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The Loon and the Ladies From Avalon, Second Chapter Draft
The Loon and the Ladies From Avalon, Second Chapter Draft
**** **** ****

Local Date and time: Sunday 9 May 2011, 4:24 PM EDT
Date and time in Japan: Monday 10 May 2011, 5:24 AM JST
Location: H.M.C.S. Haida, Deck A12 Aft, Flag
Officer's Level,


Moroboshi Hiromi nodded. "Aye, my friends. A most delightful fellow . . . though quite a
tad distrustful of those possessed by what he terms 'celestials.'"

"Which would include the
haoryu inside people like myself, the ch'uokyek power Mioko-san
and her sister possess . . . not to mention yourself, Ataru-kun and Negako-san
to boot!" Koro Sonami noted from her apartment in Chichibu. All of Hiromi's "special advisors"
– in effect, the leaders of the Seven Battle Schools of Kanto and their
affiliate schools, plus others – had been warned as to what was now happening
in south-central Ontario by special text message alerts and were waiting for a
chance to hear from their reborn emperor.
"Were you able to show him we didn't mean him any harm?"

"He eventually got the
message, cousin. Even apologised for his
earlier behaviour," Hiromi said as she gave the leader of Seito High
School and her favourite adopted cousin a kind look. "I think it was Arami-chan and her NOT
having any 'celestial' power within her that convinced Master Douglas that
people such as myself and Kumomi-san weren't like the selfish dullards he's no
doubt had to deal with in the past."

"That's a relief,"
Tsukasa Torusuke noted from the Tsukasame family home, where he was currently
staying with his lover, Tsukasame Yoiko.
"Negako-san warned us of what Mizuho-chan sensed when she brought
him here. Could these things threaten

"I do not believe so,
Torusuke-sempai," Koeru Kumomi said from Hiromi's left side. Izuku Mioko was seated to her reborn
husband's right in the UNEDF director's meeting room. "Clearly when they moved to stop
Mizuho-chan from pulling their 'prey' away, they sensed something about our
universe which did not agree to them."

"But they could be out
there waiting for Doug-san to emerge from under the protection of our
dimension," Kokoni Kichimi noted from her private apartment near Gogun
Senior High School. "Once he's out
in the open and ready to be targeted again . . . "

"Open season on the
man," Futoshi Itsuku noted from his place beside Kichimi.

"What if we tried to get
him home on Haida or one of the other ships?" Kashira Emi asked
from her private quarters at Nanban High School.

"There is that
possibility, Emi-san," Hiromi mused.
"But before we do anything, I want to make sure the whole situation
is thoroughly analysed before we make a move."

The others nodded. "So what's he like, Kotchi?!" a
cheery voice then asked.

"What do you mean,
Tsueko-san?" Hiromi asked, dreading what Mago Tsueko wanted to know.

"Is he a good
fighter?!" the leader of the Nan'yo Academy asked from her private bedroom
at her cousin's family home in Kimitsu.
"I wanna fight him!"

Hiromi rolled her eyes as the
others either laughed or snickered.

How typical of you,
Hakufu-dono . . .!

**** ****
Loon and the Ladies from Avalon
Fred Herriot
**** ****
Me Softly with His Song (1973) as performed by Roberta Flack, written by Norman Gimbel
and Charles Fox.
**** ****
and story suggestions by Robert M. Schroeck and Rob Kelk.
**** ****
on the situations depicted in Drunkard's Walk, created by Robert M.
Schroeck; and Phoenix From the Ashes, created by Fred Herriot.
**** ****
characters and situations created by Fred Herriot, Robert M. Schroeck, Peggy
Schroeck, Helen Imre, Phil Gavigan, Ted Hzu, Mike Smith and Gregg Sharp.
**** ****
including characters, situations and references from Maho Sensei Negima!
by Akamatsu Ken; Captain Marvel, created by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker; Kotetsu
Tenshi Kurumi, created by Kaishaku (Ota Hitoshi and Shichinohe Terumasa); Men
in Black, created by Lowell Cunningham; Zenkoku Seifuku Bishojo Grand
Prix, created by Lyceen; Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure,
written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon and directed by Stephen Herek; Ojosama
Express, created by Mediaworks and Seven Bright; Harry Potter,
created by Joanna K. Rowling; Ikkitosen, created by Shiozaki Yuji; Bubblegum
Crisis, created by Suzuki Toshimichi, ARTMIC and Youmex; Urusei
Yatsura, created by Takahashi Rumiko; Battle Royale, created by
Takami Koshun; Top Gun, created by Ehud Yonay, Jim Cash and Jack Epps
Jr.; and Doki Doki Pretty League, created by Xing.
**** ****

DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright
Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright
legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for
entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it
is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

**** **** ****

Local Date and time: Sunday 9 May 2011, 7:02 PM EDT
Location: H.M.C.S. Haida, Deck A10 Forward,
Senior Officer's Quarters,

I was tempted.

I have to personally admit
that I had NEVER been tempted by anything quite at the scale than what Inada
Mizuho – out of the goodness of her heart – offered to me today.

To actually use the Staff of
Gihan – which, after I did get the chance to use my mage-sight on it after it
toned down the power intake it drew in from the Te'a so that I didn't
short out my magical sensing gifts, even temporarily – to reach out back to the
dimension of my birth and bring my wife here to let me be with her after so

I had never been
tempted to give in to my heart's desire like that!

So why did I refuse

Well, it was pretty much as
what Moroboshi Negako had warned Mizuho before we met.

Bringing Maggie to me would
present those Big, Ugly Critters that had been gunning for my handsome tushie
TWO targets to go after should something go wrong and we wind up elsewhere in
lieu of our proper home dimension of residence after our stay here.

And much that I know Maggie
can take care of herself in a fight . . .!

** **

"Are you sure, Master
Douglas?" Mizuho had asked.

I shook my head. "I want to be with her. But I want her to be safe, Mizuho."

With that, she reluctantly
nodded . . .

** **

After the cha no yu
ended, I returned to my cabin as Mizuho and Niimi Rena went back to their home,
which was a Shinto shrine in Tomobiki, a suburb of Tokyo located west of
Nerima. Of course, Mizuho had vowed that
if I changed my mind, she could come over right away to bring Maggie here so I
could finally see her after SO long, and then we'd work together to finally get
us home together as a couple.

Before I could ever consider
that, I would have to do some things first.

Chief of which – when it came
to my rescuer – was to help her better master the literal planet-wrecking doomsday
weapon she now was bonded heart-and-soul to.

While I personally did accept
the Staff's explanation as to its origins – an A.I. created on the planet
Sagussa 17,000 years ago by a whack-job master scientist called Gihan who
wanted to create the ultimate personal weapons system, then mated to a focusing
crystal of a transuranium-type material called "mesonium" in this
universe which could allow it, at full strength, to cause stars to nova! – I
wondered if there was some sort of stealthy Celestial or Celestial-like
influence on the thing that could find its way into making things bad for the
lady I now owed a life-debt to.

And much that the Staff did
seem on the side of the angels in this case – for what true reason, I had yet
to learn, but had vowed to do same as quickly as I could – there was always the
chance of something going very wrong.

And with the Staff's power .
. .!

I'm sure a lot of people
would appreciate some sort of control on that thing.

In thinking of that, I then
wondered this:

Were there MORE of those
things out there somewhere?

Better to be safe than sorry
. . .

* *

After getting back to my
cabin and taking the chance to shower and freshen up for supper, I was then
escorted by Yamaguchi Seina into the living quarters of my military host, the
commanding officer of H.M.C.S. Haida, a former submariner who had spent
time commanding every type of warship Canada possessed these days named Brian

Moroboshi Hiromi, Izuku Mioko
and their daughter Moroboshi Arami were there, too.

Brian (as he insisted I call
him since we were equal in rank by any nation's standards) is a silver-haired
fellow with pale blue-grey eyes who currently had TWO rosettes on the Canadian
Forces Decoration on his work shirt . . . which indicated a career of at least
THIRTY-TWO years in Her Majesty's Navy!
Even now, he seemed a little shell-shocked on being asked to command a starship,
even though it was closing in on the first anniversary since he officiated at Haida's
commissioning over Hamilton Harbour northwest of Welland when Queen Elizabeth
II officially welcomed her into Maritime Command. But despite the overwhelming looks he showed
to me at times when he described Haida's capabilities and her missions
since the trip to a planet named Yaminokuni – that a world which was cloaked in
darkness was called with the phrase "dark kingdom" in Japanese
just made me laugh – inaugurated the Earth Defence Force proper, he did have a
professional submariner's flexibility in thinking, which certainly helped.

Of course, one of the running
arguments he had with his counterpart on United States Starship Arizona,
Captain Tom "Iceman" Kazanski, was the question as to what would make
the ideal starship commanding officer, especially for the Type One ships which
were the cornerstone of the UNEDF fleet.
Brian believed that submariners – as they were trained from day one to
think in three dimensions – would make the right sort of starship C.O. Tom – it took me just a minute to realise
where I had once heard that name and call-sign; in my universe, he was a
character from a Tom Cruise movie named Top Gun that came out in 1986,
played by Val Kilmer – was of the opinion that naval aviators or their
equivalents for landlocked nations represented in the UNEDF would best fit the
role, especially for the Haida-class Type One space battleship/carriers.

Since Canada had
decommissioned H.M.C.S. Bonaventure in 1970 in this universe – in my
universe, the "Bonnie" sailed on until the 1980s when she was
replaced by the former British carrier H.M.S. Eagle, rechristened as
H.M.C.S. Eagle – there were no trained Navy aviators in service anymore
in the Canadian Forces to take command of the new seaborne amphibous assault
carriers Bonaventure and Magnificent the Avalonians were building
for MARCOM. Then again, given the way
the officer trades were divided up these days between the three environmental
elements of the Forces, it would be really weird to see a full colonel in Air
Force blue actually commanding a Navy ship!

On noting that, Brian told me
that with the return of the Canadian Army's tactical air forces – the Royal
Canadian Corps of Air Cavalry, a formation that as far as I personally knew had
never existed in my home dimension – people wearing Army green with pilot's
wings were making their appearance all across the country. So it would probably not be long before
helicopter pilots on Navy ships would get to wear Navy black on their
uniforms. Tom Kazanski and fellow
captains from other nations that had active carriers – such as Nathan Kerr of
Britain's Hood, Marc Marzin of France's Richelieu, Paolo Benso of
Italy's Vittoro Veneto and Sergej Vysockij of Russia's Fëdor F.
Ušakóv – saw that happening even if Brian personally considered the idea a

"In the end, we just
agree to disagree," he finally confessed, which made me laugh.

In fact, it really stuck me
as odd that despite this Earth's continuing conflicts – including a massive
popular uprising across most of the Middle East that had already toppled
governments in Egypt (which had a Haida-class ship, the an-Nil, as part
of its Navy) and threatened to do the same in Saudi Arabia (home country to
another of Haida's sisterships, the Al Su'ud), Yemen (home
country of the al-Qasim al-Kabir) and Syria (home nation of the Madinatul
Yasmin) – all the ships and crews of the UNEDF were dedicated to protecting
the whole planet, even protecting the peoples individual crews might view as traditional
enemies. Of course, the Tomobiki Treaty
– called such because it had been physically signed at Hiromi's family dojo in
Tomobiki when it had been written up the previous autumn – forbade any use of
EDF ships or materials when dealing with local matters. Unless – and my mind just boggled at
THIS! – it had been properly confirmed by the United Nations Special Committee
on Alien Activities (the organisation that had dealt with issues of alien
immigration and contacts with other words . . . and were seen as the civilian
counterparts to the UNEDF) that there had been some sort of clandestine alien
influence on such conflicts first.

Get ready for this one,

The SCAA were popularly known
here as the "Men In Black."

And – after I had asked Hiromi
this – I confirmed there was an Agent Kay (who looked a LOT like Tommy Lee
Jones) and an Agent Jay (who could be Will Smith's twin brother) currently
working as senior field officers for the SCAA.

