Chapter 45
                Branwyn sighed dramatically. “Tell me again why we’re doing this?”
                Shikarou grinned. “You just like hearing me say I’m stupid, don’t you?”
                She looked innocently at him. “Me? Hear you say something like that?” A smile appeared. “Perhaps you’re right. So, tell me again why you’re doing this?”
                He gave her an amused look. “This morning we went to Leticia’s birthday party, and I did a very stupid thing.”
                “How stupid was it?”
                “I think you’re hoping I’ll say it was incredibly stupid. Well, in retrospect, it was. Because Katherine didn’t invite us until last night, we didn’t have anything nice to give her. Therefore, I told Leticia that I’d get her anything she requested, as long as it was under 3000 credits and didn’t involve me marrying or getting anyone pregnant.”
                Yushiko giggled.
                Shikarou ignored her. “She asked for the complete Mineko and the Pussycats Fun-Pack of dolls and associated clothing. The retail value is 3200 SLC, but I decided that was close enough. However, you cannot find one anywhere since it became an instant collector’s item. The stores around the Blue League and the ones in Indigo are backordered for the next six weeks. Then, Helen came up with the bright idea of dimension hopping to find one. I’m only going to shift one step on the d-axis, so Mineko should be popular there and we can wait the six weeks if necessary. Once we’re ready to return, I’ll adjust the coordinates to ensure we come back about an hour after we left.”
                His ears flicked. “You thought it a wonderful idea since it gives you and the rest of the harem six weeks of shopping if we have to wait.”
                The Unicorn looked surprised. “What? Six weeks of shopping and resting with my husband and family with no responsibilities? Wait, you’re absolutely right. I hadn’t considered that fact, but it does sound splendid.”
                Yushiko giggled again.
                Branwyn glanced at her. “You can stop that at any time.”
                The Armsmistress smiled broadly. “You were trying to be funny and I don’t understand why you’re upset since I thought it was.”
                “She’s got you there.”
                Branwyn chuckled and took his arm. “She is right. You have my apologies, Yushiko. When do we leave?”
                “As soon as the tent is packed and put away.”
                “Well now, I’ll see about expediting that.” She headed off purposefully.
                Yushiko watched her leave. “The rest will do you well, my lord. Candace is still concerned about the aftereffects of your meshing with Germanicus.” She gave him a cautious look. “We all are.”
                He nodded slowly. “I think you just might be right about me needing some rest. A few days relaxing and sipping plum wine might be nice for a change.”
                “You’ll be drinking plum wine? You will share, won’t you?” She kissed his cheek. “After all, you are a good lord and you don’t forget your loyal servants.”
                “I’ll keep that in mind.”
                An hour later, he shrugged on his pack as Branwyn put the rest of his harem into their pokeballs. He glanced over at her as she moved behind him. “I’m surprised everyone wants to go.”
                She grimaced as she loaded pokeballs into his pack. “I’m pissed about it. I wanted more personal time with you than I’m going to get now. How about I drop some of them on the ground and we pick them up when we return?”
                Yushiko cocked her head. “While I’d like more time with him too, it wouldn’t be fair to the others.” She brightened. “We’ll just have to stay long enough to make sure everyone gets to spend enough time with him.”
                Branwyn snorted. “That would probably take decades and I don’t want to raise children away from the island.”
                “I suppose you’re right. Still, we can stay the six weeks everyone is anticipating even if we find the toys right away.”
                The Unicorn gave Shikarou a curious look. “Well?” She returned Yushiko without taking her attention away from him.
                “I don’t see why not,” he replied. “We’ve earned the time off.”
                “I knew I agreed to marry you for some reason.” She took his arm and the view changed as they teleported to just outside of Glasgow. She released Yushiko.
                The Armsmistress looked around as she checked her swords. “I have him, Branwyn.”
                “Good.” The Unicorn handed him her pokeball. “I guess it’s my turn. Yushiko, watch him closely.”
                “Yes, my alpha.” She watched him put Branwyn’s now full pokeball in his belt. “Is Kasumi coming?”
                “No, she just bought a lot of clothes when she was last in Edo and isn’t all that impressed with Blue League furnishings. She wants to focus on the school right now, and if that makes her happy, then so be it.” He chuckled. “And before you ask, I sent Poppet a note and she told me to have fun, but not too much. She’s busy getting everything ready to turn the Conservatory over to Devon.”
                “Yes sir.” She watched as he checked some notes before casting the spell to open a portal.
                He emerged in the same place, but now it was night. A full moon shined brightly overhead and in the distance he could see fireworks detonating over the central part of the city. The faint explosions drifted over them in counterpoint to the flashes of light.
                Yushiko checked her swords again as the portal closed and they headed towards the town. “What do we do now?”
                “We find a policeman and ask if we can camp or if we need to get a hotel room. I hope we can camp, but I really don’t want to break the law. I suspect that being arrested is more than slightly counterproductive to that whole concept of relaxing and having a good time.”
                The Armsmistress chuckled. “Yes, I would think so, my lord. Is that an OfficerJenny across the street?”
                Shikarou looked. It looked like one, except for the fact that she had bright red hair.
                The OfficerJennys of this world have red hair. I’m updating your pokedex with the appropriate files. The access codes are also different but they pose no problems. I’m also giving you a provisionary identity and setting up the protocols necessary to use the money in your pokedex accounts. Please remember, when that is gone, you will be broke since you have no bank accounts here.
                “Thank you, Aggie. Yes, it is. Let’s go say hi.”
                The police pokegirl watched them cross the street. “Good evening, citizen. Is there something I can do to help you?”
                “Good evening, officer. We’re new in town and I wanted to know if it was acceptable to camp or if I have to get a hotel room for the night.”
                She smiled. “It’s perfectly legal to camp in the designated camping zones, but they’re all full for the fair.”
                “Um, what fair?”
                “There’s a magic fair starting tomorrow. It’s being put on by some mages from Vale in order to showcase magic and its development for the last three hundred years.” She gave him a curious look. “You must have been far from anywhere not to have heard about it.”
                That was definitely a question to avoid. “It sounds impressive. I take it that’s what the fireworks are for?”
                “Yes, they’re demonstrating some of the more exotic spells before the opening parade starts the official fair. It’ll be at nine tomorrow morning.” She frowned. “Most of the hotels are full. I’d suggest trying some of the cheaper places. The mages tend to conglomerate in the most expensive ones.”
                Shikarou had been planning on staying at one of the most expensive. They were supposed to be resting, after all. He sighed. “Any you’d care to suggest?”
                “The Come On Inn isn’t that far from here and its vacancy light was still lit an hour ago.” She pointed. “It’s down there about seven blocks. Look for the digital Milktit trying to entice passersby.”
                “I’ll do that.” He read her nametag. “Should I tell them that Officer Pauline recommended it?”
                Her teeth flashed briefly in the streetlights. “If you do they’ll only tell you to shove off. We raid them fairly regularly since they like to have illegal gambling in some of the rooms.”
                “Is that likely to happen tonight?”
                Her smile widened. “No, we’re all out on street duty tonight. The powers that be wouldn’t want anything bad to happen during the festival. They’re hoping it’ll become an annual event.”
                “Ah, I sense the power of the almighty credit at work.”
                She nodded. “Yes. We on the force don’t particularly like it, but it’s those credits that help to keep more Jennies on the streets. Good evening, Tamer.”
                “And I wish a good evening to you, Officer Pauline.”
                The display was just as garish as he’d been led to believe. An anime Milktit thrust her breasts out towards the street before turning around and wriggling her rump. A sign below her announced that they had vacancies and that taming rooms were available.
                Yushiko blinked when the display reset and the Milktit squirted milk from her nipples. “Tasteful,” she murmured dryly.
                “I suppose that’s one word for it.” He headed inside.
                The place was seedily decorated and there was a faint smell of something sour. The desk clerk was a young man who gave off an aura of unhealthiness. He was reading a magazine and glanced up at both of them when they entered. “Our taming room is occupied and if you wreck one of the other rooms you’ll be billed for the damages.”
                Yushiko looked offended. “Good evening to you too.”
                Shikarou made a motion with one hand and she took a deep breath before stepping closer to him as he spoke. “I want a room for the night.”
                The desk clerk nodded. “We’ve got a room available for 25,000 SLC for the night. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.”
                “I take it the fair has made it a seller’s market?”
                The man looked confused. “What?”
                “Never mind. One room, one night.” They’d find something better in the morning or camp far enough out of town to avoid being fined.
                The clerk transferred the funds and handed him a keycard. “Checkout is at 10 am. If you’re a minute late, you’ll automatically be billed for another day. If you keep the keycard, you’ll be billed for another day and the replacement cost of the key whether or not you check out on time.”
                “I’ll keep that in mind.”
                Yushiko smiled slightly as the elevator rose towards the top floor. “Branwyn is going to love this place.”
                “Yeah, I think you’re right on that score. In the morning we’ll find someplace else if we have to fly halfway to Caomh Sith and teleport back and forth every day.”
                She looked startled at a thought. “Caomh Sith. I wonder if it exists here. Do you think there are versions of us on this world?”
                “I have no plans to find out.” He chuckled. “I don’t need to meet another me and especially not another Dorothea.”
                I have no indications of a beacon claiming possession of this world for any Tirsuli clan. Since Faelan set up the beacon immediately upon his arrival, it’s unlikely any analogs of you exist here.
                Yushiko had a second question. “What if there is another Kebi?”
                His face froze and his ears went flat. “No.” The Armsmistress bowed her head obediently at the finality in his tone. They were silent for the rest of the ride.
                The room was tiny, with a single twin bed, a television and a small bathroom with a shower. There was a faint scent of cleansers that didn’t cover a musty odor. Shikarou smiled slightly. “It’s a good thing I had no expectations or I would surely have been disappointed.”
