are, who cares if you’re better than him or not. I could take all three of you with you working together, but none of us have the time. And quite frankly, I’d rather the two of you don’t kill each other.” I tossed both of them a pressure injector “Here. These are full of nanites to scrub the FOXDIE… I think that’s what that little psycho called it… out of your systems… and they’ll fix that pesky accelerated aging. Then both of you should get out of here.”

I’m very good at convincing people. But Eli is very insane. It took every ounce of self control not to kill him. I’d never really tried that in a serious fight before. Finally I just Vulcan Nerve Pinched him and he went down like a sack of meal. “Adam, David… get out of here. Adam… tell Solidus I’m coming for him… oh… and Vivian?”

A disembodied voice came from every computer on Earth. “Yes Little Boss?”

“Jericho.”

“Yes Little Boss.”

And the Patriot AIs died as every computer on the planet went into emergency reboot. Well, not every. There might have been a few older systems owned by very silly people, but every computer made after 1992 or so. Every phone. Every game console. Everything had some iteration of GUNTech’s chipset or a knockoff… and every one of those billions of chips was part of Vivian. The Patriots had been running on my computers… rent free… now they weren’t doing any such thing.

At the same time, AJ stepped out of a doorway in a hospital half a world away, a blade growing out of his arm. Silent as smoke, he swung his arm and the head of a man who didn’t exist bounced free of his shoulders. Zero had been divided… and was now one with the Infinite.

At the same time, what had once been a UFP Assault Shuttle slipped out of the infinite night behind the moon and fired a pencil thin phaser blast at the Earth… or nearly. A single satellite, one among thousands… vaporized.

David looked at me, suspicion on his face. “What did you just do?”

“That, little brother, would be telling. I’ve no idea how this will play out… but FYI… I’m going to assassinate President Sears. You could try and stop me… you won’t be able to… but you could try. But he’s not worth it. He’s an enemy agent.”

“You have proof of that?”

“I do. I’ll give them to you in nine years. But right now, I’d recommend grabbing Meryl and running… oh… and tell Naomi if I ever hear she’s been messing with nanoviruses again, I will personally provide her a one way ticket to Low Earth Orbit.”

He left. I stole the heavily damaged Metal Gear Rex, its railgun, and the entire nuclear arsenal of Shadow Moses Base. I still had to make sure that the Patriots plans didn’t come true. I’d already stopped 9-11… that had been child’s play. One of my squad had been on each of the four planes and had… well, you can imagine… But I still had to stop the War Economy. I’d finally learned what that was. Still didn’t have a clue what World Marshal was. But the War Economy… a global shift to continuing local warfare as a business to promote peace? I’ve heard of insanity before… but only an AI could come up with something that bonkers.

And to that end, I was going to give the people of this Earth an absolutely stunning demonstration of why private militaries were a terrible idea.

Two days after the death by heart attack of US President Sears, HDI emerged as a nuclear power. We freed Tibet in 21 days, smashing everything the Chinese sent against us, promising swift retaliation if they attacked Tibet ever again. We hired ourselves to every oppressed minority, every region. We came with cameras, we came with Metal Gears, we came with peace in mind, but the threat of force. And we were death on death squads.

The UN called for our heads as nation after nation broke into the opening stages of civil war… but we were ghosts. For six years we moved freely across the world, keeping constantly aware of every trap because every machine used my chipset. It was a unique opportunity. I’d shaped the information so completely that I effectively controlled the Infosphere. Nothing was hidden from my eyes.

Finally, the UN passed a general condemnation of private militaries, with member nation after member nation agreeing to seriously limit their use. Private or corporate ownership of modern military technology was essentially outlawed. The year was 2011. I spent the last few years of the jump mostly as Simon, enjoying my wealth and using my massive political clout to push green technologies, socialized medicine, and all that.

I did have to keep Liquid from being an ass, but bringing him inside my head for some extensive therapy sessions helped. I was there when the four Snakes met up in Arlington in 2014. I perched on the top of my genesister’s grave and chuckled as the four idiots acted all macho and restrained. They jerked as one, reaching for sidearms like four copies of the same man. As I decloaked I said, “You four look so stiff. You’re family… essentially. As good as it gets for any of you. And none of you are getting any younger. Smile. Relax… things are looking up. Trust me… That’s an order from the Boss. Well, Boss 2.0. Smaller, more compact… streamlined.” And then I dumped Jusenkyo water on all four of them.

I walked away, whistling… smug for once… There were seconds to go. Sure, this wasn’t the beach… but this was a special occasion. All I had to do was get out of sight, make a cool exit, and I’d apparate back to Svalbard… And in that moment I let my guard down.

I felt the explosion lift me off my feet and smash me through a dozen gravemarkers. My final thought was “Fuck… that’s what being hit by a railgun feels like.”

Oh, in case anyone’s wondering why I didn’t repeat everything like an idiot… I did… a lot… but fuck it… this is my story… I’m totally not telling you about all the times I had to repeat what I just heard because I didn’t get it the first time. Honestly… After the first twenty years I pretty much stopped asking questions and just nodded a lot. As for all the weirdness… yeah… there was… lots of that. Lots and lots… but it would have distracted from the overly long narrative. If you’re good little boys and girls, someday I might tell you about the Ghostjackers or the Badgers in trenchcoats… or the time I had to fight an entire ship of Greys armed only with a spork… fuckers are from a three-grav world. Was all I could to do walk most of the time. And the ship had like a zillion sporks. Always knew they were invented by Aliens.

Next: Six Guns, Two Swords

Resources: Document, Build

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

Advertisements

World 13: Buffyverse

GET THEE BEHIND ME, BUFFY

Previously: A Special Torture

Themesong: Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles

“Buffy huh?” I said, looking up at the Vending Machine’s branding. It said, in that trademark font, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel’, referring to a tv series by Joss Whedon about a high school cheerleader who ends up being ‘The Chosen One’, a ‘Slayer’. There was a Slayer born in every generation and when the previous Slayer was killed (it was always killed, never retired), another one of the candidates became active. That candidate was almost always someone who’d been trained by the resident secret society of know-it-all old dudes with delusions of utility. Buffy was not one of them.

In the original movie, she’d been an ordinary high school senior, lacking any training in asskicking, but in the TV show, the events of the movie were apparently retconned to make her a freshman… still with minimal experience and combat training. The show opened just after she moved to her new town after the events of the movie… which were never really touched on, leaving their canonicity up in the air. 

The show had been one of my favorites growing up… even though every third or fourth episode either pissed me off or disappointed me… it was not a good time to be a tv fan, to be honest… but a Chosen One who always was a girl? That was all too rare at the time. But there were many problems with the show. Joss is… a hit or miss writer and Fox meddled a lot… and the production value of the show was not great. Some of the stuff that happened was just… dumb, and the monsters were often silly… though not as bad as some Dr. Who villains of the week. Still, the moments of awesome and the characters carried the show through most of the worst times, even though there were moments when I really wanted to punch everyone involved… or kick them in the shins, given my relative combat abilities at that point.

Regardless of potential risk or annoyance however, I was stoked. Willow and Spike were among my favorite characters in fiction. “Cool. Let’s do this,” I commented, keying in my biometrics to power up the machine… i.e. I touched it. “Age is set by origin huh? That’s interesting.” I skipped past the intro. “Okay, where’s Slayer. Gotta be a Slayer… wait, where the heck is Slayer? Why the hell isn’t under Identities?” Identities were this jump’s Backgrounds or Origins. “Mmmm… grrr… it’s got to be here somewhere. Can’t let Faith and Buffy have all the fun… wait, if I save Kendra does that stop Faith showing up? …no. Wait… Can do both. Just have to be near Kendra when she dies. Temporary death is enough… getting ahead of myself… mmmm Spike’s chest… snap out of it me… right…” I was rambling to myself as I continued skipping through the options, looking for Slayer. It had to be… “ah, it’s a perk. Discounted for Spare Key? Space Key? Was that one of the Identities?”

I flipped back and checked. It was. Alongside White Hat, Watcher, Initiative Member, Wolfram & Hart Lawyer, and Demon. In fact, Spare Key was the ‘Drop-In’ origin, the one that didn’t come with any outside memories. Being a Spare Key didn’t even interfere with the eventual existence of the canonical Spare Key, Dawn Summers. Since I wanted to be both a Slayer (Buffy/Kendra/Faith’s shtick) and a Sorcerer (Willow Rosenberg’s shtick…  god I loved her. A bisexual jewish magic user) and both were 600… it meant I’d be spending 900 CP on the two of them anyway, unless I wanted to be a Thricewise Demon, who got it free. First off, Thricewise cost 400 CP all by itself, so I’d only be saving 200, and second… I really didn’t want to be a Thricewise Demon, seeing as how they were large, tentacled, three-eyed monstrous bivalves. No… I don’t want to be a demon… tentacle demon… no… naughty SJ! That left Spare Key or Lawyer… and I really had no interest in being a Lawyer at all, let alone one working for the Dark Powers.

“So… Spare Key it is… roll dem bones… ew, the die is squishy and squirmy!” I gacked, dropping it. It bounced squelchily, then landed with a definitive thunderclap. “Fifteen, excellent. Lovely… I can do that… again. For the third time… Right. I guess I’m the backup plan.” I read the description. My new body will have been created for me out of an extra special energy source, making me one of the few things stopping a God of Hell from blending all possible realities together and unleashing suffering across dimensions. The mentally ill would recognize me on sight as something unworldly and Glorificus, the aforementioned God of Hell would be coming for my head… or rather my spiritual essence. Of course, starting in Season Five, there would be a second Key, or rather the Primary Key (Dawn for those not paying attention) so Glorificus might not come for my head specifically. Proximity to the slayer would keep me as safe as it did Tara and Dawn… i.e. marginally, and so I’d be inserted into the family of one of the Scoobies (Buffy’s group of mortal vampire hunters was known as the Scoobies, since they were meddling teenages) as a sibling and the memories of my new family would be modified so they would think I’d been there all my life. They’d be used to my personality, but wouldn’t be aware of my special powers. The only problem was that, unless someone was featured on the show, I’d have absolutely no idea who they were… which included most of the Scoobies’ parents. Yay!

Snagging Slayer and Sorcery Savant, as I said, burned nine tenths of my CP, leaving me with a hundred out of my starting thousand. That was faster than I’d ever nearly spent out before. Blah. As a Slayer (pseudo-Slayer apparently) I gained ‘High Stakes Fighter’ free. It was kinda meh, to be honest, coming off of Ranma, as it gave me ‘theoretical knowledge of jujitsu and aikido’ and a general aptitude for punching people in the face with a style all my own. Joy. At least it reflexed the local fighting level in general, which was about as kung-fu as an episode of Hercules (lots of punching, grappling, and the occasional throw or kick). I could get a discount on Just Plain Snarky, but I’m pretty snarky already, no need for an augment there.

Of course, I really should explain why I wanted to be a Slayer. See, long long ago, way back in the ancient days of prehistoric humanity, the Human race had no defense against the primordial vampires that preyed upon them besides the light of day and the power of fire. To combat the predators of the night, the wise-men of the primitive tribes gathered  their power and bound a powerful demon into a the body of a teenage girl. That demonic force transformed the girl into the First Slayer, and that power jumped to the nearest candidate (probably all descendants of the First) upon the involuntary retirement of the last. The Slayer was bane to all vampires, as well as Humanity’s protector against all manner of demonic scourges. Called upon by destiny to fight creatures of the night and possessing strength, speed, stamina, agility, reflexes, and intuition to handle common vampires easily, a Slayer was truly a dangerous foe and few evil entities ever survived a fight against one. Guided by prophetic dreams that occasionally alerted them to upcoming events, Slayers were seldom caught off guard and often had time to prepare their defenses or tools to take on most threats… but very few of them lived to be thirty.

Now sure, I was already most of those things (my strength, speed, agility, toughness, and reflexes were already at or beyond the limits of mundane humans, and my stamina ranged from freight train to determinator. Hell, with enough cold water, my stamina was effectively limitless. Still boosts are nice and the intuition, especially geared for effectiveness against supernatural enemies was quite welcome. Also, the Watchers (the descendants and successors of those ancient wise-men) had some very interesting books if I could get my hands on them.

As for why I wanted Sorcery Savant? Well, it meant I’d have a general aptitude for learning the local magical system and spells, as well as giving me a far greater natural ability to perform magic. Well duh, I went to Hogwarts, but this would augment the spells I performed to place them on the same level or possibly above that of the greatest witches on Earth once I gained more experience. Or rather, even more experience.

But what else was on offer? “Oh… Fliiiiight… want… want Flight!” Fuck, the perk flat out granted me the ability to fly without wings or jetpack or spell. It was a purely magical ability that peaked out at around 70 mph (112 km/h) and guaranteed that the wind at that speed wouldn’t even bother me… as long as I didn’t fly into things, of course. Unfortunately, it was five hundred CP.

“Crap! Even without gear, I need 400 more!” I muttered grumpily.

Of course, that meant drawbacks, of which I was allowed to take two at full value (all additional ones would have their values halved) up to a maximum of six hundred CP. To minimize my suffering for value, that meant two 300s, of which there were four. “Let’s see… ‘Soulless?’… a demon will take over my body sometime in the first four years and keep doing so within the next four years after each time my soul is restored… and he wants to cause the suffering and death of everyone close to me? Yahg! No. Fuck that! Innocent people would die, and if I was unlucky, it would be every six months for a decade… hell, even if I was lucky, it would be twice!”

I shuddered at the thought of causing people to die just to pay for my powers. Ugh… No. I went to get a beer and some cheesy popcorn from the kitchn before I continued… maybe I should move the Vending Machines over to the outdoor kitchen area? Naw… sure it would be convenient for when doing builds, but that was every decade and the veranda got used a lot more often than that, even with most of our time spent in an individual JumpWorld. I pulled up a stool and considered the next on the list. It was called ‘Tabula Rasa’… I turned it down because amnesia was, you know, bad! After that was ‘Penalty Box’, i.e. being tortured to death over and over and over again in a hell dimension. “Do I feel like being tortured for ten years just to get some powers? I do not. But Zane would rescue me… but that would mean Zane would be taking my place… or at least someone else would be. No way!” That left ‘The Perfect Heart’, which meant that these horrifically nasty goons called ‘The Gentlemen’ would regularly attack the mortal world, killing six others (by cutting out their hearts… the same way the Penalty Box killed its prisoners, only more permanently) and then coming after me for number seven. Again… No. No one innocent was going to die for my power. If something offered a world state in which they were already dead before the start of the jump, or couldn’t be saved when they died in canon… maybe. But not this.

That took me to the next size down, the 200s… and immediately I ran into more of the fucking same! ‘The Body’ meant that one friend would die every year… pretty much exactly like the show. Did that count as preordained deaths? Mmm… maybe? It did guarantee I’d lose someone I cared about and that they couldn’t be revived by any means… until the decade was up… I thought about that… suffering that I could fix with magic upon a return? Resurrection via magic was possible in setting. I set that one on the back burner… it had some risks of major cast members being on the list… not like they were immune anyway… But was the risk acceptable.

The next was ‘Bugger, I thought you’d gone’ which meant I’d start monologuing all my plans the moment I thought I was alone… wow… Villainous Monologues hadn’t been my schtick when I was one. I did not need that headache. However, ‘The Sunnydale Effect’ meant that I’d forgetting that danger exists at night and that some people had magical powers… Riiiight… because that made sense… but sure, why not. I’m a Slayer, I’d cope with the danger and the ditziness and surprise factor. That put me up to three hundred, but it wasn’t enough… I needed another two c-spots…

Which I got from ‘The End of Magic’, which was (on one hand) an ‘Oh, crap!’ kind of thing that generated a fail state other than death into this link of my chain. The fail state was that, unless the canonical destruction of an object known as the Seed of Wonder was reversed (the drawback meant that that destruction couldn’t be stopped from happening) I’d fade away like all the other magic on Buffy Earth. The seed had been / would be destroyed in the 8th season of Buffy (as related in the comic books and actually year nine, since Angel ran for one year longer than Buffy and the 8th season of Buffy happened after Angel’s fifth and final season.

Since I had no idea how to actually stop the Seed of Wonder from being destroyed, since the event was needed to thwart an entity named Twilight that was all but omnipotent, taking this wasn’t much of a risk, except for taking away my ability to simply let events run their course. Of course, on the other hand, solution was making certain that the  method used in canon (at the end of the 9th season, 10th year, right around the time I’d be leaving) were used earlier. And since I knew what those were… fuck it. I liked challenges and if I did it fast enough, I could actually prevent a hell of a lot of suffering. I had approximately 8 years to plan for the end of magic and to do something about it.

I can do that. Not like my existence is on the line. And that was 500 CP, and that meant FLIGHT!

Zane (with Ziggy on his head) watched me bounce around the warehouse giggling and singing, “I can fly, I can fly, I can fly!” I did pause long enough to tell him that companions got imported free as high school students, so anyone who wanted to come with me could. They didn’t get any CP, but, eh. I also didn’t have enough CP to buy the Watcher Bible which was an updating guide to all the local laws of magic in any reality I found myself in, which was a bummer, but hey, as as Slayer, I apparently got an unbreakable stake made of padauk… that’s a type of reddish-orange hardwood from Africa (pronounced pad-DUKE). So yay? 

INSERTION

I hit the ground running, as the saying goes. The clock had just under nine years and it was ticking. Failure meant an end to the adventure and I was not up for that. Not yet. Too much left undone. Too many places left unseen. No. Failure was not an option.

I had a plan. Sure, I could let things play out as they did. Lots and lots of people died, but the Seed of Magic, the very thing that makes magic work in the word, does get restored after it gets shattered. The drawback said it would definitely get shattered and that I’d have to restore it or I’d fade away. Well, since I didn’t want to fade away, I had (as I said) a plan. And a giant warehouse outside of reality. My plan was simple enough, as it turns out. I would stockpile absolutely every magical object I could find… or that my companions could find. They weren’t really important to this world, weren’t tied to the plot. They could travel, explore, beg, borrow, or steal the magic we need… and not just from this world but from other neighboring realities… even just the energy was enough, and as a Set-Up Wizard (Harry Potter) and a Treknobabbler (Star Trek), making magitech siphons and storage tanks was the work of a few months part-time research and development. But that was the easy task.

I’ve got the hard one… high school.

The first thing I had to accept coming into this world was that, galling as it might be, was that people were going to die. This world was the product of Joss Whedon’s writing, people you care about die. Angel would become Angelus. The Mayor would turn into a demon. Bad things were gonna happen. They kinda had to to make everyone strong enough for what was coming. But nothing said that events had to play out exactly as they had in canon. Whedon was this reality’s creator… he was not its god. He did not control my actions or their ramifications. Though that doesn’t mean everything played out how I expected either. I’m no more infallible than Joss is.

Of course, the first thing that didn’t play out as I expected was that I’d been assuming I’d be a Summers. Jet Summers maybe, or Jenny… but no… I was a Rosenberg, because apparently, being Jewish means you get incarnated into the Jewish Family. SJR, Sylvia Jane Rosenberg. Second time as a Sylvia and only one letter off from the last time I was a witch (Jade vs Jane). Still, Rosenberg. Woo! I was Willow’s twin, which was mostly okay,  because Willow’s awesome and this body is hot! (Willow wears a lot of baggy clothing, but Allison Hannigan was a model.) However, the downside is that this means seducing her would be kinda… ookie? I know, I know, I’m dating a brother and sister and they double up on me fairly often… but still! They weren’t my siblings. And by dating, I mean, once we’re old enough to date and everything, since at jump start, Willow and I are technically fifteen.

But maybe this was a good thing. I could stop Anya from… no… shouldn’t interfere. Strong Allies to fight Glory. Grrr… Don’t get me wrong. I totally wanted to see just how much I could fubar a setting with metagaming… but with Glory gunning for my (or Dawn’s) essence and the End of Magic guaranteed even if I did take out both Buffy and Angel… even if I could… since Twilight (the dimension that Buffy and Angel eventually parent… the entity that destroying the Seed stopped from fulfilling its evil destiny) protected both Buffy and Angel from permanent destruction before they brought it into existence… Prophecy is weird. Anyway, fucking up the timeline too bad just wasn’t worth it. Maybe some other jump.

I won’t go too much into the details of the high school years. They were deeply frustrating on any number of levels. First, I had to not kill Drusilla (annoying insane bitch Vampire)… which I sooo wanted to. Also had to not kill Harmony (annoying ditzy cheerbitch who becomes annoying ditzy Vampire)… Or Cordelia (just really annoying)… or… like… everyone. Could have. Thought about it. But something would just screw it all up.

Also, the Sunnydale Effect? Arrrgh! I cannot tell you how many times I forgot that magic was a thing other people could do. Still, during the day I was good. Dunno when Buffy slept, but it’s a damn good thing I’ve got a perfect memory because studying for high school would have been a pain. I got straight A’s because, quite frankly, it was easier than thinking about it. But what I was really studying was Giles’s library. As fast as I could in fact. And the local occult store’s stuff, and all the books I could track down.

For those not in the know, Angel, one of Buffy’s two vampiric boyfriends (and Vampiric Grand-sire of Spike, the other VBF), was born Liam, a very bad human, and turned into a vampire by Darla. He then took on the name Angelus and was a very very very good vampire… i.e. an absolute monster. He thrived on causing pain and suffering, and in one case, killed everyone related to his intended victim in order to drive her insane, then transformed her into a vampire. That girl, Drusilla, would go on to sire Spike, but she was hardly Angelus’s only victim.

One of the last of those other victims was a young Gypsy woman of the Kalderash clan, a fact that would prove to be the undoing of Angelus and the birth of the being known as Angel. The Kalderash, unlike so many mortals, did not reject the existence of the supernatural, for many of them had magical powers. Together, the elders of the Kalderash worked a terrible curse upon Angelus, a curse that restored his soul to him… a suitable punishment, so they deemed, for his crimes. 

Like most curses, it was an absolutely terrible plan. This was not merely giving a Vampire a conscience. Liam had been no saint, but even he was abjectly horrified at what Angelus had done. See, Vampires in the BuffyVerse are not Humans who have been transformed into predators of their former brethren. They are Demons who have taken over the shell of the former Human, expelling the Soul and gaining all the memories and identity of the former inhabitant. Restoring Liam to control did not make the Demon regret… it made the Human who now had the memories of a Demon regret. The Demon was still there, waiting… and because the Kalderash are fucking idiots, they made the one way of removing the Curse be that if Liam, now calling himself Angel, ever felt a moment of pure happiness, the Demon would be free. This is, what they call in the business, a shit idea.

Thankfully, I’m not a god-damned moron, so, mostly for practice, I re-ensouled half a dozen Vampires just to see if I could, using the Kalderash Curse… Of course, it was cruel to the Humans I did it to, but with each time I changed the limitation… that was fairly simple to do, really, since it turns out that Gypsy Curses aren’t that hard to modify. At first, I made it so that if the Soul experienced a moment of true despair, it would leave… which was nearly immediate. From there I made more and more modifications, always working towards figuring out how to remove all limitations… it had to be possible, considering that Spike had won his (William’s) Soul back from the abyss by surviving a terrible trial among some demons in Africa without any kind of limitation attached.

I also snatched up this really creepy magical object called the Box of Gavrok once the mayor was done with it… still lots and lots of creepy demon-bugs in it. Wasn’t planning on keeping it. Went into the collection where the bugs were extracted and rendered into high magic (and protein) paste.

When the Halloween wherein everyone became whatever their costume was rolled around, I dressed as D’artagnan on the theory I might learn some fencing. Seems to have worked… also now my french sounds Bretton, not Parisienne and I seem to know way too much about the workings of the Sun Court of France, but hey… swashbuckling and musketry. Zane went as Porthos, Bao as Aramis, and Uriel as Athos. Ziggy went as a sheep, which was adorable. Getting Ethan (the evil warlock who made the magical costumes with the power of the god Janus) to create a Quetzalcoatl costume for RayRay was an inspired choice, if I do say so myself. AJ and Francine went as ninjas, and Petra went as Supergirl. Granted, Big Q and Supergirl weren’t nearly at full power, but they did help tremendously… Quetzalcoatl being a sun-god and all. Of course, the powers wore off… the skillsets didn’t.

