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The sergeant watched as the blue and white haired pokegirl flew down and landed in the marked landing area. She was wearing BLSF combat dress and he stepped forward as he read her insignia and name tape. “Sergeant Grey, I’m Sergeant McDonald. This is a restricted area and I’ll either need to see proper access paperwork or you’ll have to leave.”
Eve held out a pokedex. “McDonald, I’m transport for Major Iain Grey. Here you’ll not only find our authorization to be onsite but also authorization for unlimited entry into the dome.”
McDonald plugged the pokedex into his. “What in the hell do you want to go in there for?”
Eve shook her head. “You heard the rumors about runners?”
“Yeah. I haven’t seen shit for one though.”
“Well, the major’s team has instructions to go looking for them.” She smiled briefly. “Well the official orders say something along the lines of verify or refute the report of Zombabes capable of accelerated movement and, if verified, bring back video proof and possibly samples.”
McDonald blinked at her and stared at her pokedex. “Who in the fuck would want to bring pieces of those things out where someone could get infected?”
“Not me,” Eve reassured him, “and not the major. We’ve fought these things before and I’d rather firebomb the entire city. So have they been rotting to pieces like the brass hoped they would?”
McDonald shrugged. “Not that I’ve seen and my unit has been here for a month.”
“More’s the pity,” Eve said. “I guess we’ll actually have to go in there.”
McDonald’s pokedex chimed and he peered at it. “Everything looks in order, Sergeant. When can we expect the major and his team?”
“I’m supposed to go get him now,” Eve said. “We brought our own security so your commander won’t be tasked to provide us any.”
“That’s good to hear. I’ve been in there twice and I’ll be just fine if I don’t ever have to go in there again.” He held out her pokedex.
She nodded and tucked it back into the regulation pouch on her uniform. “See you in a few, McDonald.” Then she was gone.
Iain watched her appear. “Well?”
She pulled off her helmet and tucked it under one arm. “Everything went smoothly. We’re approved for unlimited entry, thanks to Theodora and the duty sergeant didn’t even raise an eyebrow that we’re going in.”
“That’s good.” Iain looked at Ygerna and Kasumi. “I know I can’t give you orders but I’d really prefer it if you two stayed close to me. You’re both stronger than I am and you may even be better fighters, but I don’t want to see either of you get hurt and I’ll be standing at ground zero of probably the safest place in Glasgow once we hit the ground.” He hesitated and grimaced. “And it’s likely that both of you are going to learn a few of my secrets that I was really hoping to keep in reserve for an emergency. Sadly, Zombabes need a lot of firepower to keep from becoming more than a nuisance so I’ll cheat as much as the universe will let me.”
“I will keep close to you,” Kasumi said.
Ygerna nodded. “I intend to as well.” She smiled. “After all, I want as many weeks with you as I can get.”
Iain chuckled and put on his helmet as he reflected on how odd it was to see everyone around him wearing the same uniform, even with the different rank tabs. “Eve, Lucy and Canaan are transport. Ninhursag, deploy us.” He grimaced. “Let’s go play tag with the dead.”
The scene was almost unchanged from before, the only glaring difference Eve noted was the presence of a BLSF captain waiting with McDonald. The captain saluted briskly. “Major Grey, sir.”
Iain read her uniform as he returned the salute. “Good morning, Captain Lucas. I’m Iain Grey and I hope I didn’t disturb you by arriving so early.”
“Sir,” Lucas said, “I’m Cathy and we had no notice you were coming.”
Iain pulled a sour face. “Apparently the Force doesn’t think I’m that important.” He shrugged. “As long as someone remembers I’m going to be in there with a city full of Zombabes in case I don’t come out as scheduled, I can live with that.”
Lucas smiled amusedly. “Well, major, you can relax as far as that goes. That’s part of my company’s job. We log entrants in and out and hope we don’t have to go in for yet another retrieval mission.” Her smile faded. “I understand you’re involved in some kind of research program about the Zombabes?”
“I think involved is a little off the mark, Captain. I’m the fetch and carry boy for some lab coats who think they’re more useful way behind the lines while I go try to find running Zombabes for them. The only reason I’m involved with this is my security classification is high enough that I can know that this particular group of scientists exists at all and I’ve had recent combat with Zombabes without any losses in my team.” He gestured Kasumi and Ygerna forward. “These are my aides, Lieutenant Kasumi Wolf and Lieutenant Yvonne Grimaldo. Hopefully we’ll all be going in and out as a unit, but if I need something special one of them may exit with her girls to fetch it for me.” He gestured towards Ninhursag, who was wearing a captain’s pips on her battledress. “This is my alpha, Captain Ninhursag Grey.”
“Yessir,” Lucas said as she nodded to Ninhursag. “Will you want to meet with Major Haynes?”
Iain smiled. “Courtesy demands I do at least once but there’s no hurry, captain. Please let your major know I’d like to come by tonight, if it’s not too inconvenient. You can leave his reply with the guards at the gate and I’ll remember to ask. However, I’m here as early as I am so I can take advantage of all of the sunlight I can get, so how about you let us in so we can get to work.”
“Right away, sir.” She turned to McDonald. “Sergeant, take charge.”
“Yes ma’am.” Lucas headed for a group of sturdy looking concrete buildings with reinforced doors and balconies on the second floor which went completely around each building as McDonald turned to Iain. “Initial processing will only take a few minutes and then you can be on your way, sir. We’ve walled up a thirty meter by thirty meter area just inside the entry so you shouldn’t be attacked while getting orientated, but remember that there are Zombabes on the other side of that wall even if they’re not making any noise and if you dangle anything over the side they will grab it, bite it or both. We had some VIPs go in for a look-see and one of their pokegirls got dragged over by the legs when she tried to sit on the wall. Her throat got torn out and her owner couldn’t get his pokeball out in time to retrieve her before she was too far gone for recovery.”
“Thank you, Sergeant McDonald,” Iain said truthfully, “we’ve faced Zombabes before but I’ll cheerfully listen to any advice that will help keep me and mine safe. What are the ROEs?”
“Sir, the government would prefer that you not destroy the buildings. There’s some plan to destroy all of the Zombabes and someday rebuild Glasgow. The other reason is that the property rights of the families haven’t been completely sorted out, so the government doesn’t want this treated like enemy territory.”
Iain frowned. “It’s full of enemy, isn’t it?”
McDonald laughed. “Yes, sir it is, but that’s not our determination to make, is it, sir?”
“You’re right,” Iain admitted. “I’ll try not to level large parts of the city.”
McDonald cleared his throat. “Sir, if there really are runners inside, if you have to destroy a building or two to get it then you do what you have to. I really don’t want a Zombabe charging up to me when I’m on retrieval for some poor sod that has been hurt and needs us ASAP.”
Iain grinned. “I did say large parts of the city, sergeant.” They shared an amused smile.
“Major, I’ve also uploaded an emergency com number to your phone. If you need help just call us.”
“I will. Ninhursag, post.”
A few minutes later Iain and his team stepped through the opening in the barrier and stopped. The walls surrounding the entrance were three meters high and completely blocked the view of the area, but Iain could see with his perception that row upon row of Zombabes stood around it with the closest pressed hard against it from the pressure of the ones behind, and yet there was no sound revealing their presence. A three meter wide vault-like door was set in the easternmost wall.
The stench of nearly two hundred thousand bodies, both mobile and not, in an enclosed space for months, instantly washed over them. Ygerna immediately bent over, coughing as she fought not to throw up while Kasumi, Eve and Lucifer all paled as they took shallow breaths. Canaan breathed normally and grinned as she watched the others. Iain took a shallow breath and adjusted.
Iain bent his attention inward. Theodora? Nothing. Theodora? Still nothing. Shit. “Theodora is not in contact.”
Ninhursag took a deep breath, gagged and threw up before turning to Iain as she wiped her mouth with a rag she’d pulled from a pocket. “We thought it might happen. Now that we know, how do you want to do this?”
“Let’s use wingless flyers as much as possible until we get where we’re going. All we need is someone who can’t hover having to crash land in a mass of Zombabes.” He scratched his bearded chin. “You haven’t seen the Dragonesses in action but they will quickly clear the perimeter after Eve does her thing with her Celestial aura. I’ve loaded the address and we go that way.” He pointed almost due northeast.
Eve came over. “Wellham didn’t stink this badly.” She glanced at the wall. “How bad is it on the other side?”
“Zombabes as far as I can perceive them,” Iain admitted.
Eve turned to Ninhursag. “Does this go as planned?”
The Elfqueen nodded. “Vanessa will carry Iain since she’s easily the toughest of us.” She pulled Vanessa’s pokeball from Iain’s belt and activated it.
Vanessa appeared and shook her head. “I never get used to that smell,” she said. “I have Iain?”
“Yes,” Ninhursag said. “What do we do if we actually find running Zombabes?”
“We take video and then destroy them,” Iain said. He released April and Dominique, “Get acclimated, ladies and then let’s get going.” Then he headed for Ygerna and Kasumi. “Sorry, ladies, but there wasn’t this stench the last time we faced Zombabes, so I wasn’t able to prepare you for it. Kasumi, I know that Giselle is your alpha, but I’d like to keep the winged pokegirls in their balls for the first leg of this flight just to avoid easy problems.”
