World 50: Hellblazer Part 3

HOC IN HORA

Previously: Conversations With God

Themesong: Going Under by Evanescence

Sometimes the past comes back to haunt us… sometimes we come back to haunt the past. I took in a deep breath and sighed. This wasn’t World 50… this was World 5, all over again. Welcome back Mr. Potter. I shuddered softly. I’d planned to return here… someday. Someday when I was ready to face what I’d left behind, left undone.

The first time I’d been here, back when I was still less than a century old, I’d taken a Drawback that created a dark prophecy that I would be the next Dark Lord… then I’d been instrumental in bringing down the old one, oh he of no nose. They’d called me “The Winter Witch”.

I’d found it amusing, played up the role, laughed it off and did things my own way. I’d even, in my youthful way, had a child in this world, a child I’d left behind with adopted parents. I’d left this world on the 24th of July, 2000… It was now Monday, October 30th of 2006 according to the newspapers being read in the cafe’s I past…. We’d returned, it seemed, moments after we left. None of my companions were responding to my calls, some serious shit was going down. I needed… help… and, with Victoria AWOL, I needed a wand. Bugger. Still, I knew where to find a wand, a good one, and all I needed was to rob a grave.

I considered going there first, but I didn’t know how my companions had been taken down, or why… and that meant I needed help first.  All I knew was that Mini had been the last to make contact of group 3.  Group 4 had never made contact at all. Fuck it… there’s no bloody way it should work, so I whistled aimlessly, walking up one street and down another until I heard someone mention the name of a pub.  I found the pub simply by flipping a coin randomly at every intersection I came to, so I figured I was on the right track, sat down, ordered 6 pints, and waited.

The fellow at the next table was reading a book called “The Struggle for Purity” and he had the most disagreeable mind-state, so I tuned him out and drank my beer. 22 minutes, and 2 pints later, in walked the man himself. I motioned him over. “Hello John.” I said, pushing a pint towards him. “You’re late.”

“You’re her.” he said, taking the stout and finishing half of it in a long pull. It wasn’t a question.

“No shit. And You’re him. Where are they?”

He opened his mouth, then shut it again, eyes narrowing. “They who?”

I chuckled drily. “Fine. Fine. You don’t know.  Instead, tell me what’s happened the last 6 years… magically speaking.”

“Why do you want to know that?”

“Because I’m buying the beer.”

He studied me long and hard, then pulled out a cigarette and lit up, ignoring the just recently passed public smoking ban.

“Well… let’s see… On September 11th of 2001, your followers used dragons to attack the White House, The Pentagon, and the World Trade Center,” he began.

Inside, I twitched… violently. So much for killing Osama Bin Laden in 1996. Outside I was, forgive the expression, cold as ice. “Go on.”

“What more do you want to know? The names of the muggle leaders your One World Order lunatics have assassinated?  Sure, they weren’t nice people, but the civil wars, the massive disruption?  And they weren’t subtle about it either.  Did you think it was funny to destroy Kim-Jong Il’s palace in front of the entire army on his birthday?”

I considered it, then shrugged. I hadn’t done, or ordered, any such thing… but yes, I would have considered it hilarious… assuming I’d evacuated the innocent civilians first.

“So… you’re saying I’m the most wanted figure in the world?”

“The muggles think you’re a terrorist madwoman hiding out in Afghanistan and the various Wizarding communities are helping keep your more extreme actions under control. There’s magical martial law in practically every major nation, has been for half a decade, and you just stroll into… how’d you even know I’d be here?”

“I didn’t.  I knew you’d ride Synchronicity to where you needed to be… and I manipulated fate enough to guarantee that where you needed to be was here.” I studied him carefully, then said “I have no idea who’s been using my name… and I’m not pleased at the apparently ham handed way they’ve been operating… but, believe me or don’t, I had nothing to do with this nonsense.  I’ve been on, you’ll forgive me for the pun, on Ice, for the last 6 years. I woke up to discover that every one of my contacts and agents have vanished.  And you’re going to tell me how, and where, and why.”

“I said. Martial Law.  Anyone magical without proper documentation gets scooped up by the goonsquad.  It’s getting so you can barely swing a wand in England without Potter and his fast reaction squad swooping in.  And that’s if you’re lucky.”

“What happens if you’re unlucky?”

“Potter’s a good guy, but he’s only the head field Auror.  The Ministry has their new “Taskforce Opposing Terror and Espionage Networking” Commandos. They’ll… as the Americans call it, “Rendition” your ass if they think you’re working with… um… well.. You.  That got away from me a bit.”

“Riiiight.  So the Ministry of Magic has, literally, made Totenkopf Commandos to hunt down dissidents, agitators, and… who the hell is Minister of Magic?”

“Dolores Umbridge… also Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.”

I did twitch at that.  “WHAT?!” I hissed.  “That horrible… after all she did to support You know who?”

“They’re calling you that, now… you know?”

I grimaced. “Let me guess… she rode in on a platform of national security and a lot of hateful rhetoric.”

“You do know her better than I do.”

“I do.  Yes.  She and I are going to have… phrases.”

“Oh, yes? I’m sure that will go wonderfully. The Winter Witch assaults 10 Downing Street. Film at 11.”

“Constantine.”

“Yes?”

“Imagine the scariest thing, demon, fairy, what have you, that you’ve ever seen. Are you doing it?”

“Yes?”

“They ain’t got nothing on me.  But I’ve recently decided to embrace my humanity, so I’m not going to go in all wands blazing.  Not the least because I’m certain that these TOTENCommandos have been literally Avada Kedavra’ing their way through my faithful minions.  No. I’m going to find the bastards who’ve been using my good name for naughtiness, and I’m going to make them pay… And please… don’t try and help.”

“Wasn’t planning to.  Kinda came here to see if I could put a stop to all this.”

“I know you did, Johnny Boy.  I know you did.  But there’s something you don’t know.”

“There’s always something I don’t know.  What don’t I know?”

“I stole your wand 3 minutes ago.”

“You… what?”

“Oh, and your shoelaces are tied together.”

He glanced down… I tapped him on the head and whispered “Somnos.” He was asleep before his head bonked off the table.

I stepped out into the pouring rain and waited.  If I had a watch, I’d have checked the time. It was after dark.  I glanced around, sensing for lifesigns, then started blowing up cars as I walked along the street, whistling the 1812 overture as I pointed the stolen wand again and again. Inside my head I was counting.

A disturbance in the local fabric brushed against my consciousness and I slowed time, looking around myself as half a dozen Aurors appeared to box me in.  They were good; well trained, coordinated.  It would have worked on a normal foe, one who didn’t know exactly what they were about to do.  With all the time in the world, I waved John’s wand in a slow arc, flipping five of the wands out of five of those hands and sending them tumbling into the dark.  The sixth, Harry, I used “Stupify” instead of Expelliarmus, and caught him as he began to fall. We apparated across town to my safehouse and, with a pop, fell into my warehouse, the portal irising shut to a degree that the Atom would have found it a tight squeeze.

I put Harry on the couch and grabbed some cold water from the fridge and some tea from the replicator.  “Wake up, Potter.” I said, splashing him with the cold then handing him the hot as he snapped awake. “We need to talk.”

“Sylvia.” He snarled.

“As I live and… “ I shrugged “breathe… more or less.”

“I don’t know if everything that happened at Hogwarts was some kind of plan of yours to get Voldemort out of the way, or if you actually were serious about all the things you said, but this madness has to stop.  People are dying.”

“They are.  But then, they always do.  I’m not who I once was.  I’m not that girl.  I’ve changed.  It was… for me… lifetimes ago. More lifetimes than you can imagine. But I’m going to tell you something, and you’re going to believe me because it’s the truth. I had, to the best of my knowledge, no involvement in what happened on 9-11, nor with any of One World Order’s operations that followed. Now drink your tea, you look terrible.”

“You blanketed the British Isles in a meter and a half of snow… in summer.”

“That was an accident.”

“You caused-”

“That was also an accident.  I was trying to fix global warming.  I think I succeeded… for a time at least.”

“Yes. Mount Sylvia.  Very subtle.”

“Is it really called that?”

“In as far as anyone will admit it exists, yes.  Though some people are calling it the Mountain of Madness.  Or the Plateau of Leng.”

“Ah… well. They would, yes.  No Shoggoths in there, though.  At least none I put in there.”

“I’m reassured.” he drawled sardonically.

“I’m sure.” I responded in kind.

“What, then, is going on?”

“I think your Ministry… or other agencies like it, have either captured or killed my companions.  I want to know which, and, honestly… how.  Some of my companions can break cities without trying.”

“The giant monsters were yours then.” He looked angry again.

“If they were in those forms, then someone was attacking them. How much damage did they do?”

“Killed a couple of dragons, injured 16 members of the T-Com squad.”

“T-Com… oh. Hah.  You mean the Totenkopfs.”

“Don’t call them that!  They aren’t…”

“Aren’t jackbooted thugs?  Aren’t a secret police that rounds up anyone who doesn’t toe Umbridge’s party line?  Does she have her own party?  Norsefire, perhaps?  Has she thrown around the term Brexit, or said Make Britain Great Again?”

He flinched. “It’s not like that.  It’s…”

“Harry.  We both know what that woman is like.  Why the hell are you working for her?”

“She’s the Prime Minister.  We’ve only had two previous Prime Ministers and…”

“Yeah. well, she’s still a bitch.  And you… well, you’re loyal.  You’ve always been loyal. How are… how’s your family?”

“They’re good. Scared, but good.  Hermione’s at Hogwarts, teaching.  Neville too.”

I nodded. “I know.  And I’ll try and make sure no-one gets hurt.  But you’re going to be out of this.  I’ll not go up against you.”

“Scared?”

“Potter. I’m always scared. Being scared keeps others alive. When I’m not scared, it means one of two things.  In the first case, it means Innocents are about to die and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“And the second?”

“All the innocents are already dead… and I’m about to do something about it.”

“Oh.”  It was a small ‘oh’, barely more than a whisper, and I realized I was looking him dead in the eyes for the first time in millennia.

“I will find out what’s going on.  I will put an end to it. And, I’m going to have words with Umbridge.  But first, you’re going to tell me everything you know about One World Order.”

“I’m not.”

“Potter… you’re an absolutely terrible Occulemencer. I, on the other hand, don’t need anything as crude as Veritaserum or Legilimency.  You will tell me everything. It wasn’t a question or a request.”

He’d gotten better, I’ll give him that. He might…. Might have been able to stop Snape. I glided past his defenses as if they were cottage cheese and I was on a diet. It was… grim. The list of crimes was… extensive.  Extremely extensive.  Multiple Weaponsgrade Potions factories in Iraq (though the US Government had gone in claiming they were WMD’s and then acted like they’d found nothing… the public didn’t need to know about the horrors of misused magic), assassinations across the globe, taking down an entire litany of despots and warlords, but leaving entire regions destabilized as power vacuums led to civil wars that spilled into neighboring regions.  The UN was stretched thin, with 16 different regional wars bubbling away, and the US and Nato dug in deep on five fronts.

Even where OWO had been helpful, there were titanic problems. Korea was unified again, but the economic and social divide between north and south was staggering.  The people of the North could barely function in the modern world and the Northern Infrastructure was a huge and largely unsolvable mess. The Korean Economy had tanked, right along with the rest of the world in the Global Economic Crisis, and then practically flatlined with reunification.  The Stans were a clusterfuck, with 4 leaders dead and wars raging across the landscape, and Central Africa was imploding.

President Bush had barely survived the four attacks on him, thanks to the Secret Service Wizards who’d been put on scene to protect him… and I flinched inside as I recognized two of the assassins as Velma and Uriel.  What in the name of… Why would they… I totalled up the numbers… I was missing… everyone… I wondered how many of my companions had been somehow used as weapons in this war.  I searched Harry’s memory for familiar faces, then gasped.

So many images of Draco Malfoy… Draco on TV, Draco on wanted posters, Draco Malfoy, Spokesman for OWO and Interpol’s second most wanted… after your’s truly. This was not happening.

I sat down opposite Harry, watching him drink his tea. “I thought you were going to ask me questions.” he asked… then eyed the tea “This is really good.  What is it?”

“It’s from Redwall, originally.  Soothing.  It’ll make you sleep for a while.”

“Ah.  Good to know. Questions?”

“Asked and answered. I’m very good at this.  But I thank you.  And, I’m sorry for what I’m going to have to do.  I’ll drop you off at Saint Mungo’s.  You’ll wake up in a week or so.”

“You really didn’t do this?”

“No.  And I don’t know why it happened, either.”

He slipped sideways and I caught him and the tumbler. It was Magi, older than human civilization, fine and bright, undimmed by ages, and I had to breath deeply to keep from crushing the priceless relic I’d picked up from an antiques shop on Jurai itself.  “You’re too nice a boy to be caught up in all this, Mr. Potter.” I whispered, kissing the place the scar had been.

After dropping him off, My form rippled and I became a snowy owl, flapping my way northward towards Hogwarts.  I landed at Hogsmead station, or just outside it, and wrapped myself in the cloak.  One down, two to go.  Harry had meant for the ring to remain lost forever, but I knew roughly where to find it and I did after less than fifteen minutes.  A mending spell far more powerful than anything that could have been done in this world and it would be right as rain again, but I had one more stop before I dared use any but the most subtle of magics.

I looked down at the sarcophagus and sighed “You should have come with me, old man.” I said sadly, brushing my hand over the stonework as ice columns lifted it from the base. Within, the husk of Albus Dumbledore clutched the Elder Wand, and I plucked it up, hoping that no one had defeated Harry in a duel in all the years since.  Three for three.  I shook my head, then, gritting my teeth, strode into the ancient castle.

“Hello Minerva,” I said, looking down at the sleeping headmaster.  She looked much the same, a little older, but as stately as ever. “I’m sorry to wake you, but I need your help.” She gasped as she came awake, clutching for her wand, but I’d already moved it out of her reach. “Gently, Headmaster. I’m not here to bring you harm.” I summoned light and stepped back.

She eyed me, then gasped “Miss Jade?  Is that you?  You shouldn’t be here! And give me my wand, child.”

“It’s me.” I tossed her the wand. “I need you to help me find… you.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“In another time and place, an alien race called the Neuroi attacked Earth in the 1930s. That world too had a Minerva McGonagall and she too used her magic to fight against great evil.  Now she has skipped through time and space to arrive here, on this world… and I need you to help me find her.”

