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[DC] Raven's Replacement (Raven Lunacy sequel; OC in Teen Titans)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Ace Dreamer, Aug 8, 2020.

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  1. Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    This story was originally inspired by Prince Charon in a prompt you can find here. Actually, this is a sequel to the story that was inspired. If you read this story without, or before, reading 'Raven Lunacy' there's a good chance you'll be deeply confused. Of course, some might take that as a challenge...

    A few warnings - I post what many regard as 'short' episodes, which I don't anticipate exceeding 2000 words, and I've no plans to change that - the muse gives me this stuff, I (just) type it in. Things will be posted in UK, not USA, English, so, the odd spelling may look strange to some readers.

    This story is a 'Transformative Fiction', and in no way attempts to infringe on any ownership rights of the original creators. Their creation of such things as 'Teen Titans' is what inspires us to try and write things in those worlds, with our own twists.

    Constructive feedback, and things like spelling mistake corrections are appreciated. But, in no way do I expect this story to appeal, or even look halfways sane, to all readers. You cannot please everyone, and trying to do so is a route to insanity.

    Ultimately, this story is a bit of fun, though I reserve the right to wander off into weird bits of science, philosophy, or, even mysticism. You have been warned! The world is a strange place, and I might be a bit strange, too. :)

    Just in case...
    'DC' is 'DC Comics'
    'OC' is 'Original Character'
    'Teen Titans' may include bits from the comics or cartoon (not 'Teen Titans Go!')




    AN: There'll be Author Notes, like this, at the bottom of many episodes. Maybe, even, at the start of some. You can ignore them, but, you do so at your own risk. Some are bits of humour, some are 'links' to things referenced in the story, some are about the 'logic' of the story. You've been warned! :)

    AN: Episodes posted are subject to major revision, which will be done, if possible, immediately. Maybe the next day, if I've made a major mistake someone's kind enough to point-out. After that, things like spelling mistakes minor bits of grammar, will be the only changes I anticipate.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2020
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  2. Threadmarks: Deja Vu - Episode 1
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 1

    Awakening. Who am I? Where am I? What's going on? Panic. Confusion. Open my eyes.

    I'm... Geo. I'm pretty sure of that. I don't know what's going on. It's a darkened room, lit with candles. And, I'm kneeling. Without any clothes. I feel... different, strange, not quite myself.

    This feels horribly familiar...

    I'm in a complex magical pattern, and I can see what looks remarkably like my (naked) body, over in a another circle, surrounded by candles. Slumped, but not breaking the circle. Look at my hands, front, back, feel my face. This is not my body.

    I'm Raven.

    ---

    Meditation. So useful. I think I grasp a little more of the situation.

    I'm in Raven's currently grey-skinned body. Have faint access to her memories. And... Wow! That a lot of magical power. There's my spirit, and it looks OK, I can see my Dimension Walking talent, and my pitiful Psychokinesis capability. More tricky, I've got Raven's chi, powerful but not trained like mine.

    My Third Eye seems to be functioning OK, though without any need for a focus stone. Useful. Raven's eyes see colour slightly differently than mine. Further into the ultraviolet, I think, not as good at the red end of the spectrum. I'm pretty sure she can see in the dark.

    I'm guessing something went really badly wrong with local Raven's apprentice-summoning ritual. I recall seeing 'home', my workshop/lab in Tokyo, Japan, in the docks, where I was summoned from. Then, was as if I bounced-off something, was thrown across the dimensions. Maybe I wasn't allowed back?

    But, I think, seen just for an instant, a robed, really familiar, figure, from the rear, arrive 'home', hover in the air. Wearing my Best Boots. So, maybe I both made it and didn't? Like Riker in that Star Trek book I read while growing-up? Duplicated? Like a transporter accident?

    More research is required.

    ---

    Delving into Raven's memories. A surface skim, to check the details of the ritual - would be bad if I kill myself shortly after arriving. She was... desperate. Did it in a hurry, cut corners. I'd need to dig deeper to know why. But, I now know enough to exit my circle, walk across to my body, and extract that from it's circle.

    The moment I break her circle I feel a spark of spirit leave me, leap into the, my, body. Look out at Raven through my own eyes. It feels... natural. I think I'm all there, chi and magic looks OK, spirit is terribly weak, just the spark from me. I/we grin at each other. Novel.

