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Loose Threads

Eighteen

Iain's arrow took the Luster Dragon in the soft tissues at the top of the inside of its mouth and punched deep into the brain. The construct popped like an old balloon as he sagged to the ground. “If that thing has a mate or offspring I am toast,” he muttered as he checked to see if any other part of him was smoldering. He glanced behind him. “And what fucking self-respecting dragon would live in a fucking swamp?” His bow flowed onto his skin and he lay there for a moment, feeling his magic chase away the fatigue.

“That swamp saved your life,” April said cheerfully as she came out of the woods where she'd been observing. “At least the mud in it did.”

He snorted. “The only thing it did was parboil me instead of letting me die quickly. Anyone without magic would have been crippled at best when it breathed fire on me.”

“It breathed fire near you,” April corrected. “You can't survive a direct strike from it.” She expertly checked him over. “Your healing speed seems to have increased. We'll have to test that later on.”

“I can't wait. Do I have any hair left or is it all a singed ruin?”

“I'm sure your pubic hair is undamaged.” She put her hands on his chest and healing magic bathed him. She gave him a wicked grin. “Shall I check?”

“Yes, please.”

She blinked and looked at his the bulge in his pants. She fondled it. “That's not mud. You're serious.”

“No, I'm serious and horny.”

She grinned and gripped his shirt as the terrain changed. “Let's get you cleaned up and we can see what can be done to help my poor suffering husband.” She tugged him to his feet and he realized they were at one of the satellite ranch cleaning areas. People used them to clean off sweat, dirt and whatever else they'd gotten into during the day's activities. Each of them had a half a dozen outdoor shower stalls with hot and cold water available as needed. She started the water and adjusted the temperature as drones appeared overhead and moved into sentry positions. “Now get naked.”

Iain worked his way out of his clothes and started to get under the water, stopping when he realized April hadn't joined him. “Someone is still overdressed for this.”

“You stink of smoke, baked mud and burned hair,” she said with a laugh. “I'm not getting close to you until you're clean.”

He sighed and got into the shower, taking a second to look through the soaps. The women of the clan all had different tastes and so there was a wide variety of them. He shrugged and grabbed the one the Daphne preferred at the outdoor showers. It was rough and was almost a block of pumice, but he figured it would scrub the burned stuff off of his skin and what remained of his hair. He scrubbed his scalp with the soap. Whether or not the mud had saved his life it had certainly not saved his hair. He hadn't had a buzz cut since boot camp but it felt like he had one now, only it had been singed out of his hair and not chopped with an electric razor. He ignored the partial erection he had since he'd had the damned thing since he'd unlocked his magic when he got up that morning. He’d been ordered by Kerrik to do this every day in order to get used to having his power available all of the time. Besides he was hoping that April would help him with it after he got clean.

“Iain, are you all right?” He turned to see her watching with a curious expression, half mischievous and half worried.

He frowned and ran through a quick mental checklist. “I'm good. Why?”

She gave him a nervous smile. “I turned off the hot water over five minutes ago at the heater as a joke.”

For a moment her words didn't make any sense and then he looked up at the showerhead and the spray of water coming out of it. Suddenly the water was ice cold and snatched his breath away in a gasp. He tossed the soap away as he staggered from the shower and dropped to his knees as he tried to breathe.

April put her hand on his back. “You're freezing,” she said, pulling away. “Let me get a towel.”

“I,” he gasped, “I wonder why.”

April began briskly rubbing him down with the towel. “What I don’t understand is how you didn’t notice I’d cut off the hot water.”

Iain waited until he’d gotten his chattering teeth under control before trying to speak. “I probably didn’t notice because my mind was elsewhere and it just acted automatically to protect me, like if I fell into an icy lake, so I could continue functioning and escape. I didn’t realize what you’d done until you pointed it out and I started paying attention to the water. I was using the same technique to protect me from the worst of the steam’s damage when you set your dragon on me. Apparently it kept working and I didn’t realize it.” He shuddered suddenly and slowly got to his feet. “I need to remember to fix whatever condition caused it in the first place before I turn it off. Otherwise it could be even worse than being a partially breathing icicle.” His fists clenched as he shuddered again. “Damn.”

“I’m sorry.”

Iain smiled at her. “It’s all right. I’m sure that it would have been a wonderful joke and I’d suggest you save it for someone else or me again, later.” He took the towel from her and finished drying. “Thanks for helping.”

April smiled hesitantly back. “It was my fault, Iain.”

He chuckled. “And there was no harm done.”

“I’m glad.” April clasped her hands behind her back and gave him an innocent look. “So, can I still help my husband with his, ah, problem?”

He shook his head and looked down. “I think you already did with the cold, but,” he gave her a wink, “can I get a rain check for the fun way to do it.”

She laughed. “Of course you can.”
“Good. Now turn the hot water back on for the next person and please take me to my room so I can get some clean clothes. I’d love to lollygag around with you all day but there’s this cruel woman who is just waiting to debrief me on everything I did wrong in today’s exercise and she’s not likely to let me use spending time with my wife as an excuse to get out of it.”

“I don’t know,” April said thoughtfully as she turned a valve at the hot water heater. “If you show up naked like you are she might forgive you.”

“I’m pretty sure this is a public briefing and so I might get mobbed by nice women who just want to spend some quality time with me.”

“So you want a rain check?”

He grinned. “Can I get more than one?”

She slipped her arm through his a she gave him a wicked smile. “I don’t say this to just any man but you, sir, can have as many as you want.” They vanished.

***

Iain leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes before leaning forward again and looked around the room at his command staff. “We finished draining everything useful we could get out of the pokedex of the female analog of me. And by everything useful I mean everything that was in it. She was using the name Geraldine Grey but for a while she was Geraldine Wolf.”

Eve smiled amusedly. “So your analog had the same last name you did, but the first name was very different from yours. What else did you find?”

“We recovered emails and Theodora managed to pull deleted emails and other files from her pokedex as well. Speaking of that, in the very near future you’ll be getting a software upgrade to your pokedexes that will allow you to shred deleted files and messages if desired so nobody can do that to us. We’ll provide them to every other handheld we’ve sold as a satellite update later this month. It turns out that Geraldine got a lot more mail than I did and was corresponding with some people around Blue and some others in Noir. Most of this mail suggested that this group of people was composed of mages who had a special interest in cutting edge magic and technology.”

“You said most,” Silver eyed him curiously. “What were the rest of the messages about?”

“I can make them available to you, but the vast majority of the other messages suggested that Geraldine was having sex with four of them whenever they could get together. The mail and some of the videos were pretty graphic.”

“That’s all right, I have my own male and plenty of willing clan mates when he’s unavailable,” Silver replied with a grin. “Although I wonder what you thought of your analog’s body.”

Iain smiled back at her. “If I hadn’t known who she was I wouldn’t have thrown her out of bed before I came to the pokegirl universes, but she’s not anywhere as good as any one of you ladies. Besides, I really think that kind of smacks of some bizarre narcissistic fetish.” He waited until the Pegaslut looked satisfied at the compliment before continuing. “I have no idea if any of the people she was corresponding with were associated with that world’s Order of Pendragon, although I have evidence that it exists there insomuch as one of the Blackguards we killed was wearing a green cloak badge that held a mild enchantment. Later, Dominique will confirm whether or not it’s an Order made device. We took all of the soldiers’ gear as a matter of course and that equipment is still being processed. Except for the small number of magic items, which have been segregated and are waiting for Dominique to go through, it’s all military hardware and has more security protocols involved than comparable civilian equipment, most of which will wipe the memory or self-destruct if messed with too much. However we’ve found a quick and dirty way around that.”

“How,” Sofia asked.