Hiromi and Brian – after I
explained it to them – found it pretty funny, too!

* *

After a delightful meal with
Brian and the Moroboshis, I was invited by Chief Petty Officer 1st Class
Jacques Beaulieu, Haida's coxswain – the term Canadians used for the
senior non-commissioned officer on a Navy ship – to take the two-loonie tour of
my current temporary home-away-from-home.
And I have to admit – especially when I got a look at the giant warp
drive ramjet systems that could propel this big ship at many MILLIONS of times
past the speed of light – that the Sagussans really got a lot of things right
on the nose when it came to high technology.
Even better so, they clearly agreed to the Star Trek style of
starship aesthetics even if Haida didn't even come CLOSE to looking like
any version of the starship Enterprise:
Keep it clean, keep it nice and keep it warm and
welcoming for the people who lived and worked on this ship.

Of course, the instant that
they learned that "Master Looney Toons" – as Koeru Kumomi had come to
address me when the formal tones harkening back to the days of old China when
her first-self lived – was taking the chance to look around, two unstoppable
typhoons of energy named Ki Tsukihana and Hakaru Ayami were quick to make
themselves available to explain all the wonderful details of their great
creation to me.

The engineer part of me was
literally in Geek Heaven.

But I will admit this, folks:

On seeing both of them, I
nearly broke down and cried.

Tsukihana is fourteen.

Ayami is almost sixteen.

Both had not
known the lives of normal kids for FOUR years!

Chief Beaulieu – unlike his
captain, Haida's coxswain was a stickler for military protocol, so he
always called me "Colonel" and insisted I call him "Chief"
in return – explained everything to me:
When they were kids, both Tsukihana and Ayami were kidnapped with their
parents by agents of a race called the Ipraedies. Think of them as green-skinned versions of
Klingons from the original Star Trek television series with a massive
love of Enlightenment-era clothing and you get the right idea. Since the Ipraedies – whose homeworld,
Ipraedos, was located to Earth's galactic "east" at about seventy
light-years range – saw themselves surrounded by enemies on all sides of their
little domain, they decided they would strike out at the weakest point.

As luck would have it, Earth
was the weakest point.

To prepare themselves ahead
of time, an estimated FIVE HUNDRED people – including the Ki and Hakaru
families – were taken to Ipraedos and subjected to all sorts of special
tortures and interrogations to learn what Earth people were like before a
potential invasion would be launched. In
the midst of this happening, both Tsukihana and Ayami lost their parents . . .
which, ironically, won them sympathies by more peacefully-minded Ipraedies and
helped them escape the planet when their captors were looking the wrong
way. In their travels, they chanced upon
a lucky find: A starship construction
satellite the physical size of the Five Boroughs of New York City, Greater
London and Metropolitan Tokyo COMBINED that had been abandoned in a dead star
system known by the name "Den'sha" by the Avalonians' creators, the
Sagussans, many millennia ago.

Well, on realising what they
had just found, the two orphaned kids decided that if the Ipraedies – or anyone
else – were going to invade Earth, they'd run into something that would rip
them apart before they realised they had waltzed into a fire sack.

Three guesses as to what they
built . . .

. . . and the first two don't
count, folks!

And while all the military
people I had met gladly admitted that these two kids had done a world of good
by building Haida and her sisterships . . .

. . . I just simply couldn't
help but remember Ikari Shinji and Soryu Asuka Langley.

Innocent kids
that had been forced by uncaring adults to become warriors.

How many times was I going to
run into this sort of thing . . .?

* *

Of course, after I was done,
I came back to my guest quarters where Seina – who seemed to have made it her
personal mission in life to make sure yours truly was fed, watered and tucked
in at night – was leaving behind some snacks and Red Rose orange pekoe
tea. Before she could head off to make
sure Brian and his fellow senior officers – the Wing Commander of 21 Space
Wing, Colonel Mark Sullivan; and the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion of
the Canadian Guards, Lieutenant-Colonel Allain Leclerc – were alright before
turning in for the night, I asked her if she would be willing to be interviewed
by me so I could get a better analysis of what an Avalonian actually was for my
journey report that I would allow my friends to see once I got back to my home

Seina was more than willing
to agree; unlike many of her 212 "plank owner" sisters that formed
the nucleus of Haida's crew over a year before, she had graduated from
trades training at the Canadian Forces School of Administration and Logistics
in Borden north of Toronto back near the end of March. And while her girlfriend, Matsu'ura Ai, would
be heading back to the Canadian Forces Fleet School in Esquimalt to continue
her basic training as a hull technician – what Americans would classify as a
"hull maintenance technician" – first thing in the morning and repeating
same every Monday morning (being gone each week until Friday evening) until
near the end of June, said Ordinary Seaman Matsu'ura had ORDERED Ordinary
Seaman Yamaguchi to do everything to make sure that their Hiromi-onesama's
wonderful guest felt right at home aboard H.M.C.S. Haida.

Punishment for dereliction of

No sex for a MONTH!


I wasn't going to force a
poor girl through THAT!

No, sir!

So . . .

* *

Avalonians, I learned right
away, were an ALL-FEMALE race of bioroids.

The factory satellite unit
itself had never been designed or programmed to make boys.

This, I realised, was what
helped contribute to the Niphentaxians' overall attitudes towards the
Avalonians . . . though Seina had heard from older Avalonians whom she had met
with over the last year that there had been those who saw the bioroids – to one
extent or another – as living people in lieu of handy love-dolls.

For every Avalonian who
served as "comfort women" . . .

. . . and there were
Avalonians who served as surrogate daughters or sisters . . .

. . . there were those who
had become simple wives to lonely people . . .

. . . and by extension, many
of those people had become mothers, too.

Since Avalonians were
genetically compatible with Niphentaxians, among the 2.5 billion bioroids that
had fled the Phentax star system a year before . . .

. . . were well over several
hundred MILLION hybrid children, including BOYS.

When Seina underwent her TQ3
steward training at CFSAL, she had shared quarters with a woman who had been
made as a replacement daughter for an elderly couple then resident on Phentax
Fourteen; the Phentax system had three stars and twenty-three planets on it,
with the Niphentaxians controlling almost all of them to one extent or
another. Said couple, Seina had learned,
didn't care for the official "decrees of the One True Faith" when it
came to their bioroid child. A couple
who would pay for their attitudes with their lives the day Carolyn Stevens was
pulled off that planet.

While Seina had slept
peacefully during those twelve weeks at Borden . . .

. . . Carolyn endured many
nightmares of watching her parents shot down before her eyes just as a
transporter beam whisked her away to her true birthplace.

Nightmares that wouldn't stop
until Seina acted as a nakodo and introduced Carolyn to a resource
management support clerk trainee originally from Phentax Two named Janice
Garfield, who herself had been adopted recently by an elderly couple from
Winnipeg and would gladly welcome another "orphaned" Avalonian girl
into their family.

Right now, Carolyn waas
posted aboard the newly-commissioned destroyer H.M.C.S. Onondaga, based
out of Halifax in Nova Scotia. Janice
herself – as it was seen in many places in the Canadian Forces as grossly
verboten for spouses to serve in the same field unit; Haida was the big
exception to the rule when it came to Avalonians as witness Seina's and Ai's
relationship – was assigned to 32 Maritime Utility Squadron, which was based at
12 Wing in Shearwater, across the harbour from Halifax.

Ashore, they lived in married
quarters, of course!* *

Given their genetic descent
from the Sagussans, I then learned this:

Avalonians as a race are all bisexual.

And like any other race I
have encountered in my travels, they are also bound to certain behavioural
traits that dominated their ancestors' lives.

One of those traits came out
in the Awakening.

The Awakening – happening
when someone is physically around age 12 in Earth years – is when an Avalonian
develops her personal sense of the Te'a.

As Seina herself described
it, the Te'a is an energy field – Shades of the Force! I thought
when I heard that – that exists in all physical things.

However – and this, I guessed
when I remembered what the word Te'a translated to in English –
Sagussans and Avalonians came to associate this field of orange-yellow energy
they could see with their mind's eye as a living Element of the Divine.

Because of that, while
Avalonians on Earth gladly acknowledged the various religious faiths that their
Terran neighbours, friends and adopted family held as their own . . .

. . . it was always balanced
by the presence of the Te'a in their own minds.

And since Avalonians believed
that because one simply can NEVER know what lay beyond the Veil of the Te'a,
it would be next to impossible to truly BELIEVE in a God in the Christian,
Jewish or Islamic sense of the term . . . to say anything of the mixed-deity
situation that cultures in places like India, China and Japan always allowed.

Thus – while she did respect
the beliefs of her co-workers and did attend shipboard church services held by
the ship's chaplain, Major Vincent Klein – there was a part of Seina who always
asked herself this one simple question:

"Is this truly

* *

Learning that, I had one


The conclusion was rather

No Celestial that I knew of
would care too much for an Avalonian.

A Celestial's bread and
butter, so to speak, was the power of Faith itself.

Yes, folks, you read that

Faith is a power, just like

Give a Celestial such tokens
of Faith – even a simple show of respect as what I had ultimately done ages ago
in Megatokyo when I held two dead children in my arms after a boomer rampage –
and they had a powerful snare into your heart and soul.

Thinking that, I realised an
Avalonian would be a hard thing for a Celestial to snare.

After all – if what the Staff
of Gihan told me was true – the Te'a was the remnants of the very energy
that unleashed the Big Bang and created the modern Multiverse.

Running with that argument,
any person like Yamaguchi Seina – who had living proof of the existence of the Te'a
in every waking and sleeping moment! – would believe in AND HAVE FAITH IN
Something that has been around for over thirteen billion years!

Or thirteen thousand
million years according to the old British way of counting.

In other words, the
oldest POWER in the known Cosmos!

Compared to that,
even elder Celestials such as Hexe would be babes in the woods!

Damn . . .!

* *

"Doug, are you

I jolted on seeing Seina
leaning into my face, her eyes boring into mine with a stare that would make
the most penetrating mage-sight gaze look quite pale in comparison.

Hard to believe this woman
was only TWO YEARS OLD chronologically.

"I . . .!" I began,
and then reached over.

She gasped as I drew her into
my arms and held her close. After a
moment, she seemed to relax, and then leaned her head against my shoulder. As we held each other close – while I hoped I
was doing nothing that could be seen as blatantly suggestive to Seina – she
then giggled before pulling herself away from me . . . and then she made me
blush to my toes when she leaned in to kiss me on the tip of my nose.

"It's horrible what
you've been through," she said.

I gaped at her. "How . . .?"

"I'm touch-telepathic as
well as being empathic, Doug. All
Avalonians are," she then explained as she gave me an apologetic
look. "Even a handshake allows us
to sense what someone else is thinking of.
It's as natural to us as breathing.
And while we're not as rabid about AVOIDING contact with other beings as
Vulcans are – from what we learned when we met members of that race on the Enterprise
back at Christmas – we don't like normally probing other people's minds without
their knowledge. However, you were . . .
broadcasting quite strongly. What
happened to you all those years ago?"

"What did you see?"

A sigh. "Wrecked building. Two children cut apart really badly. No doubt dead. Two of the Knight Sabres as well; Asagiri
Priss and Yamazaki Linna if what I remember of their hardsuit colours is
right. And then you did something for
them . . . "

I nodded. "I made a deal with three Celestials –
the Fates – to bring them back. In
return for them being restored to life, I had to perform a favour for them. The favour ultimately entailed giving the
boomers Genom created the ability to live free lives."

Seina gazed at me, and then
she nodded. "That seemed an
equitable trade."

I perked. "Seina-chan!" I then teased. "You're one of perhaps the only
race I've ever encountered that a Celestial would find almost IMPOSSIPLE to
play their normal tricks with." As
she laughed, I then sighed. "How do
you view It?"

She gazed at me. "The Te'a?"


"It is a part of all
that exists. Without It, nothing can
exist. My soul was given life by It when
my body was first created. When I die,
my soul will either merge with It . . . or pass through It and I will learn
what lies for me in the next life. As I
don't have any tangible proof of what the Te'a truly is, I can't say any
which way.

