World 49: Tenchi Muyo Part 1

UNDER THE DOMES

Previously: Sweet Like Copper

Themesong: Yellow Submarine by The Beatles

Caine looked at me. I was still, for the moment, Salty Jones… kinda. “Who… the hell, are you?”

I looked down at myself and grinned, flexing as the massively oversized thong I’d been wearing before fell off onto the floor of the warehouse. My body was… ripped is the word, every muscle defined. I looked back up, totally unbothered by my nudity, waving my hand in front of my face and blasting myself with 1,000 degree fire to burn away the makeup and junk earrings. “I told you. The fatness, the sluttiness, they were… as they’d be called in your world… Flaws. They ended the moment the decade came to a close.”

“And where are we? Why does everything feel… off?”

“This is the Warehouse.”

“Just, the Warehouse? You say that as if there’s only… is that a space ship?”

“That’s VIctor. More a shuttle craft. And yes, there’s only one The Warehouse… at least as far as we’re concerned. And… hmmm…” I decked him, not lightly. He flew into the Warehouse wall, hard enough to dent anything that wasn’t, well, the warehouse wall. He looked a little dazed.

“Oww. W… what was that?”

I grinned maliciously. “That… was pain. And, you will note, I’m not being harmed seven times more than I harmed you.”

“Why did you… to test if the curse was still active.”

“I see you haven’t wasted the last ten years, grasshopper.”

“Gee. thanks. You do know there’s a chance I’m older than you.”

“Not even a little one. Best guess is you’re about 12,000 years old, as old as the oldest cities, since the City of Enoch was supposedly the first city of your world, and twice as old as bible places you as… I beat that total easily. Probably by about a thousand years. Maybe more. Anyway, let’s get me dressed.” I snapped my fingers and a white suit formed as I shimmered and transformed back into my default form. “And get some food.”

“Food? You’re a vampire… you don’t eat.”

“No. Salty is a Vampire. Salty is just one of my forms, my existences. I am SJ. And you are my Ghoul.”

“Uh… what? No… I’m a Vampire, not a Ghoul.”

“Buzzzz… not quite correct. You are, as it turns out, only the Vampire Patriarch. Your blood contains the power of vampirism… but you’re still a human. Just… an immortal, unkillable, blood drinking human. That wasn’t true of your childer. They were undead… you weren’t. God wanted you to live forever. And sure, your generation was higher than mine, so you couldn’t be blood bound… but the VMoD didn’t specify anything about the nature of my Ghoul, just who the default would be.”

“VMoD?”

I waved my hand at the machine, vaguely amused to see it was glitching out. “That thing. It determines where we’re going next… or at least, tells us where we’re going next and what my options are… it’ll all become clearer in a few days or so when it works properly. Anyway, I should introduce you to the others. Some of them are arguably bigger monsters than you.”

He glowered at that “Was that a joke… and why are you so short?”

“Because this is my natural form. 4’10” baby.” I grew a bit “Sure, Thanks to some perks, I can be taller.” I shifted again “or blue.” I shifted again “or an elf.” I shifted back “But this is the form I’m comfortable with.”

“Why didn’t you use any of those forms back on… where I’m from?”

“Didn’t want them catching vampire cooties… and speaking of that… if you bite or try to bind any of my companions… I’ll drop you into a star.”

He gulped “Ummm… right… I’ll just… wait, companions?”

“Oh, yes, doh. Sorry. Total brain fart. That’s what you are now. I’m the Jumper, you’re a Companion. There are 25 of you.”

“If I ask, why didn’t I meet any of them before now, you’re going to say “Didn’t want them catching vampire cooties.” again, aren’t you?”

I poked his nose. “Yup. Well, you did meet two of them. Audrie and Humphrey… Speaking of… huh… where is every… run… oh… crap… nowhere to run… shit… no outside reality.” I hid behind Caine.

“What… in the name of… why are you hiding?”

“They’re coming.”

“Who is?”

“THEM!” and that’s when 22 of my companions burst onto the scene singing Happy Birthday and carrying a cake with a big 50 burning merrily on the top.

“50? I thought you said you were 13,000 years old.”

“I am. 50 is, strictly speaking, how many jumps I’ve been through, though two of them were to worlds I’d already been to and two of them were these double jump thing… well… jumps with an overlay.”

“Should I ask?”

“No.” I stepped out from behind him and acted gracious, introducing everyone and letting everyone judge the questionable nature of me bringing a legendary psychopath along on the ride. Kendra looked upset, Reggy appraising, Kohina smug, and my lovers suspicious. To Kendra I said “He’s not a demon in a human shell. He’s just a murderer.” She nodded, then shrugged, relaxing. To Reggy I said “Yes, he’s more dangerous than you are, no your Takers could not take him… probably. Don’t try.” To Kohina I said nothing, but to my harem I said “No. I didn’t. Not with him. I brought him along to piss off God, or at least Uriel… the arcangel, not the emperor. Now we just have to hope that if we end up in Dresdenverse or DC or anywhere else with an active and megapowered Uriel that they don’t share notes.”

Caine blinked “There are more… never mind.”

“Good Call.”

“So… who are the bigger monsters?” He asked, curiously.

“Reggy and Kagetane in terms of kill total. RayRay and Petra in terms of size. Dyna, Joy, Ahab, Zane, and Me in terms of pure pragmatism. Francy and AJ would kill a planet if I told them to. Kohina might do it if I let her. Franky & Mini, Velma & Toph, Ryoga and Yoiko, Bao and Uriel…. Heh… not yours, just a namesake… Gaius, Kendra… they’re okay and not so… intense. Cirno is an idiot… but titanically powerful. Ziggy is my… hello Ziggy… is this squeaky toy for me? Yes, you’re adorable. Go get some cake now… Ziggy is my buddy. He’s clueless… but he’d trash a city… not because I asked, but just because there was something he wanted somewhere in it. Some of us are, more or less, gods. Others are just demigods. Anyway, let’s party.” And we did.

Four days of catch up and kiss and make up and spanking someone who was pouting… not going to tell you who… and the VMoD suddenly clicked on.

“Signal Interference? Is that the name of a Setting?” Zane asked.

“I don’t think so. It’s not in iconography… just flashing that.” I tapped the screen. Two symbols appeared. One was a Picture of a Planet missing a wedge, like a green and blue Pac-Man, and the other was a Starscape, but instead of stars, all the points of light were musical symbols. I laughed “Slice of Life… Space Opera… cute. Huh… I have no idea what setting this could be.” I tapped the Slice of Life. I could use a little decompression after Pacific Rim and Bloodlines and it would be nice to just chill… I crossed my fingers. Then groaned as the Tenchi Logo appeared. I blinked. “Tenchi Muyo… I hope this means what I think this means.”

“What do you think this means?”

“Ooooh… kay… Tenchi has what is quite possibly the most fucked up timeline of any setting not made by DC or Marvel.” Everyone winced besides Caine and Kohina. “There are, to the best of my knowledge, 4 or 5 canonical timelines that all contradict each other… and at least one non-canon timeline.”

“How does that work?”

“Badly. I’m not being glib… it really is terribly confusing… okay… The primary Timeline is called Tenchi Muyo… Ryo-Ohki. It was the first. 20 episodes of Anime, spread across… I think… 3 series of 6 episodes each with two specials… episodes 7 and 20 I think, though I might be wrong and it’s 7 and 14. TM spawned Tenchi Universe, which was set in a slightly different timeline and was 26 episodes and 2 movies… helpfully called Tenchi Muyo in Love 1 and 2.” Everyone groaned. “Yeah… and it gets worse. There’s also Tenchi in Tokyo… which is much more… less. Different timeline entirely, not space opera at all that I recall, more rom-com… with a hefty amount of drama… I really wasn’t paying attention to it to be honest, it was a little boring after the explosions and silliness of TM and TU. TiT was 26 episodes too, I think. So that’s three… oh… right… the primary series had a pair of sequels about Tenchi’s cousin Kenichi I think. Saw one episode of those… GXP… Galaxy Police… and War on Geminar… No idea what the plot was.”

“Okay… so, you think we’re going to the primary timeline?”

“Yes… maybe… see… while parts of it were slice of life… it was fairly Space-happy… but I don’t know if it was Space Opera… With those two choices… I’d normally assume SoL was TiT and Sopera was Tuniverse. But that’s the thing… none of them cover 10 years time and all of them are SoL… while two of them are also Space Opera.”

“What about the other two… three… Might they fit?”

“Errr… no. Pretty Sasami was two different timelines, one called Pretty Sasami, the other Magical Project Sasami… which were like TM and TU to each other… both had the same premise and both covered similar details, but they’re distinct from each other and each is its own timeline… both canon… which makes even less sense when I tell you that Sasami Magical Girls Club is the Non-Canon timeline… along with the manga called “No Need for Tenchi”. Like I said, it makes very little sense.”

“So? All that doesn’t really matter, once we’re inside the setting, right?”

“If we were going to Tokyo… no. It wouldn’t really matter. That’s low risk right there. Universe… more risk… but not a huge amount. Muyo… there are these three beings called the Choshin…. They’re Capital G Gods… as in so far beyond mortals that the Q would have a hard time dealing with thinking about them. I think at one point it was said that their primary underlings were 22-Dimensional Administrators.”

What followed was a brief spate of the science heads among my companions explaining to the respective non-science heads. I explained to Caine. “Think of a normal Earth as a 4D object. 3 in space, 1 in time. Each D you go up raises the power of infinity. A Q is, in theory, Omnipotent within 4D space. The Chosin’s servants aren’t just 18 orders of magnitude more powerful, not just 18 generations more powerful… they’re 18 powers more powerful… n^4 versus n^22… where n is infinity.”

“Okay, so if we assume,” Velma postulated, “That these beings, these Chosin, are SuperMegaUltraOmnipotent… or would that be SuperDuperMegaUltraOmnipotent… need to work that out later… surely they wouldn’t actually care about the goings-on on one tiny planet in one tiny 4D reality and what am I saying, of course they would be. I forgot how this works, I’ll be over here bibbling.”

“Yeah… see, the trio have a plan. A plan to force the Universe to reveal to the existence of a power greater than themselves.” I said, grinning for no apparently good reason.

“You mean… 3 SMUO… can we change that to SuperUltraMegaOmnipotent?” Zane asked.

“You want to call the Chosin SUMO’s?”

“Well, SUMOB’s, really.” Zane grins, “Can’t forget the Beings.”

“We could call them MUSDOE’s,” suggested Yoiko.

“MegaUltraSuperDuperOmnipotent Entities?” I asked.

“Yup!” She gave me a cookie. It was mint chocolate, I savored it like someone who’d been drinking blood for a decade would savor it.

“How About we just call them ROB’s?” her brother put in.

“Can’t, ROB’s are random.”

“Ah… Fine… and can’t call them MOB’s because that’s the exact opposite of a Rob.”

“MOB?” asked Caine, clearly having grown used to the idea that he couldn’t read my mind and just assuming he couldn’t read theirs… of course, only I had the passphrase for the Mental Shielding inside the Warehouse… had to create it… too many mind-readers spoil Gamenight, even with the ‘no powers at the table’ rule. “As in the Mafia?”

“Gaming term. A MOB is one of the random mooks you kill to gain Experience. Also applies to monsters, animals… anything theoretically dangerous between you and your objective.”

“Ah. So… the Sabbat.”

