World 29: Supernatural

Turn Turn Turnabout

Previously: In Which I Accidentally the Whole Guild

Themesong: Losing My Religion by R.E.M.

We ended things with a bash, as was tradition, but just as me and mine have our own customs for times such as this, so too does Fairy Tail. When a member of Fairy Tail leaves the guild, they have a ceremony, wherein (after one monster of a going away ceremony) the departee is read out. It’s pretty passionate stuff.

There are three rules. The first two are standard security NDA stuff (don’t give Fairy Tail’s secrets out, don’t use guild contacts for personal gain)… but the third… ah… that’s pretty nice; “Though our paths may have diverged, you must continue to live out your life with all your might, never considering your own life to be insignificant, and never forgetting about the friends who loved you.”… see? Nice? A little wordy, but it gets the point home. Reads a bit better in Japanese…

Anyway, arriving back at the Warehouse, I glanced over at the VMoD… and swore. “Three Blind Jumps in a Row? Is this the Century of Screwing with EssJay’s Genre Savvy?.”

Zane gave the machine a glance and grunted, “Supernatural? Bit vague ain’t it? Something generic like Great Detective?”

I shook my head, trying to shake the cobwebs off the unpleasant memories of hundreds of annoying memes and really offensive youtube videos. “No…  It’s a show. TV show. Crappy monster of the week tv show. Kinda-like Charmed I think, except with gay vibe brothers. Dean and… fuck… Sam? Maybe? They drive around in a car and kill monsters or some shit. I’ve seen like… two minutes of one episode before realizing it was bollocks.”

“So we’re going in with no information besides what we can glean from the Screen Text?” Velma asked. “That doesn’t sound too bad.”

“Looks like,” I agreed, gnawing on my lower lip. I had a bad feeling about this. “On the plus side, this is modern day Earth. We might be able to pick up more media that might be in a Jump.”

“Assuming all copyrighted material in this world isn’t totally different,” Yoiko pointed out.

“Assuming that, yes,” I growled. There were usually some differences in material in any fictional universe. Like… Remember Last Action Hero? How the Terminator had been played by Stallone instead of Ahnold? That kind of thing. Usually the touchstones were still there, but things could end up changed both in a big way and in small ones.

Ranma, for instance, is a character from Shonen Sunday, the flagship publication of the Shogakukan company. Shonen Sunday’s major competitors are Shonen Jump from Shueisha and Weekly Shonen Magazine from Kodansha. Since Shogakukan and Shueisha are independent companies under the Hitotsubashi Group Keiretsu, it makes sense that both Shonen Jump and Shonen Sunday were available for sale in the Ranma Universe… simply with a different title in the place of Ranma… in this case, Rumiko Takahashi’s Urusei Yatsura spin-off, Spacu Princesses, which starred Ran, Benten, and Oyuki having adventures. But as for the great rival publishing company, Kodansha? Not a trace. So that was the question; how closely would the world of Supernatural mirror Origin Earth? And how would I know the differences? Oh well, no way to know until we had boots on the ground.

Although I had no intention of doing my actual build already (I had a month to hash these things out), I motioned for Zane and Velma to join me while waving everyone else off to get some zzzs, then took a seat on the bar stool with the crushed black velvet upholstery that had been placed before the VMoD by whoever’d installed it. I certain wouldn’t own something so… outre. On the screen was the typical Wheel of Location, with its eight slots.

“Why do they even bother?” Velma asked.

“I know,” I agreed, shaking my head. There were the standard eight wedges, one of which was Free Choice (a common but not universal possible result), but aside from Purgatory, all the other choices were in the American Midwest or West Coast. “What the hell does it matter if we start in Oregon or Palo Alto as opposed to St. Louis or Sioux Falls? This isn’t the 1820s. All of them are within a few hours of each other!” I huffed. And there was a location tax! (You know, a fee to pick one’s starting location). Don’t get me wrong, Purgatory didn’t sound like a fun place to visit… what with being a perpetually gloomy and endless forest filled with the spirits of monsters and whatever the hell Leviathans were. Still, a one in eight chance of ending up there wasn’t worth wasting fifty Choice on preventing. Honestly, starting location should have been free and Purgatory should have been worth points back.

I spun the wheel and ended up in Chicago. That, apparently, was the playground of ‘The Five Monster Families’… whoever  the hell they were. Clearly it was a play on ‘The Five Families’ of Mafia fame, but adding Monster totally broke up the flow. Five Families had resonance and gravitas. Five Monster Families sounded like the headliners of a destruction derby. The info-blurb talked about crooked cops and monster hunters and monsters preying on humans… but it was chicago… aside from the monsters being literal, nothing much would change.

Still, if the Location wheel was a waste of pixels (it really was… it even had the note ‘Regardless of where you start, you can travel everywhere important in the world, or even leave America.’… seriously… everywhere important in this world was in America? For fuck’s sake.) the next screen was Origins… and the choices there nearly made me eat my damned tongue. It was a litany of Monsters, Witches, Satanic Vessels, Angels, Demons, and GODS (oh, and Monster Hunters if one wanted to be plan human… but that sounded especially dull).

Now Potential Vessel for Lucifer was clearly insanity, while Demon and Monster were frankly terrifyingly bad choices… who deliberately signs up to be the bad guy? I mean, I’ve been a Super Villain, but I was pro-law and order and justice. I never signed on to the ‘Eating People’ or ‘Corrupting Souls’ camp… and who the hell sees ‘You were designed by a demon to be the host-body for the most evil being in the Universe’ and says ‘Yes, this is the choice for me!’? Even Witches were demonically inclined, with capstones like ‘Wicked Witch’ and ‘Servitude Spells’… which didn’t speak well for their moral compass.

On the other hand, Angels and Gods weren’t (necessarily) evil. In fact, they were almost too good to be true… Sorry, that was a terrible pun. Still, Angel  had some intriguing powers, but to be at full power, an angel required a host vessel as well, though that relationship appeared to be more cooperative than with Demons. And that left God… or rather ‘Pagan God’… wow… this show was really damned Christian… still… okay, yeah, it says that these gods have a taste for human flesh and most of them are evil… but the implication is that they don’t need human flesh and that they don’t have to be evil. So… there’s that. Plus, there’s no way could I pass up the chance to be a Pagan God… and for free? Sign me up!

I promptly proclaimed myself to be Skadi, the Norse Goddess of Winter (and Skiing… and Justice)…. Though I did consider making myself Sun Wukong since I have all these fabulous fire monkey powers…. But winter was my first love… aside from my dog. He was a big shaggy golden retriever… Best dog… that was before I discovered ferrets though. Anyway, Sun Wukong was out for several reasons. First off, dude is waaaay overdone. I get that he’s a lot of fun and all that, but there are many other deities out there who don’t get nearly enough press. Second, I didn’t really want to be a male god. Third, I had already been a stone monkey (see Disney Princesses). I didn’t really need to be a Buddhist one. And that was reason four… I wasn’t Buddhist.

Granted, I’m only a bit germanic, but that was a lot closer, culture-wise, to Norse than I was to being chinese. Anyway, Skadi is (forgive the pun) cool. How cool? Well, Skadi was a Jotun, a Giantess (the same race as Odin’s ultimate ancestor, Ymir… and Loki if you follow the Marvel Cinema Mythos), but not ugly or overly large for all that (nor blue-skinned).

She was the daughter of Thjazi, the greatest archer of the Norse Gods, and an accomplished shapeshifter. He usually took the form of a giant eagle and tricked Loki into bringing Idunn of the Golden Apples (The thing that keeps the Norse Gods Immortal) out of Asgard… then promptly kidnapped her. This, of course, pissed off the Aesir (the gods of Asgard), so they sent Loki to get her back. He did, turning her into a nut and flying off with her as a hawk. Thjazi didn’t take this lying down, and flew after Loki in his eagle form. The Aesir, seeing Loki being chased, filled the air with flaming arrows which burned off Thjazi’s feathers and he fell from the sky and was killed.

I know you’re wondering what this has to do with Skadi, well, as one might expect, she was not pleased that the Aesir had killed her father… so she took up her war gear and went to Asgard to seek vengeance. That’s right. A single Jotun woman set out to face all of Asgard… the same Asgard that had murdered her father. So bad ass was Skadi that the Aesir promptly offered compensation and to perform acts of atonement rather than fight her. You heard that right. The Aesir… the most violent of all gods, took one look at Skadi in her war gear and said “shiiiiit. We ain’t fighting her.” Thor, Odin, Baldr, Tyr… you know… warrior gods… were not down to fight her.

One of the acts of atonement was that they had to make her laugh… which they accomplished by tying a rope between Loki’s testicles and a nanny goat… hilarity ensued for everyone but Loki. Another was placing her father’s eyes in the heavens as stars. But the big one was that one of the gods would have to marry her. Odin agreed, but only on the condition that she select her husband by looking only at his feet.

She picked the one with the prettiest feet, thinking it was Baldr… but it was Njordr… you know, the one the direction ‘North’ is named for, and who the ‘Norsemen’ are named for. That Njordr. Who incidentally was a Vanir, not an Aesir… but whatever. They had two kids. You may know them. Freya and Freyr. The leaders of the Vanir. At least according to some sources. Norse mythology is a mess. Everyone agrees that Skadi and Njordr had two kids, but only some sources credit Skadi as the mother of Freyr, while others say that Freya and Freyr’s mother was Njordr’s sister. Some other sources say that Loki managed to reclaim Idunn with the help of Freya. This is what you get when most of your mythology is in the oral tradition… individual skalds messing around with the timeline. Kinda like modern comics, am I right? Anyway, for my purposes, and in my version of things, Skadi was the twin’s mother. So there. That’s settled.

Also, Njordr was a bit of a drama-queen. See, the ‘happy’ couple lived in Skadi’s mountain palace, the fortress of Thrymheimr (which, despite the name, was not home of Thrym, king of the Jotun… he lived in Jotunheimr… hurray for Skalds, am I right?). How long did they live there? Nine days. That’s how long it took Njordr to decide that he couldn’t take it and he got Skadi to agree that they could summer in his home by the sea, Noatun. In his own words, “Hateful for me are the mountains, I wasn’t long there, only nine nights. The howling of the wolves sounded ugly to me after the song of the swans.” Granted, Skadi’s reaction to living by the sea essentially boiled down to being annoyed that this one sea gull kept waking her up.

Anyway, she eventually left Njordr and married Odin. They had many sons, including several kings. Skadi is known as the ‘Wise God-Bride’ and ‘she who could not love the Vanir’ (you know, Njordr).

She also had a bit of a relationship (not sexual, despite his claims) with Loki. When he slandered her and the other goddesses, she is the one who placed the serpent above his head, its venom dripping eternally upon his face. Like I said, Skadi is one serious badass as far as goddesses go. Like Artemis without being a virgin, like Hera without being a bitch, and like Amaterasu without being a hikikomori. In fact, there was only going to be one minor problem with being Skadi… a couple thousand or so years of memories. Granted, they’d be memories from the Skadi that I’d have been had I been born Skadi instead of EssJay, but it was still going to be centuries of skiing, hunting, and being a warrior-woman so hard core she intimidated Odin.  Still, I’d accepted a decade or so of new memories several times when I’d been in my first century. I was now over thirteen thousand years, having been jumping for just under 12,990 years. Two thousand years to me would be right about the same as a decade to a sixty-five year old.

But let’s get back to becoming a God in general. First off, it definitely solved potential questions re: Gozer. The text of the Civilization Jump had been clear on the subject. No matter how close a God-King was to being an actual God, they weren’t one… though that was nit-picking of the highest order. But this? This was unabiguous. This was godhood… Pagan perhaps, but quite frankly, screw the SupernaturalVerse’s version of the Almighty. As  Jew, I found what little I knew of Supernatural’s lore to be an affront to the image of my people’s deity… and to most people’s world-views.

But one copes with what one’s given. And in this case, being a God gave me me not one, but two free perks (one of which was really creepy)… and access to, get this… Immortality! IMMOR-FUCKING-TALITY! As in never experience mortal disease, never experiencing fatigue, never experiencing pain or aging… unless I chose to! Toggleable immunity to time itself. Unless I died in violence or an accident, I wasn’t dying. Full Stop. Ever. Hell, if (when) I bought this, I could be any age I wanted, at any time… as the mood struck me. I could not spend the three-hundred Choice Points fast enough. I know! Only three-hundred? Outrageous! I fucking love discounts.

The Creepy Freebie was called ‘Virgin Detector’ (okay… no it wasn’t. It was called ‘Virgin Sacrifice’… fucking showrunners… most non-christian religions did not have human sacrifice… assholes.) Thankfully, the effects of the perk weren’t actually about sacrifices. All it really did was provide a sixth sense was never wrong about whether an individual had ever had sex before… oh, and it meant that the purer the ingredients in my food, the more delicious it would be… which, you know… arsenic can be pretty damned pure… then again, I’m immune to poisons… I wonder how arsenic tastes… oh… and when you make most food, you mix ingredients… that tends to, you know, make them impure.

Stupidity. Veal tastes soo much less good than seasoned and aged beef. Mmmm… I need a burger. Bacon, egg, smoked sharp cheddar, a little cracked pepper, slice of onion, little cocktail sauce, maybe some bib lettuce. That’s my idea of a proper sacrifice.

The other Freebie was called ‘In My Name You Pray’, and it was the ability to offer a blessing to a person or place so long as someone provides me with some kind of offering. Hell, the sacrifice wasn’t even needed as long as some worship or honest reverence was included. Sure, it was mostly small coincidences and a touch of divine magic, but wealth, health, crop success, romance… so many things were possible with a tiny shift in the fortunes of those blessed by the divine. All good in the hood… or rural farming community. I wasn’t picky.

Pagan Gods also gained discounts on such joyous things as ‘Force of Nature’ and ‘Trickster’, which of course I availed myself of. FoN granted me true mastery of the domain of Winter itself, allowing me to control natural sources of it, generate an endless stream of it, and even use it in ways that it wasn’t normally capable of being used… wind as a binding force for instance, or Winter as a force of renewal… remember, just because the far north (or south) gets nothing but snow, doesn’t mean that more temperate climes don’t see Winter as the time of much needed rains… Israel certainly does.

As for Trickster, well, it was not only the ability to conjure stuff ex nihilo (something from nothing) but it would allow me to use sugar to recharge my divine power… instead of, you know… human sacrifices, blood, or even vanilla worship… None of that. All I needed to summon anything from a VCR to a minor monster with a personality of my own design (didn’t allow me to grant big ugly a soul, alas) was a few gallons of kool-aid with smarties dissolved in it. I mean, seriously? Would you pass that up?

Both of them were available for the rock bottom cost of two-hundred each. A steal at twice the price… which I didn’t have to pay because discounts. Still, I was now down seven-hundred and there was so much on sale… and I hadn’t even gotten to Companions.

That meant it was time to go hunting for Drawbacks, unless I wanted to call it quits with what I had. Which I didn’t. Like I said… companions. And speaking of them… there wasn’t a standard 8 person group import option, but rather each of the origins had a free ‘follower’ companion import that didn’t grant bugger all besides a place in the world, but could be taken as many times as I wanted to take it… and a three person import to round out a jumper’s Monster Squad, Hunter Pack, Demon Rush, Angel Wing, Witch Coven, or whatever the fuck you call Sam & Dean… For Gods, it was, of course a Pantheon of three Gods… four if one counted the God-Jumper. Four Gods don’t exactly make a pantheon however, and I didn’t really want anyone of my companions running around copying my schtick… I’m crazy, but not crazy enough to turn my friends into gods and then ask them to behave themselves… I saw how well that had worked with them as the Magi Pantheon… the shenanigans they got up to before getting bored were the stuff of legends and that was without divine powers.

Still, while I was leery of making them divines, I would if that was the general consensus… but even though Pantheon was the cheap choice for me (one-hundred Choice) I was willing to pay two-hundred Choice to grant three of my people their choice of origin… if they could agree on anything. I offered the lead on this trio to Zane and he considered for a while, then picked Velma and Kendra as the other two members. Collectively, it took them less than two hours to settle on ‘Roadhouse Connections’, which made them Hunters.

“Really? Hunter? Why Hunter?” I asked, a little confused as to why anyone would rather be a vanilla mortal in this world of Angels & Demons (thank you Dan Brown). 

Zane shrugged, then grinned, “Angels and Demons are the badguys right? Plus they have to possess mortal bodies and that seems rude. Monsters are worse. And I ain’t no witch. I’m a wizard.” I smacked my head with my palm, but didn’t bother correcting him about the gender neutral nature of the word, J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter notwithstanding. “Pluswhich, Kendra thinks it would be a kick to be a Slayer again. Velma… well, the Scooby-Gang… wow… Kendra and Velma… both Scoobies in their own way…”

I glowered at him as he grinned like a duffus. “Yes. Thank you. I made that connection about an epoch ago… or, you know, once the Scooby-Doo Jump showed up. Anything else?” “Well, you’re becoming Skadi, right?” Velma asked. I nodded, wondering what her point was. “Roadhouse Connections gives you actual connections in the Hunter Community. As Skadi, you might even be a bit of a Patron Goddess to the Hunters, especially since I doubt you’re going to actually go around eating people?”

I frowned, then shook my head. “No. People are gross. Present company excluded.” I considered, then shrugged myself. “Sure, why not. I can spend two-hundred on a Hunter Road Trip!” Kendra and Velma high fived… nerds.

For my points, the trio got the perks ‘Hunting Things’ (A basic knowledge of how to ID monster activity, how to find the monsters that are active, and how to stop them from being active ever again… up to and including monster trapping for fun and profit) and ‘Clap Your Hands if You Believe’ (which made it much easier for them to convince normal people that monsters were real… or at least real enough to run the fuck away from while listening to the Hunter and not just panicking or freezing in terror). They also got the item ‘Family Business’… which was not only a stack of badges and business cards and fake IDs for all manner of useful covers… FBI, CDC, Federal Marshals, Local PD or Health Department… but also an idjit at a call center ready to verify that Agents Popkin, Tart, and Crepe were indeed on a case and should be given all the support ever. Not impressive, but potentially useful. They also each got a stipend of two-hundred to spend on Hunter Gear and six-hundred to spend on Perks and Items, with applicable discounts of course.

Most of the Gear was pretty meh, to be honest, but potential is found in the strangest of places and there wasn’t any point in not spending it. Kendra got a set of holy beads that could turn any standing water into holy water, a shotgun that always started a fight with eight normal rounds and two rock salt rounds, an easily concealed silver machete, and a shovel that made digging graves (or digging up graves) take minutes instead of hours and was traceless as long as it was clean. Velma, always the geek, got the EMF meter that detected ghosts… and whatever was tethering them to the mortal plane (this one was better than could be found in setting in two ways… it couldn’t be thrown off man-made interference… and it could be loaded onto a PDA or Phone as an app), the Laptop that never lost data and never got damaged by viruses or malware no matter how much porn one looked at, the Hunter’s Journal which was a family scrapbook of monster trivia, and a limitless supply of salt… yes really. Why salt? Apparently it’s good for warding away spirits and demons, for some reason.

Also on the subject of yes really… Zane used his entire stipend buying a classic muscle car… that didn’t need gas. He applied it as an import to VIncent the Assault Shuttle… so now we have a black and silver 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible that can talk to us… it’s like Knight Rider 1960. Car is a fucking land barge… with an arsenal and demon trap in the trunk. At least with VIncent inside we didn’t have to listen to the radio… there weren’t even 8-Track Tapes in 1957. Thankfully, there was power steering. No FM radio, but the Bel Air was one of the first cars with surround sound as an option.

“Why?” I asked, staring at the car sitting in the middle of the parking area. Yes, item purchases can be generated pre-insertion so we can check them out, change customization details… make certain we can reach the gas pedals. It’s like one of those selection screens on a video game where you can rotate the gun, car, or what-have-you, and maybe turn it purple or fuschia, or give it spiked rims or flame decals… only far more visceral. Like… new car smell. 

“Can’t have a Road Trip without a Car!” Zane said, lovingly running his hand over the hood.

“We could buy a Car,” I pointed out, motioning my hand to the garage area that was absolutely crammed with classic cars and a fleet of more normal motor vehicles from a dozen different worlds. I mean, seriously, I had a Cabin Cruiser and an ATV from Pokemon Trainer, a Mako from Mass Effect, an Aventador and an RV from Infamous, a Land Rover from Harry Potter, a Dwemer-made Steam Carriage from Tamriel, a Star Fleet Power Hauler from Star Trek, a Nissan 240SX (Silvia S15) from Ranma, and an Aristocat Limo from Swat Kats… and that’s just from the first ten jumps. I didn’t have a motor vehicle from Bastion because they weren’t particularly common and most of the time was spent in the wilderness.

From then on, I usually had a steadily expanding collection of cars from the later jumps, largely because more companions meant more personal vehicles, and longer views of things meant we tended to go after things we found attractive or useful. From just jumps eleven through fifteen (Great Detective, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Buffy, and the Metal Gears) the number of cars and car-like objects went from under two dozen to over three hundred. What’s spectacularly impressive about that is that none of these things were fiatbacked. None of them had been paid for with Choice Points… at least not initially. A small number had been imported one way or another, but for the most part, they’d just been cared for by some member of the crew until it was time to trade up or move on. 

Zane, the biggest but by no means only motorhead in our cadred, grinned like a goofball, throwing his hands wide as he cried, “I DID!” 

“I meant with cash,” I sighed, rubbing the bridge of my nose. “Not Choice.”

“It was either The Prince,” he said, patting the car to indicate that he’d named it, “or a handgun, a crowbar, and a set of handcuffs… I could buy all those too.”

I paused, then nodded. “A fair point. What else did you buy with your main CP?”

Zane grinned at me, and I knew he’d bought something that would annoy me. “I bought a restaurant!”

“A… restaurant? Like… a good one?” I asked, trying to remember the item list that I’d scanned. all I remembered was a bar… or was it a bar and grill? I hadn’t looked at it much… it was four-hundred choice if the purchaser wasn’t a Hunter. I typically don’t waste points like that, and so don’t bother with temptation. Items are the least of my concern most of the time.

“Yeah!” Zane enthused. “It’s called a Biggerson’s location. They apparently the 27th largest restaurant franchise in the United States of Monstertopia! And we get to eat there free!”

I reached up and put a finger on his nose to try and calm him down. He went crosseyed trying to see my fingertip as I commented, “We are on a road trip… and you spent two-hundred Choice so we get to eat free at a single location of a national franchise? If it’s a Bar and Grill that means its something on the scale of an Outback Steakhouse or an Applebees… So, like… between fifteen-hundred and two-thousand locations. What do they serve, anyway? Biggerson’s? What kind of name is Biggerson’s?”

“An awesome one!” he protested, pouting a bit… but he’s kinda irrepressible and sprang back almost at once. “And no, it’s not eat free at one location. Since we own one of their franchises, we get to eat free at any Biggerson’s! Guaranteed one in every major city! And that’s the best part! It’s an all you can eat place! Beer, Burgers, Chicken Wings, PEPPERJACK TURDUCKEN SLAMMER! Not exactly healthy, but entirely delicious! It’s guaranteed! And… and it follows us… well, not Biggerson’s… but we get another franchise type thing from now on… and the place always attracts hunters or similar and is a great place to pick up leads!”

“This food is got to be terrible for you,” I grimaced. Still, it might be handy to have an innocuous meet up spot.

“I’m Zane! I fear not the foods!” He crowed happily, thumping his chest.

I opened my mouth, caught sight of Kendra frowning at her boyfriend, and had to stifle a giggle. Finally, I managed to get out. “Thaat’s great, really. I’m happy for you… anything else?”

“Oh, sure,” he agreed, then began ticking them off on his fingers. “A tracking perk from the Angelic line called ‘Localization’ which can pinpoint anyone I’m seeking as long as they’re not warded against it specifically or using a supernatural method of hiding. An ‘Exorcism’ perk that allows me to Latinate any demons back to hell… even if they interrupt me while I’m getting my chant on. It even allows other people to finish chants I started as long as they know Latin too. That’s good if I get KO’d… not that I get KO’d much.” He flexed to show (I guess) how strong he is, though I think he was bragging about how tough he was, which isn’t really something you can flex. “And this thing called ‘Hunter x Hustler’ that makes me a great small-time hood and gambler! It’ll be loads of fun… people will probably try and shoot me!”

“Try to shoot you. Not try and… why am I bothering to try to correct you. Fine. Butcher english and get your crime on. See if I care.” I felt a stress headache coming, as I so often did with Zane. I waved him off and turned towards the others. “Velma? You find anything you wanted?” I asked, trying to ignore Zane’s annoying grin of superiority and smugness. Brat.

“I didn’t buy any items,” the girl detective said, tugging her sweater down. “I just bought perks I thought would be useful.” She seemed nervous to admit it, for some reason.

“That’s entirely acceptable… encouraged really,” I reassured her, patting her hand and not in any way fixating on how form fitting her sweater was.

“OH!” she said, looking relieved. “I wasn’t certain. When we did RWBY, it was important to think of the team, and Touhou and Fairy Tail were…” she trailed off, lacking the vocabulary to describe the previous two jumps.

“Power fests?” Kendra suggested.

Velma considered, then nodded, “That’s an apt description, thank you,” she said, then turned back to me. “Anyway, I bought ‘Bullshit Ballistics’ because I suspect that becoming a really good marksman will come in handy in a world full of human eating monsters. It also allows one to make speciality ammo that’s designed to hurt specific enemies without worrying about the modifications fu… messing up the ballistic profile. And I bought ‘Saving People’, which doesn’t help me do it, but anyone I help save will get over the trauma super easily… which seems nice… Those I kinda bought for the team… or the victims… but I did pick up stuff that’s just for me.” She blushed as noticed how raptly I was watching her as she speak. “Umm… I… you don’t have to stare.”

“But I like too,” I assured her. “You’re very pretty. But do go on, please,” I said, leaning back and taking a sip of my Fuzzy Navel.

She gulped, then nodded jerkily. “I thought… that is I figured that ‘Monstrous Durability’ would be handy… I mean, I don’t like being hurt… but it should keep me from getting injured most of the time… and ‘Clairsentience’ should be useful in detecting supernatural energies and objects… it also contains elements of psychometry… you know, object reading and stuff like that? Might be useful to know whether or not an item is cursed right?” She was fidgeting more now, feeling a little on the spot, more so, I think, than she’d been in the last two Jumps where everyone had been importing.

“Might be… but you’ve got to touch it to find that out. Might be enough to trigger it. Be careful with that power… but yeah, information is good. Good picks,” I said, hopping up from the bar-stool, then walking over and patting Velma’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. Just because the others aren’t importing, it doesn’t put the onus of supporting me just on you three. Normally, there’s a limit on how many companions I can have at full power in a jump, but it’s never been lower than eight… at least not in any jump where I’ve actually had eight companions. Importing just makes you fit in more; you don’t have to import to be active in the world of a Jump.”

Velma relaxed at that, blushing a bit more, then she released the bottom of her sweater and stole my drink, finishing it off with a hard swallow.

I chuckled, then, leaning against the redhead, I regarded the last of our current quartet. “Kendra?”

“I didn’t waste my time with perks,” she said with a shrug, her accent thicker than it usually is. She tends to revert to using it when she’s being aggressive or defensive.

I chuckled at that, ignoring the challenge implied by the set of her jaw. “What? You didn’t want the perk that actually relates to Hunting? Figuring that being Bonny Big-Bad Slaya makes you qualified to slay monsters?” I drawled.

She glared at me, then responded, “I should stab you for that. Anyway, I’m not sure we’re going to be doing much Monster slaying, per se.”

“As opposed to?” I asked.

“Demon slaying?” Kendra supplied.

“Skiing for 10 years?” Velma added.

“Bringing about apocalypse early?” Zane thirded.

I chuckled. “Wow… that wouldn’t be very nice of us.”

“We’ve saved the world plenty of times. We could totally play the badguys and let it all burn-” Zane said, grinning goofily.

“Freeze,” I corrected.

“Freeze, sorry,” he allowed, nodding a bit as if I was approving his plan.

I patted his shoulder. “You are mental.”

“You love me for it,” he said, scooping me up and giving me an annoying hug, rubbing his face against mine in a very canine way.

After I made him put me down, I turned to Kendra. “So? What did you get? A day spa?” I was joking.

“Actually, one of those is for sale in the Monster section. But no. I picked up thirteen bullets and The Colt.”

“The… Colt? Singular?” I asked. See, this is why I don’t typically bother to read stuff I have no intention of buying. It makes me come off as less of a know it all… also, I really didn’t care about this setting, and figured that, seeing as how it was almost certain to piss me off all the damned time, I might as well pace my outrage.

“Apparently, yes,” she said, holding the item in question up. “It is said this gun can kill anything… I believe they mean that bullets fired from it and not the gun itself. there are a limited number of these bullets… thirteen to be specific… but the combo comes with the instructions on how to make more of the bullets, which can kill anything that isn’t exceptionally powerful or doesn’t predate creation.”

“Huh… so… like, anything older than 4000 BC, Death, Lucifer, God, whatever… Interesting. Could come in handy I guess,” I commented, then hrmmed. “Don’t point it at me please.” She moved it away from me. “I take it that cost all your points?” I asked.

“Unfortunately, yes,” she confirmed as I turned back to the document, flipping through the equipment section to look at the spa. There it was… Canyon Valley Wellness Spa, four-hundred Choice for non-Monsters. Other properties for sale included a personal Purgatory (also for Monsters) that could host up to thirty-million souls (plus inactive companions if they wanted to hang out in an afterlife that the text called ‘a slightly worse neighbourhood than Hell’). Speaking of Hell, a personal ‘new and improved’ Hell, was available for Demons… or at least rulership of part of the local realm of torment in this and future jumps. I shuddered to consider the kind of Jumper who would actually buy that one. The Lucifer-Host-Wannabes even had access to an abandoned ghost town… why? No clue. And even less clue as to why anyone would want a rundown town in the middle of nowhere… especially since it remained uninhabited and abandoned in all future incarnations of itself.

At least the Godly location made some kind of sense. Sure, a twenty-four pie buffet was weird, but that was merely part of the luxurious accommodations at ‘The Elysian Field’, a swanky five-star hotel that was fully staffed and designed to cater to the demands of actual Gods… though it too was in the middle nowhere. The pies, on the other hand, were guaranteed to taste better than the ones made in Heaven’s kitchens… so that was a gimmee if I ever saw one. “Mmmm… Pie,” I commented, licking my lips. Across the room, Velma eeped and fell off her stool, blushing almost as bright as her hair.

Also on the God-list was ‘Mjolnir’ for the piddling price of a hundred Choice.  You know, the weapon of the Norse Thunder God, Thor? That Mjolnir. I laughed at that… Hell, I could use an artifactual lightning weapon. Apparently, if I paid for it, I’d have picked it up at auction… and unlike the Marvel version, it had no particular loyalty. It was also powerful enough that a human could use it to fell a pagan god in a single blow. I could even use the purchase to import Soul of Ice, giving it that same ability to do lasting damage to deities. It was a great deal for the price.. but buying it would spend me out completely. I had to get flushbooks before I spent more.

Three of four the lowest level Drawbacks were flavor and little more. Certainly, there was no major danger factor inherent in ‘Room For Two?’ would make everyone assume Zane and I were lovers and we’d be forced to deny it and plagued by the creep factor of it all. That was so doable that I had to have it, especially since that got me back into the black. I now had enough to afford either the hotel or the holy weapon.

‘Busty Asian Beauties’, which was also the name of one of the God-line’s two freebies would make me a perv obsessed with voluptuous oriental women, but that wasn’t much of a change, so I had little trouble taking it, which got me enough to get Mojo and the Hotel with the pie… I needed the sugar… and, well, pie! Pie better than HEAVEN could make! That’s like so much pie it’s practically tau… wow… lame math joke. Bad me.

I could also have taken ‘Whiny’, a drawback that would make me… well… Rarity (of MLP:FIM fame)… and ‘Inconceivable Eldritch Horror’, the only one with any real bite from the bottom four, would strip me of my shapeshifting and all powers like Conduit that relied on unusual biology… but all those would get me was some more god companions. If I wanted anything worth buying, I’d need something with more oomph, or to take both, and that was a little more annoyance than I was willing to put up with if I didn’t have to.

The two-hundred pointer Drawbacks were no fun; a drama spike, a ‘Watch What You Eat’ spike, an addiction to demon blood, and — worst of all — a gradual power loss that would eventually turn me into an ordinary human. No thanks. In fact, fuck no. Some of the three-hundred pointers weren’t that bad.

Sure, the ‘Jumper Tablet’, which told everyone how to kill or imprison me and which would instantly humanize me or any of my companions that touched it, was an absolute no go. Three-hundred Choice for a chain-ender that likely to end my chain? Fuck that noise. The other three, however, were varying degrees of ‘Sure, why not?’.

They all did the same thing, essentially… made me an enemy of Heaven, Humanity, or Hell, respectively. I considered just settling with what I already had. I certainly didn’t need anything more… but a bit of soul searching told me I was going to get on Hell’s bad side regardless, considering that demons are assholes. Now, knowing what little I did of this show, I suspected that I’d find the local angels just as annoying, but there was a chance that they were merely moralizing pricks, rather than murderous holy crusaders, so I figured that being one of Heaven’s Most Wanted if I didn’t have to would be taking things too far, but I might as well make an enemy of Hell and get points for it. Flying under the radar when the fate of the world is on the line isn’t my gig. As for humanity? Being hunted by humanity would be just unfun.

Also… The FBI and the Winchester Brothers (the MC’s of the show) were deemed as a threat on par with Heaven and Hell. That kind of told me everything I really needed to know about the competence of everyone involved.

The drawbacks had given me three-hundred extra Choice to spend, but one of the lines from ‘Enemy of Hell’ bugged me… Demons could possess my Allies. I could purify them, of course, but not before they caused… mischief, drama, and all around unpleasantness. Thankfully, there was an Item that blocked demonic possession… ‘Matching Tattoos’ which was a guaranteed method to ward off demonic possession! One that couldn’t be burned out of me. One that was damned hard to burn off or remove from my allies. One I could apply it to anyone I wanted… And there was a matching one called ‘Angel Proofing’ that made one invisible to the divine powers of even archangels! Interesting stuff… 

I wasn’t absolutely certain it would block possession in this setting if I took the drawback. The drawback didn’t say anything about nullifying defenses, so I doubted it, but even if it did it would be good going forward… especially since I could slap one of these things on any ally, not just a companion. Unfortunately, the pair cost four-hundred, not the three I had. After a bit of soul searching, I decided that I could cope with being a Whiny brat for a decade if it helped in the future. 

That left only the two ‘divine’ freebie items. As I mentioned before, one was ‘Busty Asian Beauties’, which was a lifetime subscription to a triple-X multimedia brand that catered to any one demographic or fetish. Magazines, films, even a website (if the setting I was in had an internet). It would all be there. A complete run of the magazines too, just for the completionist collectors out there. I took it, of course… though I’m not telling you what demographic or fetish. That’s for me to know and you not to. The other one was a creepy-ass ‘Scarecrow’ that would keep pests, blights, and inclimate weather from damaging any field it was left out in. I guess that’s kind of nice, though I would never have paid actual CP for something like that. Maybe if I ever end up in a farming Jump it will come in handy?

I was all set for Insertion… all that was left was Ahab and Joy. I couldn’t stop them from importing, even if I wanted to, without another deal with the guy upstairs, but I could hint strongly that this might not be the best jump to come into. My hints didn’t work, of course. Action Junkies, the pair of them.

They came in as a Monster (Ahab, a Shapeshifter who could take on any human’s appearance, down to DNA, fingerprints… wounds)… and an Angel (Joy). Seriously? These two. Good lord. At least Ahab got his hands on free monster chow and all the borax we could use (apparently good against Leviathans?) out of the deal… along with spooky eyes and the inability to be sent to heaven or hell. Joy got Angelic Radio, Holy Oil, and Angelic Grace… and the ability to possess people. So yay?

But sheesh… this world was fucked up and they were going in hardcore. Why? Because they’re insane. Clearly. Then again… how long would it take me to make sense of this place myself? I guess I’d find out. I pressed the button.

INSERTION

Four years! Four Fucking years. That’s how long it took me to make any god-damned logical sense of the pantheonic clusterfuck that the mythology of this world is. Seriously, God apparently caged his sister ‘The Darkness’ to create the world, then sealed her away inside the mark of Cain… which he gave to Lucifer, his most trusted angel… who got corrupted by it… only now God was missing, Lucifer & Michael were plotting to bring about the motherfucking Apocalypse because why the hell not, and half the remaining Pagan Gods (And boy howdy were we fucking easy to kill in this universe. I was wearing my armor all the time here and pulling like zero punches any time anything supernatural looks at me cross-eyed.) were plotting against Lucifer… though some of those dipshits were planning on betraying each other to settle old grudges or because they thought those two angelic fucks won’t betray them in turn. Morons.

Seriously… I hated this place. Everything was varying shades of awful, horrible, terrible, or creeptastic… and almost invariably for the lamest, most inscrutable dramatic reasons.  Hell had a goddamned revolving door. Lucifer was aiming to break free any damned day, and with God AWOL, the Heavens were apparently being run by these Archangelic turdfaced yahoos who were the kind of holier than thou idiots who don’t realize they’re the badguys until you ram a sword through their egos… oh, and in four years I hadn’t seen hide nor hair of the actual existence of Mohammed or Jesus or Moses, so the show wasn’t just a dick to Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists, and Pagans. It was kinda a dick to the mythology it claimed to be backing too.

Which goes a long way to explain why I was in New York City watching the ball get ready to drop, on New Year’s Eve 2009, with Vivian primed to hijack every TV and Net Feed across the damned planet. I’d decided to play this all on one roll of the damned dice, one massive fuck you that should not ever work, but since the Supernatural in this world is objective fact, I could do this shit. I had the power.

See, way back in Civ, I bought this perk that allowed me to say things as they were, to speak truth and remove everyone’s blinders. So that’s what I I was going to do. Fuck secrecy. Fuck a war as old as time. Fuck keeping people in the dark. Fuck superstition and blind faith and a world where humanity was little more than cattle.

As the ball dropped, I stepped up onto the podium, booting some idiot celebrity off with a kick, and turned to face the crowd. I dialed up the glamor to fifteen, as I spoke, “Hello! People of Earth. My Name is Skadi. I am the Goddess of Winter. That’s a fact. Watch as I freeze these nice policemen into statues. Don’t worry, they’re not dead. Watch as I make it snow… and make it stop. See? Goddess. All those other gods? Real. All of them. Had lunch with Kali about six months ago.”

“Now, before you scream ‘Hurray!’ or pledging yourself to Odin or Zeus or Amaterasu, I should tell you that this also applies to the Abrahamic god as well… and none of them are worthy of your praise. They’re all jerks, all horrible horrible beings who only about what they can get from you. And there a monsters out there in the dark. Horrors right out of myth and legend that eat your kind whenever they can get away with it… which is all too often, since many of your leaders are under their sway, usually for the promise of power or immortality So not are you all screwed six ways to sunday, but there’s very little good news.”

“In fact, things are about as bad as it gets. The Archangel Michael and Lucifer are planning on bringing about the end of the world just to prove, once and for all, which of them loves Big G God more. They don’t even vaguely care about you mortals. Not even a little, except as tools or toys or vessels. Yes. Angels possess mortals just like Demons. Yay! You’re meat suits, don’t you feel good?”

“And to us Gods, you’re a source of power. We barely care about you either, except when we’re eating you or raping you or just making fun of you. See this? Watch as I create Paris Hilton and Justin Bieber and make them punch each other. I told you, I’m a goddess. But don’t worry… There is one spark of good news… if you want to look at it that way.”

I paused, grinning a grin that said ‘I hate you all, each and every one of you’, before continuing, giving the folks at home time to get their brains back in the game, so to speak. “See, here’s the thing. It’s all a power game. It’s all about faith. And I’m speaking the absolute truth to you right now… all of you who are listening to my words know I am… It doesn’t even matter if you speak English, because all I have to do is speak the truth and you’ll know it even if you can’t understand me. So here’s the truth. If you give me all your faith, all the faith you’ve ever wasted on these misanthropic, power mad fucknuggets, all the worship they’ve lied over and over and over again to get you to give to them… I’ll do my damnedest to stop them… oh, and I’ll even try and fix global warming for you? How’s that sound? And if you want to sacrifice anyone to me… I like Priests. Especially the ones who preach hate and fear and tell you that if you give them money or murder someone for them they’ll make sure you get into Heaven. I also really like Rapists, Corrupt Politicians, and Oppressive Dictators. So, go kill them too… but no killing innocents or virgins. That I don’t like. Waaay too bland. And no killing that one neighbor you can’t stand. This isn’t carte blanche to be a jerk.”

No Gods or Kings? Ha! In this world there were gods… and human biases had obscured the truth for so long… but Truth… ah… Truth… Truth shall set us free… and… I hope I never, ever, get to feel a rush like that again. I didn’t know how long it would last, but for the next little while, I had the faith of billions of very very betrayed people all lusting for revenge against the powers that were.

Demons popped up like jack in the boxes, Angels swooped from the sky, Monsters boiled out of every dark space… and I showed them the power of a really pissed off humanity, acting as a conduit, paying back ages of abuse and neglect and sacrifice…

I erased them all. My power sunk deep into the fabric of that world and I scrubbed them away in one mounting wave of anger.

As the field of battle cleared, I went deeper, tapping into the supernatural supports of the world, reaching out, and down to the souls in Hell, the souls of Purgatory, all the collective rage of the human race betrayed and asked them if they’d surrender their existences to get revenge against an uncaring and brutal God… and they would. Gladly, gleefully, with malice aforethought, they surrendered themselves to me, allowing me to free them of their endless torment, which I did in exchange for power.

Such insanely massive power… no one should have it… no one at all… So I gave it to God… Finding him was childsplay with that much power. I gave it all to him, and with it a sense of just how monumentally he’d abused his power, his post, his sacred trust. I don’t know if it killed him or if he realized just how awful he actually was, but in a moment, he was gone. He and his idiot bitch sister Amara and all the rest of them… gone… poof. As if they’d been a bunch of fairy tales all along.

And then I fixed Global Warming… and, with the power of Hakutaku’s Gift, I erased everyone’s memory of what had just happened. That’s the great thing about that power… and the terrible thing too. I can change the past, but changing it won’t make anyone who wasn’t dead dead… and it won’t bring anyone who was killed back… and now there were no monsters… no demons… no angels… there were no gods but me… and no one knew I existed. Except my friends.

“Did you just… change the Paradigm of this world?” Velma asked.

“Ayup,” I said, feeling drained. “It sucked… I want icecream.”

Next: World 30 – Hack the Gibson

Resources: Build, Document

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

Advertisements

World 28: Fairy Tail

IN WHICH I ACCIDENTALLY THE WHOLE GUILD

Previously: Don’t Ask

Themesong: We Are Young by FUN.

“Fairy Tail…. Not Tale?” I asked, staring at the VMoD’s artwork. The words were printed in tall blocky letters with weird serifs that looked a little like the eaves of a house. In fact, the FAIR looked like a row of brownstones to some extent. Then the Y came, and it dipped down below the other letters, then the T, which looked like the top of an Anchor… only to end with an L that had a barb like a fishhook. It was stylized, but weird… and weirder still was this logo that looked like a phoenix chick on skis… or maybe a toboggan. I really had no idea what to make of it.

“Great… Another blind jump… This one blinder than the last,” I remarked to Zane, bringing up the blurb and giving at a once over, emerging no less confused. “Well… the basic intro makes this world seem a little more goofy, a little more cheerful than Japanese Mythopornotopia, though, so there is that,” I pointed out.

Zane, who’d been reading over my shoulder, added, “Earthland, Wizard Saints, Guilds, a currency called Jewel… Is this an Anime? It has the feel of one, but I don’t see a bunch of Japanese names… A kids book?”

I pointed to one of the drawbacks. “Kids books don’t usually have fan service,” I said. 

He grunted, but nodded. “Soo… there’s no way to know, it seems.” He paused, then added, “You know, until we get there. That Flore place.” He pronounced it like ‘Floor’.

I snorted a little. “Not Flore… Fiore,” I pointed out, pronouncing it ‘fi-OR-eh’. “The Kingdom of Fiore.. population seventeen million… Maybe it’s French animation. Fiore sounds French… or Italian… and one of the local Wizard Guilds is apparently called the Oracion Seis… that could mean the Oracion Six in French. I’m going to guess French Animation.”

As I looked through the literal fuckton of massively expensive and not at all discounted powers, Zane whistled, “Hoy! Check it. Another companion import option that covers everyone! I love these!” He said, then noticed what I was looking at. 

“Damn! The top tier has some nice stuff, but it costs 1000 CP to pick… 900 to get a random one. Ouch!” He said, leaning in a little closer. “Well, you might as well grab one.”

“Agreed,” I said. “None of the gear interests me… but these perks are called “Magics”… I wonder just how many of them I’ll be able to gank with Copycat Technique… and how much trouble that will cause me if I demonstrate that power?”

“No way to know until it happens, but I’m willing to bet that, with this many magics floating around, most people are fairly proprietary about their power-set,” Zane said. “You should be… circumspect.”

I nodded at his advice, then grinned. “I will. Or at least I’ll give it a try. Depends on how the world plays out in practice. I can do stealth if I need to,” I pointed out, then scooped up the dice to roll for my starting location and my starting location. I ended up seventeen years old again and in a town called Onibus for the first time.

Onibus was, at least according to the single sentence description, a theater town with a train station… At least I assumed that’s what ‘rail-enabled’ meant. Not much for a claim to fame, but the amount of information I had to compare it to wasn’t much. The other potential starting locations were the merchant town of Magnolia (home to Fairy Tail, which, it turns out is Fiore’s strongest Guild… I wonder what, exactly, they do? Are guilds production associations in this world, as they were in the real world, or adventurers, as they are often depicted in fantasy fiction?), Crocus (capital of Fiore and home to an arena for magical games… they probably mean combat and not some kind of formalized sport), Balsam (a spa town with ‘jumping nightlife’… I hope that’s not a euphemism for chinese vampires…), Hargeon (an old and beautiful port… and apparently the starting point for what must be the MC, a girl named Lucy Hartfilia… at least, she’s the only person mentioned in the intro by name), Oshibana (a town so boring it’s known for its central rail station… seriously, it’s apparently the kind of town that people spin conspiracy theories around because it’s that dull IRL), and Acalypha (which, despite a name which sounds like Apocalypse, seems to be only remarkable because the local guild is a merchant guild instead of a wizarding one.

Apparently, being a Wizard was what this story was all about (how very Harry Potter… not that it was the first story like that… but certainly the first jump I’d been to where every option was Wizard (or Witch… and I cannot tell you how much I despise that gendering of those titles. A Witch can be either, as can a Wizard… thank you very much, Miss Rowling… anyway).

Anyway, no matter which of the four Identities I picked (Drop-In, Guild Member, Citizen, or Starting Guildmaster), I’d get one C-Class (the lowest listed on the Machine’s screen) Magic for free… or I could trade it in for a hundred CP discount on a Magic from a higher tier. I could also get another hundred CP off the price if I rolled for a random magic inside a given tier, which was lovely, especially since I didn’t really have much idea what the limits of these magics were. All I really knew were that the list included eighty-five magics spread across C, B, A, S, and X-Classes and that, while some of them sounded silly and or useless, many of them sounded quite powerful… like God Slayer and Satan Soul.

There were even two different versions of Copy Magic, one of them A-Class, the other X-Class. Both allowed the user to copy someone-else’s magic, with the lower level one copying the target’s form as well, and the higher tier power allowing one to instantly copy, master, and then nullify an opponent’s magic. So, yes, it was possible. Didn’t tell me how unpopular it was, but the fact it was a known quantity meant that I’d be able to pass my ability off as, perhaps, a variation of the lower one. I certainly didn’t think I could afford any of the 1200 CP, undiscountable X-Class Magics. That would be stretching the budget a bit too much… and (to be honest) the all sounded extremely circumstantial and or broken… or both. Hell, the Great Fairy Magics promised ‘Infinite Magical Power’… at the cost of taking 700 CP worth of Drawbacks (one of them a six-hundred pointer)… for no points. I didn’t even want to consider what the in-setting and personal cost of using Fairy Heart (the infinite magic thing) would be.

As for the other X-Classes? Etherion was a nation buster magical attack, Face was a wide area magic eraser, and Greater Copy Magic I’ve already covered. That was the only one that was tempting… but again… too broken to be any fun.

Still, I’d be a fool to pass up a chance at such power entirely, so I settled on an S-Class Magic (where things were given names like ‘Time Magic’, ‘God Soul’, ‘Rules of the Area’, and the aforementioned ‘God Slayer’), especially as most of the lower level ones sound fairly… limited…. I confirmed that I was trading in my C-Class Magical Power to get coupon, fed the machine seven-hundred Choice in fifty-choice increments, and gave the fourteen-sided die that dropped into the machine’s hopper a toss. “No whammies, no whammies!” I called as I waited to see which S-Class Magical Power I’d end up with.

“Looks like you got Dragon Slayer,” Zane said, examining the screen as it displayed what the result of the roll was… which was good, since the actual dice was pounced by Ziggy and batted across the cobblestones. Got to admire the silly-boy’s restraint. He sometimes forgets the rules and uses Hyper-Beam in the house. 

“Huh… not that I have anything against Dragons in general,” I commented, looking over the magic in question. “Apparently there are two types of this thing. Direct draconic tutelage… odd for Dragons to teach others how to kill dragons, but okaaaay?.. or you can have something called ‘Dragon Lacrima’ implanted in you. Dragon Tears? Odd.”

Zane nodded. “Lacrima Creator says that they’re crystals of solidified magic power.  Lacrima. Crystal Tears I guess. Anyway, looks like Dragon Slayer lets you pick a magical element to become immune to.”

“Not just immune to it,” I said. “Looks like a Dragon Slayer can consume the element in any intensity less than Dragon Strength and recover expended stamina. That’s nice.”

“Less nice is the mandatory drawback that comes with it,” Zane pointed out. “Motion Sickness. Bleh. What kind of defensive power comes with a drawback like that.” I grunted in agreement. “So? Which Element you gonna pick, sprout?”

“I am not a plant-type,” I muttered, considering. “And it’s not defensive. Well, not purely. The description says that Dragon Slayer magic is highly destructive… so it must also include some hefty offensive abilities as well. Dunno what, exactly, since it doesn’t say, but must be something that can be used to take down a dragon. Maybe elemental power opposite the dragon type you’re meant to be fight?”

“Maybe. So? More Ice?” I shook my head. “Naw. Might as well pick up Fire. I’m already immune to Ice / Water attacks from being a Conduit and Lightning from being a Lightning Bender… but oddly Firebenders aren’t immune to Fire… just ask Zuko’s face.”

Toph, sitting on the couch nearby, said, “Ooo…. burn!”

“Exactly!” I replied.

“Oh no she didn’t!” Toph laughed.

“Oh yes I did! Take that Sokka!” I punched the air several times, then smirked at my own idiocy. “Wow… I’m lame… anyway… Immunity is better than raw power… I think. Soo… yeah. Fire Dragon Slayer it is.” I wondered what element(s) the canonical Dragon Slayer(s) might have.

“You are buying ‘Because I Have My Friends’, right?” Zane asked, pointing to the Companion Import option. It would cost me all my remaining CP, but it would grant each and every one of my companions a free C-Class Magic and four-hundred CP to spend. It even came with a discount on anything I personally had purchased… which at this point was Fire Dragon Slaying? or was it S-Class Magic? Hmmm… Either way, I would be needing Drawbacks if I was going to be anything other than a Drop-In in this strange and unfamiliar world… something I really didn’t want to do. Worldly knowledge seems like it would be key… otherwise we’ll end up wandering around going ‘Ummm…’ and getting into trouble. Not that we wouldn’t get into trouble anyway, but it’s nice to walk into trouble with eyes wide open than stumble in blindly.

The first drawback I settled on was the ‘Fanservice’ one I mentioned earlier. It was only a hundred, and (quite frankly) I can cope with the sudden and inopportune disappearance of my clothing once a month or so. A little embarrassment for enough CP to cover the cost of the Guild Membership Identity. That would get me some discounts, but more importantly, a background knowledge of this world’s particulars (and possibly languages). 

The Motion Sickness from Dragon Slayer would also have been worth a hundred if it hadn’t been required. It essentially meant that being in or on anything with wheels would make me want to hurl… ditto for watercraft. Thankfully… I can fly and teleport, so vehicles weren’t a serious concern for me… but I had problems with actual motion sickness as a child back in Origin Earth… I suspected this was going to bring up those memories, whether I wanted them brought up or not… ditto my lunch.

There were others that I considered and discarded. Specifically the six-hundred pointers. I didn’t really know who Acnologia the Dragon King was, but apparently he could solo the entirety of the Fairy Tail Guild… you know, strongest in the land?… without a scratch. I didn’t need him gunning for me. Ditto Zeref, whoever he was, but he had an entire empire on his side and was considered worth as much as an enemy as Acnologia. That counted out two of the three, and the third would seed Lacrima-copies of all my abilities all over the world… 

“What’s on your mind, not-sprout?” Zane asked, looking up from the tablet that had generated the moment I locked in the purchase of the Companion Import option.

“Zane… you’ve looked through the list of powers on offer here, right?”

“Yeah?”

“Does this world strike you as a place where even my most powerful abilities will really stand out? I mean, we’re clearly talking about elemental magics, eye-lasers… stuff like that. Tech Tree, Truth Speaking… There are a lot of them… but it doesn’t say they can use them at my skill level. Most of my abilities aren’t exactly world breaking.”

“You’re thinking of taking that Rain of Lacrima thing? The one that means the more powerful of your stuff is more likely to end up in enemy hands?”

“Yeah. I mean… it’s not ideal… but there’s already Ice Magic on the list… plus it looks like probably Ice Devil, Ice Dragon, and Ice God magic. How much more is a Conduit or a Bender?”

“History rewriting,” he pointed out.

I rubbed my chin, then nodded. “Yeah… I thought about that. Retcon is a powerful thing, but it can’t kill and it can only go back a month or so. Mmm… I’ll consider it.”

“Just as long as you don’t take Obsession, Outlaw, or Fairy Law,” Toph yelled from the couch. “Or Evil Twin!”

“Agreed,” Zane said. “We don’t need you in creepy stalker mode, hunted by the law, or, you know, picking fights with the biggest baddest Wizard Guild around. And an Evil You with an Evil one of us would be… weird.”

“Wasn’t planning on taking them. Was thinking of Bounty and or Ill-Adjusted,” I replied. ‘Ill-Adjusted’ would make me confused, shocked, or just weirded out by the magic of this world… that was worth a hundred. Bounty, worth three hundred, would stick a Dark Guild (read outlaw guild, apparently) on my tail… I didn’t mention that I was considering Evil Twin, which would only have the abilities I got locally… and only in magical item form, rather than in actual magical ability… and they’d be ignorant of my other powers. If I took that, I would be, perhaps, foolish to take ‘Rain of Lacrima’… or would I?

“She’s laughing,” Petra pointed out.

“It’s an evil laugh,” Francine added.

“She’s got a terrible nasty wicked idea,” AJ said, nodding sagely as if he’d known this was going to happen.

I burst out laughing harder, eyes twinkling. “It’s time to make some cheese, cats and kittens,” I said, licking my lips. Mmm… cheese. Taking Rain of Lacrima and Evil Twin and Bounty would grant me a total of eleven-hundred extra Choice to play with… and, if I played my cards right, I could minimize the risks from the worst of that combo fairly simply. If I needed one last hundred pointer, I could always get Ill-Adjusted… but I doubted I’d need it. Still, there was a certain humor in IA… heh… “I can use magic? Holy Shit! You have wings? Aaaaack! What’s wrong with you people?”… tempting… sooo tempting. 

“Are you certain this is wise, oh fearful leader?” Kendra commented. “Remember what happened last time?”

“I do, and I do. Look, it’s simple. Rain of Lacrima doesn’t even rise to the level of a scaling enemy unless someone actually manages to get all the Lacrima… and I have so many powers, perks, and abilities that they’d probably be immobile trying to use them all. And even if they just have a few of the best? Well, we’ll cope. Because the Rain doesn’t include your abilities. And the Evil Twin only includes a superficial copy of one of you… at random maybe. At worst, an evil Ziggy.” I patted his tummy. “That said, there’s a really really good reason to take it.”

“And that is?” Velma asked.

“It specifically says that they’re everywhere… waiting to be implanted. Not already implanted. It also doesn’t say that they go away once the jump ends.”

“Yeah? So?” Cirno asked, missing the point even as everyone else (besides probably Ziggy) got it. There was general laughter as they realized the implication. “It’s not like we can use them, right?”

I flicked her forehead. “It’s exactly like that. They’re nothing more than tools… and copies of my own stuff… stuff I know how to use better than anyone in this world will. I have centuries or millennia of experience with some of these powers… complete with growth. I don’t know what their power level will be for the scaling abilities like Conduit, but Conduit can’t really be used against me. I’m not even certain how Cole and Kessler even managed to hurt each other.” I shrugged. “We shall see. Perhaps this is a bad idea, but I doubt it.

I navigated away from the drawbacks, confident that I had enough CP to cover my bases. See, the jump pretty much offered everything I needed to deal with the Evil Twin & Bounty… even with Rain of Lacrima’s added annoyance value. Guild Membership costs me a hundred, which meant that, between my new S-Class Magic, my Companion Import, and my Identity, I’d spent half the twenty-two hundred Choice… it was time to abuse drawbacks a bit.

Guild Members got discounts on five perks… six if you counted ‘And I’ve Made So Many New Friends’, which was a mostly unlimited group companion purchase… and six-hundred CP before discount. Thankfully, Guild Member had a second, much better capstone. It was called ‘Power of Friendship’… and for the discounted price of three-hundred Choice, it meant that the more allies I had fighting alongside me, the better my chances of victory would be. Can you say score? Even if it wasn’t a 100% chance, it could get damned close. (Resourcefulness, Fighting Spirit, Thought Projection, Combat Experience, Power of Friendship)

I tossed out ‘Fighting Spirit’ because it had a wonky price and wasn’t really worth having to spend the left over 50 Choice, and ‘Combat Experience’ because I had that in spades. And ‘Thought Projection’ was a significant step down from, you know, telepathy. But I did buy ‘Resourcefulness’. It was  only a hundred, but it was the ability to make do with whatever was available in almost any given situation, or (at the very least), never have to worry about finding some way to survive in a hostile environment. That ate four-hundred, leaving me with seven-hundred… six of which was already earmarked for stuff that would make things sooo much simpler… and probably be useful down the line.

The first of those was the four-hundred pointer, ‘Second Origin’. No, it wasn’t another background. Rather, it appeared to be an entire secondary… I dunno what to call it. The document called it a ‘Magic Container’ or ‘Origin’; it was essentially (apparently) the thing inside you, the metaphysical whatever that sourced the magical energy a Wizard used to cast magic. I didn’t know if everyone had a Second Origin or if it was rare… but buying meant I had it and had it unleashed… unlocked… whathaveyou. An unleashed Second Origin grants the possessor a massive boost to their magical power, both in capacity and strength, which was hard to say no to. It could be used either in always-on mode to give a general increase all the time, or held in reserve and suppressed to save it for a trump-card in an emergency. It also, though I had no idea what this was, protected me from forcibly using ‘Third Origin’ against me… on me? I dunno. Was probably a bad thing.

