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“You seem less grumpy,” the Chamber said as I approached it following the end of my decade in not-europe.
“Those people really really really wanted a war. Lots of wars. They…” I shook my head sadly. “I don’t think I did any long term good there. Didn’t resolve any of the underlying issues… except for the one where the underlying issue was Windstones actually underlying most of the continent. It’s still a religious powder keg with people of mass destruction running about. Christ, how can they have fleets and armies like that with no defenses against fire-stones. I know they’re rare, but you gotta figure that kingdoms would have the resources to get them.”
“You stopped the wars. Isn’t that a good thing?”
“I stopped the wars by kicking anyone who would have tried anything in the head. I didn’t stop the hatred or the unrest. I didn’t change any of the societies. If I vanish for even a year, they’ll be back at it again. And the minor acts of aggression… terror attacks I couldn’t stop… lynchings… the fire-stone attack on D’Angleterre… all those riots… I could have handled that better… but it would have meant taking charge, choosing sides… I just… I don’t know. Sometimes I just want not to be surrounded by people looking to me to take charge.” I laughed bitterly.
“What?” Jumpchan asked, unable to determine the source of my unhappy mirth.
“I was supposed to be that Joseph guy’s slave and it took me less than 15 seconds to decide to kill him. I could have just followed orders and done the madman’s bidding. I complain about having to take charge and the one time I legitimately could have let someone else take charge, I killed them stone dead.”
The Chamber considered that, then responded, “Well, he was a warmonger.”
“He was, yes.” I agreed, a hint of bitterness in my voice.
“Maybe you just need to find someone worthy of following?”
“You mean someone who’s decent, honorable, compassionate, and not nearly as big a bitch as I am?” I snorted derisively.
“I’ll let you know if I find her. So, where to next, oh Cosmic Tour Guide? Some place without war and warlords, maybe?”
“So, lots of wars and warlords then,” I sighed.
“Not in this day and age. This is the age of myths and legends, the reign of Queen Himiko, a century after the defeat of Orochi by the hero Nagi and the white wolf Shiranui.”
“I know those names… why do I know those names… is there a title to this IP?”
“IP?” It seemed confused, and I kicked myself mentally.
“Intellectual Property,” I explained. “In my experience, all these jumps have been linked to works of fiction or genres of fiction created by the people of my homeworld. The Banker implied that each Benefactor controlled the interplay between a world and all the fictional settings that world generated.”
“Ah. That makes a certain amount of sense. Yes, there is a name attached. This document is entitled ‘Okami’. I believe that is a Japanese word for Deity?”
“It is. It’s also the title of a pair of videogames. Okami for the Playstation 2, and Okamiden for the Nintendo Dual Screen. The first tells the story of Amaterasu the Divine Wolf who is Shiranui… white dog… reborn and the goddess of the Sun. The second tells the tale of her child, Chibiterasu. I have copies of both games. A couple actually. Probably not 100% accurate to the events of the game according to Origin canon, but I can’t ever be sure of those things.” I considered, then asked “Drunkard, insect, wolf, and spirit origins?”
“That is incorrect. Drop-In… which specifies an inability to speak Japanese unless you already do. That seems punitive for taking the free option.” I nodded in agreement, but didn’t interrupt the Chamber’s explanation. “The others all cost points. Warrior & Priestess cost 100 while Brush God costs 200.”
“Brush… God…” I blinked, trying to recall the presence of such beings in the game… then oh’d… “Wait… the constellations? Do they even interact with the mortal realm at all?”
“It says that by taking it you become a minor goddess representing some aspect of nature or reality, a constellation, and a piece of calligraphy all at once,” the tinkling divine voice explained. “By drawing your symbol in ink, either by use of a brush or some brush-like part of your body, you can summon or alter that aspect of nature. Or at least you should be able to, as in these dark times, few mortals are even aware you exist.”
“Oh good. Lovely.” I shrugged, then nodded. “Eh, I still take it. Anything else would be boring.”
“You must choose any one mundane animal… preferably one native to Japan… or a mythological animal that must be present in Japanese mythology… and not one of a kind. Once you do, you’ll become a large, white version of that animal with glowing red celestial markings on your fur, scales, or skin… and a thematic accessory or two if you like.”
“So I could be the Ferret of Borrowing Things and then not giving them back or the Lion of Winter? Ahahah… Yes. I’ll be the god of winter.”
“Why that one?”
“Because it fits. The japanese god of rain and snow is called ‘Okami no Kami’!”
“I believe that would make you a dragon?”
“It would… but I believe I will be a kind of lion, tiger, ferret, fox hybrid. A great beast… oh, and blue fire, rather than red, I believe.”
“You’re one of those horrible people who order food that’s not on the menu, aren’t you?”
“How do you know about such things? You’ve never eaten at a restaurant!”
“Even among gods, some things are truly unspeakable.”
“It depends, you elitist rockpile. If I’m at a restaurant with a singular chef? Probably not. That individual crafted the specific dish to be a certain way. If I’m at a chain or it’s a place I’ve eaten at a lot, sure. It’s my money, my stomach. Or in this case, a form I’m going to be stuck with forever. So I’d like it to look a specific way. Kuraokami was born when the Japanese father deity, Izanagi, killed his son, Kagutsuchi the fire god, for burning Izanami (their wife / mother respectively) to death during childbirth. My siblings would be Kurayamatsumi and Kuramitsuha… the gods of dark mountains and dark waters respectively. Ahab and Joy can be them if there aren’t any companion import options.”
The Chamber paused for a moment, then mmm’d. “There is an option, but each Brush God costs an additional 100 CP above the other cost… Which would be 400 CP for 8… it does give the companion you made into a Brush God an extra 100 CP to spend, if it’s any consolation.”
“Not much of one, but I’ll consider it. Joy and Ahab wouldn’t get any CP but I don’t have to pay for their import. But first, what do I get for being a Brush God?”
“It is called Dextrous Oral Telekinetic Acrobatics…. That is an unwieldy title.”
“Yes. It is. I suspect it’s a joke, since the initialism is DOTA, but what connection Okami might have to a MOBA… Multiplayer Online Battle Arena… Defense of the Ancients was the first major MOBA… but what does it do?”
“Allows you to wield weapons telekinetically and engage in expert level weapon-based combat using only your mouth… or any other appendage or orifice you care to use. It also allows you to have your weapons float around you at rest for some insignificant application of energy.”
“Ah. Yes. Amaterasu’s mirror combat. Gotcha.” I said, referring to the fact that in the game, the player character (a wolf) attacked with teeth and by use of a weaponized mirror that floated around, smacking demons upside the head.
“Should I sign you up for the complete Brush God Package?” The Chamber asked.
“Well, unless Calligraphy is more than just being really good at Calligraphy, I’ve got that already.”
“You do? I do not see it on your list of perks or powers.”
“It’s a physical technique. I’ve seen calligraphy masters at work. I’ve spent time as a painter. Yeah. I can handle a brush. I also have a few books on calligraphy. Mastering it won’t really take me much time.”
“Ah. Yes. It is easy to forget that you are mortal and can change without outside forces acting upon you.”
“You’re saying you can’t?”
“I am outside of time. How could I change?”
“Good point. But the fact that I don’t need Calligraphy means I might not need some of the others. What does Godhood do that being a Brush God doesn’t?”
“It allows you to accumulate something called Godhood score which allows you to defend yourself against attacks.”
“Errr… oh… I don’t think so… unless it’s really cheap.”
“No thanks. Devotional?”
“Allows you to inspire true gratitude and praise for your righteous actions, fueling and empowering any godly abilities you possess.”
“Got that already. Not my first time as a deity. Doubt having two of those powers would allow me to double dip. So no. Brush Technique is what allows me to do my godly thing? And it’s not free for a Brush God but the combat is? That’s just backwards. A Brush God is not defined by its ability to fight but to wield a Brush Technique.”
“I would tend to agree with you just from the name, but yes, the Brush Technique even says ‘What’s a Brush God without their celestial Brush Technique?’. It goes on to say that you can, by writing a certain symbol or flourish in ink, effect reality in one specific way. Modifications to this flourish can alter the effect. Though evolution of your technique will require some practice… as well as sufficient recognition as a god to power those changes. On a lesser leve, possessing a brush attribute will imbue your other techniques and body with said attribute… and you can grant the ability to use your technique when drawing your symbol to anyone you wish.”
“Ah. interesting. Well, since I wouldn’t be much of a Brush God without that, I’ll take it. How much?”
“For you? 200. That leaves you with 600 to spend.”
“Reasonable… What is Natural Nature?”
“It is the Godly Capstone, as you’d call it. It allows you to effectuate your attribute innately, without requiring you to make your symbol.”
“Ah. well then. I shall definitely go with Winter as Borrowing then. Borrowing heat and storing it away for later use. The great fuzzy thing of winter. That’s me. If you ask nice, I may let you play with my shiny.”
“You’re deeply disturbing, you know that, right?” The Chamber asked.
“Excellent. That’s another 300, right? So I’m down to 300… and you said the Companion Import was 400? So I need a drawback. Whatcha got?”
The Chamber opened to show me the various drawback options and I cringed. Ugh. So much ghhhhhuuuu. Something that turned the taker into a lush that was lazy when drunk and useless and grumpy when sober. Something that turned the taker into a horribly repulsive letch. Something that rendered the taker unable to draw or swordfight. Something that took away the taker’s mouth. Something that made a brush god think they were a normal (if clever) animal. Something that turned the taker into a Poncle (think japanese Jiminy Cricket). And Something that put an artifact of evil into the taker’s stomach, filling them with pain and potential death when the artifact was removed by one of the many things hunting the taker. In fact, the only drawback that was worth taking was the one that meant demons were constantly hunting the taker. As a Brush God, it was already a given, and if I couldn’t defeat everything in this world, I would be highly surprised.
“I’ll take that one. How much do I get back for it?”
“Magnetic? It’s worth 200, so you have 100 CP left.”
“Any items I’d be interested in?”
“You get a magical Ink Pot free. It’s equivalent to three of Amaterasu’s and refills by itself over a minute or so. Other than that?” The Chamber threw up the other items, but none of them called to me, or at least none in the 100 CP bracket and I wasn’t willing to return anything or take more drawbacks to get anything better.
“Right… mmm… I could give the 100 to one of my companions so they could be a Brush God… but who?” I wandered off, thinking about that, ignoring Jump-Chan’s entreaties to come back. I think the poor Chamber was lonely without Knights to test regularly. Note to self, send my crews and the Eldar through the Chamber. Maybe some of the companions too.
I asked Kendra if she wanted to be a Brush God, but she just glared at me and told me to stick my peace offering someplace anatomically uncomfortable. I thought about offering it to Zane, but that would probably make things worse too… 20 years and she was still pissed off at me. Mmm… maybe I should offer it to one of the kids? My own ChibiJumperasu?
“Alex, Maggy, Amy! Meet me in my office!”
I was joined within 3 minutes by all three of my current children… and Ziggy and Tess who were in the tree branches watching avidly and sharing a bunch of cherries. The trio were now essentially 9 or 10 years old, biologically speaking and Alex was looking gangly in his male form and petite in his female form, while Amy was always adorable and Maggy was looking very tomboyish, with her very short hair and cut-off shorts. She was the most rough and tumble of the trio and the least interested in being cute. She also had the most interest in technology, while Amy was interested in animals, and Alex in the arts… both martial and physical. Amy wanted to be a shepperd, Alex a bounty hunter, and Maggy? A criminal.
They were definitely my kids. Oy.
“Papa?” Alex asked, “You wanted us?”
“Mmm… I did, though I didn’t realize it at the time. But that’s not the topic for today. Our next stop is mythical japan and I have one deluxe import slot to be a Brush God.” I explained what that entailed, then said “I’d like to offer the position to each of you, but to get three slots would cost 600 CP and deny 5 others their chance. To get all 8 as Brush Gods would cost 800, and getting that much would require me to take some very unpleasant Drawbacks that I am unwilling to subject myself or others to. So, rather than offer it to one of you, I’m offering the opportunity to one of you if you can, peacefully and equitably decide who among you gets it. If you can’t decide, I’ll give the chance to Ziggy.”
The trio, as one, turned to look at Ziggy, then back to me, as if trying to figure out if I really was crazy enough to make the resident war weasel a god of any kind besides technical. As in he technically was a member of the Magi Pantheon.
Maggy spoke first. “I’m good… I want to be a Priestess!”
I blinked, “Why do you want to be… how do you even know what’s on offer?”
“Joy and Ahab uploaded their copies of the Jumptree onto the House Network,” Alex said. “And Amy can have it if she wants to. I don’t mind.”
Amy blinked, then shook her head. “I wanna be an Oina!”
“A what?” I asked, not used to feeling like the person lacking information.
“Masked natives of the land of Kamui who can transform into wolves. Based somewhat on the Ainu,” VIvian supplied. Amaryllis nodded happily.
“Alex would make a much better Brush God… he’s good at painting. And Maggy wants to buy the Foxy Babe perk from the Priestess line that lets her be an evil kitsune.”
“Amy!,” The dark haired girl snapped, glowering at her half-sister. “You didn’t have to tell Papa that!”
“Papa would have checked in a minute, and then gotten mad at you for not telling yourself,” the half-fairy pointed out.
I nodded, having already brought up the text in my optic network. Foxy Babe had, like several of the other perks on offer, some questionable elements… but this was worse. In exchange for giving the taker the full inherent powers and flaws of whatever form of yokai was taken, it came with the full memories of having slain a priestess and taken her place so the taker could blend into society. I was very much unwilling to allow Maggy to gain such memories, and leary of making her seem evil to the people of this land… If only my reading comprehension was as on the ball in other areas, but I plead distraction.
However, the Foxy Babe description did specifically contain this line “Hey, this is your story. Maybe your victim did something to deserve it, and you’ve been unfairly maligned.” And so I merely nodded and sent the trio on their way. Then I went to the Chamber directly and had words with that worthy upon the subject of what memories it was and was not allowed to subject my children to. “If they come upon such memories in their travels, I cannot protect them from a life lived, but I shall not have a beastly box placing such memories into their thoughts retroactively, am I understood?”
“Why do you speak with that stilted affect?”
“Just watched some Shakespeare, but am I understood?”
“I hear and obey,” The Chamber concurred. “As the Jumper, you have final say over all importation options.”
“Yeah, yeah. But I don’t use it normally. I mean, I want to know, but I don’t pull rank on my Companions. But the kids are another matter. I know Maggy’s older than I was when I started jumping, but she’s not as mature. She’s still a kid mentally and that’s a heavy load to lay on a kid. Killing for the first time is serious business and has to be made in the moment, not retroactive. So, have her take the place of a Priestess who was dying, preferably of something relatively clean.”
“Ah. As you like. A fox who comes upon a priestess with a weak constitution doomed to a slow agony of death makes a deal with a Kitsune to a spell to ease her into painless sleep?”
I thought about it. Euthanasia fulfilled the technical killing requirement and was (at the same time) an act of mercy. Death was all too real to the kids, and how could it not have been? They’d lived a decade in Warhammer and witnessed some of the events of KTH’s decade as well. “Very good. Show me?” I watched the scene, a future as yet unset, a past as yet unwritten, and nodded, making a few minor modifications, making the fox more trickster than outright wicked. Perhaps it was going too far, but it was my choice and I made it. Call it Parental Prerogative.
Companions (aside from Alex) got a free background and 300 CP. Alex got 400 CP. As for Ahab & Joy, I was going to allow them to fend for themselves, especially since, by doing so, I was allowing them to pick Brush God if they wanted it. But even if I declared Okami all kids day, that only got me to 6, and that was if I felt like officially companioning Lucida, Placida, Buji, and Simon. Which, to be honest, I didn’t. Good kids, and all that, don’t get me wrong, but that way lie madness. Hell, importing my own children was probably a lunatic precedent to set in the long run, but, thanks to Necoho’s meddling, and the persistence of the perks and abilities acquired in Sticomtopia, that ferret was firmly out of the hamper and gnawing on something dangerous. Also, as ‘cutesy’ as Okami had been, there had been some real elements of horror hidden behind the innocuous cartoonish artwork.
With those thoughts in mind, I pondered who to import with me this time. And wasn’t this simpler when my life was too? I decided not to import Frankie or Mini, as Alex and Maggy would see that as bringing their moms along to keep an eye on them, and rightly so. On the flip side, I didn’t bring Cirno because Amaryllis would feel the need to keep an eye on her mother. Also, Cirno already had a Japanese mythology form… come to think of it, many of my companions did… I struck all who did off the list, which was Velma and all who came before her (Toph, Ahab, Joy, Kendra, Bao, Uriel, all the Mon, and the sadly missing Hibiki’s). I miscounted the Luteces and Brigid because this wasn’t science, the Bookers because this was not their milieu (and I didn’t really like them that much)… Tokimi, Caine, and Raven were already mythological. Reggy and Gaius were too much blunt weapons. Kohina and Kagetane too. Yuzuha had just had loads of fun, as had Amelia, though I hadn’t actually imported either of them, there had still been fleet battles they’d been part of. Similarly, I had imported both Choirs, so that cut them out too.
That left Anne, Carwyn, the Dire Weasels, Bart, Meetra, and the Comstock Sisters (and as for why they didn’t count as the same being? They were mutually exclusive waveforms as near as I could tell). Part of me considered just giving the 5 slots to those 7 “corporate entities” as it were and letting them fight it out, but that would raise questions and I’d rather seem capricious than indecisive. And to that end, I selected Anne and the Eldar, who would all suffer drastic culture shock at being thrust into Okami’s world (even assuming it to be fairly normal and not actually painted in calligraphy and watercolour).
I then took my two remaining slots and sat the swordsmen and would be travelers round the table from each other and said, “Two of you are coming, two are staying. Meetra’s force powers have just been suppressed. The only fair way to determine this lies on the table in front of you. First to 5 victories gets to pick who comes with.” And I walked away, chuckling evilly as the four of them stared in horror at my custom manufactured “Feed Me, Feed Me, Ferrets” which was totally not a rip off of a certain game about river horses because Paradise had no official ties with the Terran Empire… and any way, game play elements can’t be copyrighted under my original code of laws… not that I paid attention to them anyway.
Lizzy, being the most childlike of the four, won resoundingly, and then, just to spite Beth, picked Bart to come with. Ah, Drama… so glad it wasn’t mine. That done, I locked out the Drop-In line, which was dedicated to Yami and his ilk (the demons and badguys of the tale)… If only I’d actually paid attention to the warning that was contained within, but even with instant reading comprehension, it is possible to simply overlook something or fail to realize the import of two things if the link isn’t being payed attention to. Ah well, I survived. If barely.