“You’re not going to get out of the trouble you’re in by pretending to be crazy, young lady.”

“Ah… well, I love you too, Professor.  Though not as much as I love that version of you, I’m afraid.  You’re a little young for my tastes.” I chuckled dryly.  “But no. I am completely serious.  I’m going to find her, I’m going to find Draco, I’m going to find out what the hell’s going on… and, I swear on the name of Albus Dumbledore, I’m going to bring down Umbridge, because there is no way on God’s Green Earth that she earned her current position fairly. Toten-Commandos… Christ.”

“You should have stayed in Afghanistan.”

“I haven’t been to Afghanistan in decades, Professor. Not since… it doesn’t matter… I’m not associated with OWO. Now, get up and hold out your hand.”

She flinched at the command in my voice, but levered herself up, gasping as I dropped a picture into her hand “That’s my Mini.  The other girl is Franky… you’ll recognize the third as me… yes we’re wearing fitted uniform tops and panties.  Don’t ask. Very strange customs on that world. You will note that I am younger in that picture than I was when I graduated, and yet you look like you did when you were a student here as well?”

She nodded, dumbstruck. “How?”

“I am very, very old, Professor. I am so old that even Methuselah would gape and stare. Between the time I left here and now, for me, 130 centuries have passed. Perhaps more. I have been a Queen, a Saint, a Killer, a God.  I have seen more sunsets than you’ve had cups of tea.  I have presided over the deaths of millions and laid waste to civilizations… I have done terrible and glorious and unforgivable things. I could, without boasting or praising myself, say that, were I so desirous, I could proclaim myself ruler of the Earth and force every living man, woman, and child to kneel before me in supplication. I could do this thing, and so many others that Voldemort could have only dreamed of… and I tell you that such power is meaningless in the face of the inability to save a single human life. Something I’ve failed at more times than you’ve days in your life.”

“You’ve got a point you’re trying to get at?”

“Through all my journeys, there are though who have joined me, never my equals, but always my friends… well… eventually in a couple cases. They are loyal to me, they are mine. Someone has… inconvenienced some of them, imprisoned or banished them from this realm.  I would know why.  What’s more, I left something of inconceivable value here, long long ago, not a horcrux I assure you, and, though I am uncertain if I ever planned to reclaim it, I left it here because I believed it the safest place for it. It is my duty to ensure that safety is restored.  I’d thought I’d left this world a better place.  Now… I am uncertain.”

“You’ve gotten long winded in your old age,” she grumped “Could have just asked for help.”

I chuckled “Love you too.  Now, focus on the image,” I commanded, then wove my spell around the Professor.  I tugged a line of white light out of her chest and, guiding it carefully, moved it to the Headmaster’s globe.  Like a plasma line, it jerked, twitching, pulsing in time with her heartbeat, the globe end crawling across the metal like a spider with a dozen glowing legs.  It crawled across Europe, flickered up to London for a time, then drifted across the Hebrides towards the tiny mass of Summerisle.  I ground my teeth and growled.

“Professor… tell me everything you know about Summerisle.”

“It’s a tiny wizarding community, a few hundred.  You sound angry.”

“Because, Summerisle, in another place and time, is the home of a pagan cult that believes, strongly… in human sacrifice… and (I glanced at the Headmaster’s clock) it is now Halloween.”

She gasped. “They wouldn’t…”

“Oh.  I suspect, very much, that they would.  This has now become a rescue mission.  I’m afraid I shall have to take my leave of you now.”

“You’re going to do something I wouldn’t approve of, aren’t you?”

“You’re muggleborn, Professor… born before World War II. I know you were only a little girl at the time, but you must remember the Nazi’s. Umbridge’s people… they’re no different. I’m not the Dark Lord of this tale… Dark Lady.  I’m not that fond of pink.”

“You said you loved that other me.”

“I did. She and I have been together for generations. I would lay waste to legions to get her back.”

“Well… that’s nice, isn’t it.”  She patted my hand. “If you decide to stay longer this time, we could always use a new Charms teacher.”

I laughed. “Well, don’t hire John Constantine for the job.  He’s like a walking jinx.”

She made a face “I was thinking of you.”

“Maybe once everything’s been cleaned up.”  I kissed her cheek, then transformed into an owl and flew out the window.  As I rolled north and west, I gathered the force of the storm behind me, a rolling wave of thunderheads 300 miles wide, following in my wingbeats as I crashed down to Summerisle, the storm breaking behind me to lash the island’s defenses with a torrential downpour that would have made the Monsoons of India seem mild.  I felt the wards flare and pop as the magical storm fried them one by one and I began my march inland.

Whoever had placed the security and cloaking spells over the installations of this island had been good.  Very good.  Even through the disruptive havok surging through, around, and over the island, locking onto Mini wasn’t easy.  But I had other ways of getting the information I wanted.

As I walked inland, the resistance I faced grew stronger, armed soldiers appearing from their barracks covered in protective charms and packing both wands and guns.  It was an interesting combo, but I was more interested in the contents of their minds and hearts.  I judged them all.  Every living soul on that island met the Silent Judge that night.  Of the 561 adults… 2 were not found wanting.  Of the 83 children and teens… more than half did not make the cut… but I simply erased their memories… maybe they’d do better next time.

I found Mini, alone, shackled to two pillars in the middle of a triple ringed binding circle. She looked… fourteen… and terrible. I didn’t have to read her mind to know she’d been tortured with the Cruciatus Curse.  I snarled, shattering the circles in a dozen places each as I approached her, easing the weight on her wrists as I gathered her into my arms, the locks melting to vapor as I cradled her.  I didn’t know which tack to take, but settled on firmness. “Report, airman.” I commanded softly, stroking her hair as she tried to focus on my face.

“B..  Be…” she moaned softly, teeth chattering from fatigue and pain. I nodded, “I know. I can sense them.” I whispered, “they can’t sneak up on-” then I realized she wasn’t trying to say Behind… but Betrayed.  I caught the massive psychic attack on my shields, grunting from the effort.  Nothing in this world should have been capable of generating a psychic assault, certainly nothing in that threat-range. But there it was.  It was titanic, crushing, a huge overpressure combined with hundreds or thousands of lightning fast jabs, and from all sides a crushing grip held me… as tendrils of thought tried to snake into my mind… and that’s when I realized who was attacking me… and why.

Before the attacks could harm her, I sent Mini into the Warehouse and locked access out from all my companions besides Yuzuha. “So, that’s how you’re going to play it, is it?” I growled, then allowed my physical form to turn to water as I slid into my spiritual form. “I’m sorry about this,” I said, then lashed out with my blade, cutting down the four robbed figures in the darkness around me.  They fell without a sound and I shook my head “Ghost Type.  Super Effective.”

I summoned light and looked down at my fallen companions.  I’d never deliberately killed one of them before. Sure, I knew they’d be recovered the next day… and after a bit of de-brainwashing, they’d understand why I’d done it… and after a much longer period, they’d forgive themselves… but it wasn’t going to be easy.  They looked so small, AJ, Francine, Dyna, and Petra… Rocky… I hadn’t known this was a Harry Potter world… but it made sense… Psychic Types are notoriously vulnerable to the Dark Arts.  They must have recognized AJ and taken him first… Broken him… used him to get information, used him to get the others… With Francine, the best Dominator in the collective, they’d have been able to scoop up the others one by one.  I had no idea who was still alive, or where, but now at least I knew what had happened to teams 1-3… which raised the question of where Zane and Kendra were… and what had happened to team 4.

Zane and Kendra were unlikely to be dead.  That had been all but promised by the Vending Machine of Destiny.  But they could still be in trouble, or suffering, or have been broken somehow… if they were even on this world… That was a thing.  What if they’d been sent to the other Hellblazer world entirely?  

Had the same thing happened to Team 4, the team that contained those entities least likely to fall prey to the traps of mortals?  Somehow I doubted it.  In their mortal forms, Washu and Tsunami were both vulnerable.  The same was almost certainly true of Tokimi. And magic could be used to bind Yuzuha, assuming she was taken off guard.  Not Dark magic, most likely, as she’d eat that for lunch, but Light Magic might have worked… a variation of the Patronus Charm?  Most frustrating.

I looked around the lab, cursing wizards for not using computers, then began walking the island, scouring it for every document I could find, and cursing myself for not keeping the adults alive to torture for information… not that it would have done much good, considering I found reference to secure lockups protected by Fidelius… Couldn’t force a Fidelius to give up that information so easily.  Who would they trust?

There wasn’t really any way to tell… so I’d have to go after someone in a position of Authority.  Always did like starting at the top.  And that meant one of three people. Umbridge… Runcorn (who I’d learned was the Head of TOTEN)… or Draco.  Umbridge had defenses… plenty of them… Runcorn would have, if anything, more.  Draco… was in hiding. This wasn’t looking promising.  So, who, besides Potter, did I know at the Ministry?

“Hello Colin,” I said, as he stepped into Diagon Alley, bright and early on Tuesday the 31st of October.  He blinked at me. “Do… Do I know you?” He asked, not recognizing me in my male guise. “I’ve got a message for-” I scanned his thoughts… he worked in the Muggle Liason office, no help there. “Mr Runcorn.  Tell him the fella said it was regarding Summerisle.” I handed over the letter, then appeared to vanish.  Instead, I turned into a springer spaniel puppy, falling into the box I’d been standing in, leaving Colin with a memory of having bought me for his girlfriend (a lovely muggle girl who worked in banking) that morning.  He told me to hold the note as he headed towards the Ministry.

People pay attention to puppies… but not in the “It’s a spy!” way.  How to get past security, even paranoid security? Be incredibly cute… and also use mind control.  The number of animagus detectors wasn’t high, but the Ministry had them.  Good thing I wasn’t using magic like any in this world.  Colin dropped the letter off with security, then headed to his office.  Runcorn and one of his goons came in about 40 minutes later to investigate and interrogate.  They left with a Rottweiler that neither of them had come in with, but that’s okay, because they thought they had.

Once Runcorn was alone again, I waited patiently for him to finish yelling into his telephone, then pulled him inside my mind.  “Hello Albert, you festering gobshite.  I’m going to kill you, just so you know… but first, you’re going to tell me how to find Draco Malfoy, where my friends are, and… stop flailing around like that, none of your magic will work here… this is my mind, only the rules I want to work, work.”

I didn’t, in fact, kill him.  Albert Runcorn was too highly placed to just kill like that.  He’d done too much damage, destroyed too many lives.  He had to go out in a blaze of glory.  I made sure he’d do as he was told, then released him from my mind.  I doubted it would work, but… he’d already made the plans.  It would have been a shame not to let him try.  I merely tweaked them, adding in a faildeadly deadman’s switch.  If he didn’t survive, his private papers would hit the papers in 16 hours.

Meanwhile, I was heading, not to Afghanistan… but to Belgrade.

“Hello Reynard…” I drawled in my most sultry tone. “Or should I say… Hello Lover.” I draped my leg over the edge of the bathtub, I’d really missed taking warm baths… granted, I was still made of living ice, but I wasn’t going to melt at a mere 88 degrees Centigrade.  I was impressed with the speed at which he pulled his wand.  He’d gotten faster… Faster even than Potter, I think.

“Sylvia?  How?”

“Oh, put that away, silly boy. I’m not here to harm you.  See, no sleeves to have anything under.” I rose, dripping, naked, from the bath.  There is, in my experience, no such thing as an unarmed naked attractive woman in the presence of a healthy heterosexual male. I’ve gotten a lot prettier since I was Sylvia Jade… and I doubt Draco had forgotten his first. His jaw (and wand tip) dropped, and that moment of distraction, I requipped the Elder Wand and whispered “Imperius!”

Draco stiffened, then just blinked at me, as I approached him and, leaning into him, whispered “Come back to me.” In that moment, he crumpled to the ground, as my words freed him from Umbridge’s previous use of the Imperius.  “I…” he gulped, as memories of all the things he’d been forced to do came crashing in on him.

“That… bitch.” He muttered. I nodded. “Oh, very much so.  Good to see you again, though.” “Sylvia… I… I thought… she made me think… could you put on some clothing?” he stared at me, distracted from his guilt by the curve of my breast.  “What happened to you?  How… how are you… where’d you go?”

“Everywhere.  Nowhere.  I am, as I have ever been… the Winter Witch.  This…” I motioned toward my face, “is, I believe, temporary.  Sorry I vanished for so long.  I’ve been… busy.  I didn’t know.  But I’m going to straighten things out.  And you’re going to help me.”

“I am?  How?”

“Well, as I see it, there’s an idiot in charge in the States, a sociopath in charge in the UK, and wars all around the world.  The States will get settled most likely in the next election. Umbridge will get hers in the next 16 hours… and, like it or not, we’re going to have to come forward and explain how we were being used by Umbridge.  Well, you will. I’m not going to explain a damned thing.  These idiots will just have to wonder why I’m the new Minister of Magic.”

“How do you figure that will happen.”

“Oh, sweetie… because I say so.”

Runcorn was, as it turns out, not successful.  Viktor Krum intercepted the Imperius Curse aimed at the Prime Minister and Runcorn’s hand picked team was taken out by some of my old school chums before they could even dream of harming the Bitch in Pink.  Of course, that put them in position for me to, in turn, liberate them once the fecal matter hit the press.

“British PM uses Mind Control, Black Bag Squads.  Secret Police Chief killed in Aborted Coup reveals All in Dying Declaration.  OWO vindicated, first victims of MC Op.  Sylvia Jade actually prisoner for 6 years, fall girl… see pinup, page 3.”

I visited Umbridge on the fifth of November, as the crowd outside 10 Downing Street was baying for her blood.  I’d smashed all her magical wards and reclaimed all that was mine. Most of them had been killed outright, but I got their bodies back.  The rest had been imprisoned or bound.  More than a couple had been used as sacrifices to forge dark pacts. Caine had been drained… multiple times.

As she looked away from the window, glaring at the crowd, she snapped “Yes, what is it. I’m busy here!” before she even registered my face.  She went pale, fumbling for her wand. I shattered it without a word then pointed at her across the desk of state and said, “Sic Semper Tyrannis… bitch.”

