KILLING ME SOFTLY
Previously: Diplomacy in Real Time
Themesong: Eternal Flame by The Bangles
And so it was, that after 10 years of playing nursemaid to a republic of very annoying people, I handed over power once again and stepped, gratefully, through the Pillars of Time. Why would anyone want to put up with this nonsense I asked myself, not for the third time. But then the myriad Magi God-Kings that made up the majority of my other selves pointed out that we had the advantage of having ruled nations for longer than most civilizations lasted. We had long since grown blase about the perks of power. Hopefully my next jump wouldn’t be political.
That hope lasted mere seconds, as I saw the words “Princess Bride” on the VMoD. I was about to scream “Again!!?” when a memory swam out of the darkness and I laughed. “Oh. Right. The Movie. Duh.” hadn’t watched that film in… huh… Not since Origin. It hadn’t been on my computer and, while I almost certainly had a copy somewhere in the media archives, I’d largely forgotten it. Which was a shame, because it used to be one of my favorite films… and one none of my companions had ever seen… even in all the time we’d spent in WestWing and Gargoyles. A few minutes talking with VIvian, getting her to clean up the visuals and edit the ROUS’s so they actually looked like rodents and not men in rat costumes, and we set about clearing up the problem, post haste.
The randomizers showed that I’d begin this trip in the Fire Swamp (Woo! Excellent, I could build a house there, since the threats weren’t so much threats as perks for me and mine… Fire Spurts were clearly natural gas pockets which could be tapped for fuel, lightning sands were ignorable since I had All Terrain Hiker and could walk on damned clouds if I wanted… and so could my companions… and the ROUS’s were probably tasty when cooked properly) and at 27 years of age. Oddly enough, the Companion Import Option was upfront and center, before even the origins… 50CP got me 2 of them… I plunked down for 6 [150/850/1000], then threw them out into the bullpen to let the savages fight over them. They’d only get an origin and a free perk.
The choices? Bard, Mercenary, Noble, and Man in Black (You are worldly and experienced with a broad skill base but a painful, trying past that got you those skills. You’re a walking, talking epic, well read, dabbled in piracy, with an air of mystery. Your history is one of survival despite the odds. You boast serviceable skills in anything adventuring; scale cliffs, navigate swamps, fence capably, etc. Jack of all trades, master of none. Epic love story optional.) were an interesting quartet, but I went with MIB, simply because the freebie made me laugh. “As You Wish: You have a catchphrase. So total is your ownership of this sentence that you may substitute it for any other sentence and convey the replaced phrase to your allies… i.e. ‘Well, that can’t be good.’ could mean ‘Lookout! Monkeys!’ or ‘Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance!’” ‘Woooo’ was mine.
Of course, the next two were nice as well. “I’ll Most Likely Kill You in the Morning” [100/750/1000] meant that nobody could quite find it in them to kill me in cold blood. They’d continue to find excuses, reasoning that there is personal gain to keeping me alive that one extra day. This didn’t mean that they’d keep me comfortable, of course… an interrogator might take care to keep me alive but still torture me (which, thanks to 80’s Action Movies, would just make me tougher and more sarcastic). It wasn’t much, but a protection like that for a measly 100 CP I could get behind. And “Dread Pirate Roberts” [200/550/1000] gave me the uncanny ability to approach just about anyone, even a fearsome violent soul, and convince them to be my mentor (Darth Sidious maybe?). I’ll rapidly master any skills they can teach you, until they’ll retire and I can flawlessly take on their identity… Dunno when I’ll use it, but the thought of using it to replace some Big Bad was just too amusing… and potentially useful, considering some of the IPs out there.
Oddly enough, not only did the Man in Black… Woman in Black… capstone fail to appeal to my sensibilities, but none of the capstones seemed worth it to me… well, except “Death of the Author”, the Bard Capstone, which allows the recognition of plotpoints and defining moments… I was tempted, but I worried it would make things too boring. Also, too meta.