                As soon as he released her, Branwyn summed it up for everyone. “This is a dump. The place smells and the walls are paper thin.” She gestured at one wall where the loud sounds of sexual activity could be heard coming from beyond it.
                Shikarou pulled out his wand and made the room soundproof. “There, that at least, we can control. In the morning, we’ll find someplace else to stay.”
                Branwyn poked the mattress experimentally. “I think my pokeball is more comfortable than this bed. I’ll let someone else have tonight with you.” She smiled. “It would have to be someone who deserves a night in a place like this.”
                “Svetlana’s not here. That and she’s not my pokegirl.”
                Branwyn and Yushiko both stared at him for a moment before bursting out laughing.
                 Shikarou shrugged into his shirt and glanced around the room to make sure he wasn’t forgetting anything. He’d been assigned Nanu as his bodyguard for the night but had refused to make her stay in this room and had put everyone into their pokeballs. Instead of lying in that nasty bed, he’d spent the night reading the Grimoire of Danu, studying it try to find a way to deal with Eoghan. It had been a productive night; he now had the bare bones of a plan and only time would tell if it would work properly. Still, at this point he was pleased to have any kind of hope of ending this; hopefully, without a bloodbath that would cost him more of his family.
                He checked the room one last time and released Yushiko. She looked around and frowned. “Where is Nanu?”
                “Resting.” His eyes narrowed at the look she gave him. “It was my decision to spend the night alone. There was no reason to inflict this place on anyone else.”
                For an instant she looked like she wanted to argue with him, but didn’t. “I hope you had a quiet night.”
                “I did. The soundproofing saw to that.” He grimaced. “Let’s get out here and find someplace to set up camp. I’ve gotten too used to Helen’s cooking.”
                The Armsmistress nodded and followed him out.
                He paused in the hallway and frowned. “I smell blood.”
                “I’m not surprised in this place.” Yushiko muttered. “I doubt that’s all you smell, too. Do you think there is a threat to us?”
                He shrugged. “It’s not our blood. I do think that this is an odd place and I’m not going to recommend it to my friends.” He took a deep breath. “I also smell corruption, which means that the blood must be a couple of days old. I’m surprised I missed it last night.”
                She touched his shoulder. “My lord, you were busy dealing with memories that I should not have stirred up.” She blinked and drew her sword in a smooth motion. “My lord, up ahead!”
                The door to the hotel room closest to the elevator was partially open and fresh blood decorated the carpet in front of it.
                Shikarou and Yushiko eased forward until they were even with the door. He made a motion and she nodded and took position to one side of the doorway as he summoned his sword. His other hand drifted to his belt and traced along his pokeballs before selecting one.
                With a sudden move, she smacked the door open and darted into the room. “Clear!”
                Shikarou walked in slowly. More blood specked the bed, carpet, walls and a few red dots glistened on the ceiling, but other than that, the room was empty.
                Yushiko didn’t look happy. “What do you think happened here?”
                “I’m not sure. I smell the same odd scent as in the hall, but it is stronger here.” He looked thoughtful for a heartbeat. “Maybe the situation has already been dealt with. We’ll go downstairs and let the desk clerk know about it. I don’t want to get caught without an identity if I can avoid it and the awkward questions it usually causes.”
                The front desk was unattended and Shikarou leaned over the counter. “Hello?” He raised his voice and tried again. “Hey!”
                After a couple of minutes, he frowned and dropped the keycard on the desk. “Since it is six am, if they charge me for a second day I’m going to come back and be very upset.” He sighed. “I guess we’ll have to find a policeman and tell them something odd is going on here.”
                Yushiko touched his arm. “I think you should have more security. Dorothea is next on the protective detail rotation. Please release her.”
                He nodded as he reached for his belt. “You are absolutely right.”
                Yushiko looked surprised enough for Dorothea to draw her sword. “What is it, Yushiko?” She looked around alertly as she spoke.
                “He didn’t argue with me over more security.”
                Dorothea blinked and smiled. “Are thou sure it is him? Perhaps our lord was spirited away in the night and replaced with a doppelganger.”
                “That’s very funny.” Shikarou shook his head. “Put your weapon away. We’ve got a problem. Something odd is going on here and I don’t understand any of it. That sounds like a good reason for more security. Yushiko, brief her while we look for some police.”
                “Thou are seeking out the police, my lord? This is a strange situation indeed.” Dorothea sheathed her sword and took up position with Yushiko as they followed Shikarou outside.
                The street was quiet in the early morning light. A group of people were clustered in a circle a few blocks away, looking at something in their midst while a lone figure waited idly across the street from the hotel, looking in the window of a convenience store. Shikarou recognized her uniform and, a moment later, her red hair. “Hey, there’s an OfficerJenny.”
                “My lord, her hair is the wrong color.” Yushiko whispered briefly to Dorothea. “Ah. My apologies, my lord, I did not know.”
                “None are necessary.  I wonder if it’s Pauline. Hey! Officer!” He started across the street when she turned around.
                It was Officer Pauline, and yet it wasn’t, he realized as he ground to a halt. Her eyes were empty and dried blood ran in a sheet down her uniform, from her bloody mouth to the end of her short skirt, and continued down her legs to her knees. She made a lurching motion and started towards them.
                What the? Crap. ZOMBABE! DO NOT APPROACH HER! Data filled his mind as Aggie fed him information on Zombabes.
                “That’s a Zombabe!” He backpedaled and pulled his guards with him. “Stay away from her.” A glance up the street showed the crowd had turned and was slowly headed their way, leaving behind something on the ground. It was shapeless and surrounded by a pool of dark liquid. “Oh, shit. I think I’d like to be airborne right now. Rooftop, ladies. Please make it an empty one.” He hit the oncoming group with a fireball as Yushiko’s wings shimmered into existence and she wrapped her arms around him.
                The advancing pokegirls made no sound as the fireball detonated in their midst, sending charred bodies flying in all directions. Dorothea climbed rapidly and circled overhead as Yushiko headed upwards with her charge. The rooftop of the convenience store was empty and they landed there. Yushiko frowned as she let him go. “What’s a Zombabe?”
                “They are contagious undead.” Dorothea was scanning the roof and surrounding areas. “Their bite will turn pokegirls and human females into Zombabes and if they are destroyed by anything other than fire or holy power from a powerful enough Celestial, they release a mist that does the same thing. A human male dies a slow and agonizing death that lasts for days. Other than fire or holy might, they can only be destroyed by destroying the brain or decapitation.”              
                Yushiko turned slightly green and Shikarou remembered the Japanese dislike of death or the dead. “Are they evil spirits?”
                “No,” Dorothea replied. “They are pathetic souls who would make the world in their image, but they are not evil.” She turned to Shikarou. “My lord, they must be destroyed or they will be a blight on the Blue League.”
                “First, we need to find out how widespread the infection is. Aggie, use my com to contact the police and inform them of the situation.” He looked around. “This roof is too cluttered to set up the tent, so we’ll be moving to a different one in a bit.”
                “Why is that important?” Yushiko had edged away from the edge of the roof and was scanning diligently. Her swords were now in her hands.
                “Melee combat is a losing proposition and I want to get to Nanu’s armory so she’s not the only one with firearms. We’ll all want them.” He frowned. “They won’t be enough, we’ll have to acquire more weapons eventually, but that’s a problem for another time.”
                I have only gotten voicemail systems at the police stations I’ve tried. I’ll try accessing security cameras across the city to locate any police. There was a pause. I am seeing only Zombabes everywhere. Perhaps Circe can locate surviving police forces by looking for their minds. Satellite access is being blocked so completely it’s like they aren’t there at all.  If I hadn’t detected them yesterday I would presume there were none.
                What happens if you get bitten? I have nowhere to go if you are killed.
                “I’ll endeavor not to have that happen, but you can always retreat to my pokedex before seeking out Branwyn or another member of the harem. They’ll honor our agreement.” He released Circe and Pythia. “Ladies, we’ve got a Zombabe problem here in Glasgow. Circe, scan outwards and find me someone we can tell about this problem. Pythia, overflight.”
                He turned and looked down in the street where the Zombabe that had been Pauline watched them with infinite patience. “There’s no saving her, is there?” His voice was even, but still a thread of sorrow ran through his words.
                Dorothea shook her head. “No, my lord. Thou cannot save her life, for she has none. She is dead and undead. Only true death will release her soul. Was she important to thee?”
                He sighed. “I was afraid you’d say something like that. No, she isn’t really important, but so far I’ve met two people here and she’s the only one who was polite.” He obliterated the Zombabe with another fireball. “Rest well, Pauline.”
                Circe was looking less and less happy. Finally, she gave him a grim look. “I have found someone on the outskirts of the city, that way. They feel like mages.” She pointed in their direction. “I can detect nothing else, not even rats. We are the only living beings in Glasgow.”
                At the last census, the population of Glasgow was over a hundred and ninety thousand people.
                Shikarou stood for a moment as those words sank in. “Aggie says the population of Glasgow was about two hundred thousand. Depending on what happened, most of them may be Zombabes. In any case, they are either fled or dead.”
                “My lord!” Yushiko pointed as a crowd of Zombabes slowly made their way down the street and began to fan out around the store. They stretched up the street, apparently without end.
                There was the hiss of pneumatics and cheerful music sprang up as the automatic doors of the store opened when one of the undead tripped the detection beam. Zombabes began to stream into the store beneath them.
                Shikarou activated his com. “Pythia, find us a police station or something similar with a good field of fire. We’ll want to fort up somewhere secure.  It doesn’t matter if there are Zombabes in it, we’ll have to clear the building anyway.” He reached for the pokeballs holding Branwyn and Bellona. “Circe, brief everyone before we leave. Branwyn,” he began as she appeared, “listen to Circe and don’t ask any questions until she’s done. Dorothea, Yushiko, overflight. Bellona, you’ve got me for the moment.” He began casting a spell.