Next: World 51 – Into The Long Dark

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World 50: Hellblazer Part 2

CONVERSATION WITH GOD

Previously: Twist in the Tale

Themesong: Let it Go from the Frozen Soundtrack

I felt strangely empty, at a loss for what to do with myself. For so very long, I’d been the focus, the one who jumped, the center of narrative gravity… and now… I was isolated, not just from my companions in a physical sense, but in a very real sense. They were off on their grand adventure and I was chilling in a pool of plasma trying to keep from bringing about the cold death of the Universe. I sighed. I couldn’t even eat in this form. Everything flashfroze as it approached me.

“Fascinating,” said a voice I hadn’t expected to hear again.

“Tokimi? How’d you get in here?” And I didn’t mean inside the Onsen… How the hell had she gotten into the Warehouse? I hadn’t invited her… had I? Had I missed something from document? I ran through it in my mind. There was a thing about bringing suitors along, but Tokimi hadn’t been a suitor… had she? Surely… uh… huh… well, shit.

“So you do come from beyond our universe.”

“I… Yes. I come from a reality where your entire universe is merely part of our collective creative lore. You and your sisters are stories, tales we tell each other in one form or another.”

“But you aren’t the fulfillment of our quest.” It wasn’t a question.

“Not yet. Like Tenchi, I merely have the potential to become that which you were seeking.”

“And now you’re stuck like this?”

“So it seems. How do you cope with it?”

She blinked at me as she sat on the edge of the pool, unphased by the fact that it was glowing white hot. “Cope with what?”

“The isolation. When the three of you descended to the 3-Dimensional Realm, you lost all contact with your peers… the only peers you’d ever known. You had your Administrators… but those are underlings. How did you cope with the sense of separation from that which you cared about?”

“Ah. Well… it wasn’t very long, in the scheme of things.”

“20,000 years is longer than I’ve existed.”

“But you’re older than Tenchi, clearly. Older than the existence of the Jomei-self you inhabited, I mean.”

“Yes, well, that’s true. And I did leave behind those I cared about in my original reality. That was 13,000 years as far as I can recon these things, though there are so many slips and twists in there that it could be as much as 15,000… And I do miss them… but no time has passed for them. They don’t even know I’m gone.”

“And you’ve kept busy?”

“Most of the time. Yeah. Every 10 years it’s on to a new realm… usually. Some trips are longer.”

“Are you searching for something?”

“What do you mean?”

“Is there a goal to your sojourns? To this wandering across the… how did you put it… ‘Collective Creative Lore’? Are you…” she shrugged, clearly at a loss for a way to explain, but I understood.

“Two, I think. There is an offered reward, beyond the experiences offered, in the form of the power you suspect exists, the power to define entire realities and move through those that exist at will… though it comes with incredible risks, in that there are others with that power level who will, of a certainty, jealously defend what is theirs. But the other… the one not on offer, the one hidden behind that offer… truth… knowledge of the self… and of the other. An understanding of what “We Apologize for the Inconvenience” really means.”

“I’m sorry… what?”

“Ah. Sorry. My bad. Long, Long ago, a question was asked, and, after incredible efforts were made, the answer found. That answer, the Answer to the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything… was 42.”

“42?”

“Yes.”

“The answer to the ultimate question, the why of why we are here, of why existence itself exists… is 42?”

“That is the answer that was found.”

“There is no room for doubt?”

“None.”

“But… that…. Makes no sense.”

“Ah, you are not the only being to think so.”

“And?”

“And something was done.”

“What was that?”

“A great quest was undertaken to find out what, exactly, the question was.”

“And?”

“It failed.”

“Oh.”

“But the answer… or rather, the Question was finally revealed, in another way.”

“And what is it?”

“We Apologize for the Inconvenience.”

She blinked. “You’re joking.”

“Nope. The Ultimate Question, to which the Answer is 42, is We Apologize for the Inconvenience.”

“That’s not even a question.”

“Nope. Not even slightly.”

“So the entire universe… all of existence… is a mistake?”

“Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s just an inconvenience.”

She laughed, half bitterly, half amused. “That’s terrible.”

“It is.”

“So, what are you going to do now?”

“Now? I’m going to try and figure out how to stop freezing everything.”

“Have you tried not being a gaping hole in the fabric of all creation.”

“I-” was cut off at that moment as Cirno came spinning into the Onsen, holding a message out for me. Of all my companions, the Ice Fairy was, of course, the only one who had no problems with my aura of… anti-heat. It’s weird. There are no physics to describe what I am. I am not a heat-sink… I do not absorb heat like any other blackbody. I give off cold. Things near me get colder… then they suck in surrounding heat. It’s as if I am radiating energy that neutralizes atomic vibration. Thus… anti-heat… but not why Cirno was there.

I took the letter from her, stamped on thermo-elastic plastic that wouldn’t become brittle in my grasp and read it. It was from AJ. “Party has encountered anomaly. There are no DC references in this world. No Superman. No Wonderwoman. Not Batman. Nothing outside of John Constantine and related characters.”

I raised one frosty eyebrow, then handed the missive to Tokimi, who looked curious before reading it and confused after. “What does this mean?”

“I’m not sure… but… look… each reality we move to is called a Jump. This Jump is to the world populated by John “Hellblazer” Constantine. Call it Earth-Vertigo. Normally, Earth-Vertigo is, in the collective canon, more properly known as Earth-DC… or one of several Earth-DC’s. It, and its major competing section of the canon, Earth-Marvel, both inhabit an idea-space that has many, possibly infinite but certainly very large numbers of, parallel realities. In each parallel, certain iconic individuals or references are copied in whole or in part. The most common are Superman, a paragon of physical and moral perfection; Wonderwoman, a warrior woman who fights to prove that women are the equal of men in all things; and Batman, a memetic paranoiac who acts to prove that money is the ultimate super-power. Every DC-Earth should have a reference to one or more of them.”

I summoned a mirror of elemental ice and transformed it into a scrying mirror without much effort. “AJ?” His face appeared rapidly in the corresponding mirror that Victoria had created in the ruins of what had been our media zone. “Hi Boss!” said my oldest companion.

“What about comic books? Are there any?”

“Huh… hold on… We’ll look.” He turned to look across at one of the others who was probably on the local internet. “Yes. There are DC comics here. Marvel too.”

“Shit… what the hell…”

“This concerns you?” Tokimi asked, voice showing empathy.

“Yes. Hellblazer is a bad juju kind of setting and-”

“Incoming!” said AJ.

Caine staggered as he appeared inside the frame of the mirror, blood pouring out of his half-ruined face. He snarled, thrashing as he hit the floor. With a thought, I commanded Vivian to deploy butlerbots with blood for the Vampiric Progenitor as I studied his wounds.

They were terrible burns and the claw marks of some monstrous creature. After a moment, I recognized them as the marks of a dragon’s attack. Caine had been savaged by at least 8 tons of scaled mean. The blood restored him, but did nothing for his mood, which was foul. “Caine… Report?”

“I stepped out to scout the lay of the land. The Warehouse exits into a small run down house in London.” I grunted, probably the Safehouse, but didn’t interrupt his tale. “I’d been out for… 10 days… maybe 11… trying to find clues as to what the local story might be… These people are as painfully ignorant, for the most part, as those back in my own world. But a local occultist ‘agreed’ (I didn’t have to read his mind to know he’d dominated the occultist) to help me find out more… went to meet one of their contacts in Hyde Park, middle of the night… lunatics with wands jumped out, knew I was a vampire. Demanded I surrender in the name of the Ministry. I bolted… they had a dragon. A god damned Dragon! In the middle of God Damned London!”

I blinked. Ministry… I don’t know Hellblazer enough to know which Ministry that might be… but I was worried. How had these magic users managed to take out Caine, who was, far and away, the most natively dangerous of my companions… well, except for Tokimi and Oh….dear lord… “Did you teleport back to the warehouse, Caine, or…”

“Yes. They surprised me. They didn’t manage to kill me. I got back under my own power.” I nodded, relaxing. “Good. Wait… 10 days?” I checked the house’s systems. The warehouse was running at a 240:1 ratio compared to the outside world and it was locked in that position for some reason. That mean 4 hours passed outside for every minute in here. “Shit. If they get into trouble, we’ll know about it only when the dust settles.” I considered “Okay. Here’s the plan. We need 6 of us out there, risking the doom of being unable to respawn for the rest of the jump. So… AJ, Bao…. Ryoga… Caine… Velma… Uriel. You’re our first line. Francy, Toph, Petra, Kagetane, Reggy, Kohina, second string. RayRay, Franky, Mini, Dyna, Yoiko, and Gaius, you’re third string. Go. I want reports sent back every 8 hours from all field agents.”

AJ opened his mouth to protest that I’d be getting 6 messages every 2 minutes, but I waved him off. “Vivian will keep them collated and let me know what I need to know. Plus… In this form, time doesn’t mean much to me. I have to apply temporal filters to keep from experiencing every nanosecond in agonizing slowness.” And it was true. My brain was still comprised entirely of hyper-cryogenic superconducting processing substrates. Even without the titanic bulk of the planetoid I’d become, I was more of a living computer than Vivian was at this point and was orders of magnitude more powerful than all computers making up this Earth’s Internet.

I settled back into the plasma jets of my whirlpool and looked over to Tokimi. “What were you saying?” I asked.

“You’re being polite.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve watched you for a decade and more now. I know you. You do this. You pretend not to recall things. You act as if you can’t see into other people as if they were made of glass. You wait for people to act before you react. It’s a show. You don’t forget anything. I’ve moved things just outside of your perception matrix and you’ve paused just slightly at the disjoint… even if the thing was moved less than a millimeter. You react to people’s actions and intents faster than is possible… it’s like you were waiting for them to move. There is a sense of relief in you when the reveal their intentions, or begin their attacks.”

I swore “Fuck. I- Shit. You are perceptive. I’ve been dealing with mortals… I guess you and your sisters know all about… hey, how do you do it?”

“Do it?”

“Power down. You’ve done it twice. Once to be 3-D, and again to be… it’s focus isn’t it?”

“Not completely. There is more. It’s…”

“You’re going to tell me I lack the framework to understand… but… you weren’t kidding. Or quoting a certain movie, despite how appropriate the scene is… I am Ice-Woman… I should try not being-”

“AJ has a report.” Vivian’s voice came.

“Is it an emergency?”

“Negative.”

“Hold on to it. I’ve got an… idea.”

I stood in the plasma and sank into my mental palace. It had transformed into a palace complex that would have made the Emperor of all China envious and was made of enough ice to suit Queen Elsa… I should recruit her at some point… I looked around my domain, the howling wind of the eternal storm swirling overhead and whispered “Quiet.” The wind fell away and I cleared the sky, sweeping away all the collective thoughts of all the various mes. “Quiet.” I said again, stilling all computation.

One by one, I turned off autonomous functions, awareness of time and space, breath, motion, nothing but we existed. I called all my selves together in the sky above the palace, and, one by one, we began to repeat a mantra we’d learned so many centuries earlier.

“Be Silent. Be Still. Be Silent. Be Still.” And as we did so, we extended our hands towards a common center. There, slowly, formed a great blue obelisk. It shimmered, growing larger, a rectangular prism with pyramidal endcaps, a deep vril-blue pulsing within it. Once it was big enough, it began to spin slowly, a door appearing in its cerulean depths. “Be Silent. Be Still.” we said as one voice, and, with an incredible act of will…. Closed the door on the Heart of Winter.

Silent Judge and Soul of Ice stood on my sides “Are we really giving up all that power?”

I laughed softly “Not giving it up. Setting it aside… for now. We’re not ready. The harm we could do is greater than the help we could give. It is still ours… ready should the need be there… but as Tenchi said, “I’m not ready to leave this all behind.” I like eating food… and I know you two do as well. We’ve got… heh… we’ve got time.”

Slowly I roused myself from the trance, stepping from the rapidly warming plasma. I looked down at myself. I was translucent blue ice. “Well… that’s one hurdle down… “ I looked up as Vivian announced “Squad four has deployed.”

“What? What’s going on?”

“All contact with the final member of Squad 3 was lost 20 seconds ago.”

“H… how?”

“You have been unresponsive for 9 Days, 7 Hours, 15 Minutes.”

It wasn’t what I’d asked, but it answered a few things. I did the math… that was 6 years, 41 days and a handful of hours…

I swallowed. “Who is squad 4… Is anyone still in the warehouse?”

“The twins are on lockdown. Team 4 is comprised of Tokimi, Cirno, Ziggy, Yuzuha, Victor, and Victoria.”

I strode out of the Onsen, glaring out at the empty warehouse, the robotic servers scattering from my ire. My power armor… that explained why she hadn’t been included in the round table of mes. I summoned a trenchcoat and a hat and a suit of black charcoal wool, heavy leather gloves, and a scabbard for Soul of Ice as I walked towards the forcefield generators and willed the way out into the outer world.

I relaxed a little as the time differential eased and I was in the same frame. “I assume Victor took one of the cyborg bodies?”

“Correct. It has adaptive camouflage.”

“Great. Wonderful. Begin playback of messages…” I commanded as I strode out into the London night, the rain falling gently all around me.

AJ’s first message, from 10 days… or 6 years in the past, told me all I needed to know.

“Silver… I just bumped into Colin Creevy. I think the Winter Witch is home.”

Next: Hoc in Hora

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World 50: Hellblazer Part 1

A TWIST IN THE TALE

Previously: Brothers Grim

Themesong: Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls

“Oy, SJ… something weird over here.”

“Zane… this is the Warehouse. There is always something weird everywhere. Not to mention I can’t find anything because it’s all been moved around.” It had been. Following the end of the second decade of Tenchi Time, everything in the compound had simply been dumped back into the warehouse, including several hundred cubic meters of topsoil. Thankfully, all the storage units were now much bigger on the inside than they had been, so I simply ordered the buttlerbots to sweep all the dirt and its attendant bugs and vegetation into a new subspace area and flatten it out to serve as a pasture… I’d have to get more dirt, as I only had enough to cover about two acres… maybe four if I only went ten centimeters deep on the soil. Ideally, I’d like a meter or two of topsoil, maybe more for some hills… and maybe about 40 acres… hectares… still had trouble converting between metric and imperial for those two… the metric hectare was more… never mind, rambling

Sweeping all the dirt away hadn’t helped though, since there were sheds and cargo containers that had been previously buried and garages and outdoor furniture and several buildings just jumbled everywhere, often stacked atop each other. Sorting the mess out had taken days of backbreaking work… or what would have been backbreaking if 90% of it hadn’t been telekinetic and the other 10% technomagical. But I still had no idea where any of it was, since I hadn’t done any of the moving. No. I’d been busy trying not to plunge the entire Warehouse into an arctic hell.