There were more perks I wanted… at least 600 CP worth… and I didn’t have that much… so Drawbacks it was…. Or rather “Complications”… and for the first time, they were upgraded if they matched my Origin. That meant, if I took all three MIB discounts I could get 900 CP. Castaway [+150/700/1150] I could cope with, as it just screwed up any trip I took that was longer than a day. So, space travel was right out… but I could circle the world in about an hour and cross Europe in minutes. Why Won’t My Arms Move? [+300/1000/1450] was a little more irritating (At midnight each day, one of my arms, legs, or neck would go limp and remain so for the next 24 hours, at which time it would repeat. For the entire jump.) but I could easily overcome the problem by using VIctoria… seeing as how she doubled as a powered exoskeleton… or by using TK. It would be annoying as hell puppeteering myself, but, challenge is good and this one would only inconvenience me.
The same could not be the same if I took the last one, which would set Florin and Guilder at war with each other, setting Westley as the long lost Prince of Guilder and see Buttercup married to Prince Humperdink in order to raise morale. Not only would people die because I took that, but I’d have to get Westley and Buttercup married and the two kingdoms united under them or the chain would end. 450CP wasn’t worth the lives of others, and certainly wasn’t worth risking a fail state.
The other 3 capstones were insane: Count Rugen empowered with every form of Swordsmanship I’ve ever encountered with a collection of the finest swords around, a Vissini complex (Inconthevable!), and a literal metafight between me and the author over the fate of True Love in the story. The 200s included a fixation on solving every problem with love or Mawwage or kissing, a case of the screaming alcoholisms… and a seriously nerfed sense of empathy. That… could be actually fun. Being a bitch to everyone for a decade. “You Mock My Pain” [+200/1200/1650] horribly muted my empathy for others, making it difficult to relate to them, and also killing their empathy for me, meaning they’d immediately label me a sociopath. Eh. Not optimal, but not terrible. It was based on Rugen, it wouldn’t mute my charisma, just make me a jerk.
As for the 100’s… one would make me broke, one would give me a decade long head cold… and the last would make people interrupt me to make puns or rhymes off of what I said. No wonder I’d have no Empathy. ‘Anybody Want A Peanut? [+100/1300/1750]” Hurray for Fezzik!
That brought me back to flush, so I could buy “Hello” [100/1200/1750] which made me fluent in every significant style of fencing to ever grace the small sword, a poet of steel and violence… which was just… delicious. A swordsmanship and style upgrade. I could also get a feat that was just… oh… my… god… it was rapturous. It was the greatest thing ever… it was the thing original me would probably have gleefully killed for. It was “Speed Reading” [200/1000/1750] and it meant that, on touch and at will, I’d gain the effects of having read a novel, document, webpage, movie, etc with deliberation and thought. Sure, it didn’t work if user input was required, but who cared?! It even said that, at will, I could mute the memories of a story to enjoy it without spoilers. Mute, not erase! Every reading of my favorite works would be new, varied, and unique.
Oooo… this was orgasmic. It was a one two punch of awesome. With my memory, this was instant memorization of any static media… and that it came with the ability to get new enjoyment of my favorite media. I’d have paid 1000CP for it… but I was glad I hadn’t had to.
Before I spent myself back into the danger zone, I checked the Gear list. Everyone got appropriate dress, a month’s worth of currency, and (if not a noble) a Tenfold Bag, which was, as it sounded, a bag with a capacity ten times what is suggested by its size and a weight a tenth of what it should be. As a Woman in Black, I also got my very own Mysterious Mask, which was a terribly comfortable mask that had an occluding effect; my own lover wouldn’t be able to recognize me with this on without further clues… to up the insanity, I made it a black silk eyepatch with a silver rose pattern inlaid upon it.
The other discounted items were amusing in the extreme. Iocane Powder [50/950/1750] was a small vial of odorless, tasteless poison that dissolves instantly in liquid… to which I had perfect immunity (even without my immunity to poisons in general)… it is fatal within a minute to all others and the container refills upon being stoppered. That could come in handy… but C.O.U.S. [100/850/1750] was a Collar of Unusual Size… that magically resized and could be used to allow either me or the wearer to resize said wearer at will, ignoring the squarecube law and other fiddly bits of physics and biochemistry. Worn by a mouse it could outsize a man, or make a man the size of a mouse… The Collar could make Ziggy into a huge riding Ferret! Which was just… Squee inducing! And the jump even provided the perfect saddle, as in perfect… Soreless Saddle [50/800/1750] even said “This is the perfect saddle.” While made for a horse, it could easily fit it on another riding beast, and it prevents any and all discomfort from the ride itself. Can’t do anything about the environment. Hahah! Behold the Ferret Cavalry! Granted, it was a Cavalry of one… but still! If you needed reinforcement beyond me, you were seriously boned.