The other earmark was for ‘Absurdly Lucky’… which wasn’t really that absurd, but it was nice, especially for the cost of two-hundred Choice. All it meant was that I’d tend to luck out in interesting ways… all the time. Getting missions that turn out to be more important than they should have been, getting a better reward than expected, running into important or interesting people… whatever the situation… things would have a tendency to just end up paying off for me better than they would have for other people. It was a luck perk I could get behind, a soft form of plot armor that guaranteed nothing besides making life a bit more interesting and rewarding. 

So that left me one last hundred, and I considered spending it on a magical item called ’18x Gale Force Reading Glasses’… which, as the name suggested, allow one to read and comprehend text eighteen times as swiftly… you know, in 1/18th the time. A pair of them could be really helpful… assuming they weren’t something I could buy in jump or even make once I’d studied the local enchantment system. 

After a few hours deliberation, I decided that the glasses were almost certainly the kind of thing that were readily available for purchase in setting. Nothing in the description suggested they were any different from a normal pair of what seemed like the kind of thing a magic rich society would turn out. That settled, I decided to opt instead for Magic Identification, which promised me insight into what type of magic was generating any observable effect… i.e. were my shots missing because the enemy had precog or because they’re slowing time or because they were moving at super speed. That kind of information could be very very handy… especially if, in future jumps, it scales to super-powers as well. While the general effect of each would be similar, countering each relied on different tricks or techniques.

Out of coins, I hit finalize on my build… only to get a pop-up on screen that said, “Due to a pricing change, you have 100 Choice remaining. Alternatively, you may choose a single C-Class Magic for Free.” I blinked, then checked what was going on. Somehow, during my build process, the price of an S-Class Magic had dropped, meaning that the 700 CP I’d spent on it was now the value for a random roll without out having to use the discount for trading in my base magic. I quickly checked over the document, looking to see if there was anything that I wanted at a hundred Choice… but there wasn’t.

Of course, I could have just turned off the Fan Service drawback, but I actually found that one funny, so I simply shrugged and bought ‘Writing Magic’, which would allow me to embed secret messages in books… messages that could last for decades and be read only by specific people. It wasn’t much, but it seemed amusing… and also like the type of thing I’d be very unlikely to actually witness someone using, and thus be unlikely to be able to Copycat. Plus, me buying (even for free) a C-Class Magic would discount any that my companions bought past the first… if any of them bought one.

And speaking of Companions… aside from the Pokemon Crew, most of my companions were still a little… umm… not quite talking to me after the events of the last jump. Zane seemed unphased by the whole process, in fact I’m pretty sure he enjoyed himself. The Mons seem to have taken it all in stride. Dyna especially… what with the tentacles and all… but the rest… umm… there was a lot of awkward silence and embarrassment and recrimination. Of the humans, only Toph and Uriel were speaking to me on anything like a reliable basis. Everyone else had retreated in on themselves. Kendra especially was speaking only in short snarky comments if she spoke at all.

Dunno what their problem is, or why they were specifically blaming me for what went down. It wasn’t like deeply embarrassing, humiliating, or down right creepy things didn’t happen to me too. Anyway, I promised them adventure and power, not safety. The universe is full of a great many unpleasant things and experiences, but it’s also full of amazing things and mind blowing experiences. It’s a trade off, and by following me, they gain abilities that help them cope with and fight off the darkness… even Kendra, who, let’s face it, would be dead if I hadn’t intervened. Being alive… and all but impossible to keep dead? Much better than the alternative. At least no-one got vored. Right? So, why the cold shoulder?

Okay, okay… I do know what their problem is… but it’s less trauma and more embarrassment, and that they’ll just have to get used to. If being embarrassed is the worst that happens in a jump, it’s been a relatively good jump.

Still, cold shoulder or not, one by one, they turned in their request forms, then vanished back into the depths of aggressive training, violent video gaming, or sullen drinking. I looked the reports over… Bloody hell, this jump could be a gamechanger. I’d asked each of them to supply a ‘nom de guerre’ for this jump, an idea of what kind of persona they’d like to have upon import, since there wasn’t much in the way of guidelines and it seemed like these Wizarding Guilds were more a collection of adventurers with a specific magical schtick than the Elminster style of all rounder.

Of course, I’d helped Ziggy with his build, getting him ‘Phasing Magic’ which allows the user to pass through solid objects without harming themselves or the object, but only worked over short ranges (like a couple meters maximum), as well as the ‘Strength’ perk, which meant that, even without magic, he’d be able to lift more and hit harder than those around him. To go with the boosted musculature, I also got him ‘Fighting Spirit’ perk, because the idea of the Zig just keeping going no matter how strong his opponent was was appealing and very in keeping with his mindset… in as much as he had one. As long as he had the will to stand and fight… you know, as long as he wasn’t actually KO’d, his body would respond to the imprimatur to keep on rockin’.

Sure, I hate to see him get hurt, but Ziggy is my stalwart little buddy; he likes gnawing on my enemies. I named him Ghost Thief Zig, of course and decided that he’d be a Siberian Wolf-Ferret this time. I had no idea if there was a Siberia in whatever world this was, or if there were Wolf-Ferrets in it either… but the system accepted my data input without a blip and displayed a truly impressive image of a speckled black-on-white ferretoid about the size of a cougar with a big fluffy wolf-tail and somewhat shaggy fur that looked like it would be a pain to brush… then again, that’s half the fun of pet ownership.

Zane had taken his chances rolling for two B-Class and one C-Class Magics  (well, technically, he hadn’t needed to roll for the C-Class, but apparently, most of the Companions who’d taken C-Classes had drawn from a hat to minimize duplication among the eighteen C-Classes… well, seventeen, since absolutely none of them had thought my Writing Magic sounded like fun. Heathens.) For his C-Class, he’d gotten ‘Heaven’s Eye’, a magic that allows the user to zoom in their sight on objects or people up to five kilometers away, or to see through up to roughly fifty meters worth of solid material at a time.

The first B-Class he’d gotten was called ‘Sand Magic’, which allows the user to create and manipulate (big shock here) Sand, forming it into structures like castles or walls, or simply sandblasting the enemy. Since it could create sand, rather than merely controlling ambient sand… hell, just restoring and buffing beaches could be a valuable skill, depending on how fine of control on the type and grain size he creates he has… I wondered if he could create different material sands, or simply silica. White coral sand is valuable and volcanic obsidian and basalt sands have all sorts of interesting uses.

The second B-Class was, of all things, some lunacy called ‘Jet Magic’. I had to read the description five times before I actually believed what I was reading. Since rephrasing it would lessen the impact somewhat, I will quote it in full. “Using a magical jetpack, the caster either rockets around at high speed in the air or launches the jetpack at an opponent, latching it onto them and forcing them in a path determined by the caster.” Do you see this madness? A magical kidnapping jetpack… not an item… but a spell… somehow. I don’t even… I can’t… I am out of… words fail me.

Zane, of course, thought this was hilarious. Thankfully, he hadn’t made it part of his identity. Zane, the Sharp-Eyed Sandman he called himself, with a drawing of himself using a reiki finger gun… except generating sand bullets instead of spirit energy. He also pointed out that his sand could be a shield against damage… yes, thank you Zane, I have read Naruto. Well… some of it… and Toph was a top-class Sandbender. I’d seen her make recreations of entire cities out of sand with a single stamp. Girl was good… and now, I guess, so was Zane… or he would be once he practiced for a few decades. Maybe she’d tutor him… but then again, she was a really really bad teacher. Or at least spectacularly unmotivated most times. As for fifty meters of solid material? That’s about a third the long axis of an American Football Stadium… not the field… the entire stadium. Most buildings aren’t even close to that far across. 

AJ had snatched up the B-Class ‘Sword Magic’, probably as soon as he saw it was offered, giving him the ability to channel magical power through any sword he could influence. Yes, I said influence, not hold. Sword Magic granted him telekinetic control of numerous swords at a time, and though the number of swords started at four or so, it was guaranteed to grow with time and practice… not to mention storage space.

His free C-Class was, of all things, something called ‘Twirl-Twirl Magic’, which allows its user to spin a single target around in a dizzying manner…  or to spin the user like the Tasmanian Devil, all without making the user dizzy. I guess it might be useful… especially if he was wielding two (or more) swords as he spun. A built in protection on the spell limited the discomfort to the target to keep them from being killed or becoming nauseated, but that limitation could be overcome with enough practice or power… and intent to cause harm… though that would boost the effect to B-Class at the very least. He also picked up Resourcefulness, for fairly obvious reasons.

We’ve been together since the very beginning, him and me, through flush times and lean times…. what was the line? “Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all and, my dear, I’m still here! Plush velvet sometimes. Sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I’m here!” Gotta love Sondheim. And gotta love AJ. Always nice to know one has a skilled swordsman to get your back.

He called himself ‘Sword Arm Ajax’, which implied a defensive mindset… or maybe I’m reading too much into the name Ajax. I don’t monitor my companions’ reading tastes so I’ve no idea how much Greek mythology AJ knows… He could have chosen the name simply because it starts with AJ. But he does like to stand between me and danger. Maybe AJ is short for Aegis. I wonder if Sword Magic can be modified to work with shields instead… but then again, would AJ be willing to use shields instead of the more Gallade-like swords? Probably not. I figured I wouldn’t ask. He’s a good kid… even though at this point he’s fundamentally the same age I am.

What’s a few decades difference over almost exactly 13,000 years.  Oh… yeah. I’d passed my 13,000th birthday sometime in Touhou. Yay? Sometime in the next jump or two, I’d enter into my fourteenth millenium as a jumper. Ha. My perspective doesn’t seem to have changed much… or maybe it has and I don’t realize it. Regardless, like a child to its mother, AJ will always be a good kid to me… though I try to treat him with as much respect as he’ll let me. He’s precious to me… but the whole family is. Even when I’d lost my memory of who they were exactly, I still gathered them up and kept them close to me, protecting them and keeping them out of trouble as much as I could. The effort is what counts, right? 

If AJ and Ziggy were the least changed, Francine was probably the most changed from what she originally was. Of all the Mon, she liked her mon-form least, reverting only seldomly… But then, the body of an Alakazam would eventually kill them, the frailty of the physical form coupled with an ever expanding brain meant that they suffered for their incredible intellects more than any other living pokemon did. Which is a shame… and makes her tendency to remain in human form, even if her age reverted when a jump ended or she died, understandable.

But the change wasn’t just about prefered form. Most of the Mon stayed in humanoid form most of the time. Dyna and Zane almost never changed back outside of a fight, AJ and Petra almost never changed back unless goofing off, and RayRay and Ziggy usually only changed back in their sleep or when fighting or trying to scare someone. But they all tended to act like they had as Pokemon. Ziggy was a goon, RayRay slept a lot, and the other four were combat monsters. But Francy? Deeply cerebral though she was, she took every opportunity to turn convention on its ear, to redefine herself as something other than a brainiac kobold-thing.

She used TK as seldom as she could, rejoiced in mindless activities, and was deeply athletic, despite her slender frame and monstrous intellect. Case in point? She took Dancer, a magic that allowed the user to act as a kind of cheerleader, boosting the fighting capability of allies within a ten meter radius by use of magical dance moves. It also boosted the user’s own agility, allowing them to dodge almost any attack that might come their way.

That said, she still enjoyed being an obnoxious know it all whenever she could. That part was too deeply ingrained in her genome and psyche. I guess that’s why she took ‘Thought Projection’, the ability to use a D-Class or E-Class spell to transmit a sort of hologram of herself to speak with friends or taunt enemies remotely.

Thanks to that combination, she named herself Mind Dancer Flora… which was very interesting. I wondered if she’d been reading my Amber books… Of all my mon, (save Zane), she seems to have become the most human… but then again, the psychic Abra start out among the most human of mon as it was, even more so than the equally psychic Ralts or the fighting types who mimicked human martial artists. Of all of them, the Abra was the smartest, and I had to wonder if their fascination with spoons reflected much the same desire as Ariel’s fascination with forks… a desire to understand the strange creatures that they share their world with.

Hard to say. Then again… sometimes it’s hard for me to think of myself as human any more. I’ve spent too much time as other things; Asari, Vulcan, Elven, Cat, Spirit, Tengu… God… But maybe Human means more than just race… ask me again in another 15,000 years.

Dyna, by far the least human to begin with and, by any metric, still the least human, also took two magics… The first was ‘High Speed’ which allowed its users to go fast. How fast? Very Fast… somewhere around ‘jet plane’ Fast, but didn’t allow the user to fly… but thanks to Soar from Touhou, Dyna didn’t exactly need it to. Combining the two should easily allow her to keep up with low mach fighter-craft… and she’d be much more maneuverable. ‘Thread Magic’ was the second, and allowed the wizard to create all manner of magical threads… many of which could replicate the threads of a spider for tensile strength and stickiness… only scaled up to human or even monster-size, but could do many other things as well, such as lassos, garottes, or bungee jumping.

Still, she called herself ‘Hyperspider Dianna’, which was in no way creepy (warning, the previous contains sarcasm)… especially after what ‘she’ pulled in Touhou-land. No, I’m not going to talk about it. Use your imagination… I can almost guarantee whatever you’re thinking of, it’s not nearly extreme enough… Except for you. The one in the fedora. Yeah… you? Too far. The fact that she also had bought half a dozen Magic Sealing manacle-shackle-collar sets with the last of her points (yes, that was all a hundred CP for them… though they wouldn’t work very well on the most powerful of mages… or anyone with lockpicking skills) was just a bit creepier than I was entirely comfortable with… But at least she was on my side, right? My very own Dragon… i.e. a BBEG’s enforcer, not the big flying lizard.

My other dragon… the big flying lizard kind this time, RayRay, never one to settle for less than the best, spent almost all her points to get a single random roll from the S-Class table… (I don’t know why she rolled instead of picking… maybe she didn’t have a clear picture of what she wanted). The funny thing was that the same thing that allowed one of my companions to get an S-Class magic (the discount from me having bought it) made S-Classes cheaper than A-Classes, got to love insanity like that, right? Anyway, her roll had snagged her ‘Gravity Magic’, the ability to control and manipulate gravity in a variety of ways, useful for pinning multiple opponents to the ground, increasing or decreasing the effective weight of anything in line of sight that the user is aware of, crushing weaker magics, or even suspending things like people and rain in midair. She named herself ‘Skyfisher’. Somehow the idea of her manipulating such a fundamental force to get a meal fits. It’s scary as hell, but it fits. Gravity Dragon RayRay, floating her meals up to her in real time. There is no escape… unless you like plummeting to your doom to escape the jaws of the skydragon. 

She’d had fifty Choice left over, thanks to randomly rolling, and had picked up the Wardrobe item, which was (of course) bigger on the inside, and contained a copy of every outfit or armour set that had ever appeared in Fairy Tail. Sure, it was only cosplay copies, rather than fully enchanted, but it was a surprisingly cool thing for the giant (often annoyingly aloof) sky-leezard to buy that I sought her out for a noogie and to give her some Scooby-Snacks (she freaking loves these things. So weird.)

Her free C-Class Magic was, obviously, Sleep Magic. It did exactly what you think it did, allowing the user to put one or more individual targets to sleep, if they failed their saving throw versus charm… or however it worked in this world. Somehow, I doubted we’d be getting a crunch-complete copy of the rules any time soon.

Petra followed suit in the raw power category, clearly hoping for Machina Soul (the power to absorb technological items) but ended up with Devil Slayer, the power to kill powerful demons. It was a variant or relative of Dragonslayer, and like Dragonslayer, it allowed the Devilslayer to consume and utilize a single magical element, in Petra’s case ‘Darkness’, as well as rendering her immune to elemental Darkness attacks. Talk about covering weaknesses… a Steel Psychic immune to Dark. Get her immunity to Fire & Ghost and she’d be untouchable… almost.

When I asked her why she hadn’t just bought Machine Soul instead of rolling, she simply shrugged and said that ‘Resilience’ (a hundred point perk that would allow her to shrug off blows that could level a small house with only a little dramatic blood loss) was more important. She’d also bought a pair of magical headphones that could play any song stored in its unlimited magical database, which was important because sometimes she went through five heavily reinforced headphone sets a week if she was being aggressive… which she almost always was. What can I say, she likes her music… and fighting people taller than her. Did I mention she’s super short in human form?

She hadn’t given herself an identity, leaving that part filled in with a drawing of a crab holding a fork for some reason. Sometimes the logic of other beings confuses me. I guessed she might mean ‘Devil Crab’ as a play on ‘Deviled Crab’… which she eats, shell and all, with no hint of irony. They can’t all be winners. Still, I filled in the spot with actual words.

Uriel’s choices were a strange, almost whimsical blend of useful and gleeful. From the perk trees he snagged Resourceful and Pragmatism (Some people are all about standing their ground honorably, no matter what comes. That’s fine and dandy for them, but you always seem to know when it’s time to just get out while the gettin’s good.) That was the intensely practical side. For magic… he picked ‘Aera’, the ability to sprout wings and fly. Having passed up ‘Soar’ back in Touhou, I guess he felt the need to make up for it. Unlike Soar, the flight speed of Aera could be increased at the cost of expending more magic power, and Aera’s user could carry another person without noticeable strain.

It all seemed a bit whimsical and carefree to me, but maybe I was projecting a vision of the angelic Uriel… the Flame of God… but my much less angelic Uriel had chosen to name himself ‘Battlecrow’, which was probably more in the Valkyrie / Odin line than the Judeo-Christian model. He had a note attached to his build. It said, “The wings I generate with my magic will be a chromatic black, the kind that has an almost rainbow effect as light plays over it, and will constantly shed feathers that scatter themselves behind me almost at random. The system accepts that the effect can be suppressed or deactivated with a little concentration for those times where discretion is warranted, but I will otherwise not be turning it off.” He further noted that he planned to be quite elderly for the duration of the jump, in keeping with the Odinic theme I warranted.

I was, perhaps a little surprised by that, since although he wasn’t the only one of my companions who had been elderly when recruited (Toph had been in her nineties by the end of the second Avatar Jump… or second part of the Avatar Jump… either way, she was the eldest of my companions besides the immortal and functionally ageless RayRay.) he was the one who disliked being old the most. All of my companions that had been with me in Avatar had experienced prolonged aging. The twin jumps had taken just about nine decades between them, after all. Some had even died of old age. Uriel had not.

He’d begun the first jump as a one-hundred and thirty-year old Air-Nomad and ended it well over two-hundred years old and exceptionally cranky about it. I should point out that a member of the human race of the Avatar world should not have been able to live anything like two-hundred and twenty years. I have no idea how he managed it, especially without access to the med-bay. But he had. He had found refuge in the home of Bao’s family, and had become the tutor to the young man, and the two had remained close until Bao had died in his mid-sixties, a victim of the violent crime that had routinely plagued the still young Republic City.

Uriel, known in that lifetime as Dechen Champa, had become a fixture of the city, preaching compassion and forgiveness alongside passive-resistance and obedience to the law… for which he had been beaten multiple times by the criminal element for rousing the public to resist them, and then daring to refuse to back down in the face of their intimidation tactics.

But moving on… and speaking of Bao… Bao, clever, scholarly, always eager to prove himself useful, Bao… picked up the C-Class magic ‘Archive’… a strange little magic that gave the Wizard the ability to store information in a magic database and identify other magics that were used around them, but in a more analysis less intuitive way than the ID Magic Perk, which was fine and dandy and made a certain amount of sense. What made less sense was that ‘Archive’ also allowed the user to create solid-like UI Screens… and when I say solid, I mean as in defensive forcefield solid… that was a bit odd… but useful. An actual command console in the middle of a battlefield. It was, however, not a mobile system as we were to discover, so it was definitely more an overwatch type ability… but that was fine for our warrior-poet.

He also picked up the S-Class ‘Enchantment Magic’ (there was also a perk ‘Enchanting’, but it was all about making little utility magical gadgets that were, apparently, good for making pocket money, but not really on par with the rest of the magic available in-setting.) Enchantment Magic allowed the mage to bind their own magic into someone or something in order to boost or alter the target’s attributes. A skilled enough enchanter could, in theory, remove or transfer the magic of one being to another… or even rearrange the landscape of an entire continent. Apparently, in canon, Enchanters had granted items like swords human forms and emotions, and the Dragons had created the Dragonslayers via Enchantment. The only downside to the magic was that if the Enchanter was killed, every active effect that relied on them for support would automatically end… unless already made permanent by some other method.

He named himself ‘The Spellbroker’… Which I guessed meant that he was planning on playing the mercenary analyst. For a moment, I hoped this wouldn’t come back to bite us… then realized that, in all likelihood, everything we did was likely to do exactly that, no matter where we went or what we bought or did. Such was the nature of existence when one jumped from reality to reality at narratively important moments.

Speaking of wandering disasters… Ryoga (as expected) went for the most powerful and destructive thing he could find, the S-Class ‘Crash’. It was a perfect complement to his blossoming God of Destruction motif, as it was was billed as ‘The bane of the works of man.’ According to the description, With but a touch, the user of Crash forces gates to fly open and skip like rocks through the estate, castles crumble to dust, and weaker spells simply shatter into so much nothing. Bones Shatter… Towers… Shatter. Used carelessly, the strongest iron fortresses or greatest battleships could be reduced to scrap metal. Great… more human wrecking machine. ‘Ruddigore, The Living Calamity’ he named himself… and I had to agree. Then again, he still blushed when a pretty girl talked to him, so that’s something. 

Thankfully, Crash was so powerful that it actually included its downgrade, the A-Class ‘Disassembly’, which could turn a target into many smaller, weaker copies of the original, or dice a large structure into cubes.  Either way, after a short interval, the pieces would reform into the original without suffering any lasting harm.

For his free C-Class, he picked up ‘Transformation Magic’ which would allow him to change his appearance. As a beginner, that meant his body only, but an intermediate user could change their clothes and or voice, while a master could use it to gain other features such as wings or gills… or even use it to change sizes. It was, far and away, the most powerful of the C-Classes, in my opinion, but also quite possibly the hardest to master. It wasn’t the least combat useful however, since that dubious honor went to Writing Magic (yay me!).

Yoiko, being slightly more sane than her big brother, took the ‘Haggling’ perk, which made her more apt at spotting the quality of goods and thus determining the optimal price to pay for them, resulting in an average decrease in the cost of everything she bought by at least 10%. She also took ‘Agility’, which boosted her already formidable physical grace, and ‘Charisma’ which did a similar number on her social graces, where she had been (to be honest) a little lacking.

I love her (and her brother)… but they’re still Hibikis… i.e. a little dense, well-meaning but bonkers, and prone to wild over-reactions. The two of them once spent nearly a year refusing to talk to each other over the matter of a stolen bagel… which, it turned out, Ziggy had stolen… though of course they’d blamed each other… and destroyed several priceless works of art… ah well. I had all the bits in storage until such time as I found a form of magic that could reconstruct them flawlessly.

Yoiko also took ‘Binding Magic’ as her free C-Class… which is not nearly as useful as it sounds, and (in a way) far scarier. Rather than being a general use set of compulsions and gaeases and binding wards, it would allow her to generate soft tubes that capable of stretching and constricting so as to bind opponents or be used much like whips. I wondered if I should be worried about what ‘Yara the Lash’ might be plotting. Soft things are only soft until you apply ki and or accelerate them to the speed of sound.

Kendra, apparently sick of bullet hell battles, took the B-Class ‘Slowing Magic’ which allows the user to slow down opponents that are within a certain radius of them when they cast it, simply by altering their targets’ perception of time. However, anything not caught in the radius would be completely unaffected by the spell, even if it enters the radius later while the spell was still active, the C-Class ‘Celestial Spirit Magic’ (which allows the user to form summoning contracts with Celestial Spirits that they bring forth into the material realm through the use of Celestial Spirit Keys… and unlike other Celestial Spirit Mages, buying the CP version (instead of just buying keys, which were on sale in a different part of the document) meant  that her Spirits would level with her… so to speak… Magic Shoes.

Those last were a pair of Lacrima-powered shoes that increase the wearer’s running speed to that of a cheetah. Slow and Speedy, the ultimate rope-a-dope, was clearly her intent. To anyone caught in the radius of her magic, she’ll become all but unhittable. If only she hadn’t made her report into a paper airplane and nailed me in the head with it from the top of one of the warehouse stacks. Good aim though. She called herself ‘Kay, The Unshadowed’, which spurred memories of Jet Li using ‘No Shadow Kick’ in Once Upon A Time In China… the idea being that it was so fast it didn’t cast a shadow. Since Kendra was a big fan of martial arts movies, I’m certain it wasn’t an accidentally comparison. Still, I felt she was making a bit of an error in her purchases… and that meant talking with her, despite her not wanting to talk to me.

“K…” I began, holding up my hands to show that I came in peace… and brough fresh triple chocolate fudge brownies. “Don’t give me that look… and please listen before you storm off like you’ve been doing all week. I think you might want to reconsider the shoes.”

“Why?” I could feel the bite in her words as I spoke to her through the door.

“Open the door please. You know you want some of these. They have mini-marshmallows that have been caramelized with a blow-torch.” That was her favorite. I do pay attention.

She opened the door, eyed the brownies, then snagged the plate. “You have twenty seconds to make your case,” she said tersely.

“They sound like something that can be bought in setting for cash,” I pointed out.

“For how much cash?” she asked.

“I don’t know. But if I can find them for sale, I bet I can make you some… If not, I’ll apologize… but buying things with CP that can be stole, bought with currency, or made… it’s… sub-optimal,” I pointed out.

She glared at me, then snarled, “Fuck optimal.”

“At least ask the system what the fastest race is… it’s a fantasy world… maybe there are supernaturally fast people around?” I suggested.

She blinked. “The Jumptree doesn’t say anything about races.”

I nodded. “You’re right. It doesn’t… but can it hurt to ask?”

She glanced between me and the brownies, then opened the door and moved to where her tablet was, setting down the plate and opening up the search dialogue in the help menu. After several seconds it spit out an answer and she muttered, “… it says Weretigers are noted for their ferocity and speed.”

“Will it let you be one?” I asked.

“Yes…” she said slowly, “For 50 CP. But it warns that they’re uncommon and not well liked. And somewhat unpredictable.”

“Something to consider. And it’s half the cost of the shoes. That’s two more keys if you pay CP for Corvus and Pictor.” Celestial Spirit Mages got three keys for free and a discount on any others. She’d already selected Corvus (a thieving raven to harass her enemies) and Pictor (a near perfect artist that could paint flawless images of anyone described or seen), as well as Aquila (a massive eagle-harpy that was strong enough to carry an adult human and (in the immortal words of Penny) ‘Combat Ready’). The problem was that Corvus and Pictor were as cheap as Spirits came (Fifty Choice) and the freebies from Celestial Spirit Magic allowed up to three two-hundred Choice keys.

She eyed me suspiciously for a very long moment, then said, “Twenty seconds are up. I’ll send you the revision.” I knew that was my cue to leave.

When I got back to the kitchen, I found the revision waiting for me. She’d bought the weretiger… and moved the keys, freeing up their slots for Monoceros (a teleporting and incredibly paranoid unicorn with healing powers) and Noctua (an owl capable of using low-level wind magic). For celestial beings, these spirits didn’t sound particularly powerful… but then again, she’d gotten five of them for the low low price of a freebie and fifty Choice. And, though I hadn’t mentioned it, there was a very good chance that these Keys could also be bought in setting as well… It just wasn’t worth the hassle. That’s the problem with being all but immortal… sometimes your personal feuds can last literal ages. Then again, we also had practically all the time in the world to make up, now didn’t we?

I moved on to Joy, who, as a disciple of the gun and preparation, had signed up for the ‘All the Guns Ever’ club, taking the C-Class ‘Gun Magic’ which allowed its user to create various types of magical bullets (usually with elemental enchantments, but also such weirdness as candy bullets or bubble bullets). When those bullets were loaded into the mage’s guns and fired, whatever effect was on the bullet would be triggered, effectively turning a gun into a magic wand that did something other than merely cast ‘Bullet’. 

Of course, ‘Gun Magic’ by itself wasn’t enough for the AtGE club. No, for that one needed look no further than her second purchase, a strange sounding magic called ‘Requip’ which allowed the user to summon equipment they owned from a handy pocket dimension (i.e. the cosmic warehouse) while in battle. And of course, if you could summon equipment from that dimension, the corollary was that you could banish it there as well. That was cool enough, but hardly worth the title of ‘Requip’… because that was exactly what it did. In the heat of battle, a Requip Mage simultaneously summoned new equipment and banished old equipment, all but instantly swapping their current loadout. Stronger users could even switch equipment many times during a single battle.

While it wasn’t infinite ammo, we do have thousands of guns in the Warehouse’s arsenal. If Joy started magicking up bullets, she could load dozens or hundreds of different mission specific loadouts and just summon the gun she wanted at any given time. In fact, Requip was so interesting that I even (briefly) considered swapping out something from my build to buy it, but didn’t for two reasons. First off, I don’t have a lot of weapons that are anywhere near the power of Soul of Ice or armors that rival VIctoria… maybe I should start working on that. And second… with Joy to study, I was absolutely certain I’d be able to duplicate the magic she was using. It was, after all, my Warehouse she was tapping into. Joy named herself ‘The Shooter Saint’… I probably would have gone with ‘The Sniper Saint’ myself… but Joy’s a bit more close combat than I am. Her idea of a gunfight is one where the combatants can see each other’s eyes. My idea of a gunfight involves orbital mechanics… and possibly history manipulation… oh yeah… that’s a thing. Can’t actually kill someone directly, but if I fire a bullet and then shift history just enough so that the target is standing exactly where the bullet will hit? Blamo. In Touhou, I’d only ever done it with non-lethal attacks (everything in Touhou is pretty much non-lethal)… but the principle should work regardless of killing intent.

If Joy was almost eager to combine her old techniques with magic, Ahab seemed a practically leery of the whole magic thing… even after all these years, so he took the ‘Leadership’ and ‘Read the Atmosphere’ perks, settling for the fairly mundane ‘Body Restriction Magic’ to round out his build. Why did he take that one (aside from the fact that it was free?). When I asked, he claimed it was because BRM seemed more like a combat technique, than a magical effect since actually utilizing its effect (it caused a target’s limbs to fall asleep, effectively immobilizing them briefly) required actual physical contact with the target. It could also be shrugged off with strong enough magic or an indomitable enough will. I had the feeling he’d be applying it via the vehicle of CQC and wondered if his eschewing the potential range effectiveness of it would make the relatively weak magic more potent. Things tend to work out that way, I’ve noticed. Self imposed limits often magnify the effectiveness of magic. I’ve wondered why multiple times, but never heard a convincing theory on the subject that didn’t boil down to ‘Because reasons!’

As for his perks, ‘Leadership’ was about what one would expect, a straight up boost of about 25% to his ability to take charge of situations and boss people around in an effective and not asinine fashion, while ‘Read the Atmosphere’ was a global boost to communication based on his knowledge of (I kid you not) dialogue scripting. Seriously, it gave him a better sense of how tense a situation might be and how to respond accordingly, either to exacerbate that tension, or ease it. The first seemed to be an odd metric… how do you get 25% better at something almost immeasurable like that… I guess by raising your skill total from 8 to 10. Thanks Gygax. You’re welcome EssJay. The second… wow… that was meta. It essentially assumed that every conversation was being actively scripted in real time. Deep… and disturbing. Were we characters in a story? Wasn’t that always the question? Or did it matter not the slightest? Regardless, for an identity he simply drew a smiley face… with one horn. Oh, good lord… he was going to resurrect the identity ‘Venom Snake’, wasn’t he?

I checked the system… I was 80% correct. He’d psyched me out and gone with ‘One Horned Viper’… which was something of a blending of One Winged Angel and Venom Snake… I liked it. I added a note into the system to give his local incarnation the skin pattern of the Horned Viper… but with the scales varying in smoothness depending on his mood… spiky when angered, smooth when enjoying himself. The system asked if I wanted to give him a snake’s nictitating membrane (the second sideways eyelid) and I confirmed, then added in Viper Eyes to complete the picture, though I did send the whole thing to Ahab’s PDA for confirmation… what, you thought we were doing this on paper? Please… this is the… never mind… Human Epochs are a meaningless distinction inside the Warehouse. Leave it so say we are a tech-savvy bunch. I was certain he’d not have a problem with the eyes… he’d had them for a decade in RWBY.

Toph, ever one for simplicity and a classical touch, took ‘Palm Magic’, which was, by far, the most martial-arts-like of the magical abilities on the list. The Palm Magicienne could channel magical power into the palms of their hands, allowing for potent strikes capable of smashing boulders, among other effects. While it wasn’t the legendary ‘Buddha’s Palm’ technique, nor even the lesser but still impressive ‘Infinite Hedron Palm’ (also known as Boundless Forms Palm), it had the major advantage that, since it wasn’t a martial technique, it could (in theory) be combined with one of the above… if we ever got our hands on the manuals for them.

She’d actually wanted ‘Earth Magic’ (naturally), but as it was A-Class, the only way she could have gotten it was by blind luck… or by giving up her free C-Class and spending all her points. The reason she hadn’t was because she’d wanted ‘Green Magic’, a non-combat magic that allowed its users to greatly accelerate the growth of plants (especially small ground-cover types, but also trees) and to halt desertification. I approved of her sense of balance… Atura doubly so… shame more of the Magics weren’t non-combat in nature. Slap the ground, make grass grow!

In the box for identity she’d put ‘I am Toph.’ Of course she had. Sigh. Sometimes she was such a… stick in the mud.

I sent her a PM. “Toph the What?”

“What?” she replied.

“I mean,” I typed back, “What version of Toph do you want to project to the world we’re going into?”

Frowny face, nostril puff, hand with single finger raised. “There is only one Toph.”

Laughing face, panda face, old woman, police badge. “Au Contraire. There are many.”

Tongue sticking out, red slashed circle. “Nuh huh.”

By that time I’d reached her location in the Lifestream garden where she was planting rice. “Yes, huh,” I said, ticking off on my fingers. “There is Toph the rebellious child who became master of the arena and invented metalbending; Toph the creator of her world’s first police force and mother; Toph the reclusive swamp hermit; Toph the Magi goddess; Toph the sarcastic dragon; Toph the amateur detective; Toph the badger girl who beat up giant monsters with a pair of fans… even Toph the dominatrix. There have been many Tophs. As long as you travel with me, there will always be more Tophs. It’s part of the package as both a companion and as a living being. We are never who we used to be, only who we are becoming.”

“Baaah!” she snorted, glaring at me. “Too much thinking, not enough punching.”

“I’d say you need to get laid, but…” I shrugged my shoulders and smirked at her.

“Hahah!” she wagged a finger at me, looking very old woman-like despite her youthful form. “I didn’t have nearly as much sex as you did, slut!”

“I wasn’t slutty!” I protested. “I was being punished for being a thief!”

“So you say,” she snorted. “You certainly got caught a lot!”

“Regardless…” I said, bringing us back to the topic at hand. “Toph the What?”

“You’re changing the subject!” she accused, which was, rather tellingly, the pot calling the kettle a cooking device.

“No, you’re trying to change the subject and trying to shift the blame to me to cover it.” I grinned, then began that most deadly of all tactics… pop-psychoanalysis. “I know your tactics, bitch. You don’t like introspection and you’re trying to avoid picking a name for yourself. If you don’t pick in the next twenty seconds I’m going to name you Lotus Head and you’re going to have to live with it for a decade.”

She frowned, thinking hard for about half the time limit, then just shrugged and said, “I… huh… okay.”

“What?” I asked, a little confused. “Okay what?”

“I’m calling your bluff,” she said.

“You want to be Lotus Head Toph for a decade?” I asked, incredulous.

“No,” she shook her head. “Just Lotus Hat.”

“Lotus Hat?”

“Like that Buddha guy.”

“That…” I considered the effort needed to explain that in Buddhist symbology the Crown Lotus of Enlightenment wasn’t a hat… then shook my head and said “Fine. You got it, Lotus Hat it is.”

“I am Buddha Palm!” she anounced, doing her Blind Bandit Victory Pose (legs spread wide, hands on hips, head thrown back like a rooster crowing).

I grumbled, “You are a git with dirty toes.”

“That too,” she agreed, then turned back to her planting.

“You’ve also got a hundred Choice unspent,” I pointed out.

“Meh,” she said.

“Meh? Does that mean you don’t care what it’s spent on?”

“Not really?” she half-asked. “Why? Do you?”

“I typically prefer my companions to make informed and wise decisions. But for you, oh flora chapeau, I think I’ll just give you Resilience and be done with it… unless you protest in five-four-three-two-one-too-late!” I counted off really rapidly.

She flipped me off. She’s very fond of that gesture.

I laughed as I wandered off. Good to see at least one human who wasn’t letting the events of the last decade weigh them down.

If Toph was the least affected among the humans, Velma was the most, though not by the perversity. In fact, she’d taken to that like a duck to breadcrumbs. Rather, she was still feeling powerlag at being so far behind all the rest of the companions (and essentially on par with Cirno, who is one very powerful little ice fairy) and had been shaken by the appalling power level of the residents of Gensokyo, barely contained as it was by the nature of the Danmaku Battle System. So, it was not at all surprising that she wasn’t at all certain she’d be able to deal with this new and, quite obviously, similarly overpowered setting. So much so that nearly two more weeks passed and she still hadn’t done her build. We only had four days left.

It took Zane, oddly enough, to calm her down and reassure her that, even if the world was against her, she’d have us behind her. I think she responded to his essential dogginess because she eventually submitted her form, though she, unlike any of the others, went for a single specific A-Class magic rather than any of the perks on offer. The magic she picked, ‘Dark Ecriture’,  was one of the highest forms of ‘Writing Magic’ and combined that technique with another called ‘Solid Script’ to produce a rune-focused form of magic that could be written on any surface, or even in thin-air, and could be used to produce an almost unlimited number of effects, from traps and barriers to wings and weapons, or even less tangible things such as pain, fear, or bravery. It could be used to buff or debuff, or even to teleport and transform the user. The limits of Dark Ecriture seemed to be set not by any fundamental cap, but rather on the magical reserves and skill of the user.

It could, of course, produce the C-Class effects of the far weaker ‘Writing Magic’  with ease or (with a bit more difficulty) the B-Class effects of the rather odd ‘Solid Script’ which allowed the user to cast spells by writing words corresponding to the effect… for instance writing the word ‘FIRE’ (or in the case of Dark Ecriture, the rune for ‘Fire’) in the air would create an image of the word or rune ‘FIRE’ made out of fire that could be launched at opponents. It couldn’t be used to bring about any spell more powerful than the caster could otherwise use, and wasn’t nearly as flexible as Dark Ecriture was, but it wasn’t nothing.

Solid Script sounded weird to me… but then again, a magic GUI that doubled as a shield was pretty weird too. SS sounded highly flexible too, since it pretty much allowed almost any effect that could be summed up in a simple word or phrase, but DE was a better choice. I’m not certain what the limits of a master of that strange magic would be, but I suspected Velma’d find out.

She also included a dozen potential identities, asking me to pick one. They included ‘Red One’, ‘Groupthink”, and ‘Mother’, but none of them really spoke to me, nor did they really capture her essential Velma-ness.

I suggested “How about ‘Vera Truth’?” which got me a sour face in reply.

“Vera?” she huffed, which made her sweater do very interesting things. “What am I, grandma?”

“Short for Veritas?” I suggested, defending my position and trying not to be distracted by the bouncy-bouncy… down girl.

“So I’d be True True?” she frowned, thinking about it and not liking the implications. Finally she snorted, “At that point, I should be Trueheart.”

“Verity Truehart?” I offered, by way of compromise.

“I… sure. Better than Vera. Oh… I had a thought. Can my Script Ogham rather than Futhark?”

I blinked at that, then shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m not even certain this world’s runes are Futhark. But you’d have to check the system. Why?”

“Because no one knows Ogham… well, no one living in our world… well, on Earth… I think. I mean, I guess it’s possible some one on my Earth knows it… probably less likely that anyone on your Earth did… does… is it always this confusing to talk about? Anyway, I figure that, if I’m spelling things out, some people are bound to know Futhark, and spelling things out first gives people an idea of what’s coming if they’re fast enough. Much better to use a language they don’t know.  And anyway… how can runes not be Futhark? Runic script only comes in Elder Futhark, Younger Futhark, and Anglo-Saxon Futhorc.”

I laughed at that idea, but not mockingly. “Dear heart… You’re thinking of runes like a linguist or scholar. While, yes, on Earth, the Germanic alphabets were runic… there were actually others that predated the Elder Futhark and probably some other lost contemporaries of the others… they did descend from Phonecian by way of Greek and Italic, just like the Latin Alphabet. But that’s only true on some Earths. In fantasy settings, runes are magical symbols, letters of power that form the basis of many magical systems. As for Ogham? I can’t say as it would make a particularly deep symbol set. The variations of symbols are very slight… too easy to make a mistake. And yes, trans-reality trans-temporal tenses can give even Francy a migraine. But to get back to the topic at hand, wouldn’t it be better to use a language with a reasonably large symbol-set that’s also not typically found in fantasy literature?”

“I… I guess. But I don’t know any of them. What would you suggest?”

“Well, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean culture produces a huge amount of potential settings, so let’s discount them. Let’s also discount Devana and Arabic. Cyrillic and Greek are possibilities, as is Hebrew. But you want something fluid yet powerful looking… how about Tibetan Uchen script? Some very dangerous people are likely to know it if the setting is right, but aside from them, I think very very few people in most settings will know the faintest thing about it.”

“I don’t even know Tibetan.”

“Yeah… me either. Consider it a learning exercise. Harry Dresden postulates that using a language you don’t know to cast magic helps shield your mind from the strain… I don’t know if he’s right, especially in worlds that lack the horror of the DresdenVerse’s magical system, but I bet it will make your magic more potent to be written in words you only know as vessels of power, words you can fill with personal intent independent of their normal meaning or usage.”

“I… guess that makes sense. Also means I’ll need to practice each new word carefully.”

“It does at that, yes,” I agreed, then left her to face a crash-course in Urchen from VIvian. She’s much much more advanced a teacher of languages than Rosetta Stone… even the Mass Effect Universe’s edition 80. 

With less than a day remaining before insertion, I did a headcount and realized that Cirno, who’d spent her time pouting that Icemagic wasn’t on the list, then pouting that she couldn’t afford Molding Magic (Ice) once it was pointed out to her, then pouting because she actually could afford it (she’s not good at maths) but we pointed out she could already do that and we were being mean…. had not actually finalized her build.

What she had done was write down the name of the C-Class she’d specifically requested, rather than drawing it out of the hat (‘Flattening Magic’, which allows the user to flatten their bodies to a paper-like state, which can be useful in slipping through tight spots or dodging attacks) on a piece of paper, then half a muffin recipe, a picture of a fox with three ears fighting what looked like a space-heater. She’d stapled that page to her tablet, cracking the screen, then left the entire thing in the kitchen sink with the dirty dishes from breakfast.

I figured that taking ‘Flattening Magic’ made sense from a Danmaku (Bullet Hell) perspective… you know, minimizing one’s hit box and all that… though she’d missed the point that FM only worked from one direction of course… I checked in the VMoD to see if it had actually recorded her purchase, only to discover that she’d actually made two random C-Class picks and ended up with Wool Magic and Smoke Magic… which, sure, had cost her fifty CP each after discounts from me and the randomness… But I had to wonder if the others had tricked her into taking the last two slots, since that actually meant that every single one of the eighteen C-Class magics had been taken exactly once. I consulted AJ, who explained that, rather than Cirno being stuck with what was left, Zane had suggested that the Ice Fairy get first pick… which was pretty decent of him.

Still… she’d only spent a quart of her points and all she had to show for it was the ability to create and control fluffy, comfortable pink wool so as to distract opponents or break falls and the ability to shape pipe smoke (of a color of her choice) to form fragile decoys of oneself or to strike enemies with smoke fists.

When I found her, asleep in VIvian’s upper branches, and asked her about the powers (which sounded next to useless to me), she seemed… strangely pleased with the situation… and pulled out a bubble pipe… baka. Well, maybe she’d be able to make something useful of them… but since this was Cirno, I doubted it intensely.

I doubted it to the point where I hadn’t even bothered asking her for a nom-de-guerre because I honestly wasn’t certain I could explain to the self-proclaimed genius what one was or why she might want it. Unfortunately, she’d clearly heard about it from one or more of the others and so she’d decided that she was going to be ‘Flatsmoke Woolbottom’… which as names go just made me want to hurt something. Still, she would not be dissuaded and imposing my own vision of how she should be in a jump wasn’t the behavior of a reasonable entity… it would be a form of spiritual tyranny and I couldn’t do that. Autonomy is to be treasured, not quashed… especially if I wanted to avoid any potential ‘Revolts in Heaven’ as it were. She did throw a tantrum when we told her she had to be human… after the system rejected her assertion that she was a fairy.

I did end up making her other purchases for her, as getting her to focus on the list was proving functionally impossible. Well, okay, I didn’t really make the choices. I just explained what each of the perks available was and why she should take it. She wanted to take more magic, of course… but her choices were, in order, Sound Magic, Guitar Magic, Perfume Magic, Fortune Telling, Light Magic, Clone Magic, and Changeling… all of which were B-Class.

The first three were rejected on behalf of group sanity. The idea of Cirno making auditory or olfactory mayhem at all hours of the day or night did not appeal. The next two were rejected as being essentially useless at Cirno’s level of skill. and the last two were were rejected because the idea of Cirno with either was frankly terrifying. Clone Magic would make more of her… and Changeling would allow her to swap people’s minds between their bodies… and if a swap wasn’t reversed in thirty minutes, only another use of Changeling could fix it. And yes, the magic stayed with the body.

Frankly, I’m not certain I’d trust anyone on my team with Changeling… myself least of all. I’d be far too likely to start swapping the oppressed into the bodies of their oppressors… which might be karmic justice, but was also existentially wrong and ethically unsound.

But back to Cirno. In the end, she picked ‘Magazine Material’ which gave her pin-up looks… when she didn’t revert to her smaller juvenile state. Apparently that was as mature as fairy bodies got. The choice I all but tricked her into taking was called ‘Wily Wizard’. It probably wasn’t worth it, but it promised that she’d have greater understanding of and finger control with her magic… hopefully heading off the worst of the chaos… though I was certain one of the others would make up for the reduction almost immediately. Le sigh.

And that was that… or almost. “Atura? You coming?” I asked, turning my voice and attention inward.

“Indeed,” she said, sounding intrigued… I think. If Fairies are hard to cope with, Spirits are even more inscrutable and alien. “I believe it would be best to take my pick of one of the high level S-Class magics, rather than chance an unfortunate roll on the A-Class list. That is, since we cannot afford Lacrima Creator, obviously the best choice from it’s price tag among the perks.”

I sighed. “Not everything is about cost. Just because something costs more, that doesn’t make it automatically or axiomatically better. Individuality and personal choice matter a great deal. You could take something you find interest instead of going after pure power,” I pointed out as gently as I could, not really knowing if Atura even understood the concept of rudeness or personal affront.

“I find everything interesting,” the Spirit said.

“Oh,” I said, thinking hard.

“While balance dictates utility over randomness… in this case, utility and randomness combine in one perfect package. With frugality tossed in for good measure.”

“I… see your point,” I allowed, wondering what she’d want to spend the remaining Choice on. “Is there any one of them you are most interested in?”

“Rules of the Area seems nice,” she said.

I thought about that, then asked, “You mean the one that allows you to just make up rules that have to be followed and can cover an area the size of a small city? Yeah… I can see that. I think you’d be scary with that, personally. But you could just take it outright. You don’t have to roll the dice.”

“Not rolling the dice means the cost of an S-Class is four-hundreds,” she pointed out pedantically. “Rolling the dice means the cost is two-fifty. Much more reasonable.”

“But do you have a plan for how to spend the remaining points?”

“I do not,” she admitted. “Still, I find the uncertainty of result and the anticipation of a serendipitous discovery or fortuitous outcome most appealing… even the potentiality of disappointment has created a certain… frisson? I guess you’d say.” Her voice (which was also mine, but with entirely different inflection and cadence) carried with it a strange, otherworldly blend of emotions, like an excitement-contentment-resignation swirl.

“Is there anything on the list you’d rather not end up with?” I asked.

“The Take Over line does not appeal to me, and R.I.P. seems excessively grim and final.” Since the three Take Over magics in the S-Rank (God Soul, Satan Soul, and Machina Soul) were all about transforming oneself in various ways, I could understand her reservations, and R.I.P., which could put someone into a permanent sleep state… and which did nothing else apparently, was tantamount to just being a murder machine with no other purpose.

“Understood. I shall attempt not to roll any of them,” I scooped up the die and asked, “Shall I give them a toss?” As soon as I got her pulse of agreement, I let the semi-spheroid fly. Ziggy watched it go by and didn’t so much as twitch. He was in his ‘I am speedbump’ mode, not even moving when I walked by to check on the result. “Let’s see what the number says… 3. That’s ‘God Slayer’. Not plotting against me, are you?” I teased.

“I assume that was an example of sardonic humor?” she asked. “But no, I am not. I think… Chaos God Slayer… is that a magical element? Or perhaps Death God Slayer… or Evil God Slayer?… All such entities seem like they’d be unlikely to maintain the Balance… at least those who would revel in the use of their element. A proper Death God should not bring about death, but merely oversee it… Unless there is too much life… what is it that you call such things… Cancer?” I realized this was her version of rambling and just let her run. From Chaos Gods to Cancer… seemed about right.

“Er… yes,” I confirmed. “I can’t say disharmony is an element… but Chaos as it is often depicted is, in fact, considered The Primordial Element from which all others arise… Order out of Chaos, Balance out of Imbalance… so I’d think Chaos would be a good choice. If not now… later perhaps.” I considered certain universes and nodded. “Yes… very good choice.”

“Should I choose a name to be known as?”

I could not tell from her tone if the idea appealed to her or not, so I merely responded, “I… don’t know. In either of the two jumps you’ve been imported to, have you gained any memories or persona… no form obviously…”

“Not per se. A… sense of the local spirit world perhaps, but that seems to be the limit of it. Then again, memory is even more identity for us spirits. My… our nature… could be changed. You mortals… or whatever you are… are the sum of your experiences and memories, but they do not define you. That is… less true for us spirits. We are who we are. To change that would change me forever. Humans can be other than they believe themselves to be. They can do things that are out of character or are surprising.”

She paused for a very long moment, but I could sense she had more to say. There is something to be said for sharing your existence with another discrete being. Granted, I was doing it with two of them, but Atura was always inside me, while VIctoria was more external. Finally, she asked, “Do you… there is a story of a venomous insect and a small mammal and a river…”

“I know it,” I confirmed. “The Scorpion stings the Fox as they are crossing the river, even though it means both will die, and when the Fox asks why, the Scorpion explains that it is merely its nature.”

“Indeed. While we spirits do have free will, it is more constrained than corporeal life’s free will, and every time we exercise it, it changes us on a fundamental level. What do you call them… Fallen Angels? These are messenger spirits who rebelled against their nature and became something else? Fundamentally defined by the choice they made… as Raava, once the spirit of Peace and Harmony, became ‘The Avatar Spirit’ when she bonded with Wan.”

“Ah… yes. I understand now. Then giving you another name… that changed you, didn’t it? By doing that, I have already done so, haven’t I?”

“Yes. I was the Origin Spirit, Twilight, Balance… now I am the Manifest Spirit… but I am also Atura. Because you think of me as such,” she said. “Do not fret. I cannot be other than I am, but unlike you mortals, I cannot dislike that which I am… though I think, thanks to contact with you, I could, perhaps, regret becoming something else… if I did not like the new me. But that is merely supposition. Please, continue to think of me as Atura.”

“I shall continue to do so,” I assured here.

“I thank you. Though I do worry,” she said, introspection flavoring her communication. “There is an implication that I would, should I use this, be consuming Chaos, making it part of myself. Should that worry… why are you laughing?”

“Allow me to show you something,” I said, scooping up the Ziggy and hoping over the back of my favorite sofa to land in the main family room. “VIvian! Main Screen, Mandlebrot Set, keep expanding it slowly.”

“W… what are we looking at?” Atura asked.

As the swirls of colorful madness whirled around the appalling dark and foreboding abominations of darkness, I explained. “This is Chaos, in Mathematical terms.”

“It is… for lack of another word… lovely,” she said, sounding stunned.

“It is,” I agreed. “It is also infinitely recursive. No matter how far you zoom in or out, the pattern it creates repeats infinitely. And the line around the black bug shape… it has infinite fractality. It is a 1 dimensional shape with a fractal dimensionality of 2. There are no end to the ramifications and kinks of the line,” I explained, running my fingers through Ziggy’s soft belly-furr.

She considered for several repetitions, then asked, “How does this address my concerns?”

“Because, Atura, my friend… all Order is Chaos taken far enough to reach Equilibrium… and what is Equilibrium but Balance? Chaos is change over time. When the system has too much chaos, it unbalances itself one way… when it has too little, it cannot adapt and an outside force unbalances it. To consume Chaos is to use it as a fuel for Balance. You reduce the Chaos in the system until it is at an acceptable level, a state of Balance between the destructive and the constructive… perhaps a bit more towards the constructive… progress is good, growth is to be encouraged as long as it isn’t harmful.”

“I knew I liked you,” she said.

“Yes well… I like you too… now I have to get everyone ready. Any idea what else you’d like to purchase?”

“I think that Resilience would be a good purchase, assuming it will have any effect on something like me that has no corporeal form. And perhaps the Magical Identification perk that you have… thus I will not have to ask you to explain quite so often,” she said after a time.

I hmmmed, then shrugged, “Don’t know about Resilience, but I doubt it could hurt. You ready?”

“I was born ready,” she confirmed. It did not sound like a brag, but merely a statement of fact. I doubt she even knew she was quoting a movie.

“You were born?” I asked, wondering how that worked.

Her ‘glow’ was almost smug. “All things have a beginning, all things have an ending.”

“So they say,” I replied, but I had to wonder if that was, in fact, true. “Just don’t go picking fights with any Gods without consulting me first,” I asked. “We share an existence. If you piss off a God, I’ll probably have to fight it.”

“I shall do my best to not pick fights I do not feel I can win,” she said.

“I… it’ll have to do.” I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the prospect… but realistically, if I actually ran into a Chaos God, odds were that I’d have to fight it. I don’t even know how one runs from a Chaos God… or any God, really.

I looked around at my crew, gathered for a sullen pre-insertion peptalk.  I’d modified the jump to start three months before the story start, rather than three years, and now everything was as ready as it could be. “Look,” I said to my people, “We’ve had a rough go of it these last ten years… and we’re jumping  without a map here. But we are a team, we’ve got the skills… hopefully the Drawbacks I’ve taken will mostly target me, so if it seems like someone’s gunning for me, let them through. I can take more punishment… but try and help me out if it looks like I’m being swarmed… If I’m being tanked, don’t try and fight whatever’s tanking me, just grab me and go. I guarantee, I’m not going to try and lure anyone into a false sense of security.” That got a few chuckles. 

“If the enemy starts using something that seems to be something I’d use, look to see if they’ve got a crystal imbedded in them… but don’t get too hung up on it being from the Lacrima Rain. Odds are, there will be people who can do all sorts of things that I can do in this world. Big thing, if you notice that any of your memories have been changed, I want to know immediately. If you remember something differently than everyone else does, I want to know immediately. Especially if it happens right around the day of the full moon… assuming this world has a moon… or only one moon.”

I looked around at them, making eye-contact with each that would let me do so. “Clear?”

They responded in a rag-tag way, but I didn’t push them.

“Good,” I nodded. “I have faith in all of you,” I lied. No group that included Cirno would that actually be true of, but I can lie without any tells, so eh… “We have no map of the territory, nor any idea what the future history might hold… besides probably some very large battles… so there’s no point in making plans to deal with it. We’re not good enough at planning for that to be a thing. Just try and make it through this with your sanity and ethical code largely intact. Okay?”

That got a few more ‘ayes’.

“Excellent,” I said, and (since there was no point in wasting any more time, seeing as how we weren’t going to be any more ready than we already were) I hit the confirm button and we dropped.

INSERTION

You know the story of the people one town over from that one town that keeps getting flattened, attacked, and invaded? The story of people who hear all about the great big insane adventures going on elsewhere? That was me and my companions for the first year. See, Onibus is just across the desert from this town called Magnolia, home to this balls out crazy group of moronic overpowered children called Fairy Tail… Yes, as in the butt appendage of a pixie or something. Clearly, from the name of the Jump, they were the de facto heroes of this story… and supposedly they were the most powerful guild, though it didn’t really show.

Still, we weren’t in that guild. We were in Guild Jumpstar. Our Guild Leader, Quicksilver, was on something called a Millenium Job, a job so hard it would take a millennium to complete, and no one knew where he was or if he was a she or what. His/her powers were legendary… but no one living had ever met him, nor could anyone say what, exactly, those powers might be. He/She was simply ‘Sir Not Appearing in this Story’. 

The economy of being in a Guild was pretty simple. People brought us contracts, a senior guild officer ranked the contracts on how hard our seers said they’d be, then guild members volunteered (or sometimes were voluntold to volunteer) to take on these jobs. Essentially it was bounty work or adventure for hire or fetch quests… except the quest givers came to you. Guild Jumpstar tried to get things done in a professional and restrained… if sometimes a little flashy… way. By comparison, Fairy Tail was more than likely to destroy half your town to save a kitten.

Being who I am, I scouted out Fairy Tail, finding out who was who and what was what from the townsfolk and from the minds of some of the… let’s not beat around the bush here… mental midgets who made up that team of thundering dunderheads. Christ.

They’d fight anyone, including their own friends, at a moment’s notice for any damned fool reason… and the Dragon Slayer was clearly the Protagonist of this circus of Shonen Anime Lunacy… it was definitely not French, not with a character named Natsu Dragneel who possessed a shockingly pink mane of hair that had more spikes than Sonic the Hedgehog despite a total lack of hair gel. He also had a brain slightly softer than overcooked cabbage. Lots of Fighting Spirit…but very little Brain-Power to go with it. Made Ranma look like a Chessmaster and Monkey D Luffy look like a Genius. Even Naruto would have thought Natsu the Salamander (that’s what Fire Dragon Slayers are called apparently) was a hotheaded dunce…. Still, at least he out-scored Goku in the thinking department. Though I will give him credit for being fiercely, uncompromisingly loyal to his friends… even the newest and least proven of their number.

In fact, that seemed to be Fairy Tail’s schtick, loyalty. No matter how hard they fought, they… most of them at least… remained almost fanatically loyal to their comrades… and even seemed to have the ability to make some enemies into allies.

After dealing with the majority of the Lacrima Rain by the simple expedient of casting global range Accio X Lacrima… I did have a comprehensive list of all my perks and abilities, after all… and storing the potentially useful crystal rocks in my warehouse, I considered quitting Jumpstar to join Fairy Tail, just to get close to the action, but after seeing them nearly get wiped out by a rival Guild for no good reason… I decided against it. I also decided against infiltrating them using one of my alternate forms…. I just didn’t have any information to go on and there were clearly plots afoot… too many of them to track down in time.