Kasumi nodded. “I have not mastered flight yet so Nishiko will carry me.”
“Well, neither have I so Vanessa will be carrying me,” Iain said.
“Ida will be my vehicle,” Ygerna said. “Orlaith will provide covering fire and I will inform her that she is to obey Ninhursag until I say otherwise.”
“Ayame will do the same,” Kasumi offered.
“Thank you both,” Iain replied. “We’ll be leaving momentarily and please stay close.” He headed back to Ninhursag and Vanessa. “Ninhursag, I’ve been told that Orlaith and Ayame will follow your orders.” She raised an eyebrow and he shrugged. “That’s what I was told. Take it as you will.”
April summoned her Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl. The Dark Magician took off immediately while the Dark Magician girl looked around and waved at Iain. He waved back and she beamed before shooting into the air and following the Dark Magician as he began flying a racetrack pattern overhead.
April chuckled as she joined them. “I haven’t decided if that’s more annoying than it is cute yet. Do you want me to stop it?”
Iain shrugged. “Do you want me to see if she’s anatomically correct?”
April shook her head. “I am curious, but I’ll get her alone and let you know what I find out.”
“You do that. Vanessa.”
Dominique looked at him as she pulled her staff from her pocket. I have modified the flight spell I taught to April and now I could cast it on you, Iain, so you could fly by yourself.
Cool, but this is not the place for me to learn. However we will work on that later.
She nodded and lifted off to hover five meters up just inside the wall. Vanessa carefully wrapped her arms around Iain and joined her. Careful not to twist, he looked around as they slowed to a hover. The Zombabes around the wall were packed at least twenty deep. “Fuck. I’ll be glad when we’ve secured a beachhead and that’s not staring up at us anymore.”
“I’m so glad we’re not walking this time,” Dominique held her staff in both hands as she scanned around them. “So, Iain, did you make any flying Zombabes?”
“Nope and I’m glad I didn’t. However, they have been known to fall off of roofs or tumble out of windows in trying to reach prey.”
“Good to know.”
Ninhursag joined them. “Everyone is airborne and we’re ready to move out. Eve and Ayame will take point and I’ve stressed that this won’t become a combat mission until we’re at Siobhan’s residence.”
“Let’s go.” Iain shook his head as they began heading northeast. “In several months Shikarou and his harem destroyed thousands of Zombabes and I presume the BLSF gets some every time they come in here, but you couldn’t tell from here.”
“This place is a lot larger than Wellham,” Dominique pointed out. She glanced upwards. “And that fucking dome makes Glasgow seem smaller somehow.”
“I do not like its presence either,” Kasumi said as Nishiko drifted closer. “There is a lot of power woven into it and it makes it harder to see other magic around us.” She looked at Iain. “Zombabes are the result of magic, but they do not show any magical residue. Do you know why?”
Iain frowned. “No, I hadn’t thought much about it, but now that I do, I realize that Zombabes are a lot like the Bloody Flu and Red Plague. All are creations of magic that manipulate the regular world and all are contagious for no readily apparent reason. I wonder if there’s a common thread in all of them and what it could be.”
Kasumi laughed suddenly. “I begin to understand why Kerrik speaks of your magical insight in such glowing terms. You pull together completely unrelated things and show us that they very well may be more alike than we’d dreamed. I would never have considered that and I am headmistress of the Academy.”
“Kerrik never glowed at me over my magical progress,” Iain noted sourly. “He learned too much about teaching styles from one of his other teachers.”
Eve touched their minds. I see a two story building with a sign indicating it is the Wallace School of Self Defense. It’s at the right address for Siobhan’s home. There are a lot of Zombabes around and they’re well aware we don’t belong here.
What does the roof of the school look like? Ninhursag was busy trying to look in all directions at once, but she didn’t sound strained over her twee.
It’s flat and I’m going to provide cover while Ayame lands and stomps around to check its integrity. But I can see at least two doors to the school are open and I don’t doubt that Zombabes are inside.
Don’t do anything until we get there, Ninhursag replied.
I won’t. I want the Dragonesses in position before doing anything else. You will be surprised at how effective they can be.
Ninhursag looked at Iain. “I realize the view is kind of monotonous. Do you want to speed up?”
Iain looked at the bands of Zombabes they were flying over. “We are not under a time constraint and hurrying is just begging the universe to smash us.” He grinned at her. “And I am not going to do anything to jeopardize my week with myself.”
“What,” Vanessa breathed into his ear as Ninhursag looked confused.
“I’m clan too,” Iain said. “I didn’t plan it this way, but the rules are vague enough that I could win an entire week all alone. There’s no way I wouldn’t shoot for that.”
Vanessa looked at Ninhursag. “We could tie a rope around his shoulders and lower him until he could get bitten several times on the legs and feet. I can cure the infection and that will be that.”
“What the fuck? That shit’s not funny, ladies.”
When he tried to turn to glare at his carrier Vanessa just clamped her grip down until he couldn’t move. “Don’t wriggle, Iain, or I might drop you.”
Ygerna laughed as Ninhursag’s face said she was seriously considering Vanessa’s words. “I’m sure he’ll get even somehow if you do.”
Ninhursag sighed. “You’re probably right.”
Kasumi was watching with a bemused expression. “How is it that he allows such behavior?”
“There is no fucking way I’m allowing this,” Iain groused. “This is just the evil I always knew hid in the hearts of Celestial pokegirls finally seeing the light of day.”
Nishiko snickered. “Sir, that would sound more real if your eyes weren’t laughing.”
“I looked at the calendar this morning and I don’t remember it saying about today being fuck with Iain day.”
“I thought you were trying to curb your profanity,” Lucifer noted from where she flew near Ygerna and Kasumi.
“Hey, this is a perfect time for cursing and I didn’t hear you jumping to my defense.”
“Of course I am not,” the Megami-sama noted calmly. “You just announced that you wanted to spend a week away from all of the people who love and care for you. Vanessa was trying to stop your insanity. I cannot protest her efforts as in that situation you would be isolating yourself from our daughters and such an absence would hurt them, possibly forever.” She smiled beatifically. “They are such fragile children, after all. I must admit that I do question her methods. Bites of that nature often bleed heavily and if you lose a lot of blood then Eve will have to nurse you to replace lost fluids and you will need several days of rest.”
Ninhursag nodded. “Lucy is right, Vanessa. We’ll find another way to keep him from winning.”
“Can you even pretend to plot this behind my back?”
‘May I put you safely on the ground and you can meet some new friends while Dominique, Ninhursag and I go off to discuss this where you cannot hear it,” Vanessa asked sweetly.
Kasumi made a hiccupping sound and Iain looked over to see she was trying very hard not to laugh. “Go ahead and let it out,” he said gently. She blinked at him and began laughing loudly. “Believe it or not, we care for each other very much and they would no more deliberately hurt me than I would them. It doesn’t mean we don’t threaten to sometimes, even if mostly in jest.” He pointed ahead. “I see Eve and Ayame.”
Vanessa darted ahead and landed with him on the roof. “I enjoyed your body pressed against mine while they couldn’t touch you and could only watch and envy what I had,” she whispered into his ear as she let him go.
Thank you for finally answering that question, he said across their bond.
She gave him a confused look. What question?
The question we had in my world about whether the Legendaries were actually pokegirls. You are definitely a status conscious, attention thief of a pokegirl and I love you for it.
Vanessa’s sudden smile almost outshined the sun and earned her a suspicious glower from Eve.
Iain pulled his sleeves up as Kasumi and Ygerna were carefully deposited on the rooftop nearby. Kasumi frowned at the silver tattoo that gleamed on the inside of his left wrist. “I don’t remember that before, when did you get it?”
“I’ve always had it since before we met,” Iain said. “Eirian.”
Silver smoke poured from the tattoo and formed into Eirian. “My lord,” she said. “I sense legions of the walking dead here. It would take many months to destroy them all.”
“We’ll stick to the plan instead,” Iain said. “You and Beryl scout the area and see how easily we can secure access to the local surroundings. Do not engage unless you have no choice.”
Eirian nodded. “Yes, my lord. After securing the streets we will have to clear the buildings with access to the secured area.”
“We expected that. Get started.”
“Beryl,” Eirian called. Red smoke poured off of Iain’s right leg and became Beryl. “Come.” The pair spread their wings and launched themselves into the air.
Kasumi and Ygerna were watching him curiously. “I believe I’ve already told you I’ll probably answer questions, ladies.”
“I remember Beryl,” Kasumi said. “She took me to my home to get my pokegirls. But I have never heard of storing pokegirls on your body. What magic is that?”
Ygerna was looking thoughtful. “Eirian. She was the one who offered me access to your library in return for Dominique’s freedom. She said many odd things that day.”
Iain looked at Eve and she shrugged. “I guess we couldn’t keep this secret forever.”
He nodded. “Ladies, as far as we can tell, you cannot keep live pokegirls as tattoos. Ygerna, Eirian and Beryl are part of the Legacy.”
