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Crossing Worlds 04: Different Paths

Nov 28th, 2016
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  1. “Wow,” says Hollia as the air ship passes over the marble streets of the capital of Crimdalina and comes down to a large open space behind the castle with massive walled in gardens and adjoining staff buildings, “its like a city inside a city.”
  2.  
  3. Gold Wolf mutters to himself from his chair next to Scrags remembering how not but a few days prior he was here, took a plane from Michigan to Georgia, went back to Aesperia, trudged across the Grand Swamp to Osopika; but rather than find Byron Lia to charter a boat across the Archae Sea finds Hollia and the rest already there preparing to board this air ship to fly back up to Crimdalina.
  4.  
  5. “Man,” says Scrags, “got to learn to go with the flow with these ladies. Trust me, it’s my new philosophy. I let my self get all stressed before, didn’t do me any good.”
  6.  
  7. ******
  8.  
  9. Hollia can’t help but feel awed by the elaborate throne room. While she has come to terms with the idea that her parents are regarded as a king and queen, they just have offices; nothing like this. This is a massive space with large windows and fancy curtains pulled back by yellow rope. The king and queen sit on large thrones before them like something out of the books Hollia has read. Guards in metal armor holding pikes stand at the bottom of the short steps. Hollia and Rhulan alone stand in this room while their companions wait in the courtyard. Hollia bows before the king and queen; Rhulan however only dips her head towards them.
  10.  
  11. “How dare you!” shouts one of the guards as both hold their pikes out, “no one shows our sovereigns such disrespect?”
  12.  
  13. Hollia straightens up and looks at Rhulan who only smiles and says, “I bow to no man. It should be taken as a sign of my patience and benevolence that I even dip my head in greeting.”
  14.  
  15. The king looks about to speak when a woman’s voice from behind the curtains behind the throne says, “Why should she bow to a king when she herself is an empress?”
  16.  
  17. “Grand-mother?” says Hollia recognizing the voice.
  18.  
  19. From behind the curtains Queen Thistle emerges.
  20.  
  21. “Oh,” says the king, “Elf Queen Thistle…what an honor…to see you…”
  22.  
  23. He whispers, “coming from behind the curtains…”
  24.  
  25. “You say something?” says Queen Thistle.
  26.  
  27. “Oh no, nothing at all,” says the king.
  28.  
  29. “In that case,” says Queen Thistle, “your men should lower their weapons before the Queen of Darkness…or was it Princess of Shadows decides to make sport of them.”
  30.  
  31. “And you are?” says Rhulan.
  32.  
  33. “I am Queen Thistle, of course,” she says, “do not fane ignorance with me my old rival.”
  34.  
  35. Rhulan looks at Hollia, back at Queen Thistle, and back at Hollia, “Oh…I think I remember you…you’re Jasma’s mother. You’ve been to Stratalia a few times. However I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
  36.  
  37. Queen Thistle turns to the king, “Your majesty, you may not have heard, however I assume you are familiar with the legend of Empress Rhulan, whom the Lee family, now the Lia family, had trapped in stone. Well they have had her prisoner for this last millennium and released her not long ago. On their behalf she has decimated some of the Magnus forces, and acts as a tutor for the princess.”
  38.  
  39. Hollia is about to say something but stops herself as she looks at her grand-mother.
  40.  
  41. “However,” says Queen Thistle, “what you may not know…”
  42.  
  43. She steps down the steps past the guards, “This woman was not fully trapped, her astral body could wander about; even traversing to other universes where she challenged me.”
  44.  
  45. “You’ll have to be more specific,” says Rhulan.
  46.  
  47. “Miss Rhulan?” asks Hollia.
  48.  
  49. “Hmm,” says Rhulan, “I did mention I could astral project right? Hmm…did I ever mention I could project into and observe other universes? Hmm…any who, yes I could.”
  50.  
  51. “and did you tell her,” says Queen Thistle with a somewhat angry tone, “that you controlled the Dark Hoard to seek out magic items and attack a poor defenseless world, protected only by my Solar Justice Scouts?”
  52.  
  53. “Uhhh,” says Rhulan, “that doesn’t ring a bell.”
  54.  
  55. “What?!” shouts Queen Thistle, “How dare you! What about the Galactic Darkness? Huh? They refered to you as the Princess of Shadows, an evil being beyond a mirror who…”
  56.  