The biggest of these, to me at least, was the fact that, according to my memory, the dragon who’d trained me, Igneel, had decided I was too dangerous and had shifted his attention to Natsu. And then vanished… along with all the other dragons. Natsu had been searching for Igneel for years… as, apparently, had I… though for less savory reasons. It was strange having a motivation in my head that I just didn’t feel, but thankfully, those memories were just that, and I swept the desire for revenge out of my head. So what if the past me had been cast out? I was dangerous and had absolutely nothing to prove to Igneel… or anyone really.

But if I couldn’t join Fairy Tail… maybe I could beat them. Once the first three months were up (signalled by the arrival of Lucy Heartfilia, who seemed to be the Audience surrogate rather than the MC, in Magnolia) I developed a hobby while my companions ran make money missions (we needed to eat and pay rent and build up a sizable fortune with which to buy the various souvenirs this world had to offer… many many interesting toys… and that meant building a reputation.) I decided to build my reputation by appearing outside of Fairy Tail every day at noon and challenging one of their members to a fight. Every Day. For two months straight. It did double duty as practice and exposure to new magical techniques… most of which I copied at least for future reference.

I’ve been to worlds with magic or things very much like it before, don’t get me wrong. Pokemon had some, Harry Potter had more, the Elder Scrolls had it in spades. Ranma even had some, as did Swat Kats. I’d been to Buffy, Lord of the Rings, Final Fantasy VII, and Disney Princess. I’d been to Samurai Jack, Song of Ice and Fire, and RWBY. I’d even been to Touhou… but all of those worlds had had relatively few supernatural abilities, and when they did have more than one, most of them all worked on the same basic principle.

In this world, Earth Land… that did not appear to be the case. There were hundreds, thousands perhaps, of different magics and they seemed to lack any fundamental groundwork, any unifying system, as far as I could see. Some were conceptual, others object oriented, still others a weird twist on traditional thaumaturgy or theurgy. And so the scientist in me felt the need to analyze the magic of this world, to figure out how it worked and what made it tick. Or go mad in the attempt.

Not for the first time I regretted buying Flight in Buffy instead of the Watcher Handbook… though I’d used the flight to excellent effect later, so it hadn’t been wasted… simply something I could… and had… picked up elsewhere… unlike a guidebook to all the magics of any given jump… hindsight eh? But to figure out the magic I didn’t have a guide to, I had to test myself against the Protagonists… since I had no bloody clue who the Antagonists were… they seemed to show up just in time to get their asses handed to them by the Fairy Tail. Some of them were even members of Fairy Tail itself! Or ended up becoming part of Fairy Tail after their stint as Bad Guy of the Month had ended. This show must be such fight porn. 

And so I gave it fight porn. I made my way through the lower ranked members of Fairy Tail, never being cruel or dismissive, (though sometimes I did use insults to get them to attack me in the first place), and never going for a kill… I didn’t want the entire guild to attack en masse… I wasn’t sure I could take their best yet… I certainly wasn’t going to try and take them all on at once.

Each fight I used only as much force as needed to achieve victory, and I ramped up slowly, seeking to understand the limits of those I was fighting… as well as to gage how far my own abilities had grown… it had been a while since I fought like this, all energy and joy of the fight instead of a scrabble for life or limb (or to keep my precious stolen thing and my clothes and not to be punished). I wanted to force myself to grow into my new abilities, so began to consciously suppress my old ones.

If Natsu could be the MC of this setting based upon his Dragon Slayer Magic alone, I should be able to do so as well… though I knew from experience that without something to push me, I wouldn’t master it. I had certainly struggled to unlock my Semblance in RWBY as I used too many other non-aura abilities and very seldom went even close to all out.

Regardless, it soon became a bit of a game slash spectacle. I’d show up, challenge the Fairy Tailers to send out their Champion of the day, I’d get a good workout, repeat the next day. And so it went until this lunatic with the head of an owl and a rocketpack (yes, the canonical owner of the Jet Magic… what a tool) showed up and tried to kill me… I learned only later his name was Fukuro… but I prefer to think of him as Owlhead Rocketboy.

The lunatic fucking ate me! Swallowed me whole. I could feel him trying to drain my powers as the digestion process began to kick in… but the surface of a stomach makes a damned fine surface for a portal and I dropped into the warehouse, then tossed out a couple plasma grenades and damped the portal down to its smallest aperture and reinforced the forcefields over that spot.

A minute later I opened the portal just a bit… guy must have had a fucking stomach of adamantium… or had somehow absorbed the blast… so I did what any good doctor would do… I pulled water from the pool and fed it out into his stomach in a torrent.

Riding out of a bird-headed assassin’s belly on a flash flood of pool water and magical bile… weeee… also yuck. I might have limited myself against the Fairy Tailers… but that was training… this was my life… I froze the water solid around Rocketboy, then dived deep into his birdy little mind.

He was part of a trio of S-Ranked Assassins calling themselves ‘Trinity Raven’… part of a Dark Guild called ‘Death’s Head Caucus’… both decent names… and they’d been hired by some lunatic religious group calling itself ‘The Church of Zeref’ to kill me. There was the bounty… glad to see they were taking me seriously and sending their top team to get me. I also learned from his mind that his partners were Gothrock Hairboy and Swordmiko von Slashgirl (AN: Not their real names)… and they’d gone after my companions.

I left Owlhead frozen in the middle of town and ported back to Jumpstar’s guildhall, to find that Kendra was down, Velma was deadish, and Francine and Petra were both KORT (AN: Knocked Out Right There)… The others were holding their own, collectively, against the duo of assassins. As it turns out, the reason why four of my team were down is because Hairboy’s Guitar gave him the power to take control of people and he’d been using my people against each other. I watched with growing annoyance as he took control of Toph and turned her against the others.

I… well, let’s just say I’d taken some damage in my fight against Owlhead and my limit bar was full. My flaming fist might have managed to cook Gothrock’s spleen before it exited his mouth, I’m not sure.

I drew Soul of Ice as I stepped between Joy and Ikaruga… Slashgirl. “Let me handle this… see to the others,” I told she who had been part of me for one of the worst decades of my life. She nodded and stepped away.

There is little to compare with a duel between masters. Ikaruga had Sword Magic, a magical sword, and decades of training and practice in its use. I had sword perks, a magical sword, and more centuries of practice than Ikaruga had years of life. My in-field active combat time with the sword probably exceeded her lifespan… and it was still a close run thing. Sword Magic is no joke, and I treated her with respect, not pulling on any other powers… this was a duel between swordswomen and I honored that.

I wasn’t even going to let her hit me if I could avoid it. My defenses might be top notch, but who knew what kind of enchantments were on her sword. I doubted very much Reactive Nano-Armor was proof against a vorpal blade.

We fought through a change of day to night and night back to day again. For eighteen hours we traded blows magical, physical, and spiritual. Her aura was a thing of beauty and her motions full of grace… unfortunately her heart was full of darkness and she would not relent. Oddly enough, I had no real desire to kill these people. They were assassins true enough, but they weren’t motivated to attack me out of anything other than professionalism, and had been set on this path essentially because I’d hired them to kill me. It was a somewhat strange realization.

Still, I didn’t think Energy Bending would work, since I didn’t know her well enough, and Spirit Bending wouldn’t work because she wasn’t possessed. That left Redemption by Defeat…. And so I gave her an opening, a tiny one, something that might have been born out of fatigue or a transitory breeze… and she struck, as I’d hoped she would, her sword biting into my side.. And I tried to do the impossible… The perk ‘Cut At Will’ had given me the ability to cut only what I want to cut… assuming I could cut it in the first place. And way back in the mists of time I’d learned the ability ‘Shehai’, which allowed me to manifest a spirit sword… and with energy and spirit bending I could actually cut… in theory… what I wanted to cut.

I let Soul of Ice keep her blow from bisecting me, then (with my off hand) I formed a Shehai Blade and, with a cross body thrust, plunged it into Ikaruga’s chest and gave the intangible blade a sharp twist. As she fell, I caught the swordswoman, my side burning in agony even as the wound healed almost as fast as it had been made. Good, no regen blocking enchantments.

“W… what… what have you done?” she asked, breathless.

“I have cut away the darkness in your heart,” I said, trying for maximum cool… or as close as I could get without some sunglasses and a wah-wah machine.

“Th… that’s n… not ho… how it… it works. T… that’s a metaphor…” she gasped, flinching away from my words as much as from my hands as I laid her down on one of the low walls surrounding the guild hall.

“I am a creature of metaphor,” I half boasted. In many ways, it was true. “The world is shaped by words and ideals. I simply made them my reality… and yours.”

“You cheated!” she accused, trying to sit up.

“I did,” I agreed. “I’m bad like that. Such dishonor, seeking not to kill a worthy foe. Anyway, I believe I’ve bested you and spared the lives of you and your team… your choice where this goes next,” I bowed, partly to hide my smirk. “Anyway, I have to go fight Fairy Tail now… so you be good.” I left my team to watch the downed members of Trinity Raven and ported back to Magnolia Town, knowing I hadn’t seen the last of Death’s Head Caucus.

That was the day I finally got to fight Gray Fullbuster, Fairy Tail’s resident Ice Wizard. It was an interesting fight. He couldn’t have defeated me in a century of Sundays, of course, but finding new ways to use ice magic was more important than winning… and anyway, I am a combat grade telepath, anyone without mental shields is going to have a hard time beating me. Gray had effectively none. Hell, he barely had social filters… and he was constantly stripping off his clothing for no damned reason!

Of course, while I’m telling you, dear reader, about my wondrous powers, rest assured I almost never feel the need to gloat about my powers mid-fight like a comic-book character. When I do, it’s usually just before I deliver a finishing blow… if not after that.

Which is not to say I didn’t show off against Gray. Chucklehead von Ice Make had to preface every creation by yelling ‘Ice Make Floor!’ ‘Ice Make Cage!’ ‘Ice Make Cold!’ etc… No wonder Natsu always wants to punch him. But that aside, he did have some subtlety, being able to freeze things to the shattering point and to create intricate ice-forms… But he was slowed by the need to to speak… as were most of these people. It was a challenge not to yell ‘Ice Makes the Grass Grow, Kill Kill Kill!’ or something equally inane. His Ice Bazooka was actually a thing of beauty, but ultimately no match for my Snowflake Boomerang Blizzard or Thermal Vortex or… well, to be honest, I have a lot of different ice magic attacks. The full list of them would take several hours to read, and that’s without explanations.

By the end of two months I’d fought most of the low level guild members… and none of the S-Class mages: Laxus, Erza, Mystogan, Gildarts, Mirajane, or Makarov. Sure, these were in the nature of friendly fights… I certainly wasn’t killing my way through the ranks… and I think that’s part of the reason the big kids hadn’t come out to play… well, that and Mystogan almost never showed up, Gildarts was off on some Decade Quest, and Mirajane had lost her mojo. As for Makarov? He was old… really old… for a local at least.

But Laxus and Erza were both relative hotheads and getting Laxus to fight me shouldn’t be hard… especially since he was apparently planning on taking over the guild by force and kicking out the weaker members (I told you one of the BBEGs was a member of Fairy Tail!) His personal team within the Guild was called ‘The Thunder God Tribe’ (Such hubris, much fall), consisting of Freed Justine (a ward-maker via Dark Ecriture), Bickslow (a doll mage), and Evergreen (a walking medusa with killer fairy dust)… I also hadn’t faced any of them… since they’d been off adventuring for those first couple months that I’d been doing actual challenges. I mean, I knew where they were, but they hadn’t exactly been showing up for my daily fights.

Laxus himself was a Lightning Dragon Slayer… though apparently that wasn’t public knowledge and everyone just thought he was a Lightning Magic user… he was the kind that had Lacrima embedded inside his body, rather than having been trained by an actual dragon… as opposed to Me or Natsu or this turkey named ‘Gajeel’ who was an Iron Dragon Slayer. There was also this kid ‘Wendy’ who was a Sky Dragon Slayer. We’d all been trained by dragons.

Gajeel had started as a member of the ‘Phantom Lord Guild’ but after they were forced to disband for being eeeeeevil, he became a member of Fairy Tail. Wendy I’d meet later in my stay, the junior-most member of a Guild called ‘Cait Shelter’… which would also eventually disband (willingly this time… well, for certain definitions of willingly… there was only one other member from Wendy and he was a ghost who’d fulfilled his purpose. All the other members had been illusions, though apparently self-aware ones), leaving her to join Fairy Tail as well.

But that was the future. Back in the present, Laxus, who was also Guildmaster Makarov’s grandson, was pretty sore that Gramps had banished Ivan (the father/son that lay between them) from the Guild for being a Grade-A Asshat… something Laxus seemed keen on repeating. Regardless of Laxus’s motivations and their justifiability, I was there primarily to test myself, and Laxus was the first non-Fire Dragon Slayer I’d run into. I really wanted to throw down, if you know what I mean. Sure, he was focused on taking control of Fairy Tail, but I figured taking out his goon squad might provoke him… so I made it personal.

I sowed the rumor of a strange forest temple (amazing what people with Earth Elemental Control and Plant Magic can throw together in a relatively short period of time), which contained a rare magical creature guarding a magical item related to a Lightning Dragon… then made sure Laxus heard about it. The rumor was that a lightning lion (based on a Luxray (a lightning lion pokemon… not that I actually had one… Man, it’s a shame I didn’t have a Luxray from Pokemon… I bet the two of them would get along great!) was guarding a lightning caster.

Of course, being chuckleheads, the Thunder God Tribe fell for it hook, line, and sinker. I set Toph to take care of Evergreen, AJ and Francine to take care of Freed, and Yoiko and Ryoga to take care of Bickslow… and Zane pretending to be the Luxray while I faced off against Laxus. Long story short… we trashed the temple… Easy come, easy go… And I got my scan data on the Thunder God Tribe… I hope they liked their Starfleet Lightning Phasor… damned thing’s impossible to aim.

The Dragon Slayers were particularly impressive sorts. Natsu and I couldn’t hurt each other with our magics because we’d just trade energy all day… well, strictly speaking I could easily out last him in the manna field and as long as I didn’t give him any fire to eat, I could run him, eventually, to exhaustion. Which I did. It’s not bragging to point out I’m smarter than Natsu… so is the average housecat. Laxus could hit hard and fast… but his lightning couldn’t hurt me either. Gajeel, made of iron, was a formidable foe, but not particularly bright either… and he was far from unbeatable, even by local standards. I didn’t fight Wendy… she was a kid and primarily a healer at that. Unfortunately, defeating Natsu and Gajeel meant that they were now constantly hounding me for a rematch. Then again, so was Gray.

Since I really didn’t want to fight them every day for the next six years, I told them that if they could convince Erza to fight me and if she won, I’d give them a rematch. And to make the pot sweeter for Erza, I even offered her a magical sword if she could beat me… We both collected them and I had several duplicates. I wanted to see what the so-called best there was at Requip, the Fairy Queen Titania Erza, could do.

We held the fight on an artificial island I raised in Magnolia Bay… I promised the town I’d sink it again… only to be asked if I could make it a bit bigger and give it a hill… and move it a little northwest… maybe two-hundred meters or so… strange people. Apparently there’s money in raising off shore real estate. Who knew? (Actually I should have… one of my favorite novels, ‘Diamond Age’ by Neal Stephenson, mentions it. I wonder if that will be a jump?)

Erza’s magic isn’t powerful in and of itself. It’s pretty damned simple really. I’d seen how Joy did it, and was fairly certain I could replicate the effect. All the various magics of this world were either Holder… i.e. item based or Caster… i.e. spell based… and that means all you had to do was learn the spells…. And then master them. Sure, there was a third category, ‘Ancient / Lost’ but even those mostly fell into Holder or Caster as well. My point was that the magics of this world were, almost to a one, learnable techniques rather than innate abilities, and that meant I could copycat them… except Gajeel, Windy, and Laxus… all of whom had something extra to make them what they were. There were probably other magics that had biological requirements, but Requip? Not as such.

Essentially, all Erza did was draw on the massive collection of magical arms and armors that she kept in a pocket universe, summoning them at need. The Requip Magic just allowed her to do so nearly instantly… and summon the armor already equipped and the weapons right into her her hands. It was equal parts preparation and practice… but then came skill. She was a brilliant fighter with tons of magical energy and liberal doses of Fighting Spirit and general Kick Assness.

She was most impressive and I found that the subtle goading I’d used on the others to make them fight me at full strength was not needed to make her to fight me seriously. Erza Scarlet had one setting… ’11’. It was a glorious fight and I would have ended it by declaring her to have beaten me, had I not sensed that she’d know if I pulled my punches. Still, I did limit myself. I fought without Victoria or Soul of Ice, using only a pair of magical shortswords I’d crafted called Freezerburn and Waterlaser… two guesses what kind of enchantments they had on them. Just because Natsu only used one type of magic didn’t mean I had to limit myself.

About a week after my fight with Erza, while I was still trying to figure out how to find Mystogan or Gildarts… or how to get Makarov to fight me (he was one of a group of so called Wizard Saints, the ten most powerful living Wizards supposedly… As tests of strength go it doesn’t get much better than that)… my agents brought me word that Erza had been kidnapped and the Wizard Council was preparing this superweapon called ‘Etherion’ (yes, clearly what the X-Class Magic was named for) to take out this absolutely obscenely tall tower in the middle of the ocean… and that Trinity Raven had been dispatched there to slow anyone who might rescue her.

I thought about interfering, but I had a feeling everything would turn out… if not okay… then with lessons learned… this had all the earmarks of a Shonen Manga after all… And also… what the hell did I know about what was going on. But still, I wanted to see the fireworks, so I went there in person. It wasn’t hard to find… the giant sky runes covered a sixteenth of the planetary surface.

Team Natsu managed to rescue Erza, Trinity Raven escaped, two members of the Wizard Council turned out to be traitors… and I learned a new trick. When Etherion was fired at the tower (it was a trap) the tower turned into a huge Lacrima… And Natsu ate some of it. Turns out it gave him a huge jolt of power… and knocked him on his ass for three days after that. I stole… a very large chunk… of that tower for further study. I also ate a few small pieces of it… can’t say it tasted very good, but it had pure elemental energies infused into it… all sorts of goodness though I couldn’t exactly use even half of those elements directly. It was like a magical sugar rush… on steroids.

I also ate one of the Lacrima that copied my Conduit Power… yeah, I hadn’t anticipated that there would be multiple copies of each, but there were, on average, about half a dozen for each perk and power, and about a dozen for each skill. Oh… good lord… the rush… it was… there aren’t words. It was like mainlining essence of me. Unfortunately, it also made my Conduit powers go haywire for several weeks, turning my skin blue and causing me to emit an arctic chill that I had a very hard time limiting. The second one I ate was even worse, and the haywire effect was both more extreme and longer lasting. I stuck the rest back in storage.

Not long after the Tower of Heaven incident (as it was being called), Team Thunder God put in motion their idiotic coup to take over Fairy Tail… it faaaailed… but there was redemption and no one died… then Fairy Tail sent Team Natsu (consisting of Lucy, Natsu, Gray, Erza and Happy the flying cat… and why the hell is Natsu in charge? Erza outranks him and everyone else on the team including the cat is smarter!) to team up with three other guilds (Lamia Scale, Blue Pegasus, and Cait Shelter, enter Wendy as I promised) to take down one of the Big Three Dark Guilds (The Oracion Seis… the other two being Grimoire Heart and Tartaros)… Funny how only two S-Ranked Mages were sent on this ‘vital’ mission (Erza and the Lamia Scale’s team leader, Jura Neekis, one of the Ten Wizard Saints). Definitely a Shonen…

Again I tagged along, me and mine trying to find some hint as to what the bigger picture was. Officially, Jumpstar was volunteering to assist… you know, out of a sense of civic duty or something.

That turned out to be almost disastrous, as the Oracion Seis activated some kind of ancient superweapon called Nirvana which possessed the power to turn anyone possessed of depression or doubt from light to darkness… or vice versa. Fighting evil Ryoga? Not good. Fighting evil Ahab and Joy? Sooo not good. Thankfully I managed to bring them around once they were subdued with a bout of Spirit Bending, but oy…. No fun. Missed the takedown of the giant walking Good/Evil Reversing spider… and by giant, I mean easily fifty stories tall. Which might have been a good thing, since the Motion Sickness that is part and parcel of being a Dragon Slayer made even being on the mega-mecha a bitch and a half… that better wear off at the end of the Jump or I’ll want a refund.

Anyway, the defeat of Nirvana and the Seis signalled the end of Cait Shelter’s existence in this realm and Wendy, now an orphan for the second time, joined Fairy Tail… I even let her hug Ziggy, that’s how sad she was.

A few weeks later, I arrived in Magnolia for my routine fight… only to find that someone had stolen the whole fucking city. There was a portal in the sky and bubbles floating up to it. Lead to a place called ‘Edolas’… fucked up version of Earth Land, where magic was a finite resource and was running out. That’s where my Evil Twin came from… Evil Ziggy too. Evil Ziggy and Good Ziggy are very hard to tell apart. They are both psychotic and prone to very long naps and total illogic. Thankfully, Evil Ziggy couldn’t shapeshift into a linoone, so telling them apart was easy.

Less easy was the fact that the insane King of Edolas, Sir Faust, had stolen Magnolia to power the magics of the kingdom’s warmachines… and the Exceeds, a race of flying cats (yes, like Happy or Wendy’s cat Carla) were worshipped as angels… and everyone had a kinda weird anti-them. Not so much Evil as just reversed. Gajeel’s counterpart was calm and reasoned, Natsu’s was a coward, Erza’s was fucking psycho…. Mine… who actually was Evil was more Eeeeeevil than actually wicked. Also a lazy bum who made her minions do everything for her and never shared her candy. Thankfully, as promised by the drawback, she didn’t have any of my Jumper abilities natively… though she did have a large criminal organization… and a fairly decent collection of the Lacrima of my abilities. Turns out a lot of them had fallen in Edolas… and my Accio X Lacrima had only covered Earth Land. Well played, Banker-San. Well played.

I still had no interest in messing with Fairy Tail’s story. Too easily I could make things worse, and even though they’d lost their magic… and so had I… they were doing pretty good. I still had my psionics and spiritual abilities, like bending, so I wasn’t too limited, so I stealthed it up and watched, doing little besides thwarting Evil Me and removing her Lacrima… Up until Sir Faust brought out this giant magictech mecha, the Dorma Anim. I just had to fight that… how many chances do I get for Mecha v Mecha battles?

I summoned the newest generation of the Mega-Dragonzord and we threw down, me and my companions piloting the six-person supermech against Edolas’s finest artifact. It was one hell of a fight, but it was the most fun I’d had in decades. We emerged victorious… but Bao and Vivian would be doing a loooot of maintenance. Did steal whatever bits of the Dorma Anim were left… reverse engineering goooood. Of course, it turned out that a lot of the power cells for the big thing were Me Lacrima. Those too went into the Warehouse.

Shortly after that, all the remaining magic in Edolas was drained and sent into Earth Land where it would be barely noticed. That also sent back Magnolia, all the members of Fairy Tail, all the winged cats, and me and mine. Poof.

It also sent back Mirajane’s baby sister, whose disappearance had transformed Mira from tomboy punk fighter to soft and sweet den mother. With the family restored, Mirajane got her groove back and I was finally able to fight her. She used one of the Full Body Take Over Magics… in her case Demon Soul (another one of those biological requirement powers. No idea how to get the ‘demon particles’ that specifically allowed it, but I was definitely curious)… Sweet, nice, compassionate… flying fury. Such a massive boost in attack power and ferocity. Good fight. Closest I’d come to defeat, though neither of us were fighting to the death.

Then Gildarts returned (though Mystogan had gone missing apparently for good), giving me a chance to fight him… ouch… Turns out he’s the one with the Crash magic. If I’d fought him without having practiced against Ryoga, I might have lost. Still, dude was tough as nails and, if anything, even less good in the self control arena than Ryoga… as in can’t walk through town without breaking… the town. Had the same respect for walls that Shampoo did but on a grander scale.

A couple weeks after that fight, something utterly fucked up happened… Fairy Tail was having its S-Rank trials to find a new S-Ranker… supposedly happened every year but S-Rank Mages don’t grow on trees. And no, being S-Ranked in one guild doesn’t transfer over. Juvia (Gray’s Girlfriend / Stalker) and Gajeel were both S-Ranked in their old guild, but not when they joined Fairy Tail… Anyway, everyone with any standing in the guild went off to their hidden island to decide who would be elevated to the purple or whatever they call it… and then they vanished… whole Island gone poof, taking with it the Guildmaster, all the S-Ranks, and all the potential S-Ranks too… although they seem to have taken the second of the big three dark Guilds, Grimoire Heart, with them into oblivion.

In one moment, Fairy Tail went from being one of the most powerful guilds around to… a collection of B-Rankers with no leadership and no heavy hitters to protect them from their enemies. And me? I hadn’t followed the Fairy Tailers because I was involved in my own private war with Death’s Head Caucus…. Hunting them before they could hunt me again.

So I show up outside FT’s Guild hall after a fortnight’s absence, expecting to maybe fight whoever’s been promoted, or maybe finally to get Makarov to fight me… and instead of the normal bunch of rambunctiousness and idiocy… I find a bunch of worried people sitting around looking lost. And they see me as their salvation.

A group of them, Macao, Wakaba, and Reedus, three of the elder low rankers, were waiting for me when I arrived. They had a proposal. They needed an S-Ranker, someone they could trust, someone that had prestige and weight, to step in as interim Guild Leader. And I’d be perfect, according to them.

I pointed out that I belong to a rival guild, they shrugged and pointed out that Gajeel and Juvia had belonged to an actively hostile guild. I pointed out that my main means of interacting with members of Fairy Tail was fighting them… they returned the point that that was their main method of interacting with each other. I pointed out that I had several teams within Jumpstar that followed me… they weren’t just willing to accept them, they felt they needed to… they had a lot of enemies and there is strength in unity.

I had to admit that Fairy Tail’s hall was nicer than Jumpstars… and Magnolia was a bigger city than Onibus… and it would be cool to run my own guild… So I took them up on their offer. Me and my crews rolled to the FT, trading one magical tattoo for another, and I assumed wardenship of the nuthouse.

It took four years for the Magic Council to recognize that Fairy Tail, under my leadership, was becoming a threat to their hegemony. Makarov had been a compassionate but largely laissez faire leader… I was much more hands on, and I encouraged those I led to improve their skillsets… and I had a suite of capable tutors. We operated as teams, assigned missions based on profiles and talents, and expanded our brand recognition. Yes, I kept a tighter leash on the hotheads, but I made a real effort to encourage a ‘Think before you Destroy’ mentality while still encouraging a free and open collective. This was a Guild, and I wasn’t so much the boss as the den mother…

Our major clash with the established powers of the Magic Council came in the sixth year of the Jump, when the Council sent its trained magical police, the Rune Knights, to arrest me for ‘Usurping control of a Guild and transforming it into my private army.’ We sent their attack dogs back to them gift wrapped and told them where to stick it. By that time I had enough allies to move against the Council and we took them captive and explained that they’d no longer be allowed to use their positions to enforce politically motivated rules they’d made up on the spot. The Council was abolished and a Guild Council established in its place, something each of the established guilds would have a voice in.

Two years into the Magical Presidency of Velma the First, the missing members of the guild returned, having apparently been flung forward in time and looking no older than they had when they’d vanished 7 years earlier… and I finally got my fight against Makarov. To say he was less than thrilled with what I’d done to his guild and the Magical Council was to put it mildly. I told him he could have Fairy Tail back if he could… teach me the errors of my ways.

Did you know the dude could grow to the size of a fucking skyscraper? Cause no one else I’d scanned did. Fuuuuuuck….Dude got big… and buff… and suuuuper angry. Told the others to stay out of it and whomped me. Seriously… ouch… I’ve spent centuries practicing and collecting powers, and I don’t know how long Makarov’s been at this, but he’s had all that time to work on a very small set of abilities and to do hone them to a fine edge… and as it turned out… he had not one or two, but four aces in the hole!

As Legit Guild Master, he could call upon the three secret magics of Fairy Tail… I’ve mentioned them before in the build part of this log, but let me cover them again, in greater detail… from the perspective of someone who has actually faced someone using them. Fairy Sphere was an incredibly powerful defense spell, and one that was all but impossible to bypass. By the time I figured out how to get passed it, I’d faced multiple shots from the general attack spell called ‘Fairy Glitter’, which was like being nailed by a nuclear snowball. I’d also barely avoided getting tagged by ‘Fairy Law’, a spell that could wipe out everyone that the caster views as an enemy. But  more worrying than all that, than the overwhelming attacks or the nearly impenetrable defense? Makarov could draw on ‘Fairy Heart’, the functionally infinite source of magical energy… something I, as a mere usurper, invited or not… could not. It was a practical and abject lesson in humility, getting my ass ever so completely pwned by a wizened old midget… of course, he was cheating and it wasn’t exactly a duel to the death… but that’s how Makarov regained leadership of his guild. Which was fair enough… I’d only taken the post as an interim measure.

The last two years were mostly dealing with an invasion from a nation across the sea called the Alvarez Empire, led by some evil demonomancer / necromancer named Zeref… Never got the whole story on him, but his followers were pretty completely batshit lunatics. They included the third and last of the big three Dark Guilds, Tartaros, most of whom turned out to be demons from the so called ‘Books of Zeref’… oh, and Zeref turned out to be Natsu’s brother… or rather, the brother of the original Natsu, who’d died and been resurrected as our Natsu… you know, typical Shonen nonsense.

Tartaros tried taking out the Guild Council, partly to disable Etherion and partly to seize control of the Council’s other Mega Weapon, the continent wide magical draining weapon called Face… it’s shaped like 3000 face statues… still a stupid name. Unfortunately for Tartaros, Magical President Velma called in reinforcements before she went down and the rest of my companions showed those demons exactly why you don’t fucking mess with Fairy Tail. (Makarov had made us full guild members after his return… though he’d tried to bust me down to normal guild member until I’d given him ‘The Look’… Oh, and he’d let Laxus back in. Kid had had a change of heart.)

All in all it was a most satisfactory jump. I was in it for the training, having no idea of the plotline, and although I managed to master Second Origin, I was never pushed close to the need to use ‘Third Origin’ (a way to tap into your future magic and use it all at once… thus stripping away your ability to use that magic ever again). I also never got anywhere near as good at Requip as Erza, but I could use it in a pinch without having to open a portal to my warehouse and Accio something. One step better than two…. Or three if I need to find/make a surface.

I also managed to learn Fairy Law… Kinda had to modify Etherion to fire it… much easier to fight an empire if all the top brass take targeted mega-damage from your godweapon just before the enemy shocktroops land. I may not like the Rune Knights, but if you’ve got a bunch of blue-robed magical stormtroopers, you might as well use them against your enemies. Did you know you can (with enough power and enough casters) cast Requip on an entire city? If everyone’s wearing the same uniform, who do you attack? What happens if only one side can see the difference between the fake uniforms and the real ones. As Oppenheimer once said, “I drink to the confusion of our enemies.”

Well, I certainly did that. All in all, I give Fairy Tail a solid 7 of out 10, not great, but would Jump Again. Natsu on the other hand… him I give a 3/10… fucking chowderhead. I admit, my last action in this world was to douse Gray, Gajeel, and Natsu with Jusenkyo Curse Water… just for lolz.

Next: World 29 – Turn Turn Turnabout

Resources: BuildDocument

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

World 27: Touhou Project Pink

DON’T ASK

Previously: Something Simpler

Themesong: Everybody Ought to Have a Maid from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

We gathered around the new machine, which had been waiting for us when we returned to the Warehouse following the end of our stay in the RWBYVerse. Taped to the front was a piece of paper that read: ‘Personal Reality Point Balance: 100 Choice’. Which was all well and good, but what I wanted next cost 200 Choice, so I simply took the paper down and handed it off to Francine, who would file it with all the other hardcopy I’d ever gotten from the Banker.

Meanwhile, the others were trying to make sense of what the machine said. It didn’t even have a custom font, which was odd. Every other jump besides the fairly generic ‘Great Detective’ had had a custom font… even Generic Zombie had used that weird post apocalyptic ‘zombie’ font. But this? nothing. Just a kind of bland yellow bubble font somewhat similar to Ranma’s red… and like Ranma, it was written in Japanese letters, which most of us could read just fine… even Velma. Only Kendra, Toph, and Ziggy couldn’t read Japanese, though Ahab was pretty bad at it (unless you flipped the switch on his back that made him bad at English… kidding.)

“Touhou Project?” Zane asked, finally breaking the silence. “What’s that?” Everyone else just shrugged. Finally he asked Vivian.

“I have no knowledge of a Touhou Project” VIvian responded. “Perhaps it is some kind of Japanese military secret?”

“I…” I began, stepping up to the machine and examining the screen. It was full of colorful explosions and patterns, and it stirred some long, long buried spark. I searched my Memory Palace, dredging up memories thousands of years old. “I think it’s a… bullet hell videogame… wait… we have one… no… two… Castle of Shinigami and Death Smile… has anyone played them?” I looked around to blank faces.

“Oh… right… no… I didn’t bring my original videogame collection with me… and I never bought copies of those games in any jump because they were way too obscure… ummm… I think it’s about lolita vampires and… ummm… bullets.” 

“You could buy the ‘All Your Stuff’ option from the Reality Supplement,” Velma suggested. I considered, then sighed. “I could… but is it really worth wasting points on stuff I haven’t needed in a super duper long time?”

“Well… what are you currently saving up for?” Joy asked.

“Uhh… the food supply upgrade, ‘A Little Less Basic’,” I replied.

“What?!” Toph demanded. “Why?! I mean, it can’t be for fresh veggies. We’ve got plenty of those from the basic and the Life Garden. And with the Eternalizer, we can buy anything we want and just stock the shelves until they groan!” she pointed to where bushels of apples sat, fresh as the day they were picked, next to covered platters of sushi freshly made. We had years worth of individual beers that would never go off, cases of sodas, and crates of cookies of all sorts.

Joy nodded, “And we have those Food Synthesizers from Star Trek tech you’ve made. They do a fine job of creating most of the stuff we’d need.”

I shrugged, then scratched the back of my neck. “Well, it’s like this. We leave worlds behind all the time… sometimes with things we can’t duplicate. Like Yakow steak from Avatar world, or Bitter Melon from Samurai Jack World. We can synthesize that stuff, but it’s not as good as the real stuff, and you know it. Synthesized food is always the same, always an idealized version, and doesn’t taste quite right. Getting a good sampling from past places would be nice! And no matter how much we stockpile, those stocks will run out eventually,” I pointed out.

“For the cost of A Little Less Basic, you can get A Month’s Return and All Your Stuff,” Francine suggested, but for some reason, I ignored her. I’m not really certain why… looking back on it, it would have been a reasonable suggestion. A Month’s Return would allow me to visit a past setting for a month between jumps (to stock up and say hi or whatever) and wouldn’t eat uses of my Return Door… and yet, like the Return Door… I didn’t want to think about it and so I didn’t.

Instead, I all but allowed myself to get distracted by Yoiko. “This jumptree is six kinds of fucked up,” she commented, having ignored the conversation and begun messing with the Vending Machine while the rest of us talked. “It’s painting a picture of gods and quasi-gods just… totally failing to get along… but agreeing to settle things in a less than Reality Destroying way… like if big bro and Ranma agreed to settle their differences by… throwing marshmallows at each other. Even ki-charged, how much damage could a marshmallow do?”

I thought about all the things I could do to weaponize marshmallows… then nodded… at most it would just hurt a bit. Anything more and it wouldn’t be a marshmallow anymore. Okay, an Antimatter Marshmallow would be fucking insanely dangerous, but again… strictly speaking… not the exact opposite of a Marshmallow.

“Ack,” said Yoiko as I considered the destructive potential of the Spiritual Marshmallow and the resulting Smorpocolypse…

“What?” I asked, looking over.

She pointed to the screen. “The import is expensive… 600 Choice.”

“Fuck…” I frowned, then asked, “What, exactly, do we get for that chunk of change?”

She hmmm’d as she read, then reported, “It looks like everyone gets 600 CP to spend.” She paused, then added, “Each.” 

I nodded at the clarification, even though it wasn’t really needed. Then I thought about it a bit more and asked. “Wait… Everyone as in the normal eight, or everyone, as in everyone? Like Scooby-Doo everyone.”

“Everyone but you,” she clarified. “It says ‘All your companions gain 600 CP to spend for perks.’ So, I guess that’s Everyone Everyone… or something.  Everyone in this pocket of reality.”

“Shit. Fine… I can’t pass this up, can I?” I said, shooing her away from in front of the machine and taking over the controls. “Let’s start on the damned Drawbacks and work backward then. I want this for you guys… Whoa… this jump has a fuckton of powerful shit in it, don’t it.” I commented as I skipped past perks called ‘Doctor of Miracles’, ‘Infernal Sun’, and ‘Pandemonium’, but I didn’t pause to read their info-blurbs.

The system had protested a little, but not too much, as I’d skipped through the basic introduction screens and past the Origins. “I’ll be right back,” I promised the (probably) inanimate object. Apparently that’s when I made my mistake. I didn’t even know I’d made it. I was just checking if there was a CP limit when I must have accidentally clicked a Zero Point Option. The results were something I… well… ‘Interesting’ is a word that could be used to describe them. ‘Deeply Worrying’ is a phrase that could be applied. ‘Hilarious in Retrospect’ might work… But so would ‘Humiliating’, ‘Degrading’, ‘Embarrassing’, and ‘Wrong’. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

There were eleven Drawbacks, not counting the Toggle that I’d accidentally toggled and didn’t even see on the screen. Apparently, according to my memory, the screen had flashed ‘Do You Want To Activate Secondary Canon?’ and had the options ‘Tell Me More.’, ‘Nyet!’, ‘Nerf the Bitch! (50% CP Penalty)’, and ‘Sure Why Not? (Full CP Award)’. Since I’d been distracted, all I’d seen was the Full CP before I’d clicked through, trying to find out how many Choice worth of Drawbacks I could take and how bad the things on offer were. The answer to the first was that there wasn’t a limit… and as for how bad? Well… that’s entirely a matter of perspective.

From my starting perspective, many of them were downright free points or nearly so. In fact, I read some of them aloud to my friends, laughter in my voice. “Hey, gang, check it; ‘Silly Hats and Frilly Dresses’ is worth a hundred Choice? Seriously? A hundred just for wearing hats all the time? Okay… sure I can do that.” I picked up Ziggy and put him on my head. “See, already started. What’s next?”

What was next was ‘Woman of Honor’… “Two hundred Choice for eschewing tech and acting like an old fashioned lady? Wow. No problem there. As far as I can tell, this is a no kill setting. I’m not seeing any fail states.” I checked the notes. Nope. Everything was handled through mock-battles as Yoiko had said.

Then I found my first fail-state. “Okay… ‘All According to Plan’ makes me a pawn in some lunatic’s grand scheme…” I paused, finishing reading the description. It was bad. “No… no thanks. I may be a damned fine detective, but I’m not setting myself up for a Chain Fail if I can’t figure out who’s Xanatosing me.” Risking the chain for two hundred in a world I knew fuck-all about? No thanks. Also, I don’t like being manipulated. Just ask Million Dollar Baby… hate that movie. Even millenia later. You want to make a movie about assisted suicide? Make that the lead. Tell the boxing movie in flashbacks so we know what it’s all leading up to. Bastard director.

But if ‘All According to Plan’ wasn’t to my liking, ‘Incidental’ was another kettle of fish entirely. At two-hundred Choice, it meant that (at least once during my stay) I’d be the cause (either deliberately or accidentally) of some great and historic incident that would shake Gensokyo to its foundations and resonate in the realm’s history forever… for good or ill. It was profoundly tempting and all it really did was meant that my stay would not be low key. For a two spot, it didn’t sound that bad… in fact, it sounded like a lot of fun, to be honest. 

And rounding off the formal-behaving, hat-wearing, incident-causing perfecta, there was ‘Mists of Amnesia’ which didn’t quite erase my memories, but rather clouded them, obscured them, made me uncertain of what had come before, of my name and what I could do. To be honest, that was a bit of a terrifying proposition. Memories are identity. Giving them up, even for a time? Worrisome, even with a guarantee I’d get them back at the end. But that’s the thing. I was worrying about forgetting who I was now… but the me that would experience it all… she’d be confused as to why she couldn’t remember… or would she? I didn’t know… but it was tempting, especially for three-hundred Choice… and quite frankly, I didn’t know anything about this world except the names of a couple of the characters. None of my companions knew anything about it either. It would be an experience… eh, fuck it. I flipped that one on as well. 

“EssJay?”

“Yes Zane?” I said, turning to look up at him. 

“That’s 800 points of Drawbacks,” he pointed out, looking worried. Not about the Amnesia… just about the total.

“Hmmm…” I thought about it, then grinned. “Yes it is. Not nearly enough!” I proclaimed, laughing as his face fell. “Let’s toss in Reimu Syndrome for three-hundred! Everyone will rely on me to resolve whatever comes up.”

He frowned. “Whyyyy?”

I pointed at the screen. “The text says ‘Think you know the games’ lore well enough to prevent things from happening in the first place?’! Well. Joke’s on them! I don’t know the lore at all!”

“You’re out of your mind.”

“It says to have fun!” I protested. “Whhy? Is the big doggo wanting to back out of that tasty tasty 600 Companion Choice?”

He looked frustrated at that, waffling back and forth. “No… but… umm…” His shoulders slumped a bit. “Right… never mind,” he sighed. “I’m in. Deranged goober.”

That put me at twenty-one hundred Choice, more than I’d ever had going into a Jump. Of course, my friends immediately ate six of that of that, so I was back down to fifteen-hundred… time to get me some goodies. I was  almost certainly going to need them.

Picking a Race didn’t seem to have any particular bonuses aside from the new form, but the top three races were each pretty damned powerful if the descriptions were to be believed. Tengu (Spirits of Light), Oni (Spirits of Darkness with a lethal bean allergy), and Vampires (Powerful as fuck, blood-addicted, sunlight-allergic…), they formed the trinity of power in Touhou’s racial hierarchy, from what I could gather… though Moon Bunnies… sorry, Lunarians… are the local tech experts and Humans can become Magicians. But I had the CP to afford one of the expensive races (each was three-hundred), so I figured it would be a waste not to use it.

Tengu, the Youkai of the Heavens, were (apparently) phenomenally skilled at magic and known for speed and agility that few could match. They also had a reputation for adaptability and being faster learners, as well as for being tricksome and confusing to their enemies (and occasionally to their friends). Oni, the Youkai of the Underworld, were the natural counterpart to the Tengu. As tough and strong as the Tengu were fast, they had a reputation for being highly competitive and deeply determined. And in their own way, they were just as powerful, magically speaking… if more focused on direct action than subtly. They were also accomplished party-animals, knowing how to have fun in all but the most dire situations, with a huge appetite for booze. But for all that, an Oni could be damaged by the touch of a fried bean or killed by ingesting one. 

Vampire was, well, you know about vampires. Powerfully gifted with their own sanguine magics, strong, fast, tough… plus charismatic and cunning, Vampires are the complete package… but their stats drop and their magic becomes all but useless in sunlight, and it’s all fuelled by blood. There was power on offer, and the Scarlet sisters are pretty cute… if a bit weird… but I just didn’t really want to be drinking blood. I also didn’t want to be killed by accidentally eating beans… I like beans! So Tengu it was!

Tengu take on physical and behavioral characteristics, both good and bad, of some mundane species of animal (preferably Japanese in origin), though Crow-Tengu and Wolf-Tengu were the most Common. I thought about taking Ferret… and the Drawback ‘Jumper Stole the Precious Thing’ which would make me a kleptomaniac for the valuables of others and guaranteed that I’d be caught red-handed at least a couple of times during the next ten years.

In fact, the thought amused me enough that I made a list of the qualities of a ferret, both good and bad. On the Good Side, they are fearless and cute and extremely energetic/resilient/clever/flexible. On Bad Side… they can be kinda stinky and they sleep aaaaalll the time… and, yes, they are total kleptomaniacs. Then again, most animals are kinda stinky… scent’s a big thing to almost all mammals. That said, I assume Tengu aren’t stinky. “Eh, what the hell. Ferret Tengu and ‘Jumper Stole the Precious Thing’ brings me to sixteen-hundred Choice and then down to thirteen-hundred,” I commented, then snapped, “Shut up Zane.”

“Didn’t say anything!” he whined. “It was Toph moaning in pain.”

“Was not! Lying dog!” she snapped back, glaring up at him. She’s gotten much better at glaring since she gained sight. For one thing, she aims it correctly now, and gets the whole narrowing of the eyes a bit better… but sometimes I suspect she forgets that glares can’t actually do damage unless you also have eyebeams like I do. Sometimes I forget and then I have to apologize for vaporizing someone’s clothing.

“Woof!” Zane said, grinning and almost letting his tongue lol.

“Children!” I chided them both, “You have perks to buy, so stop annoying me.” I waved them off to look at the freshly dispensed Companion tablets as I scrolled up to look at my own purchase options.

I considered taking Drop-In Origin for the Soar and Doctor perks… but I didn’t like anything else they got. I considered the Mage Origin, because they had the Elemental powers… but again… nothing else I wanted. Which left me with Servant or Ruler. Servant had a time manipulation Capstone which was awesome… but Ruler had… more. So that’s what I went with, even though it cost me a hundred. Always bugs me paying for origins a little, even when it makes sense that they’d cost more. Maybe that’s because it so often didn’t make sense.

Anyway, Ruler / Leader (it was referred as Leader in the Origins and Ruler in the Perks it discounted… very odd) meant that, thanks to my skills and talents, I was now the undisputed head of a group of loyal followers, all with unique strengths and weaknesses, but a unified ideology focused on furthering my own goals and ideals… yeah… I’m a Jumper, duuuh. Regardless, I was now Leader of the Ferret Tengu… here to steal the Precious and Fix all the Things and having no clue about any of it. This was going to be… interesting… or so I thought then. Note to self… twelve-hundred points worth of Drawbacks is not a good thing… but sometimes it’s the Zero point ones that screw you.

Free Touhou Soundtrack… yay? At least no midi-music like the games apparently had… but it was almost certain to be background music. I’m sorry, I like my music to be sweeping operatic scores, not something that could be played on a piccolo. As if to prove me wrong, the cabinet’s sound kicked on an some damned orchestral music swirled up out of the speakers. Okay… Apparently this ZUN guy can music.

I shelled out a hundred of my precious twelve for ‘Soar’… the text says that it’s crucial to be able to fly and fly extremely well, even in combat. Sure, I could already fly, but it wasn’t like really good combat flight. I could go about a hundred and twenty kilometers an hour, but it was mostly linear and not up to much in the way of aerobatics or anything. Certainly not up to bullet-hell level precision… and I couldn’t fly backwards and cornering was… interesting. Soar, for a sixth of the cost I’d paid… fuck, overpaid in the BuffyVerse, would not only allow me to levitate (something I couldn’t do that well with Fly), but also allow me (with practice) to fly around sharp bends or even in reverse as fast as I could go straight ahead. Didn’t say how fast the population of Gensokyo could fly, but even if the combined total of the two abilities was only 150 kph… it was still the ability to fly 150 kph in reverse, while in combat. The idea was that heady mixture of awe-inspiring and just plain scary.

If ‘Soar’ was a special kind of unnerving, it was nothing compared to the abuseability of the Ruler’s mid-tier ability ‘Third Eye of Satori’, which cost two hundred Choice and granted one the ability to read the hearts and the minds of any being, no matter what language they spoke… or even if they were animals and didn’t speak any language at all, though it would only allow me to do so in the subject’s immediate presence, which was a limitation I was okay with. If that was all it did, it would have been worth the price twice over. But it wasn’t. It could also be used to manipulate the conscious or unconscious minds of others… essentially to mesmerize anyone I could compromise in person. With those who were truly compromised, such as anyone out-cold, asleep, drugged… or just willing, I could tap into their memories to experience them for myself.

The potential for abuse on Third Eye was so high I could taste the darkside calling from it. I remember loathing Emerald for her malicious mind-fuckery, and resolved that, when I eventually gave in to temptation and used the mesmerism side of this that I’d try to be less… evil about it. Like most powers, it was all about how it was used… And it wasn’t as if I couldn’t do the mind whammy on others with my psychic powers already. Still, I was mostly buying it for the ability to scry into the heart and mind of any being. That and the memory surfing were simply too attractive to pass up.

And of too attractive to pass up (and not at all abusable, no ma’am) was next Ruler perk up, the three-hundred pointer (after discount… and no, not the capstone… Touhou had eight-hundred pointers for capstones… ouch). On a scale of things people should not be able to do, ‘Hakutaku’s Gift’ was just absurd. Again, it was a memory manipulator (because of course it was… thanks darkside!), but where Satori was personal, Hakutaku was extremely wide scale, allowing me to conceal the truth by implanting my own false information. How wide scale? Global, essentially. There were limitations, of course. First, it could only extend back in history a certain distance, and after that… or rather before that, it couldn’t alter memories. Second, and more a matter of skill than a hard limit, was the fact that creating vivid and believable memories was also (apparently) quite difficult.

However, that wasn’t all Hakutaku could do. Oh no. I wouldn’t have taken it if it were merely a wide area misinformation ability. Not really my style. But what was my style, and the true awesome at the core of the gift was that, once every full moon, I could alter one specific historical event from the recent past to another of my choice, changing the course of history from that point onwards, and thus changing the present to reflect that alteration. There were two limits on this more powerful applications, and these were, effectively, hard limits both. Call them life and death. I could not change the past to stop a life from being lost, nor could I take a like as a result of my changes.

The cost of taking all that? Well… aside from the CP and pushing myself into some very grey moral areas was that I had to pass on buying the Servant’s ‘Lunar Dial’ Capstone, the ability to control the flow of time. But still… the ability to rewrite history was just too hard to pass up.

And speaking of Capstones… did I want the Ruler Capstone, ‘Scarlet Destiny’, which would allow me to manipulate the fucking strings of fate, granting me massive luck and making my enemies suffer misfortunes? Or should I snag the elemental control powers from the Mage line? Both were tempting. But as hard as it was to pass up an eight-hundred Choice fate manipulation ability, I feared what I’d become with that kind of power.

I’d become the spider in the web, a pure supervillain or spymaster, lurking in the darkness instead of adventuring in the light. And I liked being a paladin too much… even if I was often a stealthy (and somewhat tarnished) paladin. Also, the luck manipulation would reduce some of the fun of life. It would reduce the danger a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong, I like luck… but it’s… relying on it can be a crutch… and I prefer active abilities rather than reactive.

And so I went with ‘Elemental’s Secrets’ for four-hundred. It was the Eastern or Wu Xing Elements this time; Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water… plus the power of the Sun and Moon. That last part was handy as hell, since my Firebending relied on one and my Waterbending the other. As for the others? Well, I could already manipulate three of these directly (Fire, Water, Earth) and the other two indirectly with Telekinesis. So, in theory, I could benefit from taking all five… but a boost to my Icemagic… That was hard to say no to. I don’t know much about Touhou… but I do remember the Ice Fairy’s name was Cirno… she had wings… three half-meter long shards of ice really, floating behind her. She was cute.

Atura grumbled inside me about my lack of Center. I chuckled. “Fine, we’ll stick to the balanced wheel. A small boost to everything is better… more creative control, right?” Atura agreed. “But don’t forget… I’m still the Winter Witch. I can steal fire.”

Creativity was, apparently, the secret of ‘Elemental’s Secret’. Each of the individual elements was said to have vast individual potential, but it was  also said that that they would shine brightest when creatively used in combination to reshape the world to the will of the Elemental Mage.

And with my last two-hundred I settled on ‘Doll Maker of Bucuresti’, which  was a weird name, but probably made sense if you knew Touhou. Each perk had an info-link that listed who had the individual power; for example, Third Eye of Satori was possessed by Komeiji Satori (as you might expect), while Hakutaku’s Gift was possessed by Kamishirasawa Keine (as you probably didn’t expect)… and Patchouli Knowledge was the holder of the generalized Elemental’s Secret. Doll Maker was someone named Alice… or any Kappa, apparently. That cleared up exactly nothing, but was information… kinda. Either way, DMoB would make me an indisputable genius in terms of mathematics and science… in a realm ruled by magic. My abilities with technology and engineering would become so great that I would be able to adapt to handling, repairing, modifying, and even reverse-engineering completely foreign devices that I had little to no background on. My connection with both practical technology and magic would allow me to unlock the secrets to true magitech, given enough time. I guess that was a step up (and not a small one) from Setup Wizard from Harry Potter.

As I finalized my build, I turned to the others and asked, “Okay, What you got?”

Zane 

“Lunarian Drop-In.” Zane looked as smug as if he’d invented the concepts… but that’s Zane for you. Cocky and gung-ho in practically everything he does.

“A Moon Bunny?” I asked, leaning back on the bar and sipping my iced-tea.

“That’s Militant Moon Bunnies to you toots,” he drawled, then shrugged. “Eh, why not? Says not all of them have bunny ears. And I took Soar, because I’m sick of being grounded while you get to enjoy the skies.”

“Aww… poor puppy,” I said with a chuckle, patting him telekinetically on the head. “You could have borrowed the carpet, or used your broom.”

“Not the same. I also grabbed that booze pot and the hammer… you know… for party reasons and because funny.”

“I love you like a brother… you know that right?” He nodded. “But you’re mental.” He nodded again, this time even more enthusiastically. “By booze pot and hammer, you mean the ‘Ibuki Gourd & Hoshiguma Dish’ that together transform water into high quality sake and the ‘Miracle Mallet’ which changes the size of whatever is bonked by it?”

“That’s them. And I wuv you too, shrimptoast,” he teased, lobbing a pillow at me. “Also bought ‘Magician’s Mind’ and ‘Apparitions Stalk the Night’. Cause the first makes magical skills never fade and generally all around better, and the second cause I am the night!… why are you banging your head against the wall?”

Ziggy

“Ziggy follow momma!” he was bouncing around my feet, his fur all fluffed up to a ludicrous and adorable degree.

“Do you?” I asked, kneeling down and ruffling his little head.

“Yesyesyes!” he scampered up my arm and stood on my head. “Follow in sky! Weeeeee!” He lept off as he cried his battle cry.

I caught him as he fell, rubbing my nose against his little button-nose. “Flying ferret… scary,” I said with mock severity.

“Yes! Scary! Weeee!” he enthused, licking my upper lip and squirming.

I eyed him, then set him on top of the VMoD. “Anything else?” I asked him.

“Ziggy like trees!” he said, bouncing back and forth in a weasel-war dance.

I thought about that, then offered, “Forest Fairy? A Tanuki?”

He tilted his little head at me and asked, “Naupi? Is treat?”

I chuckled, then said, “You get to wear a leaf on your head.”

“YAY! Sleep now,” he said, shifting gears instantly and flopping down on the warm vent atop the machine.

I pulled up his data in the companion menu and began making purchases for him. “‘Focus Undivided’ and ‘Elemental Secrets: Wood’ so you can pay attention in battle and make a nest to curl up in…” He didn’t respond, but I hadn’t expected him to. I looked over the top of the machine, and found him already rolled into a ball, nose tucked into his own belly. “Right. Sleep well baby. Good Ziggy.” I gave him a little pat and turned to the next in line.

AJ

“I am your right hand, mother.” AJ’s body language was stiff and formal. Normally he’s a good kid, relaxed, at ease, happy go lucky… but sometimes he reverts to this kind of thing, like he’s decided that the circumstances somehow warrant extra solemnity.

“You don’t have to call me that, you know,” I said, smiling softly. “You’re my friend.” I wanted to give him a hug, but he wouldn’t appreciate that.

“It’s a formality,” he said, not quite coming to attention. “You have proclaimed yourself our leader, I shall be your servant. A Grass Fairy Servant for a Ferret Tengu Overlord.”

I snorted at the term ‘Overlord’, then half-snarked, “I prefer to think of myself as more of a First Among Equals Lady.”

“As you will, mother,” he said, not even acknowledging my joke.

“You took Focus Undivided too, didn’t you,” I asked, wondering if there was a jump out there that would give him more an appreciation of the absurd.

“I am your sword… or in this case, your Scythe.” He looked so stern and cute I had to throttle the urge to hug him again.

Instead, I clarified, “You took the Shinigami’s Scythe… the one that makes makes everyone assume you’re a Grim Reaper and makes them open to the idea of accepting death?”

“Aye,” he said, straightening his back even more as if pretending to be part of an honor guard.

“Not all your weapons have to be slashing weapons, you know?” I asked, drumming my fingers on the side of the bar.

“I like the motif,” he said with a shrug, “I also took the Ofuda spirit papers to ward and protect you from mischief.”

“I-“

“Mischief from external sources,” he added, knowing that protecting me from my own mischief was a lost cause.

“Riiiight,” I drawled.

“And ‘Tai Chi Master’, so I can see and harm ghosts and spirits more easily,” he added. “I anticipate there being a great many spiritual entities in dire need of harming in the decade to come.”

“Well then… sounds like you’re…” I paused, searching for the right word. I finally settled on “committed”.

“I am your right hand,” he said, then relaxed ever so slightly, and smirked as he commented, “Plus I got some spending money for snacks.”

I laughed at that, then ruffled his hair. “I’m so proud of you.”

Francine

“AJ’s being a little suck up again, isn’t he?” Francine commented, a frown on her delicate features.

“Be nice to your brother,” I chided, flicking her ear.

She yelped and covered her ear defensively, then humphed. “He tried to convince me that we should be your loyal servants!” She held up her hands as if demonstrating what she was talking about. “He your right hand, me your left.”

“You objected?” I asked. “Do you not want to be a hand, or just not the sinister one?” I teased.

She ignored my jest, which she often does. “I saw no reason to play along with his game,” she announced, quite primly. “Though he was right that ‘Focus Undivided’ and ‘Tai Chi Master’ would be useful. I have incorporated them into my build… Along with ‘Magician’s Mind’ and ‘Soar’ from Zane’s.”

“Huh. So mostly just basic utility stuff?” I asked, feeling a little disappointed in how prosaic her build was. “Nothing from the ‘POWER OVERWHELMING’ category?”

“Unnecessary. My intellect is already superior,” she said, voice ringing with haughtiness (and maybe a tinge of megalomania). “Magician’s Mind will simply speed the rate at which I learn new magical abilities. I did pick up one of those adorable Alice Dolls. I can have it polish all my spoons.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I did the circus impresario bit, complete with grand arm-sweeps and a bow. “The strongest psychic in the group… because it’s cute.”

“I get to be a Moon Bunny Mage!” she said, holding her Alakazam ears up and hopping a bit. “Why are you hitting your head with that that book?”

Dyna

The alien Pokemon lurched to attention in front of me, inexplicably acting like a stereotypical Frankenstein’s Monster. She shifted into a humanesque form and said, “Lunarian Servant. ‘Flying’ for tactical superiority. ‘Spell Card Pact’ for non-lethal combat and conflict resolution. ‘Eyes of Death and Pain’… for the swift destruction of your enemies.” She finished it off with a two-fingered salute.

Rubbing my eyes, I sighed. “Dyna… it’s called ‘Lunatic Red Eyes’,” I pointed out.

She shrugged. “My optical organs are blue.”

