Chapter 26: Preparations
(06/09/99 1100 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
                Kerrik looked around at the assembled pokegirls as he accepted a glass of wine from Helen. “They are certainly varied, aren’t they?”
                Both Faelan and Shikarou had released all of their pokegirls for Kerrik to meet. Faelan grinned at his father. “That’s right. My harem is much smaller than Shikarou’s but quality often triumphs over quantity.”
                That got him a hard look from Nanu. “I should kick your puny ass for that crack.” Tension suddenly ratcheted upwards as pokegirls began to bristle at each other.
                “That is enough!” Shikarou glared around at everyone. “Nanu, that was uncalled for.”       
                The Mini-Top flicked her ears. “Sorry,” she muttered in Faelan’s direction. “But it was a dumbass statement.”
                “So we’ll shove the words down his throat on the battlefield.” Nanu perked up at her Tamer’s reply. Shikarou turned to his brother. “How do you want to do this?”
                “Zorione isn’t ready yet.” The Penance turned at his words and shook her head wildly. “You think you are?” She nodded. “All right.” Zorione beamed as he turned back to Shikarou. “Six on six, single?”
                “That should give dad the best show.” He looked around at several expectant pokegirls. “Branwyn, Lorelei, Nanu, Kebi, Marzia, and,” he frowned and looked around. “Helen, where are you going?”
                “I was going to go work on dinner,” Helen replied in a carefully neutral voice as she nodded towards the door of the arena.
                “That’s going to have to wait. Give me your pokeball.”
                The Milktit’s eyes widened. “You want me to fight?”
                “You tell me you’re ready for real battling. Now it’s time to prove it.”
                She suddenly hugged him. “Thank you. I’ll work hard to make you proud of this decision.”
                He dropped his voice and hugged her back. “Helen, I am already proud of you. You really don’t have anything to prove to me.”
                Helen handed him her pokeball and rubbed her muzzle against his cheek. “So I’ll make you prouder.”
                He smiled and returned her before collecting the other five pokegirls he intended to battle with. The rest of his harem moved to where they could easily see the battlefield and settled down in the stands. Circe pulled Kerrik along with her to a convenient place to sit.
                Fang was officiating. “This pokegirl battle is between Faelan Wolf and Shikarou Urufu. It will be a single pokegirl battle starting with six pokegirls each and will continue until one side is no longer able to battle.” He raised the green flag and dropped it. “Begin.” The view seemed to flicker slightly as the arena’s forcefields slipped into place to protect the bystanders.
                Two pokeballs went flying through the air. Faelan had chosen Tetsuyo, his GunValkyrie, while Shikarou released Marzia the Blazicunt.
                Marzia raced forward, glowing briefly as she used focus energy while Tetsuyo’s tribarrels rotated out of storage and began to spin up to speed as she lifted off to hover with her antigrav units. Tetsuyo opened fire and with a roar plasma bolts raced downrange.
                Marzia dodged the stream of cyan bolts and unleashed a fire blast attack as Tetsuyo corrected her aim and hosed the twin streams of 3 cm plasma onto the Blazicunt. The attack knocked the pokegirl sprawling and she quickly rolled to her feet.
                The fire blast enveloped the GunValkyrie and she screamed before dropping from the sky. The cry quickly died and the pokegirl was unconscious before she hit the ground.
                Faelan retrieved Tetsuyo while simultaneously releasing Amy. “Confusion,” he ordered.
                The Cheshire’s eyes flashed green and Marzia staggered as she unleashed a flamethrower attack that went wide.
                Marzia used flamethrower again and cursed in frustration when Amy teleported away. Shikarou spoke. “Marzia use napalm all around the battlefield.” Small bursts of flame shot around the battlefield and settled down to burn merrily.
                There was a yelp as Amy teleported into the battlefield and emerged on top of one of the fires. Marzia whipped around and used another flamethrower attack but it was too late as Amy hit her with confusion again. The Blazicunt dropped soundlessly under the psychic assault, leaving the Cheshire untouched.
                Shikarou retrieved the unconscious Marzia and released Helen.  “See what you can do,” he muttered, knowing the communication spell would carry his words to her, “or would you rather I guide you first?”
                “Let me try on my own, but be my eyes.” The Milktit grinned at Amy and used one of the techniques she’d learned from Elizabeth. The air seemed to dim around the Cheshire and there was an agonized scream that was quickly cut off as the dark matter attack went off.
                “That much overkill was uncalled for,” Faelan grumbled as he recovered the fallen Cheshire.
                “That was quality, brother.” Shikarou’s eyes narrowed as Derdekea appeared on the field and immediately took to the air. The Fallen Angel opened the ball with a feather shuriken attack which slammed into Helen’s hastily erected dark shield. The defensive move functioned perfectly, stealing most of the attack’s strength. Helen was barely scratched and grinned at her opponent.
                Light flared and thunder shook the arena as Derdekea used lightning on her opponent and Helen replied with thunderbolt. Both attacks hit and both pokegirls cried out, but it was obvious as everyone’s vision cleared that the Fallen Angel had come off the worst in the exchange as the dark shield had absorbed part of the less powerful lightning attack.
                Derdekea summoned her dark blade and used quick attack, dodging the dark shield and slashing at the Milktit as she raced by. Helen cried out and staggered, losing her concentration as well as the attack she’d been planning.
                The Fallen Angel circled around and repeated the attack, which turned out to be a mistake as Helen summoned her energy blade and used double slash. There were grunts of mingled pain and fury as both attacks hit and did significant damage.
                The battle had slowly pulled Helen closer to Faelan and he took advantage of this by returning Dedekea in mid attack and releasing Maureen, who appeared beside the startled Milktit.
                Faelan had captured the Amazonlee while on his abbreviated pokegirl journey and had been working her hard ever since. Their training showed as the fighting type unleashed a furious gatling kick attack which smashed Helen into the dirt where she lay motionless.
                Faelan chuckled over their comlink. “I sometimes forget how impressive a properly trained normal type can be. Tell her I said that was a remarkable performance.”
                “I will.” Shikarou recovered his Milktit and released Lorelei. The Sphinx emerged already in her battle form and roared as her wings snapped forward and immediately released a feather shuriken attack which sent the Amazonlee flying.
                Maureen rolled to her feet and Lorelei glowed briefly as she employed speed storm. The Amazonlee charged and the Sphinx vanished as she used teleport, appearing behind the fighting type and ripping her with saber claw, her immense strength shredding Maureen’s clothing and skin as the Amazonlee tried vainly to twist out of the way. Maureen whirled, turning her spin into a hurricane kick which staggered the Sphinx.
                Lorelei wagged a finger at her. “Naughty, naughty,” and hit the gaping pokegirl with a pointblank feather shuriken attack. Maureen never had a chance and was blasted across the sandy floor of the arena almost to Faelan’s feet.
                Shikarou made a mental note to have a talk with Lorelei later, but not to be too annoyed at her behavior. Her attack did work and it showed a certain flair he didn’t want to suppress if he could avoid it.
