World 29: Supernatural

Turn Turn Turnabout

Previously: In Which I Accidentally the Whole Guild

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

Arriving back at the warehouse after one monster of a going away ceremony and being read out of Fairy Tail… they have a whole ceremony for it… it’s pretty passionate. There are three rules. The first two are standard security NDA stuff… 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, you must never consider your own life to be something insignificant, and you must never forget about your 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 machines… and swore. “Three Blind Jumps in a Row? Is this screw with SJ’s Genre Savvy Century?.”

Zane looked over and grunted, “Supernatural? Bit vague isn’t it? Something generic like Great Detective?”

I shook my head. “No… crappy monster of the week tv show… like Charmed 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… 2 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?”

“Looks like. 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.”

“Assuming that, yes.”

I looked over at the machine… the wheel was for location… but aside from Purgatory, all the other choices were in the American Midwest. Definitely wasn’t worth wasting 100 Choice Points on something that minor, so I spun the wheel and ended up in Chicago… the Five Monster Families playground… whoever they were.

Next up is Origins and here I almost ate my damned tongue… a litany of Monsters, Witches, Angels, Demons, and GODS. Now Demon and Monster were frankly terrifyingly bad choices and Angel and God were almost too good to be true… Angel isn’t half bad… but requires a host vessel for full power… and Pagan God… wow… this show is really damned Christian… still… no way can I pass up the chance to be a Pagan God… and for free? Sign me up!

I promptly proclaim 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. Best dog… that was before I discovered ferrets though. I rolled the dice for age and got… 960… oy… that was going to be a lot of skiing memories. Being a God… and that solved potential questions re: Gozer… gave me not one, but two free perks… 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! 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 300 CP fast enough. I know! Only 300 CP? Outrageous!

The Freebies were “Virgin Detector” (a sixth sense that does exactly what it says on the tin and is never wrong.) and “In My Name You Pray” the ability to offer a blessing to a person or place so long as someone performs an offering to me. 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 tough 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.

Pagan Gods also gained discounts on such joyous things as “Force of Nature” which 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… and “Trickster”, which was not only the ability to conjure something from nothing, including minor monsters or objects with a personality of my own design (didn’t allow me to grant them souls alas)… sure, doing so relied on having a constant and copious amount of sugar to recharge… but it also allowed me to use sugar to recharge my divine power instead of, you know… human sacrifices, blood, worship… none of that needed. All I needed was like… a few gallons of kool-aid with smarties dissolved in it. And both of them were available for the rock bottom cost of 200 each. A steal at twice the price… which I didn’t have to pay because discounts. Still, I was now down 700 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. Still, I hadn’t checked for companion imports… So I decided to do that first. 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… 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… Normally it was a 3 per, but if I bought the Pantheon, I’d count as one… so it was half price for only 2/3rds the effect… that was odd… 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. Still, 200 CP would get three of my people their choice of origin… if they could agree on anything. I offered the choice to Zane and he considered for a while, then voted for Hunter.

“Really? Hunter? Why Hunter?”

“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 would get a kick out of being a Slayer again… and you can invite Velma… she likes Ghost Hunting.” And so that was that.

“Sure, why not. I can spend 200 CP on a Hunter Road Trip!” We high fived. For my [200] Zane, Kendra, and Velma 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 while listening to the Hunter and not just panicking or freezing in terror), and 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… and 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 200 CP stipend to spend on Hunter Gear… and 600 CP 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.

Also on the subject of yes really… Zane used all 200 of his stipend to buy 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 1957 chevy 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.

“Why?”

“Can’t have a Road Trip without a Car!”

“We could buy a Car.”

“I DID!”

“I meant with cash.”

“It was either that or a handgun, a crowbar, and a set of handcuffs… I could buy all those too.”

“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!”

“Yeah! It’s called Biggerson’s and it’s apparently the 27th largest restaurant franchise in the United States of Monstertopia! And we get to eat free!”

“We are on a road trip… and we get to eat free at a single location of the franchise? What do they serve, anyway? Biggerson’s? What kind of name is Biggerson’s?”

“An awesome one! And no. Since we own one of their franchise locations, 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! Burgers, Chicken Wings, PEPPERJACK TURDUCKEN SLAMMER! 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!”

“Great, I’m happy for you… anything else?”

“Oh, sure. An Angelic tracking perk 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. 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 having this debate. Fine. Get your crime on. See if I care. 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.”

“Entirely acceptable… encouraged really,” I reassured her.

“OH… I wasn’t certain. When we did RWBY, it was important to think of the team, and Touhou and Fairy Tail were…”

“Power fests?”

She considered, then nodded, “That’s an apt description… Anyway, I bought Bullshit Ballistics which makes me a really good marksman and allows me to make speciality ammo that’s designed to hurt specific enemies without worrying my modifications will fu… mess 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 she found that I was watching her speak. “Umm… I… you don’t have to stare.”

“But I like too… you’re very pretty. But go on, please.”

She gulped, then nodded jerkily. “I thought… 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 to detect supernatural energies and objects… it also contains psychometry… you know, object reading and stuff like that. Might be useful to know whether or not an item is cursed right?”

“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. Kendra?”

“I didn’t waste my time with perks,” she shrugged.

I chuckled at her words… “Didn’t want the perk that actually relates to Hunting?” I drawled, to which she 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?”

“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.”

“Freeze, sorry.”

I patted his shoulder. “You are mental.”

“You love me for it,” he said, scooping me up and giving me an annoying huge and face rub.

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?”

