World 52: Firefly, Part 1

OF HOSTS AND HOSTAGES

Previously: Into The Long Dark

Themesong: The Ballad of Serenity by Sonny Rhodes

Huh… looking back… I realize something. The promised Bounty Hunter never showed. I can’t help thinking this is a baaaad thing. Meetra, once she sobered up, took exception to my betrayal of Vitiate. To which my response was “He was a genocidal psychopath who would have betrayed us all if given a chance.” and to which Vivian added “Additionally, should the two of you have remained in your native setting, you’d have been murdered fighting him and spent hundreds of years keeping Revan sane while Vitiate tortured him. This is to say nothing of the galactic war he’d have started.”

I blinked. “Databases restored?”

“Affirmative, Commander.”

“Wonderful. Now… I guess it’s a good thing we brought you along. Welcome aboard. You’ll find the Warehouse to be full of diversions. Just ask around… oh, and be warned, everyone one here is a shapeshifter.”

“What!?”

I love newbie day.

“This isn’t my true form,” I said with a smirk. “This is.” and I shifted. “But I’ve got a few dozen forms to be honest… plus, unlike most of the others, I’m actively a polymorph.” and I ran through the lot of my various forms… then became a chair, a speederbike, and a very large silver and green waffle. “Jedi Down. I repeat, Jedi Down. Please bring a pillow and ice cream to the private lounge.”

“You have pillows in there already.” Zane called.

“But they’re my pillows! She might get Force Cooties on them.”

Several Pillows pummeled me from various directions.

“Warning. Incoming Vending Machine. Incoming Vending Machine. Brace for Impact.” A klaxon sounded as soon as the unfamiliar voice finished its warning.

I looked up, quirking an eyebrow. “What, the…” and then a boom shook the warehouse as a large metallic object smashed through the roof and impacted in the swimming pool, drenching everyone lounging around it and sending waves of water surging through the warehouse, only partly contained by various force fields and bulkheads. “FUCK?” I scooped up Meetra and leapt to the balcony of my bedroom, setting her down on a daybed safe from the flood, then descended to the cracked and broken pool deck. The thing in the pool was not, in fact, a Vending Machine.

“The fuck?” It looked like an escape pod. And a moment later, the hatch blew off and a figure in pitch-black Mandalorian Armor leapt from it on a jet plume, blaster drawn and firing. Note to self, don’t get hit by Mandalorian Ripper bolts. They smart.

My sword hand stinging, I glared at the impossible bounty hunter and growled, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” Then hit the idiot with eye-beams that slammed it back through part of the apartment building.

Slowing time, I teleported to his side as he bounced off the far wall of the Warehouse, caught him by the helmet in one massive claw, and shook him violently enough to sent the blaster flying, squeezing hard enough to crack the metal. “How, in the name of me, did you get in here?”

“The..” he gasped “Others… will… stop… you.”

“Riiight. Sure. Others. Good to know.” I pulled on the helmet, trying to wrench it off, but he began to burn, then glow, and, almost before I could throw up a force bubble, imploded into a cloud of glowing anti-particles. Cursing as they began interacting with the air in the bubble, my sense of time slowing more and more as I pushed at the sphere, launching it out of the hole in my warehouse roof, into the unknowable void. “FIRE IN THE HOLE!” I screamed, slamming as much of a barrier over the edge of the rend in reality.

The explosion was unlike anything I’d ever imagined, what I can only describe as a reality quake.

“BANKER!”

The VMoD inside the escape pod beeped “That entity is currently unavailable.”

“What?! Why the fuck not?”

“The entity you know as the Banker has been… detained.”

I felt a creeping sense of dread at that pause, and the cold way the machine said “Detained.”

I looked at the VMoD in my ex-swimming pool… then over at the still shuttered alcove where the VMoD usually stood. “You’re not the Banker’s Vending Machine, are you?”

The voice that came out of the VMoD was smooth, cruel, and not at all friendly. “Heh. You are clever, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question and barely a complement. “Call me… Mensarius.”

“Cute. Can I assume you’re… detaining the Banker?”

“You… could. Yes.”

“Would I be right?”

“Perhaps. Who can say?”

I sighed “Clearly you want me to run through your little… adventure.”

“Would you Kindly?”

“Fuck you.”

“As you like it.” The VMoDoom went quiet… and stayed quiet for the next 11 years. The Banker’s Vending Machine didn’t appear. The Warehouse roof was still damaged, though we’d patched it up as best we could, but for some reason we couldn’t pass anything into the void beyond safely and anything that was exposed for too long was damaged, though CP items would repair themselves when removed from contact with the void. A forcefield generator had been placed over the hole, and that had been covered by a spare blast door from one of the Jenny refits, but it needed routine and annoying maintenance, as if something was slowly decaying it.

Finally my stubbornness yielded in the face of near universal boredom. I say near because, honestly, we had so much media to consume and so many games to play and so much subspace real-estate that we could have probably held out for 11 centuries… but even with all that room, we were beginning to annoy each other with constant proximity and the stir-craziness was getting to everyone just a little. Well, except Velma (who could read for days at a time without getting bored), RayRay (Who slept most of the time), Toph (who had spent decades alone in a swamp for no particular reason), and Ziggy (who didn’t really care as long as there were squeaky toys to play with). There was also a problem with needing to air out the Warehouse. No closed system has perfect recycling, and with the hole in the void, Air levels would become dangerously low in another three millennia.