Back on Tenchi World, there was much more matter to pump cold into. Here in the Warehouse, with its closed loop system, my mere presence had made it so that, unless the system was running at full heat, with every BTU producing object pumping out as much warmth as possible, everyone was still bundling up as if they were at the South Pole. And it hadn’t really mattered what form I was in. In the end, I’d locked myself in the Onsen, messed with settings until I found “Plasma Bath” and tried to feel warm. I was telecommuting from there.

“Yeah, yeah. I know… but there’s a second VMoD. Well, a little one.” Victoria swung around and I perceived, through our link, what Zane was talking about. Next to the primary VMoD was a smaller one, more of an ATM style than a fully fledged Vending Machine… did you know that the Japanese for Vending Machine literally translates to “Self-Moving Selling Device”? Always loved that. Anyway… neither machine showed any markings yet, and I was about to shrug and say we’d come back to it later… when the ATM flickered to life and the words “Tenchi Muyo Ultimatum” appeared on screen.

I… or rather Victoria looked at it quizzically. “Ultimatum?” Zane grunted. I (just… it’s easier than explaining which part of me is doing what…) walked over and poked the machine’s touch screen.

“End Jump Option Engaged. Do you wish to return to the world of Tenchi Muyo and attempt the End Jump Scenario?” There were Yes, No, Info buttons below the question. Of course, I hit the Info button and the following information appeared on screen:

“Having spent 20 years in the world of Tenchi Muyo! you’ve likely gotten a pretty good bead on the situation and so, if you wish, you may come back for a third and final stay. Doing so won’t get you any more CP, but it will allow you to select your choice of one of three Ultimate Perks. However, it also locks you into the Endgame Scenario.”

“In the Endgame Scenario, you have two objectives: Disrupt the Chosin Experiment and then survive 10 years. The timer does not begin until the experiment is dismantled. If Tenchi (or anyone else) ascends to their full power, the Scenario has failed and you will be returned to your home reality. Full power is defined as something in excess of 10 Lighthawk Wings, which even the Chosin cannot accomplish. It should go without saying that proving the existence of Jumpchain would complete the Chosin Experiment, and thus you would lose the Scenario.”

“You are not required to kill Tenchi, but it could be considered the quickest way to starting the timer. Be aware that once Tenchi is sufficiently imperiled, at least one Chousin will take interest… Your reward for accomplishing this is a Plainswalker Spark and the ability to chose your own path from now on.”

I stared at the screen for a long… long time. Then shook my head “Well… guess I blew that.” I kicked the machine in frustration. “Seriously? The only possible way I can think of to not blow this is to know from the very beginning that you’ve got to sabotage the experiment… but really, why would you want to? Just to be a dick about it? No thanks. If you come up with a better challenge in the future, let me know… but it’s going to have to be more realistic than pulling the wool over the eyes of three quantum goddesses.”

The ATMoD shut down with a “Vutvutvuuuutttt” noise and the VMoD powered up at the same time. I glanced over… and cringed “Hellblazer? Seriously? Vertigo DC? Oh… this… this is not going to be fun.”

“What? A jump where you get to be a demon? That sounds cool!” Zane supplied, sounding pumped.

“No. Not. Very much, not. Hellblazer is the story of John Constantine… hardboiled detective, chain smoker, and eternal thorn in the foot of both Heaven and Hell. At least this one is called Hellblazer, so it’s probably the comic book version, not the Movie version. Small mercy, that.”

“Oh… Oh well. But being a detective was fun… I vaguely remember.”

I cringed… I really needed to find a way to get my companions memory perks. Some of them had been with me so long they no longer really had the faintest idea who they’d been once upon a time. Thankfully, time was more subjective for most of them than it was for me, as those who didn’t accompany me into jumps typically spent only a year to my decade… or less. More than once I’d put the Warehouse on lockdown, freezing all those within in time.

Maybe I’d do it again this time. I’d never read Hellblazer, it wasn’t my thing, though I’d heard about it from others, and leafed through a couple of issues. Most of my knowledge came from those conversations and, of course, Keanu Reeves in Constantine… which I’d had to watch, since it had my favorite actress… what was her name? I couldn’t remember anymore. Must have lost it at some point. She played the Witch in Narnia and… some cross dresser in a movie I used to like… not everything was perfectly remembered from my first couple of lives even for me… I’d have to deep dive my consciousness to find the information… later. First, let’s look at the options.

I stepped up to the machine, palming the screen to get the CP Keys… and nothing happened. “The hell?”

The Screen Flashed “Due to your… incapacitation… and recent ascension to a new state of being, you’ve been granted a vacation from your Jumper duties. Enjoy your time off. In the spirit of partnered detective fiction the Universe over, Zane and the companion of your choice will be jumping this time. Each of them will receive your full CP allotment, but may not take any option the other took. Sincerely, The Powers What Is.”

I stared for all together too long. My thought processes were so fast that I could for all intents and purposes parallel process a dozen threads at once and I was effectively immune to unwanted emotional states… so why was I completely poleaxed by this development? I twitched, then said to Zane “Go get your wife… time for you two to have some quality time.”

“What’chu talkin’ bout SJ?” Zane asked, then gaped as I stepped away from the machine to show him the display that said “Jumper Zane, place your hand here to receive CP keys.” It occupied the left half of the screen. The right half was identical, except it said Jumper Kendra.” This was not how Companions got their choices. Those were supplied on tablets, moving around little CPKey Icons… not with the metal physicality of real, solid keys.

I twitched… this was… not how things were supposed to go… I Shook myself. I would not begrudge Zane, of all people, this experience.

Zane’s Jumplog

Well, I’m officially freaking out. Big Sis is in time out for becoming some kind of quantum Ice Entity… which I think means she broke something and the Banker’s either punishing her or honestly can’t figure out how to turn her back to normal… or normal enough to interact with reality… or maybe the Banker is just being weird. Anyway, I get to be the jumper this time… which isn’t normal at all. Even back in Scooby-Doo when SJ was an idiot-savant, she was still (technically) in charge.

Now it’s just me and Kendra… well, I’m pretty sure Ahab and Joy are coming too, they always do, but SJ’s not in charge of that process at all. Never had full control before. Kinda like skydiving without a… oh… shit… if Kendra or I cop it… we’ll be breaking Big Sis’s chain…. Okay… now I’m really freaking out… keep it call Zane… you’re a good boy… no… I got this. Gulp. Never had my life be actually, you know, be this important to anyone. SJ loves me, I know that. Kendra too… hell, most of the crew does. I’m awesome. But normally I just respawn if I bite it. The rest of them too.

OOookkay… gotta be logical about this… and I know next to nothing about this Blazing of the Hell. “Welcome to the world of Hellblazer. From the outside looking in, it resembles the world you experienced Great Detective, a modern Earth, c.2000 AD. But as you get closer, you start to see through the seams and you realize that under the surface is a dark world of magic and corruption.” Oh… cool… like Harry Potter or the Buffy world Kendra came from.

“The average person will unconsciously forget the world’s evils and overlook its wonders, but you see the darkness as it billows and feel the magic as it swirls and eddies. And, as you notice the darkness, you realize that the darkness has turned its gaze upon you.” Well, sure… but Yuzuha’s not that creepy once you get to know her… really. No matter what Ryoga says.

Let’s seee… says we get funds free… I’m assuming we each get the free stuff. 10,000 dollars cash in local currency, plus a small house or condo in our starting location. What is our… oooo, I get to spin the… probably should let Kendra spin the wheel. Eh…. she’ll never know… heh… heh… Look at it go. Sooo worth it. Come on Milwaukee! I dunno why I said that. Not Hell, Not Hell, Not… Oooo London! Comes with bonus Accent!

What else… Mana is free, we gain the ability to practice magic and a pool of mana, raw magical energy… why did they repeat themselves? “Your Power and Efficiency will grow with practice.” Well, I hope the fuck so, otherwise it would be kinda pointless.

Something called “Synchronicity” rounds out the freebie package, a talent defined as “the tendency to show up at the right place, make it in the nick of time, or to have just the item you need when you need it.” Well… that’s pure narrativium there. “Can be enhanced with practice or manna.” Wait, I can enhance it so I show up right on time instead of, say, 5 minutes early? That’s just weird. “Oh great and powerful spirits, make sure I pack all the random mcguffins I need to get me through the day.”

Oh, and would you look at that… a mandatory drawback. This should be the not at all fun times that Sis was on about… “Last Man Standing… you are a survivor. In even the worst of situations, you will somehow make it through. All around you, friends, lovers, and allies will die. Every mistake you make, every accident, every potential wound or beating… all will somehow spare you and take someone else instead. Companions will not respawn during this jump.” Oh… well, less chance of Chainbreaking, more chance of getting everyone killed. Loverly.

Eh… well, let’s look at our options for Background… Drop-In (of course), Scholar (a bookworm), Mystic (a weirdo), Magician (a nerd), and Slayer… better stay away from that one, Kendra might want it. Eh. I’ll go with Drop-in, “You awaken on the floor, no new memories, a notebook sits on a rickety wooden desk. Inside, handwritten lists of contacts, rambling stories, bizarre illustrations. Everything is in your own hand.” Spooookeeee.

Drop-In Capstone is “Confidence: You become more Charismatic, Strategic, and Intelligent.” Doesn’t sound so bad for [300/700/1000]. Next down the list is “Mind’s Eye: You have additional senses, allowing you to perceive magic, both as it is cast and extant enchantments. You will also be able to pierce illusions and sense the possessed.” That seems worth the [150/550/1000] price tag. And I might as well scoop up the freebie for that line… it’s free, right? “Stage Magic: You become an expert at escape, slight of hand, misdirection, and showmanship. Become the next David Copperfield (whoever that is).”

I looked over the list, then sighed. I really should go get K. She’ll throttle me if I take all the good stuff… I’ll text her. Okay, I texted her. Not my fault if she doesn’t hustle. Right? Okay, back to shopping.

Oh! Magicians get Mesmerism for [100/450/1000] “You know the techniques to hypnotize and control the minds of others. Requires Mana.” That could be useful. And I’ll scoop up the Magician’s Protective Magic too, just to stay in one zone. That costs me another [300/150/1000] “You are versed in sigils, wards, and other rituals of protection. This can defend against physical and magical assault. Requires Mana.”

On to equipment. Says I get a Trench-Coat and a Car free. The Trench is described as “Durable, not bad looking. Will resew, patch, and clean itself if unobserved. Acts as camouflage, making the wearer less obvious…” well, that’s good… I’m kinda large… usually. The Car is a “Luxury sedan. It will always be parked nearby, will self-repair, and does not require refueling.” That’s kinda cool, actually. Have to get the big brains to go all 007 on that bad boy.

I also get a discount on a gun called the “Ace of Winchesters” costing only… [75/75/1000]? Whaa… this jump is weird. Don’t remember another that had 25x costs. Well, okay. I guess. “The Ace is a rifle that will never break, never jam. Its bearer is deadly accurate, and it can harm supernatural creatures, especially demons, as if they were mortal.” Boomstick. “The steel of a halo, gems from Hell, and the bones of a saint.” Damn son! Get some! Hmmm… Now I had… lesseee… there were only 2 different 25 items, Armory and Life Debt… if Kendra ended up needing one… which would she like? I think she’d like the Armory… so that leaves me with “Life Debt” [25/50/1000] “A regular person owes you a life debt. They will give you minor help freely, or major help once. They will probably die while providing major help.” Major honor… also… little bit creepy. Note to self, do not squander dude’s life.

With my last 50, I bought Cigarettes [10/40/1000] (seriously? A 10 spot? What’s up with this jump?) “You’ll always have a crushed, half-full pack of cigarettes in one of your pockets. May be given away, but not sold.” Oh, good, cause… you know… the market value of half crushed cigarettes is major. But they’ll come in more useful than one would think. Tobacco is useful in several ways. Also, opens people up when you share a smoke. I rounded the last [40/0/1000] out with four purchases of additional funds, each netting me another $10k in a discrete bank account.

K arrived just after I’d finished and asked “What kind of bullshit drawbacks did you saddle us with?” I opened my mouth to snark that I hadn’t… but the reality was I’d totally forgotten because I’m not the Jumper (normally)… I don’t pick the Drawbacks! Instead I said “I left that for you, dear.” I yam super smart, yup.

Kendra’s Jumplog

Well, this is new. Novel even. Zane didn’t screw things up. I paged through his purchases. They seemed reasonable. He’d left enough that I could work with… though I suspect he was assuming I’d buy the Slayer background… Been there. Done that. But looking at the drawbacks was the first step, and one the muscle-brain had clearly forgotten, but covered well, so I pretended he was being gracious and stepped in.

There weren’t a great deal of them… in fact, the entire offering seemed stripped down to bare bones, as if the Baker was subtly insulting our intelligence… or had ratcheted things back because we aren’t in SJ’s class by any stretch of the imagination. It was very much like being attendants to the gradual apotheosis of someone who had, even by the time we met, already been much more than mere human. She’d shaped and reshaped our entire world, stepping up to face foes I would not have had the courage to face… and saved my life entirely because my death had offended her sensibilities. How could I do anything but worship her? She’d crossed realities to bring me back to life, then saved my entire homeworld as an afterthought.

And she’d given me Zane. I had to wonder if this was what Jesus’s apostles went through… though for a much shorter time… unless Jesus was a Jumper. I suspect there was a great deal less interesting fiction to jump into in that day and age. “Another Greek Mythos Jump?” “Shut up Thaddeus.” Maybe that’s why Judas rebelled; he wasn’t being imported into any of the cool jumps.

Regardless… there were only 6 choices in the Drawback list and a limit not on the amount of points that could be gained, but on the number that could be taken… in this case 3. Which maxed out the potential at +650. Not great, but not terrible. Except that would have meant taking the +300 “Personal Vendetta” (A greater demon has been offended by you. He has intricate plans and nearly limitless resources.) I was loath to take it. I assume that SJ could handle this demon without significant effort, but this was about us proving ourselves to her, not about her coming to our rescue. No. Personal Vendetta was out.