                Faelan sighed as he recovered Maureen. “I yield.” He left his area and walked around to offer his hand to Shikarou. “Good battle. Oh, I could have probably exchanged a couple more pokegirls with you, but we both know how it would have most likely ended and while Svetlana wanted the chance to kick Branwyn’s carcass around, I suspect your wife would have made her work for it a lot more than she expects.”
                Shikarou grinned. “Yeah, and I figured Svetlana might be a bit much for Branwyn to swallow, no matter how eager she is to make the attempt. Maybe someday we’ll let them fight it out. Good battle. That trick with Maureen was inspired.”
                “Thanks. I doubt Helen will allow herself to be tricked like that again.”
                “I certainly hope you are right. Overall she did well, though.”
                Kerrik came up and briefly eyed them both. “I have been assured by the audience that I have just witnessed a good battle.” He smiled. “I would have thought so myself, but it’s good to know my opinion was validated by the experts.”
                “That’s an interesting variant compared to pokemon, being able to trust them to carry out attacks on their own.” He shook his head. “Once I figure out how to engineer out the taming requirements, their descendants will make valuable members of the Tirsuli Confederation.” He gave Shikarou an amused look. “It would be a lot easier for me if you would make up with your mother.”
                Shikarou snorted. “I guess it will just have to suck to be you.”
                Kerrik chuckled. “I don’t suppose you have dozen or so different pokegirls that I can have for analysis?”
                Faelan shook his head. “No, but if you can hold off a few days before bringing the stuff you promised, I can catch you some ferals. I’ve traveled all over the world and I’ll assemble a cross section if I can.”
                Shikarou looked thoughtful. “If he can catch a Ponytaur, I’ll give you Hanmei. She’s not big into team tactics and isn’t working out. I’ll also get an Ice Crystal so you can evolve the Ponytaur into a Frozenare, which will give you a chance to observe a stone induced evolution and give Hanmei a good reason to work with you. Huns are obsessed with having a steed and Frozenares are their ride of choice.”
                “That will do nicely.” Kerrik rubbed his hands together briskly. “Shikarou, can I have a word with you?”
                He nodded. “Let’s go to my room.”
                Kerrik gave him a glance as they left the arena and headed down the hall. “Nice tent, by the bye.”
                “Faelan gave me the original spell and I modified it. He’s modified my modifications and I’ve changed some of the things he’s done. I doubt the person who created the spell would recognize it anymore.” He motioned his father into his room and shut the door behind them. “So, what did you need privacy for?”
                “A couple of things. First, I want to suggest that you make your peace with Svetlana. She’s going to be your sister soon enough and she’ll be your responsibility if anything happens to Faelan.”
                “She already is, but I see your point.” Shikarou nodded. “She will be family and I need to make the effort.”
                “That’s all you can do.” Kerrik sighed. “I’m sorry I missed it when your powers started to activate. Stardust mentioned it to me and Pythia jumped in to ask if I could help you with mastery of some of them.”
                Shikarou looked interested. “Can you?”
                “I can certainly get you started. I’ll need to take a walk in your mind.”
                “Let me call Circe and Stardust. They’ve been a great help and I don’t want to offend them by making them miss a crucial step in my development.”
                “Then by all means do so.” A few minutes later, the pair of Alaka-Whams had joined them and they all had entered Shikarou’s mind.
                Kerrik looked around at the three of them. “This way.” The hallway blurred as they lifted off the ground and raced down it.
                “How are you doing this?” Stardust looked intrigued. “I didn’t know one could travel this way.”
                “Since I know where I want to go, we can skip the intervening parts of the construct. It’s only a tool and so I modify it as needed to accomplish my goal.”
                Stardust blinked and suddenly looked very thoughtful.
                They touched down in the middle of another hallway and Kerrik nodded. “I thought so. I’d set up the ward here to end when your powers were ready, but something may have gone wrong.” He touched a wall and it melted away to reveal another hall. Doors lined the passageway, each one of them ornately carved and decorated in different patterns and a boasting a large array of colors. “The access points to your kami and sidhe powers are down there.” His silver furred ears flicked slowly. “As you know, each of us accesses our powers differently and so you will have to discover how to do so on your own. This will allow you to access the full range of your abilities that have developed so far. As you get older, new abilities will probably develop and old ones may become more powerful or change in more fundamental ways.” A smile flickered on his lips. “I’m vastly older than you and I’m still acquiring new abilities and learning more about ones I thought were mature.”
                Circe cocked her head. “How old are you?”
                “I’m old enough that it’s just a number, but if I’d been born on your world it would have been before the advent of the Christian religion and I’d have been able to meet several pharaohs as well as Alexander the Great.”
                “Nevermind. Maybe he didn’t exist here.”
                Circe chuckled. “No, it’s just that if he wasn’t a psychiatrist of note, my sister would have never heard of him. I know who he is.”
                Stardust glared. “Do tell, dear sister.”
                “He’s a Greek that tamed the whole world.”
                Shikarou smiled. “Not quite.”
                Kerrik raised a hand as Stardust opened her mouth for a retort. “I have to leave soon, could you keep the fighting down until after then?” The Alaka-Wham transferred her glare to him before nodding reluctantly. “Usually only people are willing to drop everything for a good argument. I agree with my sons. You are people.”
                Stardust stared at him for a moment as a smile warred with a glare. The smile won. “I’m pretty sure I should be thankful for that.”
                “Yes, you should and you are quite welcome.” Kerrik glanced at his son. “I’ve given you the information you needed to know and the rest is up to you. We should leave now.”
                When they were standing in Shikarou’s room again, Kerrik gave his son a hug. “I need to find your brother and say goodbye. I’ll need to get back home before I decide to set up a place on this island and stay for a couple of years.” He smiled slightly. “Or centuries.”
                “You’re welcome to stay as long as you want, father.”
                “Thank you very much for that, but this is your home now, isn’t it?” He continued upon Shikarou’s definite nod. “I know myself well enough to know that I’d have to find somewhere I can be in charge and right now I’ve got more than enough of that going on at home. Maybe after your mother calms down I’ll become a, what is it called, Tamer? Yeah, a Tamer here. Until then, I should keep my nose clean and my pants on.”
                Shikarou grinned. “Feel free to become the ruler here. I tried giving it to Faelan and he was smart enough to decline.”
                “So am I.” Kerrik bowed to Stardust and Circe. “Ladies, it has been a distinct pleasure to meet you both. My son is very lucky that you’ve chosen to spend some of your lives with him.”
                Circe smiled. “Actually, we are both delta bonded to him and he couldn’t get rid of us if he wanted to.”
                “Then he is truly blessed.” Kerrik cocked his head. “Now I need to say farewell to Faelan. Hopefully I’ll see all of you soon.” He vanished.
                Circe gave Shikarou a puzzled look. “Did you give him the key to access the teleportation block on the tent?”
                Her Tamer shook his head. “Father is a law unto himself.” He touched his belt. “So, let’s get everyone healed and out and about because I really don’t want to have to listen to Helen be quietly disappointed if I eat someone else’s cooking.” He smiled. “She’s got the ability to incite guilt with just a single look.”
                Stardust rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it. She caught me raiding the cookies the other day and before she could say anything, I was already apologizing. Me. The person who doesn’t care what other people think of her. I swear it’s some kind of sneaky psychic technique.” She smirked. “Imagine some Tamer’s response if Helen used it on his pokegirl in a battle and she started apologizing for attacking her? ‘I’m so sorry. I promise it won’t happen again.’”