Maggy did indeed go Priestess, gaining Priestly Wisdom free (which was exactly what it sounded like on the box) and Foxy Babe which was the full mythological powers of a 9-Tailed Kitsune. Alex got his Brush Technique and the appearance boosting Picture Perfect, as well as DOTA for being a Brush God. And AMaryllis got to be a Preistly Wise Priestess herself, but her brand of shapeshifting comes from being an Oina. She wants to be a bear… because (to her) bears are cute.
Lizzy and Bart are both Warriors, which means they both get Swordsman (knowledge of swordplay which Bart didn’t need and Lizzy could have gotten without fiat but with a few weeks’ training from almost anyone in the crew. Still, Swordsman came with a free Glaive (a sword of the Occidental style as tall as a man and half as wide) that was a divine instrument infused with holy power allowing it to be charged to deal holy attacks. Bart also picked up Godhood, to go with his already formidable fighting styles, while Lizzy picked up the improved “Flowing Swordplay” to try and reach Bartian levels… and a Moon Tribe Hat which allows you to fly by growing wings… sounds… painful to dangle by your head… but magic… am I right? Also allows basic levitation.
Anne and Carwyn also went Priestess (not surprising, there were only two options since Brush God was a premium and I’d locked out Drop-In). Anne got the Faithful Shield Capstone (Priests got two, but they were incompatible) that allowed her to use constant prayer to erect nigh unbreakable defenses. Carwyn bought toys. Seriously. She bought the Lucky Mallet (bonk someone with it and they shrink to the size of a beetle.) and the Water Tablet (allows the holder to walk or run or dance on water). Toys. Fun toys, but toys.
The Weasels conferred, and (of course) followed the path of the Warrior (How could they do otherwise and still be themselves?). Splitting a Glaive between them (which worked out startlingly well actually… being a holy sword with mythological underpinnings) and got the Warrior Capstone, Divine Interference, which was nothing more or less than the Gods boosting your attacks to make even the most incompetent attack a killing blow… what it would do for already hyper-competent attacks was left to my enemies’ fever dreams.
Ahab and Joy, of course, went with Brush God, thus completing the trinity of Kuraokami with Kurayamatsumi (Joy) and Kuramitsuha (Ahab) respectively. This was going to be interesting.
There are places, times, worlds, where it is acceptable, even appropriate, to act your age. Places, times, worlds where culture is refined, ever so slightly decadent, and there is an expectation of mystery and hidden wonder. Okami then is such a world. It is not Japan of a feudal age, but Japan of a mythological age, a place where all the legends are real, not as they were, held in glass and timeless, but where they are alive and kicking and vibrant.
At the same time, it is also a terribly prosaic place, a place where things just are, where people are quick to believe in demons, but slow to believe in gods, where the darker elements of life have greater sway than the bright elements of majesty. It is a time of reversion to the mean, of drifting through endless years and cycles, of eschewing change in favor of the time tested. It is a world where the everyday is every day and even the gods must prove themselves to a judgmental crowd.
It is also a far more complex world than I gave it credit for. I had enjoyed Okami when it had come out in the closing days of the PS2 era, and Okamiden when it had come out a few years later for the Gameboy DS… but I hadn’t finished either. In fact, I hadn’t gotten very far in Okamiden at all. I’d known that… but what I hadn’t known was how much deeper the plotline of Okami was than I’d thought.
When I’d played Okami, I’d assumed it was a simple game of exploration and monster whacking, a game of a single story; find the big bad, unlock the powers to kill the big bad, kill the big bad, save the day. The Big Bad was Orochi, the 8-headed Dragon of Darkness and he had been defeated 100 years previously by the divine wolf Shiranui and the human patsy Nagi, all to save the woman Nagi loved. Shiranui, injured in the battle, had died, and the Poncle (tiny bug people) Ishaku, who had been Shiranui’s companion, created art to honor the dead god.
Now, 100 years have past and Orochi has been set free, covering the land in darkness once again. And once again, a divine white wolf, a human idiot, a human love interest, and a wandering Poncle have gathered to play out the story once again. And that, silly me, was what I assumed was the entire story. I say assumed because I’d gotten frustrated at the complexity of Orochi’s demon island fortress and had been lured away to the brightness of other games. I’d always meant to come back to Okami, but I never had.
Still, it had meant I was willing to pick up Okamiden on my DS and play it for a white too, but handheld games faded in the world of laptops and smartphones and all the pokemon I was playing and so I’d never gotten past the introductory parts of the charming little game that could.
And so I entered this world of timeless battles of light vs dark far, far more naive about the true nature of it than I thought I was.
The true story, as I managed to piece it together is far more tragic and grim, and deals with betrayal, sacrifice, genocide, climate change… and a fish. Some of these things, as it turns out, I would have known had I actually read the document instead of merely assuming I knew what it said. Even for me there are levels of reading comprehension. I’d read it not for information, but for understanding of what the perks did. After all, I knew this world… or so I thought.
Two centuries before the events of the first game… Two centuries and 9 months before the second… The Moon Tribe had fled the moon in the great Ark of Yamato… an honest to kami spaceship… only to be slaughtered down to a pair of survivors by the demons sealed in the even then ancient ship’s hold. Orochi was but a fragment of the Darkness of the Lord of Darkness, Yama, an evil fucking goldfish in a ball of unbreakable glass… sealed up inside the Ark of Yamato, which was frozen deep in a lake on the far island of Kamui… Honshu, and guarded by the Oina people… Ainu with shapeshifting powers.
As it turns out, Okami is the tale of Amaterasu (Shiranui reborn) travelling across Nippon (Japan of Myth), finding the fragments of Yama and killing them one by one… only then to travel to Kamui and bringing about the release of the Ark, to battle them all once again, then defeat Yama. All this in order to lay to rest the spirits of the slain Celestials… angels… and to allow Amaterasu to return to the Celestial Plane and restore the heavens to their former glory. The story was far deeper and richer than I’d known… and I’d jumped into the deep end.
I’d also made a mistake stemming from not paying attention to the Lore. You see, all the Gods are marked (to those who can perceive the difference between a God and an Animal) with red lines upon their fur. Big Red Lines of divinity. Originally the concept art had had blue lines, but those had been swapped for red and the blue lines given to Yama’s dark forces… I learned this all by tossing the copy of my recorded adventures into the Adaptinator and asking for the original… ah, hindsight… ah, hoisting oneself on one’s own petard. Yes, I (in order to be cool) had given myself the markings of the enemy.
But EssJay, I hear me saying, surely this is not a problem? You’re incredibly tough and cool and all that. And I am… but… well… this is not a world of physics and math. It is a world of myth come alive. Amaterasu does not hit you with a mirror or a magatama or a splash of ink. That is but the physicality of the attack.
Take for instance the sword-like glaives wielded by both Amaterasu and Nagi’s descendant, Susano (here demoted from divine sibling to nigh useless comic relief drunkard and pathetically worthless swords man… except when he’s being aided by Amaterasu…). Susanoo’s sword is made of wood. Normal wood. It even has a flower blooming from it. And it can chop Orochi’s heads of as if they were made of papier-mache.
Amaterasu attacks with divine conceptions, with ideas and faith made manifest. And I, in this world, did not have the defenses needed to tank those attacks with ease. I had eschewed the praise of this place and because I was content to allow Amaterasu her paltry few months to resolve the plotline, I had resolved not to interfere until her adventure concluded.
Except that, by being who and what I was… I became the new Ultra BBEG. You see, while Yama was the Demon Lord of Darkness… I was so much worse, because I was the God of it. And so, my spies and agents had been observed, my seat of power mapped by the forces that do that kind of thing in these kinds of worlds, and… somehow, Amaryllis had found a new pet… a white wolf puppy that she’d decided to hide from me for… I dunno… child reasons.
And so, I got attacked by Amaterasu who wanted her son back, thank me very much, and I’d have been happy to give the pup back… if I’d known… and if I’d had any way to get her to stop attacking… You see, the invasion by Amaterasu came after one by Yama, who, it turns out can freaking steal powers (I mean, yeah, so can I, and like me he can’t use what he steals) but having 80% of my abilities stolen by a goldfish? This is not on. And so, what should have been a relatively peaceful vacation became a running battle as I tried to collect my scattered abilities (which, of course, had taken on a life of their own and didn’t want to come back and were having fun bringing darkness and cold and mischief to the land of Nippon) while being routinely attacked by an angry wolf with a divine spaceship. An angry wolf with ADHD and communication issues.
I tried telling her that I wasn’t the badguy, and even though I still had my ability to tell the truth and have it be believed… it relies on me being convinced I’m right, and at that point I wasn’t at all sure I wasn’t the bad guy… gal… because it was entirely possible I was. I was one of the three dark gods, and she wasn’t exactly being forthcoming about why she was attacking me and even once I found out about the kidnapping… er… pupnapping… (and total derailment of Okamiden’s plot… turns out the BBEG of that game, Akuro, got squashed in the fighting between me and Ammy)… where was I?
Oh… right, look, Amaryllis is a nice girl and wouldn’t hurt a fly… literally, I’ve seen her pet them and ask them not to land on her nose cause it makes her sneeze… and Chibiterasu is a very dumb little wolfpup who likes having his tummy rubbed and fighting to protect his friends. Hell, none of the gods are particularly smart… smart for animals sure, but not on a human scale… I guess they don’t need to be… and Chibi was happy where he was. And my own divine offspring was manipulating things behind my back to see how long he and his sisters could keep me running around like a deranged ferret trying to recollect all the shinies.
Long story short, it took over six years of non-stop questing and confrontation to recollect the scattered parts of my power base and figure out a way to defend myself against Amaterasu… whose powers include temporal manipulation, ice, fire, elemental control, command of day and night… in short, if I wasn’t willing to kill the nice (and crazy) shewolf, I had to make like Dr. Claw and escape (I still had Snowjaeger’s Villainess powers after all) time and time again, vowing “I’ll get you next time Amaterasu!” (I didn’t say that… well, okay, once… but I’m pretty sure I was joking.)
I did get Amaterasu in the end… blame it on lots of saki and animal magnetism… but I’m sure if you ask her she’ll deny it. She, unlike me, has a reputation to maintain. But that was in the 8th year after things had settled down significantly and order had been restored to the land and time travelling demons had been dealt with permanently.
Looking back on all of it, it was fun… even if I did have to give stern lectures to two divine wolves, a poncle, a moon rabbit, my children, a mermaid, a very hyperactive child actress turned Miko (and wasn’t she ever so darling), and a lush. Oh, and, thanks to time travel… a stern lecture to my younger… older… past… my past self which I definitely don’t remember getting when I was her… but remembered as soon as the older… younger… future me started speaking… I haaaate time travel! Brains the size of planets should not be hurting from the pains! Such the pains! I sulked for a week. I was sooo mean to me!
Of course, the situation was dire. It always is. Imagine the scene. The Celestial Plane, Mt Fuji of Myth. Wolf of the Sun, Ferret-Lion of Winter. Two divinities, now fully restored to their former glory. Clashing. Ook-Roars and Howls shattering the serenity of the heavenly realm. Her blows hammering at me as my system regenerates again and again. All I need to do is land a telling blow, surely, but Amaterasu has maxed out Godhood and all the items needed to keep her ink and attacks at perfect, meaning my attacks bounce off her conceptual defenses.
If I didn’t have my own pool of powers and perks and Cheaty McCheaterson item stockpiles, I’d have been very much beaten and broken by the enraged sunwolf… As it was I was just feeling beaten and bruised, but unwilling to allow the angry goddess anywhere near my kids, and I didn’t really have time in the midst of conceptual battle to yell at said children about releasing the hostage… it wasn’t that kind of scene… and the hostage was busy begging for fish sausage, so I’m not sure it would have helped.
The problem with battles of attrition is the attrition. One side or the other has to make a mistake, use a key resource and have it run out, or lose focus for an instant… such battles are never truly endless, though they might seem like it. In that battle, the mistake maker was me. I requipped the wrong thing. I meant to grab an Elixir… but I grabbed a Full Heal instead and in the moment it took me to figure out that I was out of manna and that’s why my shields were down, the Goddess struck what might have been a killing blow with her divine reflector.
Instead of killing me however, that holy mirror struck just right, slamming through my temporarily down defenses, smashing into the very concept of my being… and karoomed off the Heart of Winter that was the very heart of me. The mirror froze as cracks began to craze across the massive crystal. And at that moment of purest terror… I saw an opening caused by the failure of the mirror to return to its wielder.
Faced with a calamity on the inside and an opportunity on the outside, I took the chance and lunged forward, focused on snatching away Amaterasu’s much stronger restoration ability… Maybe, just maybe I could find a way to use something I’d stolen just once, since I already possessed the ability to use it… I was over-extended, tired, pushed to the limits and my inner defenses were not doing well… But maybe, maybe, I could use the Goddess’s power to fix the heart before it shattered… and in that instance of pure desperation came the recurrence of what had only happened once before.
Call it Perk Fusion Part 2, Electric Dragon Boogaloo. In that moment of blind panic, my Ferret Tengu Powers, my Brush God Powers, my Dook-Dook Fruit granted abilities… all fused into one and I grabbed Amaterasu’s power and added it to my own and drew a big circle around the Heart of Winter as it began to explode… a big, sloppy, panicky circle… that also included the Egg of Atura…
Something you must understand about Okami. Context matters. Draw a circle in the sky, the sun appears. Draw a circle around a tree, it blooms. Draw a circle around a flower bud… it blossoms. Sure, sure I could have used the finicky trace the damage Restoration, but I really didn’t have the time, so I went with the brute force of hoping… and that’s why, instead of stopping the Heart of WInter from exploding… I added in the Rebirth of Atura to the mix… right in the path of said Explosion.
Probably should have killed me. Stunned everything on the Celestial Plane, that’s for certain. And when I looked inside, I found no egg, no crystal. Instead, I found a flame… or rather… I found Atura, fused with the Heart of Winter. Atura, the Unflame. Atura, the essence of me as a God… she was my Godhead, my divine essence. She and I were fused now, an Unflame of Entropy and Enthalpy, a divine Melody to fill all Existence given time.
I looked at her and she looked at me, and we beheld ourself as one… and it was sooo very funny. The heavens shook with the laughter of a very very silly goddess. But I guess that’s what the Universe needs. Someone to hide the shinies for later and occasionally make the laws of causality and physics to kindly ask you to bugger off for a while and you give them a negative-space wedgie and steal a black hole’s Event Horizon because nothing is as socially embarrassing as a naked singularity at the stellar party.
Amaterasu was gnawing on my leg when I snapped back to myself. It hurt, quite astoundingly a lot, but I gave her back her powers and made the kids apologize for absconding with her puppy, and then I turned over my position in the mortal realm to Chibi no Kami (i.e. Alex) because all the cool brush gods were leaving the younger generation to oversee the mortal realm as they rebuilt the Celestial Realm and I built a celestial Nerima because what the Gods of Mythological Japan really need is more Whimsy in their eternity… Just futureproofing the heavens. They should be ready for Otaku when they come into existence, right?
If there’s a lesson in all this, it’s this… even if you think you know all there is to know before you do something important… take a few minutes, or hours, and do the research. Worse comes to worst, you get a refresher. Maybe you get a new perspective or you’re reminded of things you knew before but you’ve changed since you learned it last. And Maybe, just maybe, you won’t paint a literal target on your back. Then again, I might have done it anyway. Blue is nice and I’m overconfident. Thankfully, I’m also very lucky, so it balances out. Also, I am a divine ferret. We bounce back pretty quick.
AN: This jump has some nice stuff in it and good thought went into it. It needs some editing, and it isn’t particularly balanced well. Also, the wrong thing is free for Brush Gods. All Brush Gods should get Brush Technique free at the cost of being trapped in an animal form for the jump. It would be thematic and make sense.
Also, it’s a really good thing I hadn’t finished Okamiden… I would totally have kidnapped Chibi and Kagu. Oooo sooo cute! Want to snuggle both of them! No, bad ferret lady. No walking off with children just because they’re adorable.
Oh, once you finish the jump, you get a Goddess form as well if you were a Brush Goddess… so here it is… complete with blue lines! Bwahaha!
(AN: Just a short one, but I’ll try and have another up next sunday at the latest)
“Well? Did you enjoy your decade playing Admiral?” The Chamber asked as I re-entered its presence, covered in sand and fuming.
“Fleet Terminators attacked Reach the week before end of decade and half the planet is burning as we speak. No. I did not enjoy the decade. It was miserable, billions of people died, and I spent most of my time running around trying to keep the entire galaxy from being annihilated by a bunch of asshole aliens who’ve been dead or undead for a thousand centuries. Time Traveling murder cyborgs controlled by a groupmind that can corrupt AIs. I had to take all my VIs off line and keep a very close eye on VIvian. I ended up using Light’s Nova Cannon fourteen times! That’s 14 planets I had to blast out of existence because every living being on the planet had been eaten by the Fleet! So no. No… No… fuck. This was like fighting Zombie Hitler except I was exploding entire planets instead of cities. I EXTERMINATUS’d planets. Well, she did, but I gave the orders… and there are still killer cyborgs prancing across the surface of Reach as if it’s going out of style!”
“Would you like to continue? I can resume time if you like?” Jump-chan offered in that tinkling voice that in no way matched the face on the door.
I growled. “That would be choosing to stay, wouldn’t it?”
“No,” The presence corrected, “There is an option to extend the jump for another decade. Should you choose to Stay permanently, however, you would be entitled to a +1000 CP payout. That payout would also be made available should you choose to Go Home.’
“Mmmm…. No. I’ll come back sometime when I have a plan and more options. Fuuuuu… VIvian, lock out that Reality from the Door to Shopping and the Restaurant Door.” I bellowed, then looked at the door, “So, what happens to the rest of my fleet? They just remain stuck in time until I come back?”
“Even that Forerunner spy?”
“312 Torpedo Brave was merely doing as she was programmed to do.”
“I’m aware of that. What I want to know is how come I didn’t notice anything when I looked into her mind or soul?”
“She was created with Precursor Technology and her real identity existed outside of the dimensions you can perceive. Within the framework of 4-D space, She was exactly what she appeared to be.”
“Great. A Hyper-Dimensional Time Traveling Cyborg little girl murder machine. Weee.” I rolled my eyes.
“You defeated her,” The Chamber said as if asking what I was complaining about.
“Not before she took out a dozen of my ships and 82 Spartan-IVs! I don’t even know what that weapon she used was!”
“A Neuro-Chrono Disruptor. Causes the brain to relive all previous thoughts simultaneously.”
“Oh, of course. Perfectly reasonable. Thank goodness my meatspace brain doesn’t contain the vast majority of my thoughts or consciousness or I’d be a vegetable!” I snarked.
“Negative. You would still be quasi-mammalian.”
“IT WAS A FIGURE OF SPEECH, you daft Block…” I sighed. “What’s the next destination. Tell me it’s something lighter where I do not have to deal with genocidal fuckwits. Beginning to be a theme here.”
