Previous: The Winter Witch
Themesong: Raise Your Glass by Pink
Woke up the next morning in my bed, in my warehouse, feeling… at a loss. Went down stairs… at a loss. Stared at the Elder Scrolls Font on the Vending Machine that was smack dab in the middle of my personal kitchen… the one that said ‘The Vending Machine of Destiny!!!’ (yes, with three exclamation points) and siigghed. “First… this is my space. Keep your weird… Point of Sale Venue out of it. I’ll look at it once I’ve had my coffee. Second, when the hell is this? Skyrim? Daggerfall? Morrowind? Oblivion? The first one… Arena? Or is this ESO, ’cause I haven’t played that one? Fuckit, lets get this overwith.”
Muttering to myself, I examined the selection screen which was more like a Arcade Cabinet’s screen than a flat-panel Vendotron… though the machine had a coin slot on the side and a coin slot below that, and a big hopper for product to fall down into along the bottom. Very weird design, especially since the angled screen was eating a huge amount of internal real-estate. I checked my credit balance. It was at 1000. Good, at least that didn’t suck. Everything else did. “Drop-In? No… I don’t want to be myself right now. Mage? Done that. Thief? In Tamriel? Screw that. Merc it is then. [100/900/1000] Martial Training, Weapon of Choice, Light, Medium, or Heavy Armor. Always wanted to learn the Bow. Light Armor… Small House, Bag of Septims. Next!”
I used the joystick to make my selections, fairly hammering at the confirmation button and growling each time it asked, “Are you Certain?”
“Yes I’m fucking certain,” I half singsonged, feeling burned out and extremely cranky. “I know how to make character selections in a video game. I’ve been doing it since I was in grade school!” I half snarled… though I was glad I hadn’t had to repeat that particular indignity yet. “Race? Well, kinda want to be a Khajiit but Argonian could be cool… or Elf. Fuckit, I’ll roll the… spin the… Really?”
A One-Armed Bandit appeared next to the VMoD labeled RACES OF TAMRIEL! “Freaking Comedians here. Oh, for fuck’s sake, Nord? Nord? I’ve been fair skinned and fair haired through… ah fuck it. I’ll pay the cost to choose a race. Grumblegrumble. If I wanted to be a damned Nord I’d have gone to Skyrim. I’m gonna be a damned Argonian so I can fucking breath under fucking water. Oh… never mind,” I grumped, noticing the fine print.
Apparently I only had to spin the RaceBandit if I wanted to or if I was a Drop-In. Really should read things through more, but I just wasn’t feeling it. “So where do I end up? I swear to… hmmm… Talos… if I end up in Skyrim Imma punch somebody.” I yanked the handle again, noticing that the Bandit now said REGIONS OF TAMRIEL! Clunk, clunk, clunk, CHING! “Summerset Isles. Fabulous. Altmer and grassland as far as the damned eye can see. Birthsign… hmmm…. Oh good, this one is free and I get to pick! Lucky meee.”
The Tower sounded cool with it’s ‘You may open any lock with a touch once per day and possess the natural ability to detect enchantments!’ I blinked, then giggled, “Why thank you strangely deep mental voice.”
The thirteen birthsigns of the Tamrielian Zodiac cleared away and were replaced with a screen entitled ‘SKILLS and ABILITIES’… Fabulous. Three of them were flashing FREE; Amphibious, Athlete, and Disease Resistant. The first not only would allow me to breath underwater (no more enchanted SCUBA for me) but would allow me to swim ‘very quickly’… would have to see how quickly was ‘very quickly’… I could already outswim an olympic athlete. The second said I could run as fast as was humanly possible for as far as was usually possible (though not at the same time)… which might boost my speed and stamina… I wasn’t certain how these all interacted. And the third was a blanket 75% reduction in my chance to get sick… and bloody useless, since I was already immune thanks to, you know… Pure Blood…
“Huh…” That was a good question. “Hey… got explain something for me,” I said, tapping the machine’s Service Request button. “So… like… Amphibious is part of being an Argonian and Disease Immunity is part of being a Magical Pureblood… and Biotics are part of being Asari and being a Conduit is genetic too… But I can use my Biotics and Conduit powers and even PokeMoves in other forms… how does this work?”
“Ah. Yes. A good question indeed,” the Machine said, a Max-Headroom-like face appearing on the screen, though the voice sounded more like Morgan Freeman than a stuttering Matt Frewer (what? I watched that show! It was funny!) “As long as the powers and abilities are inherent in a mostly humanoid shell, and something not reliant upon manifest biology, you can use them in all forms.”
“Soo… the Amphibious ability relies upon gills and webbed feet and hands… so that’s manifest biology?”