She paled. “How can that be?” Kasumi looked at her and she seemed to think for a second. “Kasumi, sometime during the last three hundred years of my reign Eoghan stole a pair of Dragonesses from my guard and turned them into something like he was. Iain took control of the ones that were in the universe he came here from and he just said that those two Dragonesses were the undead monsters that were stationed outside the Order’s throne room.”
“Actually,” Iain said as Kasumi went white, “I’m not sure if either one of them were the Dragonesses actually outside the door. The usurper made six lich dragonesses and I took control of all of them. Sable was permanently killed some time ago, but I still have the other five and they can become tattoos on my body to help keep me safe.”
“You probably shouldn’t be telling me this,” Kasumi said. “I will have to report it.”
“I know. Still, you needed to know. Nobody else on Haven does, but you do and I accept that in deciding that you need to know means that the others will find out from you.”
“Why do I need to know,” Kasumi asked.
“Isn’t it obvious,” Ygerna said. Kasumi gave her a puzzled look and the Sidhe laughed. “He likes you. He likes you and he knows that you are Nipponese and many of them are all grossed out by dead things. Dominique let slip a while ago that Iain has a strong affinity with necromancy and he doesn’t want you to freak out.” She smiled when Kasumi blinked in surprise. “The funny thing is Shikarou is a death kami and I don’t know if that doesn’t bother you or if you just don’t think about it much.”
Kasumi sighed. “I try not to think about it much.” She gestured around them. “But we are surrounded by undead and I am not freaking out nor am I going to.” She turned to Iain. “What about the other tattoo?”
“During one of Eve’s and your visits I saw a tattoo of a cat pokegirl. Is that also from this Legacy?”
Ygerna just folded her arms and waited patiently as she watched Iain. “Yes, you only said the Legacy was Dragonesses.”
“It was.” Iain exchanged a look with Ninhursag before turning back to Kasumi and Ygerna. “When we decided to move here to One, we realized that the odds were very good that analogs of Eoghan and Germanicus would be here. We also determined that eventually they would come for Shikarou, Ygerna, Faelan and also in the fullness of time, us. You are Sidhe and Eoghan would want to destroy or suborn you. And when he found out Shikarou has your world’s copy of the Grimoire of Danu he would have been determined to gain access to it. They would eventually come for me and mine because they’d sense the presence of the Legacy and my growing necromantic power. If they came for you, you would have been taken except for the fact that Kerrik would stop them. We had no such protection.”
“We destroyed them on our world,” Kasumi protested.
“Germanicus had been enslaved and murdered by his half-brother on your world,” Iain said. “He didn’t want to be what he was and never fought with his full potential. Here, he was a willing participant and a powerful mage in his own right who hungered to be Sidhe and just as powerful as Eoghan. You would not have been able to trick them like you did on Three. In any case, there was no guarantee that they’d go for Haven first but we did know that Shikarou would not have helped us in any way. In fact, he’d watch us fall so he could gather information on his newest future foes.”
“Would you not do the same,” Kasumi asked curiously.
“He can’t,” Ygerna said. “Too many of his women would demand he help you and because of them he would rush to your aid.”
“It’s a moot point now,” Iain said. “They’ve been removed.”
“You haven’t explained the other tattoo yet,” Ygerna observed.
“The Dragonesses of the Legacy of Eoghan weren’t powerful enough to take Eoghan and Germanicus down, but they knew how to make more of their own kind and enough of them could swarm Eoghan and Germanicus under. So we started capturing people trying to kill us and they joined my growing group of undead. I didn’t realize you’d seen Matilda, though.”
“How many of them are there,” Kasumi asked softly.
“I really don’t want to give away everything.”
“We are not your enemies, Iain.”
Lucifer put her hand on his arm. “They will not give anything first, Iain. They have proven that time and time again. We will have to befriend them if we want them as comrades. They will never befriend us.” She squeezed his arm gently. “I will admit, however, that Kasumi is making an attempt now. Even so she had to be invited.”
“I’m not sure I like what you’re saying,” Kasumi said slowly, her eyes unhappy.
“I am sorry if my words upset you, Kasumi, but they are the truth.”
“Enough,” Iain snarled. Lucifer and Kasumi both jumped at his tone. “There are thirteen members in my dead harem.”
“How many do you intend to have in it,” Kasumi asked.
“I added to their ranks so we would be strong enough to defeat Eoghan and Germanicus. They have been defeated,” Iain rolled suddenly tight shoulders, “so we don’t need to recruit more for that.”
Eirian and Beryl landed on the roof. My lord, she is a powerful spell caster, Eirian said to him. She would be very useful to us.
I know, but I just wanted you to hear the choice. Eirian’s wings vanished as Beryl turned to stare at the Zombabes beneath them. “My lord, securing the area from incursion will prove surprisingly easy. There are enough vehicles that can be used to form barricades and then only one member of my group will be required to hold a street from the occasional walking dead that make it over the barrier. Only one building will have to be felled into the street. In addition,” her razor teeth gleamed in a wicked grin, “I have located a suitable wheelie bin that you will require for the next phase. With your permission, I will send Beryl, Sorrel, Rhea and Emerald to retrieve it before we seal off the area.”
More smoke poured off of Iain to become a green Dragoness, an Armsmistress in full armor and a Chimera. Beryl didn’t look back at them. “Come with me,” she said as she jumped off the roof and into the growing sea of Zombabes.
April watched the others follow Beryl into the crowd and shove their way south. “I still feel bad about Rhea.”
Kasumi glanced at her. “What do you mean?”
“She’s the Chimera and the last Iain added. She attacked the ranch and we tried to catch her but she couldn’t be held in a pokeball. She has some kind of spell on her that prevents it. While it wasn’t easy to do, we knocked her out and took her prisoner. Then Canaan discovered that she wasn’t just feral, she was completely in the grip of a homicidal psychotic break that Canaan couldn’t work through and there wasn’t anything we could do to fix her.”
“So I made the decision to put her down,” Iain said. “She couldn’t be tamed and she’d just continue to rampage if we released her. Eirian asked for her and I agreed. So I killed her and gave her to Eirian.”
“You killed her, sir,” Nishiko asked.
Iain nodded. “I didn’t think it fit to delegate that portion of the job. It helps to remind me that the price for every lich that I add to my dead harem is the life of someone else and that I should be careful deciding just how often that price should get paid.”
An echoing metallic squeal rang through the air as Sorrel appeared, using the flat of her sword to knock Zombabes out of the way while Beryl, Rhea and Emerald shoved what looked to Iain like a forty cubic meter roll off container towards the school. He looked at Eirian. “Have them turn that thing sideways and use it to block one of the streets we need to clear. I want it kept as far away as possible for when we have to fire the contents. That and we need the ground uncovered.”
The Dragoness nodded. “An excellent idea, my lord.” She stepped off the roof and began shoving her way towards Sorrel and the others.
“Why don’t the Zombabes attack her,” Kasumi asked.
“They don’t seem to notice other undead,” Iain said. “Although I must admit that I only have the liches to use for gathering data. I don’t have any of the supposedly dead ghost types in my clan.”
“Why aren’t we killing the Zombabes,” Ayame asked.
“Patience, young grasshopper,” Iain said. “As the years unfold you will find that there are more than enough battles that you cannot avoid, don’t go seeking those you can.” He caught Lucifer and Kasumi looking at him with almost identical slightly surprised expressions. “What?”
“That was more profound than I was led to expect from you,” Kasumi said.
“It was probably an accident,” Iain replied.
“Ignore him,” Eve interjected as she released Pandora and Dianthus. “He tries to hide his intelligence behind a biting wit and clouds of self-deprecation. He’s easy to trick though, just ask him a question about magic or history.”
Iain shook his head slowly. “See? Celestials all have this evil center that they hide and smack you with when you’re not paying attention.”
Pandora snorted. “Does that include Seraphina and Olivia?”
Iain looked offended. “Of course not, my daughters are perfection incarnate.”
Canaan chuckled. “Was that true when Hannah bit you?”
“While I will admit that it was unexpected and quite painful, she did a perfect job of biting me. I mean the slice marks were completely clean.” He smiled thinly. “And I did a perfect job of spanking her little butt for it too.”
Dianthus had turned green but was fighting it gamely. “Master,” she said quietly, “is this Glasgow?”
“It is. We’re on top of the house that Siobhan and her master lived in.”
“Master, without trying to sound insulting, what insanity made you bring us here just for Siobhan? You should have told her Wallace was dead and to move on with her life. This is incredibly dangerous, especially for you.”
Pandora smirked when Iain glanced at her. “I haven’t said a word to the woman. She’s making perfect sense all by herself.”
Iain muttered something under his breath and looked down at Eirian. “I’m releasing everyone else. Finish blocking the streets so we can proceed.” More smoke poured off his skin to coalesce into the rest of his dead harem. “Go help Eirian,” he said and they jumped off the roof to the ground.
Vanessa leaned over to watch them run off, the silver Dragoness leading the way. “Every time I see Liadan it gives me the creeps.”
Iain chuckled. “They all gave me the creeps in the beginning.”
Vanessa was eyeing the buildings around them. “I’m not sure I want to get used to their presence. Do we release Siobhan yet? I think she needs to see this beforehand so she’ll understand what you’re doing for her.”