                There was silence for a long moment as Circe briefed her alpha and beta. Finally Branwyn shook herself. “We need to warn the people on the edge of town.”
                “I think they already know.” Shikarou rubbed his cheek hard enough to leave a red mark. “I just tried to open the portal back home so we could run if we had to. The whole place has been sealed. Teleport, gates, any form of hyperdimensional travel has been blocked. I suspect we’ll find forcefields on the city’s edge. There have to be mages nearby who are keeping this place bottled up and Circe said the people she located are probably mages.”
                “That means we can’t use teleport for travel throughout the city.” Circe looked even unhappier than earlier. “There goes a lot of our mobility. What are our plans?”
                “We find a base and then we see if we can leave the city. I’d rather have a stronghold set up if we can’t and something happens while we’re finding out. Pythia will let us know when she finds something suitable.” He sighed. “Aggie, I want you to start keeping a count of our kills. There is a bounty on Zombabes and we might as well collect it. Also, start checking your map of the city. I’ll want to know the location of every Tamer supply shop, police station, jail, and anywhere else there might be firearms or ammunition.”
                I’m on it.
                Branwyn nodded. “We’ll also want to know the location of all the pokegirl centers and hospitals. We’ll clear them and block access so they can become refuges if they’re strongly built. Some of them also have armories for pokegirls and police.”
                She broke off when there was a flicker and a human appeared, standing in front of Shikarou. He smiled. “Your telepathic pokegirl alerted us to your presence and I’ve cast a spell to communicate with you by sending this illusion of myself. We didn’t know anyone was still alive here.”
                “I think we’re the only ones. What happened?”
                “There was a disruption at the fair last night. Some anti-magic demonstrators tried to stop a mage who was casting a spell. He was interrupted and something happened which intensified the spell effect beyond anything we’ve seen before. He was casting the spell Zombie and somehow it turned every pokegirl in the city not in a pokeball into a Zombabe. They quickly killed their Tamers or owners. Even we had losses.” He cocked his head. “How is it that your pokegirls were not affected?”
                “They were in their pokeballs. How can we get out of here?”
                A slight frown appeared. “You cannot. We will not lower the barriers surrounding this city until the menace is destroyed and we can’t make small openings to let you out. We think it will pass on its own accord in about six months, so find a place and make yourself comfortable until then, if you can survive.”
                “So we’re on our own?” Branwyn looked stunned. “You’re actually leaving us to die?”
                “While it is correct that we cannot aid you, we accept no responsibility if you are unable to survive. What happened is not our fault.”
                “You cast the spell that caused it and it’s not your fault?” Bellona murmured quietly.
                If he heard, the mage ignored her. “The Blue League is adamant that this infection be contained. Tamers won’t be sent in for at least six months to assess the situation. If you can speed the process along, we would, of course, be grateful.” He didn’t sound hopeful. “The illusion spell wanes,” he warned as he began to flicker. “I will come when I can to see if you still live. Good luck.” His image suddenly popped like a soap bubble.
                Shikarou said a bad word in Japanese. “I’ve known oni with more compassion than that human,” he dragged out the word as if it were an insult, “has got.” He grimaced. “We’ll definitely need that base now.”
                Branwyn’s lips thinned in anger. “Shikarou, I want you to set up some protective spells so he doesn’t appear in our bedrooms or in the tent anywhere.”
                Bellona gave the Unicorn a worried look. “We’ve possibly got other problems. If pokegirls in their pokeballs weren’t changed into Zombabes, then there’s a city full of pokeballs that contain pokegirls who are going to go feral. If they’re powerful enough, they may be able to escape from their pokeballs at that point. A couple of powerful Dark Lady’s or Neo Iczel on the rampage who happen to be trapped inside the city with us may make us remember the Zombabes with nostalgia.”
                Shikarou’s ears flicked. “Not to mention the question of where we’d go if someone fired the city.”
                Branwyn paled as that thought sank in. “There’s an Underground here. The Zombabes in there would survive if the city burned and we can flee to it if we have too. We’ll have to make a base there just in case and we’ll have to make sure that any buildings we decide to use don’t have an access to it that the Zombabes can use to get to us.”
                “I have no plans to burn the city.” He frowned as his mind worked. “Six months is a long time. We will have to presume that the power will be lost eventually.” Shikarou glanced upwards at Yushiko and Dorothea. “We’ll need food, water, weapons, and anything else we can think of. Everyone travels in at least pairs and we try to plan only to be out during the day. This is going to be hazardous enough as it is. I do not want accidents and too few of you can see in the dark.”
                Bellona looked thoughtful. “We’ll need to see if the tent will work. It works by accessing a hyperdimensional space and we don’t know if that will function under their restrictions.”
                “My backpack works under the same principle and it is fine, but you’re right. Besides, I want it set up so we have some comforts. And its power can’t be lost.”
                Pythia took up an orbit as Circe did a slow inspection of the roof of the police station. “It looks clear.” She did one last check and landed. Below them, a few scattered Zombabes began heading their way.
                The Dire Wolf landed and let Shikarou go before lifting off again and casting fireball on the closest group. Dorothea and Yushiko landed, their wings vanishing. Bellona hovered for a moment before folding her wings and landing lightly next to her Tamer.
                He released Branwyn. “Branwyn, Yushiko, cover the back of the building. Pythia, Dorothea, you’ve got the front. Bellona, Circe, let’s clear the top floor.”
                “Be careful, husband.” Branwyn launched a fireball at another group that was getting close to the building. “Keep them away. Since they won’t run, incinerate them all.”
                The roof access was a hatch and it appeared to be locked. Circe glanced up. “I can open it but I’m not sure if it’s going to rain through that shield they’ve got up.”
                “I hope so; we’ll catch water in tubs on the roof if it does. Tear it open. We can seal it later if we need to.
                The roof hatch peeled open with a shriek as metal tore. Bellona frowned. “We can’t reconnoiter by fire or the building will go up. It’s a good thing they’re not subtle.” She looked at Circe. “There’s not enough room for me to fly if something happens, so you should go first before he jumps down there.” She glared at her Tamer as he moved toward the hatch. “Where do you think you’re going?”
                Shikarou looked innocent. “Down?”
                “Not first, you aren’t.” Circe lifted off and slowly dropped down the hatch opening. “Move out of the way!” Suddenly a Zombabe came shooting out the hatch. She arced over the building and smashed into the ground below. More quickly followed. Soon there was a small pile of Zombabe goo surrounded by a pale purple mist at the base of the building. I have eliminated the Zombabes in the hallway. It’s safe to come down.
                Shikarou dropped down, closely followed by Bellona. He checked Circe over quickly. “I’m fine,” she snapped. “They never touched me. We’ll have to search room by room. Zombabes came out of some of the rooms, but I can’t tell if there are any left. I don’t suppose you have a spell that will find undead?”
                “Yeah, I do. It’s in my spellbooks, which are in the tent. I never bothered to learn it.”
                “Maybe you should.” Bellona gave him an amused look as she furled her wings.
                He snorted. “Hindsight, huh?” She chuckled as he continued. “All right, back to business. Let’s get this floor cleared out so we can control the access points. Circe, you open doors and Bell and I’ll stand by.” He glanced at Bellona. “I wish you could have learned ice beam.”
                She shrugged. “DragonQueens are weak to ice and you know it’s almost impossible for me to learn an attack I’m weak against.” Her eyes flicked in his direction. “You won’t make our home out of flammable materials, will you?”
                “That would be silly. All right, you use gust and wind to keep the mist away while Circe and I deal with our opponents.” He held up his hand. “Tanto.” A Japanese dagger appeared. “Circe?”
                “I’m ready.” She moved to the closest door. “I recommend checking all the rooms, not just the ones with closed doors.”
                “Pretty and smart,” Shikarou smiled. “That’s one of the many things I like about you.” His smile faded. “Let’s do this.”
                Circe nodded. Shikarou moved to the side of the doorway and glanced at the Alaka-Wham. She nodded again and he turned the knob and shoved. The door swung open and banged against something in the room.
                When a couple of minutes passed with no movement she glanced at him. “You or me?”
                “Ladies first, of course, otherwise our dragon over there will probably tattle to my wife and alpha.”
                “Damned right I will.”
                Circe nodded. “Very well.” She lifted off the ground and darted into the room. Her voice drifted out into the hall. “Males won’t become Zombabes, will they?”
                “Not as far as I know.”
                “Then the room is clear, disgusting, but clear.”
                Shikarou poked his head inside the room. A man lay awkwardly draped over the desk that dominated the room. His shirt was torn open and his belly had been eaten out. Bits of intestine littered the floor and blood was everywhere. “Apparently, they prefer the soft tissues,” he observed clinically.
                Circe turned and threw up. Shikarou grabbed her and held her while she emptied her stomach before helping her to clean up. She threw a baleful look in his direction. “I was managing to do quite well without your comments.”
                “I’m sorry; I forgot you haven’t been as intimate with deaths of this nature as I have.” He shrugged. “I developed gallows humor to compensate.”
                “Please keep your humor to yourself for now.” She took a deep breath and gagged.
                Shikarou pulled her face against his chest. “Take shallow breaths and think about how I smell. Focus on how I smell. Nothing else.”
                Slowly, she relaxed as he eased her out into the hall. He started to shut the door, but Bellona shook her head. “Leave it open so we know it’s been checked. We’ll just have to live with the stench until we can clean up.”
                Circe pushed away from his chest. “I think I’m ok now. Thanks.”
                “We help each other. That’s our greatest strength.” He pulled his canteen from his belt and offered it to the Alaka-Wham. “Rinse and spit before you drink.” He watched her closely as he took his canteen back. “Do you need to switch out with someone else?”
                She was pale, but looked determined. “No. I’ll be fine. If we’re going to be here for six months, I’ll be seeing that, and worse, a lot more before it’s done.”