                The three of them shared a laugh before leaving the room.
(06/10/99 1215 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
                “I’m going to get salt spray in my fur because you don’t care about me.” Nanu gave him a hard look as he settled on the bench. It was a blustery day and the wind whipped up the waves as they raced underneath the pier, causing a fine mist of seawater to occasionally drift across the bench. The Mini-Top moved to put herself as far away from it as possible as she complained.
                “If it’s that bad, I’ll wash you myself later.”
                Nanu smiled broadly. “All right.” She sat down next to him and pulled off her t-shirt. “There. That’s all better now.” Her white fur gleamed in the light as tiny drops of water immediately beaded her fur. “Oops. It looks like I will need that bath you offered.”
                Shikarou shook his head slowly and unclipped his handheld. “I have three messages. One is from Poppet, one is from Thai Silvati and one is from Professor Stroak.” He frowned. “I didn’t give Stroak my com number.”
                “Someone did.” Nanu draped her ears over the back of the bench and stretched luxuriously. “I wonder what your non-harem Unicorn girlfriend wants.”
                “Good question. Let’s find out.”
                Shikarou keyed up her message and Poppet’s head appeared in the air in front of them. She smiled. “Hey. I know I sent you a personal message yesterday, so I figure that right now you are asking yourself what I want and how much you can charge me for it; but I don’t want you to run any errands today.” Her smile turned seductive. “Well, I would like it if you came to see me again. If transport is an issue I’m sure we can work something out.” Nanu made a disgusted sound.
                “The reason I’m calling is to let you know that Professor Stroak is looking for you. He hinted that he wanted your help with something and I gave him your code.” She turned serious. “I don’t know what he wants; the old codger is playing coy with information again. I wouldn’t have told him how to contact you, but he’s prominent enough that defying him without a good reason can have serious repercussions, especially for anyone in a pokegirl related industry. Be careful in dealing with him. He didn’t live to be as old as he is by being a doddering old fool. He just plays one very, very well. Maryanne isn’t to be trusted either; she’s his body and soul.”
                “I’ve found that if you act as if you buy his theatrics you can usually get him to drop his guard. God knows flaunting your assets at him is a waste of time, even if you had any he’d be interested in.” She shook her head. “He’s good at verbal judo and loves expensive food presents. He considers himself an epicurean and loves unusual foods, as long as they aren’t too spicy. Maryanne is a sucker for chocolate, especially if it’s filled with some kind of creamy center.”
                “Maryanne is the light of his life, but she’s no great shakes as a cook, so something sophisticated will get his attention right away.” She smiled again. “I just wanted to drop you a quick note. Don’t be a stranger.” The video ended and the image vanished.
                Nanu leaned against him. “That wasn’t very helpful.”
                “Actually, it was. I know now that Stroak is looking for me and Poppet thinks he wants me to do something for him. She also warned me not to tell him no unless I have a good reason and gave me some good pointers on how to bribe him.”
                “So, what is the message he sent you?”
                Shikarou pulled it up. “It’s text only and requests that I call him at my earliest convenience.” He frowned. “They’re several hours behind us so I’ll wait at least another hour before giving him a call. Let’s see what Thai has to say.” He keyed up the message.
                Thai appeared in the air in front of them. He glanced over his shoulder at two partially covered sleeping pokegirls. The image froze and Aggie appeared in the corner. “One of those is a Milktit, but this one,” one of the forms was briefly highlighted in blue, “is a Milk Maid. They are very rare and it’s unusual that Thai has one. They aren’t found in combat harems and I’d had the impression he was building one. Milk Maids can’t stand the sight of blood.”
                Nanu snickered. “They aren’t found around Vampires either, then.”
                Shikarou ignored her. “Play message.”
                Thai started moving again. He turned back to the camera and scooted back a little on the chair before he smiled slightly. “Well, seeing as how I’ve been getting up at the most awful hours lately, I’ll try to stay kinda quiet as I record this. I don’t know how I managed to evolve that Milk Maid back there, but I’ll just say I was lucky. When they wake up, I’ll have to ask them if they want me to be their tamer. Anyway, good to hear from you and it’s nice to meet you too, Elizabeth. Glad to do you’re hearing well…” and he blinked, wiping from sleep from his eyes before he groaned slightly. “Sorry. Glad to hear you’re doing well. Although I suppose the other way might be accurate too. Still waking up a bit here.”
                “And I’m glad to hear about Hidden Bra; I haven’t had a chance to check up on them recently. My Cherry has been trying to get me to go to Comupan Town here in Ruby for about a month now, without giving me a good reason. I haven’t completely decided yet, but most of my possible methods of correcting her thinking haven’t done anything. And I’ve tried Elizabeth’s method already- sorry, but she just can’t take a good spanking at all. She just curls up and doesn’t want to be tamed afterwards. Might be something from before she thresholded, but she isn’t talking about it at all.” He shrugged slightly before blinking and looking off screen.
                Nanu snickered. “Spanking a Celestial as a method of correction? You might as well give that up as a bad idea. Only death corrects a Celestial.” A brief grin appeared. “Well, death and your dick.” She kissed him on the neck. “You can correct me later.”
                “You are not a Celestial.”
                “So? You can still correct me.”
                Shikarou returned his attention to the message as Thai got off the chair and moved out of the camera’s view briefly, reappearing with some kind of device in his hands as he smiled slightly and held it up on display.
                “I made this in the last week or so… I know it doesn’t look like much, but according to the Milktit back on my bed, she’s never been quite so empty all the time. I wonder if you might be interested at all in this thing, so I’m going to attach the blueprints file to this video message when I send it to you. Considering that this will let me go on my Journey without having to milk a Milktit for nearly all day, I figure that this could work out well for a bunch of people. Too bad I have no way of mass producing, but that’s what ya get when you make something homemade, right?” he said, and then chuckled.
                “The design might be worth something to the right people, I think. I’m not quite sure who I’d find interested yet, though. I’ve got the patent pending, so hopefully I can get that through the channels before someone else comes up with it. So far so good, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”
                “And you know what? I can’t say I blame you. I haven’t met any Legendaries, but I can bet that most of them would be just as annoying as Celestials to try and placate. Besides, I can see that Elizabeth keeps your hands full and your blood drained, so it
looks like you got quite the deal. Although, an Infernal having the hots for a Celestial… I swear, I’ve heard that somewhere before. Ah well.”
                He paused the message as Nanu stirred. “Care to tell me about the other half of that conversation?”
                “Elizabeth was being cute and I mentioned to Thai that no matter how annoying she was, I wouldn’t trade her for Sexmet and Bastit.”
                “Well, of course you wouldn’t. That would be stupid and you wouldn’t get the good part of that trade.”
                “Remind me to keep you away from Sexmet if she comes to visit. You’d end up shooting her and she’d tear you in half.” Shikarou commented dryly. He resumed the recording.
                “And I’m going to stop arguing with you about the credits. Seems to me as if it could go on and on with neither of us winning… or maybe I’d wind up losing, so why tempt a losing record?” he asked, grinning slightly as he reached towards the screen, his hand disappearing off screen. A second later he nodded slightly towards them.