My first lifesaving trick was Jenny Calendar (secretly Jenny Kalderash). Didn’t get there in time. Angelus (released after Angel had sex with Buffy) lingered over the kill a bit too long, thus meaning the Kalderash idiocy had just claimed one of their own. My second was Kendra (the Slayer candidate who got activated when Buffy was technically dead for a few seconds/minutes at the end of season one, who in the ‘true’ timeline had her throat sliced by Angelus). Got there in time, just barely. Stupid Drusilla nearly messed that up. Stuck Kendra in my med bay’s cryotube. Figured I’d thaw her eventually… kinda forgot about her to honest.

Seriously, what is up with this town? Why is it soo hard to remember that there are dangers…. Everywhere. I mean, I know why I was constantly being surprised, but still! I wasn’t the only one! Like the first time non-vampire demons showed up… I’d forgotten there were non-vampire demons. I mean… not forgot… just… you know… it slipped my mind. I was actually shocked to learn Oz was werewolf… when I knew the entire plotline, or that there were witches at school… or that Willow had started practicing witchcraft. I mean… I knew she was going to… it just slipped my mind, you know? But everyone in town who had plenty of experience with the supernatural just… forgot all the time anyway, despite all the deaths. How does this town have any people left!?

Still, I was totally not surprised when the Buffy Bot showed up. Robots aren’t supernatural, after all. It took me about three days to make my own. Not a Buffy bot… but a maid bot. Shut up… the place needs a maid… and VIvian likes dancing apparently. I didn’t give the bot a personality. It was essentially a walking Romba, but I had used ME and TOS tech in building her and that meant the House VI could pretty easily use it as a remote body… or fifteen. Turns out VIvian liked it so much that she’d turned all the Warehouse bots into Butler Bots named Wooster. All 15 of them. VIvian’s silly like that.

I got to slap Xander, which was fun. Totally deserved it. Got to slap Cordelia too… soo much more deserved it. May have ridden the Wesley express… what can I say, he’s a hunk. Wesley’s… well… remember how I said the Watchers were responsible for the Slayers? Yeah, Wesley was Faith’s (Kendra’s replacement… she’d been technically dead before I got her heart started again so the medbay could work its magic) Watcher. He was also a bit of a git at times, but in a sexy British way. So was Ripper Giles (Buffy’s second Watcher… the first having died in the movie), but he was old and had more restraint than Wesley.

Time passes, as it does, and the enemies rose and fell, as they do. Dusting vampires was loads of fun. They’re not very tough, but if you play with them enough so they think they have a chance, it can be amusing. Saving the Scoobies from some of their idiocy, that was a challenge. Sparring with Buffy and, occasionally, Faith or Angel, was fun. Teaching the lot of them a few tricks was more fun. Neither of them ever realized I was a Slayer until the whole Glory fiasco. Got to do two things that were big on my list for the Buffyverse. I got to save Joyce. Really, the doctor in me had been screaming for a chance to prevent that aneurysm for… like fifty years now? So that was nice.

Nicer still was slapping Buffy and telling her to get over herself. Seriously? Whining that your friends loved you enough to raise you from the dead because Heaven was nice? Well, so fucking what? Act like a person and suck it up. I made myself scarce during the ‘Once More With Feeling’ Episode where the town became a musical. No one needed me to open up with the truth.

I did consider killing a few humans, but figured that would taint me in this word and I wasn’t willing to risk taking the chance. I seriously considered killing Warren Mears (the show’s only completely Human monster) but opted for the much safer plan of just saving Tara (Willow’s on-again off-again girlfriend). By that time, Glory was gone and the only real threats left were The First Evil, The End of Days, and the End of Magic. But I also kinda wanted to watch Willow flay Warren alive. So, with that in mind, I called up Osiris and made him a deal. Sure, it involved trading Warren’s soul to Osiris in exchange for him kind of lying to Willow, but eh. Probably better in Osiris’s keeping than wherever he actually ended up in the original line.

I layered all sorts of wards over Tara… after first making sure I had the process down by having Zane shoot me several times. I could take it. So Tara gets shot and dies, momentarily, at which point her system goes into stasis for 20 minutes or so while Willow yells at Osiris for not bringing Tara back, then, while Willow’s off draining all the magical books I’d already memorized, I revive Tara and slot her into another cryotube. She might have looked at me funny when I told her she could come out in Season 9, but I wasn’t really listening. I had a show to catch.

I know it’s wrong to take pleasure in the torture of people, but Warren Mears deserved everything he got and more. Buffy and Xander were all “You’re her sister! Stop her!” And I was all, “Hell no! This is great! Have some popcorn.” Yes, I brought popcorn to a flaying… what else does one bring? Also, Willow’s melt down and power up were needed… and the resolution of the Evil Willow arc forced Buffy to realize that she really was happy to be back from the dead. My slaps do not come with lifechanging ‘Get over yourself’ powers. I need to jump to Jubei Ninchupo and pick up what me and my friends back home had called the ‘Get A Life Slash’. Really, if you haven’t seen it, you should.

That said, the events of Season 7 and 8 were not fun. Not in the slightest. An awful lot of the Slayer Legion died. And though I, finally, could go all out, there wasn’t any way to save enough of them. I did my best though. I slaughtered Turok-Han (primordial Vamps) by the hundreds, but there were thousands of them and some of the Potentials died. Still, most lived; far more than in canon. As the Hellmouth destabilized, I told everyone to run while I strengthened the road out of town. It was the biggest single working of Ice I’d ever made.

But that just made Year 9 all the more frustrating. Angel (calling himself Twilight), that fucktard, was running around killing the Potentials because proto-reality Twilight was feeding him a line of bullshit that he was credulous enough to believe… asshole. Finally, the Seed of Wonder, as was promised, was shattered. Wasn’t any way to stop it. Had to happen, right? Right.

But you know what’s really quite excellent at fixing shattered objects? Burstone Shards. And I’d spent nine years waiting for that exact moment. I grabbed Willow’s hand and pulled her into my Mind Palace, freezing time in the outside world just as the Seed’s bits began to fall. I said, “You trust me, right?”

She narrowed her eyes and said something snarky like, “Not with the ice cream,” even though it wasn’t really the time for snark.

I ignored that and snapped, “Remember what you did with all the magic in the store when Warren killed Tara?” She grimaced, but nodded. “Well, we’re going to do that again… but we’re going to do it with 5,000 times as much stuff as was in the shop… and we’re going to focus it all through something that looks like this.” and I showed her an image of the Shard.

“What is it?” she asked.

“A Shard of the Unbroken Whole,” I responded.

“What does it do?”

“It saves us all.”

“Is that all?”

“It very well might explode.”

“Oh good.”

“I haven’t been able to test this. That’s the problem with something that can only be done once.”

“Why can it only be done once?”

“The Seed is the source of all this world’s magic. With it gone, the magic will fade. I have, I think, enough magical stuff to restore the Seed to pretty close to full power instantly. But if it doesn’t work… there won’t be enough magic to try again.”

She gulped. “So what do I do?”

“You Drain… and then you pass the power to me.”

“And you?”

“I shape the whammy.”

“Good plan.”

“Thanks. I’ve been working on it since the day I arrived.”

“Is this what you’re the Key for?”

I cocked an eyebrow at her.

“Once I knew what Dawn was, I looked for more. Found you.”

“Didn’t say anything.”

“Why should I? You’re my sister. Plus, you totally punched Slutty Vampire me in the face.”

“Yeah, well… the evil me was creepier.”

“Yeah… the goth look doesn’t work for you.”

“We gonna do this?”

“Sure,” she looked around the Palace of my Mind, “Nice place you got here.”

“Thanks, I decorated it myself. Any questions?”

“Where were you keeping all this magical stuff? In your pokemon backpack?”

“Hahah… no… in my Pokemon Warehouse.”

“You have a Pokemon Warehouse and you never told me?”

“I have Pokemon and never told you. We make it through this, I’ll give you an intro. Also? I can totally fly.”

“I sooo hate you right now.”

“I have a broomstick too,” I said, rubbing it in.

“Not listening!”

“Love you, Will.”

“Love you too, Sill,” she sighed, then brightened, “Oh. And if we succeed… I have a present for you.”

“Oddly? Me too,” I said, laughing.

Well… we succeeded. Of course we did. The magic had barely had time to begin dissipating, the bits of the Seed were still falling when time resumed and Willow and my combined magic lashed across the chamber, freezing things in place both in ice and in time. I opened the floodgates to the Warehouse and the Woosters, as they’d been instructed to, had already arranged for the 10 foot tall balls of magical items to roll out of their chute into the chamber. Willow sucked them dry, the power flowing into her faster and faster as I focused on the Shard I’d had memorizing the Seed for 4 long years. It had taken me the first half-decade just to locate the damned thing.

There was a sound very much like all the eggshells in the universe being squished all at once, and the Seed reformed… absorbing my Shard in the process. (I’d already made a replacement out of the ruins of Sunnydale… an entire destroyed city has a lot of Fragments). At which point I promptly shoved the damned thing into my Warehouse. Willow, drained, gaped at me.

“W… what did you do?”

“The seed had to be broken to sever the link with Twilight. That was the only way to save this world. But the Seed must remain outside the world for long enough to drive all the major  demons from this world, the ones with escape routes. and to break down a few enchantments that shouldn’t stand… I’m afraid we won’t have much magic to draw on for the next week or so.”

In the end, it was more like two months. I’d bring Willow into the Warehouse to recharge from time to time and in the meanwhile we mowed down anything that wouldn’t play nice with humanity. I may have seduced Spike to console him about Buffy hooking up back up with Angel. He so didn’t deserve her and Spike was clearly the superior choice… once he got his soul back and starting atoning for what the Demon did. Almost invited him to come along… but didn’t want to take the chance with his passenger. Also? He’s still a Vampire. Ick, blood.

Willow’s present turned out to be a t-shirt that said, ‘I was the Key to saving the world and all I got was this stupid t-shirt!’. Gee… thanks.

Anyway, long story, blah blah blah, finally put the stupid Seed back where hopefully it would be safe, under every ward Willow and I could think of… and then I pulled Tara out of Cryo and let the two of them have their reunion. It was… tense, and awkweird, but touching. Also not really my story. Left the two of them alone while I went and beat up… I mean… instructed some of the Potentials in the finer art of Anything Goes Martial Arts. Spike’s a good sport, letting me use him as a punching bag.

In the end, me and my companions met on the beach at the end of ten years. I’d long since said my goodbyes to the Scoobies, and absolutely beat the crap out of Angel for being an idiot… really, I’m much much stronger and faster than him when he’s not pumped up by Twilight. As the world froze around me I sighed with relief.

“Didn’t enjoy yourself?” Zane asked.

“Fuck no. It was almost universally horrible from day one onward. Got a little better when Cordelia left, but… no. On the whole, I’d say that the BuffyVerse might have had its moments as a show, but it’s pretty damned miserable world to have to live in. I used it for fighting practice and magical practice, and it ran me ragged. But I didn’t like it. I missed you guys and… really… if it hadn’t been for the whole season 6-8 arc, I’d have tried to tank this place on my own. And the Initiative… oy. Terrible people. So wanted to kill them all. Killing Adam was probably my favorite bit… and when your favorite bit is offing a 2-bit Frankenstein’s Monster knock off…”

“What’s wrong?”

“I just remembered something” I said as the last of the Sunnydale Effect wore off.

“What?”

“I still have Kendra in a cryotube.”

Next: World 14 – They ain’t Heavy, They’re my Brothers

Resources: Document, Build

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

World 12: Sentai Special

A SPECIAL TORTURE

Previously: The Spider in the Web

Themesong: Don’t Bring Me Down by E.L.O.

Upon waking on the tenth day of the month between jumps, I’d walked downstairs and checked the alcove, as usual, to see if the new machine had arrived. It had, and I stared at it in horror, muttering, “No… please… anything but this… well, not anything. There are things that are worse, but I’m not going to think about them!” I shuddered, then made the sign of the cross and yelled, “Get thee behind me Teletubbies.” The mostly empty warehouse wasn’t impressed and Ziggy just bounced around my feet. Everyone else was either still abed or still in their rooms.

I looked back at the VMoD and banged my head against the side of the machine several times. Mighty… Morphin… Power… GOD-DAMN IT! Fucking Sentai series were bad enough in the original Japanese. The American versions were, if anything, an order of magnitude worse. Sentai 90210 as it were.

Still talking to no one, I groused, “I hate this world already!” Then I thought about that, and sighed. “So let’s see how it gets worse.” I activated the interface and immediately flipped through to the drawback options. “Oh… lovely… so much yerg.” Now, I didn’t know anything about MMPR lore besides what a person could gleen from commercials and what the VMOD said in the infoblurbs on the screen, but some of those drawbacks sounded idiotic. Like the one that would incarnate two idiotic bullies named, apparently ‘Bulk & Skull’ in all future worlds for me to enjoy pleasure of their idioct company. Or the one that would make me a floating head trapped in a featureless plane outside of the time stream… actually, scratch that complaint… that one sounded like it might be an improvement over MMPRworld… Nooo! Bad EssJay… Be Entertaining! No running away and hiding!

I thought about it and sighed deeper this time. “Fine, ‘Nice Haircut’ means I’ll be mocked if I don’t keep up with the ever shifting fashions of the early 90s. Ooo, mockery. Scary. And ‘Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi’ gives me an annoying verbal tic, huh? Great! Let’s take those. Anything to make me never want to come back here without making this already insufferable world a no-win scenario. They were each worth an extra hundred, which gave me 1200 Choice Points to spend. Hope something’s worth it.” Somewhere in my Warehouse, a cricket chirped. Fucking reality’s a comedian. [+200/1200]

Scooping up the Zig and putting him on my head, I considered my options vis-a-vis (heh… Visa Vee!) backgrounds. Such profound choices. “Drop In, right Ziggy? Momma doesn’t want any fake memories of this place. Don’t even want any real memories of this place either, for that matter. I’ll just say I moved here from another city or something. Not going to be a Monster or a Space Witch. Ick. And Momma won’t not be caught dead in one of those Ranger outfits. No she won’t!”

Ziggy slid down onto my shoulder and chirped, “Cookie?”

I gave him a Pokecookie and looked at what DI’s got discounts on. “Colour Change? No thank you, I don’t need the power to change the color of my clothing. Sixth Ranger… the ability to join pre-existing organisations with little trouble. Hmmm… tempting. But not as tempting as Acoustics. Always wanted to learn how to play the flute.” 

Acoustics said, ‘You are incredibly skilled with an instrument of your choice and can project your voice or sound from instruments over incredible distances. Doesn’t boost the volume, just the clear carry distance somehow.’ I figured that was worth a hundred CP. [100/1100/1200]

“Okay Machine… What else you got? Alchemy? Eh. Already got the Alchemy of two worlds, three if you count Joketsuzoku chemical science. Don’t need this one. Dunno what Putty Patrollers are… they sound lame. Teamwork? The ability to teach others to work as a team? Tempting. Attitude? The ability to edit my own personality… ooo… dangerous. Monologuing? The power to make sure no one misunderstands me ever again? Very tempting… But nothing screams buy me!”

I moved down to the Gear section. “I want a giant robot!” I told the Zig as he gnawed on his cookie. “It’s the only thing this place is good for. Oooo. Giant Robot Discount Get! Dragonzord! Discounted to 300. ‘An Ancient Giant Robotic Ally from the Sea. Equipped with Drill Weapons and Missiles and more! You can pilot it with the Dragon Dagger or take control from within the cockpit! It can combine with other dinozords for more power!’.” Well, that sounded like fun! What was this Dragon Dagger… Hmmm… the Dragon Flute was described as ‘No mere flute’ but rather a dagger that could fire a devastating energy beam and summon my Zord from any distance… assuming I had one. Well, shit… that was worth a C-spot in this festering craphole of saturday morning programming… or was MMPR after school fare? Fuck if I knew. But a flute that was also a dagger? I could get behind that. I like flutes and stabbing idiots. [400/700/1200]

“Hmmm… it also mentioned combining with other Dinozords… how much are those…” A quick check told me that I could get a 5-pack for 600 and that five Dinozords could combine to make one Megazord or a Mega Dragonzord with all six. “Heh. Niiiice. Gimmee. Wait… it says I need five people to operate these, plus my own Dragonzord… I need to import… bugger… Importing costs 50 each.” I’d have 100 left if I bough the Dinozords, which meant I’d need another 150… and since the drawbacks only came in multiples of 100, it meant I’d need a +200.

So, back to the disadvantages I went, looking for something that wasn’t god awful. “What’s worth +200? Green with Envy? No. I’m not that big a bitch. Competent Foes? I’m not that insane. So Props it is!” Props made everything cheesy, fake and easily broken, even stuff I brought into the world myself… I made a note to myself to leave everything non-self repairing in the freaking Warehouse. Thinking about it a bit more, I decided, hell, I might as well keep the Warehouse on lockdown the entire jump. Yup… This was gonna suck. [+200/300/1400]

“So… Dinozord Bundle, plus Importing 5 companions as Power Rangers? Who to subject to this… No… no… I can’t do this to my friends. Screw it! I’ll take the Zords, but screw the Props! This lunacy has gone on long enough! I want the Zords, but not this much! Zords are stupid anyway! Grumble grumble grumble!” I flopped down on the grass and sighed, head in hands. “Keep the damned things in my warehouse and use some real firepower to take out these… no! Bad SJ! No getting involved. Not this time. No freaking way I’m going to dignify this setting with playing along with it. It’s just silly!”

“What’s silly?” Zane asked, wandering over and eating a granola bar from our supplies. I really wanted to just stock up the warehouse with tons of stuff, but do you know how hard it is to get supplies that actually last more than a year except canned foods… and even they lose some freshness… if anything in a can can be said to be fresh… I guess it meant I’d keep having to rely on local stuff and the meager food supplies the Warehouse supplied, but there were considerably more than five of us now. In addition to the Mons (Zane, AJ, Francy, Petra, RayRay, Dyna, and The Zig) there were the human members of my crew (Uriel, Bao, Ryoga, and Yoiko)… but that wasn’t all. There were also half a dozen owls to feed… which was why there were mice and voles and crickets in carefully sectioned parts of the warehouse… and the support mechanisms to keep them going too… But it was not a self-sustaining system by any stretch of the imagination. I needed outside supplies to restock it at least once every six months.

Frack… I’d lost track of his question. I checked my memory… oh… right. “Stupid silly jump about high school kids wearing spandex and punching rubber monsters of the week. I was berating myself for considering bringing you guys in as Spandex Rangers… Nothing says you can’t figure out how to use the five giant animal themed robots I bought for you without having to actually be imported. Nothing’s worth memories of this place… and the fucking idiots on the show did it… how hard could it be?”

“What?” Zane said, looking crushed. “You’re passing up an opportunity to camp it up?!”

“Yes, Zane. I do not enjoy camping it up. What point of spandex and rubber monsters do you not get?”

“But it sounds AWESOME! I get dibs on whatever’s BLUE!” He flopped down next to me. “You gotta bring us in. Me and D and France and… and… not Ray… she takes herself serious… ummm… AJ probably, he’ll do anything you say but he does like fighting… oh… and… you said five? Me, D, AJ, and the two Hibikis?”

“You’re serious about this? You actually want to be Power Rangers?” I was aghast at the idea.

Zane looked confused. “I thought you said they were called Spandex Rangers?”

I palmed my face. “Fine. Fine. Fuck it… Stupid Silly Spandex Rangers… whatever.” Buying the ‘Power Ranger’ import option allowed me to ‘invite’ a companion to join me as a Ranger, giving them the perks ‘Attitude’ and ‘It’s Morphin’ Time’ as well as the ‘Power Morpher’ and ‘Power Weapon’ items. It also said that I could choose their new attitude and assign them one of my Zords if I’d purchased the bundle. I blinked at that, then read the description of Attitude and shuddered.

Attitude’s description was as follows: “In order to be one of the Power Rangers, it’s not enough to simply be youthful. One needs the right mindset. Purchasing this grants you free reign to adjust your personality to remove any traits you don’t like or perhaps add new ones you might like better. It also confers a small bonus to your willpower.” The willpower was fine, if minor… it was the personality editing that was vaguely terrifying. And the import option didn’t give control of that editing to my companions… it gave it to me. I could go hog-wild with that… oh… that was temptation I didn’t need.

Out of curiosity, I brought up the profiles for each of my companions and looked at all the sliders. Oh… good lord. So many traits… and I could customize and blend and min-max if I wanted. I could hear the law of unintended consequences screaming in one ear that this was a trap and the seductive whisper of ‘just a little… what can it hurt’ in the other ear. The horror of it all was that this was a perk… it wouldn’t wear off at the end of the decade. This was for good. I could dial back Ryoga’s depressive tendencies, make Yoiko a bit more playful, RayRay a bit less lazy… I could help Uriel feel more… no. Absolutely not. I closed the menu and locked it. I wasn’t going to use it and neither were they. Ever. The willpower boost wasn’t worth it. Just because it was free didn’t mean I had to purchase it… or authorize it for my companions.  As long as it was there, it was a temptation… there wasn’t a time limit on it. It was not mentioned that this was a one time thing. It would always be lurking there, a temptation to use it.

On the far end of the existential horror slider was ‘It’s Morphin’ Time’ (not It’s Morphine Time, which is what I felt, strongly, I could use right then). That allowed my companions to make form-shifting (and probably outfit-shifting, since the Morphin Rangers didn’t actually form-shift) instantaneous. If they felt like spending time in a transformation sequence, they could do so while giving off an impressive electrical light-show.  That was the kind of lighthearted idiocy I was expecting from this useless world.

The items were a handheld weapon and a techno-magical coin with the image of an ancient animal on it. The weapon was pretty basic, serving as both melee or ranged weapon, but also as a low powered energy weapon. It was when five of them were brought together that their real power emerged, since they could be combined to create a ‘Power Blaster’ capable of easily dispatching regular-sized monsters. The coin not only allowed one to call upon the matching dinozord (assuming they’d been purchased) but to quickly change into alternate outfits… it came with one outfit included. Any guesses? Yes, that’s right! SPANDEX AND HELMET! Of course, in true Stupid Sucky Spandex Sentai fashion, the suits were apparently meant to be the functional equivalent of weak power armor… and not, you know, hideously embarrassing.

Having purchased five import slots, a new menu flashed on screen, showing the entire crew and asking me to select five to import. I went with Zane’s suggest, importing him, Dyna, AJ, Ryoga, and Yoiko… and the menu changed. “Select Prehistoric Animal for Dinozord and Power Morpher!” it said.

Five options were across the top and had red borders; the Tyrannosaurus, Sabertooth Tiger, Triceratops, Pterodactyl, and Mastodon. Beneath them was a warning, ‘Taking these will change canon, causing your companion to replace a member of the cast and potentially derailing events.’ I shook my head and laughed. As if I cared. Still, I didn’t want any of those.

Zane ended up being the Steel Ranger in the Dire Wolf Zord and armed with the Power Gauntlets. AJ became the Beige Ranger, getting the Megatherium (Giant Ground Sloth) Zord and the Power Sabers. Dyna got the White Ranger suit and the Auroch Zord. Her weapon was the Power Whip. Yoiko, as always bear themed, got the Cave Bear Zord and, since her traditional pink wasn’t available, she got the Purple Suit and the Power Staff (it turned into a sniper rifle). And since the Black Ranger was already taken, Ryoga ended up as the Orange Ranger… and of course he got the Cave Boar Zord and Power Boomerang… what? Ryoga is a master of turning bandanas into boomerangs already. Trust me, the boy could through a rang well enough to make Batman or Link look like pikers.

Of course, that left me with 50 CP unspent and really only one thing I could buy. That was the Drop-In discounted ‘Dragon Shield’ a solid gold shield worn on the shoulders that was guaranteed to flawlessly guard my upper torso from attacks… the thing looked like a triangular variation of a football player’s chest guard, and would probably dig in a bit if I tried to bend over while wearing it. It, and the matching armbands were made of gold, but the description guaranteed that me and other power rangers would be able to lift them despite the substantial weight. I took it, even though I’d be damned if I’d be caught dead in a Power Ranger costume. I imported my Dragonskin Jacket / SPECTRE Armor as the Shield (not really a shield considering it was a worn object, but I didn’t name it).

“Okay kids, I think that’s it, ” I said to Zane and Ziggy, though part of me was trying to figure out how to afford the infinite range telescope… it was only 100… no Bad EssJAY! Fuckitty fuck…. I confirmed before I could change my goddamned mind. Now all I needed was a plan… though part of me was whispering that we’d be better off as villains again… but that would put me in the same camp as the rubber monsters and the space witch Rita… yes, I knew her name… I am ashamed. God, that costume… uuugh.

