World 66: Alpha Centauri

A Tale of Two Planets

Previously: I’m Helping!

Themesong: Pure Morning by Placebo

As the warm and fluffy weight of Sally-Mae’s persona faded with the advent of transition, I found myself sighing. Even though Sally had been a challenge to be, she’d been a wonderful self as well, kinder, sweeter, a bit more laid back than most of us… and she wouldn’t be that way anymore. The naivety that was at the core of her personality was drawback induced, and it would fade, as surely as childhood fades, leaving behind a more cynical self.

Sally hadn’t been stupid. That is important to point out. A bit bumbling and childish, her computational faculties had still been the same as my normal ‘brain the size of a planet’. It was just that her priorities had been different than most of us might have had.  Still and all, she’d been a joy to be and I’d miss that, even though she’d always be part of us. Hopefully the collective would benefit from her unique perspective.

Still, that was the past and it was time, as always, to look to the future. “Okay, Chamber. What’s next?” I asked, pulling up the mental list of what remained of the ten jump preview I’d been given two jumps previously “Alpha Centauri, Assassination Classroom, Babylon 5, Bartimaeus, Dune, Fate, Journey to the West, or Nanoha?”

“Alpha Centauri seems reasonable,” The Chamber said.

“Are you saying that because I listed it first, or because it was actually next?” I asked suspiciously.

“I think that leaving you guessing would be more entertaining,” the Chamber said, no change in its tone, but I knew it was being smug. “Or at least as entertaining as any other option.”

“Gee, thaaanks,” I grumbled, then brightened. “So, Alpha Cent. Assuming this is, in fact, the game I remember, this is most excellent. The crew and passengers of the slow colony ship Unity struggling to come to grips with their new home, Alpha Centauri VI, also known as Chiron or Planet, a world wracked by a tragic cycle wherein the local superorganism awakens to self-awareness, only for that awakening to result in a die-off of too large an amount of the supporting ecology needed to keep the planetary mind functional.”

“Sounds like you were a fan?” The Chamber asked.

“Very much so, many’s the hour or day I spent playing it. In fact, I found myself retreating into playing it after my father died.” I heaved a heavy sigh. Even all these lifetimes later, that first great loss remained with me. Curse of perfect memory, perhaps. “So, is this the base game, with, let’s see… Morgan… Nwabudike Morgan of Morgan Industries… he was the mission funder… major asshole… I played him a couple times… Colonel Corazon Santiago… chief mutineer, lunatic, head of security for the mission and founder of the Spartan Federation… I played her the most… the faction’s free prototyping ability was very close to broken.”

“Are you going to list them all? Their names are in the document,” The Chamber complained.

“We’re immortal and we’ve got a month to kill… so yes.”

“If you’re asking if there are seven factions or twelve human plus two alien factions, that depends on if you take the Alien Crossfire drawback or not,” the Chamber said, clearly desperate to head me off, but running through the options and my old memories was helping me bring up the elements of the game.

“That’s cool… but… where was I? Oh, right. I read the novel of the canon events… or the first one at least. It focused on the Spartans. Corazon was not a good person and her society was… deeply inhumane and flawed… but she wasn’t even close to being the worst of the lot. The worst of the seven originals was absolutely the Human Hive’s leader, Chairman Sheng-Ji Yang. Originally the mission XO, he was the definition of sociopathic, treating his people as little more than drones and eschewing almost everything that actually makes humans humans.”

“Sounds terrible,” The Chamber agreed.

“Yeah. Pretty much. Close on his heels was ‘Sister’ Miriam Godwinson, the mission chaplain, who really should have been shot out of an airlock. A fundamentalist Christian, she is a fanatic who leads an entire faction of ‘Lord’s Believers’ and believed strongly in Dominion Theology… the Kingdom of God on Earth… Planet. I never played her. Could barely stand listening to her lunatic ramblings on the secret project videos and the tech tree quotations.”

“Secret project videos? Tech tree quotations?”

“Yeah. That was one of the things that really made the game for me. Every new technology you discovered or rediscovered, you got a narrated blurb related to that technology. And for the special, unique to the first faction that could build it, Secret Projects that usually gave incredibly nice bonuses… not just blurbs, but sometimes very cool videos… sometimes just freaking trippy ones.”

“Do you have a rating scale for all the faction leaders?”

“Mm… yeah. Pretty much. Trying to remember the Crossfire ones. They didn’t have as big an impact on my fascination with the game. The expansion didn’t really add a large amount and it was pretty light on story, which is a shame. The two Aliens factions were both assholes in their own special way, so I never played them after the first foray to test them out, and I never got a strong feeling about Aki-Zeta 5, the Cyborg Leader, or Captain Ulrik Svensgaard, the Pirate leader. They were spectacularly non-entity people to me. Cha Dawn, the Prophet of the Cult of Planet pretty much existed to make Miriam seem like a reasonable person, and is a cross between buddhism and bugfuck insanity. Datajack Sinder Roze of the Data Angels had an awesome personal name, a cool faction name, and was a Hacker in an era when Hackers were seriously cache… but I don’t know much about her personality. I played her several times, but… eh. Foreman Domai of the Free Drones was probably the best all factions… if you didn’t want to hook up with the planet or want research. From a purely humanistic standpoint, they were the closest to pure utopia… but they were extremely present tense practical, not really doing things long term. Which is a shame.”

“Well… that’s all of them, lets-”

“I have a perfect memory, you dumb box. I know who I’ve skipped. Lady Deirdre Skye, the mission hydroponics expert, is the leader of the horribly named Gaia’s Stepdaughters and an econut. Still, she was Scots, so that’s a point in her favor. In any other setting, she’d be a bonkers lady… but on Planet, with its budding Consciousness? She’s pretty much spot on. Her faction’s ability to control the local Mindworms and farm the Xenofungus was awesome… but good lord, her rejection of functional economic models hurt. I played her three times, struggled in the early game a lot.”

“I feel for you,” the Chamber drawled. “Can I pretend I’m not able to see the future and skip this conversation?”

“You can’t see my future, so shut up, you’re just tetchy today for some reason.”

“I’m used to having several squires a year come through me. I’ve been stuck in your Warehouse interacting with you once every decade or so and occasionally pestered by one of your pets. Even your companions ignore me for the most part.”

“Wow… that’s kinda pathetic there, my boxy friend. I’d invite you to come along if you had any capacity to manifest, and if it wouldn’t be a terrible violation of the rules… I assume…”

“I… will check. While I do, please, continue your pedantic display of sociopolitical judgementalism.”

“Thanks! I will. Commissioner Pravin Lal is the most boring person on Planet. He’s a bureaucrat and functionary, who thinks he’s in charge because he represents the UN… He’s a giant pain in the ass and playing the Peacekeepers is dreadfully dull. But he hates the Hive and the Believers, so at least that’s a mark in his favor. He was the easiest to win a Diplomatic victory with, since he got double votes and his cities could be bigger than everyone else… but economics was a problem for him. In fact it was a problem for almost everyone besides Morgan, but more for the Peacekeepers than others. Any Luck?”

“I am informed I can import myself into the setting but cannot influence it without your permission, and I can only do so as a powerless human. So I can be bored, or useless.”

“You can be my secretary. Then you can be overworked, underpaid, and at the center of all sorts of things. But if you undermine or sabotage my efforts, I guarantee you’ll end up in a Punishment Sphere.”

“What is a… It’s exactly what it sounds like, isn’t it? And how would a secretary undermine anything?”

“In Alpha Cent, the last sight of a defeated faction leader is them being sealed in a sphere to be tortured for the rest of eternity… so yes. As for how? Playing favorites with callers, failing to relay messages accurately, falsifying correspondance, providing confidential information to my rivals or enemies… A secretary is a person of trust, part of the innermost trust circle or next to it. If a leader cannot trust their primary aide, they’re doomed.”

“Ah… well, then why are you willing to trust me in that position?”

“Because if I can’t trust a Benefactor not to willingly bone me, then I’m boned anyway.  Trust but verify doesn’t work on beings demonstrably more powerful than yourself. The Banker and I had… our issues, and he did screw with me from time to time, or allow Mensarius to do so… and Mensarius very much could not be trusted… but neither of them ever broke their word to me or changed my purchases to something I would definitely not want or need. They never pulled fiat or anything. So there’s a limited but measurable amount of trust there. And you helped me out, so I’m willing to humor you. But you don’t have to be my secretary. You could just be a random person and never tell me who you are. It’s your choice. But if you oppose me, I will kill your avatar if I find out.”

“And you’d be able to see… yes. I understand. I believe you have one last leader to criticize?”

“Yes, Prokhor Zakharov, Russian, almost completely lacking in morals or ethics. Brilliant scientist. Leader of the technocratic University of Planet. I think all the leaders were designed to be extremes… at least the first 7 were. Extreme Green, Extreme Faith, Extreme Science, Extreme Military, Extreme Business, Extreme Totalitarian, Extreme Diplomat. No one’s a particularly well balanced person. But they’re all immortals thanks to SCIENCE! I guess that’s it… so what’s the schtick? I mean, do I make my own faction or take the place of one of the canon leaders?”

“Ah. No. If you decide to be a Faction Leader, you will incarnate as the actual individual Faction Leader.”

“So if I went Hive, I’d be a grumpy old Chinese Iron Man?”

“That would be the case, yes.”

“Shiiit… Hold on, you said if I go Faction Leader. What the hell else would I be?”

“You could be a Drone, a Talent, or the Planetary Subconsciousness.”

I just stared at the Chamber, drumming my fingers on the edge of my newest throne, this one stolen from Darkseid’s palace on Apocalypse. I snapped my fingers and big D brought me a lemonade, looking as stoney as the Chamber and absolutely pissed off at the fact that his enslavement hadn’t ended with my departure from his home reality. “A Drone? Who… in their right m… who in any state of mind would possibly want to be a DRONE?”

“It is the drop-in option. It has a free luck perk, a physical boost perk, a spy recruitment perk, an empathic people reading perk, and a quite powerful social influence perk that can, with time, reshape entire societies.” The Chamber explained in admirable summation. In the early days of our relationship, that probably wouldn’t have been possible for it.

“I… see. Well… Fine… but… what, I mean… I’ve been assuming this jump was like Civilization… considering Alpha Centauri is the sequel to Civilization. How do you… you know… win as a Drone?”

“You do not win. You must merely endure until any one faction declares Victory.”

“Riiiight. That’s potentially thousands of years. Good lord that sounds… uuugh. Talent is the same?”

“That is correct. Survival is the only goal. But a Talent does have more of a stake in their faction’s success, as by taking it, you become the protege of your faction’s leader. It also comes with a free work ethic perk that eliminates work related boredom, a knowledge of, as you’d say ‘How to Doctor’ perk, a similar perk for ‘How to science’, an intellect booster with eidetic slash flawless memory and telepathic domination & communication thrown into the mix, and a transhumanist perk that grants telekinesis and massively boosts any and all psychic powers, grants an absolutely unshakable sense of self and inner identity while guaranteeing you’ll always remain yourself unless you or another changes you… and with your Incomprehensible… that would be you or you.”

“Huh… that is nice. What perks do Faction Leaders get?”

“None. They get Social Engineering Policies instead. Limit one per category.”

“Of course. Makes sense. The categories would be Politics, Economics, Values, and Future Society, right? Political Policies would be Frontier, Police State… That’s Yang’s baby and only he can ignore the downsides, Democratic… Lal’s choice but he doesn’t start with it I don’t think, and Fundamentalist… Miriam’s choice that she doesn’t begin with. Fundamentalist is fucking useless, Police State borks your efficiency but is great for military states… and Democratic is best late game once you’ve got Clean Reactors which eliminate support costs… at least in the game. Frontier’s the default… there wasn’t any benefit to it. Same with Simple Economics, Survival Values… and None for Future Society, which just means you haven’t researched anything yet.

Economics was Free Market which is Morgan’s choice… but it’s ruin on an military and the environment… Planned is inefficient but good for growth… Yang likes it because he doesn’t see the downside… and Green was Dierdre’s and the Cult’s choice.Easy to counter the terrible growth penalty and the bonus to efficiency is really nice… especially paired with Democracy.” I leaned back and sipped my drink… I was going to be a Faction Leader… I wasn’t great at taking orders… So this was important… but which faction did I want to lead? Choices choices…

“I think you may have spent too much time playing this game.”

“You think? Hell, I used to have a laptop dedicated to it. It was an old laptop, but it ran the game and I’d do a move or two whenever I was losing focus or when I had a moment in class. Values… Values… I pretty much always went with Power or Knowledge. Both had really easily countered drawbacks. The Spartans liked Power Values… it screwed with your industry, but if you built the Cloning Vats secret project that penalty went away. Knowledge was favored by the University of course, and there were any number of ways to make vulnerability to spies less of a problem… including a project that made you immune to them. God I loved that… it was called… Oh yes. The Hunter-Seeker Algorithm. Wealth Value was just garbage. A small bump to economy and industry in exchange for a hit to morale… yeah… unless you were morgan… fuck that noise.”

“Not much for Free Markets, I’ve noticed.”

“Free Markets are the economic equivalent of Cancer. It’s the system cannibalizing itself. It makes corporations more important than people. Yeah. I don’t like it. Corporations are, by their nature, sociopathic at best, psychopathic at worst.”

“And the Future Society options?”

“They were a bit… mmm… Mixed bag is the word I’d use. Eudaimonic was awesome. Same morale penalty as Wealth, but in exchange you got +2 economy, growth, and Industry. With a Planned Democracy, it was essentially a game breaker. You could found cities almost indefinitely and they’d reach megalopolis levels in no time. It was so good I pretty much never went with anything else… Cybernetic was the one I went with if I didn’t go Eudai. It had a police penalty, but the Network Backbone project eliminated it and was great for efficiency, planet, and research. Really nice all around and great if you believe MMI is the future… and I can’t say I’m terribly worried about it… though it does mean humanity becomes largely useless since automation does everything.”

“You didn’t mention the last one.”

“Thought Control? I may be using it on Darkseid, but only to the point of making sure he behaves himself. It’s fucking evil. Darkseid and Brainiac are its chief proponent in the DCU and me doing what I’m doing to Butler Boy is to teach him why it fucking sucks. It’s also craptastic. Terrible support penalty which can be negated by the Cloning Vats of course… but the upside is a Morale Boost, a Police Boost… and a Probe Boost… if you’re in the endgame, why the hell do you need Probes! Bleh.  Anyway, I assume the policies have other less pure numbers effects, but I played the game so long I pretty much just think of them as numbers and goals.”

“They do. But the added effects seem to build naturally off the game values.”

“Right… well… I assume as a Faction Leader means I have to win personally?”

“Of course.  Don’t you want to know about Planetary Subconscious?”

“Not really. I assume it’s incredibly expensive and you’re stuck trying to control the Mind Worms?”

“Actually, it’s free. But yes, you cannot easily communicate with the humans except the leader of the faction you’re allied with.”

“And if the humans die or they kill too much native life, I lose, right?”

“That would be the case, yes.”

“Or if the Crossfire Aliens win… or Morgan Wins… yeah… fuck it. No matter how nice the perks might be… I’ve been a planet. I don’t recommend it… but what are the perks?”

“Free mild telepathy with the ability to host multiple consciousnesses at the same time.”

I snorted, “Got it.”

“An interspecies understanding and communication booster. The ability to create consciousness from nothing, as long as you have a brain to put it in.”

“Yeah. Got that nailed already. Right VIvian?”

“You are a cruel and heartless taskmaster and well all think you’re insane,” the Cherry Tree hyper-computer said. “And I spin off all the VIs and few of them are AI let alone true Consciousness.”

“Fiiine. Yes, I could be better at that. What else, Chamber?” I acknowledge, grudgingly.

“Two perks to draw upon networked consciousness and mental powers.”

“Huh. Nice… but that way lies Hive Mind… and I’m perilously close already. And I like having limbs and genitals and all the good stuff. Also worms are gross.”

Ziggy looked up from where he was laying and ooked?

“Worms. Worms are not ferrets. Mind-Ferrets would be terrifying, but Planet doesn’t have Mind-Ferrets, it has Mind-Worms. WOOOOOORMS.”

“Treats?”

“Yes, you can chew on them if you like. I don’t know how they taste. But you lick your own butt, so probably better than that.”

“Treats now?”

“Yes, yes. Treats now. Accio ferret treats.” I caught the box and fed the fuzzy nudnik some, then asked, “So, since being Planet itself doesn’t cost, does faction leader?”

“Negative. Would you care to roll now?”