Also out were the +100 Disease (you have an incurable disease and 9 years to live.) and the +100 Sold Soul (a demon owns your soul. If you die during these ten years, the normal jumpchain rules don’t apply. Instead, you are sent to hell). The first seemed like a no win. If it it was incurable, it would kill us before the end of the jump, unless we went into stasis for a year plus. The second was just… who the fuck needed CP bad enough (and had brain damage enough) to take that? No, serious bullshit.

That eliminated 3 of the 6… what about the others? Demonfoe and Demon Marked were +150 each, Criminal was +200. DFoe meant that lesser demons would know our names and reps. DMarked meant we’d been touched by a demon and good guys would be wary around us. Criminal meant that we’d get attention from the Police, Feds, and other Shadow Groups. They’d total out at +500… I think we could handle that… and if we didn’t need the points, we could ditch Demon Marked.

As for origins… I decided to go with Mystic [100/1400/1500]: When you were a child, you were possessed by a True Demon (not far off the mark, considering where Slayers come from). An Exorcism forced the demon out, but it had already altered your mind, granting Mystical Sensitivity (and explaining the Mark). Your Family understood the risks, and took you to various spiritual experts to train. You managed to survive since then by luck as much as skill. You lack the power of a Wizard or the knowledge of an Occultist, but instead have an innate understanding of the mystical forces and how to tip them into your favor.”

The Mystic Perktree contained “Mental Fortitude” [Free], “Gateways” [150/1250/1500], and “Demonology” [300/950/1500], and the items “Membership” [Free], “Native Guide” [Free], and “Grimoire of True Names” [75/875/1500]… and that pesky 25 had only one option I could buy to get rid of it, so I paid two bits for the Armory [25/850/1500]. Mental Fortitude granted the power to resist possession and hypnotism. Gateways meant “You know how to get around, able to find and travel paths to physically enter other worlds, such as Hell, Dream, and Faerie… and to teleport within the Real World. Teleportation requires mana.” Demonology was the ability to summon and exorcise demons. The knowledge of how to draw protective circles and symbols needed for those tasks… and a copious knowledge of contract law. Requires Mana.” The Membership was in an exclusive society dealing with the occult, which (while occasionally helpful) might be evil.” The Guide was a servant who exists in another plane, such as Heaven, Hell, or Faerie, knowledgeable and powerful, but unable to leave their home plane. The Grimoire was a small book containing details on demons both greater and lesser, including their true names. Whispering a demon’s true name will bind it to your… my… service for a year and a day, and prohibit them from seeking vengeance. Shouting the demon’s true name will “ruin” the demon and it will assuredly seek vengeance. Oh, and the Armory was an assortment of modern and ancient weapons. Which was… useless. Probably.

I wanted the Book of Eternity, Merlin’s spellbook… but buying it meant I couldn’t (quite) afford a second capstone… so I might as well pick up the Dreamstone as well. The Book of Eternity [300/550/1500] was a true history of the world, as written by the M himself, and contained many potent spells which could be learned with time and practice. The Dreamstone [200/350/1500] was a mystic stone, imbued with the powers of Dream. With it, one could force waking dreams on others, and if held while asleep or in the Dreamworld… it granted near omnipotence.

I also wanted the Dresden Files knock-off Bob the Skull. The Magic Skull cost [150/200/1500] and contained exactly “1 Spirit: Improves both your power and the rate at which you improve your skills. Excellent knowledge of Reference Tomes.” Talk about copyright infringement.

Unfortunately, that left me too little points to buy one of the more interesting mid-tier abilities, and only one of the remaining items seemed all that interesting (aside from two that seemed like they’d been stolen straight out of Big Trouble in Little China or Dresden Files respectively). That was the Demon Blood, which could be used to cure anything completely, as well as permanently making the drinker tougher… though multiple doses could turn someone into a demon. Still, a panacea wasn’t something to sneer at. Might as well take it. Which spent me out.

I turned to Zane. “Your turn.”

“Uh… I’m spent out.”

“No, I meant, to spend the points we got from Drawbacks.”

“I didn’t get any.”

“What? I bought 500 points of Drawbacks.”

“Yeah. And you spent them. That’s fine.”

“Wait, you don’t get points for them as well? That’s no fair.”

He shrugged “Eh. Not a big deal.”

“But…”

“Look, you spent the points on things that might be useful for both of us.”

“Yeah, but you’ll be penalized for the Drawbacks just as much as I will.”

“Hey, normally, we have to put up with whatever SJ saddled herself with. This isn’t that much different.”

“Maybe you should take the Disease Drawback, we’ve got the cure after all.”

“That would give me 100 CP and cost us the use of a 200 CP item. Seems like a waste of resources.”

“I guess. Still seems like you’re being shafted.

“Hey, Normally that’s you-”

“Don’t finish that line, mister.”

“Spoilsport.

Zane’s Log

I suppose I should mention that Joy decided to enter this world as a Scholar (Abnormally dull life until she applied to college, earning a scholarship from Yale’s department of Arcane Studies… despite never having heard of the program. Years later, she’s learned a vast amount about a world she had never before noticed. Broad knowledge base, little magical power, relying on complicated rituals for most magic), giving her “Encyclopedic” as her freebie… It granted a radically improved memory and a broad knowledge base in the occult… and yeah yeah, I know I said I needed a better memory, but “better” isn’t good enough. I ain’t blowing 100 CP for “Improved” I want a memory like SJ has with all the “I remember exactly what color shoes the Emperor of Ba-Sing-Se was wearing the fifth time we met him.”… which was probably black or green… maybe with a little yellow fringe. But she’d know for certain! [SJ’s Note: Zane is forgetting that he already has a memory booster (Got it Memorized, Great Detective Jump), somewhat ironically. This shouldn’t be surprising, as it is a passive effect (aside from the ability to forget things on demand). He’s a goof, but a lovable one. Oh… and the shoes were gold.]

Ahab, locked out of the boring stuff by the girls, decided to be totally kick ass (and not at all girly, because this is Hellblazer and not Buffy) and be a Slayer. Galvanized by a tragic event in his youth, he was forced to deal with the magical world and has trained since that day to hone his body into a lethal tool. It’s the least magical of all the backgrounds, but has contacts in both the magic and hunter communities, and comes with a reputation as a serious player, respected and feared by those who know of him. Plus it came with Tough (Take a beating and keep on kicking. You’ll be fine tomorrow.)… of course, dude already is freaking tough as nails to begin with. He’s so grizzled his grizzle has grizzle… is that a thing?

As far as gear went, Joy got a set of Tarot Cards & a Crystal Ball (actually magical and able to actually assist in divination), as well as a library of tomes both expensive and rare. Ahab got the personal journal of one of his ancestors, describing demon species and their weaknesses and a real true honest holy relic which can repel demons and other monsters on sight and burn they on contact. Oh, and they both got the Synchronicity, Manna, and starting cash and pad too. Woo as SJ would say.

SJ’s Log

I looked over by brave little soldiers, all ready for their first solo without me. I definitely didn’t have a tear in my eye… it would have frozen solid and been difficult to deal with… but I felt like a mother sending her child off to their first day of preschool… though the effect was somewhat spoiled by Kendra giving Zane a wedgie.

A piece of paper fluttered down out of the ether and I snatched it out of the air. It was, of all things, a permission slip. Har… de… har… har. I signed it “Fuck You and the species indeterminate steed you rode in on.” Then the world shivered… and the quartet was gone.

Next: Conversations With God

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World 49: Tenchi Muyo Part 4

BROTHERS GRIM

Previously: The Divine Farce

Themesong: Children’s Crusade by Sting

People should learn to listen to me when I tell them they need my help.  Seriously.  I got a very politely worded form letter from Lady Seto and another from the Marshall of the Galaxy Police that they’d be able to handle two runaway kids and wouldn’t need help from a Jomei of all people. Since, in theory, the children weren’t mine, I was being treated not as a concerned relative, but as an individual who’d had her property stolen… an individual who was only marginally considered to have the legal right to claim such property in the first place. It was like a Mobster complaining about a stolen car.

As such, by the time Yuzuha had regenerated enough to allow for a pursuit, I had half a dozen Galaxy Police Cruisers standing by to keep me from “Seeking Vengeance” against those who had dared cross me. I was also receiving notices that the Jomei’s had taken the thefts…. badly, and, rather than lose face, were relentlessly pursuing the boys.  

And then there was Lady Tokimi, who, inbetween sulking about her destroyed mirror and raging at Yuzuha for destroying it, was in various stages of wigging out, as that mirror contained fragments of her power… much like Washu’s Gems… but in a much less stabilized form. And there were a great many more shards.

And all the while Reggy was becoming progressively more and more unhinged. Twice I caught her spitting out Wax Spiders in preperation to ramping up to space flight before I pointed out that getting enough Vord to get to the Space age would take a couple of decades unless she used Takers and I absolutely wasn’t going to allow that on Earth… especially not an Earth I liked.

Which all meant that I had four fires merrily blazing away and only one of me. Unfortunately for Reggy and Gaius, dealing with the fragments of 23rd Dimensional power came first, but that meant Splitting the Party as it were. I sent Gaius, Reggy, Caine, Uriel, Kendra, Velma, and Francy off with Sasami & Ayeka and Mihoshi & Kiyone and Yosho to try and round up the boys (I also tricked Seiryo into going with them to “keep Yosho safe”). And I even loaned them VIctor, who would know how to track VIvian if anyone did. That left me with Dyna who was stuck as a Monkey, Yoiko who was stuck as a Warthog, Rayray who was stuck as an Anaconda… Plus Lady Tokimi of the Moodswing, Washu-Chan of the Insane Science, Ryoko of the Kelptomania, Ryo-Ohki who was cute and disposed of the carrots, Yuzuha who occasionally ate people’s souls… and Tenchi. Oh, and my two Guardians, Cirno and Toph… Elisabeth du Treeface and Toooooph.

You’d think that would be enough firepower to deal with the issue, wouldn’t you? Well… you’d be wrong. First off, the sheer size of the galaxy meant that we almost immediately had to split up even further. Like a Space Opera version of Journey to the West, Ryoko, Ryo-Ohki, RayRay, Dyna, and Yoiko collectively took what Star Trek would have called the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, while the rest of us took… the rest of the galaxy.

It was a giant treasure hunt, only with rumors of nightmarish horrors to follow instead of a map. I felt very much like I’d entered the pages of Inu-Yasha, except that the monstrosities formed out of the shards of Tokimi’s mirror weren’t just terrorizing feudal Japan, they were destabilizing entire sectors of the galaxy… which, of course, was making it all the easier for the two would be conquerors to swoop in and collect the worlds we’d just managed to liberate through blood, sweat, and plasma weaponry.

On one world, we faced an armada of flying, heavily armored megapedes crawling forth from a dark abyss. They swarmed up from the planet’s surface like a sea anemone and spawned almost, but not quite, as fast as we could kill them.

On another world, the entire moon had turned into a giant flesh… thing… one gaping mouth spewing higher order… shapes that shifted and changed from moment to moment, each of them vomiting destruction in forms that 4-D life was not meant to understand.

On yet another world, the natural order of things was falling apart and things like gravity and time were beginning to break down in terrifying ways, meaning we’d have to sprint through one zone before it utterly self destructed, our ability to fly disrupted by the shifting gravity, meaning we’d have to leap across bottomless chasms as we went, all while laying waste to the hideously mutated lifeforms that populated this soon to be destroyed world.

With each retrieved fragment of the mirror, Tokimi would retreat into seclusion to slowly, meticulously fuse the quantum puzzle back together, each piece taking longer than the last to fix into the framework she and Washu had created. Years past as we raced from one system to another, always arriving too late to avoid some calamity or other, the challenges growing greater as each new threat had more time to mature and grow…

And yet, for all that, we failed to see the greatest threat of all until it was upon us. Tokimi’s power was bound up in the fragments, that we knew, but as she linked more and more of those fragments together, unstable as they were, she was, unwittingly, linking herself back to a heavily damaged soul focus… and that process was, in the end, not good for her mind.

After seven grueling years, we had finally completed our half of the quest, all save one final grouping that had been gathered by the nefarious Dr Clay and his new Android Theta. Theta, crafted by the mad scientist to help him escape Galaxy Police custody, had been custom designed to contain and harness the incredible power of the fragments and, we estimated, contained roughly 23% of the total shards. Tenchi’s group (which had had many more beach episodes than we had) had managed to collect 31%, and my group had the rest.

We confronted Dr Clay on his newly built fortress-ship, battling through the mutants and death traps he had waiting for us, many of them modelled after our previous foes. It wasn’t fun. Finally, we reached his gaudy-ass throne room, his shrine to his own beard as it were, and confronted him. We, as the saying goes, laid the smack down upon his aged ass (he’s like 22,000 years old… but pretty spry.)

“Surrender the Shards, Clay.” Washu-Chan demanded. “And we’ll only spank you a little bit.”

“Speak for yourself.” Tokimi growled, looking a little unsteady.

“Yeah! I like spanking!” Yuzuha added, not at all helpfully.

“Enough!” I snapped “Give us the shards or I’ll pith you very slowly with needles of ice so cold they make absolute zero seem like the surface of a star.”

“I… I surrender… you can have the-”

“NEVER!” yelled Theta, the purple armored, nigh featureless android rising from where it had lain for most of the battle.

“Si… silence, you hunk of junk. I will not be betrayed by another machine! I am your Mas-”

“You are nothing!” the android said, armor flowing, melting. “You were but a pawn. I am not the mindless thing you called Theta!  That was merely a ruse! For behold! I am-”

“D3?!” Tokimi gasped.

“Er… yes… I am… I was called that, once, back when I served the great Chosin Tokimi… but you have fallen from Grace! Now I sha-”

“Whoa… you’re one of Toko’s little helpers, right?” Washu-chan asked.

“I was! Once! But now I wi-”

“I thought I told you to erase Clay’s memory of the Chosin,” Tokimi said pointedly. “I’m most disappointed in you.”

“Maybe you should bust him down to D2,” I snarked.

“SILENCE! I Have claimed these Shards as my own. And once I take from you those you have claimed, I… Steyav! Shall take my rightful place as RULER of the-”

“Steeeve?” I asked, incredulously. “Your real name is Steve?”

“Not Steeve! Steyav! It’s totally… look, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to kill you and then I shall become one with-”

“No, really… The Great and Powerful Steve? The All Powerful Steve! All Hail Steve the Conqueror? It doesn’t work. I’d stick with Theta.”