“Mmm… to an extent, but not one anyone would really notice.”
“So I could breath underwater without the gills but less efficiently?” I interpreted.
“Something like that, yes.”
“Nice. Very vague. What about perks that clearly are inferior to effects I already have? Such as a speed boost to normal human maximum, considering that I can outrun a cheetah.”
“It all adds up.” The face shrank, leaving 80% the screen clear. “To use a system you’re familiar with,” D&D stats appeared. “Your baseline Strength from the Body Mod would be 18. Add in the value of Physical Fitness from PokeTrainer,” a +12 appeared and the 18 became a 30, “and the value of Strength from Infamous,” another +10 appeared and the 30 became a 40, “and the Stat Up of a Pokemon,” the 40 became a 50. “It’s not exact, because, well, your D&D uses a bit of a geometric progression and this has been additive, but you get the idea. You start as a powerlifter and then add onto it the ability to lift a car three times. Does this mean you can lift something that weighs as much as three cars? Easily. It’s all metaphysics, but nothing is ever totally useless.”
I grimaced, then chuckled, “Oh yeah? How does +75% disease resistance help boost 100% disease immunity? Where immunity doesn’t just mean super-resistant but actually flat out means I no-sell illnesses and diseases. What, does the flu now suddenly have a 75% chance of getting me?”
“Ahhmmm… noo… but you’ll essentially develop a counter-contagion. Any disease you’re exposed to you’ll start spreading antibodies to those around you.”
“Huh. Well, fair enough… I think that’s all my questions… bring back the purchase screen, if you would?” The face faded away and I looked over the twenty-three remaining options, x-ing out the ones I had no interest in, such as all the cheap stuff and most of the mage stuff. I’d just spent a decade picking up magecraft at Hogwarts; if I’d wanted more magic I’d have taken the Mage background. That meant Necromancer, Enchanter, Summoner, and Spellmaker all got the axe. Likewise, the incredibly expensive Dowsing, Shadow Hide You, and Thu’um also got tossed in the bin.
The only three mid-priced abilities that really interested me were Poison Immunity, which would have helped when Padfoot freakin tranqed my ass, but didn’t stop booze or fun stuff from having an effect [200/700/1000]; Progress, which would allow me to pick up new skills quickly and then improve them quicker than usual [300/400/1000]; and Shehai, which was the ability to craft a sword from my own living spirit, a ghost sword that could, with time, become an incredibly formidable weapon… but buying all three would put me down to 100 and I hadn’t even looked at the Gear and shit… I mean Drawbacks.
“Hey… is there another of those Companion Import things on this… what was it that the Body Mod Pod called it? World Document?” I asked, pushing the button again. I mean, what would I be without Zane? Good old Zane. Alone… with my thoughts… that’s what.
“Indeed there is,” Morgan Headroom replied, “It is called ‘Hail Companion’. 50 for 1, 100 for 4, and 200 for 8, just like last time. Race, Identity, and any associated freebies.”
“Wait… no CP budget this time?”
“Not this time, no,” the digital head looked sad, “But for 150 of your CP, one of your companions will gain a 500 CP budget. You can only do that once per companion.”
“Crap… I’m going to need some drawbacks,” I said as the face faded away, revealing, yes, the FLAWS section. There were 9 of them, three each at 100, 200, and 300… and, “Wait… what the heck… My Favorite Drinking Buddy… Sanguine, the local God of Booze and Bad Decisions would become my friend and we’d go out drinking almost every night? Oh, that sounds so very very bad. I must have it! [+300/700/1300]. And that gives me enough for the sword made out of spirit [300/400/1300] plus [50/350/1300] for Zane the Man… and another [150/200/1300] so he could pick up some skillzzz. And 100 each for Highborn [100/100/1300] and Diplomat [100/0/1300], because more magicka good and good prices are good and making people see reason is reasonable…. and hmmm…”
I looked at the screen… it said I could take up to 600 CP worth of Flaws and, to be honest, most of these weren’t that bad. Outlander wasn’t great, what with people treating me with suspicion, but all it did was mean that it would take people twice as long to warm up to me… sooo… three minutes instead of a minute and a half? I’m very likable… unless you’re an asshat. Witches meant that a coven of witches would occasionally (25% chance per year) steal my clothes and leave me frozen in place for three days. Which could have been dangerous… but it guaranteed I’d survive and get my stuff back… wow. Such risk… not. Curse of the Dwemer was out because it said I couldn’t ever acknowledge my belief in a deity and I was planning on going drinking with one. Those were just the 100s and the 200s were only mildly worse. An annoying but adoring Fan, swarms of the pterodactyl-like Cliff Racers (think seagulls the size of cougars) following me, or a Dark Brotherhood contract being placed on my head. The other 300s (Skooma Addict and Ebony Warrior) I ignored.