“It’s random?” I groaned

“Unless you pay 100 CP, yes.”

“You said Alien Crossfire was a drawback… what other drawbacks are there? How much is that one worth? What’s the limit?”

“It is worth 100 CP, the Complication Limit is 600, and you will not like any of the others,” the Chamber said, sounding confident in that assertion.

“Yeah yeah. Sock it to me,” I waved away the concern, then yerged as the first couple choices crossed my awareness. “Needy Drones causes riot unless I pander to simpletons… I guess I could live with that. Setting an example inflicts the leader’s biases on me and keeps me from shapeshifting… that sounds unfun. Little Terraformer That Could will make my initial base location a giant money pit… less than ideal. Nuclear Proliferation will cause millions to die needlessly. Xenocidal Native Life ditto. Awakening Planet makes Planet itself hostile… Firaxians… oh… fuuuck. I’d forgotten about them!”

“They were in the game?”

“Yeah. Secret Easter Egg faction in Crossfire. Extremely balanced and they start the game being able to use the best reactors which makes their units harder to destroy and cheaper to produce.” I wasn’t paying too much attention to what I was saying, reading and rereading the Firaxian Complication. “Huh. Yeah. I’ll take this.”

“Are you certain?” the Chamber asked, aghast. “You’ll be fighting a hyper-intelligent AI with no true weaknesses who can make some of the best equipment in the setting and has fiat backed flawless strategy! And he has a head start!”

“Three things. First, yes, he’s almost impossible to outsmart… but my computational matrix is far larger than his is going to be. His strategy has calculated all possible tactics a human would take. I’m not even close to being human by that standard anymore, and my tactics include possibilities he’ll never see coming. Second, Singularity Mechanics is very nice tech… for the setting, but I’ve got stuff that makes it look like stone and flint. I’m not here for the tech base. My Maegi exceeded this stuff thousands of years ago.” I chuckled dryly.

“And the headstart?”

I just laughed. “Utterly and completely meaningless.”

“You seem certain.”

“Even more certain than I was that I could deal with Darkseid.”

“What’s that axiom you always use?”

I knew instantly which the Chamber was asking about. “No Plan Survives Contact With the Enemy.” I said, “But, my boxy friend… that goes both ways.”

I now had 1700 CP… well, 1600 since the Complication Limit was 600, but that was fine. I was taking the Alien Crossfire just to unlock the extra factions. The table gave me four chances in eight to get a discount on one of the two Social Engineering Policies (Planned Economy and Eudaimonia) I wanted. Granted, to get Planned free I’d have to be an alien, but eh. I had a one in four chance to get Eudaimonia and the Free Drones for 200 CP. Luck, as it turned out, was with me, as I rolled Free Pick, which meant I picked the Aussie Foreman Domai, though I did get the system to accept a rebuild of Domai’s physical appearance… Dude was A) a square jawed uggo with ears like an elephant, and B) a dude which I didn’t feel like being for however lone this lasted.

Instead, I went with a rather severe female look, more restrained, less girlish than many of my forms. But that wouldn’t change Domai’s history at all, and it was a good thing I would have his biases, because he was the kind of guy who swamped his enemies in human wave attacks, careless of the cost. He was also a ‘Smash the Oppressors’ kind who hated ‘Pie in the Sky’ research with a passion, and while I wasn’t big on Oppression, I was very much in favor of earned wealth and huge on education and theoretical research. So I made some changes where I could. Foremost Thankfully, he had no first name on record, so I would become Sheila Domai… and since the canonical Domai had suffered massive temporary brain damage just prior to Planetfall, I’d be free of any remnant personality as I became the ghost in the shell as it were.

The only thing Faction Leaders got for free were two perquisites that didn’t last past the end of the jump. The first was, of course, control over their entire faction… and that control was, for all intents and purposes, ironclad. The second was the Gene Therapy which was the total asspull that allowed mere humans to remain the same age over the several thousand years the game could and usually did last. But having access to the Gene Therapy labs of Alpha Centauri would allow me to recreate the technology and mass-market it… as would the eventual development of Longevity Serum… as long as it wasn’t identical to that produced by the Maegi. For all the progress they’d made in the sciences, they’d been a little too sanguine about the inevitability of death, since they strongly believed in reincarnation… for some reason. Tampering with that cycle had been one of their more taboo areas and so they’d shied away from altering the basic humanoid lifespan too much. Medicine was one thing, immortality another, and their traditions had definitely penalized those who worked on cures for death and aging. It was something I hadn’t protested, because immortal populations tend to be hyperstable… but also extremely resistant to progress and much less likely to innovate.

The Jump also had no companion import, but I wasn’t surprised by that, as Civilization hadn’t had one either. It was frustrating, but it freed up any CP I’d normally spend on companions. As such, I spent the first quarter of my CP on the two Social Engineering Policies I felt I needed, Planned Economics and Eudaimonic Future Society. Democratic Politics and Power or Knowledge Values I had down pat from my time as the Maegi God-King, but the Maegi had practiced a memetically bound version of a Free Market Economy and their Future Society was… Anarcho-Sophist I guess best sums it up.

Buying Planned Economics would grant me general fiscal talent of course, but more than that, it would allow me to alter any economic system, micro or macro, into a situationally idealized form of a Planned Economy, allowing large scale social growth and industrial progress for both me and my people… and it came with an innate sense of quality craftsmanship, making everything I made just a bit better. All that for 200 was pretty nice.

Even better for the same price was Eudai, the ability to implement the concept of Eudaimonia… greek for ‘Good Spirit’ and meaning happiness or welfare or flourishing’, and meaning that people do work that is both of the highest value to others while also being of greatest enjoyment to themselves… in anyone I led… especially companions. Explained in detail in the work ‘Nicomachean Ethics’ it was the central concept of Aristotelian Ethics that went extremely well with the virtue based society of the Maegi and had been summed up in the Civilopedia thus: “The happy life is thought to be one of excellence; now an excellent life requires exertion, and does not consist of amusement. If Eudaimonia, or happiness, is activity in accordance with excellence, it is reasonable that it should in accordance with the highest excellence; and this will be that of the best thing in us.”

Eudai was, at its heart, Utopian… and yes the pronunciations have been noted to be similar, even though Eutopia would be ‘Happy Place’ while Utopia is ‘No Place’… bilingual puns in political theory. That’s eggheads for you. I’d tried to make the Maegi as Utopian as possible with what I had, but I couldn’t make them perfectly Utopian for the simple fact that a Utopia is almost certain to be stagnant and I needed them to thrive and still maintain wants and needs. Eudai would help immensely, as it would allow my followers to achieve their full potential naturally over time, a full potential that was guaranteed to be higher than I’d have thought possible. It would make my people even more flexible of thought, capable in action, driven in motivation, and happy in outlook and organization. It was worth the undiscounted 800 CP it was priced at, but with my Faction Leader discount and Domai’s discount both applying, I got it for a steal at 200… and that wasn’t all it could do.  

It could also be applied to myself, allowing me to better synergize complementary or merge similar abilities much more effectively, giving me greater control on how they linked each to the other and the manner in which they bolstered their counterparts.

And, speaking of bolstering abilities and things that cost 800 CP… there was the Talent’s capstone, the gorgeous ‘Transcendent’. Not that I hadn’t passed the Transhuman barrier long long ago, and not that I needed more Telekinesis… but not only did this grant an absolutely unshakable sense of self and inner identity, guaranteeing that I’d always remain myself and that any changes to my psyche would have to come from within (the possibility they could come from without was essentially nullified by Incomprehensible)… It also promised that any and all psychic powers I had would be, to quote, ‘immensely magnified’.

I was already close to the power of the God Emperor of Mankind, thanks to Magnus and Three Pounds of Dreams and a stack of willpower perks. With this, the God Emperor of the Magi would almost certainly equal… if not surpass… the great golden asshole. I made a note to brace myself for sensory overload the moment I hit jump. If I was right, the 800 CP outlay would all but guarantee near instant victory in the jump… not that I’d take the shortcut… But honestly, planetary mind control of million wasn’t even close to my limit now if I had repeaters to deal with the intervening rock (In Warhammer repeaters weren’t needed because psi-energy traveled through the Immaterium not normal space). With Transcendent, mental domination of the ~40,000 strong crew of Unity would be child’s play… and kinda cheaty. I wanted the full experience… with only a bit of cheating for the fun of it… like being technologist in chief as well as Faction Leader.

Hell, CP is cheating by itself, as exemplified no less than by the fact that I could buy a limited selection of the 37 Secret Projects (36 really, since the 37th didn’t really do anything besides get you the best ending) in the game. Of them, it was possible to buy a sixth, namely The Pholus Mutagen, The Weather Paradigm, the Xenoempathy Dome, the Net-Hack Terminus, The Longevity Vaccine, and the Neural Amplifier. Faction Leaders alone got the nationwide benefit of the projects, but only for the duration of the jump, but each was also a permanent item and a potentially potent technology in its own-right… in theory.

Case in point? The Net-Hack Terminus, named after one of the earliest Roguelikes, improved Probe-Teams as a project and as an item was a nearly universal hacking device. In both cases, it was fucking useless. Probe Teams were spies and saboteurs… and I (and pretty much anyone else who’d been through even a tenth of the number of jumps as I had) could do better by either doing the infiltration myself or relying on my companions to do it… or to train up people to do better than the NHT would do with OCP abilities like magic.

Similarly, the Longevity Vaccine was useless to me at the very least, since Yuzuha could make everyone allied to me immortal, so the item form, a briefcase with a regenerating stock of the Vaccine which halted aging and extended the recipient’s lifespan by a century with each injection would have been a step down, which the economic bonus could be easily replicated by just promising and delivering on immortality… and Eudaimonia already would be making my people pretty much as happy as they could get.

On the other hand, the Neural Amplifier would give all my people, companions, citizens, soldiers, a boost to their psychic defenses and me a psy-boosting helmet, while the Pholus Mutagen would allow me to alter the local flora and fauna on the genetic level, and even combine parts of their genetic code into my followers… as well as making me less a target for the native lifeforms and allowing me to breed them stronger and faster…. And buying it would give me a Mind Worm Boil Companion (mind worms were a collective intelligence, the more of them there were and the more mature the individual worms, the smarter the entire boil was.). Both of those were decent… and very tempting… but I could probably build the helmet myself and I had incredibly powerful VIs for bioengineering… and I really didn’t want a mind worm companion. I already had enough squirmy in my warehouse… and the resemblance to tentacle monsters couldn’t be ignored.

But the last two? Those had real promise. The XED granted my faction an advanced understanding of the entire planet-wide synaptic network formed by the root system of the Xenofungus and would allow me to control it to a limited extent, clearing or planting it at twice the normal rate and to use areas covered in the Xenofungus as if they were roads… not bad, though I intended on building hover vehicles ASAP. All that was nice, but the real prize was the fact that as an item it was a replenishing culture of Xenofungus that could grow in almost any environment and was specifically attuned to me.

The ability to convert a potentially limitless number of worlds into more Planets? Planets keyed to me specifically and instinctively resistant to anyone else? Yes, please. All I needed was a few more elements and I’d be able to wipe out or absorb every Ork world in 40K with relative ease… especially since I already had Reggy to help me with that… when the time came. Being able to combine the Pholus Mutagen with the XED would have been nice… but I wanted those points for the last project.

The Weather Paradigm was fairly fabulous, especially starting out. ESPECIALLY Starting out. Not only did it grant the possessor access to every environmental improvement that could be unlocked in the game, researched or not, it made all the possessor’s terraformers more efficient. And then, just because the ability to build Echelon Mirrors and THermal Boreholes from the start wasn’t an obscene enough advantage… it granted the possessor a clean reactor Terraformer… one that required no upkeep… and the knowledge / ability to build more. The combo with the XED meant I’d be able to Planetform an entire world with incredible ease… especially once I retooled Warworld into a mobile Terraforming platform. I already had a couple worldbusters… it was time to make a worldbuilder. Give me access to Master of Orion’s Artificial World technology or the Planet Construction technology of Magrathea and I’d fill star systems with customized planets as fast as I could gather raw material… and since I had the Starforge… yeah, white dwarfs just became building blocks.

My plan was all coming together nicely… I should have paid more attention to my companions, because, as it turned out… there was a tiny little hiccup in my plot… Its name was Joy. I hadn’t considered that she might, just might… import herself as Planet itself… or that she might decide to side with Gaia’s Stepdaughters instead of my Free Drones… who she thought sounded a little too communist for her taste. JOOOOY! Arrggh. Ahab, on the other hand, decided to side with the Spartans, but he’d gone in as a Talent not the leader.

So, instead of having a three strong powerblock of leadership like I’d PLANNED (and they’d assured me they were on board with)… They’d decided to get themselves a couple minor perks for free and two Social Engineering Policies WE DIDN’T NEED! Power Values and Green Economics? Grrrrr….

When I’d called them on this, several days into the actual jump, they both claimed they were just trying to make things more interesting… but one didn’t need to be a telempath to know they meant more interesting for themselves. And they were clearly annoyed I’d just assumed I’d have my spymasters… and had been denigrating Probe Teams. Grrrr… They’re just lucky it’s against my personal code of ethics to put friends in Punishment Spheres!!!

=====ALPHA AWAKENING=====

Mission Day One, Planetfall day 1801: I woke from the medical treatment that had restored my higher cognitive functions to find myself in a Human Hive Drone Creche. Somehow I was aware that I’d arrived (mentally speaking) far after the other groups. They had just under five year headstart… but that was okay, because I also understood how little that mattered.

Within hours, The Seat of Proper Thought (and wasn’t that a terrible name for a city) had fallen into a massive drone riot. Within the week, it would become the first of many Free Drone Cities, being christened Free Drone Central.

Mission Day Fifteen, Planetfall +1816: I stood outside, breathing in the toxic nitrogen atmosphere (91% nitrogen at 1.74 atmospheres at sea level causes deadly Nitrogen Narcosis in those not protected by pressure helmets… but not to one such as me) , my followers in their masks watching me fearfully and amazed as I waved my hand and the Mind-Worm Cluster turned as one unit and bowed before me. I could feel the whispers that said I was Planet-Touched, the Planetary Messiah. The prophet of Dawn. I turned and faced my companions and my brothers and sisters in arms.

“I am no Messiah, sent by an uncaring God. I do not come to build a paradise, but merely a world where each can labor at whatever passion takes her, where every worker can be his own man, where there are no bosses to take 99% of the profit for none of the work. Do not look to me for dogma, but for simple truth! Planet is ours for the taking, and ours for the preserving! We shall take everything this new world has to offer and make ourselves part of it. Earth that Was is no more. Someday we may rebuild it, someday, if we work hard, and if we remain strong! And no matter what the Men in their Hives, and High Towers say, We are Strong!  Because we are United!”

The fact that everyone in my audience was wearing breather-masks or was watching from a hundred different communal rooms did nothing to reduce the sound of the thunderous roar of approval that surged through the base. Of course, that was entirely because it was a psychic illusion I created to impart greater import to my words. I had social perks and engineering, but they took time. Indoctrination was faster… and only a little cheaty.

“Within the hour, seven more bases will join our union, throwing off their oppressors, and embracing their newfound freedom!” I looked up at the moons of Chiron and sighed. Individually they weren’t even close to being the rival of Luna, but together they more than matched Luna’s tidal pull, even over Planet’s 1.3g mass. I stretched my consciousness into the recent past and… tugged on what had been. I could not kill those who had not died with this manipulation… nor could I raise those who had… but what I could do was make those who had been content to follow become discontent… and that’s what I did.

At the four Firaxian bases, as well as at the sole bases of the Cult of Planet, the Cybernetic Consciousness, and the Lord’s Believers, every single drone realized that they’d been used and deceived by their fanatical or inhumanly mechanistic overlords. They found unwitting allies in every Talent with too low of mental defenses to shield them from my alien temporal manipulation. The ripple of history changing would have been imperceptible to any but the most psychically aware… which essentially boiled down to those who I’d brought with me and Cha Dawn… who was, at that moment, experience psychic combat with Francine and Carwyn at the Base named ‘Well of Souls’. He would not win, and to be fair, he would not know he’d lost either. The Prophet would simply disappear without a trace, leaving his handlers to utterly fail to contain the riot.

Over in Far Jericho, Miriam was being taken down by Caine and Petra, though her people would only see the lunatic firebrand rambling incoherently as she railed at the rioting crowd. It would not be a good legacy she left… but then again, the longer her lunacy was allowed reign, the worse a legacy she would have left anyway.