So, finally, I approached the VMoDoom, now moved to one of the damaged apartments with Force TK, (the walls had been fixed, the furniture was trashed). “What’s the offer?”

“Ah, you’ve returned. I-”

“Yeah yeah. You knew I would. That’s how hostage situations work. Offer?”

“A challenge, if you will.”

“Great. Offer?”

“A Treasure Hunt.”

“Fun. Where?”

The machine morphed, and a familiar tune began to play. “Take My Life, Take My Land.”

“You’ve got to be kidding. I could curbstomp the entire setting without breaking a sweat… and without using any of my more extreme special abilities.”

“I knew you’d say that.”

“So? Where’s the challenge? You want me to destroy the Alliance? Could have just asked.”

“I would never propose to tell you what you have to do with regards to any other living creature.”

“Riiiight. So?”

“You merely have to find something for me. Call it a Key.”

“Somewhere in the Verse?”

“That’s right.”

“What does it look like?”

“I don’t know.”

“Great. Wonderful. How will I know when I’ve found it?”

“It will be utterly unlike anything else in the Verse.”

“Uh huh. And if I do this?”

“I shall arrange for the one you call Banker to become… undetained.”

“Great. Let’s do this.” I looked at the screen, then checked the coin return. “Where are the CP Keys?”

“Oh. Sorry. I’m not the Banker.”

“Then how the fuck am I going to buy stuff?”

“Drawbacks?”

“You’re an asshole.”

“Temper, Temper.”

I scrolled down to the Drawbacks section. It all looked totally thematic, very pretty… and had a cap of 2 Drawbacks for no more than 600 points. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Oh. Right… “ the screen flickered and three new drawbacks appeared below the three hundred point items. Each was worth 500 and each was listed as “Does not count against Drawback Limit”. They were “No Power in the Verse”, “Trade Barrier”, and “Alone in the Black”.

“No Power in the Verse” said “Normally, No Power in the Verse could stop you… but that was then, and this is now. All your magic and super powers are removed and all your transhuman abilities are reduced to peak human levels.” “Trade Barrier” said “all technology more advanced than that found in the Verse will be impossible to remove from the Warehouse for the duration of your stay in the Verse.” and “Alone in the Black” said “Like your crew? Well, with this you can keep’em safe inside your Warehouse, because they ain’t coming out until you leave the Verse.”

I growled, “You added these in just to fuck with me, didn’t you?”

“Mayhaps, little lady. You could even take all three, if you wanted.”

“The Banker is a Bastard… but you… you’re a special kind of asshole, aren’t you?”

“I could take them away again.”

“You won’t. You need me.”

“Oh? Figure that do you?”

“You can’t actually enter my Warehouse can you? Or revoke my abilities if I don’t let you. You could get at the Banker, somehow… but you can’t enter the Verse… and I’m betting the Banker hid something there that will stop anyone of your agents from finding it.”

“Smug too.”

“I didn’t quite hear that.”

Mensarius growled “You’re smug too.”

“Yeah, well. Deal with it. You want me to do this… we’re going to make a deal.”

“I already made you-”

“I looked through the whole thing. There’s no companion import option. You’re going to modify the document to put one in. A free one… or rather one priced to match however much this little treasure hunt of yours is worth in aggravation. Free Origin, All Freebies, and 800 CP.”

“300.”

“6”

“5”

“A thousand.”

“6 it is.”

“Great. For all my companions.”

“WHAT!?”

“How much is this Key worth to you, fuckface?”

“You’ll regret this.”

“Already do.”

“Not all. You can bring… 16. And they’re all baseline Human for the duration. I assume since you’re talking about companions you’re taking the other two options.”

“I am. And fine. 20.”

“I said-”

“I heard you. I’m just being annoying. You have inconvenienced and annoyed me. Had you asked, maybe I would have done this without screwing with you. But you empowered a Mandalorian Bounty Hunter to break into my warehouse… and I’m assuming you’re drawing on the Banker’s CP Matrix or whatever to empower this jaunt, because… just a guess… Any CP from you would result in those anti-particles like from the Bounty Hunter.”

“I loath you.”

“Feeling’s mutual, Bub. But I’ll get your Key. And you won’t do this again.”

“Perhaps.”

“Yeah, well… How do I get the Key to you?”

“Send it through the hole I provided.”

“Of course.”

=====

“SJ? Do you think it was a good idea to antagonize one of these beings?” Zane asked a few hours later.

“Zane. Either Mensarius can or cannot squash us like bugs. Antagonizing it won’t have much effect on that. We can’t trust it in the slightest, but we also can’t be certain what its end goal is. The Banker hasn’t interfered yet, which either means he either can’t or won’t. But if we work under the assumption that the Banker’s resources are being… diverted to fund this caper, I’m going to maximize our return on his investment.”

“And take advantage of the opportunity.”

