THE MORE THINGS STAY THE SAME
Previously: Behold! The Fata Sakura!
Themesong: The Safety Dance by Men Without Hats
“Papa? Whatcha doin?” Alex asked as thousands of GO, Chess, and Shogi Boards floated above my head. I had my eyes closed.
“Hiya kiddo,” I said, manifesting a solid thought projection next to him. “I’m playing Sakura, Francy, Joy, VIvian, and VIctor in twenty-seven thousand two hundred and ninety six games of whatever.” I ruffled his hair.
“What’s wrong with playing one game at a time?” He asked, fidgeting, going a little crosseyed as he tried to follow the rapid shifting of pieces across all the boards.
“I am playing one game at a time… Or rather all several hundred of me are playing one hundred games of each type against each opponent. I have exactly one one-hundredth of a second to make each move and they have a second to respond.”
“But… that would be over 1.8 million games…” He protested.
“Oh. It was. These are the only ones that I haven’t won yet… there isn’t much point to this. All these games are solvable, which means, since I have the absolute computational advantage, I win or stalemate every game. But they challenged me to see if I could win each of them with a unique endstate in which I am victorious… that’s a bit of a challenge.”
“You’re weird,” He commented. I nodded.
“I am indeed. We all are. But now you understand why I prefer videogames and roleplaying games and games where luck is important.”
“Because you can bruteforce everything else?”
“Because I can tickle,” I waggled my fingers, “Victory out of everything that’s a solvable game too easily.” He yelped and protected his sides. “So, what are you doing here in my private sanctum?” I asked, looking around at the ice-swept vista of Processing Central, the room where all Mega-Intellects met… well, all resident Mega-Intellects. If your IQ wasn’t at least four digits, don’t bother asking to enter… or if you weren’t a kid or bringing snacks… or Ziggy. Ziggy liked it because there was almost always a lap for him if I was in here.
“Chamber says the new document is ready,” he said. “Do we get to play this time? Last time was boring.”
“Last time was 49 days, you brat. And you got to run your own city for 5 centuries before that… why aren’t you all grown up yet?”
“I dunno?” he shrugged. “Why aren’t you?”
I grinned at him and scooped him up under one arm, having finished the remaining games in the time we’d been talking. “Just for that, you get pudding down your pants.”
“Nooooo…” Alex squirmed defensively, “I just… all the stuff we’ve done lately is all grown up stuff! Can’t we do something fun?”
“Well, you know I don’t have much say in these things, but… of the batch I know the next jump has to come from, Babylon 5 and Dune are very adult, what with wars and politics and dynasties and perverted grownups. Journey to the West is potentially fun, what with the whole mytho-poetic road trip and lots of demons to beat up… and Bartimaeus is pretty much the antithesis of ‘fun’, what with politics and assassination and boring mages being boring and stupid,” I’d listened to the book finally. “But Assassination classroom is a middle school… I think… full of assassins… yeah, that could be amusing… and Nanoha is about elementary school magical girls… so? I guess that could be fun.”
“But… can’t we just… have fun anywhere?”
“Kiddo… I think that’s my question for you,” I poked him on the nose. “Fun is all around. Most of the jumps we’ve been to I don’t have a planet to run or a death game tourney to win. We’ll have plenty of time to goof off with your sisters.” He made a face, but I grinned at him. “They’re allowed to have fun too.”
“Maggy doesn’t have fun… she’s too bossy,” he grumbled.
“Maggy has lots of fun, and she’s not bossy, you brat,” I scooped him up and tickled him as I headed for the Chamber. “Ho, Blockhead! What’s next on the agenda?”
“Per the young Master’s request for juvenile lighthearted fun, Nanoha has been selected by Higher,” the Chamber intoned dryly. “It also seemed relevant from what I gather to your recent spat of Mega-Computational shenanigans.”
I chuckled, remembering the german speaking mega-weapons that Nanoha lore claimed were ‘magical wands’… magical wands that can punch holes in city-sized spaceships… large holes… the long way… without sacrificing accuracy. “Right… good… okay, throw up the grid and me and my associate here will make some choices.
Alex eeped, “I… I get to help?”
“Yes, you get to help.”
“Can I sit in your lap and have hot cocoa too?” He asked, bubbling with excitement. I loved this kid. He was a brat… but my brat.
I gave him a hug and agreed, then settled back into the Comfy Throne and grew a bit bigger, watching as the basic informational scroll appeared. It detailed the rise of the Ancient Belkan Empire as it invaded civilization after civilization across the Dimensional Sea with its advanced Al-Hazardian magi-tech. After centuries of conquest and over-industrialization, the Belkan homeworld, Belka, finally became uninhabitable and, during the collapse of the Empire, Belka was lost in the DImensional Sea, despite the best efforts of the Belkan Saint-Kings of the time.
After nearly thirty years of civil war and chaos, the remnants of the Belkan Empire and a few independant worlds unified under the banner of the Time-Space Administration Bureau (TSAB), a security force dedicated to bringing peace to the worlds once held by the Empire and to monitoring the cultural and technological growth of more primitive worlds outside their jurisdiction. They also dedicated a large percentage of their resources into collecting the Lost Logia, dangerous remnants of Ancient Belkan and Al-Hazardian technology before they can cause too much damage.
It is now the year 0065 in the restored Belkan Calendar and within a few short months, the 21 Lost Logia known as Jewel Seeds will be accidentally scattered across a tiny island nation on one of those primitive worlds, a world known to the TSAB as Non-Administered World #97… and better known to us as Earth… Oh, Japan… any excuse to turn a little girl into a Weapon of Mass Destruction.
First up, as always, was the Origins section, and it held some moments of amusement. The starting age was a range from eight to twenty-two, which amused me, and there was the option to become a woman for free since the overwhelming majority of the cast were female. Honestly, I could remember like… four males out of a couple dozen characters… and two of them were Nanoha’s brother and father. But most interesting was the fact that each of the five origins had its own theme and keywords. It was a fascinating and, to my memory, unique take on the subject.
The Origins were divided into three factions: Independant, TSAB, and Belkan, with one in the first and two each in the later too. Independent’s ‘Wanderer’ Background was the Drop-In option, the one that granted no new memories or persona. Its theme was ‘Bonds’ (I’m assuming not in the BDSM theme) and its motivation was seeking ‘connections, memories, and friendship’ with others. It was a nice little package, coming with perks that made youth no bar to gaining or keeping positions, that promoted mental health, that made massive attacks non-lethal, that made turning enemies into friends easier, that boosted willpower, and even that turned defeating an enemy into an act of compassion and mutual understanding… It even came with hotel recommendations… and if I were a younger jumper, I’d have been all over it. But I wasn’t, and I already had most of those things in some form or another… maybe it would be a good import for the kids though.
The two TSAB… and boy should they have reversed that and made it the Bureau Administering Space-Time… you figure it out… backgrounds were Civilian and Trooper. Civilians were all about ‘Innovation’ and ‘pushing the boundaries of theoretical magic, engineering, and science’, which I could certainly get behind, but it sounded a bit… practical. Troopers on the other hand were all about ‘Control’ and ‘securing territory, resources, and victory in battle’… which I wasn’t exactly opposed to, but it just didn’t sound fun and I was pretty good at doing all that already. I didn’t even bother to check out their perk-lines before passing them over. I’d look at the perks if I had points left to spend, but I doubted I would.
Then there were the Belkan backgrounds. These had the most history, the richest potential for new experiences and I was immediately intrigued. The Backwater background was for one of those worlds that had barely survived the Unification War and has largely been relegated to second tier by the TSAB. It held fast to the theme of Perseverance, and venerated the strength to endure, survive, and thrive where others could not have. I knew the type and could appreciate that grim passion, could almost see myself taking it… might have, had the last option not presented itself.
That option was to become a member of the adherents of the Saint Church, a group dedicated to the veneration of the last Saint-King, Olivie Sagebrecht, she who’d brought an end to the Unification War and then disappeared with her flagship, the Saint-Cradle. Granted semi-autonomy by the TSAB for their support and contributions to the stability of the new nation, the Saint Church’s theme was ‘Ancestry’ and they held fast to the legacy and history of their people… especially the last preserved elements of Ancient Belkan culture and magic. I have always had a thing for lineage and antiquities, and, I decided, unless the perks sucked, I’d go with the strange faith… hopefully the indoctrination wasn’t too bad. Then again, this was Nanoha, where everything ends with a hug and maybe some cookies. I gave the dice of aging a toss and, poof, became 13. A good age to be… but then again, weren’t they all?
Alex elbowed me and whispered, “Companion Immmpoooort.” and I laughed, then tickled him.
“Chamber, please show the companion import options so my Minister of Cocoa knows I haven’t forgotten about him,” I said, holding Alex’s nose as he tried to lick my hand. The section wasn’t long… but I winced… it wasn’t cheap either. There was a basic package of 8 import for 200 (My Friends and Me), which was perfectly reasonable and came with a free background, 400 CP to spend, and 600 DP to spend on a Device (the aforementioned ‘magical wands’)… all very reasonable and not at all wincemaking. Unfortunately, ‘Jumper Squad 7’ allowed an unlimited import, and was 400. 600 CP to bring in everyone was a bit… hmmm… “Chamber, is My Friends and Me included in Jumper Squad 7 or is it a prerequisite?”
“There is no clear indication that Jumper Squad requires MFAM. There is an implication that it might, and it could go either way, but I am inclined to be reasonable, so 400 grants all your companions the benefits of My Friends and Me, as I doubt you plan to generate new companions at all.”
“No…,” I considered. “I think I have enough for the time being.”
“What?” I asked, peering at him.
“That means you’re going to pick up more loonies!” he complained.
“Me saying I have enough companions means I’m picking up more?” I asked, suspiciously.
“Yes! It’s like Amaryllis saying she has enough stuffed aminals… then she gets more!” He complained.
“You’re one to talk,” I chided him. “How many outfits do you have?”
“I need them all! I have two different genders and my bodies aren’t the same size! I need twice as much clothing as everyone else!” He protested.
I just looked at him. My son was easily the biggest clothes horse besides Bao in the entire crew. He had thousands of outfits, some of which he’d worn all of never. Then again, Bao had tens of thousands of outfits and was known to change clothing as much as five times in a single day and seldom wore an outfit more than once. That was compared to, say, Dyna, who was known to wear the same exact outfit day after day for months at a time… or Ziggy, who didn’t have his own clothing but liked to hide in everyone else’s. “Riiiight,” was all I said.
“Do you want to look at perks first, or, having spend 400 CP before getting anything for yourself, do you want to look at the Drawbacks first,” The Chamber asked, either missing the interplay or ignoring it.
“What do you think, kiddo?” I asked.
“Drawbacks. Better to know what we’re getting into then look for cheese opportunities in buying things,” he said, sounding decisive. “Also, that way the rest of the crew will know what we’re facing so they can get started on their own builds.”
“Good thinking, me lad. Alright Chamber, make it so!”
“Very well. Your limit is 800 CP from drawbacks, and there is a note that states ‘Drawbacks taken here do not necessarily override perks; however, they do severely inhibit the function of those perks when there is a conflict.’,” it said, throwing up a list of drawbacks and toggles to consider.
“Oooh… oooh! You should take that one!” Alex said, pointing at the wall.