Unfortunately for my Perk purchasing plans, there were two 200 CP items I had to have. The Adaptanator and Miracle Max’s Medicines. The Adaptanator was a richly decorated box with dimensions roughly twice that of a shoebox. By placing a piece of recorded media… a novel, a VHS movie, DVD box set, a videogame… etc. … into the box and announcing the form of media I want an adaptation of, the Adaptanator would scry the multiverse and produce the best version it could find. The fun just didn’t stop with that little toy. As for the MMMeds, it was a regenerating supply of chocolate bonbons that could bring a man back from mostly dead to totally alive. They were more or less physical hunks of life force, inducing regeneration and purification in the subject. It could even treat, and with time, cure degenerative conditions. But that cut me down to 400.
Which would have been fine… but I just had to have the “Informal Polling Data: [100/300/1750] a fillable form with a section for demographic, a question, and six answers. Upon filling it out, a percentage breakdown of how that demographic would answer the question would appear. It would then reset. Sure, it would be based on how they would answer, not necessarily truthfully, but it was still interesting data.”
With only 300 left, I couldn’t take one of the 400s, let alone a Capstone… but I could have a 1 and a 2… So that’s what I did. Storyteller  made me a storyteller without compare, giving me a lovely voice and the oratory flair and skill to inspire the imagination, keep my audience on the edge of their seat, or quickly and easily lull them to sleep. It even made editing on the fly trivial. For a veteran GM of… thousands of campaigns, hundreds of thousands of sessions… the idea of this perk was… I might have danced a bit.
The other one was “My Name is Inigo Montoya”  which meant I’d know precisely who I am and have the willpower to dedicate my entire life to a single purpose without even a hint of meaningful progress and the integrity to be unswayed by offers of wealth, social influence, or other mundane temptations. Extra Willpower is never a bad thing and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.
In addition to Ahab & Joy, Bao, Mini, AJ, RayRay, Yoiko, and Dyna all managed to ace out victories in the various games of chance and skill the group collectively decided on. Bao won the Historical diorama competition (Done in lego, 24 hour time limit). Mini won the “Why I should get to go” essay contest. AJ won the Darts Tournament. RayRay the minicar races. Yoiko the pickup-sticks contest. And Dyna… Dyna won the Mortal Kombat bracket after Reggy got angry and broke the controller in half. I was frankly astonished she cared enough to bother playing, but apparently the genderless alien warrior had gotten rather fond of romance novels while I wasn’t looking.
Ahab, AJ, and Dyna all went as Mercenaries, making us the four musketeers in all but name, as each of them picked up “Hello”, though they each got a Small Sword (AJ a Saber, Dyna a Foil, and Ahab an Epee… leaving me to wield Soul of Ice as a Rapier). Each Small Sword was a mastercraft version of its kind (oddly enough, since all the swords in the movie were rapiers) and were self repairing and self-maintaining. Which kinda explained why Dyna and AJ were so keen I guess. They also got Tenfold Bags. Which probably had nothing to do with it.
Joy and Bao both went the Noble Path (and what a joke that word is in this setting), snagging “Statesman: Born and raised in the courts of the kingdom, you’re a skilled and capable administrator, and could run a nation – or corporation – as easily in war as in peace.” They also got the Soreless Saddle and “Modest land holdings” but no bag.
Mini and RayRay (A teacher and a dragon) went Bard, netting them Storyteller, the Bag, and the “Library: An updating collection filled with the locale’s local literary classics, fables, and children’s fiction. Includes the original Princess Bride novel and screenplay, signed by author and crew.” Huh. I guess I knew what I’d be “Reading” First. And speaking of, I gave Mini my 18x Galeforce Glasses… now I just have to find something nice for Frankie to sleep on.
