EssJay’s Omake Theatre #1

EssJay’s Omake Theatre Presents

Souchizuka Jouya and the Very Strange Request

AN: This takes place sometime during the events of Undertale Isekai, but its exact canonicity is questionable.

Jouya Souchizuka groaned as her phone rang. She had a million and one things still to do today, and was supposed to be meeting up with all ten of her wives for something or other in another hour. A phone call wouldn’t have been remarkable… except that there were an incredibly small number of beings in this world that even understood what a phone was, let alone how to make a call. Of those who know how, and had the capabilities to do so, only one wasn’t a headache, but that one seldom called except to pass on sage (i.e. annoying) wisdom, or to make a request that wouldn’t be a hardship, but would take a fair amount of time. The other five, three goddesses, one god, and a perverted inventrex/gynoid… none of them calling was ever a good thing.

Sighing, Jouya reached out and the phone flew to her hand from across the workshop. “Go?” she asked, not even bothering to check the caller ID… all six of the callers had their IDs set to GOD… the egos on some people.

“Ah, Jouya my girl… have I caught you at a bad time?” asked the voice of the local supreme deity.

“Mm? No no,” she responded. “Well, technically an inconvient time, but not a bad one. What’s up?”

“If you’re not too busy, could I borrow you for, say, an hour? I have a bit of a problem case I need your help with.”

God… needed her help with something? How odd. “Sure. Be right there,” she said, then pulled on her coat and, after a moment’s thought, grabbed her Go-Bag. It held her adventuring gear, weapons, portable tool chest, six tons of various raw materials, and nearly eight-hundred different games… be prepared was something of a motto for house Souchizuka. 

With a thought, Jouya transitioned from her workshop to God’s viewing platform, a small tatami floored platform decorated with a chest of drawers, a kotetsu, a small, old-fashioned TV, and an even older corded phone. Of course, the TV and phone weren’t actually plugged into anything, yet they still worked… because, you know, God.

“Ah. Thank you for coming,” the supreme deity said. “Please sit down?” he motioned to the kotetsu and Jouya sat, pouring some tea from the pot that was never empty into one tumblers that sat on the small tray. As she did so, God pulled a scroll out of his kimono and placed it on the table. It was nearly a meter long, and had a strange shimmer to it.

“Is this for me?” she asked.

“Something I want you to look at before I explain,” he said.

Unrolling it, she found that it was blank inside, but before she could ask, the blankness transformed itself, projecting a three-dimensional image above the top of the table. It looked like… a parking lot next to a large building. There were what were recognizably loading bays on the side of it, and a couple of big rig semis were parked there, either being loaded or unloaded… it was impossible to say which.

Into the image walked a man in a truck driver’s uniform, then a cat darted out from under one of the trucks and he started. He was just catching his balance and his breath, when something out of the frame of the projection caught his gaze. He froze for one second, then lunged for the cat, scooping it up and rolling out of the way just as a truck barreled past the spot they’d been in a moment before. 

The truck wasn’t a semi. Rather, it was a large white delivery truck. It didn’t even slow down as it crossed the parking lot, smashing hard into the third open bay of the loading zone. For a moment, nothing happened… and then the truck exploded. The explosion was enormous, devastating, and took out the entire loading area and most of the wall that it had hit. As she watched, the building beyond was engulfed in flames, and it was clear that, unless the fire department arrived very quickly indeed… and performed some kind of miracle, most or all of whatever the place was would have to be rebuilt.

“What was in that truck,” she asked.

“Propane tanks,” God said. “The factory that filled them got a faulty batch of stopcocks and the vibration of travel caused more than half of them to open in transit. The driver, who was showing a new hire the route, was overcome with fumes when his passenger opened the window to the back.”

Jouya considered, then nodded. “So… when it hit the building, it was essentially an air-fuel bomb going what… eighty-five miles an hour?” 

“Something like that. The driver and passenger were killed instantly, as were forty-five staff and shoppers. The cat and its saviour were singed and deafened temporarily, but otherwise fine.”

“Tragic,” she agreed, then quirked her brow, “But why are you showing this to me?”

“Ah… well,” he said, scratching his head. “There’s a little bit of a problem.”

“Problem?”

“Yes… you see… there’s something of a tradition… when a life is tragically cut short by… shall we say, truckular mishap, that life is given a fresh chance… much as you were, in another world.”

“You’re going to incarnate all those people who died in another world? In this one?” I asked, sounding a little concerned. Modern people, in a fantasy world? I was no normal person, and adjustment hadn’t been without incident for me… how would normies react? 