                The next three offices were empty. When the door to the fourth was opened, two Zombabes came staggering out of the room. One had been an OfficerJenny while the other had been a Tigress. Circe plucked them off the ground with telekinesis and lofted them out the roof hatch like she’d done to the others.
                When they made it to the elevator, Shikarou pushed the call button. “I want to clear this one too, and then we’ll use the emergency stop to keep it here.”
                “Won’t the sound of the bell call the Zombabes from other floors?” Bellona asked wryly. “Of course, they’re likely to mass outside the elevator door on their floors. How smart are Zombabes?”
                Circe positioned herself where she could see inside the elevator when it opened. “They’re supposed to respond only on an instinctive level, but there are some indications that they may be able to somehow detect their prey. Nobody is sure, but they tend to show up in the area where the living just happens to be, even if nobody is doing anything to draw them. Statistically, it happens too often to be mere coincidence. Other indications are that some Zombabes show a higher level of cunning and can open doors or windows. Others have been reported sneaking up on people, but that could be just the fact that they are naturally quiet combined with someone being inattentive. There are also a few reports of fast moving Zombabes but those are considered anecdotal in nature.”
                “If any of that is true, the ones that find the stairs will be trying to come up here. We’ll need to barricade those doors until we can finish this floor.” Shikarou broke off as the elevator chimed and the doors slid open.
                The elevator was crammed full of Zombabes who poured out like a slow motion avalanche. Bellona instantly responded with gust just as Shikarou hurled his tanto into the forehead of the lead Zombabe. Mist blew back through the others and down the elevator shaft. Necks snapped audibly as Circe used her telekinesis to twist heads in a quick circle and more mist was blown away by an alert Bellona as Shikarou summoned more tantos and hurled them.
                Suddenly, it was over. As the last body fell to the ground, Circe blew air through her cheeks. “They look like living people and I’m not trained to kill like this. Will it get easier?”
                “Yes.” Bellona nodded slowly. “I learned to kill easily with Team Viper. You’ll learn here. I’m sorry to say that we all will.” She touched Shikarou’s arm. “If we train to routinely kill, it may make us useless for battling. You may want to replace some of us after this is over.”
                “If it does, I’ll retire. I’m comfortable with my harem the way it is.” He gave a slight smile. “I’ll become a Tradesman if I have to, although I’ll have to decide what profession will allow me to keep my current harem.”
                Circe snickered. “You could be a pokegirl mage.”
                “I’ve never heard of that one.”
                “I’m not surprised since it won’t exist until you create it. All your spellcasting pokegirls will be your primaries and anyone else will be security.”
                Shikarou suddenly looked thoughtful until Bellona nudged him. “Woolgathering isn’t going to help us survive here; which, I need to point out, we have to do before you can retire.”
                “You’re right.” He gave her an apologetic smile. “Let’s finish clearing this floor. Then we’ll block the doors to the stairs and rest before moving on.”
                “What are the final results?”
                Nanu pushed a piece of paper at him. “There are the scores. We were fortunate to find a small firing range in the basement.” She took a deep breath. “You are an excellent shot, but you already knew that. I am an excellent shot and you already knew that as well.”
                “And the others?”
                “Don’t rush me. I’m building suspense.” She smiled and pushed his chair back before settling into his lap. “Out of the other eleven members of your harem, results were mixed. Surprisingly enough, Candace is almost as good as I am. She said that in Wick, all the civil service pokegirls are expected to qualify with firearms. I think that’s a great idea and one we should adopt.”
                “The others.” Shikarou doggedly refused to let her change the subject.
                “Spoilsport. It turns out that Armsmistresses can learn about firearms and other ranged weapons just as easily as they can learn any melee weapon they use. Yushiko and Dorothea are crack shots, although Dorothea does not like using guns and instinctively tries to use her powers instead. Helen isn’t bad, but she’s going to need a lot more practice before I’d trust her to routinely take down Zombabes with headshots at a distance. Still, she shows a lot of potential.”
                The Mini-Top snuggled against him. “Circe is an incredible shot, or I thought she was, until I realized she was changing the bullet’s trajectory in mid flight with her telekinesis. I can’t get her to stop doing that, so I’m not sure just how good she really is.”
                “I’m not sure I’d worry about it. If it works for her, then I don’t see why she can’t continue to do it.”
                Nanu nodded. “Yessir. To continue, Lorelei and Bellona have the same problem, hands that aren’t exactly human. I removed the trigger guards from a couple of pistols and we tried that with mixed results. They’re more likely to have accidental discharges and those get people hurt.”
                “I’ll keep that in mind. Please continue.”
                “Pythia, Branwyn and Roisin are hopeless. Pythia flinches every time she pulls the trigger and Roisin keeps dropping the pistol when it goes off.” She snickered. “I’ve watched Branwyn closely. I know she does everything right, but still she’s a crappy shot. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone quite so bad. I think she’s got some kind of mental block about it.” Her mouth twitched. “It’s comforting to know that there’s at least one thing I do better than her.”
                “You do many things better than her.”
                She grinned. “Feel free to keep the compliments coming.”
                “I think I do. Your report?”
                “Elizabeth has as much potential as Helen, at least with rifles. She’s a lousy pistol shot.” She kissed his cheek. “She is a natural with a long gun and I’d like to train her as a sniper. But, for a backup weapon, I’d suggest a shotgun instead of a pistol.”
                He nodded thoughtfully. “I want you and Circe to take everyone, including me, into dreamtime and we’ll work on everyone’s issues. If we can’t teach someone firearms, we’ll see what they can learn. If nothing else, I can give Lorelei and Bellona halberds or spears to use for some kind of standoff capability.”
                “Anything’s better than nothing.” Nanu agreed as she draped his arms around her. “I want to look for a military depot. Glasgow is the capital of the Scotland region, it’s got to have at least one. They’ll have heavy weapons and many of us are strong enough to use them.”
                “We’ll see what we can find.” He kissed the back of her neck and she purred before twisting around to kiss him back.
                Multiple fireballs detonated in a calculated pattern, scattering suddenly dead Zombabes around the area like leaves. Lorelei dropped Nanu at fifteen feet and landed, swinging her battleaxe loosely as she waited for signs of movement. “All clear!”
                Pythia landed and let Candace go. The NurseJoy hurried into the building, closely followed by the Mini-Top. Pythia’s ears flicked as she glanced at Lorelei. The Sphinx was staring into an alley. “What is it?”
                “Something odd. I could swear I saw a Zombabe headed away from us.” She frowned. “I think it was running.”
                “I really hope you’re wrong. They’re not supposed to run and they always head straight for us.”
                The Sphinx nodded. “I hope I’m wrong too. We’re having enough problems with the sheer numbers of them. If they start to get crafty, things are going to get a lot more difficult.”
                The Dire Wolf kept scanning the area as she spoke, a thoughtful tone in her voice. Shadows were starting to move in the distance as Zombabes became aware of their presence. “Branwyn and Circe were worried about something like this happening. We’re acting like an evolutionary force on them, weeding out the dumbest ones first. I’m just glad they can’t breed. There’s really nothing we can do if it is happening, except deal with it when it affects us.”
                “We can be ready,” the Sphinx disagreed.
                “We will.”
                Candace bounded up the stairs, her pistol ready. She stopped on the second floor. “Where are you,” she yelled as Nanu came up behind her.
                “Down here!”
                Shikarou was holding Helen down as she convulsed while Elizabeth watched warily, her assault rifle ready. Candace knelt next to him and immediately started healing the Milktit. Helen went limp.
                Candace looked at Shikarou. “I got here in time. She’s going to be ok. Where and when was she bitten?”
                “She wasn’t.” Elizabeth looked unnerved. “We haven’t been in close combat all day. She just suddenly went into convulsions.”
                Candace made a decision. “Pokeball her. I want to take her back to Inverness and run her through a healing cycle.” They’d stripped a pokegirl center of all its healing and storage equipment and put it in their base at the police station. Every full pokeball they’d found went into storage until they could sort them out. Although Branwyn and Candace wanted to release some of the police pokegirls and NurseJoys, they were still unwilling to let Shikarou tame them. Nanu had called the place Castle Inverness at some point and the name had stuck. Later, someone had painted the name above the door lintel. “It has diagnostic equipment that will help me pinpoint where the infection came from. I’ll also have Circe examine her and see if she got injured and didn’t know it.”
                “We’re all going back.” Shikarou’s tone was final as Helen disappeared in the capture beam. “I’m not leaving her until I know she’s going to be all right and how this happened.”
                The NurseJoy gave him a wink. “At least you didn’t lop any pieces off anyone this time.”
                Nanu chuckled as Shikarou groaned. “How many times do I have to remind you that Branwyn had been bitten on the arm? I think I responded appropriately.”
                “I think you panicked, but that’s ok, it shows you love us. I’m just glad I was able to regenerate it.”
                Elizabeth smothered a laugh. “I’m just glad she forgave you.”
                He ignored her. “Let’s get back to Inverness. I want to know what happened and how to keep it from happening again.”
                Helen caught him looking away quickly when she glanced at him. “Candace says I’m perfectly recovered, so please relax.”
                He looked embarrassed. “I heard her, too; it’s just I was pretty worried about you.”
                She nodded as Candace smiled. “It’s good to see you’re so concerned about us. Now the question is how to work that to our advantage.”
                Lorelei wrinkled her muzzle in a grin. “The answer to that is obvious: as much as we possibly can.”
                Shikarou shook his head. “I’m still surprised that you were infected by ingesting something, but that’s why we’re here,” he gestured out over Mugdock Reservoir’s gently rolling waves. “We need to see if the water supply is contaminated and this is the supply for Glasgow, at least while the power lasts. Circe says the only thing you ate or drank while we were out was some water from the tap.”