Yoiko joined me in the land of MIBs, getting “As You Wish”, The Tenfold Bag, and the Mysterious Mask. And then it was off to the races.
Let’s be clear here. There was exactly one plotline in this world, one that very much would be resolved on its own without my intervention and with only two real casualties, those being Vissini and Rugen. It wasn’t that I was overpowered… I’d have been over powered for this setting after Pokeworld version 1. The “Hello” Perk pretty much made one the equal of the most dangerous fencers in the setting all by itself. Clearly the Banker knew that, because the second I hit confirm, a wheel came up on the screen saying “Double or Nothing”.
There were 13 pie wedges on the wheel: 1 of them was Nothing, and the others said Dungeon Crawl, 80’s Action, Fighting Game, Parenting, Zombie Apocalypse, Western, Medical, Lewd, Horror, Sugar Bowl, Hentai, & Magical Girl. Zombie Apocalypse and 80’s Action were grayed out… apparently because I’d already been to both. I guessed that meant there was a little less than one in four chance of getting Nothing. I wondered what Double meant, as I spun the wheel.
The wheel spun into a blur of color, the individual words shifting into unrecognizable symbols that flowed and shifted, even when I slowed time. It landed on one, but I had no idea what it said. The machine dinged and I felt something shift and squirm across my consciousness. It was as if a pollster was… polling my Selves without actually doing it. Oh… shit… The VMoD was using the Questionnaire on me to determine what I’d buy. That was dirty pool! “Subconscious Sampling Complete. Perk Allocation Complete. Enjoy your stay.” What version of Princess Bride was I going to and what had I just inflicted on myself?
Oh, for the love of…
At first, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what seemed out of place. It wasn’t a Western… there were no high plains, no guns, no cowboy boots. I had no kids, so it probably wasn’t Parenting. Everyone was fairly innocuous (Princess Bride is a Fairy Tail) so it probably wasn’t a Sugar Bowl or a Horror. Ruling out Dungeon Crawl, Magical Girl, Medical… those would have taken longer.
The first thing I noticed, however, were the… shall we say… scandalous outfits. It was like everyone was dressed for the slutty RenFaire. Second, every sentence seemed to be laced with… suggestion. And no, I wasn’t just imagining it. Third, and perhaps more worrying, everyone was a lot more… handsy. A lot. And rude. And didn’t listen when you told them that if they grabbed your ass one more time they were going to need a churgeon to remove their hand from their own throat. Even some of the local fauna were giving me and my friends the eye. It was… all a little too suggestive.
Just my luck, I’d landed us in the porno-verse version of Princess Bride… but probably the Lewd one and not the Hentai one, seeing as how restrained things were being. At that realization, a scroll fell out of the sky and bonked me on the head. It had three rules:
- 1. Carlin’s Law applies. You’re not allowed to kill anyone this jump, though accidents won’t end the chain.
- 2. Freud’s Law applies. Not only does everyone speak in innuendo and think like they’re in a porno (yes, that includes the wildlife), but anything you bring out of your warehouse will get a little more… suggestive. Expect swords to become more phallic, maidbots to get demure, and artwork to get more scandalous. If you use it in the warehouse, this will not apply.
- 3. Dredd’s Law applies. The laws of the land still apply… to you and your companions. Don’t get caught breaking them… you won’t enjoy the results… or maybe you will… who can say. These Rules go into full effect in 10 minutes.
Underneath that was what I had, apparently bought. I was now a Devoted, a citizen of one of the towns of one of the various lands of this world, raised and influenced by their particular habits and practices. This me would place more emphasis on the emotional nature of relationships, rather than the physical, economic, or political I guess. As a Devoted, I’d always have a rough idea of the location and condition of my companions and anyone else I have strong positive feelings for… which wasn’t so bad. Could be damned useful if it persisted beyond this realm.