                “There, the file’s attached now. Given the resources that you seem to have, I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to come up with your own working model, if you needed one. You’re welcome to it, if you find a use for it.” He gave a wave and vanished.
                “Aggie, display schematic.” A series of engineering drawings appeared.
                Aggie appeared in a corner of the display. “The theory is sound and the drawings appear to be accurate. The most expensive part of a pokepack is the digitizing equipment so the price will probably be comparable to that of a pokepack. This means that many Tamers will not be able to afford one; still, it could be used to facilitate transport of milk from farms to processing centers. If you don’t mind, I’ll forward the plans to Selene. She’s got the time and processing power to see if any improvements are worthwhile.”
                “Do it.”
                Nanu tugged on his braid. “Cute kid.”
                “I don’t think I’ll tell him you called him a kid.”
                “I’m crushed.” She nestled against Shikarou more firmly. “So what are you going to tell him about me? You’re going to tell him that I’m perfect, right?” Shikarou made a noncommittal noise and she poked him. “Right?”
                “I can’t lie, remember?”
                Her eyes narrowed. “Are you saying I’m not perfect?”
                “You’re doing the talking here. I’m not saying anything.”
                “Do you or do you not think I’m perfect?”
                “I think that perfection is an unattainable goal; so, no, you’re not perfect.”
                “But I’m more perfect than most, right?”
                “You are the most perfect Mini-Top I’ve ever had.”
                “Thanks.” She settled against him again. Suddenly she frowned. “Wait a minute; I’m the only Mini-Top you’ve ever had.”
                “Quiet, I’m going to record a reply to Thai’s message.”
                “Can I say something to him?”
                “If it’s not profane, then sure.”
                “Cool. Just a minute.” She pinched her nipples a couple of times to make them stand out. “Ok.”
                He sighed. “Record.”
                Aggie gave him a sympathetic smile. “Recording message.”
                Nanu smiled at the handheld. “Hello, Thai. I’m Nanu and I’m another one of Shikarou’s pokegirls. I’m a Mini-Top and although Shikarou is too modest to say so, I’m the most perfect pokegirl he’s got.” She glanced at Shikarou and her voice dropped dangerously. “Right?”
                “You heard her words, Thai.” Shikarou shook his head. “I just got your message and I wanted to thank you for the plans for your Milktit milking device. I’ve got a Milktit of my own, so something like that might come in useful.”
                Nanu laughed quietly. “If you try to tell Helen that she’s going to get vacuumed instead of you feeding off of her, I want to be there for the explosion.”
                “Are you quite done?”
                “Maybe. I’ll let you know.”
                Shikarou’s ears went back for a second. “I’ll pass your compliments on to Elizabeth and congratulations on the Milk Maid. I understand they are very rare and I know you’ll take good care of her. Also, congratulations on the Milktit. I’m rather fond of mine,” Nanu snickered loudly, “and she’s also becoming quite impressive in combat.”
                The Mini-Top’s smile vanished. “You’ve got that right. I never thought she’d master thunderbolt, but she did and it packs quite a wallop.” She started teasing one of her nipples with a finger.
                “Do you mind?”
                “No, it feels good.” Her eyes slid halfway closed and she leaned back against her Tamer.
                Shikarou rubbed his eyes and returned to the message. “Blood. As you can see, Elizabeth isn’t the only one to keep me busy. I hope your journey is going well. Mine is going in fits and starts at best, but then I seem to be acquiring more responsibilities every day.”
                “Hanmei isn’t working out, but I’ve arranged for someone to take her. He’s supposed to be getting a Ponytaur to evolve to Frozenare, so she’ll have a partner again and I think that will make her very happy.”
                Nanu smiled softly. “I certainly hope so, the way she keeps on moaning about how much she misses a properly cold pokegirl.” Her free hand crept into her lap as she slowly spread her legs.
                Shikarou gave her an amused look. “I’d better wrap this up before Nanu gets too involved in herself and you can’t hear me anymore over her.” He snickered. “She’s a loud one.”
                The Mini-Top’s voice was husky and slow. “You do good work. I’m not like that for everyone.”
                “See you, Thai. Shikarou clear.” He jumped up and jerked Nanu to her feet. “Let’s get that bath.”
                “You’d better hurry,” was her only response. Shikarou picked her up and ran.
(06/10/99 1630 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
                Shikarou leaned against the wall of the hot tub and flipped through his clothes as he searched for his handheld. He frowned and nudged Nanu, who stirred. “Oh, god, not again,” she muttered. “My ass is still sore.” A sleepy grin. “So is my mouth and pussy, but it’s a good kind of sore.”
                There was no dealing with her when she was content like this, so he ignored it. “Have you seen my handheld?”
                She gave him a sultry look. “You’ve already replaced me?” He gave her a flat look and she smiled again. “I think it got knocked in the water at some point. At least I shoved it out of the way and heard a splash.”
                Shikarou sighed and felt around in the hot tub for a moment before coming up with his handheld computer. He wiped it off on his shirt and called up Stroak’s com number.
                Nanu watched him with a slight smile. “Should I leave?”
                “Just stay out of the pickup field.”
                She nodded and scooted to the other side of the hot tub before reaching for the wine bottle. “I’ve got what I need.”
                “Good.” The com connected and he smiled as Maryanne appeared.
                “Professor Stroak’s laboratory. How may I direct your call?”
                “I believe it’s still morning there; so, good morning, Maryanne. I am Shikarou and the professor left me a message asking me to call him.”
                She smiled prettily. “I remember you. You threw that wonderful dinner for us. Let me see if the professor is available.” She vanished and his com started playing some classical music.
                A few minutes later, she appeared again. “The professor will be with you in just a minute.” Before he could reply, he was back on hold.
                “She’s businesslike.” Nanu placed her feet in his lap.
                “Considering how many calls she probably gets insisting that Stroak drop everything to deal with someone else’s emergency, I’d be that way too.” He played with her toes and she grinned.
                The screen flickered and Stroak appeared. “Good morning, professor.”
                He smiled and peered at Shikarou for a moment. “Ah, Shikarou. It’s good to see you again. So, how can I help you?”
                Shikarou took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You know, professor, I know that you are not an idiot and I know that you sometimes act a little distracted as a tool.” He smiled slightly. “However, if you are willing to drop the act, I’m willing to give you and your intellect the respect that they deserve.”
                Stroak sat up straight and gave Shikarou a measuring look. “Very well,” he replied crisply, “I will. I asked you to call me because I have someone who’s bothering me and I’m hopeful you can make them stop.” He gave Shikarou a tight smile that held more than a hint of weariness. “It’s been a little harried down here recently and I really don’t need this on top of everything else.” He gave a quiet sigh. “Unfortunately, he’s respected in his field and I cannot just ignore him.” There was a quiet mutter that Shikarou wasn’t meant to hear but did anyway. “Not that I don’t want to.”
                “I know how you feel, professor. There’s a pokegirl researcher that I can’t ignore a request from for a call. I’m sure he just wants to waste my time.”