He frowned and shrugged. “Sure.” He dug a ball out of a leg pouch and released Siobhan.” We’re on top of your house, but we haven’t started the search for Wallace yet.”
“Thank you master,” She looked over the edge of the building and went white. “Master, are those all Zombabes?”
“They are. This happened to the entire city and there should be over a hundred thousand of those out there. That’s what Wallace walked into when he went for takeaway. “
There was a rumble to the west and a four story building slid sideways into the road in a huge cloud of dust. Eirian came winging out of that cloud and flared into a landing on the roof. “My lord, the roads are blocked and four sentinels have been placed at strategic locations. I do not believe more of the walking dead can break inside the perimeter but we are prepared if they do. We are ready to move to the next stage.”
Iain nodded. “Begin.”
The silver Dragoness turned to face the Zombabes. “Commence stage two!” She stepped forward and plunged into the crowd of Zombabes below.
Her bellow made Siobhan stagger and Iain grabbed her before she stumbled backwards off of the roof. “Careful.”
Kasumi caught his eye. “Why does she call you my lord?”
“I have been told that they want to and I don’t see any reason to forbid it. It was also suggested that I not let anyone else call me that or it could cause a problem. It was kind of hinted that anyone else calling me that would be considered auditioning to join my dead harem.”
Dominique grinned. “Now that’s cool.” She was watching as several members of Iain’s dead harem converged on the roll off. Once there, they began grabbing Zombabes and throwing them inside the metal container. The Zombabes inside the roll off were trying to get up, but kept getting knocked back down by the ones flying in on top of them. “I wonder how many can fit in it.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Ninhursag observed.
“Why not,” Ygerna asked.
“When it starts to get full, we’re going to turn it into an improvised crematorium for all of the Zombabes inside,” she said grimly.
“Why aren’t we just killing them,” Nishiko asked.
“I have blocked off nearly a square kilometer of the city,” Iain said in way of explanation. “I don’t think Wallace made it any farther than that. But it’s highly likely that he was killed somewhere outside the school. Destroying Zombabes will just end up carpeting the ground with fresher bodies and making it harder than it already is going to be to find several month old remains.”
“On top of that,” Dominique interrupted, “there is some evidence that the mist form of Zombabe venom can be more persistent than previously thought. If we’re moving bodies then we can either possibly inhale some of the poison or just get it into contact with a mucous membrane, which is all that’s needed for infection. Collecting and incinerating the Zombabes will take longer than just destroying them in place would, but it’ll make the job we really came here to do a lot easier and much less hazardous.”
Iain looked at Canaan. “Do you sense the psychic link between Siobhan and Wallace? If he was alive it should have reestablished as soon as she was released.”
Canaan’s antennae extended to their full length. She shook her head. “I sense no psychic bond from Siobhan other than the alpha bond she has with you and I only sense one living being other than us within the range of my abilities inside the dome, if my estimates are correct. It’s either human or pokegirl and he or she is a few kilometers that way.” She pointed north.
“Iain?” Eve used that tone he knew so well.
He glanced at her. “This is a bad idea and is most likely going to bite us in the ass.” She just gave him a pleading look. “Canaan, you and Eve locate the life you’re detecting and assess the situation. If it’s a feral, do not attempt contact. We’ll reevaluate later when we have a chance. If this individual is not feral and you can make contact and rescue without excessive risk, do so. If not, let me know and I’ll see if I can free up additional firepower to assist. If Eve does anything stupid, immobilize her and return with her immediately.” He turned his attention back to Eve. “Are you good with that?”
“Yes, but I wouldn’t do anything stupid.”
He smiled at her. “My definition is different than yours and Canaan likes mine better.”
She tried to glare but it melted into a smile back. “I know. To be honest, your definition is starting to make better and better sense.” She kissed him on the cheek and lifted off. “Canaan?”
The Splice shook her head. “Assuming you can take control after Iain put me in charge is one of those stupid things, Eve.” She shot into the air. “Follow!” They headed north in a blur.
“She was ever impetuous,” Lucifer said quietly. “And what you see now has been severely tempered by the passage of time. When she was very young I sometimes wondered if she’d make it to her first quarter century and didn’t dare dream she’d survive this long.”
“Well, I’m glad she did,” Iain said. He hugged Lucifer briefly and winked as he let her go. “You did a pretty good job raising her.”
Lucifer laughed. “She was easily worse than any child that came from my body.”
Iain looked over the edge again and muttered something. Pandora snickered. Kasumi frowned. “What did he say?”
“He’s trying not to be childish in front of you and Ygerna,” the Archangel said amusedly. “He wants to spit on the Zombabes and see if they’ll blink.”
Kasumi chuckled. “Is he always this way?”
Pandora shook her head. “No. I’m happy to see him happy for a change. For so long he was angry all of the time. I sometimes worry that he still is and he’s just gotten better at hiding it.”
“Couldn’t Canaan help him? She’s obviously psychic if she can detect someone kilometers away.”
Pandora suddenly looked grim. “Canaan has her own well of rage and she revels in his fury. Left alone, they feed off of each other and their anger just grows unbounded.”
Iain glanced over. “I would say that’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black but she’s gotten a lot better about that and so have I.”
Pandora looked evenly back at him. “So, answer my question: are you less angry or are you hiding it better?”
“That’s two questions and the answer to both of them is yes.” He moved towards the edge of the roof. “Ah, it looks like the container is finally full enough.”
Beryl, Aurum and Rhea stood in front of the roll off. Inside it, Zombabes had been crushed together so much that in places purple mist hovered from crushed skulls and cracked spines. All three pokegirls spread their wings and became completely still. Around them the air began to shimmer and a gentle breeze began blowing inwards towards them from where Iain and the others stood. Above them a power line began to smoke as the insulation burned off and then it began to glow as the copper inside began to heat up from the updraft as they gathered power. Being undead, they could tolerate the storage of levels of power that would have killed a mortal pokegirl and the blue white fire blast each of them finally released into the roll off was over 2500C.
It was so bright that nothing could be seen inside the container for several seconds. When the light died, the container was almost completely empty except for some piles of carbonized bone. The walls and floor of the container glowed a bright cherry red and in one place sagged slightly. Before it could finish cooling, Eirian and her group began throwing more Zombabes into it to thrash briefly and go limp as the heat cooked their brains.
“Well, at that rate we should have this area cleared out by tomorrow afternoon or so,” Iain said. “That’s if the Zombabes don’t find a way back in during the night.”
Ygerna chuckled and he looked at her curiously. “I’ve already figured out you intend to stay until the job is done.”
“I don’t have to,” Iain replied. “Eirian is perfectly capable of doing this on her own. But, yes, there is a problem in that if someone else sees them and tries to interfere they may end up cremated as well.”
It’s a woman, we have retrieved her and we are returning to you.
Canaan’s message made Iain straighten. “Canaan and Eve rescued a woman and they’re coming back.”
Kasumi started to say something and chuckled. “I almost asked how if you knew what she is doing out here?”
“I’ll ask when they arrive,” Iain said. He pulled his computer from his belt and activated the number Sergeant McDonald had given him.
It took several seconds before a woman’s voice answered. “This is Dome Command. Please identify yourself and your emergency.”
“This is Major Iain Grey and I have no emergency to report. However, my psychic pokegirl discovered someone alive nearby and we are in the process of retrieval. It’s a human woman. Would you happen to be missing anyone?”
“I repeat you have found a survivor. Please confirm, Major Grey.”
“I confirm one female human survivor found. Retrieval is in progress so I can’t ask her questions yet.”
Canaan touched his mind. She is Lieutenant Colonel Evelyn Dupree and she has been trapped for nearly a month.
“I have a name for you and it turns out she's one of us. The survivor is Lieutenant Colonel Evelyn Dupree.”
There was silence for a long moment and a man’s voice came on. “Major Grey, this is Major Haynes and I am Captain Lucas’s commanding officer. Did you say you found Minister Dupree’s daughter?”
Iain’s eyes closed and his shoulders slumped as he muted his phone. “I want everyone to remember that I didn’t want to rescue her. I was more than willing to pretend we were all alone out here.” He glared at the sky. “I was fucking good,” he bellowed. Canaan, is that the daughter of a Minister named Dupree?
There was a feeling of surprise and growing anger. I am sorry, Iain, she is.
“Fuck.” He unmuted the phone and spoke in a completely calm voice. “Yes, we found the Minister’s daughter. She’s alive, condition unknown, but I have Celestials and a NurseJoy on hand for medical aid if she needs it when she arrives, so unless she’s been infected for too long she should be fine.”
“Major, you will report her condition the instant you know it!”
“Understood. Grey over and out.” He killed the phone even though someone was still trying to talk to him. “I really wish we had set up something that would let me talk to Theodora right now. I sincerely doubt whatever identity she gave me will survive the scrutiny that is going to be coming from this.”
He turned to Kasumi. “Sorry, but you and Ygerna had to get caught up in a typical day for me. This is what seems to take place whenever I leave Texas.”
“How bad is it,” Kasumi asked.