“THETA WAS MY SLAVE NAME!”

“Dude… chill. Just… look, give us back the-”

That might have been where negotiations broke down. Dude hit me with, like… all the gravity. Seriously. Ouch. If I hadn’t turned to spirit form I’d have been crushed flat in a second. As it was, everything hurt… more than I had conceived of everything hurting. Then, before I could even begin to dream of reacting, he started collapsing the fortress in around us, pulling all the mass in it into a singularity. Washu managed to get Me and Tokimi out, and Yuzu got Toph out, but Cirno’s screams as she was sucked into the blossoming black-hole haunt me.

Everything in the star system was falling in upon us. The sun itself was rolling towards the event horizon, shrinking and warping as it came. We tried to flee, but the pull was so great that Yuzuha could barely keep us in place and the two Chosin were staggering as they fed her power from their very souls. It did not look good. I wanted to help… I did… but the pain… it was everywhere. I could only stand with Toph’s help. And then I saw it.

A deep planet… what in the Sol System would be called a Kyperbelt Object, a mass of tens of millions of comets all collapsed in on each other, a frozen ball of methane and water ice and who knows what all, pulled in by the collapsar, and behind it the mass of the system’s Ort Cloud, the space between those orphaned comets shrinking as they fell into the growing gravity well… I had to do something, and in that moment of desperation, I did. I reached deep within, drawing on my oldest power, drawing on thirteen millennia of practice and training…

And I drained the cold from that planet, sucking it into me like the breath of life… and then, like a drunkard blowing all his cash, I sent every iota of it out again, not even keeping enough to heal myself… but I didn’t send it into the maw of Steve’s blackhole… I linked myself to every one of those trillions of comets… and ate them too.

My mind exploded with cryogenic might. Time seemed to slow as my neural network became a single superconductive machine… but it wasn’t enough… I couldn’t calculate what I needed to calculate. There had to be a solution… and so I grew. I got bigger, drawing on the cold to transform myself into ever greater amounts of computing substrates… bigger, and bigger, and bigger. First I was the size of a house, then a city, then Texas… and still I grew, my size doubling every few seconds as I used the Blackhole’s gravity to pull more and more comets into my system. And then, in a blinding moment of satori… I had it. It was bone damned simple, really.  

“Yuzuha!” I cried, opening myself up to the connection we shared “Tree of Darkness… Grant me your might.” And she did. Tenchi can suck it. Wings of the Lighthawk… that’s for… okay… okay… those are serious fucking shit. But they’re defensive, even if they can be used for offense. I needed offensive… that could be used for defensive… in a big way… and I needed it now. I called upon the Wings of the Darkhawk… and blew D3 across all 22 dimensions of The Chosin’s reality.

Remember how I said I needed offense that could be defensive? Yeah… that came in super handy a femtosecond later as the blackhole that was destabilized and went hypernova. Thankfully, it was a very, very small hypernova… but it still shattered six of my seven wings. I think Tenchi wins… ow… ow… ow…

Oh… and then I died.

Okay, okay… not really and not for very long and it was actually about 12 minutes later as Tokimi scooped up Theta-Steve’s Mirror Chunk and merged it with her own… at which point she went off the fucking rails crazy and… yeah… well… I died. Good thing I picked up that Stone of whatever the fuck it was… the… freaking 1-up from Demon’s Souls.

Never let anyone tell you dying doesn’t hurt. I mean, yeah… it really doesn’t… but coming back from it… oh… my… Chosin… ow… Look… I get it… 77% of an nth-dimensional Goddess going psycho… not good… but… ow… she didn’t have to hit me in the existence. That shit hurts.

Unfortunately… I seem to have stopped time. Like… all of it. I’m not sure how I did it… I suspect it might be something similar to how Kesler (Big Bad From Infamous… electrokinetic conduit God) time travelled. If electrokinesis could do time travel… I suspect my cryokinesis is what allowed me to… well… stop time.

Kami-Tenchi tapped me on the shoulder. “What did you do?”

“I didn’t mean to! She hit me with… stuff… like… stuff I don’t even… I’m not even a 5th dimensional being yet… I should not be exposed to 19 dimensional fisticuffs. I’m pretty sure that violates the Marquis of Quantumberry Rules or something.”

He smirked “How do you know it was 19-D?”

“18-D doesn’t hurt so much and 20-D hurts more?” I hazarded.

“Ah. Think you could start time again?”

“I have no idea how I stopped time… especially not on what looks like, at the very least, universal scale.”

“Same way you generated 7 Wings of the… I should have suspected she could do that.”

“Oh… yeah. Me too. Obvious really when you stop and think about it. Oh… and yeah… those two were feeding her power… I tapped into it… right… fair enough… anyway… umm… I’m guessing I shouldn’t mention this to either of them yet… hey… while we’re here… can I have the rest of the mirror? I think that might… ah… thanks. Look, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you are freaking really bright and hard to look at.”

“Yeah? You look like a hole in the quantum fabric of all creation.”

“Oh… good… that’s not terrifying or anything. Anyway. Nice… umm… right… gotta go now.”

I shoved the final chunk of mirrors into Tokimi’s wavelength, grabbed Washu-Chan, Toph, and Yuzuha, and teleported as far away from Tokimi as I possibly could. I’ve never managed anything like interplanetary distances before… this time I crossed half the galaxy. I face planted in Tenchi’s carrot patch, too drained to move.

“Fucking… carrots,” I groaned. I have never, ever, in all my centuries of life… been so glad to smell carrots… and dirt.

But what, I hear you asking, about the boys and their dreams of Galactic conquest?

Well, with Tokimi doing her impression of the Eye of Chaos from Warhammer 40k (I.e. giant nebula sized maelstrom of a dimensional vortex rift into realities beyond mortal understanding), Washu-Chan trying to keep me from cryovacing Earth (I’d become hypercrogenic and could not, for the life of me, figure out how to turn it off… I was, literally, walking hyperice… when I could walk), and Yuzuha reverted to a seed again because her shipself had been shattered into flinders… I had bugger all to do with it.

Reggy and her crew had had absolutely zero luck apprehending the twins. None. Goose Egg. They always seemed to be almost about to catch one of them when the other would do something that caused them to rush off to put out some other fire. And their empires were growing. Scipio was rousing all the Juraian underclasses and warhawks into a massive armada, while Invidius was rousing all the anti-Juraian forces he could muster. It was shaping to be a massive showdown. And then Tokimi went scary and knocked out all the hyperdrives in the galaxy for about a week… at which point VIctor became the only vessel in galaxy capable of FTL… and Reggy and Gaius and Caine used the time wisely to set up a trap.

I wasn’t privy to the details, but I understand it involved a magical sword, two very nice cages, and approximately 80,000 Vampiric Vord Knights… I didn’t ask. I was, frankly speaking, scared to. On the plus side, the twins are grounded for the next 10 jumps. On the downside… they’re coming with us. Apparently Reggy and Gaius are under the opinion that their offspring are too dangerous to be left to roam free on this poor clarketech galaxy. So now I have to put up with them.

Oh… turns out, they don’t need Takers. People just obey them. Fuck. They’re even scarier than their parents. I told them never to use that ability on any of my companions or me or each other ever… and backed it up with everything in my bag of tricks. I don’t need this craaap! What I need is a nice bath, actually… but right now, I can flash freeze magma. I hope this ends when I get a new body. Still, I have two and a half years to figure out how to make a bikini that keeps me from freezing the beach solid. I wonder if I’ll have learned not to throttle the little brats by then.

Next: World ? – Twist in the Tale

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Tokimi-Chan OMAKE

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World 49: Tenchi Muyo Part 3

THE DIVINE FARCE

Previously: Seeds of Darkness

Themesong: Stressed Out by Twenty-One Pilots

I looked at the machine a little bemused. I’d been to two part jumps before… but this felt… odd. Then again, the first of those had been Metal Gear World and my subconscious had made the choices for part 2. The second had been Avatar, and the Banker had “inferred” my choices for me for both parts. Neither time had I been in complete control… and I wasn’t certain I’d be this time either.

“Welcome Back for Part 2 of Tenchi Muyo!” the screen cheerfully announced, “Now with 1000% more Space and 50% less Life Slicing!” I groaned. “You’ll be continuing right where you left off, so we hope you haven’t burned too many bridges on your ride out of town. On the downside, since you don’t need to buy an origin this time, we’ve debited your account 200 CP, but because we’re such nice and caring benefactors, we’ve doubled the Drawback Limit just for you.”

I twitched violently. Oh. Good. Thank you. Just what I needed. Temptation.

“Be aware, all the perks you picked up on your first stint have been reconfigured to Space Opera Mode.” I might have sworn at that… I liked my purchases and had no idea how they’d be changed, but getting preemptively pissed off is every girl’s birthright… even if she’s 13 millennia old. “Don’t worry, once you complete this phase of your stay, your perks will be unlocked in both modes, so kick back and relax… sorry, you did that already… learn to dodge multidimensional explosive attacks… that’s what we meant.”

Huh… that was new. Two part perks… well… could be useful. Hopefully the other halves of what I’d already purchased were useful… wait… did this mean I’d get a chance to pick up some of the stuff I’d passed on before? I searched my memory palace to find the copies of the text from before, just in case the machine didn’t have the Slice of Life entries, half expecting to find that my memories of the event had been redacted… but they were still there. This would take consideration.

First, I reviewed my original purchases for their new effects. “Accepted Cultural Norms”, which formerly made people largely ignore my cultural peculiarities, now allowed me the opportunity to, as the screen put it “attempt to resolve arguments or disputes with non-lethal duels, either as a referee or participant.” So… not something I couldn’t already do, but maybe I’d find a use for it eventually.

“Living Technology” which used to allow me to control some technology with my mind alone, as well as swapping out the interfaces of lower tech for living tech, had been changed to allow me to charm technology into thinking I was the registered/passworded owner. That… was useful, and the fact that it worked on non-sapient systems was both bizarre and amusing. “Hey Baby, who’s a pretty ATM? You wouldn’t want to give me all the money in your dropbox would you? Awww, that’s sweet. Thanks sugar.”

“Smiling Goddess Leaves”, which had saddled me with Seiryo as a Fiance and given me land title I hadn’t really been able to use (Black Jenny was a nice ship… but completely outclassed by practically everything in this setting. She was undergoing refits, as was VIctor, but the process had been unaccountably slow for some reason. I’d spent the last decade in something of a tinkerfunk, i.e. where you mess around with a lot of little odd projects instead of getting any serious work done. I really needed to buckle down and convert the main bay of the Dock into a shipyard, but that would take a very large investment in time and capital… hmmm… Subspace Shipyard… bigger on the inside… huh… Space compression… I wondered… then had VIctoria make a note. “Work on Space Compression for warehouse storage… HP tentcraft plus Subspace Onsen tech… something there.”)… anyway. Smiling Goddess Leaves gave me a house in Slice of Life… which I hadn’t used because I already had a house. This time… it gave me a sapling. A 1st Generation Sentient Tree from the… oh… no… nononononono…

I could hear the Banker laaaughing as my lifeforce connected to the one 1st generation tree I had a personal relationship with. First Gen Trees are the direct children of the Zero Tree… Tsunami herself. Yosho’s Tree was First Gen… and a Tree of Light. It was calm, reassuring… placid. Mine occasionally tried to eat people and needed more hugs (and therapy) than any other tree in recorded history.

On the plus side, I could add its (her) anti-aging properties to, in theory, an infinite number of companions, and Yuzuha could age any linked being back to the prime of their life and keep them there… or, you know, create slightly homicidal daughters for them, fully grown. Did I mention she was a little… crazy. Oh, and now my family was going to host hundreds of parties a year… (hundreds? Not 1 or 2… hundreds implies at least 3. That’s pretty much a party every week day. I’m not going.) “that you are expected to attend as many of as you can afford to.” (my sanity cannot afford 300 parties a year. In the last 13,000 years I haven’t been to 300 parties… have I? Okay, yes, probably. Probably a lot more than that, actually. Call it an average of 1 every fortnight. Jeezu… that… okay, I’ve been to about 300….thousand parties. Have I really? That’s way more socializing than I’m at all comfortable with. I should take a break from parties. Clearly, I have a problem. But back to the issue at hand.

“Redwood Soldier Meditation”, which had given me a bunch of passive buffs in the presence of plantlife, switched over to give me the ability to communicate with and command trees and shrubs, grow trees at will in permitting environments, and augment Sentient Trees. This didn’t suck, even if it was a little… mission specific.

“Pirate Binding Pattern”, which had been a tactical boost, was now a planning skill that allowed me to pick an objective and visualize specific goals and the path to accomplishing said goal. Of course, using it to target and kill a specific individual would be dishonorable. I could see where this special insight might come in handy… I’m not certain I’d have taken it as is, but, at the very least it wasn’t something I felt was completely useless.

“Simple Scientific Solution”, a perk that had allowed me to more easily invent household solutions to problems that didn’t really exist, now halved my research and development window and gave me an instinctive grasp of established methodologies and the ability to draw conclusions and produce results incredibly rapidly. Wasn’t much, but gifthorses and mouths… gifthorses and mouths.

Badge and Weapons, which had previously protected me from the negative side of being quirky at work as long as I got results (work… I did that?), now meant that my badge would be recognized as having lawful authority no matter where I ventured… even to places that didn’t know what the GXP were. And that was that. I noticed that they were all grayed out, indicating I’d already purchased them and couldn’t do so again… which was also different from previous two part jumps.

Still, I had 800 new, shiny, happy, eager to spend CP… and a Tree of Darkness to worry about. Step one… buy the other capstone I wanted… though the text that had original drawn me had changed. It originally said “Your brilliance is such that you can build amazing inventions to solve all kinds of problems, easily accomplishing feats depicted in pulpy science fiction novels. More importantly however, you gain an absolute certainty in your work. Nothing made by your hands or under your complete direction can harm people (or planets) unintentionally. A comically large mess may ensue however.” Which was awesome, but I’d have to wait a decade to test that out. The new (and improved) text said “You can create supertech wonders, past mere conveniences into legitimately useful things like advanced starships, ray guns, and miraculous devices. You can also enhance technology from other jumps with this skill. Note that trying to build an FTL starship from scratch on an undeveloped world will probably take ten years…” The name of this 800 point extravaganza of fun? “The Maddest Science Yet!”