INSERTION

Have you ever been bullied in highschool? Have you ever had a job you just loathed? You know you can’t leave, know it’s not going to get any better? The kind of situation where you just keep your head down day after day and pray? Yeah. This whole jump was that for me.

I dropped into small city America, straight into the middle of the High School… and right then there was a problem. I’d forgotten to roll the POWER DICE to find out how old I was… and so I found myself as a seventeen year old… which wasn’t a problem… but the first thing anyone said to me was, “Miss James! You’re here! This is wonderful! I’m so glad you agreed to teach gym for us! We’ve had nothing but substitutes for a month!” Fuckity fuck fuckity… I was a seventeen year old Gym Teacher? Was the world mad? I was wearing a spandex unitard, leg warmers, and wrist bands. I looked like a 4’10” Susan Powter. The world looked like a movie set.

Okay… I know I’m about as physically fit as can be, and I’ve spent decades keeping trim and fit and all… but I hate gym. Always have. It’s torture for half the kids and a waste of time for the others. And locker rooms smell horrible. And the kids are obnoxious. But I wasn’t going to let them get to me. I was going to be Vulcan calm. I had iron control over my emotions.

That iron control lasted twelve minutes. If you’ve never taught high school students, you have no idea how terrible the kids can be. I was actually grateful when the monsters attacked. Sure, I may have been a little violent, and there’s no way the bat-thing deserved to have its wings ripped off before being beaten to death with them… but after that the students obeyed me with no small amount of fear in their eyes. I did get called to the office for saying fuck a lot. Apparently I couldn’t stop. I explained that I had Tourette’s Syndrome and, because this universe is stupid and everyone in it is stupid, they believed me.

So school was… a pain. I had an actual job that required me to actually show up at… I tried quitting. I really did. No one paid any attention to it. I tried leaving town… I couldn’t. There isn’t really anything beyond the town. I mean, there is… but it’s all… like automatons and badly built… like a photocopy of the world… or a screen writer’s half-assed version of a setting. Just enough there to make up an economy and world events. I guessed if the heroes ever went to the beach, that would be fleshed out. Also, the town seemed to be surrounded by nothing but parks, quarries, sand dunes, gravel pits, and sparsely treed forests. It was ghastly. I took to turning into a masked anarchist in my Infernape form and smashing local banks after hours for fun. They were always back to normal the next day. Madness! And the money looked like something from Monopoly!

The Rangers tried to recruit me. And I mean they tried. Often. Like every week. There always seemed to be a fight somewhere near me, and they kept addressing me as Miss James, the Gym Teacher, even though I definitely wasn’t doing my job. I was getting paid for it, which was very strange, but I hadn’t set foot in the building since the first day.

Anyway, Rita Repulser or whatever her name is, the Villain de Season, kept sending monsters down within a few hundred yards of me and then the Rangers would show up and be incompetent and I’d have to save them. Well, I thought about not saving them, but I couldn’t not do it. If I didn’t do it, my own personal idiot squad would. Good lord were they hamming it up, and really really confusing the Rangers and Zargon or Zordoz or whatever the name of the idiot head in a jar of light that runs them is named. I did swear an awful lot… also there is no booze in this city!!! I’ve made my own, but it’s not the same.

The monsters are chumps. The Rangers are terrible martial artists. I have sooooo much hate in my heart for this place. Sooo much. I have taken to attacking the Rangers as the Firechimp just for giggles. They move like arthritic slugs and their attacks hit like bee stings. I’ve started ‘Ambush Training’ them to see if they have any real potential. I’m not impressed. Also, People get annoyed if you use a Dragonzord to knock down restaurants that get your order wrong.

Also, Rita’s Moon Palace? See… I’ve been to Earth’s Moon as a SPECTER. I’ve been there as a Vulcan. I have long range scanners. And nukes. She’s so lucky I don’t take her seriously. I did show up and kick her ass just because. Found out what Putties are. Imagine the lowest of generic mooks. Putty Patrollers would struggle against them. Oh my god. Sooooo fucking laaame.

One time, I spent an enjoyable hour constantly teleporting produce into her Throne Room. Another time, I turned her staff into a snake. It’s truly mental how much fun you can have when you hate everything. Those of my friends who weren’t Supah Sentai (to differentiate them from Powa Rangas) were taking turns terrorizing the town… or shopping.

Ziggy and Bao smashed the school gym for me to celebrate the one year mark. I was pleased until I found out that I was now the school’s Health Teacher… despite having shown up to teach once and only once.

Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games. There was, it turns out, a gradual power creep over the years and the enemies got more dangerous… in theory. In reality, the Power Rangers, as utterly incompetent as they were, could handle all of it with relative ease and still manage to have time for school work! I certainly wasn’t going to help, as it wasn’t my problem as long as it wasn’t a threat to me.

I did keep showing up wherever the threats were about to be, DragonZording it up only when absolutely necessary… and when that didn’t work, I formed the head and we super robo’d it up. Turns out the coins aren’t that hard to figure out and were spectacularly easy to replicate. Also? OmniGel works damn good to make Zords self-repairing. The Power Rangers were very confused when we showed up in a gunmetal version of their gear, wearing very much not spandex costumes… ours were more… Mass Effect armor suits that I’d upgraded even more after having safely disposed of the spandex monstrosities that came in the Power Morphers. Upgrading the Zords with assault shuttle class phasors wasn’t too hard either, same for upgrading the armor plating.

Pretty soon the fights were getting dull and repetitive… then just sad. Just set a particle cannon to shoot anything over so big and moving. Then rebuild it and shield it. Fairly amazing what kind of magical defenses six Hogwarts graduates can put on things. Sure everything kept breaking, but OmniGel and Reparo fix that right up.

Just for fun, at first at least, I started showing up and pulling Rita… and later Zedd (her totes not boyfriend)… into my head and having long philosophical debates with them. At first they just raged around my Mental Palace, being all petulant, but once it became clear that they couldn’t hurt me in my own mind, and that I’d let them go once we’d talked, I started shrinking them (As in psychoanalysis, not Honey I Shrunk the Useless Villains). I really was curious what lunacy might make them so dedicated to being so spectacularly useless.

I’m very convincing, and Rita is not a smart person… and Zedd’s even dumber. Their reasons for all the Evulz essentially boiled down to getting all the toys before anyone else got them first. It’s like no one had ever pointed out to either of them that people don’t serve conquerors. They fight conquerors. Unless they wanted to destroy Earth, which they clearly didn’t, they stood functionally no chance of winning, they didn’t have the apparatus to be world governors. First off, they lacked a functional command structure, and second off, not only were all their followers as dumb as stumps, they themselves were mental midgets. Not only that, but there would always be Rangers to fight them. Wasn’t it better to do something productive with your time, I asked them, rather than constantly lose every fight?

Then I introduced them to Farmville… or as I like to call it ‘Lunar Terraforming 101’. Would Be Evil Conquerors are challenge junkies and spectacularly good at doing the same thing over and over and over again. I played on that. Played it to the nines in fact. I even set up microtransactions so they could buy more ‘Space Fertilizer’ and different colors of ‘Space Crops’. By the time the rest of the Idiot League of Idiots showed up, Zedd and Rita were competing to see who could terraform faster. I’m not sure any of the crops were safe to eat, but it was better they squander their time churning out a biosphere than wasting energy ruining… whatever the fuck the name of this stupid city is.

Meanwhile my team and I were keeping the Rangers busy. Sure, they considered it mayhem they were stopping, but we considered it training their sorry asses to be good at their jobs. We attacked them at all hours, since it wasn’t exactly hard figuring out who they were. And as Miss James I finally accepted their offer just to see what kind of blithering lunatic was running the show. Turns out it’s a hologram head with a really lame robot (the aforementioned head in a jar of light). I deliberately never remembered his name.

Of course. He filled me in on the whole mess… Space Dumpster, 10,000 year prison, Cosmic Evil, Universal Good. I swore a lot. I lectured… a lot. I asked if there was a force of Universal Brain Damage. Eventually the Machine Empire showed up and I just can’t grock how those microbrained pea heads ever conquered entire Galaxies unless those Galaxies were populated by cavemen.

Still, Vogon, that’s the hologram head, sacrificed himself and all the evulz went away. Which pretty much left me and my team as the only badguys around. Rita turned into a Good Witch and took over for Hadron… but even good, she and her Rangers really couldn’t deal with the SUPAH SENTAI. We’d kept leveling our gear up with every leveling up their gear got and we were smarter, faster, better trained… and not fucking morons. We also had absolutely no goal besides not going stir crazy from the boredom. It was… fun. It was like a ten year vacation into nonsense land.

I dunno if there are other Jumpers, though I imagine there are. I dunno if their versions of the Rangers are frighteningly competent and the threats actually real and the action and special effects realistic. I suspect there might be… But we didn’t get that. We got a Machine Empire that were about as scary as the Carebears. Maybe I should have taken Component Enemies instead of Props.

Anyway, to make the MMPR feel better about themselves, we finally let them defeat us and switched over to ‘Good’. At which point I revealed that I was Miss James and they were like, “You were her all along?” and I laughed, “OF COURSE! But the real enemy is fear and ignorance, so stay in school!” They all nodded like bobbleheads and I rolled my eyes as time froze. Of course, it was a beach episode.

Next: Get Thee Behind Me, Buffy

Resources: Document, Build

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

World 11: Great Detective

THE SPIDER IN THE WEB

Previously: What the Heck is Swat Kats?

Themesong: Every Breath You Take by the Police

The pamphlet rack had gained a ‘Coming Soon’ section when we returned to the Warehouse, most of us staggering slightly from the sudden lack of tails that we’d grown used to over the last decade. Said section had posters for ‘Marvel’ and ‘Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures’ whatever that was. Marvel appeared to be the comicbooks from a generally 70s or 80s… something late in the pulp era but not yet in the glossy full color era, and Jojo looked like… well… an extremely gay version of Fist of the North Star. Not in a bad way… just… you know… fabulous.

Tucked in next to the ‘Imaginary Friend’ flier there was a new pamphlet for ’80’s Action Movie’, which I suspect I’d accidentally gotten stuck in for a brief period, which was… hmmm… interesting… I didn’t know if any of my friends were interested in going to either of those worlds even for the 1 Month or 1 Year at a time the pamphlets were advertising as an ‘sample’ option, let alone for a full Decade Tour, but that was their own concern. The Month Sample was free, and the Year Sample only applied a general power down to anyone who took it. The full Decade cost 200 CP worth of Drawbacks for every companion who opted to join in the fun. It seemed interesting, but (as I said) not my immediate problem.

No. That problem was in the form of a Vending Machine of Destiny flashing the logo of ‘GREAT DETECTIVE’. “As in Mouse?” I asked, touching the screen. Apparently not, as the text revealed a more generic take than that. Huh. Interesting. The introduction to the jump was missing. Just the line ‘It is the dawn of the 21st century. You have ten years to find out what it means to be a Great Detective. Go then, and solve us all.’ Very weird.

Detective work at the dawn of the 21st Century… the global community, the war on terror… intriguing. Okay, whatcha got, mister VMoD? I spun the wheel of location and it stopped on Lyon, France. Huh. Well, why not? I like wine. I like cheese. Apparently Interpol is HQ’d there. Another spin and I was twenty-five years old. Not bad. A little young to be taken seriously, but that was nothing new for me. What we got for origins? Consultant? Hardboiled? Pro? None of them screamed out to me… so it was time to see what discounts they got. I know, I know, seems cheap, but nothing hard and fast says I have to conceptualize myself before making up my mind.

Well, long story short, I ended up picking Consultant. After seeing the Perks and really thinking about the lifestyles involved, it wasn’t much of a contest. Plus, Hercule Poirot is my favorite detective and Sherlock’s a close second. Consultant set me back [100/900/1000] and meant that deduction might not be my job per se, but it was your life. People would come to me with tall tales, problems, mysteries… and I’d solve them. Sometimes they’d pay… sometimes they’d owe me one. I was told to expect weirdos. It even game free with ‘Got it Memorized’, another eidetic memory perk, this one giving me the ability to record things with nothing more than a glance and it enhanced the amount of mental storage I had available… which was probably best as I was technically over a hundred years old. I’d been jumping for 101 years now and I was pretty certain that I’d been in my thirties when I’d started jumping… even if I wasn’t exactly certain just how old I was. Probably wasn’t that important. ‘Got it Memorized’ even came with a delete function, should I need it. Nice and all, I hear you saying, but wait ’til you hear what’s next.

Every background in this jump document had two complementary capstones; two really expensive perks that not only fit together, but synergized to make an even better uber-perk, as it were. For Consultants, they were ‘The Look’ [300/600/1000] and ‘Mental Palaces’. The first was the ultimate eye in single glance analysis, tell spotting, and targeting and came with the ability to read even the most subtle of tells and clues of facial musculature. It was limited by my knowledge base, of course, and wasn’t true mind reading, but it was damned close. Post-jump, it would allow me to focus and fine tune my gaze for specifics. Like I said, pretty spiffy, right? Well, the second was an even better perfect recall perk… so good, in fact, that I could use it to reconstruct crime scenes inside my head, run combat simulations or practice speeches. It would drastically boost my mental storage capacity as well, good for memorizing a billion useless facts and factoids… like the composition of various forms of tobacco ash or the consistency of tidal estuary silt. Post-Jump, it would allow me to pull a person into my head for up to a day, once a day. External time would freeze during that period and I could keep my guest for up to twenty-four subjective hours.

Me, alone with someone inside my own head… and then they’re back in the real world and trying to explain why they’re bleeding. Pretty much infinite mental storage and the ability to fill it with data at a glance; detective vision or the next best thing; a simulator inside my mind; and my own personal, private, out of time interrogation room. All of which is all pretty darn cool, right?… but the best was yet to come.

In the gear section we find the ultimate Consultant power… ‘The Hat’! It was absolutely free for Consultants! A stylish, ever-clean and always in-season cover for my head! Wearing it was guaranteed to make me feel clear-headed and quick-witted, as if I’d had a good night’s sleep. Was that not the bee’s knees? Was that not the best? Shut up! I like hats! Hats are awesome! Even Fezzes. I mean, sure. Ziggy is best hat, but he can’t stay up there all the time. Scamper time is important!

Oh, and everyone gets a Detective’s Notebook for free, which I guess is something. Never gets permanently lost, damaged, or out of pages or ink. Comes with a magical index that updates automatically. Dunno why I’d need to take written notes with my memory… but maybe I can use it for doodles. Man… I should totally learn how to draw at some point.

Of course, I was now down to a mere 300 CP and had only bought two perks, so it was time to grab some Drawbacks and look into importing my crew. Assuming there was a companion import… with my luck and companions, it would be like casting Police Squad… or maybe ‘The Thin Blue Line’… man, that was a fun show. Oh my god… there was a zero point drawback that turned the jump into Police Squad! Ahahaha… no. Might be a lark… I’d consider… I mean… it could be fun, right?

“Oh oh! Ooooh! Zaaaane! Zane!”

He wandered over from where he was playing Carcassone with AJ and Petra, chewing on a bite of this nice quiche that Uriel had made. “What is it, you hyperactive little… why are you dancing about and pointing at the screen?”

“There’s a drawback that means I’ll have a stupid… sorry ‘Ztoopud’ accent for the decade!” I practically crowed.

“No.”

“But… But… I can sound Russian and get points for it!”

“No.”

“Scottish?”

“Nyet.”

“Jamaican?”

“I don’t think that’s a stupid accent. I don’t think any accent is inherently stupid.”

“Oh… poooh. It’s not calling the accents stupid… It’s calling the fact that I’ve got a strong accent and never lose it stupid. Look, Hercule Poirot had a belgian accent from the start of his career to the end of it, even though he was brilliant and lived for nearly fifty years in England.” I glared up at dog boy, daring him to contradict me.

“Whatever. I’m going to think you’re a looney with or without the accent anyway… Want some Quiche?” He held out the chunk and I sighed.

“I can get my own, thanks.” Stupid Accent is a go! Bwahaha! [+100/400/1100]. Munching on my own slice of quiche… using a fork because I’m a civilized person and not an overgrown dogboy, I flipped through the rest of the Drawbacks, noticing in passing that there wasn’t any listed limit on how many I could take. That was faintly intimidating… I could really go crazy and screw myself or others.  In theory, I could take 2900 CP worth of Drawbacks… but I wouldn’t. Some of these were highly inadvisable and others sounded like exactly no fun at all. Especially the two 600 pointers, ‘Eliminate the Impossible’ and ‘I Wear No Mask’.

The first would force me to be compulsively logical and lock out all my ‘abnormal’ powers. Sorry, but I like being super-strong and regenerating… and very much like being all ‘EssJay, Mistress of Ice!’. I Wear No Mask… that was nonsense on the face of it, a block of text with little sense to it… until one parsed the not so subtle code. Oddly placed capital letters within the paragraph read ‘HOWARD PHILLIPS LOVECRAFT WEEPS FOR YOU’. Yeah… no. No Lovecraftian horrors in my detective story, thanks.

Also in the ‘good lord that sounds like torture’ category were things like ‘On The Case’ which would make me sick if I passed up even a petty mystery, ‘The One That Got Away’ which would make me obsessed with solving an old case… and suicidally depressed that I wasn’t making any progress, or ‘Compulsion’ which would make me freaking OCD… no thank you Monk. But then there were ones like ‘You’ve Got Murder’ [+100/500/1200] which meant the Jessica Fletcher Effect would be in full force. Had to have that one, didn’t I? Murder and Mystery were the name of the game. And speaking of the game, there was ‘Not Playing by Knox’, which was a reference I didn’t get, but put a secret society of murderers into play and required me to find them, solve their mystery, and destroy them. That sounded like an overarching plot to me, and that… that my friends is money in the bank… or CP in the hmm… this metaphor is getting away from me. Still, [+300/800/1500] was a welcome addition.

I could have picked up more points by taking ‘Smokin’ Aces’ which would sic assassins on me, or ‘Vigilantes’, which would see a sharp uptick in evidence being tampered with or going missing entirely, of witnesses and informants beaten and intimidated, and a general rise in idiots with military grade weapons and armor… Right at the same time as the Global War on Terror was rising? Sounded like a very bad idea for the world… and I might regen, but I’m not fond of being shot, thanks. And that meant it was Companion Time.

The big companion purchase was ‘Watson, I Presume’ [300/500/1500] and it was pretty darn pricey, but hell, this was Zane I was buying it for. Gotta have Zane. So what did Zane get for my 300? Background and age of my choice. Okay, that was good. Loyalty and an eternal bond guaranteed. Upgrade! Zane would have my back like I’d have his. That’s a given, of course, but nothing like getting it in writing. As a bonus, Zane would be able to tell whenever I was in danger or about to be in danger. That… could be handy. And he got, if you can believe it… 1200 CP. Bazinga! That was more than I was going to get out of this! Especially with that free background! Oh… huh… free background only if not importing a previous companion. Darn. Still, since I needed to pay for the rest of my crew, he was definitely making out like a bandit. Heh… Zane the ferret… Naw… he’s too much a puppy to be a ferret. Maybe he could be a police dog? That would be mean. Bad Essjay!

Speaking of the others, [100/400/1500] bought me the ‘Meddling Kids’ package. That was some kids and a dog, up to a total of six, at least one of which had to be an animal. Each would get 300 CP to spend. Seven companions wasn’t bad… just had to decide who to bring along.

But first… 400 left… ‘Just Between You and Me’ was [300/100/1500], undiscounted since it was from the Drop-In line, but it would definitely be worth the cost. Exactly how it did what it did was left vague. Maybe it was my face, maybe my demeanor… but for whatever reason, everyone I met would feel the need to tell me secrets. People would be more likely to tell me things in confidence, even normally tight-lipped villains would have trouble not spilling the beans when I showed up.

And that left me with a C-spot and I figured that I might as well pick up the Looking Glass [100/0/1500] from the gear section. It would reveal things that mortal eyes would not see… things like where bodies fell, hints to the location of clues, secret doors… even ghosts. That could be very helpful in the right circumstances.

Now, for the team. Those Meddling Kids will be Yoiko & Ryoga, a pair of Drop-Ins, 18 & 20 respectively. To Yoiko, never more than a passing hand at Martial Arts, I gave ‘Rough & Tumble’ [100/200/300 Yoiko], making her tough enough to put down a drunk gorilla and strong enough to haul it out onto the street. Considering she was already Hibiki Strong (i.e. terrifyingly so), that was a nice boost. I also gave her ‘Fuzzy Thinking’ [100/100/300 Yoiko] (not that her logic isn’t already Hibiki Screwy) so she would develop a bit of lateral thinking (and maybe stop jumping to the wrong conclusions), and tossed in ‘Infinite Patience’ [100/0/300 Yoiko] so she wouldn’t get bored or tired or slowed by the waiting that was, apparently, all part of detective work.

For her brother, who could desperately use a clue or two, I bought him ‘Infinite Patience’ [100/200/300 Ryoga] too, as well as making him a ‘Blunt Object’ [150/50/300 Ryoga] (not that he isn’t already). He’s pretty oblivious, might as well play to that, I figured, and Blunt Object would make him immune to seduction, manipulation, or malicious trickery, all while giving him an even hardier head with packed with stronger mental defenses. And I figured I’d give him ‘Harmless Enough’ [50/0/300 Ryoga] so people don’t worry about the building destroying martial artist lurking in the background… blowing 10 foot holes in a wall because he can. I figured we’d call them the Stakeout Squad… even had that printed on the covers of their freebie Notebooks.

Yes, there are customization menus on the VMoD like you wouldn’t believe… think the best character creation sliders you’ve ever seen in a videogame, then ramp that up by tossing in the contents of every store on the planet. Hell, in the history of the planet it seemed. I could make the notebooks look like any notebook I could imagine as long as it was at all practical for it to exist at the dawn of the 21st Century. Pages of vellum, linen, pulp, or rag. Covers of leather, paper, bamboo, plastic. Every binding style known to man and a few I’d never even heard of. And everything is like this… including the looks customizer… it even tells me when a change would compromise a perk in some way.

But back to the squad… or in this case, ‘The Brute Squad’. A pair of Hardboiled detectives [100/200/300 Bao][100/200/300 Uriel]. I figured that Uriel & Bao-Feng could use some time together, so I teamed them up too. That gave them both Rough & Tumble for free, which was something Uriel could use badly. Even Bao could use a little bulking up. Boy is fast, and cunning, but he’s not a bruiser, he’s a Warrior-Scholar… practically a Warrior-Poet. And in that vein, I gave him this perk called ‘Fool Me Once’ [150/50/300 Bao], which would help him learn more from every attack used against him, allowing him to counter practically anything used on him twice… unless it’s a blindside, of course. Uriel’d commanded armies his entire life, but from afar, never being allowed into the field proper. I figured that was a good enough reason to give him some ‘Time in the Army’ [100/100/300 Uriel]. A lot of it, in fact [100/0/300 Uriel]. Enough to take down more than ten men in a fist fight without breaking a sweat. That should give Bao some competition and some impetus to improve. Made them twenty-four years old and spent Bao’s remaining CP on the ‘Blacklight Torch’ [50/0/300 Bao] which shows any biological traces… and if there aren’t any, shows evidence of them being erased. Oh, and if you’re not up on british slang… a torch is a flashlight. Just an FYI. Don’t you feel smarter?

Additionally, they each got a free ‘Hip Flask’ that could contain an infinite amount of one liquid (at temperature no less), and (up to once per week) stop a fatal blow against them. Not that death meant much to a companion, but I had to figure that it wasn’t all that pleasant an experience. Would have to read the manual to figure out how the Hip Flasks worked. Yes, most of this gear came with instructions. Sometimes the instructions were even written in a language that my Universal Translator (installed in both VIvian and VIctoria of course) could translate into something approximating English.

That just left two slots, one of which had to be an Animal. I already had five humans on my team (assuming I didn’t make Zane a German Police Doggy)… I guess it was time to bring in the alien, right? Ziggy & Dyna, Team Pokenose.  Yes yes, I left Ziggy as an animal, which meant Drop-In (more like Dropped on Head-in… am I right? I know… that was terrible. Shush.) Gave him ‘Rough & Tumble’ [100/200/300 Ziggy], ‘Harmless Enough’ [50/150/300 Ziggy], and ‘Blunt Object’ [150/0/300 Ziggy]… he’s a good ferret, but clueful he ain’t. Gave Dyna the Professional background [100/200/300 Dyna], which came with ‘Infinite Patience’ for free. I made her a profiler… by giving her the perk ‘Profiler’ [150/50/300 Dyna], since someone should know how piece together the characteristics and personality of the likely culprit after examining the crime or crime scene. I could read people, but I don’t understand them. Someone should… and this was TV level Profiling, the kind that was right more often than not, not the practically hit or miss real world version. She also got her very own ‘Blacklight Torch’ [50/0/300 Dyna] with the last of her points to go with her shiny new ‘Badge’ (Free for Professionals), which would not only be recognized pretty much everywhere the law was, but would allow her to interrogate anyone once per day. 