“Let’s see. My identity, although fictitious, will probably hold up thanks to Theodora. However, the scientists I’m working for are also fictional and nobody who was ever at any of the places I was supposedly at the same time will remember me. I’d say it’s pretty bad trending towards catastrophic. Still, it is rather unlikely that the Blue League can catch us, and if they do, they’ll only get me.” Pandora’s face closed up with anger.
“Why is that?” Kasumi put her hand on his arm. “We are all here.”
“He’ll let them have him so we can escape,” Lucifer said, “secure in the knowledge that once you and Ygerna are safe we will return and rescue him. As our guests, your safety must be assured.”
“The Blue League does torture prisoners,” Ygerna pointed out quietly. “You would be put to the question.”
“I’ve been tortured before,” Iain said. “And if I have to undergo it again I’ll survive it just so that one day I’ll turn the tables and watch them burn.” He paused. “Speaking of which, I wonder if this world’s McMahon is as big a douche as the last one I had to deal with. Oh, hell, never mind. The road of using proxies for my anger leads straight to damnation.” He looked at Ninhursag. “We need to change rooftops so Dupree can’t report back where we are or what we’re doing that’s so fucking interesting.” He moved to the edge of the roof. “You know,” he said idly, looking down, “they’ve thinned the Zombabes out a whole lot. If I were to go down there I’m sure I’d,”
He broke off when Pandora grabbed him around the waist, pinning his arms and lifting him off the ground. “Pick a roof,” she snapped at Ninhursag. “Now!” She turned Iain around in her arms to face her as the Elfqueen shot into the air. “You are not supposed to be self-destructive any more, remember? Dominique told me about your promise.” He glared at her without speaking and she glared back. “Tell me that suggesting that you go down and kill a couple of Zombabes because you’re pissed at the Blue League isn’t suicidal.”
“The suggestion isn’t suicidal. Acting on it might be,” he growled back. “Put me down.”
Pandora gently released him. “You are not going to get an apology for this.”
“And you’re not going to get a bloody nose for it,” he said back. “But don’t push your luck.”
Siobhan stepped forward and knelt, bowing her head. “Master, if you must punish someone, punish me.”
As he looked at her, fury swept across his face and vanished, leaving emptiness behind. “Siobhan.” She looked up at him and he held out his hand. She took it and he pulled her to her feet. “First of all,” he said gently, “we don’t use scapegoats here. If I’m upset at someone I will be upset at that individual. While this situation wouldn’t have arisen if we hadn’t been here and we are here because of you, this is not your fault. And what has happened isn’t Pandora’s fault either, but I got mad at her because she’s not supposed to manhandle me unless my life is in danger and it wasn’t.” He looked at Pandora. “I cannot fly or teleport and I’m not dumb enough to think I can survive a two story drop in any sort of fighting condition. You had no right. You should have waited until I decided I wanted to go down there and told someone to take me. Then you could have argued with me about it like you usually do.”
“You could have ignored all of that and swung down into the second floor through the landing and door that was immediately below where you moved to,” Pandora replied, “and from there fought your way down to the ground floor.”
“The room below us has forty six Zombabes in it,” Iain said, “all standing there and looking up, waiting for someone to do something that dumb.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“No,” he said, “you didn’t.” He reached out through his bond with his dead. Eirian, I want you to stop work for the time being. I don't want you discovered.
Yes, my lord. Summon us if you need us.
Suddenly he heard another voice in his mind. Iain? There you are. Don't you dare ever leave me like that again.
Iain blinked as Theodora's hologram sprang into life in front of him. “You are a sight for sore eyes.”
“I should be.” She cocked her head. “Ninhursag found an acceptable rooftop and none too soon. Pandora, follow my vector with Iain. The rest of you come along too.”
Iain retrieved Siobhan as Pandora took him and lifted off before swinging around and following Theodora's lead. Iain reached through his twee. I thought we would be out of communication in here.
I did some tests and built a communication drone that will hold position halfway through the energy dome and can move electrons from one side of the dome to the other, allowing information to pass. Then I added transmitters and receivers to each end. The biggest problem is that the dome prevents new items from penetrating it after it is created. But there are places where pieces of building and other material are tangent to the barrier and span across the energy field. So I drilled through one of those pieces, replacing the material with the body of the drone as I did. It worked and now I can be with you even here. When we leave I'll melt the drone in place.
Good. We have a problem. Iain was aware that Pandora had landed on another rooftop near Ninhursag but was focused on his discussion with Theodora.
I am aware of the situation. I will do what I can but your identity was never designed to pass more than a routine check. I believe I can protect the electronic side of our deception but if they go into depth the failure of the physical details to corroborate the electronic side will quickly become evident. There will be similar issues with Ygerna and Kasumi's identities.
Iain thought quickly. Can you make our identities less believable?
I could. What are you planning?
Make them a tissue for three tamers who are in the employ of the Celestial Alliance. I can be a Celestial tamer and Ygerna and Kasumi can be my assistants and apprentices, learning how to be Celestial tamers and also being vetted before they are allowed to have one of the Alliance in their harem. Would that help?
Wait just a moment while I get some more information about the Alliance.
Lucifer landed near Iain and froze for a second. Her head swung around to stare at him. That is an inspired idea, she said to him through her twee. The Alliance and the Blue League, if they are anything like the ones from my world, have an uneasy relationship and routinely hide things from and lie to each other. The Alliance is not pleased that the Blue League has its own agenda and does not follow Alliance goals as closely as they would like while still paying lip service to those same goals while Blue doesn't trust an international organization of do-gooders to be true to the ideals that the Blues mandate. However, they still strive to work together and so the Blues will be slow to do anything that might anger the Alliance High Command.
Out of desperation comes inspiration. “Theodora, brief everyone else on the roles they'll be playing,” Iain said as he looked around. They were well outside the area that had been blockaded and the roof they were on was for what looked like a multi-story hotel of some sort. Zombabes were clustered around but not as thickly as at Siobhan's school. However he could see that small but growing numbers of them were streaming back from the direction of the barricade the dead harem had erected and the ones he could see were turning to face the life they could now sense. “Ninhursag, you and Ayame check the rest of the roof and make sure any access hatches or doors are sealed. I'd like warding spells on them if at all possible too.”
The Enchantress bobbed her head in his direction. “Yes, Iain-san.” She hurried after Ninhursag as they headed off, her legs scissoring quickly as she tried to catch up to the Elfqueen's much longer strides.
We will arrive in two minutes, Canaan said to him. This is an excellent plan, but we expect this from you.
That's fine up until the time that my bag of tricks comes up empty when I try to pull something from it, he replied.
Then we kill everyone, she answered, and I will enjoy that very much.
“Canaan and Eve are inbound,” Iain announced. I will probably enjoy it too much.
Kasumi and Ygerna were huddled together with their alphas and Iain left them alone as Dominique touched him on the shoulder. “Be careful. We're still feeling our way as to how this world works.”
“I know. Being Alliance will help to let us be a little off in behavior without it being something that sends up more than the 'they're being Celestial assholes' flag, but I intend to play this as carefully as I can even if Canaan's suggestion would be very satisfying in the short term.”
Dominique smiled briefly. “Let me guess, this involves sudden overwhelming violence against all of our foes until they stop bothering us.”
“I see them,” Ygerna called.
Iain looked where she was pointing and watched Canaan and a laden Eve circle them once before coming in to land. He released Siobhan. “Lucy, check all three of them for infection. Siobhan, as soon as she's done, give her a thorough exam and let me know what you find before you begin healing her.” He looked at April. “Bring your constructs in closer and I'd like you to use their eyes for a survey since we haven't secured this area and we don't know the weak points Zombabes might try to exploit. All we need to find out is that we weren't paying attention and they got onto the floor below us in enough numbers to overstress the structure and bring down the building.”
“I'm on it.” She closed her eyes and sat down cross-legged where she was.
Iain looked at Vanessa. “Please keep an eye on April since she's going to be distracted.”
Eve and Canaan landed and Eve knelt to put her passenger on the ground. “I've already checked her for infection,” Eve said as Lucifer came forward.
“I have to double check her and clear you two as well,” Lucifer told her. “So stand still.” She worked quickly, laying hands on each for only a few seconds. “All three are clean.” She moved back to stand by Iain. “Siobhan, it's your turn.”
The NurseJoy was already headed for Dupree. Iain moved to where he could watch her work. Dupree looked she'd originally been stocky, but it was obvious she'd lost a lot of weight in a short period of time. Iain looked at Eve and Canaan. “Report.”
“We found her inside an apartment complex,” Canaan said. “The lower level had been sealed off and the entire building looks like it had been cleared of Zombabes. We found four dead pokegirls in a room on the top floor. I scanned Dupree and they were her harem. They'd been inside the dome on a fact finding expedition when she had become separated from the rest of the people and had taken refuge in the complex. They barricaded the first floor and cleared the rest of the complex going floor to floor. During this, every member of her harem had been bitten. When the complex was completely empty of Zombabes, she killed the members of her harem while they slept to keep them from turning and then pierced their brains with a screwdriver. She's been living in the complex ever since off of the food she found in there and strictly rationing it. She never trusted the water from the tap and had survived by getting liquid from a dew trap she built, bottled water and the fact that most canned food has a lot of liquid. She also panicked when we broke in and I had to make her unconscious for the trip.”
