This work is fiction. The work has no (intentional) relationship with any person existing at any time anywhere whether real or imaginary or copy written.

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         You should not read this if you are not of legal age where you reside. This work can contain rape, BDSM, cannibalism, and probably anything else my sick, twisted mind can come up with.










Note: All times are in a mix of military and standard times. For example, 1AM = 0100 hours = 1:00, while 1PM = 1300 hours = 13:00. I hope this will make it easier on readers to understand the timeline while leaving me in a format that I understand better. If it causes too much of a problem I will switch to standard. 




Chapter 36


         <08:00 India, The Day of the Fire>


         “HA! HA! HUWA!”


         The clang of metal rang out as Fu parried Cristina’s attack, the small blades in her hands sparking from the impact. With a matching cry she retaliated, her arms a blur as she sought to find a hole in Cristina’s guard. The Ophanim barely seemed to move, her sword and body dancing to deflect the strikes. With a yelp, Fu’s attack stuttered, one of her hands nicking the edge of Cristina’s sword. Taking the opportunity Cristina shoved forwards, pushing the Warvern off balance and driving her to the ground, where the two lay panting.


         “Again.” A voice called, Fu and Cristina groaning but struggling to their feet. Fu twirled her hand, resetting her grip on her Karambits as Cristina took a few deep breaths to steady her stance. Without a word, they clashed again.


         Nearby a low fog seemed to cover the area, as Ann, Melody, and Enya fired burst after burst at each other. In the fog, brief glimpses could be seen as Lucina and Gale sparred. Once in a while a burst went low, blasting a hole in the cloud. One of these bursts clipped a dodging Lucina, the Shadowcat crying out as she spun across the floor. Gale tried to take advantage, but before she could close Lucina had vanished once again.


         Apart from the others, a small ring had been erected. Inside prowled Nami, the hulking girl circling Constance as Shamira watched. With a roar she charged, easily grappling the dodging girl and bodily throwing her out of the ring. With a laugh Shamira vaulted over the tumbling Tank Vixxen, locking arms with Nami as the two strained against each other.


         Nevaeh watched the activities from afar and chuckled. “I told him she was the right choice.”


         “OI!” Nevaeh jumped when Aella spun and pointed at her. “YOU’RE NOT OFF THE HOOK. LYN!”


         The Archmage warily stood from her viewing position. “Yes?”


         “Nevaeh, catch her. Lyn, slow down or stop Nevaeh. That’s it.” She glanced between the two. “Well?”


         Nevaeh grumbled but stalked forwards, lunging at Lyn. As she did the Archmage shimmered, seeming to dissolve as Nevaeh impacted. With a grunt of frustration Nevaeh scanned the area, noting the handful of copies that watched her. “Fuck this.”


         Aella stepped back as Fu skid across the ground in front of her, the Warvern unmoving. She glanced over at Cristina, the Ophanim’s chest heaving as she struggled to stand. “Having fun?”


         Cristina just grunted, sweat dripping off her face. With a snicker Aella leaned down, energy suffusing Fu’s form until she stirred. “Keep going.”


         Cristina hissed as Fu stood, the healing giving her the power to stand but not much else. “Are you shitting me?”


         Aella shrugged. “You’ve been fighting for only 30 minutes. If that’s all the stamina you’ve got, then you don’t have enough.”


         Fu didn’t bother with a response, merely staggering forwards until she was in range before slashing out at Cristina.


         “So how are you training today?” Aella jumped at the voice, whirling to see Andrew watching her. “I was wondering where everyone had gone.”


         “Well, as you can see, everyone has a partner or partners.” Aella supplied, glancing over to watch Nami get tripped in the wrestling ring. “Fu and Cristina are sparring, Gale and Lucina are practicing with avoidance, Melody, Ann, and Enya are practicing their aim, and Shamira, Constance, and Nami are just brawling.” She blinked as Nevaeh released a slew of swears. “Oh, and Nevaeh is finding out how slippery Lyn can be.”


         Andrew chuckled. “I made the announcement last night. This morning I wake up to an empty bed and an Alpha running the team through stress tests.” He shook his head. “What have I done?”


         “Something good.” Aella purred, pressing up against him with a wink. “So. What’s your plans for the morning?”


         “Well, I need to do my own daily exercises.” Andrew mused. “So I guess I’ll do that. And I’m sure you need to be doing something while the others train…” He deliberately avoided Aella’s attempt to catch his eye. “I was going to start the morning spending some quality time with my new Alpha, but she made a good call in beginning some exercise…” By this time he was actively turning away from an increasingly agitated Aella. “Nope, can’t think of anything else I’d want to do. Guess I’ll just get myself all worked up by working out instead of anything else that might do it. Yup.”


         “You’re a right bastard, you know that?” Aella muttered.


         A smile tugged at the corners of Andrew’s mouth. “Then again, I will have to clean up after I get all hot and sweaty from exercising. It’s a shame our only shower doesn’t have a lock on the door. Someone might walk in on me. That would sure be embarrassing.”


         Aella glowered at his back as Andrew began to do squats, every third finishing with a kick. “You fucking asshole.”


         “But I don’t want to fuck your asshole.”


         Aella purpled and quickly hurried away, leaving Andrew to choke back his laughter in the middle of his set. Managing to get himself back under control, he let his exercises go on auto as he watched the girls spar.






         Andrew kissed Aella gently, the Shinryu having taken the hint and joined him in the shower. Aella tentatively knelt at his feet, her chest already lathered as she reached for his penis. She had just begun to move her breasts when a klaxon began to blare.


         “Cortney, what the hell is that alarm?” Andrew shouted, slipping as he tried to quickly vacate the shower. “Hey! I know it’s not taking too much processing power to respond to, so answer me, damnit!”


         He gasped in surprise as a towel hit him square in the face, Cortney standing outside as she fiddled with her life disk. “It is taking that much processing power because I have none to spare.” She finished removing it from his pokedex and tossed him the machine. “Matías or one of his envoy has triggered their distress signal. I have already scrambled a response team but it’s limited due to the chopper being out of commission.” She gestured behind him, glancing pointedly at his still stiff member. “Take care of that. Once you have, Lyn will brief you.” Her hologram shimmered as the disk seemed to fly out of the tent.


         “What the fuck?” Andrew breathed.


         Aella hesitantly stepped towards him, the sound of the shower still beating in the background, the alarm muted, but adding an extra layer of noise. “What is your confusion about?”


         Andrew shook his head. “Everyone’s been growing on their own without me. I guess I’m just surprised to suddenly see it today.”


         Aella pressed up against him, rubbing her naked body against his. “We’ve been showing it. You just have been so busy worrying about us.” She rested her head between his shoulders. “You’re perceptive. Exceptionally so, and you spend most of your time planning, preparing, making sure nothing surprises you.” She gently rotated him until they were facing each other. “But all of our growth went unnoticed, because you were too busy in your own little world. Yesterday you gave me a purpose, a direction, responsibility. I used it to make sure everyone else knew where they could go.” She leaned back with a huge grin on her face. “You gave us back the autonomy that we were working for. We were an arrow notched in a bow, the string tensioned to maximum. Just waiting for someone to nock the string.” She giggled. “Geez I’m bad with metaphors.”