“Separated?” I asked, and he nodded enthusiastically. I read it, then leaned back and considered. It was only worth 100, but it did offer some useful and interesting possibilities that weren’t horrible. What it did was effectively scatter my entire crew to the dimensional winds and block all easy methods of finding each other. I’d have to hunt them down myself. Normally, I’d be hesitant to do any such thing, since such a scattering could leave those who most needed support helpless, but ‘Separated’ promised they’d be generally fine until found. It would also hamper any attempt to buy new companions which is what, I suspect, had drawn Alex’s attention.
“You want me to scatter everyone all over the place? Tell you what, if 70% of the crew agrees… and you get your sisters and the other 2nd generations to sign off on it… well, not Invidius and Scipio, obviously, but everyone younger than you, we’ll go with it. I’m not separating family units just for 100 CP without warning. Last time that happened, we ended up with the twins.”
Alex hadn’t been born then, but he’d heard the stories and watched the videos. He knew. He winced, then texted the plan to everyone on the Warehouse Internal Social Hub (Yes, it was WISH, and no, I hadn’t named it that. Blame Zane.). The response was generally favorable, with only a few complaints from those in unstable relationships (like the obsessive stalkers I’d brought out of the stay in Warhammer 40k or Cirno). Everyone else thought it would be an adventure in a relatively safe setting.
While they were doing that, I picked up the ridiculously overpriced ‘Befriending’ which got me another 100 CP just for agreeing to allow myself to be beaten up badly by Nanoha… once. It would hurt a lot (so much so that it was all in capital letters… ooooo)… but it was guaranteed not to kill me and to only happen once… and we’d become friends after that. That was free points right there.
Just for fun… and out of a sense of morbid curiosity, I looked through the rest of the drawbacks and whistled softly. This was the lightest load of drawbacks I could remember ever seeing. On a scale of one to ten where one was a drawback that was essentially free points and ten was a drawback that was a guaranteed chain-ender or worse, something so bad that you’d desire a chain ending… most of these barely hit 5 on the ouchometer. Hell, the worst of them were being hunted by the TSAB or similar, amnesia, and powerlessness.
I popped for two more 100 CP drawbacks that were barely into the hangnail range. Lost Logia Magnet meant that I’d be constantly getting involved with situations involving those relics or dangerous individuals, situations I’d be expected to deal with… but that were guaranteed to be easy to resolve (I didn’t opt into the 200 CP booster that made them grow progressively more and more dangerous over time… because I’m not stupid). Clothing Damage was even closer to free points. It just meant that my clothing would be shredded or ripped off entirely at the slightest provocation. I could cope with this because I wasn’t a child, no matter how my body might look. Nudity wasn’t going to phase me much… and my armor was not my only defense.
That meant I was halfway to the limit, and I really wasn’t feeling any of the serious ouch (at least as far as this jump measured ouch)… so I decided to sacrifice all my setting knowledge and some of my quality of life. The setting knowledge I pretty much had to take… after all, it was called “The Ferret Talks?” Oddly enough, even though it took away all my metaknowledge of Nanoha’s setting and the canon play of events… it didn’t do that for my companions. That was just… odd…. “Hey, Jump-Chan?”
“This Ferret Talks thing… it doesn’t hit my companions, does it?”
“I see no indication of it doing so, and since the upgrade ‘I’m a What?’ specifically calls out companions, while ‘The Ferret Talks’ doesn’t, I’d say no.”
“Make you a deal?” I offered.
“You want each of your companions to be hit with that as well, in exchange for them getting the 200 CP?” The chamber asked.
“In the immortal words of Monty Python, ‘Taths si sepricely’,” I replied, tapping my nose.
“Ah, anagrams… yes. Very well. Though be aware they’ll also fall prey to the clause that says ‘everything you purchased in this jump will be steadily acquired during the course of the jump instead of right away.”
“Yeah yeah… no big, since it also guarantees they’ll get what they absolutely need in a tight spot.”
“You are gaming the system slightly, since most of them have little or no knowledge of Nanoha, but since you have several days left, you could easily fill them in from your memory, so I do not think Higher will protest.”
I nodded, then sighed as I finished my Drawback selection by picking up ‘What Evacuation Siren?’, the aforementioned slice of life killer. It meant I’d constantly be wandering into incredibly dangerous areas where explosions and magical bombardement spells were flying around like gnats in a swamp. Normally that wouldn’t be so much of a problem, but it guaranteed that the collateral would always find ways to hurt me or make my life miserable. I was hoping, honestly, for hurt. Hurt was easier to deal with than misery. Hurt I could recover from fairly easily. “Well, that’s that… I guess I’ll have to make do with 1400 CP.”
“Very good,” The Chamber said. “Though if you feel you don’t have enough, you can also supplement your total with Scenarios.”
“Oook?” I said, my tengu ears popping into being and tilting towards the chamber. “Scenarios?”
“Indeed. You may select no more than one from Story Scenarios, and as long as you don’t select INNOCENT, you may take any number of Task Scenarios that don’t conflict.” The stony face intoned dryly.
“Huh… how many-”
“There are four in each category. The Story Scenarios include ‘A Mother’s Love’ which makes you an artificial lifeform, effectively the older sister of Fate Testarossa-”
“Nanoha’s girlfriend, created by the psychotic Precia Testarossa as a replacement for her daughter Alicia,” I explained to Alex.
“Aren’t they like… 10 years old?”
“At first, yes. But in later series Fate and Nanoha have an adopted daughter who calls them both Momma. It’s never outright stated that they’re in a relationship… but it’s clear they are.” I chuckled as he rolled his eyes at the silliness of such thinly veiled censorship. Good kid.
The chamber continued, “Consumed by Darkness links you to the book of Darkness, either as a replacement for Hayate Yagami, as the Fifth Wolkenritter, or as a relative of Hayate. In all three cases, you or Hayate must survive.”
I propped Alex on one leg and explained. “Hayate has a very powerful Lost Logia called the Book of Darkness. It is slowly draining her lifeforce, making her sickly and weak. The book also generates four protectors who hunt magic users to defend Hayate and gather Linker Cores… the thing that makes a mage a mage in this setting… to fill the pages of the book… of which it has… I think… 666. The Wolkenritter are those protectors… two teenage girls named Signum and Shamal, a little girl named Vita, and a wolf-like creature named Zafira… who, despite the name, is male and can shapeshift into a mostly human form. Nanoha beat up Vita and managed to save Hayate and the Wolkenritter from the destruction of the book… and even managed to save the spirit of the book, an entity named Reinforce.”
Alex frowned “Does anyone not get ‘Befriended’ by Nanoha?”
“Not that I remember, no. The show is very very light on the unneeded deaths…. Interesting… I think I’ll take that one, assuming the others aren’t significantly better. As Hayate’s sister… I believe in the canon she was living alone with her Wolkenritter acting as her legal guardians…”
Alex snorted, “I bet this Zafira is cute and you just want to hug him.”
“Hush you. And no… more like hug Vita… she’s such a pugnacious little firecracker.”
Alex rolled his eyes. “Wait… is this why that perk was called ‘Hayate’s Lesbian Army?””
I snorted and nodded. “Yes. Very much so.”
“Wow… I’m not calling Hayate auntie,” Alex bratted.
“No… I should think not,” I replied, poking his nose. “Okay Chamber, what are the other two?”
“Innocent is a vacation option that removes all supernatural elements from the setting and transforms Arf, Yuuno, Zafirea, and Lilith into actual animals. Everyone else from canon is alive and well,” came the reply.
I scratched the edge of my nose as I wracked my memories for details from a show I’d seen once 145 centuries earlier. “Arf is Fate’s familiar and a very sexy lady. Yuuno is Nanoha’s friend and a ferret sometimes, and Lilith… I don’t know who that is… but no. I think not. Innocent is the game setting, right?”
“That is correct,” Chamber said.
“Yeah, I’ll skip that,” I said, making a face of annoyance mostly to make Alex laugh. “And the next one?”
“I doubt you’d like it. It makes you an attempt to clone the Saint Kaiser of Belka and comes with imprinted memories,” the Chamber opined.
“Right. I’ll pass… how much for Consumed by Darkness?”
“As Hayate’s sister? You get 500 CP for taking it and though there isn’t a specific reward for it, if you wish you can study the Book of Darkness for the spells in it or the technology used to create it.”
“That might be interesting. Combine its ability to generate Wolkenritter with Sakura’s records of Heroic Spirits and my ability to craft Noble Phantasms and… yes… very interesting indeed.”
Alex groaned, “You’re not allowed to create an army of weirdos!”
“I already have an army of weirdos.” I retorted.
“Well… you can’t have a second!” he informed me, but I tickled him into submission to remind him that he didn’t get to order me around.
The Chamber threw up details of the four secondary ‘Task’ Scenarios, each of which was potentially interesting. Belka Reborn was about restoring the Belkan Empire or stopping the return of it by whatever means possible. It was worth the most, either 600 CP or a Belkan battleship called the Lupus Cradle… but I didn’t think Alex would approve of my conquering everywhere… nor would Nanoha… and honestly, I didn’t think that would be a very nice thing to inflict on the setting. Also unpleasant was the ‘Nuclear Launch Detected’ scenario which was only 200 CP and dealt with criminals stealing Belkan WMDs. Failure would just be… bad.
On the other hand, ‘The Jewel Seed Incident’ was an almost plotbound thing, meaning if I took it I’d get dragged into the initial storyline… which would give me an in with Nanoha… and a reason for our fight to happen earlier. It would also jumpstart my knowledge of the magical world of the setting, since taking Consumed by Darkness would overwrite my starting location to Earth instead of the TSAB capital world of Mid-Childa. That I would get 200 CP back for it was just gravy.
The last Scenario, entitled Material-LSD just promised an interesting time and an exciting encounter three years into my stay and for that I would get 300 CP and a reward who’s nature would become evident depending on how I dealt with the challenge. That seemed delightfully cryptic… and, depending on how complete the erasure of my Nanoha metaknowledge was, I might not even remember taking this Scenario.
That left me with 2400 CP between the 800 from Drawbacks and 1000 from Scenarios… which I guess meant it was time to buy stuff. After freebies, of course.
For Saint Church Adherents, that meant getting Mana Conversion Affinity and Cartridge Endurance. MCA would allow me to convert the Mana channeled by my Linker Core into a single specific reaction or energy type. The more mana I put into the effect, the greater the intensity of the reaction. I considered for a while, all of ten or twelve whole seconds, then selected ‘Speed’ as my reaction. That meant that the more mana I channeled into it, the faster I’d be able to act, react, and move. Sure sure, I could manipulate time… but that merely made me appear faster because everyone else was slowed or stopped. One of these days I was going to run into other time manipulators and I’d need an ace against them. Speed would help… hopefully. CE, on the other hand, would serve to grant me much greater ability to use magic that had harmful side-effects before the downside or backlash kicked in. It wouldn’t eliminate the strain or damage… but it would moderate it greatly. The title was a reference to Belkan Cartridge Magic, which augmented magical attacks by using mana cartridges… but put a heavy strain on the user because that energy still had to be focused through the user’s Linker Core.