"It is there. I can sense It. That is all that needs to be said."

I gaped at her. "Do you believe in deities?"

"As in the hypothetical
'God' . . . or what you'd call a 'celestial?'"

Damn! That telepathy of hers was incredible! "The former."

A sigh. "If there was a Creative Spirit that
ushered in Existence at the start when the Primal Atom was first sundered all
those billions of years ago, I cannot make myself believe in such a being. There's no proof – at least in Sagussan
experience – that such a being existed.
And why would I wish to inflict humanoid thought processes on the Te'a
or whatever lies beyond the Te'a?
After all, in the eyes of your friend here, would her 'god' – if she
believed in one, of course – be the same as yours?"

She waved at the laptop
computer on my desk that held Eimi within it.
I looked at it, noting that Eimi – who had appeared from behind a screen
saver when Seina mentioned her – was gazing in our direction. "Is there something wrong?" she

"Do you believe in God,
Eimi-san?" Seina asked.

Eimi blinked. "Well, I've never seen any proof of such
a being."

"There you go,"
Seina concluded as she pulled herself away from me. "Did you do the right thing with those
children you saved, Doug? Yes, you
did. You don't need any god to judge
that. You are your own final judge in
things." She then smiled. "We all – regardless of race or type of
being – make choices that could be viewed by some as 'good' or 'evil.' Or 'in the spirit of Creation' or 'enhancing
Entropy.' Or however people choose to
decide such things. But the ultimate
judge if you did right or wrong – unless you have no way of
judging due to insanity or lack of experience – is you."

"If you're so young, how
are you so wise?" I asked.

A smile. "Even if I don't find all he speaks of
as something I can believe in, there are a lot of good things that Padre
Vincent speaks about in his sermons. You
might want to talk to him about what you've been through." Seina winked at me. "Besides, I'm a steward. Being a glorified bartender is part of the
job description."

I stared at her, and then I
howled with laughter . . .

* *

After Seina had left, I got
another visit from Takanashi Naoko, who wanted to make sure I was settling in
alright as she herself would be off to Victoria at the southern end of
Vancouver Island for another week of learning her trade at Venture. After assuring her that I would be fine and
that I'd go to Seina if I needed help, she left.

As soon as the two of us were
alone, Eimi – to my surprise – figuratively exploded!

"That . . . that . . .
HER! Could she have been any ruder?!"

Her outburst confused
me. "'Her?' 'Her' who?
And what was so rude?"

"That 'mad scientist'
that's on this ship!"

"Oh!" Private Asai Mayumi, in other words. I'd forgot about her. "Her question about you living in a box? It wasn't that bad, Eimi."

"Not the question!"
she snapped as her face seemed to take on a very nice shade of cherry. "Her addressing you about my
feelings when she knew I was right there!" She started to sing . . . not play back a
sound file, but actually sing in her own voice:

He sang as if he knew me
In all my dark despair.
And then he looked right
through me
As if I wasn't there . . .

I didn't even think of that. Yes, looking at the question through Eimi's
eyes, Mayumi-chan hadn't been a paragon of tact. "Do you want me to talk to her about

"What?! No!"
As Eimi continued, she started to calm down, "No, that would just
make things worse! She'd think she was
right in asking you about what I want instead of asking me directly. But thank you anyway . . . "

"Then I don't know what
I can do for you."

She sighed. "Don't do anything, Doug. If Asai is going to think of me as a thing
instead of a person, I can simply ignore her."

Oh, boy. A LOT of misconceptions – on ALL sides! – had
to be cleared up before somebody's feelings were hurt permanently.

But how . . .?

I then perked on hearing a
knock, and then turned . . .

. . . to see a tall tomboyish
girl standing at the doorway to my room.
With shaggy blonde hair and dark grey eyes, she was in Navy combat dress
with the brassard slip-on on her upper arm which marked her as a member of the
Canadian Forces Military Police. Noting
that, I nodded; Haida, at full manning strength, would have 6,500 people
aboard, so having an on-board internal security team made a world of
sense. And given her trade, she had a
web belt with sidearm holstered on her hip.
Her family name read TAKIZAWA.
She had no rank on her shoulders and – after a quick check with
my mage-sight – I confirmed she was Avalonian.
"Everything okay here, Doug-san?"

I gave her an assuring
look. "Just a little argument here,
Seaman Takizawa."

"Call me Kaori,"
she amended as she walked inside, and then she peered at Eimi for a moment
before she shook her head. "Mayumi
no baka . . .!"

I gaped. Dear gods, I just learned about the empathy
and telepathy Kaori's people were capable of using thanks to Seina, but to be
THAT sensitive . . .!

Could Kaori actually have a

"You can sense
ME?!" Eimi demanded.

"You're a sentient
being, Eimi-san. And I'm at the high end
of empathic sensitivity for my species," Kaori said. On hearing that, I realised that the
potential for meta-gifts to become commonplace on my hosts' Earth – at least in
psioncs – were well on the sunny side of "excellent" in a few decades
. . . to borrow the term often used by two friends of mine from another
dimension, Theodore "Ted" Logan and Bill S. Preston Esq, that I
bumped into some time ago when I found myself in their time-travelling phone
booth after a particularly easy world-gate jump. "In my eyes – and yes, in Mayumi-chan's
eyes, too! – you're no different than the colonel here." She waved to me.

"She didn't have to be
so rude about it!" Eimi snarled back.

A sigh. "What happened?" Kaori asked.

Eimi gave the visiting
military policeman – whom, if soldiers back in my dimension ever saw her, would
forever foreswear calling them "meatheads!" – a quick low-down of our
encounter with Mayumi some hours before.
After taking that in, Kaori seemed to think about it for a moment, and then
she sighed before she bowed deeply to Eimi, which made her gape and me
blink. "Eimi-san, on behalf of my
friend and sister Asai Mayumi-chan, I give you my deepest and sincerest
apologies for her mistreatment of you when she spoke to your honourable travelling
companion about allowing you to live your life as a corporeal entity in lieu of
your present living circumstances."

As Eimi blinked-blinked – and
I, no doubt, did the same – Kaori gazed at my friend. "To explain what happened, Mayumi-chan
doesn't normally try to be rude . . . but she can't help herself at
times. It was the way she was programmed
from the beginning. Even after we all
got the chance to truly become alive when we got these . . . " – she
pointed to her green earring with the crossed duelling flintlock pistols of her
trade on there – " . . . she's still governed by that behaviour even to
this day."

"Why?" I asked.

Kaori smirked. "Doki Doki Pretty League."

I blinked. "The video game whose characters you're
modelled after?" Eimi asked.

"Hai. Mayumi-chan's namesake was an inventive
genius. Our would-be 'master' –
Naoko-chan told you about him right?"
As Eimi and I nodded, Kaori sighed.
"Well, he wisely wanted someone who could be an expert at anything
technical. Mayumi-chan got to be that
person. It certainly helped when we
bumped into the Enterprise and we offered to help Data-san get Lal-chan
back on her feet again." As my
friend and I nodded again – being a somewhat casual Trekker, I had always
thought "The Offspring" to be a sad episode; that Mayumi had done
something to restore Lal to life definitely earned her many brownie points in
my eyes – our current guest stated, "No doubt, when she first learned
about you – she's not as empathic as I am – Mayumi-chan simply felt it right to
come investigate and, if it became warranted, do something about it."

"So why would she not
direct her offer to Eimi directly?" I asked.

"Because you're
the person responsible for her safety, Doug-san," Kaori answered.

I blinked several times, and
then it hit me.


"Right . . .!"

"Um . . . can someone
tell me what's going on here?" Eimi asked.

Kaori sighed. "Eimi-san, before I answer that, could
you answer this first: Do YOU want a
physical body?" She pointed at
Eimi's image. "Regardless of type –
gynoid, cyberdroid or bioroid – that can be made, do you want one? Yes or no?"

Eimi seemed to pause for a
moment, and then she sighed. "I
never really thought about it before, Kaori-san. My father – my creator, I mean – offered it
to me before I met Doug for the first time, but I turned him down." A shrug.
"Naoko-san was right. I am
a little scared of the idea of living a different life than this."

"Nothing wrong with
that," Kaori commented.

"But now that Mayumi-san
brought it up . . . " Another
shrug. "I might consider

"Okay. Now, here comes the problem." She then winked at me. "Observe, Master Looney Toons, how fast
RUMINT can run on this ship!" As I
laughed, Kaori shrugged. "We all
knew what Mizuho-san was planning to offer you within about fifteen
minutes of the end of your little cha no yu in the observation
lounge." As I gaped – Wow! That is fast, especially
considering Haida's size! – she gazed on Eimi. "No doubt, if Mizuho-san CAN get you
both back to where you're going in one shot, that's great. If that can happen, Mayumi-chan could make
you a new body and you're on your way.
But . . . "

"What happens if there's
another 'stop' along the way," I concluded.

"Oh . . .!" Eimi
breathed out.

"Right," Kaori
drawled. "Since he took you on as
his travelling companion, Doug-san – As he is a military
policeman at heart as THIS girl's empathy can sense!" – She winked at me,
which made me wonder if I could discover a song that could SHIELD my emotions
from how sensitive these girls were! – " . . . ALSO took on the
responsibility of making sure you would STAY SAFE so you can make it back to
London with him whole and intact!" As Eimi nodded in understanding, the blonde
apprentice cop – military police training was, as I had learned over the years,
normally quite long – crossed her arms.
"How will Mayumi-chan look at this?! As an interesting intellectual

"Damn! She IS Wile E. Coyote!" I declared.

"Well, not as arrogant
as THAT moron!" Kaori stated.
"But she will not be deterred once you say 'yay' or 'nay' to her
offer, Eimi-san. She WILL find a way to
make sure you make it whole and complete to London with Doug-san. And still remain you!"

Silence fell as my friend
considered that, and then she sighed.
"Can I think about it, Kaori-san?" Eimi then asked. "This is a lot to take."

A smirk. "Take your time. You've got some." She gave me a questioning look, which I
responded with a nod. "I'll look in
on you two when I'm back this weekend.

And with that, she was
off. I watched her go, and then relaxed,
inwardly relieved that – despite their lack of practical life experience – the
Avalonians on Haida were clearly quite diverse enough in their knowledge
base that one could cover for another's gaffe or mistake so that I didn't have
to find some way to prevent a "cold war" between Eimi and Asai Mayumi
from starting. After a moment, Eimi then
sighed. "Doug?"

"Yeah, Eimi?"

"They're really nice,
aren't they?"

A nod. "Yeah."

* *

Somewhere, a different

"He's THERE?!"

"Indeed he is,

The celestial being known in
one world as Major General Helene Diedmeier, a.k.a. Wetter Hexe of the United
Nations Metahuman Peacekeeping Forces, looked as if someone just appeared right
out of nowhere and kicked her hard right in the gut.

"How . . .? Why . . .?
THERE?! How did Doug get THERE?!"

"A native of that
universe possessing one of the Voices of the Peoples' Desire sensed your friend
about to be attacked by beings who would seek his demise for all his acts over
the last fifteen centuries in his time-line since he was taken from your

That message made Helene turn
totally white as her mind recalled where she had heard the phrase "Voice
of the Peoples' Desire" before in conjunction with a device or weapon that
could literally defy the Will of the Fates Themselves and drag
Douglas Quincy Sangnoir into a universe where the influence of the Power
that Unleashed Existence Itself in all its great complexity was so
unbelievably strong. On considering
that, the celestial being born a weather-manipulating mutant years ago in
Germany paled.

If the native of THAT
universe that dragged the Loon into it had been one of the so-called
"Jewel Warriors," the nearly-countless heiresses of the Seekers, that
person would have been referred to as a "Warrior of the First Race."

Helene had cause to remember
one of them quite well: The Earth Jewel
Warrior, a Canadian Army officer named Dean Raeburn . . . or "She
Who Bears The Keystone Jewel."