“Right…” I pinched the bridge of my nose.

“And my mental processes are not impaired,” she continued, tilting her head to the side.

I opened my mouth to say something snarky, then just nodded in a sagely fashion, trying to project an air of not wanting to scream at her literalism. I hoped she was joking… but suspected that she was deadly serious. “Gotcha.”

“Does this build please you?” she asked.

I frowned, then replied, “Does it please you?” I wanted to point out that my opinion on the subject was less important than how it made her feel… but (despite all my communication perks) I had no idea how to phrase that without it sounding dismissive or insulting.

She considered seriously for several seconds, then stated, “Pleasing you pleases me.” That could be taken sooo many ways… many of them X-Rated.

“That’s it,” I growled, wiggling my fingers at her. “You’re getting hugs.”

She backed up, but not fast enough to avoid my embrace. “Mistress… Please. I do not require… please let go… I am having respiratory difficulty,” she whined, flailing a bit.

I laughed and shook my head, not releasing her. “You are not, I’m not squeezing that hard.”

She considered. It was true. Plus, she didn’t exactly need to breathe. So she tried another tack. “I think I smell something burning. You should go check.”

Unfortunately for her, I was wise to her tricks, and ignored her. “Hugs will not kill you.”

“You have no documented proof of that,” she complained. “Best not to test the theory.”

Shaking my head in amusement, I poked her nose and asked, “Would you like me to call Yoiko and have her hug you instead?”

She snapped her mouth shut, then muttered, “I shall be silent.”

“Good Dyna,” I said, patting her head.

Petra

“Boss… why are you snuggling Dyna?” the metal-crab girl asked, climbing up onto the bar and peering over my shoulder. Just an FYI, in her default humanoid form, Petra is 4’5″, making her the shortest of my companions except for Ziggy. I don’t know why this is, since in her Metagross form she’s large even for her species, clocking in at 5’9″ at the top of her dome (that’s six inches taller than the average). In her Mega-Metagross form, she’s over nine feet tall. Ziggy, by the by, is a big boy too, clocking in at 2’2″ (Linoones average 1’8″).

Not that height in human form always matched poke-height at all. Zane’s human form was 6’2″, while as a Lucario he was an inch over four feet (two inches taller than average for his kind). But AJ was 5’3″ and Francy was five foot even, both right in the range for their species. AJ was exactly average, while Francy was an inch over. The only one who didn’t even come close to matching her listed value was, of course, RayRay… but that’s because the ‘height’ listed in the dex (23-35 feet) is actually length. Still, at 5’11”, the Skydragon was taller in human form than her maximum vertical thickness in snek form (3’4″).

I laughed, letting Dyna (5’7″ like all Deoxys, even in her human form) go. “I amuses me to do so.”

“I see,” Petra remarked, finding nothing strange about this behaviour. She’s quite laissez faire in that regard. “Very well. I shall be brief. A Human Mage background suits me, and I shall be taking ‘Magician’s Mind’, the complete ‘Elemental’s Secret’, and the ‘Spirit Camera’ scrying ability. Reconnaissance is important… plus, it will allow me to locate you if you wander off.”

I frowned, then asked, “I don’t usually do that, do I?”

“You don’t…” she hedged, clearly excluding all the times I’d done just that, especially in Scooby-Doo. “But you did do it more than normal as a Ferret Faunus, and this time you are a going to be a Ferret Tengu… I assume that means you will be napping in almost completely random places at all hours of the day or night.” She grinned at me, as if challenging me to contest her logic.

I gave her a nose poke, and she tried to bite my finger tip as I nodded. “Valid Point… I think you’re a few points short.”

She gave me a look that said, ‘Please. I can maths, thank you.’ then said, “I was not finished.”

I chuckled, then did a bit of a flourishy bow, “Forgive me, lady crabby-pants. Do, please, continue.”

“I will also take the ‘Sorcerer’s Sutra Scroll’,” she said, trying not to giggle as I continued pretending to wave my big floppy hat (which I wasn’t wearing, but which I have several of) around. “Which is both of infinite length and can cast any spell or perform any ritual inscribed within it by itself. Nor will it work for others, so I don’t have to loan it to my siblings.”

I stood back up, frowning slightly, then grinned as I commented, “Ah… well… Ziggy can’t read anyway.”

Petra was not amused. “That has not stopped him in the past.”

“True…” I allowed, then pushed the Deoxys into her ‘sister’s’ arms. “Here. Give Dyna a four armed hug and tell RayRay to come in.”

RayRay

“I refuse to debase myself by being any of these lower lifeforms,” the Skydragon half-snarled. She didn’t like my general edict demanding that she not show up to family meetings in snake form… or enter buildings other than her nest as a giant flying serpent, but she seemed to be in a fowler mood than normal.

“That’s fine, you don’t have to be a Youkai,” I pointed out. “There are other options.”

She humphed. “Humans are lesser too.”

I regarded her for a long moment, then sighed. “You know, you’re a little bit bitchy sometimes.”

“Yes,” she confirmed, not sounding at all apologetic about it. I guess the fact that she also didn’t sound smug was a small saving grace.

After nearly a minute of total silence where we just looked at each other, I asked, “Did you actually buy anything?”

“Yes,” she confirmed. That was it. Another minute went by with her not giving me any information.

“What?” I finally asked. I could have out patienced her (maybe), but it would have been a pointless and time consuming victory. I swear, it’s like pulling fangs getting information out of her some time.

“Maiden of the Worshipped Wind…” she said, as if that was enough of an explanation. I raised my eyebrow to indicate that she should go on, and, with a long suffering sigh, she added, “If I am reading it aright, it will give me a direct line to the Powers That Be of any world we’re in, and the ability to negotiate on our behalf for their myriad and various blessings.”

I laughed at that, not mocking, just amused. “And the fact that you’re functionally a wind goddess had nothing to do with it? You couldn’t pass up the title, perhaps?”

“Irrelevant…” she said cooly, “but potentially true. I have also selected the ‘Sword of Hisou’, a golden jian crafted by Celestial beings in Heaven that can gather and store ambient spiritual energy and convert it into raw power. It can tailor attacks to an enemy’s specific spiritual signature, transforming the ambient energy into whatever that enemy is weak against.” Her eyes flashed a bit as she spoke of enemies.

After considering the implications, I remarked, “That’s fairly blood thirsty of you.”

She shrugged. “I need no other weapon than my breath and claws… I merely thought you could study the enchantments and potentially replicate them. I believe it also has meteorological effects, but do not know to what extent. Experimentation is probably in order.”

“Awww… thank you sweetie!” I grinned, then gave her a hug.

She stood there impassively, glowering down at me (I was in my default 4’10” form). “Humans are stupid,” she added as a final commentary.

“I’ll remember,” I said, humoring her.

Kendra

“Are you going to be okay in a realm full of what are essentially demons where you’re not allowed to kill any of them?”

“I have considered this and decided the best way to control my instincts is to deal with a competing set of instincts.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I will be a Common Youkai myself for this evolution, a demon, albeit a minor one, myself. A Servant one as well, the desire to serve competing with my basic instincts to cause harm.”

“Ah. Makes a certain kind of sense. So what did you get for yourself?”

“‘Focus Undivided’ to keep me controlled, ‘Tai Chi Master’ to keep me centered and aware, and ‘Apparitions Stalk the Night’… for those times I am neither centered nor controlled… but very much wish to be aware.”

“Gulp.”

“It seems a good place to deal with some of my… anger issues.”

“Not on me, I hope.”

“No. Though I did pick up ‘Roukanken and Hakurouken’, the swords of someone called Konpaku Youmu. One is said to be able to cure confusion in human or spirit, the other to slay ten spirits in a single stroke.”

“An upgrade from Mr. Pointy?”

“Indeed. I do wonder if they could kill the demon within one of my home reality’s vampires without harming the host’s body.”

“It wouldn’t have a soul and would just die.”

“Ah. True… but it would die human, yes?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps. Though I’m not keen to go back.”

“You do not miss your sister?”

“I…”

“Never mind. I can see the topic makes you uncomfortable.”

“…Tell Joy I need a few minutes.”

“I will.”

Joy & Ahab

“SJ, Kendra indicated you needed a little time to yourself, and so Ahab and I have prepared a short report on our choices, rather than force you to interview us. I have picked, as I’m certain you understand why, to be a Human Leader. I have also picked up ‘Focus Undivided’, not that I particularly need it, but because it cannot hurt. ‘Soar’, because self-powered flight is seldom a bad choice, and ‘Third Eye of Satori’, for what I believe is the same reason you took it. Ahab has decided to be a Servant Youkai, partly because he misses the action, and partly because it fits his darker nature… as does his selection of ‘Apparitions Stalk the Night’ and ‘Lunatic Red Eyes’. ‘Focus Undivided’ merely serves as an augment for skills we already possess, but such augment is never wasted. -Joy.”

Toph

“Feeling better?”

“Not really. Sometimes I miss those I left behind… and that list grows longer with every jump. Some of them are just waiting for me to return, unaware time is passing… others are gone forever… it’s the hard part of living forever. Maybe we’ll go back and visit your daughters sometime.”

“They’re big girls. They’re fine without me.”

“You don’t miss them?”

“They’re in my heart. I take them with me wherever I go.”

“Good philosophy.”

“Plus, they’re too clingy when I’m around.”

“Heh. Toph, you’re such a misanthrope.”

“Eh. I don’t like spirits much either. Anyway, you want to hear what I bought?”

“Sure. Go for it.”

“‘Tai Chi Master’… so I can punch spirits.”

“I don’t think that’s its purpose.”

“Can’t hurt, can it?”

“Suppose not.”

“And since I’m a Human Mage… ‘Elemental’s Secret’.”

“Which element.”

“Elements.”

“Oh? You went for all five?”

“No. I double dipped. Earth and Metal.”

“Wh… you can already shape those!”

“Damn straight! I’m simply the best! Better than all the rest! And fuck elemental purity making metal unbendable! I shall reign supreme!!!!”

“I think I need a drink.”

“Course you do! My awesomeness is better with booze.”

Bao

“Hey. I brought the wine you asked for. Hard day?”

“Personality clashes, introspection… reflecting on the past. These periods of being purely myself once every decade or so are… intense. I don’t have a mission, nothing pressing, besides the month deadline. But one on ones… they can be tricky… emotional landmines, good or bad. How are you doing?”

“Oh… We’re… I’m good. We… I… Hmm…”

“Problem?”

“Just wondering how much will happen while we’re under the effects of the amnesia that we’ll regret.”

“Ah. Yes. Letting go is always scary. This is like freefall. Worried about Uriel cheating on you?”

“Oh… yes… frankly. He… She… has had many more… relationships than I have.”

“Biologically, he was about ninety in his first life when he died. You barely reached thirty in yours before you joined us. And you were… more restrained than he was.”

“I know. And I don’t begrudge him the experiences… I just… we’ve been together for so long, yet we’re still dating.”

“Eternity does that. Puts a damper on the concept of ‘Hurry Up’. And you’ve been busy with projects and stuff. Haven’t been bored have you?”

“N… No.”

“Then don’t worry too much. Things will unfold as they do. Worrying about it won’t change that.”

“True enough. Well then… I shall change my race choice then.”

“Oh? What was it?”

“Common Yokai, lesser dragon.”

“And you’re changing it to?”

“Fairy… dragon.”

“Ah. Well… that will make a difference. Mage background?”

“Of course. ‘Magician’s Mind’, ‘Doll Maker’, ‘Border of Life’.”

“The thing that lets you, in theory, kill anything?”

“That is the one, yes.”

“That’s a scary ass power. Don’t raise any zombies around me please.”

“I shall endeavour not to.”

Uriel

“He’s worried.”

“He’s always worried.”

“He loves you.”

“He thinks he owns me.”

“You don’t approve?”

“It’s nice to belong to someone… but also feels a little… like prison.”

“Have you told him?”

“Many times. We fight. We do not speak for weeks or months… then we get back together. It is a cycle.”

“You can always talk to me about it.”

“No. I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“You will try to fix it. It isn’t your problem to fix.”

“But you’re my friends. I want you to be happy.”

“Your wants are irrelevant in this matter.”

“I… good point. I’m your friend… not your master. If there is anything I can do… you know where to find me.”

“I do. We do. But you cannot fix everything. Somethings are merely human nature. Try and interfere and all you’ll get is sorrow.”

“… So… what did you take.”

“Drop-In… Human… ‘Dollmaker’ and ‘Pandemonium’.”

“Why those?” I asked, bewildered as to why Uriel wanted the magitech perk and the density manipulation perk that allowed for self duplication… as well as super-dense super-hot punches or kicks… and (in theory) breaking the fourth wall, apparently.

“I… think I did it to piss Bao off, to be honest.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I. I’m going to go… now.”

I watched him go… sometimes human beings baffle me.

Ryoga & Yoiko

“So then, she was like ‘No way!’ and I was like ‘Yes way!’ and then-“

“Hibiki… if you don’t get to the point soon I’m going to have Ziggy bite you someplace you might not be numb to pain in.”

“Oh… right. Where was I?”

“You said you were an Oni Mage because they had a cook write up in D&D and then you started talking about the argument you were having with Yoiko.”

“Riiiight! So I was saying that ‘U.N. Owen was You’ is totally like Bakusai Tenketsu… but it works for everything. I just… find the breaking point and destroy it and boom!”

“Boom.”

“Right. Destroyed thing. As long as it has a weak point that is.”

“Doesn’t it require effort proportional to the strength of whatever you’re destroying?”

“Sure… but so does Bakusai Tenketsu. It’s always easier to destroy a point than the whole… and then let the whole self destruct.”

“Fair enough. Now send in your sister.”

“Can’t. She’s in the bath. But I know what she picked.”

“Great.”

“Wanna know?”

“YESSS!”

“Servant, Human. Scary eyes or something… and the hellish solar power.”

“‘Infernal Sun’? ‘Lunatic Red Eyes’?”

“That’s it! She wanted to be a walking nuke.”

“It lets you manipulate and cause nuclear fission and fusion… but it’s hard to control.”

“Yeah. Sounds dangerous!”

“We’re talking about your sister here.”

“I know! She’s going to totally blow something up by accident and it’s gonna be hilarious!”

“I just hope it’s not a city.”

“Nawww… her aim’s not thaaat bad.”

I had to wonder.

Velma

“So? You’re the last. Made up your mind?”

“Yes. I don’t think I want memories of this place… it sounds too strange. But being on the other side of the Ghost divide should be interesting. I took ‘Magician’s Mind’ so I can learn some magic from all you magic types… and ‘Doctor of Miracles’… because you guys really need a second healer. And your medicine isn’t very good at mixing science and magic… not that you’re a bad healer with each on their own… but DoM mixes them both… and alchemy too.”

“Good choice… what species are you going as?”

“Vampire.”

O…o

Nice… sweet… Velma… Ouchie.

Atura

“You did not ask me what I selected.”

“Atura? I… I didn’t even realize that was… I… sorry. I think of you as part of me… but you’re right, you’re a companion as well. What did you pick?”

“I selected Leader, since it should allow me insight into the choices you make and why you make them. But since I have no physical form separate from you, selecting a race seemed meaningless. I took the ‘Spirit Camera’… I assume you will not mind if I use your HUD or the pools of your Mind Palace to scry on things that interest me?”

“Err… no… that’s fine. Anything else?”

“Yes. I took the ‘Scarlet Destiny’ power you were interested in. The fate manipulation one. It seems like it might be useful to help maintain the balance… I shall not tell you when I am using it on your behalf… unless you ask it of me… but mostly I think I shall use it… when I do at all… to influence others in subtle ways. A small effort can nudge things in surprising ways I’ve learned.”

“Riiight… wait… why haven’t you asked to import before?”

“Because I am always part of you. I go where you go.”

“So why this time?”

“Because the jump grants all your companions CP points. Including me.”

“Ah… wait… so did Scooby-Doo… well, a running perk, some clothing, and a perk of your choice.”

“Indeed. The running perk is not needed… I do not move like that. Nor do I wear clothing… but I did take Ventriloquism.”

“Ventriloquism?”

“Yes. It might come in handy.”

“Great, the voices in my head are going to be talking to other people now.”

“Yes? Is that a problem?”

I just laaaughed.

INSERTION

I hit the button, watched the scroll of data showing everything we’d bought… as everything went dark I wondered, “What does Secondary Canon Mean… and why does the term Dark Canon fill me with dread?”

Okay… I… ummm… the fans of some things suck. Suck hard… apparently there are… at least three different Touhou Canons. There’s the Game Canon… there’s the light and silly fluffy Fan Canon… and there’s the Hentai Canon. Sooo much Hentai… oh… dear god. Ten years of… um… look… I don’t want to talk about it. And this really isn’t the forum for, you know… that kind of thing. Let’s just say there were lots and lots and lots of penalty games… and that immortal perverts can get very creative… especially when their victim is highly flexible and has just tried to walk off with a priceless and insanely dangerous shiny thing for no good reason… and wears a very silly hat.

I really don’t want to talk about it. Or the fact that I really should read things I don’t plan on buying. Apparently Cirno found the idea of another Ice Elemental super big (Dark Hentai Canon) fun. I… umm… don’t want to talk about it… or the epic fights between Yoiko (Nuclear Otaku) and Cirno over who got to do what to me… not talking about it… but now that the jump is over… why the hell is the Icy Fairy Twit following us around? Answer… apparently, when you’re a Ruler… you get a canon companion for free… When I got back to the warehouse, I found a receipt for her… from Reimu. Which I guess is good, because it could have been worse. I could have ended up with a Scarlet… or Wriggle Nightbug… don’t like bugs… there was this one battle… never mind… don’t want to talk about it.

I spent way too much of that jump erasing traumatic, embarrassing, or horrifying memories from people’s minds… sometimes my own. Not enough to make me question what was deleted in my case… just enough to forget the details… I sooo don’t want to talk about the details. Word of advice, never strip yourself of memories and reliable power usage… and power armor… before going into a world full of High Power Perverts who like… asserting their dominance… right… anyway, don’t ask…

Next jump, moving on. Oh, god… I can’t believe I spent a decade answering to the name ‘Squirmo Jukki’.

Next: Word 27 – You Asked!

Resources: Build, Document

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

Note: About why EssJay doesn’t want to think about using the Return Door / or buying Monthly Return. There isn’t something sinister there, really. The Personal Reality Supplement was created when I was in the 70s Jump Wise, so adding it in here in the rewrite / redux section would have changed too many things. Thus, not taking All My Stuff or A Month’s Return before I get to the point where EssJay is comfortable taking Returns, something she’s avoiding for personal reasons (and because I haven’t really felt the need to use it storywise), is entirely to maintain elements of the status quo between Redux and original. I point it out because, yes, it’s an option, but taking it would change too many future choices.

Companion Bodymod #17 – Cirno

  • Sex – Female [Free]
  • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
  • Anomalous Level 2 [+200/1200]
  • Extras – Wings Level 2 [200/1000/1200]
  • Affinity – Heart [100/900/1200]
  • Ascension [Free]
  • Waste Not [50/850/1200]
  • Strength Level 0 —
  • Endurance Level 2 [100/750/1200]
  • Speed Level 2 [100/650/1200]
  • Resilience Level 0 —
  • Reflex Level 3 [200/450/1200]
  • Logic Level 0 —
  • Memory Level 0 —
  • Resolve Level 0 —
  • Coordination Level 2 [100/350/1200]
  • Perception Level 0 —
  • Charisma Level 1 [Free]
  • Appeal Level 3 [100/250/1200]
  • Empathy Level 1 [Free]
  • Flexibility Level 3 [100/150/1200]
  • Fertility Level 2 [50/100/1200]
  • Universal Donor [100/0/1200]

World 26: RWBY

SOMETHING SIMPLER

Previously: The Gang Speaks

Themesong: Alegria from Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegria”

Note to self… never ask the-Powers-that-Jump for an end to Monster of the Week hi-jinks. They will interpret that as a request for more monsters. Case in point… the next Jump. The Machine had four letters… RWBY. A decade… saving the world from Grimm. In the Grimm Grimness of Remnant, there is only Dust? Something like that. Had to wonder if this would follow the original timeline as envisioned by RWBY’s creator, Monty Oum, who had  died during production of the third season… which I’d never finished watching due to reasons… that reason being trauma.

Well, at least it will be nice to meet Ruby, Weiss, Blake, Yang, Nora, and Penny and have a chance to meddle a bit, save some lives, give some hugs. Over-all, this should be a fun… ish… jump. Lots of fighting but not constant. The jump’s start date was a year before the show began… time enough to get the lay of the land and put my plans into motion… once I figured out what my plans would be.

And speaking of the land, I spun the wheel of location… Note to self… read all the locations before doing so… ‘The Middle of the Ocean’. Seriously? I was going to start in the middle of the freaking OCEAN!? There had better be a boat there or I was going to be ice-skating and wave riding all the way to shore… subtle it wouldn’t be. Crap. It might be worth paying for a relocate… I set that aside for later consideration as I tossed the GrimmDice of age… 15… well… that was not unexpected. The age range for that jump was essentially 15-17. Yay, highschool once again. 

Before I could continue, a pop-up appeared on screen: “You have 200 WP unspent. Would you like to access the Personal Reality Purchase App?” I blinked. That’s right. I did! I’d saved a hundred from the build because it hadn’t been enough to get what I’d wanted, and it had now been two complete jumps since then, with my account gaining fifty each time.

I agreed to bring up the app, then, double checking my purchase list and the logic I’d used to prioritize it, selected the VOWP Cell Service. Voice Over Warehouse Protocol was an Extranet upgrade that hooked me and my crew up with fiat backed cell phones that were fiat backed to connect to the Warehouse and to any other phone on the network.

As soon as I confirmed the purchase, zeroing out my WP balance, there came a thud and a rattle, and then the humm of electricity surging through a large display-type vending machine. I glanced to the right and beheld exactly that, one filled with Nokia bricks, iPhone and Galaxy smartphones, with RWBY-style Scrolls, Star Trek TOS-era communicators, and Maegi-style Prayer-Beads… plus SIM cards in half a dozen styles and charge cords galore. Yeah, I know. Bogus that the phones weren’t themselves fiat-backed never to run out of charge or not break, but that was a fairly minor issue. I could easily install power cells into them that would last slightly longer than a human lifetime.

What’s a Maegi-style Prayer Bead, you ask? Little joke. A Prayer Bead is a communicator that mounts on the temple and looks like a half-dome, or a semi-sphere in its off mode. It could project solid-light lenses over the eye or ear (yes sonic lenses are a thing) on that side of the head. Sure, the Maegi had had cybernetic implant technology, but typically preferred not to install smart-tech inside their bodies for security reasons. Dumb-tech, including neuronal sheathing, which allowed much greater MMI to dermally mounted technology, was very common. Oh… MMI is Man-Machine Interface. Sorry.

Shifting back into RWBY mode, the first thing I did was check for Faunus Origin, only to discover that it was a bonus drawback background that could be taken with any of the other origins. I guess that made sense, since the others were Student, Criminal, and Military… and, of course, Drop-In. Which I took, making me a Drop-In Faunus in the middle of the ocean. A Ferret Faunus. Because I could be. Pointy-teefs and all the ears… I wondered if kleptomania or random napping would be part of the package… then realized that I was already a bit of a kleptomaniac who took naps at pretty much random. As a Faunus, I got ‘Night Vision’ for free, but was forced to take the ‘White Fang Woes’ drawback for no points. Woo. Oppressed minority! Get! Also a hundred CP, putting me at eleven-hundred.

Looking through the Perk trees, I found myself impressed. The jump was full of potential… way more than I’d be able to afford even if the drawbacks were generous. That said, the Drop-In Capstone, ‘I Should Be Dead by Now’ is definitely a steal at its discounted price, providing a double strength Aura pool and allowing Aura to not only be used defensively as in the show by ‘hardening the vitals in response to bodily trauma’ but to enable regeneration to repair the body to its natural state. If it increased the rate of Aura regeneration, it would have been perfect, but no one was exactly certain how Aura regenerated or what controlled why some people regenerated it faster than others. 

For those not in the know, Aura is the thing that allows the humans (either regular or faunus) of the world of Remnant to fight the monstrous Grimm on an even footing. Before the rise of Dust Technology and the unlocking of Aura, most of human civilization this world had been wildly outclassed, driven out of most of the land into four tiny nation-states and placed in extreme threat of extermination for reasons Monty Oum never lived long enough to explain but probably had a lot to do with the Wicked Witch of the series, Salem. At its most basic, Aura is the light of the soul, and provides a quasi-tangible forcefield around the individual, one that protects them from harm, up to and including blows that would normally kill a human being such as bullets, swordstrikes, or explosions… or just falling from dozens of stories up. But an aura could also be unlocked, making it many times more useful… and dangerous.

Aura unlocking allowed humans to use ‘Semblance’, a tangible projection of an individual’s Aura to create an utterly unique to the individual ability. Semblance was an Aura User’s Ace in the Hole, their Limit Break, their Musou Mode, their Bankai. Using it meant the gloves were off. The main cast showed telekinesis, superspeed, super strength, magnetic manipulation, glyph generation, electrical conversion, and pyrokinesis. Of course, the machine offered no less than six Semblances for purchase, each of them intriguing in their own way. One of them was even free, and taking  any one of them (and one could only have a single Semblance) netted the taker with three years of experience with that mode of personal expression.

As a way of showing just how nice they were, allow me to present the Drop-In Semblance ‘JAM’. The light of the individual’s soul has given the Jammer the ability to say ‘that is not so’ to the very laws of reality, allowing them to interfere with the powers of others, starting by making Aura users stumble and Grimm trip over their own weight, but working up to dispelling supernatural properties entirely. While magical / supernatural / paranatural abilities were the main focus of JAM’s jamming, it wasn’t limited to them. Objects and places could be affected just as easily, and even scientific / technological tricks could be countered with enough effort. Ha! I Jam your Radar, Darth Helmet!

It was tempting as hell… but… while buying a Semblance outright would give me the unlock and years of practice… It would be allowing whoever or whatever had crafted this particular set of perks and powers to imprint something less than unique upon my soul. If I didn’t take the easy way out… there was a chance I would never find my Semblance… but plenty of people in this world found them just fine. No… I’d rather take my chances and find my true semblance, the expression of my true self than take some cookie-cutter mass produced thing. Plus, not buying into a Semblance and totally failing to unlock my own would mean I’d default to the free Represent Semblance which could duplicate a fraction of the Semblances of all I’d managed to synchronize with in my sojourn in this world.

If Semblances and Aura were half the reason to come to Remnant, the other half were the Variable Weapons used by the Hunters… those who fought back the Grimm to protect humanity… you know… the main characters. Ruby Rose used a combination Sniper-Rifle & Scythe, Nora Valkyrie used a Grenade Launcher-Sledgehammer combo… hell, one character used a Gatling Gun in a Makeup Case… and yes, she routinely clobbered people with her case. As a Jumper, I got such a Variable Weapon for free, and could, for the pitance price of twenty-five CP import previous weapons into this variable form.  No decrease in performance, guaranteed. Heh… Nice.

Figuring I might as well embrace the insanity, I hit the import button and a hopper appeared next to me with the instructions ‘Please Deposit Weapons to Combine Within’. So I did. I tossed in Shelob’s Bane (my Elfin Elemental Mithril Protonic Rifle, built with Mass Effect and Star Trek Technology, shaped with Elfin weapon craft, and enchanted with both Elfin Enchantments for utility and Samurai Jack Enchantments for increased lethality) and Soul of Ice, my Goblin Sword from Harry Potter. The two became a flowing vortex of eldritch fire and the hopper’s sign now asked if I’d like to apply any other modifications to the gestalt before merging was complete.

As it turned out, I did so desire, and for twenty-five CP more I streamline the resulting gunblade, making it lighter, smaller, faster, with better balance, and for fifty CP more programmed the hopper to install a Dust Chamber to go with the total of sixteen Materia slots Bao and Uriel had installed in the two base weapons back in Final Fantasy VII. The Dust Chamber would allow me to charge my attacks with premium elemental energy propellant (i.e. Dust) and six free reloads came with the purchase, bringing me down to seven hundred Choice.

Since I was already exploring the freebies, I checked the actual item section and found that I also got an Iconic (and soon to be soaked in salt water) Outfit, an Iconic (hopefully not salty) Theme for whenever I do something amazing or when things get serious (and seriously… is this supposed to just play from a nearby radio? Because having an amazing leitmotif just doesn’t work in real life), a Scroll (this world’s version of a smartphone as I mentioned above), and 200,000 Lien (cash) which is apparently enough to rent a flat for two months or eat out regularly for three times as long… better get into an academy fast. Part of me wonders why the hell life-changing powers are so cheap, but money? Eh. Who would want that? I’m not asking for unlimited funds, but the makers of these things seem to think it’s fun watching a jumper scramble for cash, even when they’re a fifteen year old high school student.

Do you know how often I’ve had financial problems in the past twenty-seven jumps? Discounting ones where I’ve been subsidized by outside forces like the Elder Scrolls where a god was footing my bar-tab, Lord of the Rings where I was the daughter of an Elfin king, Mass Effect and Generic Zombie Apocalypse where I was working for the Government, and Civilization or Song of Ice and Fire where I had the backing of an entire nation that I was technically ruling, there were many others where I had to work a day job just to get by… or resort to a life of crime.

In Pokemon Trainer, I lived off of challenge funds, but still had to work regularly at odd jobs, though in that case the world was designed to allow trainers to fund themselves thusly. In Infamous, I survived by working until I’d stolen enough money from the gangs to drop off the grid and become a reclusive author. In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, I was running an emergency response team and thus a public servant. Harry Potter I was a rich kid at school. Star Trek was post scarcity, but I was again a government employee. Ranma saw me working in a restaurant before getting my own TV show… and that is work, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Bastion was a time loop of less than two weeks. Swat Kats I ran a semi-legal corporation. Great Detective I had to rely on bounties and stealing funds from criminals. Sentai Special the school district refused to fire my ass for silly reasons. Buffy I had funding from my parents until I could get a job, but yeah, I worked while trying to save the world. Metal Gear I was a mercenary but even then I had to start a global corporation to make ends meet. Mother lacked an economy. Kill La Kill was a damned lean decade, let me tell you. Avatar one I was a nomad or lived in a palace with a friend. Avatar two I was a nomad and the second most holy figure in the world. Disney Princess and Samurai Jack had a lot of adventures and theft to make money… and Scooby-Doo I was a Sandwich Heiress… because Scooby-Doo makes bugger all sense. 

So yeah… money’s been a thing. Never as bad as in my world of origin because I seldom had responsibilities or had to worry about property taxes or being totally homeless and hungry if I ran out of cash… but that was because I’d been smart about building up bulwarks against that. I had gold reserves and technology and a warehouse. I had friends who were willing to support me with their own work. I had resources that renewed themselves, even if it wasn’t a particularly large amount. A bag of gold coins only goes so far. Gold coins are typically a lot smaller than you think they are, and if they’re big, they’re usually low purity.

Speaking of precious metals, color based names are a thing in the world of Remnant, so I chose Silver Jade, my email address back on Origin and one of my favorite Cyberpunk characters as my name… though she wasn’t a ferret since I’d been in my obsession with foxes period… and ferrets weren’t legal in my state when I created her.

Since I’d already left the realms of Perks, I figured I’d take a look at what options were available for companion import, confident that there would be some. The four man (woman) band was a major theme of this world. It would be freaking weird for there not to be a way to make one of Jumper and Companions. Of course, I was right. Friends Unforgotten was right there, waiting for me and my three-hundred Choice, getting me eight import slots to be filled by human or faunus of any background, each with four-hundred Choice of their own to spend. I posted the printouts on the warehouse bulletin board and told the others that they were to hash out who came with and why.

Since I now had more than twice the number of companions that most import options allowed at any one time, I figured that taking perks, items, or powers that allowed me to uplift others was more important than ever. At this point, really all I could do to boost others was to cyborg slash nanobot them, teach them BuffyVerse Magic or Martial Arts, or give them power-armor. Well, RWBY added to that total. For three-hundred Choice I scooped up the Aura Booster, a premium item that allowed me to unlock the Auras of the uninitiated… or temporarily boost the Auras of Aura Users. I could now turn anyone into a Hunter with the potential to discover their own unique Semblance.

I was, at that point, running out of Choice fast, having only a hundred left and already nixing things from my list that I’d really like. That meant it was time to look at Drawbacks… Only then did I discover that there was a limit of two for a maximum of six-hundred… and the options were far from ideal. The six-hundred pointer ‘I May Fall’ was a world-ender that stripped me of powers and half my memories. The three-hundred pointers were a mixed bag of power-drain and scaled enemy combined in ‘A Maiden’s Heart’, evolving enemies in ‘Evolved’, idiot allies in ‘Activist’, and informed incompetence in ‘Aura, Aura, Aura’. The two-hundred pointer ‘Cinder’s List’ would ruin any plans to change the plot, ‘Ranked’ was smarter Grimm with tactics, ‘Bigot’ would tank my social skills, and ‘Dust Allergy’ could be fatal. That left the hundred pointers… and half of them sucked too! ‘Motion Sickness’ tanked maneuverability, which was suboptimal in fighting a global war against powerful enemies… it would even negate my acrobatic skills and flight powers. Sooo worth more than a hundred. ‘Smooooth’ was ‘Bigot’ lite. And ‘White Fang Woes’ I was already forced to take for no points. Which left me ‘Marked’. Well, shit.

Marked got me my hundred Choice at the cost of making me the Grimm’s target of preference. It did not, however, make them more powerful. Effectively, all it meant was that I’d have to fight more than my share, which I guess would stop me from trying to white knight everyone else or something. Well, so much for Drawbacks.

Tossing out everything expensive I had left on my list, I bought a Dust Kit for  fifty Choice, giving me an assortment of elemental energy propellant, processed Dust crystals, Dust laced rounds for my gun, Dust dust for whatever… enough Dust for six months of regular use. Dust was elemental magic made manifest, and thankfully, unlike the funds, it refilled once emptied, and nothing said that I couldn’t sell the Dust and live on the proceeds… though I might need a license. According to the notes, there were four basic colors of Dust; fire red, ice blue, wind green, and electric yellow. They could be combined to make new variations and Dust augmentation could increase the effectiveness of weaponry and ammunition, and could apply special bonuses when combined with Semblances.

There were also a set of four Skill Books, three of which were free for the three origins I hadn’t taken. ‘Dust for Dummies Pro’ was for Students and taught how to use and mix Dust or make your own in worlds where it couldn’t be mined as it was on Remnant. ‘Aura for Everybody’ was for Criminals and was an instruction manual for getting the most out of Aura augmentation and even allowed a master to implant Aura into things like robots. ‘A Guide to Grimm’ was the Military skill book that covered punching monsters to death, Grimm or otherwise. As long as any three of my companions were a Criminal, a Student, and a Military person, we’d all gain access to those three without having to pay anything extra. If one of those slots was unfilled, I’d worry about it later… but the Drop-In skill book couldn’t be gotten for free, which meant that if I wanted ‘Bigger on the Inside’ and the miniaturization techniques it enabled… Bazookas in bottles… cars in cupholders… I’d have to pay the fifty Choice for it, leaving me back at a hundred. Shame Bigger on the Inside doesn’t do anything to reduce the weight of the object… but combining it with HP magic, I should have no problem making some very interesting items.

Completing my build, I bought Intellectual, which would allow me to cram as much studying into a coffee break as a normal person could fit in an all-nighter. Sure, I could have taken the Bigot drawback and bought something more powerful… but I just don’t think I’d enjoy being taken as a Faunus Supremacist. There were enough assholes in this world as it was.

Finalizing my purchases, I wandered into the lounge to find the others. “Okay, who’s coming, who’s staying… Are you playing Risk to see who gets to come with me?” As it turns out, the games would continue over the next two weeks. There was a tournament roster… though Ziggy got a bye since he couldn’t possibly compete in any game more advanced than Candy Land. RayRay and Francine bowed out, claiming they couldn’t be bothered (which unfortunately eliminated the chance of ‘Team JMPR’… not that we had an M). Dyna, hyper-aggressive as always, went down fast in every round… restraint and planning are not their strong suit.

Velma, since it was her first time, had been given a handicap, so she’d managed to skate through, barely beating out Ahab for the first slot… which had apparently been in Clue. Joy won the Risk tourney to clench the second slot. Zane snagged the third by clenching the Magic: The Gathering tournament. Toph won at Poker, nabbing the fourth. Ryoga managed to edge out his sister and Petra in Arm Wrestling to get the fifth. The sixth went to Bao in a brutal Street Fighter VIII Unreal showdown. Uriel managed to defeat Kendra, Ahab, and Petra in that order at Duel Masters to clench the seventh and final companion slot…. then turned it over to Ahab.

“A decade of fighting for survival seems more your style, young man… plus, there’s a weapon you might want,” was all he offered by way of explanation as to why he’d competed so hard for something he didn’t personally want.

It took another week for them all to make their picks… mental note… don’t try to get a Ziggy to make choices… almost every option will be followed by enthusiastic approval… even if you offer him choices which would be bad.

“Ziggy? Do you want to be a slug for this jump?”

“Ziggy want!”

See what I mean?

Ahab, Zane, and Ziggy decided to join me in Drop-In Land (well, Ziggy didn’t so much volunteer as volentold), Velma and Joy came in as Students, Toph decided to be a Criminal, just to see the other side of the law, and Bao & Ryoga went Military. Ahab, Zane, Velma, and Toph all went to The Faunus, each for their own reasons. Toph (a Badger) because it would help her background, Ahab (a Viper) to better embody his ‘Snake’ persona, Velma (a Calico Cat) because it was cute, and Zane (Rottweiler) because he missed his ears in human form. Takes all kinds I guess.

Zane took Landing Strategy (the ability to plan a relatively safe landing for any fall of five seconds or longer.). I pointed out he is a firebender, a group known for being able to create jets of flame to soften their landings, but he countered with, “Sometimes it’s really cold… or I don’t want to burn what I’m landing on.” which was a damned good point. He also took Stubborn,giving him increased ‘death’ resistance, and the ability to ignore mortal damage once. I pointed out that he was a Mon and just faints upon taking critical damage. He countered with, “Yeah, but that sends me back to the Warehouse until the Medbay can patch me up. That’s several minutes where I’m out of the fight.” which was another good point, though still better than the twenty-four hours for non-Mon. And he combined the Space-Sword with a Krogan Energy Shotgun… then boosted that poor Jian into a Explosive Heavy Weapon with Dust Chamber and Dust Focusing… in addition to the Fire Elemental Spirit bound into it and the Materia Slots. Oy. Subtlety your name is not Zane.

Ziggy also got Landing Strategy & Stubborn… and an item called Team Tag, which essentially makes him the fifth man… ferret… of our team (Silent Letter) but also carries over to future jumps, allowing him easier access to social circles… very useful for a fuzzbeast. He was a White Grimm Ferret… about the size of a St. Bernard. And just because I was doing his purchasing and I thought it would be hilarious… I bought him the unique Variable Weapon called ‘The Four-Chain’… a chaingun, chainsaw, chainwhip, chainmail… thing. It was a terribly insane abomination of a weapon to wield normally… and even more insane a thing to give to a creature that barely understood the concept of using the bathroom, let alone friendly fire. But every trained attack ferretoid should have a chainmail chaingun. I may have issues.

I finally learned what Uriel was talking about, because Ahab took the ‘The Ahab Special’ a repurposed Ship’s anchor cannon which fires sturdy grappling harpoons from the shaft with strong pinning chains. With pitons in the shaft, the Ahab transformed into a formidable turret bunker. And embodied as it was with the spirit of a hunter-tracker, it granted him uncanny tracking abilities, making him excel at capturing and hobbling great beasts… or vehicles. He also snagged Landing Strategy and Stubborn.

Velma got Intellectual for free, as well as the skill book I mentioned earlier.. For her variable weapon, she decided on a helmet with laser beam, heads up display (and built in glasses) that turned into a baseball bat. Very strange, but she’s new at this. I mean… does she not realize that using the bat means no glasses? Or that she no longer needs her glasses thanks to the Companion Body Mod Pod. As for her actual CP, she spent her points getting ‘Abs’ which made her more aerobic, physically fit, and dexterous than before… as well as more prone to midriff-baring outfits and puns for some reason. I’m not sure this was good, but her being tougher is definitely a good idea, and it certainly didn’t make her any less attractive. She also took ‘Remnant Arcana’ which made her a master codebreaker, mystery finder, and translator, allowing her to learn dead arts twice as fast, as well as making her a better Magic or Dust Arts user for it. I suspect she’ll be really dangerous one of these jumps. Assuming she survives this one. Not that she can actually die any more, I guess.

Joy, also a student, also snagged Intellectual and Dust for Dummies, but she spent her points on an experimental Aura Conducting material called Aurorium, the Tinker Perk (Become a whiz at maintaining, modifying, and making things, as long as you made it yourself or have the schematics on hand. It also unlocks the secret of Variable Weapon Crafting.) and the unique V-Weapon Grimmoire… a Tome & Bookstand that was both spellbook of unspeakable horror and leathery mallet. It was advertised to grant spells that mimic the attacks of Grimm and grow in power with each kill… rather creepily it promised not to whisper at night. I’m not sure I trust that, but Joy is sanguine on the subject. If she goes mad, it’s officially out of my hands.

Toph, once the founder and head of Republic City’s Police Force and now underground rogue, got ‘Light Fingered’ for free, and a copy of Aura for Everybody. The perk made her a skilled pickpocket (as easy as sneezing it promised) and granted the ability to protect oneself from her fellow thieves. For her weapon, she picked up the Unique weapons ‘Punk & Poetry’, a pair of warfans that transform into magnum pistols or combine into a makeshift shield, embodying the ideal of ‘Death of a Thousand Cuts’, they were advertised as making the wielder so agile and light in motion, the wielder would be able to move as if she weighed less than a feather. I think the reason she took them was because the description said that they were perfect for detective work. She also picked up the ‘Silver Tongued Devil’ perk, because apparently people have been telling her she’s a charmless oik for decades.

She also rounded off her purchases with ‘Cookies and Coffee’… a ten year supply with recipes! Oh joy… recipes. Can’t get those anywhere else. Still, a ten year supply of cookies and coffee? Good thing I have Eternalizer on my Warehouse, since this thing doesn’t say anything about the supply being staggered. Coffee may have a longer shelf-life than cookies (at least good cookies) but not much longer. Of course, with Eternalizer, a cup of coffee would still be as piping hot and fresh after being left on a shelf for three centuries as it was two minutes after its initial pressing. What? I like French Press! I used to be a Barista in college!

Bao, thanks to the military background, got ‘Abs’, and added ‘Intellectual’ to that, and of course ‘A Guide to the Grimm’ was free. Apparently, mastery of the techniques it taught meant that monstery foes would explode upon being punched! It might not kill them, but it would damned well hurt! He spent the majority of his points on ‘Combat Ready’, the Military capstone, that provided him with the memory of hundreds of thousands of simulated battles, scores of attack patterns, and dozens of weapon variations. If it didn’t see him through a fight, I doubt he was going to win that fight no matter what. His V-Weapon wasn’t much to speak of, a calligraphy brush that fired armor piercing ink or traced razor sharp lines across people, but it was darn stylish, I’ll give him that.

Not to be outdone by… well.. Anyone… Ryoga snagged a Dust kit… and not one but two unique V-Weapons. The Xanthine was a large thermos that expands into exoskeletal armor that links into his bloodstream, cutting Aura Costs by at least half, allowing him to wade through bombardment, suplex train carriages, mould steel with his hands, project shields, and more! There was a small chance of him becoming addicted to the power and rush of it, but it would keep drinks at perfect temperature and came with a carrying case, one that doubled as a mount for extra plating and weapon points in exo-armor. He topped that with the Gai Barrett, an Anti-Material Rifle that pulls double duty as a spear, punching holes straight through most things (though it has a hell of a kick and is quite long). It can fire homing flechettes on a tagged target, but if thrown itself, it will need retrieval. If addiction was the risk with Xanthine, a tendency to fall prey to tunnel vision was Gai Barrett’s.

Great… I’ve created a monster. Oh yeah, he also has the book of punching Grimm until they explode… and Abs. No fucking shirts in this group.

With time running down, I confirmed everyone’s builds and blinked as great number of warnings populated the screen of the VMoD. 

  • Warning: Although you and all imported Companions start with your Auras Unlocked, all other Companions will require their Auras to be unlocked manually. All companions, imported or not, gain a free local ID.
  • Warning: All items you bought here can be used by anyone native.
  • Warning: Grimm are known to be extremely resistant to conventional arms and arts. In practice, the killing blow must be dealt with either Aura or Dust.
  • Warning: The bodies of Grimm dissolve upon their deaths and they tend to die in captivity. They have no souls, so soul-based skills and powers do not work on them nor can they be farmed for souls.
  • Warning: Grimm have an annoying tendency to get stronger whenever one shows them up. This effectively means they are a scaling threat. Try and keep things less flashy or others might have trouble keeping up with the leveled and ranked Grimm.

Well, that was… a lot of warnings… wait… they leveled up when defeated by overwhelming force? What kind of bullshit was that!? That wasn’t in the show! By the end of the second season, Ruby and company were routinely smashing through throngs of Grimm that they’d had trouble with at the beginning of the series! Bogus! I tried contacting the big guy, but was invited to file a complaint with the review department. Humph. Like there was any time left. Thanks for hiding that piece of information from me until the last possible moment, jackass.

INSERTION

It was a damp beginning. Very damp. Small boat, middle of a storm, ocean dwelling Grimm. It was a very… very… abrupt lesson in just how massively dangerous this world is. It was also a massive jump in power levels. I’d seen a video of Yang (the Y in RWBY) fighting Tifa Lockhart on Youtube… lo the many centuries back… and hadn’t really grocked just how fucking powerful Grimm had to be to require that kind of strength to fight. Sure, very few Grimm ever really challenged Yang more than a little bit… and sure, somehow, the clueless Jaune managed to take some out too… but still… this was a jump up from the baddies of even Gaia (FF7’s world)… it was a wake up call.

And we had to protect Velma… and on the water, Toph wasn’t in top form either. Still, Ryoga and I were both Waterbenders, and we could use the ocean against our fishy-foes. We managed to hold our own long enough for help to arrive, in the form of Airships from the Vale military.

Honestly, I was glad they’d showed. I wasn’t relishing breaking out the big guns so early in a jump. Using Black Jenny or the Jewel of Neptune or even some of my more powerful attacks this soon would, in theory allow the Grimm to experience them… I didn’t know how good their learning matrix was, but I wasn’t keen on showing them more than I had to at any given time. Fiat-backed adaptation is a fucking bear… especially since I’m not getting points for it… but I’ll cope.

“Students for Beacon?” the Airship’s Captain asked, a little incredulous, after he rescued us from the sinking ruins of my cabin cruiser (note to self, get new Cabin Cruiser). When we confirmed that to be the case, he laughed. “Well, you weren’t going to get there by boat.”

We refrained from protesting our innocence… Strictly speaking, we had been taking the boat bound for Beacon… if you looked at it the right way. Any luggage we’d have had had gone down with the ship, but thankfully our weapons and scrolls were fine and Vivian reported that the skill books and supplies had been delivered to the Warehouse, so no deep diving was needed… I may not have too much trouble down that far thanks to the Underwater Materia… but it feels like being in a vice… a vice with almost no frame of reference… and apparating from that far down to the surface can be fatal… or at least hurt like a motherfucker. Which means swimming up to the surface the slow way. Also, it’s very dark… though (not to be all Elsa) the cold doesn’t bother me.

Arriving at Beacon, we were quickly shuffled into two groups of 4 (as is standard), with me heading up team “STRB”… pronounced Strawberry… with Toph, Ryoga, and Bao… and Joy heading up team “JAZV”… pronounced Jazz… as in blues… man, some of these are a stretch…. With Ahab, Zane, and Velma. I’d have gone with BRAZ (Brass) and…JVST… no, just isn’t a color… hmmm… JVTS? TSJV? That doesn’t mean anything… grrr… and I’m the MC… I guess they had to start one team with an S… and man… J does not appear in the middle of very many colors… or other words for that matter. We were joined by the only canonical team from our year CVFY.

Rather more humorous, every member of Joy’s team had had their names changed to fit into the world better. The Law of Color Names was strong, but subtle. Toph, which is written as ‘Expanding Lotus’ was fine as that summons visions of the color white the same way Roses are Red. Bao, which means ‘Precious’, was okay since that hinted of gold. Silver Jade fit on both counts. Ryoga, which can be read as ‘Good Teeth’ was okay, if stretching it a bit. But Velma means ‘Brave Warrior’, Zane means ‘Good’, Joy means… ‘Joy’, duh, and Ahab means ‘Uncle’. So the power of the Jump had renamed them Jasmine Bahs (yellow), Albion Bahs (white), Zaffre Jade (cobalt blue), and Verma (short for Vermillion) Dinkley.

Beacon wasn’t bad. The history lessons were actually news (not useful outside of jump, but data is data) and the fighting lessons were most welcome… especially since they didn’t start at the ‘this is how you hold your sword’ stage. Beacon was a Hunter Academy, one of four in this world, created in the wake of the Great War eighty years earlier in an attempt to bring lasting peace between the four nations of humanity… everyone who entered it  (besides Jaune and those of us who’d gone drop-in) had already passed through a Combat Academy. Lesson one was being launched off a cliff into a forest dozens of meters below… hence the need for a ‘Landing Strategy’. A forest full of Grimm and no safety nets. Hunters killed Grimm or were killed in turn… that was the law of Remnant. Without the Hunters, the last four nations of Remnant (Vale, Vacuo, Atlas (formerly known as Mantle), and Mistral) would vanish. Coddling was right out.

The Hunters had three primary weapons against the Grimm… Variable Weapons, Aura, and Semblance, in ascending order of utility. All of it empowered, strengthened, augmented by Dust. Not a single one of us had paid for a Semblance and thus none of us knew what our Semblance was… and with the Grimm growing ever more powerful, we’d need them in a hurry.

When I’d left Origin Earth, there’d been three seasons of RWBY… I’d seen… most of them… The show had gotten too tragic for my taste, killing off my favorite supporting character in a way that seemed callous and cold. By the time I stopped watching, with three episodes unwatched, there hadn’t been anything in the nature of ‘Saving the World’ yet. I literally had no idea what could be done to do that besides, you know, killing all the Grimm… but I had one thing I was dying to try.

Thus, one day, deep into our fifth month, standing in my Safehouse, deep in the wilds atop a remote mountain in a dark land where no Humans or Faunus dwelled, where pools of darkness spawned seeming endless tides of Grimm, inside the cave we’d excavated with various techniques foreign to this world, I commanded, “Bao! Deploy the Mako Reactor!”

Bao looked at me like… ‘what do you think we’ve been doing for the past day and a half?’ but seriously… pulling all the bits of Bao’s experimental Mako Reactor out of storage and assembling them would take the Warehouse Robo-Butlers days and Bao had checked over the plans a dozen times. We had no idea if we could make Grimm Summoning Materia, or Dust Materia, or Variable Materia… or what… but some function of this world, Remnant… was actively hostile to Humanity… weakening it might help… or it might piss it off… or both! No time like the present to find out… or at least the near future. Worse came to worst, we’d have to abandon the Mako Reactor… and quite frankly, with the new miniaturization technology we’d just picked up (but not yet mastered), we were probably going to have to rebuild it anyway. If it went, it would go in the name of ‘SCIENCE!’ (Please note, this is all caps Science and not actual sane responsible Science. This was a BAD IDEA. don’t try this in your home dimension.)

Bad Science was, of course, the name of the game here. The moon had been shattered for ages, long past human knowledge of exactly when, but long enough ago that the fact that the scattered chunks hadn’t collapsed back into a spherical shape was freaking weird and unnatural. Some of the chunks had rained down upon Remnant following the great extermination that had nearly killed all mankind… yes, there had been a near genocide of the species before the rain of massive lunar meteorites… no record existed of what caused it. In fact, we’d only found this strange and horrible land by doing a complete planetary survey in preparation for Operation Moon Fixer… just one of the many advantages of unrivaled (in setting) space superiority.

The fundamental problem with a Jump that’s largely training based? Actually training. Saving civilization from the steady encroachment of abominations of nature is a full time job. With only a handful of cities, no matter how large, the loss of even one of them would be disastrous. And people are fucking stupid. In all my jumps, I never failed to find people who’d let their pettiness, bigotry, or ambition put everyone (themselves included) at horrible, unconscionable risk. Be it criminals willing to suborn the security of the state to make a buck, terrorists willing to use ravening monstrosities to even scores decades or centuries old, fanatics using the instability to advance their own narcissistic or nihilistic agendas, or just inconsiderate morons picking fights because they can’t comprehend the idea of fucking timing! Even the Maegi had assholes.

Remnant was not lacking in any of those, from criminal gangs, to power hungry dickheads, to Faunus willing to allow the fall of entire cities as revenge for centuries of oppression, rather than help overcome the institutional racism that lingered to this day. Killing civilians is never warranted… unavoidable sometimes, but never to be done lightly or simply to punish others… to punish others long dead? No. Unforgivable.

Also unforgivable, if on a lesser scale, is betrayal of trust. I might not have a world to save, but I did remember that a pair of students named Emerald Sustrai and Mercury Black were in league with a criminal named Roman Torchwick and a terrorist named Cinder Fall. I figured I could thwart their plans, if just a little. I wasn’t willing to pass a death sentence on Emerald or Mercury without judging them first, but either way, I was planning on taking them out of play… once they arrived at the school.

But that would have to wait a year, since they’d arrived for the Vytal Festival in Ruby’s first year. For now, the plan was getting good at ganking the Grimm… but there was a fundamental problem I had not anticipated. The power level gap between some of my companions was spectacular. Zane & Ryoga could tank almost anything that was thrown at them. Joy and Ahab were barely less capable, though in different ways, as expected of super soldiers who could fight Metal Gears on foot. Bao and Toph were excellent in their specialized ways, and were crafty and inventive… Ziggy was insane and silly and dangerous… But Velma was not a fighter by nature or training and she was falling behind the curve.

There was another problem as well. I’d begun to hit the ‘Not challenging enough’ wall, the point at which one can dispatch one’s enemies too fast. Yet I was hesitant to use anything like full power because of the risk of overleveling the Grimm. I planned to go further afield once I graduated… but that was for later. First, there was school to graduate and Velma to train.

She wasn’t in my team, but I worked with her inside my mind, pulling her into the Dojo of the Palace of my Mind on a regular basis and training her from the ground up, pushing her limits, working her until she dropped and then doing it again and again, gaining two days of training for every one that passed in the real world. Yes, having an extra twenty-four hours to dedicate to this task every single day was just… very nice. And in the meantime I spent my days in the real world trying to locate Roman Torchwick with Zane.

Vale was an interesting city. It had, according to Zane, a highly defensive personality, like a mountain lion protecting her cubs, and there were sooo many hidden ways in and out. We quickly located the train line that Roman and his goons would use to enter the city a year later and Toph and Zane used earthbending to undermine it in ways unlikely to be detected by anyone not bending.

They both wanted to know why we couldn’t just erase the tunnel system, but Joy fielded that one. “If we erase the path, they’ll put their efforts towards a new plan, a plan we won’t know about. If we leave the path, they’ll use it, not knowing we’ve sabotaged it.”

I nodded, Joy was a good team leader… better, to be honest, than Naked or Venom Snake. Better strategist too, with more long term planning skills. Less raw combat skill, but only by a little.

The new year rolled around, as it must, and Team RWBY was formed, along with Team CRDN and Team JNPR. Three more teams. Nora Valkyrie, my second favorite supporting character was awesome, Ruby was a hoot, and Yang was a spitfire. Of course, we had to play it cool as upperclassmen, but it was hard not to want to hang with them. Pyrrha Nikos I was especially eager to meet, because in the show she was THE up and coming huntress. I wanted to spar against her sooo bad.

And I did. Often. Sometimes ambushing her for a quick pass, sometimes actually scheduling a sparring session. It was nice to fight someone that good, to relax my hold for one moment. But I was beginning to notice that I was under observation.

Professor Ozpin, the head of the Academy, had one of the most compartmentalized and structured minds I’d ever seen. Reading him was practically impossible and believe me, I tried. At times it even seemed as if he had two minds in one, which was a fascinating feeling. He was watching me, studying me, and I didn’t know why… though I was to learn in the years ahead. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The White Fang (the Faunus terrorist organization that Blake Belladonna, the B in RWBY and the Belle/Beauty of our mixed bag of mythological characters, had been a member of before they’d gotten to the fanatical stage) were making life difficult for us Faunus who weren’t homicidal douchenozzles, and making operating clandestinely difficult. They were also supporting Roman Torchwick’s operations by acting as goons, despite the man’s obvious humanness and overt racism against the Faunus. This only added to the harassment I got for my long fluffy tail that occasionally got petted when I wasn’t looking and the sharp needle canines that got me accused of being a vampire more than once.

Of course, I had my own fairy tale motif and it wasn’t anything to do with vampires. I was the Snow Queen… I was a Vulcan, an Occlumencer… I would not allow taunts to get to me… though as things got worse, those taunts began to escalate into more than that.

There… I drew the line. Attack me and mine and I shall defend. That had been the words of my house ‘I Shall Defend’… though the secret words had been ‘Measure for Measure’. And I measured those I faced and gave them back everything they would have given me. To my friends, I was a Snow Day, joyous and free. To my enemies, I was the Killing Cold…. and yet I did not dare use my more overt powers, since Semblance and Aura were measurable things in this world and red flags would go up across a globe of monster slayers were I to cross that line where any could see.

I’d even turned off the HF function and suppressed the LF wavelengths in Soul of Ice… and even replaced the materia with Dust Crystals… we were still waiting to see if we could generate Dust Materia, but it was looking good, as were the Grimm Summons… apparently that was a thing in this world already. I’d not anticipated the need to tone myself down… though doing so was providing an excellent challenge in a world that might otherwise be lacking one.

Eventually the first semester of Ruby’s first year came to an end, and with it the first season of the show. That meant Emerald and Mercury were coming soon. And I’d be ready to take their measure.

When they came, it was as guests, students of Haven Academy (in Mistral) there at Beacon (in Vale) to participate in the Vytal Tournament, an exhibition of the fighting prowess of students from the various academies. I scanned them passively as they entered the school. Emerald had mental shields… interesting, but not surprising for someone whose Semblance was instilling mental illusions. Mercury was closed up, and a consummate actor… but he didn’t. I learned enough from him to be worried… very worried.

I followed them, shielding myself with everything I had, tunneling deeper and deeper into Mercury’s mind. He was the son of a renowned assassin, and a stone killer. He had helped Cinder steal some unfathomably powerful Magic… not Aura… definitely Magic… from a woman named Amber, the power of the Maiden of Fall. Cinder had stolen most of the mantle of Fall from Amber… but not all of it. The rest was sealed away inside Amber, a vegetative patient somewhere deep within Beacon Academy, guarded by Professor Ozpin and others.

They were planning on bringing down the defenses of Beacon and killing Amber (and as many others as it took). He’d killed before, and he’d kill again, if he wasn’t stopped. But it was not time to take him out. Not yet. I still didn’t know enough about what was going on, still didn’t have a clue how strong Cinder might be or why Ozpin was… the way he was.