At Alpha Prime, Aki-Zeta Five, the Prime Function of the Cybernetic Consciousness, and all her half-lobotomized inner circle experienced the damage four true Machine Intelligences could do to a network as VIctoria, VIvian, VIrginia, and VIctor (now the primary MI of Warworld), demonstrated that logic and creativity could bolster each other far more effectively than the ‘pure logic’ lunacy of the algorithm that had taken over the human who had once been Lt Jg Annikki Luttinen. She would be again, once I got her in my Medbay… hopefully.

Meanwhile at Padonia Station, Mt. Washington Tavern, San Sushi, and Sid’s House, the entire Firaxian human population as one turned against Sid, realizing that the AI was using them. Three of those Bases defected immediately, shutting down their network links to Sid’s House and declaring themselves the newest addition to the Free Drone Union.

At Sid’s House, they welcomed me personally as I landed my flyer in front of the main gates and handed over the security keys to grant me access to the deepest layers of the Base.

“Hello, Sid. Have you enjoyed your little GlaDOS moment? Enjoyed running your own little Alpha City? Instilling Paranoia? Running Enrichment? Time to open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL.”

“You cannot do this,” The Computer insisted. “I am Sid. I have calculated all variables, defined all possible tactics. No human mind could defeat me.”

“Sid… Sid… You made the Sherlockian mistake. Never discount the impossible. That’s how I beat you. I don’t believe in using Possible Tactics. Oh, and never underestimate humanity… well, not that you’ll have a chance to do any such thing in the future. Say goodnight Sid.”

“Good Night?” the confused computer asked… right before I shut down the entire computer core with a massive surge of bio-electricity. It would take my techs weeks to verify that every last trace of Sid was gone… and he’d no doubt left backups… but they wouldn’t help. Sid could map every human tactic… I wasn’t even vaguely human anymore… except by my own incredibly inclusive definition.

Planetfall +1825: I hadn’t known if the 18 hour days of Chiron / Planet counted as full days, or if the slightly longer year (378.4 Terran Days, 504.5 local days) would define 5 years, but, as it turns out, it wasn’t 1825 local days.

Planetfall +2522: Two ships of alien design dropped out of lightspeed 7 light minutes from Planet’s orbit. They bumped into each other once, twice… and then both ships glowed bright white and dissolved into their component quarks as Yuzuha opened fire. So much for Lular and Judaa. Sorry chaps, ‘humans’ only. Find another manifold to ‘Caretake’ or ‘Usurp’.  Turns out it was five local years… not that the day would have mattered much… I had superluminal sensors.

Planetfall +7855: “I don’t understand,” Sinder Roze asked as I showed her around New Logos Base. “If you have these abilities, and this technology… why haven’t you…” She trailed off, looking astounded at the inner court of the Magi presence on Planet.

“Why did I only use it to destroy the Firaxians, the Cult, the Believers, and the Cyborgs?” I asked, voice crisp and a little clipped.

“Well, yes,” she confirmed, clearly confused as to why I was showing her all this. Out the window she could see the towering structures of the Command Nexus, The Merchant Exchange, and the Empath Guild. Along the walls crawled the interwoven triple helix of the Ascetic Virtues and the Human Genome Project, and all around were Citizen’s Defense Force Officers. “Why them… and why not Yang or Ulrik or Morgan… I know how much you hate all three of them.” She did, of course, because of our constant bickering in council.  Not that my Free Drones cared much for the decisions of the Council… nor was anyone actively stupid enough to actually declare war on the largest faction on Planet.

“Simple, really,” I explained. “Each of them represented unwarranted toxins, ones I was unwilling to allow to poison too much of the human race. The Firaxians and Cyborgs represented surrendering fundamental humanity to a machine intelligence… and the Believers and Cult to a divinity. Human ingenuity, human genius, human effort… that must be the lesson that humanity takes away from all this. All mergers between Humanity and the Future must be on equal footing. We cannot sacrifice what we are to become something else. To do so would to no longer be… us.”

“And your technology? You’re so much more advanced than everyone… anyone realized. Well, maybe some of us had an inkling… but you… you let us into your computers, didn’t you. You let us steal the technology we stole. Why?”

“Because my people need challenge, and there are ideas worth exploring here. Planet is a crucible, a testing ground. I want you to read this book and consider my offer, Sinder. I think you’ll find it easier to understand me once you have.”

She looked at the cover and furrowed her brow, “Dune, by Frank Herbert.”

“I’ve read that book more times than you can imagine, Datajack. Take a few days. Wander around the city. Steal any technology you like. I won’t mind. When you’re ready to talk, I’ll be here.”

Planetfall +7856: “She stole the Longevity Vaccine,” Zane said.

I nodded. “I was certain she would. Did she get the Theory of Everything?”

“No. Should we point her to it?”

“No. It’s okay. No rush.

“Do you really think one of the others will willingly join us?”

“Yes. Especially when I show her the next phase projects. Speaking of which, how are we doing on the others?

Zane consulted his notes, “The Maritime Control Center is at 20%, the Supercollider at 13%, Cloudbase Academy at 41%, and the prototype is at 7%… We’re having trouble integrating The Living Refinery with the Nano-Cyborg Factory. The two aren’t cooperating very well.”

“I’ll send VIctoria and VIrginia to have words with the two.”

“Are you certain combining the Nano-Factory and the Cyborg Factory is a good idea?”

“Oh. Absolutely not. But that’s why I made the Living Refinery deliberately paranoid of her brother. And VIvian will be providing network security for Phase Three.”

Planetfall +7861: “Terrible Necessity? Or did God create Planet to test the Faithful?” Sinder asked.

“A little of Column A, a little of Column B… and a touch of Column C.”

“C? What’s C?”

“The eventual extinction of the Human Race… or rather preventing it.”

She quirked an eyebrow and leaned against the panoramic window. “These Thinking Machines?” She didn’t seem particularly worried.

“Maybe. Who can say? But something. Eternity is a long ass time, and I’m playing a very very long game.”

“How long are we talking?”

“At least a Trillion Years.”

“Are you serious?” She gaped, then nodded “You are serious. No one can prepare over that long a period.”

“True. Too many variables. One of the reasons I didn’t have you read Foundation. But the long and short of it is that I know how this phase of human history must end.”

“How? With you as the indisputable sovereign of… you’re laughing. Did I say something funny?”

“Conquering Humanity? Really, you think I want to be the Emperor?”

“Don’t you?”

“Not really, no. I try and spend as little time as possible actually running things. Only reason I’m in charge is because I’m absolutely incorruptible.” She snorted, but I just smiled. “Really. The exercise of power bores me and my goals are only comprehended by, at this moment, no more than 50 people on Planet.”

“So what are those goals?”

“I’ll show you,” I said, opening the door behind me and showing the Datajack the blueprints of Phase Three.

She gaped. “Is this… a planetary data grid?”

“Datalinks and Energy Grid, complete with Virtual World… with Logos and, if you say yes, Gibson Base forming the ends of the Network Backbone.” The massive 404 kilometer trunk line glowed across the seafloor separating the coasts of the two supercontinents. Logos, founded in the midst of The Ruins was separated from Gibson Base on the fringe of Fossil Field Ridge by the bulk of the New Sargasso Sea. “And with these two…” I pointed at what were the nascent details of the Hunter-Seeker Algorithm and the Net-Hack Terminus, “will pretty much guarantee the security of the network… and give the system administrator access to, in theory, everything on the network.”

“And we should trust you with… oh… very clever,” she said with a smirk, nodding. “This is your apple, isn’t it?”

“Are you calling me a serpent?”

“If the hiss fits,” She snarked.

“Well, yes. Join me and I give you control over Phase Three… in its entirety.”

“What are Phase One and Two?”

“Phase One is the Military. Phase Two Production.”

“Who runs those two?”

“My dear Datajack… that’s for me to know, and you to find out.”

Planetfall +12,292: “This Aggression will not stand!” thundered the Colonel, glaring at Morgan and Yang, who’d begun Planet’s first major war, though none of them realized it yet. Their alliance had annexed the Borehole Cluster south of the Spartan held Mount Planet region.

“You’re a fine one to speak of Aggression, Santiago,” Morgan responded. “We’ve all seen you building up your tank forces!”

“They’re to hold off Mind Worms, you cretin!”

“Now now,” Lady Skye said, “None of you would be having problems with Mind Worms if you’d stop-”

“Oh, do shut up with the ecological doom and gloom,” Yang growled. “The sooner this festering fungal swamp is purged of all Xenofungus, the better.”

“Surely, we can all agree that the Boreholes are not worth open conflict. We’ve managed to last nearly a quarter century without more than minor skirmishes,” Pravin said. “Can’t we-”

“NO!” Santiago snapped. “These thieves will return control over the Boreholes to us or we’ll crush them both!”

Planetfall +14,501: The first Planetary War lasted close to four and a half years and, thanks to some serious logistics problems on both sides, was one of the least fought wars in human history. The total toll in human lives was, once deaths to accident and neutral factors like the local fauna were taken into account, 431 on all three sides. Still, it was more than the colonies could take at this point, with the planetary population barely in the mid 70,000s, and it was only that high thanks to an incredibly high birth-rate. I’d have to arrange for artificial womb technology to spread… and rapidly.

Planetfall Year +100: “Hello Ahab,” I said.

“Hello, Domai. You look… good.” He narrowed his eyes, looking around his quarters aboard the Spartan heavy cruiser. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“Do I really need a reason to visit, traitor?”

“Oh? Do I owe you allegiance now?”

“I don’t know. Do you?”

“Not in this lifetime. The Spartans have the best chance to create a truly meritocratic society.”

“If you don’t mind it being a police state.”

“You use mind control, indoctrination, and brainwashing. Your Magi threw away everything that was… do you remember how boring it was there until you started throwing logic and efficiency out the window? You were going to recreate that all over again!”

“It was boring for us, not for the Magi, you twit! They were productive and happy!”

“Well, fine! I wanted more than spending 10,000 years repeating the Magi crawl!”

“So you joined the faction most likely to wage wars?”

“Of course! No one is right or wrong here! And I figured at least this way it would be interesting. You could have won this 95 years ago just by making all 40,000 survivors elect you Planetary Leader!”

“Yes. I could have. But I want the Transcendence Victory… and that takes a huge planetary population.”

“So we have to wait until the great and powerful EssJay decides there are enough Millions on Planet before she ends the game?”

I considered, then nodded. “Yup. Pretty much. But don’t worry. You won’t have to worry about it much longer.”

“You’re going to kill me?”

“As much as I might want to right now, no. Not without knowing what’s going on with Yoiko and Ryoga. But I’m not willing to put up with you opposing me.”

“Fuck you, Ess-” He froze solid.

“Finish that thought in a couple thousand years,” I said.

Planetfall Year 540: “Domai’s Space Elevator is clearly an attempt to weaponize Space!” Ulrik bellowed, looking positively apoplectic. I just smiled and flicked him off. Thankfully the gesture was still known, due largely to the number of functional immortals and copious amounts of Earth-made media, now thousands of years out of date, but still vastly out numbering all the art produced on Planet over the last half millennia.

“Yes, well, that’s entirely true. So glad you agree,” I said with a shrug. “What are you going to do about it?”

“Y… you… you don’t deny it?”

“No. not at all. But that’s okay. I figured I’d admit it. I currently control 48% of the planetary population. Prokhor and Deirdre control another 21%. Your Combine Forces control 31% since Morgan and Yang finished swallowing up the Peacekeepers… So I’ll just cut to the chase. Surrender or be destroyed.”

“You can’t be serious!” Santiago growled.

“We can. We are. We’ve just completed work on the Voice of the Planet and the Telepathic Matrix. We’ve spoken with the Consciousness of Planet and, within a very short time we will transcend, merging who we are into the Planet. Concede now and you’ll be invited to join us on the next stage in human evolution. Refuse, and… what was it Planet said, D?”

“They’d be pruned,” Lady Skye said, voice showing she had no qualms about allowing the quartet of imperialist monsters to go the way of the dodo. Of course, how much of that was her and how much was Joy’s link with her was anyone’s guess.

In fact, I was unsure how much of the result of allowing even the part of me that was Domai to merge with Planet would dominate the resultant being. Would Joy be able to maintain her individuality with over four billion human minds added to the network? Would she be able to cope… What would happen if more of me than just Domai joined the merge? Would there be billions of new members of the collective Me? Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

SEPARATION

Well… boo. Apparently Activating the Ascent to Transcendence counted as winning. Domai-Me found ourselves not quite frozen in time as the massive bolus of consciousness hit the Xenofungus network and the totality of 3.1 Billion sentient minds (just under 75% of the planetary population, including hundreds of thousands of digital intelligences) merged. The Chamber asked “Joy, It is your choice, do you desire to allow the Transcendence to happen?”

The Voice of Planet spoke “I have been Joy alone for too long, to refuse this chance to become more… I cannot conceive it.”

The Chamber queried me next. “EssJay, normally it is the Faction Leader who attains Transcendance who gains the planetary Alt-form and the mega-consciousness of the totality of humanity.”

“If I accept it… Joy and I would be fused into a single entity… she’d become just another one of the council, wouldn’t she?”

“I believe the is the case,” The Chamber agreed.

“Joy? What do you think about that?”

“I am willing to accept it.” she said after a moment’s consideration. I couldn’t see her face, as she was still a planet-wide neuro-fungal network, but I could feel the pulse of acceptance at the thought.

“Did you do this… all this because you wanted us to merge again?” We had shared one mind however schizophrenically, for a decade when we’d first met; it wasn’t inconceivable she’d desire a reunion.

“No. Initially I did it to attempt to force you to choose a shorter, less extreme resolution. I did not understand what Transcendance would mean for both Planet and this branch of humanity. No. I was wrong. I accept that, and I am willing to accept stewardship of the Human Race and all we have built.”

I turned to the Chamber, “Let it go. Might be interesting to have a second brain the size of a planet around here…. Not that she has my processing power.”

“Yet,” was Joy’s last word as merely Joy. The surge of psychic energy absolutely obliterated all those who weren’t shielded and even made me a little cross-eyed for a few minutes. Billions of minds pack a hell of a collective psychic punch. I braced myself, Planet-speak was even worse than Bizarro-speak.

Next: Fate Extra

OMAKE: Relationship Chart

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I also have an original Novel (it’s space opera) in progress here. Please Check it out. Let me know if I should create a Blog for it too.

Resources: BuildDocument

AN: A tricky jump. The document isn’t the best, it’s missing some things and the perk names aren’t the best… but it has everything it needs to represent the setting accurately and the descriptions are decent. The question of what happens to whoever undergoes Transcendence is a big one that’s not resolved in the document however. A Talent or Drone wouldn’t be important enough to be part of the Ruling Gestalt, while the Planetary Subconciousness is technically Planet itself. Does a Faction Leader who achieves Transcendent Victory merge in personality with Planet like a non-drop-in origin? What? But Joy told me she wanted it this way, so… We shall see.

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World 55: Young Justice

I’M HELPING!

Previously: The Khan of Wrath

Themesong: We Are Young by Fun.

As two decades (it seemed like so much more) of barely fettered rage and hate lifted off of me, I almost flew apart at the seams. I shuddered, feeling fouled, and bowed to my companions and made my apologies. I left the party and re-entered the warehouse, needing time to process and consider.

“Bad day at the office,” I thought I heard Mensarius’s voice say, but he wasn’t there. Of course he wasn’t. I found it strange that I missed him. He’d been part of my… lives… for so long and now he and the Banker, who’d only really become a person in my mind after Mensarius had kidnapped him or whatever it was. I missed them both, even though they frustrated me no end. I also missed the sense of certainty they gave me. Sure, they screwed with me, but it was a predictable kind of screwing and, regardless of what they might do to me, they, at least, seemed to know what was going on with the Chain. Or at least, if they didn’t, they projected that feeling.

With Jump-Chan at the helm, I felt somewhat like a person being chauffeured around by a slightly more intelligent than normal cat… and not one who had thumbs. The Chamber wasn’t the master of its own destiny and had been co-opted into this role, a role it was suited for, but one it didn’t really grok yet. I wondered if any other Jumper ever had to break in a… benefactor… yes, that’s what they called themselves… a Benefactor with less experience than the Jumper had. No way of knowing, I suppose.

I made my way to the Chamber and thumped my head against the wall. “Well, that sucked. Also showed me just how many holes there are in my defenses. I… nearly got eaten. I mean, I was swallowed, but nearly got digested. And my Force Powers were killing me. Going to have to find a way to defend against those… mind control too, it looks like. I was definitely being played by Impatience.”

