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Theodora stood in front of Iain's console as behind her, in the holographic display, the crimson light of the portal blazed brighter than the sun. “You do realize that since you couldn't provide me with anything detailed about the universe we're trying to visit I can't tell you if it's the right one or not.”
“You can tell us if the conditions there are so bad that we couldn't survive the entry,” Iain said. “When we get closer to the Earth you can monitor Blue radio traffic for references to Zombabes in Glasgow.” He glanced back at Kasumi, who was sitting at a deactivated console on the bridge. He could see the curiosity in her eyes. “Feel free to ask any questions you have.”
“Why not make the portal on the planet? I can see the utility of using a shuttle to cross over, but I don't understand how it's that different from walking through.” She frowned. “I guess it's easier since the shuttle can't be attacked the instant it passes through. So it does make sense.”
Dominique laughed. “We aren't taking a shuttle, Kasumi. Theodora is clan and she goes with us. That's why the portal is out here in the middle of nowhere. It's kilometers in diameter so the entire clan can go with Iain.”
“Technically, this is not the middle of anything,” Theodora said. “We are a seven light minutes above the ecliptic of the system.”
Iain shook his head and she smiled at him. “Stop teasing, Theodora, and launch drones.”
The ship vibrated slightly as two coil launchers threw multiton missiles out of the ship at the dimensional gate. “Drones away.”
He looked back at Kasumi. “I know that Shikarou would have been willing to leave Selene on the island when you left and that he doesn't consider her family the way Theodora is, but Theodora is as much a member of Clan Grey as I am.”
Giselle, Ayame and Nishiko were seated behind their mistress and the Enchantress gasped softly. “Sir, you take this ship through with you?”
Iain nodded. “That’s right, Ayame. Theodora is housed in this ship and since she goes with us, so does it.” He flashed a smile. “It does mean we have an awesome support platform if anything does happen.”
“Drones are approaching the gate,” Theodora said.
“Set approach condition alpha,” Iain said.
Theodora nodded. “Yes, clan leader. Full EMCON established. I am depressurizing all unused portions of the ship. Internal security is at maximum readiness. Powering down engines to low detection levels and all sensors are in passive mode with half of them at maximum gain. Weapons and shields are on a half second standby. I request permission for weapons free.”
“You are weapons free,” Iain said formally.
“I am weapons free,” Theodora repeated. Her hologram rippled and when it stopped she was wearing Roman cataphract armor without the helmet and a Roman cavalry sword.
“What are you doing,” Kasumi asked.
“We’re getting ready to pass through the gate if the drones don’t report any problems,” Eve said from where she sat. “We minimize our energy signature to make us harder to detect in case we come out near someone or something. At the same time, Theodora is free to defend us if we are attacked during transit.”
“The first drone is entering the portal and the second is decelerating to loiter near the entrance,” Theodora announced. “The first drone is expected to return in ten seconds.” Time passed. “The drone has returned as scheduled. Data is incoming.” She waited a second. “The area around the exit appears to be empty and the Earth’s continents show damage from legendary attacks.” She looked at Iain. “We’re in the right area in the multiverse, if nothing else.”
“Take us through.” He looked at Dominique, who was sitting with her eyes closed as she focused on the portal. “Dominique, I’ll let you know as soon as we can close it.” She nodded without opening her eyes.
“Where is Ninhursag,” Nishiko asked.
“She’s in Auxiliary Command,” Iain replied. “If we’re killed she will take command of the clan and the Theodora.”
“That’s enough,” Kasumi said quietly. “Let them work undisturbed.”
“Yes, Mistress,” Giselle said. She gave each of the other two pokegirls with her a hard look and they settled back to watch.
The drones accelerated back through the portal as the Theodora began moving forward. She decelerated to almost a complete halt and drifted through the gate, launching station keeping drones with a prerecorded two million digit nonrepeating code that changed ten times a second and was good for fifty years behind her to verify the return to the correct dimension.
Once through, the Theodora halted and waited for ten minutes. “I have no contacts,” Theodora announced.
Iain had been monitoring the same sensors through his twee. “Dominique, the gate is yours. Theodora, put us in the L2 position of Earth and get a survey as we pass before deploying satellites. There are some significant cultural differences and I don’t want to find out that another is a decent satellite program.”
“Yes, clan leader.”
“Oh, and you are no longer weapons free.”
Her hologram returned to that of her in her normal clothes, which today were jeans and a button down blouse in blue and green. “Yes, clan leader.”
Dominique’s eyes opened. “The gate is closing. It’ll still be in visual range when it completely closes for verification.” She stretched slowly. “I need some tea.”
Iain looked back at Kasumi. “Shikarou got lucky on his visit here. If there hadn’t been a Zombabe incident his disguise as a tamer wouldn’t have held up under scrutiny for longer than it took for him to get a decent scan. The tamer setup here is very different from what it is on the pokegirl world he came here from. We’ll set up identities with the appropriate ranks before we land so to hopefully avoid some trouble.”
“What would I be?”
“It’s based off of harem size, so you’re an apprentice tamer with three of eight slots filled. Yes, the base size of a harem here is eight. With my harem and if I add Barb and Heather so I have full time security I’m a Journeyman Tamer who is almost ready to test for Tamer. The biggest problem is that the tamer ranks also determine, at least in part, how many clothes a tamer’s girls may legally wear. “
Kasumi didn’t look pleased. “What is the clothing allowance for an apprentice tamer?”
“I’m not completely sure. I started to consult with Barb, Siobhan and some of the other Elfqueens that I got from Glasgow, but their information is spotty and sometimes contradictory. Apparently the tamers were allowed to and sometimes liked to give their girls a lot of made up rules on top of what the actual requirements were so when Theodora inserts us into the Blue League’s computers she’s going to retrieve the actual legal requirements of their Tamer program.” He looked at Theodora. “What’s the ETA?”
“We will settle into the L2 point in seven hours with my current acceleration and flight profile.”