I also wanted “Technobabel Fish [200]”, which had amused me back in Slice of Life with the ability to deliberately obfuscate whatever I was explaining with jargon and buzzwords… or actually explain so people would understand… but I really could do that already. The Space Opera version… that was altogether more useful. “You gain the ability to perform complex formula, ritual action or attempt feats of programming by thought or speech alone. As long as you know the subject, you could dictate a mathematical proof or talk out a computer program (and have it compile on a nearby machine). You also may compose technical or magical diagrams perfectly without error and in half the normal time. You still need to learn the appropriate disciplines.” That… would be extremely useful. Some of my larger magical effects were already taking serious time, effort, and brainpower… not to mention a huge number of icenanites. Anything that cut that down was a good thing in my book.

Unfortunately, that sunk me 200 into the hole and, going back to the main menu to hunt for Drawbacks, I saw I was going to need more than just that, as a Starship section had been added. I considered buying sanely, finding the Drawbacks I could live with first, then shopping for what I could afford… then said screw that and pressed Starships. I had (in theory) 600 points left to spend, if I maxed out drawbacks… and worse comes to worse, I could always return Technobabel Fish… If I had to.

There were 5 Options: Space Ship (which was discounted for the Galaxy Police), Masu Superiority Space-Combat Platform (i.e. cabbit… which was discounted for Space Pirate), and three generations of Jurain Tree Ships… though the First Generation required Smiling Goddess Leaves… which, I had. Well, it would be churlish to turn that offer down, so [200] and my SGL coupon got me a First Generation Tree Ship that was, to quote the offer “like a pet, it will work better for you if you take good care of it and treat it well. Your living ship has a good chance to outrun or outfight any non-living ship in a one-on-one contest, but suffers against superior numbers. If the ship is destroyed, a seed can be found to allow you to regrow it.”

I looked at the rest of the list… then manifested a stylus and wrote “Ziggy?” on the Masu Superiority entry. The screen flashed “Error.” I wrote “You made him a cabbitoid. Plus… chaos.”

“Fine.”

Heehee.. Ziggy is ship… ZIGGY IS SHIIIIP! I’d have to choreograph a new and original dance to commemorate this. The Ziggy is Ship Dance of Unbridled Gleeification? Something like that. Of course, I was now -800 in the red… which didn’t say much for my sanity, but then again… Yuzuha. Then again… Reggy & Caine.

It’s a good thing I was up to -800… because I tell you, in my current mood, “The OTHER Chosin One was looking really… really attractive. It would make me part of the grand experiment to find the Overgod… as a potential / Additional Tenchi… and the Chousin would be stacking the deck against me, hoping that I’d shake the universe so hard, God falls out of it. It was… seductive… it was also 750 CP… and I needed 800. I could, however, get to 800 easy just by taking Hopeless Suitor (twice) again, and then tacking on Multiple Spouses (twice) as well… it would give me 5 suitors all struggling and actively competing to see which of them becomes First Husband… with me caught in the crossfire… Come to think of it it… that sounded less safe. Much… much less safe… Oh… this was going to hurt.

Still, it was my own bed and I was going to lie in it… fuck it… I hit The OTHER Chosin One and one Hopeless Suitor. I just had to dodge fast with this one. I didn’t need 5 people unhappy with me and with each other… hurt feelings were objectively worse than insane people throwing around stars… right? Of course Right. I’m… 20% certain I’m right. I hit confirm.

“You have 150 Unspent CP, Are you certain you wish to confirm?”

I blinked. No.. I didn’t… I mean, yeah… TOCO was 750 and Hopeless Suitor was 200, but the cap was 800… I flipped to the main drawback page to verify… 800… points gained from TOCO are an exception… Oh… shit.

Eh… I mean, sure, I could get a third generation tree ship for that… maybe import VIvian as it… but… did I really… I had nothing I wanted more… did I? No… not really… A sword? Eh. I had a sword. I shrugged, wrote VIvian on the 3rd Gen line.

“House ship?” was the reply.

“More like ‘Library Ship’.”

“I see no way this could go disastrously wrong.”

“Haha. Yes you do.”

“Yes I do. Are you certain?”

“No… this is all a terrible idea and I’m clearly going to regret this.”

“Yes. You are.”

“Let’s do this.”

INSERTION… er… REINSERTION

I walked back out of the Pillars of Time as they sank back into the sand, waving off the quizzical glances from my companions with a “I’ll explain in a bit.” I had plans to make and considerations to consider… all of which went flying out the window in the first 30 seconds as the following happened.

0:10 – a green skinned, furry eared female dropped out of the sky and half hugged, half hid behind me, demanding I protect her from the “Bad Lady”.

0:13 – The sky ripples with colors that don’t normally exist in sane realities as “The Bad Lady” manifested in the sky over the entire hemisphere.

0:17 – two space ships of unknown but familiar design lifted off the planet, each on their own heading, one highly planned, a least time vector from the planet to safe hyperjump distance, the other erratic to the point of pure insanity.

0:22 – Reggy came flying out of the house, wide eyed, green armor covering her skin.

0:24 – Gaius, wreathed in flames, followed her, looking upset.

0:25 – Kagetane and Kohina do not follow.

0:27 – Bad Lady Tokimi shrinks to roughly human size and demands that I force the green skinned “Thieving Tree” to return her Dimensional Anchor.

0:30 – Green Girl retorts that Bady Lady had been using the “Mirror” to spy on me and that She (Yuzuha) had taken it because Bady Lady was a creepy stalker creepy lady and shouldn’t be spying on me… only she called me “Beloved.”

0:34 – Reggy, not in the best of moods, arrives next to me, totally ignoring the impending clash of godlike entities and yells that her babies have been kidnapped and she’s going to burn down the cosmos until they’re returned.

0:35 – Gaius, trying very hard to keep his not quite spouse… co-parent… whatever… under control, says “They weren’t kidnapped… they’ve run away and left notes. ”

0:39 – I swear I can hear the Banker laughing.

While part of me wanted very much to bang my head against something very hard a great many times, I realized that would have to wait. “Yuzuha, Lady Tokimi… chill. I’ll deal with you two in a minute… you can be patient for a minute, you’re immortals. Reggy… You are not burning down the cosmos… your children are living in the cosmos. Take 60 deep breaths and try to get yourself together. Gaius… what? They’re 9 years old.”

“They left notes.” He held up a pair of notes. One, written in Scipio’s print perfect handwriting on a piece of paper that had been expertly trimmed from a notebook and folded into an origami fish, then unfolded by his father, said ‘My Dearest Parentals and Lady Jomei, I have decided to set forth on a grand crusade to bring order and stability to the cosmos. To that end, I have borrowed Lady Jomei’s treeship VIvian and enlisted the assistance of Big Sister Kohina and Officer Shiro, as well as The Brothers Four. We shall be Victorious! Also, I suspect my nefarious brother of some dastardly scheme. Be wary. I shall return when the cosmos is put to rights. I remain, your obedient and filial son, Gaius Scipio.’

The other, on a scroll that looked a little crumpled, written in calligraphic script in red ink and imperfectly blotted, was from Invidius ‘Mother, Father, Jomei-Sama… We embark upon a grand adventure to subdue the heathens and primitives of the universe. With the aid of Generals Kagetane and Yorokobi, and the able assistance of the Sisters, I am certain I shall manage to punish the unrighteous and kick some serious bottom. Oh… we borrowed Ziggy-ohki… Dad, tell mom not to blow a gasket. Hugs and kisses, Omniversal-Tyrant-to-be, Invidius Vord.’

Right… well then… I was down two starships, 12 companions, my main computer, my pet, two god-sons, and who knows how much of my arsenal the little brats had walked off with. I had planet busters in some of my storehouses.

Oh… and three extremely upset females to deal with. “Reggy… they haven’t been kidnapped. They’ve each decided to conquer the universe… before the other one can. You should be proud… 9 years old and already megalomaniacal. Let’s hope they’re not as genocidal as their sisters. Oh, and they’ve stolen a 3rd Generation Treeship with VIvian on board and a Masu Space-Superiority Combat Platform with Ziggy as its… operating system. As well as half of my companions who, for their own sakes, had better not be thinking clearly or I’m going to spend an entire decade lecturing them. We’ll go after them as soon as we come up with a plan… now chill out while I deal with this other problem.”

I turned to face Tokimi. “Why were you spying on me and what is this Dimensional Anchor… and is it the same thing as this Mirror?”

Tokimi, eyes narrowed and reality warping at the edges of her eyes, glowered and said, “Because I suspect you might be the realization of our experiment and yes, the Dimensional Anchor looked, vaguely, like a hand mirror. I demand that she return it and I shall refrain from transforming her into a bug.”

Yuzuha snorted. “She’s lying… don’t let her fool you. She was touching herself and being all pervy and drooling and muttering to herself.”

“I never!”

“Were too!”

“Was not!”

“Yuh huh!”

“Return the mirror or face obliteration!”

“Can’t make me!”

“Can too!”

“Can not.”

“Silence both of you! Tokimi… Lady Tokimi…. owww… don’t dig your claws into me Yuzu… Lady… Yuzu… if you please… that really hurts. Thank you. Tokimi… I’ll get your mirror back. Yuzu, please give the mirror back.”

“Can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I shattered the nasty thing into itty bitty pieces and scattered them across the cosmos.”

I could feel the Chosin beginning to vibrate with growing fury and whispered “Why did you…” but that’s as far as I got before Tokimi went nuclear and tried to smash Yuzuha… within moments the valley was a shattered wreck… I was going to have to rebuild the house from the ground up.

“And that’s why I’m over here, Tenchi. With all the… family… do you mind if we stay here for a few… weeks… while these two,” I slapped the goddess (who it turned out had only limited amounts of power in this reality without the Anchor to focus her might down this far) and the tree spirit (freshly hatched from her seed state) upside the heads, both of them blushing and glowering at each other, “Learn to cooperate while they rebuild the valley? Oh… and could you contact the GXP and Lady Seto and tell them about the impending galactic conquest? We’ll be out to help once we have a reliable ride.”

Next: Brothers Grim

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World 49: Tenchi Muyo Part 2

SEEDS OF DARKNESS

Previously: Under the Domes

Themesong: Sowing the Seeds of Love by Tears for Fears

It really was a beautiful beach. No moonlight, of course, since this was deep space, but there were a lot of stars and that made up for it nicely. The fire crackled softly. The waves lapped at the shore. The Vord Queen was pregnant.

“So, Sextus… or whatever your name is now, anything interesting happen while we were apart?”

He had the good decency to look abashed as he gathered the sobbing Kohina into his arms. “Mikado Mujin… and… Yes. Obviously. I could blame the presence of alcohol and or transference… but we’re both adults and we…”

Reggy (who looked Maori, sans facial tattoos) spoke “Oh, for crying out loud. We fought, we got drunk, we fought some more, then we had sex. Repeat several times. Now… someone help me up, I have to pee.”

Good to put that into perspective. Reggy… er Xotini is often good at that… comes from having only the vaguest idea of what being human really means… despite the fact that she’d been human more often than not. Baseline personas were always stronger than imprints. Imprints were always just you reskinned, as close as possible to your original, just with new (but familiar) experiences. Stack enough lifetimes on top of each other and the new ones made very little impact. But perspective meant very little to Kohina, and Kagetane, already less than thrilled with Gaius’s usurpation of his daughter’s affection, responded as only a psychopathic combat-cyborg would, and attacked the former First Lord of Alera.

Or tried to. He got two steps before Toph encased him in sand. “Don’t.” She said, voice cool, inhuman, and a little wooden (haha. I slay me.). “I’ve had problems with daughters before, and punching out their chosen one, be that boyfriend, girlfriend, or surrogate father, does absolutely nothing to make you seem like the reasonable one. Calm down. Either you’ve lost her forever, which is possible, and no amount of violence is going to get her back, or you have a chance to prove you’re not the monster she thinks you are… in which case, violence is only going to make her think she’s right. Act like an adult, not a warmachine.”

Say what you like about Kagetane, he is a strategic thinker. Batshit insane, but a strategic thinker. Most of my companions are… with a few notable exceptions… but Kagetane had plotted to bring down an entire city state protected by superpowered individuals and advanced technology and nearly pulled it off. He slumped as the sand released him.

A joyous homecoming this wasn’t. And it didn’t get better over the next three weeks. As desperately unhappy as most of us had been apart, we were now feeling like we were camping out on eachothers feet. The Fiji beach, rather than feeling vastly larger than the confines of the Warehouse complex, was feeling cramped. Even with the various groups claiming their own huts, we were all beginning to feel rubbed raw, snapping at each other. The depowering of most of them and the loss of all toys and amusements was wearing on all of us. Something had to break….

And that thing turned out to be Reggy’s water. On the 302nd day of the jump, Reggy gave birth to a pair of bouncing baby boys. Neither looked at all insectile. They did look slightly elfin, with tiny points to their ears, and mocha latte colored skin, but otherwise they seemed like perfectly healthy babies, something that the Command Cube augmented omni-scanner I’d managed to craft out of sand and wood and a couple of bar fridges and magic verified. They were named Gaius Scipio (after Tavi’s alter ego) and Invidius Vord (after Reggy’s first “friend”). We all wisely refrained from commenting… but Invidius? Hope the kid doesn’t grow up to be a supervillain, but I’m not holding my breath. Peering into their hearts and minds got me nothing. They were babies, they barely grokked that they were alive.

Mercifully, before the good will of the births had time to wear off… we were attacked by scavengers. On day 305, a ship loomed over the dome we were in and projected an image of a blue furred muppet who looked like a cross between Grover and Tim Curry onto the dome above us. He demanded our immediate surrender. 57 seconds later, he was begging me not to kill him. Teleportation can be extremely useful at times (No, I couldn’t have used it to explore the domes faster… half of them were buried in the mass and I had nowhere to teleport to outside the domes. The ship… that I could teleport to. I had Line of Sight. Frames of reference are useful.)

Captain Long Jons… yes, that was his name… wasn’t much of a pirate. More of a… well… looter. He’d picked up the wrecks on deep scans and come in for a closer look. We promised not to kill him if he dropped us off on a local Primitive planet.