“Apparently, yes. It is said the gun can kill anything and comes with the instructions on how to make more of the bullets, which can kill anything that isn’t exceptionally power 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 take it that cost all your points?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” she confirmed as I turned back to the document, flipping through the equipment section to look at the spa. There it was… along with a 5-Star hotel with a 24-pie buffet for gods, and miniature hell and purgatory and an abandoned town. Weird… but interesting.

I did note that I could buy Mjolnir for 100… and laughed. I could use an artifactual lightning weapon. “A truly devastating weapon belong to the Norse God Thor. Tremendously powerful in the hands of electrically inclined pagan gods and it can even incapacitate other pagan gods with a single blow… Some lesser gods might be killable with a well placed blow.” I could even import Soul of Ice into my Divine Weapon… but that would spend me out completely. I had to get flushbooks before I spent more.

All three of the low level Drawbacks were flavor and little more “Room For Two?” [+100] 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 doable so that got me back on track. Busty Asian Beauties [+100] would make me a obsessive perv, 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! I could take Whiny, a drawback that made me… well… Rarity… but all it would get me was some more god companions. If I wanted anything worth buying, I’d need something with more oomph.

The 200 point drawbacks were no fun; a Drama spike, a Watch What You Eat spike, and an addiction to Demon Blood. No thanks. The 300 pointers made me an enemy of Heaven, Humanity, or Hell. I considered just settling for even… but a bit of soul searching told me I was going to get on Hell’s bad side regardless (not that I suspected the Angels of Heaven were much less of dicks), considering that demons are assholes, so I might as well take Enemy of Hell [+300] and get points for it. Flying under the radar when the fate of the world is on the line isn’t my gig.

That got me enough to get up to 300 points worth of stuff… 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. But there was an Item that blocked demonic possession… “Matching Tattoos” which was a Guaranteed Method to ward off demonic possession! And one that couldn’t be burned out of me… and was damned hard to burn off or remove from my allies… and 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… but 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 400, but I could cope with being a Whiny brat for a decade if it helped in the future.

That just left 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. Didn’t work, of course. Action Junkies, the pair of them. They came in as a Monster (Ahab, a Shapeshifter who could become 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?

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’s missing, Lucifer & Michael are plotting to bring about the motherfucking Apocalypse because why the hell not, and half the remaining Pagan Gods (And boy howdy are we fucking easy to kill in this universe, I’m wearing my armor all the time here and pulling like Zero punches any time anything supernatural looks at me crosseyed) are plotting against Lucifer… though some of these dipshits are planning on betraying each other to settle old grudges or because they think these two angelic fucks won’t betray them in turn. Morons.

Fucking Hell has a goddamned revolving door, Lucifer will break free any damned day now, and God is AWOL… oh, and haven’t heard word one about Mohammed or Jesus, so the show’s kinda a dick to the mythology it’s backing too. And these Archangels are turdfaced yahoos too.

Which goes a long way to explain why I’m in New York City watching the ball get ready to drop, on New Year’s Eve with Vivian primed to hijack every TV and Net Feed across the damned planet. I’ve decided to play this all on one roll of the damned dice, one massive fuck you that should never work, but since the supernatural in this world is objective fact, I can do this shit. I have the power.

See, way back in Civ, I bought the power to say things as they are, to speak truth and remove everyone’s blinders. So that’s what I’m going to do. Fuck secrecy. Fuck a war as old as time. Fuck keeping people in the dark. As the ball drops, I step up onto the podium, booting some idiot celebrity off with a kick and turn to face the crowd. I dial up the glamor to 15.

“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. Oh, and 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?

Oh, 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 Beiber and make them punch each other. I told you, I’m a goddess. But don’t worry… there are also monsters out there to kill you all, eat you up like snacks… yeah, they’re real too.”

I paused, grinning a grin that said I hate you all, each and every one of you. “But 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… It doesn’t even matter if you speak English, because all I have to do is speak the truth. 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… oh, 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, Criminals, and oppressive dictators. So, go kill them too.”

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 be. 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 this world and I scrubbed the Powers that Be away in one mounting wave of anger.

I tapped into the souls in Hell, the souls of Purgatory, all the collective rage of the human race and asked them if they’d surrender their existences to get revenge against an uncaring and brutal God… and they did… 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. 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 erased everyone’s memory of what had just happened. That’s the great thing about that power… and the terrible thing. 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?”

“Ayup. It sucked… I want icecream.”

Next: World 30 – Hack the Gibson

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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?  Huh… Another blind jump… this one blinder than the last. The basic intro makes this world seem a little more goofy, a little more cheerful, though, so there is that. I read everything, emerge no less confused. 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? Kids books don’t usually have fan service. No way to know. The main kingdom seems to be called Fiore… population 17 million… Maybe it’s French animation.  Fiore sounds French… and one of the guilds is apparently called the Oracion Seis… that could mean the Oracion Six in French.  I’m going to guess French Animation.

I do note the companion buy… not bad… I also note the literal fuckton of massively expensive and not at all discounted powers. Damn! The top tier has some nice stuff, but it costs 1000 CP to pick… 900 to get a random one. Ouch. Might as well grab one. 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.