                Helen’s ears flicked. “How could the water become infectious?”
                “That’s why Roisin is down there.” He gritted his teeth in frustration. “I don’t like her being alone.”
                “You can’t go with her and nobody else is as good a swimmer as she is.” The NurseJoy patted his shoulder. “She volunteered.”
                “That just makes her stupid for volunteering and me for agreeing. I don’t want to lose anyone else.” He frowned when he realized Helen was staring at him. “What?”
                “Stop that. You know as well as I do that she had to do this and that you had to let her. Trust me; I doubt she wants to be down there any more than you want her to. That’s why she has your pokedex and you have Aggie monitoring her.”
                He blinked and smiled slightly. “Maybe you should be the Tamer.”
                “I’m missing some necessary equipment for that and you won’t fit in a pokeball.”
                Several people, including Shikarou, laughed.
                Roisin is in trouble. She’s under attack and is trapped. The air was suddenly thick with tension. Her attackers are Zombabes. They were various water types. Undoubtedly, there were ferals living in the Reservoir before the mishap and they must have been affected by the spell.
                “Mishap?” Helen sounded outraged. “That was no mishap. That was a screw-up of monumental proportions.”
                “Fuckup,” Lorelei grunted. “Call it what it is.”
                Roisin has managed to work her way free. There was silence for a second. Oh. That’s certainly different.
                “What?” Shikarou glared at the water. “What is it?”
                Roisin has evolved to Wet Queen. Don’t attack her when she comes out of the water. She’s being pursued by the water Zombabes. Her ETA is thirty seconds.
                Shikarou glanced behind them at Elizabeth and Yushiko, who were watching for surprises from the land side. “We’re pulling back. Lorelei, be ready to grab Roisin with your telekinesis and get her to Candace for healing if she needs help. Yushiko, you’re with us. Elizabeth, you’ve got the land side alone. Be careful.”
                “I will,” she muttered. “I went from human to Vampire and, frankly, I’ll pass on any more changes.”
                Roisin exploded from the water in a dead run. <They’re behind me and there are a lot of the bastards!>
                “Over here!” Candace yelled and the Wet Queen changed direction without losing stride. She’d gained a handful of centimeters in her evolution and her hair was now bright yellow flecked with long streaks of red.
                Before she could reach the NurseJoy, the first Zombabe followed her out of the lake. Helen shot it in the head before it made it onto land. The next one was hammered by Lorelei’s feather shuriken and blasted back out into the water, where it sank from view.
                More appeared and Shikarou realized that Roisin had been right. There must have been hundreds of feral pokegirls living in the reservoir, mostly Boobfins. Guns roared and bodies began to pile up along the water’s edge.
                “We’re getting attention from the edge of the city!” Elizabeth fired her assault rifle a couple of times. She kept it in single shot mode most of the time to conserve ammo. “A lot of attention.”
                Shikarou slapped a fresh magazine into his pistol. “Candace?”
                “She’s in bad shape but she’s stable. The water must be poisoned; she’s absorbed Mega-Zombie poison through the skin of her entire body. She’s also got a lot of bite marks.” There was a flash of red. “I’ve put her up.” The NurseJoy drew her pistol as she slid to her feet. “We’re done here.”
                “Lorelei, get Candace out of here. Elizabeth, you’ve got me.” Pull out.”
                Helen cast a new spell and a cylinder of fire burst from her hands and smashed through the advancing Zombabe ranks as Yushiko grabbed her and took off.
                As Elizabeth lifted off with her Tamer, Shikarou turned in her arms. “Put me next to Helen.” He gave his Milktit an unhappy stare when close enough. “What the hell was that last spell?”
                She blushed and looked down at the city passing beneath them. “Firaga.”
                Elizabeth gasped. “How long have you known how to cast that?”
                “I only learned how to right before we left and I hadn’t pulled it off successfully before. Hatsumi taught me the night of the birthday party.”
                “How’d you manage that,” Shikarou asked incredulously.
                “I fed her.” She grinned. “I’d made some food for the birthday party and since Katherine insisted on taking care of all the cooking at the Conservatory, when Hatsumi dropped by I offered it to her instead of letting it go to waste.”
                “I noticed she wasn’t around. I figured it was because she’s not the most social sort.”
                “I knew she’d be there, so I’d made a new curry recipe I got from Kasumi. Hatsumi loves it and swears it’s the best she ever had, so she wanted to make a deal for the recipe. She gets the recipe and I get every spell she knows. I learned fire, fira and firaga that night, but I’ll have to go back for the rest.”
                Shikarou rubbed his eyes. “You just became an instructor. You’ll be teaching the rest of us what you learned.”
                “You think I have something to offer? That’s wonderful!” Helen beamed the rest of the flight back.
                Pythia went into a hover as Yushiko and Lorelei went into action. Fire bloomed in rapid succession around the building. The density of Zombabes in the area was low and it didn’t take long to destroy the ones in the streets.
                Branwyn nudged her transport. “It’s clear.” Pythia landed easily and let her go. The Unicorn pulled four pokeballs from the Tamer belt that graced her waist and released Candace, Roisin, Nanu and Elizabeth. “Ladies, our overwatch is in position. Candace, you’ve got Roisin and Pythia. Will you need anyone else?”
                The NurseJoy shook her head. “They’ll be fine. Do you think Shikarou will be safe back at Inverness?”
                “He’s got the rest of the harem keeping him company and we’ve blocked all the openings in the walls for the first three floors. He should be fine. Now, get going and don’t waste any time. Elizabeth, Nanu, let’s clear the first floor.” Pulling her wand from a pocket, she followed the Vampire and Mini-Top inside.
                “This is what I was talking about, my lord.” Dorothea thrust the door open. This particular room was one of several that Shikarou had added to the tent in response to a request from Branwyn for some extra rooms that were “for future use”, as she’d put it.
                He blinked. “That is rather impressive. Where did all of this come from?”
The room was full of stuff. Clothing hung from racks along the walls, electronic gear lay still sealed in boxes and he could see other items neatly stacked throughout.
                “Branwyn and the others have been looting Tamer supply shops, police stations and anyplace else that’s of value. I thought thou should know.” She drew him into the room. “Much of this stuff is of no use in fighting the Zombabes. What will thou do?”
                He frowned and then abruptly nodded. “I’m not going to do anything. It’s good for morale to have this and the Blue League abandoned the city. As far as I’m concerned, this is salvage and ours for the taking.”
                “But, my lord, all of this has owners who would not willingly give it to thee.”
                “We’ve circled the city borders and I haven’t seen hordes of people outside the forcefield clamoring to get in and fight the Zombabes. Just those idiots from Vale who started this whole mess; they’re only out there because, if they keep the city isolated, the Blue League won’t be upset at them for what’s happened. As far as I’m concerned, we’re the only owners of anything in Glasgow that we choose to want.” He shrugged. “Besides, it’s not like we can get anything close to a significant percentage of the valuables of the city in here.”
                “But, my lord, this is theft. What will Samantha think of thee?”
                “She’s not here. Leave it alone.” He turned and headed off, looking thoughtful.
                Dorothea waited until he was gone before shutting the door to the room. The corner of the room seemed to waver before Branwyn and Elizabeth appeared. The Unicorn smiled. “Nicely done, Dorothea.”
                The Seraph nodded. “Thou are welcome my alpha. I’m surprised that my lord wouldn’t realize that minor larceny wouldn’t really bother me, not compared to the threat that exists outside our door. Still, thou have his permission to take whatever thou can carry.”
                Elizabeth grinned. “Considering the strength of some of us, we can carry quite a bit.”
                Roisin chuckled as she watched her latest victims smolder in the street below. <It is an interesting life you lead, Sidhe. I have had many adventures since joining your harem.> She glanced up at him. <I’m also glad you live somewhere besides that accursed Ruby League. My home is the Blue League, not some icy hell.>
                Shikarou nodded and checked his watch. “We’ve got about half an hour before fireball fun starts. Why did you want to talk to me alone?”
                <I wished you to know that I will not, at this time, challenge Branwyn for the right to rule the harem. I find her leadership tolerable.>
                “Are you ever going to speak English?”
                <Why should I? Gaelic is a good language and I’ve managed to get everyone in the harem to learn it. You can use it as a battle language now.>
                He sighed. “Whatever. I’m glad you think Branwyn is ‘tolerable’, because I choose who is to be the alpha in this harem and not you or anyone else.”
                She nodded. <I understand this, which is why I wanted you to know that I was not going to cause trouble within the harem. I wanted to ask you to begin formal lessons in the spells that you have not taught your harem. I’ve looked through your spell books along with Bellona and there are many that you have never exposed us to.>
                He eyed her for a moment. “I’ll look through them and decide if any are useful here. Anything else will have to wait until we’re home and things aren’t quite so hectic.”
                <I will hold you at your word.>
                “I’ll keep it. Now, go get ready for the afternoon’s festivities.”
                <Yes, my king.>
                He watched her go and glared at the hordes of Zombabes around the base of the building. As the days crawled by, they seemed to mass around the police station, just standing and staring at them. It was unnerving to say the least, which is why he’d instituted fireball fun.
                A little while later, everyone gathered on the roof and began raining fireballs down on the Zombabes below. Shikarou, who was not participating in order to evaluate how much damage they were doing, was also watching for anything out of the ordinary. He’d been concerned about Lorelei’s report of a possibly running Zombabe. The idea that it had been running away from them had been even more disquieting. If they were developing some kind of survival instinct, they would become far more dangerous than before. In this particular circumstance, any change other than all the Zombabes spontaneously disintegrating was bad.
                He knew that if some advanced form of Zombabe existed, there would be researchers who would want to capture specimens for study. He’d feel bad about knocking them on the head and tying them up until that urge passed. Only a little, but still he’d feel bad about it, so all in all he was glad they didn’t have any of that sort around.