“Oh… no. Not this world. I oversee a great many worlds… too many really,” he said with a sigh, then sipped his tea, “But yes. Well, no… I mean.” he groaned. “It’s complicated.”

Jouya patted his hand. “Just start at the beginning.”

“Right… good idea. So, yes. All those who died have been sent on to new lives. Those who could adjust have been transmigrated to worlds they’ll do okay in… for the just… and to worlds they’ll find challenging for the unjust. Those who would not have been able to adjust have been reincarnated or sent to an afterlife… but there’s one rather tricky case I thought you might help with.” he waved his hand over the image and a figure, neither male nor female, with no discernable features but vaguely human in appearance, materialized, replacing the burning building.

“Who’s this,” she asked. “They don’t seem to have any… is this what local souls look like?” She hadn’t seen the local soul shape, but had seen souls aplenty in other realms, and never had they been so… featureless. Well, while standing still. Touhou Souls in motion kinda looked like sperms. She tried not to giggle at the memory.

God rubbed his face, then sighed. “Err… no. See… this individual wasn’t human… nor animal.”

“What was it?” she asked.

“Its name is… was… Iwilei Costco… we don’t really have any more information… well, we do, but we don’t know how to interpret it.”

Jouya blinked… “Cost… co? That… that’s an unusual last name… and Iwilei… that’s an even weirder first name… that’s a rather infamous redlight district in Honolulu Hawaii… wait…” she paused, then asked. “Was this location… this building… this was a Costco Warehouse location… in Iwilei… wasn’t it?”

“Ah… yes… that is correct,” he said. “Not exactly the same world you came from… but close enough.”

“And… how, exactly…” she considered how to ask the question, “does a big box chain store qualify to be reborn in another world?” 

“Something called ‘Corporate Personhood?” God said, sounding deeply confused.

Jouya just stared at the deity. “Please… please tell me that you’re joking.”

“Mmm… no?” God hazarded, clearly not certain that he wasn’t being pranked by the Universe or something.

Palming her own face this time, Jouya groaned. “Corporate… personhood… wow…” 

“What, may I ask, is it?” God asked.

“Legal fiction,” she said. “Essentially, if a group of people get together to form a business, that business has to be allowed to operate separately from its owners and managers and other employees. The corporation has to be able to buy assets, sign contracts, rent property, take out insurance… a thousand different things… and the owners have to protect their other assets from any litigation that may target the business. Sometimes this is abused… but pretty much every modern country that allows corporations to exist grants them some kind of legal status, and the simplest way of doing so is to say that, for certain circumstances, a corporation is a person. Not really, but the law treats it as one.”

“Wouldn’t that mean that technically a corporation is a slave?” God asked.

Jouya paused… then shrugged. “Partly, yeah. But… like I said… it only goes so far… though in the US, they take it farther than most, claiming that a company can have rights of free speech and even religion. Slippery slope in my opinion, but I’m seldom consulted. But one store isn’t the entire corporation… right?”

“I have no idea… but we’ve got a technical person who technically needs to be reborn… I thought you might like to oversee that… you can use the Jumpchain format, if you like?”

“I… hmmm… wait… this being doesn’t even have an identity… a personality… a form… They can’t fill out the paperwork! They can’t even understand… I’m going to have to act like a guardian angel or something…”

“Oh. sure. That’s not a problem. Here…” God pushed over a stack of forms. “We’ve gotten special permission to apply a few extra points due to the circumstances.  Anway… do your best.”

“Uh… you do know that I have other duties… down there?” she pointed at the ground, hidden though it was by the sea of clouds.

“No worries, no worries. We’ll give you an extra 10 minutes a week to check up on your charge. Nothing too important should happen in the meantime.”

To be continued in: I, a Big Box Store, Find Myself In Another World, Thanks to The US Constitution

World 77: Honor Harrington – Part 3.02d

CROWN OF STARS, Solace of Manticore Book 2

Part 2: Fox Hunt, Chapter 4

Previously: Fox Hunt, Chapter 3

As it turned out, finding the castle was the easy part. “I can’t believe she won’t let us in,” Anna complained after being told to go away for the fifth time. She pressed the door com on the massive front gates again, holding it down and wailing, “ELLLSAAAAAAAAA. Let meeee innnnnnnnnn.”

“Mom?” Gilly asked.

“Yeah, sprout?”