“We defeated any anti-tamper devices and took the pokedexes and other equipment apart so we could pull the memory chips from them. Now Theodora is busy sucking them dry without having to worry about the security software on the pokedexes. It turns out that the memory is all still encrypted, but she’s decrypting everything as quickly as she can and then will collate it all into one hopefully comprehensive picture. We do know already that Geraldine had at least three warrants out for her arrest, two for murder and one for robbery, and that they were all canceled within two days of each other and a month before the time I arrived, presumably as a result of her death. It also seriously suggests that the Blue League knew exactly when she died, which adds to the suspicion that the League’s agents killed her.”

“She’s been busy,” Ninhursag observed.

Iain shrugged. “We all know that the Blues might have faked the charges for the purpose of enlisting the local authorities in catching her. All three warrants specified that she was to be taken alive if at all possible. When she’s been processed I’ll ask her about it.”

Allison’s ears perked up. “Processed?”

Iain blinked. “Fuck.” He gritted his teeth. “She’s being processed by Eirian and the others to see if she can be added to my undead harem.”

April eyed him curiously. “You neglected to mention that.”

“I did. Like I said, it’s nothing definite yet. If she can’t be safely added, she’ll be destroyed.”

“Any dead can be turned into an obedient undead, according to a discussion I had with Ygerna back in Glasgow.” Lucifer frowned. “Does that mean she’s already a lich?”

“Yes, it does. From what I can determine, when she died, she was turned into a lich, probably instantly, because of the bonds she had with her dead harem. And, yes, that means the same fate probably awaits me unless I figure a way around it, but we already kind of knew that and we’re working really hard to make sure I don’t killed any time for the rest of my life.”

Dominique snickered.

“He’s not telling us something,” Canaan said.

Iain felt his jaw muscles clench before he managed to suppress his irritation. “I’m not done with the briefing yet. Of course there are things I haven’t told you yet.”

“Please continue,” Eve said gently.

“Also according to the records in her pokedex, this world follows the rules of the Zombabe Glasgow world. Until recently she was an apprentice tamer with seven pokegirls in her harem, which meant she had nine slots remaining before she hit capacity. However, also four of those pokegirls were listed as recently deceased, all on the same day. None of them were Dragonesses, so she wasn’t using her dead harem to pad her existing one.” He dropped three pokeballs on the table in front of him. “And these are her remaining girls. They’re all feral, too, which is going to be useful in regards to the decisions we make about them.”

“Why is that?” Silver eyed the balls interestedly. “What decisions need made?”

“They’ll know more about Geraldine,” April said. “The first decision is does Iain awaken them.”

“Actually, the first decision is a little more complex than that.” He smiled. “Please notice that to avoid the jokes about me wanting to have sex with them I did not say complicated.” He idly rolled the balls with the palm of his hand. “The composition of her harem is significantly different from my family, which is a good thing. Finding another Scheherazade, April or Eve would be scary. However, you’re not going to like them.” He tapped a ball. “This one holds a Demoness.” He tapped the second ball. “This one is a Succubus, but we’ll return to her in a moment.” He touched the third one. “And this one is odd. The scan was inconclusive and Geraldine’s pokedex says her name is Ganieda and that she’s a Splice.”

“Is she me,” Canaan asked.

“I don’t know, but I doubt it. None of her other six pokegirls were breeds I had in my family. They were either ghost types or infernal.”

“What’s special about the Succubus,” Eve asked.

“There was something strange about her pokeball, just like with the infected NurseJoy, but a full scan showed nothing unusual so I had Theodora rig up a teleport and phase proof cage and I released her into it for a second so I could see her. It turns out that she isn’t really a Succubus.” He rolled the ball out in front of the others. “She’s a Dark Queen masquerading as a Succubus.”

“Excuse me,” Allison asked in the sudden complete silence, “but does the fact that both Lucifer and Eve look like they want to throw up mean that the Dark Queen isn’t a nice pokegirl?”

“Dark Queens are the Megami-sama of the Infernal pokegirls,” Canaan said. “I think Eve and Lucy would rather he try to fuck one of his dead harem or their adult daughters than a Dark Queen.”

Lucifer glanced at Canaan but turned back to Iain. “I,” she said delicately, “believe that her presence in our family will prove to be quite the challenge. I am, of course, also concerned about Olivia and Seraphina and how this will affect them and the rest of the children.”

Iain smiled. “You misunderstand me, Lucifer. I have no intention of awakening the Dark Queen, much less bringing her into the family. I don’t take being manipulated very well and that’s pretty much all a Dark Queen does. I never understood why anyone would ever want one of them, but she was written during one of the periods of people trying to make their pokegirl design better and more powerful than anyone else’s and not so much breeds that were actually useful for anyone or that anyone would want. Fortunately, for the people who still have consciences, she’s feral so she’s not human and killing her isn’t murder. I just wanted to warn you of what she was. After all, Ginevra isn’t really that bad and I could possibly see certain individuals trying to convince us to make the right Demoness or Succubus part of our family.”

“That’s a relief,” Lucifer said.

Iain looked at Eve. “No comment about how we could just sell her instead of killing her out of hand?”

“There is nothing redeemable about a Dark Queen,” Eve said. “She will ruin the life of any person or group she ends up with. And I don’t want her left in her pokeball to be released someday by someone who believes that they are the one to make a Dark Queen toe the line, so she must die.”

Allison’s ears were halfway back. “She must be terrible for you to say that.”

“They are,” Iain said. “And I’m not inclined to have anything to do with the Demoness either. Ginevra is the way she is because she’s special and Jamie was a good influence on her while she was a Youma and that influence has continued up to now. A Demoness who has been partnered with a Dark Queen is likely to be a very different type of individual. I wouldn’t trust her around the children and if I can’t she can’t be one of us.” He touched the third ball. “And that decision leaves us with the sister of Merlin.”

April frowned. “Who?”

Iain smiled. “According to legend, Ganieda is the sister of Merlin and is as powerful a sorceress as he is.”

Allison lolled her tongue in a laugh. “I doubt this Merlin fellow is much of a sorceress.”

Iain shook his head slightly and smiled as others joined in the laughter. “Yes, you’re absolutely right. He was a sorcerer since he was a fellow.” He waited until the laughter died out. “Now, let’s get back to the subject at hand, Ganieda. I really have no bad feelings about this pokeball, but the fact that the scan was inconclusive is possibly a sign that she’s going to be trouble.” He rolled the ball around with a fingertip. “And by inconclusive, I mean that the pokedex software wouldn’t even guess or give me probability ranges for various breeds. All it would say is that the ball is occupied.” He smiled slightly. “Because of this issue, Theodora is in the process of building her own software that will do the same job, hopefully better. She's also building the most secure holding room we can think of and she's open to suggestions on how to make it safer.” He looked at Vanessa, Eve and Lucifer where they sat. “Does anyone have anything they feel about her, either way? I mean I don’t think this is an H-ball or anything really freaky like that.”

April paled. “Do you think those things really exist?”

“I wrote about ball shaped items that could hold humans with pokegirl DNA safely without turning them into pokegirls as an emergency evacuation device, so somewhere they’re out there. However, I'm almost certain they're not on this world.”

“I think she could be useful,” Lucifer said with that distracted look she sometimes had when looking at probabilities. “But that depends on you, Iain.”

“Wonderful. Fine I'll give her a test run and see what happens.

“Thank you,” Eve said. “I'd like to think we don't automatically condemn people because they're different.”

“He doesn't,” Dominique laughed. “He let you stay, didn't he?”

“That's enough,” Iain said firmly. He looked around. “All right, the Dark Queen is dead meat and I'll awaken the other one. What about the Demoness? I don't want her but do we put her up for sale to a Texan who could use her?”

“She's an Infernal,” April protested.

“So was Pandora when she joined us,” Sofia pointed out.

“The problem is that you don't want her because she was under the influence of the Dark Queen, or so you believe and you can't tell for certain unless you awaken her,” Ninhursag said quietly. “But once she's awakened, our options for dealing with her if she's truly evil are much more limited until she kills someone. It's a Catch 22. We don't necessarily want to kill her until we know she's evil but once we awaken her mind so we can tell, we're not supposed to kill her.”