He nodded. “Do you need us to stay here and continue pretending we’re doing something useful?”
She laughed. “I do want you here for transitions, Iain, in case something goes wrong. But no, you’re not needed on the bridge at this time.”
“Then you know where we’ll be,” Iain said as he powered back his chair and stood. “Kasumi, this is Ygerna’s first time in space too and she wants to go on a walk on the hull to see what being outside is like. Would you or your ladies care to join us?”
Kasumi looked at her harem, but they were already shaking their heads. “Mistress,” Giselle said, “If you don’t mind we would prefer to remain inside where there’s air.”
Dominique grinned. “I could show them the library while you’re outside. There are some books we’ll let you have access to and then you can report to your mistress all of the lovely books we have that you don’t so she can try to figure out how to finagle them from us.”
Nishiko laughed and looked at Kasumi. “Mistress, I would love to see someone else’s library, even if I can’t read anything out of it.”
Kasumi nodded. “You three are all free to wander as you will. I can contact you if I need anything that Iain and Theodora cannot already provide. Have fun and relax.”
Eve tapped Giselle on the shoulder. “How about while Dominique is seeing how much drool she can get out of your girls, you, Ninhursag, Allison and I go over what we know about the Glasgow that we’re going to visit as well as Zombabes and other potential issues we might run across? We’ve faced them before and can give some pointers on the best ways to deal with them.”
“I would like that,” Giselle said with a smile.
“That leaves only you, Kasumi,” Iain said. “Are you interested?”
“I am, but I don’t want to interrupt time you are spending with Ygerna,” Kasumi replied. “I know that the two of you are exploring if there can be a relationship between you.”
“She suggested I invite you,” Iain said.
“I still don’t think it would be a good idea,” Kasumi said doubtfully, but Iain could see she was wavering.
Come with us, Ygerna said to Kasumi through her twee. We got along well enough in the school and I hold you in no way accountable for what transpired between me and other members of your family over my books or between me and Faelan’s family. Iain says what we are going to see will be breathtaking and I have learned he usually underestimates these kinds of things. I see no reason not to share that kind of experience with you. And don’t tell me you don’t want to see this as we will both know it is a lie before you finish saying it.
“Well, it’s your decision,” Iain said. “But I think you’d like it. It’s not anything like stepping outside on a dark night and looking at the sky.”
“I will come,” Kasumi found herself saying.
“Here’s what we’ve learned from the preliminary sweep of Blue League’s computers,” Theodora said. “As Dianthus reported, there are six tamer ranks used in the civilian population and each rank uses a point system to determine status both within and across the ranks, with a five hundred point spread in each rank, which allows status to be determined easily. A starting beginning tamer has zero points while an experienced beginning tamer is in the 450 to 500 range. Beginning tamers will never have a score beyond 500 points until they become an apprentice tamer and automatically advance to 501 points. As with the number of pokegirls in their active harems, a tamer must be in the top 80 percent of his point maximum to apply to test for the next rank. Clothing rules for the civilian ranks are fairly ironclad and are determined by the points, starting with no clothing for the girls of beginning tamers with zero points and just commencing their careers and going up to high status master tamers whose girls can wear the equivalent of what April does normally.
“However, while similar, the rules for military pokegirls are quite different in many ways. Although military personnel still have the same tamer ranks; they are more of a formality than for civilians and do not apply except for harem sizes and storage rights. In all cases, military rank supersedes civilian tamer rank and civilians are not allowed to challenge military personnel unless the military personnel agree to the match while not under the influence of magic, drugs or alcohol and accept the challenge on video. It means you can find general officers who would be outranked by subordinates based on harem size or ranking points but who still exercise command authority over them based on standard military protocol. Military personnel can challenge other military personnel for salvage, but any military person can refuse a challenge without punishment and their superior officers can deny a challenge that someone has offered to a subordinate in their chain of command if deemed for the needs of the service. The same rules about superiors being able to quash challenges also apply for military personnel challenging civilians for salvage and civilians challenging military personnel.” She looked around the room. “The important thing for us is that military pokegirls are expected to wear uniforms when on duty and are usually allowed civilian clothes when off duty and they’re expected to use military forms of address instead of master or mistress.”
Iain and his command staff were present for this meeting, along with Ygerna, Kasumi, Tara and Giselle.
Dominique eyed Theodora curiously. “What is the date?”
“I’m sorry, sister, but you weren’t even close. Shikarou raided the city almost a month ago.” Theodora looked at Ninhursag. “The best plan is to go in as a military research team since some have already been entering the dome to conduct studies. I thought for this we’d use Major Austin Drummond again, only this time we’d make him a scientist. The only question is what he would be researching that nobody else is already working on.”
Ninhursag looked at Iain. “Care to pull another Bunnygirl out of your hat?”
“I have two ideas, actually,” Iain said.
“I win,” Allison interrupted.
“Only if at least one of them is usable,” Sofia pointed out sourly.
Iain frowned. “You had a pool on how many ideas I might have?” He gave the room in general an exasperated look. “Really?”
“Of course we did,” April said with a laugh.
“Bloody fucking hell,” Iain shook his head. “Anyways, we would either be researching the military applications of Zombabes or we’d be there to investigate the reports of the unusual behavior that Shikarou and some of the soldiers have filed.”
“The military application of Zombabes is the subject of three of the research teams already on site and another two teams are investigating the potential use of Zombabe parts as magical components,” Theodora said. “However your talent for necromancy might provide new avenues of investigation in the militarization of Zombabes. Still, you’d have people from the other teams wanting to collaborate or at least spend time with you, especially if your ideas prove viable.”
“More importantly,” Lucifer said, “it’s likely that the community of scientists interested in using Zombabes as weapons would be small enough that they would all know of each other.”
Iain frowned. “I hadn’t thought about that one. What about the running Zombabes angle?”
“Those reports have been treated as rumor, so no one has expressed interest in them and you should have free rein with that idea,” Theodora said.
“I win!” Allison crowed in triumph.