“That too.”

“Why didn’t you ask for more CP for yourself?”

“I figure there’s a thousand point plus-minus 1000 safe limit, give or take. Also, The Banker might be annoyed at that and revoke overage for me… but I think… think… he won’t bother taking them from you all. This isn’t a high power setting like Fairy Tail and everyone got 300 CP and a free magic there. Everyone. This seemed reasonable.”

“Shame we can’t get a ship. It’s 800. I assume you’re not forking over half your points for one.”

“Not a chance. And no need. The tech lockout doesn’t say anything about funds. We’ll buy one… no… three.”

“Three?”

“Yeah. Three. There will be 23 of us, counting me and Ahab and Joy. That’s three crews of seven each.”

“Why seven? That leaves two left over”

“Well, someone’s got to tag along with the Serenity Crew.”

“Ooooh. I seeee. You’re going to leave us to search for the Key while you meddle.”

“I would never…”

“We can tell when you’re lying.”

“Humph.”

“If we can doubt what you’re saying, you’re lying.”

“Maybe I didn’t say it passionately enough.”

“Uh huh.”

“Harumph.”

“Anyway… I need three Captains. Go tell the others to elect three captains. Those three will pick an XO. Then, the Captains and XOs will, together, agree on a pilot, an engineer, and two gunners for each ship. No one gets to pick Ziggy. Leave Rayray to sleep. The twins are staying here. Dyna too.” The twins were still grounded and Rayray and Dyna wouldn’t care if they were left out of the fun. But that still left 3 who couldn’t come. Normally I’d leave Kagetane behind, because I still didn’t like the man, but in the Verse, his kind would be very handy, even without his cybernetic augmentations. “Leave Cirno out of the loop. She won’t cope well to no powers and I want her, RayRay, and Dyna to stay back and protect the Warehouse. I don’t trust Menarius.”

Zane nodded. “Bao?”

“Naw. He’s good for the Chinese culture and doesn’t get out enough. Tell Reggy and Gaius to pick one of the two of them to stick behind and play baby sitter.”

“Not both?”

“Err… If they both want to stay back, that’s fine, but I doubt they will. They don’t actually like each other that much… just a lot of chemistry and raw aggression. Assuming they do split, we’ll leave Uriel back. He’s a pretty decent teacher. But I’d prefer one of our two megahitter furycrafting generals to stick around to help lead the defenses.”

“Right… well… okay, you said Captain, XO, Pilot, Engineer, and two Gunners… that’s 6. You said seven per ship.”

“Oh. Yes, well… Ahab, Joy, and Caine are going to be special operations.”

“That leaves one left over. Who?”

“Meetra. Let’s see how she does as a bodyguard.”

“You sure about that? She was a General. Shouldn’t she be a captain?”

“She should… but would any of the companions trust her in a position of leadership? Remember what happened at Malachor.”

“Good point. She had her reasons, good ones perhaps, but…”

“She sacrificed them for the mission. It’s what a commander has to do, but I doubt she told them, and that’s what a friend does.”

“Yeah. Okay, I’ll go get the others.”

****

In the end, Zane, Gaius, and Bao were elected as the Captains, each for different reasons. Zane and Bao were detectives, but while Zane was aggressive and hard hitting, Bao was cultured and clear thinking. Zane would get the job done in the most aggressive way possible. Bao in the most refined. Gaius, a leader of the old school rounded out the trinity as the one who would get the job done… full stop. Zane (of course) picked Kendra as his second, and Bao picked Uriel, but Gaius selected Velma (Reggy, as expected, had decided to stay with the Twins and expressed general disinterest in “tramping about in the back of beyond running capers and looking for trinkets.”).

The wrangling for who got whom among the others was… heated, but I kept it closed doors and sent Meetra to mediate as I made plans… and tech-level testing devices. This was the final breakdown: Jade Lotus, Captain Zane and LT. Kendra commanding, with Toph on engines, AJ on the stick, and Francy and Kagetane providing muscle. Invictus, Master Gaius and Purser Velma commanding, with Petra on drums, Kohina on lead, and the Hibikis as backup dancers. Feng Shui, Scholar Bao and Ensign Uriel (I didn’t pick the damned titles, don’t blame me) commanding, with Tokimi as Maintainer of Harmonious Transmission, Yuzuha as Apportioner of Vector and Magnitude, and Mini and Franky as Guardians of that which must be Defended. Some people…. Oy. Ahab, Joy, and Caine would be doing their own thing, moving from ship to ship as the situation demanded.

Which left only the building and planning phase.