“Continue to keep her under until I say otherwise,” Iain said.
Siobhan looked up. “Master, she's got gallstones and a fatty liver, which is fairly standard for a heavily calorie restricted diet and kidney stones from long term dehydration. She's also lost a lot of muscle mass and has several other starvation related problems, including the beginnings of scurvy. I can't heal most of that right away or it could kill her since she doesn't have the energy for all of the repairs she needs. What this woman needs is hospital care, surgery, a better diet and good physical therapy or a couple of months under the round the clock dedicated care of a NurseJoy. She probably needs a good psychiatrist too.”
“So she's got some pretty severe health problems but nothing that is immediately life threatening?”
“Master, she has clots in her legs from inactivity and her restricted diet. Those could break free at any moment and kill her, but those I can get rid of.”
“Do it,” Iain activated his radio. “Dome Command, this is Major Grey.”
The reply came back instantly. “Stand by for Major Haynes.”
Iain grimaced but waited until Haynes' voice sounded from it. “Why the fuck did you turn off your radio, Grey?”
“It's simple really. I am in the middle of Zombabe infested Glasgow, you're not and I have better things to do than listen to you trying to tell me how to do my job, Haynes. Now before you continue yelling, would you like to know that Dupree is alive and relatively well and that we'll be bringing her out as soon as my NurseJoy gets done doing what she can?”
There was silence for a second and then Haynes came back on, sounding more than a little pissed. “The colonel is not going to be happy to hear this but I'll pass the word along, Grey.”
Iain muted his phone. “Theodora, who is Minister Dupree?”
“The Right Honorable Sir Edward Dupree is the Minister of Justice. He is forty six and a Colonel in the BLSF, retired after twenty two years of service in supply and procurement. He is unmarried and has two children from his one remaining pokewoman, a Venuswhore named Chandra. Colonel Evelyn Dupree is his youngest child while his son Reginald is an MP for Plymouth. Sir Edward has no grandchildren. He has continued in government service since leaving the BLSF and has been the Minister of Justice for seven years.” There was a pause. “Should I dig deeper?”
“Not right now,” Iain was watching Siobhan work. He hit the mute button on his phone again. “This is Grey. Colonel Dupree should be ready to move in less than ten minutes and I will be extracting to Dome Entry.”
A new voice answered him. “Major Wolf, this is Colonel Taylor. You are to extract Colonel Dupree immediately.”
Iain rolled his eyes. “Yes sir.”
“Good Grey. Taylor out.”
Siobhan looked up. “Master, I'm in the middle of healing her clots. Moving her right now would be a mistake. She will almost certainly throw a clot and die.”
Iain slipped the phone back into its pocket. “We move her when I say we move her,” Siobhan's head started to hang, “and I said it'll be ten minutes. If Colonel Taylor doesn't like it he can come in here where things aren't quite so cozy and he can try and tell me to move faster in person and you can watch him fail. Siobhan, get back to work.”
“Yes master,” she said with a smile and returned to healing her patient.
Ninhursag gave him a curious look and Iain shrugged. “It's not like I wasn't going to do what I wanted anyways and this way the colonel feels happy because he thinks I'm doing what he wants. Besides I can always claim we were on the other side of Glasgow and it actually took that long to get back to the entrance.”
“And if he uses truth telling magic on you?”
Iain snorted. “Like I haven't recently had a lot of practice with those and gotten away with it.” He stretched, twisting his spine to release the sudden tension he felt. “To be honest, if they get too pushy we could always offer, for a nominal fee, to remove their Zombabe problem.”
Ygerna blinked. “And how could you do that?”
“Theodora could turn everything you see into lava in a few minutes,” Iain replied. “Zombabes aren't that fond of high temperatures.” He glanced at the sky. “I know, bad Iain.”
Siobhan pushed back from her patient. “I've done everything I can do here, master, unless you wish me to perform surgery and remove her liver and gall bladder for regeneration.”
Iain shook his head. “I'm sure that between her daddy and her career she can get all of the medical care she needs. You save your powers for us.”
Siobhan gave him a pleased smile. “Yes, master.”
April slid to her feet. “I can carry Dupree on my Black Skull Dragon if you'd like. That'll keep everyone else free to fight if need be.”
“That would be nice,” Iain looked between Eve and Lucifer. “Which of you wants to be the ranking Alliance member?”
“Lucy will,” Eve said. “She's better at it than I am.”
“Does that make her the maharani,” Ninhursag asked.
“No,” Lucy replied. “In many Alliance harems the Celestial lets someone else handle the day to day duties to the harem so she's free whenever she feels the need to act. While technically they're part of the harem, most of them refuse to let the alpha order her around. So as usual, she gets her tamer and still gets to be free to cause trouble.”
“And now,” Ninhursag eyed her curiously.
“I do not have a problem following your instructions,” Lucy said. “And you do not have a problem letting me deal with the things that I need to when I need to, so we are unlikely to have serious friction between us.” She smiled disarmingly. “Right now, it may be best if I do the lion's share of the talking. Iain has shown a remarkable ability to uncover any trace of rancor in the hearts of government officials. I believe I can be slightly more diplomatic with them.”
“A hungry tiger shark might be more diplomatic than Iain sometimes is,” April said.
'Well, as long as you didn't say I was worse than a bull shark,” Iain responded with a smile. “If they insist on talking to me, I'll try to be on my best behavior. Hey, I even told the colonel I'd do what he wanted without any backtalk.”
April frowned. “Will the roof hold my black skull dragon?”
“That's an excellent question,” Dominique said. “We’ll all take to the air before you find out.”
Vanessa slipped her arms around Iain. “Are you ready for me,” she whispered in his ear.
“You are such a tease,” he whispered back. “Or are you just trying for a rudder so you can fly more stably?”
Vanessa started laughing and tightened her grip until he could barely breathe while she got her laughter under control.
Ninhursag shook her head as Iain started breathing again. “I suggest you don't do that while she's carrying you.” She looked around. “April, you and your dragon have the colonel. Everyone else, let's get airborne.”
The flight back was uneventful until they got to the area of the dome entry. “Stop,” Ninhursag said as she pulled into a hover. “Iain, get on your radio. There are troops inside the landing area.”
“It's been on the whole time,” Iain said as he dug his radio out. “Nobody has tried to contact us.” He activated the phone. “Dome Command, this is Major Grey. Why are there troops inside the dome where I want to land?” He waved to get Canaan's attention. She looked at him and he placed his hand against his forehead and wriggled his fingers. She blinked and stuck out her tongue at him as her antenna uncurled to their full extension.
“Major Grey, do you have Colonel Dupree with you?” It was Major Haynes.
Iain suppressed several sarcastic comments and simply responded. “We do. She's on the big black dragon with Corporal April.”
“From Colonel Taylor, you are to land immediately and hand off Colonel Dupree to him.”
“I understand and will comply as soon as I can. Pull the troops to one side so we can land without worrying about someone getting hurt when we do.”
“I'll pass your request on to Colonel Taylor.”
Someone in the clearing had an electronic bullhorn. “Grey, land immediately!”
Iain looked at Dominique. “Can you amplify my voice?”
She nodded and pointed at him. He felt her spell. “Done. Cup your hands around your mouth to activate it.”
Iain cupped his hands and bellowed. “Make a fucking hole so we can land!”
“You didn't have to yell,” Dominique said mildly.
“Nobody told me I didn't,” he said back.
The troops moved away from the northernmost wall, which Iain noted was the farthest from the gate location. “Does anyone else not have a warm fuzzy about this?”
Ninhursag laughed. “Canaan, Dominique, Eve and all of Kasumi and Ygerna's people stay up here in case there's a misunderstanding. April, they didn't leave enough room for the dragon so I'll take Dupree and you stay up here in command.” She moved to the dragon and pulled Dupree from April's grip and climbed to get out of the way of the wings. “I have her.”
Vanessa, Ninhursag and Lucifer landed. Vanessa let Iain go as soon as they were on the ground. Ninhursag knelt and put the colonel on the ground as Iain saluted a BLSF colonel with name tape that said Taylor on it. “Colonel, we made it.”
“What took you so fucking long, Grey?”
Iain shrugged. “Colonel, don't you think I got my people here just as fast as I could? I'm well aware I don't have the resources here to take proper care of Colonel Dupree. I'm just glad you were here.”
Lucifer stepped forward. “Colonel, I am Lucy. We have retrieved Colonel Dupree as requested and she will be transferred into your care while we continue on with our mission. Thank you for your assistance in this matter. Please get Colonel Dupree to proper medical care as soon as possible.”
Taylor's eyes swept over her sergeant's tabs and his eyes narrowed. “Who the hell are you?”
“I am Alliance, Colonel Taylor,” Lucifer told him calmly. “You were undoubtedly aware there was a request for Alliance personnel to investigate and see if Colonel Dupree might still be alive or to retrieve her remains if she was not. I was asked to inquire into the situation. Fortunately for everyone involved, our suspicions were correct and it turned out that she was still alive for retrieval. Minister Dupree will definitely be pleased with your aid.” She smiled. “And hopefully you will be properly rewarded for this retrieval.”
“Major Grey retrieved her,” Taylor said through gritted teeth.