It’s a good thing the Notebooks are self-repairing, as Ziggy was already eating his. 

I considered spending for Zane, but decided that, as my partner, he should get to pick. It was only fair. Personally, I would have gone with Professional for him. He went Hardboiled [100/1100/1200 Zane]. He even got a Fedora and Trenchcoat out of the costume closet… then wore them in first his Lucario form, then ruined the coat by trying it in his Krogan form. Silly puppy. While I restored the coat with Bastion Tech, he made his choices. Of course, as a Hardboiled Detective, he got ‘Rough & Tumble’ free. He also grabbed ‘Trust Me I’m a Detective’ [100/1000/1200 Zane], ‘Got it Memorized’ [100/900/1200 Zane], ‘Lockjaw’ [300/600/1200 Zane], ‘Temp Noir’ [300/300/1200 Zane], and ‘Spirit of the City’ [300/0/1200 Zane].

TMIAD would allow Zane to project an aura of confidence and competence and, as he put it, “One of us should look professional.” I hit him and pouted up at him, which only made him laugh and ruffle my hair. I tried to bite him but he dodged ‘Got it Memorized’ you already know, but he took it because, “All this stuff we’ve been through is getting complex and hard to keep straight. You’ve got all these plans. Sometimes it’s hard keeping up. Also I keep learning stuff about worlds we ain’t goin’ back to. Might as well dump useless info, right?” I humphed at that. The idea that there is such a thing as useless info baffles me. Everything is useful in the right context. The secret is just to… compartmentalize that information until you need it… but you want to be careful doing that. Ideas resonate with each other. VIctoria is awesome, but she can’t look at a flower and a list of tax codes and a swatch of fabric and create the history and economy of a fictional land… or tell you what a murderer had for breakfast that morning.

‘Lockjaw’ and ‘Temp Noir’ were a pair, just like ‘The Look’ and ‘Mental Palaces’. The first gave Zane undying determination and increased the strength of his mental defenses (and his stubbornness) by an order of magnitude… ouch. Post-jump the document promises that ‘Lockjaw’ will allow him to pass that determination on to others for a day at a time. The second would sharpen Zane’s basic animal instincts, making threats, clues, and cues pop out at him, giving him reaction times on the order of ten times faster than any normal human and more than doubling the amount of damage he could take. During the jump it will only be activated by the smell of blood or by active danger. After the jump, no limit. Apparently it also gives him an internal narration… but in his own gravelly voice. Zane’s explanation of why he took them was, “Because I’m Awesome!” so there you go.

The last, ‘Spirit of the City’, sounds like something right out of the Spirit Movie. It gives him an emotional / mental / spiritual link to one specific city. One city per jump.

My response to this was, “Why? We have maps!”

“You saw the Spirit! The City is hawt! It said I might get to meet her!”

Riiight. That’s Zane for you. Heavy Metal Hound Dog forever. I just know he’s going to knock up a city at some point and then we’ll have a suburb following us around calling him papa.

We took a couple of weeks, relaxing in being ourselves before we divided up for the mission. We all knew going in that people were going to die. People die all the time., in the ‘Real’ world. Nothing we could do would stop that. All we could do was find this evil organization and stop them, but even that wouldn’t stop the flood of bodies. Still, it should be interesting. Given the free time, we decided to rig up holographic / solid light projectors all over the warehouse, giving it an illusion of being outside, and rig the AC units to simulate a breeze. We even hooked up a olfactory synthesizer to randomly run through different terrain types and weather conditions, all of them designed to be pleasant on the nose. Ah, the sweet smell of Geosmin… also known as Petrichor, the scent you smell when the rain hits dry ground. The human nose can detect Geosmin (released by certain unpleasant bacteria and found commonly in beats) in parts as low as five per trillion. Tastes muddy, smells quite nice in very low doses.

Once that was done, it was time to get started on a project that was long overdue. We built warehouses inside the warehouse, building up. We’ve got the room, might as well use it. We got six stories (each four meters tall, including the floors) up in one corner of the massive space before we ran out of stuff to store in what we called ‘The Stacks’. The garage was on the bottom floor, of course. We did give the Stacks a roof… why you ask? Well, for some reason, the ceiling of the warehouse never seems to come any closer.  I haven’t got any proof, but I suspect the warehouse is probably a hypercube. That should mean it’s also got 480 meters of fourth dimensionality… Not certain that’s important, but we’ll see. For now… insertion. Time to get more supplies.

Lyon wasn’t bad in summer. We dropped in pairs, but we were all in the same block of flats. A PI Firm across the hall from a Consulting Detective? Madness. Team Stakeout live upstairs, across the hall from Team Pokenose. Apparently I own the building… no idea how that happened, but I guess it explains why I don’t actually have to work. Must be something the Boss tossed at me for the sake of ‘entertainment’. Regardless, ‘Smoke & Mirror Consulting’ was stenciled in on the front glass of our offices. I’m Juno Smoke, Zane’s Zane Miroux. Heh. Someone’s got a sense of humor… it’s probably me.

I stepped outside, looking at Bao & Uriel’s business. Seven Swords Investigations? I thought about that for a second, then nodded in comprehension. Bao-Feng’s name could be read as Precious Sword, and Uriel was Septim VII. Seven the 7th.

They came out wearing herringbone suits and Bao asked, “Smoke I presume?” Uriel was absolutely dashing, and male this time. Good for them. Damned sexy couple.

I nodded. “He’s Miroux,” I said, hooking a finger at Zane, who looks very much like a young Chow Yun Fat. Very odd for someone with a french name. I blame colonialism.

We made introductions. Dyna still hasn’t chosen a gender, so her form was as androgynous as it was back in Nerima. Ziggy was one huge ferret, clocking in at nearly twenty kilos, but most people don’t give him more than a glance. Some kind of normality filter, I guess. The Hibiki’s were speaking at each other in French and giggling like morons. Which they pretty much are, but they’re my morons, so I forgave them, earning myself a tongue-sticking-out from Yoiko and a sexy glower from Ryoga. 

We took the conversation to a local cafe and had a light breakfast of chocolate croissants and espresso. The kids (Yoiko and Ryoga) don’t actually have credentials, and Dyna is a freelancer for InterPol. Bao and Uriel? Licensed PIs. As for me and Zane? We weren’t pros, and we weren’t freelancers. We were consultants. We had set up shop earlier the previous year and made a bit of a name for ourselves by supplying hints and solutions to cases plaguing InterPol, the Police Nationale, the Gendarmerie Nationale, the Prefectural Paris Police, or one of the growing number of Police Municipale that were beginning to be formed as larger cities demanded the ability to hire their own public safety officers apart from the two national police forces. We’d made national headlines when, acting on a tip from yours truly, the military police (the Gendarmerie Nationale) had busted no less than eleven terror cells across the country in the space of three hours.

My memories of the time were mostly of being annoyed by the constant media presence outside my building and frustration at being called ‘Scottish’. I’m Estonian, you morons!

Smoke and Miroux got our first case within four hours. It was, of course, a locked room murder. The Police were stumped. Everything was as expected. Then things went off the rails as we got a second locked room murder across town, exactly the same MO… exactly the same time of death. And a third one in the commune of Dardilly, and a fourth in Saint-Priest, and a fifth in Givors, and a sixth in Bagnols… by the end of the day we had thirteen nearly identical locked room murders spread out all over the Rhone-Alpes region, all committed within twenty minutes of each other. The newspapers went crazy. “It’s a cult, it’s a conspiracy, it’s aliens!” the headlines screamed… only in French, of course.

Turned out that it was a very clever and frustrated insurance adjuster and thirteen desperate families. The ‘victims’ all had some reason to think their families would be better off without them, and so they’d each used the same method to kill themselves, a method that would, with the right staging, look like murder, at which point their life insurance would pay out several times over… and the insurance agent would get a cut for providing the method. I convinced the company to pay out (at the normal rate) arguing they wouldn’t like the lawsuits that would follow. The Lyon Metropolitan Police called the deaths a suicide pact, and closed the case.

That was the first four days. The pace of death did not slow, nor was that the last of our insurance fraud cases. In one case, a sequence of nearly twenty suspicious deaths finally led us to the Case of the Domino Murders. It was insane. B murders A, C murders B, D murders C, and so on. Sure, O murdered both K and N, but that was the basic pattern. And why? Because U was married to… dun dun dun… an insurance adjuster. Each of the murders, each arranged to look like an accident, set off a chain of inheritances, and never with the murderer benefiting from the murder they committed. It was brilliant, depraved, and insane. And at the end? U was the final recipient of the cascade. She knew nothing of the plan and her husband, the weasel (and not in a good way) ran for it and died in a car crash. Sure, the car crashed into Petra, but what can you do. Mega Metagross beats Fiat any day.

By the end of the first year, I was beginning to know what Sherlock must feel like. Interpol and National Police forces were calling all the time, and when they didn’t for some reason it was always some bizzarity involving missing laundry, a string of tire thefts, or every store in the city being sold out of dried oregano or something. The cases were a bewildering variety of insane, insanely creative, creative… and downright brutal at times.

My first job out of the Lyon area came sixteen months in. My fame had grown and Interpol called for my help when it became clear a serial killer from Italy had entered France. He’d started in Rome and moved up the coast, beating women to death with his fists every step of the way. By the time he entered France, the death toll was twenty-one. The police issued advisories against being alone in public places at night. Didn’t stop Jekyll as the papers were calling him, forgetting that Hyde was the murderous brute.

His targets were young, attractive, 16-28. Always wearing a tight top, always wearing a short skirt, always wearing heels. A two-Euro coin, always Italian, was laid over each of the victim’s eyes. There were no other commonalities. Straight, Gay, White, Black, Asian, Christian, Muslim, Jew, in public, in their homes, in an office. Always after dark, always alone, always every nearby security camera broken with the heavy brass head of a walking stick.

We finally caught Jekyll in Barcelona. We jumped ahead of him, setting a trap in Las Ramblas, the long shopping and walking arcade that the city is famous for. Each of us that could were dressed to match the profile, even Dyna with a little padding in the right places. We walked and shopped and tried to pretend we were having a good time. Five nights we waited. Then Yoiko got tapped. It wasn’t pretty. She’s the least experienced of us, but she was strong and tough and all she had to do was keep him busy until we got there.

I am beyond fast when I need to be. But Ryoga blew past me like a freight train. The man, 6’8”, 320 lbs of raw muscle, tried to fight. He didn’t stand a chance. Ryoga threw himself between Jekyll and Yoiko, taking a hammer blow that could and had broken skulls with a single blow to the back of the head. The blow barely registered on Pigboy. Yoiko safe, Ryoga turned and rushed Jekyll… his leading blow shattered the murder’s ribcage like it was glass.

I considered letting him die, I did. But I’d spent too long as a doctor and there was a patient in need that I could save. It’s funny. I’ve killed both before and after and even as S’Janus. Done so without hesitation. But I’ve never made my enemies suffer. Jekyll was crazy, dangerous, but he wasn’t my enemy. Just a man dying in the middle of the street. I dropped us into the Medbay of the warehouse, sedating the man. I fixed most of it, leaving him with some cracked ribs and the mother of all bruises, then did a complete scan… and winced.

He had a huge tumor on his amygdala. I considered removing it. I did. I had the knowledge and the technology… but I couldn’t. Lifesaving measures are one thing, but it was unethical to perform invasive brain-surgery on an unwilling subject, and if I did, he’d never be able to stand trial. I brought him back to the real world as the policia were showing up, turned him over to them for extradition, then we went for Tapas… it was Las Ramblas after all.

It took three years for the organization to rear its head, three years in which more and more cases were showing up where the culprit had neurological damage, tumors, or abnormalities. What had been a few cases at first began tickling the doctor in me. After the fifth, I exhumed or kidnapped (briefly) each of the previous perpetrators and subjected everyone of them to an exhaustively thorough scan. Yes, that too was unethical, but I was trying to stop a crime wave and save lives, so I gave myself a pass. Someone was doing this to them. But who? And why? After returning them from where they’d come from, I charted their lives as much as I could. And I continued to do so with every such case. By the end of the forth year I had nineteen cases of my own, plus another fifty-four from around the globe.

I began backtracking through the medical publications, looking for key phrases in neural science and medicine. Google’s a fine search engine, it really is, but VIctoria is better, and VIvian (when she can be pulled away from mass media) is beyond that. Then again, both are from centuries in the future, with processing time and power that is to the computers of the 2000s what they are to an abacus. They were intuitive systems, able to understand what they were reading and search through publication backlogs far faster than even an entire planet of doctors could generate them.

A doctor would have missed the clues. A detective would have failed to understand the science. I was both. But finding the papers I’d known were there was just the first step. Now I had to find the doctors who were running the experiment. Because that’s what this was. Eighty-two murderous psychopaths, spread across the planet, over five hundred dead. And that was just the ones I could identify. Who knew how many more I didn’t know about.

The case was an Onion Source. Every mystery had layers, every layer was more likely to make you cry than the last, and once you peeled all the layers back… there wasn’t anything at the center. I leapt from Onion to Onion, allowing Zane to be my voice as it was easier just to write notes half the time rather than listen to the complaints that my Estonian accent was hard to understand. Plus I kept having to explain that I wasn’t Russian, Lebanese, or Scotts. Finally, I learned a word; Anansi. I learned it from a dying man in Port-Au-Prince.

Anansi is an Ashanti trickster god, a folktale out of Ghana that’s spread to the Caribbean and even parts of the US, one that often took the form of a spider. So someone was claiming to be a hidden spider, a trickster… but also one interested medicine? I found it on my second websearch… after I’d inserted periods. It wasn’t Anansi. It was A.N.A.N.S.I… the Advanced Neural Analysis and Networking Sciences Institute.

Know how easy it is to make a global conspiracy of sadistic doctors your enemy? One phone call is all it took. I asked the coroner in Lyon if she’d ever heard of ANANSI. She promised to look into it. A day later she was dead. A stiff had had its belly filled with aerosolized fugu toxin. One cut and it filled the lab, killing my friend, her assistants, a hapless EMT, and two police officers.

I found the killer, and for the first time in my life, let a man die screaming. He wasn’t the last. His screams led to to the next, and the next, and the one after that. Normally in these stories, there’s an unwritten law that says that the Detective is the good guy. I wasn’t the good guy. I was a problem solver. Locked room murders? Hah. I showed ANANSI locked building, locked compound, locked vault murders. One by one, I dismantled their organization. I wasn’t capricious. I wasn’t kind. They gave up their secrets, then they died. If they died before they gave up their secrets… well, that’s what resuscitation is for.

They’d wanted to play god. They learned first hand how an Avenging Angel works. I left behind no traces that anyone of that time and place could have hoped to detect. My final count wasn’t high. It was, by a strange coincidence, eighty-three. When the last of the butchers of ANANSI was dead, the spider well and truly squashed, I locked myself away for a month and read and reread every paper they’d dared not publish, all their data. I studied it all, committed it to memory in a dark wing of my Mental Palace. Then, just as I had done to the men and women who’d created it, I destroyed the last remaining copies.

The science had been sound, if the methods soulless. They hadn’t been hacks. They’d been monsters, but monsters with skill and vision. Their work was unpublishable, evil, disgusting, but it could save lives, make things better for many people. I built the first Adaptive MMI prototype in that month. I used their science, then released the technology to every university on the planet, without patent. I did the same with the Neuro-Cancer vaccine and the Neural Net mapping hardware.

I still solved cases, but with ANANSI gone the murders were getting routine. I let Zane handle a lot of them, being the sidekick for once. Especially if it was in Lyon. Zane and the City were one. Lyon is more than 2000 years old. The spirit of the city is an old Roman gentleman, a patrician. He reflects the spirit of an ancient and vibrant city, one of the largest in France, rich with French Cuisine and French innovation. He’s a detective himself, and a cook, and a technologist. Ancient and modern, brilliant and wise, subtle and sometimes silly. Plays a mean game of 3-D chess. Also pretty damned good at Halo. Likes playing Sorcerers.

What? You thought I’d give up Role Playing just because I live in interesting times? Not hardly. Poirot plays Whist or Bridge, Marple gossips, House and Holmes do drugs… I play games. Plus, I have a perfect memory and a holotable. My adventures are a thing of beauty. Okay, yeah, it’s harder running games with this stupid accent, but my friends (and the city) have all learned to understand me.

By the end of the decade, I’d grown pretty bored of the routine. I imagine it was the same for Sam Waterston or Angela Lansbury. Only so many dead bodies you can look at, only so many cases before they begin to become old hat. More than once I walked into a room, glanced about, then walked out again, having already solved the case. I once solved a case over the phone just from the police report.

And so it was, that once more we stood on the beach, waiting for time to end. I wasn’t sad to see the end of this jump. It had had its moments, some real challenges, but by the end of it I felt like I was waiting for the Murder of Roger Ackroyd, just growing mallows in my garden and mostly retired. Of course, I’d already turned to the dark side, become the killer, but if anyone was on that case, they’d have a hard time finding me. As time froze, my friends and I stepped through the door, letting it close behind us.

Next: World 12 – Sentai Special

Resources: Build, Document

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

World 10: Swat Kats

WHAT THE HECK IS SWAT KATS?

Previously: ACE in the Hole

Themesong: Queen of Hearts by Juice Newton

I was sleeping off the party that we’d thrown once we were clear of Bastion and its Universe when Zane ran in, bouncing up and down on the end of the bed in his Lucario form and being faaar too cheerful for the amount of booze I’d drunk. Let me tell you, Technicolor gets a little… draining, after a while, and even though I hadn’t had to use my visual filters as much once the ground was restored, it was nice not getting heart palpitations every time I wanted to see what the world looked like in actual 3D. I’d decompressed from that, and from the general fuckiness of the Bastion World by doing stuff that would have been highly ill advised if I’d had to worry about the long term health of any of my internal organs… but I had a Medbay. If only it worked on Hangovers.

“SJ! SJ! Get up. Get up! Get UPUPUPUP! New machine!” Zane crowed like a demented Ruffio, doing a backflip, then jogging in place.

I groaned, “Goway Zane. Sleeeeeepingggg.”

“But it has Caaaats…. Welll Kats… wiffa K!” he clarified helpfully, finally ceasing his bouncing.

I sighed deeply “If this is a Dr. Katz jump, I’m going to murder people. Indiscriminately. For the entire Jump. I’m going to become Hannibal Lector in terrible Cartoon world.”

“Doesn’t say anything about Doctors. Something about Swatting.”

I groggily got out of bed, trying not to disturb the Hibikis, miraculously still dead to the world despite Zane’s antics. Still had them fighting over me, which was kinda nice. It’s nice to be wanted. Makes a place… home, I guess. One of the things, anyway.

I wandered downstairs, stopping to pull on a t-shirt and running shorts, and grab some coffee and a donut. I glared at the Warehouse’s gray drab walls. “This place needs some plants… or at least some paint. And yeah, I know we have the Vineapples and Uriel’s garden, but those are both localized, because of the need for growlights. I’m talking about… eh, I dunno…” I realized I was talking to myself, then went over to the Vending Machines of Destiny. They looked like an 80s era videogame cabinet and a crane machine full of stuffed animals with numbers on their tummies.

I read the marquee and muttered, “What the hell is Swat Kats?” 

At the question, the video game cabinet flared to life and began playing a fairly terrible 80’s cartoon intro. I gaped “Oh… dear… lord. Furry toons. Furry… jetfighter flying cartoon cats. This looks soo… “ I found I didn’t have words. With a shake of the head, I pulled up the shopping list.

“Are you OKAY with FIGHTER PLANES?” the precis began, the voice that blasted from the cabinet full of bombast and fairly speaking in capital letters. “What about RAMPAGING MONSTERS that only a HERO can stop?” it continued and I facepalmed, groaning in hyper-induced emotional anguish. “How about HEISTS, EXPLORATION, or EXTREME SPORTS! Whatever your FANCY, I hope you like CATS! Welcome, friend, to MEGAKAT CITY!”

Did he… oh… good god. Megakat City? Nonono… That’s like a human city being called ‘Big Manville!… no one actually would name… I watched the slideshow of the show’s dramatis personae play out across the screen. It was getting worse! Mayor Manx? Pastmaster? Commander Feral and the Enforcers… at least there’s no pun in that. I began to pound my forehead against the notebook I’d brought to jot things down.

“Awww. Don’t be like that!” Quick’s voice came from the machine. “Try to lighten up and have a little fun, huh?” 

I snorted. “Fun? FUN! I’ll show you fun!” I growled, then began muttering as I flipped through all the options, reading and discarding each that I couldn’t use and making a list of perks and items that could, potentially support the plan I was putting together. I chuckled malevolently from time to time.

Identity, that was a good place to start… also a fairly creepy movie. God I hope there’s no Jump for that film. I would not enjoy being inside the head of a deranged serial killer. I guess that makes me a female, twenty-six years old, anthro-catperson. Before my sojourn in RanmaLand, I’d have picked Amur Leopard, but Ziggy might like that too much, if you know what I mean… mmmm… Black Panther or Cougar… no… no Lynx! Yes! Lynx… Good choice me… Why thank you! Drop-IN? Meh. Enforcer? Rules? Ewww. Ace Pilot? Naw, that’s the Protag’s shtick… Villain? Villain? In a world with like… zero consequences? Lighten-up and have a little fun, was it? Oh… oh, yes please! Bwhaha. Heehee. Excellent. I’d show them ‘fun’. I would indeed. Always said I’d end up a villain… even if only on a Saturday morning cartoon show.

Let’s see… As a villain, I now know how to get around the city and how to take advantage of it. Excellent. Must not hiss. Hissing would be embarrassing. It seems that, another consequence of being a villian? Everyone fears me… they know I can cause a catastrophe any time I want to. And I will… oh, I will! It also says that I might be a tad biased on how I see the city? I already thought it was silly, how biased can I really be? I guess that now this silly city will be mine to rule!!!!! On the down side, just about every faction in Megakat City doesn’t like me. Oh noes! Well… I don’t like them, so Nya! Oh dear… I now get to say Nya! [50/950/1000]

Rockin Music is free? Oy. Well, it’s Heavy Metal… I like some metal… usually Man of War and Sabaton, a little Scorpion and Metallica… Could be okay. Fine. Bring on the BGM. This seems to be a theme. Why do whoever makes these things seem to think I need background music… do they think I can’t buy an iPod? Or just use my perfect memory to play back any music I’ve ever heard. Eh. It’s meaningless, but it’s free. Whatever.

Now, for things that aren’t meaningless. First, let’s grab ‘Aura of Authority’ [100/850/1000]. Sure I don’t get a discount, but it’s cheap. When I walk, it is with confidence. When I speak, it is with resolve. Such things invoke a sense of power and demand respect. People will notice, will be more likely to follow my orders, especially if I outrank them. Even if it wasn’t from my perk-line, it was worth the cost. But I wasn’t foolish enough to forget to check out Villain options before I got too far into other origins.

‘Maniacal Laugh’ was of course free… though I’m pretty sure I had that skill back on Origin Earth. But this laugh was one to strike fear into the forces of good and convince any minion of mine they better do as they’re told. And speaking of minions…

“What’s this? ‘Grunt Work’? Minion Recruitment? The ability to recruit minions and toadies, be they the dregs of society or the former minions of another villain I’m in the process of gunning down? Excellent!” I paused, realizing I was rubbing my hands… er… paws, together. I also seemed to be developing a catch phrase… catch word… something. I’d have to watch that… but Grunt Work was 50 CP and definitely worth it [50/800/1000].

On the other hand, the stealth perk ‘Back of the Alley’? No thanks. I like making an entrance… plus, I’m already stealthy. ‘Think of the Profit’? It did exactly what it sounds like it did and was overpriced in my opinion. I was already smart, creative, and money doesn’t really… it’s nice… but there were better things for points to be spent on. A villain who focused on the profit to be made was no different from a common Corporate CEO. Hmm…

Corporate CEO… there was something there… but on to ‘Crazy Theme’ [300/500/1000], the most expensive Villain perk and one that granted a motif, as it were, to my criminal activities. I chose The Law… ah, the good old Law. So safe, so controlling… so… manipulatable? Learning legal systems would become cakewalk and manipulating them ever so much more so. I’d become competent at crafting schemes with little legal risk… at least for me. As a bonus, I’d also capable of understanding the ins and outs of any legal system I came across, and have a much easier time swinging people in positions of authority to my side. I’d grow more charismatic, more powerful-looking. All who saw me would know I are… er… am… was… the Law.