“Yes. Pretty much.” I turned to the group. “SODs. They’re SODs. Supreme Omnipotent Deities. It implies they’re in charge of other Omnipotent Deities, at the head of the organization, in fact. And yes, Zane, all three of them are important to the plotline… if this is the main timeline. If not… I think only two of them show up and in less important roles. And I don’t think I’ll be able to to… oh… yes… never mind… If the machines don’t spell it out, I remember the divergence points well enough to spot them. They’re pretty major. Still, the reason I bring this up is important. Two of the three of them are light on what we’d call “morals” and I’m not banking on the third not using politics on us… if they discover we’re from outside their reality construct.”

“Won’t they know immediately?”

“If they are in their 22D+ forms, yes, almost certainly… but for the last few hundred million years, they’ve been slumming around in 4D space and aren’t actually omnipotent nor omnipresent nor omniscient. It’s all to do with the nature of their experiment to find out “Who’s their Daddy.”” I ducked the flung pillows.

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. Well, they aren’t looking for their creator, so much as something more than they are. More like they’re Bene Gesserit Gods looking to create/find a Kwisatz Haderach God.”

“Do they?”

“Yes. three… no… four of them. Or is it two?”

“What?”

“Each of them have a different plan… three potentials. I’m not going to name names, because, well, I suspect screwing things up is going to be easy, and I don’t want any screw ups, most of these people are pretty nice… but three potentials. Of those three, one turns out to be god.”

“Is it Tenchi?” asked Kohina. “Cause his name means Heaven & Earth.”

Velma added “And the series is named for him.”

“Aren’t you all smart, yes, sigh… it is. Fine… Tenchi is the Kwisatz Haderach. Literally. Product of a 20,000 year breeding program, bumped slightly off the rails at the last generation by someone thinking with their heart…”

“Is there a Galactic Human Empire?”

“Mmmm… Jurians and… whatever race the GXP’s elite are are close enough for interbreeding with Humans… but no, they’re… not Earthlings.”

“I sense there is something you’re not telling us,” Mini said. I blushed, damn those involuntary biological reflexes

“Ummm… Yes… well… Tenchi is a Harem Anime… one of the most infamous, in fact.”

“How bad?” my various inamoratas and Ryoga asked. There was no small amount of menace there. I gulped… keeping them from throttling each other was hard enough at times.

“Tenchi ends up married to, I’m pretty sure… 2 Princesses who are sisters, a GXP Detective who is the granddaughter of the head of the entire organization, a space pirate, her battleship, and the mad scientist who created the ship, is mother to the pirate, and great-grandmother to the detective… also, the princesses are Tenchi’s half-great aunts.”

Everyone just stared at me. I shrugged “Royalty be trippin’, Yo.”

While they bickered, I wandered over to the machine and brought up the lists. “Welcome to the universe of Tenchi Muyo!, where there are at least three gods of many dimensions higher than those of mere mortals, a ‘verse of space pirates, galactic police, and vast interstellar empires. The men are badass, the women even more badass, and unlucky everydudes aren’t always unlucky or merely everydudes. Still, worry not… it’s a time of peace… except for the shipping wars!” Well, that answered that question. Still, I had to wonder why I’d had to decide between Slice of Life and Space Opera. The setting mixed the two so thoroughly. If one was Tenchi in Tokyo and the other was Tenchi Universe, I could see it, but Slice of Life had dropped me into the main storyline? Well, whatever. Maybe the other settings were future jumps.

Regardless, I picked up my CP Keys and bounced them in my hand, considering if I should check the Drawback section first… but I decided against it. Slice of Life Tenchi wasn’t really that dangerous. Instead, I tapped the Origin button and it expanded with options: Random Humanoid Lifeform… Space-Pirate (Ryoko)… Space-Police (Mihoshi)… Supertech-Mago-Scientist (Washu-chan… the chan is very important… and Washu is very scary)… Minor Jurian Noble (everyone else pretty much)… well… hmmm… Science is good. I’m fond of science. But the Jurian stuff calls to me too… plus… hmmm… I checked the previews, then sighed. It was close. But I went Jurian. The perks were a tiny bit cooler, though none of it screamed “You must buy me! The future of the Omniverse is at stake!” Mmmm… I put the keys down and went to grab a steak. Nomnomnom.

Caine was being beaten by Francine in a game of chess and seemed confused about it. “Don’t feel bad. She’s got the brain of a computer. IQ 3000+. She just looks like a tween to make people underestimate her.” She stuck her tongue out at me as Caine scratched his head “This place is very strange. It’s the opulence of a country manor… inside a collection of random junk.” he motioned to the space around the house.

“Eh… not so bad…” I clapped my hands and the holocurtain fell between house and storage sectors. “Not quite as good as the real thing… but pretty decent… maybe I should Washu something better up.” I wandered off as Caine challenged her to a rematch. He’d learn… or not.

My first 100 CP went into the Jurian Origin, making me a minor noble of the largest galaxy spanning empire in the setting. Not really sure there was a second Galaxy spanning Empire (theoretically there could be multiple GSE’s, all interlaced, or stacked like pancakes, but realistically, there could be a maximum of two, if you divided the Galaxy into halves, since spanning pretty much means from side to side.) in this setting, but whatever… The Juraian Emperor were Clarketech Aliens indistinguishable from Humanity, at least on the surface, with a government resembling Shogunate-era Japan, lots of feudal houses all feudalling it up under the watchful and largely immortal gaze of the Juraian Royal Family. Seriously, Sasami was more than 700 years old and barely passed the biological equivalent of 9. Ayeka, the equivalent of 16, had looked that old when Sasami was a toddler… 700 years in the past.

The Jurian Culture was incredibly refined, had tech that really was practically magic, and specialized in living machines, usually made of wood. Jurian families, thanks to longevity treatments, were enormous. There were trillions of Jurian subjects and just the minor noble families numbered more than 300,000,000 strong, all of them plotting and scheming and marrying for advantage, position, or a piece of the pie. As a Minor Noble, I’d be a kind of space-wizard samurai lordling… ladyling? With several decades or centuries of experience in court politics, being landed elite, and various forms of noble combat (Wooo duels!!). I’d have a polite conversational grasp of a thousand terrible important topics and the ability to improvise my way through the rest, with courtly manners coming as easily as air.

Oh, and translator implants came free… or at least came with parental pressure to find the perfect husband(s) and an extremely sheltered upbringing, at least in regards to how the rest of the Universe outside of Jurai live. And, as a scion of a mighty (if relatively unimportant) Jurian noble house, I’d apparently been dispatched to Earth for… reasons. Joy. I do love reasons.

I spun the wheel of ages and got… 511… I… think that makes me younger than Sasami. Or… wait… I think Sasami is actually 9 and has been in suspended animation for 7 centuries… Gah… too many timelines… tooo much nonsense… ah well, I’ll find out when I get there.

As a Jurian Noble, I got “Accepted Cultural Norms” as my gift with purchase… apparently the defining trait of being Jurian is their strange cultural norms. I can buy that… but they carry those cultural norms with them. ACN means that, as long as I’m not doing anything outrageously destructive or hostile to the well-being or values of those around me, any peculiarities involving me and my companions (relationships, modes of dress, dueling, etc) will be seen as normal and everyone will accept it largely without comment, though they might ask for clarification.

Another major facet of Jurian culture is their Living Technology, which set me back another [100] and granted me the ability to control all basic devices of that type with my mind alone, as well as the knowledge of how to operate and construct more of them, given appropriate materials. The sub-ability of knowing how to replace interfaces with living wood input devices seemed like it might come in handy, but the real prize was that in later jumps it would expand to grant an enhanced ability to use and enhance any sentient or organic technology. For 100, it was a decent buy.

Next on the list was “Smiling Goddess Leaves” for [200]… which granted me a small mansion suitable for someone of my stature… on every developed planet in the galaxy. Nice… though I suspected not very useful as I’d be spending much of this jump on Earth, slicing life, and Earth of this era wasn’t just not “Developed”, it would have to be significantly improved to not qualify as “Primitive, Avoid.” The nice bit was that, in other worlds than these, I could add the mansion to my Warehouse (people only it says, though I suspect knicknacks and normal household goods are fine… I wonder if closets would be pushing it?… or I could allow the mansion to place itself seamlessly into the current reality wherever it fit in best (and I’d automatically know where it was). Not too bad… though it came with the “Finest, most beautiful/handsome warrior your family can find as your betrothed… though they are a veteran of some recent conflict.” Woooo. Hope he isn’t a dick.

I skipped over “Pirate-Binding Battle Pattern”, a tactical bump, which seemed nice enough, but I had good tactical skill already and it was 300 I didn’t feel like spending. The same was not true of “Redwood Soldier Meditation”, which was [400], and probably worth it. RSM would make me at home in calm gardens and wild forests alike, drawing health and succor from the flora at need. As long as I remained within 3 yards of even a single healthy blade of grass (or something plant-based and similarly complex), I’d never get lost, never get sick, never suffer any danger from exposure to the elements. If I moved through vegetation, it would get out of my way and hide my tracks completely once I’d gone. And that was just half the story. I could seek refuge inside living trees, which would open to allow me to step inside, then seal up again, hiding me without trace and allowing me to sleep undisturbed. Doing so with a Sentient Tree would allow me to regenerate from any wound… Now all I needed was a Sentient Tree… and an otherwise unhealable wound, I guess.

That left me 200, and I moved on to toys. A Jurian Interface, a wood and crystal tiara/bracelet/random bit of jewelry, came to me free and enhanced my ability to pychically communicate with Jurian tech, including large infrastructure systems at network terminals, and granting basic user access over most sentient appliances… at least for me. If I loaned it to one of the gang, they’d get the advantages of my Living Technology perk.

I also picked up the Subspace Onsen for [100], a wonderful retreat away from… everything, complete with infinite hot water (provided both from normal fixtures as well as a variety of waterfalls), dozens of pools of varying sizes and shapes (and privacy features), as well as a fully stocked kitchen and bathside bar. After the jump, it would attach itself to the Warehouse, where it could be accessed internally, or summoned to my current reality. Attached to the Warehouse, it could service up to 50 people at one time. Outside, it can expand to support a theoretically infinite amount of occupants. Again, there was a warning “Not for storage.”

Looking through the rest of the items, there were only a couple I was really keen on… no space ships on offer, which was a bummer… and I couldn’t back out and pick Space Opera, which was annoying… sigh… ah well… anyway, there were Body Enhancement (magical/picomachine/genetic upgrades giving me 5 times the normal strength, dexterity, and endurance of a professional athlete… and since it was an item, it would apply to all my forms if I wanted it to.) and Control Cube (a pink rubixcube-like thing that can seamlessly interface with any other piece of technology of equal or lower tech level, acting as terminal for a smartphone, tv remote, computer interface, car keys, and whatever else I could think of, all by turning it’s various faces… it also doubled as a dimensional pocket, storing up to 3 cubic yards of non-living stuff. It was able to hide itself dimensionally and to be recalled if lost with a gesture), both of which would cost me 100, which would spend me over… did I really want to overspend on a vacation jump? I sighed, might as well see how bad the drawbacks are.

The limit was pretty low, only +400CP. Thankfully, I could get that with minimal risk by taking Hopeless Suitor… twice. It was a gamble, since it included a chain ending clause, but not much of one. Somewhere, someone will want to marry me. I might know them, I might not. I might like them, they might like me, but no matter what, three years into the jump they’ll appear with a wedding on their mind and terrible timing. If I end up getting married before the 10 years are up, boom… chain ends… though the Banker promises said fiancee will fit awesomely into my life. Well, I’m a big girl, with a harem who would almost certainly kill anyone who tried to marry me before any of them could… I have faith in the near psychosis of my ladies… and Ryoga… well, okay, not much faith in him. That brought me up to 500… then back down to 300 as I bought the two items… which just left me with 300 to spend.