“How do you mean?”
“How do I mean? Let’s see. The Fleet and the Covenant and that Didact asshole all were Genocidal. Before that we had Warhammer 40K which is just full of genocide’s waiting to happen. Before that, the Procyon wanted to wipe out the Terran Empire in TreasureVerse. Before that, Bioshock Infinite with the Ever So Eugenically-minded Comstock. Before that? The Witches and Eldritch Abominations of Soul Eater. Before that, Enel was plotting Genocide and Crocodile was willing to commit mass slaughter in One Piece. Trigon wanted to kill everyone in Teen Titans. So did the Outsiders in Dresden Files. Then Star Wars with its casual planetary slaughter… Harry Potter with Umbridge’s racial purity… Firefly’s PAX gas and Reavers… Tenchi Muyo for some more casual planet busting and omnicidal fuckwittery… The actual End of the World in World of Darkness and an Alien invasion in Pacific Rim! That’s 17 of the last 20 Jumps! And there’s more of that! Mistborn, Red Wall, Demon’s Souls, Codex Alera, Buffy, Avatar, Voldemort, Black Bullet, Dragon’s Crown, Strike Witches, Bleach, MCU, They Live!, Kill La Kill… good lord, more than half my jumps feature Genocidal or Omnicidal races, individuals, or diseases!”
“Well, I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of such individuals in the next destination until we link up. Shall I begin the process, or are you desirous of returning home?”
Part of me really wanted to smart off, but I restrained myself and growled. “Begin the transfer and throw the information up in the mist. What is it this time?”
“Zero no Tsukaima.”
“Never heard of it.”
“It is also called Familiar of Z… where are you going?”
“I’m not going anywhere. What’s happening?”
“I just connected to… oh… I seem have pressed the wrong. No. stop that. How do you work this-”
“What’s going on?” I yelled.
“There is a schism in this verse… a Spontaneous Existence Failure Fault exists… it’s causing interference. I can only hold you out of the verse for maybe a couple of moments. What do you want to be able to do?”
“Do? What do you mean?”
“Origins. Drop-In, Knight, Mage, Noble. Do you want to be rich, use magic, fight?” the Chamber was yelling now. “Quickly, the moment of Insertion is approaching!”
“Magic… Just give me all the magic!”
“That will cost a great deal of points!”
“Then give me the least harmful drawbacks!”
“Harmful to who?”
“Anyone! Others first, then me second!”
“Do you want any equipment?”
“Anything that’s free! How many points do I have left?”
And that’s how I fell out of the sky to land next to this total dickwaffle named Joseph de Gallia. Remember how I was commenting on Genocidal Fuckwits? Yup! Turns out this guy was willing to kill… like… everyone, just so he could feel… anything. Total, fucking, sociopath. Oh, and apparently my master. He called me his familiar and I was standing in some kind of magical field and my hand hurt… and symbols were swimming through my mind. So many symbols.
I looked at him and he flinched back, eyes widening as I grabbed him by the throat, blackness swirling about me and spoke a language I wasn’t exactly sure I knew. It sounded norse, and it took me several moments to realize I was casting a spell of some kind.
“No! You must serve me! You are Mjöðvitnir! By the grace of Brimir, I am your…” his words cut off as his body burst into flames and he screamed and screamed as he was reduced to ash. I pocketed his soul and looked around the chamber I’d been summoned into. Everything hurt and the symbols wouldn’t stop.
It took me a while to realize that what I was seeing was all this world’s magic… all of it. Every scrap of magical theory. The Five Elements; Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, and Void. The Elven Spirit Magic of the Great Purpose. The First Race Magic. I was the Mind of God… that was what Joseph had called me… Any magic I could use. Any item or spell. I picked up the incense burner smoking nearby and understood what it was.
It was an Item of the Void, created by a man called Brimir six thousand years ago according to memories I’d plucked from Joseph’s mind. Its purpose was to record the Memory of Brimir, and it did… in mind wrenching detail.
Brimir had ‘Split’ the Void… that is he had crafted magic that could operate on the sub-atomic level… and given rise to the four Void Familiars. He’d also crafted four magical Ruby rings, one for each non-Void element and four treasures… a Book that contained all his spells and his desires for his successors, a Music Box that contained the Song of the Void (the potential well of all possible void spells), a Mirror that could be used to witness Brimir’s life… and the Incense Burner which was his diary.
After listening to it all, I wanted to be sick. This… monster… had created the Void Familiars, the Void Rings, and the Void Treasures for one purpose. Sure, he called it ‘Securing the world for the Markey (i.e. Humanity)’… but he really meant ‘To destroy all the other races, bwahaha!’ It was a Genocide spell… and one he’d used again, and again, and again. Now, sure, he sounded all sorts of broken up about it. I’ll give him that. But he’d done it. Done it more than once. Had done it, and was planning on doing it again to the Elves, even though his only real friend was an Elf named Sasha… and then the diary ended.
I growled, pushing the symbols out of my conscious thoughts and pulled out the soul. “I guess I owe you an apology. You’re just a crazy ass shithead playing with things you shouldn’t have been. This guy… he was a real piece of work. Now, tell me what you can of this world and I’ll send you to your reward, you festering sack of… you’re dead, you’re not king of anywhere… wait, you were King of someplace?”
He explained that this was the land of Halk, divided into five major nations; Gallia, Tristain, and Romalia were the three Brimiric successor states, Albion was Sky Island, and Germania was a barbarian empire… essentially, France, Italy, & Belgium, plus England and Germany. There were smaller lands, but none particularly important to Joseph, who really really wanted to crush Albion (a King of France hating England? Unheard of!). Apparently that’s why he’d summoned me.
Each of the four Void Familiars had a singular purpose. The Left Hand of God / Shield of God could use any weapon… it was named Gandalfr… wow… original. The Windalfr / Right Hand of God / Flute of God was the pied piper, able to control non-humanoid animals. The Myoznitnirn… me, was the Mind or Book of Good and was to magic what the Gandalfr was to weapons… and the Lifdrasil, the Heart of God, was the Genocide Weapon. Weeee.
Romalia was home to the Brimiric Church, a Holy Roman Expy if ever there was one, and this was clearly the 1600s because there was a full fledged Protestant Revolution going on. That the current head of the government of Albion was Oliver Fucking Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Holy Republic… who’d seized power in a bloody civil war against the royalists (and their King, James of course)… just cemented it. Which made me wonder if the current head of the Brimiric Church was anything like Urban the last, a warmonger and, in fact, Galileo’s pope… the Pope Galileo was put on trial for calling a jackass (He wasn’t actually tried for his astrophysics theories, but rather for the insults his book on said theories included for leading church scientists… of which there were several notables… and the pope.)… but first, I should look at myself and figure out what I’d gotten.
With a flick of my mind, I created a mirror out of nothingness and examined my visage. I was dark of aspect and dark of hair, my eyes glowering, my clothing strangely formal and ruffled… and I was an elf. Dark mist swirled around me and I felt anger, hatred, superiority, all warring within me. Humanity were miserable scum. This world would be best rid of…
I wrenched my mind away from that track and glared at my own reflection… then realized that part of it was a deeper call, the voice of Gaia, speaking, raging against the unnatural magics of the Markey and Void Magic in specific. I threw up my mental defenses, and opened the portal to my warehouse.
“So… where were we?” I asked the Chamber.
“I believe that there are a number of what you call Genocidal Fuckwits in this world,” Jump-Chan said.
“No? Really? I just killed one. He said I was his Familiar?”
“You asked to be capable of using all the magic of this world. The only way to grant that was to make you Joseph of Gallia’s Void Slave. The Gallian Void Familiar possesses the ability to use any magical item or style. I also selected for you the maximum number of ranks in Elementalism, allowing you to use all four non-void elements in any combination you wish, as well as Elven Magic. Together those cost 1400 CP, and I used your last 200 to increase your Luck.”
“Most Luck perks include a proviso about not pushing your luck… that’s why I seldom take them.”
“The wording of this one says that enemies will miss you more often or hit their own allies, that you will find money on the ground, and more, for luck is now on your side. There is no warning against over-reliance on this luck.”
“Huh. okay. Show me what I missed out on?” I stepped inside, then back out a few minutes later. Nothing important, though the Chain Weaving perk that allowed multi-casting might have been cool… but it would have cost as much as Elven Magic. I was a Drop-In, since that was required for Void Slave (though loyalty was not enforced by the word Slave or the Familiar bond apparently, so meh.)
Drop-ins got no item free… but the Chamber had given me the equivalent of 200,000 USD in Gallian Gold. “It has no price listed. That would indicate that it is free, yes?”
“Works for me,” I’d replied.
What I’d paid for all this was being an Elf and thus being subject to Elven Prejudice and Anti-Elfin sentiment. It came with an Elven Alt-form, which implied I’d actually get two forms for this jump… maybe? I don’t know. I guess I’d find out in a decade.
I also would be “that guy” for a decade, a braggart who can’t help but getting into trouble. Which, yay? I mean, oh… no… how terrible. Baaaad Ess Jay.
“Hey, Jump-Chan. Show me what I’d look like without this doom and gloom appearance?”
I looked, then whistled… then blinked “Is my hair… pink?” It was. I was stacked, dusky skinned, hippy, red eyed… pink haired…. And, “I’m still an Elf?”
“Great. Eh. Not like it matters… wait… the Elf drawback doesn’t change my gender does it?”
“But that dark glowery elf form… that’s male!”
“What the hell?”
“Troublesome Braggart indicates that you are ‘That Guy’. That implies male. Hence, you are male as a Troublesome Elven Braggart.”
I hate it when the Chamber is practical. It sounds soooo smug. I kicked it and growled something, then stomped back outside. I promptly bumped into another elf.
“Where is the King?” he asked, sounding imperious and stuffy.
“Who the fuck are you?” I snapped back, looking at him with my third eye. He was a jackass, but mostly just in that merchant of death way. Also knew a lot about making Elemental Stones. I stored that information for later. Apparently Firestones were pretty damned close to pocket nukes without the radioactive fallout and Waterstones were healing energy storage. Earthstones could be used to power defenses and golems and Airstones… oh… that was not good. So very very not good.
He distracted me by introducing himself as Bidashal and demanding to see the King.
“He’s dead. The summoning went badly for him.” I pointed at the pile of ash and his eyes went wide.
“You-” he gasped.
“Killed the fucker dead. And you, stop trying to get humans to wipe each other out by giving them Firestones. By Thor, is this whole world full of assholes?”
“Who… they’ll kill us all when they find out. Gallia will-”
“They’ll do nothing or I’ll smash their military into powder and whip their naked soldiery through the streets as an abject lesson in not pissing me off.”
“Who do you think you are?!” he snapped.
“Me? I think I’m…” I trailed off… I hadn’t had time to formulate an identity in this world and, as a Drop-in, I didn’t have a past to draw on. “Umm..”
“Well, Ulm, Gallia has a fleet of airships, thousands of mages, and tens of thousands of soldiers. They’ll burn the Holy Land down around our ears for you murdering their king!”
“No. They won’t. There will be no wars for the next ten years if I have to personally shatter every damned… do you know what that psychopath Brimir burried in the Holy Land when he killed half our race?”
I told him all about Shaitan’s Gate. His eyes bugged out. I told him all about the Heart of God. His skin turned greenish and he shuddered. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have three artifacts to gather, and four…” I snagged the royal ring from the ashpile “three rings to collect, and a massive catastrophe to prevent.”
“You’re going to save the humans from their own stupidity?”
“Yeah. You know why?”
“Because I’M NOT A GENOCIDAL FUCKWIT!” I smashed upwards out of the palace roof, leaving the blond elf staring. Once I was in low planetary orbit, I targeted the quasi-Italian peninsula and its largest city, aiming for the central basilica. I wrapped my invisibility cloak around myself… huh… so that’s how to make one of these things… and flew in low and just under the speed of sound.
An invisible mind reader is pretty much impossible to stop from infiltrating your bases, especially when they’re using a magical item that can hide someone from Death itself… though maybe not cats… hard to say… especially not when you don’t know they’re coming… and, finding Not-The-Pope Vittorio wasn’t hard. I discovered him to be… a genocidal fuckwit… but to be fair, that stemmed more from a sense of necessity than coldness. Like Brimir, he was plotting Genocide against the Elves to save humanity… and unlike Joseph, who he’d been manipulating it seemed, he was fully aware of what the Elves already knew.
All Elemental Stones could be found in nature. Elven magic knew how to make more of them, but they could all be found if one knew where to look. And for Windstones? That was underground. Mostly deep underground. Instead of Natural Gas deposits, this world had Windstones… lots and lots and lots of them… and they were getting bigger and bigger.
Halk was, not too put too fine a point on it, sitting on a timebomb. Within the next 10 years for certain, and possibly as little as two, the continent was going to rip itself apart as huge chunks of it became floating islands… and then, as their lifting power gave out… falling islands. Sea would replace most of the land, few buildings would survive the hellish earthquakes, and millions would die. Those who survived would find themselves over-crowded and possibly with a lack of farmland… and so, Psycho-mcMurder here wanted to Genocide the Elves to take their land, because fuck living in peace, am I right?
I punched him in the face and stole his mirror and ring… oh… and he was definitely Pope Urban. His freaking Familiar (oh, yeah he was also a Void Mage) was named Julio Chesare… and Cardinal Giulio Cesare (yes, both are corruptions of Julius Caesar) was one of Pope Urban’s closest confidants (and nearly his successor… his nephew was even named Urbano and his brother Marcello was Urban’s Papal Treasurer… What? I have a lot of time to read… well, no I don’t, but I read very very very fast.)
“I’ll make you a deal, you murderous fuck. I’ll fix the Windstone problem if you stop trying to murder my people… and everyone else. Deal?”
“Why would you do this?” he asked, his accent very italian by way of japan.
“Because letting people die just because I don’t like their kind and the founder of their religion murdered half my race and tried to murder the other half is rude… almost as rude as murdering an entire race to steal their land. Did you ever think of maybe asking for help? Or telling anyone about the coming problem?”
I kicked him hard enough to break ribs. “Get someone to heal you, your holiness… and remember this. If you raise an army or your forces even come close to crossing the border into any other state without permission, I will do this…” I pointed out the window at a high tower I’d just teleported everyone out of, and manifested a Wing of the Darkhawk. I checked. There were no planetary objects along the beam’s killing path. I clenched my fist and the tower, from the 5th floor up, vanished, taking part of the roof of the building behind it and a spire from a third with it.
“Your magic cannot compete with mine. I’m the Mind of God… oh, and Joseph’s dead. He made me angry. You don’t want to make me angry.” I backhanded the pontiff into a wall and unfroze his familiar. “Your master is hurt. You should see to him.”
Over the next couple years I managed to find the other rings and relics and stuffed the abominations into the Asgardian Armory section of my Warehouse with plaques labeled “Creepy Shit. No touchy. This means you, Ziggy.” Not that he can read, but he licked my nose when I told him what it said, which is good. Somehow, despite not being imported into this world, the Zig managed to convince the Chamber to turn him into this long white-scaled, black-horned dragon-snake thing. He’s about 9 feet long and very much like a dragon without legs… but still just as good at stealing my keys.
I also built a series of deep bore drills to dig down over a kilometer to start ripping out the Windstone as fast as possible. Of course, just pulling out the stone would be disastrous, so I was also replacing it just as fast with carbon-nanotube matrices to keep the ground from collapsing all at once. It was designed to fail slowly, and I was flooding all the cleared chambers with Ice I’d drawn from seawater. It’s remarkable how temperature stable deep mines are, and the Ice would take decades to completely melt. There was a lot of it. The net result would be surface subsidence of less than a millimeter a year for several centuries. Not perfect, but better than the alternative.
I can’t say I interacted with the plot much. I didn’t know who the plot was focused on or what it was about. Probably a isekai harem drama with a tsundere female lead and a stereotypical japanese male with nothing remarkable about him as the male lead. I say Isekai because I kept finding relics of Earth lying around… including a Panzer Tank of all things… and someone had found a rocket launcher and dubbed it ‘The Staff of Destruction’. Ah well.
There weren’t any wars while I was there. There was a lot of trade between the elves and the humans, because I told the elves they had to fucking find something to do with all these damned Windstones. We’re talking about enough Windstones to pave Eurasia here. Sure, they weren’t under all of Halk… but good lord, where they were, they were often in seams hundreds of meters tall. It would have been enough to rip mountain ranges right off the planet. Good thing there’s a lot of Carbon and Water around… geh.
Still something I just don’t get… why are the Elves who have all the Nature Magic… living in the desert!? I get that they’re a metaphor for the middle east and the crusades and the arabs and jews… but… fuck… if you’ve got magic that can terraform… use it!
I might have been a little rude to the locals to enforce my no wars rule, but hey, I was That Guy. I was going to be a jerk about it. And if they didn’t like it (and they didn’t), they could find another assassin to send to me and I’d send the assassin right back again.
Oh, I did have to kill Cromwell and his cronies. Reconquista my ass. Religious fanatics and traitors, the lot of them. Dropped Cromwell right over the edge of the island and waved as he fell.
Also installed some backup A-Grav units on Albion. Apparently they hadn’t realized the island might some day fall. Oops. My units were self-repairing and had powercells good for at least 100,000 years (thank you Forerunners, you were useful for something)
Oh, and if you’re wondering, Ahab and Joy were a Noble and a Knight respectively. Yaaaay. Ahab got an Eidetic Memory with his nobility (something I didn’t notice every noble in the land having), as well as a Regal Aura that makes people pay attention to you even when you’re dead boring, while Joy got a Durability boost and an Aura of Strength that boosts her nearby allies in battle. Again, not something I noticed being common. Ahab also got a hack… a horse and carriage, as well as a get out of jail free Writ for his home country, and Joy got a flintlock rifle… she seems to like it… and a lucerne hammer plus a suit of steel armor.
What did everyone else get out of the trip? Mostly a vacation, as they set up a large secure compound and told everyone else to fuck off. We called it Hyperborea. It had lovely frescos.
AN: I almost skipped this jump. I knew nothing about the plotline coming into it besides that it’s Isekai and Harem and the Female lead has pink hair. The document didn’t help, being one of the worst written jumps out there, with poor grammar, unbalanced builds, terrible layout, and descriptions that are just way too short to convey anything. The coin item literally has no price. As far as I can tell, it’s the bare minimum needed to be a FoZ jump… and I say as far as I can tell because the fact that the Wiki is terribly put together and the lack of easy to use resources, and the fact that everyone I talked to about it panned the Anime meant that I was either faced with skipping most of the details or reading 20+ Light Novels of Isekai Tsundere Harem Drama set in the Fantasy Thirty Years War… arguably the single most destructive pre-modern war in human history made worse with magic.