                Stroak blinked and flashed a quick grin. “Touché. Now, my sources tell me that you are not only an offworlder, you are familiar enough with the phenomenon to have coined a word describing these visitors.’ Other-dimensional’ is what I’ve heard you use.” He cocked his head questioningly.
                “That’s correct, professor. Interdimensional travel, while not routine, is fairly well known, at least among my family. Well known enough that we have come up with terminology for the subject.”
                “I was hoping that would be the case. So you are familiar with some of the techniques involved, are you not?”
                “Some. My father is the real expert but I’ve paid attention when he’s talking and I know enough to operate some portal generators without assistance.”
                “Excellent. Now there is a theoretical physicist who consulted with the people who inadvertently brought Ranma Saotome here last year. Did the two of you ever meet?”
                “My brother observed the Sadie Pokens day where he spoke and I’ve reviewed the recording he made, but I did not meet him.”
                “Well, no matter. This physicist was just a consultant and he’s finished a review of the data collected when Ranma arrived as well as when he left and he’s claiming that there is a problem. My specialty is pokegirls and the surviving members of the portal project aren’t on cordial terms with Dr. Banzai, so I was wondering if you would go down and talk to him. He’s in the Blue League, in Ireland.”
                “You want me to look over the data? I’m a lot of things, but I’m not a physicist.”
                “No, but I’ve heard you have some remarkable friends who may be able to assist you. Someone named Aggie, I believe, may be of particular help.”
                “And where did you hear that?”
                He smiled cheerfully. “Now, now, I understand you young folks can be a bit possessive about such things and I would like my source to be able to continue giving me information. I seriously doubt telling you about them would keep them healthy.”
                Shikarou’s face smoothed. “And if I insisted?” Water splashed as Nanu sat upright, suddenly wide awake as she watched her Tamer intently.
                Stroak looked shocked. “Are you threatening me?”
                “I haven’t threatened anyone. I merely asked a question.”
                “Please don’t insist.” He smiled again. “I know few people that I would like to get to know better, and you might just turn out to be one of that small group. Threats would probably not help.”
                “I see.” Shikarou shook his head and Nanu started relaxing back into the tub. “Very well. I’ll try to deal with your problem.”
                “Thank you. The man you need to talk to is Dr. Buckaroo Banzai at the New Avalon Institute of Science. It’s located in New Avalon.”
                “How remarkable.”
                Stroak chuckled. “Yes, it is. Banzai is often away, so I recommend you call and get an appointment to meet with him. I recommend talking to Beverly. She’s his secretary and she’ll make sure your appointment coincides with him actually being at the NAIS.”
                “I will. I’ll call him in the morning.”
                “Thank you.” Stroak nodded politely. “Drop by when you get a chance, Shikarou. I think you and I have a lot to talk about.”
                “I will. Goodbye, professor.”
                The display blanked and shifted as Aggie appeared in it next to a map of Ireland. “New Avalon is located where the pre-fall city of Galway was on the south western coast of Ireland. The NAIS is one of several scientific research facilities in the area.”
                “Thanks. Do me a favor and see if you and Selene can find out how the professor knew about you.”
                She nodded. “I will. I’ll put together a profile on Dr. Banzai and everyone associated with the portal project. Part of the initial team is dead; it turns out that they were murdered during a Team Trauma attack. It was that attack which resulted in the portal becoming unstable and bringing Ranma Saotome here.”
                “What was the original project’s aim?”
                “Point to point transfer in the same dimensional plane. I will have to do further research to determine the feasibility of their program, if you wish.”
                “I’m curious as to whether we could adapt the technology, but it’s a low priority at best.”
                She nodded. “I’ll see if I can free up some time to work on it.” The display died.
                Nanu shook her head. “I didn’t understand a whole lot of that, what’s going on?”
                “Stroak wants someone to stop bothering him and he’d like me to try to make it happen.”
                “Oh, so we’re going to beat someone up?”
                “I don’t think so.”
                “That’s a shame. Maybe I’ll get lucky.”
(06/15/99 2220 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent, 1020 Sukebe Asteroid Facility, Somewhere in the Sol System)
                Shikarou pulled his water bottle from his belt and took a deep drink before flipping his mask back up over his lower face. Pythia shook her whole body and droplets of sweat flew in the low gravity. “I hope we find the outer rim soon.” Her voice was muffled by the mask she wore.
                “You and me both.” His mask muffled his reply. In the days they’d been exploring the station, they’d run across a couple of areas with unhealthy atmospheres so he’d had Selene run them up some air generating systems that they could wear.
                They’d had time. When he’d called the NAIS offices, he had spoken to Beverly, who turned out to be a very nice Quillara. She had informed him that Dr. Banzai was out of the league and wouldn’t be back for a couple of weeks. Because of this, she was unwilling to make any sort of appointment for Shikarou until she knew more of the doctor’s schedule, but had promised to call him as soon as she could set something up.
                There was a whine as one of the drones whipped by. They’d released over fifty of them and they were doing most of the work of mapping the station. Since there was an atmosphere of some kind almost everywhere, they had tiny propellers and airfoils for movement with a small gas reservoir for propulsion in places without any atmosphere. Shikarou and Pythia were primarily there to open doors and such when the drones reported a problem in their path.
                They moved on; Shikarou skimming from place to place while Pythia flew behind him. Eventually, they reached the shut door where another drone hovered. It bobbed impatiently at them and arched away from the door to give them access. Shikarou sighed and explored the door carefully. Some of them had mechanical locks that could be disengaged to open the doors, but others had to be forced open. A few that they’d had to leave would have to be cut open later. “No access on this side.” Pythia nodded and checked her mask before phasing through the door.
                I think this may be an airlock. Her mental voice sounded excited. There is an observation port but it’s filthy. I’ll see if I can clean it from this side.
                Do not try to go through that door until we can get the pressure suits. Shikarou send a feeling of annoyance to her. I’m not interested in you getting killed.
                Yes, my general.
                The drone whined in his ear and he swatted at it. “Aggie, calm the fuck down. It may be an airlock, but your pestering me isn’t going to speed things any.” The drone made a spiteful noise and sped off.
                His belt spoke. Actually, it was his handheld, but it was on his belt. “I’ll map the areas around here and see if there is any correlation.”
                “You do that,” he muttered. They’d jumped back to where Pythia had been in stasis and, working under the theory that it was the more straightforward path, they had proceeded along the axis of the station’s rotation. It hadn’t been as easy as he’d hoped, but the drones who’d backtracked along the path he’d followed when he first arrived on the station to get Pythia had spread out into a veritable maze and progress there was a crawl.
                Once he found the exterior of the station he could get an idea of the size of the place as well as place sensors around the exterior that would make things easier. He also hoped to find the powerplant and if so, perhaps he could establish some kind of actual presence on the station and provide heat and air.
                The other reason he was looking for the exterior of the station was that he was carrying in his backpack a small space vessel that had a manufactory built into it. He would launch it, and it would seek out a nearby asteroid for the manufactory’s nanobots to remake into a modern habitat. He didn’t want to use this station for raw material until he knew it held nothing of value and Aggie had vacuumed the computers. That might take years, considering the kludge of technology Sukebe had used in its construction.