After much consideration… i.e. all of ten seconds, I took the Witches [+100/100/1400] and the Adoring Fan [+200/300/1600]… both seemed harmless… and after all… if I was worried about being naked, I could get clothes from my warehouse or, you know, turn into a flaming monkey. I’d spent a decade wearing nothing but a scarf and a fedora… don’t ask where the fedora came from, or how, exactly, it was fireproof. I dunno.
That gave me enough points to buy… hmmm… Auriel’s Bow (made by the Elven God Auriel and capable of setting almost anything on fire), Spellbreaker (a shield that could block any spell), or my choice of Artifactual swords such as Goldbrand, The Ebony Blade, or Dawnbreaker… that were blessed, respectively, with a formidable fire attack, a life drain effect, or an explosive sunlight effect respectively… or I could spend 150 and import the rest of my companions… but none of them seemed very interested in playing fantasy dress-up while I went bar-hopping. Fuck it… I took the shield [300/0/1600]
I walked away from the machine to consider my purchases and grab some coffee because all that excitement had worn me out, then returned, munching on a pear from the fruitbowl that Ziggy had knocked over in the night. “Let’s see what we hook Zane up with now,” I said to no one in particular. “Race, Identity, Freebies, 500 points of skills. Cool. Make the Doggy a kitty… errr Khajiit Thief! Total stereotype there. Comes with Locking-Picking, Pocket-Picking, Sneak-Picking…. I mean Stealth. Dagger skills, an understanding of Tamriel’s cities… that’s impressive, ain’t no one can understand how video-game cities actually function… Whispering Fang Style Kung Fu free for being Khajiit, Acrobat free for being a Thief. The Thief birthsign, obviously… and here’s hoping he doesn’t come to rely too heavily on his luck (I don’t want him dying on me)… Critical is half price [100/400/500]… That’s a good price for dealing massive damage every one out of nine blows… Poison Immunity [200/200/500] and Highborn [100/100/500]… do Khajiit even have social classes like that? Hmm… 100 left… Dragonskin and its 25% spell absorption… is that absorbed as health or magicka… or… hmm… Amphibious cat? Naw… Dragonskin it is [100/0/500].”
I sat back on my kitchen’s breakfast bar stool and spun around a few times, shifting from one form to another as the profiles loaded. Once that was done and I’d tweaked what needed tweaking, I typed in the names ‘Siso Jun’ and ‘Za’ain’, and listed the personalities as ‘Fun-loving, adventurous, devil-may care… unbothered by the past and unconcerned with the future. Fill in the blanks as need be.’
When the button for early insertion came up, I pressed it without a moment’s hesitation. I was not enjoying my own company right now.
You know that sensation when you wake up and it’s the next morning and you honestly can’t remember what the hell happened last night… that was this entire decade. Fuuuck. I was hammered to the back of beyond. If there was a strange place to wake up, I woke up there. If there was a petty, annoying, or deeply embarrassing crime I could be accused of committing… I probably did it. Is there any coherent plot to what transpired over the decade? Not even vaguely. Okay, okay. I wasn’t drunk the whole time. Just… like 5 nights out of 7… and even with needing only three hours sleep a night and having hupersuhman… superhuman… superargonian constitution… I was… I drank a lot. One month, some time in the first year, Guido and I decided to try having a drink in every wine shop, public house, and brewer in the city. I don’t rememember which one. It was a city. That’s what matters.
So we did that. Open, closed, burned down in a suspicious fire, buried deep in the catag… cagta… burial chambers beneath the streets… We hit them all. Even ones that hadn’t existed… existed for centuries. And then we decided that we had to do the Whole Island… that took longer. Some people tried to stop us. I may… may… have used a plasma rifle on them. I don’t remembner. I lost track of Zane around the fourth city… but he showed up again to help get me out of jail in the… something higher than 5.
I can safely say that… whatever the world shaking danger was… I didn’t do it. I don’t think. Also… don’t think I stopped it. Zane might have… dunno. Heh. I got really good with a bow. And the pointy things. I can hit… like… any target you name… from pretty much anywhere… with… like all the booze in the galaxy in me.
I may have accidentally assassinated the Emperor. Don’t membrener…
Oh. My head. I was floating in the drydock… that was unusual… I think… my head…. oooo… gonna be… nope… what was that? wow… I looked around and then triggered my comm… at least I was wearing my comm… when had I put on my comm? “ZAAAANE! Why the hell are there tens of thousands of Tankards floating in my drydock?”