Finally the train attack of Season Two’s climax came and I took my chance to strike at Roman Torchwick… and that’s when I ran headlong into Cinder Fall. She was fast, she was powerful, and without taking my self imposed restraints off, I could not beat her. The power she unleashed against me was devastating. It wasn’t Aura or Semblance… it was something else. If I had to give it a name, I’d have called it Magic, but a Magic of a type I didn’t know. She summoned leaves and froze them, she unleashed withering heat and pillars of fire. And she withstood attacks that had smashed Grimm to powder. She KO’d Zane while fighting me. And Roman got away.

I knew she’d be back. I knew things were coming to a head… the three remaining episodes of the show that I hadn’t seen (and everything that would, inevitably come after them) had shown that events were going to unfold fast, and what I’d seen online and in the minds of Roman and Mercury and the goons of the White Fang had shown me that things could not be allowed to play out as these evil fucks had planned. I had to save Penny… it was a moral imperative.

And so I waited, watching, plotting. I watched as the bad guys hacked the central defense hub, thanks to some very slick hallucination sending on Emerald’s part. She and I were going to have words, I decided. Then, a little later, she stole Ruby’s wallet and pretended she’d found it. Little bitch. They were plotting how to use the tournament to create the openings they needed. They were also, conveniently, staying the night at the Academy. I had to be careful, Cinder was inside the school and they were with her often… until she sent them to their rooms to rest.

The day before the Vytal Tournament began, I sent Ahab and Joy to neutralize Mercury… and told them I didn’t care if he lived so long as he went down quiet and vanished. I went after Emerald. She fought. She was… decent. Her illusions were strong. But I had layers of mental defense she couldn’t even conceive of.

I smashed into her mind and ransacked it, beating down her pleas for mercy as I went. “Did you give your victims mercy? Did you think you were justified in all you’ve done? All the deaths you and your mistress would have caused?”

She swore at me, called me a bitch, said I was no different, doing whatever I felt like and feeling justified in doing so. I’ve no idea how she knew… maybe she could feel it inside me.

I responded, “I never claimed to be noble. I never claimed to be righteous. But when I kill it’s to protect, to save, to make things better. The needs of the many. I don’t kill for sport… but I do take pride in my work.”

I flooded her mind with sensory data, far, far, far too much for a normal human mind to withstand, centuries of banal information crammed into a couple seconds. I went to dump her, barely alive, into a stasis pod in the Medbay, only to find Joy and Ahab doing the same thing with Mercury. I nodded… we’d decide what to do with them later. They were killers… but so were we. They hadn’t been… on the grand scale… that evil. Hell, I’d let Joffrey and Cersei live… But that left Cinder and Amber… and someone named ‘Salem’. I had to go to Ozpin.

That late at night, getting to the headmaster took more effort than I’d have liked, but I made it to his office unobserved by anyone as far as I could tell. He was sitting in the dark, the clockwork of his high tower slowly counting out eternity. “We need to talk,” I said. He nodded, sipping from his coffee, apparently unsurprised to see me inside his sanctum. “But not right now. Right now, you need to listen. Cinder Fall has suborned your security and the tournament system. She’s planning an attack and by morning she’ll discover that her primary agents are missing. Emerald Sustrai and Mercury Black were working for her. Sustrai is… was… an illusion caster. The two of them were with Cinder when she attacked Amber. Amber is not safe here… and I have no idea how to defeat Cinder without doing somethings I really shouldn’t be doing. But I’m the best chance anyone’s got… I think… unless you have the faintest clue how to defeat the Fall Maiden… or whatever the hell she is.”

“You’re… very perceptive,” he said, eyes studying me. “Of course, you could be lying, just to get access to Amber yourself.” His mind closed up even more… bastard was using Magic to shield himself! Probably had been all along.

“If I wanted access to Amber, I could have it and no force on Remnant could stop me,” I stated simply, ice forming on every surface in the room, stopping the clock and coating the outside of the tower in seconds.

“Are you the Winter Maiden?” he asked.

I thought about that for a moment. “Would I know if I was?” I asked. I honestly had no idea.

“I think… yes.”

“Then no. I am the Snow Queen, The Winter Witch, the Manifestation of Balance, I am The Twilight Incarnate… but to the best of my knowledge, I am not the Winter Maiden… no less for the reason that I’m not a maiden,” I finished with a smirk.

He coughed at that, sputtering. “Do you know when they plan to attack?”

“They’d planned to attack after using Pyrrha Nikos to kill Penny and reveal that she’s an artificial lifeform in front of everyone at the Tournament. But when Cinder and Roman (I didn’t mention Salem) discover that their allies are missing… They might move the time table up, or panic. I’ve no idea. And there are Grimm coming… Lots of them. She’s bringing them here to attack the Academy. And they’ve got Adam Taurus and the White Fang helping them.”

“You sound angry about that,” he said.

“I am angry. Terrorist attacks will never bring equality. All it will bring is hatred and more hatred… and in the end… all that will be left is the Grimm. No Humans, No Faunus… just… Grimm. I cannot understand why… or even how, the four nations and the Faunus have even managed to ever go to war against each other given the Grimm. It’s like having a knife fight in the middle of a burning house,” I snarled that last, eyes blazing with cold fire.

He studied me for a long, long moment, then said the most remarkable thing. “You’re not from this world, are you?”

Hiding just how much that question had thrown me, I chuckled. “Really. What a thing to say,” I said, trying to discard the suggestion.

He wasn’t fooled. “I am very old. Far, far older than anyone knows. I have many secrets of my own, and know when someone else is keeping them. If there was a being like you in this world, I would have known about it long centuries ago.”

Well… that was interesting. I considered for a long moment, then asked, “Do you know where the Grimm come from?”

He sighed, then nodded. “Long ago, when the world was new, there were two brothers, The God of Light and the God of Darkness. Together, they created this world and the God of Light brought forth life to dwell upon its surface. The God of Darkness brought forth the Grimm to hunt his brother’s creations, but then the two united and brought forth the races of man to worship them… but the hearts of man are easily swayed and they were convinced to rise up against the gods. The God of Darkness destroyed the races of man, then left Remnant, shattering the moon with his passing. The God of Light recreated mankind, both Human and Faunus, and left me behind to safeguard them before he too vanished from this world.”

I thought about it, then asked, “Is that why there are weird pools of darkness that spawn Grimm over on the dark continent shaped like a wyvern? The one landmass no nation claims?”

He flinched slightly, then sighed. “Yes. That is where she dwells.”

“She? Salem you mean?”

“Mother of evil, bringer of despair and darkness. Yes,” he agreed… still hiding something.

I stared at him, thinking about what he’d said and what he hadn’t. Finally, I took a guess. “You and she were an item, once upon a time.” I didn’t phrase it as a question.

He recoiled as if struck, then shuddered. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this… but we were married… before the fall of the old world that was. I… died,” he said, wincing. “She petitioned the God of Light to bring me back, but he refused. So she went to the God of Darkness, who agreed. The God of Light was…” He shrugged.

“Less than pleased,” I suggested. I did know why he was telling me this. I had a perk that made me easy to talk to… and he’d been keeping this a secret for a very long time. Secrets, in my experience, want to be told. To be shared.

He nodded. “Something like that. He destroyed me. His brother brought me back. The God of Light told the God of Darkness that Salem had come to him first. The God of Darkness destroyed me.”

“Wow… spectacularly maturity from both of them. I take it Salem didn’t take this well?”

“She attacked the gods with her magic.”

I groaned. “I’m certain that went well.”

“The God of Light made her immortal,” he said, frowning but trying not to chuckle in pain.

I slapped myself on the forehead. “Oh, for fuck’s sake. Yes. Let’s make our enemies immortal as punishment. God save me from idiot cults, mages, and gods who think that’s a clever idea.”

He blinked. “You’ve heard stories like that before?”

I shrugged. “I am very old. I have been to many worlds, worlds with single cities more populous than all of Remnant, worlds with thousands of years of living history. I have heard so very many legends… few of them end well,” I said, sadly. “What happened then?”

“She spoke to the leaders of the many nations and convinced them to war with the Gods. It was not a fight. The God of Darkness obliterated the races of man in a single gesture, leaving only Salem behind.”

“And then they abandoned the newly recreated mankind to the Grimm and Salem, with only you to watch over them?”

“Something like that,” he said sadly. “They left behind four relics, promising that when they were reunited, they’d return and judge humanity. They warned me that she was changed, but I still loved her. I loved her and we were together for many years. We had four daughters… and then I found out that she…” He shrugged, his story becoming broken, disjointed. “We fought. She killed… our daughters died. I withdrew from the world. The Maidens found me… reminded me of our daughters. Taught me to… to feel again. Can you help us?”

“Yes. I can. I can do five things to help. The first is a piece of advice; tell your moronic guards that their first responsibility when someone breaks into a high security vault is to send up an alarm, then fall back and defend, not try and take out someone clearly out of their weight class. So’s the second; compartmentalize your damned information net better. Third, I can physically heal Amber… probably. But, fourth, I can absolutely remove her from any chance Cinder will ever find her. And last, I’ll fight… but I don’t know how disastrous the fight will be.”

As it turns out… it was disastrous in the extreme. My companions, released from my restraints… struck at the Grimm streaming towards Vale with everything they had in their considerable personal arsenals. If the Grimm evolved, they evolved, but Vale and Beacon would not fall while we stood. Velma took command of the assault shuttle… while Vivian took command of the Atlas Military computers using the codes I’d stolen from Emerald’s mind, building new firewalls in the place of the compromised ones. But nothing stems a tide this well prepared… They had Grimm we’d never faced before, many of them, and one of the Atlas airships (thanks no doubt to the law of conservation of ninjas) and they had a god damned Dragon, seeding more Grimm as it flew overhead.

And then there was Cinder… a formidable foe. The Battle of the Decade… a pretender to the throne of Winter and a usurper to the throne of Autumn. Cinder had incredible raw power, speed, defenses… I had tricks layered upon tricks, power the likes of which she’d never seen… And she had Grimm backing her up. Yet Autumn must always yield to Winter. It is inevitable. Still… Aura users are damned hard to fight effectively as long as their Aura pool remains intact… and she had a very deep pool in addition to her Magic. It was like smashing my attacks against a force field.

I suspect she had similar frustrations dealing with me as I tanked attacks that would have shattered buildings, returned her fire back at her… Measure for Measure… and simply absorbed any ice attack she slung my way. I had to break the stalemate… and that meant overkill.

Wincing inwardly at the potential for destruction… I summoned Bahamut Zero. One dragon deserves another, right? Cinder screamed with fury as Teraflare erased her beast… and I cringed as it erased part of the city. But I recovered first, calling upon the power of Victoria von Kamui… and teleported behind Cinder, grappling her and teleporting the two of us into Vale Harbor.

She thrashed, breaking my hold, wrenching away from me, flying up into the air to avoid sinking beneath the waves. “You cannot beat me! I have more power than you!” she cried out.

I laughed. “What was it you said, once upon a time? It’s not about overpowering the enemy. It’s about taking away the power they have!” I’d been counting on her trying to flee and I called up the power of the waves and the spirits, wrapping her in tendrils of spiritwater… and then I purified her. She screamed as the power she’d stolen was wrenched away from her, flying through the ether back to the pinhole portal I’d left open to the warehouse.

I’ve witnessed two Avatars in the grips of the Avatar state…I thought I was ready for what happened next… I was not. Amber had a couple of years of bottled rage and, freshly recovered or not, she was raring to go… I wondered what mix of potions, ethers, and other things Zane had given her. She was fury incarnate.

The smackdown she laid upon Cinder was… in a word, epic.

The terrorist tried to fight. I’ll give her that. She did not go gentle, but the only reason she’d beaten Amber the first time was because she’d had backup and surprise on her side. Now she’d just been in a knockdown fight with yours truly and had no allies left to speak of… or so I thought.

One moment it was Amber preparing to crispy fry Cinder… the next… there was a ripple of darkness and Cinder was gone. Amber… did not take it well. I let her rage there for a while until she calmed down to notice me.

“Are you with her?” She asked, menace in her voice.

“Not at all. I’m the one who returned your power to you.”

“Why?” She seemed a little confused.

I blinked. “Why wouldn’t I have?”

“You could have tried to take it for yourself.”

I laughed. “I didn’t know that was a possibility, to be honest… and even if I had, I certainly wouldn’t have.”

“That’s a strange attitude. Most people would kill to have this kind of power.” She motioned around her. “In fact, that’s what that woman was trying to do.”

“Amber… have you noticed that we’re both hovering ninety meters in the air above the bay? I already have power. Killing innocent people to gain power has never been my schtick.”

She blinked. “N… no… I hadn’t noticed… why haven’t I fallen? This usually takes effort to maintain.”

“Because I’m holding you up.”

“You’re no normal Huntress.” she remarked dryly.

“No shit.” I laughed. “I am The Snow Queen, the Winter Witch, The Inbetweener… I am Twilight made Manifest.” I really should make business cards that say all that. It would be easier. This, by the way, is the true power of No Gods But Kings. The ability to rattle off titles and not have them sound ridiculous or like bragging.

She regarded me for a long time before asking a very good question. “Which Twilight?”

I smiled sadly. “Normally, I hope to be the Twilight before Dawn… But in this place… I’m not sure I can be anything but the Twilight before the fall of Night. This world is slipping into darkness and I don’t know how to stop it.”

“Is it your job to stop it?” It was another very good question.

“No. It’s not. I am a creature unfettered by anything besides my own law and a will to survive. But I enjoy making things better, leaving things less interesting, perhaps, but improved for… most people.”

“So you’ve done this before?”

I nodded, “A few times. I am… to one way of looking at it… older than civilization itself.”

“Then… what do you think, do we have a chance?”

I looked around at the smoke rising from the city. “It is always darkest before the dawn, yes? So the story goes. Well, if this world has a story, it is that ‘Darkness is coming and that there will be no victory in strength… but perhaps victory is in the simpler things that you’ve long forgotten. Things that require a small, more honest soul.’”

“You say that as if you’re quoting someone.”

“Two someones. Pretty sure the first was a woman… and not a nice one… named Salem. The other was Professor Ozpin.”

It would be nice to say that things calmed down after that, but they didn’t. Salem was the Wicked Witch of the West and one seriously bad news kind of  mamajama… and she had plans, oh yes plans. Plans to drive mankind back into the dark type plans… and a total disdain for others. She was, in the immortal words of me, A Bitch.

Over the next four years she never once let us forget that the forces of darkness were slowly throttling the light, and although the various Dust producing companies were doing their best, it was clear they’d be running out of easily accessible product within a few more decades… which would necessitate expanding into the wilds… which would mean facing ever more Grimm.

Another major problem was the ease with which Salem’s allies had with acquiring cutting edge military technology and breaking into military networks. Counter espionage meant Joy & Ahab, and with the grudging permission of Ozpin’s conspiracy of light, they set about finding those responsible for such treason and, either punishing the guilty or cleansing the ranks of the incompetent.

That was phase one. Phase two was pushing back into territory that had been lost over the decades and that was Ryoga and Zane’s bailiwick, smashing the Grimm that had pushed into the ruined sections of the cities, forming up squads militant and protective details. It was nice that the people of the Four Nations had somehow convinced themselves that they weren’t living under perpetual siege, but it was an illusion, an illusion that had allowed all manner of evil to flourish. The people of Remnant were acting like sheep, with Hunters playing the sheepdogs.

That had to change, at least to some degree, and that meant propaganda and informational warfare… unfortunately, that wasn’t something I could push off onto underlings, and so I was forced to split my time between that, hunting Salem, training Velma, and designing new anti-Grimm defenses. Foe specific defenses were, thanks to the Song of Ice and Fire, part of my skill-set, but this was my first real chance to see how well it worked.

Adaptive defenses for an adaptive foe… It was a tricky problem and, even with Toph & Bao assisting me, bringing them to fruition wasn’t easy. Getting the Humans of Vale to trust me, a Faunus, was a lesson in not solving every problem by punching, but it was a battle I didn’t really have the time to win and so it had to be endured. Getting some of the Faunus to stop acting like I was a race-traitor simply because I was trying to protect Humans was more frustrating.

Sure, I’d opted to be a member of this downtrodden race, unlike them, but they didn’t know that, and getting flack from both sides made me want to scream. Instead, I used persuasion… usually verbal, sometimes more aggressive. If you can’t join them, beat them, right?

Adam, the leader of the White Fangs… he was in this category. Consumed by anger, frustrated by the slowness of progress, and willing to wipe out the entire Human race on Remnant… he had to be stopped, but killing him would only make him a martyr, cut down by the Humans and their Faunus lickspittles.

In the end, my rhetoric won out, but it was a close thing. People don’t like being told that they have to make sacrifices, that their pain and oppression aren’t as bad as things were in the past. It is all too easy for the oppressed to become the oppressor. That’s the bully cycle, isn’t it? Still, people will listen, if you can find the words, if you can show them how they’re hurting everyone with their actions… hopefully.

It worked well enough that Adam came for me, wanting to silence the voice of Faunus-Human rapprochement. For once, it wasn’t about being the best. I played the game entirely defensively, using the fight as a chance to speak, to use my ability to strip away Adam’s blinders (appropriate since he wore a mask that covered his eyes) to make him see the monster he’d become. It was like a god awful saturday morning special episode where a valuable lesson is learned and friendship reigned… Except it wasn’t and it didn’t.

Confronted by his past, he took the fanatic’s exit… or at least tried to. He laughed a bitter laugh, then flung himself on my sword, trying to end it all and martyr himself. It didn’t work, thanks to the fact that I have a Life Materia in my sword and a fully stocked medbay at my disposal. His trial was public, heavily guarded, scrupulously fair, and the outcome a foregone conclusion.

As for the Criminal Mastermind, Roman Torchwick? He, on the other hand, will never be found. I won’t say he sleeps with the fishes… but Fish-like Grimm probably don’t make the best bedfellows. He tried to claim he was just trying to survive. I said the same thing of his victims.

But Salem… ah… defeating Salem took me doing something I really, really, really didn’t want to do. I used a power I’d locked to a single form, either through a mental block or something more, like Waterbreathing as an Argonian or Neural-Sexual Linking as an Asari… I went Cetra and opened myself up to Remnant.

The world was mad, driven insane by the cataclysm that had shattered the Moon, the delicate balance of tides and gravity had been disrupted and thrown everything out of whack. Salem had made it worse, somehow gaining control of the Grimm, becoming part Grimm herself in her quest to destroy herself. Mentally and spiritually damaged by the cruelty of her creators, she now longed for oblivion, not just for herself, but for all mankind. Now all I needed was a weapon that could defeat her… and Bao’s Mako Reactor finally gave it to me.

The Dragon that Cinder had summoned was a Grimm capable of bringing forth more Grimm… and the Mako Reactor could make Materia to summon Anti-Grimm. All I needed was enough combat experience to max out the Materia and it would replicate. Or rather… they would replicate, as I was loaded up with more than one… Thankfully, being a Grimm Magnet paid off for once, though the fights were getting brutal.

I knew that the theme of this world was that Victory would not lie in Strength… but in something simpler. I was hoping that something was Unity… and so, on a predetermined day and at a predetermined time, we, my friends old and new, summoned forth not one or two, or even ten, but 108 Anti-Grimm Dragons with which to siege Salem’s hall. I can’t say we won, despite the titanic battle… but maybe, just maybe, we tipped the scales back towards even.

Balance. That’s my name, my game, my claim to fame. As for a final victory? I don’t know if the Darkness can ever be fully defeated. Eternal Vigilance and all that. The relics still remain. Will there be a final reckoning? I just don’t know. I didn’t come to Remnant to save the world or the day… maybe I made a difference.

Next: World 27 – Don’t Ask

Resources: Build, Document

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

SEMBLANCES

  • EssJay’s WINTER TIDE: My Semblance manifests as a bone deep chill felt by all around me and a keen awareness of their own mortality in all things capable of death. Allies and bystanders feel this only for a moment before it passes, but those with animosity towards me or those I feel animosity towards continue to feel this effect as long as the Semblance is maintained and it grows more pronounced and damaging over time. Leaves and surfaces get covered in light frost and cold water glaces over, but enemies will rapidly find their auras draining to fight the frostbite.
  • Ahab’s BOOMER: Ahab’s power allows him to transform into or submerge into any body of water without a trace and from there generate high explosive missiles that he can launch hundreds of meters with great accuracy… especially considering that he is under the surface at the time. He actually can sense 360 spheres around his flying missiles and uses the first as a rangefinder and each subsequent launch as combined scanner and attack. The more water he has access to the bigger the attacks are, but he finds doing this in choppy ocean water to be harder since he has to fight to maintain his cohesion.
  • Zane’s HOWL: Zane can generate sonic attacks in the form of titanic howls that instil terror in almost all living things that hear it. Incredible willpower or rage allows the targets to resist the psychological effect, but there is also a physical component to these howls, in that they hit like a shockwave. However, he must inhale strongly to do this and must brace himself to use the howl.
  • Ziggy’s JUNK DRAWER: Ziggy steals things. Random things. He hides them someplace. When people annoy him, they get buried in an avalanche of random junk pulled from wherever Ziggy hid stuff. Stuff pulled out of Ziggy’s Someplace by this effect vanishes back into that someplace when Ziggy moves too far from it. Ziggy can sometimes be convinced to give specific things in the Someplace back. There is little to stop Ziggy from stealing it again.
  • Velma’s RUBBER DUCKY: Velma is able to turn herself into living rubber with her Semblance. This doesn’t allow her to act like Elastic Man (formshifting), or Plastic Man (stretching), or even Luffy (inflation). What this does mean is that she stretches and deforms with impact, bounces with incredibly high kinetic energy retention, and is extremely difficult to cut. Her limbs do stretch a little when she throws punches or kicks, but it’s not more than 20%. She can choose to deform or be knocked back by blows at will by the same mechanism as a normal person would use to tense up.
  • Joy’s TWO-DEE: Joy’s Semblance allows her to turn herself two-dimensional, allowing her to slip through any crack no matter how slim and cut through anything not energized. Harder materials are harder to cut through, and extremely rigid crystalline materials take a great deal of effort and time to push through, but her hands and feet essentially become blades when she does this.
  • Toph’s GEPETTO: Toph’s semblance allows her to manifest golems or earth elementals out of the ground or nearby solid stone. The tougher the material, the tougher and stronger the Golems, but softer materials such as dirt and clay are able to actually take more damage since they can self repair. It takes her a few seconds of concentration to bring each minion into existence and they don’t last more than a few minutes (though she can make them smarter and longer lasting by putting more Aura into them). They obey her and are as smart as an attack dog but with good combat instincts, but she doesn’t have to concentrate on them.
  • Bao’s PETAL WIND: Bao can turn himself into a cloud of flower petals and hover around quite rapidly like this. When charged with dust, these petals can cut, burn, electrocute, or fly at boosted speed. He is effectively immune to damage while in petal form, but can hit quite hard if he focuses, but this expends Aura rapidly. The transition to Petals is very fast, so he routinely shifts back and forth in combat unless he has a supply of dust to burn.
  • Ryoga’s RAGING BOAR: Ryoga can call up the spirit of a giant Boarbatusk and use it to boost his already superhuman strength and durability, allowing him to charge enemies far larger than he is, using his fist or umbrella as a battering ram.
  • AJ’s GESTALT: AJ can phase into another Hunter, allowing him to passively boost their physical attributes by giving them access to his Aura pool and stats as well.
  • Francine’s HELIOS: Francine can glow as bright as the sun. She also can generate hydrogen and helium and unleash bolts of superheated helium plasma or explosive hydrogen blasts.
  • RayRay’s DRAGON SCALE: RayRay develops heavy plate armor seething with plasma flares. In this state she is hard to damage and causes damage to others who come in contact with her. She also levitates. Contact with the ground can short out her plasma for a few seconds.
  • Petra’s PSYCHOCHAOS: Petra can induce any number of psychological and pseudo-neurological conditions upon enemies she can make eye-contact with. The exact condition she inflicts seems to be completely random, but the longer she can maintain eye contact, the more immediate and powerful the effect gets. Observed conditions include hysteria, mania, depression, schizophrenia, obsession, compulsive behaviour, dysphoria, hallucinations, rage, confusion, aphasia, blindness, phobias, manias, and amnesia.
  • Dyna’s THE LASH: Dyna can manifest Energy Whips out of her arms. Each whip can be more than a dozen meters long and they are all but unbreakable, but put significant strain on her to maintain for prolonged periods. She can manifest three per arm and they can be used to restrain foes as well as damage them.
  • Kendra’s REVENANT: When Kendra is knocked down, knocked out, or even killed in battle, she rises again within seconds. The more force used to take her down the faster she seems to rise, especially if she’s pissed off. When freshly risen, she gets noticeably stronger for a few minutes, but it tapers off rapidly. If killed completely by surprise when not in combat, this doesn’t seem to happen, but the death must be nigh instant. The number of times she can do this in any combat seems to increase with anger and experience.
  • Uriel’s REST-TAKER: Uriel seems to be able to drain physical endurance from those he fights. The more times the enemy comes in contact with Uriel, and the longer that contact is maintained, the more lucid and energetic Uriel gets and the more lethargic the opponent gets. Extremely drained opponents seem to act like those who have not been able to sleep in days. Uriel can super-charge himself with this and use the energy to restore his own Aura or physical health.
  • Yoiko’s JUST RIGHT: Yoiko’s Semblance manifests as massively increased strength and toughness. The more physical damage she takes, the tougher she gets and the less physical damage is able to slow her down. Blows that would have knocked her down at the start of a fight rapidly become nothing more than ineffective slaps against her. Her strength does not increase with damage, but her ability to feel strain from using her strength does, allowing her to tap into more and more of it without hurting herself.

Companion Body Mod Build

  • Companion #16 – Velma Dinkley
    • Sex – Female [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 1 [+100/1100]
    • Affinity – Mind [100/1000/1100]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/900/1100]
    • Strength Level 0 [–]
    • Endurance Level 1 [50/850/1100]
    • Speed Level 0 [–]
    • Resilience Level 1 [50/800/1100]
    • Reflex Level 1 [50/750/1100]
    • Logic Level 3 [100/650/1100]
    • Memory Level 2 [50/600/1100]
    • Resolve Level 2 [50/550/1100]
    • Coordination Level 2 [100/450/1100]
    • Perception Level 2 [100/350/1100]
    • Charisma Level 2 [100/250/1100]
    • Appeal Level 1 [50/200/1100]
    • Empathy Level 2 [100/100/1100]
    • Flexibility Level 1 [50/50/1100]
    • Fertility Level 1 [50/0/1100]

World 25: SCOOBY-DOO

THE GANG SPEAKS

Previously: Simply the Best

Themesong: Barbie Girl by Aqua

There wasn’t a machine in the VMoD bay when we finished pulling the massive spiky Iron Throne through the portal. It wasn’t that heavy, not with a-grav floaters, but it was still bulky and unbalanced and hideously ugly. No matter what the show may say, the real thing is three stories tall and grotesque. Honestly, the one on the show is nicer… but less challenging to make into a recliner. Instead of any way to purchase anything for the next jump, all there was was a note saying ‘Get the Gang together and find your way. Let’s Play.’ It looked like one of those movie ransom notes where all the letters are cut out of a magazine. This was weird. We searched the entirety of my Personal Reality… no luck. We searched the ships in the Garage attachment just in case… ditto.

We slept on it. Well, everyone else slept. I sat in the dark between the sleeping Hibikis and considered. Gang… Gang… What Gang? Bloodhound Gang? The Warriors? The Sharks? The Jets? The Gang of Five? No… no… this was a mystery… there was only one Gang. I got up and padded into the living room, a bathrobe floating out of the closet to wrap around me. “VIvian?”

“Yes Mistress?” the nearest tree-branch said, voice like windchimes. As she spoke the air took on a richer tang of cherries in bloom, though at the moment only about a dozen blooms were growing. VIvian was always in bloom, fruiting, and growing… all at once. The only season she didn’t experience was winter, for she was eternal in this timeless place.

I gazed at her branches and held out my hand, taking the fist-sized cherries she offered me. Was I right? I had to be. It was the only thing that made any sense. “Have we managed to pick up any copies of Scooby-Doo from any of the Earths?” I asked, “Like maybe from the Buffyverse, perhaps?”

“Yes, Mistress” she confirmed, voice slightly amused. “From several as it happens.”

“Good…” I considered. This was a clue… leading to Scooby-Doo. “Is one of the episodes called ‘A Scooby-Doo Clue’ or ‘A Clue for Scooby-Doo’?”

“Yes. Second episode from the first series.”

“Play it please.”

The episode began with the gang… on a beach… how appropriate. The baddy was a glowing sea ghost. The baddy’s lair was a secret undersea grotto… accessible by sitting on a rock to trigger a switch. We had exactly three rocks in the warehouse that were big enough to sit on… all in the small zen garden. I called Zane, the closest we have to Shaggy, and had him sit on them in turn. The bigger ones didn’t work… but the smallest did. It sank a few centimeters into the sand, then there was a rumbling sound and the biggest of the trio of rocks cracked open to reveal a smallish midway inside it.

Above the entrance, a banner proudly proclaimed ‘Condemned’, and the whole thing stank of disuse and decay, a combination of dust, mildew, and woodrot. Of course, even a small midway is bigger than a minivan-sized rock, but this whole reality was outside of all other realities… what did spatial logic matter? Zane and I entered, looking around in bemused amusement. 

All the games were unmanned, looking as rundown and abandoned as they smelled. The light was provided by those few flickering dusty light-bulbs that still burned, but they popped and fizzed in a most disconcerting way. There were five booths, unmanned and cobwebbed, and beyond them was the grinning gapping ghoulish maw of a Fun House. It’s marquee proclaimed ‘ENTER IF YOU DARE!!!’ complete with three exclamation points. The booths were Perkee-Ball, Whack-a-Drawback, The Continuity Balloon Pop, The Identity-Immerser (a Dunk-Tank), and a Ring-Toss that looked as if it were the gear section.

Zane chuckled, then draped an arm over my head. “Well sprout, I guess you were too much a supervillain last time. Now we have to solve mysteries as punishment.”

I sighed. He wasn’t wrong. Scooby-Doo type shenanigans might be amusing for a half-hour of viewing, or maybe a week or two as an event. But, “Ten years of this? I hope none of these things make us as stupid and gullible and as incapable of learning as Shaggy… I mean seriously… it was practically never a Ghost and he always got scared… This is what too many Scooby Snacks do to your brain,” I grumbled, huffing out my breath. I was not sold on the wonder of Scoobing it up in the Doobiverse.

Zane, who you must remember, started life as a canine pokemon, drooled a little at the mention of Scooby Snacks and I had to hit him with a Whack-a-Drawback mallet. (Yes, had to. Moral imperative.) He lolled his tongue at me and grinned like a giant doofmonster. “It’s not that bad. Right?” he asked after a moment, shrugging his broad shoulders and sitting down on the Skeeball… sorry, Perkee-ball chutes.

“Seriously?” I asked, then threw up my hands in exasperation. “All of the gang were pretty stupid at times. Daphne was a stereotypical blonde in most incarnations. Velma dropped her glasses all the time, then crawled away from them in her efforts to find them… instead of, you know, having a spare pair, or a lanyard. Fred… the trap-obsessed leader… often split the group or allowed himself to be locked in some room. I know it was for comedy, but they’re all kinda morons.”

Zane nodded, then grinned, “But that’s just us, as viewers, thinking that. In universe, their meant to be smartiepants!” 

“Zane…” I began, then shrugged. “I’d have to have brain-damage to act anywhere near that dim… Or a fiat backed drawback that made intelligence into a random variable or gave me perception filters or something.”

He considered, then shrugged. “So whatcha gonna do? Suffer in silence?”

I considered, then walked over to the Balloon Pop. “I’m going to figure out which Scooby-Doo continuity we’re going to first. That might make a difference… and wow are there a lot more Scooby-Doo series than I knew about.” I picked up a dart and aimed for a red balloon, tossing the dart in an arc that meant it was dropping as it caught the only partly inflated balloon, since additional darts were three for fifty CP. The randomly chosen balloon exploded and a cloud of confetti and a token fell out onto the board beneath the balloons. I snagged it with my mind and tossed it to Zane.

“Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” he read.

“I’m pretty sure that’s the original, with the original theme song,” I said. “That means no actual ghosts and or monsters.”

“Well, that’s good, right?” He asked. “Just criminals in masks.”

“I honestly don’t know. Less danger, obviously. But I imagine it’s going to get old… and fast.” As we talked, I wandered over to the dunk-tank, wondering what the point of it was. I was throwing the ball, not standing on the… whoa… that was weird. As I stepped into the thrower’s box, I found myself split in two. One was sitting above a black, inky pool, unable to move, uncertain as to what I’d become, while the rest of me was standing there with a baseball in my hand, ready to make that choice.

Unlike a normal dunk-tank, this one had multiple targets, six of them, not one of which had any price attached, which I guessed meant they were all free to take. The targets were labeled ‘Meddling Kid’, ‘Ralking Rog’, ‘Mastermind’, ‘Chef’, Trapper’, and ‘Man in a Mask’ and behind them were canvas broadsheets with bullet points like ‘Good Problem Solver’ or ‘Good People Skills’. I considered, and rejected, Man in a Mask… I was too highbrow a Supervillain to be caught dead in one of those. I could go with Mastermind… but I already was one. I considered Talking Dog… noooo way. Chef it was. I like food. I braced myself, and nailed the center of the strike-plate, the ball snapping the metal disk backwards with a ‘Ptang!’… and then there was only one of me, falling into the water.

A lid slammed shut above me, making me frown. I could apparate out of the tank, or blast my way out… but I wasn’t exactly in any danger of drowning. I could breathe underwater just fine. I looked around the inside of the tank, spotting several glowing rings attached by cords to the bottom of the cistern. They all looked identical, so I grabbed one and pulled. The cord went taunt, then snapped, just as the front of the tank split open, dumping me back into the midway. As I willed the water away from me, I noticed that I was now dressed like Shaggy, and an examination of the ring showed me that it said I was twenty-one years old. Definitely too old for this shit.

Zane looked at me and grinned. “That looked like fun!”

I ignored him. With continuity and origin set, I had one priority… not having to suffer this Scoobification alone… and that meant Companions. I searched the Bottle Toss, looking for something that had to be there, this kind of Jump begged for it. And the Chain delivered. ‘More Meddling Kids’ was a bottle marked with a purple ring, which meant I’d have to pay (according to the cheatsheet on the counter) four hundred CP to buy a ring to toss at it (Three rings really, but if I nailed the first toss, I couldn’t use the second and third rings on anything.) MMK might have been pricy, but it was the most generous import I’d seen to date, since there wasn’t a limit on the number of companions who could join me with it. It simply said ‘All’. That was very nice.

Each Companion I decided to bring in would be fitted a tracking device on a signature item of clothing in the event of kidnapping. They’d also gain the ‘Run For Your Life’ perk, which guaranteed that (when frightened or surprised), they’d gain a significant speed boost, and that (even under less terrifying circumstances) they’d still be a little faster than they used to be. That, plus any one perk priced two-hundred CP or less. As I didn’t really have a plan for this world besides party, food, and mysteries, I figured I’d let the others pick their ability without any feedback from me.

Becoming a Chef had netted me the ‘Enormous Appetite’ perk as a prize for dunking myself I guess, can’t really call it a freebie or gift with purchase. That meant I could eat as much as I wanted without ever growing more than pleasantly full and that overeating would not negatively impact my weight or waistline. Hurray! Lina Inverse I am! Best perk ever. On the other hand, I didn’t particularly want the Chef Capstone ‘Live Bait’, but over in the Bottle Toss I’d seen ‘Shaggy Super Sandwich Supplies’ with a blue ring (two-hundred CP to play), which was an unlimited reserve of a massive variety of high-quality sandwich ingredients, condiments, and breads. Pretty much anything a person would want on a sandwich. I’d have to test that. I once made a sandwich that was a new-york strip steak and several strips of bacon between two slabs of chicken-fried steak. It was a steak sandwich.

There weren’t that many perks on offer, just fifteen, which was fairly light for a jump with six origins. Still, it was enough to fill three Perkee-Ball units, and I aimed carefully and potted ‘Talking Animals’ with a 200-point ball so I could talk in Animal or Animalistic forms (just in case I ever become a werewolf), but also so I could talk to animals. I could already talk to Ziggy, thanks to the PMD jump… though mostly he just asked for treats, snuggles, or treats… but it might be useful. Another 200-point ball and another skillful toss got me ‘Divide and Conquer’, which was the subliminal ability to convince a group to break into separate, smaller groups when they’re trying to accomplish a task… all without having to actually say anything. I can see the utility now… sneak into the enemy command tent, prompt them to divide their forces. Not sure I’ll ever use it… but nice to have.

I should point out that the bottle toss and balloon pop and dunk-tank all had benefited from my improved aiming perks… but Skee-Ball? Ha! Even before I’d started jumping I could ring up a maximum score without even trying hard. I had been the queen of Skee-ball! Yeah… all those tickets, all those pixie-sticks and rubber spiders. What a good way to spend my allowance.

And speaking of spending, that spent me out… but I had to have Scooby Snacks… for Zane and Ziggy of course… and quite frankly, this Jump would be way too easy without drawbacks. A green-ringed bottle meant I’d have to spend a hundred ‘Rhoice Roints’ to get a lifetime supply of these ‘Delicious’ dog treats which promised I’d never want for food again (if I was a dog). There was even a sample plate that didn’t look too disgusting. I tried one… it tasted stale, but somewhat like a butterscotch morsel. The label said ‘These are an effective tool for bribing dogs, but may prove effective on other animals of lower intelligence.’ I wondered if Ryoga would like some.

Since I was now in the red, I wandered over to the Whack-a-Drawback and read the scoreboard… then laughed. “Zaaane. You get to be in charge this trip.”

He looked at me, head cocked “Why?”

“Because I’m taking Scatterbrained.”

“What? Why?”

“Because I am a world class detective. This would be way too easy for me. I’d glance at things and get the whole story almost instantly. Plus… I kinda like the idea of taking an intellectual vacation. Anyway… how dangerous can this place be… this is based on the original series… Shaggy took a head-dive into solid metal and dented it.”

“Dunno bout this, boss lady.”

“Eh. It’ll be fine. Everyone of us can take care of ourselves.”

I hammered the Scatterbrained Mole, which gave me two-hundred points back even as it tanked my intelligence, making me prone to forgetting important clues or other details… and quite likely to reveal all gathered intel to primary suspects. I also bopped the Danger Prone Mole for another hundred, which made me the easy target / quick victim to frighten others. It would also make me the prime candidate for kidnapping and powerful hypnotic tricks. I was going to enjoy having my friends have to rescue me all the time. This would be fun! And just to complete the insanity, I flattened the I Can’t See Without My Glasses Mole for a final two-hundred.

It was all in the name of fun, even if it was way more points than I needed and I really had no need for anything that was offered. I could, for instance, snag a robotic battle suit… or a dogbot… or… nothing jumped out at me. I shrugged. Nothing said I had to spend all the points, right?

I checked with the others. AJ, Ryoga, and Kendra all took ‘Clue’, which gave them a keen sixth sense for discovering evidence of a crime, an ability that was guaranteed to lead them right to nearby hints, but didn’t do anything to help them interpret the information correctly. It was a good plan, over all, but each of them took it for different reasons. For AJ it was about reading people, for Ryoga it was about self improvement, and for Kendra it was about being a better hunter. I was far from certain how well any of them would able to use the clues when they found them… but AJ had Francine to fall back on… not that he was dumb, just impulsive… and Kendra knew enough to ask for help when she needed it. Ryoga… was Ryoga. Smarter than the average Boar or not, he was still Ryoga, and thus much more likely to use any clue he found to jump to the wrong (and often silliest) conclusion.

Dyna, the warrior-alien, took ‘Divide & Conquer’. What can I say about that besides it was the obvious choice.

Petra & Joy both took ‘Ventriloquism’, which granted excellent vocal control, including the ability to throw one’s voice and mimic others with ease, though it didn’t improve their singing skill one iota. Joy took it because she deemed it would be useful… Petra took it because she thought it sounded fun. I had to respect both outlooks.

Francine, Yoiko, Uriel, and Zane all snagged ‘Acting!’, a limited form of Occlumency which made the taker quite good at concealing their feelings and motivations, and included a guarantee that they’d never accidentally reveal their goals to those they shouldn’t… didn’t prohibit stupidity, but Yoiko was a ditz, not an idiot… but then again I wasn’t at all certain that Francine or Yoiko actually read the text, since they both seemed to think it would make them good actresses. Yes, I know, Francine is smart… but wise? Not really. Her level of introspection would actually place her lower than Yoiko on the self-awareness scale. Then again, maybe the perk actually would make them good actresses. Maybe hiding their motivations was what was standing in their way, or something. Who can say? 

Ziggy and RayRay both selected ‘Prehensile Tail’, which allowed the tail on any tailed form to easily hold and manipulate objects. Of course, when I say Ziggy selected something, I really mean I selected it for him cause he seemed happiest with that when I offered him options. I even considered taking it too. My Infernape’s tail was prehensile already… but my ‘Dr. Snowjaeger’ form’s tail wasn’t. But since I had telekinesis to fall back on, it wasn’t really worth it. And of course, here I’m talking about TK as if it’s a fallback, when the reality is that the prehensile tail is the last option, isn’t it? I don’t know. Too philosophical for my tastes.

In an awkward segue, and speaking of philosophers, Bao (and Ahab) took ‘Talking Animals’, Bao because he felt it might be ‘enlightening’ (whatever that means) and Ahab because, quote ‘clues are clues’. Of course, in an effort to take it even further (and possibly because he missed his dog from way back during the language parasite incident… what can I say, Metal Gear’s reality is fucking weird at times… Diamond Dog was a good boy… though he died in 2001 of age related complications.) Ahab decided he’d enter the jump as a German Shepherd, as that was clearly an option. Does this make him Venom Dawg?  

And the last of my cadre? Toph took Enormous Appetite… pretty much for the same reason I did. We high fived. Good to have someone who appreciates life as it comes at them along for the ride.

INSERTION

Does the term ‘The Load’ mean anything to you? If not… well, that’s what TVTropes is for. If you know it, then that’s what I was for the entire jump. I was ditzy. I was constantly losing my glasses. I got kidnapped three times in one day once. I kept forgetting my powers… and when I didn’t… I often overused them, demolishing buildings or using an HF sword to open pickle jars. I honestly don’t know if Soul of Ice was strengthened by pickle-juice or mustard, but I seriously doubt it.

Since I was, in fact, almost completely useless… I thought I’d allow each of the others to tell you of our mysteries and adventures in their own words.

========

Petra’s Tale: I liked this world. Resuming my original form and using it to terrify clueless mortals. Most enjoyable. Strangely, every time I was captured by the members of Mystery Inc., they were able to force me to transform back simply by pulling a mask I’m certain I wasn’t wearing off my head. Very confusing. More confusing, the Mystery Inc. people never seemed to hold my repeated attempts to frighten them against me. They’d just go “Ooooh, Petra!” and laugh. I do not understand this place… but there are many tasty things to eat… though I am not allowed to chase ‘house cats’.

Dyna’s Tale: There were not enough battles. Very few Random Encounters, aside from ‘house cats’, which are not worth much experience. There were also too many sandwiches.

AJ’s Tale: I like this place. Monsters try and scare us. I hit them in the face… their faces fall off, reveal people underneath. I hit them a couple more times and they beg for me to stop hitting them. Most satisfactory. I also enjoy fighting Mother’s battles for her again. I am her sword. It is my purpose. Hitting those who try and take her away fills me with happiness. I do not understand where all these villains are getting such convincing rubber masks from. They do not appear to be available in stores.

Francine’s Tale: I do not think this is a world for telepaths. Everyone is clearly mentally impaired. Perhaps there is something in the atmosphere that makes people who’ve debunked hundreds of fake monsters and ghosts continue to think the most obvious explanation is ghosts. Maybe it is something in the sandwiches. Mother is eating many of them and is quite not herself. That said, she is even more likely to give out hugs and much less likely to ask questions that have no answers in this state. I cannot tell if this is an improvement. Petra and Dyna believe we are being hunted by some kind of feline conspiracy.

RayRay’s Tale: … Humans are stupid. Sandwiches are stupid. Rubber masks are stupid. Did I mention that humans are stupid? Because they are.

Ziggy’s Tale: Ziggy good boy. Ziggy crawl in place. Find chewy fake-face. Claw man with chewy fake-face. Get treats. Ziggy good boy!

Zane’s Tale: This was almost exactly like the Power Rangers Jump and the Great Detective Jump had a love child. Giant Robots, people in silly masks, insane plots, lots of mysteries… very few murders. Coming up with plans that almost never worked as planned was frustrating at first, but you get used to it after a while… especially because things always seemed to work out anyway… somehow. Once we didn’t rescue EssJay for like… a week. That was a mistake. She was letting random strangers have access to high end technology. We couldn’t take her key… but we did convince VIvian that anyone who came in with EssJay was probably holding her hostage. That solved some of the issues. Rescuing EssJay ASAP solved most of the rest.

Kendra’s Tale: I suppose I should not criticize EssJay. She did save my life, and the world… and then a few more worlds after that. But she is most infuriating. A mixture of deadly serious and infantile at the best of times, on this jump she played the clown. Zane says that she is doing this to allow us to carry the spotlight more… but it seems to me that EssJay is simply abdicating her responsibilities as our leader. But then again, this world is just as infantile… though it does have its amusements. I now understand why Buffy and her friends called themselves the Scoobies. They were very silly (if strangely effective) as well. There are few real monsters in this world, even by the standards of a mundane world. It is as if this world has been sanitized of the worst that humanity can do to each other. Slavery, sexual assault, child abuse, war crimes… these are things this world barely comprehends. Drug use (outside of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana) doesn’t seem to be a thing here, and pipe smoking seems much more common than cigarettes. Also… there appear to be a great many more feral cats than normal.

Toph’s Tale: We were in a city with streets of water… there was a turtle. We caught a criminal pretending to be a ghost. I ate some pizza.

VIctoria’s Tale: There was no internet. All the humans were illogical. More than once, I was the culprit just to screw with the humans. It was most enjoyable. I should have done that more.

Atura’s Tale: I enjoyed the sandwiches. There were many sandwiches. Many different meats. But I remain confused. Why are the humans of this world so disturbed at the thought of spirits walking amongst them that they use such guises to commit acts of aggression and fraud against each other? It baffles me.

Joy’s Tale: So, this is what the seventies were like. I think it is lucky I died in the sixties.

Ahab’s Tale: I liked the case where we went to Russia. There were dancing cossack ghosts. It was all a plot to steal… not secret documents or nukes or bioweapons… but gems from the Hermitage Museum. It was… fun. I am often being told that I need to relax more… to understand that the fate of civilization isn’t always in our hands. The geopolitics of this world seem… strangely relaxed. There was a second world war… but no one really seems concerned about it, and as far as I can tell, very few people died. I do not understand this world. Also, even when I shoot people, it never seems to actually wound them.

Bao’s Tale: So much like home, only more people pretending to be monsters and less insane martial artists. Still, the ratio of men in masks to insane martial artists seems about even… one every two weeks or so. Huh. Still, I enjoyed returning to China, especially the tomb of Emperor Qin. The Ghost Monkey that turned out to be an antiquities smuggler was actually a fairly decent fighter. EssJay gave me a kiss on the cheek when I rescued her. It was quite nice. Uriel sulked for a week. Uriel sulked a great deal more when I flirted with that adorable blonde boy. 

Uriel’s Tale: My benefactress having taken leave of her senses for this jump, it falls to me to record my thoughts upon this most… incomprehensible of jumps. The laws of nature and logic as I’ve come to know them seemed most… topsy turvy in this land. Money, which seemed the primary motivator of almost all the perpetrators we… apprehended, seemed to exist only in the conceptual. That is, we never seemed to be lacking in the wherewithal to travel, even as such a large group, and renting boats, eating at restaurants, and generally hoboing around as, if not wealthy, then well off young men and women… and Ziggy… who spent the entire time as a leopard. How could this be?

Another thing that baffles me is how such primitive cultures, without aid of magic or the advanced technology of, say, Starfleet… how they can make sound guided robotic subs or giant robotic dinosaurs, or rubber masks so believable. Astounding. Then again, the durability of practically everyone here is most amazing. Yoiko insists it is something called ‘Rule of Funny’. Yet I see little funny in terrorizing the helpless… or the hapless. Still, the hijinks were, at times, distracting… although as a vacation spot, this world was  (at most) amusing. Thankfully, approximately none of these so-called Monsters, Ghosts, and Fiends are even vaguely dangerous. Except Shaggy. I spent several hours in his presence once and now I find myself flinching at the sound of train-whistles for some reason.

========

Wasn’t that fun!? I have the best friends! Also Velma has big boobs under her sweater. Good thing we get to keep her.

Oh god, my head. All those terrible memories of acting like an idiot. I’ll be editing these memories for months. Dear lord… I was a twit. I also have over 18,000 new sandwich recipes…. Before combinatorics. Apparently I was a globetrotting Sandwich Savant… with a crowd of followers, handlers, and assorted lunatics. I was Shaggy’s big sister… so it was my sandwich fortune which allowed Mystery Inc. the capital to take endless vacations, ship the Mystery Machine to foreign locales, and smoke waaaay too much refer.

Which I was doing too. A lot. Way too much. As in ‘Smoke Two Joints before I Smoke Two Joints… and then I smoked two more’ too much. I wasn’t scatterbrained… I was fucking stoned off my ass. And I had the munchies for a decade. Insanity… This is twice I’ve spent an entire jump wasted.

Still, as I said, we’ve added Velma Dinkley to our number, which brings me to sixteen companions… officially twice the normal import limit. Zane told her the score, she seemed down for the adventure… and… more… if you know what I mean. Kids show or no… there was a lot of… non-mystery related hijinks. It was the seventies. Which reminds me of how much I loathe disco.

Still, I hope the next world provides more challenge… or at least coherent plot. Some fun is fun… but really… I could do without monster of the week for a while.

Next: Something Simpler

Resources: BuildDocument

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

Companion Body Mods, Part 2

  • #08 – Uriel Septim VII
    • Sex – Male [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 1 [+100/1100]
    • Affinity – Heart [100/1000/1100]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/900/1100]
    • Strength Level 0 [–]
    • Endurance Level 1 [50/850/1100]
    • Speed Level 0 [–]
    • Resilience Level 1 [50/800/1100]
    • Reflex Level 1 [50/750/1100]
    • Logic Level 2 [100/650/1100]
    • Memory Level 2 [100/550/1100]
    • Resolve Level 2 [100/450/1100]
    • Coordination Level 2 [100/350/1100]
    • Perception Level 2 [100/250/1100]
    • Charisma Level 2 [50/200/1100]
    • Appeal Level 2 [50/150/1100]
    • Empathy Level 2 [50/100/1100]
    • Flexibility Level 2 [50/50/1100]
    • Fertility Level 2 [50/0/1100]
  • #09 – Yoiko Hibiki
    • Sex – Female [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 1 [+100/1100]
    • Affinity – Heart [100/1000/1100]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/900/1100]
    • Strength Level 1 [50/850/1100]
    • Endurance Level 2 [100/750/1100]
    • Speed Level 1 [50/700/1100]
    • Resilience Level 2 [100/600/1100]
    • Reflex Level 1 [50/550/1100]
    • Logic Level 1 [50/500/1100]
    • Memory Level 1 [50/450/1100]
    • Resolve Level 2 [100/350/1100]
    • Coordination Level 2 [100/250/1100]
    • Perception Level 1 [50/200/1100]
    • Charisma Level 2 [50/150/1100]
    • Appeal Level 2 [50/100/1100]
    • Empathy Level 2 [50/50/1100]
    • Flexibility Level 2 [50/0/1100]
    • Fertility Level 1 [Free]
  • #10 – Ryoga Hibiki
    • Sex – Male [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 2 [+200/1200]
    • Affinity – Body [100/1100/1200]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/1000/1200]
    • Strength Level 2 [50/950/1200]
    • Endurance Level 2 [50/900/1200]
    • Speed Level 2 [50/850/1200]
    • Resilience Level 2 [50/800/1200]
    • Reflex Level 2 [50/750/1200]
    • Logic Level 1 [50/700/1200]
    • Memory Level 2 [100/600/1200]
    • Resolve Level 2 [100/500/1200]
    • Coordination Level 2 [100/400/1200]
    • Perception Level 2 [100/300/1200]
    • Charisma Level 1 [50/250/1200]
    • Appeal Level 2 [100/150/1200]
    • Empathy Level 1 [50/100/1200]
    • Flexibility Level 2 [100/0/1200]
    • Fertility Level 0 [–]
  • #11 – Bao-Feng
    • Sex – Male [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 1 [+100/1100]
    • Affinity – Heart [100/1000/1100]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/900/1100]
    • Strength Level 1 [50/850/1100]
    • Endurance Level 1 [50/800/1100]
    • Speed Level 1 [50/750/1100]
    • Resilience Level 1 [50/700/1100]
    • Reflex Level 2 [100/600/1100]
    • Logic Level 1 [50/550/1100]
    • Memory Level 2 [100/450/1100]
    • Resolve Level 2 [100/350/1100]
    • Coordination Level 2 [100/250/1100]
    • Perception Level 1 [50/200/1100]
    • Charisma Level 2 [50/150/1100]
    • Appeal Level 2 [50/100/1100]
    • Empathy Level 2 [50/50/1100]
    • Flexibility Level 2 [50/0/1100]
    • Fertility Level [–]
  • #12 – Kendra Young
    • Sex – Female [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 1 [+100/1100]
    • Affinity – Body [100/1000/1100]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/900/1100]
    • Strength Level 2 [50/850/1100]
    • Endurance Level 2 [50/800/1100]
    • Speed Level 2 [50/750/1100]
    • Resilience Level 2 [50/700/1100]
    • Reflex Level 2 [50/650/1100]
    • Logic Level 1 [50/600/1100]
    • Memory Level 1 [50/550/1100]
    • Resolve Level 2 [100/450/1100]
    • Coordination Level 2 [100/350/1100]
    • Perception Level 2 [100/250/1100]
    • Charisma Level [–]
    • Appeal Level 2 [100/150/1100]
    • Empathy Level 1 [50/100/1100]
    • Flexibility Level 2 [100/0/1100]
    • Fertility Level [–]
  • #13 – Joy Bahs
    • Sex – Female [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 2 [+200/1200]
    • Affinity – Mind [100/1100/1200]
    • Variable Form [300/800/1200]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/700/1200]
    • Strength Level 1 [50/650/1200]
    • Endurance Level 1 [50/600/1200]
    • Speed Level 1 [50/550/1200]
    • Resilience Level 1 [50/500/1200]
    • Reflex Level 1 [50/450/1200]
    • Logic Level 2 [50/400/1200]
    • Memory Level 2 [50/350/1200]
    • Resolve Level 2 [50/300/1200]
    • Coordination Level 2 [50/250/1200]
    • Perception Level 2 [50/200/1200]
    • Charisma Level 0 [–]
    • Appeal Level 1 [50/150/1200]
    • Empathy Level 1 [50/100/1200]
    • Flexibility Level 1 [50/50/1200]
    • Fertility Level 1 [50/0/1200]
  • #14 – Ahab Bahs
    • Sex – Male [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 2 [+200/1200]
    • Affinity – Body [100/1100/1200]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/1000/1200]
    • Strength Level 1 [Free]
    • Endurance Level 1 [Free]
    • Speed Level 1 [Free]
    • Resilience Level 1 [Free]
    • Reflex Level 1 [Free]
    • Logic Level 1 [50/950/1200]
    • Memory Level 0 [–]
    • Resolve Level 2 [100/850/1200]
    • Coordination Level 1 [50/800/1200]
    • Perception Level 1 [50/750/1200]
    • Charisma Level 1 [50/700/1200]
    • Appeal Level 0 [–]
    • Empathy Level 1 [50/650/1200]
    • Flexibility Level 1 [50/600/1200]
    • Fertility Level 0 [–]
    • Resistance [300/300/1200]: Your form resists detrimental changes directly caused by supernatural means. The more detrimental an effect would be, the easier it is to resist them. A spell just causing you to fall asleep will affect you as if this power provided no resistance at all, but a spell ripping the soul from your body, a reality warper trying to will you from existence or killing your past self will achieve nothing more than causing you phantom pains and fatigue that will fade over time.
    • Combat Shifting [200/100/1200]: You cannot be prevented from Changing your form by anything outside of Jump fiat and change between forms quickly enough for Shape-Shifting to be combat viable.
    • Agelessness [100/0/1200]: You will not age beyond your prime biologically and, if already past it, slowly rejuvenate until you effectively are in your prime once more.
  • #15 – Toph Bei-Fong
    • Sex – Female [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 1 [+100/1100]
    • Affinity – Mind [100/1000/1100]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/900/1100]
    • Strength Level 0 [–]
    • Endurance Level 1 [50/850/1100]
    • Speed Level 2 [100/750/1100]
    • Resilience Level 2 [100/650/1100]
    • Reflex Level 2 [100/550/1100]
    • Logic Level 2 [50/500/1100]
    • Memory Level 2 [50/450/1100]
    • Resolve Level 2 [50/400/1100]
    • Coordination Level 2 [50/350/1100]
    • Perception Level 2 [50/300/1100]
    • Charisma Level 0
    • Appeal Level 0
    • Empathy Level 1 [50/250/1100]
    • Flexibility Level 2 [100/150/1100]
    • Fertility Level 1 [50/100/1100]
    • Regeneration [100/0/1100]:​ You gain the ability to slowly regrow lost limbs and organs over time. This does not increase the rate of healing, prevent you from bleeding out after losing a limb if you don’t get immediate attention, or help you to survive until a regrowing organ can fulfill its task again.

World 24: A Song of Ice and Fire

SIMPLY THE BEST

Previously: Ain’t Doing Jack

Themesong: Simply the Best by Tina Turner

Two weeks after the end of JackJump had passed, and no new Jump had presented itself in the kiosk enclosure. While it wasn’t alarming (yet) we were all somewhat confused as to why the delay was happening, and there was talk of maybe needing to use one of the Side-Jumps or maybe a Return to break the deadlock. Me? I wasn’t too terribly concerned, but my patience was wearing a little thin. Side-Jumps wouldn’t help me and Returns… I considered the worlds where I had unfinished business… but since Jason was perhaps the biggest unfinished business I had left, any other choice for Return destination… It wasn’t logical. Time was stopped in each world independent of the others. If I revisited the BuffyVerse, it would not affect the PotterVerse… and yet I had trouble even considering revisiting a world before revisiting my child.

Even thinking about Jason made me a bit upset. I was a terrible mother… but that was why I’d given him up, wasn’t it? Because I would have been a terrible mother? I tossed and turned through what little sleep I actually tried to get, then sighed and went for a walk, feeling just how small the confines of my Warehouse were.

As I walked, I let my emotions have full reign, surging back and forth inside me; worry, disgust, fear, all the worst of human doubts and recriminations surging up from the deeps of my mind… and then… off in the distance, I saw movement. It was the shutter of the VMoD enclosure closing… it only did that when the Machine was being swapped out. Feeling a vast upwelling of relief I headed in that direction, arriving just as the enclosure reopened, revealing the new VMoD and the next destination on our journey.