                So far he’d seen a Federation power conduit, some non-functional Imperial or New Republic droids and some kind of staff with a logo on it that he couldn’t identify, but Selene said might match something in her data bank from a High Guard force lance, whatever that was. He’s also seen three powercells from a Mark IX Concordiat powergun and he was not going to try converting this base until he knew that there wasn’t a Bolo somewhere on it. If there was, he was going to claim it.
                Frankly, he didn’t think there was. A decent Bolo or even a small Concordiat warship would have been deployed to Earth and Sukebe would have won handily, without all of the trouble he’d had with Typhonna. However, he was beginning to suspect that Sukebe, while a decent mage and a fair geneticist, might not have been up on modern military technology or possibly might not have cared. After all, the guy couldn’t have been a master of everything and it would have taken less effort to use one technology to build this station. For blood’s sake, he’d seen symbols on one wall that had looked like some of the stuff on a Klingon children’s book that sat in his father’s library.
                Of course, Sukebe had also very likely been an obsessive megalomaniac and sometimes they got tunnel vision about their obsessions.
                Pythia phased back through the hatch. “I can’t get it clean.” She shook and dust flew. “It’s filthy in there.”
                Shikarou blinked rapidly to clear his eyes and then wiped vainly at his face before staring at the grime on his hand. “Thanks a lot.”
                She chuckled tiredly. “I can see the future and it has lots of hot water and gallons of shampoo in it.”
                “I’ll take some of that. We’ll return in the morning with pressure suits and see what’s on the other side of that hatch.”
                Pythia slipped her arm through his. “Shall I wash you first or you me?” she asked with a coy look.
                He bumped his mask against hers. “We’ll figure something out.” She gave a throaty chuckle and they vanished.
(06/16/99 0600 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent, 0600 Sukebe Asteroid Facility, Somewhere in the Sol System)
                Each time I float in space and look out over the universe I am reminded that if the priests are right and the gods had their hand in the creation of this then indeed they are incredible in their might and imagination.
                Each time I also remember that it is by the sweat of our bodies that we are here too, thus proving that we have our feet firmly on the path to join them.
                                                                                                – The Book of Anonymous Philosophy
                Shikarou turned the electronic reader around and shoved it at his father. “What does this mean?”
                Kerrik put down his stylus and glanced over. “What are you reading? Ah, that book.” He smiled broadly at his ten year old son. “That book is supposed to make you think and I don’t think that giving you the answers will help it to do its job.” He nodded to himself. “You are old enough now, let’s get you fitted for a forcesuit and you can go see for yourself.”
                “But I’ve been in space before and looked out into it,” the young man protested.
                “I believe Caspa mentioned floating. That hints you should go outside the ship.”
                Shikarou frowned. “Caspa? No one knows who wrote the things in the Book of Anonymous Philosophy.” He smiled wisely. “It’s anonymous.”
                His father was quick to disagree. “That’s not always true. The people who submit things to the Book’s approval committee often know and I know that Moonblood no Caspa wrote that in his journals,” he cocked his head, “four thousand two hundred and sixty one years ago.” He winked. “I have them and it just so happens I submitted that to the first edition of the Book twenty five hundred years ago.”
                “I’ve never heard of the Moonblood clan.” Shikarou pointed out with the arrogance of youth.
                “They don’t exist any more. They were wiped out and their remnants absorbed by the Windstalker clan, who also no longer exist, having been absorbed by the Blue Wing clan over a millennia ago. I bought the Moonblood library from the Windstalker clan leader right after their victory over the Moonbloods.”
                “But the Blue Wings are a tiny clan. They don’t have the strength to absorb anyone.”
                “Once, they were great enough that they sought to become rivals of our clan but now it appears that their time is almost over.” Kerrik shrugged. “It happens. New clans appear and others disappear with the regularity of cesium decay. Not even the old clans are immune to time and events.”
                “It will never happen to us!”
                Kerrik smiled. “Perhaps and perhaps not. Today, even members of the Tsukiken clan break off and form their own clans, hoping for greatness. Our numbers are many, but who knows what the future brings.” He peered at his son. “Someday you will have to decide if you will carry our name or try to lift up one of your own. Not until that moment comes will you know what your decision will be.” He rose. “Now, let’s get you fitted for a forcesuit and we’ll see if Caspa’s words are still true.”
                “So, father took me up and after I got my first forcesuit, we went into space and I spacewalked for the first time. As soon as I looked around, I knew that Caspa’s words were still true.” Shikarou glanced at Pythia as they floated near Sukebe’s station. “I remember them again each time I go outside.”
                Her voice held awe. “I see what you mean. I feel great and insignificant at the same time.” Her head twisted inside her helmet. “What is a forcesuit?”
                “A spacesuit made of forcefields. We don’t have the technology here, yet, to make them. Maybe the base father is bringing will have the right schematics, but Selene doesn’t.”
                She nodded. “Did that moment ever come? The one where you had to decide if you would start your own clan?”
                “Yes, it did and no, I didn’t. I am a Tsukiken and desire to be no more or less than that.” He grinned at her and began taking the spaceship out of his backpack. Pythia used her telekinesis to hold him stable while he worked to pull the meter long craft free.
                Once it was out, he gave it a gentle push away from the station and watched as it began to drift away from them. Suddenly it accelerated hard, twisting to circle around the station before it dwindled and vanished into the depths of space.
                Pythia gathered him into her arms as he cradled the backpack in his arms. “Are you ready?”
                “Yes, I am,” he replied.
                Once they’d phased through the hatch they had discovered that it was indeed an airlock on the outer hull of the station. Brief experimentation had proven that the wingless flight used by pokegirls, or at least the Neo Iczel who’d contributed to Pythia’s genetic makeup, worked in space.
                So Pythia flew him around the exterior of the space station while he placed sensors at locations as determined by Aggie. The work went smoothly and was soon complete.
                “Are we done?”
                Shikarou stretched in her arms. “For the moment. Now we wait while Aggie continues the exploration.” He shook his head. “With the powered down droids and the booby-traps we’ve already found, I’m more than willing to agree with her that it’s a little dangerous for us organics and let her do the work.”
                “Home then, my general?”
(06/16/99 1530 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
                Mary burst into the tent. “Sir, the ferry has put in and there’s a knight on it.” She bobbed her head in an abbreviated greeting at the harem and Lynn. “Ladies. Your Majesty.”
                She turned back to Shikarou. “I don’t recognize him; I think he’s a member of the lowest rank. Gwen’s watching him right now.” She took a deep breath. “He says he’s here under a flag of truce and that he has a message for you from the Queen.”
                Shikarou nodded and held up a cup. “Tea?”
                “Sir, what do you,” she broke off as he held up a hand.
                “I want to finish my tea and let him stew in his own juices for an hour or so.” He cocked his head. “I’m inclined not to allow his flag of truce, considering just how polite they haven’t been to me or mine.”
                Mary blinked and then a slow smile appeared. “That’s likely to anger him. He’s used to being respected, at least by those who know of the Order.”
                “Good. I want him angry.” Shikarou continued to offer the tea. “Gwen can keep him out of trouble. Sit down and tell me of all the fun ways I can irritate the hell out of him when I finally deign to appear.”