Then there was a little surprise for me… a second Villainous 600 Option. That was new. It was called ‘To Crime Another Day’ [300/200/1000] and was clearly something out of a kid’s cartoon show. What would a cartoon supervillain be without the ability to escape disaster? Or rather, what would the show do if they had to keep coming up with new villains every week? TCAD was the solution, and would give me an incredible amount of luck when it came to escaping certain doom. Even when by all rights I shouldn’t be able to, somehow I’d manage to crawl away with the barest thread of life, ready to recover and reap my revenge! As long as I didn’t abuse it too much.

That meant I had 200 left, and importing my minions… er… friends… was 50 apiece or 200 for a maximum of eight imports. Excellent! Excellent! Each would get a free background and 200CP? That was nice. I’d defo come back to that, but buying the import option would run me out of points, so it was time to check the drawbacks… Err… no… no thanks. Looking over what was on offer, I could safely say ‘I’m good’. No swearing for no points? Pass. Lack of respect or trainwreck looks for 100? Paaass! My very own Starscream or the police always screwing up my plans for 200? Ugh. Megapass. Nixing cartoon logic or constant monster rampages for 300? Do not Pass go, do not collect CP. Super-Supervillains or being stuck a housecat for a decade for 600 or 800? Lilu Dallas Multipass! Guess I’d just have to make due with free gear.

And that meant the ‘City Map’ that was free for Villains. It would be a complete and accurate representation of MegaKat City, its sewer systems, its back alleys… and it would automatically update to any city I was currently in, not just with building details, but with construction notes, traffic jam alerts, and all sorts of similar instructions. Well, that was soo going to be merged into Victoria and her Automapper. I also got a free snazzy outfit.

Hmm… Snazzy outfit, arctic lynx, villain… I had to be a doctor. All the best villains were doctors. And I think in this time I will become… Dr. Snowjaeger. Yess…. Excellent. I wondered how much of a pain brushing my fangs would be.

So that was me sorted, which made the question of the moment, “Who do I bring with me? And as what?” Well, Zane of course. Made him an Enforcer. That got him ‘I Don’t Deal with Criminal Scum’ [Free Enforcer], a resistance to being tempted across your / his moral lines in the sand… or, because I didn’t need Zane pulling a Heel Face Turn, a resistance to being tempted to do ‘good’ instead. Gave him ‘Aura of Authority’ [50/150/200] too so he could be my wingman… wingcat?, and ‘Foot in the Door’ [150/0/200], so he knows how to get hired. Yes, a perk entirely about acing the getting hired… man, I could have used that way back in my Original Life. Make him a Puma. Shut up, I do not walk all over him! I prefer Nikes and Converse.

Bring Uriel along too, so he can build our base of operations. That means ‘Scrapyard Skills’ to turn junk into useful gear, but SYS was 300 CP, so getting it would require making him an Ace Pilot to discount SYS to [150/50/200]… and the buffness of ‘Fit as a Fiddle’ was [50/0/200]… so that spent him out… but ‘Unassuming’ was free for Ace Pilots, and did exactly what it said on the tin, which was great, because I didn’t exactly need people noticing Uriel. Made him a Cougar… in more ways than one, if you know what I mean? Rawr!

I could use Ryoga’s muscle, but didn’t need him too clued in. He’s funny like that, trying to be a man and stop ‘bad people’ from doing ‘bad things’. That meant Drop-In. Ryoga needed the ability to maintain a professional appearance (and him being handsomer could hardly hurt…) He could also use the ability to remain calm and collected and actually pay attention to his surroundings. So ‘Good for the Press’ and ‘Stress Test’ were definitive yeses for him, and since they were both free… ‘Unassuming’ was also right for him [100/100/200]… and I tossed in ‘Fit as a Fiddle’ [100/0/200], because the boy can never look too buff. Yum. Russian Blue for him. Who’s a pretty kitty, yes he is… mmmm… I’d better have a cat’s sense of taste, or otherwise this was going to be weird… licking furr is not my idea of a good time.

Bringing Ryoga meant I had to bring Yoiko. I made her an Ace Pilot and gave her ‘Unassuming’ [Free] and ‘Fit as a Fiddle’ [50/150/200] too, though the difference in discount dynamics meant that left her with 150… I gave her ‘Got Your Back’ so her teamwork skills would improve… even if that improvement was a little on the creepy side (as in knowing what your teammates will do without them saying anything). Brother and sister should look the part, so it was Russian Blue for her too.

That left four slots. Mmmm… Petra and RayRay for more muscle? Sure, why not. Made them Enforcers, the local cops. ‘Aura of Authority’ for my foot-soldier squad-leaders couldn’t be bad and I gave them ‘Foot in the Door’ too, so they could show off. They’re fond of that.

If I was bringing Petra and RayRay, I figured I might as well bring AJ and Francine too, ditto Enforcers, ditto Aura of Authority, but they’re stealth operators, finesse rather than force, so I gave them ‘Passing the Buck’ rather than ‘Foot in the Door’. That way they could be spin control for our little operation. Petra already had a Siamese house cat form, so Siamese anthro-cat seemed right for her. Cheetah for RayRay. Sphynx for Francine; the aloofness certainly fit. And Serval for AJ, all long and lean and good at being headpatted.

I needed everyone onboard for this mission, which meant a family meeting. “Okay… this is how it’s gonna go down,” and I launched into the spiel. An hour later there were grins of amusement around the room. These people were fighters, warriors… and an Emperor. They followed my lead, but often I’d been holding them in line with my ethics. This time we were going a little off the rails.

World insertion is always abrupt. There’s no preparing for it. It just is. One moment you’re old familiar self, the next moment you’re an entirely new version of yourself, even if you went Drop-In a lot of the time. Even if you kept exactly the same body (and even Alt-form-shifting is a little disorrenting), you’re not where you were a moment before. The energy patterns… electromagnetic field, feng-shui, call it what you like… it was different. And the smells and lighting and background noise were different.

I appeared in my safehouse, as usual when the Jump doesn’t come with a specified Insertion point and looked out the window. In the distance was Megakat City… our new home. The world smelled… fascinating. Totally different sense of smell, which would definitely mean a different sense of taste… and wow… binocular / targeting hearing. That was new. One by one, I called the crew, finding out where they’d landed.

The setup’s a little dry… suffice to say we built our base carefully. My alter-ego had had a degree and a job at Pumadyne in the R&D department. She’d developed a flying security drone for the Enforcers. They were deemed ‘Intrusive’ by those dunderheads at City Hall and so our promising career had stalled. But that was okay. It was Excellent, in fact. I’d show them, I’d show them all!

I started a clean up company, just me… with the A Crew. That would be Uriel, Yoiko, and Ryoga… and a bunch of hired goons. The B Crew, everyone else, were Enforcers, keeping the city safe, using their abilities to make the other Enforcers look like rank amateurs and idiots. But not to save the day. Just to do a better job than everyone else… and to make every failure reflect badly on Commander Feral and Mayor Manx. Hell, we wanted the Swat Kats looking good… and I wanted lots and lots of pretty Fragments.

Remember those? From Bastion? Well any time things get broken, Fragments are left behind… at least when I’m around. They weren’t valuable to anyone else… curiosities really. Those me and my goons didn’t sweep up, I bought from the locals for a nickel a pop… and when I say a nickel I really mean five cents.

We built a base of operations for Snowcat Removal. It wasn’t hard. The city was getting attacked all the time… and I was turning out camera drones with built in fragments and slivers of Blastone… self repairing eyes in the sky. And just… stockpiling them.

After a year of this, I made a push. I started getting political, speaking out against Manx’s failures, Ferral’s incompetence, but most of all against the lackluster performance of DA Pride Lyonmane. I ran attack ads against him, pushing for the election of his opponent, Brandy Coon. I didn’t know her from Adam, but I knew her record. She’d been pushing for tougher sentencing and she was a bright, enthusiastic go getter.

And in other news, I rounded up a group of local businessmen, mostly ones whose businesses had been hit by one or more of the local crazies. AFROCAT… Allies For Reform Organizing Citizens Against Terror. We were upset… and we were going to get more upset.

Did you know that there isn’t much difference between an Anthropomorphic catman and a Meowth… or any of the cat-based Pokemon either. Turns out, if you know how both work and have a set of TMs and HMs you can pretty much give a catman super powers. A little tinkering with those and you can sell them on the street. The crime rates were… mmm… soaring.

Brandy got her position. After her, it was a couple of city judges… and my organization grew. Commander Feral, who’d been promoting my Companions for their successes (despite trying to sabotage their careers at every turn), was under greater and greater pressure to succeed, and when he didn’t… Well, that was par for the course. He began to get sloppier, angrier, more and more and more reactionary. His days in office were numbered, though he didn’t know it. 

Meanwhile, I was forming a braintrust to studying each of the Swat Kats enemies, collecting people with grudges against the current administration whose lives had been trashed by the supervillain of the week. I called it Snowcat Security Consultants and hired a talented duo who’d been working at the Pumadyne junkyard to do the tech work. As their boss, I pretended not to notice their activities, but in my alter-ego as Saban Juniper, a wealthy and reclusive investor, I secretly slipped them some very choice tech. The Swat Kats looked good in custom fitted SPECTER Armor.

Five years in and AFROCAT was huge. We had rallies in public spaces calling for reform, calling for an end to the villainy, and end to Manx’s ineptitude. We pushed for the Assistant Mayor, Cally Briggs, to run against Manx, promising her our support. I’d cultivated a friendship with her, never letting on that I knew she was friends with the Swat Kats, and my allies in the city courts were behind us. She won in a landslide.

Now was the time. I pushed for the use of a modification of my drone program, claiming to have learned from my mistake. I’d invented a new model, one Pumadyne couldn’t claim. They’d form an early warning network, hovering over the city, keyed only to follow traffic patterns and watch for large scale disruptions. They were a go from day one, a solid contract, and we filled the skies with them. The people cheered, assured of their safety.

And as I’d known he would, Ferral trashed the system. It was the last straw. I raged against him on public TV, spoke against him to my now legion of followers, had a third of the businesses in town call for his removal. It was over in a matter of days… and Zane was head of the Enforcers.

Things changed quickly then. Villains started going down fast, hard, and staying down. Punches were no longer being pulled. The Criminal Element was running scared… but I wanted them fighting mad. I stepped up production of HM4, the street name of a drug that made you super strong for 24 hours (A little something I’d built into it). No one knew how it worked, you just slotted the CD into a viewer, something that could be made from any CD player, watched the flashing lights and presto, super strength for one day. It wasn’t even illegal, though you had to have a license to buy it. It was too useful for too many things. Even the Enforcers carried it in their emergency kits and the city EMS teams all had it. And I wasn’t even the manufacturer. I’d sold that off to Pumadyne. They weren’t to know that I was making sure their warehouses had a continual theft problem.

Finally, things came to a head. The people demanded action. The city was in turmoil. Eight years had passed… and it was time. AFROCAT seized the city in a day and a night. We had the Enforcers. We had the judges. We had the DA. All we needed was the force of Law. Mayor Briggs signed the Emergency Powers declaration, giving the newly renamed Snowcat Security Solutions carte blanche to stop the epidemic of crime.

What technology giveth, technology can take away. My drones flooded the city, equipped with Anti-HM4 beams. The Enforcers, cheered on by the thronging multitude, locked down the city. And anyone who’d ever crossed me or my supporters, anyone who’d ever failed the city… was thrown in jail. And that, dear readers, is how I, Dr. Snowjaeger, brought Law and Order to Megakat city. Law and Order… or as some would have it… a Fascist Dictatorship. But really, all that matters is that, at the end of the day, I was in control.

Two years later, the biggest incident had been the Pastmaster being blasted out of the sky by a few thousand anti-magic drones (he was now in a very nice cell in a very secure location… inside a freezer… inside a block of ice… at the bottom of a very very deep hole). Everyone else was vaporized, dismantled, or in their very own freezer. I wasn’t the Snowjaeger for nothing.

As the days wound down, I looked out of my office at the top of Megakat Tower, which I’d bought and refurbished so many years ago, at the city I now ruled, Zane looming behind me in his steel-grey Enforcer Commander’s jacket. “Did we do it? Did we make the world a better place?”

He laughed. “I thought this was about being the bad guy for once.”

“There aren’t really any bad guys, Zane. Well, there probably are, but for the most part, real people never know they’re the villain. As the song goes ‘Everyone’s a Hero in their own story’… no, wait… the song goes ‘in their own way’… no… that’s crap. But every megalomaniac thinks they’re doing what they’re doing for good reasons. I transformed a city of victims into the followers of a fascist dictator. But they’re happy. Most of them. I’m the bad guy. I took their freedom and they thanked me for it. They’re building statues of me. AFROCAT’s banners hang from every building in town. They’re talking about me running for President of Americatia. Madness. But it was fun, wasn’t it? Kicking ass and taking names? I think I had fun.”

“Yeah… but… we did good, right?”

“Do you see any giant monsters ravaging the city?”

“I see a tiny little cat lady looking like a Bond Villain standing in front of a full wall window in the penthouse of a megascraper looking out at a city right out of Orwell’s nightmares.”

“Yeah… that’s true. But say what you want, I gave the catpeople what they wanted. Freedom from almost all the villains.”

“Except you.”

“Except me.”

“Jump Time?”

“Almost. First…” I triggered the public broadcast system built into every drone in the city. “Citizens of Megakat City. This is Dr. Snowjaeger. I just want to say how much pleasure it gives me to serve you everyday. So go out there and be the best you you can be. And remember, Snowone is watching you…. Mwhahaahahaha!” I clicked off the com.

“Now it’s Jump Time.”

Resources: Build, Document

Next: Spider in the Web

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

World 9: Bastion

A.C.E. IN THE HOLE

Previously: Nerima Actual

Themesong: Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson

Woke up to the phone ringing, grabbed it despite how infrequently such an occurrence was. Normally if someone wanted me they just wandered into my bedroom and poked me until I was awake. Usually, this was Ziggy. He’s very good at the poking and his nose is very cold. At that point, I think the only companion who hadn’t seen me naked in multiple forms was the baboon that took Evil Me’s place. Really needed to do something with it, besides give it a complete physical and a set of baboon specific inoculations. It was very confused by its circumstances, but fairly well behaved… though that may be because it senses that everyone here is way more dangerous than it is. Or it could have been simply because it lacked a pack to back it up. Not a pack… a… Flange… or a Troop. Troop sounds better… Flange sounds like custard. MMmm… custard…

Speaking quietly so as not to wake either Hibiki, I said, “Hulo?”

The Boss’s voice said, “You like fixing things, don’t you? Tried to fix the gang problem in LA before you ran for the hills. Fixed the Reapers and saved Earth. Fixed the Malfoy Boy and saved a bunch of lives. Even fixed up that nasty love-polyhedron in Ranma’s World.”

I couldn’t tell if the Boss was annoyed or amused, or both, so I decided to be honest. “I like making things better. I’d think anyone would. You’d like if I was more self serving, more self involved? Only in it for the fat loot and seducing all the hotties?”

“I’m all for seducing the hotties. You should do that way more.” I blushed, remembering once again that the Boss could see everything I did, then I reminded myself, the Boss could see everything everyone did in every Universe, in theory. He continued, “You do have a tendency to try and save the day. One might think you have a bit of a hero complex.”

“Bored of my antics?”

“Not remotely, just wondering if this is going to be a pattern. You taking your obsessive knowledge of setting details and running around Quantum Leaping them.”

I laughed at that. “I certainly hope so. Send me to Land of The Rings and I’ll freaking fly Frodo to Mount Doom on RayRay’s back and end the Ring War in 20 minutes.”

“Riiight. Just asking. Hope you have fun in your next jump then.”

I cocked an eyebrow at that. He sounded… smirky. “Wait… you sound smug… you’re up to something. What’s my next setting? Mad Max? Dinosaurs? Transformers: War for Cybertron?” I said, naming off the first three non-zombie settings I could think of where things were essentially doomed regardless of anything I could do at my current power-level. Reverse Desertification across an entire planet and rebuild human civilization? Hah. Stop an ELE level meteor (size of Texas) Impact without a tech base? Not likely.., maybe if I painted half of it white? Stop the Autobots and Decepticons from trashing their homeworld? Yeah, me and what army.

“No… Even Better! Bastion!”

“What the heck is Bastion?”

“I’ll send you a link.”

“You’re sending me to a setting I’ve no knowledge of? What am I supposed to… A Link?” I twitched as the trailer flashed across my mind. Well, that was new and faintly unpleasant. “So, it’s after the apocalypse and all the remaining landmasses are floating about in midair and the world is slowly dying and this Bastion is the last remaining city?”

“Yup! Good luck fixing it, hero!” The line went dead and I groaned.

Slipping out of the bed, I made my way to the Vending Machines, noticing that there was a pamphlet stuck in the pamphlet display now. It seemed to be an add for a destination called ‘Imaginary Friend‘. I plucked it up, delaying having to face the VMoDs and this Bastion-Verse a few more moments. The pamphlet was for something called a Sidejump, like a regular jump but apparently available for those companions I decided not to bring with me into a Jumpworld… useful since I was now over the eight companion limit. Still, being some kid’s Imaginary Friend looked to be about as much fun as having one’s gums extracted. Stuck with a single child for company for an entire week sounded like torture. Longer than that? I don’t think so. Plus, each companion who went on a Sidejump would have to take an average of 200 CP worth of Drawbacks to pay for it, so it wasn’t a pure vacation by any stretch of the imagination.

Regardless, I tossed the pamphlet back and walked over to the machines. Backgrounds… good place to start… Caelondian, Ura, Wild… I didn’t know what any of those meant… Probably best to go with Drop-In… all the others looked like they hated each other. Course, that could just mean everyone would hate me… eh, Free is good. First time I’ll be using my default body I guess. Haven’t been a Drop-In per se since Pokemon Trainer, my very first jump. That was before I went through the Body Mod process. Would I look like I did in PokeWorld? Or the warehouse default I used, which was much closer to my original form, just better? I guess I’d see.

Perks… Dulcet Tones? Seriously? A Narrator’s voice inside my head? Look, I’m a big fan of narration, but the idea of having someone actually narrate everything I do for decade was really creepy. But, I have to remind myself, I’m hitting this world nearly cold and I could, in extremis, turn off Mr. Chatty. And, of course, it was free. Free is good.

Just Foolin’ [100/900/1000] would keep me from plummeting to my death… lovely… I freaking hate this setting already. I’m not super scared of heights or anything. I’ve flown many times on RayRay or my broomstick. I’ve even been hang-gliding a time or two. I’m just not fond of dropping. Or the bit at the end, to be brutally honest. I’ve been known to stop playing video games simply because I don’t like all that sky beneath my avatar. It’s a complete waste of Choice, a fear reaction, but I pay it, reluctantly. At least it’s on sale. 

Okay, what’s next? A Shield, a Crossbow, or an Egg? Wait, those sound like gear… where’s the rest of the choices? Where’s the rest of the list? All it says next is ‘Good Luck Fixing It’ [900/0/1000]. Haha. Great. I love spending Choice for myself. I get my pick of one ability, one weapon, one defensive item, or a pet. That’s it? Funny. Going in cold and I have no idea what abilities I’m getting, what supplies I have at my disposal, no idea what disadvantages I’ll be at. Fine. Screw it. Accept.

INSER….CRASH

I drop into the void, into darkness, then slam onto asphalt, my head ringing, my knees aching, the smell of gasoline and exhaust and oppressive racism are all around. I know this smell. This is LA. This… isn’t right. I shake my head, pushing myself to my feet. Bullets spang off the wall besides me as a black woman in a cop uniform pulls me down behind an old brown Chevy Nova. “Get down Sam!” she snaps.

“Don’t tell me what to do.” I grumble, fumbling for my gun. I don’t have a gun. Why don’t I have a gun? Where the hell am I? Why the hell am I here? I’m too old for this shit. Wait, what? Oh… right… memories. I rack my memories for some context, but there’s nothing. There’s a space for something, the familiar blanket of a personality overlay, but it’s not there. Instead there’s just a feeling of general age and crankiness.

I look down at myself. Old white hands, flat male chest, long limbs, brown leather jacket, terrible 80s style patterned shirt. Brown leather pants. Brown leather shoes. Tweety Bird socks. “Get off my Lawn.” I mutter, for no apparent reason.

“What’s that, Sam?” the cop asks.

“Where’s my gun?”

“You turned it in when you retired. Don’t you remember?”

“No. Give me yours.”

“Don’t be silly, just stay down until backup arrives.”

“I am backup. Give me your…” I pause, then turn around, opening a portal in the pavement behind me. Not a big one, but big enough for my hand. “Accio VIctoria.” I mutter, and my wand flies to my hand, wrapped in VIctoria’s strange combination of magic and science from a half dozen realities. I pull up my HUD, the integrated hypervisor sliding Magitek Omni-Gel lenses over my eyes, and ask for a list of all Earth Model handguns in the Warehouse…

“Sam, what you doing?”

I ignore her, having found what I was looking for. I’d taken it off a big Aryan lunkhead a seeming eternity ago, but it was still there. “Accio 44 Magnum Smith & Wesson”.

The heavy weight of the gun snapped into my palm and I grinned. I didn’t know where I was, or why, or who was shooting at me, but everything was now right with the world. in the immortal words of Sweeney Todd (and paraphrasing a bit), my arm was, at last, complete! I summoned a box of ammo for the gun, allowing VIctoria to load it for me,  and hold onto a dozen spare rounds, then drew the shining steel Shooting Iron from the Warehouse and rose, avoiding Officer Delacorte’s hands.

“Hold tight,” I told her, my enhanced vision sweeping the street in slow time. I found the shooters between one heartbeat and the next. Lubdub, Boom! Lubdub, Boom! Lubdub, Boom! Six times my gun roared, drilling each of the shooters through tender but not vital parts of their anatomy.

I strode across the street and grabbed the nearest of the shooters, a young, nervous, junky looking kid, maybe 25. “You gotta ask yourself, Punk. Did I fire 6 times or 7?”

“Th… that doesn’t make any sense, Mister!” he wailed, hand clutched over a graze in his left biceps from where I’d shot his friend, blood streaming down his neck from where I’d blown off his right earlobe. Stupid diamond stud, always hated them.

I cocked the Magnum’s hammer. “I’ll ask again, WHY AM I HERE?” The kid, finally realizing he was dealing with a demented lunatic, pissed himself and started babbling about some crime boss named Eddie something or other, but it was all noise to me. No… wait, those were sirens. Great, the cavalry shows up as soon as the action stops. What is this, an 80’s action movie?

Thirty minutes later, the cops let me go. Turns out I was one of them, retired, Lt Sam Jones. Vice. Forty years on the job, then out when I hit sixty-four. I wasn’t old. I was in my prime… I needed a smoke… and a drink. Christ. I shook my head, wait… I don’t smoke… and I’m not Christian. But apparently Sam did and was… though not a very good one. We found ourselves a bar and tried to make sense of this all.

“VIctoria? Any ideas?”

“None. The Vending Machines are all locked away in their alcove and it’s not like there’s a number we can call.” I thought about that for a moment, then smirked.

“Tell Zane to grab the phone on my bedside and dial *69.”

A moment later, there was a click and a pre-recorded voice said, “Thank you for calling Jumpchain Unlimited. If there is a problem, please stand by, a representative will be with you shortly.” There was another click and the line went dead. Then there was a sound like a computerized dialling signal, all rapid boops and beeps, then the air smelled like toner. A moment later, a single white sheet of glossy fax paper floated down from the rafters of the dive bar.

“Dear Sir and or Madam, We regret to inform you that there has been a slight glitch in the system. It is being looked into and should be resolved shortly. In the meantime, please enjoy your stay in [INSERT NAME OF JUMP SETTING HERE]. Your wait time should be no more than [INSERT NUMBER HERE] Months. Below, you will find your Choice Balance for this Jump. Please verify that all choices are correct. If there are any further complications, do not hesitate to contact us at [INSERT LOCAL CONTACT NUMBER HERE].”