In addition to the Tech Embargo and the Power Lockout, I still had up to two Drawback slots to fill. I considered not filling them, but figured I’d see if there was stuff that wouldn’t unduly hinder me in this world. The three 300-pointers attracted Reavers, The Blue Handed Psychos, and Bad Luck… all three issues I really didn’t feel like dealing with… not that being around Mal and company wouldn’t make me a target to begin with. The two 200-pointers saddled the taker with PTSD and Morales respectively. And the two 100-pointers made the taker a Greedy Jerk or a Lech… an incompetent one. Of the lot, I could deal with the PTSD but not happily, but the Ethical Code… I could… and would… live like that regardless. So I selected “Mercy is the Mark of a Great Man” [+200/1200/1200] (You are one of the rarest of creatures in this verse; a human with a true moral code. You may be a pessimist, or a realist, but you have at least some code that you hold to. It may be as simple as trying to never kill a man in an unfair fight, or a complicated system even you’re not sure of, but in the backwaters and hellholes, expect to end up in a lot of trouble just for being an honest man. You’re the guy people can trust to deliver cargo without looking inside (making you the perfect patsy), and the gal who will actually deliver on contracts just because people sign them (Making you a fool). Or, you might end up having to end a lot of your jobs under fire from both sides.) and figured I could come back for “You Never Leave” if I needed it.

The origins on offer were Drop-In (as usual), Browncoat (think defeated civil war veterans if you don’t know), Alliance Citizen (think British Citizens out in the Colonies… except that the Alliance is a lot like Big Brother in many ways), and Shepherd (Wandering Christian Priests. Nooo waaaay!). I didn’t see any reason to buy one of the backgrounds, so I went as myself, dropping in and a quick spin of the dice told me I was 27 years old. Well… not a bad age… not that I really understood what it was to age any more. I had memories of the process, of course, lots of them… but they were becoming irrelevant, just maturation, a cycle that kept resetting but not grinding down. Not a great loss, but a tiny bit of my fundamental mortality that I vaguely regretted losing in a sentimental way.

The freebie for Drop-Ins was “Leaf On the Wind” (sadness.) which was the complete pilot package, granting an intuitive understanding of orbital mechanics, top notch reflexes, and instinctive comfort in the cockpit or behind the wheel. That might be handy one of these decades, certainly not going to say no to it. “Calm and Steady”, which was discounted, would allow me to easily achieve a zen-like state where external distractions simply wouldn’t bother me, which was a decent deal for [100/1100/1200]. The other discounted item “Welcome on my Boat” was another [200/900/1200] and pretty much guaranteed I’d be welcome anywhere, be part of the group, or just fit in anywhere. No bouncers barring the way, invitations to interesting places and a general sense of belonging. Could get kicked out, if I was being a brat… just wasn’t likely.

After that, it was mostly picking up little tidbits that seemed interesting. Formal Companion training, (under the title “Never Call Me That Again”) which (as the Companions were legal and professional prostitutes slash geishas) came with mastery of the arts of pleasure, massage, body language, psychology, and subtle manipulation, and all the contacts and credentials that went with it, cost me [400/500/1200]. “Gut Feelin’”, which provided a instinctive sense of where someone was trustworthy or not (but not infallibly so) and when trouble was on the way (but only usually) cost [200/300/1200]. I took it to cover up the gaping hole in my paranoia that would be left by the lack of my third eye and telepathy. Not being able to scan people’s intentions was going to drive me nuts, but this was covering it as best as was available.

I considered taking “Fuzzy on the Subject of Kneecaps”, which is always a great line, and which would allow me to shoot people in nonlethal places, or make them knock themselves out by startling them, and even came with a fair intimidation bonus… but I should be a top notch shot still… I’ve been trained a couple of times, spent centuries of practice on the range, and still should be a crack shot, even if my perks were subdued. I really had no idea how nerfed I’d be if limited to the realm of human excellence. I also considered taking “Some People Juggle Geese” because it was a funny line… but I didn’t normally need the ability to resist annoyance. If my Vulcan calm got nerfed, I’d cope. I still had ages of practicing being calm, thanks to meditation and martial arts practice… plus deep diving my own psyche. Shoot ‘em Politely was also funny, but not needed.

Much more tempting was “Machines, They Just Speak to Me” [200/100/1200], which was low-grade technopathy, a general sense of how to make them work the way I wanted them, how to diagnose systems by listening and jury rig things to work for at least a little while. Again, I wasn’t all that certain my tech-skills would come over unscathed and in the Verse, tech was all that separated us from the void. Plus, Kaylee was awesome. The sense of the machine element was also a decent addition to what I already had for only a slightly unwise price. And, hopefully it would, in the future, help me diagnose problems with what I was building slash tinkering with.

I also wanted “Take a Beating” [200/-100/1200]… enough to willingly take on the PTSD of the “You Never Leave” drawback [+200/100/1400]. Nightmares, terrible memories, and dangerously vivid flashbacks… as well as disturbed sleep weren’t something I wanted… but I didn’t want to like the Verse. Exciting it might be, but it was a cesspit and I didn’t want warm fuzzy associated with it. It was the kind of place I wouldn’t willingly have gone to if I was in control of my destiny, no matter how much I enjoyed the show. Take a Beating was a prime example of why… It was, at the core of it, a toughness boost… one that allowed the taker to have fight left after being shot, to power through even when suffering bloodloss, hypoxia, and poison… and even to laugh in the face of torture, though I already did that, thanks to They Live… or why else would I laugh at most sitcoms… I’d been tortured before… it wasn’t fun… but I suspect I’d be tortured again, probably this jump if nothing else.