The setting had three different magical systems; Mid-Childan, Ancient Belkan, and Modern Belkan. Each had its own strengths and weaknesses. The Mid-Childan system, used by the TSAB’s Civilians and Troopers, specialized in ranged magic, especially Shooting and Bombardment spells, but lacked strong melee magic. On the other hand, Ancient Belkan, with which Adherents of the Saint Church started, had been developed to go hand in hand with the Cartridge system, and focused on melee combat and antipersonnel debuffs to the point where practitioners of the system were often called ‘Knights’… or ‘Ritters’… as in Wolkenritter. While it was lacking in utility and flexibility, it was the most powerful direct combat magic of the trio. The Modern Belkan system was balanced between the two, and would be introduced by fusing Mid-Childan with the Cartridge system. It was the most flexible combat-wise, used largely for buffing the attacker to new heights, but far and away the least useful outside of it,
Spells were classed by their purpose into Shooting-Type, Bombardment-Type, Magic-Enhanced Attacks, Barriers and Shields, and Capture-Type… and everyone got all of them free… but their relative skill in each category depended on the magical system being employed. I’d have to see how well my Strike Witch magic could be adapted to this system.
And speaking of Strike Witch Magic… did you know that the reason the Witches were so young was because magic in that setting fades with age? Always hated systems like that… and thankfully, I’d never have to deal with that again, since the first non-freebie on the Saint Church shopping list was the 100 CP ‘Adult Mode’ and its two important functions. First, it would allow me to spend a small amount of mana to shift from child form to Adult form… or rather the version of my physical body that was in its prime of life. Second, and more important, my physical and mental abilities would always function as though I was in said prime no matter what my age was… baby or crone or anywhere in between… and that was just nifty. No more aging out of something just because time had passed. Those systems were lame with a capital asshole! (500 of 2800 spent, 2300 remains)
The remaining Saint Church perks all dealt with family and lineage in unique and interesting ways… only one of which I was particularly interested in. Thicker Than Water strengthened family bonds, smoothing over internal conflicts by transforming the taker into a lynchpin for the family unit… and while that was interesting, it really didn’t seem like something worth actually paying for. Maybe some of my companions might take it, but as head of the sprawling Zigminder Clan, it was not my job to play peacekeeper but rather to play court of last resort. People did what I said because I was in charge. I wasn’t the Troy, I was the Picard. Also of questionable utility was ‘In The Blood’, the SC Capstone, which allowed me to curate my heredity, passing on unique magical abilities or traits to my descendants… except I could already do that to a degree by deciding which heritable traits I passed on to my children. I had no desire at the current time to experiment with my children’s DNA in such a limited regard.
On the other hand, just below ‘In the Blood’ was ‘Ancient Knowledge’ for 200 CP. The Belkan people didn’t, it turns out, pass on information merely by memetic means, but also through bloodlines, a subconscious lineage memory that allowed the inheritors of key bloodlines to intuit how to utilize Lost Logia, the remnants of Belkan (or Al-Hazardian) technology. When coming in contact with a Lost Logia, the taker of Ancient Knowledge would not only gain the ability to use it, but knowledge of how it functioned… and, if possessed of technological skills, how to reproduce it. Good enough in the scheme of this jump, but after leaving this world, all such lost or forgotten technology would be similarly open to me, assuming my technical skills were up to the task… which, it goes without saying, they almost certainly were. (700 of 2800 spent, 2100 remains).
“Ah well, I was hoping the Capstone would be cooler,” I complained, but Alex ignored me as he spied on his sisters making their own plans. “Aren’t you going to do your own build?” I asked, sticking my finger in his ear.
“Gnaaa!” he grunted, squirming and glowered at me. “Afterwards! I want to see what everyone else does first!”
I rolled my eyes, but left him alone. ~Time to cherry pick other backgrounds,~ I thought, not expecting any response. I wasn’t broadcasting, after all.
~Don’t take anything from Wanderer,~ came the unexpected reply.
~Atura? Wait… what… oh…~ I chuckled at that, but Alex ignored me. I often chuckled at my own internal jokes. ~Sorry. I keep forgetting about that.~
~Indeed. We may be fused, but I am still counted as a companion. After all, Raava shared her power with the Avatar, it is only fair I share my power with you, my Manifestation.~
~We really don’t abuse this nearly enough, you know?~ I commented. ~It feels like cheating.~
~There is no cheating in survival… but we are restrained. We only use it when there are unlimited group imports… at least to date.~
~There is that,~ I considered, then looked at the abilities in the Wanderer line again. ‘Age is No Barrier’ and ‘Well Adjusted were free, ‘Zenryoku Zenkai!’ was 100, ‘Friendly Rivalry’ was 150, ‘I CAN BE SHOT’ was 200, and ‘Power of Friendship’ was 300. Atura had 800 CP and that totalled out at 750, leaving just 50 CP if she took the whole package. Each of them were interesting and could certainly come in handy, though none of them were gamebreakers, mostly boosting abilities I already had.
Age is No Barrier was the counterpart to Adult Mode which made people simply ignore the fact that we were too young to hold any given post or position. Well Adjusted was an anti-freakout, anti-’that can’t be true’ kind of thing… didn’t need it with my emotion control, but eh. Why not. ‘Twas free. ZenZen was the ability to use killing attacks to KO enemies instead of vaporize them. I was pretty sure I already had an ability to limit damage, but two such couldn’t hurt… literally. ICBS was not only a slightly willpower boost when defending friends and family, but also a loyalty booster for my friends, family, and allies… that also boosted their willpower and determination when I was in trouble. It even gave them a sense of when I needed their help and where to look for me… as long as I didn’t abuse them or use mind control to make them like or obey me. Friendly Rivalry and Power of Friendship were two more Befriend Your Enemy perks… of which I was pretty certain I had two already… but both of these added extra utility. FR added the ability to form emotional bonds and exchange personal insight through fighting… and even more by talking to an enemy, even one trying to kill me. Could even go beyond friendly… if you know what I mean… but it would take work and mutual respect. I could do mutual respect… possibly. PoF on the other hand was all about hammering your opponent with city-buster weaponry… and thereby transforming them into a friend with complete understanding of my own perspective and goals, as well as greater empathy towards my cause d’jour. It could even help heal mental scars if those were behind the conflict to begin with. Call it percussive therapy.
~You certain you want all that?~ I asked my godhead, and she confirmed that, yes, understanding and companionship were largely preferable to wholesale slaughter. She was sooo from Avatar. Heh.
Skipping that tapped wellspring, I found three other perks that I considered worth the cost. From Backwater, I picked up ‘Break out of the Nightmare’ for 300, which allowed me to ID illusions on sight and snap out of those I’ve been trapped in. It even gave me the ability to overcome my worst nightmare (whatever that was) or my greatest desire (equally no clue). It gave me a sense of what and who I was and what to do when my faults were laid out in front of me. It wasn’t much, but every little bit to help me stay centered… yeah, that could be useful. Civilian’s ‘Screening Process’ set me back another 100 and gave me immunity from going mad with power (unless an outside force was trying to push it on me… but I was pretty much immune to those)… but that wasn’t why I purchased it. No. Normally, I rely on my third eye to judge someone’s heart and soul… but Screening Process took it a step further. It would allow me to judge when someone was morally and mentally equipped to handle an ability or object… and a vague idea of how positive the outcome of granting that gift to them would turn out… not just for them, but for me and for others. For 100 CP? It was a freaking steal.
Then there was the previously mentioned ‘Hayate’s Lesbian Army’ of 200… which I had to take for the name if nothing else. The fact that it allowed me to set any keyword I wanted and, if at all possible, the great majority (90%+) of all applicants to any organization I staffed or ran would fit that keyword. Of course, I could set it as Lesbian… but I wasn’t that bonkers. No. I considered setting it for ‘Hyper-Competent’ but decided to go instead for ‘Polymaths’. By definition, a Polymath is someone who possesses genius-level talent in multiple fields. An organization made up entirely of Polymaths who all respected each other and understood their limitations? Bwahahaa… GLORIOUS! (1300 of 2800 spent, 1500 remains)
Then came the General Perks, a section which included ‘Cyborg’ (Bleh), ‘No Limiter Can Hold Me’ (Not as good as it sounds), and ‘Blood of Kings’ (oooooo shiny!). Not only did BoK fit in brilliantly with my background on the basic level (Saint Church is all about ancestry), but if I took the Darkness Bloodline, I’d be connected to the original program of the Book of Darkness… or as it was known back then before it became damaged ‘The Tome of the Night Sky’. As such, I’d naturally gain the book’s function of collecting magical knowledge, a rare skill called ‘Collect and Use’ which would allow me to copy the spells of those I drained of their magical energy with near-perfect accuracy… even other ‘Rare Skills’. Would just have to be careful not to kill those I was draining… For 300? It was a good investment. (1600 of 2800 spent, 1200 remains)
I was about to ask the Chamber to bring up the Item section, when it anticipated my request… and instead brought up a chart labeled from E to SSS. “What’s this?” I asked.
“Your Natural Magical Potential… the amount of raw magical power your Linker Core will be able to generate,” The Box replied.
“Can this be increased by training?” I asked, frowning at the fact that Triple-S rank was listed as ‘Priceless’.
“Yes. You may increase your prowess through training. Skill is just as much the name of the game as anything. Raw power merely gives you a leg up.”
I grumbled, “Six Hundred CP for a leg up? That had better be a damned good leg.”
“A rank is free and is quite adequate,” the Chamber commented dryly.
“Yeah, sure. But I’ve got the points and none of the Main Characters are A rank. I’m not playing second fiddle to them just because this is their story.” (2200 spent, 600 remains)
Alex snerked. “Ego, thy name is Papa.”
“Quiet you. I haven’t forgotten about the pudding in the pants.”
He eeeped, but stuck out his tongue at me. Cheeky brat.
I sighed, scanning through the Magical Perks that were under the Natural Potential. Lots and lots of perks for sale this time round. Oh… holy god… Telepathy was free for everyone! While it wasn’t scanning telepathy, it was a mental communication technique that worked on any willing subject, even if they lacked the capacity themselves… and it had a mind-to-mind range that crossed dimensional barriers. There were two limitations to it, three if you counted that it wouldn’t work into other jumps or continuities until I gained my Spark… it could be intercepted by other telepaths, and it could be shut out by those unwilling to listen. So, it wasn’t much good for me… but the number of telepaths was going to seriously increase… good lord… telepathic Ziggy.
The remaining three that actually cost points weren’t worth cost particularly. ‘Unison Compatibility’ made merging with the ultra-rare Unison devices a nearly perfect fusion, but having the right skillset and luck could overcome that… and I had luck and was very good at being skilled if I really needed it. I also had my VIctoria which was as close as a UD as I needed. In fact, if I could I’d import her as my Device. ‘Animal Form’ was just shapeshifting, which again I already had copiously. And Deviceless was just… meh. I had other tricks to fall back on if I didn’t have my Device close to hand.
Once again, I considered buying the remaining one magical system (Atura had picked up Mid-Childan)…. But decided I’d do that only if I had the points left at the end. “Items please, Chamber.”
“As you command, oh Egotistical Papa.”
“You may not have pants, but you too can be puddinged.”
“I am unafraid of your custardy threats,” the Chamber snarked, bringing up the freebies for Saint Church and Wanderer, as well as the list of discounted items for each. Atura got a Stack of Cash (10,000 dollars US or equivalent) and a Lifetime access to Pizza Hut Pizzas, either appearing in the Warehouse or via delivery free of charge… complete with whatever sort of pizza toppings She… or rather I… desired (she didn’t eat, but could taste whatever I tasted)… it didn’t even have to be Pizza Hut Pizza! It could be any pizza restaurant I desired… chain or otherwise. “We’ll take Pizzaria Uno.” I commented, already drooling. God, Chicago Style Deepdish… it was like an actual meat pie.