Theodora wisely ignored her outburst. “In other business, I have been doing preliminary scans for power sources.”
“I thought the power station had burned,” Vanessa said.
“It did and the city is still without power except for a couple of generators that the BLSF have set up in police stations near the entry point they’ve been using.” Theodora said. “But the city being without power made it easier for me to scan for the low level EM emissions that would indicate a storage unit powering itself by sucking power from the pokegirls it has stored. Unfortunately, the dome itself is only partially transparent to energy passage and I will have to put stealthy drones almost on top of the dome or even inside it to localize them. It also means that communication with you while inside may prove problematic.”
“Why would we do that,” Sofia asked.
“It would give us the option of stealing them if we want to,” Theodora said.
Kasumi frowned. “Was that something you were planning to do?”
“No, it wasn’t, but I felt it was best to be prepared for this eventuality. As was pointed out, the Glasgow pokegirls that Haven possesses are mostly aware and thus act as a ready force for Haven. They are one of the reasons Haven has such a tiny population of feral pokegirls. If we were to steal one or more of these storage units and put the aware pokegirls in them in general circulation in Texas it would give the Texans a serious boost both to the forces able to resist an invasion and with which to combat the feral population.” She looked at Ninhursag. “And any that we chose to recruit would of course strengthen the clan.”
“I don’t see where we need to steal them,” Iain said. “Either here or back on Four we could just buy all of the pokegirls we want from the abandoned stores across all of the leagues. We’d also get more pokewomen that way that could be put into the Texas population.” He smirked. “And that way we can avoid getting large numbers of pokegirls we don’t necessarily want in Texas.” He looked at Kasumi. “Would you be willing to share how many of the pokegirls in the Glasgow storage unit Haven has are unwanted breeds like Bunnygirls?”
Kasumi glanced at Giselle before looking back at Iain. “There are more of them than statistical representation can account for. It’s thought that all storage units hold abandoned pokegirls and many of those will be useless for Haven’s purposes. We still haven’t decided what to do with them. The best proposal is to keep them in storage indefinitely or to release them in Shanghai to go feral.”
“I would fight either of those proposals,” Lucifer said, “and I would not be alone in it. I say we don’t steal the storage units. Now, if the opportunity presents itself, should we loot them of pokegirls we could use?” She looked at Theodora. “Could you build storage units designed with integral power sources and man portable so we could use them to siphon off the girls we might want?”
“Storage units are a particular size for a reason,” Theodora said. “Nobody understands the design of the storage media well enough to change it and, while I have started an examination of storage design, my research is far from complete enough to make different sizes of storage units.”
“There are pokepacks,” Canaan said. “What if we chained the storage portions of several of them together and powered them from a single power source so we could take more girls at once?”
Theodora frowned. “It’s possible,” she said finally. “I don’t have any designs for such a device.”
“Start designing it,” Iain said. “But don’t worry about trying to get it finished while we’re here. It could be something as useful as the data crystals though.” He looked around the room. “I would rather buy pokegirls from Four or Three so we don’t dump thousands of pokegirls on Texas who believe they have to be naked and who think that master is the only acceptable form of address for their tamer. Girls from Four will be submissive enough and most of them will not be pining for some dead tamer.”
“One thing I’d like to point out is that according to Siobhan and Dianthus there is no equivalent to the Night Nurse here.” Vanessa reached for the tea and poured herself a cup. “I would suggest that we do go with empty pokepacks just to loot pokegirls with in case the database shows breeds that are unique to this world. Those we might want a few dozen of or at least DNA from them so Theodora can manufacture more for Texas and us.”
“And we can buy those too,” Iain pointed out. “Let’s not steal everything that’s not nailed down unless it’s really necessary. It’s a mindset we want to avoid getting used to being in.”
“I’ll begin searching this world’s pokedex and get back to you on that,” Theodora said. “I have acquired the design specifications for the BLSF military uniforms and am manufacturing some now. When they’re ready we’ll have fittings so they’re properly fitted but not so tailored as to stand out entirely.”
“I think we’ll keep the Drummond identity in reserve in case of a catastrophe and I’ll just be me,” Iain said. “Make me a major and we’ll have Kasumi and Ygerna as lieutenants, more junior scientists in the same field of study or something complementary that you set up for me and they’ll be my assistants. We’ll want an overview of local military etiquette and protocols. We’ll plan on being dirtside the day after tomorrow, weather permitting. I am not fighting Zombabes in inclement weather.”
“I’ll take care of it,” Theodora said. “And that concludes my briefing.”
“Good,” Iain said. “Ygerna, Kasumi, would you and your alphas please stay for a moment.”
April stood and clapped her hands. “Allison, Ninhursag, we have a special training session planned out today. It’s everyone’s favorite, urban combat since we may be doing just that in the very near future. Get your teams and be in the training area in fifteen minutes. Lucifer’s team will be running the exercise and umpiring.” She looked around the room. “Don’t worry, ladies, their turn will be this afternoon.” She looked at Theodora. “Please make sure that getting lost is not a viable excuse.”
“I would point out that Daphne and Chuck are currently in the microgravity gym and therefore may not be able to make your fifteen minute deadline,” Theodora said. “I have informed them of the exercise and they are on their way, but their ETA is seventeen minutes.”
“Then we start in twenty two minutes,” April replied. “Hustle, ladies.”
Iain waited until the room was empty. “I won’t keep you long because I am going to be in the afternoon exercise and I’ll want to see the first two so I know what’s coming. I’d recommend you and your harems watch them too.”
“We will,” Ygerna said as Kasumi nodded.
“I wanted to have this discussion in private because you’re a kami,” he nodded to Kasumi, “while you’re a Sidhe,” his second nod was aimed at Ygerna. “And both of you have two things in common. You’re incredibly proud and neither of you has been in combat recently, nor have your harems. So that brings us to a discussion that we have to have of two things. The first is I need to know with the understanding that you two are my guests, what the rules of engagement are going to be.”
“What do you mean,” Kasumi asked.