“I can still kill her as long as she's not in my bubble,” Iain said. “And if we awaken her on the Theodora, she's not on Texas soil and therefore not subject to the protective laws of Texas.”

“That's a very alluring idea,” Allison said. “And I've learned that alluring ideas like that are usually morally wrong.”

Iain chuckled. “You've become too much of a Texan, which is not a bad thing.” He shrugged as others smiled. “Then we kill her. I won't lose any sleep over killing her, so I'll take care of it.”

Eve's eyes narrowed. “Are they going into your dead harem?”

He gave her an amused look. “Waste not, want not.”

Eve folded her arms. “I thought we didn't need to expand the dead harem anymore. Eoghan and Germanicus have been destroyed.”

“And what about the truewizards that are probably coming,” Iain asked. “Eirian pointed out that we were busy expanding the living portion of the clan and that it wouldn't hurt to examine the same concept for the dead portion of it. I thought about it and decided we still need all of the help we can get, so I told her to be on the lookout for victims for the dead harem. As before, we're limiting the search to those stupid enough to attack us instead of just grabbing passing feral pokegirls and press ganging them into it.”

“You have gotten entirely too comfortable with that concept,” Eve said sadly.

Iain shook his head. “No, I haven't. I just don't automatically decide that it’s bad because they're undead.”

“My understanding is that Eirian is the leader of this group,” Lucifer said. “I have seen her in Glasgow but I would like to meet her.” She put her hand on Eve's shoulder, “I love you, but Iain is right when he says that some of your decisions about people are instinctual instead of based on evidence.”

“I'll make the arrangements,” Iain replied. “To be honest, expanding either group isn't my first choice. I care deeply for the living women who have chosen to give unto me a portion of their lives and sometimes I resent having to spend my life with those who are strangers to me. Yes, I get to know them eventually and all of them so far have been worthy of that time. Still, sometimes I resent it. But you were persuasive in that we need to grow so that the clan will grow strong and survive. There will come a point, however, where outer clan and satellite clan is where the growth should focus unless we decide otherwise. After that, the growth of the inner clan should be through our children and their mates and not at the expense of the time we spend with each other. Let's be looking for that point.”

Ninhursag nodded. “Well said, Iain.”

“Why expand your dead harem then,” Allison asked.

“Because my dead harem, barring a few very specific circumstances, cannot be destroyed and they can help to keep my living family alive. As some of us have seen, they make excellent shock troops. In addition, they help to guard me when you cannot. While Eve and April don't like to admit it, Eirian and the others have kept me alive more than once.” He grimaced. “And when it comes down to it, I need that level of protection sometimes. I am as weak as some of you want me to think I am and, no matter what you might see, I am aware of that fact. We were once betrayed from inside the family and if I'd had my undead harem with me at the time, I could have avoided a pretty nasty time of it. I don't think any of you will betray us, but I didn't think that Barbie would either and that's why I'm never without at least two of them.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “And my human liabilities are why you need to know that Kerrik has offered to make me like him.”

“You are already a truewizard,” Allison said. “What else do you mean?”

“Kerrik is kami and Sidhe.”

Silver blinked. “What did you tell him?”

“I said that I'd think about it. There are a lot of things to consider before making that kind of decision.”

“What is your first inclination,” April asked.

“Honestly, my first thought is to go my own way. I am getting stronger and harder to kill as time passes. Becoming kami, Sidhe or a hybrid of both is a shortcut to that and like all shortcuts there are potential downsides to it, just like there are in taking steroids to put on muscle mass faster. The question is are the risks worth the result and right now I don't have a good answer to it.” He rubbed his eyes. “I thought I'd put together a précis of the good and bad of accepting any of the three offers and present it to my command team sometime in the next couple of months. After that, depending on your advice, I'd present it to the clan as a whole.”

“You're willing to accept advice on this,” Eve asked.

“This is something that does not just affect me and I want your input. It can affect me, all of you and our children because what happens to me will be passed to our children. Unlike when I bonded Eirian and the others to me, we have time to try and consider all of the ramifications. When I had to bond the Legacy, I was trying to keep me and Dominique alive and it very definitely snowballed after that. If I'd had the time to consider it and didn't know what I do now about the ways in which they have helped us, I might not have made them mine.”

“But you did,” Dominique said, “and now they're your responsibility, which is why you treat them the way you do. For someone who doesn't care about others, you certainly seem to sometimes.”

He chuckled. “I've always said that the people inside my bubble get treated differently than the ones who are not.” He looked around the room. “Are there any questions? If not, I'd like to end this meeting. There's another meet and greet in Orange coming up and while I am teaching Daphne how to barbecue and she’s doing well, she still needs some instruction.”

Ninhursag looked around. “Then this meeting is over. People are to report to me or Allison for your job assignments if you don't already have them.”

***

Canaan held Rebecca and teased her with a dead mouse while Iain lay curled up with Hannah and watched as the infant Huntress tried to grab the rodent. “You realize that in my world we'd probably be arrested and our kids confiscated for child abuse.”

Canaan glanced at him. “No, they'd try and then they'd end up dead. She is hungry, she's just being stubborn about it. She wants something else and won't tell me what it is.”

“Offer it to Hannah. Then Rebecca will want it more.”

Canaan smiled. “You know she can understand what you're saying.”

“I also know that it doesn't matter when it's about food and her sister.” He chuckled and nodded towards where Hannah was trying to get free from his arms and crawl towards her mother. “Hannah wants it.”

Rebecca glared at him and her sister before she snatched the mouse from her mother's hands and bit its head off. Hannah made an angry noise and Rebecca just smiled at her as she chewed. Her smile vanished and she squealed angrily as the mouse jerked in her tiny hands.

Iain rapped Hannah gently on the forehead. “Rude, stop that.”

The mouse stopped moving as Hannah gave him an innocent look and started sucking on her favorite thumb, which happened to be on her right lower hand. Sorry, daddy.

Iain didn't relent. “Tell your sister you're sorry.”

Hannah scowled and her antenna uncurled as she glanced dismissively at her sister. Not sorry. Not lie.

Iain laughed and nuzzled her. “What am I to do with you, you little rogue?”

Her eyes lit up. Mouse!

He shook his head. “Canaan, we would like another mouse please.”

She chuckled and cocked her head slightly. A writhing mouse came zooming out of some nearby berry bushes towards Iain. He heard the faint crack as its spine snapped and it stopped to hover in front of him for an instant before it was jerked down by an invisible force into Hannah's hands. She grinned and shoved it tail first into her mouth as Iain reached behind him for a towel in case she made a mess. Yummy! She pulled the uneaten portion out of her mouth and offered it towards him.

He leaned down and pressed his closed lips against it before shaking his head. She grinned and crammed it back into her mouth. He wiped his mouth with the towel and chuckled. “I don't think my sisters ever thought they'd be aunts and even if they did think I'd have kids I suspect this would be a little much for them.”

“Do you miss them?”

He shrugged. “I do. I am happy here, but they're my family and I helped to raise them both.” She snickered and he looked curiously at her. “What?”

She smiled gently. “When are we going to go see them?”

“First I have to figure out what the coordinates of my home universe are,” he said with a laugh. “After that, we'll see.”

Kasumi would like to talk to you, Theodora said through his twee.

Iain sat up; sliding Hannah down to the blanket he was laying on. “Tell her just a moment and ask if it's private.” Canaan gave him a curious look. “Kasumi.”

“Go,” Canaan said. “These two don't understand privacy yet.” Hannah lifted off and floated towards her mother. “As soon as they finish eating I'll take them back to my room.” Her eyes met his. “Thank you for spending this morning with us.”

“It was no trouble and you'd better know it.” He slid to his feet and bent down to steal a kiss from her. “I'll see you later.”

“Nice try,” she said. “Pandora will be here in a moment.”

“I wasn't going anywhere without security.”

Pandora appeared. “I'm glad to hear that.”

She isn't sure if it is private or not.