I roll for age… 17. Roll for starting location… Onibus… a theater town… huh… trade in my C-Class Magical Power to get 100 Choice off a higher rank and roll for S-Class Magical Power, as most of the lower level ones sound fairly… limited… Dragon Slayer… [200/1000] You have the power of Dragons within you… Choose a single magical element – you are now immune to all mundane sources of that element and any magical sources of it weaker than from an actual Dragon. In addition, you may consume this element to recharge from fatigue caused by using this technique. This magic lives up to its name, and while highly destructive against anything, shows its true potential when in combat against anything that could truthfully call itself a Dragon.  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 (ooo…. burn… oh no she didn’t! Oh yes I did! Take that Sokka! Wow… I’m lame.).  Immunity is better than raw power… I think.  Comes with Motion Sickness built in.. bleh.

Buying “Because I Have My Friends”, the Companion Import, costs me [300] (-100/1000), which spends me negative, but grants all my companions a free C-Class Magic and 400 CP… with a discount on anything I have… which, I guess, in theory means they’d get a discount on Fire Dragon Slaying?  Hmmm…  Either way, I need Drawbacks… especially since I don’t really want to be a drop-in here.  Worldly knowledge seems like it would be key… otherwise we’ll end up wandering around going “Ummm…”

The first one I take is Fanservice for +100… I can cope with a little embarrassment. I consider Motion sickness… I can fly and teleport, vehicles aren’t a big concern of mine… but I’ve had problems with actual motion sickness as a child… don’t need to bring up those memories… Or my lunch. Obsession… yuck… Ill-Adjusted… heh… “I can use magic? Holy Shit! You have wings? Aaaaack! What’s wrong with you people?”… tempting… but naw.

Evil Twin… I’ve had an evil twin before… doesn’t say they have all my Jumper Powers… would be worth waaay more than just two hundred… and they get an evil one of my companions… mmmm… But maybe a “Dark Guild” (which are apparently outlaw guilds) would be better. Eh. I’d rather face a bunch of experts than myself. Don’t need to deal with two Evil Me’s.  +300 for being the target of a bunch of magic assassins. A little challenge isn’t a bad thing. That brings me to 1400… with 300 left to spend.

Guild Membership costs me [100/200/1400]… That could get me a discount on Fighting Spirit… but that would leave me with 50 left… I settle for Resourcefulness [100/100/1400] “The ability to make do with what you have in almost any given situation… at the very least, you’ll never be without some way to survive in a hostile environment.” And I consider paying out my last 100 for the 18x Gale Force Reading Glasses… which, as the name suggests, allow you to read and comprehend text 18 times as swiftly. Could be helpful… assuming they’re not something I could buy in jump or make once I’ve studied the local enchantments… 

I decide that they probably are something I can buy with cash instead of CP, as it seems like the kind of thing a magic rich society would turn out, and instead opt for Magic Identification [100/0/1400], which promises me insight into what type of magic is generating any observable effect… i.e. are my shots missing because the enemy has precog or because they’re slowing time or because they’re 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.

Most of my companions are still a little… umm… not quite talking to me after the events of the last jump. Zane seems unphased by the whole process, in fact I’m pretty sure he enjoyed himself. In fact, the whole Pokemon Crew seem to have taken it all in stride. Dyna especially… what with the tentacles and all… but the rest… umm… there’s a lot of awkward silences and embarrassment and recrimination. Of the humans, only Toph and Uriel are speaking to me. Everyone else has retreated in on themselves. Kendra especially. Dunno what their problem is… not like things didn’t happen to me too… I promised adventure and power… not safety… At least no one got vored. Okay, okay… I 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, 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. Works over short ranges only.”  as well as the Strength perk “Even without magic, you seem able to lift more and hit harder than those around you.  Your muscles are at the pinnacle of humanity.”, and the Fighting Spirit perk  “No Matter how strong your opponent, you just keep getting up when knocked down.  So long as you have the will to stand and fight (and aren’t, you know, dead), your body has no choice but to obey.”  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… 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 one B-Class and one C-Class Magics and gotten Heaven’s Eye, a magic that “Allows the user to zoom in their sight on objects or people up to five kilometers away.  In addition, the user can see through about 50 meters worth of solid material at a time.” and Sand Magic “The user can manipulate and create Sand, which can then be launched at enemies or formed into walls.” Zane, the Sharp-Eyed Sandman… I can see him using sand as a both sniper shield and bullets. And since with Sand Magic you can create sand, not just control ambient sand… hell, just sculpting beaches could be a valuable skill, depending on how fine of control on the type and grain size he has… and 50 meters of solid material… that’s about a third the thickness of an American Football Stadium. Most buildings aren’t even close to that far across.

AJ snatched Sword Magic (probably as soon as he saw it was offered) “The user gains the ability to channel magic power through swords to reflect various effects, as well as telekinetic control of numerous swords at a time.  The number of swords starts at four or so, but will grow with time, practice, and storage space.” and also picked up Resourcefulness.  We’ve been together since the very beginning, him and me, through flush times and lean times.  Always nice to have a skilled swordsman have your back. Sword Arm Ajax… huh. Implies a defensive mindset that… 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?

Francine, probably the most changed from what she originally was, took Dancer, a magic that “Allows the user to increase the fighting capability of allies in a 10-meter radius by dancing.  Also boosts one’s own agility, allowing for excellent dodging of the inevitable attacks.” and  Thought Projection “You know a spell to send a sort of hologram of yourself to speak with friends or taunt enemies remotely.”.  She named herself Mind Dancer Flora… 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, Abra start out among the most human of mon as it is… and are psychic.  I think the fascination with spoons reflects much the same desire as Ariel’s fascination with forks… a desire to understand the strange creatures that they share their world with. 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 by any metric, also took two magics… High Speed which “Allows the user to go fast… Very Fast… somewhere around “Jet plane” Fast. Doesn’t allow the user to fly.” and Thread Magic “Allows the User to create threads much like spider webs.  These threads can, in fact, be used to create such webs and stick people to them.” “Hyperspider Dianna”… that’s not creepy… especially after what “she” pulled in Touhou-land.