As Alex and I dug into a Chicken Spinoccoli (Spinach and Broccoli, yes it’s amazing) with extra parm, I checked what Saint Church got… it wouldn’t be nearly as good. It wasn’t. Cultural Artifacts, a craft full of family heirlooms, clay statues, metal crosses covered in runes, and yellowed books written in a strange dialect of German, plus a delicate grey shroud that would make me more somber and focused if I wore it. Yaaay. I also got a Cartridge Kit containing sixty preloaded Cartridges and everything needed to make more… with a weekly restock of 60 anyway.
Atura spent her remaining 50 CP to buy ‘Infinite Library Priority Access’… which was access to the Infinite Library of the TSAB, which contained all the public access collected knowledge of a trans-dimensional empire and granted access to any public library in existence in all future jumps. I was going to be reading a lot of books… as fast as I could touch them.
I, on the other hand, discovered that, because I’d taken ‘Blood of Kings: Darkness’, I qualified for a discount on an item called ‘The Book of Dawning Sky’… a completely blank, utterly tapped of mana version of the Book of Darkness. It could store as much energy as I could put into it, and copy as many spells as I could find a way to absorb… and was a Unison Device… or at least could be once it was loaded with some mana and spells. I bought the damned thing on the spot. 350 was a steal for an infinite mana capacitor. Hell, I could probably supercharge it simply by chugging a few dozen Full Mana Potions. The description even hinted at other benefits once the book was powered up properly.
Of course, that left me with 250 to spend, which wasn’t enough to buy the Dimensional Warship (400 CP) so I didn’t. Instead, I spend 50 of it buying a copy of the Media Collection… ie. a complete inventory of Nanoha media… manga, anime, games, merch… all added to the Warehouse… post jump because I’d taken ‘The Ferret Talks?!’
That left me with 200 CP which I shrugged and just tossed at the DP pool, boosting my available DP from 600 to 1400. If that wasn’t enough, I’d be flummoxed.
“Chamber. I’d like to make VIctoria my Device… and can I combine the Book into her?”
“Affirmative. Old Partner will cost you 200 DP, and Unison System, which is normally 400 CP, would be 400 DP and would give the Book / VIctoria it’s own artificial Linker Core at A-Rank, though it won’t grow naturally.”
“Cool. 800 left. What else do I need to buy?”
“First, there’s a conflict of Type. VIctoria is Armor, a Wearable-Type. The Book is Auxiliary Control-Type. Also, since you merged your Wand into VIctoria, she might qualify as Weapon-Type.”
“Is there any important distinction between the types?”
“Not really. It is all in how you handle the device.”
“Right. Don’t care. Call it all three. Or Variable Type. or Jumper Type. Next?”
“Well… you need to decide what the… VIctoria’s Standby and Device forms are.”
“Aren’t those a book and a book? Or a book and armor?”
“Standby Form is normally free… and normally some kind of trinket. A card, a gem, a piece of jewelry. Something convenient to carry around. For 100 DP, you can fuse any trinket you might already own with… let’s call it anomalous properties. Device form is the active form, how it’s used in combat. You’ve already paid the cost for merging two different things there.”
“Ah… hmm… oohh… heh. Merge VIctoria with the Neptune Jewel,” I said, as, with a thought, I summoned the fist-sized gem I’d stolen from the world of Samurai Jack. “It’s a bit big, but…” I concentrated on it and it shrunk down to the size of an eyeball. Still a massive sapphire, but not ridiculous. I’d made numerous upgrades to the incredibly powerful gemstone over the centuries, tossing various enchantments on it to go with its native control over the oceans of earth… or most other planets really.
“That is the kind of lunacy I’ve come to expect from you. Good thing you didn’t buy a copy of the Dominion Jewel,” The Chamber commented. “I assume you want most of the various combat modes… rather than the defensive ones?”
“Good guess… what are we looking at?”
“I do know you rather well, EssJay,” The patron of my stint in Warhammer 40K commented. “You’re looking at 100DP for Sealing Mode, used to seal dangerous items and beings, 100DP for Shooting Mode, used for blowing up large sections of cities, 300DP for Fulldrive, used for removing the safety interlinks and combining all the other modes, 150DP for a Cartridge system… That would leave you with 50DP remaining.”
“I… see. Sure. that works. Anything that costs 50?”
“Auto-Guard, Defenser Plus, Sonic Boost, Mana Boost, Efficiency Boost… oh, and you do get Auto-Repair and Barrier Jacket free.”
“Goood?” I queried.
“Auto-Repair makes your device self-repairing. Barrier Jacket are automatically active defensive magics layered to defend you from other mages… I know, I know, you’re immune to direct magic, but the others aren’t so they get Barrier Jackets themselves. Auto-Guard throws up defensive spells to supplement that as the Device can react far faster than a human… well… faster than those who aren’t you. Since the Device is always on, it can respond to more mundane attacks, protecting you… the user from environmental hazards even outside of combat where the Barrier Jacket won’t be active.”
“Ah… cool… I don’t think I need that… since VIctoria Dawn is self-aware and able to cast spells independently of me. Defenser plus makes defenses better, I take it. What do the boosts do?”
“Actually, Defenser Plus reduces mana bleed… the fraction of the energy put into casting a spell that is lost as waste. Defenser Plus improves magical algorithm efficiency… about half a rank’s worth of power. It does, of course, improve defensive spell use there.”
“Oh… bonus. I’ll take that.”
“Papa?” Alex asked.
“Did you mean for Darkseid to get an import tablet… because he’s got one… you might want to look at what he’s purchasing.”
I growled “Chamber… Maidseid is not a Companion. Nor a Passenger. He’s an indentured servant. He doesn’t… let me take a look.” I pulled up the master list and growled. With his 800 points, he was buying the Dimensional Warship and Flame King Bloodline that would allow him to create artificial combat lifeforms called Mariage that had razor-sharp armblades, mass-cannons, and blew up when they died. I shook my head and removed both from his purchase list. First, I set his magic level to E, as low as I could. That would get him 300 CP back. It’s a good thing he didn’t try buying No Limiter Can hold Me. That might freed him from my control. But knowing him, he was too big an ass to realize it could have freed him.
Instead, I made him a Trooper, which got him ‘Regulation Uniforms’ (which allowed him to dress however he felt and still be uniform… and I’d make sure he was dressed idiotically… it didn’t stop gawkers), and Magical Ergonomics (which made even the most poorly designed weapon function as intended in his hands… weapons being something big D seldom if ever bothered with). I also bought him Hayate’s Lesbian Army… and set it irrevocably to ‘Kind’ and Squad Dynamics (which was all about teamwork… hah.). As a Trooper, he got such lovely freebies as a Snappy Uniform (and a closet full of extras that would be replaced whenever one was damaged or destroyed) and a Cosplay Closet full of various costumes… maid, bunny outfit, footy pajamas. I was giggling up a storm and Alex was smirking with each new purchase.
“He’s got fifty points free… get him the stuffed animal collection,” he suggested, and I did. I also picked up Animal Form (didn’t grant any special traits of the animal in question) and Deviceless (Magic used without a Device was more energy intensive and less focused… and Dudsied would try it because ego) for the giant tool. And then, just to add mundanity to insult, I used the 300 CP he’d gotten in exchange for his crippled magical potential to buy a nice car and a comfortable family abode for him. Eat that, you omnicidal fuckwad.
With his DP, I got him a barely competent Device with an Original Design on the Barrier Jacket, which had a Tank Form (massive Defense Boost but terribly slow in flight), and then I tossed in Fulldrive, just to see if he’d actually kill himself trying to overpower spells with his pitiful mana pool. I know, it was mean of me to abuse another sapient like this… but it’s not like he’d have appreciated mercy. If anyone in all creation deserved to be treated like dirt, it was Darkseid.
~I have completed my Device build,~ Atura commented, interrupting my gloating.
“Wait… what? Oh… huh. That’s going to be odd.”
~Do not fret, I have simply chosen to make mine a Unison Device with an Old Partner as the resident AI.~
“Oh? Which AI? Victor? Viggo?”
~Negative. I have selected Sakura.~
“Oh… shit,” I muttered.
Alex, child of mine that he is, smirked “You gotta put a nickle in the swear jar.” I have no idea why we have a swear jar, but Zane thought we needed one. It has nickels in it. Nickels we keep around specifically to put in the swear jar. At the end of each month, whoever has the most nickels in the jar (everybody has their own nickels) had to do something vaguely humiliating and silly. Most of the time that was Toph, Zane, or Ahab. Sometimes it was me. The Bookers had had a small spate of it before they’d successfully lobbied to be treated as individuals for this one thing. Ziggy had managed it once by being the only being in the warehouse to swear for an entire month when he’d managed to squeak out a resounding ‘fuuuuck’ after accidentally spilling the chili all over himself when trying to investigate Petra’s cooking. He was only mildly injured by the boiling hot goop, and the medbay had patched him up, but he’d slept through the humiliation of being dressed as a ballerina, so he’d gotten the best of the jar in the end.
“I don’t gotta do anything. I will because it is part of the social contract of our family group… I’m going to be reviewing builds for a week… and Atura just turned the Moon Cell into her Unison Device.”
“Atura is the voice inside your head,” Alex said. “It can’t use a Device.”
“Yes. I’m aware. I can’t imagine what good having two Devices will be, but I guess I have them.”
“Will Sakura be upset about this?”
“I have no idea. I can’t mindread a machine. Joy’s the Technopath and watching the two of them get into Archellect battle isn’t my idea of a good time. Have you finished your build yet?” I asked, knowing the answer was no but, in the time honored pattern of parents everywhere, asking anyway. While he was blushing, I filled out the Absentia builds for the Hibikis and Vinlands. All was all, after all.
“Do I need to do their Device builds, or can they do them once they actually get the damned things?” I asked the Chamber.
“I have no idea. I do not understand how these builds can be applied to those not present. I do not even know where the Hibikis are at the current time.”
“Yeah, Yeah, I know. I’m asking for your opinion, since Higher is refusing to give any clear indication. Clearly they don’t want to admit they’re stymied.”
“Few entities enjoy looking foolish in front of their inferiors or perceived inferiors.”
“I doubt it matters, so feel free to leave the DP unspent if you like.”
“Hmmm… whatever.” I began reviewing the builds that my companions had made, adding or subtracting things from some… like I shift around some of the points on Invidius and Scipio’s build to give them Unison Compatibility. Sure, they might not need the link to a Unison Device… but the perk improved working as a duo with someone… and I tweaked it to work internally… those two really needed to learn to get along better. They normally agreed only on one thing, in that they doted on their little sisters. Just to be on the safe side, I also moved things around to give the sisters Unison Compatibility.
Placida and Lucida were aging even slower than my kids, for no apparent reason I could figure out and had largely stalled their development at the biological equivalent of 8 years old. My theory was that, subconsciously, Reggy had guaranteed her daughters wouldn’t be physically mature enough to challenge her.