  57. “Stop!” shouts Rhulan, “just stop, stop, stop, stop, sheesh. Before you go and make this whole thing more convoluted than it already is.”
  58.  
  59. “Excuse me?” says Queen Thistle,
  60.  
  61. “Okay,” says Rhulan with a *sigh* as she looks at Hollia, “I think I know what your grandma here is getting at.”
  62.  
  63. Queen Thistle practically turns red at the “grandma” comment.
  64.  
  65. “The long short of it,” says Rhulan, “I was turned to stone, I was stuck in a stone sleep for about a hundred years give or take, I was then able to see in front of me, and then astral project not long after. Now…I realized even in this state that if I could draw in enough magic I could free myself.”
  66.  
  67. “Uhm,” says Hollia a bit sheepishly, “Miss Rhulan, why didn’t you? I mean isn’t the who world filled with magic?”
  68.  
  69. “True,” says Rhulan taking on a tone more that of teacher than the apologetic tone Queen Thistle was expecting, “However have you ever heard of a death stone?”
  70.  
  71. “Yes,” says Hollia, “they are stones in which spirits are trapped, in order to free themselves they absorb life from…oh…”
  72.  
  73. “Indeed,” says Rhulan, “If I had tried to free myself outright I would have killed everything, and given by this time the early version of Stratalee was there that would have ended badly. I did try to sap little bits of grass, the odd tree or two, but it was taking too long. So in a desperate act I came up with a new plan; while my astral body could only travel so far from my imprisoned body, I could use the astral plane as a means to project my likeness through mirrors to other worlds; and using this passage as a channel I could draw magic from them. Searching out worlds with strong magical senses I learned of a world with powerful magical items; I tricked some local villains that I was some evil goddess and if they brought the items to me and via a ritual sacrificed them to me, I would grant them power.”
  74.  
  75. “Oh,” says Hollia smiling, “so you were using those villains, and planned to rob them of their weapons to help free yourself?”
  76.  
  77. “More or less,” says Rhulan.
  78.  
  79. Queen Thistle summons her sword and aims it at Rhulan, “Liar! First you say you don’t remember, then come up with this story. Which is it?”
  80.  
  81. Rhulan crosses her arms and smiles, “I tried this… several… dozen… times before giving up on it. These villains true to form tended to be incompetent, constantly beaten by some goody goods going after the same magic treasures.”
  82.  
  83. “Well then,” says Queen Thistle with a wicked smile, “Why didn’t you just appear to those goody goods as you call them.”
  84.  
  85. Hollia looks at her grand-mother and back at Rhulan, but with out missing a beat Rhulan says, “I know what I look like, now imagine if a woman built like me, dressed like me, with hair like this, appeared through a mirror from the astral plane; given how dark the astral plane is, and said she wanted them to collect magic items to bring to her and then sacrifice their power to her via a ritual…and if being fully truthful for the purpose of freeing myself…do you honestly think they would believe I was a good guy…”
  86.  
  87. Rhulan smiles at Queen Thistle and raises an eyebrow, “Its not like I’m some blond angelic elf in nature themed attire who could project from a well lit room set up to look heavenly or something.”
  88.  
  89. Rhulan *shrugs*, “It’s a shame but those cliché heroes from those comically absurd worlds tend to base their opinions on looks. I wouldn’t be half surprised if one of those worlds was tricked by some collector of fancy magical items just to bring…her…them so she could stash them away in her private collection.”
  90.  
  91. Queen Thistle smiles and puts away her sword, “I see, well then. I will leave you too your affairs. However do not think I am done here;”
  92.  
  93. She turns her attention to Hollia, “Holly.”
  94.  
  95. “Yes grandmother,” says Hollia.
  96.  
  97. “This woman is a dark goddess; I know you are on a mission to challenge the forces of another dark goddess of this world. I also know this force is after both of you, just as it once had its minions come after me years ago. I will offer you this once my grand-daughter. This is a battle between two dark goddesses, you need not be involved. I can take you away from this world to my world
  98. where you would be far beyond the reach of this Satasar, and beyond the reach of Rhulan.”
  99.  
  100. Queen Thistle holds out her arms and smiles, her continence that of some angelic queen, “my grand-daughter, Juhn is a world of magic and adventure as well. There you could be a grand champion with out needing to worry about dark divine forces involving you in their squabbles.”