Background: Eastwood

Age: 64, Male

Powers & Abilities

  1. Do You Feel Lucky: While holding a weapon, your powers of intimidation are almost legendary. Doesn’t work as well on non-punks/mooks/civilians. [100/Free Eastwood] (0)
  2. One Bullet Left: You always have one (1) final round in the chamber of any weapon you’re using when it counts. You can still run out of Ammo, but will always be able to find one round of ammo if you look for a few seconds. [200/Discount Eastwood] (100)
  3. Beyond the Threshold: When Tortured, you just get sarcastic. No amount of pain can make you talk, and in fact, being tortured just makes you tougher and harder to kill. [600/Discount Eastwood] (400)
  4. Old Age & Treachery [100]: No matter how old you are, you can still kick ass and keep your muscle mass. You will be in peak physical condition until your dying breath, even if you smoke like a chimney and drink like a fish. Your wounds still hurt when the weather is bad though. (500)
  5. Hidden Talent [100]: Sushi Chef (600)
  6. (&#&*(UHU&DF: [800] – Enasinifasuhf,95u9dj7y6 (1400)
  7. The Right Tools for the Job: You have a small bag, like a duffle or a doctor’s bag, that is always nearby when you need it. It contains any handheld tool or weapon theoretically available in your current timeframe, that relate to one Job. It could be assasination one day, safecracking the next, field surgery a third day. Can change once per day. [400/Discount Eastwood] (1600)
  8. One Riot, One Ranger [+300]: You’re the only man the whole world can call on for help, no matter what the problem is, you get sent in alone. (1300)
  9. Suburban Hellhole [+200]: The whole world’s in a sorry state. There are wars all over the place, the crime rate’s risen 400% in the last year, and even honest citizens are having to carry to keep themselves alive. Expect gunfights to break out even quicker than normal, and you’ll probably end up having to police the place somehow. There are rumors the government’s even considered making some Mega-City, or blocking parts off to contain the crime…(1100)
  10. Get Off My Lawn [+100]: Ability to be Cranky no matter what. Inability to not act like a cranky old geezer. Automatically sets your age to 62+1d8 and locks you into that form for the duration of the jump. After the jump, you can retain the ability to act like a crank at any moment and have people treat you like a crank while you’re being cranky. (1000)

I blinked at the page, slowly crumpling it. 800 Choice for a string of nonsense? What the hell? Torture? Wait… sushi… mmmm… I do like sushi. Maybe this won’t be so bad.

It was. It was torture. It was a nightmare. Sure, there were crazy people trying to kill me for some reason, and sure, I was getting called in to rescue someone at least once a week, sometimes twice, and the crime was mind-bogglingly bad… but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that it was 1983 and the big new game of the year was Atari’s wonderflop ‘E.T.’ Home Computers were in their infancy. Dot Matrix Printers were the height of technology, and the fashion… oh, the Fashion.

Big Hair, Loud Music, Tacky Clothing. I was old, and cranky, but nothing could have excused the fashion crimes I saw daily. And I was locked into this form, which was creaky, battle weary, and prone to wind. The largest hole to the Warehouse I could open was barely large enough to stick my head through, and doing so made my head hurt. My key kept glitching every time I tried to pick it up. The only members of my crew who could join me were Ziggy (who could squirm through the hole just fine) and two of my psychic mon, AJ and Francine, who knew the Teleport Move. Apparition wasn’t working either way for some reason, and a transporter signal from the Assault Shuttle wasn’t working. My starship, Black Jenny, was stuck in the Spacedock and it wasn’t deployed in orbit for some idiotic reason or other.

In the end, I was stuck there for almost a year. I smoked a lot, drank a lot, shot an awful lot of people in not too nice of places, and cranked my way through a metric ton of oneliners. I also managed to get myself tortured ten times in eleven months. The dentist was the worst of it… at least I didn’t have to pay him.

After months of fighting drug dealers, rescuing kidnapped kids, foiling heists, breaking up hostage situations, and generally being a plot monkey for an action movie of the week special, I was feeling every ache and pain and smoking a pack and a half a day just to keep from biting people… literally. I didn’t know what the glitch was, despite experimentation, but I a sneaking suspicion it was related to the outfit. Whatever it was, my wardrobe (which contained nothing but pattern shirts and Y-Front briefs) always seemed to survive whatever I was hit with. Including hails of bullets, buckets of paint, and an encounter with a samurai. And yes, I did try to find other clothing… a task I had absolutely no luck with. Apparently there was a clothing shortage, as every time I managed to find one of LA’s notoriously hard to find male clothiers, they were sold out of everything besides pattern shirts, leather pants, speedos, and novelty socks. There was no underwear for sale anywhere. 

I would have started crossdressing, but the Sam personality absolutely refused as that would be ‘undignified’. Right… Undignified. Sure. Says the man with ducks on his socks.

The end of my stay in the 80’s came to an end abruptly one day in the endless summer that was this world’s LA, as the ground simply cracked away beneath me, the big one hitting like a balloon full of Oobleck being destroyed by a golf ball. Everything shattered, spinning away to nothingness, to purple and black clouds and suddenly I was falling, falling, out of the sky, my form rippling around me, returning me to my normal sub-five foot frame and restoring my proper genitalia and clothing. I felt all the upgrades from the 80’s melt away and was frankly glad to see them go. I hadn’t asked for them and hadn’t enjoyed them while I’d had them.

An island, floating in the sky, rose beneath me and I flipped up to land on it as I had learned in Ranma Country, but that proved unnecessary as a gust of wind swirled up from the depths below and gusted me onto the landing like I was a feather. I looked around. The world looked like a realistic version of what I’d seen in the short video. I was, it seemed, finally in Bastion. Wearing an oversized bathrobe. Wonderful.

A scroll fell from the sky above me, bouncing off my head before I could catch it. Rubbing the bump, I unrolled the scroll and studied it.

“Welcome to Bastion, Hero. That’s what everyone round these parts will be calling you for the next ten years, so get used to it. Anyway, you’ve got one task. The World is broken. You like fixing things so much, fix it.”

To that end, you’ve been given the following abilities;

*Dig My Hole: Claustrophobic? Not anymore. You are now completely comfortable underground, can see well in dim lighting, and have a natural feel for the stone around you, allowing you to instinctively avoid unstable ground, gas pockets, and other dangers, all while homing in on valuable minerals or other prizes. You can dig with your hands as well as a normal man could dig with a pick or shovel and with the right tools you can dig as well as a team of five.

*Build That Wall: A working knowledge of the basics of Caelondian technology, including knowledge of how to harness Burstone Cores to produce usable Mantic energy, which can be used to power basic machinery, short ­range flying machines, computers, and a variety of other devices as well as to reinforce existing structures by running a Matic current through it. This enhances whatever physical properties those structures possess (usually durability), though other uses are possible. As a bonus, you also have basic construction skills for more mundane buildings and devices.

*The Stone Remembers: When things are destroyed, they leave behind fragments. These Fragments are tiny pieces of object memory that can, by one who knows the secret of the act, be fused together to recreate anything you have learned how to make, from materials, to weapons, to buildings, to, in theory, Cores. It all depends on how many Fragments you have. Fear not, as, once you have left the world of Bastion behind, you will still find Fragments any time something’s smashed apart or destroyed. It might take longer to learn how to transform Fragments into stuff that’s not from the world of Bastion, but it can be done. Just remember, the bigger and more complicated the thing, the more Fragments you’ll have to pony up.

*Spirited: Since you like potions so much… and drinking… Caelondian Spirits are a perfect fit for you. Only those alcoholic beverages that confer a direct benefit were permitted within the city and now you know the secrets to brewing these powerful Spirits. All you need is a basic still and a few easily ­obtained ingredients and you can produce strong drinks that confer incredible benefits if drunk daily, such as enhanced strength, rapid healing, increased vigor, and much more. Normally, drinking more than two or three of these beverages would knock a normal person flat on their ass, but you… you can handle 5 a day without even wobbling… maybe more!

You’ve also been granted a small cache of gear which might help you in your task;

*A Phonograph: A sturdy, old-fashioned, hand-cranked phonograph with much higher-quality sound than you’d expect. Has a collection of local folk songs and the soundtrack to Bastion.

*A Sack o’ Fragments: a bag containing one thousand fragments, the closest thing to currency left in the world of Bastion. These tiny pieces of stone contain fragmented memories of the Old World.

*Caelondian City Crest: an ornamental gear worn on the back, this crest indicates membership in a Caelondian guild. The Crest carries a tiny portion of the power of the Bastion, Caelondia’s safe haven. This power can restore broken things, assuming it has a recording of that thing’s original shape. In the broken remains of the Old World, it can draw on the Bastion’s memories of the Old World to reconstruct small pieces of what was, forging paths and rebuilding small islands. While rebuilding more than a tiny portion of a city is beyond this gear’s power, it does make travel among the tiny floating islands much easier. Without the Bastion, this gear is useless unless you can find a way to connect it to another data storage system, in which case it can restore small objects and locations to stored specifications. It can ONLY restore destroyed objects, not create new ones out of raw materials.

*Vineapple Seeds: A packet of seeds for the Vineapple plant that grows in abundance in the Wilds. They grow quickly and with minimal care, and quickly bear a spiky fruit. The green fruit given by this plant are safe to eat, delicious, nutritious, and give a minor increase to physical abilities for several minutes. The yellow fruit are very sensitive, and a small nudge can cause them to violently explode and spread their seeds. The color of fruit grown can be predicted by the color of the seeds, but both varieties give equal amount of seeds for both.

*Burstone: A small crate of burstone that refills once weekly. Burstone is an excellent capacitor, capable of storing a great deal of energy and discharging it slowly when provided with an outlet. Burstone acts like a rechargeable battery with no maximum limit, capable of storing immense energy without difficulty. The discharge is normally steady and controlled, but destroying it will release all its energy at once. Caelondian technology has ways to coax more energy from burstone at once without destroying it.

*Gel Canister: you gain a small canister, filled with a blue gel. Shattering this canister causes a small, white robotic sentry turret to form from the resulting puddle. This cute little fellow speaks in a gentle, soft voice, and will fill anything that moves within its field of vision with hundreds of bullets in seconds. However, it cannot turn on it’s own, rendering it vulnerable to attacks from behind. If destroyed or deactivated, it dissolves into particles, and a new canister appears in your Warehouse. It will never fire on you.

*Core: The basis of most of Caelondia’s technology and the source of the greater portion of its riches, Cores give off an incredible amount of power at a steady rate. If they ever run dry or burn out, nobody’s ever lived long enough to see it happen; in all of Caelondia’s history, no Core has ever run out of power. It can also ‘remember’, that is­ it soaks up data about the world around it like a sponge, and (if given) the right stimulus, it can be made to repair what was broken, bringing it back to the way the Core ‘remembers’ it being. Of course, doing this is extremely complex, and at the absolute cutting edge of Caelondian science. The primary usage of Cores is as a combination power source and data storage device, with nearly unlimited capacity for both.

To make your efforts that much more exciting, in addition to the obvious challenge, you’ll also have to deal with the following limitations;

*The Wild Unknown: Every Animal and plant in the Wilds will be alerted to your presence and will want you gone.

*No Head for Heights: For your stay in Bastion World, you will find that your acrophobia has been… augmented. This seems fair since you’re being cured of your Claustrophobia for good.

Good luck, and (as always) remember to have fun.

-The Powers that Be

I considered the note for a long time, then sighed, “Thanks for nothing.” While I’m a big fan of worldbuilders like Civilization and Populous, I hadn’t enjoyed playing Minecraft particularly. It was too hands on, too personal, too much like work. But I had liked Factorio. Maybe I could use that. But first, let’s deal with my acrophobia… and this lovely climate.

I portaled into my Warehouse, pulling the Halifax (The Federation Assault Shuttle I’d borrowed from Starfleet) out of the parking lot and, with a bit of jiggery pokery and experimentation, installed the Core inside her. I tossed in my Nimbus 2000 (which can also be a Mass Effect Mako) for EVA, then, took her out into the endless atmosphere of what I guess was called The Old World. While the Halifax’s onboard VI (VIncent) scanned first the collection of Burstone, the Fragments, and the Core to learn their power signature, and Zane did some visual reconnaissance from the pilot’s seat, I set to work with VIctoria.

A fear of heights is purely in the mind. Normally, I’d be able to tap into Vulcanian emotional control and ignore it, but I wasn’t counting on that being enough. No, I was going to have to trick myself… and accept some limitations. To that end, I fabricated a new pair of OmniGel contact lenses. These weren’t just HUD, they were blackout lenses that scanned the environment and then projected a lineart image of the world, where solid ground was parchment colored and unsafe ground (or the total lack thereof) was red. Shades of pink would cross the danger spectrum. Of course… I could walk on clouds, so only a clear drop was dangerous to me… and not really that thanks to ‘Only Fooling’. But my paranoid brain couldn’t be convinced of those things. I set the things to slide over my eyes whenever there was a drop-off within 15 feet. Sure, that meant I’d be cutting off 60% of the visual information I could be gaining, and losing most of the color and vibrancy of the world… but it was better than nothing.

The basics taken care of, all that remained was to find out what had happened here, then somehow put an entire continent back together. No problem. The note had said something about Fragments and Cores remembering… and being able to reconstruct given the right impetus… so I guess I’d be collecting stuff.

Our scans began picking up lifesigns, some human, others animalian or plantlife… and some that seemed entirely unique to this world. We were also getting pings on surviving structures… and lots of Burstone in all its varied forms. There were half a dozen Cores out there, a similar number of items with less powerful signatures that I took to be something my new skill sets called ‘Shards’ and just tons of fragments and cut Burstone. There were also several supplies of raw Burstone.

The voice in my head kept rambling about stuff, talking about the Bastion and the Monument and some people called the Ura. All I had to do was glance at a section of our scans or pull up a lifeform scan and I’d get a 30 second info-blurb about it. At least he didn’t repeat himself, though it was clear that, from a few of his statements, he was hiding something. Almost all the lifesigns seemed to be off to the East, with only four human signals left at all in the western half of the continent. On the far side of the world, there seemed to be many numerous signals, but somehow I sensed that side of the world was out of bounds. No, my task was here, in the shattered lands.

Three of the lifesigns seemed to be relatively close to each other, with one apparently isolated. I went after that one first. Turned out to be a young man with silver hair stranded all alone in the ruins of an outpost armed only with a massive warhammer. Seems he’d been trapped out here when the Calamity hit with no way back to the Bastion. He seemed… shellshocked, quite frankly, and mostly quiet, but he did thank me for the rescue. I welcomed him aboard, but asked him not to break anything. Zane waved. The Survivor grunted. All was good in the shuttle.

I took us to the next life sign, an underground memorial of some kind, where we found a black haired man who seemed lost in despair. He called himself Zulf. Another stop and we found Zia, also black haired, nice young lady, and at the end we found Ruck, all alone in the shattered remains of the Bastion. Talking to each of them, I learned that the civilization of the Shattered Lands had been divided between the Caelondians and the Ura, that fifty years previously there’d been a massive war between the two, and that apparently both sides were massive assholes. Neither side seemed to have any idea what had caused the Calamity. Zulf and Zia were Ura, while the Survivor and Ruck were Caelondian, but each of them had wildly different backgrounds

Zulf had been born among the Ura, but had been rescued from a childhood of privation and misery by a Caelondian Missionary and had moved to Caelondia. Zia’s parents had fled some unknown oppression in their homeland to immigrate to Caelondia, but her mother had died in childbirth and her father had been a distant workaholic. Ruck was a scientist and builder, head of the Bastion project and by far the oldest of the quartet. And the Survivor, who Ruck kept calling ‘The Kid’, was the only person in city history to ever sign up for two tours along the outer defenses and had a tragic backstory about a sick mother.

The kid agreed to help me gather Fragments and Ruck not only agreed to help me put the world back together, but had, in fact, already built a device that would do exactly that. It was called ‘The Monument’ and all it needed was six Cores and some time. While the Kid and I went zooming off looking for them, Zulf had agreed to translate Zia’s father’s journal, written in the Ura tongue, something Zia couldn’t understand.

Long story short, we fought our way through the various life-cycles of the indigenous life-form known as “Windbags”, semi-sapient creatures that the Caelondians had used as a labor force apparently. Now, freed of their masters, they were running amok. I wasn’t sure if they’d been happy as slaves and were now rebelling or if the Calamity had driven them crazy, but regardless, they went down fast under plasma rounds. We cleared lots of traps. I froze a lot of collapsing ground and introduced the Kid to the wonders of flying broomsticks. I couldn’t use it very well with my… ahem… limitation… but he could. Saved lots of time. We got those Cores in record time, headed back to the Bastion. Found out Zulf had run off.

We were installing the Cores when he came back… at the head of an Ura army. Dudes are fast, using a variation of flashstep it looks like. Clever. But they were attacking far from any edge and I could use my eyes. I’d spent a decade practicing martial arts in Ranmaland. It took me thirty seconds to see what they were doing, another thirty to figure out the basics, all the while watching as The Kid used the various local weapons he’d picked up to mow the Ura down… Ruck helpfully turning my little Turret (who absolutely was one of those gits from Portal and wasn’t that a little confusing) to allow her to keep on shooting.

There were a lot of Ura… it took us almost an hour to kill them all, Zulf among them. Found Zia’s father’s journal on his body. On a hunch I ran it through VIctoria and her Star Trek Universal Translator. Learned a lot I hadn’t known. Apparently Zia’s dad had designed the weapon that had done all this damage… for the Caelondian Mancers… this group of city big brains. It had been designed to destroy the Ura… apparently Zia’s dad hated his own people as much as the Caelondians had. But then the Caelondians had arrested Zia for espionage… which seemed a bit out of character for the highly sheltered girl I’d come to know.

At some point after that he’d tampered with the mechanism, changing its safety programming so that when fired it would blow the city to smithereens along with the Ura. Great thinking there Tex, let’s blow up the city your beloved daughter lives in to save her from racists. Cause and Effect clearly wasn’t Zia’s dad’s forte.

Ruck, still hiding something, told us all to stand back, triggering the Monument. I can only blame my distraction at watching the machine work for not figuring out what was going to happen. The world flowed, changed, reset itself to a condition it had been before the Calamity hit. The Ura dead vanished. Ruck vanished. Zia and the Kid Vanished. Zane, Me, and my shuttle were hanging in midair, a mile or so up. 

I screamed, flailed, panicked. Zane, with less… insane responses, grabbed me, then Accio’d my broomstick. We landed in the wilderness, VIncent bringing the shuttle down roughly but the onboard Omni-Gel and Core fixed it up almost instantly. We got aboard as the local wildlife began attacking in droves, birds and giant armored toads and bushes that launched needles… horrible place. Much better from 12,000 feet. Which is a good place to be when the world comes to an end.

I hadn’t been around for the Calamity mark 1. I got a bird’s eye view for Calamity mark 2. The world convulsed, ripping itself apart, the shattered bits of it flying up into the sky. It was horrible, brutal, and strangely beautiful.

I sighed, “Right. Let’s do this again.”

Zane asked “Why weren’t we reset?”

I considered, then said, “Because we weren’t in the Monument’s memory of the old world. I’m a drop-in, remember?”

He nodded, it was the only thing that made sense. “I wonder how many times this has happened?”

From then on, Zulf didn’t get his hands on Zia’s father’s Journal. Sometimes I didn’t even bother saving him. We reset the world over and over and over again. The process only took a couple of days. I gathered Shards, multiple copies of them, inside my warehouse, mined Burstone by the kiloton, fragments by the millions. And studied Caelondia for the fifteen minutes between Reset and Calamity. Infinite loop. No wonder the Kid was so good with weapons. Some part of him had to be learning across cycle after cycle. It was a cycle that couldn’t be aloud to continue, since entropy would eventually have its way and then where were we?

Shards aren’t as good as Cores. They burn out. But they’re the same thing, essentially. Get enough fragments and you can make a Core. Use Shards and the number of fragments you need goes down. It took me eight years of resets, twice a week, every week, to get enough for my purpose. Granted, much of that time was spent murdering the local wildlife, getting Shards and Cores, collecting and working Alloy, and getting really good with the local Mantic tech. I didn’t expect the knowledge to be helpful outside of the world, but I needed it to obtain my goal.

I also spent a lot of time drunk. This was stressful. I was having the exact same conversations with three or four people in a loop. My companions were taking turns helping me with the endless task, getting progressively more and more bored with endless battle and mining. There were also complaints about how much of the Warehouse was being taken up with pulsing Red Crystals or crates of blue dust or stone.

If you’re wondering about how the world was coping with me taking more and more of its Burstone resources with each loop, don’t. I was only a tiny percentage of the total available in each recurrence, and the Monolith’s power was more than enough to draw the extra from the endless sea of debris created by exploding the continent. Don’t worry… I’d done the math.

Finally, my ACE was ready. Oh, sorry, that would be my Anti-Calamity Engine. You know what the problem with an End of the World device is? It’s hard as hell to test it without blowing yourself up. Well, I was about to make sure the Calamity never happened. Ever again.

I reset the world. I no longer needed Ruck, no longer needed the Kid. None of that. As soon as the clouds cleared, we deployed the ACE. It did as it had been built to do. It plunged down, down, down, boring right through this once active volcano, sealing the bore behind it, powered by more than eight hundred Cores. They hit the mantle… then dispersed their power. I could see it ripple across the continent at fifty times the speed of sound… just as the Calamity hit the planet… and bounced. The gigantic, insanely destructive blast that had shattered and warped an entire continent, bounced off the shielding I’d crafted, then plowed through the atmosphere, leaving a cyclonic eye in its passing. I bet that caused any amount of confusion, but I wasn’t done yet.

I landed my shuttle on the roof of the Mancer’s HQ, then strode in the front door. There was only one way to deal with Genocidal lunatics. These people had killed millions. They would pay. To say I went postal on the Mancers is putting it mildly. I ended them. I erased them from the stone’s memory. Yeah, that had been tricky, and I have no intention of explaining to anyone how it worked, but it involved Obliviate and a modified Calamity Cannon. Yes, the smaller ones still worked.

In the end, I left only Zia’s father. In the Ura language, I said to him, “You are a racist, egotistical ass. But you thought you were doing this for your daughter. I like your daughter.” I could see his anger growing as an outsider used the holy language. “I also don’t like you. I’ve stopped your weapon. It will never work now. All the Mancers are dead. The city will want to know how you survived. If I let you live, they’ll take it out on Zia. That’s why you have to die. You were willing to kill tens of thousands of people for your petty revenge. Still, I figured that you should know the name of your killer. I am called Hero. Goodbye.” And I shot him. If the stone remembered, then it remembered, but I didn’t erase him. Then I stole all the Cores that had powered the Calamity, and detonated the entire facility.

A few days later, after the dust settled, I attended Zulf’s wedding. It was nice. I’d also managed to arrange for the Kid and Zia to run into each other. A decorated veteran and the daughter of one of the dead in the disastrous accident that had taken the city’s Mancers… dunno if things would work out for them, but I didn’t stick around to find out. I had a little under two years to explore this world and I did. It wasn’t a bad place. Consumed with the same hatreds and stupidity as all human cultures, but it wasn’t so bad… now that there was plenty of solid ground to stand on. The wildlife still sucked. I toured the Ura lands, explored the city, even visited the Old World. Bit run down, but not too bad.

I don’t know if things would be better now. Life’s like that. The big thing was that almost everyone was alive, able to hopefully work towards a better tomorrow.

On the last day of the jump, I found a secluded beach and watched the sun set. A slow applause settled across the land as the world froze. I stepped through into my Warehouse, leaving the Bastion, Caelondia, the Ura, and their world behind. For the first time I was unsure if I’d miss the world. Infamous Earth and Tamriel I definitely wouldn’t miss (ditto for the 80’s). Federation Space, Ranma Earth, Harry Potter Earth, Mass Effect Space, even the PokeWorlds… I had fond memories of them all. But with the Bastion, I’d had a job to do, a lonely, mostly solitary job, and I’d gotten it done… but I was empty inside. Drained. I felt no vindication. All I’d done was stop the end of the world.

Next: What the Heck is Swat Kats?

Resources: Build, Document

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

World 8: Ranma 1/2 – Part 2

NERIMA ACTUAL

Previously: Of Amazons & CP

I woke up in the back of a heavily overloaded VW Microbus Knockoff, rolling through the hills and farms of rural China, with a wizened old ghoul kneeling on my chest. “Ah, Granddaughter, you are awake,” Cologne said.

I groaned in response, then, after a long silence, asked, “Where are we going, Grandmother?”

The old ghoul chuckled, and explained, “We are going to China to help Shampoo find the Japanese girl who defeated her at the Contest. Then she can kill the wench and we can return to the village, our duty complete.”