As a Devoted, I gained the perk “Fertility Control”, which meant that, regardless of whether I was male or female, I’d have total control over my ability to get or get others pregnant… and when female I’d have total control over my menstrual cycle… which… Yay! That was, let me tell, you, the best damned thing about spending decades as a male… that and the whole pee standing up of course. TK took care of reaching things on high shelves, and those are pretty much the three reasons to be male, right?
Devoted also, as far as I could make out, contributed “Light Touch” and “Devoted to Freedom”. The first meant I’d never bring injury to someone if I didn’t wish to. Even my most mountain-cracking, city-busting destructo-beam would be damped down to allow only as much force as to be safe without causing real harm, though it only worked on sources of damage that were part of me or under my direct control. Which would make sparring and practice much safer for others, and potentially save me from accidentally killing people… though I’d have to watch it… Firing off a hail-mary last ditch attack only for it not to kill the Big Bad because it would also harm innocent bystanders wouldn’t be great if it cost me my chance to end something before things could get worse.
The second would make me instantly and consciously aware of any outside influence acting on my mind, no matter the source, as well as helping me to resist those effects. It also would allow me to recognize when others were being manipulated as well, and (with a slap or sharp word) sober a drunkard or purge a mind of hypnotic suggestions. With time, practice, and exposure, it would even give me the know how to correct the effects of even the most powerful mental influences.
From the general pool of abilities I got “Self-Awareness” which gave me active control of every muscle in my body, as well as control over normally uncontrollable bodily processes, such as my heart-rate, the appearance of goosebumps, or any other unconscious responses my body might make to outside stimuli. “Knowing Gaze” would allow me to instantly recognize the desires of others, no matter how carefully they tried to hide their intentions. With practice I’d be able to tell when they were even thinking about something they desired, or mentioning it in casual conversation. Contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t constantly deep scanning everyone with Telepathy and my Third Eye. Passive scans were useful as well, especially ones keyed to such primal things. And some people were resistant to Telepathy, or Spiritual scans, or being read (as I was, thanks to Occlumency). Redundancy wasn’t a bad thing.
“The Voice”, far from being a horrible TV show, was the ability to imbue my words ring with the air of authority, causing people to carry out my commands on sheer reflex, though unlike the Bene Gesserit Voice it couldn’t make them perform obviously suicidal acts or those that violated a personal code… at least not directly. Not sure I’d need it unless direct mind control failed… or if it would be useful on those people mind control didn’t work on… but the universe is full of people and powers. And getting allies to follow commands instantly would be excellent in combat.
“Tricky Fingers” increased my manual dexterity by an order of magnitude, allowing me to make precise moves at high speeds… such as completely disrobe a person wearing ordinary clothes in less than three seconds. Heh. Cool. Must resist urge to learn how to stack a deck.
“Crack the Shell” was a weird one… it allowed me to decide if my attacks harmed a person’s body… or just the things they’re carrying or wearing. Such attacks cannot be made to damage specific objects that are fully integrated with a body, like cybernetic implants or a robot’s casing, but… Omni-slash Induced Instant Nudity might be funny… oh, yeah, I’d totally copied Cloud’s Limit Break… Tifa’s too come to that. I’m a horrible friend, stealing all my allies’ best moves just because I can. Hell, I could even mimic some Shinigami’s Bankais with a little effort. It’s just moving Reiatsu around, after all.
And speaking of clothing damage, “Shedding the Tail” would allow me to do the exact opposite of “Crack the Shell” and shunt the damage of an incoming attack onto whatever I happen to be wearing at the time. An article of clothing will take the hit for me, exploding away like a layer of ablative armor. Nigh-indestructible clothing made of adamantium or such can take repeated attacks, but will still eventually shatter under the strain. That was just… hilarious. I wonder how Darkseid would react to seeing his Omega Beams stymied because I was wearing 40 t-shirts.
Unfortunately for my jocularity, I’d apparently gone over whatever the allowance was for that section of the Jumptree, as there was a list of Drawbacks to go with the perks… and none of this had point totals so I had no idea what poll me had wasted points on or how screwed I’d made myself for what I’d gotten. Still, looking at the drawbacks, I was cringing already. This was going to be… disturbing.