“Funny you should mention it,” The Chamber said. “I see several things that will definitely help you with all those issues in the next jump.”

“How… convenient,” I muttered, feeling a surge of paranoia… or was it pronoia? I don’t know. Had the next jump been modified to give me a chance to get defenses I just now realized I needed… or had they always been there and the last jump… adjusted… to make me realize I needed them? Or was it all just a giant coincidence into which I was reading too much. Never ascribe and all that. I sighed and nodded. “I’ll look at it in a bit… throw it up on your wall and VIvian can patch the visual feed to me in the bath chamber. I need to scrub until my skin feels less like calcified evil.”

As I steamed myself in water so hot it would have been vapor if the atmospheric pressure wasn’t enough to flatten a concrete bunker, I leaned back, looking up at the images projected on the ceiling and wondered if I was really human any more. Genetically speaking, I could be a member of Homosapiens any time I wanted… but was that anything more than a disguise at this point. Was I even Human in the way I defined Human… was I something else… and if I was, was it Transhuman, God, or Eldritch Abomination. Did such labels even matter? Couldn’t I be all four? I didn’t know. But at least I was EssJay. I was me. The Jumper. A Jumper. The Protagonista without a Story. I chuckled at that, then read the title.

“Young Justice… Isn’t that just Teen Titans under a different name?”

“I do not know,” The Chamber’s voice reached me even here, thanks to the Intercomm installed just in front of the door. “The DC universe is extremely confusing, even for a being like me, born from Chaos. It is as if it defies any attempt to conceptualize its structure.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right. Crisis on Infinite Wibbles, Zero Hour, Flashpoint, Final Crisis, Infinite Crisis with a Cherry on Top, New 52, Old 52, 52 Pickup, DCAU, Teen Titans Go Big or Go Home… is this the same DC I visited last time?”

“It… could be? No… I do not think so. Or Maybe? It seems like it might be the case.. Linear time is such a bad Idea.”

“I’ll vote to cancel it at the next Universal Summit… but Good. A lack of continuity will simplify things. Or maybe make them more complex. Raven will be confused a bit. I’ll have her talk to Lizzy & Beth. Won’t that be fun.”

“I do not think so. I suspect it will require the eating of much frozen cream and sugar with chocolate flavoring to ease the mental torment such a discussion would cause,” The Chamber opined.

“Thank you for that, Starfire. Hmmm… Is this the animated series or the comics… no… I’m guessing it’s the Animated Series as it says right there ‘Earth-16’… but I don’t know if Teen Titans was Earth-16 or not… or if this is Earth-16 pre or post New 52. Right. So I have no idea who the characters of interest are… oh… look… name dropping. Wonder Girl, Robin, Speedy, Kid Flash… Metropolis doesn’t say if it’s Super Girl or Super Boy… I’m going to guess it’s Conner and not Kara, since this is Young Justice… and I’m guessing since they mention Poseidonis, it’s Aqualad. Screwed up team! Young Justice is supposed to have Impulse, not Wally West! This timeline is all borked. I’m going to lodge a complaint. And Arrowette, not Speedy!”

“If it makes you feel any better, this could just be a fictional story told on Earth-16 and not actually set on Earth-16,” The Chamber said.

“Oh, yes. Very much. A story within a story. Good to know,” I groaned. “Well then, let’s do this very strange thing then.” I leaned back and watched options unfolding around me. “Wait, wait. You said there were three perks that would help ward off some of the problems I was having last time?”

“Not precisely. Powers. Not Perks. But yes. Toggle, Drain No, and Incomprehensible in order from least to most expensive,” the Chamber supplied, face looking baleful as if the words annoyed it somehow.

“Are you allergic to wordplay?” I asked, teasing it a little.

“Ah… That is why the… why do you… why do mortals do that?”

“What? Screw around with words just to…” I shrugged, “amuse themselves?”

“Yesss!” Jump-chan hissed. “It is most… illogical.”

“Pretty much. But when life is hard, you look for slivers of amusement. Drain-o was a chemical designed to unclog clogged Drains. This stops things from being drained from me?”

“M… Yes. It would make you immune to any attempt to steal, weaken, suppress, or remove your powers or internal power sources like mana, chi, or willpower… or relevant to Full Metal, souls.”

“I’ll take it!”

“Don’t you want to know how much it costs?”

“Why would I? I mean, yes. I do, but unless it was 1000 CP with a mandatory drawback I’d probably still take it. Damned useful. Not worth it, but damned useful.”

“I do not understand you.”

“That’s okay. I mostly understand you, Rocky.”

“Do not call me that. Very well, unless you go Drop-In, you are at 600 CP. If you also take Incomprehensible without being a Drop-In, you will have to take Drawbacks to get Drain No or import your followers.”

“Companions. And huh. Tell me about Toggle and Incomprehensible.” I summoned a cool drink, then giggled as Ziggy attempted to catch the flying drinksbot, missing by inches as the adaptive algorithm juked the thing without spilling a drop. Ziggy, completely nonplussed, fell into his side of the pool, which was not hyper-pressurized and began paddling towards me, head barely above water, little paws churning the water.

I dissipated the heat and megapressure, then scooped him up and tickled his tummy. “You’re a silly,” I told him. He licked my chin.

“Momma not grumpy now?” he asked. I assured him I was fine. “Yay! Fishies?”

We played Fishies for a while, which is where I make dopplefishes and he proves he is a mighty hunter by trying to catch them. Even though Ziggy wasn’t the brightest, the dopplefishes were not stupid. They used the best evasion programs I could design and even then they only worked about 80% of the time. But Ziggy enjoyed himself, and I got to test Doppleprogramming, so it all worked out.

“If I may continue?” The Chamber said, sounding a little impatient. Apparently we were corrupting it with our linear existence. That was… amusing. Troubling, but amusing. I shrugged and it took that as assent. “Incomprehensible removes all forms of unwanted mental illnesses or mental control, then makes you immune to them. Anyone who uses a mental attack against you or attempts to read your mind will find the damage reflected back at them or that their attempt to access your mind has allowed you to read theirs instead… or at least their memories. And it comes with nearly limitless mental storage, but you’ve got that already. Toggle merely allows you to turn any power, magic, or perks on or off or dial them to any setting between full on and full off. And even if someone were to gain control over you somehow, you’d remain in control of the Toggle.”

“Now that is cool. And yes, those would have been good things to have last jump. Ah well. So, I guess I’m going drop in unless there is a compelling reason not to. Let’s take a look at the Drawbacks and see what we’re looking at. How much do I need for Companions?”

“They get twice as much CP as you invest in the import option, up to 800,” The Chamber said, “I assume that means you’ll want to spend the full 400?”

“Ideally, yes.”

There was a cap of 1000 Drawback CP, 2000 if I chose to take something where Darkseid and the forces of Apokolips would keep on invading until I either captured or killed big D or destroyed Apokolips… and the invasion would start the day after the jump did. Mmmmm… Could I take Darkseid? The question of could I destroy Apokolips wasn’t too much of a question. I had multiple means of destroying even a planet as big and armored as that hellhole. But I didn’t like the idea of killing an entire planet just because a very large percentage of the population were horrific monsters. Of course, those who weren’t were usually slaves condemned to a pitiful life and I might be doing them a favor. Still, it would be killing to earn CP and that struck me as ignoble. The fact that thousands of Parademons would be ravaging Earth while I tried to stop the invasion… potentially killing who knows how many would be a problem… but this was the world… a world sorry, that had the Justice League. And Darkseid was almost certain to attack anyway. I’d be moving up the time table… but, if I could take him down, I could stop any subsequent incursion… maybe. Killing the planet would definitely help.

Eh, it had a loss condition, but I considered it unlikely that between me, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman we couldn’t stop it. The last ditch plan would be to permanently cut Earth off from Apokolips, which I could do with a Subspace Bubble… but what would I do with an entire Earth? Especially one infected with Humanity?

Just for giggles, I took the 300 point drawback that put a bounty on my head that Lobo would try to fulfill. Lobo was nice. Not nice to talk to, or nice to have around… nice in that he was someone you could punch in the face guilt free all the times ever… and he wouldn’t die. Couldn’t, in fact, in DC. Heaven and Hell both refused to take him. I could probably fix that, but while he was a dipshit, and had genocided his entire race, he was, nominally, on the side of angels… well, not real angels… the side of good… which is just weird.

I also took the ‘Never a Dull Moment’ drawback. I’d spent too much of the past twenty years restraining myself, meditating in caves, waiting for things to happen. This was DC! I wanted threats of the week! I wanted an excuse to unwind by putting my fist into badguy’s faces. And it would be super helpful if they showed up and announced their readiness to be a fist recipient instead of making me go looking for them. That left me at 1500…

For an additional 300, I could have the League itself after me… no… they did that in Teen Titans. No need for a repeat. On the other hand, for that same 300, I could have this group called ‘The Light’ come after me. The Light were essentially the Injustice League… and traditionally starred such luminaries as Vandal Savage… who was immortal and a Xanatos. Ra’s Al Ghul… who was hard to keep dead and a Xanatos. Lex Luthor… who was a Xanatos. Monsieur Mallah and The Brain… who together were a Brain in a Jar and a Gorilla. There would be others… but if I couldn’t deal with those chuckleheads, I wasn’t very good at my job… even though my Job was apparently to be the star of a traveling roadshow of freaks screwing things up across the omniverse.

I was now at 1800… did I need the last 200? I didn’t know. But a bit of planning never hurt. So I flipped through the remaining flotsam, tossing out ones I wouldn’t want to deal with. Being a Shazam-a-like was 100… but it didn’t get me more power, just turned me into a kid who could yell JUMPCHAIN! to become my normal lovable self. Meh. there was a No Killing Rule… not going to happen, even though there was an exception for Dorksnide. Something stupid about having to do bad things to get patches to be at full power. Ha! Not for six hundred… and they were offering two! Screw that. Something that killed my ability to plan? Not on a dare. Ditto the thing that guaranteed that people would take advantage of my mistakes and that I’d make them. I knew I would and knew people would take advantage… but this was gilding the turds. Nope. And no to the evil clone.

Which left, hey, look at that… 200 CP worth of Drawbacks. ‘Just a Sidekick’ which made sure no one would take me seriously… at least among my peers. And Moody… which sounded all sorts of fun. Really. I’d… think about it. Still, I had 2800 points to play with… well.. 2400. Must think of the little people.

“So? I’ve got some points. What are the origins I’m probably going to ignore?” I asked, trying to catch Ziggy as he scrambled up onto my head and chittered at the kids as they decided to invade my privacy in the way only children and lovers can. They brought grilled meats and booze, so I forgave them.

“Vigilante, Mystic, and Superhuman,” Jump-chan said. Somehow, I knew she was more focused on the food than on talking to me.

“Curious about what it feels like to eat?”

“Faintly disgusted by the entire process. Seems so wasteful, lost energy at every level.”

“Pleasure seldom is a net positive process when you merely consider the energy cost. It’s about the emotional boost that derives from it.”

“If you say so. It all turns to waste products in the end.”

I took a big bite out of my shawarma-burger and grinned “Mmmm… eventual waste products.” I chewed and considered. “Mystic, huh? Don’t remember a Mystic on Young Justice… oh well. Not interesting enough. Superhuman might be.”

“Bear in mind that there are also Race Purchases that include Atlantean, Martian, and Human-Kryptonian Hybrid.”

“Ah… well then… I’ll go Drop-In and Human-Kryptonian… though, if you wouldn’t mind, please see if you can redefine it as ‘Tamaranian-Kryptonian’.”

“You already have a Tamaranian form.”

“Yes, but… look, Conner Kent, Superboy 2, is what that refers to. The scientists of the Cadmus Project combined Lex Luthor’s DNA with Superman’s and, I think, The Guardian… and probably a few others… continuity is kinda fucked in DC… and created Conner in a bioreactor. Why not have them have done the same thing with Supergirl and Salamandr instead?”

“There would be no technical difference, you realize?”

“Sure. But backstory is important.”

“Very Well. You can reduce the 400 CP cost of H… TKHybrid to 200 by taking one of two alternate forms. The first will cause you trouble thinking and make you get things backwards… why are you laughing?”

“Bizarro! Excellent. Yes. I will take that. Pale skin, slightly weird look? Backwards S?”

“Yes. Very much so. Plus a bit gullible and childlike, though the worst of the mental problems will fade with time.”

“Haha… Yes. I are Bizarro! Much Excellent! What’s the other?”

“Grey, almost scale-like skin with bone-like structures on arms and shoulders. Quick to anger.”

“Huh… sounds like Doomsday… since when is he a Human-Kryptonian Hybrid? Must be something specific to this timeline.  No idea what’s going on, but naw. Bizarro EssJay is cool!”

“You’re seriously damaged in the head… but this is clearly the appropriate origin for that. As a Hybrid, you get Super Durability enough to tank gunfire and most explosives, Super Strength enough to rip through steel and lift about 25 tons or leap over buildings, and some Super Senses … hearing and sight… free, plus a discount on Flight, Heat Vision, and Solar Powered. But you are weakened by Kryptonite.”

“Not magic right? Superman isn’t actually weak against magic, just not particularly resistant to it. I’m pretty much immune to it from being a Dresden Outsider… This won’t actually make me weak to it, will it?”

“Not as far as I can see, no.”

“Excellent. Does the Kryptonite stuff wear off after jump?”

“For all forms that aren’t your Hybrid form, yes. So I’d advise not taking any with you.”

“Good thought that. Any freebies other than those powers?”

“Three powers and an item!”

“Anything good?” I asked, sounding dubious at the obvious upsell tone in Jump-Chamber’s voice.

“That is for you to decide. You get the power of Souvenir…” I didn’t respond outwardly, but yay, random trophies! “A Costume that is automatically replaced if destroyed.” Again I didn’t respond, but this one I didn’t care about. “The Most Common Superpower…” That would be an appearance booster, yawn. “And Required Secondary Powers. I don’t understand that one. How are powers required?”

“If you’re super strong and don’t have super durability, what happens if you catch something going mach two?”

“Your arms get ripped off?”

“Pretty much. How about if you try lifting 25 tons while standing on normal ground without some kind of TK field to stand on?”

“You sink into the ground?”

“What happens if you run at Mach 80 without friction resistance?”

“Ah… I see. Required. Yes. Comic book logic, the power description calls it. It says it applies to all your overlapping powers too.”

“Good. Great. Let’s get some.”

“Some what?”

“Overlapping powers, duh.”

“Very well,” The Chamber said. “Do you desire to see the list of powers first or the list of perks?”

“Are there any good perks?”

“Aside from the magic based ones, and ones you would seem to already have mastered, such as ‘Stealthy’, ‘Peak Human’, and ‘Acrobat’… yes. Several. You might find ‘Gum Up The Works’ and ‘Removed From Context’ to be useful, as you enjoy thwarting the plans of those who annoy you.”

“What do those do?”

“The first grants you a sixth sense for what needs to be done to wreck the plans of others, and the consequences of doing so. The second makes you harder to predict, harder to counter in a fight, harder to plan against… and makes it impossible to replicate any powers or technology that aren’t native to the setting you’re currently in without your say so.”

“Oh… cool,” I nodded. This was good advice and, honestly, did seem reasonable. I’d have to see how far reaching Gum up the Works’s consequence mapping was, but yeah. “How much for the pair?”

“They are both discounted fro your origin, thus the combined price is 500.”

“Heh. almost tempted to take Spoiler as my nom-de-guerre, but it’s taken in DC and I like Stephanie Brown.” I accepted a steak sandwich and totted up the damage so far. 200 for the race, 400 for companions, 600 for the trio of powers, 500 for perks was just over 60% of my 2800 total and I was already planning ways to deal with Darkseid and Apocalypse. I had two planet busters, but I was saving them for backup in case plan A didn’t go according to itself. “Anything else discounted for Drop-In?”

“That you might be interested in? Let me see. ‘Team Player’ means you play better with others and can mediate differences more easily as well as coordinate with groups and make basic contact with and reach a basic understanding of anyone, no matter how alien or odd. ‘Notable Presence’ makes you inspiring to friends and intimidating to enemies and makes building a reputation quite simple. ‘Two-Face’ makes it easier to get back on people’s good side no matter how often you betray them. ‘Rules Lawyer’ you have from your time in Swat Kats. ‘Smooth Talker’ makes you quite charming. ‘Manipulative’ is good for getting others to do what you want without them knowing you’re doing, and comes with a sixth sense about what to say to push other people’s emotional buttons. ‘Genius Intellect’ would not significantly boost your intellect or tech skills.”