Both pairs of twins had gone Civilian, with builds so similar that I had no doubt the brothers had helped the sisters… if they’d consulted them at all. Intrigued, I contacted Reggy to ask her about it, only to learn that no, it hadn’t been the twins at all. Reggy and Gaius had made a bargain with each other. Gaius would do the builds for the kids, and Reggy would do the builds for herself and Gaius… apparently this was something of a vacation for them and a test for the boys to see if they could be responsible for the girls while their Parents were off in some Backwater of the TSAB’s dominion. I certainly wasn’t going to argue with that and so I signed off on the builds. I did notice that all 6 of them had Natural Potential at Rank Triple A, a powerful level at an affordable price point, since it cost only 200 CP. I told her to tell Gaius what I’d done and she said he wouldn’t mind.
I glanced through the list to see who’d taken Civilian, which I’d have figured was a low priority thing, but a surprisingly large number had… and almost all of them had taken Well-Learned… it was a 100 pointer for Civilians and granted eidetic memory and savant level skill in one field of mundane science. All told, Francine, RayRay, Lizzy (the nice Elizabeth), The Lutece, Cirno, Brigid, Raven, Kendra, Maggie, Velma, and three of my ships (Black Jenny, Faustian Bargain, and Yuzuha) had all gone Civilian. Of them, only Black Jenny (who was an AI before she became a Shipgirl) and Velma (who had a perfect memory perk already) had skipped buying Well-Learned. Oddly enough… no one who wasn’t a Civilian had bought it. I wonder if they’d even noticed.
I wasn’t really looking for anything specific as I perused their choices. Normally I did interviews and tweaked my plans accordingly… but I’d lose track of all my companions (besides Atura most likely, since we shared an existence) as well as all metaknowledge, so planning was functionally impossible so I wasn’t bothering. In the long run, such things might come up, but I’d plan around them then. So I was just looking out of curiosity to see what had been taken, without worrying too much about the why. It was all very relaxed for once.
For instance, I found it amusing that RayRay had taken both S Rank potential and the Sagebrecht Blood of Kings line, which gave her rainbow colored magic (as well as magic resistance and perfect mana efficiency. Saint King RayRay was vaguely amusing, since she spent more time asleep than Ziggy did. Cirno too had bought S Rank, and stuffed animals, of course, but that was to be expected… on both counts. What wasn’t expected was that she’d taken Renaissance Girl. Most of the others had too, but being actually good and smart at things was not Cirno’s style. I had to wonder if Velma had suggested it and Cirno hadn’t given it much thought… but I didn’t pry.
Most of the rest of the Civilian builds were pretty standardardized, taking most if not all the things on offer in that field and I suspected I’d find the other background groups had done similarly. Each grouping was fairly well balanced and for a lot of my companions, this was their first or second time at importing. That was why I wasn’t surprised to see only the old hands specializing their builds in any way. It wasn’t like 800 was a lot… not in a jump with this many things to buy. Spending CP to boost your Natural Potential Rank was something only elitists or those with a fair number of perks already would do. Kendra had gone to Triple A, which was lower than I’d expected her to go.
Buying items likewise a strange choice unless filling out a remaining 50 CP. Several had bought the media collection, but I’d cancelled all those and replaced with them other 50 CP purchases. We didn’t need multiples of pure data and I had the points to spare while they didn’t.
Interestingly, Black Jenny (listed as Virginia Black), Faustian Bargain (under the name Ian B Faust… at least in english and not on forms.), and Yuzuha had all spent half their points on… of all things, Dimensional Warship… and each of them had a note saying ‘self-import’. I considered, then chuckled. Of course. The D-Warship item could cross dimensional barriers on its own, a power none of my ships had. Well, Ark Magna, Faustian Bargain, and Light all had Warp Drives from Warhammer 40k, but those went to a specific alternate dimension, not any parallel one. TSAB ships were not only basic FTL, but could cross dimensional boundaries fairly easily and had sensors that could scan into those dimensions. A quick check showed that Light of Heaven (Drakena Grigobritz, Saint Church), Ark Magna (Jaan Anushka, Trooper), and Preemptive Retaliation (Odwet PR, Backwater) had also taken that option.
The only ship-’girl’ who hadn’t was Windjammer (RLS Windjammer, Trooper) , and it seemed Windjammer was a little too… NAVY! Shipshape! To buy into that. Either that or she really didn’t get science, which was likely. Instead she’d gone the route of Badass Commander which was all about tactics and squad mechanics and anticipating traps. I had to wonder if she was aiming to replace Drakena or Jaan as Flagship. Did they get jealous of each other? I’d have to…
“Huh,” I commented.
“Huh what?” Alex asked, looking up from his plotting.
“Your sister bought a Nice Car.”
“Nothing. She’s not old enough to drive.”
“She bought Adult Mode and Age is No Barrier too.”
“That’s a good point… is she interested in cars?”
“I dunno, papa… but she bought one and a perk that would let her be able to legally drive it… and tall enough to drive it. I’d say that’s a clue.”
“True.” I ruffled his hair and he batted at me. “Have you finished your build?” I asked again, and he held up his thumb in an affirmative. I pulled up the kids to see what they’d gotten. Amaryllis, Maggie, and Alex were all different backgrounds. Maggie was a Civilian, Amaryllis was a Backwater Belkan, and Alex was a TSAB Trooper. Amy had gone with the power to make summoning packs and the Nanoha special “Aces of Aces” which was all about going toe to toe with those more powerful and experienced… and winning. I was actually surprised by that, since I’d expected her to go the friendship is everything route… but those took fighting too, and fighting wasn’t Amy’s strong suit. She’d also gotten a car… but it came free with her origin. Maybe she’d give it to her sister.
Alex, on the other hand, had also taken Hayate’s Lesbian Army and marked his keyword as ‘Pranksters’… remind me never to let him do the hiring. He’d also taken the Commander Badass perk and made certain his Natural Potential was higher than his sisters’. “Did you buy this Tactics perk because you saw me playing those games?”
He shrugged noncommittally.
“You know you don’t have to be a strategic or tactical genius for me to love you, right?”
He shrugged again.
“You can be whatever you want and I’ll love you because I’m your parent… as long as you don’t become a psychopathic killer or genocidal fu… bas… jerk.”
“I know,” He sighed. “But I want to know what it’s like to be able to think ahead the way you do… that’s okay, right?”
I nodded, and kissed his head. “Of course.”
Out of curiosity, I checked the last two 2nd Gen Jumpers, just to see what was up with Simon and Buji. Buji’s aging had stalled at 14 and Simon’s at 9. Beth (bitchy revenge obsessed Elizabeth Comstock-DeWitt), Simon’s mother, had clearly done her son’s build according to the logs, and the two builds were Saint Church and nearly identical, only with Beth having S Rank Potential and Simon Triple A and the Heredity manipulator In the Blood instead. Toph, on the other hand, was doing her hands off parenting thing again, apparently, since she was Backwater with Summoning and Buji was a bog standard Trooper package.
I liked Toph, really I did. She was a lot of fun… but a people person she wasn’t. She was gungho, abrasive, and iconoclastic as hell. If there was a standard way to do things, she’d look for the non-standard, every time. She almost had a compulsion about breaking away from ‘the way things are done’. It was respectable sometimes, frustrating sometimes, but always Toph.
I decided to take a break from reviewing others and filled out the builds for my absentia friends… and Ziggy. I looked over to where Sophie was ignoring the little fuzzbeast chewing on her ear and asked “Want me to do your build too, girl?”
She woofed once and raised her head, Ziggy dangling from her ear and padded over to have Alex remove the goober. She rested her head on my knee and my command tablet beeped and the Dog of Doom’s build appeared on the screen. Of course it was a Saint Church build, but hers focused on the elements I’d skipped over, the elements about family building… and she’d bought Animal form… I guess so she could be something less doggish if she felt the need. I scritched her ears as I made Ziggy a Backwater ferret, giving him No Limit Can Hold Me and Go Down Fighting and Friendly Rivalry so he could make friends with all the other fuzzbeasts he routinely fought. It seemed fitting. Maybe he’d even befriend his own tail, as he fought with it all the time.
While I was on a roll, I made Ryoga and Yoiko Backwater types, giving her Summoning and Aces of Aces and him the Training Ground Item (Easy to assemble guaranteed) and Aces of Aces. Then I made Selen and Garl TSAB Troopers and Astrea a Sagebrecht-blooded Saint Church Adherent. She could use more color in her life… once I got back to Marvel Cinema and raised Selen and Garl from the not-quite really dead. Yeah, that wouldn’t take a boatload of explaining.
The list went on and on, with AJ, Ahab, Caine, Bart, Meetra, the Bookers and the Lost Choir all being Backwater Belkans with practically the same builds. The differences were all a matter of which were Shapeshifters or Triple A Rankers… except Caine who had Summoning and the Flame King Bloodline I mentioned earlier (the one Darkseid tried to take). It would give him an army of nasties if he wanted them… and oddly, I trusted that in Caine’s hands a lot more than I was comfortable with. Ah well. Not like he was a murderer or anything.
Fellow Saint Church followers included Dyna (Rank S), Bao-Feng (Rank AAA), Tokimi-Chan (Rank S), Planet/Joy (Baseline), Empress Anne (Baseline). It was interesting to see who went after pure power and who went after something different. Ann was a straight Saint Church build, focusing on heredity and knowledge. Joy, on the other hand… other moon?… had bought the Mysterious Serum that allowed her to give others Linker Cores and with Ancient Knowledge (Which she also had… as did I for that matter) knowledge of how to make more of the serum… I suspected that the billions of humans she contained would find their next trip into a body would be one with magic. I wondered how many Mindworms would be needed to make a boil capable of housing a linker core… and imagined Planet firing off magical particle beam cannons. It was an amusing thought…. But then again, I’m crazy.
The last group were TSAB Troopers, and here the variation from the standard was almost non-existent. Zane, Petra, Kohina, Kagetane, Amelia, Uriel, Carwyn, and the Dire Weasels all had identical builds that were, more or less, what I’d expect a standard build would be. Every Trooper perk and item plus an additional 200DP to play with. Only my kittens and the Righteous Choir had done anything different. The Kittens had both traded Squad Dynamics (something they already had with me without the perk) and the extra DP for a boost to their Natural Potential Rank (they were AA) and the Anti-AMF ability from Backwater… AMF being Anti-Magic Fields.
The Choir had traded the Commander Badass capstone for a copy of the serum, and since they didn’t have Ancient Knowledge, it didn’t really make sense for them to get it since we already had the formula. I’d have to suggest another option to them… maybe the minor bloodline from Blood of Kings. It would give them either Thought Investigation… the ability to access someone’s mind and memories as long as they didn’t resist and Unendlich Jagd (aka Endless Hunt)… the ability to summon spectral dogs with extensive fighting and stealth abilities… or Prophetinscriften… the ability to write extremely cryptic prophecies once or twice a year. For all I knew, since the group would be getting it, some would get one and some the other.
Well, this is freaking weird. I know this is a new jump. I’m sure of it. For one thing, I’m in Japan and have a little sister who’s in a wheelchair… her name is Hayate… cute kid… shudder to think what her life would be like if I wasn’t here… we don’t have any parents (they died in an accident) and we don’t have a legal guardian. It’s just the two of us in this big empty house and she’s got medical problems… Anyway, I know this a new jump… but I don’t know what setting it is!
Not only do I have no idea what IP this is… I don’t seem to have any new abilities and everyone… everyone! Is missing. Even Atura… honestly? No idea how that happened. Strangely, I’m not particularly worried about it… somehow I know they’ll be alright until we hook up again, but… it’s strange. I have all my abilities (I think) and all my memories (I think)… but I’m not certain if I’d know if anything was missing.