    This reminds me of my time on the Ship. When I started another self, to monitor the auto doc, where Nurf was trying really hard to die. That self had a spark of spirit. I'd reabsorbed it, when I'd packed things away, in my dimensional pocket, before returning to the Tower. Distributed Geos?

    Shouldn't Garfield have burst in the door by now? Asking Raven what pizza toppings she wanted? Goggle at our naked bodies?

    Worrying.

    ---

    I've found the rest of the Titans. No Donna, though. They're all in their rooms, costumed, laid-out neatly on their beds. Fortunate I know all the (original) security overrides.

    They're... spirit-less, though fully-healthy, and their chi and magic looks intact. And, I'll admit I'm crying. What happened to them?

    I'm now dressed as Raven. Her clothes were thrown, on the floor, off to one side. Unlike her. I seem to have full command of her shadow, can levitate, reach-out shadow limbs. Will have to experiment and see if I can access her other tricks.

    Beginning to feel I'm here for the long haul.

    ---

    The one I know has the most training, at this point, in dealing with spiritual stuff, is Kory. So, I float her body behind me, back to Raven's room. Where I'd left other-me. Who's acquired baggy sweats and sandals.

    We, me and me, clear away all the existing ritual stuff, after really careful study, of course. We consult Raven's books about how to boost my Third Eye, so I can deep-study Kory.

    In the main book she used to do the apprentice summoning, there's a note, being used as a bookmark.

    "My Apprentice. I've summoned you because I can feel my spirit slipping away, to the same fate as befell the rest of our team, the Teen Titans. I'd already prepared to do this ritual, as a prophecy says I'll need to banish my apprentice, and, banishing them home seems a far kinder fate. I know you're a good person, who would benefit from my training. Please..."

    And, that's all she wrote. Looks like she hoped to find time to complete it.

    So, I'm Raven, and, all the Teen Titans have fallen.

    Help?

    ---

    AN: Thomas Riker, the Riker who was the duplicate. Maybe. :)

    AN: Guess you could say this's a bit of a Peggy Sue. :)

    AN: Just to be quite, quite, clear, Geo is an 'OC', though she's quite a lot of history before the start of this story... Nurf is also an OC, and the Ship is something briefly mentioned towards the end of the previous story. You know, you could write an entire (NSFW?) side-story about Geo and Nurf's time on the Ship. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2020
  3. Extras: Author Notes for 'Raven's Replacement'
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Author Notes for 'Raven's Replacement'

    This story is a sequel for 'Raven Lunacy'. It's based in an alternate Teen Titans/DC Universe to the one of Raven Lunacy, and Geo arrives earlier in the time-line. The real difference is that the Geo who arrives in response to the 'apprentice summoning' has already been 'graduated' by a previous Raven. Possibly worth noting is that 'astral projection' is an important part of the story (as is 'meditation').

    There are multiple references to 'alchemical technology', alch-tech, in the story. This is a set of add-on rules for the tabletop fantasy role-playing game D&D, which were written in the late 1970s, and were still being updated into the 2000s. The rules cover a very wide range of 'tech levels', and a great deal of technology found in science fiction stories has a write-up there.

    Please be warned: if you don't like tech, or you're looking for an action-based story, this isn't likely to suit you.




    AN: Astral projection, going places in spirit, leaving your unconscious physical body behind. Can be fun, could be rather risky if you don't know what you're doing. Meditation may help.

    AN: I believe the idea of 'tech level' was first widely spread by GURPS.

    AN: The author has requested that the alch-tech rules are not directly linked (maybe they're planning on moving them?), but a duckduckgo search for "(a)d&d technologist character class index" seems to find them, as 'Index to Technologists'.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2020
  4. Threadmarks: Don't Panic! - Episode 2
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 2

    AN: Just to be clear, this is Raven-Geo, not Raven, and not Geo Raven, as the PoV character. Mostly. She's also got a Geo. Geo Raven-Geo. Confused, yet? You will be. :)

    ---

    Panic. Doesn't solve problems. Unless the problem is 'How do I handle this situation in a really stupid way?'.

    So. Get help.

    Batman? He'll think I'm a monster from another world that's put all the Teen Titans in a coma. Which, maybe, sorta, Raven is.