         Andrew bent down and kissed her forehead. “No, I think you did fine. I finally let the arrow fly.” He pulled up the external cameras on his pokedex, scanning the area. “And all my arrows seem to have vanished.”


         Aella glanced down, seeing the small number milling around the helicopter. “Everyone who could fly is gone?” Andrew nodded. “I should probably join them.”


         Andrew shook his head. “Cortney was right to leave you here. You and I are too distracted to be useful right now.” He dropped the towel and the dex on top of it. “However, we are not going to waste time. I have no doubt Lyn is hooked in and waiting for us to join her.”


         Aella sighed, stepping forward and wrapping her arms around him. “I just wanted a relaxing rest of the day, enough time to finish what you started this morning. I’m not getting that, am I?”


         Andrew chuckled. “Nope. But you do get enough time to clean off.” He tweaked her breast, laughing at her exclamation. “The soap is a bit dry, but I was enjoying that.”


         “Re soaping the boobies as requested.” Aella replied, detaching herself and dancing back to the shower. “Light, medium, or heavy?”


         Andrew stepped in after her, rubbing his dick against her butt. “I’d love to request heavy, but for the sake of expediency we should probably go for light.” He reached around and started massaging her clit. “We haven’t even gotten to the good part.”


         Aella moaned and ground her butt against him, her hands working the lather on her chest. “Keep doing that and there won’t be any more breast play.” She murmured.


         Andrew just chuckled but let off, allowing her to finish and turn around.  An idea seizing him, Andrew reached down and hoisted Aella by her rear, nearly dropping the shorter girl as she squirmed onto his twitching penis. Aella nearly lost her balance as he let her down, her scream piercing the shrill tones of the alarm. “I… I can’t…” She whispered breathlessly, her legs scrabbling for purchase. Andrew squatted slightly, letting her feet take the weight of her body from his arms. Moaning, she ground her nipples against his chest, the water that cascaded between them running the soap away and across their joined bodies. With a kiss, Andrew began pumping his legs, the movement keeping Aella in place while he thrust into her. Suddenly she fell backwards, her legs giving out from the pleasure. Propping her against the wall of the shower Andrew continued, her cries increasing in pace as he continued his thrusts until she arched her back, the orgasm pulsing against Andrew as he struggled to stay upright in the slippery shower. Stabilizing her allowed himself to finish, waiting for Aella to finish panting before pulling himself loose with an audible pop. The two took a moment, cleaning off the excess fluids before turning off the water and getting dressed.






         Andrew pulled open the door to the small shack he had been directed to, Aella following close behind. “Lyn. Talk to me.”


         Lucina stepped in front of the Archmage, hailing him. “Sir. Lyn is indisposed coordinating the rescue team. Approximately 45 minutes ago we received a squawk from the Manhattan Investigation team. The coordinates put them half a mile outside of a known Uranite mine. As of this moment we are still outside of their coms range, but it is likely there has been an accident.”


         “Wonderful.” Andrew glanced around at the various screens. “What telemetry do we have?”


         Lucina nodded at the four screens above Lyn’s position. Three of the four showed video, land rushing by with the occasional glimpse of water. “Cristina, Fu, and Nevaeh are all on route. We have been unable to raise the bastion in Carlsbad, but that may just be due to the time difference.”


         Andrew frowned. “Daria doesn’t sleep.”


         Lucina gave him a worried smile. “I know, sir.”


         Andrew took a deep breath. “So most of us are stuck in northern India, in a makeshift camp, with a downed helicopter, possibly attracting attention from militant locals, while a strike team is on route to a possible engagement with no support.”


         Lucina nodded. “Yes, sir.”


         “Murphy can suck my dick.” Andrew snarled.


         “Yea, my bad, didn’t get around to that.” Aella remarked. Andrew glanced back at her in time to see Aella pantomime a blowjob at his back, quickly stopping. “Yes?”


         There was silence for a few moments before Lucina’s composure broke and she began laughing at the look on Andrew’s face. “Oh, shit. Holy shit that was amazing.” She wiped her eyes. “Constance is continuing to work on the chopper and expects it to be ‘good enough’ by tomorrow.”


         “Too long. Is it able to fly?”


         “Not at any significant altitude.”


         Andrew grumbled. “Too low for a sea crossing.”


         “Yessir. And loud.”


         Andrew winced. “That’s worse. Tell me that part first.” He sighed. “Stealth chopper is not stealthy, always alert Vampire is asleep, stealth team is SNAFU. What day is it today?”


         Lucina consulted her PDA. “Not Monday.”


         Andrew cracked a smile. “That’s a relief.”


         “…se respond. We have a situation developing and need immediate support.” Andrew started as Lyn opened her mouth, her eyes still closed as she began relaying the distress call. “Male is in too deep. Please advise. Cortney, please respond…”


         Andrew stepped forward. “That’s Jessie’s voice. Do we have a two way?”


         “Working on it.” Lucina was busily working at a radio. “Got it!” She yelled triumphantly, Lyn’s mouth snapping shut as the signal she was hearing was rerouted and she returned to communicating with the three flying in. “We’ve got comms.”


         Andrew hurried forwards, slipping the headphones on and picking up the mic. “Jessie this is Overlord. We copy. You have relief on the way.”


         “Oh thank god.” Jessie breathed, half a world away. “Overlord, we have a developing situation in a processing facility close by. The mines are being evacuated and we’ve lost sight of Matías in the crowds.”


         “Is the situation your fault.”


         “No. The facility has lost some sort of containment and is currently on...” Andrew flinched as the signal switched to static before continuing. “…on the horizon.”


         “Repeat last?”


         “No. The facility is on fire. Green and yellow fire on the horizon.”


         Andrew grit his teeth. “Acknowledged. Find Matías and get him out of there, now.” He turned to where Gale hovered nearby. “Gale, you know much more about this than I do. Does burning Uranium cause any ill effects?”


         Gale shook her head. “Burning Uranium doesn’t release any pathogens because Uranium doesn’t burn. At worst it will smolder and burn off impurities.”


         “Since when were you a chemist?” Aella chimed in.


         “Chemistry is the medicine of nature.” Gale replied archly. “It was the logical next step.”


         “Alright, enough.” Andrew muttered. “Everyone has spent their time since getting here differently. Gale, if there’s a fire at a processing facility, should there be an exclusion zone?”


         “Possibly. The true worry is how they were processing the ore.” Gale replied. “It is likely they were using extremely primitive techniques, so a fire that breaks containment would be burning highly dangerous chemicals.”


         “Thank you.” Andrew turned back to the radio. “Jessie, this is a priority. Get Matías and evacuate. If you can’t find him, leave him.”


         In their makeshift camp Jessie bit back a retort. “Acknowledged. However, it is unlikely we are going to be able to get him out.” She gazed out over the nearly rioting camp. “The military is in full force.”


         “You have your orders.”