Then it's private. “Come along Pandora, but I'll need a bit of room for a private conversation with Kasumi.” She nodded and slowed until there were five meters between them as he headed towards the coffee field. “Ready.”

Kasumi was sitting on a rock overlooking a bluff with her computer in her hand. She jumped when Iain appeared standing in front of her. He smiled as he put his hands behind his back. “Hello, Kasumi.” He looked around, but whoever was her guard was outside the pickup field of her handheld. He eyed her for a moment. “You need more sleep.”

She flashed a smile. “Are you always worried about me?”

“You're my friend. Of course I worry about you. Are we alone?”

She nodded. “Except for Nishiko, yes.”

I have her on satellite and she's telling the truth as far as I can tell.

Iain didn't acknowledge Theodora's announcement but he did feel a little sadness over the fact that this sort of thing was necessary with the people of Haven. “So, how can I help you?” She visibly hesitated and he cocked his head. “Do I need to come remove a body for you?”

She blinked as, behind her, Nishiko laughed softly. “No, it's something else.” She gave him a weak smile. “How are you today?”

“I'm well. Surprisingly for Texas, it looks like a balmy day, although as usual it's humid. It's partly cloudy and we don't expect any rain for a few days.” He grinned at her as she flushed. “You obviously need or want something and I can't give it to you until I know what it is.”

She gave him a half glare. “I am not usually this transparent to people.”

“No, I doubt you are,” his smile faded. “But you've already learned I'm a tease and a flirt when I can be. Do I need to just listen?”

“That would help.” She watched as he settled down to the ground cross-legged and waved to her to go ahead. She sighed. “I'm not exactly sure how to say this.” Iain held up a hand and she frowned. “What?”

“I'm asking if I can speak. I don't have to be anywhere right now, so you take your time deciding how you want to approach whatever it is you want to tell me. If something changes in my situation here I'll let you know.” He rolled his neck once and put on a patient expression.

Kasumi looked at him and around for a few minutes before looking back at him. “I'm still not sure how to approach this.” He raised a hand again and she gave him an angry look. “Just talk to me, Iain.”

“How about you start by telling me in as few words as possible what the subject is.”

She hesitated and then blurted the words out. “The time I won.”

“That wasn't impossible, was it? If I explain the rules, maybe that'll help you. May I?” She nodded. “The rules at this point are simple. You won a week. Each member of your harem won a week too, and my understanding is that they've given you their weeks. However, at this point that isn't important. Under the rules you tell me what you want to do and I can either tell you it’s reasonable and we'll do it or it’s not and you need to find something else to ask for. You can go into as much of an explanation as you want, but in the end it boils down to two sentences, one of which comes from you and the other of which comes from me.”

The evenness of his voice calmed her and she took a deep breath before letting it out slowly. “I want to see my family, but there is something special involved.”

“So far what you want seems reasonable enough,” Iain said. “But I need to know the special requirements too.”

Kasumi's mouth dropped. “It is?”

“Yes it is. The family will have to go along with us, but they can stay as much out of sight as possible if you want. This is about spending time with me, unless you just want me to ferry you there and then disappear for a while.”

“No, I want you to meet my family. It's just that I haven't been back to see them since Kozakura was born. I had so many responsibilities with her and then the school. You said that you'd figured out how Dominique missed the date she was aiming for. Is that true?”

Iain nodded. “It is.”

“Then can you arrive at any date you want?”

He nodded again. “We should be within a day or two at the worst, but with practice we should be able to refine it more.”

Kasumi took a deep breath. “I haven't seen my family in decades, Iain. For all I know, my father is dead and my sisters married and far away.”

Iain nodded. “We should be able to find them no matter where they are.”

“That's not what I want to ask for.” She gestured at herself. “Physically I haven't aged. If you can arrive at the right time, I'd like to see them a year or so after I last left. Is that unreasonable?”

He shook his head. “No, it's not. There are a few things to consider about such a visit, but it's not unreasonable under the rules.”

“What needs to be considered?”

“Your family is going to want to know what is going on with your husband since he's not there and they're going to want to know what our relationship is. Or perhaps you expect me to take him along too. Do you?”

Kasumi shook her head. “You said that you thought I was upset at Shikarou before we went to Glasgow. I was and I still am, and things that have happened since I returned have made me want some more time away from him.”

“That's not my business unless this trip is going to piss Shikarou off against me,” Iain said, “and even then all I'd want is a warning first. It doesn't mean I won't take you.”

She looked surprised. “Really?”

He smiled. “Under the rules if you want to do anything with me that isn't unreasonable, I have to do it without complaint, remember? Besides, I'd like to meet your family.”

She blinked. “You would?”

“Yes. I've written notes about them and then written about them a little. Of course I'm curious to see how lifelike they are too. And I won't miss not meeting Happosai. If he'd pulled half of what he did with Shikarou's harem or your family I'd have just made him vanish one morning.”

She gave him an amused look. “Are you sure it isn't so you can meet Nabiki? She is pretty and unattached.”

Iain smiled. “Do you remember our talk when you came to see me on the Theodora the first time?” She nodded. “Well, Nabiki is not hot and, honestly, neither is Akane.”

Kasumi looked surprised. “Really? Was I hot then?”

He smiled. “Nosy wench, aren't you?” She just gave him a bright smile and he shook his head. “I crushed pretty hard on nineteen year old Kasumi, but she was cute more than hot. Add in your years of seasoning and experience and you are a woman and much better than you were then. But if I had been Ranma you wouldn't have gotten away from me.”

“Akane was closer to his age and she was a better fit for him,” Kasumi said.

“True. And it doesn't matter. I'm not Ranma. When?”

She frowned. “I'd like to go before I have to worry about the school this fall. To be honest, I'd like to go today.”

“That's unreasonable,” Iain said with a smile. “But I will talk with my command staff and see how soon we can accommodate your request. I'll get back to you in no more than three days.”

“Thank you, Iain.”

“You are very welcome, Kasumi. This should be fun.” She frowned and he smiled. “Ok, as long as nobody starts throwing around Jusenkyo water. At that point someone is going to get really hurt.”

She laughed. “Go, Iain, before I change my mind.”

He bowed. “As you command, my lady.” He vanished.

***

Iain stopped Chuck as she went by. “So, how does it feel to be an inch taller than me now and have gray hair?”

She chuckled, her ears rotating to focus on him. “Things change when we evolve and you evolved me twice yesterday. Now I'm a Wolf Queen and the worst thing is that I thought my nose was good at scenting before and I have now learned I was very wrong.” She gave him a quick kiss. “And I love the restraints you had made for me and I really enjoyed how you put me into them last night.”

“Trust me, it was my pleasure.”

She leaned forward and inhaled deeply, her eyes closing as she did. “Can someone's scent be addictive?”

“You'll have to tell me that.”

“I will,” she murmured. Then she blinked. “And I really have to run. April is going to kill me more than she already plans to if I'm late to the tests she's set up for my new form.” She turned and blurred away.

Iain turned to Lucifer and Canaan. “Are you sure you want to go with me?”

“I still want to meet Eirian and I haven't experienced this aspect of your personality before,” Lucifer said.

“We all have some secrets, Lucifer and some of them shouldn't be seen. I don't want to take a chance on driving you away from us.”

“That is not going to happen, Iain. I understood what lay in your heart before I decided to stay with you. You are truly a good bad person.”

He nodded. “Then it's off to the Theodora.”

A half hour later the three of them stood in the brig. Lucifer looked around eagerly. “I have never been here before.”

“It's not someplace that many people come,” Theodora said. “I only have it because it's a standard feature on clan ships. If my hull had been scratch built for the Greys I would have probably omitted it even if it doesn't take much cubage and built a temporary brig when needed. Other than Iain the only people who have spent any time here at all are Seraphina and Olivia.”

Lucifer looked surprised. “What were they doing here?”

“They were playing a game they called Celestials and bad guys,” Theodora explained. “And they were bringing imaginary prisoners here for me to keep while they went out to catch more and so I could keep score for them. I even gave the prisoners holograms based on what the girl’s twees indicated they looked like.”