“As my guests I have a responsibility for your protection. As very proud women, I understand you may be angry with me if I do something you don’t want. My choices are simple. If a fight starts, do I help you immediately, do I help you when I think you need it, do I help you when you ask for it, do I help you when you fall or do I not help you at all no matter what it costs you or your harem?” He leaned back in his chair as they looked at each other. “I realize that each of you may have a different decision and I’ll try to abide with each of them. However if it’s the last choice, I may just leave you here on the ship because you are my guest and I won’t stand idly by and let you die in my care. And please understand that if you tell me your choice and it gives me latitude and I exercise it and you disagree with me, I win that one automatically while we’re on the battlefield. Remember, I said one of the choices is I help when I think you need it, not when you think you do.”
“I and my guards have done a little training with your family,” Ygerna said, “and while it pains me to admit it, that training has shown just how woefully we are out of practice. I want you to come to my aid when you think we need it because we may not recognize some danger you do.” She smiled at him. “And thank you for having this conversation in private.”
He smiled back. “Don’t thank me just yet, we’re not done.” He turned to Kasumi. “And what is your decision?”
“We want your help from the beginning,” Giselle said. Kasumi looked at her in surprise and the Pegaslut smiled. “Mistress, you have not trained in years and our training has been lackadaisical at best. The school is a wonderful place but it has made us soft. Zombabes are a real threat and we will need his assistance.”
Kasumi sighed and nodded. “She’s right.”
“OK, the first issue is settled,” Iain said, carefully not showing the relief he felt. “The second is actually a bit touchier.”
“Touchier than our pride about our skill in combat,” Ygerna asked in surprise. “That sounds ominous.”
“It’s not, not really, but it is kind of personal.” Iain looked at each of them and plunged ahead. “We will be operating in close proximity to Zombabes, which carries certain high risks. We are also working with pokegirls, who are incredibly competitive. Just like the pool they had over my ideas for infiltration, I am certain there are already pools about everything you can imagine involving the Zombabes.” He looked at Giselle. “Right?”
She had the grace to blush. “Yes sir.”
“Every day, whether we end the day camped inside the barrier or not, each person will strip nude and be inspected for bites and scratches. Additionally, each person will be scanned and healed by a Celestial from my family. Ygerna and Kasumi will be inspected by a member of my family and not their harems.”
“Why,” Kasumi asked. “I have no desire to be naked with your women.”
“I don’t care. With them inspecting you I don’t have to worry about one of your girls telling you that you have to be inspected, you snapping that you’re fine and her accepting that and reporting you as such. My ladies will insist on the inspection and will report any failure to comply.”
“Will one of our girls inspect you,” Ygerna asked.
“If you insist on it, then they can be present when April inspects me. Rest assured she will demand daily inspections and she will be frighteningly thorough with them. The results of these inspections will be incorporated with the data from everyone else’s inspections and will be part of a contest with a prize for the person with the fewest scratches or bites.” He grimaced. “The only problem is that I’m not sure what to offer as a prize since you and your girls will be competing. If it was just my family, it would be easy.”
“What would you offer them,” Ygerna asked.
“It would be personal time. We don’t get a lot of time for just that and I’d offer a week or so of me and the winner doing whatever she wanted without complaint from me and no interruptions,” he said without hesitation, “subject to the usual restrictions. That would ensure they’d keep from doing anything stupid to up their kill count and get hurt or worse.”
“I think that would be an excellent prize indeed,” Ygerna said. “I accept that for me.”
“And what happens if Tara wins,” Iain asked.
The Dragoness cocked her head. “You do not interest me, sir. Could I give my prize to my queen?”
“It’s yours to do with as you wish. You can give it away, ignore it or sell it, but only to someone else who is involved in the competition too.”
“Then that is what her guard would do, sir. That prize is acceptable to us.”
“It is acceptable to us, too,” Giselle announced, “although we will give the prize to our mistress when we win.”
Kasumi gaped at her, before composing her features. “What makes you think I want that?” She flushed and looked at Iain. “I meant no insult.”
“You didn’t give me any. I’m as surprised Giselle wants this as much as you apparently are.”
“I see.” Kasumi looked back at Giselle. “Explain this.”
“Mistress, you came here to spend time away from your family. Iain is not family and you like him. This way you can spend time with a friend and you get to decide what you do.” She bobbed her head in a bow. “You have not had that opportunity since we left Edo to return home and it is my hope that you would like to have that kind of freedom again.”
Kasumi looked at her for a long time before turning to Iain. “Your prize is acceptable.”
Iain just stared at them for several seconds before giving himself a shake. “Very well, I will announce the contest to everyone else and may the best girl win.”
Ygerna eyed Iain the way a fox would eye a rabbit while deciding if it was hungry or not. “What happens if there is a tie?”
Iain shrugged. “With this particular prize, if there is a tie it was decided a while ago that every winner still gets it, it just gets scheduled to avoid conflicts.”
“So, in theory, if none of my guard is injured and neither am I, I could win seven weeks with you?”
Iain’s expression suddenly looked like he was that same rabbit and had just seen the fox contemplating it. He said in a small voice, “yes.”
“And if Kasumi is unhurt and none of her harem is injured, she could also win four weeks with you?”
Iain swallowed hard. “Yes.”
Ygerna leaned back in her chair. “Theodora, please let everyone else know about this contest and be sure to explain to them that if all of us are unhurt, Iain has to give everyone a week of his time, without interruption or complaint, for each winner to do with him as she pleases. Then ask them, which is more important, a higher kill count than anyone else or this?”
Theodora appeared. “The contest has been announced and, as you desired Ygerna, you have brewed up a tempest in the clan. Melanie will be furious that she chose to remain on One and not come with us.” She looked at Iain. “I wonder what I shall do with my week.”
Ygerna blinked. “Your week?”
“The contest is open to clan and guests. I am clan and I am unlikely to be injured by Zombabes.” She smiled at Iain. “Don’t worry; since all of us can win I won’t help the others to get injured.”