I didn’t have precognition (beyond the next three seconds) but I could tell that the next few years (no idea if it would be a decade as normal once the Banker was freed) would be… unpleasant. Hell, just looking at how many times Mal got injured in the show’s 14 episodes and 1 movie (I won’t torture you, dear reader, with all the other seasons we’d been able to locate using the Adaptinator from Princess Bride).

Of course, that left me with a spare 100, which I decided to spend on Body Armour [100/0/1400]. I could, arguably, make my own, but I’d have to worry about the tech level boundaries, so I couldn’t rely on my typical stuff, and the text implied such stuff was pretty rare. It was a high tech suit of body armor that could be worn under my clothing, and would stop bullets from most firearms. If I was risking my life, I might as well risk it less.

And that was that. 11 years in limbo was coming to an end, and now, to protect my chain I’d have to risk everything to recover the Banker. This… was going to suck

========INSERTION======

Companion Builds & Conversations

Captain Zane

“So? What’cha got for me?”

“Browncoat. Me and Kendra both.”

“Makes sense. Matches your general attitude of mouthing off to superior authority. Gets you Shoot’em Politely and a Brown Coat, right?”

“While I deny the existence of a Superior Authority, yup. Plus a discount on Chain of Command, which we’re both taking.”

“Of course. Knock off Mal and Zoe… and I’m not just saying that because Kendra used to be Black.”

“Dark Brown.”

“Yes, blue boy, but you’ve been on Earth as a human often enough to know the slang.”

“True… but I’m not human at the core. Still seems odd to be prejudiced against the Shinies.”

“Errr… can’t say it ever made sense to me either. But never thought of Black people as the Shinies of Humankind.”

“That’s just because humans are weird.”

“No argument from me there. What else?”

“I picked Intimidatin’ Manner and Fuzzy Kneecaps. People shall fear my wraith!”

“Wrath.”

“Whateverth.”

“And Kendra?”

“Friends in Places for the criminal contacts, Take a Beating for the toughness, and Geese Jugglin so she doesn’t try and kill me for my jokes.”

“Wise woman.”

“Ain’t she just?”

Master Gaius

“Talk to me.”

“At your request, I’ve planned according to the idea that I’d be a transport captain for higher class goods. To that end, both Velma and I will be Alliance Citizens, the better to blend into the power ascendency, or at least the Anglo-sphere of it. I assume Bao will be handling the Sino-sphere?”

“That was the general idea, though he’ll be doing passenger work more, luxury stuff pretty much… with a sideline in high value small quantity smuggling.”

“Of course. Quite rightly so. Being completely up and up will not achieve our long term goals.”

“Exactly. Citizen gets you… Lets see. Coin… that’s what… enough for crap lodgings for two years on the rim? And Edumacated… which is formal education for 17 years for Alliance Citizens.”

“Yes. Coin should be enough for pocket money until we start drawing on the Warehouse’s resources. The education will simply make passing for normal easier.”

“True. Will you be okay without your Furycrafting? You’ve never been without it.”

“When I was a child long ago I was.”

“Perhaps. But I doubt you remember it.”

“True. Only in the vaguest way. I also have purchased Calm and Steady and Gut Feelin, as well as Friends in Places so as to have military and governmental contacts.”

“That leaves you 100 short.”

“I also bought a Mighty Fine Hat.”

Long Pause. “Errr. Why?”

“Because it increases my people skills, of course. And for no other reason.”

“You’re mental.”

“Maybe I’ll make it a cape.”

“Tell me about Velma before I hit you.”

“She spent all her points in that luck perk.”

“Which one?

“Things Go Smooth?”

“Right… the slightly less crazy one. If I were sane, I’d have just taken that and Big Damn Heroes and called it a day.”

“You don’t like relying on luck.”

“Too many dice rolls. Luck gives out. Always better to have plans and count on things going sideways.”

“I prefer ‘Pear-shaped’.”

“That is a good one.”

Scholar Bao

“My Empress?”

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

“I’ve served you too long to think of you as anything but.”

“I prefer to think of you as a friend, Bao.”

“And I as well. But this is a formal moment and so I believe formality, at least a little of it, is apropos.”

“Fair enough. Gaius says you went Alliance as well. What about Uriel?”

“Shepherd.”

“As an XO?”

“Indeed. For reasons he was loath to explain. I suspect he finds the Alliance… bothersome. Or he just wanted the discount on Stealth and the free contacts in future magical groups.”

“Very well. You took Chain of Command, I take it?”

“I did not. I took Fancy Medical Training to go with my Edumacation, as well as Companion Training and Fluency. And Gut Feelin, just to better read my passengers.”

“Ummm… Bao… you speak fluent chinese… at least 5 different dialects if I remember correctly.”

“Six. but I made my choices based on the idea of maximizing my passengers comfort. Speaking flawless Core English and Core Chinese will, I believe, help with that. And perhaps it will have use in the future, though it doesn’t indicate that.”

“What, the ability to understand both languages in any bilingual culture we come across instead of just one?”

“Perhaps. As for Uriel, he too took the Education perk, plus It’s Called Stealth, Calm and Steady, the Peacemaker item, and a stack of Grenades… under the principle that untraceable explosives are always good.”