  101.  
  102. Hollia steps towards Rhulan, brushing against her arm. Hollia looks up at Rhulan whose expression is one of concern as her eyes are fixed on Queen Thistle.
  103.  
  104. “I’m sorry,” says Hollia turning to Queen Thistle, “I…can’t. A good adventurer…no…I… refuse to run away.”
  105.  
  106. “Very well,” says Queen Thistle walking back towards the king, she turns and says, “I did say I would only give you one chance. What ever happens from here on my grand-daughter, know that it was your decision.”
  107.  
  108. The king thinks, “well, she sure gave in easy,”
  109.  
  110. The look from Queen Thistle makes him think as sweat drops down his forehead, “damn, can she hear my thought?”
  111.  
  112. Queen Thistle takes a quick bow and vanishes into thin air.
  113.  
  114. “Um,” says the king, “Okay, I won’t pretend to know what any of that meant. However…er…it’s an honor to meet you both.”
  115.  
  116. The queen puts her hand on the king’s hand, “Oh right,” says the king, “you’re here to request transport to Calif right?”
  117.  
  118. “Yes your majesty,” says Hollia.
  119.  
  120. “In that case,” says the king, “I had my men escort your comrades, especially sir Gold Wolf to inspect something that could be of great interest to you then. I called for our court magician to come and wait outside the throne room. He will escort you to where your comrades are, and that something that can help you.”
  121.  
  122. They take their bows and leaves.
  123.  
  124. “Something that can help you?” echoes Rhulan after they walk out, “why not just an air ship?”
  125.  
  126. “We have something better,” says an old man in old fashioned wizard robes complete with a long white beard and pointy hat.
  127.  
  128. “Greetings,” says Hollia, “you must be the court magician, a pleasure to meet you.”
  129.  
  130. “Likewise,” says the magician, “however your highness we shouldn’t discuss what I am about to show you out here. Its why the king only said (something), its really hush hush *he laughs a little*, come, come, I guarantee you’ll love it.”
  131.  
  132. As they walk down the castle paths Hollia whispers to Rhulan, “too convoluted?”
  133.  
  134. Rhulan smiles and whispers back, “its hard to be a powerful sorceress living for thousands of years and not have a convoluted history; but that doesn’t mean every little detail has to be brought up about it all the time. After all, not everything, namely those failed experiments, is really worth bringing up. Still, hard to believe your grand-mother was involved with some of them…weird.”
  135.  
  136. Hollia nods thinking, “it must be the will of the goddess.”
  137.  
  138. ******
  139.  
  140. As they walk the underground passages the old man has lead them too Rhulan looks over at Hollia worried. It is clear by the expression on Hollia’s face she is thinking of something; perhaps wanting to ask Rhulan something but can’t given they are not alone. There is no doubt in Rhulan’s mind Hollia has questions about what Queen Thistle said, regardless of Hollia’s apparent acceptance Rhulan knows that can’t be possible. In whirls about in Rhulan’s mind, Hollia believed she was imprisoned in stone for a thousand years; which she was; she did reveal that she could travel about like a ghost and see through the eyes of her own body. But how can this younger lady walking beside her, still naïve to the world of magic outside an academic setting let alone at the level and complexity of Rhulan’s own field of experience comprehend someone being trapped, a ghost, and channeling their mind through time and space. Rhulan can’t even be certain when linearly speaking this whole thing Queen Thistle was talking about happened; given the nature of the astral plane to distort time on both ends; for all she knows to her what ever specific things she was talking about could have been a hundred years ago while to Queen Thistle they could have been recent. She didn’t say when.
  141.  
  142. Hollia looks over briefly seeing the worried expression on Rhulan’s face. She wants to say something, ask something, anything to get this tension out of the air; but the old man walking next to them…she isn’t sure what Rhulan would be comfortable saying; given how dodgy she seemed earlier, with this man around, not to mention the old man keeps droning on about the history and architecture of the castle.
  143.  
  144. He stops before a door, they can hear the others inside. Opening it they see a room that certainly doesn’t look like it belongs in this castle. It is a room filled with wires, and gizmos of all shapes and sizes.
  145.  
  146. “Hollia” says a man a head taller than Hollia, with a smile on his face.
  147.  
  148. Hollia looks at him confused.
  149.  