Instead, I decided to do some reading and throw together something short. Not everything has to be a magnum opus, but just skipping this jump because I couldn’t be arsed isn’t doing the material justice. It’s a shame the author died before he could finish the series, but using the backdrop of the time period in question was an interesting choice and I applaud it. I just don’t have the time to invest for more research. So if I got anything wrong or skipped something I shouldn’t have… sorry.
“Actually, hold up one second,” I said as the Chamber’s countdown reached 1.
“What?! I was under the impression you were eager to do this!” the sapient block of granite all but whined in its tinkling voice.
“I couldn’t find one of my companions who’s been missing since we connected to your Reality and two of my companions died in your little sending me to Warhammer stunt. I’d like them back.”
“I did not send those who joined you in Warhammer aboard the space station. They were beyond my power. I do not know what has happened to them, but I will place a query to higher… they say that they acknowledge your complaint and are looking into it. Estimated time to resolve your issue… 3 to 5 Jumps. I have no conception of time, but even to me that seems…”
“Annoyingly like the brushoff and they have no fucking clue?”
“I would have been more polite, but yes.” The Chamber sounded completely out if its depth and as highly stressed as it could be. At least I was hoping this was as stressed as the Chamber could feel.
“And my Zane?”
“Zane? Ah… I have no knowledge… but I will transport all anomalous individuals from the timestream.”
“Uh… okay… wouldn’t that include all those who were born or lived that wouldn’t have without my interference?”
“Please. I do know the difference between those who belong and those who don’t.”
“Make sure to leave… mmm… does the term fork mean anything to you?”
“Yes, to divide into two or more continuous but mutually exclusive paths, each sharing the same origin but different destinations or terminal points.”
“Ah… I see… you desire to allow time to proceed forward in this reality… you do realize that time is not, per se, paused in all other realities you’ve been to, but rather, they don’t flow in relationship to each other. Each is, from an outside perspective, a bubble. You leave from one to another, but do not establish a temporal link. Instead, you simply may rejoin that universe at any point in what, to you, has yet to be be. It could be the next moment in linear time… but it also could be-”
“Four thousand years later. Yes. I understand. But in this case it’s more than that. I desire for Sheanna to live out her lifetime as she would with only her native abilities and only then to rejoin the collective gestalt when her time comes, as it would without my massively enhanced longevity. For Sheanna to become part of the gestalt now would leave her eager to do to many things in the future.”
“Ah. I see… This is simply dealt with.”
I really need to be able to think faster… unfortunately, it’s not really possible to think faster than a being whose every thought is processed entirely outside a temporal framework of any kind. For one part of me, what happened next was not a sudden thing. It was merely the natural unfolding of a long and vigorous life, surrounded by challenges and hardships and family and friends and a very large number of animals that were somewhere between pets and friends. For the greater part of me, however, it was 82 years crammed into a single eyeblink of time. 82 years of battles against bandits, assassins, knights, the elements, sickness, age itself, and eventual death. 82 years of moments calm, moments ecstatic, moments tragic, moments frantic… and everything in between. 82 years of meals, of exercise, of meetings, of the hundred of minor things that make up a life.
In that single searing moment, all the parts of me experienced Sheanna’s life in a staggering degree of clarity that even living it would not have imparted. It was not life lived in the moments, but rather one life lived in one crystal clear moment. I staggered under the impact and wept, my emotional control shattered by the experience of a lifetime’s sensations compressed together.
To its credit, the Chamber did not gloat, or question, or say anything. It simply waited. Ziggy, on the other hand, nosed me and then snuggled into my arms and licked my tears, not understanding but wanting to help in his own fluffy way. The part of me that had been the youthful Sheanna of Blackmoon aged rapidly then deaged even faster, hitting 106 years of age before boomeranging into a woman in the prime of her life, strong, mature, forthright, noble, sardonic. She looked around at the mental palace that she had not realized she had not had access to the majority of eight decades and nodded in understanding, taking her seat with the others.
Somehow I knew and understood that her four children (Daxton, Lyzandra, Martin, & Paima) by Wolf (who’d died hunting bandits at nearly 70), eleven grand-children, and one-hundred thirty-two great, great-great, and great-great-great grandchildren would be joining us… neither those still among the living or those who’d passed on. Sheanna had celebrated their lives and mourned their passing, and had, in each case, commended that part of each that was eternal to Winter’s Domain in the Divine Realm of Tortall. She was not alone among my mental host in having lost children and spouses and the losses were old ones, imperfectly healed by time… though so many moments of intense grief compressed so tightly might have broken me had they not been overwhelmed by the moments of transcendent joy.
She’d led a glorious life, one that I both had and had not lived, and that was why I wept. I wept to see the changes she’d brung to her part of the world, to see the family and people she’d led, to know she had lived and died surrounded by light, and love, and laughter. And a small part of me cursed jumpchain for depriving me of that for myself… but it was a petty part, a mortal part that felt envy at the sacrifices that had been made, and would be made along this sometimes bitter road to a greater apotheosis. It was an unworthy thought, not the least because the mortal experience had been mine before and would be mine again, given enough time.
Around me, the warehouse changed slowly as my companions began to reappear as they filtered back in from their own resolving timelines in Tortall… or just wandered into sight from the beach party which was also still resolving… the shear atemporality of it wasn’t helping my mental state… which was why, when the Warhammer groups started appearing, first Carwyn, then the Sisters… then Carwyn’s Exarchs… then those Exarchs’ Aspect Warrior followers… I snapped “Don’t put everyone in here!” at the Chamber before it tried to materialize the entire crew of the Light’s Fleet or the population of Paradise and its moons or something equally insane.
“I am aware of spatial limitations. I am outside of time… not space. I would not attempt to relocate several million people… or even the Preemptive Retaliation, into a space it would not fit. I was simply bringing those you were most worried about.”
“Great… why is Captain Annushka here? She’s a Prisoner of War.”
“Which one is that?” The Chamber asked. I pointed. “Ah. You spent much time with her.”
“This is what one does with friends,” Jump-Chan replied, sounding a little confused.
“She’s the enemy, but an honorable one who didn’t fire on my planet when she had the chance and I was forced to imprison her to keep her from reporting me to the Imperium… I was being courteous! She’s not a Companion!”
“You need her to command Ark Magna.”
“Why can’t Draken command Ark Magna?” I’d left the ancient Lord Captain in charge of my second largest ship… not that he’d been pleased to be demoted from Light, but a ship can only have one Captain and he knew it.
“The ancient one? He has to command Light of Heaven.”
“Why can’t I command Light of Heaven.”
“I was assuming you’d command from the green one with the junk-food fixation. She is your flagship, isn’t she?”
I merely growled something incomprehensible, then sighed. “Fiiiine. She can stay.”
“Good, because I can’t send her back.”
“I could stick her in chronostasis… but fine. Whatever. As long as she… I don’t know… doesn’t betray me to the Emperor’s lackeys.”
“Is she likely to?”
“You mortals are inscrutable.”
“Again, yes… where is Tess?” I asked, looking for the fifth Eldar Exarch (and the only one of the five I’d had a sexual relationship with… an illicit, poorly kept secret sexual relationship with. One that had both exasperated and annoyed Carwyn… who I was also having a secret sexual relationship with… while she was my neighbor and shrink… Sitcom me was baaaad with fidelity… even by my normal lax standards. The only reason I technically wasn’t cheating on any of my unreasonably large stable of partners was that I doubt any of them were dumb or naive enough to think Sarah would be a mononamuggle with them. Not even Cirno (who wouldn’t know what fidelity meant if you gave her a dictionary). Hell, there were running competitions to see who could get me to bed them more in a given month and pools on who I’d seduce next. Some Random Slag was a popular bet. Sometimes I did the unpredictable just to screw with those who’d bet in ways I found annoying.)
“Which one is Tess?”
“The BLONDE Exarch!” I snapped, though the calmer parts of me noted that the Chamber seemed to have a problem with names. That was interesting. Thankfully, between Carwyn and her five lead bodyguards, not a single hair color was repeated. Carwyn was a redhead as humans define that which is more auburn or coppery, Caerdwyn had actually red hair, as in crimson, Caitlyn’s hair was cyan, Caitryn’s was fuchsia, Nurgath’s hair was snow white, and Tess was a yellow haired blonde.
“Ah. She is chasing one of the domestic felines through the branches of that cherry tree.”
I looked. Scampers-Swiftly the squirrel was chasing Piewacket, Mini’s familiar, through VIvian’s branches. “Uh… what?”
The Chamber repeated itself.
“That is a squirrel named Scampers-Swiftly who I befriended here, not an Eldar Exarch I slept with in Warhammer-Sitcom.”
“She was in contact with my Tortall location while you were within. She was worried about you, so I allowed her to keep an eye on you.”
“You… sent a Squirrel… to Warhammer… as an Eldar… Exarch…” There are more than 200 of me… all of us were dumbfounded. Several of the Council of Me feel out of their mental chairs. More were hiding their faces in their hands at the realization that I’d allowed myself to be seduced by a squirrel… though she hadn’t look at all fluffy at the (multiple) times.
“And she kept it a secret from me… how?”
“She said ‘Don’t let Sheanna know’. So I didn’t. At least not while you were within my power. Back in Tortall? I assume you never bothered scanning a squirrel. Please do not bang your head on my wall… you might damage it.”
I didn’t ask if the Chamber was worried about my head or her wall. I decided to call the Chamber female, not because it sounded particularly male or female, but because it was the opposite of the Banker and Mensarius… also, the male to female ratio in the Warehouse was disastrously low, or would have been if so many of the females hadn’t been obsessively focused on me for no clear reason. Hopefully Caerdwyn, Caitlyn, and Caitryn were shacking up with Nurgath… but I don’t know if non-squirrel Exarchs do that kind of thing. I don’t know of the Path of the Warrior has happy fun sexy times. I should… not ask.
“Were there any others from Tortall present?”
“In Warhammer!” I growled… then added “Besides me, you literal blockhead.”
“If you had a neck I’d strangle you. In Warhammer, were there any others from Tortall besides you, me, and Tess-Swiftly?”
“I cannot tell you that.”
“Wait… you mean there were others in the Warhammer verse that traveled there from Tortall and or Emelan… but they got there from later in my Chain?”
“But… I… need to forget that this conversation happened.”
“Because such knowledge would change how I behaved… and set up a potential temporal paradox.”
“Ah. not really. The Warhammer Universe is unique in that while all events are canonical, not all of them are true. It is thus immune to Paradox. Even if you go home now, you would not change what has or has not happened in the Warhammer Verse… even though those events either happened or did not happen because of you. They happened because there was the potentiality of you being there. That was enough.”
“From a certain perspective, it is. Now, tell me about KanColle.”
“Right. KanColle… can you show me what that looks like in all the languages you have experienced?” Letters of mist formed, some of them in English. Ah. “Kantai Collection. I think it was a game played on a personal communication device back on my World of Origin. Something about girls who were ships… or ships who were girls? They fought… I don’t know… it was MechaMusume and incomprehensible to anyone who didn’t play it. I remember there being a lot of porn related to it thanks to the overwhelming cuteness of the characters.”
“I do not comprehend cuteness.”
“You will. You will. Okay… does it say anything about the setting?”
“It says ‘The Fleet Girls, the protectors of humanity, are the souls of fallen warships that have crossed over from the seas of the world in which they died to the seas of another world, a world in which they live again. What were once vessels of the blue expanse are reborn as young women with traits that reflect upon their past lives. Once again, they seek to protect mankind, not from itself, but from those of their sisters who have become corrupted by the lust for vengeance and destruction, the Abyssal Fleet Girls, who lurk within the darkness of the deep and seek to scourge all life from the surface world.’ Is that what you mean by setting?”
“Yes. That’s pretty much what I was hoping for. Anything else?”
“It says ‘The Abyss has rendered movement across the seas all but impossible, save for heavily defended military operations. Though air travel is, for the time being, relatively safe, many of the smaller island nations have been overrun and the world’s trade cannot be handled purely by land and air routes. To that end, humanity’s World Council has gathered the most talented Admirals from around the globe to command what might be their last hope against the Abyssal Menace.’ And it says you have 1000 CP to spend and wishes you Good Luck and Godspeed… what is Godspeed? Is that some kind of ability that will allow you to move through the mortal realm at the speed Gods do? Do you not have Transliminal Slide already?”
“Ah… yes. Yes it is.” Wow… just… wow.
“Do you want me to read the second part’s introduction as well? It does not say what order they come in.”
“What second part?”
“It is called Terminator. Three billion lives… I do not understand… these dates appear to be previous to the ones in part 3, but that world’s history contains no record of the apocalypse mentioned within this section. These are very badly collated with many redundant sections.”
I stared at the Chamber’s door, then asked “W… what part three?”
“It is called… HALO?”
“Kantai Collection, Terminator, and Halo are three different realities,” I barely managed to keep from screaming. “They are not connected in any way, shape, or form. I’m pretty sure that the Council sent you three jump documents to get you started, either to present me with my choice or to let you pick which of the three to use… or to do each of them one after the other after the third. They do not form a coherent storyline. Not that any of the three of them have a coherent storyline as far as I know. Everything I know about Halo is confusing and that goes triple for Terminator.”
“Oh. Dear. I seem to have misunderstood.”
“That’s fine. We’ll just do them in order, Kantai, then Terminator, then Halo.”
“I do not think that is possible.”
“I have already disconnected the Warehouse from my native universe and connected it to the one contained in these documents.”
“There isn’t… you found a universe defined by a cross between Kantai, Terminator, and Halo?!”
“It wasn’t easy. It has a very low probability index. Why are you hitting yourself in the face?”
“So… all the fluff is going to be screwed up… there will be killer androids, mad AIs, religious fanatic aliens, bio-zombies, and ship girls… this is going to suck.”
“My apologies. I have not done this before. I guess… you should enter me now and I will project the various… options? They appear to be divided into Origins (including Age and Gender), Abilities, Gear, Ship Type & Companions, Drawbacks, Notes, and Future… at least for Kantai Collection. The various items under Abilities and Gear appear to be linked to specific origins… but are not exclusive to those Origins? Is that right? You could be one of the ‘good’ Fleet Girls and possess an ability normally indicative of one of the Abyssal Fleet? Or be a human and possess abilities found in the cybernetic Terminators? That seems most strange.”
“Yeah, well, that’s pretty much usual I’ve found. The experience is designed to be mix and match, rather than just making you a clone of a given individual. That’s why I was who I was in your world and not, say, Kel version two point oh.”
“Ah. That does make sense. Taking her place would leave her without one, and being exactly like her without taking her place would leave you without a role of your own. Most ingenious. The CP it seems is used to purchase Abilities and Gear or to change your Age or Gender and to outfit your Ship Girls… the Notes, Future, and Origin section do not make mention of CP… while the Drawbacks section seems both counter-indicated and… has prices that are the opposite of the other sections? I am not certain I understand… also, does it seem more than a little coincidental that you have just gained a fleet of ships and now you are being made an admiral of a fleet of ships… most curious.”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not. It could be coincidental, or it could be that whoever is scheduling the stops on my journey is purposefully maneuvering things for increased drama… or laughs. Who can say. As for the Drawbacks, they are designed to be additional challenges one takes on in order to both increase the overall difficulty of the experience, and to pad the amount of CP available to spend. Think of it as increased reward for increased hardship.”
“You willingly inflict such things on yourself and others for such trifles?”
“Often the pain is temporary, as Drawbacks are revoked at the end of my sojourn in a given world, while the abilities and companions and equipment I pick up are often often eternal.”
“Ah. I… understand. Upon reviewing the Kantai note section, it mentions a number of things that are most perplexing. Could you explain?”
“Go for it… I’m going to grab a drink. Just ask for what you don’t understand.”
“It says discounts are all 50% off… is this typical?”
“Yes. If you have the background or origin the item is linked to, you get a 50% price break.”
“So it does not force you to comply with a given set of values… but it makes complying more effective… or at least less expensive. A positive feedback loop. Most agreeable. For my second question… the notes state there are loss conditions in addition to the normal ones. What are the normal ones?”
For a brief moment, I considered lying about it… but I honestly couldn’t think of anything believable that wasn’t also possible. I also had a vague suspicion that those higher up than The Chamber wouldn’t be amused if I tried abusing this glaring hole in my temporary proctor’s understanding. “Unless a Drawback specifies a new loss condition, the only normal one is death. If I die… as in beyond medically dead, that ends the chain and I get sent home. This applies only to me, not to my companions or anyone else I might meet. What are the new loss conditions?”
“They depend on which Origin you have. A ship girl of either type loses if she is deconstructed, while an Admiral loses if they are relieved of duty by their superior officers, either for refusal to perform military duties, disobeying direct orders, or losing too many ships in sorties or supply runs. If your disobeyal of orders results in complete or stunning victory over the Abyss… they’ll probably ignore it.”
“Huh. Fair enough I guess. Any other questions?”
“The notes say ‘Yes, You can.’ and ‘Yes, You can with the Abyss as well.’ Can what? I don’t… can I take it from your amused grunting that you find this humorous?”
“Oh… yes. Very. Amused Grunting. Thank you, I’ll have to remember that. The ‘Can’ is admission that it is possible to have sex with both Fleet Girls and Abyssal Fleet Girls.”
“Ah… is that… never mind. I am reminded of several thousand instances of humans of both sexes performing biologically unsound acts with members of other species… including trees both living and dead. You are laughing again… Is this why there is a note indicating that Ship Girls are human-sized?”
I managed to reign in my wheezing long enough to nod… then I paused. “How do normal human-sized girls do as much damage as massive battleships?”
“The Notes say ‘the powers of a ship girl are manifested from spirit energy that augments the capabilities of their armaments, thus transforming arrows into planes and small caliber projectiles into massive artillery shells. Fleet Girls require food, sleep, and other basic human needs to keep them alive, as well as to be restocked and repaired manually as if they were a ship. Deconstruction of their ship parts will not kill them, but it will strip them of their powers. They possess a powerful protective field that reflects, deflects, or absorbs enemy fire. As the shield is damaged, it will strain the Fleet Girl mentally and physically, and if the shield is depleted, the ship girl’s armor and clothing will be destroyed before they take any direct damage, but once all their defenses are down, they are about as durable as an actual human girl. Fleet Girl Shields are circular, while Abyssal Fleet Girl Shields are Hexagonal. A Fleet Girl can summon her equipment at will, assuming it is in good repair. Abyssal Fleet Girls can conceal their monstrous features outside of combat.”
“Ah… I will be vigilant against Abyssal infiltrators then… as well as Terminators.”
“Does this mean you will not be going Abyssal or Terminator?”
“Ahm… no. I usually don’t side with the badguys or the ones who want to exterminate humanity. Though some Terminators are on the side of humanity thanks to being reprogrammed. They are machines.”