“Are siblings always this annoying?”

“In my experience? Yes.”

Gilly hugged Solace. “Thank you for not having other children.”

Solace ruffled the younger woman’s hair. “Don’t say that in front of Ulrike.” She’d been looking up at the structure, and had just been about to recommend climbing up the outer wall and into the inner bailey, when there was a soft fluttering noise and a furry batwinged weaseloid landed on Kristoff’s head and chittered at them.

“Aaaagh!” the mountain man grunted, flailing at the creature, who scampered out of the way and tried to crawl into his jacket. “Get off! I don’t have treats for you!!”

Anna, having determined that the furry thing wasn’t, in fact, attacking their guide, asked, “Friend of yours?”

Kristoff finally managed to grab the squirming creature, which dangled from his grip and pawed the air in something like a greeting. “Not so much a friend as a recurrent pest. This is a Flygia. His name is Sven… or at least that’s what I call him. And if Sven’s around, that means that Arto isn’t far behind.”

“Arto?” Gilly asked.

Solace pointed at a figure emerging out of the snow a few hundred meters down slope from the miniature palace. “I assume this is Arto?” she said, indicating the figure that was moving as no human could possibly move, a sinuous sway that belied a creature half sliding, half pulling itself forward across the ground.

As the figure got closer, it became clear that it was only vaguely humanoid, almost certainly as a result of parallel evolution than any relationship. The creature was nearly six meters long and had four arms located at the top of its somewhat human torso. It had no other limbs, being almost completely serpentine, but unlike a snake, it was covered in dense white and off white fur, at least on its back. As it moved, it was clear that it had a purplish underbelly that was heavily muscled below what would have been the waistline on a human, and not that less muscled on the exposed torso above that. Where a human woman would have two breasts, the figure had four, stacked two and two, and they were large by human standards, but far more robust and self-supporting. Massive flared ears stood up atop the creature’s head, not cat-like or rabbit-like, but somewhat cowlike… if cow ears stuck up like the ears of a predator. She had two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, though the mouth lacked pronounced lips and the nose was little more than a button, far smaller than a human might have. The eyes lacked pupils of any kind and were a gleaming white, and Solace had to wonder if they were good for anything more than discerning light from shadow. They were also further apart than a human might have, which no doubt generated a large blind spot right in front of the creature.

Kristoff nodded. “Hello Arto… Arto is a Tural… a Sjora as the locals call them.” He held out Sven to the creature as she stopped in front of the man, then blushed as she wrapped all four arms around him and gave him a big hug.

“You’ve found mates! Excellent! Will we get to see more of the man-kits?”

Kristoff blushed deeper, squirming and trying to push off the four-armed, four-breasted glomp and Solace struggled not to laugh. Gilly had no compunction and Kristoff looked close to bursting into embarrassed flames. “I just met them! I’m not mating with any of them! This is Princess Marianna. She’s here to speak to her sister.”

“Ahh… You’ve grown since the last time you visited us, little princess. Your sister has brought the snows unseasonably.”

“You know me?” Anna asked.

“Are you certain that Elsa is responsible for this weather?” Solace interrupted, wanting to deal with the current crisis before delving into the past.

Arto regarded the two of them, then focused on Solace. “You have a bright mind, you of the many bodies. We did not say that the Man-Lord Elspeth is the cause. We said she has brought the snows with her. Perhaps Man-works can control the weather. Perhaps they cannot. We do not understand how these things you can do with your tools work, but in our experience, Man-thinkers do not understand how the mind-space works.”

“Mind-space…” Solace said, then sent a thought at the Sjora. ~Can you hear my thoughts?~

There was a brush of… something. Recognition maybe, but not a thought response. “I mind-heard a query, Many-Bodies, but do not sense-comprehend the word-meaning. Sense-Memories work better than Word-Thoughts. Words must be filtered through perception, but perception is perception, it needs less filtering.” Arto locked that blank gaze upon Solace and Solace found herself in a valley… this valley, far below the elevation of the Winterberg.

Two adults were with three little girls. One of the girls looked angry, one worried, and one was unconscious. Several Sjora were gathered around the unconscious child, running their many hands over her still body. It took Solace a moment to realize that the girls were the Princesses Elspeth (worried), Charlotte (angry), and Marianna (unconscious).