  150. “Um,” says the man a bit sheepishly seeing her expression, “don’t you recognize me?”
  151.  
  152. “H…Haki?” asks Hollia, “is that you?”
  153.  
  154. “Yep,” says Haki, the smile returning to his face, “guess I look a bit different huh?”
  155.  
  156. He gets out from behind a control panel, closing its casing as he does so, to a large device that to Rhulan looks suspiciously like a teleporter platform.
  157.  
  158. Rhulan’s eyes narrow for a moment looking at this man as she thinks, “I wander if this was her true intention, hmmm. Going to have to do better woman.”
  159.  
  160. Haki wipes some lubricant off his gloves and walks around, “It’s been a while huh? Last time you saw me I was shorter than you wasn’t I? I…well I kind of had a growth spurt since leaving Stratalia.”
  161.  
  162. He looks a bit smug, “been working out too and…heh…uh…where’s Lin Lin?”
  163.  
  164. “Oh,” says Hollia as she taps her tiara. It glows blue and swirls off her head changing back into Lin Lin.
  165.  
  166. “Woah,” says Haki, “that’s knew.”
  167.  
  168. He turns his attention to Rhulan, “and of course…sorry…I mean a pleasure to see you as well Miss Rurona. So I heard you all want to go to Calif. Well I have some great news for you. I have something that will put all past means of transit to shame.”
  169.  
  170. “Maybe,” says Gold Wolf interrupting, “I’d still like to see a test run.”
  171.  
  172. “Sorry,” says Haki, “my apologies sir, I was just waiting,”
  173.  
  174. “For me to supervise,” says the old man, “I’m sorry honored guests, my son here gets a bit carried away. Ever since her majesty Queen Thistle introduced him to this…stuff…he’s well…”
  175.  
  176. Haki smiles, “I adapted my alchemy skills to also incorporate this wonderous technology. Queen Thistle says I have a real nack for it.”
  177.  
  178. “Indeed,” says the old man, “well lets get on with this.”
  179.  
  180. “Okay,” says Haki as he grabs a watermelon from a nearby stand and places it on the platform.
  181.  
  182. “Now,” says Haki, “thanks to Queen Thistle and Lord Gold Wolf calling ahead, another team in Calif has built an identical machine to this one. We’ve been testing over the last month synching them up; and have successfully transported seven items, including a live chicken, between here and Calif.”
  183.  
  184. “Wow,” says Hollia.
  185.  
  186. Haki practically blushes, “well…um…as I was saying, I will now demonstrate by transporting this watermelon to Calif, and…oh my mistake.”
  187.  
  188. He turns around and pushes a button on a remote, lowering a screen across the room. On it they can see the other machine in Calif, and the other team set up and waiting.
  189.  
  190. “Instant communication and video feed?” asks Rhulan, “interesting that this technology has returned.”
  191.  
  192. “Oh this Miss Rurona?” says Haki, “yeah, it was donated by Queen Thistle so we’d have instant replies and be able to see our results between the two labs. Giving each other notes as well has been a great help in synching up the two transporters. Well with out further ado.”
  193.  
  194. He pushes a few buttons and pulls a few levers on the control panel, lights swirl, weird noises.
  195.  
  196. “Miss Rhulan,” asks Betty, “why is this kid calling you Rurona?”
  197.  
  198. “Because no one has informed him who I really am.”
  199.  
  200. “Oh,” says Betty shrugging it off.
  201.  
  202. On the screen they see the other machine doing the same, and then the watermelon is gone on their end and appears on the other end.
  203.  
  204. “Okay,” says Haki, “so are you all ready to go?”
  205.  
  206. “Uh,” says Scrags, “I…really have no reason to go to Calif, so you know…how about I just see myself out and…”
  207.  
  208. “and,” says Rhulan, “explain to Queen Thistle how a known thief, now with out her grand-daughter to defend him, is walking out of the castle with the knowledge of the existence of this device.”
  209.  
  210. “Well,” says Scrags nervously, “when you put it that way…hold on.”
  211.  
  212. Scrags walks onto the platform, “I have another idea, how about you transport me first as proof its safe…I mean after all you wouldn’t want to accidentally hurt the princess, or Empress Rhulan after all.”
  213.  
  214. “Sure,” says Haki not thinking anything of it.
  215.  