“Very well… I shall remove those options from the list.”
“No you won’t. I might take some of their abilities or gear, even if I have no intention of taking their side.”
“Ah. Of course. The fickleness of mortals.”
“It has little to do with fickleness, oh great moralizing Chamber. It has to do with effectiveness. Few tools are fundamentally evil and rejecting the tactics and weaponry of one’s enemy simply because the enemy uses it is idiocy of the first water. That’s like saying ‘I shall not walk, because my enemy has feet.’”
“I should grow used to you chiding me, shouldn’t I?”
“Hey, consider the experience of linear or quasi-linear time to be a novel experience. You should be grateful.”
“You are echoing my words for a sense of ironic reversal, aren’t you?”
“Would I do that?”
“I suspect that, yes, you would. Shall I expand upon the Future section?”
“At the end of ten years, all Drawbacks are revoked, all forced gender changes are reverted, and three options are open to me; Stay there, Return to my world of Origin, or Continue to a new and exciting destination.”
“Close. It does not say the next destination will be exciting.”
“Babe. When I’m there, it’s exciting.”
“Babe? I thought you were going to call me JumpChan?”
“Babe is a term of endearment. Also somewhat patronizing.”
“I see. Do you intend it to be annoying?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes I simply do things that might be annoying simply to amuse myself. Anyway, what’s the limit on Drawbacks? Six Hundred?”
“So it says in Kantai and Halo, Terminator says the same, except if you choose to take one of the two Eight Hundreds. Kantai and Terminator say more can be taken, but will not yield bonus… Kantai says that I love to see a diligent jumper. I was unaware of this affection for ardent leapers in myself.”
“Right. Good. Six hundred. From each document, and those drawbacks can only be applied to stuff to be purchased in that document… I’ll keep that in mind. So, Kantai Origin first… Admiral or Ship Girl are my remaining choices?”
“That is correct. Shall I demonstrate?”
“Uh… yeah. Sure. Go for it,” I said, a little thrown by the idea… but this was what the Chamber did for a living. It projected an individual into a time and place where they were different than themself. The walls of the chamber disappeared into the mist and three vistas opened before me, my mind flowing into each as I gazed in turn.
In the first, I was me, a little older, but with no new memories of this odd world. If I took that path, I’d awaken in an office overlooking a newly built harbor, facing the endless sea. Behind me would be my fleet of Ship Girls, ready to serve and defend. It would be a time of struggle, of overcoming odds, of sending others to fight for me. I considered it. Command was my milieu, after all.
In the second vista, I was a Ship Girl, my mind full of memories of wars between men, of nations striving against each other and the horrors that came with it, of the deaths of allies and enemies, and the good too, the sailors and officers who crewed me and cared for me when I was injured. It was intensely, almost painfully intimate and I was reminded of the book “Yellow Eyes” that formed part of the Legacy of the Aldenata, where an alien Virtual Intelligence went crazy and jumped to true Machine Intelligence and merged herself with a World War II era battleship, who eventually married her captain after cloning herself a body. It was touching in a period of utter horror.
And speaking of utter horror, the Chamber had shown me the Abyss as well, the dark counterpoint to the Fleet Girls. The Abyssal Girls remembered sinking, falling into despair, and the unbearable cold of the deep. They had felt abandoned by their crews and mistreated by their creators and now lived only for revenge. It was a dark and horror filled rage… and one I understood all too well. I’d been that low… more than once. I’d also been confined to the bottom of the ocean for an endless time. I could understand their anger… but to punish the people of this world, a world that hadn’t even had built them? No. It was not on. They were lashing out in wounded pain, not seeking justice. They had to be stopped.
I stepped through the Admiralty door and felt the other two potentialities fade away like morning mist. In their place, the path ahead became fractal, every possible purchase combination sprawling ahead of me as a series of interlinked choices. The first of those choices was to accept or reject the Admiral’s freebie, ‘Captain’s Orders’. It wasn’t much, and was probably something I already had… but it meant that those I intended to hear me would hear me no matter how loud or hectic the situation and that my messages would never be misinterpreted. The fact that it apparently extended to the written word was minor, but potentially invaluable… and the guarantee against evil GM’s / Genies going “Oh, I thought you wanted a mile of carp instead of a street made of gold. Silly me.” could be a jewel beyond price. So I took it.
I then turned down the two Ship Girl freebies, ‘Innocence’ (you connect with people more easily and are resistant to corruption), and ‘Dread’ (pretty much the exact opposite). I was already cute when I wanted to be and terrifying when I needed to be. I tracked through the possibilities to see if there was, indeed, anything I wanted from the Abyssal line or the Fleet Girl line of abilities, and found that, in general, only one thing from each really appealed to me… well, okay, two from the Fleet Girl, but buying all three capstones would leave me with a total of 100 CP left if I maxed out Drawbacks, and while the Fleet Girl’s ‘Memories Reborn’ was pretty awesome (it would allow my Ship Girls to summon a massive full-sized version of their ship-self to fight by their side and would allow me to summon the armor and weapons of my flagship onto myself. It was so utterly bombastic and over the top it was a shame not to get it… but really? I didn’t need to it to allow Yuzuha to summon her ship-self… or Ziggy to summon his ship-self.) the Abyssal ‘Savage Salvage’ just had way more potential utility. In fact, it was far and away the best thing for offer (if not the coolest).
Savage Salvage would allow me to ‘consume’ raw materials, mechanical items, and advanced technology to heal myself… and by consuming such things, I could learn to replicate their functions biologically (in theory), and use that process to improve myself with them. If I ate a stealth plane, I could learn to make my minions and sendings more stealthy and harder to detect on radar. If I ate some adamantium, I could get more durable. If I ate a Fleet Girl… well… I’ll try and keep things PG-13 here. Maybe if you ask super nicely. Regardless, that was [600/400/1000] well spent.
Another [300/100/1000] went towards buying the Admiral’s Capstone, which was just… not fair to those who opposed me. In addition to giving me a third ‘I have defeated you, now you will join me!’ perk, Beacon of Hope was the most powerful of them, since it would allow me to redeem anyone (no matter how fallen to evil, madness, or other corruptive influence) as long as I exerted enough effort and willpower (essentially in direct proportion to their degree of corruption). I’d have considered that worth 300 right there, but it also meant that me, my companions… and EVERYONE actively giving me support would gain ‘an exponentially stronger will, the bravery of the mightiest warriors, vastly improved luck, and an almost supernatural proficiency for working with one another!’ Good lord. It was guaranteed to be almost unnoticeably passive, but the influence would grow the more danger me and mine were in. The staggering brokenness of that was just… how could I not buy something that was that much of a potential force multiplier?
And the yum did not stop coming. As I indicated, the Fleet Girl did have something worth the points and not nearly as bombastically ‘BEHOLD MY SECRET WEAPON!’. It was called ‘Ballad’… and for [300/-200/1000] it was very nice… very nice indeed. It granted ‘unmatched grace and impossible mobility’ and promised that I’d be able to easily dodge rains of projectiles, even with my eyes closed… which was just… so nice. But wasn’t all. It granted deceptive flexibility, surgeon-like finesse for manipulating my body, allowing me to treat all my gear and weapons as mere extensions of the flesh… and it came with a perfect voice and excellent singing skills. So that wasn’t nothing.
I did pass up the Admiral’s ‘Winds of Fortune’, which would have (in theory) made me a better commander and made me a master Shogi and Mahjong player… except I was already excellent at all forms of tactics and strategy and already had the patience of an extremely annoying (and sometimes quite irritable) saint. Mmm… I had to check the companion section first before I spent anything else… but how did I express that concern to the Chamber. This interface was viscerally very nice, allowing me to experience what each thing ‘felt’ like before committing to it… but the navigation aspects left a lot to be desired… and the shifting mists were beginning to make me want to sneeze for some reason.
“How much is the Companion Import option?” I asked, then felt the Chamber twitch around me. “Oh for the love of… I’m not going to remain silent while inside your room. We’re not going to play that game. You and I were having a perfectly nice conversation while I was outside, so you’re going to talk to me out loud like a big room and not sulk like a little closet.”
“Closets do not grow up to be larger. Your analogy is extending biologic terminology to architecture. It does not… why are you making strange facial expressions.”
“NERRRRRRD!” I sneered.
“I do not know what a Nerd is but from your tone of voice…. Stop calling me a Nerd. I am not a Nerd!” I kept calling the chamber a Nerd until the Chamber’s door flew open and a storm of mist and wind swirled around me, trying to force me out. It wasn’t particularly impressive and I just grinned and waited until the Chamber blew itself out.
“Nerd.” I commented dryly.
“I was wrong. Kel should have destroyed you instead of Blayce. You are so much worse than… I do not understand how you are making me angry. I don’t have emotions. I am unchanging and constant as the stars.”
“So, slow to change except when you explode?”
“I believe this is what is known as hate. I hate you.”
“Well, when hate turns to love, don’t come crying to me when I turn you down. I don’t date rooms… I like my partners to have a little more… to them than four walls and a ceiling.”
“I have a floor too!”
“Oh, my god… you actually went there. Soooo desperate.”
“This is me, hating you.”
“Great, Very nice. Can we get back to Companion Importing?”
“You cannot import Companions.”
“Ah…. mmm… what?”
“There is no way to import companions, if by importing you mean what you did to make some of your followers part of my reality. You may import ships you already possess and turn them into Ship Girls.”
“How much CP do they get?”
“None. It simply says ‘you may import vehicles from other realities, thereby gaining sentience and a human form. They do not receive any CP and cannot be designated your flagship unless already a warship.’ I do not know how to interpret that. It seems to indicate that if you import vehicles from other realities you will gain sentience and a human form.”
“Wow… that’s… ummm… how much does it cost?”
“Really? That’s… That’s kinda ridiculous. Eh… fuck it. I guess I’ll take it. Use it on the Faustian Bargain… just in case I ever run into Magnus again so she can thumb her nose at him. That’s [100/-300/1000] spent.”
“What a strange sound that was.”
“Yes, well, speaking in brackets is tricky at the best of times.”
“Do you always make purchases based on their ability to annoy those you might encounter again in future jumps?”
“Naw… but when I can, it’s like a bonus. Let’s take a look a the Drawbacks before I decide if I want any more Abilities… are there any items worth looking at? I didn’t see them in the decision matrix you threw up.”
“The Admiral’s Uniform, Marriage Ring, and Documents are all free for an Admiral… the price for the Ring is unobtainable within the framework of the document without being an Admiral and must therefore be either an oversight or in the nature of a spot of humor. There is Upgraded Gear which must be purchased separately for each ship girl… and each of them gets to pick three free… as, apparently, do you and… it seems any of your companions? The wording is, again, confusing. The other options, Looking Glass, Map, Extra Resources, Remodeling Equipment all seem to be things you don’t need or things you can just acquire for yourself. I decided not to bother with them.”
“Uh… huh… well… Can’t say the Banker ever said ‘Oh, yeah, that? Total waste of points. Don’t buy that.’ Guess it’s refreshing… what the hell is a Admiral doing with a Wedding Ring?”
“Apparently using it to propose to one of her Ship Girls. Why are you banging your head against my door… and why does it hurt?”
“Your door is made of stone, my head isn’t. That’s why it hurts. And I’m hitting my head against the door because JAPAN!”
“I do not know what ‘because JAPAN!’ means, but please stop that… it is causing me pain.”
“Wait… when I bang my head against the door… it causes you pain?”
“Yes. I recognize pain from having seen it before. It is most uncomfortable. Please desist.”
“Huh… fine… speaking of pain… Drawbacks.”
“There are nine of them. Three at each… tier? They range from 100 to 300 and the higher the value the more I assume they are meant to penalize you?”
“Yes. I have done this… many times.”
“I have not,” the Chamber said in a deadly dry tinkle.
“Good point. Right. +100s are generally annoying, +200s are challenging or deeply irritating, +300s are often life threatening and extremely dangerous. Sometimes there are drawbacks valued up to +1000… they are not a happy day in the park.”
“If I had an imagination, I would imagine not. Shall I begin the experience?”
“Oh… joy, Drawbacks in miniature… this is an experience everyone should have…” I shuddered.
Before me spread nine vistas, nine visions of the individual unpleasantness awaiting my choices. In the first three I was finding it hard to gain public praise for my actions, I was blundering into more enemy attacks on patrols, and I was struggling with very minor sea-sickness. In the second three I was fighting a dark rival who very nearly matched me in power, I was struggling with limited funding, and I was feeling doubts about my loyalty to humanity. In the third, enemy attacks were more common (especially against my harbor), Fleet Girl losses were endemic, and I was struggling with overwhelming PTSD.
I considered. I only needed 300, and I could get that pretty easily by just taking Iron & Blood, the one that caused my enemies to attack twice as often, twice as aggressively, with twice their numbers, armed with twice the firepower… and to focus their attacks more and more frequently on my own harbor. That was fine for several reasons. First, it didn’t imply they’d actually have more resources, so allowing them to attack me more frequently meant a) they’d be burning through their resources more than twice as fast, hopefully faster than they could produce them… and b) more aggressively didn’t mean better tactics… and c) if they were attacking me, they weren’t attacking elsewhere. Making myself the target meant saving lives… and meant I’d know the enemy was coming for me. Yeah, there were downsides and risks, especially since, as an Admiral, I couldn’t just quit and run for the hills… but I did have a lot of conventional power and even against Halo-Tech I wasn’t terribly scared. Would have to find a way to defend against Halos being fired, just in case.
Still, if I maxed out drawbacks, I could take the Abyssal ‘Malicious Aura’, which would allow me to release excess spiritual energy in the form of blackish flames of unbearable cold. Not only would doing so increase all my stats, especially offensive abilities, it would exponentially increase the effectiveness and range of any fear based powers and abilities. Sometimes being really really mean to your opponents is the only way of getting through their idiot skulls. I was, after all, dealing with genocidal religious fanatics.
But that left me with a need for three hundred points worth of stuff I could live with. Not the Rival. We’d level planets. Not the limited resources. I could fund this shit myself… but I didn’t want to… and it might screw with my supply lines. Traitor was right fucking out. I have plenty of willpower to overcome doubts… but just fuck that noise. That was all the 200s and the two remaining 300s were even more crap… which left me with either taking all three 100s or none of them.
Fuck it. I didn’t need recognition, if I went out on patrol I was looking for trouble already, and if I couldn’t overcome mild nausea I was in the wrong line of work. No sooner had I thought those thoughts than Unremarkable, Compass-Chan’s Wrath, Seasick, and Malicious Aura all fell into place and the chamber’s fog turned from sea mist to the stench of burning chrome and charred flesh.
“Wait!” I called out, “Not quite done with Kantai. Don’t go all Terminator on me yet.”
“You are out of CP. Progress is important.”
“Yeah, I am… but I don’t have to take freebies if I don’t want them and I want to know what I’m getting before I agree to take them. I get this Wedding Ring and a Uniform Free… anything special about either of them?”
“That depends on what you define as special,” the hyper-literal box informed me.
“Right… Do they have any functions that are not typical for a uniform or a marriage ring?”
“Ah. Yes. The Admiral’s Uniform, which can be from any nation in any time period, real or fictional, will never wrinkle, stain, or dirty. The Ship Girl version is a lifetime supply of durable waterproof clothes of any design that will never hamper mobility no matter what environment she finds herself in.”
“Any nation? I want an Honorverse Royal Manticoran Naval Uniform from the time period referred to as the First Havenite War.”
“By Honorverse, do you mean the Honor Harrington series of Space Opera Novels by David Weber et al?”
“That’s the one,” I agreed.
“Very well. The system recognizes your request and deems it appropriate. As for the ring, if you give it to a Ship Girl that loves you and whom you love in return, it will drastically improve her stats, drive, and spiritual energy reserve. If you save it for later, you can give it to someone who isn’t a Ship Girl.”
“Right. So… it’s a magical ring that allows you to pretend to waifu a virtual ship girl… except it’s real because this is now the real world… fucking Japan.”
“Intercourse with an entire nation would seem to be impractical, and probably immoral.”
“Yeah yeah… Is there anything else I get free?”
“You and your companions… it does not indicate if this is imported or all companions, get Upgraded Gear free… three times. There are six categories, Armor, Speed, Firepower, Range, Detection, and Auxiliary… Each may be bought once per ship.”
“I’m an Admiral.”
“It does not say just ship girls get this.”
“That… umm… Right… Uh… What’s Auxiliary?”
“It improves how sensitive your radar is, how stealthy you are, and how well you can communicate with allies or taunt enemies… among other miscellaneous benefits.”
“Great. I’ll take that, and Detection, and Speed. Apply all of them to VIctoria. She’s my armor.”
“Affirmative. And for Faustian Bargain?”
“I don’t know. Ask her. Not my choice.”
“And the others? Ask them as well?”
“Can’t see as how any of the choices are bad, so I’m not going to veto anyone’s build. Just let them take what they want.”
“Very well. Terminator Time?”
“Terminator time,” I agreed. “Hit me… do not hit me. It’s a figure of speech that means give me the information.”
“I have no limbs with which to hit you anyway. Can I assume that, since you chose to remain loyal to humanity, you have no desire to be Terminator?”
“None. But I might take Terminator perks or equipment.”
“Excellent. That leaves Drop-In or Resistance, though I cannot conceive of a reason you would take any of the equipment except to annoy me.”
“What if it’s free?”
“The free item for the Resistance is Anti-Radiation Pills. The tech level of everything on offer is significantly less than anything you had access to in Warhammer. You will not take anything.”
“No money perks?” I asked.
“100 Dollars US in quarters,” was the reply.
“No guns with infinite ammo? No vehicles with unlimited fuel?”
“I have reviewed your previous adventures from your warehouse records. There is much I do not understand in there, but I believe you already have those things, or can replicate them yourself. I believe you are being difficult. But, to forestall this debate, these are all the items that remain for purchase in both the Halo and Terminator… what do you call these?”
“JumpTrees. In mathematics, a tree is a series of branching possibilities or options. Seems to fit.” I looked over the items… and had to agree with the Chamber. Between the ludicrous pricing and uninspired options, I was very much disinclined to purchase any of this junk, all of which I could build better tech than. In fact, I wouldn’t have willingly paid the prices being asked for any of this stuff even before I could have built it unless I was wasting points I couldn’t spend on anything else.
“Yeah… okay. Toss all that stuff. In fact, show me every perk for both on this wall,” I waved my left hand. “And every drawback for both on this wall,” I waved my right. “And if there are any companion import options, throw them up in front of me.
What I got was… disappointing. Terminator had two Resistance Veterans for 100 CP (discount Resistance) and a T800 for 600 CP (discount Drop-In)… that’s one T800 for that cost. On the Drawback side, absolutely nothing was even worth considering, let alone taking. I immediately cleared that entire wall.