                After a bit, he waved Branwyn over. “Roisin just told me that she’s not going to challenge you for the harem and that she wants magic lessons to become a regular occurrence. Is this another one of yours?”
                She frowned. “What do you mean another one of mine?”
                “I know you and Elizabeth were in the room when Dorothea ratted out your loot. That was a check to see how I’d respond to it, wasn’t it?”
                She sighed. “How did you know?”
                His ears canted sideways. “I’m a wolf spirit. What kind of one would I be if I couldn’t recognize that your and Elizabeth’s scent was so fresh that you had to be in the room?”
                “I didn’t wear my perfume.”
                He gave her a surprised look. “I love you, Branwyn. I could pick your scent out of that of a thousand different Unicorns and know it was yours. I know your scent as well as or better than my own.”
                Suddenly, she looked pleased. “Really? That’s sweet.”
                “Was she another put-up job?”
                “What? Oh, no, she wasn’t. If I wanted to know that, I’d find out myself.” She winked at him. “I sent Dorothea about the salvage because I figured that if she couldn’t get you upset about it, then no one could.”
                “Actually, you gave me a couple of ideas about places I want to visit before we leave here.”
                “Oh? What did you have in mind?”
                He chuckled. “I’ll be taking out the team tomorrow. You’ll get to stay here and coordinate the defenses.” Early on they’d decided that one or the other had to stay and protect Inverness. While the chances of anything breaking into the building were slim, they weren’t going to take the chance. Facing Zombabes in combat was one thing, having them waiting for you at your base, when you were tired and possibly injured from previous combat was something entirely different. It was also something they were determined to avoid.
                Pythia slowed to a hover as Dorothea sped ahead. Shikarou looked up at her. “I want a good view of what she’s going to attempt. I’ve never seen it before.”
                “Don’t worry, I haven’t either, and I want to see this even more than you, since it’s something I may be able to do.” She drifted forward as Dorothea pulled up over the grandstands.
                This was where the mages had been showing off when everything had gone wrong. Acting under Shikarou’s orders, they’d avoided the place up to this point. He’d been worried about the magical residue that could sometimes infest the area of a major tragedy.
                The area was packed with Zombabes, all of whom had been facing the arena where the spellcasting had been taken place. Now, they began to turn towards Dorothea and Pythia as they sensed the presence of life. The stench was incredible as the slowly rotting corpses turned toward potential food.
                Dorothea suddenly began to glow as she summoned her Celestial aura. The glow grew until it was almost blinding and then shot away from her in an ever growing sphere. Shikarou’s skin prickled as it swept over Pythia and him. The Dire Wolf shivered in response to the power released by the Seraph.
                When the energy touched the Zombabes, they collapsed like puppets whose strings had been cut, making an ever expanding circle of true death. In an eye blink, nothing within sight moved.
                “Can you do that?”
                Pythia moved towards the grandstands. “I’m more powerful than she is, but I’ve never tried to do that. I will, though, as soon as I can.”
                Dorothea joined landed heavily next to them. “My lord, that was more tiring than I anticipated. I hope thou will not require that again this day.”
                “I hope not.” He stepped away from the two pokegirls and cast a spell. Various things around the grandstand began to glow a soft magenta. “Gather everything that’s glowing, ladies. After that, we’ll hit the displays inside the hall and see what other magic Vale was kind enough to leave for us.”
                Suddenly a figure appeared, flickered, and steadied. “You are not to touch the property of the mages of Vale. It is forbidden.”
                Shikarou gave him a cocky look. “Well, now, if you don’t want us to, then you just feel free to come here and gather it up yourself.”
                “This is the property of Vale!” The mage looked almost apoplectic. His face was red and his eyes bulged.
                Shikarou snapped his fingers and the illusion popped. “Go fuck yourself.” He glanced at the two Celestial pokegirls. “Hop to it, ladies, the Zombabes won’t give us much time.” He looked down the street. “Speak of the devils, here they come. Get busy.”
                Shikarou blinked in surprise when Vincent McMahon stomped across the table and glared at him. He spread his arms wide and growled. “You suck, you bastard, and I’m going to kick your ass.” He growled again and stomped away until he tripped over the edge of Shikarou’s plate and fell into his pancakes.
                “What the hell?” Helen picked up the toy and turned to give Elizabeth a glare. The Vampire looked at Vince dripping syrup and dissolved into giggles. “I do not want your toys disrupting breakfast.” She wiped Vince off on her apron and looked him over. “If I catch you playing with this again at meal times, I swear I’ll keep him next time.”
                Elizabeth’s giggles became laughter. “Go ahead and keep him, I’ve got twelve more of them!”
                Shikarou turned to Branwyn, who tried to smother her smile. “Where did you go yesterday, a toy store? Is that your big secret?”
                She kissed his nose. “Actually, dear, we visited almost every toy and miniature store in town. You are the proud owner of fifteen of the Mineko and the Pussycats Fun Packs.”
                He blinked. “I’d forgotten all about that.” He pulled Vince out of Helen’s hand. “I’ll take care of this.”
                She nodded and flicked her ears uncertainly. “I don’t think they belong at the table during meals.”
                He chuckled. “I don’t know about that, but I do know they have no place on my plate.” He glanced at Elizabeth and bit Vincent’s head off. She gasped as he chewed and swallowed.
                “Shikarou, don’t kill Vince! He’s my hero!”
                He bit off another piece. “He’s maple flavored, he’s on my plate and that makes him breakfast.”
                Helen frowned. “And just for the record, if any of you is considering the silly idea of covering herself in maple syrup and getting on his plate in the hopes that he’ll eat you, first you’ll get to help clean up the mess afterwards and second, if he doesn’t eat you, that makes you a leftover and I get to toss you to the Zombabes.”
                Everyone started laughing, and even Helen joined in after a brief moment.
                Shikarou dropped the remains of the toy on his plate. “Vince is too bony.” He turned to Branwyn. “We’ve got a full schedule today, I want to start here and spiral out, destroying as many Zombabes as we can. If we do this every day, hopefully we can reduce their numbers enough to start lowering the density throughout the city.”
                She nodded. “I’m not sure if we can keep it up long enough to see a real difference, but we’ll do it. If nothing else, I’d like to not smell them so strongly whenever I leave the tent.”
                She frowned at her toast and abruptly pushed her plate away. “I want to start having battle practice once a day again. Battling Zombabes isn’t all that physical most of the time and we’re getting out of shape. It will cut into our foraging, though, not to mention our hunting.”
                He nodded. “Go ahead. I did an inventory of our supplies yesterday and if we stopped foraging right now, we could fort up here for over a year. If we’re still here after that, we’ll put in some crops and I’ll get serious about trying to penetrate Vale’s forcefields.”
                “I know you’ve been trying to do that already. How much more serious can you get?”
                He smiled. “I haven’t been trying that, I’ve been working on drawing a ley line to Glasgow. The Grimoire says that they can sometimes be moved and we could use the power boost.”
                “Can we help?”
                “Yes, you could. However, you’re my alter ego here and right now you’re too busy. I’ve got Roisin helping me. She’s a natural at spellcasting and she’s been a lot of help.”
                “Should I be jealous?”
                “I don’t think so. I’m not married to her.”
                The Unicorn smiled. “That’s right.” Her smile vanished. “Don’t.”
                Without warning, the lights went out. Helen summoned a light and looked around. “Is everyone ok?”
                Yushiko nodded. “Yes. Let’s get to the roof and see how widespread the power outage is.”
                Helen loosened her pistol in its holster. “That and on the roof they can only come at us from one direction if they’ve broken into Inverness.”
                “That too.”
                Light spells lit up the roof when they arrived. Shikarou glanced at them. “Report to Branwyn. Both of you are with her.” He nodded to Pythia. “Let’s go.”
                Helen made her way over to her alpha. “What happened?”
                “The power plant is on fire.” She pointed in the direction of a distant glow. “Shikarou is going with a team to see if it can be put out.
                “What about us?”
                “We get to keep the home fires burning,” she laughed, “just not a brightly as the ones at the power plant.
                Yushiko frowned. “We’ll have to sweep the building again to make sure we’re safe.”
                “That can wait until sunrise. Shikarou was right, not enough of us are trained in night combat.” The Unicorn grimaced. “I hate it when he’s right like that.”
                “I take it we’ll be addressing the situation during training for a while?”
                “Yushiko, you are absolutely right. We will train until Bellona and I are perfectly satisfied.”
                Helen nodded. “We need to clear the roof of anything we don’t need, like those air conditioning units. They’ll just provide cover for the Zombabes if they do get up here.” She looked around. “We can set up the tent over there. Moving it to the roof is worth the risk of sending someone to get it.”
                Branwyn regarded her for a moment. “Shikarou was right. You would have made a good alpha. Take Bellona and do it. Stay in contact.”
                The Milktit chuckled. “The problem is, Branwyn, before I came here, I wouldn’t have and now that I might, too many others would make good alphas as well.”
                “Yes, but if we do have to start releasing some of the OfficerJenny and NurseJoys we’ve collected, you’ll be a team leader.”
                Helen nodded. “Hopefully, it won’t come to that. He’s spread thin enough as it is.” She looked around. “Where is Bellona? Oh, wait, I see her.”
                A short time later, the two of them stood in front of the tent. “There’s something else we need to do before we pack up.” Helen turned towards the DragonQueen. “I’ll need your help. I want to disconnect the healing machine and the storage unit and move them inside the tent. We can connect them to the tent’s power supply later.”
                Bellona frowned. “Can the tent supply power to something like that? I know we have wall current, but those are power hogs.”
                Helen nodded. “Some of my ovens are technological and they use the same power that those units require. I just hope the tent can provide enough or we may have to schedule healing around meals.”
                “It’s really that important for you to provide food for him, isn’t it?”