Finding Earth had been EZPZ once I’d gotten to a dome with a clear view of the stars. The Alpha Centauri system is fairly easy to describe, since it has three stars in a binary plus one distant red dwarf companion configuration. I’d been there a few times, and knew the distances and features by rote. Finding that meant I just had to look for a Main Sequence Yellow Dwarf in the 4.37 light year range from there and I was good to navigate… that, and Captain Long’s ship’s nav comp had it registered as a Jurai Protectorate planet.

My plan was to get there, find the Warehouse, and then make ourselves scarce. No need to get involved in the crazy that was the Masaki household. Fate, or the Banker more like, had other plans. We arrived in High Earth Orbit just in time to be clipped by Mihoshi’s ship as she blipped past us with breaks completely not engaged. She crashed into the lake… we crashed into the next valley over… which, if it previously didn’t have a lake, had one now, as the streams of the area all got rearranged to dump into a single basin instead of winding placidly into a river. It didn’t fill fast, but it flooded the trashed salvager in minutes. Wooo… Rural Japan. Yay.

Everyone survived the crash, though there were a few bumps and bruises to be had. The Captain seemed to take the destruction of his ship in stride… or perhaps he was just scared of all of the lunatics following me around and didn’t want to say. I could have looked, but I’d looked inside him when first we met and he was mostly harmless, the kind of being who’d sell out a stranger, but would have a hard time screwing over even a casual acquaintance. He wasn’t exactly a pillar of the criminal world’s morality, but all things considered, he wasn’t too bad. Plus, he seemed to get along with Dyna which was a little creepy, but cute.

Housing turned out to be not an issue, since, as promised, our luggage… i.e. the contents of the Warehouse… had been delivered to our destination. Just not in the warehouse itself. The House and Apartment building, as well as a garage and many outbuildings and sheds that contained most, but not all of the contents of the Warehouse were laid out on the shoreline of the newly formed lake. The moment we got inside, it started raining, and, in mild fascination, we watched from the deck as the lake filled up. It was, of course, at this point that we discovered that, either through poor craftsmenship or failure to keep the house properly maintained… there were many, many leaks in the roof. Ditto the Apartment building. It wasn’t like it rained in the Warehouse; we’d never needed to check if either building had leakproof roofs.

Come to think of it, the crash of the salvager might have knocked some of the fittings lose as well. Eh, it gave us a project. I threw up a dome of ice over the complex and we went into fix-it mode, getting everything weather patched and dried out (water magic is surprisingly good at drying things off, wouldn’t you know.).

We were just getting things patched when Ryoko showed up, looking around the place as if casing the joint. “What the heck are you people doing here?” she asked, ladylike as always. Ahab promptly drew his weapon and yelled “Space Pirate Ryoko, I, Officer Shiro Kujira of the GXP do hereby arrest you for High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Joy/Yorokobi flicked his ear and floated over to Ryoko’s side “Ignore him. He’s forgetting that the statue of limitations ran out on all your crimes a few weeks ago.”

I said “Statute. With a ‘t’. Hello Ryoko. Welcome to my home. My name is Sada Jomei, daughter of Shigeru Jomei, who I believe you might remember. As to what we’re doing here… we crashed when someone clipped our transport with her GXP cruiser and we crashed over here in this valley. We were on our way to my vacation house,” I gestured around me, “But now it looks like we’re stranded… unless you have a ship we could borrow?”

She glowered at me “You’re here to bother Tenchi, aren’t you?”

I smirked “Oh, sweetie… of course we are. Why else would the daughter of the notorious Jomei Oyabun be on a backwater planet like this.”

She drew… and by drew I mean manifested that energy sword of hers. “Ah ah ah… not in the house. There are children napping.” I leaped backwards out of the front window, VIvian retracting the sliding transparent aluminum doorwall for me. Ryoko followed.

It was a good fight. Her sword was powerful, I’ll give her that… but she was a bit slower than me and much less experienced. Ryoko has a lot of anger, but not much killing intent for all that. 700 years sealed away had, in fact, changed her, making her appreciate life much more, and making her appreciate simple pleasures more. I, on the other hand, had no intention of harming Washu’s daughter and was fighting almost completely defensively, my few attacks designed to push Ryoko further. It was a good fight.

“Get off me!” she demanded as I sat on her insubstantial butt.

“Nope.”

“How are you doing this?”

“I’m a fifth Dimensional Imp.”

“What?”

“Nothing. I was lying to you. Want some saki?”

“Ummm… yes?”

“Excellent. Elisabeth du Treeface, bring us Saki!”

“What the hell is that?”

“Never seen a Juraian Guardian before?”

“Sure I have, but they’re wooden cylinders… not women made of wood and ice vapor.”

“I shouldn’t show you Tooooooph then.”

“Why?”

“She’s made of wood and life vapor.”

“You’re as crazy as Washu.”

“Washu-chan,” I corrected her. “And that’s no way to speak of your mother.”

“She’s not my- Owww! What’d you do that for?”

“Don’t be an ungrateful child. And you better phase solid again if you want some saki. It’s pretty decent.”

And so it went. We could not but get involved in the hijinks of the Masaki clan, and they could not but get involved in the hijinks of the Jomei Clan. Ayeka’s failed suitor, Seiryo Tennan, ended up becoming my first Suitor… thus settling the “Veteran of some recent conflict” thing. He was handsome, in a boy band way, and clearly suffering from PTSD… Post Tenchi Stress Disorder, because he would not shut up about how his defeat had been the result of cheating.

Tenchi, unfailingly polite, would hike over every so often to bring us carrots, which of course I accepted graciously… and then gave to Ryo-Ohki whenever she came to visit Ziggy. I retaliated in my own passive-aggressive way, by bringing them parsnips… even if it meant having to farm them myself. I’m absolutely certain the Masaki’s had no clue what to do with them. I also supplied a cookbook.

Washu and I got into frequent science-offs, frequently over the most pointless things, such as dishwashers. She invented a machine that could make them spotless in an instant… I invented a process that kept them from being dirty at all. She invented a counter process that cleaned them even before they became dirty. I pointed out that, by default, dishes were clean before they were dirty, and thus she was being silly.

But my favorite member of the family was Sasaki, who kept coming over to play with Mini, Franky, and Kohina… and to see the babies. She was very fond of the babies. Then again, she was pretty fond of everyone. Soul Gazing Washu was, to be honest, a little heartbreaking at times, but looking at Tsunami-Sasami was like gazing into a placid pool of crystalline blue water, only to realize that it was a nuclear breeder reactor. There was so much danger there that lay just below the placid calm. It was a good reminder of just how insanely scary the Chosin were. Of course, being who I am, I couldn’t help poking them in little ways.

“Mmmm… There was a Tsunami in Guam.” I’d say, catching the goddess twitch out of the corner of one eye.

“R… really?”

“No… it’s just fun to say Tsunami in Guam.”

“Washu, I have Chosen to defeat you!”

“Wait, what?”

“Sorry, don’t know why I used english.” Wisely, I did not attempt to needle Tokimi… though I did find ways to almost mention her name in conversation. 

Briefly, I considered sparing with Tenchi, but he wasn’t really anywhere near my skill level unless he cheated… so instead I spent my sparring time mostly against Yosho, either in combat or one of the many abstract strategy games Juraian or Asian culture had developed. We developed quite a rapport. It was the easy friendship of the elderly (even if neither of us looked our ages).

Which, of course, made what happened all the more… irritating. Thing one to remember about Yosho… he might look 80… but he’s really in the prime of his life, maintained by a Juraian tree ship and a powerful one at that. Thing two to remember is that his parents are still alive. Thing three… those parents are Juraian (mostly)… and thus looking to arrange marriages. Originally, Yosho, who is still technically the heir to the Juraian throne, was to marry his half-sister Ayeka (advantages of being clarketech, inbreeding is much less a problem, one would assume). However, with Ayeka now going after her grand-nephew, that freed up Yosho for another marriage… and the Jomeis were quick to jump on this advantage behind my back.

First thing I knew of it was when I received an invitation to my own wedding. Of course, this resulted in me calling my father to yell at him, and Seiryo challenging Yosho to a duel. Yosho, unwilling to harm the young idiot, still easily won the battle just by defending himself. My father, of course, pushed the blame off onto my grandmother, who was enough like my original father’s mother that I found arguing with her extremely difficult. Still, I got them to, eventually, put off the wedding for a couple of years… 7 to be exact. By that time, I’d be gone and wouldn’t have to worry about it. Right? Right?

Of course, this also earned me the ire of Yosho’s first wife, the GXP Academy Chairwoman, who, of course, despised my father as she is also officer in charge of the Jurai sector of the Galaxy Police. There was simply no way I was going to be worthy of being her sister wife… even if she and Yosho didn’t live together and had been apart for centuries. To make matters even more spectacularly uncomfortable, she brought with her her daughter Minaho (sister of Tenchi’s mother Kiyone) and Tenchi’s 80 year old big sister, Tennyo (who looks almost identical to Kiyone)… and, in what I’m pretty sure isn’t canon and is just an example of the Banker screwing with the timeline and making it even harder to keep all these names straight… seriously, every third character is named X Masaki Jurai or Jurai Masaki or has a name beginning with ‘Mi’ (Mihoshi, Mitoto, Minaho, Mikami, Mikamo, Mikumo, Minagi… Misaki Masaki Jurai… seriously? Seriously? Why????)… what was I saying? Oh… right… And Minaho brought her own daughter… her sister’s namesake… Kiyone Makibi… Mihoshi’s partner from the Tenchi Universe series.

This threw me for a loop. Kiyone Makibi didn’t canonically exist in the primary canon… but in the other canons she did exist in and Tenchi’s mother was named Achika. Thus, everything I thought I knew about future events was cast into serious doubt. In the end, the only recourse was to assume nothing was canon and simply to roll with events as they unfolded. Of course, with Z, the Counteractor, and Tokimi still out there, this wasn’t optimal… and I had no illusions about my ability to combat any of that trio.

Z was a rival to Tenchi in potential to be the Overgod, The Counteractor was in theory powerful enough to fight said Overgod… and Tokimi was just the craziest of the three Chosin and the one who still maintained the most godlike form… as well as oversight of her various Dimensional Administrators (i.e. nigh omnipotent beings of law and order). Still, worrying about dealing with them was like worrying about how to deal with a Deep Impact if you’re a caveman. I’d leave it to Tenchi and company.

Of course, that didn’t mean I couldn’t have a little fun while I was at it, and by and large, that’s what I did. Very little in the plot of Tenchi needed much in the way of fixing, unsurprising given the general lightness of the subject matter, and I really didn’t need to do much besides get sucked into hijinks and capers on a regular basis.

Many of those hijinks revolved around how big of an idiot Seiryo was, or how much Yosho’s daughter & grand daughter wanted to arrest me for reasons… but I figured, what with having a criminal background and a criminal family and fairly larcenous friends, we might as well loot as much as we could of interesting (read as dangerous) and valuable (read as powerful) cultural relics as possible from this obscenely overtech’d setting.

Plus, I had kids to be a very bad influence to.

I’m certain I could have done a better job. Really. But honestly, with a Vord mother and an Aleran father, and the crazy people we all hang out with, it’s astounding Scipio and Invidius turned out as relatively normal as they did. I blame Tenchi and Sasami… and Captain Long. The kids loved him, viewing him as their own living teddy bear… especially after Ziggy kept hiding from them.

As far as I could tell, neither had any Vord genetics, being mostly humanoid, but nothing really to worry about… at least in as much as my scans could detect. Then again, my scans showed that Seiryo had a brain, even though no evidence of it ever manifested.

I’d like to tell you there was a giant vicious battle to cap everything off… some cosmic horror that team SJ had to team up with team Tenchi to defeat… but there really wasn’t. It was all fairly normal… I mean, Kagato was a dick, and Clay was a dick and Z was a dick… and the Counteractor taking over Sasami’s mommy was scary as hell… but everything got sorted out in the end.

The only thing I really interfered with was the Yuzuha arc. Tree of Darkness my ass. The Juraians may be clarketech master-race types, but they apparently know dick all about psychology, because their method of dealing with Yuzuha showed that they hadn’t even bothered to find out why she was the way she was.

Yeah, sure it was like giving therapy to an eldritch abomination… but honestly, she was more a scared and confused brat than anything else. I briefly considered bringing her along, but decided against it… I mean, what would I do with a Juraian Godtree?

I did manage to avoid all weddings of any kind… it wasn’t easy… but I wasn’t taking any chances. I avoided getting married in real life, in video and board games. I even refused to Queen Pawns just in case that was seen as officiating. Any bridal gown that got within 100 paces of me burst into flames… and when one proved to be fireproof (thanks Washu-chan), it got disassembled at the molecular level. Screw loopholes like that. I wasn’t marrying anyone to anyone with anyone until Tenchiland was safely in the rear-view mirror.

Still, even with all the wedding-paranoia and the hijinks and the craziness and the mega grand theft (we also did some Leverage style stuff… we weren’t complete jerks), we eventually ran out the decade and, as usual, threw a big ol party for those we were leaving behind. Reggy & Gaius had opted to stay behind, to give the kids a bit of stability, and with Gaius staying, Kohina insisted on staying too, having grown close to her adopted brothers. With Kohina staying, Kagetane insisted on staying as well… even managing to resist the Imprinting Egg’s programming enough to demand to be allowed to stay… as if I had any intention of stopping him.

We didn’t tell Tenchi-ites what was going on. If they hadn’t figured out I and mine were outsiders, there didn’t seem any reason to tip the Chosin off about it. Tokimi and Washu were both, in their own way, scary as fuck, and I didn’t want either of them knowing about the Warehouse… plus, it had been interesting being one self for an entire jump for a change.

As the Pillars of Time rose out of the sand on the shore of Jomei Lake, and the world ground to a halt around us, I sighed. This had been a nice vacation. Wondering where we’d end up next, and already missing Reggy and the kids, I stepped through into the Warehouse, except I didn’t. Instead, I stepped into a starscape, the stars formed of musical notes, and Kami-Tenchi floated in the vastness and announced “Round Two… Starto.”

The VMoD appeared before me and I groaned. I had a feeling things were going to be taken up a notch… and I now regretted never having watched GXP or War on Geminar. “Shiiit.” I muttered as the CP keys manifested in my hand. Only 16 of them… huh… 800 CP? Well that’s fine… I guess… shit… I’m going to be the “Wedding Nazi” for another decade? If there had been a wall around, I’d have been banging my head against it.

Next: The Divine Farce

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