The Perk side of things was… marginally, better. There were things worth taking here, barely. The Terminator line was kinda crap, but it was only three items long… Oneliners, Killer Instincts, and a Determinator listing that was a little scary actually. I tossed it. The Resistance line had a nice leadership perk… for 800 CP; a loyalty booster for 600, ‘Come with me if you want to live!’ for 400 (which essentially made people do that), an understand time travel perk for 200, and a get people to not think you’re insane when you talk about time travel perk for 100. I took the 200 CP one. Maybe it would make my brain hurt less when I thought about it. I wasn’t banking on it.
That left Drop-In… And I almost wrote off the entire JumpTree at this point. No freebie, first off. 50 CP (and boy howdy do I hate discounts that just make you have to buy something you don’t care at all about to spend the remaining points… something this jump didn’t even have since I’d tossed all the discounts… two were priced at 50… not worth 50, just priced there… and all the garbage that passed for items.) would get me the ability to tell crazy people from sane people… ehhhhh… no. There was a Teaching perk for 100 that was yawn worthy, a hacking perk for 300 that if I went Drop-In in Halo (which I probably would) would be overshadowed by the free Hacking Perk that allowed hacking not just mainframes but AIs… while the one in Terminator could barely handle Terminators, and a 200 CP perk that kinda forced people to keep deals they made with me… if they didn’t have huge willpower reserves. At least they’d feel bad about breaking the deal if they did… that was something, right?”
The only saving grace I found was the incredibly expensive ‘No Fate But What We Make’. It kept destiny’s grimy little paws off me, protecting me from those who tried to push me into the path of predetermination, and even protected me from someone going back in time and killing my mother or even my younger self. It also let me kill those who would normally be destined to be defeated by someone else or at some other time. Even with a discount, it was 400 CP… but since I wasn’t keen on anything else and had 800 CP left… I took it.
But that left me with 400 CP unspent, and nothing much I really wanted to buy. So, I took the 200 CP ‘But You Swore!’ (the deal keeper thingy), 2 Resistance companions (It was called Resistances Brothers/Sisters… I’d drop the two Choirs in. Resistances Sisters, get it? Oh, yeah, for some reason the Chamber thinks that the Dire Weasels and the twin Choirs are each a single companion. Don’t get it, but not arguing.), and this 100 CP item called ‘Judgment Day’ which allowed me to know the exact date and time the world would end… down to the hour. Up to 100 years in advance. My own personal in-head doomsday clock. Yay? Still, with insane AIs, Genocidal Alien Invaders, and Zombies? Good thing to have.
Also picked up ‘Smash those Metal Motherfuckers’ for free. It was a basic skill package in hurting armored targets. Not useful, but not useless.
“So… how do my companions make purchases of their own? Do they have to cycle through you or something?”
“How did it happen before?”
“Data Slates. Each got their own.”
“Ah. I see the ‘Distribute Companion Build Packets’ option… yes. Hmm… I would like to meet all your companions. Please have them filter through as they can and I will distribute new slates to them, for future use. It will also allow me to familiarize myself with them so that I can tell which is which.”
“Great… Sounds wonderful. Oh… and if you fuck with their heads? I’ll find a way to hurt you. Just a warning.”
“I do find your loyalty to them interesting. It is strange how you would obliterate anyone who harmed one, yet you cause them emotional turmoil all the time.”
“Yeah, well… that’s life. Only I’m allowed to fuck with… mmm… harm my friends I guess. Well, they can hurt each other. Closeness pretty much means leaving yourself open to being hurt.”
In Halo, the background options were Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) Spook, Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST), and Spartan-III which was both expensive and not as good as the MC of the Halo Series. Yup… for the first time in my experience, it was impossible for a Jumper to be definitely as powerful as the Main Character. That might have made sense for, say, something as ridiculously overpowered as Superman… but this was freaking Halo. Halo, and I couldn’t buy myself to Master Chief’s level? Fuuuuuck. Not that I wanted to be a faceless experimental super soldier. Screw that. Wasn’t even going to buy Spartan-III.
In fact, since I only had 1000 CP and no desire to complicate my existence, I just went Drop-In, which got me Hacking for free, and a discount on several things I wasn’t going to buy. Instead, I picked up the 300 CP Antigen, which not only made me immune to Flood infection (it also made me much more resistant to other diseases that I was already essentially immune to)… but the Antibody could be isolated and given to others, or even, in time, turned into a vaccine. The Flood was, as near as I could determine from the little Halo Lore I had, a Zombie Plague with multiple vectors and the reason the Halo Array existed at all. I hadn’t exactly played a lot of Halo… mostly enough to determine that crashing a warthog armored jeep thing was easier than actually piloting it. Oh, and that the shard needler thing the Covenant used was cool… so were their energy blades.
And that was where I just blinked at the mist shrouded wall and wondered what to do with my remaining 700 CP. I could buy a Luck perk that had the old ‘don’t rely on this perk’ line which made it useless. I could buy one of two technologist perks, both of which flat out said that I wouldn’t be able to recreate some of the best stuff with them… So I was better not having them and relying on the perks I already had that weren’t so limited. I could take a perk that made me good at torture or one that meant that my psyche had been busted down and rebuilt to the point it could withstand torture. I could be inspiring to my allies or terrifying to my enemies… but I already could do that.
Still… it wasn’t like there was much worth buying… So in the end I did buy ‘Erudition’ which gave me a working knowledge of nearly all modern human sciences, as well as knowledge of most of how Covenant tech worked and at least a leg up on Forerunner tech (They’re the idiots who built the Halos to fight the Flood… and don’t get me started on how stupid that entire concept was.)
“Why not?” asked a voice in my head that wasn’t one of mine.
“Gaaah!” was my oh-so-coherent response.
“Why did you jump and yell Gaaah?” the voice, which had to be The Chamber’s, queried.
“I’m not used to people… entities being inside my head.”
“You gave me permission,” she pointed out as if it were perfectly reasonable to invade someone’s thoughts. Then again, I wasn’t one to judge, since I did it all the time.
“I did not,” I protested, remembering nothing of the kind.
“You entered me knowing that that is how I operate. De facto permission.”
“Why are the Halos stupid?”
I rolled my eyes. “As far as I understand, they kill all biological life within something like 3 galactic radii. They scour away anything the Flood can use as food or something.”
“Seems drastic. Is there any other way to stop the Flood?”
“Not as far as I know.”
“Then there seems to be no other option. These Flood are relentless and destroy the natural order.”
“Yeah. That isn’t the stupid part. The stupid part is building a huge habitat ring as your doomsday weapon. It’s a platform to support living things… except it also obliterates living things. That’s just… moronic. If it protected those living in it, that would be one thing… but as far as I can tell, it gives them a front row seat to the obliteration of all life in the galaxy… themselves included.”
“There are refuges from the Halo array though.”
“Are there? Yippee… but as long as the Halo’s themselves aren’t shielding their own occupants from the effect, having a habitation ring also be your mega weapon that kills everyone on it is just a bad design. A Halo’s only reason for being that size and shape is to support life. There is no practical reason why, from a weapon standpoint, it would need to be that shape… and that shape makes it extremely vulnerable.”
“Well… yes. As I see from how the first was destroyed.”
“Yeah… tell me about it. That was not a request. That was a figure of speech indicating agreement.”
“Ah. Very well. You have spent 600… are you really that dissatisfied with what is on offer?”
“Yes! There’s very little here that’s worth actively getting and no option to be a Spartan-II like the actual main-character of the games. I mean, that’s like going to Avatar and not being able to… I mean, not be the Avatar, obviously, since there is only one at a time, but to be a Bender! There are a finite but not singular number of Spartan-IIs. And the cost to be a Spartan-III is just insult… what are you doing?” I asked as the numbers changed, rippled, rearranged themselves.
“It seems as if those above have agreed with you. There has been an update.”
“Update? The Tree has changed!”
“Yes. This is what I mean. It says this is an update. To Update means to change or improve, correct? I am getting my temporal terms correct, yes?”
“I know what an Update is!” I gasped… I’d been just on the verge of snatching up Squad Up and Wordsmith… or maybe trading in Erudition for Lucky… and taking Wordsmith… fuck. Eh. “Let me see…” I checked for a changelog or something… nada… hummm… back to the origins and bingo-bango! The Drop-In line had been renamed Scientist and all the backgrounds were now Drop-In compatible. ONI and ODST were now free, and SPARTAN-III at 500 CP had been replaced with SPARTAN-II at 400 or SPARTAN-IV at 200.
“Has a companion Import been added?”
“Yes. Multiple individual companion that can be best described as The Scientist, The ONI Officer, The ODST NCO, The SPARTAN-II, and The SPARTAN-IV; Smart AI has been reduced to 200 from 500. Each of them can have a companion imported to them. In addition, 200 CP will grant you 8 import slots with 500 CP and 300 EP each. If you are a SPARTAN, your companions may choose to be SPARTANS as well.”
“EP? Equipment Points?” I hazarded a guess.
“Yes, a stipend for the newly expanded Gear, Weapons, and Vehicles section. It does not apply to the Ship Section,” she said. “You get that stipend as well, as well as two floating discounts on any vehicle you might take. Vehicles come with blueprints so you can make more.”
“Eh. Not impressed… huh…” I considered, looking at the new pricings… all the 300 CP perks had been changed to 200 CP… including Antigen… and new 400 CP perks had been added. Scientists had gained ‘Augmentation’ which allowed them to make SPARTANS effectively, which was a little ‘eh?’. ONI had gained ‘Coordinator’ which was all about strategic and tactical multitasking and analysis. It was quite good. ODST had gained the training-boosting ‘Feet First’ which made them both good at learning and good at teaching, at least for military stuff. If it had been more general I might have been tempted. The SPARTANs had gained ‘Adaptational’ which was all about rapid battlefield adaptation, including co-opting alien weapons and vehicles pretty much instantly. “Oh… what the hell. I can be a Drop-In with any of these, right?”
“That is correct.”
“Great. Throw out everything from the Halo build. Let’s start over. SPARTAN-II [400/600/1000], Drop-In toggle [Free], Stoic… that’s free for SPARTAN…”
“As is Augmented and Advanced Weapons Training, along with an M6C Magnum Rifle, M9 Fragmentation Grenades, a Portable Spartan Support Module, Mjolnir power armor, SPARTAN Neural Interface upgrade to Standard Neural Interface, and a Gladius Class Heavy Corvette. Be aware that changing your background makes the Infinity-Class Supercarrier cost prohibitive,” the Chamber said, interrupting me and my chain of thought.
I narrowed my eyes and half whined, “They went from having no Spaceships to giving out a Heavy Corvette for free and offering the UNSC-INFINITY?! for sale? H… How much does that fucker cost?”
“I do not understand your outrage. You already have multiple ships larger and tougher and more powerful than the Infinity.”
“I wasn’t going to buy it, you… stone idjit. But the Infinity… I’ve seen the footage and specs for that thing. It’s gargantuan for this setting. It’s like… a fifth the length of Paradise or something, but it’s still an absolute monster. It carries frigates… like… ten or twelve of them!”
“Ten… and that does explain why buying it costs 1800 CP for anyone but the Scientist, who only has to pay 1200 for the ship and its fleet.”
“How would you even get 1800 CP? I thought the drawback limit was 600,” I asked, wondering if any of the new items were worth buying.
“The Drawback Limit has been raised to 1000 CP and several new ones have been added.”
“Huh… any that are worth it?”
“One which makes people not believe your warnings about the future for 100, one that means you’ll be around for every major plot-point as it unfolds for 200, one that makes you compulsively collect tech for 100, one that makes you a little too battle-hardened… it calls it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder mixed with sociopathy for 100, and a rival from a race called the Sangheili who wants to kill you for 200. I would avoid the one that makes you overwhelmingly arrogant or the one that makes you worship the false gods of this universe, though both are worth 200.
“That seems reasonable. Give me the ones you suggested, except the PTSD thing. That’s 1600 CP… so I’m down to 1200… Import Companions for another 200… that’s 1000. The Antigen for 200, that’s 800 left. Squad Up for 200, that’s 600. Inspirational and Adaptational for 300… Wordsmith for 100… that’s 200 left… Hmmm… I’ll save the 200 for the equipment lists. Let me see them?”
“Very well,” The Mists shifted and dozens of devices, weapons, vehicles, and oddities appeared. One of them looked like several XBoxes of various generations, all done in the Halo style, along with the collectors editions of all the Halo Games and some book and comics. Another looked like a military base.
“What are these?” I asked.
“Halo Material and Training Camp,” she replied, as if I couldn’t read the blasted names. I growled. She got the point. “Ah. Yes. Well. That’s all the official Halo Material… plus everything for this hybrid world of course. All the systems needed to play them, a dedicated server for them… whatever that is. Cassandra guarantees no one will believe the contents. The Training Camp is a fully customizable and fully stocked training facility. Mess halls, firing ranges, dormitories, offices, parade grounds, and all the exercise equipment and courses you could need. it says ‘You will instill discipline. You will instill order.’… it is discounted for SPARTANs.”
“Yes… I saw the glow.” The glow also surrounded an item called ‘ARGUS Drones’. “What are these?”
“They are one-meter wide unmanned disc-drones that take out anyone carrying a bomb in your presence.”
“Huh. Interesting. Well, I have the points.” Taking the Drones, Training Camp, and Material burned 250 of my 300 EP. I tapped an arrow pointed at a Spartan Helmet. “What’s this?” It was priced at 50.
“Armor Import. Allows you to merge a suit of armor into your Mjolnir-V and thus apply the 1000 Armor Point Stipend to it.”
“Great. I’ll take that. Import Victoria… Hey, just out of curiosity, what’s the difference between a SPARTAN Neural Interface and a Standard?”
“The SPARTAN model allows the hosting of an AI if you insert a Data Crystal Chip containing one.”
“Oh… huh… wait… I have 200 CP left and can import a Companion as the Smart AI, right?”
“That is correct. Be aware, the Smart AI doesn’t have a body.”
“That’s fine. I’ll import Silent Judge as the Smart AI, if I can? It doesn’t come with CP, right?
“No CP. Just the Erudite perk, a Data Crystal Chip, a Data Crystal Port for your armor, and an AI Data Network for your ship… the ship also comes with a customization matrix and stipend of 1000 Ship Points.”
“Oh. Okay. Right then. Hmm…” I said, thinking about what was next.
~If you don’t mind me asking a question,~ Silent Judge said, ~I don’t quite understand, but why am I to be a machine entity. I am already inside your head. How does this help anything?~
“Good question. Well, with this, you’ll be able to move through my armor’s systems… and talk to VIctoria more easily. Also, you’ll be able to take control over this new Ship… Mmm… Let’s call it ‘Thief of Silence’… that sounds Haloish, right? Anyway, I thought it might be nice to let you stretch your metaphorical legs… and Erudite should allow you to understand our tech a bit better than you have been.
~I am uncertain of the logic of this, but very well.~
“Good good. Now, Let’s import… Zane… if he’s back, Petra likes hitting things, The Luteces so they can mad science if they want, The Bookers so they can ODST a bit… ditto the Dire Weasels… The Dust Rats, if they want… Orks against the Flood?… Toph… Bart for ONI? Amelia for a little Admiralty assist?”
“Very good. Anything else?”
I shrugged. “Send me a tablet with armor and ship customization, and that should square us up. I’m going to go sulk for a while and then get to planning. I’ll return once the month is up… you can keep the warehouse functional if we don’t insert for a month, yes?”
“I can. The Warehouse is currently attached to that reality, but not localized anywhere near the story zone… or any other story zones. Return at your leisure. I have activated the countdown… I find it most distressing how time runs only along one path here. Most distressing indeed.”
“There’s time travel out there, but not in here?”
“That is correct. The Warehouse is its own temporal referent. I am not outside of it, but rather part of it at the moment. This I cannot experience its totality, nor the totality of the universe it is connected to, especially since you purchased ‘No Fate But What We Make’.”
“Groovy. Well, I’m out.” and I walked out… right into Zane’s waiting arms and leer.
“Hey babe! You look young again!”
“Zane! Hi! Where have you been?”
“Oh… uh… I kinda forgot who I was for, like… 70 years I guess. But you found me anyway!”
I blinked. “I… did?” I asked, then shook my head, looking around in small but growing horror slash panic. “Nooooo.”
“YES!” he was way too pleased by this. Inside my head, 200 plus mes were all shooting various looks of aggravation, betrayal, or sardonic humor at our newest member.
She just shrugged. “He looked good without a shirt.”
In the non-mental world, my eyes found Kendra’s and I read murder in that glare. I gulped, then looked the other way and found my harem huddled in concentrated scheming mode… all of them… even Ziggy! The Choirs looked like they were just realizing something was going on, and the Eldar, psychic bastards, were already plotting something. I had to diffuse this fast. I opened my mouth… and all logical thought fled as Zane kissed me. HE KISSED ME!
It was not a platonic kiss. It was the kiss of a man who hadn’t kissed his wife in decades. I could not deal with this. I teleported into my office and erected force fields all around my section of the house with a speed that did not befit a personage of my advanced centuries.
I did not come out for a week. Instead, one by one, and starting on the second day, I allowed those who felt they had grievances to air them with me… and only me. It didn’t diffuse things much… but only time would do that.
My defense was simple. I hadn’t known. Sheanna hadn’t known. Wolf hadn’t known. Kendra, who’d been in Wolf’s presence many times, hadn’t known. Velma, who’d been Wolf’s best friend until his death, hadn’t known. The Chamber itself hadn’t known. It had, I guess, brought Wolf along because he was an anomaly in Tortall… and he’d been inserted as a child, like Velma, but even further back… nearly twenty years before my arrival point.
He had no memory of filling out his build document at all. He did remember having a conversation with Mensarius about his relationship with me and Kendra and the tension between Kendra and him, with her claiming that she was merely a distraction, a consolation since he couldn’t be with me.
“Is that true?” I asked, “Do you want to be with me?”
“Aww… I mean… I dunno. You’re my best friend! And you’re hot! And… and you’ve got all those hot girlfriends! But I like K too, you know? Feelings are tricky. I mean, yeah, if I had to pick one of you two, I’d pick you… we been together forever! Hell, I think if you went dude and forced K to be honest, she’d pick you too. She knows it and it pisses her off. Also knows you didn’t mean to bring her along. Part of her thinks that the only reason the Banker allowed it was to annoy you. So she feels… I dunno… worth less… not worthless… just less valued than those you invited along deliberately. Oh, and she thinks you don’t like her cause she’s black.”
“Well, only two of your companions are Black… were… I mean, before you picked up Alicia and Decima… and Alicia’s only black cause she’s made of obsidian or jet or something. You got like the same number of green companions as Black companions. Got more asians… well… had more.”