    Superman? Nice guy, but I don't really know him. And, Batman put me in contact with him. According to some of the stories he'll pull a way of using one of his super powers out of... his behind, solve everything. But, I'm not prepared to risk that.

    Flash? He said contact him via Kid Flash, and Robin knew how to get to him. So, no. And, I don't see how super speed would solve this.

    Wonder Woman? Via Donna? Never met her, don't know how she'd respond. And, I don't know how to contact Donna.

    Zatanna? Raven may've forgiven her, but I haven't. Also, all the Homo Magi politics. No thanks.

    I guess I could go find the Doom Patrol, but, I don't want things to get really weird. And I don't want to find myself having to fix Chief's legs.

    OK. Good point. Oracle.

    Don't really see any other choice...

    ---

    I... want to get in contact with Oracle. I know all the protocols, could use the secure conference room, a secure comms link. But...

    I need to think magic.

    My Raven had raised really major wards around the Tower. I've taken a quick look. Nothing. Raven described the wards in general terms, as part of my lessons. Told me which books she drew on, to create the rituals, how she tweaked them. I can't leave the Tower, the Titans, undefended.

    So, big magical ritual time. And, a ritual I've never done before. In a body I've never done magic with before. Joy.

    Fortunately, I've got me to help. And, Geo-me has fully intact magic, and is quite experienced in using it. So, step one, ritually prepare the magical tools we need to do the ritual. I'm not prepared to use Raven's ones, unless I'm forced to. I'm not Raven, no matter how much I look like her. It could go really, really, bad.

    Geo-me does, indeed, prove better at preparing ritual tools. We can copy the enchantments off Raven's ones, which speeds things up, a lot. I'm, slowly, getting the hang of using Raven's magic. It's like trying to thread a needle using a bulldozer. So, step zero, build a robot arm to fit on the bulldozer.

    Ritual tools done, Raven's tools packed-away, with subtle 'do not use' markings on her chests so I can tell not to use them. No one's looking, so I get Geo-me to check if she still has a dimensional pocket. She does, and, it's full of all my normal supplies, plus, the stuff I was taking home with me.

    Down to Victor's workshop/lab. Produce my Synthesiser. Make copies of Raven's chests, so I've got somewhere to put my ritual tools. OK, they're not steeped in magical history, but, a careful infusion of Raven's magic and someone will have to look very carefully to tell them from Raven's.

    Will need to hide Raven's chests. Latter.

    Speaking of which, I'm finding... Raven's more generous proportions annoying. My chest is quite adequate, thank you very much.

    And... I'm standing in front of a mirror. Meditating.

    It's... really difficult, but the safety blanket of magic power slowly fades, and grey-skin goes to pink. All the standard protective bindings are still there, but not as many of the more recent, clever, ones.

    In particular, my personal spirit ward. Not noticing that was missing could've been a real 'Oops!' moment.

    Pretty sure I can remember what it looked like, and Raven showed me the book she learned it from... And, it's missing from her shelves. Fortunately, I once paged through it, and I don't call my memory 'perfect' for nothing.

    I'm, literally, sweating blood. It did have to be blood magic, didn't it? That was really, really, painful. But, the ward looks solid. And, really well hidden. Good.

    Shower. A quick test, my shadow still works OK. I sit, step outside my body. Back in. All good.

    Excellent!

    More really hard work, and the basic Tower ward structure's in place. Geo-me is exhausted, magic totally tapped-out. I'm tired, but still pretty fresh. Guess that demi-god blood is good for lots of things. So, to the lounge.

    Pull-out my auto chef mark III, plumb it in, fill the fridge and cupboards. All from Geo-me's pocket. We'll restock later.

    Have a nice, robot-cooked, meal.

    ---

    Kory's on the slab.

    Well, not really. In a ritual circle, in Raven's room. All the ritual as solid as I can make it.

    She's... empty. I have to wipe a tear from my eye. Nothing unusual, nothing out of place. Just. Empty.

    But, that's what the ritual's for. My Third Eye should now go down to microscopic levels. A god could hide from that, particularly a god of secrets, but I'm hoping nothing like that's involved.

    Hmm. Subtle spirit magic. Similarity-based.

    Where've I seen something like that before?