“The sun-furred girl-kit had turned her mind-force upon the blood-furred kit, as younglings will do… but the snow-furred kit, as eldest, had objected to the domination of her nestmate and had punished the sun-furred one with the physical mind-force,” Arto said, showing another mental image, one less clear, one Solace comprehended was a kind of composite drawn from the memories of the three children. In it, Charlotte, maybe five, and Anna, a year older, are playing with dolls and Charlotte makes a demand which Anna rejects. The words have not been preserved. Charlotte pouts, eyes fixed on Anna and Anna jerks, twitches, and hands over the doll. Elspeth, eight and too old for dolls, is reading nearby. She turns her head, eyes shifting from confused to angry and she blasts Charlotte. The other girl throws up a shimmering barrier, but is smashed backwards by the greater force of the kinetic blast.

The two psychic wunderkinder glare at each other… then notice that Anna has collapsed, a glancing blow from the psychic battle having struck her. There is much crying and screaming and summoning of parents. The three girls are brought to the Sjora, and the Sjora assure the monarchs that Anna will be fine as they block away her memory of the event.

“You can erase memories?”

“Mind-thoughts can be smoothed by our mesmer… it clouds the minds of those already vulnerable. We use it to hunt our prey, and to protect our homes against those who would invade,” Arto said, matter of factly. “But old mind-memories have a solidity like mountain ice. Kit-memories are more fleeting, like frost in the morning, and fresh memories can be smoothed like fresh snow. We understood that man-kits with such gifts were a danger, and that control was lacking. Few of our people possess the physical mind force, and none with the power of those two. The Elspeth has the gift of the heat-thief, while the Charlotte one has the gift of a flesh-mender. We explained to the Man-Lords that such gifts must be controlled or they could do great harm… we offered to assist, but our offer was rejected.” Arto was petting the flying horned weasel-thing and looking sad… though that might have been projecting. Aliens were aliens, after all.

Anna shook her head, confused. “N… no… I… I remember that… that fight… Elsa punched cousin Charlotte and… and I fell and hit my head.” She brushed a spot on her head where a faint scar was visible just under the hairline.

“I was there that night,” Kristoff said. “I saw the king and queen bring you three to the Tural.

“This is all fascinating,” Solace said. “And it’s probably a good thing that the general public doesn’t know that the Sjora can do such things or the conspiracy theories would be rampant… but it doesn’t get us to the queen. Look, Arto, thank you for the information… can you look after Kristoff and Anna for a few minutes?”

“Of course!”

“And don’t try to get them to mate,” Gilly added.

“What?” Anna snapped, broken out of her confusion by embarrassment. “Where are you two going?”

“Over the wall,” Solace and Gilly said in the same breath, their tones so perfectly matching that only the shape of their chests would have allowed differentiation, and that would have taken a machine specially geared for such analysis. The three treecats moved to investigate the big fluffy snake lady and bounce mind images off her as they discovered someone not nearly as mind-blind as most humans as their own humans limbered up and stripped off their heavy winter clothing.

“You’ll freeze,” Kristoff said. “And those walls are twelve meters of… oh… okay.” He watched, dumbfounded, as Gilly tossed Solace upward to the top of the gate, six meters straight up.

Solace gripped the top of the frame with the fingertips of her uninjured arm, grunting as Gilly leapt up to catch her feet, then (as the younger woman climbed up her back) pulled herself upward so that Gilly could stand on her shoulder.

With a powerful lunge, Gilly launched herself up to the next set of handholds and they repeated the process until they were atop the wall, and then they were gone, dropping into the open courtyard beyond.

The wait outside the walls was cold, nervewracking, and boring… until the sound of crashing metal and shattering plast-steel echoed from behind the wall, and Anna went pale. “Oh… oh no… I think they encountered OLEG.”

Kristoff blinked, wrenching his gaze away from the sealed gate. “Oleg? Who’s Oleg?”

Anna pointed at OLAF. “Orensten-Leventhal Automated Guardian: Model E… We called him OLEG.

“Oh yes. He is very angry,” OLAF agreed. “He is big and strong and very good at smashing things.” At that moment, something large flew over the wall, crashing into the treeline a good thirty meters past the waiting humans, ‘cats, and aliens.

Kristoff looked at the balled up wreckage and paled. “That’s the door of my truck! I just finished paying it off!”

Anna considered, then giggled nervously. “Who do you think threw it? Gillian or the robot?”

“If she can throw a truck door fifty meters, I’m more scared of her than I am of a Queen who can make blizzards,” Kristoff said.

“It wasn’t me,” Gilly said, opening the gate from inside. “Mom and I might be genies, but even I’m not that strong.”