I thought about it… Black Companions were Kendra… then a huge amount of time passed… then Bart… then a while later Alicia (kinda) and Decima. Green I had AJ, RayRay, Reggy, Yuzuha, and Verona. Asiatic Companions included the Hibikis & Bao, Kagetane and Kohina, Cirno, Tokimi, Lilith, Toph, and Zane himself (at least in his default human form which looked very much like a young Chow Yun Fat… his other form was blue). Caine was middle eastern, Dyna was orange, Ziggy was a ferret, Petra steel, Francine yellow, Amelia feline, and Raven was greyish purple… and all the rest were of european stock. Even the human forms of AJ, Francine, Petra, RayRay, and Dyna were European. Well, the DeWitts were part Amerind but they looked European.
“I… I dunno what to tell you on that. I’ve been black a few times myself. I don’t recruit people based on their skin color or species, but how much I like them or dislike them.”
“Yeah? And how do you feel about the Black Companions?”
“Well… when I recruited them? Annoyed, angry, concerned, and deeply concerned respectively. But that’s just a coincidence!” I hastened to add. “I found Bao deeply annoying and didn’t mean to bring him. I murdered Uriel and didn’t mean to bring him. I didn’t even know about Cirno being a companion until she snuck into the warehouse. Tokimi invited herself along. I grabbed Reggy because she needed a second chance and didn’t deserve what happened to her… like Kendra herself. Kagetane and Kohina I didn’t like at all at first. Hell, I’m still not sure I like Kagetane… Even after all this time… but I don’t really plan these things. Unfortunately, a lot of the places we go don’t exactly have a high percentage of Black characters for various reasons. Blame it on Origin Earth’s dominant cultures.”
“You could have recruited a Black companion in Bleach,” Zane pointed out.
“Yes, I could have. But I didn’t because it didn’t come up and one of the few options was a psycho. I’m not running an equal opportunity business here. I recruit those I feel like recruiting… and apparently Sisters of Battle and Space Elves whether I want to or not. And no, I’m not inducting You and Kendra into the Harem just to appease her sense of… she’s been white herself several times!”
“I didn’t say she was justified!” Zane snapped back. “I said that’s how she feels! Feelings don’t have to be justified. That’s why they’re feelings.”
“I think I’d rather fight Space Zombies than have this conversation.”
I shoo’d him out of my office, trying very hard not to think about Wolf’s chest. I was too old for this shit. It was at that point that VIvian announced, “The Dust Rats have respectfully turned down the importation offer as they do not feel comfortable with assuming new identities or ‘loosin’ our grottin’ Orkishness!’ depending on who was speaking.”
“Offer the slot to Kendra,” I said.
A minute later, I was told to go stuff my offer. I swore, then thought unpleasant things about Zane’s girlfriend for a few long minutes. Finally I told the system to send the offer to Gaius, who could probably use a break from his family as much as I could use one from mine right about now. He didn’t turn it down.
Finally, I made an announcement over the Warehouse PA System. “This issue is to be dropped. No bringing it up in conversation for the next century. Not even in anger. There will be no retaliation against anyone else involved, or I will ground the offender for a Jump. This was Mensarius fucking with things and allowing it to spread acrimony or dissent is allowing that rat bastard to count coup against us. We insert in two weeks, or rather I do. Our next destination is fairly dangerous and I do not want anyone leaving the warehouse until I figure out how to inoculate against the Flood, and get some basic anti-nanite protections going. I also need a way to get you all documentation in a setting that has space age computers. We’re going into a… for lack of a better term, a Triple Event… with no way of knowing how they’ll combine.
To make it a bit better, my knowledge of Halo extends to playing a little of the first and second games and what I’ve put together from watching videos and reading the tree. It doesn’t amount to much. My knowledge of Terminator is a bit better, in that I’ve seen the first three movies, read some comics, and heard about how bad the later films were. Kantai does not, as far as I am aware, have a plotline. The reason all this is good is that none of my foreknowledge can really be butterflied away if I have no expectations of what events are going to happen when.
What I am expecting is that there will be the Aliens of the Covenant who fanatically want to kill humanity, the fallen Fleet Girls of the Abyss who fanatically want to kill humanity, and the killer robots or cyborgs controlled by a rogue AI who… you guessed it… wants to kill humanity. I’m expecting a lot of violence, as I’m reasonably certain that our starting location, a planet called Reach, historically fell before the Covenant Advance. I am also assuming, that, for lack of a better indicator, that Halo, as the least flexibility concept… i.e. strong and broad world building… is the primary determinant of what setting we’re in, just having been heavily modified by Kantai and Terminator elements.
Anyone with any ideas how to cope with at least three and possibly five anti-human factions, please present them to me over the next few days. And with that, I’m going to go build an amusement park for the kids, who are welcome to join me with as many animals as they feel like bringing. Any adults who come along are reminded to be on their most childlike behaviour… not childish, Cirno. There is a difference.”
The Human-Covenant War had begun in 2525, on February 11th. It was 8 days after first contact and the Covenant had declared that no quarter would be granted. Their stated goal was the complete extermination of Humanity from the face of the Universe. No one knew why. That was 22 years ago, and in that time, their advanced technology had made mincemeat of every human fleet that had tried to stand against them.
Time and again, humanity had tried to stand against the onslaught, but every battle was more about making the cost of a human slain as high as possible… and at least fifty human worlds had paid the cost, their surfaces glassed, their people slaughtered. The death toll was at least 12 billion, much of it civilian.
But humanity is nothing if not resourceful, and the cyborg troops that Cyberdyne Multi-Global had introduced had slowed the Covenant advance. The semi-autonomous killing machines could be produced in huge numbers and, unlike humans or even Spartans, could be loaded into missiles and launched at enemy ships, where they would inflict maximum damage before detonating their own nuclear power cores. The system was known as THOR and it was hammering the Covenant badly… but not badly enough to stop the war.
Indeed, the current lull was thought to be the quiet before the storm. The Covenant had the tech advantage and the population advantage. Sooner or later, they’d find a way to defeat humanity. Which is where I came into the picture.
“Admiral Jayma?” the bright-faced middy asked, his uniform painfully crisp, his back so ramrod straight it could be used as a spirit level.
“That’s me, son,” I responded, looking out at the waters of Manassas Harbor on Epsilon Eridani Secundus… also known as Reach. It was the second most populous human world, colonized in 2362 as a titanium mine. It was the homeworld of the Spartan-IIs. It was, assuming the timeline remained intact, also doomed to fall in about five years time.
“This way, Ma’am. Lord Hood is waiting…”
What followed was, perhaps, the least inspiring mission briefing I’ve ever faced. My job, in this day and age of space battles and starships… was to take control of SeaComp, Reach’s coastguard for lack of a better term. Yay! Wetnavy stuff that largely amounted to keeping an eye on smugglers and some of the local aquatic megafauna.
Or so Rear Admiral Sari Jayma thought. The rest of me suspected differently. Which is why I was utterly unsurprised when Halo’s local mad scientist entered Lord Hood’s office and presented me with a run down on her newest successor to The Spartan Project.
“So you see, by locating these reborn ships-” she explained.
“By ships, you mean military vessels that were sunk or destroyed in humanity’s previous wars?” I clarified.
“Yes. These once lost and now reincarnated as young women military vessels. By locating them and outfitting them with specialized equipment developed by the good doctor and her staff,” Lord Hood’s aide enthused.
“You realize how silly this sounds, right? You’re proposing equipping young women with toy planes and bows and arrows to fight the Covenant?” I scoffed. I’m very good at scoffing.
“It’s more complex than that,” Doc Halsey (who is very scary inside, let me tell you that) said. “They can call upon the essence of a warship.”
“You’re saying that toy planes? What? Become real bombers?”
“Indeed! Yes. Or rather hit with the force of real bombers. And those little hand guns of theirs hit with… look, I brought footage.” She pointed to a screen and I got to watch the first generation of Ship-Girls running through paces with recreations of WWII era gear.
Playing my part, I asked, “How are they skating on the ocean? What about storms? Won’t they… she just skidded across the surface as if were a pond.”
“Yes!” the Doc laughed. “Marvelous isn’t it?”
“Well, sure… if the Covenant fought sea battles,” I growled, “But they normally land troops to destroy ground installations and then glass our cities from the air.”
“I’ve thought of that,” Lord Hood said, “Which is why the ocean going is designed to test just how far we can ramp up these girls. If we can transition them into Space, they’ll be a huge force multiplier.”
“I think this is mental, Sir… but anything that might work against those Covenant Bastards.”
“Excellent!” The Fleet Admiral grinned, “Welcome to your new base then, Admiral Jayma. Do us proud. The Doc will be sending along new systems when she-”
“Don’t bother, Terrance. I have my own R&D staff. I’ll get the project up and running. We don’t need the Doc’s special brand of experimentation on human beings interfering. She can go back to experimenting on orphans or kicking puppies,” I snarled. I really really didn’t like Catherine Halsey… or those who’d approved her sociopathic experiments.
“You don’t have clearance for-” She began.
“I have clearance for whatever I want, doc. I’m also the Magi Ambassador, and don’t you forget it.”
She blinked. It was, technically, true… but it was the kind of thing that never really comes up, and I doubt she’d known it, but didn’t bother checking. If Catherine Halsey registered on my consciousness again, it would because I was terminating her with extreme prejudice.
Lord Hood, face set, arhmrph… yes, that’s the sound he made, complete with requisite jowlage, and he nodded to his aide, one Lieutenant Miranda Keyes… who it turned out was my new aide/spy. “Lt. Keyes will show you around, Sari. I have to get back to Quezon.” We shook hands, then he departed, taking the doctor with him.
“What an odious woman,” I commented as soon as she was out of sight.
“She’s my mother,” Miranda said without inflection.
“You have my sympathy. Shall we look at the ladies? Ships? I’m sorry. Do I refer to them as ships or personnel?”
“Both. We’ve got five bases for them, two here on Reach, Manassas and New Alexandria, and three on Earth at Yokohama, Pearl, and Sydney.”
“Interesting, why so spread out?” I asked as we walked, looking down at my aide-de-camp. I’d decided to be quite tall this time out, as I felt it gave me greater command presence, but also because it fit my secret SPARTAN origin. I was 6’3” blonde, and pale-skinned… something I’d wrestled with before deciding that if I did anything else it would just annoy Kendra.
“The Pacific is the best training area and big enough we can do opforce training there. On Reach, it’s more about practicality, since none of the oceans are particularly large.”
“And all the ships are WW2? Nothing later?”
“It was the largest naval engagement in human history… excepting the current one. Maybe Pillar of Autumn will show up in the next war… if she goes down in this one.”
“Always ships that sank?”
“Apparently. Yes. So far at least.”
“Are they being separated by nationality?”
“Somewhat. Apparently sister-ships tend to have a deep connection to their sisters. But if you’re asking if the Japanese ships have to be kept away from the Americans?” I nodded. “No. Nothing like that. They don’t seem to harbor any grudges… though we have noticed a little direct aggression if one ship directly sank another, but that mostly manifests as the victor intimidating the defeated.”
“Were they all born on Earth?”
“No. Of the 102 we’ve found… the Doctor says there could be as many as 3,250… more if we start finding civilian ships… but we haven’t even found all the battleships and battlecruisers… did you know over 500 Destroyers were sunk in the second world war?”
“Yes, I did. And over 1200 submarines, though I believe the majority of those were German. You were saying?”
She grimaced, then nodded, “Right. Of the 102, 31 one were found on Reach, 57 on Earth, and the others on smaller colonies. It’s important to note that we’re finding the larger ships to be older and more… ahem… endowed, than the smaller ships. The Destroyers we’re finding are all between 8 and 10. The Battleships are between fourteen and sixteen.”
“How odd. So, how many have I been assigned?”
“Just sixteen, so far. You’re the only solo-operating Rear Admiral and Earth is claiming most of the girls. The problematic ones are being sent to Reach, I’m afraid.” She sounded genuinely worried I might be upset, but I just nodded.
“Problematic how?” I asked, raising an eyebrow as we headed down to the training yards where a dozen girls were running laps. One of them looked like she was six if she was a day and another looked like a dwarf… not a fantasy dwarf, but a stocky, short figure. She was slow as all get out, but she just kept truckin’.
We stopped at the window overlooking the field and Miranda tilted her head slightly to look at her pad, then put it down and looked out the window. “Problematic in various ways, ma’am. We’ve got the HMS Rosabelle… she was an Armed Yacht used as an Armed Boarding Vessel. She’s the little girl running on the track… she’s just turned 7. She’s not the youngest, though. We’ve got HMS Motor Torpedo Boat 312… she’s 5 and in the infirmary because she blew up her bedroom again while having a bad dream.”
I grimaced, “Is it all like this?”
“Hit or miss, ma’am. We’re taking in whoever we find. Their parents can’t deal with Ship Girls, certainly. They don’t… act right. They remember things no child should and are too enthusiastic for war. Well, mostly.”
“Mostly?” I arched an eyebrow.
“Well, we’ve got HMS Poet Chaucer… she’s the little person. 13 years old, strong as a SPARTAN. She’s a Tug. Got a bit of a chip on her shoulder about being scuttled by the British to prevent her being captured by the Japanese during the fall of Hong Kong. She’s not so keen on fighting… but likes moving things around. Very slow, as you’d imagine. Physically I mean. No problems upstairs.”
“Understood. Anyone else?”
“Yes ma’am. Five others. HMS Alarm, FR La Surprise,” she paused as I snorted, smiled, then went back to reading, “and all three RHS ships.”
“RHS? The Greeks?”
“Yes ma’am. Helli, Kilkis, and Lemnos… those last two are sister ships. Alarm and La Surprise are Minesweepers, Helli’s a Minelayer, and Kilkis and Lemnos were originally Coastal Defense Ships, but had been decommissioned and were being used as training vessels. Helli’s probably the most aggressive, but she’s got a very defensive mindset and an absolute hatred for the Italians.”
“Dare I ask the obvious?”
Miranda thought about that for a moment, then nodded “Yes Ma’am. We do have two Italian ships. Our big guns in fact. We were supposed to be getting Yorktown in as our carrier, but Lord Hood will probably keep her.”
“Big Guns? Battleships?”
“One Battleship, one Battlecruiser. Among the Italians. We also have a British Battleship… of a sort.”
“Of a sort? I don’t like the sound of that.”
“She… Apparently it was a thing to keep old wooden ships in commission, Ma’am.”
“Oh. I see.” I groaned, then motioned for her to continue.
“Alarm was bombed by the Germans, Helli… she’s the one who looks chinese… torpedoed by an Italian submarine ship-”
“Just submarine, or sub. Unless it’s german, in which case it’s a U-Boat.”
“Yes Ma’am. Sorry, Ma’am.”
“You can call me Sari when it’s just us. I don’t stand on formality among my staff, at least not in private.”
“Yes M… As you like. Where was I? Ah… Kilkis and Lemnos were bombed in harbor by the germans. La Surprise was sunk by HMS Brilliant, but she was being used by the Germans so it was something of a mercy killing as far as she considers it.”
“Ouch. Tell me… do I have any actual escorts for this fleet of mine?”
“Yes M… We have HMAS Yarra, an Australian Sloop of the Grimsby Class, sunk by the Japanese Navy, The Free French Flower-Class Corvette Mimosa, sunk by a german U-Boat, the ORP Odwet is a Destroyer… though a very strange one… she was reported sunk at least five times but kept coming back before running aground on Aland. HMS Faustian Bargain is an Armed Merchant Cruiser,” I smiled at that “that became a ghost ship after the crew went mad.” I frowned at that. “And HMS Du Gwenafyr is a Heavy Cruiser that was sunk by shore guns at Normandy.”
I nodded, “A mixed bag, to be sure. But we’ll put something together. Now tell me about the capital ships.
“We have the Paradiso, an Italian Dante Class Battleship, lost with all hands in a storm. She’s the… ahem… massively gifted blonde eating up the track.” I looked, and blinked. She was… err… stacked… and wearing a bikini top. Very Italian. “The other Italian ship is the Inverno, who, ironically, hit an iceberg.”
I blinked at that, Infernos and icebergs… wait… she’d said that the Italian ships were a Battleship and a Battlecruiser… Inferno should be the same class as Paradiso, surely. I was just about to ask, but she was listing the last ship…
“And our anachronism, the HMS Windjammer.”
And that’s when it hit me as I started running translations. It wasn’t Inferno (Hell), it was Inverno (Winter… as in frozen in ice.) “Oh, for fuck’s sake!”
“Ma’am?” Miranda asked, startled.
I waved her off as I fumed. God damn it! 31 days! 31 damned days! That’s how long it had taken the Chamber to start dicking with me. “Hold that thought,” I told Miranda, clouding her mind so she wouldn’t notice I’d wandered off, then I walked into my Warehouse and knocked on a certain granite door.
“Hey, Jump-Chan? Got a question for you.”
“Why, exactly, are Light, Ark, Jenny, Windjammer, and Retaliation personified as Ship-Girls? I only paid for Faustian Bargain. I thought it was 100 CP each.”
“The Import option does not say each. The Ship Girl Section specified that an Admiral needed Six Ship girls, so I simply selected the five ships that you appeared fondest of.”
“I have 16 Ship Girls!”
“The others are added by your drawbacks and were not under my control or shaping. They are also not suitable for combat and are, I believe, present merely to demonstrate that the UNSC does not consider your station a priority.”
“Why didn’t you ask me?”
“I do not possess the ability to contact you remotely.”
“Riiiiight. I’m going to have to do something about that… not sure what. Can’t just install an intercom inside you. And you don’t have hands to activate it anyway. So you just… what, asked the ships if they’d like a woman’s body?”
“Yes. Only one of them was uninterested.”
“Which one?” I asked, curiosity getting the better of me.
“Preemptive Retaliation. It wanted to be a dragon.”
Well that seemed pointless. “It already is a dragon,” I said.
“I did point that out. It then requested permission to be a fleshmetal weasel.”
“TELL ME YOU SAID NO!”
“I said no.”
“Thank the merciful stars and yes I know stars don’t have mercy… except when they do.”
“So he’s a ship boy.”
“Wait! What? Miranda didn’t say any of them were male?”
“As your poster of Admiral Ackbar… signed by Admiral Ackbar… says, ‘It’s a Trap!’.”
I groaned. “This is my life. Overly literal cosmic entities who have trouble with names and time, but know what traps are. I ‘. Well, at least you didn’t mean any harm. Fine. I’ll cope… I guess… I have 5 year old MTB who thinks her name is 312. Great… 312… hmmm… why does a three digit number remind me of something?”
“I cannot tell you that.”
“Right. Well, I’ll figure it out.” And I went back out to where Miranda was just staring out the window.
“Ma’am?” she asked as I cleared my throat. “Is there a problem?”
“Oh. No. I’m related to a former captain of the Windjammer… Captain Janks.”