                Mary took it, settled down and started to talk.
(06/16/99 1530 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
                Sir Yancy tried not to glare at Gwen as they stood under the pavilion. It wasn’t her fault that this Shikarou was an arrogant ass.
                “Ah, here they come.” He looked up at Gwen’s quiet comment and gave the Dragoness next to him a glance. She was watching the oncoming group
                Sir Yancy turned to watch them himself. His first thought was that Shikarou was not with them. He looked more closely and immediately recognized the turncoat, Mary, who appeared to be leading the little cavalcade. The picture he’d been shown before leaving the Order headquarters had shown her to be a serious looking, slightly unhappy woman.
                In reality, he could still see the seriousness, but the lines of unhappiness were gone from her face and he briefly wondered if that had happened before she changed her allegiance or after.
                The group included Mary, a Unicorn, several humans or, more likely, very near human pokegirls, some kind of Bunnygirl and a feralborne Ria wearing a skirt.
                The person who appeared to be in charge was a Unicorn. This was probably Branwyn, reported to be the child of Poppet, the unassuming operator of the Harris Conservatory.
                Poppet was an enigma. Back when she’d first arrived on the scene, the Order had made three attempts to capture such an obviously magical pokegirl and had lost five knights and their associated harems before deciding that it was a bad idea. From what the various other attackers had accomplished, also nothing, it had seemed they had been wise to cut their losses.
                Unfortunately, the only information they had on Branwyn had come from Mary, and since no one was sure when she’d turned, all of her reports were suspect.
                As the group approached, they began to settle into a formation of sorts. As the Bunnygirl dropped back Sir Yancy realized with surprise it was a Mini-Top. As the others approached, they spread out in such as fashion as to give her a clear line of fire for whatever attacks she might have.
                Sir Yancy blinked as the Mini-Top drew a pistol and leveled it at his forehead. The Unicorn smiled. “I’m Branwyn and here are the rules. Shikarou has decided not to honor the request for a flag of truce.” She glanced at the Dragoness as she stirred. “If you misbehave, Nanu is going to shoot your Tamer through the head.” The Dragoness froze. “Good. I’m glad to see you can be reasoned with.”
                Sir Yancy glared at the Unicorn. “I demand to know why you are refusing to honor the truce.”
                “So far the Order of Pendragon has shown itself to be without honor and we don’t trust you. Now, against my better judgment, Shikarou has agreed to meet with you and hear what you have to say, but there are conditions.” She nodded towards the Dragoness. “She goes in a pokeball and you get relieved of everything that could be a weapon. Then you can meet with Shikarou.”
                The Dragoness stirred. “I do not belong to Sir Yancy. My name is Morgan. I belong to the Queen and I speak with her voice.”
                Branwyn nodded. “That’s nice.” She cocked her head and looked thoughtful. “Very well. Here’re the new conditions. If you misbehave, Nanu will shoot Sir Yancy and the pokegirls behind you will tear you apart.”
                Sir Yancy turned to look behind him as Morgan looked over her shoulder at the two Alaka-Whams and the DragonQueen which had silently teleported in a few meters behind them. Bellona gave them a toothsome smile. “I think you would want to pay more attention to my alpha. We’ll only become an issue if you get rowdy.”
                With an effort, Morgan turned her attention back to Branwyn as she spoke once more. “No, we don’t trust you. Your saintly order of knighthood seems to specialize in skullduggery and ambushes and I’m unwilling to take any chances with my husband’s safety.”
                Sir Yancy and Morgan exchanged a surprised look before he turned back to the Unicorn. “What if I find your conditions unacceptable?”
                Branwyn smiled. “If you refuse our conditions then you will be allowed to board the ferry, which we are conveniently holding for you, and you will leave.”
                Sir Yancy looked surprised again. “That’s it?”
                “While Shikarou has not agreed to your truce, he has decided to grant you safe passage.” Nanu made an unhappy noise, which Branwyn ignored. “In spite of some objections, he’s the Tamer and it’s his decision.”
                Sir Yancy gave the Unicorn a penetrating look. “Very well, I agree to your conditions.” Morgan gave him a sharp look but remained silent.
                “Good.” She nodded to the Ria. “Kebi, search him and the Dragoness both.”
                Morgan frowned as Kebi bounded forward with a grin. “Wait, that wasn’t in the agreement.”
                “If you want to be treated as a person and not balled, then you get searched. So, search or ferry. What is it going to be?”
                Kebi watched with bright eyes and quivering ears, whispering something to herself as she rocked on her toes. Sir Yancy strained his ears and heard. “Hump, die. Hump, die. Hump, die.” He sighed silently. The poor girl was obviously insane.
                Morgan frowned deeply. “Very well, I consent to being searched. But I’m not wearing clothes and I doubt very much you will find anything.”
                Branwyn shrugged. “Kebi. Do Morgan first.”
                Sir Yancy watched as the Ria walked around Morgan, stepping closely around the Dragoness but as far as he could see, never touching her. Then she stepped away. “Kebi done.”
                “See?” Morgan asked triumphantly. “Nothing.”
                “Dragon lie.” Kebi pulled a wand from her pocket. “Kebi find in hair.”
                Morgan went white. “You never touched me!”
                The Ria gave her a smug smile. “Kebi good.”
                Branwyn chuckled. “Yes, you are. Anything else?”
                “Plant on neck.”
                Branwyn sighed. “I can never understand your pidgin. Shikarou?”
                His voice came from behind Yancy and Morgan. “She says that Morgan has an implant in her neck. We can probably let her keep it.”
                Sir Yancy turned to see Shikarou as he released Pythia’s hand. He smiled broadly. “Since you agreed, I saw no reason to wait.”
                Branwyn gave him an annoyed look. “Yes, husband. Kebi, now Sir Yancy.”
                The Ria bumped the knight with her hip and walked to his other side and bumped him again. “All done.” She giggled. “Knight wears panties.”
                Yancy turned white, then red.
                “Stop teasing him.” Shikarou held out a bag. “Give.”
                Kebi began pulling things from her pockets and dumping them in the bag. “Knight have knives. Lots. Even in panties. Wand.” She held up a gold ring and Sir Yancy jerked his eyes down to his fingers and gasped in shock. “Keep?”
                “No, Kebi.”
                She sighed and dropped it into the bag before dipping her hands back into her pockets. Finally she stopped. “No more. Kiss?”
                Shikarou took her head in his hands and kissed her noisily. “Thank you, Kebi.” She giggled again and bumped his nose with hers before moving to stand behind him.
                Branwyn pulled out her wand and created a table and some chairs. “Please, sit.”
                Sir Yancy settled down with a wary look around him and Morgan moved to stand at his back.
                Shikarou looked amused as he sat at the table and glanced at Nanu. “I don’t think you need to keep threatening Sir Yancy.” She huffed and put the pistol away as he turned back to Sir Yancy and Morgan. “Morgan, if you speak for the queen you need to stop acting like Sir Yancy’s guard and sit down.” He frowned and cocked his head curiously as she settled down next to the knight. “Why aren’t you Dame Morgan?”
                The Dragoness looked stunned. “Pokegirls are never knighted.” There was an obvious but unheard “of course” on the end of that statement.