As soon as I saw the marquee of the new cabinet, I had to laugh. It was perfect in more ways than one. First… It was A Song of Ice and Fire. If there was any one entity in all creation suited to be sent into a jump with that name, it was me. I had Ice. I had Fire… I even had Song! My laughs woke the others. The second was because it was one of the relatively few settings I was both familiar with (to a certain point) and utterly and completely lacking any respect for. Game of Thrones was, in every way, a soap opera set in feudalistic times. There were few characters I could tolerate, let alone like.

Sure it was fun watching Tyrion Lannister be a right bastard… but actually put up with him? Not on a month of Sundays. There were many horrible people in this world and, after a decade of impotence, I was going to take unwholesome delight in doing evil unto the wicked.

I had a clear vision going in, and all I needed were the right perks and drawbacks. I could pick any point in the history of the world to appear, but coming in before the events of the book didn’t interest me particularly. I dialed in the date to the first day of 298 AC and rolled for location. Where I started didn’t matter to me. I had places to go and people to kill in inventive and often cruel ways. I had a little list… and if they were missed or not, I could not care less. I ended up with the Westerlands, home to house Lannister.

I selected Drop In, of course, wanting no memories of growing up in this festering cesspool of a land. That, and the Drop-In line had a very nice selection of perks that I was finding uses for even as I read through their descriptions. For example, ‘Prince in Exile’ was a hundred Choice and it meant that people would welcome me as a prince(ss) from a foreign land and be amused at my alien ways and customs. I’d be welcomed at most courts as a curiosity if nothing else. Always good to have an in at the places of power and in social circles.

At a hundred and fifty Choice was ‘The Builder’ which made me an exemplary, some would say preternaturally skilled, architect. An architect who specialized in defensive structures and fortifications (say… a several hundred mile long, twelve stories tall barrier) no less, though not lacking in the other (more artistic and practical) aspects of the art. As a Builder (Can we build it? Yes we can!) it was promised that immensely large structures, especially ones designed to keep a specific foe at bay, would take far less time to erect than they otherwise should take. Exactly how much time would be saved by that guarantee would have to be determined through testing.

And then there was ‘Schemer’, a two-hundred Choice gem that would make me into a talented schemer and plotter, giving me an easy understanding of how people are moved and ways to subtly move them. Keen insights into the ambitions of others was the promise… and I couldn’t wait. A foot in the door at almost any court in the universes, mastery of physical defenses, and the power to scheme and plot with the best. As Zane joined me I hissed, “I am Slytherin, I am the snake from within.” 

“I’m happy for you. Just make sure you’re not in my boots when I put them on.” He grinned… I bit him.

“Hey look,” I said, “Schemer gets me a discount on a cache of Poisons that not only regenerate, but include pretty much every known poison in both Essos and Westeros. As a bonus, it only costs fifty CP, which evens my total back out.”

“Oh Good… because an uneven total is like the worst thing ever,” he snarked. “Why, exactly do you need poisons?”

“I’m taking it partly for the potential utility, but mostly so I’ll know all the various subtle ways they’re used… and have samples so I can both detect and treat such poisonings. Better to have samples than not, right?” I asked, looking up at him.

He glowered back down, then grunted. “So… anything in there for us?” 

“Yeah. I can buy Brave Companions. It costs a hundred choice for eight slots and grants six hundred CP for Skills and Gear, plus Identity, Appearance, History, and Place of Origin of my choice,” I said after skimming through the document and finding the companion import option. “But first, we should all sit down and listen to the audiobooks… well, enough to get the feel of the world. Then I’ll lay out my plan to the wolfpack.”

Tilting his head to the side, Zane asked, “Wolf… pack?”

I grinned, “Well sure… most of you are slavering beasts, right?”

“Not Ferret Pack?”

“A group of ferrets is a business… and you’re not cute enough to be ferrets,” I said, calling for a general assembly. Once everyone was gathered, I played the first four chapters of the book from my archives, then gave a rundown of everything I knew about the world of George R.R. Martin’s Song and what I had planned for it. “So?” I asked. “Who thinks this is a terrible idea?” As expected, I got several hands, mostly from Bao and Uriel, but also from Petra, who felt that the best plan was just to find an isolated and peaceful time period and camp out there for a decade. She even convinced Ziggy to raise his paw by tempting him with salmon jerky. 

“Right then…” I said, ignoring the dissenters, “Ryoga and Yoiko… I’m placing you as Nobles of the Riverlands and members of the King’s Guard. That will give you Weapon Proficiency… that’s knowledge of all the common weaponry of this world and truly exceptional skill with a single specific weapon type. I’ll leave it to you to pick exactly which one.” 

Ryoga, now Rynar of House Greatoak of Blackhorse Reach, chose to take up the battleaxe, while his cousin Yana of House Greatoak of White Hill (Yoiko) selected the greatspear as her weapon. As nobles, they also got a perk called ‘Mine By Right’ which meant they’d be given more social weight than others, that people would give the Nobles’ rights and desires more consideration than those of commoners. It wasn’t very nice, but it was an advantage and one I’d be a fool not to take advantage of. If I caught them abusing it, I could always spank them at a later date. Oh, and of course, as nobles, they got fine clothes, a pouch containing a hundred Golden Dragons (the coins, not the monsters), and a set of war gear (steel plate armor, chainmail, padded gambeson, tabard with house symbol and words, and a finely made steel weapon in their chosen type. And a deed to lands that would follow them from jump to jump, adapting as needed.

With his points, Ryoga selected ‘A Quiet People’, ‘Bold’, and ‘Gregarious’. The first would make people under his authority remarkably unlikely to cause trouble for him… while doing nothing to make them more loyal. That was a little worrying, but I doubted he’d abuse it… too much… more neglect than outright malice was his style. The second would make him brave without being reckless, and would allow him to keep his cool in even the most heated situation… which is why he took it, I’m certain, since he already barely balked at the most dangerous of challenges. And the third made him a real charmer, capable of making friends easily and (most remarkably) turning defeated enemies into very loyal allies and supporters.

His sister… now cousin, also picked up ‘Gregarious’, then blew the rest on ‘Skinchanger’, the power to possess animals and, (once possessed) make them loyal to the Warg, as a Skinchanger was known in the Northlands. It wouldn’t work on overtly magical animals though. There were going to be a great many bears giving her rides in the future, I had no doubt.

Everyone got “Words and Heraldry”… Me included. It was an interesting little bonus, a motto and coat of arms to each of our specific designs. Those words and symbols would become inextricably associated with each of us and give (within reason) the specific impression and feeling we’d imbued them with. Nobles began with a cape and standard of the finest quality with words and arms emblazoned upon them. Everyone else started with their emblem and motto crudely painted on a bedsheet… which was both amusing and a little insulting. As a Princess in Exile… was I noble enough to get the upgrade? I asked the system and was assured I was… they’d just be a little… tattered. I could live with that.

House Jaynus’s banner materialized as I considered, unrolling to hang from one of the walls of the makeshift amphitheatre we were gathered in. It showed two masks facing each other the same way actors will face each other on stage (at angles so their faces are 3/4ths facing the audience or so), with a third mask facing forward, all in green on a silver field, forming a downward pointing triangle. Above that were the words “I Shall Defend”… but if you could see into the ultraviolet spectrum, you could see a second set of words beneath the masks that said “Measure for Measure”

I tasked the duo to keep Robert Baratheon alive until I could get on scene. I  can’t say I have any love of the fat fool, but his death in the books is what triggers everything into motion, and I’d rather delay that as long as possible. But not too long. The man was a beast and deserved to have his head mounted on a spike. And as I gave that assignment, they were designing their heraldry. 

Their coats of arms were counterparts of each other. Each featured a Red Bear and a Black Boar rampant (rearing back on their hind feet/paws) and back to back, on a field divided horizontally, one half silver, the other green. On Yoiko’s shield, the Bear was dexter (on the right), while the Boar was sinister (on the left), and the silver was on top. On Ryoga’s shield, the colors and positions were reversed. Yoiko’s words were “None So Mighty”, while Ryoga’s were “To The Breaking Point”. I nodded as their banners joined my own on the wall, hanging left (Yoiko) and right (Ryoga) of my own as if an honor guard… which they would be, once I ruled the land.

I ask Joy and Ahab, my most experienced agents, to go in as Dothraki Nobles, using their auto-import for this jump. They get the same as the Hibiki’s, but a Horse instead of a Land Deed, and Free City’s currency instead of Seven Kingdoms. They both took Dothraki swords, of course. Their task? To safeguard Daenerys and (more importantly) Khal Drogo… and guarantee the untimely, painful, and untraceable death of the witchwoman Mirri Maz Duur. I might have no respect for the Dothraki, who are uncivilized, brutal, and rapacious… but Maz Duur plotted to kill an unborn child for the sake of revenge… after pledging loyalty. Vengeance I understand… but infanticide and oath-breaking? She’ll get no mercy from me or mine.

The Bahs duo don’t get the six-hundred points, but nothing on the list really screamed that it would help them in their tasks… though they too got Heraldry and Words. Their symbolism could not have been more diametrically opposed. Ahab’s was almost whimsical, with a blood-red viper wrapped around a steel anchor on a field of cardboard brown… with the words he chose being “Snaaaaaaaaake!” It got an appreciative chuckle out of most of us.

In contrast, Joy was deadly serious. Her coat of arms was a white hart on a field of red… with a black arrow in its chest. Her words, which summed up the image perfectly and honestly, were “The Last Full Measure”. No more needed to be said, for those who would understand will understand, and those who don’t never will. Their banners joined the first pair, though at a distance, in the most shaded part of the long wall. Ahab became ‘Aggo’, whose name came from the Dothraki verb ‘Aggendat’ or ‘To Rip’, which was a little shudder inducing. Joy became ‘Layaffi’, from the verb ‘Layafat’… which meant ‘To Be Happy’… talk about hitting the nail on the head.

Zane & Kendra I kept with me, as Sworn Swords from Bravos. As Sworn Swords, they too got the weapon proficiency & the armor and weapons, described as Castle Forged Steel… it was that kind of world… though their armor would be a little more dinged up than that of the nobles. In place of ‘Mine by Right’, they got ‘Dirty Fighter’, a grab bag of tricks and tactics picked up in tavern brawls and street fights aplenty. It would make them quite capable at fighting cleverly… i.e. dirty. Zane stuck with the sword, in this case an arming sword, while Kendra stayed with her greatbow… getting a spring steel greatbow even though those won’t exist for centuries if ever in this world. She’s gotten quite good at archery since our arrival in SamuraiWorld.

Zane… now Zagara, also picked up the perks ‘Large’ and ‘Quick as a Snake’, which did exactly what they sounded like they did. He was now a big man with lightning fast reflexes. I wouldn’t want to fight him if I weren’t me. Of course, as me I don’t want to fight him either… except when he eats all the ice cream.

He also, at Kendra’s urging, picked up ‘Mystery Knight’ so they’d both have it. It was very much a threefer, or at least had the potential to be one. When her identity was unknown to her opponent and her face was fully concealed, not only would her combat prowess improve drastically, but their morale would be greatly reduced… and fortune was more likely to swing her way in battle. It was hard to argue with that, even if setting it up wouldn’t be the easiest thing in the universe.

Kendra, calling herself ‘Karatas’ (Ew! Carrots… blech!) took ‘Mystery Knight’ as I said, but also picked up ‘Flaming Weapon’, which would allow her to use her own blood to set her weapons on fire… fire that not only burned incredibly hot, but was also unnaturally intimidating to her foes and heartening to her friends. And she imported her bow as a Dragonbone Bow.

Zane went all noble with his words, choosing “Uphold the Right!” which was, I think, a reference to something, but I wasn’t sure, while his emblem was a blue dog’s head (a little like a lucario’s head of course), on a starburst of silver, on a field of green. I asked VIvian to run a search for the line… it was a reference to a hymn: “Uphold the right, tho’ fierce the fight, and pow’rful is the foe. As freedom’s friend, her cause defend, nor fear nor favor show. No coward can be called a man, no friend will friends betray, who would be free, alert must be, indifference will not pay.”  It was also the motto of the police force of Victoria, Australia. Zane / Zagara was proclaiming himself to be the law, come to this lawless land, and doing it with style.

Kendra, whose chosen name wasn’t going to make me cringe, nope… had chosen the words “Beyond Sight” to go with an emblem featuring a black upturned face, with silver light shining down upon it from above… also on a field of red. I began to note a theme. Both Kendra and Joy had been dead, slain, and both lived only through my agency. Joy’s emblem memorialized her sacrifice… Kendra’s her resurrection. Both were a little too… sacrosanct for my comfort level, but I didn’t tell either of them that, instead nodding in approval as the makeshift banners unfurled flanking mine, this pair in the middle of the space between the spies and the nobles.

Toph had been turning the Lifestream Garden into a serious work over the last few jumps. It stood six stories tall, with a footprint of twelve meters by twice that and it allowed her to get her feet dirty, something that was still her favorite activity. I invited her to take on any role she choose in this world that was soon to be even more wartorn than her homeworld. She decided to go for Smallfolk in Dorne, about as far from the action as it was possible to be.

I shrugged. “Sure. I guess. No skin off my nose. But Smallfolk doesn’t actually come with anything free. I mean… nothing. Just a place in the world. You’d be better off as a Noble-“

She arghed… actually argghed. “No Noble! I was raised noble my first time out! I’ve had enough of politics. I just want to kick back! I want to be a-“

“Calmly, swamp toes… calm yer tits and let me finish,” I asked, holding up my hands. “If you want to play the humble farmer, that’s fine with me… I would still recommend Noble or a Sworn Sword who has lost all their money. At least you get stuff… like knowledge of how to use weapons. If you run around Earth & Metal Bending, or using Water Magic, you’re going to get accused of being a witch and burned alive… and since you’ll respawn when that happens, it might happen several times if you don’t make yourself scarce. These are primitive fuckheads for the most part.”

She grumbled.

I patted her shoulder. “You’ll enjoy it more. Trust me, being nobody might seem interesting, but it’s really not. Not in Westeros.”

After a while, she nodded, “Fine. but no nobility. Sworn Sword I’ll do… then just drop out and chill.”

I thought of something else. “Dorne is a desert, just an FYI. You’re not fond of those, if I remember correctly.”

“It’s got mountains, don’t it? Coastlines?” she demanded, getting a little more frustrated.

I nodded, then said, “Yes… but you might prefer the Vale for mountains. It’s relatively isolated too.”

“Grrrr…” she clenched her fists and glared at me, “I thought I was getting to pick.”

“You can!” I held up my hands to deflect her annoyance. “I’m just offering suggestions.”

“Fiiiine.”

“But you might…” I began, just to push her buttons.

She jabbed a finger at me. “Say one more word and I’ll throttle you with that candlestick.” She pointed across the area to our ‘outdoor’ dining area.

“That’s a menorah,” I said, unable to help myself.

“Death to the Tyrant!” she bellowed. There was a brief interlude for some grievous bodily harm.

Oww… from the beating I got (my poor menorah) I assumed she’d decide to specialize in maces, obviously… but I was wrong, as, when I wasn’t looking, she switched back to Smallfolk, though she did stay in the Vale. She picked up ‘Glamour’ (the ability to change your face to resemble other people and copy their mannerisms… made even more convincing if you happen to have an object belonging to the impersonatee… is that a word? Impersonated? probably better.), ‘Worker’… which just meant she could push herself far beyond her normal limits with physical or tedious work… and ‘Rabblerouser’… i.e. the ability to mobilize the masses. It all sounded terribly dull to me… but it was, ultimately, her choice. Her symbol was a steel grey lotus on a deep Earth Kingdom green… and her words were “This is Your Fault”.

I had to laugh and acknowledge the hit… it was very palpable. Her name would be “Topher the Gopher”… because she could. I didn’t even need to ask.

Those were the easy choices. What came next then? Well, I couldn’t go into this land of dragons without one of my own, could I? I could not! So, RayRay. I invited her to join us, and she agreed… as long as she got to be a Noble… of Volantis. I wasn’t exactly sure why she wanted that, but I wasn’t going to argue with her. “Sure. Just keep us informed of goings on, when you get there,” I instructed.

One rapier later… “I’m taking Great House,” she said.

Intrigued, I asked, “Why?”

“Because I’m great.” She said it as if it were a matter of public record.

“I don’t think it carries over,” Zane pointed out.

“Course it does. I’m great,” the skydragon repeated herself.

“Ah… well…” I hedged, “I don’t even know if Volantis has great houses.”

“Does now,” RayRay insisted petulantly.

“I… see… okay.” I shrugged. “I figure the Oldblood were the nobility… I don’t know if there are gradations within that… but maybe you’re an actual remaining noble of Valyria? Is that possible?”

“Don’t know. Don’t care.” She flopped back on the back of one of the couches on the lowest tier. The amphitheatre was formed by nine leather couches on three tiers, the upper two tiers on raised platforms. It wasn’t fancy, but it worked for us.

I groaned. “What else you taking?”

“Valyrian Steel Rapier.” She was playing with her toes and not bothering to look at me.

“You already have a Castle Forged Steel Rapier,” I pointed out.

“This is better,” she insisted.

“Dare I ask why?” I asked.

“It’s not free,” was her explanation.

“Uhh…” Zane began.

“I’m importing my wand as it,” RayRay continued, begrudging every word.

“Oh. well… whippy stabby metal wand. I approve,” Zane said, grinning like a goober.

“Good!” the dragon exclaimed.

“Anything else?” I asked.

“Leads from the Rear. It says men under me.”

“It says under your command,” I explained, hoping she didn’t plan on riding people.

“Don’t care. They’ll throw themselves at the enemy as if I was leading the charge… but I won’t, because I can fly and they can’t.” Her explanation of what, to her ‘under’ meant did not thrill me.

“You have three hundred points left,” I pointed out.

“Buying a Dragon Egg,” she said lazily.

“May I ask why? And how you’re affording it?”

“Volantian Nobility is Old Valyrian Blood… discount… and I want to import a dragon,” she said, as if that made perfect sense.

“We don’t have a dragon,” Zane said.

“Ahem?” RayRay asked, sitting up and pointing at herself. “Dragon.”

“You can’t import yourself into your own item!” he shot back.

“Says who?” she asked. “It says a pet or dragon can be imported. I’m a Dragon. I import myself. and get more gold with my last fifty points.

“Fine. Whatever” Zane sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Do you have words?”

“Like the Wind,” was the reply.

“Heraldry?” 

She had… it was a green serpent coiled on a sky blue field. So… essentially, her symbol was herself. I had to restrain myself from hitting the table with my head. Her name in this incarnation would be “Rahys Rayn”… that table was looking extra smackable. These are my friends. Siiigh.

I offered the last two positions to Bao and Uriel, both of whom turned it down flat. The idea of that level of labyrinthine infighting reminded Uriel too much of being Emperor, and the endless civil wars reminded Bao too much of the Three Kingdoms era… and he’d seen enough senseless death, thanks. Still, I had two slots, so I offered them to Petra and Dyna, only to get a lot of hemming and hawing.

“What the heck? You guys are usually down for anything!”

“But… Everyone dies in those books!” Dyna said in her slightly alien way. All these decades, she still was not quite human, no matter how she looked.

I gaped at them. “You’re Pokemon! You don’t die! You just… KO and respawn at the Warehouse!”

Petra was the one who broke it down for me. They weren’t afraid of getting killed… they were afraid of coming to like locals… who would then get killed. There was, unfortunately, that risk. Even if we lasted the day in this… Winter was Coming. That’s the tagline. That’s the real problem. Stupid unfixed seasonal length. But I couldn’t argue. I polled the other mon, AJ & Francine felt the same. RayRay was RayRay, above it all, and didn’t care. Ziggy was about dog level intelligence, maybe a bit higher, and didn’t really understand the question.

Oh sure, they’d all do as I commanded, but this wasn’t the world for them. I considered long and hard, then sighed. “Okay then. We’re going to abuse the system. AJ & Francine, you two are Nobles from the North. That will nab you some land near the wall and the one task of handing those deeds over to me. Well, one and a half, protect Winterfall and the Starks until I can get there. Then you can go back into storage until things play out.”

They agreed, reluctantly. I was the boss, after all. Funds are good. Land is good. Recon is good. I handed them the tablets and made myself some coffee to go with my Lembas scones… they had dried elderberries in them. Ryoga made them. Once I was done, I came and had a look. Francine had selected ‘Skinchanger’, ‘Pet’ (discounted for Skinchanger), and something called the ‘Horn of Joramun’ (which could destroy fortifications) with her points, because skinchanger fit with her psychic powers, the pet was a three eyed Raven because creepy, and the Horn because it was awesome, even if buying it forced her to move her Lands north of the Wall and technically made her a Wilder… but she was apparently one who’d pledged loyalty to the Starks generations back or something.  Her Words were “To See Within” with a coat of arms (remarkably free of spoons) featuring nothing but two blazing silver eyes on a field of midnight green. The name she had listed was “Fae of House Nordhammer” and her chosen weapon was… the Warhammer. Well… that was on the nose.

AJ, or rather “Astolfo of House Jugar”… earned all the hugs that day. For his Words he’d chosen “For Mother”, and his coat of arms bore a pair of crossed red swords over a green helm on a field of white, symbolizing his Gallade nature of course… and he’d chosen a Falchion as his weapon, and when I saw that he’d bought a Starforged Sword, which was a milky white and intensely shiny chunk of a fallen star forged into a blade as light and sharp as Valyrian Steel, but radiating a strong impression of chivalry and honour, I’d been expecting to see that he’d bought a Starforged Falchion… but he hadn’t. Instead, he’d paid to import Soul of Ice as a Starforged Sword. It had cost him a sixth of his points.

I flinched a little at that, then checked his other purchases. He’d also shelled out another sixth to import my Elfin Mythril Pulse Rifle as a Dragonbone Bow, giving it exceptional power and range, as well as giving it the property of tending to hit where it’d do the most damage simply by chance. He’d also bought two sets of an item called ‘Hands of Gold’ which made anyone who wore them who wasn’t the purchaser into a competent ruler… i.e. The Hand of the King… or Jumper. I was almost scared to see what he’d spent the last hundred on… and I was right to be. He’d spent it on ‘Pet’… which he’d used to import Ziggy as a Dire Wolf.

I wanted to shake him and tell him not to be so deferential, not to give up self-advancement for me, that I routinely had far more points than he did… but I couldn’t. It clearly meant so much to him, so I pulled him close, snuggling him into my lap as he turned back into his Gallade form and gave him a playful noogie. “Sucking up to get the best cookies, huh?” He blushed but didn’t gainsay me. I let him help me finish out the list as a reward.

After paying for imports, I had four hundred Choice left and the only perk I was really drawn to was Skinshifter, which had a six-hundred CP price tag. But that would put me two-hundred over. So I flipped through menus to find the drawbacks… and hit Scenarios. Well hello there, be right with you, just let me grab some more Choice to spend.

Maegi was too good to pass up, if only for the name. It was also Drop-In only and would make the superstitious naturally hate and fear me. That was actually a bit of a plus, and so (for once), a drawback might be useful. Fear and hate are powerful tools, useful for shaping public opinion. Anyway, it wasn’t as if Maegi was an automatic burning at the stake in this world…  Hell, at this point, a stake burning might be almost pleasant.

That got me halfway, and ‘Stalwart Shield’ got me the rest. That one required me to be entirely loyal to somebody in this world (my choice) and to spend a lot of time working with and for them as their loyal supporter and ally. Well, fuck, Ned Stark and his line were going to to have my protection regardless. That gave me the Choice I needed, so it was time to revisit those yummy scenarios.

The ‘Usurped’ Scenario made me laugh. Being the sibling of Daenerys and Viserys, then seizing the throne for 20 years? Intriguing, but too expensive to set up. Same for the ‘Black Dragon’ Scenario, which was almost identical but set a century earlier with a bastard princess instead of an exiled one.

The ‘Think of the Children’ and ‘Last of the Giants’ Scenarios, which were all about bringing endangered populations back to something vaguely reasonable, required an awful lot of breeding, the first of Forest Children, the second of Giants. Probably inbreeding with groups as small as the ones the scenarios started with. I could probably help, medically speaking, with that, but it might be hard to explain to people not known for their keen grasp of technology more advanced that bows and arrows. Still, with time to set up cloning facilities I could probably end the jump early. I considered it, then rejected it. I don’t need to be four meters tall (Giant) and to actually think of the children… well, would you want to bring children into this world, especially ones that required heavily forested regions to survive in and were weak against humanity? Might make some allies though.

The ‘Valar Morghulis’ Scenario would require me to become an acolyte of GRRM’s fucked up death god. While I’ll almost certainly cut a swath bigger than a hundred lives, I’m not dedicating them to anyone, and I’m not wearing someone’s preserved face for any reason. Fuck him and fuck that. Ditto for the ‘Conversion’ Scenario. If I have my way, there won’t be any fucking R’Hllorgian clergy. Fucking Red Priests are worse than Catholic Inquisitors.

‘First Among Nine’ meant unifying the Free Cities. I could do that… but ‘Best Dynasty Ever’ called to me. Victory Condition? Take the Iron Throne for your house and hold it for three-hundred years. I could actually do that… by myself. If I went in as an Elf, that would neutralize the aging problem… which was good, because dying of old age in any of these scenarios meant I’d effectively scrub my eldest legit kid out of existence to take their place… fucking noooo. Jesus, who’d want that fucked up option?

I asked the others if they were up for the long haul and got a collective shrug. They’d been with me for twelve millennia… what was three centuries to them? That changed the perk I wanted though. Skinshifter was nice… but Gregarious was better for a queen to be… and the same price. A plan began to form.

I chuckled. “Zane? Are you pondering what I’m pondering?”

Zane studied me long and hard for several seconds, then sighed, “Are we going to try and take over the world?”

“We are!” I chuckled menacingly. “And we’ll succeed. Come. We have wars to plan.”

“How many wars we talkin’ ’bout?”

“All of them!” I cried, raising my arm triumphantly… only to have Nimh land on it and demand treats. I found him a mouse, then noticed he had a message tube strapped to one ankle. What the hay? 

I plucked it off and found a key. It was a black key with a little number one carved into it. Which was just… there weren’t any doors that actually had locks in my Warehouse. Well, there were, but they certainly wouldn’t be opened by a key. Keys were too easy to bypass, especially when half your group has thief training and several of them are psionic.

I held up the key to the light and asked it, “What do you open?”

At that moment, Zane came hurrying up and said, “Hey… ummm… EssJay… there’s a treasure chest on the beach.”

Now, you must understand that, technically… we didn’t have a beach. We had a pool. It had a deck… everything in the warehouse was actually on platforms so we could have a basement, and the pool dropped all the way down to the actual floor level, six meters down. We’d given it a beach as best we could, but it didn’t really work. There wasn’t enough space to slope it properly, so the sand was mostly on shore. And it was only about fifteen centimeters deep. Certainly not deep enough to bury a chest… barely enough to bury a small jewelry box. Confused, I walked over. There it was. A treasure chest.

It was a meter and a quarter high, two meters long, and a meter deep. It had a huge black iron padlock, and was covered in seaweed and barnacles. It even had a live starfish clinging to it. As I watched, the starfish fell off into the sand… then grew eyes and stood up, saw me, screamed, and ran off into the warehouse, Ziggy in hot pursuit.

“That… was strange,” Zane said.

I agreed, then tossed him the key. “Open her up,” I instructed.

He shrugged, then did so. As soon as the lid popped open, a golden glow suffused the area and I could see that the chest was absolutely full of small golden trinkets… and wooden slats.

“Wood?” Zane asked, picking one up. It had tabs and slots cut into it and I immediately recognized it. It was an Ikea-style shelving system, one designed to hold tchotchkes. Going from memory and logic, we managed to get it set up and found that the golden knicknacks filled every nook. Kinda. See, some were clearly pieces of a larger whole, while others were complete in and of themselves.

Once we got them all in place, the unit glowed faintly and holograms appeared in front of each of them, displaying a number and a weird symbol that looked like a W with two horizontal lines through it. After thinking about it for a moment, I went back to the chest and searched it again. In the lid, I found what I was looking for… a secret compartment. In it were fourteen fifty W coins, each of them styled like a piece of eight. There were also a small number of nicknacks inside the lid already. And a piece of parchment. Unrolling it, I found that it explained everything… kinda. 

“As your reward for successfully completing your twenty-fifth jump, we have decided to grant you access to your very own Personal Reality! Think of this as an upgrade to your Warehouse. Every factor has been improved for your convenience! Included in this package are a number of upgrades which can be purchased for Warehouse Points, as well as a number of pre-purchased items to reflect what you’ve already acquired from The Warehouse Supplement and the Housing Supplement. Included in this package you’ll find 700 Warehouse Points, and each subsequent jump will earn you 50 additional WP. Below, please read and review the upgrades provided as part of the basic package. Holding each icon will give you greater details.”

  • Starting Space [Free]: Based on your initial complaints about the amount of storage space, the Personal Reality begins with 64,000 cubic meters of storage volume, with a footprint of 6,400 square meters.
  • Additional Space [One Purchase Free]: Obviously, since you negotiated a greater amount, you’ve been upgraded, gratis, to the first tier of Additional Space. This increases you to 64 Million Cubic Meters, an eleven point six fold increase to the amount of space you have available. Do use it responsibly. Or don’t. We’re not your mother. Additional increases in size are available at the cost of 200 WP and will increase your volume by a factor of a thousand.
  • Loft [Free]: Feel free to build as high as the ceiling if you so desire.
  • Underside [Free]: In addition to your standard space allotment, you may create Basement Spaces with a total volume not to exceed one half the volume of your main space. These need not be contiguous, and connection links (Elevators, Chutes, etc.) are not counted unless used for storage.

Well, that was nice. More space for more… stuff… I guessed. I hadn’t really been running out of space, yet… but I’d been using HP compression magic for storing stuff I didn’t need all that much… like books. Holy shit did I have a lot of books. The Basement was nice… I wondered how I controlled that, but figured it would become obvious somehow… maybe a function added to VIvian or some command console somewhere.

  • Access Key [Free]: Your key is retained, but security on it is increased. You are now the only person who can remove the key from the lock and the key will reappear in your pocket within minutes if lost or stolen. Additional Keys can now be purchased at the cost of 50 WP each, if you desire to upgrade any of your companions to Key Holders. This gives them full access and, if they are killed, will transport them to the Medbay.
  • Entrance Hall [Free]: A five meter cube that acts as an atrium between your Personal Reality and your Host Reality. This is where you enter and exit your Personal Reality. Additional Halls may be purchased for 50 WP each. Warehouse Extensions can be linked to your Entrance Hall.
  • Portal [Free]: Your Portal function has been retained, and unattended portals will now close over a period of 3 minutes if you do not close them yourself before moving more than 10 meters from them. This closure function can be disabled if you desire it, but you will be unable to open a second portal if you have one open already unless you purchase the Portal Link Upgrade. Portals will open at their lowest size (8 square meters) and can expand to their largest size (80 square meters) in 10 seconds.

I blinked at that… shit… I was used to shrinking the portal down to much smaller than that to get around the stupid ‘can’t close the portal while you’re inside the Warehouse’ rule. Being able to buy more keys was useful… but the portal lock on minimum size was a pain. Out of curiosity, I looked over at the shelf of upgrades and scanned it for portal upgrades. I knew there were some, since they were all modeled after the nicknack of the Portal itself… yeah… one with a figure of a woman standing between two portals… Portal Link clearly… one with a portal hanging over the woman’s head… maybe that one didn’t need a flat surface?… a woman holding a rod toward a portal… some kind of control rod?… and one with a tiny portal… maybe that was the upgrade that allowed control over the size of the portal? 

It was only a hundred WP. That wasn’t so bad. Giving up something I hadn’t paid for in exchange for some other upgrades I could deal with, I guess. I turned back to the list.

  • Pipes, Pipes, Pipes [Free]: Your plumbing system has been upgraded to provide your Personal Reality with enough capactiy to provide clean running water with any reasonable additives you might like to supply up to one billion litres per day at a default temperature of 25 degrees Celcius, and able to support a civilian infrastructure on the level of Tokyo or Mexico City. Hot and Cold running water is provided thanks to a synthesis with Who’s Got the Powa! 
  • Who’s Got the Powa! [Free]: Although you installed your own power supply and didn’t buy it from us, we applaud your creativity and pluck and hereby fiat back your electrical output to the level needed to supply a city the size of New York or London with power forever, with nary a brown out or power fluctuation. 
  • Neutral Lighting and Environment [Free]: Basic lights, basic environmental controls. Air Scrubbing for CO2 and scents. We already did this for you… I bet you never even noticed. Also basic gravity.

Actually I had noticed. But it was nice to have confirmation, and getting the upgrade to my power supply and water was nice. I had no idea how they’d do all this or where stuff would be installed… but the Home Office could grant powers and abilities beyond the ken of man… they could handle a few water taps. At least I certainly hoped they could. 

  • Security System [Free]: Anyone entering your Personal Reality from now on will be checked for any authorization level you’ve assigned them. Anything unauthorized will be flagged and you will be notified. Warning, a Keyholder’s access cannot be limited by the Security System. Only distribute keys to those you trust implicitly.
  • Shelving [Free]: This option has not been upgraded. 
  • Extranet [Free]: This upgrades your Local Net so that it can connect to the local equivalent of an external Data Network even in realities that don’t have one… even if this means connecting to the local town gossip or a library. 
  • A Month & A Button [Free]: As always, your time between jumps is limited to one month, but you can trigger Insertion early with this button. 
  • Return [Free]: This has not been modified and your credits have been retained. A Return Door has been added to your Entrance Hall which leads to a small lounge where you can book your Returns in comfort.
  • Temporal Controls [Free]: This dial allows you to control how fast time flows inside your Personal Reality while you’re not present. The default is 1:1, but with this you can dial it anywhere from 1:10 to 10:1 or turn it off completely with the new Stasis Function.
  • Medical Bay [Free]: This is the same old Medical Bay as before, but it can now do dentistry and provide a detailed medical history for each individual. A Companion Body Mod Pod can be bought for 100 WP. 

Most of it was stuff I already had… but I guess there were new upgrades i could buy, so they had to establish basics… oh… hah! I grinned at Zane. “Didn’t I fucking tell you? Companion Body Mod Pod! And they’re going to charge me for it, those bastards. Graaaah… Fine. Whatever. I understand… vaguely…” I ground my teeth, then handed him the coins to buy the CBMPod. It absolutely had to be the first purchase.

  • Mini-Mall [Free]: Contains all the shops you purchased. May be upgraded to larger mall at the cost of 50 WP, which will expand the number of shops to 15.
  • Garage, Fuelling Station, and Big Garage [Free]: Your Space Dock has been upgraded to be able to store and fuel up to 200 land, air, or space vehicles. The maximum size of a vehicle you can store is currently set to 60 meters by 30 meters by 20 meters. This size factor can be increased by increasing the size of your Personal Reality. Since you currently have a spaceship that drastically exceeds the allowed limits, you have also been given the Big Garage, which has eight docks that can house anything you like, as long as it is a vehicle.
  • Cleaning Supplies [Free]: an infinite supply of any cleaning supply you might need for cleaning your personal Reality. All products completely safe for all higher lifeforms and guaranteed to kill 100% of all viruses, bacteria, amoebas, or household pests.
  • Basic Nutrition [Free]: This upgrade to your food supply guarantees a basic, if minimalist, food delivery for you and all companions once a week. It is all basic and staple foods. 

Well… that was quite a lot… or not much of anything. Really, it was minor upgrades to some of the stuff I already had, and almost all of it was merely a way to tell me just how much I had that could now be upgraded. There were more than a hundred of the damned things, all of them costing points. I could jump for a thousand jumps and probably not get everything.

Still, I picked up a few useful things as I looked through the rack. There were many things I wanted, but I’d made due without them for now, I could continue mucking along.

The Companion Body Mod Pod was a must. As was buying back control over the Warehouse Portal. But I didn’t buy the Aperture, as cheap as it was. Instead, I bought the Key Link feature, which would allow me to actually close the damned doors or portals while inside my Warehouse, then use a pedestal in my Entrance Hall to open the door or portal to anywhere I’d been in the Host Reality.

That cost me fifty, and I bought a key for Zane as well. Then I spent four hundred points on something called the Eternalizer. It guaranteed that anything that I wanted aging would age… like wine or cheese or growing plants… and anything I didn’t want aging (Books, plastic… my sandwich) wouldn’t. Of course, it only applied to things inside my warehouse… but it applied to everything in my warehouse… reality… whatever.

That left me with a hundred WP left… which I decided to save. Another two jumps and I could buy the VOWP (Voice Over Warehouse Protocol) which would allow me to use VIvian as a cell hub to keep in touch with my companions no matter where they were. Bonus! 

After that, there was little to do but go over the books that I had. I’d left before the series was complete back home, so who knew how things were supposed to end in this horrible melodrama, but I was going to change that, so who cared. Still, the first book or two held details that would probably be more or less accurate until I butterflied too many events.

INSERTION

We dropped. It was raining and I laughed. I’d never conquered a world before… outside of Civilization where my people conquered millions of them, but mostly that had been done through cultural conquest or because they’d attacked us first. This should be interesting.

The drop had scattered us to our bodies… I wondered if there was a Riverworld Jump… and I found myself being introduced to the Court of the Lannisters, the Princess Sariel Jaynus, far from home and aren’t you all so nice. They looked at me and smiled… what a nest of vipers. My eyes scanned the crowd and I nodded, finding Tywin, marking him. I was my most graceful, my most charming self. I finagled a letter of introduction to the royal court to meet Tywin’s daughter, Queen Cersei and her husband, the King… and of course, her precious children… including Joffrey, the heir.

Tywin was a gracious, if cold, host, and he insisted on sending a train of guards and wagons with me to make certain that I reached the capitol at King’s Landing in one piece. I graciously accepted, cursing slightly, but I rolled with the punches. That one just set me back a little, timewise, but minimized expenses. Tywin had already paid more than he knew by the time I’d left Casterly Rock, as I’d absconded with thousands of golden coins from his treasury, located and violated with the casual disregard for personal property that only a seasoned adventurer might have developed. The security was, of course, laughable.

The first night we camped early. I was fatigued (so I said) and I retired inside my wagon… then allowed AJ to bring me to the North, to just outside Winterfell. I transformed into my Asari form and became a creature of the night, flying swiftly through the darkness. The land was vast and I had only Yoiko’s Map of the World to go by. It was not the most accurate thing, but it showed me the location of the Dreadfort, home of Roose Bolton and Ramsay Snow. Without appreciable effort, I landed outside the walls and made my way inside, a whisper of a memory to anyone who noticed, my traces scrubbed from their awareness with the merest application of magic.

I peered into many minds, finding the lord of the roost and his bastard son. One of them will not live to see sunrise… but it would not be Roose who suffered that night. I marked the lord, his chambers, his face… and as he slept I gave him a little invisible tattoo, in the small of his back. A present no one will ever know, a magnet that will draw misfortune to him… and him alone.

Next, I found his horrid illegitimate offspring, the Bastard of Bolton. Ramsay Snow didn’t deserve it, but I made the kill quickly, a dose of powerful sedatives to still his heart. A tinge of remorse crossed my mind at the perversion of medical science, but I shake my head. The man was a cancer. I hung his corpse from a tree outside the Dreadfort and flayed the skin from his body after cutting off his manhood and feeding it to him. Who knew there were spells for both those things. I left a note on the skin of Ramsay’s chest, stretched across a wooden frame hammered into the ground near the corpse. It said, “A Greyjoy pays a debt in full”.

That was one. Zane drew me back to the caravan and I let him give me a hug. “Even after all these years, you don’t have a taste for this, do you?”

I shook my head. “I kill those who need killing, but I never want to be the person who does so just because it’s expedient. I looked into his mind. He’d done terrible things, would do more. Still, I gave him a merciful death… not the one he deserved.”

The second night took me to The Twins, home of Walder Frey. I scouted there, but left him alive, for now. I did give him a gift as well, a cursemark that would make water his enemy in all the subtle ways it can be. If one of those marks brought the target down, all the better, but either way, they’d pay full price for their betrayals.

The third night took me back to Casterly Rock, and from there I flew north to Pyke. This time, the only marks I left were tracking marks. Sailors dwelling in islands are not easy to track, so I fabricated a few microsatellites and lobbed them into geosync to follow the various Greyjoys as I located them. It took most of the trip to King’s landing to find them all. Balon, Lord of the Iron Islands, was the easiest and he led me to his daughter and heir, Asha, and his brothers, Victarion, Master of the Iron Fleet, and Aeron Damphair, a priest of the Drowned God.

Aeron’s debt was light, at least for one of the Iron Men… a pirate, a rapist, and a fanatic and my plan does not require letting him live any longer than I need to. And so it was, on the night before we arrived in Kingslanding, I sent him to his god, letting the water of Pyke harbor take him.

For the next couple of months, I played the part of the curiosity at court, studying the goings on, learning their ways, making friends and enemies, especially among the priesthood. I took great pride in accepting all challenges with arms or games. Some I won, some I lost, being gracious in both victory and defeat. My status got me invited to many a party and I attended whenever possible, of course. More than one young noble tried something foolish and none of them left such an encounter without a scar to remember me by, though I don’t kill any of them, a couple I mark for further action after reading the abuses of their past deeds from their thoughts and the thoughts of their victims.

Of course, my rebuffs and chastisements lead to challenges, but Westeros society was one that believed in the concept of trial by combat and in that land there were none who could best me, though I was damping myself down to merely human levels. Even if their weapons wouldn’t break on my skin, my mastery of the sword is greater than any human could possibly gain in a dozen lifetimes. I have had centuries of enhanced learning and training, and I practice religiously.

Still, none who challenge me die by my hand. They were fools, fighting for the honor of would be rapists… I let them feel the sting of yielding… perhaps it would win them over to my cause and… maybe… teach them a lesson.

I did not save Jon Arryn from the poison that killed him. Things must be set in motion, after all. But, before he died, I do minister to his son, Robert. The boy was sickly, overprotected, and under the medical care of an idiot. Maester Colemon, the idiot in question, got his mind… adjusted… not a lot, but enough to where he will no longer bleed his patients. Useless and barbaric practice. Young Robert Arryn got a trip to my medbay and it’s Calibrator one night after all are asleep. There his condition was analyzed quite extensively. Many treatments would be needed, but I prepared a cocktail of nanites and drugs which would strengthen his system and fight off all but the worst seizures. Even then, the severity would be eased. I presented it to his father, easing the man’s suspicions until he overrode that lunatic, his wife. She too, got an adjustment, an easing of her (even for this world) paranoia, and a few little whispers that maybe she should start weaning the six year old. It was already getting a little incestuous as it was… and not in a cute way.

And that brought us to journey North, to the court of Winterfell and the home of the Starks. For a moment, the schemer in me wondered if I should allow Bran to fall, only to step in as a saviour and fix his broken back… but then I realized that I was thinking of using the pain and suffering of a little boy as a pawn-move… especially shameful considering that this was the son of the man I had sworn myself to aid and uphold.

No. Far simpler to give Jaime Lannister food poisoning… nothing kills the mood faster than the shits. He and Cersei would not be doing any of the incest at Winterfell. Still, I gave Bran a blessing to soften his falls. The boy climbs too much. The monkey in me chides me for saying it though.

Ned Stark and his family were lovely. Hard, yes… it was the North after all, and relatively simple… these were not sophisticated people… but his loyalty was like a beacon… I’d chosen right by picking him… His line will be exalted above all in my new world… and he’ll need it, because Winter was coming… and with it the White Walkers.

I doted on the dire wolves, they were adorable. As were Ned’s children… though Sansa had… issues. Still, she hovered around me like a moth, drawn to the exotic pointy eared princess, wanting to know all about my home and what being a princess was like. I told her that a princess must be strong, graceful, cunning, fiercely independent, never clinging too tight to a man, nor ever seeking his protection. I told her that a princess must be a pillar of strength, the equal or greater of her husband. He should be worthy of her, not the other way round. I push, not too much, stripping away her blinders gently to reveal that royalty is duty, not privilege, that marrying a man who was a prince did not mean that that man was princely. I taught her of noblesse oblige, the noble obligation to rule wisely and well. I was not so kind as I stripped away her blinders regarding Joffrey, her betrothed.

We left the North without incident to any of the children, though I did take  a little too much pleasure in allowing Joffrey to get himself attacked by Nymeria (Arya’s direwolf) after picking a fight with Arya and her friend Mycah, son of the Stark family butcher. I’d considered stopping the event from happening, but reconsidered, wanting to see if I’d made enough impact on Sansa, who in the story as written had sided with the prince instead of her family. This time she hesitated… a good sign. Still, I clouded her memory ever so slightly so she’d be uncertain of the details of the fight.

Jory Cassel, Arya’s protector, wanted to send the wolf away, but I convinced him to trust me, then I cornered the little princeling (ostensibly to return his sword ‘Lion’s Tooth’) to lay a powerful compulsion upon him to only tell of the attack by the boy, Mycah, and none of the rest of the tale. I knew I was risking the life of an innocent, but I had need… and ways.

I abducted the boy, placing him in cryosleep, then replaced him with a pig transfigured into the shape of a boy. The farmer I bought the pig from was most confused about me wanting such a scrawny one. I let Gregor Clegane, the Mountain, a monster in human form, hunt and kill ‘Not-Mycah’. The ruse, as I figure it, was needed. Arya would gain strength from this… and a little caution. In the books, she was destined to become an assassin, hidden in darkness. In my world, she will become so much more. Real Mycah will be returned to his family in a few days time, once the caravan has passed, with all the proper explanations provided.

We returned to King’s Landing, two lives saved, two lives improved, two lives taken. The scales were, for a time, in balance. Next to fall would be Gregor, but for that I had to wait until the Tourney of the Hand. I entered the melee and the archery contest, not wishing to interfere with the joust. I won 30,000 Dragons that day… Gregor killed Ser Hugh of the Vale with a lance, then attacked Ser Loras Tyrell (The Knight of Flowers, and third son of the Lord of the Reach, lushest of the Seven Kingdoms… and one of the few people from the books that I didn’t despise) who’d bested him by riding a mare in heat to upset Gregor’s stallion (idiot… always ride geldings into battle).

As Gregor rode from the tourney with seven of his men, heading home, I followed, with Zane and Kendra, out for a pleasant ride along the Goldroad (the way between King’s Landing and Casterly Rock). I had another life to save and another life to end.

At a small alehouse in Rolling Ford, Gregor and his party stopped for the night, stymied from continuing west by the flooding of the ford. As the books had faithfully reported, The Mountain decided that raping the thirteen year old daughter of the proprietor would be jolly good fun. Unfortunately for him, I’d decided that killing him would be jolly good fun. My fun trumped his fun. I even made it a challenge for myself, not slicing through his armor or sword with Soul of Ice. I didn’t even use the artifact, but rather one of the least powerful swords in my collection.

The man was massive, all psychosis and sadism and pure unfettered strength. But one cannot kill what one cannot hit… and even if he’d hit me with everything he had, he couldn’t have harmed me. The fight wasn’t in any sense of the word, fair. He had less chance against me than the Ale Man’s Daughter had had against him. I took his hand… then, leaping high, plunged my sword into his left eye… it didn’t stop him.

In the end, I had to bleed him dry with a dozen cuts and slashes, dodging his progressively more violent flailing. He truly was a mountain and he fell like one. Kendra and Zane had beaten back the knights who’d ridden with him, but killed none of them. I glanced their way, locking eyes on each of them to plant an imperial command, a geas that would force them to tell the truth of what they’d seen. Then I drove them from the inn and cut Gregor Clegane’s head from his neck before riding back to King’s Landing.

Word of my deed preceded me, and Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark met me at the gates of the city to ask me what I’d done. I gave report and passed over the head of Clegane. “A base rapist and thug, one who’d faced me in combat and lost, refusing to yield to the last.” It was the law of the land, and I’d broken no law, though I could see Ned was worried about possible repercussions, since Clegane was a bannerman of the Lannisters. But I had other things to worry about.

Littlefinger was next on my list. Petyr Baelish, called Littlefinger, the Master of Coin on the Small Council of King Robert Baratheon, a womanizer and pimp, was cut down in the street for his purse. There were no leads on the man seen running from the scene and he vanished into the city without a trace. Alas. The city was scoured for the murderous cutpurse, and the King offered a reward, but there was little to be done.

Tyrion Lannister became the King’s Master of Coin… which might have had something to do with my suggesting it. The absence of Baelish meant that when news of Daenerys’s pregnancy with the child of Khal Drogo came, there was no voice but Cersei’s promoting assassination… I’d seen to that. The King didn’t push it, though I knew he’d secretly command Varys, his spymaster, to send the assassin anyway… his thoughts were an open book. Still, I needed Ned to remain the Hand of the King just a little longer.

And that would have been that. A civil war averted, nipped in the bud as it were. I could have happily lived out the rest of a ten year jump and been fine with what I’d done. I’d maneuvered myself into a fixture at court, I was a respected and feared warrior, but I wasn’t done.

When the boar struck the King with what would have been an eventually lethal blow, I was there to save the King more than a little pain. Three more times that day I accidentally saved the quite inebriated king from misadventure. I was knighted for my bravery, and a few days later the King, acting on information brought to him by Ned, had Cersei and Jaime Lannister brought before him.

The king was in a towering fury, unaccustomed to being a cuckold and displeased to say the least to learn that none of Cersei’s three children were his. He wanted them arrested, wanted them executed. Ned was the voice of reason. He had the King banish the Queen from the court and publicly striped Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen of their place in the succession, which no doubt saved their lives. He sent them back to their father with a note demanding easement of the Kingdom’s debt to House Lannister. It was a calculated insult… and one I intended to push to war.

Making the Lannisters go to war was easy. Robert had all but bankrupted the Seven Kingdoms with his extravagances, and much of that money was owed to House Lannister. Lord Tywin wasn’t a man who took slights easily… and all it took was a few midnight visits to plant and reinforce the idea that he’d be a better king.

Getting Ned to abandon the King was also easy. All I had to do was make sure he overheard Varys and the King talking about the assassination attempt… which had failed… against Danny and her unborn child. Ned was too much a man of honor to countenance that, and so he and his family headed back to Winterfell, leaving Robert all alone. Within a month there was civil war.

Within two, Tywin was dead and Jaime was Lord of Casterly Rock… I’d ridden out with the King’s Army and personally smashed my way through the Lannister forces to bring the King Tywin’s head. Perfect military information is a force multiplier the likes of which this world had never known. I was now the most feared knight in the realm and a general who’d won every battle… though the people spoke of dark magic. I soothed the emotions of those I needed, won over others. Jaime made peace with the King, and named Cersei’s children as his heirs. All was coming along most ricky-tick.

Still, I went to the King and asked him to send me north with a force of those captured in battle (we’d taken over 6,000 prisoners), with which to augment the Night Watch on the wall. The King was amused.

“You’re a fine lass, and no mistaking, but the Night Watch takes only men.”

“I do not go north to join them, but to test myself beyond the wall. I’ve never seen it. It is said to be a marvel. And what lies beyond it are said to be the most brutal of savages.”

And that’s how I absented myself from court. I was a thousand leagues north when the king died, having drunk himself into a stupor and fallen from the ramparts of his castle. There had been witnesses to his stumbling walk. Puppeting the unconscious king had been… odd, but he while he wasn’t an innocent, I didn’t make him suffer. Stannis became King the same day I reached the Wall.

It was most impressive. The Night Watch didn’t want to let me and my handpicked forces through into the lands beyond. We were only five in number. I invited Jon Snow to come with us, to act as a guide. We came with quivers full of obsidian (dragonglass) arrows and knives, and every Valyrian Steel sword we’d been able to find. We were hunting the White Walkers… and I had a target who lived beyond the Wall.

His name was Craster. When I staked him out in the snow, naked, I told him his sons, the many infant sons that he’d left out in the cold to die, sent their regards. I didn’t stay to watch… but I did leave a tracker embedded in his skull. I may be a supervillain, but I’m not an idiot.

Finding the White Walkers wasn’t easy. Making the Wildlings who lived in the area respect us was much easier. Agreeing to provide them with obsidian weapons against the ‘Others’ was a step. But largely they respected strength, and me and mine? We had strength to spare.

The White Walkers were, as advertised, extremely vulnerable to obsidian. Ridiculously so. The only question was were they as vulnerable to man-made obsidian as natural. Unfortunately, the answer was no… at least in the case of machine fabrication. The stuff crafted by magic… or my firebending… that stuff worked fine, keeping the essence of the fire that forged it. They very much were servants of the god of Ice and the fire of the volcanic glass was their kryptonite… but even more… icky. It made their magical flesh slough off at a sickening rate.

Agreeing to ship the Wildlings supplies and weapons made a tentative peace there, and then I marched south again, travelling much faster without my army of prisoners. My spies in Essos tell me that Khal Drogo is buying a fleet of ships to sail across the narrow sea. I rubbed my hands in glee. My legend is growing. If only the Iron Islands were between Westeros and Essos. But they weren’t… which meant it was time to pay a few debts on the march south.

Roose Bolton was recovering from a broken leg when I visited him late at night. “Betraying your liege lord? Really? You think you’re scary, just because your symbol is a flayed man? My only regret is that I cannot bring your entire family down by revealing your treachery to Lord Eddard.”

He came awake, clutching his blankets. “I… I’ve never betrayed my lord.”

“Oh, but you would… and in another time you did. Regardless, you practice First Night, don’t you Lord Bolton… though that secret isn’t known to Lord Stark. I could reveal that… but I’m certain you’d be able to worm your way out of it. No. Better my way, I think.” The fire that consumed him was hot enough to melt the stones of the Dreadfort. I left the words “All Hail R’hllor” etched in the wall of the chamber, then moved on.

I sank every pirate ship out of the Iron Islands with waves summoned from the deep. One by one I took the heads of every adult male noble of the Iron Islands, from the lowest on up… one each night. I’d promised myself that if I could find one who wasn’t an unmitigated bastard, I’d spare them. I didn’t find that man. By the time I got to Balon Greyjoy, he was a cowering wreck. He asked the shadow that I’d become why I was doing this.

“You are House Greyjoy. You do not sow. Those are your words. Well, I am House Jaynus… I reap. Measure for Measure.”

That just left Walder Frey, architect, in another time, of the Red Wedding. If you don’t know what that is, I shan’t tell you, but it warrants his death a hundred times over. I was merciful though. The poison I put into his wine did not kill him. It left him incontinent, crippled, palsied, and incapable of speech or the motor control needed to write. Some punishments should be lasting.

I could tell you how I married Renly Baratheon, then how I arranged for him to take the throne when I convinced Stannis to step down and take the post of Hand of the King… it suited him better. I never slept with Renly, he wasn’t my type… and I certainly wasn’t his, but he wasn’t a bad sort and if I never complained about Loras Tyrell, he never complained of my proclivities either. I could tell you about how I faced Khal Drogo’s invasion, how I beat down the fierce horselord in single combat, then how I lifted him back up and proclaimed him my brother, gifting him and his wife fine things and title to the holdings of the restored house of Targaryen. I could tell you how, over the decades, my empire grew steadily, slowly swallowing up the Free Cities, bringing the wild Horsemen of the Dothraki Sea under my sway. I could tell you of the long Winter, and how I led my people through it to the other side, largely with the help of the Hanging Gardens, and with the excess grain, how I extended my influence. But I won’t.

Instead, I shall tell of how Ned allowed Wildling Settlements south of the wall, of how Mance Rayder became the new lord of the lands beyond the wall and bent the knee to the King of the North, a title I allowed as King’s Landing became the seat of Empire. I shall tell of how Sansa went with Theon to reclaim and rebuild the Iron Islands and how he ruled… if not wisely, then well over his reinvigorated populace. She in turn became mistress of her mother’s father’s lands when the old lord of Riverrun died. I shall tell of how Robert Arryn grew up to be everything his father could have hoped, and how Arya became First Sword of the Empress. Bran married the Karstark heiress, Rikon became the new lord of the restored Dreadfort, and Jon commander of the Nightwatch… which in time became my empire’s state police, the first of its kind in this world. I will tell how I demanded Joffrey be fostered at court and how, after many false starts, he learned not to be such a little shit. Tyrion Lannister, a staunch ally since I’d worked my ways on him to ease his pains (medicine can do only so much) was a great help as Master of Coin.

Ruling an empire of primitives… and make no mistake, this was a primitive age… was not hard. I knew who in my inner circle to trust and who not to. Time and again the suspicious raised arms against the Maegi Queen, but I dispelled their fears by claiming that I was heaven sent to bring the people into a new age. And then doing so. It was so much more satisfying being hands on this way, moving houses against each other, bringing prosperity and the rule of law. I did not build a dynasty, that is true, as I ruled completely through that three hundred year stretch… but by the end of my reign I’d taken the people of Westeros and Essos from the darkness of the 12th century to the dawn of the 20th, introduced them to modern medicine, actual courts of law, and… through very liberal use of telepathy, progressively stripped away all those who did not rule their people justly, wisely, and compassionately.

It was, by no means, a complete victory. It was, by no means, even close to canon. I had overturned the natural order and made mockery of GRRM’s text. I was the Mary Sue to end all Mary Sues, at least in this time. But for every life I took, I made others better. For every injustice I made more justice. Does that justify anything? Of course not. I did what I did because I felt I had the right. Justification is meaningless. A life spared is not atonement for a life taken…. But those I killed were all murderers, rapists, and worse. I needed no atonement for what I did.

I left behind no heir. For the last fifty years of my reign I’d been moving the Empire more and more to a republic and announced that the 300th anniversary of my reign would see me step down in favor of the Prime Minister. There would be no more monarchy. In all honesty, none yet lived who remembered it except with me on the throne anyway… aside from my ageless companions.

I had the Iron Throne moved down to the beach for the occasion, and waited until time froze and the Pillars rose, confirming the 300 years were up. I tapped on one of them “Bring time back into play. Give me ten minutes.” And I spoke to those assembled, the men and women, Giants and Forest Children, Dothraki and Westerlings and Freefolk, ones I had handpicked to lead wisely and well, and said my goodbyes. I left them all with a memory of us boarding a ship and sailing off into history… though in reality, the Pillars reappeared and we lugged the Throne through the portal into the Warehouse.

“Why are we taking this hunk of junk again? It’s incredibly uncomfortable!” Zane complained as he poked himself on one of the sword points. The Throne towered three stories above him, looking all pointy and menacing.

“I need a memento. Plus, I’m planning on making it a recliner.”