         Jessie’s face shifted to a neutral look. “Yes My Lord.” She stepped out, tearing down the makeshift cover as she went. “Clara. Extract. If unable, evac.”


         “I’m not fucking leaving him down there.”


         “Then I’m leaving you.” Jessie replied, scanning the area until she was satisfied it had been cleared. “Relief is coming. Leave this to those who do it better.”


         Half a mile above, Clara grit her teeth. “All due respect. The one who does it best is me.” She retorted, finally singling out a familiar head. “I’ve got him!”


         “Clara, no!” Jessie shouted, watching helplessly as the speck dove towards the camp. “Damnit girl!”


         “Don’t worry.” A soft voice breathed in her ear. “We’re on site.” Jessie whirled, her hands twitching at her swords before she recognized the otherworldly figure that stood calmly next to her. Cristina glanced at her and smiled, the gentle expression not hiding the intensity burning in her black eyes. “He’s already safe.”


         With a yelp Clara felt herself get tackled out of the air, the force driving her and her unknown attacker crashing into the treeline. Her ki suffusing the space around her, Fu merely raised a hand to keep Clara silent. Near them, in one of the queues for a truck, Drake turned to his new friend. “Don’t worry. Forest fires can be control…” He trailed off, searching around for Matías. “Eh? Where’d you go?”


         Suddenly appearing next to Jessie and Cristina, Nevaeh unceremoniously dumped Matías to the ground. “That’s the last of you.” She nodded to Cristina. “Come. We have our orders.”


         Jessie hurried to Matías, propping him up. “Yes, so do we.”


         Nevaeh didn’t bother responding, taking off with Cristina in hot pursuit.


         “Come on.” Jessie began dragging Matías forward. “Clara will catch up. We need to go.”


         Matías mumbled unintelligibly as he was led off, Clara flitting by as a shadow against the night sky.






         “…and that’s that.” Daria finished. “Sorry for being out of touch, repairs took longer than anticipated since I was away.”


         Andrew nodded. “I see. Have Fu, Cristina, and Nevaeh been of any use?”


         Daria shrugged. “I needed more hands, and they provided that. However, we’re still fixing sensors in non-essential areas.”


         “I see. Carry on.” Andrew waited for the feed to cut before turning to Lyn. “Systems going down simultaneously with that fire? The events don’t seem related at all, but I can’t help but worry.”


         “The fire did draw out units that might have otherwise been defending the caverns. However, if this was a coordinated attack, we need to tell Cortney to begin looking for tampering.”


         Andrew blinked. “Shouldn’t we keep that quiet, in case there’s a spy?”


         Lyn shook her head. “There are two plausible scenarios. One, the two events were purely coincidentally timed. In this case, there’s no reason not to be safe. However, if the events were timed together, the distraction was completely unnecessary.” She raised a finger. “There was nobody home already. If an enemy had intel from the inside, they would know that, and a distraction wouldn’t have been needed.” She lowered it. “Therefore the enemy in our hypothetical situation does not have inside intel. We need to make sure they did not gain any during the blackout.”


         Andrew groaned. “Unless they do have inside intel and used a distraction anyways to make us draw the wrong conclusion.”


         Lyn frowned. “Don’t overthink it, or I will slap you.”


         “Fine, fine.” Andrew grumbled. “Tell Cortney to make sure the damage follows a natural pattern.”


         “I will. And, I hate to put yet another thing on your plate, but our old friend just showed up outside. I’m assuming it’s to discuss why she was out of touch, but I’m not sure why she didn’t just say something while she was JUST ON THE PHONE WITH US A MOMENT AGO.” Lyn yelled at the door.


         Andrew laughed, pushing out the door and nodding at Daria. “You just love being as close as possible, don’t you?”


         Daria smirked. “You’re worth being around. I need to talk to you.”


         “So I’ve heard. Why were you unavailable?”


         Daria snapped her fingers, a hologram popping up. “Because of this.”


         Andrew gazed at it and shrugged. “I don’t know what that is. Enlighten me.”


         “Vale doesn’t yet exist here.” Daria explained. “But the magical artifacts and other locations that they discovered, and of which I know about, do.” She gestured at the hologram. “That’s an artifact that shares many of the same magical markers that you do.”


         Andrew nodded. “So, reality-shifting dream magic.”


         Daria made a frustrated noise. “Essentially. There’s a term for it, you know.”


         Andrew blinked. “I didn’t. What is it?”


         “Oneiromancy. And while the magic was usually prophetic in nature, it’s not unheard of for extra powerful mages to do the things you can.” She nodded at the hologram. “This artifact was called the Dream Stone back where I came from. It was a catalyst.”


         Andrew surveyed the slowly rotating rock, a memory nagging but failing to surface. “Ok. It looks like a regular old stone.”


         “Because that’s all I can show.” Daria confessed. “I see it that way because I don’t have the correct aptitude. But if we found it, supposedly it acts as a bridge for the Oneiromancer’s power. A shortcut from the realm of the mind to the physical.”


         “Sure. And you know it exists here how…?” Andrew trailed off.


         Daria grinned. “Because I found it. Or, at least, I found its guardian.” Andrew saw her eyes begin to dilate slightly as she looked at him. “You know, danger’s always turned me on.”


         Andrew gave her a level gaze. “Is that an offer?”


         Daria blinked and rapidly shook her head. “No. No, no, sorry. It’s been a while. I spoke without thinking.” She sighed. “Still getting used to the urges being a necessity.”


         “You know I said I wouldn’t do it.”


         “And I know that was a lie. If I asked and truly meant it, you’d consent.” Daria scrubbed at her face. “Right. Anyways. Powerful artifacts. Not ancient, this one, by the way.” She continued, trying to change the tone. “Only a few hundred years old. Basically brand new.”


         “So, where is this shiny new artifact?”


         “East and north a bit. There’s this kind of peninsula-like land mass on the shore, pretty big, but not as big as the other to the south. Maine, I think it’s called. There’s this big river running down the middle of it, and as you get near the south end there’s this island. That’s where I traced the magical energy, and nearly got swallowed by a damn frog.”


         Andrew frowned. “A frog?”


         “Yea. Bastard’s definitely guarding this thing.” She shuddered. “All I’ll say is I felt like a gnat against that thing.”


         Andrew blinked. “Oh. So, not like, a little frog. Like, a BIG frog.”


         “Like, a half the size of the island frog.”


         “Huh.” Andrew nodded slowly. “That would probably be a guardian frog then.”


         She glanced at him. “Finishing what I was saying. It’s something you should retrieve, because you can probably use it, and it’s a powerful thing.” She wheeled away. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find Kuu and see if she can help me stop thinking with my cunt.”






         “Scan is clean.” Cortney reported. “The damage was strange, yes, and seemingly non-natural, but it had an origin and all of my systems are clean. There is the possibility of an intruder being in an isolated system, but for that to happen…” She trailed off. “Well. I think you know.”


         “We’d be back to the internal spy shit.” Andrew groused. “Alright, Cortney. Thank you.”