  216. Hollia is about to say something but Rhulan stops her.
  217.  
  218. As Scrags is being transported, Haki says, “Hold on…who’s Empress Rhulan?”
  219.  
  220. After they see Scrags on the other end the old man says, “So your friend also has a big mouth does he?”
  221.  
  222. “father,” says Haki.
  223.  
  224. “Its not a secret,” says Rhulan silencing the man. Rhulan steps towards Haki with a smile on her face, “Haki, friend of Hollia, Rurona was a false name. I am Rhulan the sorceress. As your father, the king and queen, and Queen Thistle know, as do those of the Stratalia royal family, and now you know, I am Rhulan.”
  225.  
  226. Rhulan puts her hand on Hollia’s shoulder, “Hollia…revived me…as it were from my stone prison.”
  227.  
  228. “O…kaay,” says Haki, “that sort of sounds familiar…sorry I’m not all up to speed with Stratalia’s history. Wow, so they imprison people in stone there? Harsh.”
  229.  
  230. Rhulan shakes her head, “any who, now that we see Scrags is safely in Calif, I suppose we should get going as well.”
  231.  
  232. Gold Wolf mumbles something about teleporting too much lately.
  233.  
  234. Lin Lin returns to tiara form after Rhulan whispers something to Hollia about keeping close.
  235.  
  236. As the machine is fired up and the lights are spinning Rhulan smiles and wiggles her index finger and ring finger on her right hand; little tiny purple sparks shoot from the tips, un-noticed by everyone.
  237.  
  238. ******
  239.  
  240. “What the hell went wrong?” whispers Gold Wolf as loud as he can while still whispering into his teleporter; which apparently also serves as a communicator. On the other end they can hear the muffled sounds of Haki saying, “I don’t know, the machine started to over heat and the battery completely released its self. Well, the possibility of being sent somewhere else was foreseen; which is why sir we did install a retrieval device in your communicator.”
  241.  
  242. “What?” whispers Gold Wolf angrily, “why wasn’t I told, that would have saved us time getting to Crimdalina.”
  243.  
  244. “Sorry,” says Haki, “I…we…didn’t know you weren’t told. But don’t worry sir when the battery is fully charged we can retrieve all of you.”
  245.  
  246. “and how long will that take?” asks Gold Wolf.
  247.  
  248. “Well,” says Haki, “one day.”
  249.  
  250. “A day?” growls Gold Wolf, “fine…I don’t care, just get to work.”
  251.  
  252. *click*
  253.  
  254. He shuts down and pockets his communicator.
  255.  
  256. “So,” says Gold Wolf, “where do you think this barn is?”
  257.  
  258. They appeared inside a barn, a mostly empty barn save for some pitchforks, some straw, and a few old garden tools.
  259.  
  260. Rhulan raises her hand and a spirit shield envelops them like a dome.
  261.  
  262. Hollia summons her staff and Lin Lin appears, “are we under attack?”
  263.  
  264. “No,” says Rhulan, “this shield will prevent anyone from detecting us through special means. I can feel it…under my feet…this is not Aesperia.”
  265.  
  266. “Oh don’t tell me,” growls Gold Wolf.
  267.  
  268. “I do believe,” says Rhulan, “this is Earth.”
  269.  
  270. Gold Wolf takes his communicator back out, “huh,” he says, “well…you’re right this isn’t Aesperia. I’m not picking up the signal from Calif or Stratalia…or…other places…but its also not Earth…I’m not picking up on the hero bandwidth either.”
  271.  
  272. “It might be a different Earth,” offers up Betty.
  273.  
  274. “Different Earth?” asks Hollia
  275.  
  276. “Parallel time lines with many similarities yet distinct differences,” says Rhulan, “but don’t worry, there are no alternate Aesperia…usss…es…eh…any who, void worlds have this oddity when it comes to how time works for them where their realities can splinter somehow. Your uncle best I can tell has been hanging out as it were on one that it would seem is close to Aesperia…dimensionally speaking, I know for a fact some are close to the Makai Cluster, so who knows which one we are on. But in a day we can go back home.”
  277.  
  278. Hollia doesn’t fully understand, but nods anyway.
  279.  
  280. “In the mean time,” says Cata, “maybe we should figure out what kind of Earth we are on. I don’t want to be sitting here only to find this barn is abandoned because this world is having a zombie apocalypse or alien invasion.”