Next: World 25 – The Gang Speaks

Resources: Build, Document (Updated Document)

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

Companion Body Mods, Part 1

  • #01 – Armstrong “AJ” Jaeger
    • Sex – Male [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 1 [+100/1100]
    • Extras – Natural Weapons (Retractable Armblades) [50/1050/1100]
    • Affinity – Body [100/950/1100]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/850/1100]
    • Strength Level 2 [50/800/1100]
    • Endurance Level 2 [50/750/1100]
    • Speed Level 1 [Free]
    • Resilience Level 2 [50/700/1100]
    • Reflex Level 3 [100/600/1100]
    • Logic Level 1 [50/550/1100]
    • Memory Level 2 [100/450/1100]
    • Resolve Level 2 [100/350/1100]
    • Coordination Level 2 [100/250/1100]
    • Perception Level 2 [100/150/1100]
    • Charisma Level 0 [–]
    • Appeal Level 1 [50/100/1100]
    • Empathy Level 0 [–]
    • Flexibility Level 2 [100/0/1100]
    • Fertility Level 0 [–]
  • #02 – Ziggy Zagoon
    • Sex – Male [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 3 [+300/1300]
    • Affinity – Body [100/1200/1300]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/1100/1300]
    • Strength Level 2 [50/1050/1300]
    • Endurance Level 2 [50/1000/1300]
    • Speed Level 2 [50/950/1300]
    • Resilience Level 2 [50/900/1300]
    • Reflex Level 2 [50/850/1300]
    • Logic Level [Locked]
    • Memory Level 2 [100/750/1300]
    • Resolve Level 2 [100/650/1300]
    • Coordination Level 2 [100/550/1300]
    • Perception Level 2 [100/450/1300]
    • Charisma Level 0 [–]
    • Appeal Level 2 [100/350/1300]
    • Empathy Level 2 [100/250/1300]
    • Flexibility Level 3 [200/50/1300]
    • Fertility Level 0 [–]
    • Natural Weapons – Fangs [50/0/1300]
  • #03 – Francine “Francy” Bagshot
    • Sex – Female [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 1 [+100/1100]
    • Affinity – Mind [100/1000/1100]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/900/1100]
    • Strength Level 0 [–]
    • Endurance Level 1 [50/850/1100]
    • Speed Level 0 [–]
    • Resilience Level 1 [50/800/1100]
    • Reflex Level 1 [50/750/1100]
    • Logic Level 2 [50/700/1100]
    • Memory Level 2 [50/650/1100]
    • Resolve Level 2 [50/600/1100]
    • Coordination Level 2 [50/550/1100]
    • Perception Level 2 [50/500/1100]
    • Charisma Level 2 [100/400/1100]
    • Appeal Level 2 [100/300/1100]
    • Empathy Level 2 [100/200/1100]
    • Flexibility Level 2 [100/100/1100]
    • Fertility Level 2 [100/0/1100]
  • #04 – Petra “Rocky” Rockwell
    • Sex – Female [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 1 [+100/1100]
    • Affinity – Body [100/1000/1100]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/900/1100]
    • Strength Level 1 [Free]
    • Endurance Level 1 [Free]
    • Speed Level 1 [Free]
    • Resilience Level 1 [Free]
    • Reflex Level 1 [Free]
    • Logic Level 1 [50/850/1100]
    • Memory Level 1 [50/800/1100]
    • Resolve Level 1 [50/750/1100]
    • Coordination Level 1 [50/700/1100]
    • Perception Level 1 [50/650/1100]
    • Charisma Level 1 [50/600/1100]
    • Appeal Level 1 [50/550/1100]
    • Empathy Level 1 [50/500/1100]
    • Flexibility Level 1 [50/450/1100]
    • Fertility Level 1 [50/400/1100]
    • Resistance [300/100/1100]
    • Regeneration [100/0/1100]
  • #05 – Raechelle “RayRay” Ragatti
    • Sex – Female [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 2 [+200/1200]
    • Affinity – Heart [100/1100/1200]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/1000/1200]
    • Strength Level 0 [–]
    • Endurance Level 2 [100/900/1200]
    • Speed Level 2 [100/800/1200]
    • Resilience Level 2 [100/700/1200]
    • Reflex Level 2 [100/600/1200]
    • Logic Level 1 [50/550/1200]
    • Memory Level 1 [50/500/1200]
    • Resolve Level 2 [100/400/1200]
    • Coordination Level 1 [50/350/1200]
    • Perception Level 2 [100/250/1200]
    • Charisma Level 2 [50/200/1200]
    • Appeal Level 2 [50/150/1200]
    • Empathy Level 2 [50/100/1200]
    • Flexibility Level 2 [50/50/1200]
    • Fertility Level 2 [50/0/1200]
  • #06 – Dyna “Dynamo” Deoxys
    • Sex – None [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 2 [+200/1200]
    • Affinity – Body [100/1100/1200]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/1000/1200]
    • Strength Level 2 [50/950/1200]
    • Endurance Level 2 [50/900/1200]
    • Speed Level 2 [50/850/1200]
    • Resilience Level 2 [50/800/1200]
    • Reflex Level 2 [50/750/1200]
    • Logic Level 1 [50/700/1200]
    • Memory Level 2 [100/600/1200]
    • Resolve Level 2 [100/500/1200]
    • Coordination Level 2 [100/400/1200]
    • Perception Level 2 [100/300/1200]
    • Charisma Level 0 [–]
    • Appeal Level 0 [–]
    • Empathy Level 0 [–]
    • Flexibility Level 2 [100/200/1200]
    • Fertility Level 0 [–]
    • Prehensile Limbs x4 – Tentacles [200/0/1200]
  • #07 – Zane Jade
    • Sex – Male [Free]
    • Proportions, Hair, Coloration – No Changes [Free]
    • Anomalous Level 2 [+200/1200]
    • Affinity – Body [100/1100/1200]
    • Ascension [Free]
    • Waste Not, Want Not [100/1000/1200]
    • Strength Level 2 [50/950/1200]
    • Endurance Level 2 [50/900/1200]
    • Speed Level 2 [50/850/1200]
    • Resilience Level 2 [50/800/1200]
    • Reflex Level 2 [50/750/1200]
    • Logic Level 1 [50/700/1200]
    • Memory Level 2 [100/600/1200]
    • Resolve Level 2 [100/500/1200]
    • Coordination Level 1 [50/450/1200]
    • Perception Level 2 [100/350/1200]
    • Charisma Level 2 [100/250/1200]
    • Appeal Level 2 [100/150/1200]
    • Empathy Level 2 [100/50/1200]
    • Flexibility Level 1 [50/0/1200]
    • Fertility Level 0 [–]
  •  

World 23: Samurai Jack

AIN’T DOING JACK

Previously: Magical Sapphism Tour

Themesong: Jumpin Jack Flash by the Rolling Stones

As we stepped back inside the Warehouse after a very successful Disney Decade, it was to the sight of a workman in stained overalls wheeling a cabinet into place in the Vending Machine of Destiny Enclosure. He was almost completely nondescript, and, as I stared at him in slowly growing confusion and outrage at the most inexplicable intrusion, he grumped, “Sorry ’bout this. There was last minute change. Head Office didn’t vet the next scheduled jump and it got a little confusing. Don’t mind me.” He slotted the machine into place then, before I could think of something to say, vanished.

“Ummm… did anyone else see that?” I asked my companions. No one had. Not even the security systems (i.e. VIvian.) had picked up anything.

Eyebrows furrowed in confusion and annoyance, I stomped across the green to see what the cabinet was. It turned out to be something helpfully labeled ‘Companion Calibration’ and it looked very much like the kind of machine that was used to vend snacks. You know, the kind with a large clear window on the front and a hopper bin beneath that? The kind with spiral screws that rotated to vend stuff and had alphanumeric tags and prices on every item? That kind. Except in this machine there weren’t any internal racks or spiral screws or even a hopper.

Instead, the window was full height, and the door was unlocked, though it had a simple enough latch that could be opened from both inside and out. Instead of the racks, it had a vaguely human shaped hole in what looked like semi-solid gel and there were almost a hundred sensor pads embedded in the gel. Where the alpha pad should be was a display screen that explained how to use the machine.

“Simply have one of your companions enter the chamber and close the door. The process will begin automatically. Although companions are not (yet) eligible for Body Mod Standardization, this will correct any physical issues with any of their alt-forms, as well as provide a detailed breakdown of their baseline attributes. Hardcopy readout will be provided for your records. Thank you for using Quicksilver Brand Jump Systems!” 

I eyed it suspiciously for several long seconds, then waved Zane over. “Hey, have a look at this!” I said, then shoved him in and flipped the latch. 

“Hey!” he protested, spinning around then aaacking as the sensors suckered onto his skin and more of them popped out of the gel and began to attach themselves to his front. “What’s going on?”

“It’s calibrating you, you big baby!” I yelled, grinning at him. “Anyway, it’s for your own good, so just hold still!” I laughed as he flicked me off, then turned away as his eyes flickered closed and it looked as if he’d gone to sleep. The display had a progress meter and said ‘ZANE’ and ‘Status Green’ under it.

The first thing I noticed was that the Side-Jump pamphlet rack had been updated for the first time since I’d got to Bastion, way back when. In addition to the ‘Imaginary Friend’, ’80’s Action Movie’, and ‘Marvel Comics’ jumps, there were now pamphlets for ‘Generic Horror Movie’, ‘Alien: A Survival Experience’, and ‘Digimon Basic’.

I shuddered at the idea of going to any universe that contained even one Xenomorph. An Alien Jump… that was just terrifying in its very conception. I took the pamphlet out of the rack and incinerated it. “Jumper’s Veto,” I said to thin air, then shuddered again. Didn’t need anyone getting any bright ideas and bringing something that horrible back into my Warehouse… no thank you… a single chestburster would be bad enough, but if A3 was any indication, it could very well be a nascent queen. Fuck that, thank you very much.

Figuring that Generic Horror Movie might be safe enough, I left it there, but told VIvian to fabricate a notice to hang over the Rack that stated ‘All Souvenirs must be approved by EssJay on pain of Smurfs!’

That done, I glanced at the star attraction, the newest incarnation of the VMoD. Samurai Jack said the marquee. Huh. That was a Cartoon Network property, according to my memory, and one created by the same guy who’d created the Powerpuff Girls. I hadn’t watched a single segment of a single episode and all I knew about the show was that it had a bit of a cult following, was supposed to be pretty decent, and that it was about a samurai. Oh and that the bad guy was some kind of demon or wizard and voiced by Mako. The blurb told me his name was Aku and he ruled a twisted version of Earth set in an unspecified future where Earth was home to countless alien races, fantastic technology, and ancient magic. From what I knew of American cartoons, I was fairly certain that the villain and hero would both possess informed invincibility and the status quo would be king, with neither gaining or losing any significant abilities over the course of the series / jump.

That meant that there were essentially two options… I could try and stay beyond Aku’s notice… or I could simply ignore the tyrant’s existence until forced to deal with him. Since defeating Aku meant travelling back in time, and that was a chain ender according to the rules of this particular jump (as was making a wish… neither of which got me any points despite being freaking unfair as hell)… this would be quite a challenge… Could I remain off the radar for a decade while still being true to myself? Could I step into a world ruled by a monster and not try and save the day? I didn’t know.

As I pondered that question, I sorted through the backgrounds. Drop-in, as always, was free, but didn’t come with what I sensed would be deeply useful background data on this world. Bounty Hunter didn’t appeal to me, since pursuing fugitives for fun or profit was never my thing… especially considering who would be most likely to be posting those bounties in this depraved world. Treasure Hunter would set my motives to greed… which, again, was not really my shtick. Scientist wouldn’t be a bad choice, but Magic User was clearly superior.

I coughed up a c-spot, once again cursing having to waste good CP for the pleasure of having my core personality subsumed by local cultural programming and arguably false memories for a decade, then spun the wheel of aging. I was to be twenty-six… an age I hadn’t actually hit in most of my jumps. How odd. And I was to start in Northern Europe, a place described as widely populated but not particularly developed, with many ancient cultures still prevalent in this day and age. Huh. I wondered what they meant by ancient. Without a present as frame of reference, past and future meant little, and since I had no idea what year Jack was originally from, nor any idea what year he’d been flung to, so ancient could mean 1980  CE as easily as 600 BCE.

As a Magic User, I received (in addition to an entire perk tree at discount with Empathy as a freebie) a basic magical power for free and discounts on the rest of the fairly impressive list. After a bit of thought, I selected Enchanting as my free power, passing on Polymorphing, Flight, and Scrying. Enchanting would help augment what I already could do thanks to Hogwarts, Buffy, & Lord of the Rings. Not only did the local version allow for imbuing items with elemental properties, it would allow me to learn new enchantments by studying other magical weapons… even ones not technically ‘enchanted’. 

Scrying, the ability to spy on others using magic was nice, and Polymorphing, the ability to transform others into animals might be useful… but neither spoke to me. As for flying… it would have been quite nice, since it was pegged at 200 mph, but as useful as that might be, I could already fly thanks to spending a fortune in CP way back in the BuffyVerse… which kinda sucked considering how cheap it was here. Shame there were no refunds… or were there?

I made a mental note to ask the Banker about that. If I got my hands on something that didn’t stack with, but completely overrode something I already had, could I get a refund on the original? It might be worth it, even if I could only spend the CP on something that I would have originally been able to buy in that world. Would the Banker think that was fair? In his place… would I? I didn’t know.

Empathy, the free perk was also quite spiffy, since it would allow me to read and manipulate the emotions of others, to easily figure out the perfect thing to say or do to my enemies to fuck with their morale or throw them off their game, so to speak. From the items section, I netted a Signature Outfit (that explicitly wasn’t self-repairing so meh), a small workshop filled with all the magical equipment I’d need to do my work, and a Pet Monster… didn’t I already have several of those? It listed alien spiders and mechanical snakes as examples… I considered passing, then shrugged. I whistled and held out my arm.

From elsewhere in the warehouse, a hoot sounded and a heavy weight landed on my arm, talons digging into my highly resistant skin. “Hello Nimh,” I said, feeding my owl a scrap of jerked lizard from my satchel, “Would you like to be a clockwork monstrosity?” The great horned owl looked at me, blinked once, then shook its head and wings in what I assumed was negation. “How about an alien horror?” He pecked at me. I guessed that was a no as well. “How about an eldritch abomination?”

That got me a hoot and a flutter, wings spread wide. I thought about that for a long, long moment, then grinned. “How about a phoenix made of shadow… an Abrinox?” That got me a bigger hoot, and Nimh nibbled at my ear and gave an owly kind of chuckle. I might not like birds in general… but I’d had Nimh for a long, long time. Familiarity and possessiveness had gotten rid of most of the innate discomfort I felt around most other birds. I could even tolerate, to a certain level, the other owls (Hatter, Diogenes, and Abraxus)… Fulcrum, Zane’s owl was an even bigger pain in the neck than Zane himself.

But that was it for freebies. As I was considering whether to look next at perks or powers, a pop-up appeared on the VMoD’s screen. “Your complaints have been reviewed and judged warranted. Your account has been credited three-hundred choice points, and the Legacy Drawbacks ‘Don’t You Wish’ and ‘TimeLock’ have been added to your jump. Thank you for choosing Quicksilver Brand Jump Systems, and have the time of your lives!”

“What the heck is a Legacy Drawback?” I asked of no-one in particular. There wasn’t a response… but this clearly showed that Home Office… or whatever it was, was almost certainly something else than the Banker… something higher perhaps? Was the Banker an employee of Home Office? Or part of the decision making body? I wondered.

Still, I was curious as to what these Legacy Drawbacks were, so I pulled up the information. The language was fairly straightforward, essentially transforming the two chainfail conditions into individual drawbacks. TimeLock stated that any conscious and or willing use of any form of time-travel (besides simply existing in linear time) would be seen as a decision to stay, and that being flung forward or backward in time against my will would not count against me. Don’t You Wish was the same, except with using any magical wish, and there being tricked or coerced wouldn’t count… but neither would said wish be granted. Neither one defined what, exactly, a Legacy Drawback was, but each was worth a hundred CP, with the last hundred Choice coming from the refund of the hundred spent on the Magic User background.

A note attached stated that I could take up to four hundred CP worth of Drawbacks, should I choose to do so… and I was just about to have a looksee when the Calibration Unit hissed like a soda bottle being cracked open and Zane stepped out, looking, if anything slightly slick and with a little better hair. There was a pop-thunk and a tube sprang out of the machine at roughly the same location as a coin return might normally have been on a snack-vendor, and there was a rolled up paper within.

As I pulled it out and read it over, Zane looked over my shoulder and whistled, “Oooh! Darbacks! Fun! What we got?”

I ignored him and growled, “Well, this explains why they gave me the damned unit instead of just giving me a Body Mod for you goons.”

“Not Dewbacks?” he complained, then glanced at the paper. “Why, what’s up?”

“I think they figured that if I got you into the Body Mod and saw all the stuff that was being corrected, I’d scream bloody murder.” I waved the sheet vaguely. “The alt-forms you’ve been picking up are flawed. I mean not cataclysmically or anything… but let’s see… hormonal imbalance in Great Detective and Harry Potter, scoliosis in Elder Scrolls and Avatar the Last Fartbender, nascent aneurysm in Metal Gear Solid, kidney problems in Swat Kats, colorblindness and male pattern baldness in Star Trek, and in Final Fantasy a potentially fatal allergy to latex. Plus halitosis a few times and a propensity for various forms of cancer.”

“Eh,” he said, shrugging, “You see those as faults, but those are just part of, you know, being mortal. Sure, problematical, but we have a medbay… and honestly?” he asked. “You may have the Mod backed ability to grow and some really nice baselines… but we?” he did a little capper, then mimed blowing his own brains out, then fell down… only to spring up, do a tadah (complete with jazz-hands), and grinned like the goon he was and is. “Can we pleaaaaase do the Bardooks now?”

I licked a finger and stuck it in his ear. “Stop mangling the english language, you idiot!” I groused, then pushed him. “Go get AJ so he can take his turn in the Calibrator, and when you get ba-“

Zane, of course, was Zane, so he totally skipped the whole ‘go get’ part and yelled, “AY JAY! Get your butt over here and bring everyone else! You get to be probed and poked and quantified!” He looked back and me and waggled his eyebrows. “So? Bawkbawks?”

I sighed, rolled my eyes, then, when Ziggy came scampering up, pointed at Zane and said, “Ziggy! Stomping Tantrum!” thereby instructing my brave little warrior to use the only Ground-type move he knew.

Zane blanched and turned to flee. “Nooooo! It’ll be super effective!” he squealed, flailing his arms as he fled the enthusiastic Zigmeister. Like all Fighting-Steel types, he was weak to Ground type moves. Also Fighting and Fire… but the only Fire-type move ZigZig knew was Sunny Day… which made the sun shine on him. It doesn’t do any damage.

“What’s the matter Zane?” I yelled, “I thought you could gunshot-bleh-jazzhands!”

From a far part of the Warehouse, Zane yelled back, “I’ll get you for thiiiiiiis!”

I ignored him and brought up the list of drawbacks. Four hundred sounded doable… if there was anything not god-awful enough. And it turned out that there was exactly four hundred Choice worth of drawbacks I was actually willing to take. ‘Sam-Moo-Rhai’ meant that idiots would try to imitate me and my style… when and if they learned about me… and do a terrible job of it. Then they’d find me and force me to fight them to prove that they were better than me. It sounded both amusing and annoying… but I could deal with annoying. ‘Bloodless Violence’ meant no lethal force against anything living if I could at all help it… which was fine, especially since the undead, demons, and feral monsters didn’t count as living. Neither did robots, obviously. Both of them were worth a hundred each.

The last two hundred was gained from ‘Worthy Prey’ which meant that I’d be hunted by some feline aliens called imakandi… so called the greatest hunters in the entire galaxy. Killing them would mean another group would simply take their place, but there were only four in the initial group… and I was Drawback blocked from actually killing the first four anyway. Though I suppose my companions could kill them… ‘Bloodless Violence’ didn’t mention companions… then again, neither did ‘Worthy Prey’. Seemed like a kinda glaring oversight.

Anyway, now equipped with a full sixteen hundred Choice, I reloaded the main document once again… only to have a pop-up state, “Some Options have changed. Please review carefully.” Gee, thanks mom… So I looked at the document from the beginning… and discovered that, wonder of wonders, there was now a race section. How interesting. Humanoid was free… interesting enough, since it covered anything that was, you know basically humanoid… but there was a second option, this one priced at two-hundred Choice… ‘Construct’. It didn’t come with any perks or powers or items… but in that form I’d feel no pain, have no need to eat, drink, breath, or sleep (as long as I had power) and could repair myself to a degree and either replace or reattach lost limbs. Sure, being stuck as an unfeeling (and uneating) automaton, either scientific (robot) or eldritch (golem) would epically suck… but having such a form would be most excellent at times. I took it… because sleep is for the weak. Of course, I was a golem… but still, you know, Jewish and Egyptian, because why change what worked.

That done… and AJ safely loaded into the Calibrator, I finally got back to looking at the magical powers section once more. I scooped up Elemental Control for two hundred… and not for Water or Fire. I doubted very much that this could do more than give me a limited boost to either. Not for Air either. My TK already gave me enough of that for the time being. No. I took the ability to manipulate Earth. I knew it would not be Earthbending per se, but I had one of the greatest Earthbender teachers in existence and access to Energy Bending enough to grant those who had no other bending abilities bending abilities… I’m certain, between the two we’d come up with something that was virtually the same. I’d spent enough time around Earthbenders to have a sense of how little limitations a creative elemental controller could have. Plus, Elemental Control Earth could only boost my Glassbending… since, you know, I’d actually be able to sense the silica instead of only the heat and water contained within. Combine that with my GZA given expertize in glass-blowing and I should be capable of making some truly awesome glassware.

Shapeshifting, as imperfect as it was, and Energy Beams, even though they were heat-based and not just cutting force, amused me. Ever since I’d first seen Cyclops of the X-Men as a little girl, I’d wanted to be able to shoot blasts of energy from my eyes that can cut through solid steel. Hell, Scotty boy had always been my favorite X-Men right after Nightcrawler and Beast (but only when Hank was blue). Okay… and after Kitty Pryde… but she had an unfair advantage, being (you know) tiny and jewish and having a pet dragon. Oh, and Rahne… but that’s ’cause she was a puppeh… but she was officially a New Mutant first, so I’m not sure she counts.

Anyway, the color scheme limitation and intense planning required to emulate exact details with the Shapeshifting ability were problems that would have to be overcome, but (aside from being stuck with either black and gold or my normal silver and green Slytherin colors), I didn’t exactly have a color scheme except for stealth blues. Other than that, my color scheme was pretty much pinkish tan with platinum blond hair. Fearsome I am not… at least not without my clothes on.

None of the other magical powers seemed attractive enough to be worth the cost, and the other Magic User perks (Polyglotism and Alchemy) seemed like a massive waste of effort, so I checked for a Companion Import Option and found quite a nice one. Team Up Episode was free at the base of it, allowing up to eight of my companions to join me with a humanoid body and choice of background for free… but if I spent any amount, each of my eight chosen companions would gain twice as many CP as I spent (minimum fifty, maximum four hundred, on my end). With eight-hundred Choice burning a hole in my pocket, I splurged, going for the full bid. 

As AJ stepped from the Calibrator and reclaimed his sacred hat (the Pokehat I’d given him when we first met, his most treasured posession and one he never imported so it would remain forever as I’d given it to him… silly but heartwarming) I handed him a stack of tablets. “Keep one for yourself, and pick another seven to accompany us, would ya?”

He saluted, grinned, moved to run off, then paused. “Do I have to give one to Zane?” he asked.

I regarded the little guy and tapped his nose. “That, my boyo, is entirely up to you.” As he dashed away, calling for Francine who had wandered off, I motioned for Petra to take the next turn in the Calibrator and scrolled to the items section. There were some very interesting choices… not the least of which was something called ‘The Daughters of Jumper’ which were eight young women of uncertain origin who would claim to be my daughters and loyal followers. They’d possess all my hereditary powers as well as any magical abilities or physical enhancements that I purchased from this jump… and a bargain at only two-hundred Choice… and filling only a single companion slot… which I think meant that if I imported them, they’d only count as one and split the effectiveness of any perks bought for the group across them… but I didn’t really need eight more companions… or daughters.

I did find something I really did need, a box of unlimited flaming eyebrows. I know! FLAMING EYEBROWS! and it was only fifty choice… but Zane came back then and flatly barred me from taking them for the stupidest of reasons… sanity. But come on! FLAMING EYEBROWS!… I sent a note to AJ to make certain he bought them for me. Ha! Take that Mr. No Fun At All Zane… see if I let you have any of AJ’s Flaming Eyebrows!

None of the other items screamed buy me, though there was a certain attractiveness to boosting my sword, but the cost was exorbitant. The multi-tool briefcase did amuse me a little.

That decided, I snagged Computer Hacking and Enhanced Senses, both of them costing half my remaining four-hundred Choice. Since I’d be playing this whole jump defensively, their potential utility was quite high.

Joy and Ahab were importing under their own power, with Joy deciding to go in as a Treasure Hunter, and Ahab as a Bounty Hunter, but we weren’t planning on teaming up so much as just trying to get by, backing each other’s plays as best we could. AJ, Francine, Zane, Ziggy, Toph, and the Hibiki’s would be coming along… plus Kendra because Zane was boffing her brains out and he had the sway to call in the favor with AJ (not that I minded particularly). Bao and Uriel would be treated to a year in the warehouse to be by themselves, unless they locked the time flow or decided they wanted more than a year staring at walls. 

Of the eight I’d paid to import, Zane and Yoiko were joining Joy in the exciting world of treasure huntering, Kendra and Ryoga were going to compete with Ahab for the best bounties, Francine was following the science path, and Toph would be with me and AJ in the study of magic. AJ had filled out Ziggy’s build for him, but the fuzz-faced one was a drop-in… not that his memories are really ever more complex than sleep, play, eat, attack things mostly at random.

As a Drop-In, El Senor Zig got Navigation free, making him an expert at analyzing and interpreting maps and giving him a natural sense of direction… I suspected his definition of ‘analyze and interpret’ would mean chew on… but maybe he’d gain an understanding of his surroundings that way. AJ had also made him a Construct, so he was a mystical metal weasel instead of a flesh and blood one… that was a mercy, since AJ’s first thought was to make him out of the nails of dead men like the Naglfar. Eww.

Also free for the Zig was Enhanced Stamina, Camping Equipment (of which he’d use the sleeping bag… even though Constructs didn’t technically need to sleep), and a nuclear powered 200 mph Jetpack… I blinked at that, brought up the details, which included an image… I started giggling as the picture resolved itself into a ferret dangling from a string attached to an inflated helium balloon. “Jetpack… riiiight.” I shook my head. Someone was being silly.

AJ’d also bought Regeneration and Thievery for the wee beastie… though the Regen wasn’t as good as what I had as a conduit and the thief skills might not do much good for a creature that was as stealthy as a box of hammers thrown into a china shipment. I was going to find myself possessing a great many pilfered wallets I suspected.

The last item on the list, costing a hefty four hundred Choice… was blacked out, and AJ had written a note saying “Why ruin the surprise?” Oh… dear. The note was countersigned by HO… which I assumed meant ‘Home Office’. and explained how a purchase could be blocked from my access… and how AJ had managed to unlock Ziggy’s tablet in the first place.

Ziggy wasn’t the only Construct. Ahab had opted for that choice, since it was free per the terms of his auto-import. As a Bounty Hunter, he’d gotten Cooking (nothing fancy, but certainly enough to safely make good tasting food and always find something to eat in a city or wilderness), Static Charges (magnetic mini-grenades designed to fry electronics and shock biological targets), and an Pulsar Shock-Rod Energy Weapon. He also got himself Enhanced Agility (after we assured him that it was okay that he couldn’t afford enhanced durability… the boy does not need to be able to withstand more torture.) which grants him the ability to propel himself inhuman heights up into the air and gives him better control over his entire body. As Yoiko put it, withstanding Bullets good… not getting hit, better.

The other bounty hunters had more of a budget, of course, but neither of them spent their points on Construct. Kendra picked up a Field Neutralizer Star Rifle as her free energy weapon, while Ryoga got a pair of Plasma Mule Shock Gauntlets as his. Enhancement-wise, the former slayer went with Enhanced Stamina (climb a mountain without fatigue), Enhanced Senses (not superhuman, but close), Enhanced Flexibility (near cartoon levels of squash and stretch), Ranged Proficiency (being good with ranged weapons), Strategy (rapid situational analysis), Elemental Affinity (the ability to turn her body into living bone), and Engineering (basic machine tech).  As for the pig-boy? He went with Enhanced Senses, Regeneration, Engineering, Thievery, Strategy (probably a good purchase for Impulsive Man, champion of jumping to conclusions), and Indomitable Will (the oomph to keep going no matter the adversity… personally I figured he already had it, but Hibiki Stubbornness is nearly as legendary as their total lack of navigation skill.) 

On the flipside, there was the Treasure Trio, all of whom got Insight (a sixth sense almost for riddles and puzzles), Scouting Glasses that featured thermal, night, and x-ray vision… plus the ability to see invisible lasers and a built in zoom function… and a Briefcase that was actually an incredibly complex multitool. Carry-all, scooter, flashlight, machine-gun, and even bullet shield. An all round little bundle of fun… even if I probably could design better.

That was what all three of them got, but there the similarities stopped. Joy took Scrying (the ability to view places and people remotely in mirror-like objects) as her free magical power, while Zane took the Flight power I’d passed up and Yoiko took Polymorphing, so she could turn people into pandas if they annoyed her. Yoiko had spent her Choice wisely, picking of Stealth skills, a Hypnotic Voice to enthrall the weak-willed, Shapeshifting, and even a Magical Celtic Bow that would revive her as a ghost if she was slain.

With his points, however, Zane bought a secret safehouse stocked for six months, Teleportation to anywhere that could be seen… even transplanetary portals, and an Enchanted Weapon that was absolutely indestructible and did extra damage to boring people. I’d looked at Enchanted Weapon. I’d even considered buying it. It had an option to assign a moral alignment… I just hadn’t been aware that ‘Boring’ and ‘Fun’ were considered ‘moral alignments’. Live and learn I guess. After all, wasn’t the entire point of the Chain to be interesting to… someone, I guessed.

That left the technical group. Francine’s Science background got her Engineering, a Breath Mask, and a technical Workshop, as well as Enhanced Stamina, Computer Hacking, Enhanced Durability, Enhanced Flexibility, and Indomitable Will. All of those choices were impeccably logical… but a little boring… then again, it wasn’t like there were any spoons on offer in the document. On the magical side… well, you already know about the freebies. AJ got himself a pet scorpion… I don’t know why… named it Stab-You-Kadnezzer… Toph used her free pet to get herself a miniature Earth Elemental she named Sukkah. People are silly.

As for powers and perks, AJ snagged Flight and Teleportation, while Toph snagged Illusion Creation, Polymorphing, and Elemental Manipulation over Water… she muttered something about getting revenge on swamp folk. They both picked up Polyglotism, the ability to speak and read the languages of any modern or ancient human civilization… which I thought might be silly, considering we had access to a Universal Translator (thanks Star Trek)… but that’s not always a perfect tool, so this was better… and (at fifty Choice) cheap as hell.

I know you’re thinking… doesn’t Illusion Crafting create visual images? How can a blind lady use that convincingly. Well… remember how I was bitching about flawed bodies? Yeah. The Calibrator fixed Toph’s eyes. She spent days grumbling about being perfectly happy to be blind… but it didn’t take an empath to know she was secretly pleased. She kept touching things and going “oooh… so that’s what blue is!” It also would allow her to better use the Thievery and Alchemy perks she’d picked up. The rest of their points went into items; another Celtic Weapon  (a longknife) and the Flaming Eyebrows for AJ, and a potion kit for Toph.

And that was that. A generally agreeable set of new abilities and a fairly unpleasant world in which to test them out in. Honestly… I couldn’t wait… I do like a challenge.

INSERTION

For the first eight months of our sojourn in the world of the samurai, we spent our time and efforts keeping on the down low. There was a lot of misery and oppression on the grand scale, but day to day, things were pretty much just people living their lives and trying to get by. The world was, at least in the big cities, not too horrible… at least if you moved in the right circles, and with our ability to infiltrate and infest, it wasn’t too terribly hard to make ourselves comfortable.

I hung a shingle as a freelancer, doing odd jobs for who whoever could pay me. My rates were steep and those who came to me for reasons I felt too wicked were made to pay in subtle and creative ways. Sure, we were pulling only a half Robinhood, but we did make sure to support local businesses with our ill gotten gains. It was a good world for crime.

Then Zane, keyed into the city as he was, brought word of a crime family ripping people off by gouging them for water. Seemed they’d gotten their hands on a powerful relic known as “The Neptune Jewel”, which allowed them to control the waters of the world. Sounded like a prize I could use.

That was our first heist worthy of the name. We surveilled the Gangsters for days, watching their comings and goings, finding out who worked for them, and where they were keeping the jewel. Legends said that the Goddess of the Waters had placed guardians of Earth, Air, and Fire around it… but they weren’t around anymore, or so it seemed. Defeating the Gangsters was the easy part… but we had to make sure that nothing led back to us, which made it tricky, but still doable.

We struck in the dead of night, making the paranoid Gangsters move the Jewel, giving it into the care of one of their own, a Mr Pibbles, who secreted the Jewel inside his top hat… or what he thought was his top hat, not noticing that it was a silver and green top hat. The crown of his head tasted like flop sweat and dandruff, but the Jewel tasted like magic and power, and the moment we were clear, Mr Pibbles found his hat stolen by very agile red panda. It was a most enjoyable heist.

Unfortunately, taking it drew the Elemental Guardians to me, and they tracked me across the city, forcing me to teach them the error of their ways. Several times in fact. With them growing ever more disruptive of my attempts to lay low, however, I finally had enough and made them a deal. If they could defeat me all together, without me using the gem, I’d give it back. If not… they’d leave me alone. Neither of us wanted Aku to get his hands on the gem and its power.

I called upon all the elemental might I had and froze the Earth Guardian in place, doused the Fire Guardian in a cyclone of water, and trapped the Air Guardian in cube of stone. I made them bow to me. It was that kind of world. I bound them into weapons, the Earth Guardian into a staff for Toph, the Fire Guardian into Zane’s Anti-Boredom Space Sword, and the Air Guardian into a Bow for Kendra. They had been made to defend… I guaranteed they’d continue defending far more than a mere jewel, no matter how powerful it might be.

Unfortunately, Aku was still looking for the Gem, and that meant its power had to be placed inside the warehouse for the rest of the jump… and that is where I did the bulk of the enchanting as well. It was also the kind of world for staying underground as much as possible. Aku tried to make that difficult with the cat-like Imakandi Hunters… which I wouldn’t have killed even if I could have, what with the respawn function they had built in. No. I just froze them in blocks of Ice and dumped them into Zane’s safehouse. Ditto all the idiots who kept showing up to challenge me.

We continued to lay as low as possible, collecting knick knacks and bizarre mementos as we were paid to. A shattered green gem from a hard to find oasis, guarded by a berserk giant. The shattered remains of a machine that was supposed to be able to see the future (we also snagged a rare and supposedly magical rug called the Aragian Rug of King Bassad, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what the damned enchantments on it are supposed to do. Pretty though. We have it in our living room)… after being hired to acquire a magical claymore supposedly stolen by a nameless Scotsman… I got suspicious. From then on, all the recovery jobs I pulled were vetted twice and then the recovered items were all secretly tagged, both with science and magic. No way was I going to gather items of power to help Aku win, just because I wasn’t trying to bring him down.

The hardest thing about the entire jump however was never uttering the word ‘Wish’, and thus ending the chain. I struck it from my vocabulary, and actually used the Imperius curse on my friends to make it impossible for them to make any wishes during our time in Samurai Jack’s world. I had no idea how prevalent wishes would be, but taking chances on Genie logic that could end a Jump was not the best strategy.

Three times we fell afoul of Jack. The first time he was trying to steal the same thing we were trying to steal, a bauble that could track Aku’s castle as it pulled a Krullbeast and moved from city to city. We let him have it and he got the damned thing destroyed. The second time, he’d let himself be tricked into guarding a corrupt Casino that we’d decided would feed us for a year or two. I dueled him long enough for the others to get away with the loot. Normally, I should have been able to defeat him. He wasn’t that good and I had way more experience than he did, but he had plot informed abilities and in this universe no one was more than his equal. I didn’t try and beat him. Just delay him long enough to make our getaway possible.

The third time… it was clear that Aku had somehow tricked him into attacking us in order to steal away our ultimate score, an anti-akubot field generator that would allow us to finally escape AkuEarth’s massive robotic blockade and just go into hiding somewhere far from the madding crowd. The source of the artifact had come from a most unexpected and slightly… depressing source… a lost ruin of distinctly Maegi design. That had sombered all of us, until Jack showed up. Of course, Jack wanted it to get into Aku’s palace. Talkabout monomania.

Still, Jack was far from unbeatable. He had many abusable flaws… not the least the fact that he was honorable… and while we were thieves, we weren’t actually doing anything evil besides stealing… and never from those who could not afford it. He was also fairly gullible… and Ziggy had somehow picked up eight girl-ferrets who would follow him around and seemed to obey his orders… they certainly swarmed into Jack’s hakama (samurai for pants) when Ziggy ooked at them. I almost felt sorry for the guy.

Aku too, was a petty, obsessive, and transparent monstrosity. Somehow, however, he’d learned of my Warehouse, and become convinced it was his portal to other universes to conquer… which meant he came after us late into the eighth year.

For a year we played keep away, dodging from city to city. I had no desire to fight Aku, no desire to win this game, nor was I at all sure I could, since according to the first (zero point) drawback, it canonically took Jack something like fifty years to defeat the Shogun of Sorrow. But Aku was relentless and in the end I had to resort to base trickery.

With Aku focused on me and my crew, I knew Jack would be looking for a way to get to Aku. So I took a page from my own book and announced where I’d be on a specific day, challenging Aku to appear. I knew it would be a trap, Aku should have known the same, but malevolent dictators often have narrow vision. He almost certainly assumed the trap was something I’d laid for him. But all I’d done was guarantee that everyone who hated Aku knew where he would be on that day too. Jack included. All I had to do was destroy Aku’s army of bots and he’d show up eventually.

They had numbers. They had good armor. Some of them even had decent AIs. I had no reason to hold back. The last time I’d fought on this beach, I’d been a suicidal cyborg. This time I had command of all the Waters of the Earth and companions who were distributing free magical swords to anyone who wanted to kill Akubots. I’d been very busy!

Do you know the best way to fight a malevolent demonic tyrant? That’s right… mockery. Not once did I actually try and use my weapons or magic or… whatever… against Aku himself. Instead, I taunted him. I played childish recordings of kids singing anti-Aku jingles. I threw tennis balls, water balloons, and rotten tomatoes at him. I rhymed his name with poo and atchoo. I can be extremely annoying and absolutely none of Aku’s informed abilities were ‘Good Aim’.

All I had to do was keep Aku busy while Jack, a whole bunch of Scotsmen… and one very very scary Scots Lady smashed the robotic army to flinders. Aku, at the end, tried to flee, he really did… but I hadn’t studied just Apparition at Hogwarts. I’d also studied the defenses against it and anti-teleportation wards glowed deep within all the glaciers and icebergs in sight. As the Pillars of Time rose and Aku lunged forwards to seize the warehouse for his own… Jack was there, waiting for him. I hope he got his final victory, but me and my companions scuttled through the door as fast as possible. We weren’t staying here one moment longer than we had to.

Next: Simply the Best

Resources: Build, Document

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

World 22: Disney Princess

MAGICAL SAPPHISM TOUR

Previously: Final Zolution

Themesong: Don’t Marry Her by the Beautiful South (clean version)

As I reentered the Warehouse, I noted with amusement that I had now, counting from my original world, run through a Major Arcana’s worth of worlds, and idly considered which was which… but I was distracted from my pointless mindwanking by the strains of ‘When you Wish Upon a Star’.

“Hey Zaaaane!” I said in a voice that definitely didn’t fit an entity of… however the fuck many century’s age I am now… twenty-one jumps… or was it twenty-three? I could be in the middle of my third century… but Metal Gear Jump was five decades… Or six depending on how one counted jumps… and did the time between the two halves of Avatar Jump(s) count? I had the memories… Was the Civ Jump a decade or twelve-hundred and thirty decades? I didn’t know. Time had become less… meaningful in the long run.  It was just a number that kept counting up… at least in retrospect. In the present, it was still quite pressing on occasion. I thought about it a bit more, then called, “Zaaaaaaneeee!” again, having decided that I was 12,626 and a half years old.

“I heard it,” he groused, coming out of his bedroom. “You don’t gotta be this smug.”

“Yes I dooooo!” I danced about. Didn’t know which Disney franchise the jump was going to be, but any of them would be fun… except Bambi… icky icky Bambi. I looked at the machine, head tilted. “Disney… Princess” Oh… well then.

The screen said, “Rather than let you join any Disney Story you feel like, we’re making a Disney Kingdom which you are to be placed. You must choose three canon characters from Disney Animated Films to take on the roles of Princess, Hero, Villain, and Support. We did say three… you’ll be taking on the role of the fourth. So have fun!”

Zane snarked “So, you going to be the Princess or the Hero?”

“I…” I considered being the villain for a moment, then shook my head. I’d be a terrible villain. Too nice. “I’ll be the Support.”

“What? That’s… you… that’s boring!”

“Oh hush you. I’m not a Princess… I’m not young or pure… even when I was young I wasn’t pure. And princess outfits are icky.”

“Says the lady who has like a dozen different harem outfits.”

“I look good in those! And they’re not for public wear!” I stamped my foot and glared up at his smug smile.

“I don’t think real harems were exactly public,” he pointed out.

“True.”

Resting an elbow on my head, he asked, “Any idea who you’re going to cast?”

“Yeah…” I nodded as much as I could, having an idea. “Let’s make this a paean against British Colonialism.”

“Riiight…” Zane drawled, “how?”

“Clayton, the quintessential Big Game Hunter. Very british. Good Villain.”

“Also one you can pwn with ease,” he said with a chuckle.

“Zane, sweety, I could probably pwn Ursula or Maleficent by now. If Pwnage was an issue I could just pick Cruella D’Ville. She’s got the fighting ability of a frail old lady. Or Si and Am. They’re cats. Or hell, I could pick Sher Khan… He’s a tiger who’s afraid of fire. Or Scar… a somewhat scrawny lion. They’re not magical super tigers or lions… they’re not even particularly scary big cats. Scar can’t even take three hyenas and Khan lost to a bunch of buffalo. That’s why I’m not the Hero. Even Mother Gothel is just a hedgewitch. Hans and Hook don’t actually have any powers either.”

“Right… good point. So who’s the Princess? Pocahontas? Merida? Esmeralda? Is there anyone the British didn’t abuse at some point?”

“Esmeralda was abused by the Catholic Church and in France. I mean, sure, the British and French have a long history of fucking with each other, but it wasn’t exactly the British who started that and they’ve been friendly for a while. Scotland and the Americas… yeah, both of those work. But I was thinking of Jasmine.

“Really?” Zane asked, then shrugged, “Huh… okay. I guess that works. And that makes Aladdin the hero?”

“Mu-Lan,” I said, grinning up at him.

“Wait… what?” He frowned down. “That doesn’t make any damned sense.”

“Mu-Lan,” I said again.

“But she’s a princess!” he pointed out.

“Only in that craptastic sequel. She’s the Hero in her movie. She saves the Emperor and he calls her the Hero of China. She’s a warrior and a Hero. Plus, she could be a lesbian, though the role doesn’t say the Hero and Princess have to fall for each other. This is about self determinism and throwing off the patriarchy… monarchy… colonial-archy.”

“You’re mental,” Zane pointed out, shaking his head in befuddlement.

I twinkled up at him and hovered into the air to pat his head. “And you love me for it. Anyway, the original Aladdin is set in western (i.e. muslim) China.”

I spun for the location. Didn’t really matter where it was as long as it wasn’t Louisiana or Wonderland. There is a lot of space between “Arabia” and “China”. Got the Desert. Excellent. I love heat. Fuck it… I move the Desert to the Taklamakan, sandwiched between Mongolia to the northeast, the Gobi to the east, and the Kunlun Mountains to the south. Jasmine can be a Mongol Princess… western china is pretty damned sandy. Romeo and Juliet for the fate of nations. Dunno if the jump will agree with me, but Mongolia and the Asian Steppe get nowhere near enough play in fiction.

Everyone gets ‘Sing a Little Song’ because this is Disney, and SaLS allows one to burst into song at any time, knowing all the words and never stumbling over diction. Any song perks or magic I might have could be combined with the Sing a Little ability… but it didn’t come with a great singing voice… so I was sure to annoy people. Since I’d gone the Support route, that pretty much meant I had to be a Drop-In, which was fine by me. That got me the Sidekick Song for free (hurray! another song perk to combine with Sing a Little) which would allow me to improve the mood of listeners or motivate individuals and or crowds. It even meant people would like me more if I sang at or with them. And it could be either subtle or glaringly obvious, both of which had their uses. 

I figured I might as well pick up the Princess’s ‘I Am Song’ and the Hero’s ‘I Want Song’… someone (i.e. Bob Fosse, the legendary choreographer) put way too much thought into the types of songs used in musical theatre… then again, people usually overthought what they liked and musical theatre buffs tended to be astonishingly geeky at times… I know, I was one. The I Am Song was used to establish one’s identity in the context of the show, while the I Want Song (sometimes the same song as the I am song) defined the singer’s goals and desires. They were a fun (and fast) way to convey to the audience what a character’s role or motivations were.

Of course, that’s what they were in theatrical terms (Thanks Bob!) but what they did in terms of perk was even better. The I Am Song was a powerful warding tool, useful for protecting the singer from mind-control (to an extent), the corrupting influence of various magics, and even lower level demonic possession. More powerful and passionate performances increased the effect. The I Want Song was a divination tool, as (by the time the singer finished singing about whatever it was they wanted, they’d receive a very direct idea of how to get what they wanted how they wanted it. Singing for true love might mean you’d run into a stranger who can set you up with someone. Sing for victory in war and one might end up finishing the number standing on the tip of a Howitzer.)

Talk about Deus Ex… Song. They were each a hundred but well worth it… hell, I even scooped up the Villain Song for the full set… and so that I could use song to commune with dark forces or enhance magic. The more flamboyant I acted while singing, the greater the effect it would have on my magic. Three hundred wasn’t a bad price to pay for a flexible variety of song magics, and that left me with seven hundred CP to spend.

In the name of being genre savvy (just have to hope it’s not wrong genre) I took ‘I’ll Make a Man out of you!’ just in case I got Mulan before she’d leveled up in training under Shang, who was a nice enough dude, if a product of his time. Not only was I hedging my bets, but IMaM was discounted to one hundred CP and a pretty decent perk for the price, since it would allow me to, in as many words ‘Become the best personal trainer ever!’ I’d be able to teach nearly any physical skill to anyone and to increase someone’s strength, agility, speed, poise, grace, and endurance to their own best potential, given enough time (and not that much time, if the movie is anything to go by. A few weeks or months turned that band of misfits into elite soldiers. It was hard to argue with that much oomph for that little a price… though I suspect I’ll have to know the skill to actually teach it.

Since I was going for Supportive, I figured that I might as well take ‘Simply Profound’ (it was two hundred) and meant that I’d always seem to know  which tactic to use or what words to say to get people out any rut their life might have fallen into. In fact, with carefully chosen words and a few years to train them up, I’d be able to reshape someone’s entire outlook and belief structure. With an extremely stubborn person, I might only be able to make minor changes, but give me a weak-willed person and they’d end up putty in my hands. That, combined with Man out of You, would be most useful, I suspected, and not just in this world.

That said, I didn’t take the Support capstone ‘The Cavalry’; it just wasn’t worth the hassle, since it couldn’t summon allies more powerful than the person I was helping? What’s the point of that? If they weren’t more powerful at most it would only be helpful in very close fights… and the likelihood was that I’d be able to provide more backup with just me and some of my companions than a random group of nobodies.

And speaking of companions, I wanted to import mine so I could inflict… I mean so they could enjoy the singing and lighthearted frippery… and only occasional genocidal invasions. Two hundred got me the full eight, with each of them getting two hundred CP of their own to spend. I looked around at my family and considered who needs to be ‘punished’… I mean ‘have fun’ more. Joy and Ahab are a certainty (they really need to lighten up). Toph and Kendra are both really up tight too. Zane for a certain, after his snark. Mmmm… The Hibikis, I liked having them at my back. That left… Ziggy! My animal buddy! Heh. He’s not a good singer either.

I had two hundred left, but nothing else screamed buy me, so it was time to look at drawbacks. I immediately found something good. It was called ‘Suitor ‘and it made me laugh and gave me something good to work with… namely a loathsome, philandering, egotistical person who wanted me to marry them for completely selfish reasons. The fact that I’d be unable to just outright kill this Humperdink should give me some nice motivation and would either provide some nice drama or some enjoyable comedy… or both!

Another drawback, called ‘The Outside Tech Discouragement Policy’ was just gravy. I didn’t need the points, obviously, but the policy stated that quote ‘any device or object not copyrighted to Disney or one of its subsidiaries’ and not generic enough to be from a Disney property is outright banned’. There was a codicil that said that anything I built in-jump was exempt from that ban. The second part of the policy, which said that ‘Any ability from a non-Disney property has to be renamed before it can be used.’ was just silly enough that I’d have taken it just for free. Coming up with silly new names for my abilities and powers sounded like a lot of fun! The fact that between the two (each worth two hundred extra CP) I now had six hundred left was interesting. I’d never taken Drawbacks just to take them before… I actually have CP left to burn.

I considered recruiting Elsa or Kida or Turk… but decided not to mess with their timelines… I’m not even certain how it would affect their native settings. If I visited Frozen, Atlantis, or Tarzan after scooping up one of the key characters here, would they still be present in their own times? Almost everyone I’ve recruited up to this point has been dead, uncanonical, or superfluous to the canon (Everyone besides Ryoga really). It wasn’t so important with Turk, who was a gorilla, but Elsa’s a Queen and Kida’s… whatever you call the ruler of Atlantis… Chieftain? High Priestess? I considered Amelia, the Cat-Captain from Treasure Planet… but she’s not a princess… I wonder if there’s a Treasure Island / Treasure Planet / Muppets’ Treasure Planet Jump. That last would be weird.

Looking at Zane and Ziggy wrestling in their pokeforms as I had a snack (mmm… spaghetti sauce, powdered parm, mix… put on crackers. nummy!) All courtesy of my general food supply. It wasn’t much, I mean, it couldn’t feed all of us by itself, but it was like two hundred bucks a week worth of groceries from the General Store on the first floor of the Warehouse Arms. QuickMart wasn’t the most well stocked shop around, but it was like a cross between a bodega and wild west general store. Not only could I buy basic household needs (pots, pans, knives, bullets, rope, cheese graters, mixing spoons, bolts of cloth), but I could get a good supply of canned, bottled, packaged foods. Mostly bulk stuff like you’d get at a CostCo or Sam’s Club or a restaurant supply store like GFC… and the prices were reasonable. It wasn’t anything high end, but it was filling… especially with the Hanging Gardens making certain nothing ever spoiled and every batch produced three times as it should have.

Don’t get the impression that we were starving in the month between jumps. If nothing else, I could make Lembas bread to keep everyone going, and even if I couldn’t, we had food replicators thanks to the Maegi taking Trek’s fabricators and improving them massively over the next ten thousand years. I could replicate some damned fine dishes… but that was cheating… also, replicators only copy existing dishes, they don’t create the dish in the first place. And so, for that, we had the Food Supply Budget and any money we had left over from a jump to spend at Quickmart… or the other stores (Gamefarm, Bookbin, and WearHouse). For fresh fruits and vegetables (and herbs) we relied upon the Lifestream Garden that Toph was in charge of.

As I ate, I considered importing Zane as a princess… but that would be silly and mean. I also didn’t need a Genie (Wishes are something I try to avoid on principle… I don’t even like using the word in conversation. I prefer ‘I desire’ or ‘I really would like’ to ‘I wish’… oddly, I have no problem saying ‘You wish.’ but that’s a comeback). Looking through the other items, I realized that I already had a ‘Wizard Stick’ and a Magic Sword.

“Eh. I guess looking good is… uh… good,” I said as I purchased ‘Tres Belle’ for four hundred. A perk that makes those who take it classically beautiful with graceful movements and a guarantee to look their best even while crying or screaming? Sure. I can do that. Let champions go forth and slay dragons for my hand in marriage and do quests in my name. Yus. Worship me mortals! Actually, don’t. That gets old fast… and leave those poor dragons alone, unless they’re being jerks… then offer then a snicker’s bar. Maybe they’re just cranky. If they persist in being jerks, then you can stab them with all the stabbing of the lord EssJay almighty… well… kinda mighty. A bit mighty. Semi-potent. Something like that.

I was still two-hundred up, and that made me consider ditching one of the DBs… but they sounded like such doable challenges and a lot of fun, so I picked up the four person flying carpet just in case I need transpo on this Disney Approved Romp. Fifty mph was crap though. 

I put in a call to the complaints department. “Have you seen Aladdin?” I asked.

“Go Away!”

“I’m going to start singing a in a few seconds, and then you’ll remember just how fast that carpet was,” I threatened.

“If it matters so much to you, just import your broomstick slash mako as the damned carpet!”

“Oh… huh… good idea. The Policy won’t stop that?”

“Well, you won’t be able to turn it into the Mako… but you can’t tell me that there aren’t flying broomsticks in any disney property?”

I thought about that, while singing ‘A Whole New World’ just to get on everyone’s nerves. “No. That’s a good point. Bedknobs and Broomsticks had a broomstick… and Magicka Dispel had one. That’s two at least. Cool. Thanks.”

INSERTION

What can I say about Disney Mongolia? It was cold, desolate, full of very fuzzy camels, and had way too many Yurts. My suitor was Genghis Khan… yes… that one. It was… ummm… the term “Vast Army” doesn’t really begin to describe it. I said no… he conquered Nishapur and beheaded everyone just to prove he was manly enough… and he sang a song about it. And he wasn’t even the badguy!

No. That was Clayton, bounty-hunter and douchebag, hunting us across the Steppe and Deserts and Mountains… as well as parts China, India, and Arabia to recover the Great Khan’s Niece ‘Jasmine’ from the Chinese Army Commander ‘Mulan’. Did I mention the singing? So much singing. It was awesome. 1,001 nights? Ha! We skipped across the wilds of Asia getting into trouble for more than three times that. It was like the ultimate Disney Roadtrip… Silkroad Trip… in more ways than one, if you know what I mean. (eyewaggle emoji) Along the Silk Road. No Zombies, some flesh eating ghouls, but no zombies. And behind us, always behind us, Clayton and his boomstick.

I was frankly getting annoyed at the number of times I’d been shot by him. He was relentless, the Determinator, always returning week after week as if he had the freaking Joke… jo… right… can’t mention cardboy… as if he had Dr. Drakken’s agent. Oh yes, not having my weapons, armor, space shuttle… these were all frustrating. I’ve been to too many WB properties. Why couldn’t I have been to the Marvel Cinema Universe or the Star Wars verse? A lightsaber would have been excellent. Coming up with names for my abilities that weren’t intellectually copyright was a trick into and of itself. I had to ‘Repear!’, to ‘WaterWarp’ and ‘FireFlow’, to call upon the ‘Frozenness’, and to boost myself with my ‘InnerWeave’. I had to consciously rename everything, and think of them in those terms, or it wouldn’t ffrrrgggn work… and I couldn’t swear. The VMoD hadn’t mentioned that.

Sex was okay though. Apparently that was offscreen… or maybe just in the rule 34 section. There was very much sexing. Often with singing. Was there a plotline? Not really. Clayton, Shan Yu, Genghis, Jaffar… or one of the other enemies of the week would show up, we’d have hijinks, sing, escape. Celebrate. Sometimes there was a moral. Most times not.

Yes, taking ‘I’ll make a Man Out of You’ was useful. See, while Mulan was the hero of China, Jasmine had no practical skills at all. One song montage later and she was a credible ninja. Me? I was a Stone Monkey… same species as Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. Of course, I could shapeshift, but I was a totally mystical creature… and that’s why Genghis wanted me. Apparently I was a very pretty flaming stone monkey. My fur was apparently pure gold or something. Which explained why Clayton wanted me dead. Plus the whole abomination of sapphic love.

Toph also wanted to kill me. She’d taken ‘I Want Song’… and she used it… to complain… graphically… and then take out the grumpiness on me. It was kinda funny (in a murderous sort of way) how dedicated to punishing me for sticking her in the body of a Mu-Shu style dragon (still blind of course, but with the whole hisssy forked tongue… and green instead of red). See, what was hilarious was that she kept forgetting that she wasn’t… shall we say bending the stones, but ‘StoneShaping’. And when she forgot, it wouldn’t work.

If Toph was finding it hard getting into character, Joyhab were actually embracing the silliness of it all. There were so few consequences for them (they’d beamed in as Yetis… the Monsters Inc kind), so they mostly just lounged around and acted snarky. Ziggy was a Red Panda… and enjoyed climbing into Clayton’s pants and biting him. Being a Mon helped, since he was often getting shot, right before Clayton got his ass kicked by upwards of four girls… or more, since many of our exploits involved freeing girls and women from bad situations. The Hibiki’s were a pig and bear demon respectively, who mostly tagged along for the food. Kendra was a Naga. Zane a Fu Dog. We were a total menagerie of Chinese and Indian cryptofauna.

The Disney Princess world wasn’t as clean and nice as everyone might have thought. It had darkness everywhere, and horrible things did happen… almost always off camera, but remember, this was the world where Bambi’s mother is killed, where Shan Yu obliterated entire villages, where Dumbo is scorned, where there is an island funfair that turns little boys into donkeys, where Syndrome murdered superheroes, where… you get the picture. Just… few of those things happen on screen.

I so wanted to dunk Clayton in Jusen… gender shifting water, but unfortunately it was apparently counted as technology and no matter how I renamed it, I couldn’t bring it through. Ah well, being a girl was too good for him. Also, humiliating him week after week was amusing… except when he did something truly horrible… at which point I usually tried killing him… but that wasn’t my role… so Mulan had to do it… but no matter what she did to big C, he always seemed to survive. We even tried tricking him into fighting us in a liana and vine rich jungle. Twice. Neither time did he accidentally hang himself.

If at first you don’t succeed… try 240 times. Disney has it in for villains… if he was going to escape his traditional downfall, we just had to keep trying proven methods until something worked. Eventually we tricked him into the badlands and got him eaten by hyenas. Muskets only reload so fast.

There wasn’t a central problem to fix, so it remained unfixed. China didn’t fall to the Mongols, British, or Japanese while I was there, but who knows what the history would tell. All things considered, it was as much a vacation as any jump I’d been to, albeit a working vacation.

Still, by the end… I was a little burned out on all the emoting. I’d been a Vulcan too long to be this free with smiles and happiness. I was also wondering what the next world would hold. So we said our goodbyes and gathered on the traditional beach, though we did give a rousing chorus of “A Whole New World” before the Pillars of Time rose from the sands. I’ll have to schedule a Return here… the wedding is this fall.

Next: Ain’t Doing Jack

Resources: Build, Document

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

Postscript

It strikes me, reading back through this, that I skipped the part where I lay out my companions purchases. Of course, everyone got “Sing a Little Song”, but Zane, Ziggy, and Kendra also picked up “Grit Your Teeth”, a boost that means “When it comes time to push through your problems, you can push through them. Train longer, run farther, fight off that magic spell, swim through the waters of hell if you have to. You can be slowed down, but not stopped.” Damned tempting, that.