So I bought the cheapest Super-Magio-Scientist perk “Simple Scientific Solution” which was the ability to create supertech improvements to common tools and appliances, up to and including automobiles or similar works of engineering, dishwashers that clean fishes in an instant, self heating plumbing, or forcefield windowpanes that doubled as air conditioning units. For 100, it was a steal… And oddly enough seemed to do pretty much the same thing as the most expensive one (although The Maddest Science Yet had more scope and promised that my tech would be somewhat harmless unless harm was desired)…

Which might go nicely with the [200] Science Police perk “You’d Have to be a Jeweler?” which made me so gosh-darned good-natured / harmless seeming / legitimately attentive that I’d always put the right foot forward. People would be less inclined to think I’m a threat, and a worst be simply confused by my antics as long as my sincerity shines through. It gave me a talent for defusing tense situations with an offhand comment or non-sequitur… which is good, since I say non-sequiturs all the time and so far they haven’t been great at diffusing situations… though they have been pretty good at confusing people. But I couldn’t afford an extra 800.

And I was out of points and primed for my vacation and general wedding avoidance shenanigans. 3 fiancees… wooo… crap… no imports… ah well… no option either. Which just left Ahab & Joy… which was a little bit of a shame, really. It was a nice setting to be from. I wandered over to see what they were planning, then after listening in, wandered back over to the VMoD’s and changed some things around of my own purchases.

I ditched the Onsen for reasons that will become clear in a paragraph, then regretfully said goodbye to the “You’d Have to be a Jeweler” I didn’t really need harmlessness, though it might be nice to have. That got me [300] back and with it I picked up Pirate-Binding Battle Pattern, which would boost my tactical acumen to amazing levels and increase my skill in competitive strategy games to the point where only the grandest of masters could defeat me. Better to be feared than liked, right? Or at least have a plan to be feared.

See, I’d forgotten to note that Subspace Onsen was free for Space Pirates… and hadn’t known Joy was going to take that option (though I should have guessed, honestly). That nabbed her the Onsen (which would be attached to my Warehouse because we only had the one.) and the Jailbreaker Perk, which made it so no jail could hold her long, as unless the prison was built specifically hold her, she’d be out honestly or dishonestly in 6 months or less, and even a custom built prison wouldn’t hold her forever.

Ahab, being contrary I suspect, went Galaxy Police, which not only got him a Command Cube and Body Enhancement for free, it also got him “Badge and Weapon”, a perk that meant he’d always have the tools of a Law Enforcement Officer ready to hand (A weapon, Armor, handcuffs… anything short of a spaceship really… and the skill to always, somehow, possibly indirectly, to make quotas… be it by skill, coincidence, dumb luck, or simply having a hard working partner. As long as Ahab (and team) continued producing results, he’d never have to deal with the negative repercussions of being quirky, ditzy, or downright blithering. 

I blinked at that… A Command Cube cost 100, but so did Badge and Weapon, and B&W came with a Command Cube Free? I hadn’t noticed that. I quietly edited my purchases while no one else was looking. Never look a freebie in the… coin slot. Never mind.

INSERTION

What can really be said about slice of life comedies? There’s life, you slice it, it’s still life. There’s a fair amount of lazing about, talking to each other about things, and generally going on about the task of living. It’s working jobs and doing chores, and not fighting wars, engaging in intrigue, or being a superhero/villain.

We entered the setting 298 days before the events of the first episode, i.e. the accidental release (by Tenchi) of Ryoko from the cave where she’d been sealed by Yosho 700 years earlier. Which would have been hunky-dory, except for two facts. First, we had no way of knowing the relative Earth date… or (second) of getting to Earth.

Let me preface this by saying that Subspace Onsen’s are very nice… Joy’s certainly is and, well,if you’ve seen the show, you know all about Washu/Ryoko’s. Is very nice. Of course, it’s much better if it’s floating above a serene mountain lake and not, say, drifting driveless through the depths of space. Ours was doing exactly that. To be specific, it was doing exactly that in the void between Proxima Centauri and Sol… surrounded by the wreckage of what had once been a Pirate Ship, a Jurain Cutter, and a Galaxy Police Cruiser and it was currently being used as a lifepod / hunting preserve as Joy’s, Ahab’s, and my pre-jump selves were engaged in a battle of wits against each other.

“I’m not coming out until you agree I can have access to the Wine Bar!” Joy yelled.

“No, we’re not letting you out until you agree we can have access to the Kitchen!” Ahab retorted… or rather, that was the first thing I heard as I entered my body, becoming aware as I did so that I was named Sada Jomei… Virtuous Dawning Light, first daughter of Shigeru Jomei, lord of the Jomei… the closest thing the Juraian Empire had to Yakuza. Yes, papa was Oyabun of the Space Ninjas & Space Gangsters.

Which meant that Yorokobi the Pirate was hunting me for reasons of profit, and Detective Second Grade Shiro Kujira, was hunting me for reasons of trying to get family secrets. Of course, Shiro and Yorokobi didn’t like each other, and I wanted Shiro dead for snooping into my family’s affairs and Yorokobi dead for VENGEANCE! It was… the good, the bad, and the ugly… except all three of us were pretty, crazy, and hyper-aggressive.

I shook my head, remembering all my previous existences… this was always harder to do when the Jumpself was more than a few decades old, then parsed the names of the others. Shiro Kujira was White & Whale… Ahab… Yorokobi is Joy… right… “Hey, dippy dog and yappy… err… yam… knock it off and come to yourselves. We can bicker later.”

There was a long pause, then Shiro said “Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Yorokobi chuckled “The Banker is a Bastard.”

“Can I assume you two won’t try and murder anyone if we all come out and try and figure out what’s going on? As best I can figure, we’re stranded in deep space without a way to send a signal asking for rescue. We could get in VIctor and floor it for civilization, but as long as we have access to the warehouse we aren’t going to starve… hell, this Onsen is supposed to be able to support people just fine.”

Shiro / Ahab peered out from behind the bar, “I can vouch for the booze… which is nice… how about the kitchen, Yorok… Joy?” “Call me Yorokobi. I like it. It’s got panache. The Dread Pirate Joy doesn’t have the same ring as Pirate Lord Yorokobi. Anyway, the kitchen is nice. Not as nice as the warehouse, but good. Very industrial… in a refined Juraian kind of way. Bleh… this me has a lot of disdain for Juraian stuff.” “This me has a lot of disdain for Criminals.”

“Yeah? Well this me has a lot of disdain for my allies hiding from each other. Come on, you twits, you’ve been knocking boots for centuries. And you can’t actually kill each other, so get out here and act your ages.”

The two came out looking hangdog and glowering at each other. Lovely. “Just so you know, I’m not marrying either of you. Nor am I going to be marrying anyone this jump… nor officiating at any wedding… and anyone who tries to make me do either will spend the rest of the decade in a block of ice. Now… damn… that is a skimpy outfit.” Shiro was wearing a bodysuit that left approximately nothing to the imagination. It hugged every curve and bulge and I whistled appreciatively as his toned form flexed and… expanded… in interesting ways as his eyes tracked Yorokobi’s ass, covered in what might generously be referred to as “wispy” fabric. It was as if the memory of a thong bikini had mated with the idea of a lace teddy. It was like viewing her curves through slightly thick fog that moved as she did.

“Ahem… yes… very nice… Joy… put on some real clothes.”

“Can’t. Can’t get into the warehouse and there isn’t anything in here besides towels.”

“What?” I reached out and found that I couldn’t access the warehouse at all. I tried Requipping but that was blocked too. “What the heck?” A piece of paper fluttered from the sky “Your luggage has been delivered to your destination.” I growled softly. “bastard.”

“So, all three of our ships are trashed, our friends somewhere on Earth, and we’re utterly out of contact for what could very well be the next… three years.”

“Why three and not ten?” Shiro asked, tugging his attention away from Yoro as she slid into the water with a soft, deeply disturbing sigh.

“Because the Hopeless Suitor Drawbacks I selected stated that the Suitors will show up 3 years after the jump begins. That pretty much guarantees someone will find us in that time… though nothing guarantees they won’t be stuck with us here… but I suspect watching us go slowly spare will get old eventually.”

That was the first day. By the end of the first week, the squables were getting on even my nerves. By the end of the first month, actual blows had been come to no less than 8 times. Part of the problem was that there wasn’t much to do. I could make things out of nanomachines and hyperice, and I could pull the carbon out of the various foodstuffs and turn it into all manner of things, but doing more than making games out of would have requiring teching up to a working fabrication facility… and possibly dismantling part of the systems keeping us alive.

To alleviate the stircrazy, we began to explore the onsen, which was far larger inside than three astral castaways would need… and by far larger, I mean that it had dozens, if not hundreds of domes and spread across at least 600 square kilometers. It was gigantic, and each dome had its own theme, environment, and flora. Some of the domes were so vast and overgrown that it was quite easy to lose track of where we’d entered from. But in each dome there were drinks and food to be had around each pool.

Deep into the sixth week, we discovered that we were being followed as we made our slow, often drunken, trek through the endless jungles and swamps and forests and gardens of the Onsen. On the slope of what seemed very much like a snowy mountain, we made contact.

“Mommmaaaa!” a small furry object squealed as it impacted with my chest at mach two. I lay stunned on the cedar boards surrounding a steaming sulphur spring. “Ziggy?” I asked, groaning as my chest reverted back to flesh. “What are you doing here?”

“Ziggy find momma!” the hyperactive hyperferret squealed, bounding around me in paroxysms of happiness. I patted his head, relieved to see him… and already suspecting the worst.

“Have you seen anyone else?” I asked my gleeful pet, studying him for changes and finding (rather suspiciously), cabbit-like markings and fluffiness. Ziggy-ohki… heh. If he started liking carrots, there was going to be trouble… both with Ryo-Ohki who loved them beyond all reason, and with me, since I loathed them to roughly the same degree.

“Seen doggies!” he announced proudly. Doggies were Ziggy’s collective name for the other pets and familiars. I smiled and hugged his squirming form, sitting up as Yorokobi and Shiro wandered over to verify I was uninjured. Well, Shiro wandered. Yoro floated vaguely meward, listing somewhat from all the saki and plum wine.

With the swarm of worried familiars, mounts, and personal assistants in tow, we continued onward… after sobering up a little of course, and verifying that the animals had remained well fed thanks to a basic understanding of how to kitchen (the advantages of semi-sapience, am I right?), or at least enough to open the fridges and eat the replenishing stores. I worried about cleaning that kitchen, then shrugged. Worse came to worst, we could always burn it down and replace it.

This time, however, we had a goal beyond simple exploration. If Ziggy and the legion of super pets was here, there would almost certainly be others. I wanted to find them before they went even crazier than they already were. Someone of them (like Toph or Ryoga) could take the isolation… others (like Bao and RayRay) wouldn’t even notice they were alone… but the majority of my companions weren’t nearly that stable… and the easily bored ones were the lowest risk. Velma, Mini, Yoiko, Gaius, Uriel, and Francine would be getting to the clawing at the walls stage, but Kohina, Kendra, and AJ would be verging on ferality… and Reggy… if she believed she was alone… could be extremely problematic… What Kagetane might do if he’d been released from the stasis egg and lacking commands to the contrary didn’t bear thinking about. I didn’t want a omnicidal battle cyborg trashing our life support, especially with the Warehouse mysteriously sealed away. And then there were Cirno and Lucchini… who knew what those lunatics would get up to.