Iain dropped his head into his hands. “I am so fucked.”
“I’m sure there will be a lot of fucking,” Theodora said with a wicked smile. “But surely there will be other activities too. If nothing else, Dominique will want to go clubbing with you.” She suddenly laughed. “That is so precious.”
Iain gave her a suspicious look. “What?”
“Seraphina and Olivia have announced that they will be pooling their weeks and they will be taking both weeks with you when their turn comes.”
Iain grimaced. “Rule clarification, Theodora. The infants are not in the contests and their mothers cannot claim their proxies.”
“What about Seraphina, Olivia, Saoirse and Myrna? They are already excited about this and you’d crush their little hearts.”
“Fine. No little heart crushing, but just them. I will be more specific in the future.”
Theodora grinned. “Please don’t. This will be fun.”
Iain chuckled. “I’m more concerned about us leveling Glasgow as we travel to keep the Zombabes at a distance so people will win and trying to justify that with the BLSF afterwards. I’m sure comments about how shoddy the construction in the city is won’t suffice.” He looked at Ygerna. “Alright, I’ve been had. Feel better?”
“It does begin to make up for that cheat ridden victory you attained at the archery field,” she said with an amused smile. “And seven weeks of servitude from you will certainly help you to make that up to me. Finally, watching the others take just as much advantage of this as I will is going to make things completely right.”
Iain blanched. “These aren’t all going to be back to back.”
“You let us worry about scheduling,” Ygerna reassured him. “Just make sure you’re available when instructed to be. And don’t forget to tell Kerrik when you’re not going to be available for him to summon.”
Kasumi cocked her head curiously. “I must admit I’m at a loss as to what I shall do with a month of your time, but I do have a question. What happens if, during all of this, any of us add to our families? Are they also eligible for this contest?”
“It has traditionally been the rule if I add to the family during a contest. It is not traditional that outlanders are involved in the first place. If you added to your family, I’d have to check with my command staff, which would not be inclined to grant you additional chances to win.”
“True, but this way Ygerna could not hire additional guards for the duration of this contest, claim more time with you because of it when the contest ends and then dismiss them.”
Ygerna blinked. “That hadn’t even occurred to me.” She shook her head. “While tempting, Tara would not allow newcomers recruited in that way to protect me and Iain would demand that they do so she’d kill them for him. More importantly, I’d never trust them enough.”
“I just wanted clarification,” Kasumi said sweetly.
Iain looked around the room. “So nobody has a problem with the two things I raised before we got distracted, right?”
“No,” Ygerna said. “Your women will strip search me and my guard because we might not be as observant as yours will. I accept that you could be right, especially in regards to the deference my guard shows me and you will help us when you think we need it.” She looked at Kasumi. “And you?”
Kasumi nodded. “Iain’s reasoning is sound and so I will allow this.”
Ygerna looked at Iain and smiled maliciously. “Can I request that you examine me daily?”
“You agreed to be examined by a member of my family but you didn’t agree to request someone in particular. It’ll be random draw, as normal for these kinds of things and my name isn’t in the bucket for that one. Physical exams by me tend to get a lot more physical than originally planned, so I was given a pass from them.” He rose. “All right, I think we’re done here ladies, before I talk myself into something else.” He watched them leave and, once the door was shut, gently banged his forehead against the wall. “Doofus.”
“You do not seem that upset,” Theodora said as she appeared beside him.
“It was an honest mistake and I’m trying not to get pissed at silly stuff. Honestly, my mistake was pretty silly. I need to remember that Ygerna is tricksy. But I really don’t see where there’s any real harm done. So I’ll have to spend a week with various women I already like who like me. I don’t think it’ll be that horrible.”
“What about Ygerna or Kasumi?”
He shrugged. “I’m not going to worry about them. If Ygerna gets any time with me, it’ll just let us work on our relationship which is something we both want. Kasumi will probably just let me off the hook for it. If she doesn’t, I’ll deal with it then. I mean, how bad could it be?”
“Well?” Iain was sitting cross legged on the table in his lab.
Eirian bobbed her head. “My lord, it is as you thought. The barrier around Glasgow is impenetrable to the members of your dead harem and there are still teleport, gate and phase blocks across the entire area inside it. However, shadow walking has proven to be unaffected by the magic they are employing. We may enter and leave as we desire.”
“That’s good to hear. What are the Pendragons doing about the situation?”
“My lord, there do not appear to be any wizards from the Order. Curious, I had Beryl scout the Order’s demesne from inside the ley lines. It does not exist, at least not where it has been on two different worlds.”
“So there is no Order of Pendragon here. I wonder if that means there are no liches waiting to ambush us or another Ygerna.” He shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Even if there were analogs here they wouldn’t have time to locate us and set up an attack before we’d be gone. Has the BLSF noticed your presence?”
“We did not remain inside Glasgow for long, my lord.” The Dragoness cocked her head. “Will we be providing protection for you and your family?”
“I would hope so. I don’t want to go near Zombabes without you. Why?”
“I would like to send some of your dead harem on a mission. We felt the presence of magical books in the Glasgow library and magic items scattered throughout Glasgow. I would like to retrieve them for us and for you.”
Iain stared at her for a few seconds. “Theodora, please contact Dominique and ask her to come to my lab immediately. It may be an emergency of sorts.”
He immediately felt the vibration that meant the room was lining up the tunnel out of it. Theodora appeared. “I am unlocking the blocks so she can teleport in here,” she explained.
A second later, Dominique appeared, her staff in her hands. She looked around. “I don’t see an emergency.”
“I said may be an emergency of sorts. Theodora, seal the room again,” Iain said. He gestured at the chair. “Have a seat. You may want it in a minute. Eirian is tempting me with evil.”
Dominique dropped into the chair and reached for the decanter of wine that sat on his desk. “What is it and why don’t you want the Celestials hearing this conversation.” She filled the coffee cup he used and leaned back to listen.