Anna asked, “Do you grant wishes?”

Solace, resting her head on top Gilly’s head, smirked. “Yes. I turn defeat into victory. Now give me my coat, I’m freezing and my arm is killing me.”

“So you’ve got mind to mind powers,” Kristoff said, looking at the Manticorans, “And your sister and cousin have mind over matter powers… do you have any powers?” he asked Anna.

She sighed. “Yeah. I have the power to make a mess out of everything.”

Solace laughed, “Oh. we all have that. The trick is making a bigger mess for your enemies than for your friends.”

“I don’t have any enemies!” Anna said.

“What about prince mind-whammy,” Gilly suggested as them moved across the courtyard, stepping around where the large combat robot was half imbedded in a wall by the mostly crumpled bulk of what had once been a heavy refrigerated ice-delivery vehicle. Both of them were already covered in several milimeters of snow.

“The weather is getting worse,” Kristoff said as Anna tried, once again, to defend this foreign asshole who was clearly preying on the princess’s innocence… and Kristoff felt himself wondering if he too was being played by a foreign manipulator… or was that just what a different foreign manipulator wanted him to think. The Manticoran seemed reasonable, but so did Stilskin. Both claimed to want to help… though the Manticoran was certainly more attractive… wait, what did that have to do with honesty?

“Elsaaa?” Anna called as she burst into the main building, the furniture inside all covered with protective shrouds and a layer of dust. Although technically a palace, Winterberg was more of a ski-chalet, and didn’t have the dozen and dozens of rooms of a full royal residence. There was a kitchen, a dining room, and a large gathering room on the ground floor, and the bedrooms were all on the second floor for the noble, with the servants quarters and guard barracks being in the outer buildings. The palace also had a few activity rooms, but they were all in the four different towers that lent the place its fairytale feel.

Finding the queen wasn’t hard. She was in the living room on the second floor, standing on the balcony, apparently unconcerned by the biting cold wind blowing in from mountains. She looked at the group gathered to bring her back, and Solace could feel the panic welling up inside the young woman. Before she could say anything, however, Anna rushed forward and confronted her sister.

“Why’d you run away!?”

“You wouldn’t understand!”

“Understand what? That you’ve got psychic powers?”

Elsa flinched at those words, but turned her back, hugging herself as if afraid of what she might do. “Y… you need to go. I… I’m dangerous to you! You have to go!”

“I’m not going without you! You’re the QUEEN, Elsa!”

“No! You… you be queen! You marry that boy and have nice, normal, can’t control the elements children.”

“I… I can’t. Solace says he’s got mental powers too and… and… Elsa, whatever you did has plunged the entire region into winter!”

“N… No! I… I…” The Queen shuddered, dropping to her knees. “I ruin everything!”

“Oh my god! Stop feeling sorry for yourself!” Gilly snapped, stepping between the two, grabbing Elsa by the shoulders and hauling her to her feet. “Yes, wah. You have cryokinesis. So sad. You have to worry about accidentally freezing people. I have to worry about breaking bones every time I touch someone and my mothers routinely have to worry about ruining people’s lives if they give the wrong order.”

Elspeth blinked. “W… what are you talking about?”

Anna stepped in. “Elsa… Gilly’s strong enough to rip the door off an aircar with her bare hands and throw Solace two meters straight up without much effort… and they’re both telempaths.”

Solace shrugged. “Not, I think what she was asking. Your majesty, Gillian’s other mother is Minerva Andros-Brandyne. One wrong choice from her can ruin entire cities financially. I’m a military commander. One wrong choice from me could level a planet.

Gilly nodded, then added, “Trust me, if you think you can do more damage throwing around bolts of cold, than you can as the head of state of a star nation with a massive fleet, you really need to reexamine your perspective.”

Elsa frowned, “B… but she said I’ve brought winter in summer!” She glanced at Anna, who nodded.

“That’s patently ridiculous,” Solace said. “No one has that kind of psychic power. If you were generating that level of cold, we’d all be frozen solid.” She raised her hand to forestall any naysaying. “It’s easy enough to check. VIctoria, can you access the planetary datanetwork from Winterberg’s uplink?” the wristcomp had been out of contact in the mountains, but an outpost like this had to have an uplink. It would even be on standby just in case. That was how palace security operated… no matter where you were. The Jewelians were too competent for it to be otherwise.

“Clearance is restricted,” the synthetic intelligence in the wrist-comp said.