Still, now that I knew Zane was about, finding him was as simple as following our Chala bond… or should have been, but the convoluted way the various domes interlocked was anything but intuitive. As it was, we located Uriel and Cirno first, both of them in what I can only call the Skyrim Dome, as it was a 1:1 scale version of that province as depicted in the game of the same name… which wasn’t all that big, covering about 37 square kilometers.

Of course, neither of them recognized each other, as Uriel, now wearing the form of a… whatever Mihoshi’s race is called (and looking fairly elfin) had assumed he’d been trapped inside a recreation of his empire’s frozen northern realm by a vicious and quixotic dremora of Sheogorath. Cirno (who’d also gotten a make-over, in her case into something that looked like an Ice Spriggan), obviously hadn’t liked being attacked and the two of them had apparently spent the last 40 days trying to gleefully murder each other across the vast uninhabited landscape of pseudo ruins and lake-sized hot springs.

Hell, I wouldn’t have known who either of them was without mind reading or the Third Eye of Satori (Let’s me know what’s in each person’s heart and mind, very useful.). As it was, I had to force them both to sit down and act like reasonable… entities.

“He started it.”

“Shut up, Cirno.”

“My name is Elisabeth du Treeface.”

“No, it’s not. You made that up.”

“It could be.”

“Fine. We’ll call you Elisabeth du Treeface for this jump. Now shush. Uriel?”

“My name is Kaisar Arthas… and why do we keep her around? She’s a lunatic.”

“Yes, well, if we went around kicking people out for being crazy, we’d have to start with me and I don’t wanna be kicked out. Now, can we act like a sensible quasi-immortal, or do I have to have Ziggy sit on you again?”

The former emperor grumbled, but sighed “Fine… any idea what happened?”

“I have a couple of ideas, yes. 1) The Banker is being annoying. 2) I accidentally hit some kind of drawback I didn’t notice… to be honest I didn’t even read all of them. 3) Trelane is having a laugh. 4) the Choshin or one of their sub-administrators noticed our attempted arrival and decided to divert us. 5) Kami Tenchi reached backwards through time and space to keep us from arriving on Earth before he’d met all his future wives because he was afraid I might steal one of them. 6) something went wrong with the Warehouse when we tried attaching Joy’s Onsen to it. 7) because reasons.”

“Well then… why are we here and not in the warehouse?”

“That I can’t say. Nor can I figure out why you’ve got… nativish forms. There wasn’t an import option that I saw. Do you have any new abilities?”

“No… in fact, I don’t seem to have full access to my normal abilities. It’s like I’m wearing some kind of limiter. Little miss Ice too, if the fact that I’m not an Empsicle is any indication.” Cirno shrugged, not looking up from where she was tracing little frost swirls in the dirt.

“Right… well… I don’t suppose you two knuckleheads have any idea how to get out of this dome?” Cirno tilted her head “Dome?” I looked up, then sighed.. Of course the sky was too cloudy to see anything. “Right… this is a dome. One of many. Fuck…”

As it turned out, we had to go through Blackreach to get to the next dome. I hate caves… though without the Falmer, it was somewhat nicer and, as a bathhouse recreation, it didn’t smell of chaurus droppings. The hum of the Crimson Nirnroots was very nice actually. Of course, this wasn’t really Skyrim… the water was all very comfortably warm… even in that lake in Riften, and pretty much everything had been smoothed out to maximize comfort and minimize things you wouldn’t want to step on. It was, in almost every way, a bathhouse / theme park version of Skyrim. If only there were yetis to give you a massage or dragon-priests to bring you beverages.

After crossing the Avatar themed baths (five different baths for each nation, each a different theme… the Kyoshi Island was nicer than the Lake Laogai, but the Moon Pool was the nicest, in my opinion) with exits at the polar spirit portals, the Hogwarts baths (castle and lake) with exits at the Hogsmeade train station and through the mirror of Erised in the dungeons, and the Middle Earth Baths with exits at the gates of Cirith Ungol and the Mines of Moria (the Lothlorien bath was lovely, even if the scale was a little off… okay, very off, Minas Tirith was 3 stories tall, not 30)… we passed into what could only be the Dagobah Swamp Baths… and heard screaming.

Rushing to the scene, we found four pre-teens wearing Hogwarts-style bathrobes struggling and flailing against the vines that were wrapping around them. I swore briefly, then yelled “Tooopphh… Let Franky, Mini, Petra, and Kohina go!” Another spriggan-like entity floated up out of the muck that was probably supposed to be a rejuvenating mudbath, but looked pretty gross to me. Two of them… huh… must be Juraian tree tech or something… or at least aiming for a similar theme.

“Wooo issss thissss Toooooph?” the creature asked, aiming for spooky and missing so hard it ended up in Scooby-doo goofy. “IIII aaaam Elissaaabeth du Treefaaaace!”

“Riiiight… I can see into the hearts of beings and you’re not fooling me. Only you, Toph, would sic plants on random tweens to make a joke. And we already have an Elisabeth du Treeface. You can be Margaret du Treeface instead.” The wooden face was quite expressive, but I wasn’t fooled by the pout. “Fine. You can be Tooooooph. Better?” She nodded. “Look, the sooner we get everyone together, the less bored you’ll be… and I know you, you great misanthropic goon. You may claim to despise everyone, but you missed us. It’s been almost 90 days since Insertion… not that day and night mean much here.” It was true. The Hogwarts Dome had perpetual twilight… The Dagobah Dome had gloom. The Skyrim Dome never got that dark, and several of the more mundane domes never had sunlight at all as far as I could tell.

I helped my (sadly de-aged) lovers, and Kohina… who was perpetually bouncing between 12 and 22 it seemed, yo-yoing back to the start of her arc with every jump for some reason… out of the vines and looked them over. Kohina was Juraian or Japanese, hard to tell which, but judging from the purple Anime hair, I guessed Juraian. Franky & Petra were Masu if the white hair and facial features were any indication, like Ryoko… and Mini looked like she was a member of Washu’s race. Petra, Franky, and Mini looked to be about Sasami’s age… The Banker or whoever was screwing with my love life… probably to make the suitors more… appealing. They too had new names, Yuri (Kohina), Yuki (Franchesca), Yumi (Mini), and Yuni (Petra)… le sigh.

21 days and 16 domes later (not to mention quite a hefty bar tab), we found Zane, AJ, Ryoga, and Bao. They’d built a treefort… because of course they had. They were also about 8 and lobbed fruit at us and called us icky… especially after I identified us to the quartet of Mihoshi-like boys (they looked virtually identical, little blond brats with tanned skin, only the various war paint marking the difference). They called themselves Melanosis, Leucosis, Xanthosis, and Iosis… which essentially meant they were the four alchemical phases (as seen in Harry Potter’s Albus, Rubeus, Sirius (black), and the Wesleys (orange-yellow) and in XenoSaga with Nigredo, Albedo, Rubedo, and Citrine.) At least their facepaint matched.

AJ and Zane were glad to see me, once they got over their temporary brattitude. Ryoga was sulky… but he always is, and Bao was more interesting in snuggling with Uriel and telling him all about their grand adventure in the Neverland Dome.

On the 133rd day, we found Dyna and Yoiko, Tarzaning it up in the Disney Jungle Dome (the 8th Disney Dome to date)… I could tell it was the Disney Jungle Dome and not a standard Tarzan dome from the trees. Yoiko was a Warthog named “Yogo”… Dyna was a Monkey named “Pogo”. I banged my head against a tree so hard I broke it. The tree… not my head. The tree protested and I had to heal it and apologize. If I wasn’t insane already, I think I might have seriously started losing it at this point.

Finding RayRay took 3 more days, even though she was in the same dome, since she’d crawled deep into the warm rocks and fallen asleep. She was a massive anaconda. Kan you say Kaa, boys and girls? Well, at least she wasn’t Sogo, as she was Ajagar. There was probably a joke in that.

On the Isle of Beginning, ala Kingdom Hearts, we found Francy, Kendra, and Velma. It was day 160 and they were very very drunk. Velma, trapped for more than 5 months without anything to read, had gone a little spare and started throwing coconuts at me… hard. She finally broke down and hugged me so hard I heard my ribs creak… when did she get so strong? At least she was adult… though she was massive, towering 9 feet tall and looking very much like a Cabbit-Human hybrid… on steroids. Her name had been changed to “Vex” and she calmed to be a Cabbit-Ogre… whatever that was.

Kendra initially refused to come with us, claiming that we’d abandoned her and that she wanted nothing to do with us and that she had all she needed here and continued adventures were stupid and we should all go away and leave her since she should be dead anyway and her boyfriend was 7 and she couldn’t tell him apart from the others and she hated all of us… Or at least that’s what I’m pretty sure she said… I’m only about 70% fluent in extremely drunk Caribbean French. Word to the wise… do not telepathy a drunk woman. She looked human, except for her eyes, which were endless purple vortexes of madness and despair… her skin was also a black so dark it was edging into the Vanta range. Her name was, assuming I parsed the syllables correctly, “Kasharana Yuko” and she was a Nervash… I wondered if they were related to the Vashta Nerada from Dr. Who… she was almost dark enough to be a living shadow.

Francy was a birdwoman. She had beautiful blue plumage and was so drunk she made the other two look sober. Apparently the local coconuts were about 70 proof and she’d been eating nothing but for 5 months. It seems the booze was super effective. She was a Paradisan… Bird of Paradise? and her name was almost 300 syllables long, mostly trills and caws that I’d have trouble converting into standard symbols. I decided to call her “Shikari” which was close enough to the first three sounds.

Day 204 found us on Windwaker Sea, on a small island with a cave on it, in which we found Caine and Kagetane. They hadn’t shaved in the entire time, and had spent most of it arguing philosophy. It was… in a word… bizarre. Two psychopaths at the end of the world discussing moral relativism and the place of the individual in society. Nihilism vs Post-Nihilism. Altruism vs Enlightened Self Interest. Will to Power vs Determinism. Existentialism vs itself. It was almost a shame to break them apart… but they seriously needed a bath. Since both were, apparently, completely human (Caine / Samraat Aziz was, of all things, Urdu, while Kagetane / Khando Lai was Tibetan) and both appeared to be in their mid to late 60s, though still in fighting trim, it wasn’t much of a challenge to fling them into the nice warm sea (it was only about 12 feet deep).

As the days passed and we wandered further and further afield, nomads of the Onsen, drifting from one oasis of food and comfort to the next, we spent a lot of time in silence and more time talking than we had in literal ages. No one really felt up for much. There wasn’t anything pressing besides finding our last two members and waiting, possibly in vain, for rescue. More than half the others felt my estimate of three years was optimistic and that we’d be stuck here forever… or at least until 10 years were up.

They were all relatively despondent to a degree about their reduced power level… except Kagetane, who had had a bit of a shock when Kohina told him off for being a terrible parent and that she thought of Gaius as her father now. She was, more than any of us, the one who kept us going, forcing us onward so she could be reunited with the former First Lord of Alera.