“You said one for every bar…. Err. and brewery… and pretty much anything that sold alcohol.” His face appeared in a solid light hologram, the room behind him coming into focus slowly as I adjusted to the perspective of looking down and sideways at the same time while not losing my… when was the last time I had eaten something solid… or, you know… anything at all.
“In where?” I asked, not quite tracking yet.
“Ummm… Tamriel,” he said with a shrug.
“All of it?!”
“Think so. Dunno.”
Ohhhh… my head. That explained sooo much… wait, who was that behind him… “Zane… Is that Uriel Septim the VIIth (pronounced Viith) sitting on the couch eating popcorn?”
“He wanted to watch Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon again.”
“Oh, sure. You invited him to come over about five years ago. He’s pretty regular here.”
“But we can’t take… he’s the… I don’t have a stasis pod to put him in.”
“Technically… he’s kinda dead.”
“Oh?” Something about that statement was making me have what might have been classed as memories if they weren’t so hazy and chaotic.
“Yeah… Some crazy ass drunk Argonian lady wearing a Mythic Dawn cult uniform stabbed him.”
I looked down at my clothing. “Sort of like this?”
“Yeah… looks about right.
“Wait… that means this is… fuck… 3E 433. Didn’t we arrive in 3E 427? That means there are 4 more years of this. Why am I back here?”
“Apparently. We got booted from the system. Been waiting to see if we can log back in.”
“Just 15 hours.”
“Well, I guess if he’s comfy, he can stay there and veg all he wants.”
Zane pretty much nodded.
“If I ever think unending drinking binges with gods are cool again… hit me with something.”
“You got it, sis.”
[FILE NOT FOUND]
“Thank Talos that’s over,” I said, stretching and making certain all my body parts were roughly where they were supposed to be.
“You say that as if you didn’t enjoy the Shivering Isles,” Zane said.
“I didn’t enjoy the Shivering Isles. I was drunk. They made my head hurt. I was wearing Horsebarding, and nothing was making any sense.”
“Can’t say it wasn’t fun.” He grinned. He would have enjoyed them, the bastard.
“Can too… I think my hangover is hungover. I did not know it was possible to get that drunk… without being booze.”
“I had fun!” he said, bouncing a bit.
“I’m happy for you,” I groused.
“You’re a grumpy gus,” he teased, making faces at me.
“And your point is?”
“I think the Septim bloodline is secure.”
“You think? Viagra Potions plus every damned loose woman in the Empire. Uri liked to party.”
“Think he’ll be okay?”
“Well, no one knows he’s the ex-emperor. He’s 90 years old… what trouble can he get into?”
“I shudder to think of it.”
“Eh. Beats being dead.”
“True. Where’s next?”
“Someplace called The United Federation of Planets.”
“Oh? Oh dear.”
“No, but I think we’re about to Boldly Go where no Lucario / Krogan / Khajiit has gone before.”
“Shouldn’t that be Go Boldly?”
“Shadaap. I’m going to have a very long nap. If I’m not back in three days, send in the Ziggy.”
“You got it.”
THE WAREHOUSE SUITES
“Zane?” I asked, two days and eleven hours later.
“Didn’t we drop Uriel off in, what was it, Riften?”
“Then why is he in our living room watching F*R*I*E*N*D*S?”
“He came back.”
“Teleported, just like everyone but you does.”
“I didn’t ask.”
“Where’s he staying?”
“RV 3… but we could move him into the apartment building next door.”
“Th… what apartment building next door? There is NO next door! We’re in some kinda pocket reality!”
“Next door to the house, duh… Oh, yeah… While you was… umm… sleeping, another supplement arrived. I did it for you.”
“You… did it for me…”
“Yeah. I just thought, ‘What would an uptight little goofball who doesn’t know how to have fun if she’s not totally plastered do?’ And hey, presto!”
“If this is a joke, I’m going to throttle you.”
“Naw, don’t worry so much. It’s all stuff we coulda built ourselves, pretty much.”
“I have the utmost faith in you.”
“Thanks! Hey… wait a minute. You have faith in my good judgement or that I can fuck things up super bad?”
“Get back to me after I see what you did with the Apartment Building.”
So, like… I’m not good at this writing stuff down, but if I don’t, then Sis is gonna throttle me. We been together for thirty years. I think I got her pegged, right?
So, let’s see… it says “If you Build it, they will Come.” It’s got plans for a whole bunch of stuff, housing for extra companions and just, like people what want to tag along or something. None of its built or anything, so we’ll have to get materials and stuff. Let’s see, it covers a footprint of 20m by 40m and has hookups for water cause the warehouse does. If we want power, we’ll have to source it ourselves. That’s good. No wasted stuff there. And it has an automatic elevator for every floor we build.