    ---

    Puppet King's box isn't in the trophy room.

    So, I can't do a direct comparison. But, I can recall what the magic on the puppet looks like. And, it's pretty close to the traces left in Kory. There's also a similarity-severing effect in Kory. Her spirit, wherever that is, is no longer connected to her body.

    That's... really bad.

    What to do? Can't summon her spirit back, which I'd hoped to do. Can't trace where it's gone. If I could lay my hands on Pure... I'm not sure I could beat him in a straight fight, though, he's a much more experienced magi than I am.

    So. Really hoped to avoid this. But, I really need Kory, on her feet.

    ---

    "Friend Raven!"

    She stops. Her smile falters. She looks at me. At her hands, front, then back. Feels her face.

    "I'm... not Kory, am I? You're... not Raven, are you? Oh."

    I let her think, recover a bit from the shock.

    She smiles. Reaches out. Hugs me.

    "Friend Raven, I'm pleased to meet you! You can call me 'Kory'!"

    I guess that's how we're going to do it...

    I hope our acting skills are up to this...

    ---

    "Oracle? This is Sugoi, calling from Titan Tower. Please listen carefully."

    "Code Omega Green Seven. I repeat. Omega Green Seven."

    There's a brief silence.

    "Right. I see. How's Robin?"

    "He's in a coma. As are Cyborg and Beast Boy. I can revive them, but there's... complications."

    "Who are you? I've never heard of a Titan called 'Sugoi'. Where did you learn that code?" She pauses.

    "Sorry. My fault. First time-travel incident I've had to handle without warning. How can I help?"

    "I think we need to talk about this, in person. Face-to-face. I know your policy on that, this early in the time-line, but I think it's necessary. There's things you wont believe, otherwise."

    More silence.

    "I suppose you're just going to pop-over? Appear in my living room?"

    That's good quality sarcasm.

    "That'd be rude. I'll arrive at your side-door, as usual. Usual for me, anyway. You can look me over, use all your fancy scanners. See if you're happy to meet me. If you say 'No', I'll go away, find help, somewhere else."

    More silence.

    "So, you can get here, from the West Coast, without any problems?"

    "Unless the dimensional weather is nasty, or I get ambushed, sure. Probably fifteen minutes, if it's going to be more than a half-hour I'll call you again. Who do you want to come? I'd like Kory to stay here, guard the Tower, but Raven could come with me."

    "Bring Raven. And, lots of answers to awkward questions."

    "I'll see you, soon. I'll bring gifts."

    ---

    AN: 'The slab' is an interesting reference... :)

    AN: 'Code Omega Green Seven' is something invented for this story - you should be able to figure-out the meaning from the story. I'm pretty sure you can guess who's supposed to have created it...

    AN: You could call 'Raven-Geo' something like 'RR Raven', if you like...

     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2020
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  5. Threadmarks: Cloudy Weather - Episode 3
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 3

    Cloudy with a Chance of Demons. That's the dimensional weather. Those walking the dimensional paths aren't happy.

    The walkers are a pretty diverse lot. Humans predominate, but there's many minority 'races', though they're mostly humanoid. Rule One is: don't bother other travellers. As you can imagine, some demons ignore that.

    I gather they're looking for someone. Hopefully not either of me. Raven in robe, with hood-up, Geo ditto - we're being anonymous, rather than anyone in particular. Fortunately, most demons are unimaginative and not good at higher-dimensional math, so it's reasonably easy to avoid them.

    Looked like they'd attracted the attention of gods who enjoyed demon wrestling, and breaking. They'd rapidly make the demon problem go away, and it'd be back to business-as-usual. I expect someone will get curious, and investigate the demonic behaviour. Maybe publish something.

    Still, annoying.

    ---

    Inside Oracle's door. In the security corridor. Looking up, yup, the murder-holes are still just as intimidating. I let Geo handle the negotiation. Though, I'm a bit concerned her weak spirit makes her a bit... unpredictable. My Third Eye shows me our dimension walk (I'm guessing, here) seems to have noticeably strengthened her. Useful.

    And... We're into the lounge. For a bare moment a sense of a familiarly doubled spirit. That's... worrying. Play it by ear, I guess.

    "Could you please repeat the code you gave me, earlier?" The interrogation has started.