Still have access to my warehouse, but the Chamber is not being forthcoming. In fact, its only response to my questions has been, “Silent Protocol Engaged. No Emergency Detected.” Which is really, really oddly technically phrased for The Chamber, but what can you do? Maybe Higher is up to something.
All the various machine intelligences of all levels have no idea where we are, and even Maidseid is missing, as are all the pets… I assume they’re with their various owners… I wonder if mine are with Atura.
Anyway, first thing I did was zap Hayate with a zleep zpell and drop her into the Medbay… but it says there’s nothing medically wrong with her… which doesn’t make any damned sense. Very strange. I’d have to investigate more.
Oh, I do have one clue so far. I think this might be some kind of low grade pervy IP, since so far, in the 3 days I’ve been here, I’ve managed to tear my clothing on a door, a table, a rose bush, and a city trashcan. My skirt has been ripped off by a dog, and a pigeon managed to steal my shirt… both within 2 minutes of each other. No one else seems to be having this trouble around me, but it’s made for a few weird moments. Thankfully, I have a lot of clothing and mending spells… but still.
Well, one spot of luck, I’ve managed to locate Ziggy. Granted, it was fairly easy, as all I had to do was monitor global police bands for a rampaging giant ferretoid. Bad news was he was doing so in Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park. Wasn’t causing a huge amount of trouble, but it meant I had to go all the way to Kenya to pick him up and do a fair amount of obliviating of troublesome or traumatic memories. Still haven’t seen a clue about what the general theme of this world is. It’s just… Earth.
Correction. It’s just Earth with a 9 year old girl who hit me with some kind of emotional beam-weapon out of what looks like a magical staff as designed by Fritz Lang. Seriously. Ouch. Let me skip back a touch and explain. I’d been looking for any evidence of what this world’s thing was and for my companions and when I heard a report about a giant monster in a local park, I ran to investigate. I also ran into the monster, a giant crab thing that I was just about to check if it was Petra (The Third Eye is good… it is not, however, instant)… when I got clocked from behind by the little girl in question, Takamachi Nanoha being her name. No idea how it penetrated my defenses…
On the other hand, she was terribly polite as she apologized for blasting me, explaining it was only her second day as a magical girl (well, that answers the genre question I guess), and she’d been aiming for the monster… which it turns out was not, in fact, Petra. It was a crab that had picked up a small blue gem called a Jewel Seed.
I was still rubbing the back of my head and wondering if there was a chance I could get a good look at that staff… when a small cinnamon ferret-like creature scrambled up the takamachi girl’s back and perched on her shoulder just as I was doing a scan of her.
“Nice Familiar,” I commented, seeing that the two of them were well meaning, decent beings who genuinely wanted to help others.
“Oh. Thank you. This is Yuuno… he’s not my familiar. He’s…” She paused, then thought ~What should I tell her?~ Which was a reasonable question. What startled me slightly was that Yuuno responded. They had a telepathic link! Cool. “He’s my friend,” she replied after he suggested it.
“Awww! That’s cute!” I grinned. “He should meet Ziggy!”
“What’s Ziggy?” Nanoha asked, looking adorable in her confusion.
“Ziggy is Ziggy!” I replied unhelpfully, then pointed to my hat, which was the only part of my outfit still intact. She looked confused still so I poked the hat… which was, of course, Ziggy. He unfolded, yawned, stretched, and blinked at Yuuno and Nanoha, both of whom were doing hilarious facefaults. “This is Ziggy. Ziggy, this is Yuuno and Nanoha… no trying to eat either.”
Ziggy, being Ziggy, licked my nose and thought ~Treat?~ at me. I chuckled, then blinked… that was a new trick. Normally he asked out loud.
Instead, it was Yuuno who spoke. A talking ferret. Huh. “Yo… are you a mage?” he asked, clearly having overheard Ziggy’s telepathic entreaty.
“Umm… yeah,” I scratched the back of my head, wondering how I was going to explain this. “But probably not in the way you… Nanoha is. I have a wand… somewhere. She seems to be missing… and isn’t it kinda late at night for a nine year old to be fighting monsters? Don’t you have school in the morning?” I asked, changing the subject.
It didn’t work. Well, it did, but she invited me to meet her after school the next day… well, later that day actually, at her family’s cafe, to talk. I shrugged. Sure. Let’s discuss saving the world with a 9 year old. This won’t be surreal at all.
Well, the day got more surreal. I get home, sneaking in so I don’t accidentally wake Hayate… and there are two ladies, a little girl, and a really big blue wolf in our living room. Hayate explains they came out of the weird old book she’s had on her shelf as long as I could remember. The book used to be chained shut, but it’s not now. Instead, we’ve got Shamal (blonde and compassionate) and Signum (pink haired and aggressively protective), plus Vita (redheaded and so cute you could eat her up with a spoon… not sure that metaphor works, but sooo cute!) and Zafira (a good boy).
Hayate wants to invite them to join our family, since I’m always busy at school and we have the house all to ourselves. I’m beginning to wonder just how weird this world is going to be, but I nod. A scan of them shows them to be not quite human… (well, obviously in the case of Zafira) but something like… sendings or magical ghosts of some kind… but they were close enough that I could see them to be good people and could read their minds enough to see how fiercely loyal they were to my sister.
“Yeah… okay. Well… it’ll be good to have someone to take you to…” I decided not to say hospital at the last moment and changed it to “the library or shopping… and speaking of shopping, you really should take them out to get some new clothing… those black body stockings are very attractive, but not very stylish. But that can wait until morning.” I clapped my hands “You all, my sister needs her rest, so you can divy up the remaining bedrooms and we’ll get some sleep.” I yawned… that blast had seriously tapped me somehow.
Back in my room I lay back on my bed… then looked over at my own bookshelf… right at where my own white & gold leather book was sitting. I’d barely thought about it since I’d arrived, but if Hayate’s was magical… I went over to it and pulled it down… just as the first light of dawn cracked over the horizon and through my window.
“It’s about damned time,” VIctoria said as she unfolded out of the book. I, on the other hand, fell backwards onto my bed, groaning softly as the book took a huuuuuge slug of magical energy out of me.
“Ow… good… you’re here… go get me a mana potion… and a healing potion… and some tylenol.” I just lay there while she accio’d the hard way.
“Do you have any idea what’s going on?” She asked as she thrust the stuff at me, then sat cross legged on the bed and glared at me.
“No idea… any idea why you were sealed in that book?”
“None. I was barely able to form thoughts except when you were nearby and I could snatch some of your mana. I’m apparently running on it right now. My internal powersupply is tapped.” She poked my arm “Can I have some blood… and more mana? I’m staaaarving.”
I groaned. “Fiiine… but I’m going to need a whole bunch more potions… and even I can only produce blood so fast… so be moderate.” I flopped back and sighed. “This is weird. Two girls with magic books… hey, do you have knights inside you too?”
She blinked, then frowned. “Ummm… No? Should I?”
“I don’t know. Hayate… she’s the girl in the wheelchair who comes in sometimes?” She grunted to show she knew who I was talking about. “She’s my little sister it seems. Her book has four Guardians, three Knights and a Guardian Beast. But I don’t know if it has something like you in it. I’m going to have to… hmmm…” I yawned again, then fell asleep before I could finish the thought.
If it felt odd going from a household of 2.5 (Ziggy doesn’t do chores or conversation) to 7.5 (though Victoria seemed a little paranoid about the others and it took me a little while to realize she was actively hiding from them) it was odder dealing with the rapidly increasing number of battles involving Jewel Seeds. Seriously, it seemed like every time I went anywhere, Nanoha or this other 9 year old girl with blonde hair and an orange wolf were running around shooting the monster of the week and sealing away the blue jewels of doom.
It was only a matter of time before they ran into each other, I figured, if they didn’t know each other already, but I had more important things to deal with and the Jewel Seeds seemed to be well in hand. First off, every attempt to find my companions with my usual spellwork or through the warehouse comms network had failed completely. That was annoying. Second, and far far more frustrating… I could not figure out what was wrong with Hayate and it seemed to be getting (slowly to be sure) worse. I didn’t like medical problems that made no damned sense.
So I spent most of my time exploring the world, looking for my companions and leaving signs they might see in places they might go, in forums and papers they might read, and wracking my not inconsiderable brains for a potential cause of my sister’s condition. It’s amazing what you miss when it’s right in front of your face. Siiigh.
I missed two things. The first became clear when a third (okay sixth… seventh… another) magical person showed up to stop the third fight between Nanoha and the blonde (whose name it turns out was Fate Testarossa). This time it was a little boy named Chrono… who world for, I kid you not, this organization of trans-dimensional police officers… though I’d later learn they were also the government, military, and fire department. That wasn’t important however. What was important was that, if they were a trans-dimensional organization spread across hundreds of worlds, then that meant that my companions, my friends and family, could be spread across that entire vastness. I say I missed it because it turns out that asking Yuuno a few more questions or looking a little further past his ferrety exterior would have told me that weeks earlier. The second thing I missed was much more salient to my own interests, but I wasn’t to discover that for some six months.
Apparently, Chrono has been dispatched from a trans-dimension ship called the Arthas, by her captain, who was also his Mother. And despite being all of maybe 10, he was a fully empowered enforcer for the Time-Space Administration Bureau… apparently they didn’t consider being a kid to be a detrimental thing. How… progressive of them. Then again, he was quiet, competent, and fairly powerful, so I guess they knew what they were on about.
Turns out that the TSAB had a vested interest in keeping a lid on so called ‘Lost Logia’, remnants of the technology of trans-dimensional magical cultures that had accidentally destroyed themselves… often including their own homeworlds… turns out that if enough of the Jewel Seeds were activated at the same time they could cause global earthquakes… or even rip planets or dimensions apart. Ouch. I decided not to try and steal one….
Well, that was until Fate showed up in the middle of the north Pacific and started summoning huge water spouts trying to wake up the last six Seeds so she could claim them for her mother… all while Nanoha was trying to talk with her about feelings. Got to hand it to the little orange haired girl, she’s stubborn as hell.
Anyway, I really didn’t want to get involved, but I did want to get access to the T-D technology of these TSAB people, so I showed up to see if there was any way I could convince Chrono to let me ‘help’ arrest Fate (who, unlike Nanoha had refused to hand over her Jewel Seeds). Turns out, Fate was being forced to collect them by her psycho mother, Precia.
I mean seriously psycho. We’re talking emotional abuse and blackmail psycho. We’re talking suspending a 9 year old clone of her original daughter from the ceiling from a chain and whipping her with a magical bullwhip psycho. We’re talking cloning her dead daughter and then telling the clone that she was just a poor useless copy psycho. We’re talking willing to destroy Earth in order to rip a hole in the fabric of reality to find one of those cultures that had destroyed itself believing they had impossible magic that could turn back time or raise the dead… even I didn’t have that kind of magic. Precia Testarossa was a total, unequivocal, screaming psychopath.
She also had her dead daughter’s body perfectly preserved in a biotank. I said she ‘had’ it because she plunged into the imaginary number realm, the void between realities, and was lost… but I managed to snag the tank. I might not have magic that can raise the dead if they’ve been dead a while… but that’s normally because, you know, decomp. This was a perfectly preserved body that just happened not to have lifesigns at the moment.
I tossed it into my medbay and threw some phoenix downs at it. What’s the worst that could happen? She stayed dead? She came back wrong and had to be disposed of? Didn’t work, as it turned out… but I put the body back in stasis for later. Who knew what I might find out in the vast universe.