If the native of that
universe had been one who had taken the Test of the Praetorians and become a
"Praetorian Guardian" as they were called there, such a person would
have been addressed as a "Spirit Guardian of the Second Race."

Helene had met the Praetorian
Guardian for Earth, a charming fellow who called himself Vladímir Rusalovic
Tayceško in civilian life in Russia and Lord Rjazán' when in his
fighting costume – it was at the same time Wetter Hexe had met Major Raeburn –
so he was known as the "Spirit Guardian Friend of the Keystone Jewel

If said native was a resident
of the planet Yiziba – a world that would have given metahuman control
activists on Helene's own Earth nightmares for the rest of their very lives! –
which lay three hundred light-years from the Earth in that universe, such would
have been addressed as a "Child of the Forge of the First Race."

Of course, the one
Yizibajohei respectfully nicknamed the "Goddess Who Walks Amongst
Men" in this incarnation by those who knew of her yet did not wish to
speak her battle-name Infinity would be addressed as the "Infinite
One" or the "Cosmic All."

The native of the planet
Noukiios who absorbed the blood of a celestial dragon into her veins in her
first life and had been reborn in this life was known by her popular name
amongst all those who celebrated her actions:
"She Who Speaks to Dragons."

On recalling all those names,
Helene then gulped.

The term "Voices
of the Peoples' Desire" applied to devices that came from one

"Sagussa . . .?"

Stormsdaughter. The native is of the
blood of His world."

The elder weather goddess
then blinked. "Why? He has never interfered before!"

"He does so now,
Stormsdaughter. And given what He is,
that he has allowed this to happen may indicate one of Us has overstepped His
or Her bounds. In His eyes."

Helene blinked as she found
herself alone . . . and then, after taking a moment to consider what she had
just heard, she chuckled as she relaxed herself.

"Well, that will make
Looney INCREDIBLY happy . . .!"

* *

Local Date and time: Monday 10 May 2011, 4:52 AM MSK
Location: A hidden hill east of Goroda Rjazán',
Rjazanskaja Oblast', Russia,

"Alright, I'm here! Where's the damned fire, Vlad?!"

Hearing that impatient voice
from behind him – One would believe that given she is over a hundred and
forty years old and had absorbed Hirosuke's very memories into her soul,
Deannette would learn how to speak with proper diction, the nearly-immortal
being whose existence had been rumoured and speculated on for thousands of
years mused – the man known to the few people he had befriended in this time
period under the name "Vladímir Tayceško" took a deep breath before
he turned to gaze with his burning golden eyes on his current guest, Earth's
Seeker Jewel Warrior and the former commanding officer of the 1st Canadian
Specialised Warfare Unit. "There is
no 'fire' which requires you to go extinguish it, Deannette. But I would believe that you would desire to
know when a friend of Helene Diedmeier came to our section of the


"Helene . . .?"
Deannette Antonia Raeburn asked as she tried to recall where she had heard that
name before, and then she blinked.
"Oh, right! Back in
'Forty-nine. Some Nazi hangers-on tried
to summon a goddess to help chase off the Allies occupying Germany at the
time. They had some of Josef's notes
about divinities and they botched up the summoning ritual. Dragged a young girl who had just ascended to
celestial level from her home universe to ours.
After we cleared the mess out, you sent her home."

"Yes," the
silver-haired man – in his current form, Vladímir appeared to be a man in his
mid-fifties, trim and fit for a Great Russian his age with no sign whatsoever
of any illness or addiction to any vices such as alcohol; Dean knew he was
thousands of years old though she hadn't guessed his precise age – said as he
walked down from the window of his home where he had been gazing somewhere,
beckoning his guest to join him at the scrying pool he had placed in the middle
of his domicile. "Look here."

Dean looked . . . and then
she blinked as she nodded as the image of a handsome man appeared in the
pool. "Oh, I've heard of this
guy. Arch-mage sorcerer but he can't
control his abilities. It's all locked
on him listening to music to make him do what he wants to do. Takes after all the Warner Brothers cartoons
back when they were making decent animated shorts before the big television
boom put a stop to all that." A
glance towards Vladímir. "How'd
this guy get here, anyway?"

The Praetorian Guardian of
Earth made a gesture with his hand, thus allowing the fourteen-decade old
Canadian ex-air cavalry pilot to watch a quick replay of Douglas Sangnoir's
life since he had been forced out of the dimension of his birth. Thanks to the Power Jewel she had found in
the summer of 1889 in a cave in the mountains of northern British Columbia, she
could follow along with the fast replay; normal Terrans and most Avalonians
would instantly get a headache at the massive flipping of images.

"Holy hell . . .!"
she then breathed out. "He's been a
busy one."

"One who has done his
best to honour his beliefs and his commitment to his wife. But in his doing so, he has attracted
attention. Look there."

Dean looked . . . and then
she smirked. "Ah! Didn't like the idea of coming to our little
corner of the Multiverse, huh? Saw
something they didn't agree with."

The ghost of a smile crossed
Vladímir's face. "Indeed."

"So who brought him

"This one."

The Canadian gazed down . . .
and then she scowled. "Oh, one of those
kids, huh? Got herself one of the early Haijo-ju
marks from Sagussa."

"Yes. Douglas has taken note of the Staff's power
and has decided he wishes to train young Mizuho in how to use the Staff. Negako's teachings so far have done much, but
there are things even she does not know.
With Douglas here, you will not have to intervene directly in this
matter, Deannette. But the chances are
there that some might become ambitious enough to brave entering our dimension .
. . "

A shrug. "Hey!
They want to commit suicide, that's their tough luck."

Vladímir could only shake his
head as Dean snickered . . .

* *

Local Date and time: Monday 10 May 2011, 7:00 AM EDT
Location: H.M.C.S. Haida, Deck A10 Forward,
Senior Officer's Quarters,

Yours truly is about to make
an admission, folks.

I just HATE boatswain calls.

What was that?

"What's a boatswain
call?" you ask.

Well, folks, imagine the
shrillest whistle you could ever hear . . . and then pipe the sound down a long
dark tunnel with perfect acoustics.

Oh, yeah. Pump the volume straight up to maximum at the
same time.

That's a boatswain call.

But then again, it really
didn't surprise me.

This IS a Canadian Navy ship
I'm currently sleeping on.

Even if the accommodations
would put the Queen Elizabeth 2 to total shame.

As the general call
mercifully ended quickly and the boatswain mate of the watch made the morning
announcements over the intercom system, I slowly picked myself up from under
the covers I had stretched out over my bed – including some rich furs that I
had been given as presents from friends at the Collegium in Valdemar – as I
moved to rub the sleep out of my eyes.
At the same time, the screen saver on Eimi's laptop flicked off to
reveal a sleepy-eyed A.I., depicting herself in pyjamas and a night cap.

Why a night cap?

In all the time I've
travelled with her, I never really asked that question.

"'Morning, Doug,"
she called out to me.

"'Morning," I
answered back as I moved to slip out from under the covers. "So how was your first night bonded to
the local Tapestry?" As always, I
used the term I picked up in the Collegium to describe the virtual world of the

Eimi blinked, and then she
giggled, giving me a look that seemed to indicate she was severely drunk on all
the information she had obtained.
"Wow . . .!"

Yep, folks.

I was right.

My good friend was now
literally in Tapestry HEAVEN!

"Good morning,
Doug-san. Eimi-san."

I turned, and then
grinned. "Good morning to you,
Hiromi-chan," I said as Hiromi walked in with a tray of breakfast – no
doubt prepared by Seina herself, bless her heart – which she placed down by the
main writing desk with the laptop given to me by the ship's supply
department. "You didn't need to do
that for me."

"Well, it appears the
good Master Knight Allain has acquired a cold and Seina is busy preparing a
nice chicken broth before he goes down to visit the good healers in the ship's
cockpit within the hour, so I elected to help with breakfast," she

* *

By the way, folks,
"Master Knight" in Hiromi-speak means a senior Army officer.



What's that, you ask?

Well, it's a rather classical
and flowing speech, flecked with all sorts of wonderfully embarrassing titles
for people seen to be worthy of such respect, that is used only by one
Moroboshi Hiromi a.k.a. Ryuko Kyorei – and God help you if you EVER call her
"Reitei," which is the Japanese name used for her past-self! – of
Tomobiki in Japan.

Got it so far?


* *

"So Brian and Mark live
ashore?" I asked.

"Yes. Both are married, of course, so they have
quarters ashore. Brian's delightful wife
Ellen is currently in charge of Base Niagara's Personnel Support Programs
branch; she make sure all the people posted to the base or Haida remain
in top physical form. Former Physical
Education and Recreation officer forced to retire after they did away with that
branch of service back in 1997 due to budget cuts; they're actually considering
bringing it back into service due to the massive influx of Avalonians in the
military." As I nodded politely at
that little factoid, she moved to prepare my tea. "They have two children, both of whom
are currently in university right now getting their own degrees and moving to
make lives for themselves. Mark's lovely
wife Nancy is a normal housewife, though she helps administer the Base CANEX
store. They have a daughter who's in
junior high; 'elementary school' as it's called in Canada. She'll be preparing for another day of
classes at Plymouth right now, no doubt."

I nodded as I headed into the
bathroom – given how big this ship was, it didn't surprise me that all
living quarters had their own private lavatories – so I could commence daily
ablutions. "Speaking of school, you
and Mioko are in sixth form now," I stated, using the English term for
Grade 12 or third year of high school as it was seen in Japan. "Why aren't you two back in Tomobiki
attending classes?"

A chuckle. "I rather would prefer that, but given
that this is the year we're supposed to cram and cram for the Centre Test – and
given that the highest post-secondary institutions across the planet will
probably have honour-duels to the death to welcome myself and my extended
family into their freshman classes next year – the idea of being able to
peacefully study for such tests was seen as much more paramount than subjecting
myself to 'examination hell.'" As I
laughed while I shaved my face – making sure I didn't nick myself – she added,
"I strongly disagreed – I certainly didn't wish to abandon Onii-san and
One-san to such horrors – but everyone overrode me. Fortunately, my beloveds and I are still seen
as affiliated with Tomobiki High School, so when Takara comes aboard with
Yayoi-chan and Kanami-chan, her arms will be laden with all the week's
assignments from our nominal classroom teachers back in Japan."

I perked. "Takara?"

"Sumai Takara, also
known as 'Sohofu' or 'Sokogo.' In her
first life, she was the Empress Sòng of Hàn, the Lady Sòng Baofeng. My first wife."

I shook my head. "Doesn't that get a little

"Having both my wives
from my first life and one of my mistresses living with me full-time?" she
ventured back as I sensed her prepare my morning tea. "I was petrified when Mioko met up with
Miwaka – that's Wan Miwaka; she was the Consort Wáng Meiruò in our first lives
and the mother of my eventual successor on the Dragon Throne – after we dealt
with the Urusian Imperials and that boor Ogi on Yaminokuni . . . " – I bit
back the laugh I felt on hearing that planet's name again – " . . . and
they made their 'ladies' agreement' to share me, I was trapped with utterly no
way out."

"Save surrender of
course, my husband."

I perked. Woman's voice, but not Mioko. I leaned out of the bathroom to find myself
gazing on a smiling blonde girl looking to be a year younger than Hiromi. Like my overall host, she seemed to like
wearing jeans and a jean jacket with the Tomobiki High School Jackrabbits team
logo on the T-shirt she had on underneath the latter. After a quick check with my mage-sight, I confirmed
that she didn't have a dragon or anything else inside her that was out of the
ordinary save for her being a toshi. She
was "B-rank" given her gold magatama earring; I had read about how
the earring colours changed as toshi gained more unique fighting
experiences. "The Lady Takara, I

"You presume correctly,
Master Looney Toons," she answered as she held up a travelling case for a
business suit. "Courtesy of the
American Army liaison staff aboard the noble Arizona, Lord Colonel
Sangnoir; your uniform while you're here."

"Proper rank and
accoutrements?" Hiromi asked as I blinked in confusion.