  281.  
  282. Everyone looks at Cata.
  283.  
  284. “What,” she says, “I’m a Kuhrai remember, we travel between all sorts of realities.”
  285.  
  286. “I’d like to know how this happened,” says Gold Wolf, “how’d that thief make it and we didn’t.”
  287.  
  288. Hollia looks at her staff, “Uncle…Scrags doesn’t carry around an item pouch.”
  289.  
  290. “What?” says Gold Wolf.
  291.  
  292. “I…mean,” says Hollia, “I have this item pouch I keep my staff and other supplies in, Miss Betty has one for her guns, and Miss Rhulan has her cape and….”
  293.  
  294. Hollia looks behind Rhulan, “and her shadow, so…”
  295.  
  296. “Pocket dimensions,” growls Gold Wolf, “we were transporting pocket dimensions…shit.”
  297.  
  298. Rhulan shrugs, “yeah that works, who knows what random point in time space we might have ended up.”
  299.  
  300. “Any who,” says Rhulan, “Hollia, Cata, if you too could please look outside and check the area, Gold Wolf can that device determine how close this reality is too yours so we have an idea of what to expect.”
  301.  
  302. “yeah,” says Gold Wolf as he starts to fiddle with it.
  303.  
  304. “What about me?” asks Betty.
  305.  
  306. Rhulan raises her eyebrow, “you need to stay right here inside the spirit shield.”
  307.  
  308. “Oh,” says Betty a little down hearted before a burst of understanding comes over her eyes, “Oh,” she says again looking around slightly fearful.
  309.  
  310. As Hollia and Cata step outside they both look back and say, “oh,” the same way Betty just did.
  311.  
  312. Gold Wolf walks out the back entrance of the barn to get out of the spirit shield so his communicator can better determine reality differentials.
  313.  
  314. “Betty,” says Rhulan as she reaches into her cape, “I have something for you,”
  315.  
  316. “O…kay,” says Betty as Rhulan pulls out two blasters, looking similar to the ones she uses, one red and one blue.
  317.  
  318. “These,” says Rhulan, “are like the weapons you use, except that each of them has a different crystal core. They are…shall we say…
  319. up grades to the weapons you use.”
  320.  
  321. Rhulan hands them to Betty who looks at them and says, “than…”
  322.  
  323. “Don’t” says Rhulan with a stern expression, “don’t thank me for giving you these weapons, you really shouldn’t. Your heart is too pure, you are too nice a person to be carrying around things like this, too nice to be thanking me for this.”
  324.  
  325. “Huh?” says Betty.
  326.  
  327. Rhulan *snaps* her fingers and the spirit shield lowers.
  328.  
  329. ******
  330.  
  331. Far away in the White Room an alarm clock goes off screeching. A tiny cartoon imp creature appears from a cartoon like puff of smoke.
  332.  
  333. “Master Jim,” the little creature says looking around.
  334.  
  335. It looks behind the sofa, “master Jim?”
  336.  
  337. It looks inside the fridge, “Master Jim you in here?”
  338.  
  339. It looks in one room after another saying the same thing, “Master Jim? Master Jim you in here? Where are you master Jim?”
  340.  
  341. It returns to the main room, “Now where could master Jim be? I have to tell him the alarm went off? Oh I know!”
  342.  
  343. It takes out a tiny dowsing rod, “The good ole’ diving rod will find master Jim!”
  344.  
  345. It pokes a hole in space, through which the little imp flies.
  346.  
  347. ******
  348.  
  349. A town in ruins, or perhaps the simple suburbs of a city; in either case smashes cars, downed power lines, and houses with broken out windows, smashed in doors, or burned to the ground make up the majority of the scenery. That is what nature has not re-claimed, trees growing up through houses, vines enveloping buildings like green cocoons, and grass ripping its way through sidewalks, the street, and even roof tops are starting to look like hill tops. It’s clear no one has lived here for decades; and yet the tiny imp flying about sees movement in the shadows just in the doorway of a house, a human figure in torn clothing dragging its self about.
  350.  