So, Fate got arrested by the TD-Cops, Yuuno went back to being human, and things went back to normal… and I did not get a good enough look at the TD tech. Still, Nanoha got video letters every month or so from Fate and she was being well cared for by the TSAB… who it turned out were actually decent people and not gigantic bureaucratic jackasses. In fact, almost everyone in this setting seemed nice. The rich girls Nanoha was best friends with were adorable (one was a dog person with a butler and a nice mansion, the other a cat person with a maid and a house the size of a freaking palace) and not at all bitchy. Nanoha’s family was wonderful (even if her brother and sister were clearly in a relationship that crossed some legal and cultural boundaries… not my place to judge). Somehow I never got around to introducing Nanoha to Hayate… but destiny has its own ways and the rich girl with the cats ran into Hayate at the library and they became close.
Destiny also had its way with Fate and Nanoha. Six months after the Jewel Seed Incident in Springtime, Fate had just gotten back after being placed on very very light probation by the TSAB when Nanoha was attacked and had most of her magic stolen by some unknown (to them) assailants. Fate and Nanoha’s Devices were nearly destroyed as well, as their attackers used some kind of magic bullets in their own Devices.
I say unknown to them, because, well, I didn’t have to recognize the descriptions of Zafira, Signum, and Vita since those idiots had given the magical girls their damned names!
“What, the hell do you think you’re doing!” I accused the quartet as soon as I could politely make an exit from the sickbay Nanoha was being treated in and get all the way back from Mid-Childa (fascinating technology) to Earth. The crew of Arthra, including Chrono, were moving to Japan to look for the four of them, and by extension, Hayate. Turns out, the Book is a freaking Lost Logia known for a series of really, really destructive incidents.
Signum, as the leader, explained that they were just doing what they had to do, looking ashamed and defensive about it at the same time.
“Explain it to me… in simple language. Where the hell do you get off attacking innocent people and stealing their magic… How are you even able to do that?” I admit, I was ticked. I’d also, accidentally, revealed that I knew they were stealing magic and thus I knew about magic… but to be fair to the quartet… none of them are that bright.
“If we don’t,” Vita began, but Shamal shushed her.
I glared at the blonde woman and sighed. “I really didn’t want to have to do this. We could have resolved this like reasonable people. You are going to tell me. Unless you think you can take me, you’re going to tell me exactly what’s going on.”
I’ll give it to them. They tried. They thought they were protecting Hayate and their loyalty to her was unbreakable… but they weren’t even close to being in the same reality as my league. I didn’t even have to break out the big guns or power attacks. They weren’t going to damage the house Hayate lived in and I took them down in moments…. In fact, I took them down faster than I expected. Somehow, it seemed, I’d learned how to boost my speed with magic. Thankfully, the sound of sonicboom punches was negated by the magic, or we’d have woken Hayate.
“So. Now. you’re going to tell me exactly what you were doing and why you felt you needed to do these things or I’ll…” I trailed off, realizing that I was talking to Vita alone, as I’d KO’d the other three. In fact, the only reason I hadn’t KO’d Vita was because she’s like 8 and was hugging a stuffed bunny that Hayate had bought her and crying. I recognized those tears. They were tears of frustration.
I pulled Vita into my arms and hugged her, promising that I wasn’t mad at her, that I just wanted… needed to know what was going on if I was going to protect Hayate. Slowly, brokenly, she explained. The Book they’d come from was the Book of Darkness (which I’d known) but it was a powerful magical device, one that Hayate was the master of. If they didn’t fill all 666 pages of the book by absorbing the magic of others into the book, it would keep draining Hayate until she died. They’d been careful however, only draining, not killing anyone, because they’d known Hayate wouldn’t approve. In fact, they’d promised Hayate they wouldn’t be doing any of this… which meant that she’d known. I cursed myself for being too distracted by my other projects… and for never considering that magic might be the cause of my inability to heal my newest sister.
“Vita. What happens when the book is full?” I asked.
She looked evasive, but I was certain she didn’t realize that. “Hayate’s wish will be granted,” was her response… but she didn’t sound certain.
“What was her wish?”
“To… to live a nice comfortable quiet life?”
I groaned. Of course it was. Damn it. “Okay. I’ve got to think about this. Where’s the book, Vita?” I demanded, not seeing it in the room. Give her credit. She tried not to tell me… but clearly she didn’t realize her thoughts could be read and in moments I had the book under one arm and a thrashing Vita under the other. “Quiet you.” I told her as I examined the tome. I… I understood this. Not perfectly… but I understood the basics of how it would work… it was functionally identical to my own book… no… it was a little different. This was not an infinite capacitor. It had a hard limit on how much it could hold… mine didn’t… but it also had… had…
“Victoria. You’re the command protocol of my book, right?” I asked. She didn’t respond. “Victoria… Come out now.” I commanded.
Slowly, she appeared. “Shhhh… not in front of the Ookbay of ArknessDay.” she vanished again. I rolled my eyes.
“Victoria! The Book of Darkness is not going to-”
That was when two masked figures smashed through my bedroom window and tried to attack me. Seven seconds later I had the two of them bound and gagged and sitting next to a sulking Vita.
“Victoria. I need you to show me how your operating system works,” I demanded, tucking the Book of Darkness into my Pokemon Backpack for the time being. Still stylish after 15 millennia.
“You don’t really want to know,” my wand/armor/kamui/omnitool/secondary body muttered.
“Yes. I do. I need to understand why you’re not draining me and that thing is draining Hayate.”
“I am draining you,” she commented.
“Not even close. You’re feeding off my mana, but even though your energy requirments have got to be as extreme as its, you’re not draining nearly as much. I think you’ve got to have a Linker Core… and I’m guessing it doesn’t. And I want to know why! Why don’t you have protectors and why doesn’t it have a central control program?”
“It does!” she snapped. “That’s what I’m hiding from!”
“Because it’s also got a defensive program that’s totally fucking insane and I don’t want it trying to eat me or corrupt me with bad code!” She yelled. Vita flinched… and not from the noise. I turned to the two unconscious men and scanned their thoughts and memories. Well, that was interesting. “Those two are familiars… and female… and oh… yeah. There’s some explaining to do. Shit. Shit shit shit.”
Preparations took a few… weeks. I let the knights go back about their activities, having retasked the masked girls to make sure they didn’t kill anyone and to forget about losing to me. Meanwhile, I got Yuuno to show me around the TSAB’s Infinity Library… which has got to be the worse cross-referenced knowledge collection ever…. A problem I solved by using my Bankai in quite possibly the least Shinigami way ever. 200+ me’s can cover an awful lot ground and I needed to read a lot of text as fast as possible… which meant touching thousands of books every minute… and even then, even with a processing rate that makes short work of large number theory based cryptography… it took a damned while. When they say Infinity Library, they aren’t fucking around. Hundreds of worlds, thousands of years of history… and none of it organized. Fucking lunatics.
Still, eventually I found what I was looking for. It had originally been called the Tome of the Night Sky and it had been a largely harmless repository of magical energy and spells… until some fucking idiots messed with it. According to the theories, they’d damaged the code, either deliberately or accidentally and turned the book into a doomsday device. It cycled through users time after time, either killing them because they weren’t filling it fast enough or killing them as the book went out of control and destroyed large sections of planets. And every time the book was destroyed, it reformed someplace else.
And the last time it had been formed before this it had been taken into custody by the TSAB only to go out of control and have to be destroyed, along with the ship transporting it… under the authority of the man whose familiars were running around making sure no one succeeded in stopping the book from triggering. I had to know why.
“Hello Admiral Graham,” I said, all grown up for the time being… I’d figured out how to do that fairly early on… which is weird, because… you know, I have adult forms. I could have used one of them, or so you’d think… but for some reason, all my forms were 13… or younger. Weird. “Explain, if you would, why a man dedicated to preserving lives from disasters like Lost Logia is trying to sacrifice a little girl to bring about a Lost Logia disaster… on his own home planet.” Yeah, some of the TSAB officers are actually from Earth.
He shuddered, then sighed. “I had to. Something had to be done to end the curse once and for all. That book… it keeps finding new ways to destroy lives. It killed my friend… and I didn’t pick the child. When I found out that the book had found a new master, a girl who’d just lost her parents, I made sure she and her sister were taken care of. Made sure they had a nice safe life. Nothing stops that book from destroying its master. I couldn’t save her… but I could make certain she was the last.”
I looked into his mind, his heart, finding all the details he’d not shared… and my heart bled for the poor guy. He really was doing what he felt had to be done. People would die, including Hayate… and he planned to push her over the edge if need be to trigger the manifestation of the book’s control program… but he didn’t understand. Not really. He thought the knights were just programs… but I’d seen inside their souls. The level of pain they’d been forced to deal with from masters cruel and masters kind… it would have broken anyone… and yet they’d found a kind of peace with Hayate.
I had to see if I could preserve that.
“Hayate?” I whispered, shaking her shoulder to wake her up.
“Sachi?” she asked, sleepily, blinking in the pale light of dawn.
“Yeah. Come on. We have to talk.” I helped her get dressed, then took her and the Wolkenritter, her knights, and her book, to where I’d arranged a meeting with Nanoha, Fate, Yuuno, and Chrono… oh, and Fate’s familiar Arf… who is a good doggo too. I wonder if she and Zafira could have puppies. “Good, you’re all here.” I said, looking around the deserted island in the pacific that the US had used as a forward base that no one lived on or within hundreds of miles of.
“Sachi? What…” both sides demanded, looking aghast at the other group wondering if I’d betrayed them, both sides reaching for their weapons. I froze the ground they were all standing on and halfway up their calves.
“You will all be quiet and listen… especially you, Vita.” I said, poking her nose. Yuuno was trying to figure out how I’d managed to do all that without a magic circle and the others were looking mutinous, but they all just glared at each other. “All of you, except Nanoha and maybe Fate are far too quick to get to the fighting… ah, here they come.” The two masked figures dove out of the clear sky and I froze them too.
“Hayate, the book is killing you. And when it’s full, it’ll kill you even faster, or turn you into a monster that will kill many others. The book’s damaged. Badly.” I turned to the knights. “I think you knew that, but you’d been conditioned to either forget it or have forgotten it out of repeated trauma because you’re usually the last few pages.” They each flinched or looked away, Vita’s face contorted in pain. “But you idiots didn’t go looking for help… maybe you couldn’t… but you were presented with an open hand time and again and all you did was slap it away.” The flinching was more pronounced this time and Shamal was visibly crying.
“Well, we’re going to end this, right here. Right now. I’m going to give the Book of Darkness all the Pages it needs and you, Hayate, are going to summon its Control Program and we’re going to resolve this peacefully… well… I hope. If things go out of control, you’re my backup” I said, looking to the four TSAB-associated mages. “Unfortunately, I can’t trust you four not to be a problem,” I said, looking to the Wolkenritter. “So, you’re going to go the one place I know I can keep you safe.”
And with that, I pulled out the Book of the Dawning Sky. “I hope this doesn’t hurt… but if it does… well… you’ve hurt a lot of people over the years. Maybe you deserve a little punishment.” And I sucked them into my book. I’m pretty sure it was agony.