                The Milktit met her gaze squarely. “It is. You weren’t here when I joined the harem. I’d been rejected by every Tamer I’ve had before I came here. Shikarou not only accepted me into his harem when he had no reason to, he was ready to fight Ruiling over me. I’d go through hell for him and if he wants me to give him hot meals, I’ll be happy to do so.”
                She flicked her ears. “He’s let me fight because I wanted to and not evolve because I didn’t want to. Me. He let my opinion as to what happens to me matter. It’s as free as we can ever be, Bellona, and nobody is ever going to take that away from me again.”
                Bellona gave her a curious look. “Does he know how you feel?”
                “He does. He said that if I wanted to stay with him for the rest of my life that he would be honored by my choice.” She frowned. “We should be working more and talking less before Branwyn gets upset at our tardiness.”
                Once back on the roof, Bellona left Helen to set up the tent and went looking for Branwyn. “We’re back.”
                “That certainly took long enough. Were there any problems?”
                “No, Helen wanted to scavenge the healing and storage equipment. She thinks we can set it up in the tent. It’s a good idea and I think we should keep them permanently.” She glanced at the Unicorn. “We might want to collect another set of them. If they’re compatible with the ones in our world, it would give Caomh Sidhe transport capability.”
                “That sounds nice, but the Blue League would want to know where it came from.” Branwyn shook her head. “One for the tent is a good idea and we’ll do that if Shikarou agrees.”
                “What is the story behind Helen?”
                Branwyn blinked. “I’d have thought you’d heard it by now.”
                The DragonQueen gave her an odd look. “I really haven’t been here that long and in many ways, you and the others still treat me like an outsider. That and being your beta puts me at a distance from the rest of the harem. I’m their instructor, not their friend.”
                Branwyn looked startled. “You’re right and I owe you an apology. Roisin probably needs one as well.” She leaned against an air conditioning unit. “I need to think of something to welcome you and her into the harem.”
                “Thanks, but that’s not really necessary. Shikarou’s been good to me and that’s been enough. I am curious about the loyalty that he seems to elicit in most of his harem.”
                The Unicorn smiled. “Most?”
                “I’m still learning. It could be all.”
                “Most of it comes from him being good to everyone here. Helen came to us on Sadie Pokens. I believe you’ve heard about Ruiling?”
                “Just that she’s a bitch and everyone is glad she’s gone.”
                “That pretty much sums her up. Ruiling is a Neo Iczel who was salvage from a member of the Yakuza in Tomakomai. Circe was the one who won her. She never really fit in with what Shikarou and I saw as a proper harem and we expected her to leave on Sadie Pokens. However, for some reason, she felt that she needed to make a statement and found a Tamer who wanted her who also had a pokegirl that he felt he could be rid of.”
                “Helen. Ruiling beat her up pretty badly and tried to drop her onto Shikarou. He healed her up and stood down Ruiling over her. She’s been an integral part of the harem ever since.”
                Bellona blinked. “He stood down a Neo Iczel over a Milktit? That sounds insane.” Her lips pursed. “It also sounds like him.”
                The Unicorn smiled. “It does, doesn’t it? All of us have a story about him that paints him in a fairly good light, kind of like how he somehow knew that you were unhappy in Devon’s harem.”
                “I know how he knew. You told him.”
                “No, I didn’t. I mentioned that you were my contact, but not that you were unhappy. I’m not sure how he knew.” They shared a puzzled look.
                “How did you join his harem?”
                “Poppet was looking for someone to unload me on and he seemed like a good choice. If she’d have known what kind of relationship she was going to have with him, I’d still be in stasis.” She smirked at Bellona’s look of disbelief. “I’d have done it to her if the situation was reversed. I don’t want to share him, and especially not with my own mother.”
                “Has he tried for anything perverse? I mean, with the two of you?”
                “He’s much smarter than that. I think that he was as uncomfortable as we were when this all started happening.” She cocked her head. “And I must ask, what could be considered perverse if it involves pokegirls? Brothers tame sisters with disturbing regularity.”
                Bellona decided to avoid that line of thought to pursue another. “How did you feel about him taming Poppet?”
                She shrugged. “I knew about it from the beginning. He actually slept with her before he met me and he was very up front about the fact that he wasn’t going to stop on my account. I thought I could convince him that one Unicorn was enough, but I was wrong.”
                “Will it be awkward when he’s the father of some of your half siblings?”
                “I don’t think so. I’ll be much older than them and Poppet and I have agreed that I’ll be their mother, just like she’ll mother my children.” She grinned. “And yours and Helen’s and everyone else’s.”
                “How many children do you think there will be?”
                She gave the DragonQueen an amused look. “Christopher is a handful by himself and, while I don’t think we’ll have so many at any given time that we’ll be numbering them for convenience, I suspect that occasionally it will feel like we should.”
                Bellona snorted. “Perhaps instead of being a Tradesman, he should be a Breeder and start a pokegirl ranch.”
                “He’s already a Breeder. I’m not sure about the ranch, though. I think he’s hoping his daughters won’t have to be tamed.” Her braid shivered as she shook her head. “He’s an optimist. I think any pokegirl children will have the same problem no matter whose loins they come from. He wants to work on what causes pokegirls to go feral, but such research will take time and may not produce fruit during your lifetime or even mine.”
                “Perhaps we should set up the ranch and then tell him.”
                “That is an interesting idea and one we need to look at more carefully when things are quieter.” Branwyn gave Bellona a direct look. “But let’s not discuss it for now. Somehow, he gets word of things like that and that is a very good thing to consider without him trying to stop us.”
                “Yes, my alpha.”
                Shikarou looked over from where he was tending the barbeque grill. “Just for the record, I would like to point out that what you are doing is more than a little grotesque.”
                Pythia twisted her head around to look at him. “Are you ordering us to stop?” Yushiko and Elizabeth watched quietly.
                He snorted. “We’re on the roof of a building surrounded by Zombabes and I’m grilling steaks. I don’t think I have much room to speak. However, make sure your games don’t interfere with the rest of the party.”
                “We will.” She glanced at Lorelei. “Are you ready?” The Sphinx grunted her assent. “Yushiko, we’re ready when you are.”
                The Armsmistress nodded and raised her rifle. “Pull!” Two Zombabes shot straight up out of the crowd below and she and Elizabeth fired. Purple mist flew from one Zombabe.
                “Point for Elizabeth.” Lorelei wrinkled her muzzle in a grin as both Zombabes crashed back into the group and more purple mist sprang up. “That makes Yushiko forty two, Elizabeth thirty four.”
                Bellona leaned against her Tamer, watching Nanu, Candace, Circe and Branwyn as they danced to the music pounding from the stereo. “Helen wants to know if she can bring out the rest of dinner.”
                He eyed the steaks critically. “I think that would be a good idea. These will be ready soon. ”
                “You still don’t understand, do you?”
                “Bell, I understand that you Europeans think thirteen is unlucky and that’s why we’re celebrating the start of the fourteenth week. But if you look at the numbers emotionlessly, last week wasn’t any worse than the previous twelve.”
                The DragonQueen chuckled. “Yes, and unlike our big, bad, kami Tamer, we’ve never gone a straight thirteen weeks of continuous combat. We all needed a chance to decompress and a roof party is a perfect way to do that.”
                “Ok. Don’t forget the watch rotation.” He nodded to where Roisin and Dorothea were standing alertly as they scanned for threats.
                “I won’t. They get off in half an hour.”
                The steaks were on the tables and Helen was setting the last of the baked potatoes out when Dorothea stiffened. “My lord?”
                He jogged over to her. “What is it?” Thirteen weeks of combat had proven each and every member of his harem and he knew that Dorothea wouldn’t call him unless it was important. “Do you have another running Zombabe report?” They’d seen a couple of them so far and had made an effort to hunt down and destroy them. Unusual was bad in this situation. Except for that first one that Lorelei had seen, none had escaped them.
                She handed him her binoculars. “No, my lord, but thou should see what is on the roof of the building at the end of the street. I would tell thee what I saw, but I do not believe my eyes.”
                He glanced at her and raised the glasses to peer down the street. A frown appeared. “It’s a human male.”
                “That is what I thought I saw, my lord.”
                He nodded. “Circe.”
                The Alaka-Wham looked over at him and there was a burst of mental communication. She nodded and unfurled her antenna. After a moment she shrugged. “I don’t sense anything. Maybe Vale has finally reappeared.”
                “It’s possible.” After he’d collected the magic items Vale had left lying around, the mages had ignored them. He wasn’t sure he wanted them back.
                He frowned and handed the glasses back the Seraph. “He’s gone now. Tell your relief to keep an eye out for them.”
                “Yes, my lord.”
                The next morning Roisin burst into the tent in the middle of breakfast. <The mage is back and he’s on our roof. He wants to talk to you.>
                Shikarou nodded and rose as Roisin raced back to her post. Branwyn and Bellona followed him.
                This mage was wearing camouflaged body armor and helmet. “You are Shikarou? Your pokegirls identified you.”
                “I am.”
                The mage looked around. “I’m Lieutenant Carter. Nice harem you’ve got here.”
                “All of them were mine before things went to hell here.”
                The mage nodded. “We’ll have to verify that later, but that’s fine by me. We didn’t know that anyone was still alive in here.”
                “The other magi didn’t tell you? I’m somehow not surprised.”
                “What other magi? You mean the Valers? They left two weeks ago when we took over. I’m with the Blue League Security Force.”
                Shikarou nodded. “They knew about us. They’ve known about us since the first day.”
                Carter looked surprised. “They told us that they’d surveyed the city and everyone had died in the accident or been killed by Zombabes in the initial attacks.”
                “I’m afraid we’re the only survivors we know about, besides a whole raft of pokegirls who were in their pokeballs when the spell went bad.”
                Carter nodded. “Maybe you can help us then. We’ll be entering the city in four days and we could use your help in clearing the opening we’re going to make.”