         He leaned back in his chair as the Upgrade vanished. India could be put on hold. That was one thing he didn’t have to currently worry about. Matías’ mission was both a success and a failure; he had found that the uranium mining was in effect, but the processing facilities had also been destroyed. A wash, in terms of forward progress. He smiled. Maybe a slight victory.


         Then there was the problem of the known traitor. Alex. A young man he had personally trained, one of the first few who had joined on under Aella’s guidance. He had done well. Maybe too well. Andrew grimaced. Suddenly, the kid being a traitor didn’t seem so out of place.


         He was shaken out of his reverie as the door opened, Lyn slipping in. The Archmage nodded to him before quietly shutting the door and pulling up a chair. “Did I interrupt anything?”


         Andrew shook his head mutely, allowing her to continue. “Daria talked to me. Told me about what she told you.” She waited. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, Andrew.”


         “Really?” Andrew replied sarcastically. “I mean, the last time you thought something was a good idea, I ended up losing a hand and gaining a whiny child.” He stroked his right hand comfortingly. “Sorry, sorry, Chee. You know I don’t mean that.”


         Lyn looked at his gold hand like it was a snake. “I know. I’m still not happy with the result.”


         “But it proves something.” Andrew raised his hand, a vine slowly creeping out of his palm and onto the table. “We’re both learning.”


         Lyn watched the plant grow. “What do you plan to do.”


         Andrew sighed and closed his fist, the vine withering to dust. “I don’t know. I can’t even control this yet.” He watched the dust blow away. “I didn’t even want that to happen. I thought about life, growth, and suddenly I’m making a vine. I want to protect you, to make a weapon, and all I can do is watch. Helplessly.” He clenched his teeth, a red glow threatening to suffuse his eyes. “It makes me ANGRY.”


         Lyn quickly raised her hand, the glow bleeding away as Andrew sat frozen. “It’s ok.” She said softly. “There’s no need for that.”


         Andrew seemed to deflate. “I know.” He whispered. “But you see how I feel.”


         Lyn nodded, dropping her spell. “What do you really expect to gain from this? A weapon?” She shook her head at Andrew’s nod. “This thing wouldn’t do that for you, not really. I did some research.”


         Andrew laughed. “It’s been an hour. What research?”


         “A bit of questioning, a bit of querying.” Lyn quipped. “I can’t help you hone your magic, but I can tell you how it works.”




         “Oneiromancy isn’t supposed to directly affect the world.” She said quietly. “It will never be a weapon. It will never be what you want it to be. But it can be powerful, all the same.”


         “That can’t be right.” Andrew whispered in shock. “It can be a weapon. It’s the whole reason that… Goth wanted me. What about my gun? The constructs?”


         “Powerful memories.” Lyn replied. “That’s how your magic works. It’s meant to be a magic of the mind, its primary use similar to Dream Time. That’s why, whenever you felt like you were about to explode, you had your mental episodes.”


         Andrew sat quietly. “I was never in danger of hurting anyone.”


         Lyn shook her head. “Never others. Not with your magic, anyways. It was reserved for trying to hurt you.”


         “So… What?” Andrew asked helplessly. “What is it?”


         “Prophecy.” Lyn replied simply. “That’s all it ever was. But you’re different. You not only see the future, you can change it.”


         “That’s how I broke out the first time.” Andrew said slowly. “I remember that. I willed the future to change.”


         “Exactly. That is your weapon. Not a firearm, or a sword, or anything else. Your weapon is the power to see and change the future.”


         Andrew chuckled. “Is that all? Anyone can do that.”


         Lyn cracked a smile. “True. Anyone can change the future. But you can shape it, can change things outside of your direct control. Your way is special, because you not only see the path your actions are making, you can force the path to go somewhere else. Or force the path itself to change.”


         Andrew didn’t respond for a while, his mind processing what Lyn was telling him. “I’m as helpless as any other human in this world.”


         Lyn gave him a sad smile. “I know how much you hate to admit that. And it’s not quite true, but yes. You’ll never be the hero you want to be.”


         Andrew rested his face in his arms. “I couldn’t have saved them. Any of them.”




         He sat that way for a few minutes, Lyn watching him carefully. Eventually he straightened back up. “Ok. I can buy all that. But what about the constructs? What about… That?” He asked, pointing at the remains of the vine. “That doesn’t fit with this description you’re giving me.”


         Lyn shrugged. “You have magical aptitude. Doesn’t mean you’re stuck with one type. That is probably an offshoot, constructs and creation that are maintained with your will. Something like Nevaeh’s little ghouls.”


         “Made all the more real by my special Oneiromancy.” Andrew replied. “But still weak, unable to stick around for long.”


         Lyn smiled. “You’re back to wanting the stone.”


         “You’re damned right.” Andrew groused. “I may have accepted that I’m helpless, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to let it stay that way.”


         “Daria doesn’t even know if this thing is what she thinks it is. And besides, where did this artifact come from? There weren’t artifacts of power before Sukebe brought some here, anyways.”


         “There were.” Andrew replied. “Hidden all over, disguised as cheap parlor tricks or eldritch sites. Which is why I think this one is real.” He grimaced as Lyn looked at him quizzically. “I know the location Daria described. I know it intimately. This artifact is there because I wanted it to be, Lyn. It’s sitting in my backyard.”


         “Alright. Stop. Hold on a second.” Lyn gave him a strange look before opening the door to let Daria in. “Alright. You wanted it to be here?”


         “More accurately, it’s something that was made for this world’s version of me.” Andrew explained, the vampire listening intently. “I thought the stone you showed me looked familiar, but I couldn’t place why until now. I turned an identical rock into a pendant years ago, and wore it like a lucky charm while I was growing up. I never knew why the thing interested me so much, but now I do. It was this artifact, drawn to me or created because of my latent aptitude. But I never awoke my magic, and eventually I lost the pendant. Now I have a second chance.”


         “Possible.” Daria fidgeted. “Wouldn’t be the first time a powerful mage created something by accident.”


         “Is it going to come back to bite us?”


         Daria started. “No. No, it won’t. Sorry.” She sighed. “I should have never told you about this thing. You’ve already got too much to worry about.”


         “I need Aella in here for this.” Andrew raised his hand at Lyn’s protest. “Lyn, you act as the unofficial Beta of our group, and nobody wants to challenge you for the position. Not even Cristina will take away what you do. It’s not official because you wouldn’t give the position the time it deserves, and she will. As my Archmage, you are the closest thing to a role model I have in this.” His smile twitched. “That doesn’t mean I’m not going to discuss this with my tactical advisor.”


         “Closest physically, maybe.” Daria snickered. “I was never formally trained, but I knew a few professors. If you need the help, I’m here.”


         Lyn shot daggers at the snickering Vampire before turning back to Andrew. “Fine. Call her in.”


         “I’m already here.” Lyn jumped when Aella spoke and slid out of the shadows. “Teleport, y’know.”


         “How the-“ Lyn breathed. “I couldn’t sense you.”