“We were running some tests,” Iain said. “Shadow walking has proven able to circumvent a lot of the limits that teleportation has. It turns out that not only can it go through the barrier around Glasgow, it can reach Glasgow from here.”
Dominique squeezed her staff in her hands. “Tell me that you didn’t go.”
“He did not,” Eirian said. “He sent some of his dead harem.”
“Well, that’s good. So what’s the evil?”
“Eirian and the others sensed magic items in Glasgow and she wants to swipe them for us.”
“That’s not very evil.” She took a long sip of the wine. “This is an excellent vintage.”
“It’s from the Archer Winery. There are magical books in the University of Glasgow Library,” Iain said softly. “Eirian wants to get those too. I’m thinking about having her steal the entire library or at least as much as they can take in the time we’re here.”
Dominique choked on her wine. She hastily put the cup down and coughed for a bit before looking up at him. “Why?”
“Mostly greed. I think the justification is that I can and you can’t have too much knowledge.” He smiled briefly. “Or too many books.”
“And what do you want from me?”
“I was hoping you’d match my greed and agree with me that this was a bad thing, but not so bad that I shouldn’t do it.”
“You want me to make you feel better for stealing millions of credits of books and magical items, including historical and magical tomes that can’t ever be replaced by saying I’d do it too?”
“These are going in our library, right?”
“OK. I’d do it too.” She stood and climbed onto the table before settling down next to him. “So what do I get for putting my soul in jeopardy for you?”
“Well, you’ve already got my eternal love and you’re getting access to the loot we’re about to acquire. What more do you want?”
“When my week comes around, I want to go someplace where there are real clubs. I want loud music that makes my body vibrate while we dance and horny pokegirls who want what I have but can’t have it and cheap drinks that are either way too strong or really watered down.”
He rested his head on her shoulder. “You want to go to a world with more technology like Four or Three.” He turned his head, kissed her on the neck and smiled at the happy noise she made. “I’d give you that anyways.”
“Some people will say it’s unreasonable since the clan will be going with us, which is why I’m letting you know now.”
Iain straightened. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable and that’s what matters. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to come with us. They will, but they don’t have to. It just means that in the long run more people will think like that if there’s something on another world they want to do.”
“Most of them are going to just want a week where they can pretend it’s only you and them.”
Iain eyed her. “Isn’t that what you want?”
“It is.” She glanced at him. “I almost left you before Vanessa showed up and threw that mana stone at me. I’m glad I didn’t.”
“I’m glad you didn’t either.” He looked at Eirian. “Raid Glasgow. Take the magic items you find and the magic books and then start cleaning out the University of Glasgow Library, starting with the oldest books first and working towards the newest ones. Take their computer storage too if you can as part of the first pass. When we leave, we’ll stop looting wherever we happen to be at that point. Theodora will prepare room for the books here and then we’ll start cataloging them and moving them into the library proper.”
Eirian bowed formally. “Thank you, my lord, for this indulgence.”
“You did kind of arrange things so I’d really want to agree with you.”
“I did, my lord.” Eirian’s voice showed no signs of guilt or apology. “Using magic and working at night so we can provide you with full protection during the day, the acquisition of everything we want should only take a week or two.”
“You’ve got tonight to get started.” He held up a hand to make a shadow on the floor and Eirian stepped into it to sink out of sight.
Dominique crawled into Iain’s lap and twisted around so she was nose to nose with him. “So, what do you have planned for now?”
“I should throw you out and get back to my studies. It’s likely to be the last time I’ll have the chance for a while.”
She kissed him on the nose. “But I just let you do evil. Don’t you want to reward me for helping?”
He wrinkled up his nose at her. “Making my nose wet is not the way to my heart.”
She chuckled and curled up in his lap. “I suppose it’s not. Besides, we’re not supposed to be seducing you outside of regular bedtime hours right now.”
“Who came up with this rule and why did they do it? Who did I piss off?”
“Pandora suggested it so you’ll have more time to spend with Kasumi and we agreed that was a good idea.” She looked up at him. “What is going on between you two?”
“Nothing is going on as far as I know. I asked her on this trip on a whim. She’s gotten so caught up in this whole kami mystique thing to the point that it’s become a straightjacket. She needs to see how regular people live and remember that in her youth she was a regular person too. Even stuck as the Tendo substitute mother, she was more relaxed than she is now. Then she became the headmistress of the Haven magic school and the Academy before that and that just made it worse since that’s a job that’s pretty much 24/7/365. And she seldom seems happy, which is a shame.”
“How long have you had a crush on Kasumi?”
Iain gave her an amused smile. “It started before I was kidnapped, but the nice lady on board is not the Kasumi that I crushed on. This one is more grown up, which is awesome. She’s even better than the Kasumi that I crushed on. Seriously, though, the time here should give her a chance to relax and start thinking about other things besides the burden of all of the wearisome responsibilities she’s taken on over the years.”
“Then she’ll return to Haven and Shikarou.”
“Yes, she will but hopefully she’ll have learned how important it is to take a break from things sometimes.”
“So you are not actively pursuing her?”
“I am not. That would be dishonorable to Kasumi.”
“Would you like to pursue her?”
Dominique stuck out her tongue at him. “That’s a yes, mister. And what if she showed serious interest in you?”
“We’d have to have a talk about what would happen. No matter how many women of various species he’s paraded in front of her, Kasumi is not going to cheat on Shikarou, and even if she was inclined to do so I don’t want to be that guy. It’s not fair to her.” He flashed a grin. “And the whole ‘I fucked him in a moment of weakness’ excuse would not work for Kasumi. If she did cheat on Shikarou in a moment of loneliness or anger, she’d be furious with herself afterwards and with the man she cheated with as well for taking advantage of her. And yes, while Shikarou sleeps around with wild abandon, Kasumi would consider doing the same to be cheating on him. It’s part of her mental makeup having been raised on Earth.”
“What if she decided to leave Shikarou and was interested in a life here with us?”