“You spoil them too much,” Lucifer said amusedly.

“I spoil everyone who will let me,” Theodora replied. “You are my family and if allowed I will make sure that you want for nothing. And I didn't really spoil our girls since this is the first time the brig will serve its design purpose.”

Lucifer shook her head. “You are an excellent mother, Theodora. Please be firm with them when they need it.”

Theodora laughed. “If I wasn't already doing that I think they'd be living in the lake and trying to get their father to live there with them. They love swimming almost as much as they love Iain.” She turned and looked at the doorway. “Eirian is coming.”

A few seconds later the silver Dragoness ran into the room and stopped in front of Iain. “My lord.”

“Eirian, this is Lucifer. She wanted to meet you.”

Eirian's head swung around to look at the Megami-Sama. “Why?”

“You are an integral part of Iain's life and I wish to know everything about him that he will allow,” Lucifer replied. Her eyes betrayed her sudden caution. “You are not what I thought you would be.”

“You assumed I would be a ghost type pokegirl, perhaps even an Astral,” Eirian said with an echoing chuckle, “even though you saw me in Glasgow. I am not. I am more powerful and dangerous than you imagined, Lucifer of the Sisterhood and you are wise to feel fear in my presence, but since I serve my lord you are safe in my presence for now.”

“Do you serve him willingly?”

“I am bound to my lord, woman. I willingly obey him and I am bound to him. If I were not bound to him I would not obey him because my kind seeks power and dominion. It is why my slayer sought to become Sidhe and then destroyed them when they refused him admittance. He was like me both in life and in death and in death he made me like him that I might serve him, but he kept my will leashed that I might not destroy him. My lord has done otherwise and yet I am still leashed by him.”

“Do you like Iain?”

“I do. However, it would not save my lord if I were freed as I am.”

“You would kill him?”

“He is the only one who knows how to bind me. In that binding he would control me. If free, I would not wish to be bound once more. I would kill him first and then either kill or suborn all of you immediately after his death. Your power is impressive and I could use it for my goals.”

Lucifer looked surprised. “What goals do you have?”

“I have no goals except that of my lord's will. If I were free, I would have my own goals.” Her mouth opened in a gaping grin. “You do not want me free, woman.”

“Would you create more of your kind if you were free?”

“Why would I wish to add to my potential competition,” Eirian's voice was even. “They would only seek to supplant and destroy me. My slayer made that mistake and that mistake has destroyed his analog and his brother's analog on this world.” She snarled softly. “If only I had been allowed to destroy my slayer and his brother as well.”

Iain rested a hand on her shoulder. “That is the one thing that I cannot give you.”

She looked down at him. “My lord, I am yours. The semblance of life you give me I welcome. What happened before you came cannot be changed but since you have given my existence purpose.”

“I am not sure it's much of a semblance any more, Eirian. You are as alive as I can let you be.”

“Yes, my lord. Why have you summoned me?”

“Today we will add to the undead harem.”

“Good, my lord. We must grow in numbers and in power.”

Lucifer frowned. “You just said you wouldn't create more of your kind.”

“If I were free I would not. The dead harem protects my lord as much as if not more than the living harem. Its power needs to grow as well and therefore I am content to aid my lord in his growth. I suggested to him that we expand the dead harem and I had to convince him that my reasoning was sound. After the obliteration of this world's Usurper I again had to convince my lord that the dead harem's strength needed to grow, if only to help shield him and the living harem.” She turned to face Lucifer “The conversation we had previously was about what I would do if free. I am not free. I am bound to my lord and his will is my will and his concerns are my concerns. Your life means nothing to me and yet I will protect you if in doing so I do not leave my lord exposed because your life has value to my lord.” She drew herself up to her full height and looked down at the Megami-Sama in front of her. “Does this trouble you, fighter of evil, that evil would shield your offspring?”

Lucifer shivered. “Yes and yet I will accept your aid if I need it.”

“You are wise and you are wiser still to fear me,” Eirian said. “Have I turned your heart against my lord?” Lucifer looked surprised and the silver gave another hollow laugh. “I divined your intent the instant I saw you. I am dead and I am monster and yet I am still pokegirl and I know that jealousy is endemic to all things pokegirl. Have you learned enough about the darkness that swirls around my lord and your male?”

“Never.”

Eirian gave her an approving look. “As I have said twice before, you show wisdom.” She turned back to Iain. “What do you bring to the harem, my lord?”

“I have two this time, Eirian. They are both pokegirls of Geraldine. The first is a Dark Queen and the second is a Demoness.”

Eirian laughed harshly. “You give us two whose life will satisfy death and whose death will satisfy life.”

Iain smiled. “I hadn't thought about it that way, but you're right. They're both feral, but that won't be a problem for the conversion, will it?”

“No, my lord, it will not. Are you to be their slayer?”

“I was planning to, why?”

“They are not worthy of such a boon, my lord.”

Iain looked surprised. “Well, I want to kill them.”

“Then kill them you shall, my lord. I will summon others to help hold them.” She eyed him briefly. “The newest Dragonesses were processed incorrectly and would not reach their full potential for you. We are reprocessing their bodies to ensure that they may enjoy as much of a semblance of life as they can, my lord. They do not have names. Will it be your will to name them?”

“It is,” he said firmly. “When they are ready you will present them to me.”

“Yes my lord.”

Iain turned to Lucifer. “Are you sure you want to see this?”

Canaan laughed. “She does and she does not, Iain.”

“I am capable of speaking for myself,” Lucifer said firmly. “I want to know all aspects of your personality, Iain. I feel your heart and while I know that some things may repulse me, nothing will drive me from your side.”

Aurum, Beryl, Skye, Julia and Ling trotted into the room and stopped behind Eirian. “We are ready, my lord,” Eirian said.

He glanced once at Lucifer before turning his attention back to Eirian. “We will do the Dark Queen first.”

“Gate, phase and teleport blocks are in place throughout the entirety of the brig,” Theodora

announced. “Defense protocol alpha initiated. Defense protocol beta is on standby.” Portions of the walls in the brig spun open to reveal weapon emplacements.

Iain glanced at her hologram. “You are not to hold fire if the undead harem gets in the way.”

“I understand and my exclusion rules have been updated. Is this a temporary or permanent change to my ROEs?”

“It’s situational. If they’re in combat with an enemy, try not to hit the people on our side so they can continue to beat the shit out of the bad guys.”

“So I should treat them like my combat drones?”

“Yes.”

Eirian grinned evilly. “A good decision, my lord as this vessel’s weapons are ineffective against us.”

Theodora turned to look at Eirian, her eyes hard. “Do not make me want to begin considering ways that I might be able to destroy you, lizard. I can be quite creative.”

Eirian looked surprised for an instant. “No insult was intended, inorganic. You are quite formidable and I would not desire your animosity.”

“Then remember this if you ever do get free,” she said coldly. “You imperil my Iain at your own risk and you have already stated that you would immediately kill him if freed. If that is true, and I believe your words, if I can reach you then at the instant he frees you I will do my utmost to end your existence. Do not seek freedom.”

“I have made a severe tactical error in revealing that,” Eirian said solemnly. “And I do not seek to end my servitude to my lord nor do I seek nonexistence. The woman postulated a hypothetical and I replied with the truth.”

“Good. Iain is fond of you and I would not wish to hurt his feelings by destroying you.”

Skye laughed. “We all are very protective of you, my lord.”

“And when it doesn’t degenerate into death threats aimed at each other that is a wonderful thing,” Iain replied. “And I am sure that a fight to the permanent death between the two of you would be something to see, from a distance of about a light minute or so or maybe by remote video at that same distance.”

“Eirian will not try to hurt you while bound and you aren’t dumb enough to try and free her arbitrarily, so it’s not an issue,” Theodora said. “But as she has proven able to convince you of things you didn’t agree with at first, she needed warned. But now we can get back to our regularly scheduled executions.”