“The Alliance does not seek lauds from anyone, Colonel Taylor. We are satisfied with the proper completion of a job. Major Grey was merely acting under your instructions and you are the person that any commendations should be for. There will be no report contradicting what your official record will show unless there is any misunderstanding that would seek to paint my group in some sort of negative light.” She cocked her head pleasantly. “Will that be all, Colonel?” There was a definite note of dismissal in her voice.
Iain could almost see the wheels turning in Taylor's head. Suddenly the colonel smiled broadly. “Thank you for your work, Major. You are dismissed.” He barked a command and medical personnel rushed forward to take possession of Colonel Dupree.
Sergeant McDonald joined them. “Major, you can go through the entry whenever you're ready.”
“I am afraid my job inside Glasgow isn't complete yet,” Iain told him. “But trust me that as soon as I can shake the dust of this place from my feet, I will be glad to.” He frowned. “Considering my other mission, we may end up spending the night inside the dome. I'll radio and let you know my final decision before 1800.”
“If you're sure, major.”
“Sadly, sergeant, I am. Trust me when I say I'm not looking forward to everything that can go wrong in Glasgow at night. Still, I have a job to do.” He looked at Ninhursag. “And we're not doing it here.”
She nodded. “Sir. Vanessa has you once more, sir.” She and Lucifer lifted off and hovered until Vanessa had picked Iain up and joined them. She bowed in midair to McDonald. “See you, sergeant.” Then they headed for the rest of the family.
“Let's take the scenic route back to our destination so they don't see which way we're going,” Ninhursag said.
“Works for me,” Iain replied.
A little while later, Ninhursag looked over at Lucifer. “What kind of problems will there be when they realize there was no request to find Dupree?”
Lucifer laughed. “Like I said, the BLSF and the Alliance are uneasy allies. I can almost guarantee that even if the BLSF asks about a request to find Dupree, the Alliance won't know for certain that one wasn't made by someone somewhere and they'll never admit they don't know, so they'll be vague when they answer, if they bother to do so at all. And I suspect that her father engaged the services of every potential resource he could contact who might have the slightest chance to return his lost child to him unless they are completely estranged. Undoubtedly as the Minister of Justice at least one of those resources would have involved middle to high level members of the Alliance. Honestly, even if they were estranged, a man of such high political standing might balk at letting his daughter possibly become a Zombabe and have to be destroyed on video as part of a BLSF cleanup operation so he would have requested discovery of her true condition and either rescue or retrieval of her remains if possible or the verified destruction of her animated body if the worst had happened.”
A short time later they were back on top of the Wallace school and the dead harem was once again destroying the Zombabes inside the exclusion zone they had erected. Iain reached out to Eirian. Clear the house underneath us by removing all of the walking dead and putting them into the roll off. You will set up security for the night and we will sleep inside if the place isn't completely trashed.
Yes, my lord. This will cost us a night of clearing the library.
I know, but I intend to stay on this world until the library has been completely stolen.
Yes my lord. I will take care of it.
Thank you, Eirian.
Below them the undead harem formed a line extending from the school to the roll off, with each person standing two meters from the next. Emerald, Eirian and Aurum went into the school building and began bringing Zombabes out to hand off to Matilda, who tossed them on to the next person. The Zombabes were tossed from lich to lich until they could be thrown into the container that would be their final resting place. Rhea was the last in line and every twenty or so Zombabes she would use fire blast on the inside of the container to destroy the Zombabes imprisoned inside.
“That’s very efficient,” Kasumi said quietly as she stood next to Iain and watched. “Are you worried about secondary infection?”
“They’re undead, so no. And as for them being near any of us, they’ll use fire on each other beforehand.”
Kasumi looked surprised. “That won’t hurt them?”
“It’ll damage the meat they wear, but no it won’t cause them any significant harm.” He glanced at her before returning his attention to the scene below. “At one point we assaulted two shiploads of Limbec Pirates. I only had the six Dragonesses at that point but they spearheaded our attack since they were already dead. The pirate’s attacks tore up their bodies but didn’t really bother them in the slightest and they tore through the crew like a club through wet toilet paper. It drove the crews back below decks where we bottled them up until they finally agreed to surrender.” He smiled slightly. “Not that we were standing around with our thumbs up our butts while they fought.”
“You had quite the series of adventures before you came to our new home world.”
“I suppose we did,” he paused to scratch his beard. “At the time we were a bit too busy to appreciate just how adventuresome the frantic activity might be.”
“Do you know why Shikarou is unhappy with you?”
“I have something of an idea, but if I’m right there are several reasons and I can’t fix a bunch of them.”
“Would you even want to? You claim to be more powerful than we are.”
“It’s not about who is more powerful and I’ve never said we were more powerful than Haven is. Power is calculated in too many different ways for there to be a meaningful way to calculate that. However, threat assessment is important to me,” Iain said quietly. “And Haven is closely associated with what is easily the strongest power on the planet. While it would be difficult for Shikarou to convince Kerrik to get involved against me, it isn’t impossible, so I’d really rather we were friendly enough that he never considers trying. The biggest problem is that Shikarou is trying to create a Nipponese kami culture very much like his dam’s court in a lot of ways, especially at the highest ranks of Haven’s nobility and I can’t afford to play along with that since humans are at the very bottom of that rather long ladder and outsiders are on the ground below that last rung.” He shook his head. “I’d rather he not hear it put this way, but he’s got some serious mommy issues where Amaterasu is concerned. He craves her approval so much that he is willing to recreate her social culture here where she’ll never see it to pat him on the head for it.” He frowned for a second. “Hopefully she’ll never see it since she’d have to come to One to do so. I really don’t want her on this world. Nippon has enough problems without her deciding to build a vacation palace there.”
Kasumi smiled slightly. “Wouldn’t that solve the problem of the Shanghai League?”
“There are kami already on this world, which is why Kozakura is in Nippon right now,” Iain said. “That means there is a great likelihood that this world has its own Amaterasu. She hasn’t seen fit to do anything about Shanghai. What makes you think a different Amaterasu would behave any differently? It’s even possible that the Nipponese spirits hope that a united Shanghai might spread their worship and therefore increase their power. Their worship has been dying since the introduction of Christianity into Japan.”
“You look at things differently that we do.”
“Not really. I just have a different information database upon which to draw in order to make conclusions and a different viewpoint from which to make them. Shikarou looks at the world through the eyes of a powerful kami who is the son of two powerful kami, one of whom lives on the same world he does and who will protect his ass if he fucks up. I look at the world through the eyes of someone who is very squishy and who has no backup he can count on other than the very capable people in his clan. It has made me more cautious in dealing with outsiders and it has made me much more aware of potential pitfalls.”
“Kerrik wouldn’t protect you?”
“I haven’t asked and I wouldn’t expect or even want him to. It’s not his job to be my safety net. The fact that Shikarou thinks Kerrik is his safety net is why he feels he can afford to be pissed at me for the next decade or two.”
“You don’t think he can?”
Iain made an exasperated sound and turned to face her. “Kasumi, you are making the same mistake Shikarou is. While I may value certain individuals who live there, like you and Jamie and sometimes Poppet, Haven itself isn’t important to me. I don’t care how Shikarou feels about us, I don’t try to hide it a whole lot and that is what really pisses him off.” Iain shook his head at her shocked expression. “Yeah, he’s got Cuba and he’s got a kingdom and he’s got the potential to do great things for his people and the rest of the world. Other than gunrunning to Nippon and a little bit to Indigo, what has he done with it?”
“And what about you,” Kasumi asked angrily.
“I stopped Indigo from invading Texas without having to kill a shit ton of them. I have neutralized Eoghan and Germanicus. I am selling supplies at a nominal price to Texas, Indigo, Great Britain, Ireland and Israel to help them build up their infrastructure. I’m giving the Nipponese military intelligence that your husband should have been doing all along. I helped Lucifer set up the Prometheus Society which is selling aid to rebels around the planet not only to help keep the Leagues as destabilized as possible, but more importantly we’re working to build the connections we’re going to need for the worldwide push when the ferals attack and Theodora is building the fleets of ships we’re going to need to carry that push out. I’m surveying the planet trying to estimate and locate large populations of feral pokegirls, possibly for destruction or capture but right now just so we know they’re out there and I’m surveying the human and aware population of pokegirls as I do it. I’m also trying to find a small collection of very large asteroids that may well be aimed at Earth, but there’s no way your group could even know about those.”
Kasumi blinked. “Asteroids?”
“The asteroid that Shikarou ended up on was part of a group of them that were planned to be used as a final desperation move by James if he lost. They were already in orbits that could be easily nudged into collision courses with Earth and a hit from any one of them would have devastated the planet. They exist in this universe too. We’ve found three of them, but so far only the one Shikarou was on was finished enough to be used as a weapon and I have already drained all of the fuel out of its tanks and trashed the drive thrusters.” He smiled slightly. “And fortunately there was no analog of Pythia on it. And that, along with building a ranch and being a father and husband and trying to become a truewizard is some of what me and mine have been keeping busy with.”
“With all of that, why are you here?”
“Siobhan needs proof that her previous master is dead.”
“That is all?”