"Naturally," Takara
said as she moved to unzip the carrying case to reveal the new-model dark blue
uniform worn by American Army soldiers these days; back in my universe and
time, they still wore green. "Of
course, the medals aren't properly exact given his personal experiences, but we
don't want to plaster his presence here across the planet just yet, so it's
best to make him fade into the background."

"Why the disguise?"
I asked.

"Because your
battle-suit is a little too unique and peculiar for our universe, Doug-san,"
Hiromi said as she gave me an apologetic look while she handed me my tea. "Much that I'm sure you're more than
ready to defend yourself and others should such ever become necessary, we don't
need to drag all the crazies out of the shadows to seek you out. Especially if the news of your being a
metahuman goes public."

"How much did Seina tell
you?" I demanded.

Hiromi laughed as Takara
giggled . . .

* *

Local Date and time: Monday 10 May 2011, 8:04 AM EDT
Location: H.M.C.S. Haida, Deck A10 Forward,
Senior Officer's Quarters,

I had to admit, whoever was
the tailor aboard Arizona got it pretty good.

I got a full set of proper
uniforms – dress, work and battle dress utilities including footwear and head
gear – that would be expected of what they want edto disguise me as.

So what am I pretending to

Well, given what Takara
explained to me, Colonel Douglas Q. Sangnoir of Los Angeles is an officer in
the United States Army. A Special Forces
officer, given the right to wear the proper qualification tab and the
ubiquitous green beret, not to mention previous assignment patches indicating I
worked with the 5th Special Forces Group sometime ago. My uniform came complete with jump wings from
a half-dozen nations (including Canada), the air assaulter's qualification
badge from spending time with the 101st Air Assault Division in Kentucky and
"shooting iron" medals that said I was nasty with anything one could
hold in one's hand that went "bang!"
There were an even five rows of medals in my "salad bowl" of
decorations over my right breast pocket, though what a lot of those ribbons
actually represented were total mysteries to me; given my long time in London
and dealing with British armed forces personnel, I never got used to my homeland's
wild propensity to award a medal for something their counterparts in England or
Canada would probably just view as doing one's proper duty.

And, much to my personal
amazement, the damned things fit me like a glove; the clothing replicators on
these ships clearly were programmed to make sure whatever they produced could
fit without need of snipping and mending by a seamstress. Spit-shone boots on my feet – I decided to go
with the Class "B" Army Service Uniform today; fortunately, I had the
song In The Army Now by Status Quo in my musical files, which allowed me
to learn quick about local military traditions – and the proper green beret to
cover my head with my "current assignment" crest marking me as part
of the 1st Special Forces Group out of Fort Lewis in Washington. That was the Army Special Operations
Command's unit assigned to back up the North Pacific Division of the Earth
Defence Force, which currently included H.M.C.S. Haida, U.S.S. Arizona,
the Japanese Starship Yamato, the Republic of Korea Starship Paekbom,
the People's Republic of China Starship Zhèng Hé – those three being Haida's
sister Type One battleship/carriers – and the Republic of China Starship Dàdù,
the Korean People's Navy Starship Mong'yang and the Mongolian Armed
Forces Starship Damdin Sükhbaatar, all Metzada-class Type Two space

Much to my surprise, I even
got what was called in the British Army a "batman."

Though I'd hardly call
Sergeant First Class Sarah "Sally" Cramer a mere "batman."

* *

"Never thought you'd see
girl in green berets, Colonel?" she asked me when we first met after I had
finished my breakfast, reviewed updates from Eimi and got dressed.

"Personally, no,
Sarge. Unless they're Canadian and wear
Army green as their normal uniform type," I admitted as I enjoyed a second
cup of tea brought fresh from Seina. We
were meeting in my quarters after Hiromi and Takara headed off to look in on
their kids. "You're an Avalonian,
but your soul is much older than the girls here."

"I was born Terran,
sir," Sally stated with an accepting nod; no doubt, she had been fully
briefed on my powers before coming here.
"In the local lingo, I'm a 'Terran-turned-Avalonian' like the
Director's lovers and a lot of her friends.
The Director as well in her own way." She wriggled the fingers on her hand; in the
other hand was a cub of Starbucks' finest in a travel mug as she didn't really
care for Tim Hortons. As I didn't see
myself as much of a tea snob, I didn't care what sort of tea I got as long as
it was drinkable. "Got my new body
about a half-year ago after I got my second rocker." That was the second curved stripe that formed
a "rocker" under the three chevrons that marked her as a
sergeant. "It was a good thing,
too. Getting psychic powers actually
helps make things go a lot easier with some of our co-workers."

I nodded. "Who exactly?"

"The North Koreans; they
got a whole regiment – in their terms – from their Special Purpose Forces
assigned to back up the Mong'yang," she explained. "At first, it was pretty rough. Their current C-in-C isn't in the best of
health these days and he's getting antsy to provoke a few things with their
brethren south of the DMZ. Elder sisters
in that country, both in and out of the military, are working overtime to make
sure some dumb-ass doesn't screw something up and start a war." As I nodded – the Koreas were pretty much a
flashpoint in my universe, too; metahumans just made it all the more
interesting – she then smirked.
"But once a whole ton of them on their side got body-swaps and we
broke past the language barrier, it wasn't that hard. They know that once you're affiliated with
the EDF, all the bullshit about the Korean War and all the
capitalist-versus-communist nonsense ain't allowed. And to be frank with you, Colonel, having a
battalion of KPA SPF fighters at your back would be pretty good in a major
fire-fight. Not that we'd do that sort
of shit, of course."

I winked at her. "Leave it to the Rangers, you

A snort. "Yeah."

We both laughed; I had picked
up on many various inter-service rivalries in my years with Warriors
Alpha. "Sally, what do you think of
all this?" I then asked.

"The EDF, you
mean?" After I nodded, she
sighed. "We need it, Colonel. Even though the conspiracy theorists and all
that have been saying we've had UFOs showing up in the skies over the planet
since Roswell back in '47, what happened two years ago kinda smashed it into
our heads all in for us. Not to mention
the shit with the world's old being stolen by that space-taxi company right
after the Director's brother made the tag." As I perked on hearing that, she smiled. "It wasn't too much of a mess; local
magicals and the MIBs got it cleaned up real quick and the damage to the
wildlife and sensitive ecological zones was next to non-existent when it got
done." As I nodded on confirming
there were local magicals, she gazed at me.
I didn't feel any probe, but I could tell she was scanning me out. "How many planets do you think are
orbiting Sol?"

A shrug. "Nine." Everyone knew that!

A whistle. "How'd you guess?"

"It's common knowledge,

She then laughed. "Well, you're right . . . but not in the
way you think!" she then said.
"Here's the order here:
Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Nerio, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Pluto's considered a dwarf
planet; that got changed back in '06 when the egg-heads decided to change the
meaning of what a 'planet' actually is."
She winked. "Believe it or
not, Nerio is next to unknown to the common man on Earth."

I gaped. "What is it?"

"A planet of magicals,
Colonel. Physically, it's Mars' twin;
Nerio orbits about halfway between Mars and Earth, but in a phased plane of
normal existence. It's commonly known as
the Mundus Magicus." As I
gaped at her, she shrugged. "During
Arizona's 'official trials' last summer after she was commissioned, we
actually broke through the notice-me-not charms that protect the planet from
normal observation on Earth. Raised a
shit-storm in Washington until the Department of Magic had to step in to calm
the Navy brass down from raising Cain over the fact that there had been a whole
PLANET kept hidden from outside society."
As I laughed – and tried to imagine what sort of magical charms had to
be used to hide a whole PLANET of all things! – she smiled. "They're not bad folk. But they're like wand-wizards in the most
part; they just want to be left alone so they can brew their potions and make
spells . . . What?"

I just STARED at her for a
moment before I shook my head. "Um,
Sarge . . . "

"What is it,

"Is there a Hogwarts in
this dimension?"

A nod. "Yeah.
British wand-wizard middle-and-high school in Scotland. Why?"

I tried not to pass out on
hearing THAT . . .

* *

Local Date and time: Monday 10 May 2011, 11:23 AM EDT
Location: H.M.C.S. Haida, Deck 12 Main Hull,
Ship's Central Computer Room,

I couldn't believe it.

There was a Hogwarts –
and yes, a Beauxbâtons and Durmstrang – in this dimension.

Unlike the Hogwarts I had
served as D.A.D.A. teacher for – this was back in 1995-96 in that universe –
the Hogwarts on Hiromi's Earth wasn't alone in offering places to study for
budding magicals in the United Kingdom.
In Wales, there was a school called the Merdiana Magical Academy, which
taught a different style of magic than the wand-using type that went to
Scotland to learn. While Hogwarts normally
recruited from fully "native" magical users, Merdiana normally took
in students who had some sort of blood-relationship with Nerio – believed to
have been formed separately when a meteorite had slammed into Mars millions of
years ago to create a whole separate planet with a viable atmosphere that could
support life – or didn't care too much for the local magical ministry's laws
and regulations over how they practiced their craft. Yes, there was an International Statute of
Wizarding Secrecy here as well, but the equivalent of the International
Confederation of Wizards in this universe was a diverse "International
Conference of Magical Communities" that acknowledged that Magic was a
different thing between users as people were different from each other . . .
and that it simply didn't make sense to enforce ONE set of magical rules over
everyone blessed with that power.

Just as surprising to me was
the fact that there was a Harry Potter in this universe.

Unlike the Harry I had taught
and helped when it came to dealing with Voldemort, the Harry here got help from
a Merdiana alumni named Nekane Springfield, the niece of a famous wizard
nicknamed the "Thousand Master," a guy who was seen as a major hero
on Nerio for stopping a genocidal bastard called Fate Averruncus some years
ago. Since the local Voldemort was seen
as very bad news for magicals regardless of stripe, the I.C.M.C. gave Nekane
freedom to ignore some old laws that forbade her type of sorceress from
interfering with the affairs of wizards loyal to the British Ministry of Magic
. . . and after she helped Harry discover his own type of wandless magic, the
whole mess with Tom Riddle's horcruxi got cleaned up in the summer after
Harry's sixth year, just right after Albus Dumbledore died as a victim to traps
Riddle had been put on one of his soul-jars.
Once Voldemort was made mortal, he was put down in a quick duel; the
actual "Battle of Hogwarts" as the Ministry of Magic called it –
according to a report made by the Canadian Ministry of Magical Affairs on the
matter which was copied into Haida's computer banks – lasted about ten
minutes after Harry finally dropped Riddle.

These days, Nekane served as
beginner magical teacher at Merdiana – unlike Hogwarts, freshmen at Merdiana
could be of any age, even young kids; noting that, I was reminded of the
Collegium in Valdemar, which welcomed in new apprentices as soon as they
started showing signs of any metagift – and Harry was now the Director of the
Department of Magical Law Enforcement for the British Ministry of Magic. He was also, much to my surprise, married to
TWO old classmates from Hogwarts given he was also the direct heir of not just
his family but Sirius Black's family, which gave him two family seats in the
Wizengamot. His wives were Mandy
Brocklehurst from Ravenclaw (now the Lady Potter) and Pansy Parkinson of
Slytherin (now the Lady Black). As for
Harry's best friends, Hermione Granger also worked for the DMLE while Ron
Weasley was a player for the Chudley Cannons quidditch team . . . which, after
Tom Riddle finally became room temperature, broke their endless losing streak
and became league champions.

Go figure . . .

* *

After getting the chance to
read over about the local version of the Boy-Who-Lived – and the
"Man-Who-Won" as he was called these days, though I personally bet
that Harry didn't care for those titles – I decided to spend as much time as I
could getting a clear readout of the whole metahuman situation on this planet.

After several hours reading
and talking about same with Sally Cramer and Petty Officer 1st Class Joan
Mercer – Haida's senior intelligence operator – I had no choice but to
conclude this Earth had been on the cusp of the same type of metahuman
explosion my Earth experienced in the late 1920s . . . and from roughly the
same time period, given the first reported appearance of "mystery
men" in America in the late 1930s here.
But for some reason – despite a number of metas possessing a wide gamut
of gifts from the physical to the psionic to energy manipulators to arch-mage
type sorceresses and even the quasi-Celestial active in the Second World War –
there hadn't been an explosion of genetic mutations or people who had become
mutates since 1945.