         “Because I didn’t want you to.” Aella said with a smirk. “Ever since Andrew decided I should be more of a leader I’ve decided to work on regaining the powers I locked away.” She shrugged. “When you’ve got a Hunter in your family, especially if she’s your mother, you tend to try to avoid showing anything that seems like a challenge.”


         “Which is why Aella’s behavior changed so drastically way back when we met Shamira.” Andrew supplied. “I let her know that her cover was blown and she didn’t need to hide what she was.”


         “And now that I’m out of her reach, I’m really letting go.” Aella said with relish. “On that note, there’s fifty-seven ferals in varying state of health waiting for your perusal.”


         “Injuries?” Andrew asked curiously.


         “Lost a horn on number thirty-one, but that was it.” Aella stretched and made a happy noise. “You have no idea how good it felt to really let loose for the first time.”


         “If it’s better than sex, I’m sure I don’t.” Andrew glanced at Lyn. “Yes?”


         The Archmage regained her composure. “We were talking about artifacts.”


         “It’ll be a good experiment and it sounds like Andrew’s already made up his mind.” Aella responded before he could. “I’ll be performing a full tacsweep before we even think of heading over there, but I don’t anticipate much trouble. Worst case scenario sounds like the big bad wolf gets to play around without his piggies.” She frowned. “That’s a bad metaphor.”


         “You’re trying.” Andrew shrugged. “A better one would be that Merlin is going to need some time away from Arthur and the Knights.” He glanced around. “If we’re going with classical literature.”


         Lyn frowned. “So, you’d be Merlin, and we’re the Knights?” She shook her head. “I don’t get it.”


         “If the guardian and resting place are highly magical in nature, Andrew may have to do this alone.” Daria whispered. “If, which is more likely, there is an analog of himself here…” She trailed off. “Arthur was devastated when Merlin and LeFae killed each other.” She glared daggers at him. “I don’t think your women would stop at ‘devastated’.”


         “I’m supposed to not be deadly, but your points stands.” He shrugged at Lyn’s look. “I’m not going into this looking for a fight.”


         “You are.”


         “Not with an analog.” He clarified.


         She sat quietly then shook her head. “Alright. I can’t talk you out of this, and every other pokegirl I can think of that you’d listen to wouldn’t oppose you. When do we leave?”






         “My Lord, may I speak to you?”


         Andrew started and turned from where he was preparing with Cristina. “Kuu?” His eyes narrowed. “You’ve never called me that before. I thought that was… Uh… Right, Jessie’s thing.”


         The ElfQueen cocked her head. “I have never met a ‘Jessie’, but I called you what I meant to.”


         “That’s what you were calling Iain.” Andrew’s face blanked. “Speak.”


         Kuu blinked but nodded. “Thank you, Lord.” Her mouth twitched into a smile. “Does that bother you?”


         “Speak.” Andrew growled.


         Kuu’s smile widened. “As you order.” She giggled at his glare. “My Lord, were you aware of how long it has been since we came to this world?”


         Andrew cocked his head. “Months?”


         “I will clarify, then.” Kuu smoothed her dress nervously. “Today will mark one year of our first meeting.” She took a breath. “One rotation, if you will.”


         Andrew blinked. “What are you trying to tell me?”


         “I have had a full year to consider your words.” She looked at him. “You have been fair, courteous, and respectful of my wants and wishes while still allowing me to dictate the terms of our relationship.” She took another breath, this time shaky from her nerves. “I have come to the conclusion that my Gods are not; and that I have been looking in the wrong place for satisfaction.”


         Andrew nodded, stripping the bottom line from her ritualistic words. “So, now or later?”


         Kuu blinked. “What?”


         Cristina glanced at her tamer and nodded. “I’ll let the others know.” Kuu watched her walk off in confusion.


         Andrew held out his hand. “Come with me.”


         Kuu hesitantly took it and let him guide her to the memorial garden. She made to speak but stopped at his glance.


         “It has been a very, very long time.” He murmured, allowing his voice to carry through the serene space. “And yet, it has passed very quickly.” He gazed at the stone. “How long has it been since this stone was erected? How much of the year you speak of has it taken?” He continued before she could speak. “It has been seven months, twelve days, and…” He trailed off. “twenty hours.”


         Kuu remained silent.


         “I can remember that time clearly. Yet I forgot the date when I first met you.” He sighed. “What does that tell you?”


         “That my Lord values his people more than an individual.” Kuu replied, embracing him. “And that he should not be embarrassed by that fact.”


         “It should tell you that he has forgotten and neglected you.” Andrew’s voice was bitter. “That he has pushed you away for fear of hurting an innocent soul.” He screwed his eyes shut. “I never even thought of your input on what I planned to do today. Neither did Lyn. That should say how much we had forgotten you.”


         Kuu stayed quiet before relinquishing her grip and walking to face him. “I would show you something.”


         Andrew looked up at her eyes. “I trust you, Kuu, though you are not mine.” He chuckled. “Man, I hate sounding formal.”


         “Then I may show you this.” She arched her back and opened her mouth wordlessly. Somewhere in his psyche he felt a tingle as the magic suffused him and he knew that if he had not been standing with her, he would have run to her side.


         Immediately there was rustling around them and Andrew’s eyes bugged out as forms began to emerge. Most were Elves or variants, but there were all manner of pokegirl there as well. “Kuu.” He breathed.


         Kuu’s mouth snapped shut and she smiled at him. “Did you feel my love?”


         Andrew chuckled nervously. “Was that what that was?”


         Her eyes danced. “It is what I call it. Others might call it a bond.”


         Andrew blinked. “A bond?


         Kuu made a frustrated noise. “Yes, but it’s inconsistent.” She looked at him. “I can hear you. I can feel you. At all times, since we came to this world.” She looked around at the gathered pokegirls. “And through me, so have they.”


         “Your court.” It wasn’t a question. “How did you keep them hidden?”


         “We have not.” Kuu cocked her head. “Have those already in your life not told you of how we allow them to relax while in their home?”


         Andrew frowned. “No. And now that I know, they will correct that behavior.”


         Kuu brushed her hand across his cheek. “Please do not. It is my gift to you.” She glanced around, the various pokegirls beginning to melt back into the forest. “They will insure our privacy.”


         “You are sure that you want this.”


         Kuu smiled. “I have wanted it for a year.” She laughed softly. “I have been blind to my want for just as long.”


         Andrew rested his head on her collarbone. “This isn’t about Furia, right?”


         Kuu’s laughter escalated. “My Lord has done a wonderful job of keeping away from her.” Her eyes danced. “But if he would accept me, I would have him take her with him.”


         Andrew growled. “I was that obvious?”


         “You took everyone with you to India.” She smiled. “All who wanted to go, except for her.”


         “I didn’t want to touch her, because of you.” Andrew smiled. “Perhaps that was selfish, and not truly how you wanted me to act towards you.”


         “No, if you had poached my second from my command, I would have been very unhappy.” Kuu replied simply.


         Andrew’s eyebrows rose. “Your second?”


         “Yes.” Kuu nuzzled against his cheek. “I cannot leave my court, though I wish to be with you. Which is why I would give you an extension of my will.”