“I’m certainly not here for a Mineko and the Pussycats Fun Pack.” He looked out over the area in front of the school. “I will move heaven and earth for my family. This time I just had to punch a hole between universes and move us. If it seems like a silly or wasteful gesture I will have to ask what is this power really good for if I can’t use it to make my people happy with it? It’s also good practice for Dominique in adjusting the temporal aspects to make our entries at the various points in time that we want without having to worry about causality biting us in the rump.”
Kasumi frowned. “Adjusting the temporal aspects is essentially time traveling.”
“Not when it’s between dimensions and we’re trying to use it to exit into a new dimension at a specific temporal instant. Dominique was a month off on her entry here, but consider that we actually shifted more than three hundred years and a couple of dimensions and we missed by only a month on our first solo attempt. I’m satisfied with that. She and I reviewed what she did while Theodora was moving to Earth and we’re fairly certain we know where the error was made and how to keep it from occurring again next time. And just between you and me I’m glad she missed the date she was trying to hit. I was never in favor of that idea. If we’d somehow interfered with Shikarou’s raid, I’d have fucked with yours and Ygerna’s timelines and there’s no telling what might have changed when we got back home. The trickle changes involved could have been tremendous and potentially catastrophic since in your timeline that raid took place over a year ago and before you moved to One. Haven could have easily just been Cuba and part of the Tropic League, with no Shikarou, no Kerrik in Texas and no Bishop either. And since Magdalene came to Four to try to understand happenings on One and Three,” he shrugged. “My ranch might have been empty, with no Sisterhood or the town of Shield and Texas divided between Indigo and Sunshine when we returned. And that doesn’t even include the fact that Typhonna and a whole slew of other Legendary pokegirls would be trashing the continents. Texas would be just a memory at that point. All of the clan could be what came with us, you, Ygerna and your harems, cast away from our past and we’d have to bloody one of the leagues to carve out a new home or try our luck and random move between universes in search of someplace to live.”
She looked surprised. “I hadn’t considered that.”
Iain gave her a bland look. “Nobody else has. I’m the author. It’s part of my self-appointed job to worry about the entirety of everything.”
Kasumi laughed. “Well it sounds like the entirety of everything is in good hands.” Her face blanked when Eirian landed in front of Iain.
The Dragoness bobbed her head in a bow. “My lord, the building is empty of the walking dead and we have blockaded the entrances and windows on the first floor. We will return to removing the rest of the walking dead from inside the perimeter unless you have another task for us.”
“No and thank you.”
“I exist to serve you, my lord, but in truth it is my pleasure to do this for you. She waved a hand behind her. “These are abominations, my lord, and as such we are grateful for the chance to destroy them.” She turned and stepped back off of the roof to plummet to the ground.
Iain watched her go. “Interesting,” he said to himself.
Kasumi waited a moment and when he wasn’t forthcoming, touched him on the shoulder. “What is interesting and why?”
“She’s being clan, I think. Zombabes are a different sort of undead and she classifies them as abominations. My undead harem being clannish is new and I wonder if it’s because I’m clan or if it’s because they want to be clan. I wonder what she’d say about a lich that wasn’t part of my harem.” He gave his head a shake, as if to clear it. “It’s not important right now.” He raised his voice. “Ninhursag.”
She trotted over from where she’d been keeping an eye on the far side of the roof. “What is it?”
“Eirian and the others have emptied the building underneath us of Zombabes and blocked the doors. There’s a landing over there we can use for entry. Clear the school and let’s move inside for the night.”
She nodded. “Siobhan knows the place better than we will.”
“Then she goes with whoever is doing the clearing.”
“I was just checking. I’ll take care of it.”
He reached out with his twee as Ninhursag left. Lucifer?
We have a waxing moon if I’m reading the sky right. Check the calendar and see if there’s a full moon coming soon.
There’s one in three days. Why is this important?
We’ll find someplace with a clear sky on that night and it’ll be a pretty time to delta bond you to me.
Thank you, Iain.
I’m not sure why you’d want to tie yourself to me but since you do I’d be stupid to let you escape me.
And I would be stupid to let you get away from me, Iain. I am not stupid and neither are you.
Iain looked at the dome glowing softly overhead. Mindful of the presence of Kasumi next to him he carefully refrained from speaking. Theodora, it’ll be a full moon in three days. Find me a pretty place at night to delta bond me and Lucifer to each other.
He felt glee from her. I’ll take care of it.
As he watched, Eve, Lucifer, Siobhan and Dominique dropped down onto the landing below and headed into the building. He turned to Kasumi. “I’m kind of glad this isn’t more exciting since Zombabes go from exciting to disastrous in the blink of an eye, but if you want we’ll go hunting ferals or something when we’re out from under this thing.”
She looked up at the dome. “It is oppressive. I feel its presence permeating everything under it and it gives me a chill.” She waved a hand outward. “I didn’t do much during my adventuring with Junko. We certainly would never have seen anything like this and, as I mentioned before, I haven’t left my husband’s side since. And now I am surrounded by undead monsters that would kill me and make me into one of them if that is possible for kami.” She smiled warmly. “While this is not the kind of vacation I would choose for myself, you were honest about what was here and I have not had any vacation for some years. If you want to later add hunting ferals or something like that to this trip, I am sure that my pokegirls and I would appreciate the challenges involved.” Her smile brightened. “Thank you for inviting me on this trip, Iain. I know you didn’t have to and I am glad we are becoming friends because of this selfless act.”
“It’s not selfless at all, Kasumi.” Iain smiled at her and then past her at Nishiko where she stood sentry for her mistress. “I get to spend time with four new beautiful women.” Nishiko looked startled for an instant before she slipped the mask of a veteran bodyguard back into place.
“Also, thank you for arranging for us to sleep indoors,” Kasumi continued. “As I said, the dome is an omnipresent oppression and I will be glad not to look at it for a while even if I can still feel its presence.”
Iain chuckled. “I didn’t want to stare at it all night either, although I will admit I was of two minds about clearing this building. There is one good reason, at least for me, for us to stay up here but I realize it isn’t good for everyone else.”
Kasumi looked at him curiously. “Why is that?”
“There’s no privacy for the body inspections.” Ian grinned when she blinked and flushed slightly. “Which is why, for everyone else’s sake, I wanted this building cleared so we could move indoors.”
“You are incorrigible,” Kasumi said with a smile Iain hoped was genuine.
“Well, I figure the fact that I’m beyond redemption is the reason I’m surrounded by Celestials. I mean, it’s unlikely they’re a reward for my being good, right?”
“Stop teasing her,” Pandora said. “She knows you wouldn’t do that to her since she’s your guest. At this point, if she decided to dismantle you I’d let her get in a couple of good hits before I stop her.”
“Hey, no dismantling the Iain, not even a little bit. I’m pretty sure there’s a rule about that.” He winked at Kasumi before his face turned serious. “That dome creeps me out too and the idea of spending the night up here with all of those dead eyes staring at us is even creepier.” He gestured at the buildings around them, many of which were taller than the school. “They’re in the rooms staring out the windows down at us, with their unblinking hungry gazes.” Kasumi and Nishiko both shivered. “And I know how much the Nipponese in general don’t like being around death, so I figured we’d get where they couldn’t stare all night.”
Ninhursag trotted over to them. “The building is clear and we can start moving people inside.”
He nodded absently, his mind obviously elsewhere. “Start with Kasumi, Ygerna and their people and then move ours in. Kasumi and Ygerna get their own rooms before anyone else does. We can bunk in the dojo itself if we have to so they have a place.” His eyes sharpened. “And that includes me. Pick a changing room or bathroom for the body inspections and they will begin as soon as we get settled. If you think there’s going to be argument, I’ll go first so they’ll shut up and fall in line. Ask Ygerna if she wants a representative to watch my inspection.” He turned to Kasumi. “Do you want to observe or have one of your women observe my physical inspection?”
“It is only fair,” Kasumi said. “Giselle has volunteered to monitor.”
He turned back to Ninhursag, who had her professional blank face on, which meant she was unhappy. “It is fair and I offered. Do I need to go first?”
She nodded reluctantly. “It would set the right example.”
“Then I go first. We’ll do bathing after that.”
“I thought the water was contaminated,” Kasumi said.
“Glasgow’s water is,” Iain replied. “But we have a magic water supply in the shape of a canteen and Dominique made a magic item that goes on it in place of the cap. It heats the water going through it to a hundred degrees Celsius and has a shutoff valve so we can use it to fill bathtubs and pots for cooking.” It could actually be set to produce steam at three hundred degrees, but Iain didn’t think they’d need to steam clean anything where Kasumi could watch.
“That’s very resourceful,” Kasumi said.
Ninhursag glanced at the sky. Iain knew that where he didn’t like it, she absolutely loathed the dome. “Kasumi, if you and your ladies are ready, you can go inside now.” She glanced at Iain. What if Ygerna wants to observe you instead of one of her harem?
What of it? Hopefully she’ll see me nude soon enough anyways and any nudity taboos I might have had are long gone.
Ninhursag didn’t bother to respond, instead leading Kasumi to the landing as Nishiko summoned her sisters from their guard posts.
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 - NurseJoy (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
Mothers & Children