On day 281, we finally found them. It was in a night dome, one that looked out on the stars in all their extra-solar glory, undimmed by competing light. The dome was designed around Fiji, with all those huts out in the sea, the air redolent with salt tang and floral scents and humid without being too hot. We followed the scent of woodsmoke, Kohina getting more and more excited and Kagetane more and more irate with each passing furlong, until, at last, we rounded a headland and saw, out in the darkness, along the beach, the fire.

It wasn’t very big, but around it were two forms. One standing, one sitting down. As we got closer, Gaius’s features were silhouetted against the firelight, and Kohina ran forward, half stumbling over the ground. He looked remarkably similar to Yosho, though somewhere between the Juraian Prince’s true age of about 24 and his apparent age of about 70. He looked good…

Kohina, on the other hand, looked stunned and had stopped about 10 feet away, skidding to a halt in the sand, eyes flashing to the other figure who had to be Reggy. She gasped, then looked to Gaius… then broke down sobbing.

I rushed over to have a look, to gage what had set the youngster off… and stared. Reggy was fine… she looked… good… healthy… pretty… tanned skin… green eyes… very very pregnant.

I gulped, then looked to Gaius. He looked back, apparently knowing exactly how I felt.

What had he done?

Next: Seeds of Darkness

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World 48: Vampire Bloodlines

SWEET LIKE COPPER

Previously: Perfect Storm

Themesong: All I Wanna Do by Sheryl Crow

The note on the VMoD said “Since you enjoyed being a monster so much.” I peeled it off and swore. Fuck, I hate it when I’m right.

“Crap crap crap crap crap.”

“S’wrong, short stuff?” Ahab asked.

I pointed the machine.

“Don’t see what’s so bad about hunting Vampires. Didn’t you do that in Buffy, or am I remembering that wrong. Crap… it’s been a few… centuries.”

“Nothing wrong with hunting vamps. But this isn’t about hunting them. It’s about being one.”

“Crap.”

“Indeed. And it’s about being a fairly squishy newbie vampire in a world full of psychopathic nasties. Shit. Shit shit shit. Mages. Fuck… There are… wait… no… Bloodlines… shit… um… Bloodlines… damn… it’s a videogame. It’s… crap… I didn’t buy it. It’s… I want to say 2010? 2012… something like that. It’s a videogame version. Based on the TV show I think.”

“You’ve lost me.”

“Vampire the Masquerade is an RPG. One of the five Flagship RPGs from White Wolf Games that make up The World of Darkness. Vampire was the first, followed by, in descending order of quality, Werewolf the Apocalypse, Mage the Ascension, Wraith the I’m drowning in darkness oh god help me help me glub glub glub, and Changeling the Dreaming. They also had a couple others… Hunter the Reckoning was the one I remember sucking the most but there was a Demon one too… I think… and a Mummy supplement and an actual book for Chinese Vampires who were cool, but not as powerful as “Real Vampires”. It was all doom and gloom and heading for a coming apocalypse and none of the systems worked well together, even though they were in the same world. And there were a zillion splatbooks and they all contradicted each other because the whole world (see Mage) was actually a bit of consensual reality and history kept changing depending on how many people believed whatever to have been true.”

“Sounds ghastly… that wasn’t really the title for Wraith, was it?”

‘The Oblivion.”

“Cheery!”

“Tell me about it. Anyway, they eventually brought the apocalypse and scrapped the entire setting and released New World of Darkness… which I think they then changed to “Chronicles of Darkness” to keep from confusing everyone… it was Modern Gothic instead of Gothic Punk like the oWoD and scrapped a lot of the vagueness and “no one really knows, but one story says” parts of oWoD. CoD… oh… right… it was CofD because CoD in gaming terms is Call of Duty… god… that’s lame… anyway, CofD had three flagships, but subtly different. Vampire the Requiem, Werewolf the Forsaken, Mage the Awakening, and 4… no… 5… smaller runs… let’s see… Promethean the Created replaced Wraith… it focused on Frankenstein’s Monsters and Golems I think, bought the book, never read it… know exactly which shelf it’s on too. Sigh… Changeling the Lost was more about madness than Changeling the Dreaming’s focus on hopeless. Hunter the Vigil was, from all reports, less craptastic than the original… Then Geist the Sin-Eaters, which was marginally less depressing than Wraith, and another Mummy, but I don’t think I ever knew the subtitle.”

“Classy. I take it this reality was more concrete?”

“Yup… the players ummm… were divided.”

“How divided?”

“The new owners of the company that made all these games rebranded nWoD to CofD when they bought the company and spun off a division to publish it, relaunching it with all new books under the “God-Machine Chronicles” heading. They even scrapped calling it Vampire the something and changed the name to Blood and Smoke for the second edition. They then reestablished White Wolf to develop a second edition of the classic World of Darkness.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah. The nWoD was a little too cookie cutter… but honestly, it was all urban fantasy type nonsense… and I’m hoping absolutely none of that matters.”

“How so?”

“Because this isn’t the world of World of Darkness the roleplaying game. It’s the world of Bloodlines the computer game.”

“How are those different?”

“I’m hoping that this means that we’ll only be dealing with the Vampire setting. Remember, Old World of Darkness settings weren’t all that compatible. As long as we don’t have to run into reality bending Mages, and I don’t have to deal with Paradox every time I cast magic or use powers, we might… might… be okay.”

“Why do you say might? Are these vamps bad news?”

“Oh, hell yes. But they’re not the issue. The issue is Caine and the Antediluvians.”

“Caine? As in Caine & Abel?”

“That’s the one.”

“I don’t follow.”

“Story time then. Caine killed Abel, right?” he nodded and I realized I was attracting a crowd. “Well God in this universe turned Caine into the first Vampire. Blood for Blood… cause apparently, one murder wasn’t enough for God. Caine can’t be killed. Fiat on that. Word of Motherfucking God. Caine cannot be killed. The God of this particular universe has made it so it’s just not possible and anyone who tries had better be able to fight big G himself over it.”

“Makes as much sense as any of your religions,” Reggy commented. I ignored her.

“Anyway, Caine had, depending on who you ask, either 3 or 13 children, in the Vampiric sense, which in this world are called “Childer” because they’re stupid. Those Childer had more Childer. Possibly as many as 100, but other numbers say 27 or 13. Regardless, those vampires are the forebearers of all the clans of vampires. And they’ve been asleep for thousands of years and will be awakening soon for something called “Gehenna”, the vampiric Apocalypse. They’re so old, they can no longer feed on human blood but must, instead, feed on other vampires.”

“Doesn’t sound like a bad thing if you’re not a vampire.”

“Sure… except that the non-Antediluvian vampires aren’t going to go down easily. They’re going to need Vitae, blood, to power their defenses. If the mages get involved, they’ll start tossing around nukes to stop all this crap. If they don’t exist in this version of the reality… then we’re only marginally screwed, because every freaking Antediluvian is a conceptual enemy. They’re all as broken as Yhwach and twice as mean.”

“Sooo… what’s the plan? Head for the hills? Head for Mars?”

“Yeah. If Gehenna breaks out, that’s the plan. I am not going out on a futile attempt to save the world from something I can’t win. But hopefully, it won’t. I have no idea of the timeframe or if Gehenna will occur within the ten years. If the Time of Weak Blood begins… well… we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. But the big sign is the election of Caitiff Princes.”

“Who is-”

“Not who. What. Vampire society is divided into clans and further divided into bloodlines. But no one clan controls an entire major city and even if they did, there’s lots of mixing and… anyway… There are two organizations that control almost all Kindred… that’s what vampires call themselves collectively… The Camarilla and the Sabbat. The Camarilla are essentially the Illuminati of Vampires. Old, boring, rule bound, and extremely political. The Sabbat were created in reaction to how annoyingly bossy the Camarilla are, and are essentially the First Anarchist Church of Vampirism.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Joy commented

“Role Playing Game.”

“Right.” She shook her head in disgust.

“These Camarilla gits sound like the Volturi from Twilight,” Velma added.

“That is almost assuredly where Meyers got the idea. Just… imagine there are about a thousand of them, none of them like each other, and they’re spread across all the major cities of the world.”

“Fuuuun.”

“Right. So, these local leaders are called “Princes.” they’re usually mid generation… oh… I haven’t explained Generation. Caine was the First, his direct Childer are the Second. The Antediluvians are the Third. The current clan leaders are 5th or 6th generation… the average Prince (the title is gender neutral) is about 8th, maybe 9th. 13th is where the character creation process in the RPG begins. 14th and 15th are barely more powerful than humans.”

“And Caitiff?”

“Clanless Vampires… usually ones so weak they can’t get into a Clan or so weak they lack the markings of their clan.”

“So, 13th is bad… seems to be a running theme,” said Gaius, “Is there a way to improve your generation, or is it just about the waiting game?”

“Age is less important than generation. An 8th Gen vampire, as powerful as you could be in character creation, Turned (that’s what they call being made into a vampire by your Sire… also gender neutral) yesterday, would be roughly as powerful as one turned 200 years ago, but the 200 year old would have a lot more experience and thus better control over their powers and skills. Generation is more about hardcaps than raw power. Age just gets you closer to your cap. Age can’t increase your generation.”

“Can anything?”

“Yes. It’s called Diablerie or Amaranth… and no… not a good thing. To do it, you drain… you drink… all the blood of another vampire, one more powerful than yourself, absorbing their power… and their essence. It marks your aura for years, and can corrupt your soul. And other vamps can sense it. And it’s kinda gross. And super evil. You lose Humanity doing it.”

“Ummm…” AJ raised his hand.

“It’s a metric of how close you are to the Beast… to letting the hunger control you… or how far. Look, I could probably tank it, maybe even tank the taint of draining an Antediluvian, but I’m going to be trying my best to abuse Diplomatic Immunity in this jump. Granted, the major vulnerabilities of vampirism are meaningless to me… actually… all of them are. No stake is going through my skin, fire is snackfood to me, and I can shift to a different form that isn’t vampiric in the day time… or maybe not… at least in this jump, it probably enforces staying a vamp. Eh. Fuck it. Still don’t see the need to get involved in vampiric politics. I might anyway, but realistically, not much point unless I feel like hunting down and destroying all the Sabbat. Regardless, let’s do this thing.”

Without even turning around, I spun the wheel of senility and got… 24. Excellent. I generally enjoy my 25th birthdays. Only one place to be, LA, so that’s sorted. Now, who shall I be this time? Drop-in? Tough? Nerd? Or Socialite? Hmmm… Socialite… more charming, easier time making friends, reasonable notoriety. Sounds good. They’re all free, so there’s that.

The next choice to make was Clan… also free. Only 7 choices… though not all choices are created equal. I automatically discounted the Orlok-Look-alike clan “Nosferatu”. Creepy, ugly, and reclusive is not really my schtick… well, not all at the same time. Ditto insanity in a clanshell “Malkavian”. Didn’t enjoy being insane last time, and I’m not sure what my Psi powers might do if I went completely bonkers. Last thing I needed was a disintegrated city on my conscience; I was still dealing with emotional fallout from some of the things I’d done from time to time and didn’t want more of that. Tremere use blood magic, which is… creepy and waaay too powergrabby for me. That left the thuggish, militant, anarchic Brujah; the feral, wolflike Gangrel; the moody, artistic, and easily bored Toreador; and the classist, elitist, smug-bastard Ventrue.