Lucifer started and her eyes went to Iain only to find him chuckling. He caught her looking at him and shrugged. “If they were aware that’s exactly what it would be. And since it’s presumably attractive women it’s not going to feel like I’m putting down an animal.” Before she could reply he turned to Eirian. “I’m beginning.”

Canaan stepped up next to him as he pulled a pokeball from his pocket. He released the occupant, who became a nude red headed Succubus. Before she could react, she was grabbed by the arms and neck by Aurum, Beryl and Skye and held motionless. She hissed at them angrily and struggled fruitlessly to escape.

“Hey.” Her head came around at Iain’s call and she focused on him. Her struggles stopped and she smiled seductively at him. Iain smiled back and reached out to press his hand into the valley between her large breasts. She purred at him, thrusting her chest against his hand. In the middle of her purr she broke off to give a soft gasping exhalation. Her eyes widened and she made that same noise several times. His voice was soft. “It’ll all right, it’s almost over.” Thin rivulets of blood crept ran from under his hand and down her body. He pulled his hand away when her legs lost their strength and she sagged in the Dragoness’ grips, revealing a thin three centimeter vertical slice in her chest from which blood slowly ran. “She’s all yours, ladies.” He tossed the pokeball into a nearby container.

“Yes, my lord.” Aurum lifted the body and handed it to Julia, who threw it over her shoulder and ran from the room with it. “Eirian was right, my lord. Her death was much quicker than ours and far better than these deserve.”

Lucifer realized that he was idly licking the blood from his hand and took it in hers to wipe it off with a towel she produced out of the air. She wasn’t surprised to see his hand was uninjured, but it only increased her curiosity. “How did you do that?”

Iain waited until she was done and pulled his hand free. He held it out and his black and silver living sword grew point first from his palm until the hilt appeared in his hand and he gripped it tightly. “I’ve learned I can stop the blade’s extension before the sword fully exits and put it back on my arm. The sword is sharp enough that it slices through rib bone as easily as flesh and for her I drove it through the center of her heart, rupturing all four chambers.” The blade flowed back onto his arm. “It keeps the victim from being unnecessarily upset. I don’t know if that helps with the transition to undeath, but it does keep the mess down.”

“It is not required,” Eirian said. “We were all tortured to death by our slayer. He refused to let us die until we were completely broken and begged to serve him in any way possible if only the pain would stop. Killing us was the only mercy he ever showed us.”

“Why would he torture you,” Lucifer asked. “What did he get out of it?”

“It let him understand our limits,” Skye said, “but the real reason he tortured us was because it brought him pleasure. He only found pleasure in the pain of others.”

“Torture is not my way,” Iain stated firmly. “And you should be glad that it isn’t”

“We are, my lord,” Eirian replied.

Lucifer touched Iain on the arm. “Why?”

He smiled at her and took her hand. “It’s people like you who remind me where the man ends and the monster begins. I’ve had to learn more necromancy than I ever wanted to, but it is part of me and I have to master it along with everything else. My Dragonesses cannot die, but I can make it where they feel pain and respond to it just as if they were alive. If I were interested in torture they would be the perfect subjects with which to refine my skills in the art.” He shook his head. “But the only reason I’d torture someone is if they were in my life and torture was their kink. Fortunately, most people who claim to want to be tortured really just want the safe illusion of torture as opposed to bloody strips peeled from their body.”

“But if you had someone who needed that, you’d give it to her,” Lucifer said quietly.

“I would.”

She sighed and squeezed his hand just short of pain. “And you would do it no matter what the cost was to you. There are some things you should not do for anyone, Iain.”

“Perhaps,” he said as he squeezed back. “But what I really need to do is be careful not to let that kind of person close to me. After all, she isn’t likely to want to limit that sort of behavior to just her and me, is she? And it would only be acceptable if she wanted me to torture her. I am not anyone’s bottom. I wasn’t inclined towards that before I came here and my treatment by Aglaii just reinforced it.” He smiled wryly. “So there is a limit I won’t go past.”

Lucifer wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly, resting her head on his shoulder. “But you would try for them,” she said in a voice just above a whisper. “And in that trying you would be hurt more than you would ever admit. I will not allow it.” She lifted her head and smiled at him “And unlike Seraphina and Olivia, you cannot forbid me to make that kind of promise to you.”

Iain kissed her quickly on the lips and hugged her back before pulling away. “Not only can’t I forbid that, I would appreciate your help in keeping that kind of person away from me, because I think you’re right. I’d probably be dumb enough to try just about anything for someone I cared about. And feel free to enlist the help of anyone else in our family to keep those kinds of people from me.”

She smiled at him. “I will. Now you have a Demoness to kill.”

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“No. All things die someday and as you pointed out, a Demoness who has been under the influence of a Dark Queen is very probably unsalvageable. If I had faced the two of them on the battlefield I would have killed them both without hesitation. Will you be as gentle with this one as the Dark Queen?”

“If I can. Part of me wants to hurt people when I do this and I intend to deny it that pleasure as much as I can.”

“Good. There is a darkness inside of you that would feed on it.”

Iain turned to the Dragonesses. “Now for the Demoness.”

He pulled another pokeball from his pocket and activated it just as Julia ran back into the room. The human lich stopped and stepped to put her back against the wall as the others grabbed the Demoness and held her motionless.

The Demoness was a brownish red in color and she hissed before suddenly being covered in black flames as she used ignite and hellfire together. The flames quickly spread to the three Dragonesses holding her, but while it burned their flesh they otherwise ignored it.

Iain drew his pistol and shot the Demoness twice in the chest. His aim twitched up to line up the fatal shot into her head, but he held his fire when the flames vanished and the Demoness vomited blood as she went limp.

“Cleanup on aisle three,” Theodora said with a grin. “Don’t worry; I’ll take care of it.”

“Thank you,” Iain said as Skye handed the body to Ling, who raced from the room with it as he looked at his small group of undead. “Ladies, I want to thank you for helping today.”

“There is one more,” Eirian said.

“And I’m going to try to put her in my living harem,” Iain replied. “If I change my mind, I’ll call you. I have Beryl and Rhea riding me so you can get back to cataloging the books and other things from Glasgow, if you would please.”

“What books,” Lucifer asked curiously as the undead ran out of the room.

“Um, right,” Iain said. “Would you believe me if I told you that we stumbled across a pile of several hundred million credits worth of books and whatnot that had a sign taped to them which read ‘free to a good home’ on it and after some reflection we realized this was an excellent home for books?”

“I would if that were what happened.” She smiled disarmingly. “Now what did happen?”

“We stole the all of the books from the University of Glasgow Library, all of their digital media and every magic book or item in the city that Eirian and the others could find. That’s why we stayed in orbit after we left Glasgow because they weren’t done collecting everything.”

Her eyes went wide. “I think that perhaps you should substitute hundreds of millions of credits with thousands of millions of credits if that is true. Why?”

“Naked greed?” He shrugged when she didn’t look convinced. “There’s a lot of history in there that I want to read that we want to avoid. While it’s not necessarily applicable to this world, we will eventually travel to others and if we stay in the local subgroup there will be other worlds with pokegirls in them and other leagues that we will have to avoid or deal with. Hopefully this will help. The magic books and items were the preliminary reason, but I figured if we were going to steal stuff it might as well be as complete as possible. And there are a lot of priceless books and such that we would otherwise never have access to, stuff that goes back for thousands of years or more.” He shook his head. “Especially with some of the orgies of destruction that are going on in the Middle East in regards to non-Islamic books and art. Not to mention the Neo-Luddites that are working to destroy anything technological they can get their hands on, including books. Eirian approached me about acquiring some magic items and books that she detected and when she told me that some of them were in the Glasgow University library, I told her to take the whole thing. If I’d realized then that we were going to be getting Shikarou’s library soon I’d have made a different decision. But there are engineering books that haven’t been written for this world and I intend to get those into circulation to help with the ferals.” He smiled. “So, is there anything in there that will justify what I had done better than ‘I wanted them’?”