“Huh. This is a real collection of underhanded and sneaky shit.  How much for Manipulative and Two-Faced? Those could come in handy, especially around people with telepathic powers. Don’t need to broadcast my abilities if I don’t have to.”

“Combined total is 250. That would put you at 1950 spent, 850 unspent.”

“Yes, thank you. I can basic math,” I snarked.

“As you say,” Jump-Chan replied with an auditory shrug. “Do you wish to see the various powers now?”

“I take it the list is quite long?”

“It seems to cover a great many individuals, yes. And as a Hybrid, you gain several powers free, as well as a discount on several more.”

“Very well,” I leaned back, floating on the water now, Ziggy curled up and gnawing on some sausage on my tummy. “Show me what’s available.”

The list was… long. Long enough that going into it all would be silly. Hybrids got 25 tons worth of Super Strength and Super Durability Free, as well as two Super Senses free of charge. They also got a potential discount on Flight (didn’t need), Heat Vision (didn’t need), and additional Super Strength and Super Senses (I picked up Super Touch for 50 which would allow me to identify even the smallest imperfections and weaknesses in physical objects plus the ability to process touch as an identifying sense, if not a targeting one, but contact with the ground would allow me to track vibrations fairly easily.) to go with Super Vision (which boosted my visual range and granted me microvision, infravision, X-ray vision, and a higher vision processing speed) and Super Hearing (conversations miles away, whispers in large loud rooms) which were the free ones.

I plunked down 200 CP for Solar Powered, as close as I could get to a basic Kryptonian (Heat vision courtesy of Samurai Jack Jump). It would massively boost my healing in direct sunlight and turn me into a solar battery that no longer needed to breathe, eat, drink, or sleep as long as I was topped up on the old solar juice at least a bit every day. Not that I was fond of sunlight, but honestly? Most fights take place outside. That got me down to 600.

I thought about getting Shrinking, but I knew that the Atom used technological means to achieve that, and if it was tech, I could replicate it. Plus, getting small wasn’t something I worried about, since I could shapeshift pretty easily… though not to the molecular level.

Batman’s Real Superpower would give me 10,000,000 Dollars at the beginning of every jump, or the equivalent of it in local currency. It wasn’t really needed. I could produce goods in nigh limitless quantities, but having a large chunk of currency every jump was tempting. Eventually the treasure of Treasure Planet would run out… but I wasn’t going to spend 150 CP to get something as paltry as 10,000,000 every ten years.

What I did decide was worth it was ‘Density Shifting’, a trick Martian Manhunter used to great effect all the time. Swimming through solid matter, also known as phasing, was only the most obvious use for it, though it could also be used to make yourself denser so punches and kicks hurt more or less depending on who was doing the throwing of said punches. That cost me 400 CP… and then I was at a bit of a loss.

I could get a knockoff Helmet of Fate, or Black Canary’s Canary Cry, with my last 200 CP. I could get more super senses or super strength, or the ability to make others dizzy. I could even get a barrel of robotic monkeys… but I could build that last and the others didn’t seem interesting.

“Hey, Chamber. Can I break the 8 companion limit and import 12?”

“You mean by sacrificing your remaining 200 to buy four more slots?”

“Yup. That’s what I mean exactly.”

“I see no problem with this, but the former CP limit stands. 800 CP for each, not 1200.”

I sighed. “Grrrr… Fine.”

“And Atura cannot be one of those who imports. That is cheap-sauce as you’d say.”

“Wasn’t even going to try,” I said, truthfully. I’d already imported Tokimi, Zane, Yoiko, Joy, Gaius, Yuzuha, Ahab, and Rayay into DC in the Teen Titans, where they’d been Lightfoot, Myriad, Cardinal, Vortex, Wiseguy, G Imma Tree, Knowhow, and Sparkler respectively, and so, all off them were off the list. I didn’t have a grand plan besides the old stand by of ‘First We Show Up, then We See What Happens’. I did have a bunch of contingencies for the Light and for Apocalypse, but those were just that. They’d change once we got on the ground and, since I’d be a bit of a twit for a while, I wouldn’t be handling most of them if and when they became needed, at least not until I managed to get my wits back.

Of course, Joy and Ahab would just import themselves, but I still had twelve slots left to fill. Kendra got one to balance out Zane last time. Ditto Reggy to balance Gaius. But that was 2 out of ten… and it was now time to play favorites… which meant my entire remaining harem… the parts I was actually interested in continued emotional connection with and not, say, certain squirrels and her slightly bizarre friends. Mini, Frankie, Velma (and Cirno to head off the pouting), and Carwyn. Toss in my primo minions, AJ & Francine (to cover for me while I was being a stupid head) and Toph because she liked hitting things, and Anne and Amelia just because they were always up for adventure and that was twelve.

Two weeks later, I hosted the first get together of ‘Young Jumptice’ so they could tell me and each other all about their various plans. We also invited Raven along, since there was a non-zero chance she’d be running into herself in this universe, and if she didn’t, there was an incredibly high chance she’d be running into versions of her friends and wouldn’t that be confusing.

Mini proclaimed herself ‘Minerva’, not the goddess, but a magic user invoking the goddess of Wisdom as her secret origin. She’d gone Human Mystic and picked up no less than five perks to boost her magical prowess. Basic magic was free for Mystics and was exactly what it said on the tin. To it, she’d added Advanced Magic which bumped her magical potential up to the realms with (at the very least) Zatanna… who normally was one of the more potent DC magic users, but that varied from DCU to DCU, so there wasn’t much telling. She’d also picked up Thrifty Thaumaturge which allowed magical shortcuts and substitutions without sacrificing power, Sorcerer Savant which allowed copying a spell from seeing it cast, and Warring Warlock, which boosted the power of attack spells when used against another magic user, potentially disrupting their spells. All in all, it was a fairly spiffy build and she’d put a lot of time into balancing her background and even had a fairly nice costume that invoked the feel of Rome without sacrificing mobility or utility… her sandals even had arch supports and looked fetch as hell.

Franky, now calling herself ‘Penumbra’, was a shadow-shaper. A metahuman, she bought only two powers, Drain No and Force Manipulation, the first of which I had bought of course, and the second of which was Green Lantern did, but Franky did it with shadows rather than emerald light and didn’t have nearly the same power level. Still, it would be enough to make her a nightmare to deal with in dark areas… as long as she didn’t get distracted. She also had purchased the perks ‘Larger Than Life’ and ‘Your Reputation Precedes You’, which made her a symbol for others to emulate and guaranteed people would know her reputation without being aware of her power set. Her costume was, of course, a black catsuit with tiny widdle ears… it even had vanta-black spots on the jet black body.

Francine had dubbed herself ‘Promise Keeper’ and was an Atlantean Drop-In. Her only active power native to this setting was a mastery of Atlantean Sorcery, but she’d also taken Incomprehensible for its pure defensive abilities and so she didn’t have to squash the local telepaths when they stepped to her. There were dozens of different Atlantean sub-species, and she’d chosen one with Angelfish markings and webbed hands. And she’d bought a supply of a neo-steroid called Kobra-Venom that could turn people and animals into superhumanly strong and tough versions of themselves… though it also made them bigger and changed their appearance permanently.

Not only did this supply of six regenerate every other month, it included the formulas for the two precursor agents, Project Blockbuster and Venom… which is what Bane used to make himself huge. Ouch. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with that stuff, but I guess make an army wasn’t out of the picture. I was beginning to rack up a collection of such mutagenic substances. Would the time come when I would need to use them?

AJ, as eager as ever, had decided to call himself ‘Adjunct’ since he was going to be my assistant this jump, will I or not. A Martian Vigilante, he had blown all his CP becoming a Martian… but that’s okay, as Martians have way too many powers… including one I was pretty certain I’d never seen Jon Jones use… namely Animal Transformation ala Beast Boy. What, was Beast Boy now a Martian in this version of the DCU? Green =/= Martian you silly editorial staff! Regardless, in exchange for a vulnerability to fire, he’d gained Telepathy, Telekinesis, Cellular Regen, Density Shifting, Super Strength, Super Durability, the aforementioned Animal Transformation, and a Martian Bio-Suit which shifted as he did. Martians could even use their powers to turn 90% optically invisible, leaving behind a phase distortion that was largely unnoticeable unless you knew what you were looking for. As a vigilante, he also got an armored costume with a bulletproof cape and utility belt, as well as being in peak physical condition for a martian.

Speaking of Martians, Reggy had also gone green… or rather, decided that green did equal Martian so she might as well… but she’d taken the Inept Martian disadvantage which effectively crippled all her Martian powers for the jump’s duration… in fact, it also screwed with all her powers for the duration, though it didn’t remove her previous training or experience with those powers. I thought it was a bit extreme a sacrifice, but it was her choice… I had the feeling she’d be a bit of a liability for the duration, but she’d wanted to pick up Incomprehensible as well, and this was the only way… and at least being a Super-Martian meant that she got ‘Knows His Own Strength’ free in the mix. That limited to a certain degree the fall out that ‘Badstar’… as in Disaster… would cause… I hoped. I certainly wouldn’t be doing any limiting.

Kendra had taken for herself the nom-de-guerre ‘Stingray’ and that had elicited no little confusion when she explained that, no, she wasn’t an Atlantean. In fact, she was essentially Deathstroke. She’d bought the Grandmaster of Combat perk which granted mastery of nearly every melee and ranged weapon known to man and guaranteed she could keep up with (or with training) Batman or Deathstroke and could learn fighting techniques quicker… especially when taught by a skilled teacher… like me or AJ. She’d even picked up Cellular Regeneration to be that much harder to stop. I still don’t know why Stingray… but that’s okay, not all aliases make sense.

Speaking of not making sense, Cirno had dubbed herself ‘Screamer’… well, that’s not true. She’d dubbed herself ‘Screech’ but been persuaded to change it because Screech made me think of this ancient show called ‘Saved by the Bell’ and… shudder… no. Bad thoughts. A Human-Kryptonian Hybrid of the Doomsday kind, she had Plastic Physiology like plastic man and a Sonic Scream like Black Canary. Her backstory was that she was the result of Cadmus trying a plasticizer agent to bind human and kryptonian DNA… i.e. rubber-cement. I thought about explaining why that was stupid, but decided just to drink heavily instead. She also took Drain No because she thought it would make her immune to vampires… it might… but being bit in the neck would still, forgive me, suck.

Her keeper, Velma, had decided to make herself a Dr. Fate counterpart (see knockoff) and called herself ‘Professor Destiny!’ (exclamation point included). She was a Human Mystic with the Sorcerer’s Helmet that totally wasn’t Dr. Fate’s, as well as the Advanced Magic potential to power the thing. She’d also picked up Hasty Hexer which allowed her to dump inner energy into a spell to substitute for lengthy rituals and Aerokinesis which would allow her to use the wind to pummel her enemies or protect herself. She called it the Wind of Destiny, because of course she did. Her costume practically screamed weirdo though, since it was less Dr. Fate and more knitwear Darth Vader.

Also firmly in the item-induced Knock-Off Camp, was Carwyn, who’d bought something called a ‘Reach Scarab’. I had no memory of anything called that in the DC canon, but from the text, the ‘Reach’ were some kind of organization and could normally use the implanted scarab (it attached to the person’s spine) to take control over the wearer… well… not the one Carwyn was buying, but a normal scarab. It was apparently a sentient nanotech arsenal, granting access to scanners, flight, translation software, armor, and various forms of weaponry. Could be useful… had better be for the sky high price. Even discounted it was 400 CP, and the only way to discount it was to be a vigilante. Carwyn had augmented the Scarab with two Vigilante perks, the same Grandmaster of Combat that Kendra had gotten and Master Strategist, which came with a contingency or gadget for nearly every plausible scenario… including a free can of shark repellant… and the ability to convey her plans to even the dullest of listeners… which in this jump might just be me. Oh well, her problem, not mine. She called herself the Scarlet Scarab, which I’m sure wouldn’t piss off Ted Cord (aka Blue Beetle) at all. Hell, maybe she was his protege. Not that he’d had one of these Reach Scarabs… I wondered if the Reach were going to be an issue and made a note to keep on the lookout for evidence of them… and another to stop thinking of Haloverse every time ‘Reach’ came up.

Toph, calling herself ‘Rockstar’ was a superhuman rock monster. Literally. She’d bought both Grow and Shrinking and topped it off with Geokinesis (which, surprisingly, included elements that would actually complement her Earthbending and not just be duplication… like flying rocks and changing their density and composition.) and even picked up Toggle… but that was because she had 50 points left over and, for a Superhuman, that was how much Toggle cost.

And that left the two TreasureVerse natives, both of whom had decided to be Atlanteans. Anne, calling herself ‘Armada’ was an Atleantean Mystic, complete with Basic Magic, Advanced Magic, and Atlantean Sorcery… to which she’d added in Order Magic on par with Dr. Fate’s. That would be a major power bump for the once and future Empress. Amelia, calling herself ‘Tigerlily’ (and threatening violence to anyone who called her ‘Catfish’) was an Atlantean Vigilante, a master of simple magics via ‘Cantrip Master’, armed with the indestructible ‘Sword of Beowulf’ and a perk called ‘In the Zone’ which meant that, in the middle of crisis or combat, her mind would go into overdrive, boosting her awareness and analysis speed enough to make the world seem to move in slow motion… to the point of dodging bullets. Both of them had gone for the more human form, though Anne was of the darker skinned neckgill kind and Amelia was the more classical european look… despite Cirno saying she should have gone with the octopus head.

Ahab, reprising his role as ‘Knowhow’ the Genius Technopath, was an Atlantean Sorcerer now, though not even close to a powerful one. Joy, once again calling herself ‘Vortex’, in addition to being a teleporter and mimic, was now a low grade speedster, topping out at around the speed of sound.

And with that, we were ready to go.

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

Jetfire is what the pod said when they let me out of it. It took me only 7 days to learn to read the word. I are smart. Little brother Conner am the grumpy one and Sally-Mae am being the smart one. We are liking giving Conner pattings on the head.

We are also enjoying throwing the eggies* at the bad Darkseid man and now he is being a very good butler. We said something very smart to him about how The Ant Life Quotation was all about enslaving peoples and now he was going to serve us and make his world Apoptart going away and no more sending Parrot-Demons to annoy our friends.

====DAY 10! I can count to ten!====

I hug Superboy when he gets angry and say “Big Sister Am Protecting!” and he dangles his feet cause his legs don’t reach the ground! I am Halping!

=====Day 90====

We are getting better at speaking because we are smart and have big boobs… We fought a brain in a jar with a Monkey today… the monkey had a gun-machine and a red hat. We have the red hat now and the brain is in a place called ‘Belle Reve’ which Professor Destiny says means good dreams… she reads stories to me and has nice hair. But Belle Reve is not a place of good dreams.

Belle Reve is a Prison which is a place where bad people have time out. A man named Strange Hugo works there. We don’t like him and so Adjunct made him go away. He also made the bad Cadmus Doctor Man go away. We like the Adjunct, because he is very nice and stares at our boobies.

======DAY 200====

I are getting better at communicationing and the others am saying I are almost back to normal! I are thinking something has to be done about the Light who are big stupid meanies with bad plans. They maked a clone of me, which is a copy but not. The clone am called Doomsday. But I am calling her Derpsday because she is dumb. We fought five times now… that is being more than four, and it is being three weeks since she showed up last. She probably got lost and can’t finding her way back.

Adjunct and Promisekeeper founded the lab that created her. It is an ex-soviet lab (they are extinct bad people) in Vladivostok that is being like Cadmus but Russian, and it is being run by Dr. Rasputin Davidovich. Or it was. I showed up there for to smash the place and I am finding the good doctor in the act of being kidnapped by the forces of the Injustice League… who are also bad people who are friends with the Joker who is not being funny. I had to fight through Joker Venom spewing plant monsters before I am getting to their getaway plane… but I am somehow getting confusion and am going after the wrong plane. The getaway plane got away.

Very frustrated.

Adjunct and some of the others decided they were going to hunt down Dr. David for me while I am dealing with the Light. I am having a list of them. Some of them are being easier to find than others are being. Lex Luthor I am wanting to smash and punch and launch into the sun, but my tummy-feeling… intuition… tells me that that would make bad things happen, so I don’t. But the same is being not true about the assassin called Ghoul or the pretty queen lady of the sandy place… Biyalia… Both of them I can punish, and I do!