Iain looked into the distance for a minute. “If someone had told me, either before I was kidnapped or while we were living on Four or even after we’d first moved here that I would be dating Ygerna, I’d have laughed in their face and explained just how full of shit they were.” He looked down at her. “And yet, the impossible has happened and it’s not a bad thing. I like Kasumi a lot more than I originally did Ygerna and I wouldn’t fight Kasumi if she wanted to move in with us, and if things worked out I’d give her what she needed and hopefully what she wanted.”
“What does Kasumi Tendo Wolf need, Iain?”
“You mean beside the usual food, air and water?” Dominique smacked him in the chest and he smiled. “She’s Nipponese but she’s not, not really. She’s Americanized Nipponese and Shikarou is old-school Nipponese and because of that they have never seen eye to eye on what a Nipponese marriage should look like because those are two almost entirely different social constructs. That’s probably the biggest issue they have. Kasumi needs a man who will tell her he loves her every day and often more than once a day whenever possible. She needs a man who will find time to be with her when she needs him to.” Iain grinned. “She needs a man who will cheerfully give up a month of his life to her to do with as she wills just because he can and because she’s important to him. She needs to know she’s important to him, just for being and not for what she can do for him or to him or whatever.”
“So, if she wins this month with you, would you freely give up the time to do whatever she wanted?”
“Interesting. And, according to you, what does Kasumi Tendo Wolf want?”
“That’s kind of complicated,” Iain said slowly.
“I know what complicated means when you say it that way. She wants to have sex with you?”
“No,” Iain smiled. “That’s my complicated, not hers. I’m the one who wants to sleep with all of the women around me, including Kasumi and probably all of her harem if I could.”
“But you wouldn’t unless she let you, right?”
“She would have to give me permission then give them permission and finally the individual members of her harem would have to want me to,” Iain replied. “And I don’t see those circumstances meshing properly anytime soon or, more likely, ever. As far as I know, Shikarou has never slept with Kasumi’s pokegirls, and that was by Kasumi’s design. That’s a pretty smart move on her part, too, because it keeps them from having any sort of hidden loyalty to him because he would exploit it.”
“So what does she want, Iain?”
Iain thought for a moment. “You first have to understand what she wanted when she met Shikarou. Kasumi’s mother died when she was still in school and her father expected her to take her mother’s place, which she did without protest and she diligently carried out her duties as the Tendo mother while finishing high school and then afterwards until Shikarou arrived. She gave up everything she’d wanted out of duty, including finishing her own lessons in her family’s style of martial arts and, although she didn’t resent the job she was forced into, she did sometimes regret the things she had to sacrifice in order to step into her mother’s shoes. As the de facto matron of the household, she had no prospects for marriage and even if an interested man had appeared, she knew Soun would find a reason to forbid any union. To make matters worse, her two sisters didn’t help her in the slightest and sometimes even made her job more difficult. And then there was her father, who had no reliable source of income for the household and therefore made Kasumi’s job of managing the finances an exercise in frustration. To her credit, she rose masterfully to the challenges posed and without external complaint, but inside she was not a happy girl.”
He picked Dominique up and lifted her out of his lap to sit on the table next to him. “If we’re not fucking I really don’t want you to give me blue balls, wench.” She laughed as he continued. “And then the Saotomes showed up. Compared to Genma, her father was a hard-working, conscientious family man. Ranma wasn’t really all that bad once he’d been safely aimed at Akane, but the boy was much younger than she was emotionally, as stubborn as the day was long, quick to anger, destructive and not the sharpest knife in the drawer. And of course, they ate the Tendo family’s food but didn’t contribute any money or labor in exchange for it, making Kasumi’s job even more difficult. And since they needed hot water to turn back into their human forms and liked to use the oversized bath to change back, the regular household bills began to get bigger and bigger too. To compound matters further, Kasumi was pretty and Genma was bored, lonely and horny. She caught his eye almost immediately, but he was cunning enough to wait. However it was only a matter of time before he made a move on her and she knew and dreaded that fact because she didn’t think her father would protect her from his lifelong friend and any indiscretions. And she wasn’t sure that her father would defend her if she fought off Genma and injured him in the process.”
“The addition of Happosai, the various fiancés Genma had set his son up with and the other people rampaging through the property and, the capstone, a second Ranma with a large harem of hungry pokegirls and no money just made bad things into intolerable things, which stayed intolerable even after the second Ranma left to try and make his own way elsewhere.”
“Then Shikarou arrived and I know you’ve read Where None Has Gone Before. What is important about his visit is that he was willing to give her a way out of her situation, what sounded like a chance at a new and exciting life and there was something special about him that drew her like a moth, but she had no idea what it was.”
Dominique nodded. “I’d wondered about that. From what you’ve told us about the Tendo family, her behavior changed markedly after Shikarou arrived but you have never explained why.”
“The Anything Goes style is very demanding and intensive,” Iain said. “Happosai made a deal with an oni for the power he required to create and master it. Later he tricked and killed the oni, but the power it had given him was permanent. Genma and Soun made no such deals and yet they were able to be Happosai’s students because somewhere in each man’s family line, someone had bred with an oni or kami and brought the power of the supernatural into their family. That blood in Genma was what lured Nodoka into marrying him, because her family line has some too and, of course, so did their son. All of the Tendo girls had that blood from their father and from their mother, whose bloodline also had spirit folk in it. It was the source of their unusual abilities and martial skills. In Kasumi’s case that blood also drew her to Shikarou. That blood is the reason she adapted so easily to being kami when Shikarou made her into one. Her body was already used to part of the changes.”
Dominique frowned. “Does she know this?”
“She does not. None of the living Tendos or Saotomes are aware of their lineage. Shikarou didn’t know either. Kerrik might have detected it, but he wouldn’t have said anything about it unless asked.”