“By this, should I presume that if you had been convinced to steal pokegirls from Glasgow you would have tried your best to take them all?”

“I do like doing a job properly.”

“How many pokegirls do you think are in storage in Glasgow?”

“The number that was current in the league’s computers the night of the catastrophe was more than nine hundred thousand occupied pokeballs in long term storage,” Theodora supplied. “Shikarou’s theft would have not dropped it below nine hundred thousand.”

Lucifer look stunned. “I would have never thought that many.”

“In any league more than two hundred years old there will always be a lot more confiscations and abandoned in storage than those in current harems so most of those would have had issues of one kind or another and might have been in storage for decades.” Theodora shrugged. “And there were a hundred or so that were flagged as condemned for death but were also marked as menace pokegirls.”

Iain nodded. “It would have taken centuries to find homes for them at our current pace. On top of that the question is how many of them are Bunnygirls or Damsels or something else that might be all right as someone’s pet or as a domestic pokegirl but not as a soldier in a war that we’d put aside and possibly never get back to. That was the real reason I didn’t want to start swiping storage units.”

Lucifer grimaced. “And all of those girls would have been raised in a system where it’s the law to call a human master or mistress and spend most of your life naked.” She started chuckling. “You do realize who they are likely to blame your thefts on, do you not?”

Iain looked blank for a minute before he realized what she meant. “Shikarou? I think you’re right about that one. I don’t see them coming here, so I’m good with that.”

“Unlike the Wolf database, will these books be available for everyone to use?”

Iain nodded. “They will.”

“You don’t show any remorse for your theft,” Lucifer said, “but you can atone for it.”

He suddenly looked suspicious. “How so?”

“Make copies of selections these books and build libraries across Texas to house them. You can employ pokegirls to run the collections and this way you can provide both entertainment books as well as the technical books you mentioned earlier for all.”

“So I do this and we’re good?”

She laughed. “We were always good, Iain. Glasgow will take a long time to be cleansed of the Zombabes, decades at the very least, and in the end the Blue League may still have no choice but to destroy the city to remove their stain completely. Meanwhile these books will be accomplishing the purpose for which they were written, to be read by others. However the libraries will help to placate Eve and certain elements in the Sisterhood who might otherwise be outraged by this theft. I suggest the first library be built in Shield and the second in Stile.” She grinned suddenly. “And the third library can be donated to the Iain Grey.”

Iain grimaced. “Are you aware that they have replaced that silly oil painting of me with a bloody statue?”

“I am. I gave them the picture they used and Theodora made the statue for them.”

Canaan cocked her head. “Iain, stop letting her distract you. The feral.”

“Did it occur to you that maybe I wanted to be distracted?”

“I know you’d like to be distracted. You are not interested in bedding any feral, but you must and you will after we know what we’re facing and what is required.”

He gritted his teeth. “Which cell, Theodora?”

“Use cell one, Iain. It still has all of the additions I installed for the Dark Queen.”

Without another word, Iain turned and headed for the first cell, stopping only when Julia stepped in front of him. “My lord,” she said as she bowed slightly.

“What is it, Julia?”

“My lord, when I started processing the Dark Queen I discovered that she was wearing a belt hidden by illusion magic.” The human lich held up a black leather belt. On it was a pokedex and a metal case similar in shape to a knife scabbard. “There is something magical inside the case, my lord, and I thought you would want it.”

Iain took the belt. “Thank you, Julia.”

“You are welcome, my lord. My lord, I would like to thank you for bringing me into the undead harem.”

Iain looked surprised. “You would?”

“My lord, I was a seeker of power in life and I recognize now that I was nothing but a low level puppet and slave to the Sanctuary Goths, although at the time I believed I was destined for greater things and that my mistresses would soon promote me. I still seek power but now I am already much more powerful than I was in life and I am training to become a powerful mage. Servitude to you is a pittance to pay for such changes in my existence. My life was wasted, my lord, but you have ensured that my death shall not be and I am grateful for it.”

“This is surprising, but you are very welcome, Julia.”

She bowed again and ran from the room.

“So what did she give you,” Canaan asked eagerly.

“Good lord, this is going to be you and Christmas again, isn’t it?”

“I love a holiday where people give me things,” she said with a smile. “Is there anything wrong with that?”

“It’s supposed to be a religious holiday,” Iain said. “The whole secular side was popularized by hopefully long dead fucking businessmen.”

Canaan shrugged. “Then you spend next Christmas with the Sullivan family and give me your gifts.”

Lucifer snickered softly as Iain just shook his head slowly. “There’s a decorated stick in the case. It’s probably some kind of wand.”

Canaan grinned.” I want to see it!”

“You are incorrigible.” Iain opened the case and pulled out the stick. It was ornately decorated in a blinding array of colors with images of grotesque parodies of what were obviously pokegirls.

Canaan paled and took several steps back. “Mother fucking piece of shit! Put it away, Iain!”

He quickly did so. “What is it?”

“It’s the G-Stylus and I’d say Julia brought you mine but the decorations on this one are different.” Her eyes met his. “They change, you know.”

He frowned. “I never paid much attention to some of the stupid stuff in the genre and I considered the G-Stylus to be high on that list. No, I didn’t know.”

“The carvings are magical representations of the poor girls the wand is used on. Mine has an image on it that appeared after my two halves were spliced together.”

“That’s cruel but a lot of artifacts are,” Iain said. “Theodora, I want you pull the information out of the pokedex and put the G-Stylus into the vault under my seal so nobody but me can get to it.”

“Fifteen seconds,” Theodora said. Almost immediately a wheeled remote with an array of manipulator arms on it purred into the room and stopped in front of Iain. He handed it the belt and it turned and left. “I’ll have the G-Stylus locked up in ten minutes. Do you need verbal confirmation when I have?”

“No, that’ll be fine.” He looked at Canaan curiously. “What happened to your Stylus?”

“It’s in my quarters where I can keep an eye on it, she replied. “Maybe I should give it to you.”

“That’s your decision, but I’m worried our kids might find it.”

She blinked. “I’ll have it here tonight.”

“I can retrieve it from where you hid it right now if you’d allow me to access the information and let me enter your room,” Theodora said. “Otherwise privacy laws don’t allow me to know where it is.”

“That is so weird,” Canaan said. “You have my permission. Get that fucking thing away from my children.”

“Currently the girls are at the park with Zareen and April,” Theodora said, “but I understand and the Stylus will be in my possession in less than two minutes and here on the Theodora in six.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t worry, Canaan. I don’t want our children hurt either.” She looked at Iain. “Cell One awaits your pleasure.”

“Ha, ha.” He headed for the cell. It was a rectangular room ten meters wide, ten meters deep and four meters high. He stepped inside as he pulled a pokeball from his pocket and, after turning it in his hand, placed it into a hemisphere set into the wall. Then he exited the cell, stopping outside the red dashed line on the floor and turned around to face the inside. “Secure brig cell one.”

Light flared and a blue wall of energy sprang up in front of him just inside the red line. “Brig cell one secure,” Theodora said formally.

“What is that thing you stuck that ball in,” Canaan asked curiously.

“It’s a pokeball activator,” Iain replied. “Theodora needed a way to release and retrieve pokegirls inside the brig and this is what we came up with. It’s got an integral transport tube so she can move the pokeballs from storage to here to a healing machine.”

“How strong is that force field,” Lucifer asked. “Some pokegirls might be powerful enough to get through it.”

“It is similar in power and construction to the shields that surround this ship,” Theodora supplied. “Vanessa was unable to damage it enough to lower it and escape from it. The generators for it are so massive that installing them required me to separate this room from the rest of the living quarters by another forty meters, so I moved the entire brig and that extra space has all been turned into armor. So that’s what someone would have to tunnel through to escape out the back side of the room. The entire armored section is heat resistant and is laced with superconducting material that will capture and redirect the energy from most energy based techniques no matter what elemental type they have back into my power distribution network, which can easily handle anything a pokegirl that will fit in that room can put out. Hyper beams, fire, ice and energy blades among others are all useless against that wall. Combined with the gate, teleport and phase blocks this room should safely hold a Widow or most Legendary pokegirls for long term study if desired.”