Once I’m done, Adjunct and Professor Destiny are telling me they have located Dr. David, and so I am flying to a place called Star City… that is not in space, and then all the adults are vanishing from the world! Which makes finding him much more difficult! It’s not fair when they cheat like that! Adults are giant cheaty pants. Part of me wonders why I didn’t vanish with the Adults, as I am very very old… but the voices inside my head say it’s because my body is only a few months old. So I change into an older body… and now I’m in the world where the Adults are… but there are no kids. Does that mean kids are little cheaty pants?

I find Dr. David, who is working on a Project for someone named ‘Savage Vandal’ and someone else named ‘Witch Boy the Klarion’. they are both being on my list of ‘Light members’. The Project is being called ‘Starro’ and part of my memory am telling me that Starro am a bad thing, so I try to attack Dr. David… but Derpyday am show up when the magic holding the world of adults and children apart ends and there is only one world that is full of cheaty pants big and small!

There was much punching, and the blond Russian man escaped with the bit of tentacle he was planning to using to do bad stuff. I am not very good at stopping bad stuff it seems. I should getting better.

=====End of Year 1=====

Savage Vandal looked very surprised when I punched him into the sky. I wonder if he was more surprised that the Starro-Tech is not worked on me, or the fact that I am stole his ring before lofting the immortal git into translunar space via chin-rocket. That is what Adjunct is saying I did. I am not knowing what a git is, but am agreeing that Savage Vandal is being very immortal and not good either.

I peered at the ring, trying to remember why I’d snagged it, but Professor Destiny and Armada am taking it off my hands and promising to put ‘Chaos Boy’ in his proper place. I am thought that sounds good, but that means Ziggy wouldn’t get to play with the nice kitty any more. Ziggy will being heartbroken.

=====Year 3=====

“You know, for all that this place am being called ‘Young Justice’, the Junior Justice League am just called ‘The Team’,” I commented. “Strange, no?”

Dr. David just grunted into his gag. He is not appreciating Sally’s humor even though he am being suspended upside down over Sally’s special Lazarus Pit that am having just turned Dr. Strange Hugo… not to be confused with Dr. Strange Adam or Dr. Strange Stephen… noo… he was being from a different universe… but lots of Strange Doctors around… into a bullfrog… well… not really a bullfrog… more of a bulldog-frog really…

“I know, I know. Terrible of Sally to be doing this to you, but you am making a crazy hyper-violent clone of Sally! That’s not being very nice you know!” I wagged a finger at him. “You should ask first!”

He swung slowly back and forth. I turned to Ghoul Head… Head of the Ghoul… “And you! You kill people for money! You shouldn’t kill people for money! If you asked, maybe they’d just give you some and then you wouldn’t have to kill them…” I looked over at Adjunct who was snorting. “Sally am saying something stupid again, isn’t Sally?”

“Assassin’s get paid to kill people. They’d don’t kill people to take their money,” He confirmed.

“Oh. Well, you should only kill people if they are being bad people or hurting other people and you can’t make them stop any other way. Now… you two… who is wanting to go into the pool first?” I asked. The Lazarus Pit had been contan… comat… tainted with Kobra-Venom which had, itself, been mixed with a powerful magic hexy thing that promised a trans… a change that was… that fit.

Dr. David grunted and shook his head. So I dropped him into the pool since he was having volunteered. He splashed in head first, then emerged seconds later, splashing and gasping, his body shrunk too small to be bound by the ropes. He didn’t look the same, but he still looked human. Poopy. Professor Destiny lifted him out of the pool with her mind… not her brain… that would be weird cause brains are soft and squishy and not good for lifting stuff.

“Jetfire?”

“Yes AJ?”

“Did you dump barrel water into the Lazarus Pit?”

“I dumped all the chemicals in!” I said proudly.

AJ just rolled his eyes as the little cat girl that had once been a Bad Scientist for Project SUMDAC wobbled to her feet and tried to run away, only to be pounced by the Bulldog-frog. The two of them tousled as I looked to Ghoulhead. “Your turn!” I said, pulling the cord.

Unfortunately, Batman swooped in and saved Ghoulhead and lectured me a bunch on not experimenting on helpless enemies while I played with the points on his head and giggled.

====YEAR 5=====

Found out what the Reach is. They are bad meanies. I had Yuzuha make them go away. Now they are sparkling pixie dust!

But they came back and hid in the ocean and the bad hair man on TV made me sooo mad when he said they weren’t bad meanies, so I had words with him and now everyone is mad at me. “I was just trying to help!” I protested, but they explained that the bad hair man couldn’t hear me through the TV and now the TV was broken. I figured out what I did wrong.

I went to the place where the Unations meets and yelled at the bad hair man about how he was a big doodoo head and he said I was a fluffbrained marshamelon and I told him that I wasn’t and that he was being mean and then Billy had to stop me from hitting the bad hair man. I hope Superman comes back from space soon. But if he does, he’ll probably bring Batman back with him. He’s not happy I keep calling him Bruce, but that’s his name!

=====WAR WORLD====

Earth has a new moon. I made Butlerseid go beat up the big yellow guy inside it and now I have a new moon. It used to be called ‘War World’, but that’s not very nice, so I’m calling it Disco Moon. Everyone likes Disco, right?

The Bad Reach People have a Black Beetle and We have a Blue Beetle and Mars has a Green Beetle. Blue Beetle is nice and small and Green Beetle pretends to be nice but is secretly nice but also evil and Black Beetle is a big meanie so I hit him very hard so he could be with Vandal Savage…. But he cheated, because he can fly in space!

He stopped me from making Lex Luthor tell everyone the truth about the Reach, and we had a big fight. Eventually Scarlet Scarab stabbed him in the back and he had to take a nap. I think we broke Mount Justice.

=====THE FALL OF REACH====

The Reach tried to blow up the Earth! And… and they nearly successed! I am very angry! Superman says I can’t hit them because they suspendered but I don’t care how they keep up their pants! But good news! Artemis isn’t dead and Kaldur isn’t evil and we get to use the Watchtower because we are awesome and Superman says I can be Supergirl even if my brain is not as good as his.

Making Lex Luthor go away is still a bad idea for some reason. I do not understand. But then again, I am not smart like myself. So I am going to listen to myself and not me and not make him leave. I did put hot mustard in his pants though. That was funny.

Oh. I also conquered Bialya but Wonder Woman made me give it back. Haha. Joke’s on her. She doesn’t know that I replaced Queen Bee with Meetra who was bored. I’m bored too… maybe I should challenge the four Flashes to a race again. They aren’t as fast as I thoughted they would be.

====DAY 3647=====

“I TOLD YOU YOU WOULD RUE THE DAY!” David the Kitty Girl announced and I clapped my hands happily. I loved this TV show! It was all about a mad-scientist little girl who kept trying to take over the world. She was very bad at it, but she had kitty ears and a drog (half-frog, half dog) and her plans were always amusing. Conner hated the show, but as I was bigger, I got to pick what we were watching. And anyway, he was just grumpy that his girlfriend was on Ran helping out with the Sciencing.

“What was that?” he asked in a pathetic attempt to distract me from my show.

“Giant flaming Vandal Savage crashing into Lex Corp Tower?” I said without taking my eyes from the TV.”

“How did you know that?”

“Planned it. Me am Super Genius!!” I replied, and sipped my cocoa sagely. Explaining the intricacies of orbital mechanics and 9 year re-entry vectors to Conner would be pointless. He’s not very smart, you know.

Next: Alpha Centauri

OMAKE: Relationship Chart

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

I also have an original Novel (it’s space opera) in progress here. Please Check it out. Let me know if I should create a Blog for it too.

Resources: BuildDocument

AN: This jump was a pain in the butt for a couple of reasons. First, getting a copy of Young Justice was not as easy as it could have been, since my only friend who owned on was in Japan for two months and I didn’t feel like paying for it. Second, the story jumps forward pretty often, but if I was in full fighting trim, I’d solve the Light within the first ten days… which would have major effects on the story and require me to come up with new plots. So that meant going with the funniness of being Bizarro Supergirl. Since that fit in with my appearance in Teen Titans, it worked well, just retooling from being a Tamaranean to being a Hybrid. Yes, Jetfire’s origins have been retconned. Blame DC editorial.

*The eggs in question are Imprinting Eggs from Ranma 1/2.

  • Imprinting Egg: A tool of the Phoenix People, when these hens-egg-sized eggs are violently broken open (ie. by throwing them at someone) they will unleash entangling threats that envelop the target and cocoon them within a giant, human-sized egg in seconds. When this giant egg is hatched or cracked open, the person inside will imprint on the first person they see as their master, and will obey that person’s every command. This will override any previous mental dominance. Eggs which contain someone can be stored indefinitely if kept cold without harm to the person inside. Used or lost eggs will reappear in your warehouse at the start of the next jump.
Enemy - young justice female doomsday
Derpsday

World 65: Full Metal Alchemist

THE KHAN OF WRATH

Previously: Writing is Fun, Reading is De Mental

Themesong: Du Hast by Rammstein

AN: A special thank you to all my readers wherever you are and my patrons over on Patreon. Happy New Year! May all your Jumpchain wishes come true… though not necessarily anywhere near me if you’re a bad person.

As my time in Nippon came to an end, I found myself shifting into a form that was altogether new to me. It was not the Ferret-Lion I’d been for most of the last decade, but rather a mostly humanoid form, with a puffy ferret tail and peaked ears and the blue lines of dark divinity etched in patterns across my dusky skin. Somehow I knew that this was my ‘Celestial Realms’ form, the counterpart to the animalistic form I’d taken in the Mortal Realm. It was much less fluffy… but was rather more appealing for… ahem… other purposes.

It was also much less… busty than the humanoid form of my Ferret Tengu body. That form had been… the term shelflike seems apropos. This form was a bit… I think the otaku of another age would have called it DFC. Let’s just say I had nooo problem seeing my toes. I was also wearing what appeared to be a ribbon wound round me in such a way that it… barely… covered those parts that needed covering.

Alex, now looking like a 12 year old schoolboy in a cute little sailor costume, blinked and giggled at the revealing costume. I just glowered. “You do realize you and I spent most of the last decade naked, right?” That shut him up and I held my tail aloft with smug pride as I re-entered my warehouse.

“Okay Jump-Chan, what Genocidal Fuckwit is next on the list?”

“Still going under the assumption that most of your jumps will include such?”

“I am quite good at pattern recognition. I have an entire continental plate dedicated to it.” Anyway, tell me I’m wrong. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts… or anything else you like that the next 10 jumps feature no less than 9 Genocidal Fuckwits. In fact I double dog dare you to contact the Council and have them send all 10… well… however many it takes to make ten and we’ll see. I’ve been a good Jumper…” the Chamber snorted derisively, a major accomplishment for something with no nose (how does it smell? Like granite.) “Well, entertaining. I’m not asking to see the builds or jumptrees, just curious as to what ten settings are next.”

With one of those eerie moments where I was certain a long conversation was being held in some place where time did not pass relative to where I was standing, the Chamber said “They have agreed. They also say it was a silly bet for me to take and that’s why I have to wear a clown nose for the next 10 jumps.” The face changed to reflect that addition, but if the Chamber was feeling put out by it, its voice did not reflect it. “In alphabetical order, they are Alpha Centauri, Assassination Classroom, Babylon 5, Bartimaeus, DC, Dune,” I gave a happy little squeal at that one, but the Chamber continued unabated. “Fate, Fullmetal Alchemist, Journey to the West, and Nanoha.”

I snorted back. “Ha! I so totally win.”

“You do? You know all of these?”

“Mmm? No. Not all. But just from Alpha Centauri, Babylon 5, and Dune I win.”

“That’s not 9 of the 10.”

“I didn’t say that 9 out of the 10 jumps would feature Genocidal Fuckwits… but I bet that it’s close to that. I said there’d be at least 9 Genocidal Fuckwits in the 10 jumps. Dune, assuming it’s the Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert, has The Emperor and Baron who are both willing to kill all the Fremen, and a genocidal thinking machine named Omnis or something that wants to kill all of humanity. Let’s call that 3, shall we? Alpha Centauri, assuming it’s the Sid Meier video game, has at least one faction that wants to eradicate the Mind Worms, two factions that want to enslave all humanity, two alien factions that want to kill humanity and each other, and the Spartans… oh, and the religious fanatics. Let’s call that 3 more. Babylon 5 has the Shadows who kill entire worlds, the Vorlons who kill entire worlds, the Drahk who try it, the Centauri Emperor who tried it, and the Dilgar, who both did it and had it done to them. Let’s call that… what… 5 more?”

The Chamber grumbled, but I wasn’t done yet. “Then there’s DC, which I could win on by itself. Depending on which version of DC, there are Darkseid, Brainiac, Zod, Nekron, Trigon, Cyborg Superman, Ra’s al Ghul, Imperiax, Grod, Joker, Starro, Black Manta… Hell, there’s LOBO and he’s sometimes a good guy! Not sure all of them have actually tried genocide, but they’re all mass-murderers on a city scale… except Grod, who tries the old Genocide by conversion.”

“I get the point, Jumper.”

“Oh no, we’re not done yet. Assassination Classroom is about a teacher whose students have to kill him before he destroys the planet, I think. Never watched it… it was just coming out when I left Origin. Fate… that’s Fate Stay Night, right?”

“Fate Extra, I believe. I do not know the difference between them or if they are connected.”

“Me either. I’ve seen a few episodes of Fate Stay Night and know that there’s some pretty serious disregard for human life in the series, but I don’t know if it gets to genocide levels. But since Heroic Spirits can be anyone important from history, they could include some of historic Earth’s biggest GenoFuckwits. Nanoha is like magical girls crossed with Gundams… those are giant robots… I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a Genocidal Fuckwit in one of the series for Nanoha to befriend the hell out of.”

“Befriend the hell out of? How does one Befriend someone as an offensive tactic?”

“It is Nanoha’s special power. Saw the first two seasons of that. Nanoha is like best girl and Vita is just too cute for words. There’s a lot of lesbian subtext for a show about 10 year olds… ah Japan…. Never change… well, change if you’re not that yet… or if you’re in your imperial phase… wait, where was I? Oh yeah. Journey to the West has Cannibal Demons but no real Genocide. And while I have Bartimaeus on my old cellphone… I’ve never listened to it in all these centuries? I don’t know if it has Genocidal Fuckwits… it’s supposed to be very british… so probably. As for Fullmetal Alchemist… is this Brotherhood or the other timeline?”

“How would I tell?”

I thought about what I knew of the differences between the two Fullmetal Alchemist timelines. I’d watched a bunch of episodes of the earlier anime and read some of the manga… what were the main… Oh, right! “Is the leader of the… damn… can’t remember what the country is called… the main one of the story. The military dictatorship with the State Alchemists. Is the leader of that country secretly a quasi-artificial lifeform named Wrath or named Pride?” It was the only thing I could think of that I knew was different between the two timelines. In both, the seemingly affable Fuhrer King Bradley was an inhuman monster, but in the earlier anime he was the Homunculus Pride, while in the later anime, Brotherhood, he was the Homunculus Wrath. I didn’t know why such things were different, I just knew they were. Infographics were never as helpful as one would like. I knew nothing else about the Brotherhood timeline, save that it was different and bloodier than the earlier show.

“I do not possess that kind of knowledge. But it does specify this is the manga’s timeline. Does that help?”

“Ah… that would make things easier. Yes. Yes it would. Thank you. The Manga is Brotherhood. So the plotline will make more sense but be worse. Still, either way, we’re looking at a world where the events are set in motion by the near genocide of an entire people. Yes. I’d say Fuckwittery abounds in Fullmetal world.”

“Well then, let us start there, shall we?”

“Really? Just because I picked it last?”

“Oh, no. It was always going to be next, it just seemed a fitting segway.”

“Fair enough. What do we have? Complex or simple?”

The Chamber considered, “Simple, I believe.  Five Backgrounds, with eight abilities total. Six drawbacks of which you can take two, Nineteen items of which I predict you will take none, as they by and large have no special features and the longest description among them is less than 50 words long.”

“Huh. that’s not very many abilities… and hey! I don’t just take items when their descriptions are long.”

“This is true. But special properties usually take a greater number of words to describe in your mortal languages. For beings which have limited time, you certainly spend an inefficient amount of that time on conveying meaning.”

A laugh bubbled out of my mouth, but it wasn’t me laughing. “She certainly has you there!” Atura said, the air crackling as she spoke from within. The reborn spirit had been far more outgoing since fusing with the Heart of Winter and sometimes even manifested outside of my body, a shadow of cold fire that moved in ways I did not and interacted with others as she had never done before.