“Oh. I agree. I can’t ever run through enough of them. Without magic, I suspect I’ll be using a lot more this time round.”

“My magic hasn’t ever been powerful enough to truly worry about that.”

“You’ve gotten quite powerful over the centuries, I’m certain.”

“Perhaps. But I prefer to remain more a scholar than a warrior. Especially in my old age.”

“Ha! I say thee, HA!”

“In pure chronology I am older than you are.”

“That’s because you were in suspended animation for 1800 years!”

“True.”

“That’s cheating!”

“So is counting the total age of all your incarnations, rather than the length of time you were them.”

“I was always them… We just didn’t realize it. And I don’t count the times I was a Drop-In, since I have no memories of reaching that biological age. If I’ve got the memories, I’ve got the years. You don’t even remember being frozen in time.”

“It wasn’t very interesting.”

“I’m sure. Now get. And send in the engineers.”

The Engineers

Me: “Ladies… come in. First off, do any of you object to being selected as Engineer for your specific team?”

Toph: “I’m Good”

Petra: “I like Machines. They’re like family.”

Tokimi: “I would have prefered to be in command, but understand that I am, perhaps, not yet trusted by the others. Barring that, technical work is acceptable.”

Me: “Great! Tell me about yourselves. Toph?”

Toph: “Browncoat. For the discount, but also because rules are for suckers.”

Petra: “Says the woman who invented her world’s first police force.”

Toph: “Yeah… well… it wasn’t a totalitarian police force. We’d just come out of years of war and were founding a new, unified polity… and oh, god… the same thing can be said for the Alliance, can’t it?”

Petra: “Yesss… come to the Shiny Side! We have Pie!”

Toph: “No thanks. You Alliance people are creepy. No one should be that happy and clean all the time. You’re like the Dai Li.”

Petra: “Yeah, pretty much. At least our government clearly is. Or more like your daughter’s protege, trying to unify the Earth Kingdom whether it wanted to be unified or not. Lots of parallels.”

Toph: “That is sobering. And you’re metal… “

Petra: “No Bend I.”

Toph: “Har… Har… Har… Anyway, I took Machines they speak to me, Can Stop the Signal… it’s a master hacking perk, should be useful, and Leaf on the Wind… just in case we need a spare pilot… you know, incase of Washburn Syndrome.”

I flinched. “Riiight. Petra, you’re Alliance?”

Petra nodded. “Yes. That seems to be the theme of our ship. As clean as we can make it. I had to pay full price for the jury rigging technopathy, but it was worth it. Took an actual Education into how ships run though.”

Me: “Makes sense. What else?”

Petra: “Calm & Steady and Intimidatin’ Manner. I want to be able to get the best parts and not pay too much… and to be able to keep calm while the ship’s trying to break down every 5th episode.”

Me: “Yeah… that sounds about right… Better than Star Trek’s average. Tokimi? Alliance or Browncoat?”

Tokimi: “Shepherd. I am intrigued by their faith in a higher power.”

Me: “Well, that’s a reason. But I doubt you’ll find him in their book, but more power to you.”

Tokimi: “That is assuming I haven’t already found her.”

Me: Wince “Right. Perks?”

Tokimi: “Friends, Machines, Geese. And the Sonic Screw You.”

Me: “Why would you want that horrific thing?”

Tokimi: “So we can make more of the earplugs, create jamming fields for it. I doubt we want to be caught off guard by the Blue Handers. Not as vulnerable as we will be.”

I nodded. “That’s a good plan. Hadn’t thought about it.”

Toph: “You’ve been busy. Should we send in the Pilots next?”

Me: “Yeah. Do that. Good work, and good luck. You three will need it.”

The Leaves on the Wind

Me: “Tell me you all didn’t take Drop-In just to get Leaf on the Wind Free.”

AJ: “Just me and Yuzu.”

Me: “And Kohina?”

Kohina: “I went Browncoat. Someone has to have criminal ties on that crew. Plus, I want to get off the ship and shoot people.”

Me: “So… Shoot’em Politely, Fuzzy Kneecaps, Friends in Places, and Intimidating Manner?”

Kohina: “All right but the last. Chain of Command. People should damn well listen to me. Ship Shape!”

Me: “I don’t think that’s a battle cry.”

Kohina: “It is now.”

AJ: “Just humor her.”

Me: “And what am I doing about Humoring you and Yuzu?”

Yuzuha: “AJ and I have identical builds.”

Me: “You both took Big Damn Heroes, didn’t you?”

AJ grinned. Yuzuha smirked. It was a sight to unnerve strong men. Good thing I wasn’t one.

The Muscle, Part 1: Kagetane and Francine.

“You’re calling yourselves what?”

“The Psycho Squad.”

Eyes Narrowed. “Whyyy?”

“Because we both took GCPGA.”

“For the love of god, why?!”

“I’m not used to not having psychic powers,” Francy said. “This was the only way to get them. And I like River Tam. She’s… the smart one.”

“You’ve got an IQ of 5000 and you think being crazy is a good thing?”

“Eh. It might be fun.”

“And you, Kagetane?”