Canaan nodded. “What about shadow walking?”

Theodora shot Iain a quick glare. “Despite extensive testing I have yet to discover a way to stop shadow walking. The fact that it exists has made me increase security and surveillance everywhere on this ship, diverting resources I could use to help my family.”

“I would like to point out that your continued existence is critical to you being able to help us,” Lucifer said.

“Iain said that too,” Theodora smiled warmly at her. “And while it is absolutely true, it still grates. Tirsuli magic and technology are supposed to be supreme.” She chuckled. “Well, if someone has to show me up, at least it was invented by Iain in his writing so it was a Tirsuli who did it to me and not some stinking outlander.”

“We’re getting off topic again,” Iain said. “Please release whoever is inside.”

“Yes, Iain.”

The pokegirl who condensed out of the red energy field was tall, Iain estimating her height between two hundred and two hundred and twenty centimeters. She was an anthropomorphic rabbit, with a definite muzzle and long ears that added another forty or so centimeters to her height. Her fur was white with black horizontal stripes. Her ears were white with the same striping and her shoulder length hair was black. Brilliant green eyes looked around cautiously as her nostrils widened and she inhaled deeply. Her eyes narrowed slightly and her head swiveled as far as it could without her having to move.

“Except for the stripes she looks like a giant Snugglebunny,” Lucifer noted quietly. “But they’re inquisitive and she doesn’t care about our presence.”

“The force field is currently set in one way mode,” Theodora replied. “She cannot see or hear us. I think she scents Iain from when he entered the room.”

“Let’s see her behavior,” Iain glanced at the hologram to his right. “Make the force field transparent in both directions please.”

Instantly the pokegirl focused on them, her expression changing to one of coy curiosity. She smiled and took a hesitant step towards them.

“Does this block telepathy,” Canaan asked. “I cannot sense her mind at all.”

“It does,” Iain said as he smiled and waved at her. “She does cute well.”

The rabbit pokegirl waved back and took another step towards them.

The attack was so fast that Iain almost missed it as something came from behind her and slammed into the force field in front of his chest. He had a quick image of a sharply pointed black object on the end of a slender white tube that projected from beside her right hip. It vanished almost instantly. His twee threw up a still image of the instant the attack struck the force field in the top of his vision as the pokegirl opened a fanged mouth and snarled at them malevolently. “Fuck me; she’s got a Blade Bunny’s tail.” He took an involuntary step backwards when she leaned forward and breathed a wall of flame over the force field. “What the fuck is she?”

“Isn’t it obvious,” Canaan said grimly. “She’s a victim of the G-Stylus like I am, only worse.” She looked at Iain, “I do not ask this lightly, but help her or give her the mercy of death. I remember the first years of my new existence and they were a nightmare even though I’d killed my tormentors. She was still the property of your analog so it is unlikely she has been the way she is for very long. Hopefully she is sane.”

Iain watched as the pokegirl threw herself at the force field, using suddenly extended claws on her hands and feet to strike at the force field in a blur of attacks that used all four of her limbs as well as her tail. “Theodora, recover her.” She vanished into the pokeball. “I’ll see what I can do, Canaan.”

“Can you help her,” Lucifer asked.

“I’ll find out soon enough. Theodora, run her through a level three conditioning cycle and put her ball in my quarters.”

“Do you want me to put the restraints on your bed,” Theodora asked as ball vanished from its holder. A few seconds later the force shield vanished.

He chuckled. “I think I want to do that myself so if anything goes wrong I don’t have anyone to blame but me.”

“If you will let me, I will help you put her into restraints and stay to monitor your safety,” Canaan said. “Or I can tell Pandora and Dianthus what is happening if you would prefer.”

Lucifer frowned. “Why does that sound a lot like blackmail?”

Canaan gave her a toothy grin. “It sounds like blackmail to you because you’re smart.”

Iain glanced at the woman towering over him. “I don’t suppose there’s an option three, is there?”

“No.”

“Fine, then you can help.”

Canaan grinned. “I hope you can wake her. She would be an awesome training partner.”

“I’m more concerned about seeing that Cuisinart attack without a force shield between me and her. She’s a lot faster than I’ll ever be.”

“I don’t know about that,” Lucifer said. “I have been talking with Theodora and she told me that according to the Wolf database that when he was your age Kerrik wasn’t any faster than you are.”

Iain shrugged. “That’s true. So she’s a lot faster than I will be until long after every normal person I know in Texas is dead and dust. Is that better?”

She shook her head. “No, but it is more accurate.”

“Heaven forbid I be inaccurate.” He gave the Megami-Sama a speculative look. “So are you going to stay and watch me have sex with the new girl?”

“I have better things to do, Iain,” she said with a smile. “I will stay if you insist, but I would spend the entire time worrying about your safety and I don’t find that pleasurable.”

Iain took her hand. “I don’t want that and you know it. I’m sorry I was just a dick to you.”

“Forgiven,” she said and kissed him quickly. “And I need to go. You have things to do.”

“Give our girls an extra hug and kiss from me, please.”

Her sudden smile glowed. “I love hearing that word. Our.” She winked and then frowned. “That’s right, I can’t teleport to the doorway to Earth from here.”

“You can at the end of the tunnel,” Theodora said.

“Thank you. Farewell, Iain, Canaan.” She lifted off, hovered for a second and then raced in a blur through the doorway.

“Thank you for doing this.” Canaan took Iain in all four of her hands, grasping his hands and shoulders. “I know you could have just given her to Eirian and the others.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist and hugged her. “You need, I give. You want, I try to give.” He looked up at her. “Now and always.”

“Stop,” she said. “The last thing I want this pokegirl to smell on me is dried tears, Iain, and sometimes I love you so much it makes me cry.”

He flashed a smile. “Should I punch you in the stomach instead?”

“I don’t think she can smell laughter, but if it makes you feel better, go right ahead.”

“How about we have a cuddle session after she’s in her restraints and she can smell me on you when she wakes up. Is that better than tears?”

Canaan’s fangs glinted in her smile. “Oh, yes, that’s much better. That I like.”

“Then let’s go.”

Iain Grey

Inner Harem

Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani

Eve Grey - Megami Sama

April Grey - Duelist & beta

Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage

Pandora - Fiendish Archangel

Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)

Zareen - Nightmare

Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur

Sofia - Ria

Vanessa – Evangelion

Lucifer – Megami Sama

Outer Harem

Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)

Daphne - Whorizard

Lynn - Growlie

Chuck – Doggirl

Ryan – Unicorn

Winifred - Rack (German)

Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)

Silver - Pegaslut

Joyce – Milktit

Outer Clan

Melanie – Iron Chef

Siobhan - NurseJoy (Glasgow)

Queendom / Outer Harem

12 Elves

Heather - Elf

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

6 Wet Elves

Dead Harem

Eirian - Silver Dragoness

Aurum - Gold Dragoness

Skye - Blue Dragoness

Emerald - Green Dragoness

Beryl - Red Dragoness

Julia - human

Ling - Cheetit

Matilda - White Tigress

Liadan - Twau

Sorrel - Armsmistress

Natalie - Blazicunt

Maria – Slutton

Rhea Silvia - Chimera

Mother s & Children

Vanessa

Myrna

Saoirse

April

Dorothy: Duelist

Meara: Duelist

Regan: Duelist

Canaan

Hannah: Huntress

Rebecca: Huntress

Joyce

Lisa: Milktit

Sherrie: Milktit

Harriet: Milktit

Lucifer

Olivia: Megami-sama

Seraphina: Megami-sama

Zareen

Caltha: Nightmare

Kim: Nightmare

Xanthe: Nightmare

Epona: Nightmare

Philippa: Nightmare

Nott: Nightmare

Nyx: Nightmare

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