RayRay, never one to settle for less than the best,  spent all her points to get 1 random roll from the S-Class table… thanks to me having bought it… and snagged “Gravity Magic” which grants the User the ability to control and manipulate gravity in a variety of ways, useful for pinning multiple opponents to the ground, increasing or decreasing the gravity of anything in line of sight that they are aware of, crushing weaker magics, or even suspending things like people and rain in mid air.  Somehow that fits. It’s scary, 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 named herself “Skyfisher”

Petra followed suit, clearly hoping for Machina Soul (the power to absorb technological items) but ended up with Devil Slayer… the power to kill powerful demons, a variant of Dragonslayer that allows the Devil Slayer 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’ll be untouchable… almost. 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. 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.

Uriel’s choice were a strange, almost whimsical blend of useful and gleeful. From the perk trees he snagged Resourceful and Pragmatism “There’s standing your ground honorably, and that’s all fine and well, but you always seem to know when it’s time to just get out while the gettin is good.” That was the intensely practical side. For magic… he picked Aera… “the ability to sprout wings and fly.  Flight speed can be increased at the cost of magic power, and one other person may be carried by the user.” which seemed a bit whimsical and carefree to me, but maybe I was projecting a vision of the angelic Uriel… but he’d chosen to name himself “Battlecrow”… which was probably more in the Valkyrie / Odin line than the more Judeo-Christian model. He had a note attached “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.

Bao, clever, scholarly, always eager to prove himself useful… picked up Archive… a strange little magic that “Allows the user to store information in a magic database, as well as shield themselves with the UI screens and identify other magics.” and Enchanting, “You’re in the business of making magic items! Even the most powerful of these, however, are simple light-up items or rings that keep you cool on a hot day… most such items are sold in stores as utility pieces.”  which is a money-maker I’m sure, but seems strangely powered down for this setting. “Spellbroker” is what he named himself… I guess he was planning on playing the mercenary analyst and hoped it 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. 

Ryoga went for the power, rolling a random S-Class as well… and… horror of horrors, snagged himself “Crash” a perfect complement to his blossoming God of Destruction motif.  It was billed as “The bane of the works of man.” With but a touch, gates fly open and skip like rocks through the estate, castles crumble to dust, and weaker spells simply shatter. Bones Shatter… Towers… Shatter. Used carelessly, the strongest iron fortresses or greatest battleships can 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.

Yoiko, being slightly more sane than her big brother, took the Haggling perk “You are more apt at spotting the quality of goods and thus their optimal price.  This decreases the amount you pay for things by about 10%.”  as well as Agility “You are nimbler now, capable of somersaulting, cartwheeling, handstanding, and leaping from rooftop to rooftop.” and Charisma “You seem to have the gift of gab… people are about 1/3rd more likely to listen to you.”  She also took the C-Class magic “Binding Magic” which allows the user to generate soft tubes that can stretch or constrict to bind opponents or be used much like whips.”  I wonder if I should be worried about what “Yara the Lash” might be plotting.

Kendra, apparently sick of bullet hell battles, took 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 is completely unaffected by the spell, even if it enters the radius later while the spell is still at work” and Magic Shoes “a pair of Lacrima-powered shoes that increase your running speed to that of a cheetah.”  Slow and Speedy, the ultimate rope-a-dope. 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”… 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.

“K… 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.

“They sound like something that can be bought in setting for cash.”

“For how much cash?”

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

“Fuck optimal.”

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

“The Jumptree doesn’t say anything about it.”

“It doesn’t… but can it hurt to ask?”

“… it says Weretigers are noted for their ferocity and speed.”

“Will it let you be one?”

“Yes… for 50 CP. But it warns that they’re uncommon and not well liked. And somewhat unpredictable.”

“Something to consider.”

“I’ll send you the revision.”

She did.  She bought the weretiger… and one of the these strange Celestial Silver Spirit Keys… the one that summons an annoying thieving raven named Corvus… supposedly can only be summoned at dawn of a prolonged conflict (anything more than a single day)… but that’s the problem with being all but immortal… sometimes your personal feuds can last… ages. I suspected she’s doing this to irritate me, but I refrained from mentioning that there’s every chance these Keys can be bought in setting as well… It just wasn’t worth the hassle.

Joy, a disciple of the gun and preparation signed up for the “All the Guns Ever” club, taking Gun Magic which “Allows the user to load various types of magical bullets (usually with elemental enchantments into guns and fire they so as to cast spells. This can even include candy or bubble bullets.” and a strange sounding magic called Requip which “Allows the user to summon equipment they own from a pocket dimension (the cosmic warehouse) while in battle and stronger users can switch equipment many times during a battle.” While it’s not infinite ammo… we have hundreds of guns in the arsenal. If she starts magicking up bullets, she could load dozens of different mission specific loadouts and just summon the gun she wants at any given time. I’d considered it, but I don’t have a lot of weapons that are anywhere near Soul of Ice or armors that rival VIctoria… maybe I should start working on that. She 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.