         “Alright.” Andrew took one last look at the stone. “Then I accept.”






         “Andrew!” Cristina pushed through the trees. “Hello?” Her eyes widened and she blushed at the sight.


         Andrew glanced at her and smiled. “Come now. We’re not doing anything indecent.”


         Cristina just shook her head. Andrew was kneeling in front of the memorial stone, a bouquet in front of him. That wasn’t what had bothered her, since he had the decency to be wearing shorts.


         What had bothered her were the two unconscious pokegirls happily clutching each other next to where he knelt. Kuu was twitching in her sleep, her look of bliss and nudity hiding nothing. Furia was only slightly better off, the vines that held her spread-eagle leaving little to be imagined.


         “I’m all for what happened, but did it have to be here?” Cristina asked softly.


         “It did, for I was asked.” Andrew replied. He patted the ground next to himself. “Come.”


         Cristina knelt beside him and looked at the flowers. “Where did those come from?”


         Andrew tapped his temple. “Training.” He looked up to the top of the stone. “I’ve been keeping secrets.”


         Cristina glanced at him. “Secrets?”


         Andrew pointed. “Do you see the crest?”


         Cristina squinted. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


         “Look again, but without your eyes.”


         Cristina frowned, but did as he asked. After a moment she nodded. “Did she want this?”


         Andrew gave a barking laugh. “No. I did. She just accepted my wishes.” He shook his head sadly. “Azhara thought this would be good for me.” He glanced back at the two sleeping pokegirls. “Them, I mean. As for taming, it also needed to be done here, because this is where Furia first answered Kuu’s Call. The day of the wake.”


         Cristina frowned. “She had a hand in that?”


         Andrew snorted. “If I were to believe her, she was the only reason it happened. Kuu never made the Call consciously, so I’m inclined to believe her.” He rolled his eyes. “The flowers are a thank you, of sorts, but she took her reward from joining in.” He suddenly looked uncomfortable. “If I didn’t have such a complete link to her spirit, I would have enjoyed it more. She felt like she was becoming a restless ghost and it was very unnerving, to say the least.”


         Cristina froze. “Andrew?” She breathed.


         “She isn’t.” He clarified. “She was angry that I had been neglecting her, but I appeased her with the flowers and a promise to make my visits more regular.” He coughed. “Having the guardian spirit of the garden of our dead becoming a restless one would be a tragedy, both for the dead and for the living.”


         “Uh-huh.” Cristina looked him over. “So, basically, your pokegirl needed taming.”


         Andrew choked and broke into a raucous laugh that began to wake Kuu and Furia. “Oh, god, you’re right!” He composed himself as Kuu sat up. “She doesn’t need that anymore, but basically, you’re right.”


         “She needs her Master’s love.” Came the simple reply. “Just as all of us do.” Andrew stroked her wings, earning an ecstatic sigh from the Ophanim while she leaned into his touch. “Oh, that feels good. It’s been weeks since you’ve done that.”


         “Really?” Andrew thought. “You’re right. It has.” He grimaced. “I thought I had been neglecting Kuu. It never occurred to me that I had been neglecting the rest of you, too.”


         “Some of us are fine.” Cristina grumped. “Lyn, for one, has always found an excuse to be at your side.”


         Andrew sat in thought while Kuu woke Furia and awaited his instruction. “The trip can wait.” He finally said. “I’ve been neglecting my family, and whether or not they forgive me for it, I need to put it right.”


         Cristina snuggled closer. “Are you sure about this?”


         “I am.” Andrew rested his chin on her head. “I’ve been moving too fast. I have people to do that for me now.” He chuckled. “We need relaxation, but I don’t intend for us to just rest.”


         Cristina grinned. “What do you have in mind?”


         “Aella, could you gather everyone and meet me in the memorial garden, please?” He thought. “All of them.


         “Ishara won’t appreciate being away from her forge. Is this important?


         “It is.


         He felt her acknowledgement and settled in to wait. About ten minutes passed before the first pokegirl arrived, Lucina popping into existence and dropping into Andrew and Cristina’s laps. She giggled and vanished before Cristina could take a swing at her and reappeared at the edge of the clearing as the others began streaming in.


         He waited for them all to settle down before he spoke. “It’s been chaotic.” He began. “Ever since this space was dedicated, I have not let up.” He stopped, letting his words hang on the air. “However, I have done so for the wrong reasons.”


         “I have pushed out of grief. While I wish I could claim I gave our dead too much time, the truth is I gave them none. Just as I neglected to give any to the living.”


         Several of the girls stirred as he continued, sweeping his gaze over them all and picking out each set of eyes individually. “I became selfish. I was given a wake up call these last few days. I have decided to listen.” He smiled. “I had planned on continuing to be busy, to head east in pursuit of an artifact. That is now on hold.” He glanced between Rein and Yang. “Before I address the others, I need to ask you two something.” He glanced at Ishara, the Romanticide towering over the other pokegirls. “You, as well.”


         Cristina padded over to the group and gave Rein a quick hug. “Ask away.” Rein replied, Yang murmuring her agreement.


         “I want to resume the team competitions.” He nodded at the few gasps. “Yes, I mean that.” A thought struck him and he flipped open his pokedex and began to type.


         “I would wish not to participate.” Yang whispered, barely audible.


         Rein grabbed the Nereidame in a hug. “I would sit out, too.” She cracked a smile. “Which is why Andrew said the question was for us, I think. The unspoken one, if we would like to join in.”


         “You’d be right.” Andrew glanced back up. “I hope one day you will heal, Yang, but I am never going to push you. Though, Rein, if you would be willing, I have a job for you.”


         The Myobu nodded. “Yes?”


         “This family needs a counselor.” He grimaced. “I did not handle my emotions in a healthy manner. I suspect quite a few of you have not, either.”


         Rein glanced around and nodded. “You would only be making the position official, at this point.”


         “Good.” Andrew closed his pokedex. “Thank you.” He glanced at Ishara. “You can go back to your forge.”


         Ishara grunted and ran off.


         “What were you doing?” Fu asked curiously and pointed at his pokedex.


         “Give it a minute.” Andrew replied with a slight smile.


         The group began to mutter uneasily as the time stretched but were cut off when Cortney’s voice sounded from behind them. “Delivery for the Smoke Devils?”


         They turned to see the beaming Videogirl hefting an overflowing pile of uniforms. “It took some minor alteration, but I think this will work.” She busily began handing out garments. “Mandatory for team events, from this point forward.” She gazed at Andrew with a smile. “You’ve decided to move forwards.”


         Andrew didn’t bother confirming her statement, instead turning to address his harem. “I hope you all remember the rules that go with these uniforms.” He chuckled when Constance once again ripped off her old clothing to immediately don the new red-and-black fatigues. “Ok, except for Constance, these are only required during dress events or team events. Free time you can wear whatever you’d like.” He glared at Cortney as she handed him a uniform with rank insignia. “What is this?”