Oddly enough, those were 3 of my favorite clans (playing a Malkavian is fun, being one… less so, I’d imagine.). Still, a Socialite Gangrel didn’t fit, so that was out. It was pretty much a toss up. Toreadors got Celerity (Vampiric Speed) and Auspex (Vampiric Senses). Ventrues got Fortitude (Vampiric Toughness) and Dominate (Vampiric Mental domination). Both of them got Presence (Vampiric Glamor). Huh… the effects of those powers were different from the ones in the RPG… or at least couched in different language. Heh… imagine the metaness of running a group of vampires in a vampire campaign. “This is soo realistic!” they’d say. Or maybe not.

Regardless, I realized I’d forgotten that Toreadors and Ventrue had their own little quirks as well, to balance out the insanity, ugliness, rage issues, or physical frailty of the other clans. Toreadors gained and lost humanity more easily… and Ventrues were snobs who only fed from upper class people. Fuck it. I was going to be doing most of my feeding from my massive bloodbank (Proper Planning Prevents Puncturing People). Ventrue was not the way.

Toreadors were the most connected to the mortal world, especially the arts and entertainment, which was doubly important in LA where everything is arts and entertainment. I locked that in and checked on freebies. Gotta have freebies, right? “Vampirism” topped the list. No duh, thanks for that. “Sharper senses, tougher body, the potential for eternal life, and a maximum capacity of 30 Blood Points when sated. Weeeee.” But what good is Blood if you can’t use it on stuff, right? So I also got “Blood Buff” (a temporary boost to strength and dexterity/agility, at the cost of some stored blood) for free. And as a Toreador, I got the first ranks of Celerity (the ability to spend blood to run faster), Presence (the ability to spend blood to make anyone within a meter suffer a strength, wits, perception, and speed debuff.), and Auspex (the ability to spend blood to increase my thinking speed and see the auras of the living and undead within 10 meters). The powers were fairly meh, but they had great growth potential… if I chose to embrace them. Ha! Embrace! I slay me! Badumtish!

But wait, there’s more! As a Vampire of Caine’s lineage, I could use the Blood Bond to transform the living into my willing Ghouls (not the eat corpses kind). A Ghoul was an obsessively loyal minion, bound to you because they’d taken three sips of your blood (the first imparted strong feelings for the vampire in the drinker, the second imparted a powerful sense of the vampire’s importance, and the third was stalker territory… and vamps did this for fun!). Ghouls also didn’t age as long as they could sample a vamp’s blood once a month, healed incredibly rapidly, and gained some basic access to any vampiric disciplines their master had. Animals could become Ghouls too, and it tended to make them… grow bigger, fiercer, and more dangerous.

I also gained access to “The Embrace” (Hence the terrible joke above), the ability to transform mortals into fellow vampires. It wasn’t a pleasant process for the prospective blood sucker, as it essentially involved draining them to the point of death and then giving them a small about of your own blood. The transition took several days usually and wasn’t happy fun times… and the nascent vampire usually went into Frenzy at the first sight of blood. As a GM, I’d always wondered what would happen if a sample of a Vampire’s blood was used on a freshly exsanguinated body that hadn’t been drained by a vampire. Would that still work? And what if the ghouling process was done with intravenous blood, not drunk? Could I steal some vamp’s blood and addict someone else to that person? What if I mixed a whole bunch of blood from other vampires…. The science was calling to me… as a doctor.

The last vampiric freebie was my own personal Ghoul, a fanatically loyal servant that could either be someone named “Heather” or anyone I described. They’d be extremely loyal regardless of how I treated them or if I left them as a ghoul or not… and they counted as a companion. Huh. I could, in theory, pick someone from the real world… my world, Origin Earth, since this was close to that world. Hell, I could probably get a copy of one of my friends, or my sister… or my dad… I’d have to check the year of the jump to see if it was before he died… but no… it wouldn’t really be him… or them. It would be a copy. And if I ever found a way to get the real people, I’d have to explain “Oh, this is your Earth-Bloodline’s copy. They were just filling in for you.” That might work, but I’d feel weird about it. On the other hand, I could get Johnny Depp or Christian Bale or Rachel Weisz or… or Tilda Swinton! I love Tilda Swinton!

But that would be creeper stalker lady of me. Bad SJ. Well, I don’t know who Heather is, and so I have no real desire to have her follow me around like a lovesick puppy… or really to have anyone follow me around like that. My companions might not be my equals but they come closer than most… except Ziggy who is clearly a superior lifeform since he gets all the snuggles and petting and treats and I have to do all the work. I’ll pass on this, at least for now. If someone actually interesting presents themself… or, you know, I can find Justin Bieber… oh… that’s tempting. “Justin! Fling yourself into this furnace for me!” “Yes Mistress!” Nooo… bad SJ!

So that was it for the Vampire freebies… but Socialite got me Haggling (the tendency to always get the best possible prices – buying and selling – as long as I have even a vague sense of the value of something.) for free. Not that I needed it, as I usual either paid whatever the price was or used mind control, but sure, why not. The other two Socialite perks were Seduction [100] and Persuasion [200]. The first made me able to talk the pants off of even the most prudish… and made it come naturally, instead of me feeling like a little girl asking Santa for a pony or a tween demanding to know why she got a D+ on an A paper (stupid biased asshole teacher. Grrrr.). It went well with “The Voice” from Pervert Bride. The second made me insanely good at persuading people to do… pretty much anything I wanted them to, plus it gave me the gift of sizing up a mark and lying quickly and smoothly. They weren’t the best abilities, but, they fit the scene and nothing better seemed to be on offer. It too went well with “The Voice”. I was a charisma machine!

In the gear section, I found such useless tat as a Fire Axe, a Revolver, Leather Clothing, circa 2010 Body Armor, a refilling fridge with enough blood to keep me going for 1 week (but not at full tilt), an assault rifle, a shotgun, something called the “Odious Chalice” that sounded about as pleasant as root canal, “A Group of People Who Aren’t Assholes” which would allow me to take up to 8 chucklefucks from this world as companions but which wasn’t an import option, a magical katana, a blob of amber that boosted the time limit on my disciplines by 50%… and the only thing worth buying, a green thing that increased my learning rate by 1/3rd. It was called the “Saulocept” and cost [300]… which left me with 400 and nothing to buy with it. Fuck.

Drawback time, I guess. 600 CP limit. The 300 pointers were all out. Plaguebearer was gross and exactly what it sounds like. Twice Damned changed the blood drinking to eating fresh human flesh. And Gehenna started Gehenna within the first 2 years. Fuuuuuck. Of the 200s, one would make me a coward and one would make me a sycophant to someone named “Lacroix”. The only one that seemed at all interesting, and indeed, possibly fun, was “To Be Continued” which would stock the world with all sorts of weirdness (landsharks, vampire hunting strippers, Justin Bieber being a not-douche…). The 100’s… had a theme. The letter “F”. Fornication (you will spend a disproportionate amount of time seeking sex and dress like a stripper), F.A.T. (a weight problem. Comes with Afro.), and Frenzied (anger control issues). I took the first and second. A fat, slutty, artistic, socialite vampire. Sure. Why the hell not. That brought me to 800… now I had twice as much and nothing I wanted. I know, I know, you’re wondering why I took drawbacks then? Literally for the hell of it.

I could buy levels of the disciplines, but it would be more fun learning how to use them than just buying them. Wait… what generation am I? That’s a kinda big thing… I read through the entire thing. No comment? Wait… blood pool is determined by… 6th Generation! Well fuck me sideways and call me Bruce! You couldn’t even buy 6th Gen in Dark Ages. 8th was the starting limit in standard, and 7th in Dark Ages. 6th generation limited everything in the setting to 7 dots… out of 5. 7… out of 5. And as a vampire, I could boost anything. Stats, Skills, Disciplines. Hell, the Toreador level 7 of Auspex was the ability to create custom personalities for myself at will. And the level 6 was mesmerific storytelling… from a sense boosting power. Level 7 Celerity was essentially pulling a Flash and doing multiple things at the same time. Level 7 Presence could numb people’s emotions to nothing or remove their ability to feel empathy for others. Scary shit.

Eh, screw it. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to unlock the clan disciplines I didn’t buy, so I might as well buy 5 more level one disciplines. Couldn’t buy them all… not even from the limited pool available (11 out of more than 30 if I was remembering correctly.). I opted for ones that offered the most interesting potential effects, stuff I couldn’t normally do on my own. That was Obfuscation (Vampiric Invisibility), Animalism (Animal Control), Protean (Gangrel specific Beasting Out), Dementation (Malkavian specific inducing insanity), and Thaumaturgy (Tremere specific Blood Magic). I could probably learn Potence (Vamp Strength), Fortitude (Vamp Toughness), and Dominate (Vamp Mind Control)… all of them were common and not clan specific.

That left me with 50 and I splurged and bought a Fire Axe with it. It was either that or the gun or the leather. Fire Axe… eh… don’t leave home without it?

“Ahab, Joy… you sitting this one out?” Neither one had picked up their Tablets of Destiny. Joy nodded. “Not really…” She trailed off, but Ahab continued “It’s a little creepy, you know?” I nodded.

“Your choice. I’m locking the warehouse into timeless while I’m gone. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Franky elbowed me and grinned “And it’s not ‘cause you don’t want us seeing you all gross and skanky?”

I shuddered. “Yeah… that too. I’m going to try and not be… fucked up… in this jump. But I’m not counting on it. And if anything goes wrong, I don’t really want any of you getting fanged, ghouled, or worse.

Joy laughed. “Well, if that’s the way you’re going to be, I can’t see how I can pass this up.” She plucked her tablet up and logged in, announcing her choices as she went “Nerd… Ventrue.” I groaned. Blood Buff, Blood Bond, Embrace, Ghoul, Fortitude, Presence, and Dominate… Plus “Hacking” (The ability to hack weird 90s era computers… except they all turned out to be 80s era, so hah!). Ahab smirked “Fine! If you’re going, then so am I! Tough Brujah!” I groaned. They were going to be bickering the entire damned jump! I banged my head on the VMoD. He got Melee (oh, so useful, Mr “I-Invented CQC.”) instead of Hacking, plus Celerity, Potence, and Presence. Great. The trifecta of Presence Clans. Intimidation, Glamour, and Majesty. Just what the world needed.

INSERTION

I didn’t mean for things to go like this. I really didn’t. I assume this is how the game begins. You wake up in a bed in a dive motel, another person sitting across the room watching you sleep and smoking. Some goons smash down the door, grab you both, and drag you to this theatre where everyone who’s anyone in Vampiric LA (at least on the Camarilla side) is there for your Sire’s trial for unauthorized vampirization. He or she, in my case He… He said his name was Lester or something… is executed, and the Prince, a douchenozzle named Lacroix is about to order the same done to you when one of the Brujahs protests and Laxative changes his mind (Lacroix Baby, Lacroix) and gives you a reprieve, at which point the game begins and you get to act. I assume this, because that’s pretty much how things went for me. I had no control of my body for over an hour. I blame that for what happened next.

I couldn’t speak, couldn’t exert external force on anything… but my senses worked fine and I read the hearts and minds of every single person in that theatre, Camarilla, Anarchs, Sabat spies… Kuei-jin sympathizers. Sure, some of them had mental defenses… but not against anything like me. I’d read the hearts and minds of Vampires dozens of times more powerful than these idiots. Which is why it came as such a shock, because I’d never read minds as inhuman as theirs. Christ! I’ve been inside Reggy’s head! She was utterly non-human, but these… beings… I wanted, in that moment to destroy them all… they were all murderers… well… not all… some were guilty of manslaughter more than murder, having killed only once or twice when totally out of control from hunger, often their first kill… but there wasn’t a single person in that theater who hadn’t taken human life at least once… including the drunken (and all too human) janitor asleep in the basement… wow… what a dick.