“I was a government experiment before, Lady Jumper. Being one again poses no great change for me. I was a psychopath then, I doubt this will make me worse. Plus, be good to have someone who can stand up to Reavers on the ship. I doubt anyone would appreciate being raped to death then eaten.”

“I can see that… but I still have a bad feeling about this. Origins?”

“I’m Alliance, he’s Browncoat. Not that it matters much.”

“True. At least it doesn’t come with Tam level wanted.”

The Muscle, Part 2: Yoiko and Ryoga

“Alliance? Really?”

“Yup. We’ll be ex-military enlisted types.” Ryoga said, his sister nodding.

“I’ll be the medic. I took Medical training and Calm & Steady… plus Shoot’em Politely, cause politeness matters. And Take a Beating, cause combat.”

“Yoiko… Fancy Medical Training isn’t combat medic… it’s top of your class surgeon. It’s Simon Tam level doctoring.”

“Oh. Okay. So I’m less “MEDIC!” And more Hawkman Jones.”

“Hawkeye Pierce.”

“Yeah Him.”

“Pig Boy?”

He ignored the age old insult. “Sergeant at arms Pig Boy, Bitch. And I took Intimidating Manner, Take a Beating, and Kneecaps.” He grinned his fanged grin. It was still enough to send a shiver down my spine after all these centuries. Damn the boy was sexy.

“Right. Break time. Ryoga, come with me. I have a special assignment for you.”

The Muscle, Part 3: Franchesca and Minerva

“Dare I ask why you two are dressed in matching Kimonos?”

“We’re getting into character.”

“We’re going to be twins.”

“And Companions.”

“And Doctors.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be the, you know, ship security for your team?”

“We fought the Neuroi. We know guns. You were there.”

“Yes, well… that’s true.”

“Plus, the training sounds like fun. And if we don’t take it, you’ll have an unfair advantage.”

“Oh. Um… well… Yes, unfair. Ahem. Companion Doctors. Well, if anyone gets hurt, they’ll be in good hands. Anything else? Alliance Citizenship I’m assuming?”

“Yes. And Body armor.”

“But Franky wanted Calm and Steady.”

“And Mini wanted Gut Feeling.”

“So we’re not completely identical.”

“No… I can see that. You don’t have to sit in the same chair as me to give your report.”

“But we wanna!”

“Yes, well… um… that is… shit… “

The girls looked annoyed at my sudden distraction from their attempts to distract me.

“What?”

“There’s no doctor on Zane’s boat.”

“Is that a problem?”

“I… hope not. They’ll need to hire one. Won’t be Simon level… but… now it’s got me worried… fuck. No way to cover all the bases without reassigning someone or asking someone to respec. Damn. This whole situation is fucked up… but hopefully they’ll be able to find someone useful and trustworthy. Fuck… this civilization built robots that could terraform entire planets without supervision then launched them through the interstellar void ahead of all of humanity loaded on generation ships… but can’t make a damned auto-doc? I may have to invent one.”

“Can you do it later?”

“I can, but why… oh… good reason.”

Spook Squad

“Ahab, Joy… sorry about cutting you out of the grand CP loop.”

“No problem. We’ve got our own tickets to Paradise, as it were.”

“I figure you took Shepherd? It’s the only thing that wouldn’t be a complete waste for you.”

“That was our thought too. Plus the Mysterious Box of Fruit will be a nice little bribe item out in the sticks.”

“It’s what Book went with. I look forward to discovering your identities in Verse. Caine?”

“I went with Shepherd too. They can go almost anywhere. I picked up the Stealth skill and the hacking skill. It seemed like something we should have at our disposal.”

“Good… though it sounds like you’re less the Spook Squad and more the God Squad… but if it works, it works. Hell, there’s a better than even chance that what we’re looking for is some kind of holy relic.”

Meetra

“I’m not certain I understand the point of this.”

“Well, it’s either you stay in the warehouse for the entire time we’re here… or I import you into the setting as a paid companion. It’s like a form of guarantee.”

“I… yes… you said. But how?”

“In general, anything that has CP sunk into it is protected. Look, see this gun?”

“Yes, you call it the Ace of Winchesters, if I recall correctly.”

“That’s true. If I were to, say, accidentally toss it into a star, it would, you would imagine, be destroyed, yes?”

“Very much so.”

“Well, Zane paid CP for it. So it will simply respawn in the warehouse within, usually, about 24 hours.”

“How?”

“No clue. Perhaps a causality loop? Perhaps temporal editing? Maybe it’s just an exact duplicate copied from a timeline where it still existed. Or perhaps its waveform was merely disrupted by the apparent destruction and whenever that happens it just reforms in its slot.”

“And the same applies to all of them?”

“Except the boys and you? Yes.”

“Why not them?”

“The boys are the children of two of my companions. We’ve no idea if they’re protected the same way companions are. You… you’re like, sorry to say this, a trophy I collected. As far as I know, you’re unfunded. I didn’t have the Banker’s permission to take you with me. Remember how Vitiate stayed dead? The same could, probably would, happen to you if you leave the warehouse without importing. And at this point, it’s entirely possible you might be killed if you stay here. It’s safer to import you then not. Even if these CP are stolen and probably contraband.”