Ahab seemed a little leery of the whole magic thing… even after all these years, so he took the Leadership “You seem more suited to taking charge of situations than others… in fact you’re about 1/4th better at this than you were before.“ and Read the Atmosphere “Your knowledge of dialogue scripting gives you a better sense of how tense a situation is, making it easier to respond accordingly.” perks. 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 SJ. 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, Ahab did take one magic… Body Restriction Magic, which he claimed seemed more like a combat technique, since it “Allows the user to immobilize a target by effectively causing their limbs to fall asleep. This magic requires physical contact with the target, and can be shrugged off with strong enough magic or a strong 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 wonder why.

As for an identity he simply drew a smiley face… with one horn.  Oh, good lord… he was going to resurrect the identity “Venom Snake”. 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, took Palm Magic “The user gains the ability to channel magic power into the palms of their hands, allowing for potent palm strikes capable of smashing boulders, among other effects.” as well as Green Magic “This non-combat magic allows the user to greatly accelerate the growth of plants, especially small ground-cover types, but also trees) and halt desertification.” I like her sense of balance… shame more of the Magics weren’t non-combat in nature.”  Slap the ground, make grass grow! In the box for identity she put “I am Toph.”  Of course she is.

I sent her a PM. “Toph the What?”

“What?”

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

“There is only one Toph.”

“There are many.”

“Nuh huh.”

“Yes, huh. There was 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. Too much thinking, not enough punching.”

“I’d say you need to get laid, but…”

“Hahah. I didn’t have nearly as much sex as you did, slut.”

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

“So you say. You got caught a lot!”

“Regardless… Toph the What?”

“You’re change the subject!”

“No, you’re trying to change the subject and blaming me of doing the same to cover it. 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.”

“I… huh… okay.”

“What?”

“I’m calling your bluff.”

“You want to be Lotus Head Toph for a decade?”

“No.  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!”

“You are a git with dirty toes.”

“That too.”

Velma, still feeling powerlag and somewhat shaken by the appalling power level of the residents of Gensokyo, barely contained as it was by the nature of the Danmaku Battle System, wasn’t at all certain she’d be able to deal with this new and, quite obviously, similarly overpowered setting. 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, like many others went for a duo of magic rather than any of the perks on offer. She picked up Archive as well, which did double duty as information system and defense… clearly designed as battlefield Command and Control for a magical world, and the randomly chosen B-Class “Solid Script” which allowed the user to cast spells by writing words corresponding to the effect… for instance writing the word “FIRE” in the air would create an image of the word “FIRE” made out of fire that could be launched at opponents.  This cannot be used to bring about any spell more powerful than the caster could otherwise use.” Sounded weird to me… but then again, a magic GUI that doubled as a shield was pretty weird too. It sounded highly flexible too, since it pretty much allowed almost any effect that could be summed up in a simple word or phrase. I’m not certain what the limits of a master of Solid Script would be, but I suspected she’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? What am I, grandma?”

“Short for Veritas.”

“So I’d be True True? At that point, I should be Trueheart.”

“Verity Truehart.”

“I… sure. Better than Vera. Oh… I had a thought. Can my Script be in Latin?”

“Don’t see any reason why not. Why?”

“Fewer people know Latin. 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.”

“True… but wouldn’t it be better to use a language with non-Latin symbols so they can’t even guess?”

“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… but 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 excercise. 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 not 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.”

Cirno… 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 we pointed out she could already do that and we were being mean. Then she took Flattening Magic “allows the user to flatten their bodies to a paper-like state. This aids in slipping through tight spots or dodging attacks”… which I guess makes sense because she’s trying to minimize her hit box… though she’s missed the point that it’s only from one direction of course… and rolled the bones twice to get two more random C-Class Magics… Ended up with Wool Magic “Allows the user to create and control fluffy, comfortable pink wool so as to distract opponents or break falls.”… and Smoke Magic “Allows for the control of pipe smoke (of a color of her choice) to form fragile decoys of oneself or strike enemies with smoke fists.”  She seems… strangely pleased with that… and pulled out a bubble pipe… baka.

Personally, I think they all sound next to useless compared with the other things on offer… even other things in the same category… but what can you do? The Random Number Gods had spoken. 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.

“Atura? You coming?”

“Indeed. I believe it would be best to simply take my chances on one of the high level S-Class magics. Since we cannot afford Lacrima Creator, obviously the best choice from it’s price tag among the perks, no matter how we adjust the points. The maximum for this iteration is 1600 and Lacrima, a Random S-Class, and the Group Import total out at 1900… It is unworkable.”

“You could take something you find interest instead of pure power.”

“I find everything interesting.”

“Oh.”

“And 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. Is there any one of them you are most interested in?”

“Rules of the Area seems nice.”

“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 let’s see what the Numbers say… 3.  That’s… God Slayer.  Not plotting against me, are you?”

“I asume that was a joke. 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?”

“Er… yes. 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… 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.  Do you… there is a story of a venomous insect and a small mammal and a river…”

“I know it. 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… though 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.”

“Then I shall continue to do so.”

“I thank you. Though I do worry, 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. Vivian! Main Screen, Mandlebrot Set, keep expanding it slowly.”

“W… what are we looking at?”

“This is Chaos, in Mathematical terms.”

“It is… for lack of another word… lovely.”

“It is. 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.”

Why does this answer my worries?”

“Because, Atura, my friend… all order is is Chaos taken far enough to reach equlibrium… 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.”

“Yes well… I like you too… now I have to get everyone ready. You ready?”

“I was born ready.”

“You were born?”

“All things have a beginning, all things have an ending.”

“So they say.”

“Just don’t go picking fights with any Gods without consulting me first. 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.”

“I… it’ll have to do.”