         “I’m making it official.” Cortney straightened to attention and threw him a salute. “We, as a force, played around with ranks and positions because they were human constructs and we were operating in a human world. Since there was no official hierarchy, titles and positions were subject to change on a whim. I am hereby stripping all titles from our forces; it is your duty to promote those you see fit to the positions they deserve.” She paused. “General.”


         “No. Fuck no.” Andrew grabbed the badge and tried to rip it free to no avail. “I will not wear stars.”


         “Nobody here will argue that you deserve them.”


         “That doesn’t matter. I will not wear stars.” Andrew glanced up and Cortney was surprised to see tears threatening to fall. “Please.”


         “Will you allow us to call you anything?” She asked quietly.


         “You already call me Commander. Give me those insignia if you have to.”


         “Could we do Captain-“


         “I do not command a vessel, Cortney.” Andrew held out his hand. “Give me the leaf, and don’t press your luck.” Wordlessly she handed them over, staring blankly as Andrew held out the uniform. “Remove the stars.”


         “Would you let me go one step further?” Cortney held out another patch. “And promote you, as they say, to full bird?”


         Andrew stared at the eagle in her hand. “You kind of just jumped back and forth between branches there.”


         “You’ve never said how you served.” Cortney gently pushed the Colonel’s insignia into his hand. “Please. Commander is fine, but you deserve more.”


         “…How many of these did you prepare?”


         “All of them.” Cortney reached behind her and pulled forwards a small pouch. “Other than Ishara, I believe I am the only veteran among your harem. Which means I have a unique perspective.” She sighed. “Pokegirls were not given rank. It was not done. However, I reported directly to a man designated as Major General. I was basically second in command to Bri, who in turn reported to nobody but a full General somewhere in the PLC. Even if we are conservative with what that would have made me, I believe it is safe to say I was considered a Colonel myself at worst, and a Brigadier General at best. Of course, these ranks would not have ever held up against a human, but going by CoC, I see no reason why I should not be able to designate, commission, and promote you to this position.”


         “Your chain of logic falls apart when you realize that you were, as you say, not on equal rank to a human.” Andrew gave up on removing the four stars and looked her square in the face. “In my mind, that sounds like the holdings of a NCO. Nothing more.”


         Cortney gave him an evil grin and Andrew winced as he realized the trap he had walked into. “An astute observation, Sir. As one who commands me unconditionally, that would make you an officer of some rank, yes?”


         “Fucking hell Cortney. You’re not going to let this go, are you.”




         “Fine, but you just lost a lot of ground. Give me the god damn butterbar.”


         “A lowly company-grade officer? Not my Master.” Cortney made a show of pulling out the requested insignia and staring at them in disgust. “That would be improper.”


         “We’re a god damn platoon, Cortney, and a Second Lieutenant commands the platoon. Give me the bar.”


         “But you don’t command the platoon, Sir. That would be Aella’s job. You command Aella. Thus, at the very least, you are a First Lieutenant.”


         Fu sidled up next to Cristina as Andrew and Cortney continued to argue. “So, is there a pool set up yet?”


         Cristina’s mouth twitched into a smile. “You’re a bit late for the good odds. Go talk to Gale.”


         Fu slid a few steps back. “Pool?”


         “We’re down to a handful of ranks, so the odds are pretty even.” The Night Nurse glanced down at the pokedex she was holding. “Cortney says that the remaining ranks he could accept are Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, and Colonel. Lowest odds being Major, followed by Captain, Colonel, First Lieutenant, and Lieutenant Colonel.” She glanced up. “She just knocked Second Lieutenant off the table.”


         “Fine. I’ll accept that.” Andrew grit his teeth. “First Lieutenant. Give me the silver bar.”


         “But if we were to think about it, I have command of our home, our base. And it’s quite improper for anything below at least a Colonel to command a base.” She smirked as she noticed various pokegirls miming numbers, Gale typing furiously.


         “I swear to fucking god, Cortney.” Andrew hissed. “This is exactly how I received my commission. I didn’t want it then. I don’t want it now. But you know what? You’re right. Damn you, you’re right. I will not wear a star. But I will take the fucking bird.”


         “CALLED IT!” Andrew blinked and turned to see Cristina holding her hand in the air triumphantly. She slowly lowered it sheepishly. “Uh, sorry.”


         “I’m sorry, were you betting on what rank I would accept?” Andrew’s voice was deceptively calm, all of the anger on his face gone.


         “Nope.” Cristina struggled to hide her grin and managed, just barely. “Nothing of the sort. Of course not. Never.”


         Andrew slowly turned back to see Cortney sewing the insignia onto the shoulders of his uniform. “Cortney, you do know that these are meant to be hybrid uniforms.”


         “Yea, but who gives a shit. This way always looked better.” She snipped some spare fabric with her energy blade and held it out to him. “Colonel.”


         “Just like with your own rank, this won’t be recognized by anyone on this world.” Andrew stared at the uniform. “Like the leader of the rebel force down south. At least he had the good sense to leave it at Sergeant.”


         “These are meant to be for internal use only, Sir. Who cares if nobody recognizes them? The ones who matter will.”


         “This isn’t changing anything.”


         “Of course not.” Cortney stepped back. “Thank you for granting this. I know it was hard for you to consider.”


         Andrew carefully traced the outstretched wings before slipping out of his shirt and pulling it on. “Do you have any idea how much shit this is going to cause? You will have your own rank, sure, and so will Aella and Cristina, but what about everyone else?” He glanced around. “Do you want me to judge them? Is that what this was all about?”


         Cortney hesitated. “I hadn’t thought about that.”


         “Bullshit. You consider everything.” He shook his head. “Fuck.”


         “You were actually commissioned, Sir?” Cortney probed.


         “Just like today, it was something I did not necessarily want.” Andrew’s face slowly broke back into a grin as he mentally activated certain mannerisms. “But suddenly I’m remembering what fun it was.”


         “what do you-“


         “CORTNEY!” Andrew roared, whirling to face the Videogirl. She instantly snapped to attention as the man in front of her seemed to transform from her tamer in a uniform to her mental image of authority. Andrew seemed to grow slightly and she fought the instinct to back up. “GIVE ME INVENTORY OF THAT BAG.”


         “T-two of each CO rank insignia, at least, Sir!” She babbled.


         “Just two?” Andrew frowned. “That will have to do. AELLA! Front and center!”


         The Shinryu stumbled forwards. “y…yes?”


         “Yes, what?” Andrew hissed, getting right in her face.


         “Yes, Sir.” Aella squeaked back.


         “You both hold vital positions in this unit.” He snagged Cortney’s bag and rummaged through it to find what he was looking for. “Second only to myself. Therefore,” he held up two sets of gold pins. “I hereby recognize you. Major Cortney, director of internal defense and cyber warfare, and Major Aella, head of the Smoke Devils strike force.” He pinned the badges to each of their epaulets before instantly dropping the scowl in favor of a grin. “Congratulations.”


         “Sir, I don’t require physical insignia.” Cortney reminded him, her avatar shifting and the metal badges popping into her hand. “Which means you have a spare set.”