He leaned back on his hands. “This brings us to what Kasumi wants today. Understand that my ability to know things about things today is somewhat limited and is based on what I know about people’s pasts. That means some of what I say about what people want right now is more of an educated guess since I’ve spent time in my head being inside theirs. And it means that guess can be completely wrong.” He glanced at Dominique and she nodded. “Kasumi has always wanted a family, preferably a large one. She has had exactly one child, Kozakura. Unfortunately for Kasumi, when she got pregnant the academy was just getting started and she was its headmistress, which meant very long hours and days without returning home. She saw very little of her daughter during the first seven years of Kozakura’s life and they are not close because of it. As far as Kasumi’s dreams of a family are concerned, she isn’t her daughter’s mother and she’s never really had the family she always wanted. And of course, being human and Nipponese from a world without pokegirls, she did kind of expect a husband who didn’t come with a harem or to have a harem of her own and the way some of his harem has treated her has always rankled.”
“I take it she still wants a family.”
“That’s right, she does and she doesn’t want to be headmistress when she has more children. She wants to be Kasumi, mother as well as partner and helpmate to her husband. Unfortunately, her husband is the king and he already has two queens and they don’t want a third. Not to mention Kasumi really doesn’t want to be queen. So right now she’s back to feeling trapped and desperately unhappy, but she’d rather burn to death than ever let that show to her sister wives, which is a term she despises, or to her husband, all of whom think she’s happy or at least content.”
“Do you think she could ever be convinced to join us?”
Iain glanced at her again. “You too? Are you and Theodora in on this together?”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about but Kasumi would be an outstanding asset to this clan, Iain.”
Iain shook his head. “If that’s all you have, any plans you or anyone else has are doomed. Kasumi was an outstanding asset to her father, which is why he didn’t want to give her up. She is an outstanding asset to Shikarou and Haven. She is sick and tired of being an asset and rightly so. It’s dehumanizing. She’s a remarkable woman and she deserves to be appreciated for being Kasumi, not for being a good administrator or a mage or kami or member of the royal family or whatever else that she could possibly bring to the table.”
“If given the opportunity, would you appreciate Kasumi for who she is instead of what she is?”
“I already do,” Iain said. “I like Kasumi because of the fact that she’s Kasumi. I haven’t asked her to do anything on this trip. And I won’t. I didn’t ask her to come here with us because I wanted her to help or thought her skills would be useful. I did it because she’s stressed and pissed off at some of her family and she needs a chance to decompress. She will not get the chance to do that on Haven. She might not get the chance to do that at our house since her family can use the satellite net or their twee to bother her or, God forbid, drop in when she’s trying to have a bit of fun. She needed to go off planet.”
“You had no other reasons for inviting her?”
OK, I had an ulterior motive in that I hoped we’d become real friends during the time she spends with us.
“See that wasn’t so hard to admit, Iain. Do you think her skills are useful?”
“They are, but we’ll muddle through without them. I am not going to obligate my guest to earning her supper or I make her walk home. That would be unusually cruel, even for me to require it after I invited her without restriction.” He gave a wicked grin. “And it’s one hell of a walk home from here.”
Dominique slid off of the table and moved around to stand in front of him. “One last question, Iain.”
“Really?” His eyes lit up. “No more questions ever?” He leaned forward eagerly. “Go ahead and ask your last question.”
“Ha.” Dominique put a hand on his knee. “If Kasumi came to you and asked you to cherish her as a woman and take her to bed and fuck her until she couldn’t walk and to prove you’re a better lover than Shikarou and fill her belly with children, would you do it?”
Iain’s brows furrowed slightly. “That’s kind of an odd thing to ask.”
Dominique tapped him on the knee with a fingertip. “Just answer the question.”
“Would I take Kasumi to bed and love her until she couldn’t move if she wanted me to? Absolutely. Would I take her to bed and do whatever she wanted to her or let her do almost anything she wanted to do to me? Absolutely.” He grinned. “And I’d love the opportunity to do exactly that. But it’s so not going to happen.”
“You don’t think about fucking Kasumi?”
“You already had your question, but the truth is that I don’t really know if Kasumi likes the word fuck. A lot of people don’t like it almost as much as I hate the word tame. Almost all women love to be loved, even if it’s gentle love or violent love if that’s what they’re into. But I’d happily give her whatever she wanted and call it whatever she wanted if she wanted it from me.”
“Do you think you could love Kasumi like you do me or April?” She raised a hand when his eyebrows rose. “I know you don’t love me the same as you love any other woman. Could you feel love for Kasumi?”
“I really can’t know the answer to that until we spent time together to see if we could love each other,” Iain said. “But Kasumi has many of the traits that the women I fall in love with possess. She’s beautiful, smart, strong willed and capable of standing on her own two feet when she feels the need to. So I suspect the chances would be good, but there’s no way to tell without trying.” He took her hand and pulled it up so he could kiss it. “Now I love you, but shoo so I can study.”
“I love you too, Iain.” She laughed and left. When she got to the end of the tunnel she waved at him. He shook his head and blew her a kiss as the tunnel rotated shut.
Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani
Eve Grey - Megami Sama
April Grey - Duelist & beta
Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage
Pandora - Fiendish Archangel
Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)
Zareen - Nightmare
Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur
Sofia - Ria
Vanessa – Evangelion
Lucifer – Megami Sama
Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)
Daphne - Whorizard
Lynn - Growlie
Chuck – Doggirl
Ryan – Unicorn
Winifred - Rack (German)
Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)
Silver - Pegaslut
Joyce – Milktit
Melanie – Iron Chef
Siobhan - Nurse Joy (Glasgow)
Queendom / Outer Harem
Heather - Elf
Dionne - Elfqueen
Adrianna - Elfqueen
Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen
Heltu - Wet Queen
6 Wet Elves
Eirian - Silver Dragoness
Aurum - Gold Dragoness
Skye - Blue Dragoness
Emerald - Green Dragoness
Beryl - Red Dragoness
Julia - human
Ling - Cheetit
Matilda - White Tigress
Liadan - Twau
Sorrel - Armsmistress
Natalie - Blazicunt
Maria – Slutton
Rhea Silvia - Chimera
Mother s & Children