The least of them was “Bow-chika-wow-wow” which made it so everything was a little more pornographic. Pants would be tighter, shirts would have a few button always left undone, and people would be faster to… ahem. Standards would definitely be lower, and some things would still off the table… unless I was persuasive enough, in which case I (or other magnificent bastards) could get away with almost anything. This was porn… there would be other magnificent… and probably malevolent, bastards.
“Innuendo” was also pretty mild. It simply meant that every other sentence to come out of everyone’s mouth would be laced with double meaning… and it applied to all other forms of communication as well, making gestures vigorous and writing just a shade purple.
Continuing the theme of just how… wrong this place was… “Freudian Nightmare” meant that anything I brought out of my warehouse into the jump would be permanently changed so as to be more… suggestive. Plasma cannons firing in spurts, power armor with sculpted nipples, starships… ahem… well, you get the idea. It also applied to any and all technology in this world as well… which, this being the fantasy renaissance, wasn’t likely to be a whole lot, but still! Remind me to inoculate everyone with antivirals… everybody!
But then I got to the less… savory parts of the Drawback list. “No Means Yes” was bad enough… as it meant… well… yeah… it was that kind of world… grabby, pervy, and rapacious. Ravishment wasn’t exactly uncommon in the literature of the time, so it wasn’t a huge surprise… especially since this was also the age of piracy and slavery… but “Foul Beasts” meant that even the wildlife would be… problematical… seeking the pleasures of the flesh as much as they wanted food. Even tame or otherwise harmless animals… hell… even inanimate objects that shouldn’t have a sex drive would be humping our legs or making bedroom eyes at us. That was more than a little… terrifying.
“Greaaat… Just… Great. Well, Welcome to the Pervert Bride everyone.” I was beginning to suspect this train had no breaks. Good thing we were in the Fire Swamps… full of potentially unspeakable rodents and vines. And I wasn’t sure if the prohibition on killing anyone applied to the ROUS’s… but I suspect that it did. Carlin’s Law… replace all mention of the word Kill with the word Fuck. As in… I’m gonna kill you sheriff… But I’m gonna kill you slow.
Step one was putting everything back in the Warehouse before it could be used and mutated by the world… except our clothing. If anything in this world could damage me without Victoria, I would be surprised… but there was no way I was wearing a fullbody parasite in a world of perversion and debauchery.
Never fear. I shan’t go into details. I scarcely wish to remember them myself. Oh, not that some of it wasn’t fun… and a lot of it was just… hilarious… but it wasn’t exactly fit for general consumption…
I did have to burn Count Rugen’s Machine to ashes. If the normal one was bad… look… don’t use your imagination. Nothing’s worth that kind of mental scarring. I will say, however, that Inigo looked mighty fine without his shirt on… Mmmm yummy. And even Fezzik had taken a level in hunk… or so it seemed at the time.
Humperdink was still a dink. I made him dance naked in front of the kingdom to “I’m too Sexy”… but it didn’t really satisfy. I think he enjoyed it too much. Little pervert.
I didn’t mess with the plot. It was too much fun. I mostly just trailed along and patched up Westley and Inigo at the end. No relapses, no infections. Nothing happening. I did mind whammy the priest guy so he kept saying “Maaaawaaaage!” like fifty times in a row during the ceremony. I’m not sure why… it just seemed funny to me. Eventually it was like that video on Youtube where they made a song out of “This is SPARTA!” except more ‘This is MAAAAWAAAGE!”
I could go on and on. The whole thing was like the Canterbury Tales… or the Decameron… meets Princess Bride. Aside from having to break a few bones and crack a few heads, the whole experience wasn’t horrible. Still, this world’s version of the Dread Pirate Roberts… Think Julia Roberts… dressed like slutty Captain Jack Sparrow… and very, very interested in Booty. She tucked Westley in every damned night, let me tell you.
Next: World 47 – Perfect Storm
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[Note… Yes, I set this all up for a horrible pun. I’m terrible. I was torn between making Princess Bride a Western or a Lewd, but the joke just set it up too well for me. Princess Bride honestly could be the easiest jump in the entire folder. The threat level is pretty much non-existent, and (since it’s a fairy tail) everything turns out okay in the end.]