I looked around at my crew, gathered for a sullen pre-insertion peptalk. “Look. We’ve had a rough go of it these last 10 years… and we’re jumping blind here. But… we’re 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… I nodded… no point in wasting any more time… we weren’t going to be any more ready than we already were. I hit the confirm button and we dropped.

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… as in the butt appendage of a pixie or something. Clearly, from the name of the Jump, they were the defacto heroes of this story… but 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.

The economy of being in a Guild was pretty simple. People brought us contracts, we 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. 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 (who clearly was the Protagonist of this circus of Shonen Anime Lunacy) had a brain slightly softer than overcooked cabbage. Lots of Fighting Spirit…but very little brainpower 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…. Though fiercely, uncompromisingly loyal.

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.

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 over being cast aside out of my head.

But if I couldn’t join Fairy Tail… maybe I could beat them. 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.

I’ve been to worlds with magic or things very much like it before, don’t get me wrong. I’d even been to Touhou… but all of those worlds had had relatively few supernatural abilities, and most of them had abilities that all worked on the same basic principle. This world, Earth Land… had none of that, as far as I could see. And so I needed to analyze the magic of this world, to figure out how it worked and what made it tick.

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. 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 FTs. 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), 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 gage how far my own abilities had grown… it had been a while since I fought like this. And to force myself to grow into my new abilities, I 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 as well… but I knew from experience that without something to push me, I wouldn’t master it. I had certainly never managed to unlock my Semblance in RWBY as I used too many other non-aura abilities.

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 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… 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 KO… The others were holding their own, collectively, against the duo of assassins. As it turns out, the reason why 4 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.”

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.

We fought through a change of day to night and night back to day again, for 18 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 can cut it. And way back in the mists of time I’d learned the ability “Shehai” 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 block 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… I twisted the intangible blade, then caught the swordswoman as she fell.  

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

“I have cut away the darkness in your heart.”

“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. The world is shaped by words and ideals. I simply made them my reality… and yours.”

“You cheated.”

“I did. I’m bad like that. Anyway, I believe I’ve bested you and spared the lives of you and your team… your choice where this goes next. Anyway, I have to go fight Fairy Tail now… so you be good.” I left my team to watch them 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… and Gray had effectively none. Of course, while I’m telling you that, dear reader, rest assured I never feel the need to gloat about my powers mid fight like a comicbook character.

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!”… no wonder Natsu always wants to punch him. But that aside, he did have some subtlety, able to freeze things to the shattering point and create intricate iceforms… 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.

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. And Makarov was old… really old… for a local.

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. His personal team within the Guild was called Thunder God Tribe (such hubris), consisting of Freed Justine (a wardmaker), Bicklsow (a doll mage), and Evergreen (a walking medusa with killer fairy dust)… I also hadn’t faced any of them… since they were off adventuring. I mean, I knew where they were, but they weren’t exactly 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 had strange crystals embedded inside his body, Lacrima… crystallized magic… that gave him the ability… as opposed to Natsu and I and this turkey named “Gajeel” who was an Iron Dragon Slayer, and this kid “Wendy” who was a Sky Dragon Slayer… all of whom had been trained by dragons. Gajeel had started as a member of the Phantom Lord Guild but after they were forced to disband, 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), leaving her to join Fairy Tail as well.

Laxus… was also Guild Master Makarov’s grandson… and pretty sore that Gramps had banished the father/son between them from the Guild for being a Grade-A Asshat… something Laxus seemed keen on repeating. Regardless, 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 item related to a Lightning Dragon… then made sure Luxas heard about it. 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… 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. 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 Gray meant that they were now constantly hounding me for a rematch.

So I told them that if they could convince Erza to fight me and win, 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 200 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” 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 these various magics 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. But they were, almost to a one, learnable techniques, 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 her massive collection of magical arms and armors, which she kept in a pocket universe and summoned 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 ten so called Wizard Saints, the 10 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 to take out this absolutely obscenely tall tower in the middle of the ocean… and that Trinity Raven had been dispatched there to slow any 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 16th 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 (one of those magical crystals)… 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.

Not long after that, 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 (Why the hell is he in charge?) 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. Definitely a Shonen… Again I tagged along, me and mine trying to find some hint as to what the bigger picture was.

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 take down of the giant walking Good/Evil Reversing spider. Which might have been a good thing, since apparently Motion Sickness is part and parcel of being a Dragon Slayer… that better wear off at the end of the Jump or I’ll want a refund.

A few weeks later, I arrived in Magnolia for my routine fight… 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. 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 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… was a lazy bum who made her minions do everything for her and never shared her candy. Thankfully, she didn’t have any of my local powers… let alone my Jumper abilities… though she did have a large criminal organization.

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…. 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-Dragon Zord and we threw down, me and my companions piloting the 6 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.

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 rendered 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 what 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, plus another S-Class called Disassembly 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.

But 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, 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, Alzack, and Elfman, 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. I pointed out that I belong to a rival guild, they shrugged and pointed out that Gajeel and Juvia had belong 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 6th 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, but 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 4 aces in the hole.

As Legit Guild Master, he could call upon the three secret magics of Fairy Tail… an incredibly powerful defense spell called Fairy Sphere, a general attack spell called Fairy Glitter, and a spell that wipes out all who the caster views as enemies called “Fairy Law.” But more than that, he could draw on something called Fairy Heart… a source of functionally infinite magical energy… something I, as a mere usurper, invited or not… could not. It was a functional 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, who turned out to be all demons from the “Book of Zeref”.

They 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 unlocked “Second Origin” (a way to tap into deep magical reserves within yourself), 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 can 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.