Basically, it looks like this is mostly to add bedrooms and stuff. Nothing fancy like the rooms in the houses… Sis gets the big one, and we each have our own suites, you know? Us companions I mean, though I’m special acorse. Like AJ but, you know, more equal and stuff. Plus, I slept with Sis… okay, okay, it was before we were us in those bodies, but that counts right? In fact, since we was twins in the Potterverse, we slept together a whole bunch before we inserted… course that was, you know, platonic? Fraternal? Something. Not sexual or nothin’. Anyway the apartment building has more rooms for guests. Like Uriel or something I guess.
The Apartment building is 6 spaces per floor, each 7 by 10, central hall is 2 meters across. Has an elevator, I said that… but it don’t go nowhere yet I guess. Every apartment we build comes with a Comp phone that maps the house and apartment and has its own number. That’s good, saves programming or what have you. We can upgrade with smartphones, but everyone gets a basic model… modle? how ever you spell that.
Huh… look at that. Says we’re supposed to have a week’s downtime between jumps. Weird. Don’t think anyone’s told Sis that. Says we can upgrade to a month. We should totally do that… and make it so Sis has to spend it with us instead of just jumping into the next thing. She needs downtime… needs to learn to relax like the Zane-Man can! ‘I Need More Time’, it’s called. Sold [15/235/250 BP]. Mustn’t forget to tell Sis…. wait, what’s BP? Oh…
Apparently, we start with 250 Build Points, BP I guess. Oh. That is cool. ‘All That Space’ [20/215/250 BP] makes Companion Rooms & Closets bigger on the inside and customizes the bathrooms. That’s a good one. God Room for Sis… that’s a suuuper nice room it says. Also bigger on the inside. She wants that… even though she doesn’t spend a whole lot of time in the House. Dunno why she’d want a magically growing bed. She only ever sleeps with Ziggy. Calls him her little teddy fuzz. Doesn’t look like a Teddyursa to me, but Sis is weird sometimes. [30/185/250 BP]
Hmmm… Medical Facility [15/170/250 BP]. Boosts the Medbay with more beds and puts it on the ground floor of the Building, but that takes two spaces. Still room for Uriel. Wait, Armory [10/160/250 BP] takes up another space, but we need a place to show off our good gear instead of just pulling it out of crates in the Warehouse… and this will port them to us if we summon them. Accio Pulse Rifle! And Game Store [15/145/250 BP] Hella yes. Buy and sell games from any Jump we pass through. Hobby shit too. Nicenice. Bookstore [15/130/250 BP] is a ditto. General Store [15/115/250 BP], Clothing Store [15/100/250 BP] Sweet. It’s like. Umm… a mall! With people… person living in it. Wait, how many points do I got left? 100? Cool… lets see. And I used 7 rooms left of 6? But where’s Uriel gonna… Weird… oh… just got a notification that the elevator goes to the second floor now… huh… oh… look at that, there’s this… framework in blue lights. Okay. I should keep track of that.
Oh. Says we can move the pool inside the building… that’ll clear up some floor space. But naw… swimming outside is better. Oh Excellent! Actual apartments! Says they are we can have as many as we want… oh… but each takes up a chunk of warehouse space… says we can cram up to 8 companions into each Apartment? Sweet. 8 Uriels… no, wait, that’s not how that works. I mean, 8 guests. Yeah, that’s what I mean.
Hmmm… Godly Kitchen improves the kitchen? How? We got all the appliances… wait… it says that simple foods can’t be ruined anymore. A kitchen that will stop Sis from burning the foods? No more crunchy ramen? Yes. Yes! Must have! [30/70/250 BP] is a bunch but who cares! Edible foods at last!
Still got more. Bathhouse? We got bathrooms already. Naw. Ooo… Basements! Sis has been complaining about no basements! Whoaa… that’s a lot of points… eh… hey, I got exactly that much left! Sold! [70/0/250 BP] And that’s it! I spented all da Choices!
I looked over Zane’s… notes… and the pamphlet… not bothering to tell him that “No Time To Waste”, the option that let me instantly trigger the next jump, was free. This was clearly important to him. I reached up and patted his head “You did good. Not exactly what I’d have spent the Choices on, but close enough.” I looked over at the ST:TOS themed VMoD… I guess that was the thing now… and shrugged. “We’ll worry about that in a couple of days. Let’s get our relaxation on. And… don’t worry. I’m not touching anything alcoholic. Not for at least a couple of years… maybe decades. My head really hurts.”
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