         “Hmm, true.” Andrew glanced at the crowd of pokegirls. “LYN!”


         The Archmage glided forwards. “Yessir?”


         “Lyn, I hereby grant you the title of Major and task you with heading the support and logistics of this force.” He chuckled at her look of horror. “The rank means you can’t be told what to do. Now you need to choose who you delegate the job to.”


         Cortney and Aella relaxed slightly as the two began to laugh, the commanding presence fading from Andrew’s shoulders. “Cortney, the Captain’s bars, please.” Andrew held out his hand and took the proffered badges. “Aella, I believe you have someone you need to give this to.”


         Aella looked confused for a moment before nodding. “Of course, Sir.” She turned. “Cristina. Front and center.”


         “You don’t have to be as loud as I was, but set the tone.” Andrew instructed, watching as the Ophanim strode forwards. “She is your second in command, without a doubt.


         “Captain Cristina, I hereby officially name you second in command of the Smoke Devil strike force.” Aella recited, shooting a brief feeling of thanks back to Andrew. “You are my will.”


         “Yes… Sir?” Cristina shot Andrew a questioning look.


         “Female officers of higher rank can be referred to as Ma’am or by rank.” Andrew instructed, making sure to speak so the entire harem could hear him. “Lower ranks were usually referred to by their last name or general title, but since as pokegirls you are expected to take my last name, first names should suffice.”


         “Then I apologize, Major.” Cristina smiled. “It will be my pleasure to serve under you.”


         “Kuu.” Andrew called, as he passed the bars to Aella and she pinned them to Cristina’s uniform. “As you are outside of Aella’s chain of command, I formally grant you the position of Captain. Please step forwards.” He shot a sidelong glance at Cortney as the Elfqueen pushed her way forwards. “Cortney, I need at least three more of these bars.”


         The Upgrade nodded slightly. “Ishara will bring more shortly.”


         “Thank you.” He turned, repeating the process to pin the insignia to Kuu’s shoulders. “Kuu, you have your own command, which I authorize you to manage, deploy, and police as you see fit. You answer to no one save me.”


         “Yes Sir.” She looked at him quizzically. “But, wouldn’t Cortney- I mean, wouldn’t Major Aella and Major Cortney outrank me?”


         “They do, so they can give you orders. But you report directly to me.” Andrew clarified.


         “I see.” Kuu bobbed her head. “Thank you.”


         “Yea, you’re saying all of these titles and ranks and they make no sense.” Fu snorted. “Is there a chart I can look at, or a list, or…” There was murmured agreement from the others.


         “Honestly, none of this matters.” Andrew chuckled. “I told you, these ranks don’t mean anything special. I was already the highest ‘rank’, since I’m the tamer, and Aella and Cortney already were just below me, Aella as Alpha, and Cortney was doing her own thing. Then came Cristina as Beta. These ranks just help assign tactical seniority.” He glanced at Cortney. “Which is what you were really going for, right?”


         The Upgrade smiled. “Guilty.”


         “So what, you want me to assign rank to each and every pokegirl?” His smile dropped at her shrug. “Fuck.”


         “If I remember correctly, there’re about twelve more tiers you can go through.” Cortney said with a smirk.


         “Fuck that.” Andrew wheeled around. “Cristina as Beta, Nevaeh as my advisor, Gale as medic, Kuu with her court, and Rein as councilor. They all get the Captain’s bars.” He braced. “Everyone else gets PFC. Until their commanding officer petitions them for a higher rank.”


         “You’re stalling. Dodging responsibility.”


         “Cortney, there are about ten others here.” Andrew hissed. “I can not and will not rate them. It would destroy unity.” He shook his head. “And besides, this is already wrong enough. This command is way too small to have more than a single CO, let alone… Eight.”


         “You’re forgetting the reserve.” Cortney smiled. “While this would be overkill for just us, there are two other, separate forces under your command.”


         Andrew blinked in confusion before nodding. “Kuu’s court, and the insurgent reserve.”


         “These are your elite.” Cortney gestured out across the clearing. “They deserve more than a lowly stripe.”


         “You’re really going to make me do this.” Andrew sighed at her nod. “Fine. How many stripes have you got?”


         “Frst, let me just say that I’m glad I guessed Capital.” Cortney laughed. “It would have been rather awkward if I had prepared all of these for, say, Ruby.”


         “Now you’re the one stalling. Stripes.”


         “Of course, Sir.” She handed him a cloth pouch. “That should be sufficient.”


         Andrew rifled through it, pausing when he saw the conjoined insignia. “These aren’t correct.”


         “We’re not USA operatives. Sir.” Cortney replied.


         Andrew pulled out one and scrutinized the emblem in the middle. “You know, I would have preferred rifles.”


         “I didn’t want to offend you by guessing wrong, and these fit better.” The emblems depicted crossed tridents, red on black. Andrew pulled out another and chuckled quietly. “I want this fleshed out on a flag.”


         “Those would be the high end sergeant emblems.” Cortney supplied. “That specifically is the highest emblem.”


         Andrew gazed at the screaming visage. “What is this supposed to be?”


         “A smoke devil.”


         “I guessed as much.” Andrew pulled out another and snorted. “I see you had a feeling who I was going to give this to.”


         The patch was whole, the first sergeant’s bars surrounding a roaring dragon head. “Maybe.” Cortney fought not to smile.


         “Let’s get this over with.” Andrew glanced over to see Ishara push into the clearing, waiting for her to hand over three still cooling sets of bars before turning to the harem. “Captain Gale. Captain Nevaeh. Captain Rein. Please step forwards to receive your bars.” He stared at the sergeant major emblem before putting it away. “We’ve got room to grow into those.”








Smoke Devils Chain of Command

Col. Andrew Ranger

(Tech Ops) Maj. Cortney

(Strike) Maj. Aella

(Logistics) Maj. Lyn

(Advisor) Cpt. Nevaeh

(Defense) Cpt. Kuu

(Beta) Cpt. Cristina

(Medic) Cpt. Gale

(Council) Cpt. Rein (Ret.)

GySgt. Constance

1stSgt. Fu

GySgt. Ishara

SSgt. Nami

SSgt. Shamira

Sgt. Lucina

Sgt. Ann

Sgt. Melody

Sgt. Yang (Ret.)


Cpl. Furia

Cpl. Enya





Aella – (Hunter) Shinryu – Alpha

Cristina – (Blessed, Fiendish) Ophanim – Beta


Cortney – (Upgraded) Videogirl

Fu – Warvern

Lucina – Shadowcat

Nami – Sharptits

Constance – Tank Vixxen

Gale – Night Nurse

Shamira – Goldina

Nevaeh – (Blessed, Fiendish) G-Splice

Melody – Wet Queen

Ann – Ice Empress

Enya – Blazicunt

Furia – (Fiendish) Wolf Queen

Rein – Myobu

Ishara – Romanticide

Kuu – Elfqueen

Lyn – Archmage

Yang – Nereidame







Daria – Vampire




Matías Miller – Human

Clara – Tengal

Jessie – Sword Dancer