Still haven’t discovered my Semblance yet. Very annoyed at this. Maybe next jump? Did learn Fairy Law… Kinda had to 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

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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

“Touhou Project?” Zane asked. “What’s that?”

“I have no knowledge of a Touhou Project” VIvian responded.

“I…” 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.”

“This jumptree is six kinds of fucked up.” Yoiko commented, messing with the Vending Machine. “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 Anti-Matter 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?”

“The import is expensive… 600 Choice.”

“Fuck… what do we get for that.”

“Everyone gets 600 CP.”

“Everyone… as in the 8, or everyone, as in everyone?”

“Everyone but you. All your companions gain 600 CP to spend for perks.”

“Shit. Fine… I can’t pass this up, can I… Let’s start on the damned DBs and work backward then. I want this for you guys… this jump is going have a fuckton of powers, I can tell.”

The system protested a little, but not too much as I skipped through the infoscreens and past the Origins. “I’ll be right back.” I commented. 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.

“Silly Hats and Frilly Dresses, +100 just for wearing hats? Okay… I can do that. Woman of Honor… +200 for eschewing tech and acting like an old fashioned lady? Wow. Yeah, I can do that. This is a no kill setting pretty much. I’m not seeing any fail states. Okay… All According to Plan gives one… 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. Incidental is +200 and means I will be the cause of a major incident that will resonate in Gensokyo’s history forever… for good or ill.. Nothing low key… Hmmm… Doesn’t sound too bad. Hmmm… Mists of Amnesia… +300…I… huh. I don’t know anything about this world… none of my companions know anything about this world… fuck it… let’s snag that one too.”

“SJ.”

“Yes Zane?”

“That’s 800 points of Drawbacks.”

“Hmmm… Yes it is. Not nearly enough. Let’s toss in Reimu Syndrome for +300… Everyone will rely on me to resolve whatever comes up. It asks if I think I know the lore well enough… and I don’t know the lore at all.”

“You’re out of your mind.”

“You want to back out of that tasty tasty 600?”

“No… but… umm… right… never mind.”

That put me at 2100, more than I’d ever had going into a Jump… of course, my friends immediately ate [600] of that, so I was back down to 1500/2100… time to get me some goodies. I was 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 each were pretty damned powerful. Tengu (Spirits of light), Oni (Spirits of Darkness… with a deadly bean allergy), and Vampires (Powerful as fuck, blood-addicted, sunlight-allergic…)… Tengu it is. [300] (1200/2100) “Tengu are incredibly skilled at magic and are known for their incredible speed and agility that few could match. They are also fast learners that can easily adapt to unexpected or unfamiliar outcomes, and have a knack for tricking and confusing others to their advantage. Tengu also take both physical and behavioral characteristics, both good and bad, of an animal of choice, though Crows and Wolves are the most Common.” I thought about taking Ferret… and the DB Jumper Stole the Precious Thing… but realistically, Ferrets good qualities are that they are fearless and cute and very energetic/resilient/clever/flexible… their bad qualities are they’re kinda stinky and sleep aaaaalll the time… and are total kleptomaniacs. Then again, most animals are kinda stinky… scent’s a big thing to almost all of them. I assume Tengu aren’t stinky. Eh, what the hell. Ferret Tengu and Jumper Stole the Precious Thing +100 (1300/2200).

“Shut up Zane.”

“Didn’t say anything. That was Toph moaning in pain.”

“Was not! Lying dog!”

“Woof!”

“Children! You have perks to buy, stop annoying me.”

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… Ruler had… more. I went with Ruler [100] (1200/2200). 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… 1200 points of Drawbacks are not good… but sometimes it’s the Zero point ones that screw you.

Free Touhou Sound Track… yay?

Pick up Soar… says it’s crucial. Sure, I can already fly… fuck… this is [100] points… I overpaid in Buffy. Still, can’t say it hasn’t been useful… could use a little boost. (1100/2200) The ability to levitate and fly, with full speed sharp cornering and reverse. 100 miles an hour in reverse… okay, that’s just scary.

But not as scary as “Third Eye of Satori” [200] (900/2200) “The ability to read the hearts and the minds of any being, no matter if they speak a different language or even if they are animals, though only in their immediate presence. This power also grants the ability to hypnotize others by manipulating their conscious minds. Furthermore, if your targets are in a compromised mental state where mental resistance is minimal, are unconscious, or if they simply allow you to do so, you can tap into their memories to experience them for yourself.” The potential for abuse on this one is so high I can taste the darkside calling from it. I remember loathing Emerald for pulling even half this shit… but the ability to scry into the heart and mind of any being and to memory surf are too attractive. I’ll just have to watch how I use mind control, yeah? Not like I couldn’t do it if I tried with all my psy powers already.

And speaking of abusable… Hakutaku’s Gift (300) (600/2200) grants “The ability to affect memories on an extremely wide scale, concealing the truth by planting your own false information. However, this power can only extend back in history for so long, unable to alter any memories past a certain date. Creating vivid and believable memories is also quite difficult. Once every full moon however, you may change one specific historical event in the recent past to another of your choice, changing the course of history from that point onwards, reflecting into the present time. This however cannot ever stop a life from being lost or take a like as a result of your changes.” The ability to manipulate individual memories or even rewrite history… ouch… hard to pass up. Though it does mean no time manipulation power.