  351. Further over the streets a pack of dogs can be seen ripping apart what looks to be a mummified human corpse, except despite less than half of it remaining it weakly flails about moaning. Nearby similar dried out zombies shamble in lawns and through the street. As the imp flies over the down town area the destruction is clear; it looks like a war zone. Its easy to imagine a human stand off here, vehicles that have make shift armor lying on their sides, the doors ripped off, craters and burned out structures clearly done by bombs or perhaps an air raid on the area; crashed helicopters on top of buildings. Its is here that the moaning sounds are greater, the zombies are clustered together going through the streets, some randomly falling over barely able to drag themselves with their dried out bodies.
  352.  
  353. *Hooowwwll*
  354.  
  355. *rata, rata, rata, rata, rata, rata,….*
  356.  
  357. The sound of a wolf howl and a machine gun draws the attention of the imp to a very peculiar sight, a grey werewolf wearing army duds with a machine gun standing on a corner store roof mowing down zombies on the street below while humans and other animal like people, including a tiger man in army duds, a humanoid iguana in a suit, and two people a boy and girl who look more like red demons than people or animals, loot the store. The tiger man turns and shoots a zombie in the head as it gets past the wolf’s gun fire.
  358.  
  359. The imp shakes its head and continues on, this does not concern it. It senses its master nearby. Beyond a few gutted out sky scrappers, including one the imp could swear looked like it had giant grey tentacles inside of eating zombies, on the other side of the city the imp finds what its searching for, a mall complex, upon the roof of which the Thing Named Jim resides. He is lying back on a lounge chair while a zombie in a tuxedo serves him drinks and two fox women in Cleopatra Halloween costumes fan him with palm fronds; while a jackal woman in an Arabian princess outfit dances for him.
  360.  
  361. “Master Jim,” says the imp as it lands on his table next to his iced drink with a little umbrella in it.
  362.  
  363. “Hmm,” says Jim, “oh right…you…you’re that imp that works for me aren’t you. One of my little spies right? Well; what do you want?”
  364.  
  365. “Master Jim,” says the imp, “the alarm has gone off, Mistress Betty is no longer in a forbidden zone.”
  366.  
  367. “I see,” says Jim rubbing his chin and adjusting his sunglasses.
  368.  
  369. Jim jumps to his feet surprising the three women.
  370.  
  371. “Yes!” shouts Jim, “that’s perfect.”
  372.  
  373. The three women get down on one knee, and surprisingly so does the zombie.
  374.  
  375. “My people,” says Jim, “I think its time I spread my Utopian nation of Mall-topolis to the rest of this world. This world may be riddled with zombies, have women with a touch more body hair than I usually care for; but hey I’ve done kinkier, and the reality be a little harder to control than I’d like but at least I have some sanity here.”
  376.  
  377. He spins and changes from his vacation outfit to a fancy suit, “but I’ve been done moping around for some time now. I’ve explored this fantastically macabre world and…yes…it needs a man like me in charge, but every king needs a queen, and now’s the time for me to go get my queen.”
  378.  
  379. He *snaps* his fingers and summons a door to the white room, but before he can step through he stops and remembers the hand that flung him back into this world when he tried to leave before.
  380.  
  381. “On second thought,” says Jim, “perhaps I’ll send you impy to locate the world she’s in and give me direct directions to it while I stick around here and get my generals and all that in order.”
  382.  
  383. “As you wish master” says the imp as it flies back into the White Room.
  384.  
  385. “Master,” says the jackal woman, “do wish for me to summon the chieftons.”
  386.  
  387. “Yes,” says Jim, “but make sure they know I don’t want that big wolf man that spits lightning knowing about this. Those guys are too small minded, they just want to control small tracks of land; they are far from united, while I the great and powerful Thing Named Jim promise a new utopia for all…eh….human…furre….what ever…kind. With my queen at my side the world will know our glory and welcome us as liberators.”
  388.  
  389. The Furre-Shifter women clap as Jim does a few bows.
  390.  
  391. ******
  392.  
  393. “Uh, Miss Rhulan,” says Hollia as she peeks her head through the barn door, Lin Lin peeking in above her.
  394.  
  395. “Yes, what’s the matter Hollia,” says Rhulan as behind her Betty puts away the guns and Gold Wolf comes back inside.
  396.  
  397. Hollia pushes the door open wider, Cata is standing beside her shaking her head and Rhulan sees a sight that makes her say, “damn”, that sight being a young boy of about ten years of age and a girl of perhaps thirteen.
  398.  
  399. “Sorry,” says Hollia, “they spotted me.”
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