                “That’s a pity. Pokegirls can be just as capable as anyone else. No offense intended, but I think your queen missed a trick in that regard.” He smiled slightly. “I value Gwen’s contributions to everything that’s happened just as much as Mary’s and that is no slight on what Mary has accomplished since she joined us. I’m quite pleased and if I ever create an order of knighthood, both of them will be inducted into it if they wish.” Gwen flushed slightly.
                Morgan bristled. “My Queen does as she sees best suits us all.”
                Shikarou looked skeptical for a second and then gave a minute shrug. “I’m not here to argue with you. In fact, it’s my understanding that I am here because you have a message for me.” He glanced to the side. “Ah, Helen.” The Milktit drove up in her golf cart and started loading the table with goodies. “Please, refresh yourselves.”
                A short time later, he leaned back in his chair, balancing it on two legs. “Now that we’ve broken bread, why don’t you tell me this message you have for me.”
                Morgan, who looked surprised at the amount of food she’d managed to put away, nodded. “My Queen bids you fair greetings and requests that you return her rightful property to her, the tome known as the Grimoire of Danu.”
                Shikarou nodded. “So she’s a pal of Sukebe’s, huh?”
                Morgan looked confused. “I do not understand the question.”
                “This book was recovered from someplace that belonged to Sukebe and hasn’t been visited in three hundred years. So your queen is either a liar, very old or a time traveler. Which is it? Or would you like to try another story.” He smiled as the Dragoness purpled. “Also note that I do not acknowledge it as anyone’s property other than my own.”
                Sir Yancy shook his head. “Her Majesty has existed since before time itself and wrote the Book of Danu long ago.”
                “Even if I accept such a premise, that does not make it currently her property. She could have given it away, sold it or even lost it.” He smiled without humor. “It is obvious that at this juncture it isn’t in her possession, so something has to have happened. Unless you want to tell me that she put it with her own hands where I found it or had an agent put it there.”
                Morgan glared. “She did.”
                Shikarou nodded but it was Branwyn who spoke. “Then you know where we found it. Describe this place to me.”
                Morgan’s eyes narrowed to slits. “I will not.”
                “Then either thy queen does not trust thee with such knowledge or she has not this knowledge to give to thee. In any case, the book is useless to thee.” Dorothea placed a gentle hand on Shikarou’s shoulder. “My lord has assured me that thou can not use this book.”
                Shikarou flicked an ear. “If Sir Yancy is right and the queen has existed, as he put it, since before time began, it might be possible that she could use the book.” Sir Yancy started to nod and froze at Shikarou’s next words. “But only if this Queen were of the Sidhe. It’s completely useless to anyone else.”
                Morgan flinched. “We do not say that name.”
                He shrugged. “I am not a member of this ‘we’. Sidhe.” He smiled. “I am of the Sidhe.”
                Sir Yancy gave an incredulous look at Shikarou’s ears. “Those are not the ears of the Sidhe.”
                “And how would you know?” Shikarou smiled. “Through my veins flows the blood of the Sidhe. Arteries, too. No, I’m not a pureblood, but my blood is pure enough to open the Grimoire, which no one who is not Sidhe can do.”
                “Abomination,” Morgan snarled. “The Fey are pure of blood and heart and the appointed guardians of this land.”
                Shikarou snorted. “The Sidhe and the other fey are no purer of blood than anyone else. They can be noble and gracious and they can also be petty and cruel and just as traitorous as any of the mortal races.” He put his cup down. “The Grimoire stays with me.”
                “The Queen has need of it. Return it this instant!” Morgan half rose from her chair and froze as Shikarou stood.
                “If your queen sent you to bargain to return the Grimoire, you have done a piss poor job and failed in the attempt.” His voice was cold. “Now, I have a message I want you to convey to her.”
                “I did not seize the Grimoire from her or hers. I found it after I was unjustly accused of theft from a member of her Order. When I returned with it, I was assaulted without warning. Later, I was again attacked. Now you come and attempt to give me orders?” His eyes narrowed. “I do not care what business your queen thinks she has with the Grimoire, it will not happen as circumstances currently stand.”
                His ears slowly flattened and a heaviness seemed to fill the air, making each breath an effort. “I have tried to have a policy of live and let live in regards to the Order of Pendragon, but you will inform your queen that if I have another attack from one of hers, I will hold her and the rest of her Order accountable. I will hunt her and hers through the generations until they and their descendants are no more and the only thing that is remembered of them is how they passed, which shall be a warning to those who might threaten what I seek to build.”
                His eyes flashed. “We are done here. Branwyn, please see that these people are escorted to the ferry and removed from my lands immediately. Once they are on the ferry, return their possessions to them.”
                The Unicorn nodded grimly. “Yes, husband. Dorothea, Yushiko, Elizabeth, you are with me.”
(06/16/99 1800 Wilderness of Scotland, Blue Continent)
                Morgan flared and stalled as she released Sir Yancy to drop to loam below before folding her wings and falling to land beside him. “Now, we summon the Templar and return.”
                Sir Yancy shook his head. “No. We return to the headquarters.” His body blurred and changed as he continued speaking. “You should have not tried to lie about knowing where the Grimoire rested.”
                “Perhaps not, my queen, but did I have any other choice?”
                The Queen met her gaze squarely. “You did what you thought was right and it turned out to be wrong. We will return and this time it will be in such a way as I can speak for myself.”
                Morgan nodded and ducked her head. “As you command. What of his threat?”
                “He is part Sidhe and he can no more lie than I can.” The Queen regarded the sky almost idly for a moment. “It was no threat. He believes he can hound us into extinction if we attack what he has claimed.” She glanced at the Dragoness. “I will not have his claim tested.”
                “The humans grow restive. They may disobey you in an attempt to curry your favor.”
                “Then I shall be firm with my knights. It will not be the first time although each time I hope it shall be the last.” The Queen smiled slightly. “He is quite remarkable. For someone so young, he is quite confident in his abilities.”
                “Then what will we do with him?”
                The Queen shook her head and raised an arm. A ley line appeared in front of them and a doorway opened in the roil of energy. “I have heard mention of a brother. Perhaps his blood will be pure enough.”
Name:                                                     Urufu, Shikarou
Age:                                                       250
Residence:                                             Caomh Sith, Blue Continent
Region:                                  Scotland
Status:                                                    Active
Rank:                                                      60
Security Clearance:                              Eta
                Tamer                                     Y
                Master Tamer                       Y
                Researcher                            N
                Watcher                 N
                Breeder                  Y
Active Harem
Species                  Name                                      Level
Alaka-Wham                         Circe                                       71
Unicorn                  Branwyn                                58
Milktit                                    Helen                                      57
DragonQueen                       Bellona                   51
Seraph                                    Dorothea                               49
Ria                                          Kebi                                        47
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko      46
G-Spliced                               Pythia                                     45
Vampire                  Elizabeth                                43
Sphinx                                    Lorelei                                   43
Blazicunt                                Marzia                                    40
Mini-Top                               Nanu                                      39
Hun                                        Hanmei                   28
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        Bellona
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
                                Ireland: Belfast
                                England: Plymouth,
                                Wales: Magicunt Village