I blinked, still a bit groggy. “Girl?”

“Oh yes! While you were busy thinking you were a cat. You missed the Contest. Shampoo was winning quite handily when a Redheaded Japanese Girl and her pet panda were discovered to have eaten the Champion’s prize. Shampoo challenged this girl and lost. She gave her the kiss of death, as is to be expected, but the girl ran like a coward and now we are tracking her. Her name is, I believe-” she glanced at a piece of paper, but I interrupted her without thinking.

“Saotome Ranma. His name is Ranma. And the Panda is Genma.”

The old crone looked at me. “How do you know this, Granddaughter?”

I thought quickly, then said essentially the truth. “I was watching when they fell into the cursed pools of Jusenkyo. Za… Loofa and I were sparing at the time, as we do, and that’s when we fell in. Ziggy fell in as well, and that’s when I… err… freaked out.”

“Yes, and you knocked Rinse-Rinse in as well.”

I winced, not at the idea of knocking a fellow Amazon into the pools, but at the terrible name. Amazons and their bathing fetish. “Oh dear. Which pool?”

“Pool of the drowned Fu-Dog,” Perfume said.

I imagined the Rayquaza Girl as a Giant Chow and couldn’t stifle a laugh. “She will kill me when she catches up. Where is she?”

“She has gone ahead to track this Ranma… but if he is a boy as you said, perhaps we should induct him into the tribe. He’d make a good son-in-law… and Shampoo needs a husband.”

“And Mousse needs Laser-Eye-Surgery,” I said, again without thinking.

“What is that?” Cologne asked, not recognizing the technical terms despite speaking fluent Japanenglish.

“A western medical procedure that fixes your eyes so you can see without glasses. But it won’t fix the fact that he is stupid,” I explained, again forgetting to temper my words with the respect due to an Elder… I really don’t like Cologne.

Cologne eyed me, then nodded. “Tell me, did you happen to overhear where they were from, granddaughter?”

“Yes Grandmother. They are from Tokyo. The ward known as Nerima. Near Furinkan High School. And Shampoo cannot beat him. He’s too good at running away until he has advantage. It is a speciality of the Anything Goes School. I recognized it from a manual I’m studying from.” I technically didn’t have any manuals… but I had active memories (thank you Savant) of every episode of the Ranma Anime and every chapter of the Ranma Manga… it was essentially the same thing. Plus dozens of martial arts movies come to think of it. All I needed was a little time to practice visualizing and copying. I’d seen the moves performed… in the past… on screen. Some adaptation would probably be needed. For some things, like Chestnut Fist and Breaking Point, I not only knew how the technique looked, I understood the underlying theory. All I needed now was to put them into practice.

“Those Japanese Martial Arts are not as good as Our 3000 year old Amazon Customs,” The old hag said.

“Yes, but everyone in village knows the Amazon Fighting Techniques! I needed something they wouldn’t know. It was either Anything Goes or Force of Buddha’s Golf Swing.”

Cologne made a sound like a laugh. “Very well, granddaughter. Oh, you should be grateful. The council has decided that, though you defeated Rinse-Rinse in battle while you were a male, you do not have to marry her.” I blinked, then gulped “Marry? I’m only 14!?”

“Yes well, never too soon to find husband. Just wait a couple years to have children.”

I swallowed… a couple years? I’d had a child when I was 19 in Harry Potter World, but I hadn’t raised him. And in 2 years I’d be 16… with 8 more years in setting… oh… oh nononono. “Yes Grandmother,” I said, hoping that would cause the subject to be dropped, at least for now. I was frantically trying to remember if Ziggy had landed on the Bad Fanfiction button when he’d fallen, but I couldn’t.

We, Cologne, Perfume (who was driving), Ziggy (as a Chinese Ferret-Badger), and Lofa (Zane) arrived in Shanghai, meeting up with Shampoo and Rinse-Rinse who’d lost the Panda and Redhead when they’d swum back to Japan. We jumped a cargo vessel, convinced its crew we wouldn’t hurt them if they took us to Japan, and a week later arrived in Yokohama (by way of Busan). The crew were quite nice actually, especially when grandmother offered to cook for them.

I offered too, but Grandmother made me swab decks instead. I don’t know why. So what if last time I mixed detergent into the Gyoza. It smelled like lemongrass and that’s what matters, right? I thought they tasted okay… ish. Maybe I shouldn’t have have added so much wasabi.

Of course, one of the crew members overheard Grandmother explaining to Shampoo that the hunt for to kill Redhaired girl had become a hunt to find Shampoo’s fiance and about how Amazons had to marry men what beat them in combat and from then on, two members of the crew kept trying to attack me. I wanted to turn into a guy to get them to stop, but Grandmother said that would be cowardly and might anger the captain. So I had to defeat them without hurting them, which I think was meant to be a challenge…. And it would have been had I not remembered the Vulcan Nerve Pinch. They both got written up for sleeping on the job, but it serves them right.

When we got to Japan, we quickly set up shop in our own restaurant which I suggested naming the Cat-Cafe, something that surprised everyone else until I explained that the Japanese very much liked cute things. But they still wouldn’t let me cook… or work at all, because it would have violated Japanese labor laws. So I ended up as the hostess, which was a job, but not much of one, the kind of thing where we could have simply explained I was helping out the family and not actually doing labor.

Since neither Zane nor I had any desire to actually attend Japanese schools, we didn’t mention the possibility to Cologne and, as expected, it never came up. What did come up were challenges. All the time. Somehow it had become common knowledge about the whole Marriage Combat and apparently Japanese Martial Artists are hard up for dates, because everyone was getting challenges… even Grandmother. It was particularly creepy just how much I was getting challenged, at least as a girl, where I was clearly and visibly barely pubescent… and often wearing an oversized bear hoodie and going ‘Rawr!’ because I could. As a guy, thanks to the size-shifting properties of the curse, my outfit was skin tight, a muscle t-shirt and what had been harem pants. No shoes could handle the change and so I just went barefoot most times, or wore an oversized pair of Japanese Clog-Sandals.

My Fiance Squad grew rapidly. First, there was Kodachi, because of course there was. Apparently taking a page from her brother’s insanity, she was torn between my male form and Ranma’s male form… and often sent us dual invitations to dates where she claimed we could make a Kodachi Sandwich… or just make out while she watched. Ranma was not amused.

Second among the female suitors was the even more terrifyingly insane Azusa Shiratori, who nearly strangled me the first time we met as she tried to steal my hoodie, calling it Antoine. And the third was Yoiko, Ryoga’s kid sister, and living proof that this was one of the Fanfic timelines, because Yoiko didn’t exist in the true Ranma timeline and was merely a disguise Ranma had assumed. Indeed, Yoiko did bear a striking resemblance to Ranma-Chan, albeit with black hair instead of red and she wore it a bit shorter. She was also much… much stronger than Ranma. Scary strong. And of all my fiance’s, male or female, Yoiko was the only one who absolutely didn’t care which form I was in. It wasn’t that she was a lesbian or bisexual or oblivious to the profound difference between my forms, or oblivious to the fact that both were me. She just liked bears. Rawr.

Of course, when Ryoga found out, that meant I had to die. And oh, my god, is he an idiot. And strong. And really really hard to beat. Two dueling Exploding Point Technique masters, going at each other. It should have been even. I was tough, fast, strong… but he was tougher and stronger, and almost as fast… and enraged. He beat male me in a long, drawn out slugfest that left me dazed… then I fell in a jacuzzi and he developed a nosebleed as I came out of the water no longer wearing a shirt thanks to all the rockshards that had shredded it. Grandmother was watching and that meant I had to give the big idiot the kiss.

I got revenge however, by revealing P-Chan’s secret to Akane. Ranma was not happy about that, strangely. But nowhere near as unhappy about it as Akane. I swear, she was inches away from going Super Saiyan. Ryoga may have tapped into the Speed Force to get away from her as fast as he did.

So that was it, right? Four Fiances? Three female, one male, right? Ahahahaa… no. In addition to the idiots of the week, the random perverts, and the neighborhood boys who thought if they did enough Karate for one hour three times a week at the Tendo Dojo after school they might have an in, there were Sam, Kiske, and Bao-Feng.

Sam was half-Okinawan, half-African American. He was big, he was tough, he was fast. He was a speed boxer, bantamweight, and convinced that American Martial Arts were absolutely the best. And he wanted to breed a dynasty of the best MMA fighters ever… and that meant a martial artist wife with good genes. And yes, he knew about the curse… and didn’t care. As a guy, I could spar with him, as a girl, I could be his baby machine. He was creepy, stalkerish, but friendly enough, and oddly enough, his insane misogyny matched Amazon misandry almost perfectly. He pulled no punches when we fought, male or female, but kept trying to defend me from other challengers, which was a little… asinine… but helpful in weeding out the hopeless cases. He never did defeat me, but he tried, keeping me on my toes constantly and never getting discouraged as I beat him again and again.

Kiske was a NEET, fat, insanely otaku, and – in a show of spectacular illogic – practiced Hikikomori Style Martial Arts. The illogic of a martial art for shut-ins being practiced by someone who had to go outside to use it was utterly lost on Kiske. His style was… in a word… pervy. It’s not that he could defeat me. It’s that I felt dirty every time I touched him. His entire body was soft, absorbing incredible blows without ever showing damage… and somehow he could block particle beams from Anti-Tank Sniper Rounds… with pillows. He also possessed the utterly bizarre ability to command armies of tiny stripperific plastic dolls, which he used to spy on anything female. He ate three meals a day at the Cat Cafe. To this day, I’ve no idea where he got all the money from. He even creeped out Grandmother.

Bao-Feng on the other hand was neither misogynistic nor creepy. He was a genuinely nice guy, the kind that viewers would absolutely be rooting for. Sure, he was rough around the edges, given to derring do and posturing, but as a 1800 year old teenager who’d been frozen in a glacier since the Three Kingdoms Era in Chinese history, he was a warrior, a scholar, and utterly fascinated by the modern world. As I’d been the one to release him from his icy coffin (which got shipped to Cat-Cafe entirely by accident instead of Tokyo University’s Cat-Scan & MRI building), he felt himself duty bound to serve me. He even ate my cooking without complaint… or at least made it disappear without me noticing that he wasn’t eating it, which counts for much of the same thing and I forgave his deception eventually…. after missing it for nearly 7 years.

If you’ve ever watched Ranma, then you think you know how much of a pain Cologne is. You cannot imagine. As vicious as she is to Ranma, she respects him. Her own family? Not so much. Think back. She trained Ryoga to use the Breaking Point Technique and Ranma to use Chestnut Fist. Did she train Shampoo to use either? She did not. Hell, I had to practice Chestnut Fist with Ranma and that took a guarantee that Shampoo wouldn’t bother him for a whole month… Which I accomplished by dropping her into the warehouse.

We’d tricked her (in cat form) into climbing into a handbag that Zane was holding as far from me as possible, promising to deliver her to Ranma. (As an aside… dear lord are there a lot of cats in Tokyo! Sooo many murderous evil felines! They’re stalking me, I know they are. They want my blood!) I killed the passage of time in the warehouse, got my training in, then dropped the Shampoo bag out of the Warehouse while Ranma was alone at the public bathhouse. Just because I understand Ranma doesn’t mean I don’t like causing the idiot as much trouble as possible. He insulted my breasts.

Zane meanwhile, was doing everything he could to try and seduce Akane… Up to and including teaching her Amazonian Techniques, helping her fight off Shampoo, and routinely defending her from Ranma’s misguided sexism. Cologne approved, of course, as Akane out of the way would clear the path for Shampoo to get Ranma, and Akane was good enough to be a decent addition to the tribe. Rinse-Rinse had set her sights on Tatewaki, much to the Kendoguy’s confusion and Nabiki’s irritation.

There wasn’t a giant overarching crisis. We vastly outnumbered the Musk and Lucky Gods and the Jusenkyo Committee. There were years of hijinks, with incidents happening every couple of days, but while it was exhausting, it was also fun. Happosai remained frozen in a block of cryogenically cold ice… in a freezer… in a cave… on Svalbard. Turns out you can Apparate to places you’ve been on alternate Earths just fine. I’d doused him with Girl-Water, then frozen him solid as he stood stunned.

Genma and Pantyhose Taro also got the girl treatment. As the show’s biggest misogynists, they deserved it. Mousse ended up with Ling-Ling and Ran-Ran, after we finally got him some lasik and a pair of omni-gel corneas (lasers can only do so much). It took me almost a decade of constantly duelling him, but I think I was pretty close to matching him in Hidden Fist.

Kasumi eventually married Tofu-Sensei (once I prescribed some medical grade antipsychotics for him… by dosing his tea without him knowing. A careful program of weaning him off them helped and eventually he was able to speak with her without going completely crazy). Nabiki tricked Principal Kuno into marrying her and then had him locked away in an institute for the Criminal Insane Martial Artist. Kuno, faced with an attractive girl who did not shun him, calmed down a lot, even though he still seemed confused when she turned into a Dog and still demanded snuggle times (but nothing more, I hope). Akane and I got a job on a cooking show that was, for some reason, ranked the number one live action comedy show on Japanese TV, and for some reason there were prizes awarded for  anyone who could eat the most of our cooking, but it was a steady gig.

There was no helping most of my fiances. They were crazy and clueless. Ryoga and Yoiko were an interesting duo to deal with, and Bao-Feng was just too nice, but I couldn’t really… be with any of them because of the constant bickering and incessant fighting. Years passed… Ranma and Shampoo married just after they turned twenty. Genma and Soun were not happy. Part of me was, part of me wasn’t. It’s hard being a fan of something and then experiencing it. The reality is that Akane and Ranma, as cute as they were as a couple, just didn’t work. Ranma didn’t know how to treat her as an equal, and it showed. Also, she’s kinda violent.

Zane, on the other hand, seemed to like it, and they dated for a while, but in the end, it ended as amicably as any of these things do. Akane finally broke up with him, declaring she wasn’t going to fool herself any more… and promptly moved in with Ukyo, which shocked none of us.

Rinse-Rinse and Tatewaki had a kid about 8 years in. But RiRi had never exactly been… maternal… not surprising since few Pokemon are and especially not the reptilian or quasi-reptilian ones. Bao-Feng had been convinced to start dating Uriel, since they both liked period dramas and military history and Uriel seemed to be enjoying being doted on again. I was slowly paring down the insanity, year by year.

Sam and Kodachi were a partnership waiting to happen, and I spent nearly a year making sure it did, with much help from… well… everyone. The sooner those lunatics were out of the picture, the better. Kiske we hooked up with Asuza, which pleased everyone besides Mikado, who was such an ass at the wedding we pummeled him… he deserved it. He was trying to kiss all the bridesmaids.

Which left me with two. The brother and sister. So in the end, I did what any sane jumper would do. I asked them both to come with me. Yoiko jumped at the chance to see (and get utterly lost on) new worlds, but Ryoga was unsure until I promised him that coming with me would almost certainly cure his curse. I wasn’t sure he’d benefit from the same bonus I was certain awaited the rest of us (the transformation of Curse into a new shapeshifting power), but if it didn’t, I had Girl Juice just sitting around. I’d kept one dose carefully set aside just in case… but I didn’t tell him that.

For added bonus, I pointed out that my companions were always able to return to the Warehouse from wherever they were, so at least in that way, he’d never be totally lost. I’d also built both Hibikis self-repairing battle-hardened, waterproof OmniGel GPS units years earlier, which didn’t eliminate their ability to get lost, but helped immensely in getting back.

In the end, we had one last Beach Episode before the gates opened once more and we said goodbye to the RanmaVerse. For the first time in a long while, I was hijink’d out. That night, once free of the curses (yes, even Ryoga) I let Hibiki siblings make an EssJay sandwich. Stupid PG rated reality.

Next: ACE in the Hole

Resources: Build, Document

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

World 8: Ranma 1/2 – Part 1

OF AMAZONS & CP

Previously: Star Trek TOS Finale

Themesong: Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas

I honestly tried to restrain myself. I wanted to relax, kick back, review my ranmemories, come up with a game plan before I read through the options. My resolve lasted mere seconds in the face of that logo. RANMA! My favorite anime of all time! I plopped myself in front of the machine and said, “Right, let’s see… Age… 1d8+11? Okay… 3… I’m 14? Great. Junior High Squad all the way. Origins… Oh, who am I kidding. Amazon. Amazons are awesome. They have the best stuff, and I can learn Chinese!”

The Japanese would, of course, be dubbed into English. I’d actually had to put in the time to learn Klingonese on the last jump. I tried to learn Vulcan, but I just heard it as English… which is weird, because I also heard English as English (except with a British Accent.) I’d had to actively switch between my Harry Potter Voice and my American Original Voice to switch languages. So weird. I still had no idea what the Asari language sounded like.

It was [100/900/1000] for Amazon, which meant that I was part of the somewhat technologically impaired society that dwelled in the Bayankala mountain range in central China, bound by tribal laws and traditions that guided our lives. I instantly lost some of my respect for Zane and Uriel and gained a bit of a vindictive streak. Well, this would be annoying, but I’d muddle through. I also gained a vague set of memories about my childhood and the constant martial arts training and all the fights against my Amazon sisters… and pummeling stupid boys who wanted me to marry them.

I also developed an intense love-hate complex for Cologne, the eldest of the Amazon Matriarchs… and PTSD for hearing her bellow my name, which was… and at this point I cringed… ‘Soap’. I was going to be called Soap for 10 years. I facepalmed. This is why you plan ahead… I briefly considered changing my mind, but that would mean becoming Japanese, which was bad.

I had to clear my head at that point and take a couple of days to work through the sudden intense racism that flashed through my mind at the idea of not only all outsiders, but especially of the Japanese. Woo. Well, this was going to be interesting. My new persona had… opinions. Half formed, childish, and ignorant in the extreme. So many opinions. Like tractors being a communist plot… and living in a communist country meant that that phrase had totally different connotations.

Eventually, after much ice cream and Ziggy snuggling, I went back to the machines. Curse time, of course. I looked at the massive board of curses, then pulled the  randomizer lever, setting it in motion. Placing my hands above the stop button, I muttered the ancient mantra of “No Whammies. No Whammies.” and hit it. The flashing box tick, tick, ticked, advancing three random places as I’d expected, and landed on ‘Spring of Drowned Fish’.

“Fish?” I asked, sounding confused. “How does Fish Drown?”

Great, I was speaking in broken Japanenglish already.

The screen cleared and it said, “Just Kidding! You get to pick your curse, you lucky person you!”

“I wanna be a dragon!” I said at once.

“From any normal non-magical non-chimera creature.”

“Fiine. I want to be an Amur Leopard. They’re awesome! And fluffy!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah… Course I…” I thought about it for a long moment, childish enthusiasm warring with my logical overmind. I could already turn into a massive Apex Predator. I sighed, then said, “No. Never mind. This is about entertaining the people who pay the bills. I know what the Boss wants to see, no matter how… ooogy it is. Give me the Classic. Gotta have the Classic. It’s tradition. At least this is Ranma ½ and not Futaba-no-Change.”

“You got it, babe. Or should I say dude!?” And a bucket of water dumped all over me… then the bucket bounced off my head. My clothes were suddenly too tight and everything looked smaller. I was tall. Very tall. And muscular. I was huge!

“Wait, what the hell? Ranma-kun is only like six inches taller than Ranma-Chan!”

“You were at the very bottom of the normal human height range. The Curse has now placed you at the far end of that spectrum… and swung your athletic body type to the other extreme from gymnast build.” I looked at my arms. They weren’t bodybuilder arms, but they were professional Beach Volleyball player big. And my chest was ripped, as were my abs. I was no longer cute. I was two meters of solid man… and my panties were absolutely killing me. This was going to take careful wardrobe planning.

After discovering that I couldn’t shapeshift into any of my other forms besides my Animagus form while in my cursed male form, I again excused myself from the magical Vending Machines and went in search of larger clothing, trying not to whimper as every step nearly crushed my new found junk. Ouch… fuck, how do men even walk? I could barely waddle.

Wearing one of Zane’s bathrobes, I returned to the machine, still wincing a bit as my tender bits returned from their panty induced frontal wedgie. Perks and Powers was next.

I was developing a bit of a system for dealing with the VMoDs… Free stuff first, discounted stuff second, then we’d move to equipment and drawbacks, then come back and spend the remainder. It worked… though, sometimes I wondered if I was too structured with my life, but the old Gamer in me just laughed. As if there was such a thing as too structured when getting amazing powers and abilities.

First up, Amazon Durability, free for Amazons of course. Thanks to a lifetime… or at least childhood… of constant training, I’d learned how to take a hit and keep going. Apparently, the Amazon definition of taking a hit had less to do with punches and kicks and more to do with giant boulders, bearpaw swipes, or the occasional high speed automobile crash. I could vividly remember being thrown or smashed through any number of walls, trees, and the occasional aforementioned giant boulder… and getting back up without a scratch. Well then, no such thing as being too damage resistant, is there?

Discounts, Discounts. Love me some Discounts. Jewish Vulcan Pureblood Asari Pokemon Amazon Princess. That’s me. Hidden Weapon Space… the ability to hide just about any weapon about my body, no matter how awkward or large, no matter how many other weapons I’d already got stashed, with no one able to tell? Yes please. Memories of Mousse pulling hundreds of chains, staff-weapons, or duck-potties out of thin air was too good to pass up. I was already wondering if Plasma Rifle Fu was a thing. [200/800/1000]

Supreme Amazon Ki Technique? Chestnut Fist? Gimme… wait, what do you mean that’s not one of the two choices? Chestnut Fist is awesome… but it’s not really a Ki technique, I guess. Bakusai Tenketsu or Hiryu Shoten Ha? Breaking Point or Rising Dragon Punch? Explode pretty much anything non-organic or magically reinforced with a poke (comes with effective immunity to bluntforce trauma) or the ability to create an actual tornado with a punch? Well, HSH relies upon cold ki, and I was a master of that… or would be soon. I could practically figure that one out for myself without instruction. BaTen would be harder, and more painful. Plus, if I knew BaTen, maybe I’d have an easier time getting Cologne to teach me Chestnut Fist. Still, 300 is a lot… but it’s better than paying full price. [300/500/1000]

Item Shopping now… Dragon Whisker? Why? I didn’t need more hair. Magical Incenses? Ugh. I had tech that was fine for knockout products. Joybuzzer? Laaame. Smug Opera Glasses? Umm… no. Jellyfish Swimsuit? Well that’s just… perverted. Wind Fan? Flame-Staff? Cheesey. OOooo… Bandanna of Infinite Bandannas! Ryouga’s least talked about power! Must have! It’s pretty cheap too. [50/450/1000] But Tiger Stripes are his thing, not mine. Mine shall be… random Semaphore Flags that spell out snide messages for anyone patient enough to step through the footage and decode! Yes! DVD Extras!… Is it weird that I think of my life as a movie? Probably. But can you blame me?

Mmm, Water of Life? Not the right Water of Life. This just cures most illnesses and injuries… but now I’m imagining a Ranma-Dune crossover. Instant Jusenkyo Water, wears off, usable to give a target one curse and then they become immune to that curse. Respawns once a week? Tempting, but no. A Barrel of Ju-Water? Four doses from whichever one curse I’ve filled it with… resets once per jump? Oh, baby. Yes please. Too much fun. Girl Curse Water, of course.

I hopped up on top of the machine and pointed at random companions. “You get a curse and you get a curse and you get a Curse!” Hahaha. Linkette! Marioette! Kuno-chan! Bwahahaa! This will be awesome! I’m going to get into so much trouble. Oh, and if they come with me, after a jump ends the curse becomes just another form. That’s cool. Ooooh… neat. That means I get boy form at will in future… might be handy. Especially if I’m every in like Ancient Rome or something. [200/250/1000]

Ziggy pawed at the machine’s side and whimpered, demanding I come down from there and give him cookies and belly rubs.

Uriel asked, “Is it a good curse or a bad curse?”

“Isn’t a good curse called a ‘blessing’?” Francine asked, looking up from her book.

I ignored them (except Ziggy) hopping down and gathering the Zig into my lap. “Imprinting Egg… makes any one it’s used on firmly and completely obedient to the Egg’s master. Can be used as permanent stasis, respawns at the start of next jump… only 200? Tempting. If I still had Evil Me I might take it… wait… I bet Buffyverse is one of the jumps. Oh, shit. Vampire Slutty Evil Me! SOLD! [200/50/1000] Crap… what do I spend 50 on? Disads first, I guess.”