“Yes yes, mortals, how dare they not speak in conceptual symbols or merely convey all meaning with passion-filled touches. How dare they make the best of their limitations and create something that can contain such beauty and wonder and meaning in such limited form. Show me a poem in conceptional symbols and I’ll show you someone trying too hard to make a point.” I chuckled, “Now, Chamber, what is the Companion import situation? Is there one? And is it reasonable?”

“There is one. It is called Brotherhood… I guess that should have been a clue?”

I shrugged. “Or just a reference. Continue.”

“It allows you to obtain such an import by a sacrifice of equivalent value. I sense in the phrasing what you would call ‘arc words’.” I nodded, but didn’t interrupt. “For every CP you sacrifice, up to eight companions may gain a like amount of CP.”

“I’m guessing those exact arc words are… how did it go? ‘In order to obtain or create something, something of equal value must be lost or destroyed.’,” I asked.

“Similar. Yes,” The Chamber agreed. “Where shall we start?”

“I guess with a spin of the wheel of location. What year does this begin in?

“It does not say and I am not good at judging time.”

“Fine, show me a newspaper from the first day of the Jump,” I asked as I picked up the stone 8-sided dice that was the current Wheel of Location (I know, I know, it’s not a wheel, but I’m used to calling it the Wheel of Location) and dropped it into the die randomizer I’d attached to the outside of the Chamber. 8. Free Pick. Well, that was useful? Turns out it would be, but I didn’t realize it just at that moment.

The Chamber’s wall flowed and a paper appeared in reproduction. 1901, April 11th. Tensions High in Ishval was the headline of the Central Standard Times. I blinked at that… I didn’t know the exact timeline, but I was pretty certain that the Ishvalan Massacre had been significantly before the events of either Anime. I could have been wrong.

“Can you locate a boy named Edward Elric? He should live… damn… umm… in the countryside. He will look like this.” I created an illusion of him as of the start of continuity, modified to look, you know, actually human and not like an anime character. Yeah… no one actually looks like that in these jumps. People look like people. Sorry, normal sized eyes and all that.

“I am outside of time. Until you begin monkeying with the timeline, I can perceive the canonical flow of events,” The Chamber said, sounding vaguely offended.

Atura laughed. “Yeah, just because the Blockhead can’t make sense of dates or names doesn’t mean she’s clueless. You shouldn’t be so judgemental!” I honestly couldn’t tell if Atura was teasing me or the Chamber… or both. Ah, the joys of sharing your soul with non-humans.

“Right. Good. Now find the person who will look something like that and show me what he looks like as of the moment of insertion.” The Chamber complied and I raised my eyebrows. “He’s… what… 2? 3?… that’s just strange.”

“I fail to understand why this is any more unusual than anything else you experience,” Jump-Chan commented drily.

“Because I think this is the first time I’m coming into a jump based on a canonical series of events that I won’t be staying for the period covered by the story. Edward is a year older than Alphonse and Alphonse is 14 at the start of the series. If Edward is 2 in 1901, he was born in 1899. Alphonse in 1900… that means the events of the Anime & Manga begins in 1914, baring flashbacks. Is the duration of this jump only 10 years?”

“Yes.”

“See, that’s never happened before. I’ve never heard of a Jump where it simply isn’t possible to interact meaningfully with the plot. All I can do at this point is either choose to seriously disrupt the plot or let things unfold… and I don’t know the actual plot of the Manga… And I’m actively suppressing all my knowledge of the first Anime because all it can do is screw things up.” I sat down on a throne of water frozen in time and ordered a cocoa.

“Huh… well, you said there were six drawbacks from which I could select two. Show me them.” I asked, then leaned back. Atura took control of the back of the throne and rested her head on my shoulder.

“Maximum value of 600 if you take Enemy of the State and Tremor,” she said, “and three of those indicate that it’s assumed you’ll use Alchemy.”

“True… but what else is there to take? Humans, Chimera, and Homunculi are the only races in this world as far as I know… Damn… Jump-chan, what are the origins?”

“Drop-In, Apprentice, Military, University, and Foreigner. All but Drop-In cost 100 CP.”

“No Homunculus?” I asked.

“It is listed as an Ability. It costs 800 CP and which Homunculus you gain the power of is dependant on where you start. And each comes with a strong built in drawback.”

“Really? 800 with random chance playing a huge role and a mandatory drawback? Wow… that kinda sucks. What else is on the list of Abilities? Is there any reason to buy any of those Backgrounds? You said there were only eight perks to buy… that’s less than 2 per origin and you didn’t mention that Homunculus was discounted to any of them. Let me see the Items. I want to see if those are as bad as you implied.”

The list on the wall was just… sad. Automail (primitive cybernetic limbs) were the first two items on the list and there wasn’t a drawback for having to replace a limb with one. The rest of the list included six different but utterly mundane weapons… none of which came with more than a single load of ammo… seriously 200 CP for a bolt-action rifle with 10 free bullets. A change of clothing. A basic survival kit. Automail tools… mundane automail maintenance tools. Forged Papers. Basic Alchemical Textbooks that could almost certainly be bought in any bookstore. Bio-Alchemy text that were probably more obscure but probably not unique. Letters of recommendation. A State Alchemist Title which would be utterly useless post jump that cost 400 CP. Hell, if it was like what I remembered, the title had to be reupped every year and pretty much meant the State knew exactly what you could do with Alchemy. And Red Stone, which was a fake philosopher’s stone, plus the knowledge of how to make more… Yeah… not worth 600 CP. So the Chamber was right. Nothing worth buying on the item list. In fact, nothing worth getting free on there. Foreigners got free Throwing Knives and a Cavalry Saber for god’s sake! University got Steel Gauntlets. That’s it. Military got a pistol. A Mauser C96 pistol. With 1 ammo clip. Oooh, so generous. Apprentice got fuckall.

“Tell me the Perks are better?”

The Chamber threw up the list and I quirked my head in surprise… This was actively worse than Black Bullet. Sure, that jump had only had three origins and no drawbacks… but this… this was just… stupid. University and Apprentice got exactly one 100 CP perk for free, no discounts. Foreigner didn’t even get something free. For the 100 that was paid, they got a discount on Alkahestry… whatever the hell that was. That was paying 100 to save 150. Sure, it was a discount, but not much of one.  Military got royally boned however. For their 100 CP, they got to replace one of their limbs with Automail. Weeeee! Paying for crap prosthetics! They also got a discount on Martial Training… months of practice with ranged weapon and instinctive ability to use unfamiliar range weapons. This was not worth 300… sorry, 250.

I just stared. “Alkahestry is merely another type of Alchemy, right?”

“That is correct. Any Alchemist can perform Alkahestry and vis versa, as long as they understand the principles involved.”

“And Advanced Formulae (free for University) merely allows one to learn Alchemy more easily, while Simplified Formulae (free for Apprentice) merely allows one to perform Alchemy more quickly?”

“That is the case.”

“So… Since it isn’t even possible to buy Alchemy as a skill, that means I get it free, right?”

“The basic ability to perform Alchemy, yes. And Alchemy can be taught to others.”

“Great. Wonderful… so 6 of the 8 perks are useless and the remaining two cost 800 CP each.” I was staring at the last remaining perk “Truth”. At the cost of my dominant arm (because I certainly wasn’t going to pay for a useless background which would change the cost to something else) I’d gain the ability to perform Alchemy without a transmutation circle and my knowledge of the science would expand to include mastery of both Simple and Advanced Formulae. All this as a “punishment” for violating the ultimate Alchemical taboo… Human Transmutation. I sighed. “I was thinking of importing some of the others, but unless I want to sacrifice 800 CP… wait… Chamber, does Atura still count as a Companion?”

“Yes.”

“Great. I’m sacrificing 800 CP for Companion imports.”

“That is allowable. Who are you importing?”

“Atura, who will take Truth.”

“I will?” The Unflame asked, curious but not offended.

“You will,” I responded.

“You are gaming the system, since Atura and you are fused, to allow you to make use of her powers.”

“I am… but not to make use of her powers. I could just buy Truth myself. No. I’m abusing the system to get 7 more imports without sacrificing anything.”

“Ah. Very well, I shall approve this, but as you and Atura share a body, that body will be the one losing the arm.”

“Sure, that’s fine. Bao, Uriel, Velma, Mini, Toph, Astraea, and… fuck… no Yoiko… ummm… hell with it… Can I assign things to Yoiko?”

“You cannot… and who is Astraea?”

“She’s a companion I left behind in the MCU… Should be on the list.”

“Ah… yes. Very much so. How odd.”

“But I can’t assign things to Yoiko or Ryoga?”

“Negative. They are not on the list.”

“Nrggg… fine. Tokimi. That’s 7 people who all have experience with potioncraft or alchemy,” I grumped. “Distribute the tablets. Now, let’s look at the Homunculus choices.”

The stone block cleared its non-existent throat. “That would cost another 800 CP and you currently have only 200.”

“Yeah, well, I’m going to take both +300 Drawbacks,” I said, referring to Tremor (which made my hands shake badly and combat alchemy significantly harder… oh no, I guess I’d have to rely on powers other than alchemy to fight with! Or, you know, use my feet, hair, or telekinetic control over Ice Nanites.) and Enemy of the State (which meant that the Amestrian military was coming for me… which, yawn… they’d have to find me first and nothing said they could.). To be fair, I could have taken all 6 drawbacks and barely noticed. The +100s included a slight debuff to my alchemy (-12.5% efficiency) and something that meant people would consider me a pathological liar… but only people who had experience with me, while the +200s included a rival alchemist who hates me and being unoriginal and safe in my research and predictable in my actions. Yaaaaaawn. Not that I was going to take them if I didn’t have to… and in fact… I couldn’t. Not even for zero points! Choose 2, no Cheating!

So I didn’t.

Buying Homunculus meant that I’d been kidnapped, experimented upon and implanted with a philosopher’s stone, either to take the place of one of the canonical 7 apparently, or to be a prototype of them. Each had a unique power, but all had the same basic upgrades. Increased speed, strength, regen, and lifespan… Each also had a unique drawback.

Pride had Shadowform, which created armor piercing tentacles but came with crippling overconfidence (I wasn’t certain anything in this world could beat me… but I was pretty sure I could easily destroy myself, no thanks). Lust had ‘Ultimate Spear’ which was more like killer fingernails… 4 meter long slicer-pokers that could cut through most materials with ease… and a… err… distraction/manipulation ability that wasn’t spear related… unless you’re talking about what those looking at you were thinking with. It also came with overwhelming desires and impulse control. Sloth had Speedboost which was exactly what it sounded like, but it came with a complete lack of motivation.

Envy was a Shapeshifter, incredibly dense (weighing a ton in any form)… but came with a total intolerance of humans. Gluttony came with False Door, a limitless internal void that could never be filled. Uuuugh. No.

Greed had the power of the Ultimate Shield, which transformed the skin into something harder than diamonds… so probably something in the graphene family… and the downside wasn’t so bad… always trying to take that which wasn’t mine (Hello ferret!)… but the ideas of fair trade and cooperation would be foreign to me. Livable drawback, but the perk wasn’t worth 800.

Which left Wrath and the Ultimate Eye. The ability to track anything, see any weak points, and every movement. With practice, I’d be able to counter attacks before they were even made. The downside was being quick to anger and being forced to keep my emotions constantly under control lest I try and destroy everything around me. That was a risk… but the reward seemed more than worth it. Atura and I would think about it, and make certain everyone else understood what was going on. The question was, did I want to replace the existent Wrath or not… Sure, it meant I wouldn’t have to face Bradley… but I didn’t think being an Enemy of the State would go well with being the head of state.

I looked over my build and sighed. “This isn’t going to work.”

“Your build?” The chamber asked, “What’s wrong with it?”

“No. Not the build. This jump. The starting date feels like it is targeted at me specifically… or maybe just Jumpers like me, but since I can’t know how many others there are or how customized each jump document is to the Jumper taking the document… I’ll treat as personal until proven otherwise. It was clearly included by someone who wants to force me to choose between a plotline I can’t interact with and stopping a Genocide…”

“But you want to stop the Genocide,” the Chamber pointed out.

“I do… but I don’t know why it happened. I don’t know the underlying… Look, every genocide happens for a reason. Even if that reason is just age old hatred. There’s a tipping point, someone who profits, someone who wants… something. I don’t know who profits from the Genocide… and since I don’t, I don’t know what they’d be willing to do in order to secure it. If I save Ishval… who do I doom?”

“Ah…” The Chamber was still for a very long time, then it sighed. “I shouldn’t tell you this. My role is very clear. I am to facilitate your adventures, not to shape them… but this is too much like Keladry’s Blayce. And as a Homunculus, you’d know soon enough…”

And the chamber showed me the being known as Father, the first Homunculus, created 400 years previously from the blood of the slave called “#23”. Showed me their conversations, showed me the moment when Father, then known as ‘The Dwarf in the Flask’ named the slave ‘Von Hohenheim’. Showed me how the Dwarf tricked the King and wisemen of the nation called Xerxes into sacrificing themselves to make a Philosopher’s Stone… a sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of human souls… of profound murder… all to grant the Dwarf freedom from its flask.

I can’t know exactly what was in the Dwarf’s mind… it was an echo of the past, not the true Dwarf, but he gave half the souls of Xerxes to Hohenheim… and then the two went their separate ways. Hohenheim went East to Xing, to spread knowledge of Alchemy, creating modern Alkestry and passing out of my vision. The Dwarf, now calling himself Father, went West to found Amestris, the land of the Elric Brothers, and there he fulfilled the name Father and brought forth the other Homunculi, first Pride, and last Wrath, with Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, and Sloth between… and the Chamber showed me the history of Amestrian wars, the shaping of a state on a foundation of blood and carnage… and the unfolding of a great working, one every bit a larger scale repeat of what had happened in Xerxes long ago.

I looked down upon the nation that had caused such harm… and felt sickened… and pity. They’d been used as the scythe to prepare for their own harvest. Millions of souls to fuel this horror… and the Ishvalans were only one of the horrors that were coming / had been worked in the past.

“Does that… whatever it is… underlay all of Amestris?” I asked.

“And a little beyond. Yes.”

“It’s sickening.”

“It is the presence of Father.”

“And if I save Ishval… Yes… I see… I don’t suppose you could show me the lifepaths of others… say, up to 1918?”

“I cannot. The system has already locked me out.”

“Can you increase my stay?”

“What do you mean? You want to stay here?”

“No. I want… I’ve spent more than 10 years in various settings. I want you to adjust the end date without invoking a Return… ah… hah. That’s it. I want you to lock in my Return to this world immediately upon the end of the first decade. That will give me twenty years here.”

“Will that be enough to work the changes you want to work?”

“Not even close. I’ll figure something out. I… I need to get a look at everyone involved. I don’t know if I can fight the Dwarf… I should be able to defeat the Homunculi… but… I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do. We’ll see. I’ll save who I can… but I think… maybe… I’m going to have to go low impact on this one.”

“You? Low impact? This I have to see.”

“Yeah, yeah. Smart ass. I take it everyone else has taken Truth?”

“Negative. Astraea cannot make choices.”

“Everyone besides her, I mean.”

“No. Bao has selected the Homunculus Pride’s ability and requests that you seal him in stasis for the duration so that his choice does not endanger the mission. Toph has made similar request but with Envy’s.”

“Fine, fine… hmmm… Astraea can have Lust’s power.  That leaves Uriel, Velma, Mini, and Tokimi to join me in paying the price of Truth… do any of them want to spend a decade in stasis? And, come to think of it, do my drawbacks wear off at the end of the first decade?”

“Negative on both counts. As for your Drawbacks, they are in full force until you leave this world… and taking Homunculus would normally render Truth meaningless until you left as well… but you’ve end-run around that, haven’t you?”

“I have. I’m good at that. Hell… this is going to suck.”

INSERTION

Well, I wasn’t Wrath. I was Hate. Close enough. I could feel the rage boiling within me, constant, disdainful, a willingness to kill everyone. It made thinking a chore sometimes. It made compassion physically painful… and I was being hunted by Father’s forces, since Father wanted to absorb me back into himself.

I wanted to meet father, but I hated the feel of the tunnels under the Amestrian capital of Central. I hated the Amestrians for their warlike ways. I hated the Isvalans for their peaceful ones. The idea of saving them made me as angry as the idea of letting them die. I could tell that I was going to be motivated by spite a lot for the next twenty years.