                Shikarou frowned. “Vale said they couldn’t make selective openings in the shield. You can?”
                “Yes. It’s a simple spell.” He frowned. “I’d have thought Vale knew it. I’ll pass along what you’ve told me.” His image rippled. “I’ve got to go. I’ll be back to discuss the details of when we’re going to come in and coordinate with you.”
                “We’ll be here.”
                On the outside of the shield, the commando team of Tamers watched intently as Dorothea hovered over the roadway inside the shield. Below her, Zombabes watched her hungrily as her white wings flashed in the morning sun. Nearby, Pythia and Yushiko provided backup.
                The Seraph had gotten a lot stronger than that first time and she summoned and released her Celestial aura in the same instant. It exploded away from her and ripped the unlife from all Zombabes within sight. When it hit the shield a shower of multicolored lights appeared and the forcefield seemed to ripple for a heartbeat.
                Pythia glanced at the Armsmistress. “That’s interesting.”
                “Yes, it is. Academic though, if they let us out.”
                “We have to be their guides first,” the Dire Wolf reminded her. She snorted as red light flashed on the other side of the shield. “Now, they release their pokegirls. That should have happened before Dorothea opened the ball.” She cocked her head and frowned. Shikarou, they have nothing but combat pokegirls. No medical or other types in sight. Request Candace is released as support until I get a chance to evaluate how good they are.
                Shikarou’s mind touched hers. I’ll send her to you with Lorelei. Try to keep the BLSF personnel safe, but don’t put your life in danger to save them. After all, they’re supposed to be the experts. Ah, they do have fliers right?
                Yes, I see at least two flight capable pokegirls in each harem.
                Good. Keep me updated. Shikarou clear.
                Pythia moved to stand with Dorothea as Yushiko began an irregular racetrack pattern overhead. An entrance spun open in the shield and the first pokegirls raced through and spread out. They froze as Yushiko twisted in midair and a shot rang out. A window shattered and a body dropped five floors to smash on the ground. Purple mist settled around it in a pale cloud.
                “KEEP MOVING!” Pythia roared. “TO STOP IS TO DIE!” The pokegirls stared at her for an instant before finishing their deployment.
                Dorothea sighed. “We are going to have a long day, aren’t we?”
                “No, I fear it will last far longer than a day. They should put up their ground combatants and fly with us, but it looks like they intend to walk the whole way. I’ve already sent for Candace and Lorelei will be joining us as well.”
                “Thou are the ranking officer, but I agree with your assessment.”
                The Dire Wolf nodded. “Our orders are to protect them, but not get killed doing it.” She glanced up the street. “Here come our playmates.” Zombabes moved on the edge of view, moving towards them as always.
                “Do our orders include keeping them from being killed?”
                “Only if it doesn’t jeopardize our lives.”
                The Seraph looked thoughtful for a moment. “The loss of any of my lord’s harem might cost him his chance to defeat Eoghan. We cannot allow that to happen. They are more expendable than we are.”
                Pythia nodded. “I agree. We will not explain that to them, it would probably take until nightfall until they understood and then they wouldn’t appreciate our position.”
                Shikarou looked around the command post briefly. “Did you figure out what happened to the Tigress?”
                Carter grimaced. “It was as your NurseJoy figured. She received a scratch and didn’t report it. I’m sorry about your Armsmistress.”
                “We got to her in plenty of time after the Tigress attacked her. She’ll be fine. She was more upset about what happened than anything else.”
                Upset was an understatement. Yushiko had been in a frothing rage once they returned to the tent. She’d managed to avoid being infected the whole time they were alone and then one of her erstwhile allies had turned and bitten her, spoiling her perfect record. Now the prize for being uninjured the longest was down to Candace and Elizabeth, neither of whom had been infected so far. Helen was still arguing that her infection hadn’t been the result of injury and that she was still eligible, but Shikarou had ruled against her. Still, she complained about it from time to tome.
                Yushiko blamed the Tamer of the Tigress for what happened and had been bent on shooting the woman. Only Branwyn’s intervention had prevented the murder from happening. He sighed. Candace was right; it was a classic case of shell shock, or post traumatic stress disorder. The NurseJoy suspected they all had it to some degree, but as long as everyone remained functional, there was nothing that could be done about it.
                Yushiko had a couple of days off and was currently doing the cooking, which was eliciting complaints from the rest of the harem. They didn’t feel they should be punished for her behavior.
                “Beverly McDonnell arrived last night. She’s the undersecretary to the Minister of Pokegirl Affairs and she wants to talk to you about returning the pokegirls you found.”
                “Is she likely to say anything I want to hear?”
                Carter looked surprised at the acid in Shikarou’s voice. “Those are the property of the Blue League.”
                “Many of them belonged to private Tamers and I think they’re all salvage. I found them, without Tamers, and rescued them. It was a lack of time that prevented me from taming them into my harem. Granted, I probably couldn’t have kept all of them, but I do have storage rights and they should be mine to sell.”
                Carter’s eyes bulged slightly. “We’re talking about over five thousand pokegirls! Nobody has that much storage, Shikarou.”
                He nodded. “True, but I’m going to explain to Ms. McDonnell that I should be paid for them. And we have to discuss my bounty for the Zombabes we killed.”
                The BLSF mage sighed. “I’m glad I’m not going to be negotiating with you.”
                “I’m happy about that myself. You seem to be a decent sort, Carter, and I wouldn’t want you to sully yourself by having to associate with politicians.”
                “Bitter, are we?”
                “Let’s just say my experiences to date with them have not been uniformly positive.”
                Branwyn looked incredulous. “They are paying us how much?”
                “We’re getting nine hundred million credits. It’s the bounty they pay for Widows. Ms. McDonnell isn’t authorized to pay us more. She’s not going to be, either.”
                Bellona glared at nothing in particular. “We’re getting robbed. We have confirmed kills on over fifty thousand Zombabes. That’s over four billion credits. Can we do anything about it?”
                “Smile and hope they don’t shove it farther up our bums out of spite?”
                Branwyn fought a smile. “What about the pokeballed girls we collected?” She sighed when he just raised an eyebrow and shook his head slightly. “Oh.”
                “Yeah. We have to give them back.”
                “All of them?”
                “Yes. My current Tamer rank is barely sufficient to let me have twelve pokegirls, which I already have. I’m not going to be allowed an exception to that.”
                “What about the gear we collected?”
                His eyes glittered. “We have records indicating that we expended most of it. The amount of shell casings they’ve found around the city tends to confirm our story. They’ve chosen not to push their request to search our tent, which I have categorically denied.”
                He took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “We get what they offer or we get nothing. We did save over five thousand pokegirls. Granted, they’ll probably never know it, but such is the adventurer’s lot.”
                “We should have let Yushiko shoot some of them.” Bellona looked bitter.
                He chuckled. “Speaking of which, now that the Zombabe threat is ended we’re supposed to lay down our arms, at least those of us who don’t normally carry them.”
                “Ended? We destroyed another fifty or so yesterday.”
                “Ah, but the Blue League has declared the threat over, so the rest of the Zombabes should dissolve. Sadly, they’re too stupid to realize that. We, however, are smart enough to understand what it means and we’re expected to follow their rules.”
                Branwyn took his hand and squeezed it tightly. “We’re not going to get that decompress, are we?”
                “I know we talked about staying here for a month and just resting before going home, but the Blue League is going to hound us the whole time we are here.” He shrugged. “It won’t be much of a vacation.”
                “How long before we can collect our bounty?”
                “They’ll process the paperwork in a few more days, a week at the most. We’ll cash it out and leave right after that.”
                “What happens when we return home?”
                He smiled, this time with a bit of humor. “As soon as we get back, we’ll invest the money and then the three of us will fill out the paperwork to license the entire harem to carry firearms, even Roisin.”
                “Are you going to stay a Tamer?”
                ‘I don’t think so. I’ve been looking at becoming a Tradesman. The Blue League doesn’t have any homegrown mages per se, so pokegirl mage might be a good occupation for me and Kasumi. It’ll let us have teachers for the academy and Molly can shoot the idiots who try to take anyone from us.”
                Branwyn looked thoughtful. “That would work for Faelan too. That way we don’t have to worry about him or Svetlana.”
                “What about hunting ferals?” Bellona looked curious.
                “I don’t see why we can’t keep doing that. Other Tradesman classes do.” He grinned briefly. “The good think about creating your own occupational class is that you get to define it as you go along. Being the first, we’re automatically the experts.”
                The DragonQueen nodded. “That sounds pretty good. Um, one question: Who is going to tell Nanu she can’t carry that rocket launcher anymore?”
                Shikarou sighed. “I guess that’s my job, unless my alpha or her beta wants to do it for me.” There was a profound silence for over a minute as both pokegirls looked blandly back at him.  “Fine. I’ll take care of it.”
Name:                                     Urufu, Shikarou
Age:                                       250
Residence:                             Caomh Sith, Blue Continent
Region:                                  Scotland
Status:                                    Active
Rank:                                      63
Security Clearance:              Eta
                Tamer                     Y
                Master Tamer       Y
                Researcher            N
                Watcher                 N
                Breeder                  Y
Active Harem
Species                  Name                      Level
Alaka-Wham         Circe                       78
Unicorn                  Branwyn                72
Milktit                    Helen                      69
G-Spliced               Pythia                     67
DragonQueen       Bellona                   65
NurseJoy               Candace                 65
Seraph                    Dorothea               63
Armsmistress        Urufu Yushiko      62
Vampire                  Elizabeth                60
Mini-Top               Nanu                      59
Sphinx                    Lorelei                   58
Wet Queen            Roisin                     52
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        Bellona
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
                                Ireland: Belfast
                                England: Plymouth,
                                Wales: Magicunt Village
                                Ruby League: Polass Gym