Yeah, yeah, I know! Hiromi hates those words.

But this is a report for my

Besides, friends back home
would blink like owls on hearing phrases like "natural-born
metahuman" and "fate gifted metahuman" without understanding the

Still, as I came to conclude
yesterday after I had met Takizawa Kaori and watched her talk with Eimi, the
Avalonians – as a technical "alien" race despite their wide
acceptance on Earth over the last year and more – were certainly going to stir
up the genetic pot big time with their allowing Terrans to become part of their
race as well as interbreeding with Terrans in the normal process of helping the
new generation come into this life.
Avalonians – though normally made in Terran-type pattern – also came as
Niphentaxian-types, Noukiite-types, Urusian-types and other races as well, so
the mixture of genes that naturally developed on other worlds was going to make
something happen one day soon. And when
you factored in the magical societies on this Earth with their own wide gamut
of beings – seeing the various Nerioite humanoid "therianthrope"
species in the file about the "Magical World" in Haida's
databank just made me blink – the size of the metahuman explosion when it
finally came would be HUGE.

* *

"What would trigger this
sort of thing?" Joan had asked at the end of it.

"Could be
anything," I noted. "What
really launched things in my universe was the use of atomic weapons and how
radiation began to play games with people's DNA."

"That happened here, but
it never caused anything save for the standard radiation sickness cases for
those who were too close to the damned things," Sally noted.

"The Steel Angels,
maybe?" Joan wondered.

I blinked. "Who are the Steel Angels?"

Both girls looked at each
other, and then they smiled, which made me wince.

What the hell was THIS all

* *

Local Date and time: Tuesday 11 May 2011, 12:23 AM JST
Location: Somewhere in Sapporo-shi,
Ishikari-shinkokyoku, Hokkaido, Japan,

"Damn her . .

The shivering form that had
just appeared in the rolling hills to the west of the downtown core of Japan's
fourth largest city could only snarl as she found herself in a place of solid
blackness all around her. As her eyes
slowly – too slowly for her own desires – adjusted to the dark night around
her, she slowly picked herself up from the soft ground she had dropped a metre
down from her beam-in point to smash into, and then she moved to make a quick
inspection of her body to ensure she didn't endure any wounds from that
fall. After a few minutes, she then
breathed out.

"Safe . . .!"

For now, she knew.

The creature that was coming
after her had warned her that coming back to this time and place would only
result in her death. And the death of
the One that had helped her.

Not that the stupid animated
corpse would really understand that, of course.

A litany of vile curses in
classical Kyotos-accented Yehisrite streamed out from the newcomer's lips as
she brought down the malefactions of all the gods on the heart and soul of that
damned undead bitch – who had a POWER JEWEL of all things; how in God's name
did she acquire something like THAT?! – that had chased her off Sagussa after
she had tried to wipe out those accursed daishi'cha all those years
ago. Taking several minutes to vent out
her continued anger towards the beast that had stopped her from ensuring the
Fifth Republic would NEVER truly rise, the newcomer then relaxed herself as she
took in several deep gulps of air before she crouched down.


It had been a sheer miracle
in and of itself that she had been able to nursemaid the ancient warp-sloop she
had stolen to Earth so she could finally deal with the problem that had sent
her hundreds of years back in time in the first place.

Thinking of what had put her
onto this quest, she then moaned.

"My babies . . .!"

Her beloved children.

Dead at the hands of that
woman who had effectively destroyed her life.

Long BEFORE she had ever
known that planet outside the galaxy had ever existed!

The woman who had taken away
her first true love . . .

The woman who had BONDED that
wonderful man to an ONI of all things . . .!

The woman who then came back
and tore that man away from her grasp . . .!

And for WHAT?!

To bring back a dustbowl
of a planet wrecked in a five-century war to LIFE?!

Was it even possible . . .?

Thinking of that, she


It wouldn't happen.

Not this time!

One way or another, the
so-called "grand design" was going to be derailed!

One way or another, her man
was going to be free.

One way or another, those who
hurt her . . .

Who took her babies away from
her . . .

Who killed her people . . .


She then tensed on hearing
the growl of a VERY empty stomach echo through her body.

"Food . . . "

With that, she made her way
towards the glow of city lights to the east . . .

* *

Somewhere, a different

"You take enormous

"It's worth

"To draw HIS wrath on
you? And in HIS chosen domain?!"

A snort. "He really doesn't care for what
happens to mortals. They all – if He is
to be believed – will come to Him eventually, so the 'when' really doesn't

"Are you sure?"

That made the Bringer of
Balance pause. "What do you

"He has chosen a mortal

A laugh. "The Moroboshi boy? He's nothing deep down. A coward, an idiot and he's enslaved to his
loins. Even his marriage to the Oni
didn't change that!"

"Don't let your current
avatar's inner beliefs influence you."

"It is the
truth! How could he accept becoming the
'first father' of that new race that was planned to arise on His planet without
being enslaved to his loins?"

"And the Daughter of
Gaia? Do you not know of her."

"Feh! Lies!
That thing is no better than a robot . . . "

"You haven't been
looking upon the Earth your avatar now has landed on, have you?"

"There's no

"Don't be too sure about
that . . . "

* *

Local Date and time: Monday 10 May 2011, 7:26 PM MSK
Location: A hidden hill east of Goroda Rjazán',
Rjazanskaja Oblast', Russia,

"Foolish . . . simply

An emotionless smirk crossed
Vladímir Tayceško's face.

"And that will destroy
them both in the end . . . "

* *

Local Date and time: Tuesday 11 May 2011, 12:29 AM JST
Location: An empty lot in Tomobiki-cho, Nishitokyo-shi,
Tokyo-to, Japan,

The man born Sakurambo Hayao
– known more commonly as "Cherry" these days – perked as a very
subtle flow of disquiet surged into his old body.

As the elderly Jodo-shu monk
stood up from the ground of the abandoned lot located about three blocks from
the Moroboshi home, he turned to gaze at the clear night sky ahead. Personally grateful to the many Avalonians
who had begun using their expertise to start clearing the air pollution that
had accumulated over the Home Islands in the last hundred years – even now,
only fifteen months since the Avalonians had arrived on Earth, the skies over
metropolitan Tokyo were cleaner than he had seen in decades – so he could gaze
upon the stars and try to divine what he had sensed just now from them.

"Darkness . . .
vengeance . . . for what?"

Humming, Cherry moved to
retrieve his cooking pot.

This required further
divination . . .

* *

Local Date and time: Monday 10 May 2011, 12:02 PM EDT
Location: H.M.C.S. Haida, Deck 12 Main Hull,
Ship's Central Computer Room,

I had to take a few minutes
to absorb what I had just read.

When I did, though . . .

Oh, my dear God . . .!

"They're magical gynoids?!"

"They were," Joan
Mercer answered me. Sally had gone off
to fetch some tea for us before we would hit Haida's chief and petty
officer's mess for a late lunch; even if I was an officer by Canadian military
custom, I had told Brian Gamblin that I didn't mind eating with the lower ranks
if the situation demanded it. "Shortly
after she got her own body, Lady Negako got people to do some research on how
to shift the souls of the Steel Angels into fully organic bodies – while
allowing them to keep their powers – to fulfil a promise she and Major Raeburn
had made to them when they all shut themselves down in 1937 and had their
bodies stashed away to ensure they wouldn't be asked to kill anyone in World
War Two. Or afterward." As I nodded, she sighed. "It all got done by last August. Lady Negako was reunited with Miss Shichinohe,
those of the Angels who wanted to go back into being serving members of the
worlds' militaries got their commissions reactivated and they were back into
service and the others were allowed to get on with their lives." A shake of the head. "None of the one built to represent
Canada in the 'Steel Angel Wars' in the 1920s have come back into

"And they're not
persecuted for it?" I asked.

"Of course not,"
Joan stated. "World War Two was bad
enough even with the limited metahuman involvement centred on the War Hawks and
the other groups that were active at the time.
If the Steel Angels had been forced to kill normal people . . . "

I nodded as I took that in,
and then I gazed on the image of one Ayanokoji Hakushi.

This universe's technomage
equivalent to Sylia Stingray's father Katsuhito.

The man who took magic and
technology – with a heavy dose of benign necromancy and a few things even I
had trouble identifying . . . and had the backing of military forces (still
haunted with the images of four years of sheer slaughter in World War One) and
the support of a lot of very radical magical thinkers – to create the Steel

An honest-to-goodness RACE of
magical combat gynoids.

Unlike the boomers I had run
into in Megatokyo in 2037 – which could be mass produced within the limits of
the local base-line tech once Genom eliminated Sylia Stingray's father and
"acquired" his patents for their use – the Steel Angels, given their
magical origin and the mesonium-based Angel Heart power system that gave them
true life, couldn't be made at a whim.
It required materials that weren't available to the common man – or the
common industrial company – which ensured their construction could only be
executed by the world's various military forces and other government agencies,
backed up by advanced magical research teams working for local magical
ministries. All of this was coordinated
by the Academy of Advanced Sciences, which was based in Japan even if it was a
League of Nations-mandated organisation; it was called that to ensure that the
world "magic" didn't get out too openly and make the International
Conference of Magical Communities upset at this unusual mixing of magical and
"muggle" technology.

And given what I had just
read about how these girls came into being . . .

. . . I had to admit that in
so many ways, Ayanokoji was Stingray's superior.

Even more, Ayanokoji enjoyed
a lot better luck than Sylia's dad ever did.

Despite his military backers'
desire to create the perfect soldier that could take over from mere
flesh-and-blood beings that could be poisoned by mustard gas or ripped apart by
machine gun bullets, Ayanokoji Hakushi elected at the start to create girls who
– atop being powerful warriors that could easily fight most of MY friends to a
standstill if required – had hearts and souls . . . and the
emotions to express them.

Save in physical body, they
were as human as one born of a mother's womb.

And in the period of the
Roaring Twenties – with the revulsion against conflict that the mass slaughter
of the "War to End All Wars" had invoked in so many – the Steel
Angels were seen as living symbols of hope and peace in an uncertain age.

Even the so-called
"Steel Angel War" in 1924 really didn't do anything to change that.

After reading the results of
that fight, it was easy for me to conclude.

That "war" was
actually a glorified Olympic Games for gynoids.

Complete with a lot of
cheesecake, too!


Ripping flags off girl's panties
. . .?!

"So they sensed what was
about to come down on Earth in the mid-1930s with the Nazis and the Japanese
militarists," I stated. "When
they realised that war was pretty much inevitable – since such conflicted with
their basic programming to NEVER harm a human being if they could avoid it –
they asked Hiromi's sister and this Major Raeburn to deactivate them all and
hide their bodies in places where they couldn't be found and reactivated to be
used as front-line special troops. Much
less have all the knowledge that went into their creation wiped out given what
Grindelwald and this Tsukuyomi girl was unleashing on the magical side of
things at the same time, right?"

A nod. "Yes."

"Who is Major Raeburn

Joan chuckled. "That's one of our planet's first known
metahuman warriors, Colonel," she said.
"She was the leader of the War Hawks in World War Two."

I gaped at her . . .

* *

Local Date and time: Monday 10 May 2011, 12:18 PM EDT
Location: Cooks Mills, north of Canadian Forces Base
Niagara, Welland, Ontario,

"Hey, Laura. Got some coffee?"

Gasping on hearing that
familiar voice from the main door to her personal café, which was located on
the corner of Lyons Creek Road and Doan's Ridge Road before the latter crossed
the creek and entered the base grounds proper, Laura Evans (Captain, Royal
Canadian Artillery, retired) spun around before she smirked on seeing the woman
now standing close to her cashier.
"Dean Raeburn! As I live and
breathe!" the Steel Angel-turned-Avalonian field artillery
officer-turned-coffee shop owner and unofficial guardian of all the people
working at Canadian Forces Base Niagara exclaimed before she beckoned the
newcomer over to a chair by the counter.
"Your usual, I take it?"

