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