    "Omega Green Seven."

    "You're claiming to be from the future? Where you're a member of the Teen Titans?"

    "I'm from a future. There's an uncountable number. Many flicker, fade, some are longer-lived. I believe I'm from one of the more stable ones."

    "I see. So, what brought you to this time and place?"

    "Raven summoned me, to be her apprentice. There's a prophecy that she wanted to dance around the nastier parts of. Unfortunately, she actually did the summoning with the final ounce of her strength, as a doom she'd fought-off descended on her. A doom that'd already claimed all her team-mates."

    Rather florid, not how I'd have put it, even though Geo-me is me, but I guess that'll do.

    "If Raven was doomed, who's there?"

    "Yes, that's Raven, but, also not exactly her. Raven summoned me into herself, and that's me, being Raven. We don't know what happened to Raven's spirit, and we'd like help in getting her back. Fixing things."

    There's silence.

    ---

    Drinks have been sipped. Some rather nice freshly-baked biscuits I brought munched. Thought has been had.

    To amuse myself I imagine the silent grinding of teeth, somewhere close-by.

    "Why didn't you contact someone like Zatanna, Dr. Fate? This sounds a lot more like their area."

    "Apparently there's a prophecy that if they meddle in Raven's life, before certain things occur, all will be doomed. I heard this from future-Zatanna. Dr. Fate isn't someone I've spoken to."

    "Why turn to me? I'm a knowledge broker, a hacker, for the heroes. I don't solve... supernatural problems."

    "I... had a close relationship with future-you. We're... dating. After we got to know each other, late-night chats, I saved future-you's life, then... gifted you with a few things."

    It's quite clear she doesn't believe this.

    "You obviously know a lot about me, but I've never dated any women. Why should I believe you?"

    I can see Geo-me's getting a bit angry. This... could be bad.

    "Well, my pet-name for you is 'Babs'. We've got a pet robot dog called 'Gina', named after a childhood pet dog, you had. And, you make the cutest little squeak when I..."

    Geo leans across, whispers in her ear.

    Oracle, Barbara, goes bright-red.

    ---

    It's quiet for a while. Geo has a smug expression. Barbara's looking rather shocked.

    I'm beginning to wonder if I should speak-up.

    "Raven? Can you confirm this... story?"

    "Yes. All of it. Geo, there, and I, we share the same spirit. That's how I revived Starfire, gave her a fragment of my spirit. Why I've not revived Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy. Because, if I did, they'd be partly me." I sigh.

    "I must apologise for Geo. She only had a small spark of spirit, though, it's growing. Unfortunately, that's bad for her self-control. She shouldn't have told you that last thing. Please put it down to a... difficult day."

    Geo sticks her tongue out at me. I don't respond.

    "How did you save my life? What were those... gifts? Why would I... fall in love with you?"

    "We became friends, first. Long talks, with common interests. I heard you collapse, over the link, with me in the Tower, you in your workroom. Found myself with you in spirit-form. Called for help, got Batman, he got Superman to take you to the super-clinic, here in Gotham."

    I reach a hand out, slightly dazed she places her hand in mine. A surge of pain, and then I'm OK.

    "That should fix the problem that nearly killed you. Also, you need either special exercises, or a medical support device. Geo? The robot trousers!"

    The trousers are standing there, brought from Geo's pocket. She also passes Barbara the manual and the CD. Barbara starts reading, looking a bit dazed.

    "You said 'gifts', not 'gift'. There's more?"

    "Yes. I... accidentally healed your legs. Agreed to deal with the Joker, in a non-deadly but as permanent as possible, way. And, I took you... Walking On The Moon."

    "What?"

    She's staring at me. I notice Geo's openly crying.

    ---

    There're hugs, three-way ones. We're not joined by the presence which I'm pretty sure is still lurking.

    "I've always wanted to walk on the Moon, since I was a little girl. But, since I... lost use of my legs...."

    "We... may be able to fix that. Now. Intentionally. But, I'm pretty sure it'll hurt both of us. A lot."

    Firm jaw. "Do it."

    Geo is waving her hands. "No! I'm not going to disappear the way that robot did!"

    I sigh.

    "Nothing like that. Though, I'm going to need to borrow your ring."