"Yep," Dean said as
she moved to reach into her jacket to draw out one of her Dutch Masters Honey
Sports cigars . . . and then she stopped as she remembered that smoking indoors
in a public restaurant had been outlawed in Ontario years ago. Health Nazis! the retired air cavalry
pilot and Earth's Jewel Warrior mused to herself as Laura came over with her
preferred cup of Navy brew – with a pinch of sea salt – topped with two creams
and two sugars in a mug. "Thanks. Noted what's happened here recently?"

"Ah, yes. Our visitor from another universe. Metahuman sorcerer by the feel of him when he
showed up on the ranges yesterday afternoon," Laura – who, like all Steel
Angels, was an exceptionally beautiful woman, possessing close-cropped curly red-brown
hair and dark brown eyes on a very pretty face – noted as she gave the other
woman a knowing look. "Currently up
in space aboard Haida. Hiromi's
people got to him."

"Which is good. Less work for us to deal with."

"True. So what are you doing here anyway?"

"Vlad advised me to keep
an eye on things." A wink. "In his own unique way."

Laura blinked. "Something that interested HIM?!"

"I know. The guy on Haida now got dragged into
our universe thanks to that kid over in Japan who got hold of one of the
earlier Sagussan haijo-ju marks when her soul got yanked from another
timeline with all her friends by a would-be 'master' on Phentax
Twelve." As Laura scowled on
hearing that – though she was nodding as she recalled where she had heard about
that person before – Dean sipped her coffee.
"Turns out our visitor's been busy causing quite big ruckuses in
other universes. Nothing that we'd
consider objectionable, of course. He's
a typical 'serve the people' type deep down.
Paramilitary, full army colonel, sanctioned by the U.N. there, who
fights in a team of metas that includes a young goddess Vlad and I saved some
years ago."

The other woman nodded. "Sees something wrong, goes out to fix

"And repeat multiple
time. And while he was doing that, some
'holier-than-thous' got pissed off because he was upsetting too many
celestials' apple carts. Had a slew of
nasties about to make him cash in his dog tags before Mizuho got him."

Laura tensed. "Is there a threat?"

A shake of the head. "Nothing clear at the time." A smirk.
"You know how it is with Vlad." As Laura laughed, Dean sighed. "If it was a real threat,
he'd tell me."

The former Steel Angel
nodded. Given what Dean currently
possessed and had be bound since 1889, calling her down on the
head of whatever it was that was out to kill one Douglas Q. Sangnoir – Brian
Gamblin had visited her café on his way in to work and gave her a briefing via
a folded piece of paper; even if Laura was retired from full-time service in
the Regiment of Royal Canadian Artillery and was only seen as a reservist only
to be recalled to duty at time of general mobilisation, deeply-set
"programming" that had been etched with soul-magic in her Angel Heart
when she was first activated back in 1922 still dominated her life – was a
literal case of unleashing an atomic bomb to get rid of a rat
infestation. Dean was no Celestial
by any shake of the imagination – the bond between a Power Jewel and its Host
never went anywhere close to that type of linkage between the
mortal and the Divine . . . and the Seekers who had created the Jewels three
billion years ago had disappeared from Existence itself, having not been seen
since even if the artefacts of their existence endured to this day – but she
could kill one if required. And probably
had done so several times in World War Two whenever Axis mystics got a little
too out of hand with summoning rituals.

Thank the Creator none of us were ever active in
that time period, Laura then mused.

To actually consort with
THOSE type of disgusting things . . .!

Ugh! No thank you!

"So you're just here to
keep a loose eye on things," Laura noted.


"I'll get the guest room

"Thanks . . . "

* *

Local Date and time: Monday 10 May 2011, 12:23 PM EDT
Location: H.M.C.S. Haida, Deck 12 Main Hull,
Ship's Central Computer Room,

There are many things about
my visit to Megatokyo in 2037 I hated.

There are many things about
that visit I fondly remembered.

Lisa Vanette's reference to
superheroes, of course.

Given the history of one
Major Deannette A. Raeburn of the Canadian Army . . .

. . . calling her THAT would
probably be seen as quite an insult by the woman.

There was nothing – as she
told friends time and time again during those six dark years that humanity was
exposed to world-wide warfare for the first time – that she had done from the
Battle of Britain to the Battle of the Gates of Nurmengard and the final battle
between her War Hawks and the Übermenschen Gruppe over the waters of Lake
Ontario after VJ Day that she could ever want to view as really heroic.

In her eyes, she did nothing
to earn those THREE Victoria Crosses she was given.


To the very end, Dean Raeburn
saw herself first and foremost as a soldier.

An air cavalry pilot for the
10th Saskatchewan Cavalry Regiment (Air) for the first three years before she
was reassigned by Army Headquarters to form the 1st Canadian Specialised
Warfare Unit – the War Hawks – with an Royal Canaidan Air Force Women's
Division officer named Flight Officer Jessica Dover (who had been gifted with
the power of an honest-to-goodness Slavic žar-ptíca that didn't mind
severing the bonds between mortal avatars and whatever Celestial-like being was
possessing them), a Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service officer named Second
Officer Heather Thompkins (an arch-mage sorceress who was mostly self-taught
born from a normal couple that was more than willing to fight either the Nazis
or Grindelwald), and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police patrol officer named
Staff-Sergeant Martin Larsden (who had been blessed by a Mi'kmaq shaman after
he had saved the fellow's life in the mid-1930s to make him the perfect hunter
of men in civilian life . . . and by extension, the perfect sniper in warfare).

A soldier – No! Excuse me!
FOUR soldiers! – of the Greatest Generation who gladly volunteered to do
whatever work had to be done to put down evil.

And in my eyes, she was a
hero by every extent of the term.

The Major never liked being
asked to kill people.

She sure as hell didn't like
the idea of using her gift – which came wrapped up in a three billion year old
piece of cosmically-powered crystal that she wore as a necklace around her
neck; influenced by local comic books at the time and a character named
"Captain Marvel," she used her Power Jewel to infuse typical
FISS-type powers for herself when she went into action, ensuring she was also
invulnerable to any sort of magical or psionic attack – and the martial arts
she had learned under Hozan Hirosuke before World War Two to stomp down on
normal soldiers and enemy metahuman warriors alike as a way of delivering a
vicious psychological blow on the Axis.

Hell, that prompted her in
1942 – after she discovered the Nazi's Final Solution after stumbling onto Konzentrationslager
Auschwitz when it was about to kick into high gear – to plan an operation
to take out Hitler and all his cronies in a three-day search-and-assassinate
mission she called "Phoenix Thunder" to bring the war to an end.

Get it done right away and
send the boys home.

Put a stop to all the things
like "strategic bombing" and the like.

Put a human face back on what
was the worst show of inhumanity in human history.

Why the Allied leaders DIDN'T
take her up on that, the Major NEVER understood!

Even with Hitler being allied
with Gellert Grindelwald as Albus Dumbledore's old lover was pursuing his own
maniac vision to unleash the "greater good" for magicals and mundanes
alike, the Major could have pulled it off with literal ease.

All the targets were damned
crunchies, anyway!

It would have been so easy .
. .

Noting that, I had to sigh.

It was easy for me to
understand why they said "no."

Phoenix Thunder – for all its
wonderful simplicity and its bold vision for a world at peace – was just way too
radical in the eyes of people like Roosevelt and Churchill.

They were used to armies
marching in the field.

Metahumans were too radical a
concept for world leaders to take.

And while she could have
disobeyed, the Major always understood one thing.

Girl with a cosmic jewel or
not, she was still a soldier.

And thus duty-bound to obey
higher authority.

She had made an oath.

She was honour-bound to keep
the oath.

Even if she didn't like some
of the orders she had got.

Even if she and her friends
were ordered to home defence duty for the rest of the war.

Even if she probably cried
when the casualty lists came in every day . . .


A real hero.

At least the Canadian Army
let her go her own way in 1954 when she wanted to pull the pin, put what she
had dealt with from 1939 to 1945 into the back of her mind, then get on with
her life . . . which she did by going into SPACE, finding other people who had
become Jewel Warriors like her and teaching them the tricks of the trade.

Thank God for that . . .

Note to self: Research these Power Jewels.

Are they the same as Mizuho's

If so, why?

If not, what's the

* *

"Sad reading, isn't
it?" Joan asked.

I smiled. Sally had come back with tea and some light
sandwiches made by Yamaguchi Seina, no doubt to make sure that when we broke
for a time and enjoyed lunch in the mess, our appetites wouldn't be ruined. "I think she would have been at home in
the Warriors," I said. "She
understood why metas are so feared at times."

"It's like that in your
universe?" Haida's chief intelligence operator wondered.

A nod. "Yeah.
We all strive to make things easy between normals and metahumans and
aliens and all the various artificial intelligences and all that . . . but now
that I think about it, there always has been a little tension, especially from
normals. The whole jealously factor
about all the things we can do that others can't. My own parents never really accepted that I
was a mutant." I didn't catch
myself in time, but Joan waved it off.
"So given this was World War Two – after millions of people had
died – and given how powerful this woman could potentially be . . . "

"She made an oath on a
Bible when she elected to fly with the Saskatchewans," she said. "'I, Deannette Antonia Raeburn, do swear
that I will well and truly serve Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen
of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors according to law, in the Canadian Forces
until lawfully released. I will resist
Her Majesty's Enemies and ensure Her Majesty's Peace will be kept and
maintained. I will, in all matters
pertaining to my service, faithfully discharge my duty as issued by lawful
authority placed over me in the name of Her Majesty. So help me God.'" Joan smiled.
"Well, it would have been to King George VI when she swore it, but
it's the same idea."

A nod. "A real hero."

"No. A real soldier. One who knew what she could do . . . but also
knew that she was probably the only one who could actually do
it." Joan waved to the computer
terminal I had been using to skim through Haida's Tapestry to learn more
about the leader of the War Hawks.
"And was it really her responsibility in the end to shoulder the
burden of the whole damned war by herself?
And even if she did do it, what then?
If she went too far without stopping herself, she would actually make
those she was trying to protect actually FEAR her." As I gaped at her, she smiled. "C'mon, you know this! Humans are funny that way, Colonel. Yeah, the Major could've put a full stop to
World War Two over three years earlier.
Why it wasn't allowed?" A
shrug. "I really can't say,
Colonel. Maybe because the hate and fear
and anger and ambition that set off that war were just too great even for the
'protector of all life' . . . " – she made finger-quotes on saying that –
" . . . to go out and deal with on her lonesome."

"Too many cooks with
their hands in the broth making too much of a mess," Sally noted before
taking a sandwich slice and nibbling on it.
"And when the mess go too big, everyone had to go in to clean it
up. With their own ideas on how to do

I hummed. "Is that why Mizuho isn't a part of the

Both senior NCOs before me
blinked before nodded. "The Inada
girl?" Joan asked. "Of
course. Sure, that Staff of hers can
seriously help her kick anyone's butt if she wanted to do that . . . but she's
went through Hell to get here, Colonel.
Go read the manga Battle Royale in the ship's library to see what
I'm talking about. To force her to serve
with us just wouldn't be right. She
deserves a normal life."

"Besides, if she's
needed, she probably would volunteer to help," Sally added. "Look what she did for you when you got
pulled here, Colonel."

I blinked, and then
sighed. "Right . . . "

* *

Local Date and time: Monday 10 May 2011, 12:52 PM EDT
Location: H.M.C.S. Haida, Deck A12 Aft, Flag
Officer's Level,


"You busy right now,

Hiromi perked on hearing that
voice, and then she smiled. "Come
in, Doug-san!"