Would you look at that! I guess I could go to one of those fanfics I was talking about. I wonder if Quick added this specifically because I commented or if it’s because Ranma and Xena and Sailor Moon are the royal court of early fanfic spawners. It was called ‘Plague of Fanfic’, which definitely summed up Ranma from back in the era when every fanfic had a ‘Please Don’t Sue Me’ tag on it, back when creators didn’t realize that fanfics were kinda the ultimate combination of free advertising and praise… It was free… or +100… what was the difference?

Ah… for 0 I could turn this Ranmaverse into one of the better Fanfic Ranmaverses, while the 100 point version got me one of the badly written FanficVerses. Oh god, no. Baaad. That would ruin immersion and make my head hurt. Gah! Tempting, I’ll come back. It’s point neutral. No, wait… haha. I know what I’ll do… I typed in my request and the system considered, then agreed and altered the timeline just enough to make Yoiko (Ryoga’s fictional sister that Ranma sometimes pretends to be and that Ryoga’s too stupid to realize he doesn’t have) canon. So now Ranma’s pretending to be someone who actually exists. I wonder what she’ll be like… aside from being just as clueless about directions as her brother… and super cute. I might have had a bit of a crush on Yoiko. Cute widdle faaang.

Wow. A lot of these drawbacks were pretty cool. Fiance Magnet was practically a gift and definitely a must. I just had to have a large number of insane suitors! It was the raison d’etre of this universe! Everyone must fight over (and with) me! No Peace! Peace is boring! Bwahaha. Oh, I’m going to regret this. [+200/250/1200].

Curse of the Cat Fist? Haha! Yes! Must be aluraphobic! Insane Final Attack paired with Deep Psychological Trauma! Bring it on! [+100/350/1300].

Hibiki Family Curse? No. I like getting where I want to… though I can teleport so that’s of limited oomph. Is it possible to cheese drawbacks? Not going to try it with that one, since OMG, Ryoga can get lost walking between rooms, but yeah… might be a thing. Locked Curse? Tempting, but naw. Seppuku Pledge? Hah. No. Second Worst Parents Ever… yeah, that pretty much describes Genma and Nodoka… But no. I don’t need an idiot brother. I have Zane. Oh, that one’s locked to Martial Artist or Bystander only… good. Didn’t want it anyway. Also no on the Mind-Altering Curse or the Spring of Drowned Jumper which will make people think they’re me… and since some of them would be Asari or Infernapes in appearance, they’d probably cause a panic.

Water Magnet would be annoying… but… oooo! Kitchen Destroyer? Haha. Oh dear. I am immune to poison and kinda a terrible cook as it is. Haha. Heehee. Okay, Sure, Akane has a new Rival! And not in a good way! [+100/450/1400].

That gives me 450 left to spend. Lets see. More Perks. Some Kind of Ninja? More stealth? Excellent. Its served me well in the past, might as well get better at it. [100/350/1400]. Martial Acrobatics… ability to bounce around like a rubber ball, do a standing jump right over another person with no effort? Wall Run, Roof hopping, longfall… I can use that. [100/250/1400]. Weirdly Specific Martial Arts! Hmmm… What would I choose… Gaming Fu? Ferret Fu? Lazy Fu? Dispatcher Fu? Editor Fu? Fu Fu? Heh. ohhh… Anything Goes is on here… despite being weirdly non-specific. Well then, who can say no to that? [200/50/1400]

Oh… holy… shit… How’d I miss this the first time… Copycat Technique? As in, the Copycat Technique… crap… it’s 600 unless I’m a drop-in… well… I’m not changing my origin… so it’s 600… which means I have to give up Some Kind of Ninja and Weirdly Specific Martial Arts… and Bakusai Tenketsu… but I can learn them all again in jump, right? With Copycat, of course! No brainer really. Of course, copied Bakusai Tenketsu doesn’t give me the toughness boost cause that’s from training, but I’m tough as is and I can always do the training… I regen. This is going to hurt, but it’ll be worth it.

Crap. still got 50… oh, shoot, forgot to look for companion imports. They need some goofball fun. Holy Shit! Companion Import is free? Eight for free? They each get a background and the freebie perk for that background… and a curse! Haha. I was right! Oh, this will be fun. And I can buy Perks for half price for them? Excellent.

They won’t mind if I spin for them, right? Zane first. I hope he gets piggy. Nooo… hahah… Even better. Zane is a Girl! I can hear yelping from inside the house. Amazon of course, which gives him Amazon Durability. Excellent. Rocky second… ack… a c-c-cccaaaaat! Well, maybe that will be helpful? Maybe. Make him a Drop In so he can have Some Kind of Ninja. Ninja Metagross. Hahaha. AJ gets… Girl! I love this wheel. I wonder if he can turn into a Gardevoir? Hold on, must check. Hahahaah… yes! Excellent! He’s kept his shapeshifting for that one thing! I love Jump Logic! Galladavoir! Snerk. Martial Artist with Martial Acrobatics. I’ll be nice. He… she looks freaked.

Francine… Piglet. Innocent Bystander. She’s the most Kasumi-like. Give her some Home Making Skills, maybe a maid’s uniform. She does have a cute bottom in human form. Still obsessed with Spoons though. Dyna… is a duck. A Duck. A Deoxys Duck. Well, she was complaining that she wasn’t getting enough stuff from Jumps. Better make her a Martial Artist with Martial Acrobatics. She is an Attack Type Deoxys. Good thing she didn’t fall into a genderpool. I think the universe would have broken… I call her she, but Dynamo is, like all Deoxys, Genderless. RayRay next. Dog. Okay. Amazon Skydragon Dog. Hell, if She (and yeah, I know Rayquazas are Genderless, but I had to choose one when I brought her into Harry Potter. I figured Dragons lay Eggs so maybe Rayquazas are all female and reproduce asexually. Regardless.

That leaves Uriel, if he wants to come. Eh. Might as well curse him just for shits and giggles. Hah! Girl! Oh dear. I’ll make him an Innocent Bystander too. He should earn his upkeep. After all, I only get enough food for five. I’ve had to import food from Potemkin for him sometimes. Just cause he… she was an Emperor, doesn’t mean she gets to freeload. Do the dishes maybe. Oh! Hah. Hearthfire DLC GET! Heh. I’ve got 50 to spend… With Innocent Bystander and Companion Discount, Construction Master is only 50! Alright Uriel. Prepare to become our own private Repair and Construction Monkey! Bwahaha! [1400/1400]. FYI for all concerned ‘Construction Masters’ have figured out the secret of achieving Fast & Cheap & Quality. They’re skilled at Repair and Construction. Nerima has (apparently) many of them, or it would be rubble by now.

I was just reaching for the finalize button when Ziggy yawned, squirmed on my shoulder, and… fell off onto the Curse Randomizer. I hadn’t considered Importing my furry little friend. He hasn’t been imported into any setting as anything actually human. He’s got two forms; Linoone (which is a kinda ferretlike Pokemon) and European Polecat, which is a British Ferret, the second of which has served him through HP, TES, and TOS. He’s a smart little guy, but he’s not human smart. He shook himself, head tilted to watch the flashing lights, then yelped as water splashed all over him (He’s not scared of water, and he can swim just fine… he just doesn’t like getting wet if he can help it… unless we’re playing at the pool. He’s kinda, you know, silly like that.)

A Fish icon flashed on the screen, and he tried to poke it, but lost his balance and rolled off the machine onto the floor behind me. “Amur Leopard?” the system asked. I chuckled “Sure. What’s an Amazon without her giant fuzzy predator.” I’m an idiot. I selected Drop In to give Ziggy some well needed Stealth skills (Thump, thump, clatter, thump.) and hit finalize… then realized, to my horror, that I’d made my pet ferret into a 200 pound cat.

The world went spinning and I landed in the mountains of China with a leopard licking my face. I screamed and passed out.

Next: Nerima Actual

Resources: Build, Document

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

World 7: Star Trek TOS – Episode 14

TIME AND TIDE

Previously: Episode Thirteen

JUMPER’s LOG, Star Date 2275, July 30 (9 Years, 11 Month, 364 Days)

Every party has to end. By long standing tradition, my adventures always ended on a beach. This time, that beach was on Risa. My friends and I raised our glasses in a final toast to Starfleet, while the Redshirt brigade compared all the various ways they’d been killed. Out of a sense of completionism, I’d already accepted a position at Oxford, where, in theory, S’Janus would be teaching a postgraduate slate of courses in Xenobiology, Artificial Intelligence, and Medical Diagnostics. I’d also be giving a series of public lectures on interspecies ethics and responsible stewardship. It sounded like she’d be having an interesting couple of decades, and I was, for once, almost tempted to stick around. But, as they say, ‘Time and Tide Wait For No Vulcan’, and I couldn’t stay. Perhaps someday a TNG jump would cross my desk and I’d return, or I’d get bored enough to choose to use the Return from the Warehouse. But either way, I wouldn’t be the same person then that I am now.

Of course… that’s true for everyone. We are constantly reinventing ourselves in new ways, discovering new depths and experiencing new things. That is, after all, the point of life. Me and my friends, we just did it a bit more rapidly than most… and to a greater extreme.

The last few seconds of TOS ticked away and, once again, the world froze and the Pillars rose. “Thank you for playing, please exit the reality,” I said, then raised one last toast to Starfleet, so much better in real life than the original series had made it seem… and so much worse as well. Ah well, that’s reality for you.

WORLD 8? Not Quite

As my squad and I re-entered the Warehouse, which we’d collectively decided to call “Home Two” a few years earlier, just after we’d finished actually building the Warehouse Suites out of 23rd century ship parts, it was to the sound of Harpsichord music… which is odd because I don’t own a harpsichord and don’t particularly care for their sound. I drew my wand and motioned everyone forward quietly as my left hand iced over and we moved towards the house.

“Welcome, Welcome, and Be ye Welcome!” came a voice floating out of my long long distant childhood. I blinked, surprise breaking through my calm, as I beheld William Campbell, blue coat, ascot, and pompadour, sitting at a, yes, harpsichord.

“Trelane?!” I gasped, “What the hell?

“Now now, that’s no way for a Vulcan to speak,” The Squire of Gothos chided.

“My apologies, your brattiness. But primus, why are you in my home, and secundus, how are you in my home?”

“I’m Trelane! I can do anything! And You came to my Universe and didn’t even say hi? I was slighted! Slighted I say! I demand satisfaction.”

I groaned “Oh shut up. It was TOS. Kirk encountered you, not me.”

“But you could have. You could have joined Enterprise and visited me.”

“Look, Q Junior. Go away. I’ve got a month of very serious lounging planned and I don’t want to deal with you… Or Corbin, or John.”

“Who?”

“Q or Q.”

“Oh. Them. Right. Good Call. Anyway, I think Q is bugging someone else right now. But Q’s free. I can go get him if you like?”

“I’m sure you could,” I drawled, marginally amused to find that I could somehow know exactly which Q was which as this bizarre conversation continued. “But no thanks.”

“Okay… but next time you’re in my neighborhood, you have to promise to play with me. The Q are sooo boring!” I groaned, which he seemed to take as agreement. “Oh, and I have a letter for you from a mutual friend.”

“We don’t have any mutual friends.”

“Well, he’s a friend of mine. He was a little annoyed you stabbed him with your Goblin Sword.”

“I stabbed a lot of people with my Goblin Sword. I may have been drunk, but I wasn’t murderous. Almost all of them deserved it. And I healed and usually apologize to those who didn’t.”

“Well, Shiggy says he was just minding his own business when you snuck up behind him and asked him to say hello to your little friend.”

“Shiggy? Do you mean Sheogorath? He… I… well… yes, technically that did happen.” I said, somewhat sheepishly. “But he was trying to destroy reality… or at least making my hangover so much worse. Plus, I didn’t kill him. Just… made an introduction.”

“Yeah, well, he says he’s expecting you, next time you swing through.”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen. To either you or him.”

Trelane smirked, “Oh. You’d be surprised. We’ve pulled some strings. Keep on Jumping, and both of us will see you again.”

“Trying to tempt me to go home are you?”

“Naw. You try that before coming by for a visit and we might have to visit you instead.”

I shuddered at the chaos that Trelane and Sheogorath would cause on my home reality, then smirked. “You could run for president. Better than some of the jokers who are doing so right now.”

“You wouldn’t like me as President.”

“Probably true. Now, would you kindly leave.”

“I’m only going because I want to, not because you’ve conditioned me to obey your commands whenever you say Would You Kindly.” I rolled my eyes, and when they returned to their original positions, TOQ and his harpsichord were gone. My companions rushed in then, as if they’d been caught in temporal fly paper.

I sighed, then had a horrible thought and snapped, “Victoria! Status of the Prisoner?”

My Omni-VI, now operating in a Magitek-OmniGel FTL field that was one step short of a true Quantum Field, said, “Evil S’Janus is no longer in her cell. A Baboon wearing a Tutu and a Tricorn has replaced her.”

I shuddered, not looking forward to finding out what Q-T and Shiggy had planned with my evil cyborg counterpart, but knowing that, like it or not, I was going to find out at the worst possible moment.

“Zane? Have the Vending Machines shown up yet?”

“Yup. They’re in Chinese. And there’s an empty wooden rack next to them.”

This I had to see. I went into the warehouse proper. The Vending Machines of Destiny had been installed in their own awning that looked like a bus stop this time, with the words ‘CHOOSE YOUR FATE!’ in flashing Neon above them. Next to them, just outside the alcove, was the kind of wooden rack you find in tourist hotels, the kind that carry brochures and pamphlets about all the local attractions. It was currently empty, but had a sign on it that said ‘Coming Soon’. I wondered what that was all about, but turned my attention back to the machines, then almost squealed with glee.

“Ranma!? The next jump is Ranma? Woooo!” It is possible I may have done a little dance at that point.

Zane bopped me. “The show with the all the pervy fanfics you like so much?”

I nodded happily, then said, “Heeeey! Not all the fanfics I like are pervy! Some of them are just a little naughty. And most of them are actual improvements on the writing of the original show!”

“Like the one where Ranma’s a ditzy blonde?”

“That’s parody.”

“Or the one where she’s a lesbian?”

“Also parody.”

“Or the one where she’s Sailor Sun?”

“That’s a crossover. And yeah, those were pretty good. A little wrong, but good.”

“How about the one where Ranma had a little sister who was the martial artist while he was the geek? The one where he definitely wasn’t sleeping with the sexy little sister… but wanted to.”

“Careful Destiny was cool! Shame it tapered out.”

“Yeah, and you’ve read the official unofficial lemon section how many times?”

“It was hot!”

“You’re a perv.”

“Thbbbt.”

“Very Logical.”

“Bite me!” Word to the wise… Never tell a Lucario to bite you. Owww.

“How about Girl Days, or Burlesque, or Genma’s Daughter, or… what was your favorite one called… Couch Trips?”

“Hey, Couch Trips was cool. They all needed therapy. Look. Ranma ½ is possibly the best example of a great setting and great characters being utterly wasted by an author who doesn’t a) think of them as more than gag-delivery vehicles and b) doesn’t really understand the cultural and social impact of what she’s writing. It’s like Orson Scott Card and Ender’s Game. Great book, but the writer is a bit of a tool. Same with Watchmen, V For Vendetta, and anything else Alan Moore has ever created. Or Narnia.”

“Yeah, Yeah. Well, this isn’t Fanfic Ranma. This is Canon Ranma. Wacky Hijinks and all.”

I sighed. “Yeah… just have to hope it’s the manga and not the Anime. There were some really stupid Anime episodes.”

“Bet it’s both. We’re going to be there for 10 years.”

I nodded, “Well, let’s see what we’ve got.”

Next: Of Amazons & CP

Resources: Build, Document

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

World 7: Star Trek TOS – Episode 13

STILL I RISE

Previously: Episode Twelve

JUMPER’s LOG, Star Date 2274, September 19th (9 Years, 1 Month, 19 Days)

Here’s a question for you: When does a criminal society cross the line into being an actual society? That question is never straight forward, and when the people asking are members of Starfleet, it has special significance… and special pressure.

Sharing a common border with the Klingons and the Federation lies a multi-system polity known colloquially as The Orion Syndicate. Some would call them a nation. Others would call them criminals and thugs. The Orions claimed neither, just the right to rule their own worlds… and peddle drugs, slaves, and weapons all across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. They supported piracy, they kidnapped, blackmailed, and spied. But they largely did so with proxies and were, if not liked, at least respected by their own people. At least the free ones.

We were coming back from one of the infrequent but routine diplomatic rendezvous with our counterparts in Klingon Space, leaving the Neutral Zone behind us as we began our slow return to Earth for the end of our second 5 year mission, when a small space freighter hailed us, sending out a targeted distress signal. It was suffering engine trouble and was calling for any Federation vessel.

We arrived less than forty-five minutes later, having briefly jumped to maximum warp, and slowed just in time to see three small attack craft decloak and begin firing at the freighter. They weren’t even vaguely a match for our systems and we rapidly disabled them, then rescued the freighter’s crew and passengers, who turned out to be a couple of Pakleds and three dozen Orion females, all attractive, young, and bearing the indications of being slave girls, though they’d changed out of their slave garb and into working jumpsuits. Our security forces also boarded the attackers and discovered they too were crewed by Orions, all of them male, tough, and lacking any identification as military. Rather, they carried civilian ID, which made them pirates. 

We arrested them and seized their vessels, which we tractored to our hull as we headed for the nearest starbase to drop them off. I may have taken advantage of the situation to study… and then subsequently duplicate their cloaking devices, which were clearly illicitly acquired Klingon Military models, but I hazarded a guess that they were a generation old at least.

Still, using my scans and the replicator system I’d spent the better part of the last decade building and refining, it was fairly easy to both create a functional duplicate as well as gain a detailed understanding of the process by which it worked. Creating the replicator really wasn’t that much of a leap forward; the Federation of Kirk’s time was already using a similar system for food synthesis and a separate and much larger and simpler system for general fabrication. All I’d had to do was refine the systems, compact them, and link resultant machine to basic building block supplies… which now took up quite a large section of my smaller drydock, where it had fabricated any number of things, including a warp core, deflector array, and nacelles for the Black Jenny. That was soon bolstered by the addition of a cloaking device.

A holodeck is not a hard thing to build either. All it takes is holo-emitters, computing power, and a knowledge of forcefield physics. In fact, the only real trouble I faced in all of this, besides fitting research and development time into my not unbusy schedule, was getting my hands on enough dilithium to last me until I could find a way to either replace it or create my own.

Oddly enough, my reasons for pressing ahead with the creation of the holodeck was my evil twin, who I was, despite the fact that she was ruthless, unethical, and murderous, hesitant to kill. She was what I could have been without too much of a paradigm shift, and yet I had her locked in a cage from which I never, ever, let her out. I couldn’t take any chances with her. Sure, the cage had been moved to one of the bedrooms (it didn’t take a technical genius to transform part of the housing complex into a functional brig), and I’d asked Uriel to speak with her, to get a sense of her. His report was far from glowing. He compared her to Mehrunes Dagon… and not favorably. Alternate Spock she was not. Joseph Mengele would have been horrified by her disdain for life.

Regardless, I wanted to improve her quality of life, while I figured out what to do with her, though I was more and more tempted just to fire her into the heart of a star with every encounter. I wasn’t exactly innocent in this. Anesthetizing a kidnapped prisoner and performing unauthorized plastic surgery on her was a violation of medical ethics on a pretty severe scale, but there was no way I was going to allow her to continue wearing my face, cyborged up or not.

Still, as long as no one found out, I wouldn’t have to give back my various awards… which by this point included the Vulcanian Scientific Legion of Honor for my work in the field of Ethical Calculus, the Carrington Award for my work in creating the first universal vaccine for the common cold, the Zee-Magnees Prize for my work with monopole magnets, and the Nobel Prizes in both Physics (for my work on warp manifold efficiency) and in Medicine (for my work in auto-diagnostics).  Perhaps the strangest of my awards was the Star of Khaless for my work on Ultar and Yuria. The invitation, which had come from Klingon Chancellor himself, had stunned the Federation Council when the Klingon Ambassador delivered it in person on the Assembly floor. Not only was I the first Vulcan ever to be so honored, but the first Medical Doctor. It was a very strange ceremony, as I listened to the Chancellor praise my valor against the forces of our mutual and age old enemy, disease…. And then he pinched my ass. Only Klingons could think a foreign military officer decking their Chancellor in front of a public audience was funny. The Chancellor thought I was flirting with him and offered to continue the fight in private. Klingons… Oy.

But that was for later. For now, we had to deal with the Orions. As we arrived at Starbase 16, we discovered that the Orion Military had beaten us there, and they were demanding the return of their ships, their men, and the runaway slaves. The ex-slaves were, of course, requesting asylum. And now we’ve come full circle on the issue at hand.

For you see, among the former slaves was one Zhavva and, according to both her and Starfleet Intelligence, she was the leader of a massive slave rebellion among the Orions. According to the Orions, she was a criminal, a terrorist, a saboteur, a thief, and a murderess. But one man’s terrorist is another’s patriot, right? And General Order One was very much in play. I won’t go into detail over much over the many many long and intricate debates we had about what we dared or did not dare do, over the ethics and morality of the issues, and (less officially) over how attractive she and her companions were.

The crew was firmly on the rebels’ side, as were most of the officers… okay, all of the officers. Absolutely no one thought the Orions were in the right. But the legality of the issue was… tricky. And we were told a special legal envoy from Starfleet’s JAG office was being dispatched to deal with the issue.

The Captain called me and Zane into her day room. “Okay, you two. You’ve managed to pull off any number of strange and only partially explained miracles over the years. We need one of those now.”

Zane said, “We could pull an ‘I am Spartacus’!”

Captain Sherwood smirked. “They were all executed.”

“Well, umm… we could blow up the Orion’s ship and pretend it was an accident?”

“Try again.”

While Zane was thinking, I suggested, “We could stage a jailbreak, then, while the slaves stole the cloaked fighters, get in the way while trying to help capture them?”

“That might work, but what if the Orion ship can track them through the cloak?”

I gave her a smirk “I’ll make sure that’s not the case. Give me… two hours.”

She nodded and I went to get Zhavva and explained the situation to her… and then I gave her an unexpected additional offer. “Look, there’s a chance the escape won’t work. I cannot be certain my modifications will work, but there is a place aboard this ship that no one else knows about besides me and my… associates. We do a little… off the books transportation from time to time. I can hide you there, in medical stasis, for a couple weeks, until we reach our next port of call. There I can drop you off without anyone else knowing and you’ll be free to resume your activities.”

She considered, then shook her head “Tempting… but my companions are also my friends. My life is nothing compared to the cause… and truth be told, I’m no brilliant warleader. I’m more in the nature of charismatic figurehead. But it’s nice of you to offer. You Vulcans have a reputation for even dealing… nice to know you can be sneaky sometimes.”

I smirked. “You have no idea.”

I cannot say there was no attraction between the two of us, nor can I claim that nothing had transpired between me and the attractive, cunning, and daring rebel leader in the days leading up to the escape, but we had a time limit. Zane and the gang were carrying out a little unauthorized modification of the Orion warship. Did you know that nacelles are often held on by explosive bolts so that they can be jettisoned if they destabilize?

The jailbreak escape went off without a hitch, at least from our side, the slavegirls used their wiles to distract our crewmen and beamed aboard the small ships, we moved to intercept, accidentally blocking the warship’s firing solutions, and then, once the Orions’ had discovered the rebels’ sabotage, towed the now Nacelle-less ship back to the starbase, just in time for the JAG representative to arrive and yell at us.

He yelled a lot more a day later when the Orion ship, in the process of reattaching their finally recovered nacelles, discovered further sabotage that forced the entire crew to abandon ship as the corridors filled with a semi-toxic gas that turned their normally green skin purple and made their voices sound all high and squeaky. Once aboard the Spacestation, it was discovered that most of the Orion crew were wanted in various systems and many of them had false IDs, and the ship, now empty, was declared derelict and seized, then searched, where it was discovered they were carrying contraband. So they were, their Captain included, arrested, creating a massive diplomatic incident (and supplying me with quite a number of useful and highly illegal or restricted goods… after all, what were the Orions going to say? “No your honor! There weren’t two crates of Romulan Ale! There were fifty!” I think not. Also, three Orion warp capable shuttlecraft / smuggler vessels, all loaded with contraband would do wonders to bolster my fleet). Stealing isn’t nice… but stealing from criminals is at least fun.

Next: Finale

Resources: Build, Document

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.