I got angrier and angrier as my enforced immobility dragged on and on… and the second they released me I… may have snapped and turned everyone in the theater into vegetables… mentally speaking. Okay, yes, I psychically lobotomized everyone in sight… and sensory range really. I looked around as, one by one, they toppled like ten-pins, thrashing and drooling. I swore. “Fuuuuuucccccccccckkkkk…” I was reasonably certain none of them would die if I did nothing… at least not until some humans came by and took them out into the sunlight… but the VMoDs had said that, if I played nice and, in general, followed the plot (it was a fairly sandboxy game I guess?) I’d get more “power up potential” than just executing everyone for being vampiric scum.

I rolled my eyes, then ate the last 3 minutes of history. It tasted… smoggy, but went down easy. I only had to undo a very very recent event in a very localized area. I could eat a decade old event on a global scale without too much trouble. This was… an amuse bouche by comparison.

Everyone blinked, looking around as if trying to figure out what had happened, but, for once, the nature of the WoD meant that reality snapped back around them and they forgot it almost at once. Right… Fucking consensual reality. Still wasn’t sure I was safe from Paradox, but no witnesses, right?

I have no idea how closely what followed reflects the game. I never played it, I don’t know. But in general, there was an utterly bullshit tutorial section involving some Sabat and some gang bangers. I lumbered my… absolutely staggering 540 lbs body, 7 feet tall, dressed in stripperific clothing that… I should not have been wearing a thong!!!! Anyway. I lumbered my way through that section, letting the core persona for this jump (Salty Jones… part black, part hispanic, part chinese, part… Salty was LA in microcosm. He, yes he, was bound to offend… everyone. Transvestite, omnisexual, blimpoid, and a little bit of almost every ethnic group on the west coast. He was also a massive smart ass, a personal chef, and a nightclub singer. I liked him… me… despite myself.)

For the next few weeks we acted like a normal… if very large and oversexed vampire. I even tried drinking from a mortal, but it was… gross. Really really gross… it was… hot… and ugh… blech… cloyingly sweet. Just how much sugar was in one of those things? People… whatever. I mean, sure, the beast within was all “Gnarrrr Feeed me!” but really, Silent Judge was about ten times scarier than this nebulous hunger that didn’t even have an identity. It was a secondary ID really, but that’s what Silent Judge essentially was at this point. There were too many of us, of me, to let a frustrated hunger monster shape our identity at this point.

Met some interesting people. Some Thin Bloods down by the beach… I gave them a place to crash when I took out some jackasses who’d beat up this ghoul named Mercurio. He sent me to get meds for him from the local clinic, and to get some high explosives back from the douchebags who beat him up… I considered just healing him… but he asked for pain meds and mentioned a clinic and I know a plot hook when I hear one. So I went… found out who Heather was. Injured girl, room all alone, bleeding to death. Seriously. Fuck this. I was being handed Ghoul Girl on a Gurney? She didn’t have any plot hooks, so I stuffed her into the medbay. She could be grateful later, but I was not turning her into a ghoul just to save her life.

Anyway, got the drugs for Mercurio, headed to the beach to get his not-semtex back, met the thin bloods… turned the thugs into seagulls, then gave their house to the Thin Bloods I’d met getting there (E, Rosa, Cooper, and Julius). They looked like they could use a pad. And some blood. And I could use a few test subjects, to see if curing the vampirism was actually possible. Who knows, it could be.

Each of them had their own little questline potential, it seemed. E wanted to find his Sire, Lily, who must be gen 14 if she made him and was thin-blooded herself… gen 15s can’t sire as far as I know. Cooper was an idiot who thought he could return to being human if he killed the head vampire like in Lost Boys or got a blood transfusion like in… huh… never heard that one before. Naive, but still… an idiot. Rosa wanted to get out of town, but that wasn’t safe… not that staying was much better. Julius was apparently breaking the masquerade to sell Vampire info to a screen writer named David; I’d have to erase David’s memory but in the meantime I explained about the masquerade to these little yutzes… and the Jyhad, the Sabbat, the Camarilla, being Thin Blooded… I gave them the 20 minute powerpoint presentation (about as long as I could spare by teleporting back to Mercurio instead of driving. Bet the game version of LA was smaller. LA is fucking huge!). “Stay here, don’t kill anyone, and try not to act like vampires.” I told them.

Getting back to Mercurio with the RDX (what else could it be, it was in two bleach bottles and smelled homemade), he begged me not to tell Lacroix about this. “Chill little man, I ain’t telling Lacock more than the time of day. Dude be tripping, killing that nice lady like that.” Then he sent me on the next step of the quest, which was to blow up some Sabbat warehouse… but I couldn’t just take it out personally, I had to get some dillhole named Berty Tung to get me in… and that meant getting some bint named Teresa and her sister Jeanie to drop some kind of feud… it was all getting do A to do B to get C to blow up D… but at this point it was like LARPing, and I’d done enough of that IRL to not really mind. I was actually getting into character a bit.

Get to “The Asylum” the nightclub run by twin bitches T&J Voerman, and T wants me to help her unhaunt some hotel… and the only way to get to the Ocean House Hotel is through the sewers… really? What, the, everliving, FUCK? Why? Can’t I just take a fucking cab? Screw this, I’m taking a cab. I didn’t even bother to scan her; she was just a quest giver, right?

I took a cab. Turns out the sewer reason is cause the doors are boarded up. Riiiight. I have a fucking sword that can cut between spirit particles… matter is not going to stop me… no… no.. no destruction of private property. I turned into a snake and slid through a broken window, fully expecting this to be a bullshit fake haunting.

Not so much. Fuuuck. Bits of things kept exploding. Fucking Wraiths! Shit… shitshit… if they were here, Werewolves, Fae, and Mages were too. Screw this noise. I turned spectral and drew my Zanpakuto. “Here ghosty.” I said, voice full of menace. “Bakudo 44. Big Trouble in Little Seireitei.”

At my words, the entire hotel was sealed, cut off from the outside world, both physically and spiritually. “Bakudo 88. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice.” There was a screech and lighting fixtures exploded all around me as the ghost was pulled out of the immaterium and physically manifested by my highly unorthodox sealing spells. “Bakudo 69. Who You Gonna Call?” A rectangle of light appeared beneath the ghost, actinic tendrils of energy reaching up and wrapping around its spiritual form.

“This is not your place, spirit.” I said, drawing Soul of Ice. “Time for you to move on.” And I pressed the base of my… overly large machete… someone was having funtimes… but to be fair, her normal slender forms would have looked like a toothpick in my massive mits… against the ghost’s head and, with a scream of rage and anger and hate, the ghost was dragged into the darkness beyond. A moment later a second ghost coalesced, looking tired but ultimately satisfied. She nodded silently to me, then dissolved into a pillar of light and rose through the ceiling, leaving behind a pendant and a diary. I read the second, learning about the asshole father (ghost 1) who killed his daughters and wife (ghost 2) then tormented her for decades. Fucker… he got off… probably not easy, come to think of it.

Getting back to Terry V, I found her missing and her twin sister Jennie had a quest for me… in the form of vandalizing some paintings at a local gallery. That took me twelve minutes, most of it because doing so summoned some fucked up blood… thing. Get back and Terry’s sends me to some diner to make up with Jeanette… Fuck it, if I’m going to be running errands for these two, I’ll take the time and do the reading…

Well, fuck. Not twins. DID. Multiple Personality Disorder. Thanks to a fairly fucked up childhood and the Malkavian Madness… ooohh… this is what I get for treating people like people. The two of her were in full on meltdown mode. There was a psychic war going on between the two of them, plus Jeanette was planning to have some thugs shoot me at the diner. Oh, and Theresa had Lily tied up as a blood donor at the local blood bank, courtesy of one of her ghouls.

One jaunt into TJ’s mind, a lot of cleanup and a rather disturbing bossfight later, and the two were… talking to each other instead of plotting cerebral sororicide. “Now, you two behave, call Tung, I’m getting out of here. And you want to be Prince of this city so bad, start acting like it. A Prince does not plot to assassinate herself, got me? Oh, and that one ponytail on the side of the head look? Not you. Makes you look like you forgot to balance your look.”

I sauntered out, heading for the gas station where the Nosferatu Tung lived… how the fuck long were the nights here? Long enough I guess. But it was getting pretty close to dawn. Tung gave me the skinny on the warehouse… why I needed to do all the other bullshit I dunno, but fine, juuust fine. Padding, introducing stuff… whatever. This jump was 2 days old and I already needed a drink… not that it would do much besides make this form sick. “Sneak in, plant the bomb, yaddayadda.”

I rolled my eyes. I could do this blindfolded. I didn’t. But I could have. Instead I flew up to the roof and cut my way through the ceiling, dropped the bomb and walked away. Building went boom. I’d scanned it, nothing but humans who wanted to be Sabbat. Not a nice group of people.

As I was doing the post explosion walking away from the flames bit, a Gangrel wolfshifter named Becket showed up, wanting to wax all philosophical about the Book of Nod and its “Secrets of Vampirekind, shhh sooo secret.” history / myth… whatever. Him, I read. Not Cam, not Anarch, not Sabbat. Just a 300 year old loner… with some interesting information. He acted cryptic, I acted weird… it was all good.

Get back to Berty, report the deed done, he calls me a Cab… that’s… when things go off the rails. I suspect things would have been different in the game, is what I’m saying. I walked to the cab, just passively scanning everyone I ran into if I was going to be spending more than a few minutes with them, and I stumbled. The driver wasn’t human. Fair enough, this was WoD. But the Driver also wasn’t just any old vamp. The driver was freaking Caine. His eyes tracked to me and he had the same stunned expression on his face as I would have had if I’d had worse self control.

“We should talk,” we both said at the same time.

“You first,” I said.

“Not here,” he said.

“Fine.” I climbed in the back and he drove to an underground parking facility.

“No two day old fledgling should be able to keep me from reading him,” he said as he pulled into a spot.

“No. I imagine not. Except, I’m older than you are, Caine.”

“That’s not possible, unless you’re my father.”

“Oh, it is. Well… probably. I doubt either of us really has that firm a grasp on just how old we are.”

“How is this possible?”

“The God that Marked you is not the only God.”

“Obviously.”

“The how isn’t that important. The why is. I’m here for a 10 year… let’s call it an audit. I’m here to watch things play out, maybe to interfere, maybe not. Like you, I could easily wipe out every Vampire in this city… besides each other. I can’t hurt you, obviously… and you cannot reasonably harm me. At least that’s the assumption we should both go on. According to legend, If I harm you, I’ll receive the same wounds, only worse. Let’s not test each other’s limits, shall we?”

“No. I suppose not. So, you just… show up places, and watch?”

“Sometimes I show up places and kick ass. I imagine the same goes for you, though I’ve seen… many more places than you have.”

“Oh? Do tell. I love a good story.”

I laughed. “Yeah, yeah. You don’t believe me. Want to see a trick?”

He chuckled. “Sure. I love… tricks.”

And with that, I drew him into my Mind Palace. “Welcome to Sunny California.” I said, throwing open the doors leading from the foyer to the outside. Caine looked around at the vista, a crowd of palaces atop a hundred mountain peaks, each surrounded by a nimbus of cloud and bathed in sourceless light. “Where is this… and who are you?”