“Ah. I see. Destroyed in the German bombing campaign against England, apparently.”
“Of course. Of course. Let’s go out and meet them, shall we?”
There are any number of amusing anecdotes I could tell you about the next few years… but I won’t go into them. The End of the World was approaching. 5 years from the time I entered the world and counting, and I spent much of that time getting my people ready for it. I imagined it would come in the form of a Covenant fleet.
I was, more or less, both right and wrong. The attack, when it came, was both external and internal, like something out of the new battlestar galactica.
But let me back up a little and say that, yes, I had been going out and picking a fight with the Covenant. I’d gotten my fleet girls into space only to find that, almost to a one, the old ships sucked in space, being utterly incapable of adjusting to the fact that, surprise surprise, space is not an ocean. But the rest of my fleet were spaceships and could very easily turn back into spaceships. Except when they weren’t all being weird.
VIrginia / Black Jenny talked to herself, since she essentially had two personalities. Draken had fuzed with his ship to become the spirit of the Light / Paradiso and kept groping hims… herself and chuckling creepily. Anushka was the personality of Ark Magna… which was fine, except that she spent more time dancing than fighting. Dancing… in space. Without a spacesuit… because why would a ship need a space suit? Windjammer liked dressing like a princess and acting like a Himedere… and kicking people when she got annoyed… and I don’t mean in the ankle. As in kicking in the face. Faustian Bargain looked like a female version of Magnus the Red… only smaller… but just as smug and superior. And Odwet liked having his head patted… and fighting with Ziggy.
As for the others? More than once I’d had to say words I’d never thought I’d have to utter. “STOP THAT! No falling in love with me!” Seriously? Even Mutaba (I couldn’t call her 312 could I?) decided that I was going to marry her. WHAT… the… ever… living… fuuuuuck?
We’d gone out in force over and over and over again on patrols and scouting missions and every time we’d run into the Covenant and the mysterious white ship (Yuzuha) would show up and blow the religious psychos to space dust. And we’d come back and the Admiralty would ship us another Tug or a Tender Ship or an Oiler or an Infantry Landing Craft. They were all perfectly nice people, but they weren’t in any way useful. It was like I was running a private military school for ship girls (and boy who looked like a girl and turned into a huge metal dragon when annoyed).
But the date of Reach’s fall remained the same. And it wasn’t until SeaComp, the AI that ran the entire defense network of Reach, went rampant that we found out exactly why. See, I’d gotten lulled in by the fact that none of the Terminators had turned out to be evil. Five years? No problem. Then, just as the Covenant Battlegroup dropped out of Slipspace above the planet? Judgement Day. Our first sign of trouble was the sight of the hospital ship ‘Hope of a New Dawn’ tumbling out of orbit as she was struck by our own ground batteries.
Still, it wasn’t like I didn’t have a) a fleet that could crush the Covenant in orbit, b) an AI who could fight SeaComp, and c) an army with which to fight the machines. And so, I deployed Yuzuha and the Ship Girl 6 against the Covenant, VIvian against SeaComp, and The Eldar against the Terminators.
The day was saved. For 9 months. That was how long it took the Fleet to reach Reach. What’s the Fleet, you ask? Why, that’s what the Halo Rings were designed to fight, you silly person. The Fleet. Techno-organic menace that was the remnant of the Precursors who had been destroyed by the Covenant’s ‘Gods’… also known as the Forerunners.
See, the Precursors were a techno-organic race, a perfect synthesis of hyper-tech and hyper-biology. No two Precursors looked the same because each was a unique quasi-eldritch abomination. They embraced a concept called “The Mantle of Responsibility” and whoever bore the Mantle was responsible for overseeing all life in the Galaxy. The Precursors created all the sentient races of the Galaxy… and had originally favored the Forerunners to inherit the Mantle… but then had changed their minds and selected the Reclaimers… Humanity. The Forerunners were not happy.
So not happy, that they hunted down and destroyed the Precursors… who turned themselves into memetic multi-dimensional nanites… which decayed into The Fleet. The Fleet had one purpose, to absorb all biomass into a single consciousness. But like all zombie plagues, they had a weakness. Brains! No… really. They needed the synaptic processes of sapient beings to create their overmind… I mean Gravemind. And the Halos were designed to destroy all biological life that wasn’t Fleet in the Galaxy. They’d been fired once, long ago… and apparently the Halo in the first game (installation 04) had had Fleet cells on it.
Master Chief Spartan Man John had crashed with his ship Pillar of Autumn in the original game, and all my meddling hadn’t changed that (though this time I’d been aboard for reasons), as Pillar had been caught in the mass slipout of the Covenant Battlegroup when it realized that Reach was a death-trap. Pillar had crashed into the Halo and, eventually, John Sparta had blown the ship up to destroy the Halo to keep it from firing and killing everyone in the Galaxy (that would be baaaad).
So far, so good. Right? Sure…. Up until the point where Pillar of Autumn, now reborn as a Very Very Angry Fleet Girl… crashed into the Oceans of Reach and started doing VBT to the local environment… Never have I been more thankful that I’d inoculated all my own people against Fleet or Flood or whatever infection.
Oh… my god… the Fleet were ruthless. Oh, and they started bringing up their own Fleet girls too. Found Ahab and Joy finally. Remind me to kick them in the head… or have Windjammer do it. ONI, Resistance, Abyssal? Really? Ahab’s the freaking Arizona and Joy is a World War I ship called Invincible… now granted, they went as double agents, and their information is invaluable… but the Gravemind thought so too! Telepathic fucking alien who has access to my two spymasters’ complete memories and access to all of the UNSC’s Office of Naval Intelligence (now fully under the control of the Fleetmind). Oh, and the Fleet? Turns out they can corrupt AIs, too. Guess who was one of theirs? Did you say SeaComp? You’re so smart.
On the other hand, I now have two SPARTAN-II’s trailing me at all times (In addition to Petra-808, Gaius-440, and Toph-256… Zane-2020 didn’t count, he was SPARTAN-III for ‘reasons?’ But none of those four are my assigned body-guards.) . Apparently I’m too valuable to be allowed to be unobserved. Nicole-458 isn’t bad. John-117 (Sparty Boy) is kinda terse. On the other other hand, “No, Zane, I’m not recruiting Master Chief just because he’s black!”
“Yes, thank you Nicole, I see the floaty metal eye.” I motioned for the five Booker ODST team backing us up to hold their fire. “I’m pretty sure that’s who we’re here to see,” I said. See, after reading John’s report from Installation 04, I’d pulled out my rolodex and looked up the home addresses of anyone who lived on Installation’s 01, 02, 03, 05, 06, and 07… only to discover, wait for it… there was an Installation 00 and an Installation 08 (incomplete)… and so I’d gone looking for the administrators of each facility to discuss me doing some minor modifications… or in the case of Installation 05 (home of the Gravemind) dropping it into a star. Didn’t slow down Pillar of Autumn’s attempts to destroy Reach however.
In the end, I managed to convince three of the ring administrators that they should let me modify their systems to generate a constant anti-Fleet pulse that would disrupt the inter-nodal communication the Fleet used to have a group-mind. 6556 Diligent Transgression, 216 Plangent Thunder, and 1029 Innocent Conquest were all willing to go along with my plan. The others? Most of them were insane. 343 Guilty Spark (Installation 04’s administrator) wasn’t happy with John for destroying Installation 04. I disabled the ones who wouldn’t play along, got the ones who would to give me access to the systems…
Unfortunately, that’s when the Covenant decided to try some shit again. They sent in this Elite called the Arbiter (or Thel ‘Vadamee for long) to punish humanity (and me specifically) for daring to save the galaxy from being vaporized again. Thel wasn’t a bad sort, despite wanting to kill me, but his bosses? Oh… my… god.
Total Religious psychos. These guys are called Prophets and they honestly wanted to fire the rings to kill everyone because they believed it would make them (the Prophets, not the sacrificed) into gods. I haaaate people like that. I also hate people who are dumb enough to bring an entire Fleet infected megaship to Earth in an attempt to get at the gate to Installation 00 that was buried in Africa.
Thankfully, High Charity is… was… no more resistant to Yuzuha’s Wings of the Darkhawk than anything else in this universe, and the Prophets and their idiotic omnicidal religion are now at one with their asshole progenitors… or whatever, I don’t know if this universe has an afterlife. I haven’t bothered checking. But without the Prophets and their holy city / capital ship / capitol ship, it looks like the Covenant is dead… especially since Thel (having witnessed the insanity of the Prophets) pretty much singlehandedly pulled the Elites out of the alliance with the remaining races… most of whom had not been space-age before the Covenant co-opted them for a religious war.
“No Zane. I’m not recruiting the Arbiter just because he’s blackish. Plus, he wants me dead.”
Pillar of Autumn and Paradiso had a slugfest outside Installation Zero… aka, the Ark… the thing that made the Halos… And the one place I could send a modification signal to change all the Halos. The frequency modulation wouldn’t kill the Fleet, that much was true, but without a Gravemind to direct them, they were reduced to individual ship girls and could be picked off and… treated, one by one.
One of these days, I’m going to have to actually play this game. I played all the official ones of course, but now that my time here is up, I’ve got Halo Collection: Judgement Day on my PSP. Now, if only I could get Nicole to stop picking a fight with the Sisters of Battle. It’s like she lives to fight or something.
Also, I think Miranda and John might be a thing. I don’t know… I’m respecting their privacy.
HMS Rosabelle (Armed Yacht, Royal Navy, Sunk by U-Boat 11 December 1941, 10 nautical miles SSE of gibraltar)
HMS Poet Chaucer (Tug, Royal Navy, scuttled on 19 December 1941 in Deepwater Bay, Hong Kong to prevent capture)
HMS MTB 312 (Motor Torpedo Boat, Royal Navy, ELCO 77 Class, Bombed by Italian aircraft at Tobruk Libya on 14 September 1942)
HMS Alarm (Minesweeper, Royal Navy, Algerine Class, bombed by germans off Bone on 2 January 1943)
HMAS Yarra (Sloop, His Majesty’s Australian Ship, Grimsby Class, Lost 4 March 1942 off Java to the Japanese)
RHS Helli (Minelayer Cruiser, Royal Hellenic Navy, Helli Class, former chinese light cruiser Fei-Hung, torpedoed by Italian sub Delfino off Tinos, no state of war existed, 15 August 1940)
RHS Kilkis & Lemnos (Coastal Defense Ships, Royal Hellenic Navy, Kilkis Class, sunk by german aircraft at Salamis Navy Yard on 24 April 1941)
FFL Mimosa (Corvette, Free French League, Flower Class, Sunk by U-Boat in mid atlantic 9 June 1942)
FR La Surprise (Minesweeper, Frenche Republic, Chamois Class, Sunk by the guns of the british destroyer HMS Brilliant off Oran on 8 November 1942)
AN: the Companion import section of the Kantai Collection Document is badly structured and contains at least one massive error, in that it specifies that Admirals and Fleet girls ‘may not purchase normal Fleet Girl Companions’ when I assume it means ‘Abyssal Fleet Girl Companions’. Other issues include the fact that Destroyers are free, but non-combatant ships are 50 CP, and each ship has to be bought out of the Jumper’s CP, without a stipend. This should be a companion import item that allows you to turn companions into Ship Girls with the 600 CP stipend for created ones, or even fuse companions and vessels. You can buy new companions in the form of ship girls, but you cannot actually import your companions as ships or into an Admiral if you decide to be a Fleet Girl. This is not good design. Which is a shame, because otherwise it’s a decent jump. I hope DFC updates it someday.
The Halo jump, by comparison, overcharges for practically everything, has a huge (and hugely expensive) item section I doubt very much anyone who isn’t taking Halo as their first jump even reads all of, has no companion import option, and you can’t be a Spartan-II at all. This is not a good design. It also has no way to be any of the Covenant Races or an AI. It was originally way down my list, but by the time I got to it, I’d have bought nothing from it at all. As it was, spending 1000 CP was incredibly difficult, something I’ve found to be the case with very few jumps.
UPDATE: There is now a Halo-UNSC and a Halo-Covenant Jump. I have now compared the USNC to the original that I used, but I do know you can now be a Spartan-II or Spartan-IV. I have revamped my build accordingly. Please Note, the Smart AI does not actually come with Erudite… or anything else at all besides Rampancy immunity. All the other individual companion import options come with all freebies and 600 CP worth of stuff. Frankly paying 200 CP (100 if you’ve got a discount) for one of them when 200 CP gets you 8 slots with 500 to spend as they like is utter bullshit, but I had the points left over on the rebuild and it amused me to take it for Silent Judge and Erudite doesn’t give me anything I don’t already have. If you’ve gotten to the Kenichi Jump, you’ll understand why. Oh. That’s when I’m doing this update.
Builds for the Halo-UNSC Companions
Gaius: SPARTAN-II [Free], Soundtrack of the Stars [Free for All], M6C Magnum [Free], M9 Fragmentation Grenade [Free], Standard Neural Interface [Free], UNSC Marine Corp Battle Dress Uniform [Free], Portable Spartan Support Module [Free SPARTAN], Augmented [Free SPARTAN], SPARTAN Neural Interface [Free w/ Augmented], Mjolnir-V [Free SPARTAN], Spoofer [Free SPARTAN], Semi-Powered Infiltration Armor Mark II [Free w/ Augmented], Stoic [Free SPARTAN], Adaptational [200/300/500], Lucky [300/0/500], Advanced Weapons Training [Free SPARTAN], UH-144 Falcon [150/150/300EP], AC-220 Vulture [150/0/300EP]
Bookers: ODST [Free], Soundtrack of the Stars [Free for All], M6C Magnum [Free], M9 Fragmentation Grenade [Free], Standard Neural Interface [Free], UNSC Marine Corp Battle Dress Uniform [Free], Terrifying [Free ODST], Feet First [200/300/500], INDOC [300/0/500], Advanced Weapons Training [Free ODST], Drop Pod [Free ODST], Spoofer [Free ODST], Memorial [100/200/300EP], Reinforcements [150/50/300EP], M121 Jackrabbit [50/0/300EP], ODST Battle Ballistic Armor [Free ODST]
Toph: SPARTAN-II [Free], Soundtrack of the Stars [Free for All], M6C Magnum [Free], M9 Fragmentation Grenade [Free], Standard Neural Interface [Free], UNSC Marine Corp Battle Dress Uniform [Free], Portable Spartan Support Module [Free SPARTAN], Augmented [Free SPARTAN], SPARTAN Neural Interface [Free w/ Augmented], Mjolnir-V [Free SPARTAN], Spoofer [Free SPARTAN], Semi-Powered Infiltration Armor Mark II [Free w/ Augmented], Stoic [Free SPARTAN], Inspirational [100/400/500], Adaptational [200/200/500], Advanced Weapons Training [Free SPARTAN], Snark War [50/150/500], Snark Counterattack [50/100/500], Glamorous War [100/0/500], Green Team [150/150/300EP], D77-TC Pelican [150/0/300EP]
Bart: ONI Officer [Free], Soundtrack of the Stars [Free for All], M6C Magnum [Free], M9 Fragmentation Grenade [Free], Standard Neural Interface [Free], UNSC Marine Corp Battle Dress Uniform [Free], Wordsmith [Free ONI], Eggbeater [100/400/500], Coordinator [200/200/500], Engine Jock [Free ONI], Squad Up [200/0/500], Espionage Kit [Free ONI], Dumb AI [Free ONI], System Worm [100/200/300EP], War Games Arena [200/0/300EP], ODST Battle Ballistic Armor [Free ONI]
Amelia: ONI Officer [Free], Soundtrack of the Stars [Free for All], M6C Magnum [Free], M9 Fragmentation Grenade [Free], Standard Neural Interface [Free], UNSC Marine Corp Battle Dress Uniform [Free], Wordsmith [Free ONI], Coordinator [200/300/500], Spooky [300/0/500], Engine Jock [Free ONI], Espionage Kit [Free ONI], Dumb AI [Free ONI], M510 Mammoth [250/50/300EP], Miniature Action Figures [50/0/300EP], ODST Battle Ballistic Armor [Free ONI]
Petra: SPARTAN-II [Free], Soundtrack of the Stars [Free for All], M6C Magnum [Free], M9 Fragmentation Grenade [Free], Standard Neural Interface [Free], UNSC Marine Corp Battle Dress Uniform [Free], Portable Spartan Support Module [Free SPARTAN], Augmented [Free SPARTAN], SPARTAN Neural Interface [Free w/ Augmented], Mjolnir-V [Free SPARTAN], Spoofer [Free SPARTAN], Semi-Powered Infiltration Armor Mark II [Free w/ Augmented], Stoic [Free SPARTAN], Adaptational [200/300/500], Advanced Weapons Training [Free SPARTAN], Terrifying [100/200/500], Eggbeater [200/0/500], SP42 Cobra Upgrade [150/150/300EP], AV-14 Hornet Upgrade [150/0/300EP]
Lutece: Scientist [Free], Soundtrack of the Stars [Free for All], M6C Magnum [Free], M9 Fragmentation Grenade [Free], Standard Neural Interface [Free], UNSC Marine Corp Battle Dress Uniform [Free], Hacking [Free Scientist], Augmentation [200/300/500], Erudition [300/0/500], Engine Jock [Free Scientist], Laboratory Tools [Free Scientists], Dumb AI [Free Scientist], Fabrication Laboratory [100/200/300EP], Program Notes [150/50/300EP], Medical Kit [50/0/300EP], M274 Mongoose [Free]
Zane: SPARTAN-III [Free], Soundtrack of the Stars [Free for All], M6C Magnum [Free], M9 Fragmentation Grenade [Free], Standard Neural Interface [Free], UNSC Marine Corp Battle Dress Uniform [Free], Portable Spartan Support Module [Free SPARTAN], Augmented [Free SPARTAN], SPARTAN Neural Interface [Free w/ Augmented], Mjolnir-V [Free SPARTAN], Spoofer [Free SPARTAN], Semi-Powered Infiltration Armor Mark II [Free w/ Augmented], Stoic [Free SPARTAN], Adaptational [200/300/500], Lucky [300/0/500], Advanced Weapons Training [Free SPARTAN], M9 Wolverine Upgrade [150/150/300EP], Bison Upgrade [150/0/300EP]
The Terminator Jump is actually not too bad, except for the item section, which is a little sparse, but even then, it’s not terrible.
Final Note: I hope I didn’t offend anyone with my racial commentary. So much of Jumpchain is based on either American / European or Japanese / Chinese / Korean media and there is a fairly large lack of important characters who are black. That said, I haven’t really passed up anyone I’d actually consider a good companion from any setting based on skin-tone. Still, the conversation between Zane and Ess Jay does reflect conversations I’ve had myself upon looking at my companion line-up and trying to see how it might look from the various companions’ stand-points.