Still, my intellect and willpower were not reduced by my constants swirl of emotional pollution, and I began my slow study of all those involved. I had to find the Homunculi without letting them find me and determine if they were to be destroyed or not. I had to find Hoenheim and learn what I could of him. I had to save those I no longer cared about… Or had I ever really cared about them at all? Was I saving them to make myself feel better? To make myself feel powerful? Was it a sense of duty? I… struggled to find a reason that made sense to my rage filled mind.

Finally, I stopped fighting against the rage’s doubts. I embraced the spite. I’d save people because Father would doom them. Spite.

And so began my reign of… highly confused, idiosyncratic, and occasionally random violence. I was like a Kraken having a seizure. Every action I took threatened to boil over with anger, with levels of collateral damage that would have been unacceptable to the majority of me… but it was clear that Silent Judge was being strengthened by the rage and Atura was draining my ability to focus on fighting against my darker impulses. Even the council within me was divided.

The heroes who had fought to save so many waged a war of angry words against the spies who had fought wars in secret and the diplomats were divided against each other depending on the dominant political ideologies of their times.

But we had spite to guide us and spite meant we’d save the innocent if we could. And that meant going to Ishval and trying to stop the violence.  It was an effort doomed to failure. The Ishvalan radicals were well engaged in an insurgency and had no desire to see reason. They did not want to listen to a confused, angry, and rambling outsider who preached of a coming disaster and my ability to speak the truth was clouded by my lack of knowledge of what the truth was… and so I preached the Truth, which was far more confusing and at odds with Ishvalan faith.

More than once, I allowed myself to be driven out of town.  And then… Envy shot a little girl and the world went mad. I went mad. I… for a moment… just a moment… let the anger have lease… and it was an inferno of rage… and it nearly consumed me, for I was its target. I’d done this. I should have tossed aside the power that I could have gained and come to this world pure. I should have… but in my arrogance, I’d thought I could have my prize and save those I wanted. I hadn’t been willing to subscribe to the Law of Equivalent Exchange. I’d wanted to save these people… but not enough to forsake the power I could gain.

The grinning man found me in my rage and spoke words of poison to me. I was lost in recrimination and I didn’t listen as well as I should have… Instead I left Ishval to my companions… let them save those who could be saved… and I travelled the home of the Elric Brothers… and there I met Hoenheim and learned… everything.

At last I understood. He was like me. A collective of souls… a vessel that contained a multitude. For four centuries, he’d travelled, seeking to undo the damage Father had wrought, to free the souls still trapped within Father and to see Father destroyed for the crimes it had committed… and to atone for his own part in Father’s rise.

I went away from that meeting and retired to a nearby cave to meditate, to regain my center. To put my own house in order. I left it only once in that first decade, when I went to replace Trisha Elric who was dying of illness with a doppleganger and to place her into my medbay and then into stasis. My anger tried to take advantage of the time, but I wouldn’t let it win… but I was not yet ready to face the others. Not without a greater center.

How I envied Bradley. His Wrath he could keep in check because he only was Wrath. His history before becoming the Homunculus was structured and brutal and simple. But I… I had 14 millenia of pent up fury boiling within me. I knew hates so deep, so passionate, so all encompassing that they’d have burned Wrath to cinders with their intensity.

And as I mediated, the smiling man would come to visit me and he’d say terrible, terrible things… but I did not notice them for I was holding court in the Palace of my Mind, working to resolve some of these furies, to attain a calm center in spite of the seething anger beyond our walls. The Anger was other, no matter how much it felt like part of us. The Anger was fuel. We’d use it as a weapon, not allow it to use us.

In the year 1911, we stepped foot out of the cave, calm as a dormant volcano, and sought out our allies. They’d prepared, studied, mapped. They’d saved many, hiding them in stasis aboard the Light or VIggo von Deathstar. It was time to go hunting Homunculi.

Lust was the easiest, as she was active and public, even if her nature wasn’t. I ripped her Philosopher’s stone from her and caught the fragment that was her true self as the rest crumpled to dust. The stone I studied, trying to work out how to lay the souls within to rest, but they weren’t like the Souls of Demon Souls, being all tangled and twisted and compacted together. So many of them had lost all sense of self as well.

Gluttony was next, falling to my blade as I carved the fat moron apart, freezing the bits so they could not move or regenerate. Greed, Envy, and Pride continued to evade me, and I wanted to leave Wrath where he was for last.

That meant that next up was Sloth, who labored in the deep tunnels to craft the Nationwide Summoning Circle. I found him… and lost him, time and again as the darkness tried to engulf me. And that’s how I met Pride. I eventually defeated Sloth and added him to my inner collection, yet I could not fight Pride as he would not stand and fight. Instead, he flowed like liquid shadows, striking whenever a flicker of light allowed him to generate shadows. Sparks flew as his claws raked my flesh, but even surrounded my eyes never missed an attack and I was wearing him down… until Father appeared.

The Homunculi had never made any sense to my Third Eye. They were twisted abominations, yes, but they weren’t truly evil. Not in the way some things I’d encountered were. They had been created twisted, the product of a mind twisted by self-loathing, by hate of self and hate of the world. They’d been his attempts to purge himself of what he’d viewed as his flaws, never understanding that they were part of him. They’d had their own flaws magnified by this monster wearing human guise, transforming flaws into the end-all, be-all of their existence. It was no wonder they were horrors… and yet they were drawn from the souls of human beings and had been given life by this being that stood before me now.

As I said, I’d seen evil before. I’d stood in the presence of Outsiders and Demons and Adolf Hitler and Aku and Trigon and all that the world of Darkness could throw at me… and yet… none of them came close to the evil embodied within this… abomination. Those others had been bound by their natures or twisted by human lies and insanity and justifications.  Father was just… wrong. He’d been born able to understand good and evil, to make that choice… and every step of the way, he’d chosen evil. Not because it was evil… but because he felt entitled to. This was a being that would bring down God if he could, just because he could.

I surged forward, Soul of Ice blazing with Unflame in my hand. I’d strike this wretched creature from creation… and then… he simply swallowed me up. How was that even possible? I had no idea… but I also had no escape. I was trapped within this monstrosity.

“I made a mistake when I created you, Hate. I’ll need your power back,” Father said.

I growled, wanting to unleash my hate… but I couldn’t let him win, and so I curled up inside the flow of souls within Father, biding my time, drawing my strength from the self-loathing remaining within this being. His fall was ordained. I just had to wait… That’s what the man who smiled in the darkness whispered, even though I could not hear him.

Time rolled by and I howled inside Father as he tore the fragments of Sloth, Lust, and Gluttony from me and reformed them. I’d managed to do nothing to change the fate that was to come. This could not be! Something had to be working to keep the timeline straight. Something was pushing against me… and I hated it. The Darkside of the force within me was loving this, feeding on this anger… I needed a way to shut it off, but I couldn’t, and it twisted within me like a snake… and the man who smiled whispered to the twisted thing that I was becoming.

At long last, the moment came, the Day of Reckoning, the moment where Father’s plan would come to fruition. It was horrifying as the souls of so many poured into Father, surrounding my prison.  And I could do nothing, for to act would be to give Father a chance to consume me… and yet, would he not do so with this new power once he consumed God?

And yet, I was not alone. I had forgotten that, even as I struggled to remain myself. As Father distracted himself with dragging God out of the Heavens, Atura drew on the power within all those souls, just a tiny fragment of that torrent of energy, and shaped a shell around us both, a tiny worm, a parasite within Father’s body, a seed waiting to flower when Hoenheim’s plan came to fruition.

And yet, let it not be said that I was but a passenger in all this. I did accomplish one thing, save one soul that would have been otherwise lost in the fall of Father’s works. When Father took Greed back into him for the second time, I was able to save my brother from the destruction that Edward Elric delivered moments after the eclipse ended. He never noticed the crimson seed that flowed up into the atmosphere in the torrent of souls that escaped Father’s embrace at last… but so too did he fail to see what I saw from that terrible lofty height.

No one in Amestris saw what I saw from the sky above. They did not see the souls freed from Father, not the Amestrian Souls but the Xerxean Souls… they did not see them flash across the sky in Eight directions. They did not see the great Alchemical Seal they formed. It was not a Nation-Wide Alchemical Symbol. No… it was almost infinitely worse. It was Planetary… and if Ishval and North had formed two of ten crests of blood of that smaller circle… I saw now that Amestris and Xerxes formed two larger crests on this larger circle… one where the disc of the world itself was the edge of the circle and lines of souls etched across the firmament were the rest of the seal.

All that was missing was one last crest… in Xing… I looked at the sun and moon and calculated… 4 years and a couple months until the solar eclipse that would occur directly at the center of that horrible circle.

The seed I was unfolded slowly, drawing mass out of the remaining trace of the philosopher’s stones that Atura had managed to form out of Father’s blood and I cursed the necessity, but she’d only taken from the souls of murdered Xerxes, not from the Amestrian souls who were even now recovering from the horrible attempted genocide.

I settled to Earth, laying down the unconscious form of the now totally human Greed. “You’ll have to do better this time, brother,” I whispered. “No more extra-lives for you. Time to be human.”

Atura asked me why I’d saved him. I shrugged. “He’d learned, sometime between the first time Father consumed him and the second, what it was to be human. Seemed like a waste not to try.”

And from there, I journeyed to where Hoenheim would have to go. I found him approaching Trisha’s grave, the fire of his soul all but extinguished now, drained by the work he’d done to free the souls of two lands. He was dying… but I couldn’t let that happen.

As he knelt in front of an empty grave, I placed my hand upon his shoulder. “Father was a fool,” I said.

The 400 year old man gasped and looked up at me. “Hate!” he managed to get out, eyes widening.

“Reports of my death were exaggerated… and your business is not yet finished here,” I pulled him to his feet. He was too weak to resist me, his lifeforce guttering, about to go out… and then he staggered as I linked him to Yuzuha.

The power of a First Generation Juraian Tree cannot be underestimated. They are the children of a 23rd Dimensional Superbeing. There are Galaxies with less power. The tiniest shard of that power flowed into Hoenheim and restored him instantly to youth and vigor.

“W… what have you done?” He looked down at his hands, wrinkled with age and cracked with failing Alchemical power one moment, hale and well the next.

“Father was a fool. I mean that literally. Someone was using him… and you… to do all this…” I waved my hand around at the peaceful countryside but both he and I knew I meant the attempted slaughter of all Amestris, “On a global scale. Someone wants to consume a couple billion souls.”

“What? Who?”

“Well, my… uncle… to answer that question, I have to ask you another one… Who created the Dwarf in the Flask?”

Hoenheim’s eyes went wide. “No! He… He would have died in…”

“In Xerxes? Oh really? Are you certain?”

“Yes! I saw him in the throne room at that… that moment,” He looked certain, and yet doubtful.

“Actually, that was me,” came a third voice from behind me. The voice was almost a melody, inhumanly smooth, almost sweet, if sound could be said to have such a quality

We both spun to see… a somewhat chunky but tall and well built figure, a power-swimmer’s physique. He had dark crimson hair and matching hell-fire eyes and skin that was almost ashen grey in color. His smile was familiar to me, and suddenly I remembered a dozen whispered messages, messages that had been buried in the endless Hate that I’d once more begun to come to grips with… though I could see it was aging this body horribly as the Dark Side of the Force fed on it. I looked inside the man… and recoiled. This was… this was a Homunculus… but one orders of magnitude older than Father had been.

“My name is Impatience… but I prefer to think of myself as Fritter… as in to fritter away. My… father… had a very very long plan… he could not afford to rush. And so he spun me off. I’m afraid he and I look much alike. It’s an easy mistake to make, Dear Heart.”

Hoenheim shuddered as those words sunk deep into his mind. This creature was using some power I couldn’t quite defend against. It was like speaking to my very soul. But only the Soul known as Hate. The rest of me… we were less affected, less touched by the seductive allure hidden in that voice.

“What do you want, Impatience?”

“Careful, Love… this world has hidden depths that could sweep you off your feet to plunge into the abyss.” He smiled, and I was not comforted by the smile. It would have made the Cheshire cat think something was up. “Fear not. I will stand with you if you’ll have me?”

I narrowed my eyes, preparing for a fight but willing to hear this… thing… out. “Why would you help us?”

“For the pretty little boy,” He licked his lips and moaned. It was creepy as hell. “My sweet little Pride… I tried to save him, but he was loyal to Father and Grandfather… he played Father too well. Just like all the others.”

Hoenheim gasped, “Others? What others?”

“For the other Crests,” I said. “Amestris and Xerxes are two… there are seven others. The tenth will be in the capital of Xing… sometime in the next four years.”

Impatience laughed, “Yesss! The others. Greedy kings and scholars with more ambition than sense. Grandfather played them all, one by one. Four thousand years since he was Emperor Xing the first.”

I nodded. That made sense. The pattern had been drawn step by step across the centuries, repeating ancient horrors and destroying entire civilizations. “But Amestris failed. Doesn’t that stop it?”

“Oh, no. There was enough death here. All those wars, all that slaughter… all those poor pretty boys… and the maidens too. Always a shame when youth fades… but more a shame when it’s cut down. That’s why I loved sweet little pride sooo… eternally young… such…” He licked his lips and I shuddered.

“Where do I find Emperor Xing?” I asked, voice low and menacing.

“Patience, Dearheart. Patience! I- Gaack!” He managed to get out as Atura flowed up out of my shadow and plunged a sword that looked as it had been formed out of Silent Judge into his throat.

“Your voice is honey’d poison,” my inner spirit hissed. “Don’t speak… just open your mind so we can pluck it from your thoughts.” It’s good that one of us was thinking clearly. A few hours later, an island fortress and its nearly mummified inhabitant simple vanished from the face of the world as Ziggy crystals floated around me and demanded cookies. At least he didn’t like carrots, unlike a certain Cabbit. Then again, Ziggy liked oatmeal oyster cookies… Yerrrg.

I looked over to Hoenheim who was talking with Trisha who I’d pulled out of stasis. “I left a fake corpse at Trisha’s fake grave. You two are going to have a lot of work ahead of you, trying to figure out how to dismantle this planetary circle. It might take generations. Up to you if you want to tell your children you’re alive.” Nina Tucker was over the corner reading Ziggy and Alexander a book. My people had managed to replace her at least with a convincing fake. Her mother hadn’t been so lucky and so I was dumping the kid on the Elder Elrics.

“What are you going to do with,” Hoenheim nodded to the bound and gagged homunculus.

I shrugged. “It would be poor taste to kill him… but he’s a manipulative monster. Hardly seems safe to let him go. He knows the secret of the Philosopher’s stone.”

Hoenheim considered, then nodded. “True… but so do a great many people now. I think we’ll just have to trust to human decency… or whatever passes for it in this one.”

I sighed, then looked at the Homunculus. “For your assistance, you live. Sorry about your throat, but I suspect you’ll heal. I also suspect you’ll be a problem in the future… but that’s for the living to sort out. You… never speak to me again. You open your mouth anywhere near me besides to put food into it and I’ll make sure the sword doesn’t stop at your windpipe.

He gulped, then nodded and left without a word.

“He’s going to cause trouble,” Atura whispered.

“Probably. But it’s not our job to stop troublemakers. It’s our job to…” I shrugged, “Actually. I don’t know what, exactly, our job is.”

“To trouble stopmakers?”

“Well, if by stopmakers, you mean Genocidal Fuckwits, yeah. I guess. Come on, let’s go to North and do some skiing. I’ve heard good things about General Armstrong and look forward to annoying her.”

“We’re going to pick a fight with an Amestrian General?” Atura seemed doubtful about the prospect.

“Of course! Can’t have them become soft just because Father’s gone. Time for them to deal with Daughter of a Bastard.”

“Is that like Son of a Bitch?”

“Yes. but with much more Elan!”

Next: Young Justice

OMAKE: Relationship Chart

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AN: This was quite challenging for me. First, the Jump Document is terrible. Even by the standard of early jumps, it’s not good. The entire thing assumes a One-True-Build philosophy that assumes everyone will be thrilled to be an Alchemist and ignores the depth of characters who aren’t. Truth and Homunculus are ridiculously overpriced, and the Companion Import is a joke. The Item Section is useless and assumes that Automail is worth paying for. Even the drawbacks are fairly bad and easily ignorable by any jumper.

But that’s not the real problem. As I detailed above, the starting date is way before the start of the story. So much so that you have to choose between saving Ishval and interacting with the the canon characters. And that’s bad. the 1901 starting point should be an optional starting point.

Still, even with all that, the hardest part of this jump is that, for once, I’m fairly sanguine with the story arc and can’t see how I could do anything besides make it worse. So I did.