The door opened to reveal a
dashing man with strawberry-blonde hair – said hair being a little bit longer
than what would normally be accepted in the Army of the United States of
America, but few might notice from a distance and all aboard Haida at
the time wouldn't really care – and very deep blue eyes. He was dressed in Army Class "B"
service uniform, looking quite proper despite the medals and decorations there
not even coming close to reflect his true experiences. Shortcuts, however, had to be made as the
chances of someone who might question the presence of an unknown civilian
aboard the UNEDF flagship at this time were still quite strong. As soon as her ship's current visitor could
determine his proper needs and a potential time frame for his eventual
departure – hopefully! – to his home dimension was determined, things would

"So how can I help you
in thanks for sparing me from having my brain brutalised by calculus?"
Hiromi then asked as she gazed gratefully at Doug.

The older man perked. "Calculus? What type?"

"I still empathically
don't know, to be frank with you," the reborn emperor of the Latter Hàn
mused as she set aside her books.
"I can use the break for a bit.
Much that I am perversely grateful for being freed from boring lectures,
being forced to study practically on my own does have its downfalls as
well." She then blinked. "You seem very bothered by
something. Did you discover something

"No, but I am
concerned," Doug admitted as he sat down beside her, taking a second to
scan over the calculus formulae written there and nodding. "Same as my universe." As Hiromi chuckled, he sighed. "It's about Inada Mizuho. And her friend."

"The Staff of the mad
scientist Gihan, you mean."

"Yeah. How's your sister teaching her how to use
that thing?"

"Trial and error . . .
within reason, Doug-san," she answered.
"One-sama has always been of the opinion that students best learn
from their mistakes. To do anything to
deny a person the right to make their own decisions – even the wrong ones –
would hurt more than help in the long term as she sees it." A sigh.
"While understanding that Mizuho-san might do something harmful if
something happens to make her lose control of herself and the Staff, One-sama
does allow her to explore the Staff's capabilities on her own. Only giving her the guidance when she needs
it . . . as witness what happened when she wanted to bring your wife here to
join you." As Doug nodded in
understanding, the director of the UNEDF sighed. "It's not a perfect system, but it does

"I could give her some
better training," he then offered.

Her eyebrow arched, and then
she nodded. "True. Well, let's go ask One-sama . . . "

"You need not call for
me, Hiromi. I am here."

Doug screamed out at the
closeness of that voice, spinning around . . .

. . . to find himself staring
face-to-face with a woman in her early twenties who looked like she was
Hiromi's elder sister . . . save for a fuller head of wavy brown hair that was
still cut to a taper at the neck and eyes that were nearly pitch-black up
close. She was also dressed in a black
martial arts gi with a black belt on her waist, said gi having a gold ? kanji written at the end of the

Hiromi screamed out. Why does she
keep doing this?!

Doug took several deep breaths to calm himself, the newcomer gazed at him for a
moment before she nodded. "Yes,
Douglas . . . you will do quite well."

traveller from another Earth gulped on hearing that cold voice . . .

* *

Date and time: Monday 10 May 2011, 12:55
Location: Cooks Mills, north of Canadian Forces Base
Niagara, Welland, Ontario,

. . . she nails EVERYONE with that trick of hers."

was that, Dean?" Laura Evans asked.

Raeburn smirked. "Private joke,
Laurie . . . "

Steel Angel hummed . . .

* *

Date and time: Monday 10 May 2011, 12:58
Location: H.M.C.S. Haida, Deck A12 Aft, Flag
Officer's Level,

One-sama! Why do you keep DOING this to

I was not scared!

sir! I wasn't scared at all!

just surprised me!


in ki-cloaked like you always do to scare people out of their minds . .

. . .

Okay! Okay!
You got me!

DID scare me!


you blame a guy like me?!

caring at all that they might actually like to be treated kindly . . .!"

like to think that I am an experienced and well-trained metahuman warrior.

in truth – with no false modesty – I am well-trained and

DAMN . . .!

I had ever encountered in all my years prepared me for THIS woman!

was she . . .?

have no sense of tact whatsoever! No
respect for people's feelings . . .!"

focused my mage-sight on what I had to assume was Hiromi's sister Negako.

result . . .

– MY – DEAR – GOD!

Shit! No WONDER people tended to think of this
woman as a goddess brought to Earth!

that mana node of power – or WHATEVER it was! – infused into each
and every one of her cells . . .!

mind the knowledge and battle skills I sensed she had.

was like a living LIBRARY of battle knowledge forced into the body of a
twenty-something girl from Japan!

one I knew of was anything CLOSE to what this woman was like!

on Earth would . . .?

you quite finished, Hiromi?"

Hiromi and I jolted on hearing Negako's question. As I looked on the newcomer's face with my
own eyes, I was quick to sense the flash of annoyance there. "One-sama no baka . . .!" my host
then spat out before she turned to get back to her homework.

I gazed on Hiromi as she moved to sulk, I then felt Negako's dark eyes focus on
me for a moment. "Come,
Douglas," she bade. "Hiromi
once again refuses to allow herself to properly see what people are truly
like." As I heard a hurt snarl from
Hiromi, I was quick to sense the bare fleck of a smile cross her sister's
face. "You have expressed concern
with Mizuho and her being bonded to the Staff of Gihan. Despite all my knowledge and experience,
there are things concerning that type of device I cannot properly teach
her. Your experience with metahumans of
various types will be of great benefit to her.
We will discuss this matter over lunch.
Follow me."

felt my legs move to her command before I could think to do what she asked.


the HELL was I getting myself into here . . .?!

To be continued . . .


1) For those not familiar with the way I named
the Ikkitosen characters in Phoenix From the Ashes and its
companion stories, I took the kun'yomi ("meaning reading")
sounds from the kanji that went into the Chinese name of the toshi in question
(their names in the anime and manga are based on the on'yomi
["sound reading"] interpretations of the original names), then gave
it standard Japanese add-ons such as the "-ko" ending for a girl's
name to make it sound realistic. The
result of which can be seen below:

name: Liú Bèi (style name: Xuándé)
Battle-name: Ryubi Gentoku

name: Cáo Cao (style name: Mèngdé)
Battle-name: Soso Motoku

name: Sima Yì (style name: Zhòngdá)
Battle-name: Shiba'i Chutatsu

name: Zhào Yún (style name: Zilóng)
Battle-name: Choun Shiryu

name: Yú Jí
Battle-name: Ukitsu

name: Tàishi Cí (style name: Ziyì)
Battle-name: Taishiji Shigi

name: Mèng Huò
Battle-name: Mokaku

name: Sun Cè (style name: Bófú)
Battle-name: Sonsaku Hakufu

name: Hé Xìxing (posthumous name: Língsi)
Battle-name: Kamikyo Reishi
name "Kataiko" is the Japanese way of saying "Dowager
Empress Hé"

name: Sòng Baofeng
Battle-name: Sohofu
name "Sokogo" is the Japanese way of saying "Empress

name: Wáng Meiruò
Battle-name: Obijaku
name "Obijin" is the Japanese way of saying "Consort

name: Huáng Yuèying
Battle-name: Kogetsuei

name: Xún Yù (style name: Wénruò)
Battle-name: Jun'iku Bunjaku

of course:

(née Koro) Hiromi
name: Liú Hóng, (posthumous name: Xiàolíng)
Battle-name: Ryuko Kyorei
name "Reitei" is the Japanese way of saying "Emperor

I did for Mioko's past-self, I created the given names for Takara's and
Miwaka's past-selves as such was never recorded in official records.

2) Translations and explanations:

– Dragon Overlord.

– Matchmaker between prospective marriage partners.

Rjazán' – City of Ryazan.

Oblast' – Ryazan Oblast

– Literally "voice of the people."

– Classical name for a ship's surgery suite.

– Canadian Forces Exchange, the local military base shopping mall.

– Commander-in-Chief, military title for a nation's head-of-state.

– Literally "promotion bureau," the official suffix title given to a
sub-prefecture, one of the several county-like divisions of Hokkaido. These sub-divisions are split into smaller
ones such as Ishikari and larger ones called sogoshinkokyoku (literally
"integrated promotion bureau").
The standard term for all the sub-prefectures of Hokkaido is shicho
(literally "government branch office").

– Literally "great first mother."

Jodo-shu – Literally "Pure Land
School," which is the primary Japanese Buddhist school of doctrine based
on the Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light.

– Literally "ember bird," the trickster spirit of Slavic myth.

– Acronym of "Flight, Invulnerability, Speed, Strength" as introduced
in the comic book series PS238, written and drawn by Aaron Williams.

– Concentration Camp.

3) The Canadian Forces Decoration
(post-nominal letters CD) is the long-term service medal of the Canadian
military. One must have served
honourably (without any sort of non-paid time) in the Forces for twelve years
to get the CD. A bar clasp is added for
every 10 years additional service after the initial reward was given.

4) United Nations Earth Defence Force ship
namesakes for those ships yet to be properly introduced in the main stories:

Egyptian Naval Starship an-Nil (pendant SBBV-65) is named
after the Nile River, which flows through the heart of Egypt.

Royal Saudi Naval Starship Al Su'ud (SBBV-57) is named
after the founding royal family of modern Saudi Arabia.

Yemeni Republican Naval Starship al-Qasim al-Kabir (SBBV-30)
is named after a great imam of Yemen, Al-Mansur al-Qasim (1559-1620), who
fought for the country's independence against the Ottoman Turks.

Syrian Naval Starship Madinatul Yasmin (SBBV-13) is named
after a nickname of the city of Dimashq (Damascus), "the City of

Republic of China Starship Dàdù (SDD-540) is named after
an ancient Taiwanese kingdom, known to outsiders as the Kingdom of Middag.

Korean People's Navy Starship Mong'yang (SDD-86) is named
in honour of Korean independance activist Yo Unhyong (1886-1947), who's
pen-name was "Mong'yang" (literally meaning "dreams of
light"). He also struggled for
unity of the peninsula after the country was effectively split apart in 1945 by
the Cold War.

Mongolian Armed Forces Starship Damdin Sükhbaatar (SDD-30)
is named in honour of a Mongolian independence fighter (who lived from
1893-1923) who struggled for the country's freedom from China in the 1920s
after the fall of the Qing Dynasty.

5) The loonie, of course, is the popular
nickname for the Canadian $1 coin.

6) Doug's encounter with Ted Logan and Bill
Preston was noted in the NanoSteps entries at the Drunkard's Walk
Discussion Board, in entry 102.

7) The Seekers and the Praetorians,
of course, were first introduced in my fan fiction story Wanderers. The Yizibajohei, of course, have
appeared in my writings at the Anime Add-venture, usually under the storyline The
Doctor Is In. The Noukiites,
of course, have been a somewhat mainstay of my writing since The Senior Year.

8) In real life, You're In The Army Now
was a comedy that starred Jimmy Durante and Phil Silvers that came out in
1941. It's also the name of a popular
marching song in the military. And I
just discovered through the wonders of YouTube that a song called In The
Army Now (originally written in 1981 by Rob and Ferdi Bolland of the
Netherlands) was released by the British band Status Quo in 1986,
serving as the cover song of the album of the same name. Naturally, Doug would know of this song.

9) Beret colours in the Canadian Armed Forces
run this way:

Green – Army standard
– Navy standard (called "Navy blue" there) and Royal Canadian
Armoured Corps
Blue – Air Force standard
Gold – Royal Canadian Corps of Air Cavalry
Blue – Peacekeepers under U.N. control
– Canadian Forces Military Police
– Airborne forces
Orange – Search-and-rescue personnel (also called
"safety orange")
– Personnel serving with the Multinational Force and Observers based in the
Sinai Desert between Egypt and Israel as formed by the 1978 Camp David Accords
– Special Forces

the United States Army, black berets are standard headdress for service
personnel. The Green Berets (the U.S.
Army Special Forces) wear rifle green berets.
Airborne forces wear maroon berets.
And tan berets are worn by the U.S. Army Rangers.

10) I chose the name Nerio for the Mundus
Magicus from the Negima universe based on an ancient Roman war
goddess that personified personal valour and was seen as Mars' partner in
ancient offerings given to the gods before battle. I never liked Akamatsu-sensei's concept that
the Mundus Magicus actually IS Mars.
Canadian lighthouse to U.S. Warship approaching it:  "This is a lighthouse.  Your call!"

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