Solace looked to the queen, who sighed, then said, “Authorization Elspeth Catherine Kronor, Clearance Blue Blue Red Sigma, My Kingdom For A Horse.”

“Authorization granted,” VIctoria said, “Accessing datanet. Generating weather map.” The wall screen behind the Queen flickered to life and showed a dozen screens, all of them from system media outlets broadcasting that the Queen’s psychic powers were generating a huge storm system around the capital and that an emergency meeting of the Stortin was being called to decide what to do about the out of control monarch.

“See!” Elsa said, pointing. “I ruin everything!”

“That’s my line!” Anna said.

“Ladies, Ladies. You’re both beautiful, now shut up and let mom figure out what’s going on,” Gilly snapped, causing Anna to glower at her and Elsa to blush.

“Right. Clearly, everyone’s letting emotions get the better of them. VIctoria, get me a status on all the weather control satellites in orbit above the capital.” A second wallscreen blinked to life and showed a feed from IANS Orlando’s visual pickups. The ship had been allowed into the system as a diplomatic courtesy, though her weapons and advanced scanning technology had to remain offline. Still, cameras were cameras, and Orlando’s cameras were picking up the telltale twinkle of weather control lasers hitting the atmosphere. “See, there you go. Someone’s using the weather control system and the media is either being controlled or not bothering to look for the most obvious reason.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Elsa said. “The weather controls are back at Kronorberg. Only grandma can control them with Anna and me here.”

“And Miss Bellweather,” Anna said.

“Why would she have access?” Elsa said. “She’s the regent, but Grandma runs the palace.”

“I dunno,” Anna said, “But she made certain there was a sunshower last spring when Charlotte came to visit… did she really mind control me?”

“Y… you remember that?” Elsa looked stunned.

“Yeah. We ran into one of the Sjora, and she showed me what happened.”

Elsa groaned, “Now you know how much of a monster I am.”

Anna blinked, “What are you talking about? You saved me.”

“I nearly killed you and Charlotte!” Elsa shivered, hugging herself again.

Solace studied the Queen… this wasn’t a normal reaction. This was a conditioned response. She was terrified of her own power, and not because she actually thought that. Solace knew what native recrimination felt like all too well. This was the result of someone telling the girl over and over again that she’d done something wrong.

Anna grabbed her sister and shook her, “You tried to blast Charlotte to make her stop. She protected herself and I fell and hit my head. It was an accident and we were kids!”

Elsa opened her mouth to say something, to retort, to refute her precious little sister’s words. Solace could feel the war of emotions swirling around inside Elsa and readied herself to push in just the right way to hopefully defuse the situation… when there was a massive explosion from outside. The push became a shove and Elsa crumbled to the floor eyes wide, and Solace herself, distracted from blocking the pain in her arm and matched with a much sharper pain in her head than she’d been expecting, joined the queen a moment later.

Anna gasped, “W… what’s going on?”

“Attention, Queen Elsa, This is Prince Yohan,” came a voice from outside. “I have been tasked by the Regent to bring you back to the palace to appear before the Stortin! I’m accompanied by Captain Stoltz of the Palace Guard.”

Kristoff glanced at the security feed and gasped, “They’ve got a battlewagon and it looks like three hundred members of the guard in riot gear out there!”

“Great. Wonderful. Help me get mom and the queen some place they can recover while we try to figure out what to do,” Gilly snapped.

“Gotcha,” Kristoff said, scooping up Solace while Gilly gathered the fallen monarch into her own arms. “Where?”

“The Observatory Tower,” Anna said, finding that her memories of the layout of the Palace were coming back to her. “It’s on the far side of the Winterberg and it’s only accessible by one bridge.”

“Excellent,” Gilly said, “Show Kristoff how to get there. I’ll be along in a moment.”

“What are you doing?” Anna asked as she headed towards the stairs leading to the towers.

“I’m sending out a mediablast about the-”

Anna and Kristoff never heard what Gilly’s mediablast was about as, at that moment, the battlewagon smashed through the outer wall of the winter palace. The hover-turbines whined as the prince and a dozen blue-suited riot guards jumped down between Gilly and Anna, and they began firing stunner rounds without a word. The last sight Anna had of the two white haired women was Gilly dropping her sister and throwing a couch one handed. Then Kristoff grabbed her and dragged her into the hall, slamming the door behind him just as Ruth and Naomi skittered through, Sven clinging to the larger treecat’s back and squealing with glee.

Next: Crown of Stars – Part 2, Chapter 5

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