“You think they’ll protect me?”

“I do. Or at least I hope so.”

“And I’ll… gain new memories?”

“You’ll become the version of you that would have existed in this reality. A Meetra Surik that has the same basic personality, but the memories of having been born and raised and grown here instead of back in your home galaxy.”

“So I’ll forget all that?”

“Not at all. That Meetra will be in her twenties… or his twenties if you choose that… and won’t have known about any of the stuff you know about… but the moment you two become one, the moment of Insertion, that Meetra will remember everything that you remember as well as everything she remembers.”

“But which of us will be in control.”

“There is only one of you. But the memories of the new lifetime will feel stronger, the personality quirks will be more on the surface. There will be differences. But that will end when we leave. At that point, the new memories will fade and you’ll be the you that was… plus a few years or a decade of the memories the combined you had made.”

“And the memories of the me of the Verse that was before Insertion? Will that me be no more?”

“Not no more… simply… absorbed into the gestalt, like the memories of childhood, faded but not forgotten.”

“And you have done this many times?”

“I am different.”

“Because you are the… primary?”

“No. Because I have Astral Layers. All aspects of me exist within me, each distinct and whole, yet part of a collective. I am less an I than a We. I wonder if this is what it is like to be Elohim.”

“What is Elohim?”

“In the faith of my birth, there were many names for god… for the creator of all things. Elohim is one of them. Except it the term Elohim is non-binary plural.”

“Non-binary?”

“The language it is in has two different plural forms. El, Eloha, Elohim. God, Two Gods, Many Gods… except Elohim is used in our holy text both as a singular and as a plural in different context, because our faith was one of the first on our world to be henotheistic and then monotheistic. Oh… Henotheism is believing in many gods but worshipping only one, while monotheism is worshipping and believing in only one god. But my point is… God is, to some of my faith both an I and a We… and I am an I and a We… Of course this gets into sophistry and isn’t the point.”

“I… see… so… like how a Jedi becomes part of the Force, all the parts of you… after their time is done… become parts of you? That sounds stupid when I say it that way.”

“Pretty much. We are a collective… but I am also just… me. The product of 13,000 years of experiences and growth, both as different people and as myself. For much of that I was both myself as a god and my living incarnation, the Manifestation… or rather a series of them, living, dying, being reborn again and again. I now contain the entire litany of the Magi Kingpriests from the dawn of their civilization until the time I left.”

“What happened to their civilization?”

“Nothing. It is still out there, waiting, paused, for my return.”

“But… the Magi are long gone in my time.”

“That was a shadow of the Magi. There are always shadows of the Magi. It is part of who and what we are.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Knowing you don’t is the start of the path to true wisdom. Come, join me.”

“And I do that… by subsuming myself in a new me?”

“Letting go and embracing the unknown is how we grow.”

“I… very well.”

“Excellent. Now, you’ve watched the series?”

“The 14 episodes and the movie. Why wasn’t I allowed to watch the rest?”

“No way of knowing how they’re different from what happened. Plus, if we are here long enough to reach the movie’s time… we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

“So… what should I pick?”

“That’s up to you. Drop-Ins avoid the messy memories, but have no place in the world. Everything else gives you memories and documentation and all that good stuff… or bad stuff in a big brother state.”

“I sense that you feel much the same about the Alliance as you do about the Republic.”

“The Republic is a bit too lax… the Alliance a bit too harsh. Not as bad as Vitiate’s Empire, but… not good. Personal liberty is heavily curtailed and they… well… you saw the movie. They killed an entire colony trying to create a gas which would pacify the populace into willing obedience.”

“And in doing so created a… Wound in the Force?”

“Something like that.”

“Then I shall be a Brown Coat. Those are the ones who fought the Alliance. A worthy goal.”

“Cool.”

“And I shall take the Encyclopedia with my points.”

“What? Why?”

“I have 600, it costs 600.”

“You don’t have to spend all your points on one thing.”

“I am aware, thank you. No, this contains the sum total of human knowledge as of the current year and keeps updating. All the technology, all the history… everything. I have much to learn and this seems the best way.”

“Well, your points I guess. Vivian could probably download it off their Cortex pretty easily.”

“Not if it contains information that was lost in time. You said things bought with CP are often more powerful than things that otherwise might exist in setting. This certainly seems more powerful than Simon’s book version.”

“Yeah… that had to be a computer book to have something as obscure as wedding rituals of that one particular moon. It was too small to be otherwise.”

“A Book datapad is certainly more interesting than a flat boring plate one.”

“Well, more aesthetically pleasing perhaps. Not quite as useful.”

“Mine is a cube.”

“Bully for you.”

“I am pleased that you are pleased.”

“You’re sooo going to get a kick out of Mal. He’s like Revan, only snarky.”

“I quiver in anticipation.”

“Bite me.”

Next: To Hell

Resources: Build, Document

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “World 52: Firefly, Part 1

  1. So what happened? Is the interloper part of a supplement or something you made up? I thought he might be a renegade jumper but it doesn’t fit the doc I read. Could be based on the idea though. Could be something else too.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s