Now it all comes down to either picking up the Ruler Capstone, “Scarlet Destiny” which would allow me to manipulate the fucking strings of fate, grant me massive luck and make my enemies suffer misfortunes… or snag the elemental powers. Both are tempting. But as hard as it is to pass up an 800 point fate manipulation ability, I fear what I’d become with that kind of power. I’d become the spider in the web, a pure supervillain or spymaster… and it would also reduce some of the fun. Some of the danger. I like luck… but it’s… relying on it can be a crutch… and I prefer active abilities rather than reactive.

I go with the Elemental’s Secrets [400] (200/2200). It’s the Eastern Elements this time, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. I can already manipulate 3 of these directly (Fire, Water, Earth) and the other two indirectly… So I could take all five… but a boost to my Icemagic… Hard to say no to. I don’t remember much about Touhou… by I do remember the Ice Fairy’s name was Cirno… she had wings… 3 foot long shards of ice really, floating behind her. She was cute.

Atura grumbled about lacking Balance. 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.”

Elemental’s Secret was powerful, control over the Wu Xing Elements; Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water… as well as the power of the Sun and the Moon, handy since my Firebending relied on one and my Waterbending the other. Each of the abilities is said to have a lot of individual potential, but that they shine brightest when creatively used together to manipulate the world all around me.

And with my last [200] I scoop up Doll Maker of Bucuresti, which makes me an indisputable genius in terms of mathematics and science in a realm ruled by magic. My abilities with technology and engineering is so great that I am able to adapt to handling, repairing, modifying, and even reverse-engineering completely foreign devices I have little to no background on. My connection with both practical technology and magic allows me to unlock the secrets to true magitech, given enough time.

I turned to the others “Okay, What you got?”

Zane 

“Lunarian Drop-In.”

“A Moon Bunny?”

“That’s Militant Moon Bunnies… and 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. 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? But you’re mental. 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. Also 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!”

“Do you?”

“Yesyesyes! Follow in sky! weeeeee”

“Flying ferret… scary.”

“Yes! Scary! Weeee!”

“Anything else?”

“Ziggy like trees!”

“Forest Fairy? a Tanuki?”

“Is treat?”

“You get to wear a leaf on your head.”

“YAY! Sleep now.”

“Focus Undivided and Elemental Secrets Wood so you can pay attention in battle and make a nest to curl up in… right. Sleep well baby. Good Ziggy”

AJ

“I am your right hand, mother.”

“You don’t have to call me that, you know. You’re my friend.”

“It’s a formality. You have proclaimed yourself our leader, I shall be your servant. A Grass Fairy Servant for a Ferret Tengu Overlord.”

“I prefer to think of myself as more of a First Among Equals Lady.”

“As you will, mother.”

“You took Focus Undivided too, didn’t you.”

“I am your sword… or in this case, your Scythe.”

“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. And the Oduda spirit papers to ward and protect you from mischief.”

“I-“

“Mischief from external sources.”

“Right.”

“And Tai Chi Master, so I can see and harm ghosts and spirits more easily.”

“Well then… sounds like you’re… commited.”

“I am your right hand. Plus I got some spending money for snacks.”

“I’m so proud of you.”

Francine

“AJ’s being a little suck up again, isn’t he.”

“Be nice to your brother.”

“He tried to convince me that we should be your loyal servants. He your right hand, me your left.”

“You objected?”

“I saw no reason to play along with his game. 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? Nothing from the “POWER OVERWHELMING” category?”

“Unnecessiary. My intellect is already superior. 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, the strongest psychic in the group… because it’s cute.”

“I get to be a Moon Bunny Mage! Why are you hitting your head with that that book?”

Dyna

“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.”

“Dyna… it’s called Lunatic Red Eyes.”

“My optical organs are blue.”

“Right…”

“And my mental processes are not impaired.”

“Gotcha.”

“Does this build please you?”

“Does it please you?”

“Pleasing you pleases me.”

“That’s it, you’re getting hugs.”

“I do not require… please let go… I am having resperatory difficulty.”

“You are not, I’m not squeezing that hard.”

“I think I smell something burning. You should go check.”

“Hugs will not kill you.”

“You have no proof of that. Best not to test the theory.”

“Would you like me to call Yoiko and have her hug you instead?”

“I shall be silent.”

“Good Dyna.”

Petra

“Boss… why are you snuggling Dyna?”

“I amuses me to do so.”

“I see. 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 don’t usually do that, do I?”

“You don’t… but 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.”

“Valid Point… I think you’re a few points short.”

“I will also take the Sorcerer’s Sutra Scroll, 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.”

“Ah… well… Ziggy can’t read anyway.”

“That has not stopped him in the past.”

“True… 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.”

“That’s fine, you don’t have to be a Youkai.”

“Humans are lesser too.”

“You know, you’re a little bit bitchy sometimes.”

“Yes.”

“Did you buy anything?”

“Yes.”

“What?”

“Maiden of the Worshipped Wind… 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.”

“And not because you’re functionally a wind goddess and couldn’t pass up the title?”

“Irrelevant… 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 spirit and convert it into power. It can tailor attacks to an enemy’s specific spiritual energy, transforming the ambient energy into whatever that enemy is weak against.”

“That’s fairly blood thirsty of you.”

“I need no other weapon than my breath and claws… I merely thought you could study the enchantments and potentially replicate them.”

“Awww… thank you sweetie!”

“Humans are stupid.”

“I’ll remember.”

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 why not, 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.

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 a bit, 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 90 in his first life when he died. You barely reached 30 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… 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 arguement 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 control 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 sperate 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… 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 somethings 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. 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 28 – In Which I Accidentally the Whole Guild

Resources: Build, Document

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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