Victoria appeared, shaking her head “Well, that’s unpleasant. But they don’t seem to be corrupted. At least if your virus scan works.” I patted her head. “Hayate, Nanoha, Fate, Yuuno, Chrono… this is my Device, Victoria.” They all bowed to each other. I knelt next to my sister’s chair. She was freaking out but was being kept calm by the carefully measured valium injection I’d given her before waking her up… Hey, I may be 13 but I’m a fully qualified Starfleet doctor!
“Let’s do this,” I said, placing the Book of Darkness in her lap and then transferring the remaining 216 pages of energy it needed from Victoria. The spell to do that was pretty basic.
I’d like to claim that what happened next was resolved peacefully… but it wasn’t. Turns out, there wasn’t just a single program to deal with inside the Book of Darkness. Rather, there were two. The first, the Control Program which Hayate named ‘Reinforce’ was what mediated all the master’s wishes. It was trying to do as it had been programmed to do long ago. The second, a Defensive Program called NachtWal… was out if its mind… or CPU. oh… wow. So totally not safe.
The thing was insane, massive, a chimera of all the beings that had been killed to fuel the endless cycle of death and despair. It was, intentionally or not, viral code and it had to go. Unfortunately, that was where the problem lay… because it regenerated from almost any damage almost instantly. And it had a loooot of energy.
Then again, so did we. And, believe it or not… I had a plan. In fact, NachtWal had no idea, but it had already lost. Remember how I said the transfer energy spell was pretty basic? It was also pretty basic to modify it. The Book of Darkness was a parasite… it had almost no filter and its Defensive Program was insane. I hadn’t known that there were two different programs, but the distinction was meaningless to my primary plan… a plan I’d called ‘Operation Bad Shellfish’.
You’ll remember that earlier I’d remarked on how I’d somehow learned to transform Mana into Speed? Well, I had, in fact, learned slightly more than that. I’d learned how to stop the transformation partway through. What I’d given the book wasn’t exactly mana… nor was it exactly a speed boost. It was Mana that had been contaminated with speed… speed that could convert the other mana in the book’s program into more speed. In fact… it was in the process of burning through it’s mana faster than it could have conceived.
Which, fortunately for us meant it didn’t have any endurance, but unfortunately meant it was fighting at least twice as fast as it normally would have been. Also, unfortunately, Hayate was crying, telling us we were killing Reinforce… which, unfortunately again, was true. I hadn’t counted on there being two different programs and I certainly couldn’t copy Reinforce into my book. I considered for a moment, then sighed and waited until the last possible moment… then yanked Reinforce into my Mental Palace.
“Hey. You want to live?” I asked.
“I… have caused a great deal of destruction. And the worlds would never be safe if the book is not destroyed,” she responded, sounding sad but also perfectly reasonable.
“Right. Not what I asked. Didn’t ask if you think you deserve to live. No one really deserves that. Or everyone does, so the debate is meaningless. Do you want to live? If so, I can try to save you. If not… I can let you go down with the ship as it were.”
“I don’t know how you’ve done this… but if you think you can… yes, I would like to live. I… if only to make amends… if only to apologize to Miss Hayate.”
“Great, Don’t go anywhere.” I said, then focused on my hands, pouring out all my understanding of how the Tome of Night should have been, including in this version a more robust and self-repairing Defensive program and a linker core replica like was found in a Unison Device (highest end devices)… I poured it all out into an item that was not quite a noble phantasm and not quite a device… then I opened my eyes in the real world and threw the newly created item to Reinforce and yelled “Achtung! Execute program Tillich Urbild!”
With a pop very much like a can of soda being sucked through a wormhole, Reinforce popped out of existence as the Book of Darkness blew itself apart. A small bronze cross on a chain landed on Hayate’s lap, and a bottle straight out of I Dream of Jeannie landed on the sand next to the wheelchair. Now I just had to restore the Wolkenritter and I’d have pulled off the hat-trick.
I’d like to claim that went off without a hitch… I really would… but again, I’d be lying. Pulling them out of Victoria was no problem. Even giving them bodies was no problem. Giving them bodies that wouldn’t die when or if Hayate did would be harder, but I settled on a method which would make them more and more real and less like familiars with each passing year… though I wasn’t certain Vita would ever get bigger… which was fine because snuggling her was just soo much fun! Especially when she pouted and claimed she wasn’t a stuffed animal to be snuggled! She totally is. Especially with those bunnies on her hat.
No… the hitch was that Victoria had copied Vita. There were now two of her… though they weren’t identical. Vita Prime had red red hair and a red outfit. Vita Zero had blonde hair. They also didn’t like each other, with Prime calling Zero a bad copy and Zero calling Prime an outdated relic. Victoria would not explain why she’d only copied Vita, or rather she did but I didn’t believe her when she said ‘I needed a guardian and she’s the smallest and easiest to maintain. Siiigh.
======Six Years Later====
It had been a nice day. The first in a while. It had seemed like bad weather was following me around for some strange reason. Of course, the calm didn’t last. With a sound like ripping flesh, a dimensional rift had shattered the calm and a little girl with too much power had shot out of a breach in the fabric of reality, looked confused, noticed me, and attacked.
She was fast on a human scale, with blue-black twintails that flew out behind her, but had all the finesse of a box of hammers thrown into a jumbo jet’s engine. At first I just played with her, but eventually she kinda went into this berserk tantrum and finally I summoned Ziggy and had him sit on her while I confiscated her Device, which looked a lot like Fate’s Bardiche… at which point she turned back into a school girl rambling about the darkness, timelines, and how her master would save her. I pretty much ignored her and resolved to turn her over to TSAB… when it happened again.
This one was a Brunette and much calmer, and she tried to use stand off to attack me… but by this point I’d figured out how to adjust my magical immunity to the techno-magical attacks common in this world and all it did was vaporize my already shredded clothing. I signed and backhanded her out of the air with a telekinetic strike… and grabbed her device… which looked quite a bit like Nanoha’s Raising Heart in its Exelion mode… I looked at her and blinked. She looked very much like a recolor of Nanoha, at least if nanoha had done a lot of drugs and died her hair brown and had lighter blue eyes.
I looked back at the first girl… yes. She looked like a methed out Fate with blue hair… and neither of them were the ladies in their current form. No, these girls were 10 or so, not 15. I only half paid attention as the newer girl explained that she was Stern the Destructor and her companion was called ‘Levi the Annihilator’ and that they were functions of a program called ‘Unbreakable Darkness’. Apparently they were from a timeline where the Book of Darkness was allowed to, as she put it, ‘germinate’… until it was destroyed somehow. The process had ejected the two of them and (I was unsurprised to learn) a third named Dearche. That third was why I was barely paying attention. I was waiting for her to arrive.
As the third rift opened, I quickstepped right next to it, and, as the clone of my sister stepped through, Vulcan nerve pinched her. “Lord Dearche, I presume.” I sighed. “What the hell am I going to do with you?” I asked.
I clearly couldn’t let this trio of lunatics out of my sight. Levi was like Fate on Meth, Stern was Nanoha on Coke, and Dearche was Hayate if Hayate had a Napoleon complex. They were, each in their own way, twits. Levi had no impulse control, Stern had no filter, and Dearche was… arrogant and overconfident was too damned polite… and an understatement… oh, good lord, they were LSD versions of my friends… and I don’t mean Mormon.
“Care to tell me why you’re here?” I asked, not expecting an answer as I glowered down at the trio.
Stern, of course, filled me in, because of course she did. “We know you copied Reinforce! We came to get her so we can win the war back home!”
Levi nodded, “With the original control code we might be able to unbreak the… ummm… why are you laughing?”
“You three are trouble,” I sighed. “I should turn you over to…” I began to chuckle again, then laugh, then just shook my head. “Okay, you three are coming with me.”
“Hey, Vita, remember how annoying you find other Vita?” I asked VPrime. She frowned and nodded. “Good, because meet NanoZero, HayateZero, and FateZero.”
Vita looked and gulped, “You didn’t! Miss Hayate should… she’ll be so cross with you!”
“I didn’t. They aren’t from my book. Promise. They came from a timeline where Reinforce wasn’t sealed away and the book regenerated itself. Or so they claim. You should fight Stern here,” I knuckled her on the head and she yelped. “She fights almost exactly like you do. They’re clones created by something called the Book of the Purple Sky… but I was thinking of using them to prank my sister, Fate and Nanoha. You in?”
“I… um… are you sure Miss Hayate won’t get mad at me?”
I scooped up the still tiny Vita and booped her nose. “She’ll probably assume it was all her evil big sister’s fault. Anyway. I’ve confiscated their Devices. They’re not much danger without them.”
“Well… okaay. But if we get in trouble, it’s your fault.”
I smirked. “It always is!”
====4 YEARS LATER===
“Papa!” Alex looked at me, aghast. “I can’t believe you!”
“What?” I asked, looking up from the breakfast table in the Warehouse as the Companions I hadn’t rediscovered began filing in from where they’d been spending the last decade. To be honest, I hadn’t looked very hard. I’d made it easy enough to find me, but if they didn’t, they didn’t. Alex was one of the ones who’d remained missing, despite being a TSAB trooper who should have had the easiest time finding the white haired lunatic hanging around the main characters… even if none of us had known who the main characters were. Ah well.
“You promised!” She stamped her foot and glowered at me.
“You promised no new companions! You’ve got 4!” He pointed to where Zero squad were squabbling over who got which bedroom of the newly added Family Abode that technically belonged to Maidseid but I’d confiscated because he’d complained about the decade long vacation the moment he’d gotten back.
“Hey now. No griping. It could have been worse… I could have invited everyone to come along.” I’d considered it… and maybe someday I would. The people of this world were nice enough… but for the time being, they were safe where they were and it was time, for now, to move on. Maybe I’d return some day. Vivio hadn’t shown up yet. She seemed like a cute kid. But for now, it was time to go on. On ward. To the future… or the past. That was always the question, wasn’t it? I knew the next five jumps, though not their order. One in the mythological past, two in the future… and two in the nebulous space known as ‘the now’.” Ah well, enough relaxing, time to get some real work done. “Oh, hey, did you have fun?”
He just growled at me and grumped “It’s more girls too! Would it have killed you to recruit a boy my age?”
I scooped him into my lap. “Why? So you can flirt with him or be buddies?”
He opened his mouth and blushed. I don’t think that had ever occurred to him before. I didn’t know whether to be proud, or worried. Maggie was shaping up to be very sexually mature, and while Amaryllis wasn’t exactly proactive in that regard, she at least was fully aware of the birds and the bees and thought the entire concept of mating was… quaint. But Alex? I don’t think until this moment he’d ever really thought about the concept of being attracted to someone.
I kissed his forehead. “You know it’s okay if the answer is both, right?”
Glaring at me, he groaned, then placed his face in his hands. “You’re sooo weird!” he complained.
“It’s my job as a parent to be embarrassingly weird. Go ask your mothers and see if I lie.”
It warmed my heart to note that, even though yes, I was a pain in the ass and a weird annoying promise-breaker, Alex didn’t climb out of my lap. Good to know he missed me.
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. I also have a very silly second chain about a Jumper named Zed. It updates every day, but each update isn’t very long.
AN: One of the very few settings where honestly I’d change nothing. It’s just so… nice. I mean, bad things happen, but… they resolve for the best every time. It’s a good universe where most people want good things to happen. I didn’t build the companions Devices, because I don’t think it really matters too much for most of them. I might do it sometime, but the builds would be more personal and time consuming than I really think the customization rules cover. So better just to assume the builds are done.