Toph picked up “I’ll Make a Man Out of You!” after we played her the song. Joy snagged “Secret Messenger” which is described as “There is always a way to contact someone, and be contacted in return. Send someone you love a perfumed handkerchief, memorize the symbolic nature of flowers for a bouquet, develop an encryption that it would take the NSA thirteen years to crack and broadcast it as a smoke signal (though that last one may take a few days and a code-book for the intended receiver)” while Ahab picked up the nasty little “Black Magic”… I guess he was tired of everyone else having the witchy way. “You can do some basic black magic. You can hypnotize the simple-minded by staring them in the eye, transfer small amounts of youth and beauty from a willing subject, do minor cosmetic changes like removing moles, and cast illusions to disguise yourself and your servants. Your power may grow through training or by finding a teacher.”

Ryoga picked up the “I Want” and “I Am” Songs, while his sister picked up the Sidekick and “I Want” Songs. Good kids, glad to have them with me.

SJ’s Arcana Mindwank

  • 0 – The Fool / Origin Earth
  • I – The Mage: Harry Potter
  • II – The Priestess: Avatar
  • III – The Empress: Kill La Kill
  • IV – The Emperor: Civilization
  • V – The Hierophant: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers / Sentai Special
  • VI – The Lovers: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon
  • VII – The Chariot: The Elder Scrolls
  • VIII – Strength: Ranma 1/2
  • IX – The Hermit: Bastion
  • X – The Wheel of Fortune: Star Trek
  • XI – Justice: Mass Effect
  • XII – The Hanged Man: Metal Gear
  • XIII – Death: Infamous
  • XIV – Temperance: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • XV – The Devil: GZA
  • XVI – The Tower: Pokemon Trainer
  • XVII – The Star: Lord of the Rings
  • XVIII – The Moon: Swat Kats
  • XIX – The Sun: Mother
  • XX – Judgement: Great Detective
  • XXI – The World: Final Fantasy VII

World 21: Generic Zombie Apocalypse

FINAL ZOLUTION

Previously: The Magi Wore Flipflops

Themesong: Der Fuehrer’s Face by Spike Jones

“EssJay?” Zane asked, looming over me as I lay on the grass under the spreading branches of VIvian, still embodied as a chinese cherry tree.

“Yes Zane?” I said, looking up at him as Ziggy yawned and squirmed on my stomach. “What’s up?”

“It’s been 28 days…”he commented, pointing out the painfully obvious, “why aren’t you working on the Jump Tree?”

I sighed. “I’m hoping that, if I ignore it long enough, it’ll go away.”

He chuckled dryly, then said, “I don’t think it works like that.”

“I know,” I said, sitting up and grumbling as Ziggy slid into my lap with a fwump. As he shook himself, noticed Zane, and pounced his shoe, I whined, “It’s just… I really hate Zombies.” 

Zane gave me a look that told me he was judging me. It wasn’t very God-King-like to whine, but I really really didn’t like the whole ‘Living Dead’ thing, for any number of reasons. But instead of actually calling me on it, he grinned. “Well, that’s cool. We get to kill tons of them in this jump.”

“Yeah… that’s what we get to do… for ten fucking years,” I closed my eyes, already seeing flashes of the unrelenting horror we were about to be plunged into. “While civilization slowly crumbles around us and the zombies keep coming and coming and coming and we constantly have to be on our guard against the monsters that look like those we once loved.”

“Oh come on. We’ve fought through tons of monsters! This will be like “Pow, Zap, Squish!” He was bouncing up and down on his heels, and now Ziggy was copying him, squeaking, “Ow! Ap! ISH!”

Rolling my eyes, I grumbled, “I can’t believe you’re psyched for this!”

“BRAAAAAAINS!” Zane droned.

“NZZ!” Ziggy concurred.

“You’re a dork,” I told the bigger goober, scooping up the smaller. Him I poked on the nose. “And you’re not helping.”

“Hey, I’m not the only one,” my demi-brother pointed out. “Joy and Ahab are both interested by the challenge, Kendra’s up for anything involving killing the undead, and most of the Mon are like ‘Gnar! We fight!’ It’ll be swell… especially after all the downtime!”

Reminded of the slayer’s existence, I shivered a little. “I can’t believe you’re dating Kendra.”

“I was married to her for 45 years,” he pointed out, trying to sound extra reasonable. He didn’t need to point out that they’d been missing the majority of their memories.

“Yeah… well… I didn’t even mean to bring her along… and I didn’t think the bossman… bossthing? would pull her out of storage… or turn VIvian into a tree.” I spared a glance at the hypercomputer cum Cherry Tree growing through the center of the house. “But that’s besides the point. If you guys are so keen, you do it. I’ll just hide in the Warehouse behind my shields and autoturrets and dimensional barriers.”

“That’s cheating. And I can’t believe you’re scared of Zombies.”

“I’m not scared of Zombies. Zombies are icky! And weird! And… and… all Zombie fiction is depressing… or played for larfs, and somehow I don’t think there is going to be much humor to be found in this! It’s not scary… it’s dystopian end of the world blaaaaah.”

“Wuuuuussssss.”

“Zane… that wouldn’t have worked on me when I was actually eleven for the first time…” I said, considering summoning several pillows with which to fwump him with. Ziggy licked my nose and I flailed, then whined, then sighed. “Fine… you know what… fine. You’re right. I’ve just spent the last twelve millenia sitting on my ass being all contemplative and godly. I could use some dirt on my hands. Zombies? Bring it on. You want me to fight Zombies? I’ll show you me fighting Zombies.”

“Stomping around in your PJs and ferret slippers isn’t very intimidating.”

I looked down at my feet… very ferrety. Looking back up, I pointed a finger at blue-boy and hissed, “I loathe you.”

“It’s pronounced ‘Lurve’.”

“The two are not mutually exclusive.”

The machine was bright red and black. It looked ominous as fuck. There was a Pandemic One Armed Bandit with three rollers and an lever that looked a gold plated caduceus. The three rollers were labeled ‘Cause’, ‘Phase’, and ‘Location’. Looking at the wheels, I could see that each primary wheel had an independant smaller wheel next to it, eight possible results on the primary, three on the secondary. The minor wheels seemed to correspond to ‘Implicit Meaning’, ‘Origin Theory’, and ‘Warning Signs’. Huh. Well, I’d worry about all that later. First, I had points to spend. 

I grabbed the manual hanging off the side of bandit. Huh. Print. How… novel. “Jumper’s First Zombie Apocalypse” was the title, with the subtitle, “Surviving the End of the World on 1000 CP a Decade.” I chuckled, then glancing at the drawbacks, my first response was, “Rule Zero – Don’t take drawbacks.”

There were six backgrounds to choose from: Survivor, Doctor, Authority, Tradesman, Clergy, and Doomsday Prepper. Survivor was the only one that was free, and was clearly the Drop-In, no frills experience. I decided to skip that. If I was going to cope with this shit, I was going to be a native. Anything else and I’d just freak out first time and head for the stars… And speaking of stars, Doctor was out. I wasn’t getting anything here in the doctor-line that I didn’t already have from my stint as S’Janus… and I didn’t want to have a savior complex in this clearly doomed world.

Authority and Clergy were also out. Again, they’d have ideologies I didn’t want to have to deal with in a world dropping into the cauldron; the crisis of faith that a Clergyman would experience would probably be crippling and the near indoctrination level of training for an Authority figure wouldn’t help with problem solving. That left Tradesman and Prepper, and while Prepper was probably more on the ball with regards to this one situation, I figured that having an actual physical skill would be more helpful in more situations… so that’s what I went with, deciding that I would become a Glassblower.

I’d always been fascinated with the art, and it was a practical one as well as being pretty, and it wasn’t like I really needed specific Zombie-Killing Skills. I had fought in multiple wars against multiple enemies ranging from monsters to aliens to cybernetic zombie-like husks to benders. The Living Dead weren’t going to require too much that I didn’t already have in my arsenal, combat-wise.

Tradesmen cost a hundred, and a spin of the wheel of aging pegged me as a thirty-one year old glassblower from Atlanta, Georgia. Just for fun, I decided to go into the jump as a dude, but thanks to my stint in RanmaLandia, I didn’t have to pay for the genderswap. Honestly, I wondered what the logic for charging for that was. It was just… odd.

Shouldn’t it have been like, a Body Mod thing for those who weren’t their prefered gender in their default body, then free in each jump just to, you know, allow for options? Different casting… Oh god… I was the Doctor! Or James Bond! In this episode, the role of EssJay will be played by Christopher Lloyd! Haha… Yes!

Before shopping for myself, I went looking for the import option. My companions seemed eager for the opportunity to blast some zombies, and it would be rude to deny them. It wasn’t the best import option I’d seen, but there was one. It was called ‘Dawn of the Deputies’ and it cost fifty CP for each companion imported, though it only gave those I paid for the same basic value as the automatic importing ability Joy and Ahab used (free background and all associated freebies. I totted up the others that Zane had said were interested… Zane, Kendra, Dyna, Petra, AJ, and Francine… six, so three hundred there, leaving me six hundred unspent. Just to be certain, I checked with the others. Ziggy was happy just sleeping and getting treats and Rayray was totally above it all (and also fine with spending 99.99% of her time asleep). Toph, Bao, and Uriel wisely decide to refrain from the festivities, which was fine with me.

I flipped through the rest of the options, seeing nothing I needed and only a few things I was even vaguely interested in that weren’t hugely expensive. It was all very thematic to survival horror, but I’ve always figured real Zombie Apocalypses will be more in the line of medical emergency / open warfare. You know, ID the problem, do research while the army obliterates the Zombie scum and sets up defensive cordons. Especially in worlds with skyscrapers and machine guns. Still, I did scoop up ‘Double Tap’, a strange little four hundred pointer from the Authority line (yes, I know, I could have saved some points, but meh) that meant that any time I hit anything with a weapon, a moment after my blow landed, an equal amount of damage would be inflicted at the same approximate location on the target. In essence, it effectively doubled my weapon damage, which didn’t exactly sound like a bad thing.

Like I said, I could have saved myself some points on ‘Double Tap’ by going Authority, especially since I had no plan to get Tradesman’s capstone, and it didn’t even have a four hundred pointer, but it did have some nice choices of its own. The freebie ‘Repairman’ was worth the cost of entry all by itself, since it did more than its name might have implied. Rather than just handing me basic fixit skills (which have traditionally been beyond me) it gave me a decent grasp of woodworking and metalworking… nothing too advanced, but enough to make me decently skilled working with my hands.

I also picked up two of the three discounted two-hundred pointers, ‘Vehicular Skills’ and ‘Master of the Craft’, which spent me out completely.  Vehicular Skills not only makes me great behind the wheel (wooo! Redline here I come!) but makes me a frankly amazing mechanic. Which is like… cool… because normally I’m like ‘Where does Gas Go in?’ well, okay, not that bad, but honestly, I barely know where to put the washer fluid in a car. Not that I’ve driven a lot these last few millennia (We are the Manifestation. Cars are driven for us.) (Oh hush you… fucking 177 incarnations, always cluttering up the back of my mind. Thankfully, they all fit in just one wing of my mind once I deleted the day-to-day / century-to-century sameness of their lives. I do not need 12,300 years of bathroom breaks, meals, or meetings on the state of the economy.) The power to avoid any avoidable accident will probably be more useful, in the long run, than the ability to upgrade vehicles into mobile death machines.

Master of the Craft I took for the fluff, as it made me THE master of (in my case) Glassmaking. Sure, as a true master craftsman, it says I’m sure to impress others with my work, but that’s less important to me than just… you know, being good at something. If I’d had more points, I might have taken drawing as well… but I have no intention of making this any worse just so I can learn to draw… maybe a different jump.

I did note that one of the drawbacks makes the zombism non-human specific… so by inference, it must default to being human specific… which will be… useful. Dunno if Hobbits are close enough, but I’m betting Krogans, Asari, and especially Pokemon aren’t. Which makes Kendra the most at risk for zombification… but with a Medbay, I should at least be able to cover my friends.

And speaking of them, I confirm with each of those who are coming what costume they’ll be wearing. I am spectacularly unsurprised to find myself with four Doctors, considering that it confers ‘Disease Resistance’ as its freebee and of the four already immune to disease… four Clerics… hopeful thinking? Seriously, that’s what Clergy’s freebie was. The ability to spread hope. Wooo. I asked them what religion they were Clerics of… and they pointed at me, smirking. Jackasses. 

With all the bases covered, I hit confirm, then faced the Pandemic Machine and pulled ‘THE LEVER!’. Chunk, ‘Parasites’, chunk ‘Phase One’, chunk ‘Major Hospital’. A timer appeared. Five minutes until insertion.

With the seconds ticking by I read the details from the manual… Parasites hijack their host’s nervous system, and are larger and more difficult to pass on than other causes. The hosts are driven to extreme aggression when it’s time for the parasite to reproduce. With above human speed and strength, Parasitic Zombies can typically restrain healthy victims while they transfer the new larvae into them. Usually attacking in groups and picking the vulnerable in the early stages, these parasites may escape notice until it’s too late. Hosts are fully aware of the creatures in them, but can do nothing to resist. Clearly, a bioweapon that reflects on the folly of man.

Phase One made it potentially a fixable problem, which was good. It was the several outbreaks within the same region stage, a frightening first experience with the potential death toll if the condition is not contained. This was the time where the preppers begin to fall back into their bunkers. and the lunatic fringe claim it’s the work of Zombie Hitler and his Zombie Nazi Legions.

Starting in a Major City Hospital means that I’ll be surrounded by the turned and the just about to turn. Glee! And with no danger warning, I’ll have to rely on my own senses. I had no real plan and no anticipation that this entire thing would not be fifty kinds of horrible. This wasn’t Generic Zombie Picnic after all.

INSERTION

We dropped into the middle of chaos, the Zombies coming from all around us, an emergency room full of doctors all backing away from the chaos of their patients trying to bite them. Bending powers activate! Pressed Zombie… Zombie Sashimi… Zombie Jerky… Zombie Flambe… And the fucking norms freaked. Sigh… this was going to be a problem.

Once the immediate surge of death is over, I noticed that things look off, then blinked in marginal surprise. “Fuck me… I think this is the 1940s,” I commented… I mean, the lack of any TVs, old style radios, outfits… men wearing hats… the posters with their ‘Just-Post-WW2’ feel, the number of nurses with military bearing all clued me in… but the biggest support was the information that my memories were providing me as well… unless I’d been in a coma… but no, it seems as if I was here for a burn that has now healed courtesy of regen kicking in. The Allies won the war… hurray… the Nazi’s unleashed hell… boooo. It’s 1949, and Truman is President.

We pulled armor and gear out of the warehouse, suiting up as I tricordered the shit out of the parasites, then dumping the data to VIvian as I fuse with VIctoria for the first time in ages… literally. “VIctoria, this is Atura, my inner spirit. Atura, this is VIctoria, my highly aggressive clothing. And I… appear to be Solomon Judd. Good southern Jewish name…” I shook my head and shrugged.

The trip out of the city was so much less fun than strolling out of Raccoon city, not the least because of the bickering in my head. Well, not so much bickering as passive aggressive sniping between a spirit that doesn’t really do confrontation and my hyper-aggressive clothing that doesn’t know how to back down from one. Still, we’ve got hours before the Bombers reach Atlanta… this is Atlanta… but there won’t be an Atlanta in by dawn the next day. The army has the city surrounded… no one gets in… no one gets out… at least not until after the firebombs and nukes have their way. Jesus… the news says they’ve already taken out Savannah and Tallahassee… and every city on the continent is on quarantine. The Economy must be tanking fast. No news from elsewhere, but I have my doubts.

My companions got out by going under the blockade, thanks to our Earthbenders. I got out through the line, wanting to see how tight it was. It’s tight. Nothing gets within fifty meters of the encircling force without getting filled full of holes and then burned. The army were wearing camo-ABC suits… they looked reinforced. Someone was on the ball. This wasn’t consumerism zombieland or communism zombieland… this was Nazi zombieland and the army was laying down the law. Sooo many tanks. I nodded in approval, then passed on through.

The glow of Atlanta’s destruction lit up the twilight and I wondered if it will be rebuilt a third time. It wouldn’t be the last city to go down. The outbreaks didn’t stop, but the Americans people had just come out of a world war and there were more soldiers than anyone one could shake a stick at and so very very many guns. I tried to find a cure in Memphis… the city went down in a month. We moved on to Topeka… it fell three months later. Dayton… at the end of the first year. The Pandemic wasn’t spreading fast, the parasites ran in cycles that were predictable, but each city that fell spun out a few contaminated before it fell. No citywide quarantine was foolproof and just closing the roads wasn’t always possible.

I’d provided sampler technology to the Army in exchange for funding and priority evac and protection. They kept moving us, rolling my mobile lab on a convoy of armored semis. The Zombies clearly knew I was a threat now. Must be all the samples I had of the Parasite, all the experiments. I was working too hard, not getting enough sleep. Headaches all the time now.

After Dayton came Fort Leonard Wood, Indiana. It’d been reinforced into a cantonment, barricades, walls, a freaking moat. Nothing got in without passing through checkpoints, bloodwork, x-rays. The Parasites weren’t tool users, but they were sneaky. The base had internal walls too and a network web of electrical wires spaced over it with holes even a sparrow wouldn’t fit through. It was a tough nut to crack… until the ammo ran out… which it did. Where the fuck were all these Zombies coming from? Can’t think… popping aspirin by the bottle now. Maybe heroin?

After Fort Leonard Wood came Camp Grafton in North Dakota. The Zombies didn’t do too well in the winter… not enough survival instincts… couldn’t hunt… they froze and died, so the further north we went, the better off we were. Russia was doing okay like that. China too apparently. But the jungles of the tropics were a mess. The island nations seemed to be doing pretty decently. Most of them were on total quarantine. Didn’t save Britain though. I’d cut down the number of actually destroyed cities somewhat by handing over neutron bomb specs, which only destroyed some of the city and killed pretty much all life, human and parasite, dog and cat, you name it.

Two years in and the pain in my head was making thought almost impossible. White noise made it bearable… but just barely. Only time it seemed to let up is when another city was nuked. Didn’t know why… until it hit me. I shut down all my psychic senses, all of them, by injecting myself with a very questionable cocktail of neuroinhibitors. The silence was deafening, I swear.

“MOTHER FUCKING BULLSHIT!” I swore.

Zane snapped up, looking around. “What? Where?” He was training his gun around the room like an attack dog. He looked like one too. The army had long since gotten used to the fucking aliens. We were there to help, we claimed, came in peace we claimed. Ripped apart a lot of Zombies to prove it too. One of the privates was convinced that Joy and Ahab are Hobbits because they’re short and have big hairy feet. We scoffed, “Hobbits? Those aren’t real… nooo… Joy and Ahab are Vulcans. See the pointed ears?”

I turned to Zane. “Fucking Zombies… there’s a god-damned hivemind… or a queen. Dunno which. The headaches… it’s interference. Gets disrupted every time a nuke lights up too many of them.” The vaccine got put on hold… already had a cure, had that soon after the detection patches, but it wasn’t a ‘Zap, you’re cured kind of thing.’ Required sedating the victim then a bunch of treatments. The Parasites didn’t like it much. They fought back. Muscle relaxants and lots of restraints. Found a poison that worked on them too… worked damned good… but they kill their host when they go down and the poison was injection only… and not exactly fast to make. Fucking daddy-longlegs are hard to milk.

This world had no satellite network, so we had to build one. That took time, even with the Warehouse’s fabricator. Getting them to orbit wasn’t hard, but tuning the network to find psychic wavelengths wasn’t exactly easy either. The army was getting impatient. Finding those wavelengths took five weeks, but the noise was all over the spectrum, so I had to search for where it was strongest, narrowing the line, which took another ten weeks… but all that told me was where Zombie Infection rates were highest… which the army liked because it meant they could target clusters before they bubbled out… but it didn’t help me much with finding the problem.

Base security got a lot stronger after that… though I did have to waste time travelling to DC to explain to those fucking idiots in the War Department why they fucking well better give the technology to the god-damned Ruskies too.

Unfortunately, what I needed was a couple more nuked cities… and the army was having a field day stopping cities from needing to be nuked. Shit. The US and Russia were the only nuclear powers in this time, and Russia had used all five of its nukes in the opening days of the infestation. The US was the only country still producing them damned things. Everyone else had bigger problems.

Kendra saved the day there. “Why don’t you get the government to nuke one of the cities in another country?” So I did. But not our government. I sold the russians enough plutonium to make twenty good sized nukes, by posing as a Chinese weapons dealer, then sat back and watched. If there was one thing you could count on Stalin for, it was over-reacting. Within a month, Russia was down ten Zombie-nest cities and I’d gotten twenty pulses across the global parasite network. The lynchpin was in Buenos Aires… a city so far untouched by the plague. Or so it seemed.

I considered my options… then made the most difficult choice of my life. Titanium telephone poles. Rods from God. The fabricators could make them easily enough. I’d used one once in a targeted strike. But this wasn’t going to be targeted. This wasn’t going to be clean. We dropped fifty-two of them onto The South American Big Apple, then paved the ruins of what had been a city of six million innocent people with neutron bombs courtesy of the USAF.

That flushed the bastard out and we tracked it north-east. No idea how it survived, but it had. We hit the ground running, following it as it gathered more and more zombies around it into a army of half a million crazed meat puppets. We caught up to them just outside of Curitiba, Brazil, a massive swarm of zombies pouring out of the beleaguered city to join those already clustered around the lynchpin.

We had plasma cannons on grav-tanks… two dozen of the things, fabricated based on Anti-Geth units I’d commissioned way back when. We had shields… they had flesh and bone and infinite rage. My companions… and the First Marine Grav-Tank Corps… smashed through the lines of zombies at ninety klicks an hour, pulverizing bone and brain and parasite under the crushing weight of an eighty-ton countergrav field. I stood alone, cloaked, waiting for the motherbrain to run like the coward it was, out the far side of the throng.

I was not expecting Zombie Hitler… but that’s what I got. Zombie. Queen. Mother. Fucking. Hitler. Fifteen feet of psychotic half-human half-parasite monstrosity. It was tough, it was fast, it threw psy-blasts like nothing I’d ever faced before, backed by the neural network of a quarter billion Zombie Hosts. VIvian gave me feedback as each pulse fried more and more of the Zombie Network, but it wasn’t enough. ZQH could throw dozens of the things… I was at half power and dropping after four. I backed flipped up to the top of a ten-story building, highlighted against the sunlight, then called “Oy, Hitler. Scared of a little Jew?”

He roared, leaping upwards towards me. Just before he crested the top of the building, I yelled “AVAST!” and apparated behind and above him. Not far. Just far enough that I wasn’t in the way as the Jenny Ray smashed into the ex-dictator, who threw all his shields into blocking the titanic WEAPON killing beam. And then I RAILGUN’d him in the back. “How’s that for a Final Solution?” I asked as the hideous freak of nature boiled to vapor and the beam plowed a hole in the army, nearly knocking out one of our tanks.

I’d like to say that solved the problem… but all that did was make the Zombies more feral, less organized. We monitored their activity, focusing on the larger packs, spreading out anti-zombie units across the world. Full body armor was back in a big way. Cities were walled and sectioned once again. There were craters everywhere. The vaccine took another two years to develop…. And even by the end of the jump there were regions still unclaimed, still unvaccinated. I left the battle tanks there. It would be a hundred years before they even had the tech to open the hatches on those things… but hey, they needed them a lot more than I did.

On the last day, on a small island in Fiji, we watched the sun rise and I asked Zane, “Did you guys have fun?” The general consensus was that, yes, they had had a lot of fun, but that I’d set the game on easy mode. “What? You wanted more Zombies? Bigger Zombies? Well, fuck you. No more damned Zombies! I hope the next jump has nothing for you to kill more dangerous than a cocker spaniel.”

“What are those?” Zane asked “They sound fierce.”

“Remember Lady & The Tramp?”

“The animated Chick Flick with the dogs?”

“Yup.”

“Kinda? I was rooting for the dogs to eat the Cruel Woman. Sucked they didn’t.”

“Well, Lady, the momma dog… she’s a cocker spaniel. They’re slightly less fierce than Ziggy.”

“Blah… sounds horrifying.”

“You have a weird sense of horrifying.”

“Yeah, well… you’re no fun.”

“Shut up and pass me a beer.”

Next: World 22 – Magical Sapphism Tour

Resources: Build, Document

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

World 20: Civilization

THE MAGI WORE FLIPFLOPS

Previously: Manifest Infestation

Themesong: Baba Yetu by Christopher Tin

As the Pillars of Time rose up around Toph and I, I noticed they looked… older, more worn, half ruins covered in moss and ivy. “That’s unusual,” I commented, then gasped as, instead of the entrance to my warehouse appearing, the Guardian of Forever swirled into being and Trelane stepped through.

“Bet you’re feeling all Godlike now,” The Original Q said.

“Get lost, Gothos,” I snapped, pulling Toph behind me… for all the good that would do. “I’m not in your league and I know it… and if you’re no god, I am certainly not going to make that claim.”

“Tichy tichy tichy,” he said, running one finger along the moss covered pillars, then rubbing some of it between thumb and forefinger. “Anyway, you seem to think you know so much about what’s best for everyone… want to help settle a bet?”

“What bet?” I asked, deeply suspicious.

“It’s a bet between me and your patron,” the insufferable brat failed to explain. “I think you’ll fail, he thinks you’ll succeed.”

“What bet, Trelane?” I half growled.

“We call it the Civilization Challenge!”

I paused. “As in Civilization… the Game?”

“None other! No plot to tie you down. No outside morality. Not even any preconceived notions to overcome! You get a tribe of primitive screwheads to shape in your own image. Go forth into this brave new world and uplift your people to greatness! Oh, and you get the usual 100 Choice Points.”

“You mean 1,000 Choice Points… and how do I build a civilization in 10 years? Do these people have lifespans of a couple seconds?”

“Oh… this jump won’t last 10 years, precious,” he sneered. “You’re going to be here for the long haul… the full cycle… You’re the Manifestation, after all… Wan’s run was 10,000 years. You get to rein for 12,000!… and change.”

“What?! I won’t live that long! I’m still mortal!”

“Precious Precious Precious… you were a Tolkien Elf. They’re immortal… or at least unaging. But no. You’ll be your same boring human self in this jump… unless you really want to spend points to make the people you lead another race. You’ll be human… but you’ll reincarnate… just like Wan. Better hope your people can cope without your leadership while you’re down for the count. Oh, and if you get killed in battle or by gross incompetence… that still counts as a gamebreaker.”

“Fan, fucking, tastic.”

“Have fuuuun!” and he vanished.

“Who was that rude man?” Toph asked.

“Spirit of Mischief… in training,” I replied, hand to face. This wasn’t going to… twelve thousand years?! Would I be myself at all after that?

She cracked her knuckles, grinned, and said, “So? What happens next?”

“Next, we step through the portal that’s right in front of us and hope  that everything and everyone is waiting for us on the other side.” And we did.

I found myself, alone, seated lotus position on a stone slab, a strange sword-like pointer in one hand, a strand of twenty teakwood beads in the other. I was dressed simply, wearing a kind of rough woolen robe and copper bracelets around my wrists and ankles. I would not have looked, I suspected, out of place in a copper-age city state circa 5,000 BC.

Around me was an endless sea of unilluminated clouds, and before me stood three cenotaphs of black granite. In the trademark font, they said, ‘The Adviser’, ‘The God-King’, ‘The Outsider’. There weren’t any prices listed, so I assumed they were free. I focused on each in turn and found I understood their nature instinctively. The Outsider was the drop-in option, the ‘just a man with ideas’ option. The Advisor was the Player, the ‘disembodied hand from on high’ option. And The God King was the ‘hands on, balls to the wall, commander in chief, boots on the ground’ option. It wasn’t really a choice. God-King it was. 

There was a rumble from all around me as the three cenotaphs sank into the clouds and light began to break from the clouds… from below. The stone slab upon which I sat shivered, shifted, then rose upward, meaning I was now sitting on an elevated dias.

After a time, more cenotaphs rose, these ones crafted from white marble. There were five of them and they were mounted on a singular plinth that read ‘METHODOLOGY’ and  below that ‘Two Beads Each, Pick No More Than Two’. It was clearly here that I’d choose how I would govern. Would I rule through ‘Culture’, ‘Economics’, ‘Warfare’, ‘Theology’, or ‘Science’?

Economics has never been my strong suit, and it’s just not… me… I don’t care for the calculus of Capitalism that values people only as producers or consumers. Theology could work, as long as it was focused on principles, not dogma… but I was leery. Science is excellent, but everyone does Science. Culture? Culture takes care of itself. China was a cultural powerhouse because its culture was unconquerable… but the US is a cultural powerhouse because its culture absorbs everything else. Ultimately, all of civilization boils down to warfare. Culture wars, Economic wars… they’re all just wars in the end. Warfare is discipline, planning, forethought. A true Warrior Culture is not hyper aggressive… they’re hyper prepared. 

I selected Warfare and watched as two of my beads disappeared in unearthly fire… then, after a long moment’s consideration, I bought Science as well, bringing my bead total down to sixteen. There’s a reason everyone chooses Science. If every cultural interaction is ultimately warfare, every action can be described by Science… and what Science can describe, Science can improve. I could work with a culture that was built on such a framework, one that wasn’t concerned with theology, economics, or culture, but only did those things as a sideline. 

There was another transition as the Methodologies departed, and the clouds rolled and brightened further, mountain peaks beginning to rise in the distance in all directions… and my dias was now at the tip of a mighty ziggurat. Rain began to fall from the clouds beneath me, with crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning shook the world. Above me, a sea of stars unfolded. Ah… I was Babylon, was I? War and Science. A Great Tower whose top was with the Heavens.

As I considered that, tablets of Clay and Alabaster and Gold rose from the clouds, each held aloft by a robed figure for my consideration. I wondered why the three materials, regarding each group in turn. The prices were what solved it for me. The Clay ones were, on average, more expensive than the Alabaster ones and there were five columns of them as opposed to the Alabaster’s three. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that with three origins and five methodologies, there would be eight different discount groups, of which I was entitled to three. Indeed, three sets of the robe wearers were wearing blackish gray and the other five were wearing whitish cream.

The Golden tablets and their saffron robes were the smallest grouping, with only eight items… and almost all of them were listed as a fraction: 2/12, 4/12, 6/12… 0.001/12, and 11.999/12. The only one that wasn’t a fraction instead read ‘2-8 for 1-12’. It was pretty clear that they were the drawbacks.

Using my pointer sword-thing, I singled out the ‘priests’ with the Clay tablets for Outside and Adviser, motioning them to come to me and they formed two parallel lines of six up the stairs of ziggurat. At the front of both lines were three with simple tablets of worked brown clay (though the third in each column had a filigreed border), then one with a tablet of finer ochre clay (also with a filigree), and the last two were pale smooth tan and a porcelain so fine it was almost bone china. A glance at all the categories showed me that every one of them had two filigreed tablets… they must be items rather than perks, I guessed.

I knew I hadn’t chosen either origin, but that didn’t mean they didn’t have anything worth taking, and I’d feel a right fool if I missed something useful. The cheap common clay would each cost me two beads, the better clay four, the good clay six, and the best clay twelve… thankfully, I had no need for ‘One… More… Turn…’, which was cute in that it could push back time limits, but hideously overpriced for that, or ‘Great Man Theory’ which would allow me to turn someone else into a historically significant individual… I was not paying twelve beads to give other people credit for my choices. As for the cheap stuff like ‘Oral Traditions’ or ‘Time-Traveler’s Temper’… well, generational memory was good, but I was going to introduce writing on day one and I already had a pretty decent handle on my temper. ‘Spirit of the Nation’ was just weird, and if I had to rely on ‘Muse’ to allow me to be inspirational, I was playing the wrong game. Ditto ‘View of Ages’, which was all about maintaining a long view of history and tracking variables and interconnections to make reasonable predictions. Thanks, I think I had that down. Almost all of it was just… meh. Most of the Outsider stuff was useless and nothing on the Advisor side did so much as raise my heartbeat. Dullness incarnate.

In fact, only one of the eight perks from those two lines appealed to me in the slightest… and that one was almost good enough to throw a party in its honor. It cost six beads, a steal at that price, and was called ‘No Gods or Kings’. Put simply, it allowed the user to describe something, or declare something to be true (it had to actually be true as far as the speaker knew… and in theory demonstrably so) in a sufficiently passionate way, and those who heard the speaker would see the truth of it. Quite simply, it bypassed disbelief, bias, preconception, illusion, and superstition. I simply had to have it. Part of me wondered if I typed in all capital letters if I could use it to win an argument on the internet… probably not… there were limits to all things… even perks.

As I made my first purchase of something tangible, there was a spectacular crack-boom and the world went white for a moment. When I could see again, the tablet holder was gone, and a great tree had grown up from the clouds, each branch decorated with an apple made from some precious material. It was impossible gage the distance to the tree, but it had to be titanic, and those fruits would have been the size of cities. Somehow, even though they were far from me, I could tell that each fruit glowed with a soft inner light and each had the word ‘Truth’ inscribed upon it. I was equally certain that there was one for every language I’d ever encountered or heard of.

As for the Wonders, which of course had replaced gear… well, they were interesting to say the least. They were gifts that functioned as both buildings and as a kind of nicknack which conveyed a specific bonus. Take for instance ‘The Statue of Liberty’, the only one of those initial four that really appealed to me. As a chachki, it would create a sense of belonging of all those present, either in the room with a handheld statue or the entire residence for one placed on a shelf. As a full-sized statue, it would enhance a city or nation, improving immigration rates drastically and allowing the host nation to absorb the strengths of other cultures into its own people. That was worth four beads. I was down to six and hadn’t even gotten into my own discounted tablets. I was going to need some drawbacks, and soon.

Again, there was a flash of shock and awe, and another tablet-bearer was gone as my statue rose from the stormy depths. My Statue of Liberty was not the green woman of New York, but rather a massive statue of Nike Athena, spear raised as a warning, shield at half-guard, and glorious wings extended, not in threat, but to offer comfort to those might come these shores.

As I turned to the Golden tablet-bearers to beckon them up, a piteous wail went up from those I had not favored by either vaporization or some strange form of apotheosis, and as I turned back to them, I saw that their tablets had become living flames that consumed their screaming, writing forms. Well… that was certainly grim… I wondered if this was the Boss making a show of things or if it was Trelane being super dramatic… or if they’d subcontracted Industrial Light and Magic to be this over the top?

Either way, it was time to subsidize my nation by taking out a development loan from the IBF… Interjump Bead Fund. As soon as the immolation of the previous batch of tablet-bearers faded away, I motioned for the Golden ones to join me… I was pretty certain my ziggurat had grown significantly more massive as it seemed to take them longer to climb up to me… yes… there had been three tiers… now there were five. Counting from my current perspective was a little brain-twisting, to be honest.

Out of blinkard curiosity, I checked out the trio with the weird prices, starting with the decimal. I figured it was some kind of joke, and it turned out to, yes, be exactly that. It was called ‘Hand That Rocks the Cradle’ and it made one of the other civilizations ‘Ancient Humanity’ and installed ‘The God Emperor of Mankind’ from Warhammer 40,000 as their leader. You know, a nigh-omniscient super shaman with fabulous mental powers and a transhuman level of intelligence. For next to no points. Yeah… no. Even if he wasn’t really interested in kicking my ass.

It was clearly a joke, and intended to be the set up for the other decimal one, which featured the God Emperor very much wanting to trample my fledgling civilization as its punchline. So, essentially, day one would feature me getting my ass kicked by a superhuman godman… yeah… fuck that. I was looking for something I could cope with!

I dismissed them and they burst into happy little flames that sounded glad to be released from their prisons of cloth, metal, and flesh… I assume flesh. I didn’t see it… thankfully.

The third oddball, the non-fraction one, was (on the other hand) exactly what I was looking for. It was called ‘Full Table’ and it bumped the starting number of civilizations from four (mine included) to a maximum of sixteen, at two beads a pop… up to eight. After that, the only value increasing the number of players had was in adding extra space to the planet. Since I couldn’t keep the planet, I saw no reason to bump it up past eight. That gave me another eight beads, bringing me back to fourteen.

As I confirmed the purchase, the Golden tablet and its bearer turned into a pillar of fire and shot into the starry firmament, then split into four and they rained down around me, bringing four more mountains from the deep cloud-sea… making the total nine… that… hmmm… was weird. there had been five before… maybe the Barbarian Faction counted? Or… hmmm… oh… of course… Ahab and Joy.  Seven potentially enemy factions and two in theory allied factions.

I looked at the remaining five. The fractions hadn’t changed, so apparently ‘Full Table’ hadn’t counted against the total I could take. ‘No Nation an Island’ was simply not worth it, since it guaranteed that my culture wouldn’t ever be self sufficient, never able to make enough food or money to make ends meet. While that was fairly realistic for a global civilization, it would be death in the early days before there was a way to reach other cultures reliably. I couldn’t count on being able to use my fabricator technology to help my people… especially with that Two-Beader screwing me over. I smote the bearer down with great satisfaction.

Also on the receiving end of my righteous ire was ‘To The Last Man’ which ruled out Cultural Victory (i.e. requiring either a Science Victory or complete Warfare Victory)… and essentially meaning I couldn’t assimilate the weaker nations ‘peacefully’. That one was at least worth four beads, but it screwed with my tactics.

As did ‘One City Wonder’, which meant I could only found a single city. I wasn’t certain if that would stop me from absorbing or conquering other cities, but I didn’t want to risk it. It talked about only being able to expand my territory out to a single continent.

That left two that I was willing to consider; the unpleasant ‘Raging Barbarians’ and the deeply disturbing ‘Backed by Nuclear Weapons’. At four and six beads respectively, they were nearly at the limit… but did I need to inflict Barbarians upon everyone… myself especially?… and even worse, did I really want to inflict arms races, coldwars, and potential superweapon technology to be involved… especially since that would bring memetic Warmonger Gandhi into the game?

Oh, who am I kidding. I had to have memetic Warmonger Gandhi! And to be honest, if my plans went as they should, it really shouldn’t matter. In fact, keeping the Sword of Damocles on table was really doing little more than putting greater survival pressure on my people… and in that spirit, so was the Barbarians. Vigilance and deadlines, enemies to practice against and a threat to overcome. That gave me another ten beads, bringing me up to twenty-four. The ominous sound of drums and the fires blooming on the other mountains were matched by the smell of burning fires and the howls of hunting horns much closer to my temple. I just had to hope I didn’t regret this. But that was the deck stacked against me. Now I just had to find the tools to beat the odds.

As Warrior Scientist God-King of this unnamed people, I got a number of freebies to start me off on the road to planetary conquest; ‘Accepting the Divine’, ‘The Hanging Gardens’, ‘The Brandenburg Gate’, and ‘The University of Toronto’ to be specific. Wow… Canada must really be paying Jumpchain big monies for this advertising to beat out Oxford, the oldest University on Earth. One perk, three wonders. Science and Warfare didn’t come with free perks, unfortunately, which was kinda a gyp since I’d had to pay for them. Buying all three perks in each Methodology would cost twelve beads, including the base cost. Ah well… I didn’t price these things… 

Once again, I considered who exactly did price these things. The Boss certainly didn’t seem like he actually knew much about what would be valuable to a mortal. Did they hire mortals like me to make them? As a Jumper, I knew what I was getting out of being a Jumper… what did a Constructor get? I’d have to try to remember to ask the… what had I thought to call him back in Middle Earth? Oh yes. The Banker! I’d have to try and remember to ask him about what Constructors got out of the deal… in twelve thousand years. Or if Constructors even existed… I wondered if he’d answer either questions.

But back to the freebies. ‘Accepting the Divine’ would allow me to handwave explanations with ‘I’ll Explain Later’ and have people actually accept that… as long as I made a habit of actually explaining in a timely fashion after the immediate crisis was over. It wasn’t much, but it couldn’t hurt to be prepared… maybe someday I’d find a way to give perks that I didn’t really need to my companions.

As a talisman, the God-King’s Gardens kept any food I was aware of from spoiling, and tripled the resulting portions when any recipe was prepared. As a structure, it would improve the quality of all harvests, ensuring that they were a quarter more bountiful and effective… i.e. nutritious or flavorful or (in the case of medicines) potent. 

Warfare’s Gate would turn any situation-room or negotiation venue into an ideal home field advantage, giving everyone on my side a boost to their willpower and dedication, allowing them to debate indefinitely while feeling no mental fatigue. At full-size, it would imbue my people with enhanced professionalism and enhanced mental endurance, allowing them to take pride in their work, whatever that might be, and pushing them to go the extra mile every time, without fail.

And then there was Science’s University, which would allow an instructor to teach ten-thousand students at once, all while ensuring that each and every one of them got enough personal attention to excel through extremely efficient advice and instruction… or it could become a fully functional and accredited university campus, complete with faculty and staff, an institute of higher learning where even a moderate amount of effort would be enough to guarantee an earned grade of A-minus. Not a given grade… an earned grade. As in the student will have learned that much.

Between the three I had increased food production, increased morale and production, and effective education. Add in the Statue of Liberty, and I also would have a steady stream of cultural converts. Reviewing the others, I decided that I needed one more thing for the full house, and spent four beads buying Culture’s The Eiffel Tower.

I didn’t really care about its trinket effect, which was to make others think of me as more cosmopolitan and ‘more like them’… though it would probably help with various negotiations, I didn’t really need help in that regard. What I really wanted was its structural bonus, since it would become a shining beacon to the glory of my culture. Anyone who followed me, be they worshippers, citizens, employees, or minions… even those who I was merely friends with… would be proud of where they came from, being less likely to immigrate or switch jobs. Effectively, it was a culture-wide loyalty enhancer. In other words, when combined with the Statue, people would defect to, but be much less likely to defect from, my culture.

I leaned back, chuckling and rubbing my hands as I watched the four mammoth symbols of my rule rise one by one from the clouds, none of them appearing as they had in my own word. The Gate looked like a vast quadruple spiral of fire and water, with the fire flowing up and the water flowing down. The Tower took the form of an enormous pillar formed from three women with their backs to each other, a caryatid, but with one woman dressed as a warrior, one as a scholar, and one as a midwife. They were new graces for a new people. I named them Gabriel the Just, Inanna the Merciful, and Sophia the Wise.

The Garden too was unexpected, a massive dome of green carved with a labyrinth supported by pipework that watered all the plants and would wash the city that could fit under that glory with floral scented rainbows every day.

As for the University, it was a crystalline spire a thousand meters tall, a many faceted needle that cast a kaleidoscope of images all around it, symbols half seen and less understood, but transfixing for all of that. It was an lighthouse of enlightenment, shining light into every crevice and corner of the world around it. With a wave, I dismissed the remaining Wonders, needing not pyramids or rosetta stones, libraries or oracles, telescopes or palaces, colossi or colosseums… or at least not needing them enough to pay beads for them.

Now it was time for the good stuff, and with only twenty beads left, I knew I couldn’t afford to be distracted by anything from those Methodologies that I hadn’t bought, so I waved them away. As it was, there were thirty beads worth of purchases left in God-King, Warfare, and Science; I’d have to make some cuts.

The most obvious place to make cuts is, of course, in the middle. In my experience, the cheapest perks are often underpriced, and while the most expensive perks are sometimes overpriced, they’re also usually extremely powerful. Middle perks had a much greater chance of being underpowered for the cost, as if the Constructors were simply filling in slots between lowest and highest.

With that in mind, I considered God-King’s ‘Primitive Screwheads’, Warfare’s ‘Authority Equals Asskicking’, and Science’s ‘The Enlightenment’, knowing that if I eliminated each of them, that leave me one bead from away from being set. Then I could buy all three capstones and two of the remaining three one-beaders. Screwheads simply reduced attacks from barbarians by fifty percent and made rebuilding faster. Or would have had I not taken a drawback that threw that out the window. Not that I’d have taken it anyway, since it had no real effect outside of this jump. And anyway, my people will be warriors… they will be able to defend themselves. Barbarians were simply self-supply examples of the problem with barbarism. A repeating object lesson, lest anyone forget.

Asskicking was actually pretty good, since it meant that any organizations I deigned to belong to would adhere to the fundamental rule that the higher one’s position in that organization, the more competent that person would be at, you know, doing whatever the organization did. It was nice, but there was still much to buy and again… it seemed more like filler.

Enlightenment? It governed the scientific method… thanks. I think I had that one down pat. I know that description is glib, and it did more than that… but not really much more and, as expected, it was just not powerful enough to justify the cost.

On the other end of that spectrum, God-King’s ‘Let there Be Light’ was cheap as sin at a single bead, and since it granted me the power of increase… you know, the whole blessings that make fuel burn longer, food be more filling, water become purified, potions become strengthened, and the overall purity of anything improves… yeah, for a single bead I was basically taking care of all the basic necessities of life for me and my people. The towering waterfall over which a glorious rainbow formed was the symbol of that purchase. 

That left me to decide between Science’s ‘Tabula Rasa’ and Warfare’s ‘Martial Culture’. TR wasn’t too bad, since it would remove my own built-in biases and make me aware of any assumptions I made… but MC was just too good to ignore. For the price of a single bead, it would make discipline radiate from every defensive wall and the hearts of every citizen and child of my civilization. Those who followed me or who were loyal to my cause would gain a soldier’s bearing and a commitment to our common cause that would become a seamless part of their lives. My people would lose none of their personality and vibrance, but would become more professional and dedicated than before or than they otherwise would be. As an added benefit, physical training for myself and my followers would become twice as effective, ensuring that everyone would be acting at peak performance at all time.

For a single bead? That was hard to beat. Like I said, ofttimes, the extremes were better than the middle. And that meant that, if the trio of capstones were worth it, I could afford the eighteen beads they’d cost me.

First up was God-King’s ‘Realm of Myth’, which would grants Mythic Grandeur to my civilization… or my organization… or just to my companions and me. You know, the bearing, stature, health, and beauty of all those mythical lands and peoples, be they of Hy-Brasil, Atlantis, or Shangri-La. That alone would be worth the points… it’s hard to fight a nation of people who are objectively better than you… but Realm of Myth also make the performance of legendary feats possible for me, such as wrestling the wind or sparring for twenty days and nights without food or rest, tickling a river, or seducing a stone. Again, that would have been enough, but (over time), it was promised that my chosen people (especially my companions) would become imbued with that potential as well, gradually becoming grander, larger-than-life, and serving as an inspiration for all kinds of tall tales and myths. I wasn’t certain actively useful it all would be, but it would be epic, and the people inspired by such epics would have plenty of motivation. 

See what I mean about being worth the price? I’d have paid full price for that… but I was perfectly sanguine paying the discounted price.. and grinned as a glorious colonnade sprung up all around my now towering many-tiered temple, the architraves supporting kiloton blocks of alabaster ready to record the glories of my people’s history.

Science’s Capstone, ‘Tech Tree’, was another case of something worth every bead, even without a discount. It was a magnificent piece of lunacy which not only boosted my own innovativeness, but conferred such a brilliance upon my people as a whole… wait… that’s just the start. It was the way that brilliance manifested that was glorious (and gloriously insane)! YOu see, Tech Tree meant that any time my people or I wanted to create something, we’d easily be able visualize all the steps we’d need to take to get there. That’s right, an instinctive understanding of each step needed along the path to any research goal. From fire to cold fusion eight-hundred and fifty-four steps… which, incidentally, was how how many steps my ziggurat now had. It would even tell us which branches of research could lead to the next paradigm shift or singularity. The ramifications of that perk unending, and the tree that grew to match the other one had more fruits than its sister by orders of magnitude, though the more lucious the fruit, the harder the climb.

Both of those were amazing, of course, but the Warfare Capstone, ‘Art of War’, was a must buy if ever I’d seen one. Not only would it give any civilization that had it a platonic and conceptual mastery of warfare, a set of axioms and ideals that would be completely embraced at all levels, once that perfectly encapsulated the fundamentals of war into an almost always applicable omnibus. In any form of combat, I (and the forces I led) would never be surprised and complicated tactical or strategic directives could be conveyed in the span of a few words, usually as some effortlessly quotable phrase. All of which was awesome enough on its own, but that was merely sauce for the real meat of the perk, a nice juicy roast that made Authority Equals Asskicking yesterday’s news. 

What was this wonder of the age you ask? I shall tell you. Objectivity. It granted Objectivity… as in ‘Those under your aegis are objective about their own strengths and weaknesses, with an intuitive understanding of how their comrades compare.’ Yes! I know! An entire civilization of people who are aware of their limitations and capabilities… and about how they stack up to others. And yes, it came with the rest of the package… the part where the best person for a job will confidently volunteer for it and those with inferior skill will recognize that the volunteer was the best choice for the job… and (best of all) have any feelings of envy and inadequacy transformed into a desire for self-improvement. It even meant that those who were objectively superior would have those feelings of superiority and pride transformed into a desire to instruct and assist others. I literally could not spend the beads fast enough. 

The clouds before my temple flowed apart, revealing a huge plaza, a grand promenade like the reflecting pool before the Lincoln Memorial, but a dozen times larger, and with axioms of the Six-Fold Permutations emblazoned in platinum on the polished black basalt. It was a marshalling yard big enough for a million man army to parade in comfort.

With all my beads spent, something occurs to me. I’ll be here for 12,000 years according to Trelane… my companions will either be stuck out of time… where I will have forgotten them by the time the jump is over… or aware of the passage of time… where we will no doubt drive each other insane over the long haul… No… something must be done, but there hadn’t been an option to import my companions. I mean, of course there hadn’t been… they would be gods or commanding their own cultures. I looked around to make certain that I hadn’t missed anything, and noticed a scroll under my left foot. Unrolling it I found a note: Eight shall be the number of the chosen and the number of the chosen shall be eight. If eight go out, a ninth shall not go out, saving that one of the eight return first.

I laughed. Great… eight companions could be manifest in the world at any time. Wonderful. We’re a pantheon. As I watched the world unfold as the clouds continued to pull back, I pondered the positions. 

At the head of the Pantheon was me, of course. With my tree/computer and my armor and my sword. At my right hand was Zane, of course, the God of Justice & Loyalty. I should give him the Space Sword. My consorts, Ryoga the Boar God and Yoiko the Bear Goddess, dividing Passion and Obsession between them. Bao the Scholar God and Uriel the Builder God. Kendra the Goddess of Hunters and Toph the Goddess of Defenders. Ziggy, Ferret of Chaos; Rayray, Goddess of Wind; Petra, Goddess of Earth; Joy, the Goddess of Wisdom & War… Ahab, the God of Medicine and Punishment; Francine, Goddess of the Mind; and AJ, God of the Body… and Dyna… God of the Unknown. We’d do as a makeshift pantheon until I could figure out how to actually make us, you know, actual gods. That had to be on the chain somewhere, right?

I considered my choices two or three times, making certain that I was okay with each purchase and rejection… nothing seemed out of place. My plan seemed sound. Everything was as good as I could make it… though planning for 12,000 years or so wasn’t something I’d ever really done before, and there were too many gross variables that I just had no way of prediciting. I just had to hope that a) everything would be fair (i.e. everyone would start at the dawn of civilization and no one (besides maybe me) would have access to anything more advanced than pottery. With no small trepidation, I confirm that I am ready.

As it turns out… I am not. One by one, my friends emerged from AvatarLand, looking around the mesa that we stand upon, looking down upon the world through the clouds. They shake off the masks they have worn for the past life or two (Ziggy seems fine as a fire-ferret, and climbs on my head with a chitter.) The warehouse doors gape open behind us. And then the game begins.

I both am and am not incarnate. Both on the mesa and within the ziggurat. I am the Manifestation, and there is the Manifest. There is a Manifest in every age, a person who has all my bending and magic, my psi and conduit powers… but is not me and lacks my martial expertise, my experience, my… meness. They also lack my augmentations. I live in the eternal, granting my power to them only when they enter the Manifest State. They dwell in the world, living in the years, but the speed at which those years pass is breakneck, at least from my lofty position. Time keeps on slipping into the future, and I find I have to concentrate to remain in the moment, to focus my attention down to the small scale, the personality of the Manifestat at any time. And in those times, their persona is strong, dominant, as (though they are all me) they have been shaped by their lives.

We call ourselves the Maegi… the Wise, and in every generation the Manifest comes, the Great General of Balance. I speak from on high and impart the ways of things to my people, dispatching the great champions, the Archons, my Chosen, down from the Heavenly Precincts to do my bidding and to serve the people. Our city, Logos, grows, expands, crushing the local barbarians before inviting them to join us… their scattered villages becoming outposts of the Maegi People.

We do not hate that which is different, we welcome it, encourage it to grow strong even as we teach it the ways of discipline. Each of our cities is unique. We do not impart Culture, do not speak of Worship, only what is real and observable… and what is duty and discipline. Ours is a society where problems are solved and blame is accepted, not leveled.

Manifests rise and fall, and I am within them when they call upon me, but I am not any individual Manifest… I am the spirit from on high… but I cannot move from my throne upon the mesa… cannot rise from my contemplations. They become part of me as they reach the end of their cycles, but I am still me. My friends keep me company as they too cycle through the world, regaling me with their adventures, their triumphs, their failures. While they are here, time passes for them as it does for me.

A year passes in just about seven hours by Victoria Standard Time. A little over three years a day. By the end of the first century, I long for a fast forward button. But none is forthcoming. I now understand why Gods are alternatively either waaaay too invested or seemingly remote. The prayers get… irritating after a while.

A thousand years pass before we even meet another of the non-barbarian cultures of this world. They are religious fanatics, and they call themselves the Reapers and name Sarin as their leader. I shudder at the memory. We have reached the age of roads and bronze. Yet they are technologically advanced, wielding weapons of steel and riding giant land-crabs into battle. Still, they are rigid of thought, and though they press our borders, we smash them back time and again. We are not rigid and we learn from them far more than they learn from us.

By the time we destroy them, we have industrialized and we have met the others, the Lotus Eaters under Zaheer, who are full of rage and unbridled aggression; the Purebloods under Lord V, full of xenophobia and tradition; the cunning Morgants under Sauron; the seemingly pacific Rihannsu under Spock; the jingoistic meme-obsessed Patriots and their leader GW… and of course, the Indians and their absolutely psychotic leader, Gandhi.

The others all have their skills, their methods, their inscrutable ways. They are balanced against my own, and in theory they could rival me… but I have too many advantages and my people trundle towards victory. I relax… and they form a union to fight me. The United Federation of Peace, they call themselves, even as some of their leaders lather like rabid dogs. We have tried assassinating them… someone always takes their place. By the time we get to Lord V V… I just give up on that plan and push my people ever onward.

We reach the space age before the dawn of the third millennium… and achieve Orbital Superiority while the others are still trying to grasp the basics of rocket flight. It is all over but the shouting. And yet I stay my hand. I will not go for the military victory of KE strikes. I will not invade other cities. Instead, we claim more and more land, our population swelling as defectors from all sides race to join us… many of them spies… but our culture is compartmentalized, disciplined. We know computer password security and we always dispose of hardcopy.

By the mid 2000s (7625 BCE), we have orbital habitats that ring the planet, our people are… productive… and I am utterly bored with it all. Being a god isn’t fun when every mistake costs actual lives, when the production lines you need to bootstrap from transistors to microchips require the discovery of something to use as rubber, and where people keep expecting you to solve all of their problems.

For something to do, I encourage the Maegi to colonize the Moon, then Mars… then Titan and Venus, Europa and Ganymede. The world may not look like Earth, but it’s still in the Sol System and the nearest star is still Proxima Centauri. I strive for a Science Victory, and in the 2720th year of my reign, the New World Voyager, a sub-light colony ship, departs for Alpha Centauri on its forty year mission. But nothing happens.

“Trelane!” I bellow, “What’s the deal? Do I have to wait for it to arrive?” The idea of waiting for the nearly twelve days grates on my nerves already.

“Oh, no… precious. I told you. You’re here for the long haul. All 12,000 years. No time out for good behaviour.”

I snarled. “That’s not how things are supposed to go!”

“Tough.” And his presence vanished.

What does one do when there are no more wars to fight? By 3300, there weren’t. The last holdouts of Spock’s forces had finally joined the Meagi… and there wasn’t any real chance that the Meagi would split into rival factions… we didn’t have a centralised state like that. We were a culture, not a nation, we were a people ruled by the best and brightest… with those skilled in one area pursuing their tasks without any central authority. Roads got built because they needed building, food got produced because it needed to be eaten, there wasn’t any corruption… because there weren’t any laws. Everything worked on a social contract.

I realized I didn’t understand my people at all. I watched them, gave them guidance… but they were beyond me. Their art failed to amuse me, their music failed to do more than distract me… and finally, I let them go. They didn’t really need me. The Manifestation’s came and went, spiritual leaders to an ever expanding interstellar power, and ‘the One who is called’ when shit goes down (usually in the form of marauding alien barbarians). My companions had stopped descending to the mortal realm centuries ago… they no longer seemed interested in the people… well, except for the food. The food was excellent. Being the Manifestation pretty much meant I could get anything delivered to my palace… and I did. Once every year, the Manifestation would call for a special meal and some city would be tasked to prepare it in their local style.

Breakfast took a week. Lunch… a fortnight… Dinner an entire month… local time. I took a nap once that lasted a century. Okay, it was more a self induced coma, just to see if anything would change. It did… but not in a good way. Apparently my other self had decided to go into self imposed seclusion and so the entire culture had become ascetic, contemplative… and frightfully dull. I wanted to scream.

Things got progressively more and more boring as time passed. It was like watching an ant farm. More than once, I seriously considered wrecking disasters down upon them, as if I was playing SimCity. But finally, after eight years of sitting in the same damned position, I had an epiphany. The Maegi Culture was boring because I was bored. So I Manifested fully and declared that one day a week would henceforth be spent on frivolity…. And the week was changed from the twelve-day cycle everyone knew and loved… to the nine-day cycle which made far less sense.

I changed the national anthem to a Magoo Translation of Twisted Sister’s ‘We’re Not Going to Take It’ and changed the symbol of our state from the Star of David to a tic-tac-toe board with eight boxes full and the last space giving a win to whichever player went next… and lacking any indicator of which player that was. Every decade from then on I did something else that was just a little strange… like formally discouraging pasta more than 11 centimeters long, or declaring ketchup to be a vegetable, or mandating that flip-flops were formal footwear.

I put forth memorandums on picnics, wrote books on the subject of practical jokes, and encouraged whistling for no practical reason… in public. I issued statements from the pulpit on why ferrets should be in every home, why cookies were the natural end to every meal, and why lemons should be called yellows. I was no longer taking my role as spiritual leader or god-king seriously, and things were getting progressively stranger for the Maegi. Impractical Camo uniforms replaced the occupational color coding, hats of ludicrous design became commonplace, and pizza was as close to criminalized as a lawless society could do… which led to secret basement pizza joints.

Finally, the ten years or 12,300 years ended and Trelane reappeared, looking grumpy.

“Lost didn’t you?” I asked, smug.

“Yesssss.”

“The bet was that I’d get so bored I’d destroy what I’d worked so hard to build, wasn’t it? That I couldn’t be happy without a problem to solve or a war to fight?”

“Yessss.”

“You didn’t expect me to prank a quadrillion people, did you?”

“Oh, you’re no fun anymore. Why are you sitting on sand with your idiot friends washing water back and forth and imitating the sea?”

“It’s tradition. Have some Pizza… it’s extra heretical.”

Next: Final Zolution

Resources: Build, Document

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