I smiled, “I’m the same person who’s sitting in the back of your cab. This is just what I really look like. And this… is the inside of my mind.”

“How?”

“How do you reflect damage? Call it the curse of a vengeful god.”

You don’t sound bitter.”

“It’s been a while. I’ve adjusted. Can’t go home again and all that. I guess I should be asking why you’re in LA at this time, but I’m here, so I can only assume something major is brewing within the next four to eight years. Gehenna, or something like it.”

“Something like it? What’s like Gehenna?” He seemed incredulous.

“Believe it or not, the mortal Apocalypse and the vampiric Gehenna aren’t the only doomsdays rolling out around these parts. The lycanthropes, mages, changelings, and even the wraiths all have their own ends of the world. It’s a right clusterfuck of Doomsdays.”

“Well… isn’t that just lovely.”

“Gets worse than that.”

“Worse than doomsday? days?”

“Has to do with why history is all fucked up.”

“Do I want to know?”

“No. You really don’t. I have multiple post doctoral degrees in high level math and it makes my brain hurt just trying to deal with it.”

“Wonderful. So… what now? I mean, I was all set to be super cryptic and drop hints about destiny and how you were shaping it and how we’re all fortune’s fools… but I think you might understand that as well as I do.”

“Yeah… learned that the hard way. I could and have been a major plotbuster… but only when I know what’s coming… in detail. This time? All I know is the power level.”

“You sound worried.”

“Your children scare the crap out of me.”

“But I don’t?”

“Aside from being a murderer, you’re fairly reasonable. And there’s only one of you. I have no idea how many of these Antediluvians there are, where they are, or what their motives are. And their power level is, I think, higher than yours in some ways. An awful lot of your power rests in being… unkillable.”

“Accursed.”

“Yup. That. I’d love to be able to tell you I have a solution to that, but, while I know solutions are out there, I don’t know how to get to where they are.”

“Lovely. Well, if you find one, do drop by again and spare a thought for Caine.”

“If there’s a world left when I’m done here…. But for now you should take me to see LaCock, and I should report in. There’s a plot to unravel here.”

And there was. It unravelled slowly over the next month and a half, a month that largely focused around a massive practical joke being played by a local anarch called Smiling Jack involving an ancient sarcophagus and an Antediluvian rumor…. And about eleven pounds of C-4. The city got a new Prince (not me), the Anarchs had a good laugh (not at my expense), and all the Kuei-Jin in the city ended up very very dead (those who didn’t flee when I gave them the option… I don’t like people trying to play me for a patsy.)

That was how I spent the first 2 months of the jump… call that the tutorial. The rest of the time I spent largely with Caine as we tracked down the Antediluvians one by one and I explained (between battles) the nature of the world to the vampiric progenitor. “So… everything in this universe is some kind of… illusion?”

“More like an agreement on what happened, is happening, and can happen. It’s what causes the mortals to largely forget everything they’ve seen of the supernatural, no matter how often it crops up.”

“And it’s all coming crashing down?”

“Yeah… pretty soon. The Final Nights are coming within the decade.”

“And you know all this from playing games?”

“Parallel universes. Some more parallel than others. In my world.., my homeworld, all of this world was merely a rule set for bored people to pretend to be Vampires, Werewolves, or Mages.”

“I’d ask why they’d want that, but I have a feeling I wouldn’t understand even if you told me.”

“Yeah… pretty much. It’s a mortal thing. I still enjoy it, but I get regular doses of mortality every decade or so. I’m not really sure how far into the immortal range I am. This is my… third? Fourth… fifth? Time being something that will, in theory, live forever. I’m a racial / societal god, a pagan goddess, an elf a couple of times over, a half-dragon… dunno if they die of old age… and a vampire, of course.”

“And there are more vampires out there than just the kuei-jin that have no connection to me?”

“Oh, a good hundred or so. What did you think of those Twilight Audiobooks I loaned you?”

“I think the Volturi sound like what the Camarilla wishes it could be… and their Embrace sounds like the torment of the damned. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. Still, they sound like fierce warriors… when they aren’t moping. Much better than that Louis, and his child bride. Dracula I liked. He had style… but I could not figure out which clan he might be.”

I laughed. “Yeah. I do that too sometimes. If I had the Darin Shan books, I’d loan those to you, but they’re on backorder. Vampinese… I dunno… sometimes people amuse me. I never read them myself. Just saw the first movie… prissiest vampires ever. But Vampire Fiction is essentially divided into three groups. The Vampires are People, Vampires are Monsters, and Vampires are Monster-People.”

“How does that work?”

“Well, VaP works try to limit the power and play up the humanity. VaM works tend to nerf both the humanity and the power pretty heavily so that normal people can badass their way to killing them… that’s what Buffy the Vampire Slayer was all about. Most of your descendants would rip through most of that world’s vamps like a sawblade through balsa… And VaMP works tend to play up both factors, showing how hard it is to be a demi-god of murder without giving in to the hunger.”

“You don’t seem to have a problem with it.”

“First, I source all my blood ethically… I have a jar that makes blood. But mostly. I think blood tastes disgusting. Too coppery too sweet. Of course, that means everything tastes ghastly to me these days besides mint gum. I drink it because I need it, but honestly I just close my eyes and think of England.”

“What?”

“What they used to tell puritanical British women to do with regards to sex. You don’t seem bothered by the hunger either.”

“Just practice. When I’m not angry, I barely feel it anymore. It doesn’t sustain me. The Curse does that all on its own. All I feel is pain if I don’t eat.”

“Ah. That makes sense.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask… why do you wear that… ridiculous form?”

“Salty? It’s the form I was given this jump… and for this jump, all my forms will be… rotund… just like I’ll be incredibly slutty… It’s the price I pay for more power. I inflict… hardship upon myself.”

“Huh… just out of curiosity… is one of those hardships an explanation for why we’ve been attacked by Vampiric Were-Chihuahas every night for the past week?”

“Heh… Could be.”

ENDGAME

Nine years and change. That’s how long we managed to put off Gehenna. Four of the Antediluvians were willing to listen to reason. Ennoia, Malkav, Ilyes, and Saluot… and not a single one of them was sane. Ilyes had been driven mad by abuse of time travel. Saluot and Malkav by the conflicting nature of their precognitive gifts in a world where even the past was fluid… and Ennoia from being half-vampire, half-werewolf. That these four were the sanest of the lot should tell you much.

Still, nothing could save a world bent on destroying itself, and even holding Gehenna at bay wouldn’t stop the Ascension or the Apocalypse or the End of Days. The World of Darkness was being cancelled and the world was coming to an end regardless of what I or Caine might do about it. I’d never actually read the Gehenna sourcebook, since my World of Darkness Campaigns were always set in the future past the point they’d have occurred (and I’m not a big End of the World fangirl), but I’d surfed wiki’s and talked to people enough to know that the book didn’t paint any absolutes. Just… scenarios… mutually exclusive ones at that.

“Are you certain this will work?”

“No. Not even a little bit.” I said, pulling out the syringe and handing it to him.

“Then explain again.”

“There is a thing called the Withering. It showed up in some of the scenarios.”

“And it does… what?”

“It makes vitae useless. Forces vampires to eat each other.’

“And this concoction of yours?”

“It’s technical… but the biggest theory of the Withering is it was caused by something taking you out of the picture.”

“And…”

“Remember in Lestat, when all the vampires got burned because Akasha was put out in the sun?”

“Yes.”

“What happens to the father happens to them all.”

“Them? Not you?”

“Eh… maybe. But my powers will work in other worlds where you don’t exist… at the worst I’ll lose all the Vicissitude and Obtenebration and Quietus and the other powers I picked up from the minds of those who opposed us. Everything else I should keep. And if I don’t… I’ll always have Paris.”

“You’re very strange… I still do not-”

“I think I have a way to make anyone who has your blood in their system turn into a mortal again… It’s… it’s fucked up, but it’s essentially a combination of a lot of science, a lot of magic… this curse from Buffy… some powdered Phoenix Down… it’s complicated… Just… stick yourself with the needle. Worse that can happen is you die, right?”

“But the world is still going to end?”

“Yes.”

“Then… what good will this do?”

“Endings are just beginnings as seen from the other side.”

“And this will remove the curse?”

“Almost certainly not.”

“Then… why?”

“Because it will end everyone else’s Eternal Night.”

“Ah. It will be as if I’d never disobeyed Uriel.”

“Well… everyone your children have ever killed will still be dead… but yes. They’ll grow old and die, just like everyone else.”

“And this is for the best?”

“What the hell do I know? I can see a few seconds into the future… Ask those two.” I pointed at Malkav and Saluot who were playing chess against each other… two seers, predicting each others’ moves in real time.

“Fuck.” The father of all vampires said, then jabbed himself with the syringe. His heart (yes, he still has a heartbeat… he’s not undead.) lurched as the bolus of magic hit it like a ton of bricks and there was a flash of light and an Angel of THE LORD stood in front of us.

~WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?~

“Ah. Good. Thought that might get your attention.”

“What?” asked Caine. I might have left out this bit.

“Sit down Caine… you’re dying,” I said, then turned to the Angel. “What I did was very simple… I had him inject a tiny chunk of anti-matter into his body along with the cure which might or might not work”

~WHY?~

“To get you to show up.”

~WHY?~

“Because I want you to make this whole thing go away.”

~THING?~

“The ends of the world.~

~AND IF I DON’T?~

“I erased the gods of a world that wasn’t ruled by consensual reality once. Do you really think I’d have a problem convincing everyone on this Earth that Blue was Green? I like this world… it’s fun. But the End of the World shit has got to go. I don’t know if you can do much about the nature of the world, but between the Christians and Muslims, you and your people have got the pull to stop the end of the world cold. So do so. Let things play out on their own. Stop pushing for a final resolution and enjoy the ride. It’s not what you were made for, but it’s the more interesting story.”

~I HAVE REMOVED THE ANTI-MATTER. HE’LL BE FINE.~

“I know. I knew you would. God can’t have Caine just keeling over, now can he?”

~YOU TREAD A VERY DANGEROUS PATH, MORTAL~

“Fuck you. You’re playing dice with the fate of the world. Grow up.”

~YOU DARE.~ It wasn’t an accusation.

“I do. You’re the fire of god. Hit me with your righteous fury. Give in to the anger. Judge me, big boy.”

~DO NOT TEMPT ME.~

“Then act like you’ve grown some over the past fortnight. The world took a long time to build… it’s pretty fascinating. Shutting it down now… that spoils all the fun.”

~DO NOT DO THIS AGAIN~

“Do we have a deal?”

~YES. DO NOT DO THIS AGAIN~

18 weeks later

“Oh, come on Caine. I knew they wouldn’t let you die.”

“That’s not the point. You lied to me.”

“Hah. If that’s my biggest crime, I’ll take it.”

“And you’re asking me to trust you? After getting me to stick Anti-Matter into my body?”

“Ayup.”

“This is a terrible idea.”

“Ayup.”

“You’re mad.”

“Ayup.”

“And we’re having this talk inside your mind palace because?”

“No eavesdroppers here… probably.”

“This will never work.”

“You’re such a worry wart. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Oh… please stop saying that.”

10 minutes later

~CAINE. DO NOT THINK YOU CAN ESCA~

And the pillars of time rose out of Santa Monica Beach.

Next: World 49 – Under the Domes

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