    Reluctantly, watching me with some suspicion, Geo pulls off her glove, hands me the ring. The non-cat's-eye one.

    "You'll need to wear this, I'll need to take a firm grip of you, and, most difficult, you'll need to imagine, as clearly and as accurately as you can, exactly the process by which you lost use of your legs."

    I see her waver, then, gather herself, put on the ring, hold out her left-arm. I'm... pretty sure she's got a knife concealed in her right-hand.

    We both gasp, cry-out in pain, collapse to the floor. Unconscious.

    ---

    Well. For my first, previously untested, use of Raven's empathic healing ability, boosted by her magic, that went pretty well. I've just got a fading pain in my legs.

    Barbara is doing slow acrobatics. Yes, the occasional pained expression, but, basically OK.

    Geo's got her ring back. Is hunched over it, with it clutched in both hands. She just whispered, "My Precious!".

    There's a dog sitting on the floor, next to her. Looking over at Barbara with needful eyes.

    I sigh.

    "Barbara? I... don't think I can deliver on the Joker side of things, without quite a bit of research. I'm... not Raven. But, I'm pretty sure it's do-able. If you don't mind doing things out-of-order we can go do the Moon Walking, when you feel ready."

    She stops. Looks at me wide-eyed. "Really?"

    I... don't think I've been kissed that vigorously before.

    When I get my breath back, "Might want to hold-off on any life-changing decisions for a few days. Till you get in a... more settled state?"

    "No! Grasp life with both hands! I'm sure I can get an Elvis in Vegas to marry us!"

    I back away, hands up, really quite worried.

    "Kidding. I think we've both got good reason to see if we can be friends, though. After that?"

    "Who knows?"

    ---

    AN: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a book long before it was a film...

    AN: Somewhere like the Graceland Wedding Chapel is probably what Barbara's referring too...

    [​IMG]

    ... do not look like this.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2020
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  6. Threadmarks: Moon Walk - Episode 4
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 4

    Walking On The Moon. Hope I never get tired of this. With Barbara.

    Unlike last time, Geo is hanging-back, and Raven is walking with her. She's wearing a spare environment shield, from Geo's pocket, I'm using Raven's bracelet, locked on my wrist, as well as her standard protective magic. When you're playing with vacuum, you don't take chances.

    As last time, I've made sure Barbara's got a camera. And, a vacuum-proof sample case, so she can take her bit of the Moon home with her.

    ---

    First, we took a trip back to the Tower.

    I wanted to show her the rest of the team, and, Kory. Also, I needed to pick-up Raven's bracelet. Maybe once I figure-out how Raven does her non-bulge robe pockets I'll work-out a standard load to carry in them. But, more research needed.

    Before leaving Chez Oracle I speak to apparently empty air. Explain I'm taking Oracle back to the Tower, then off for her Moon Walk. That anyone can try and follow us as we walk the dimensions, but I'll not be responsible for their safety. And, there were demons around, on the paths, on my way over here.

    Also, please don't damage the robot trousers or the (now imprinted) robot dog. Though, of course, assuming Barbara's happy, I've no objections to taking copies of all the documentation. But, please, no product announcements without consulting me.

    No reply.

    Barbara, standing with no support, also speaks to the air. Thanks an unnamed someone for taking time to be there. But, she's happy to go with me. And, no, she doesn't think she's under mind control or other undue influence. That she really does want to check on Robin, urgently. At this point she grabs a go-bag.

    Again, no reply.

    So, we leave.

    ---

    The demons had cleared-up by our return trip. I saw one or two divine dogs chewing on what I assume were demon bones. Barbara is wide-eyed, but I make sure I've got a firm grip on her arm. I'd offered the safety-strap, explained we'd once used it with future-Robin, but I thought she'd got more discipline.

    After I made the offer she looked happier. Though, I noticed she kept half-an-eye on where I was, all the time. Did my best to avoid the crowds, she was wearing a deep hood, and an Oracle mask, so we can hope the three of us avoided undue notice.

    At the Tower, I stop just before the final step. Explain I raised wards before leaving. That I need to key her into them. About a minute's ritual and that's done. These aren't the really thorough wards, so none of her blood's required, just saying 'Oracle', holding out a finger she's licked, at the right point.

    We go straight to Robin's room, and I let her make her own way through the locks. Thirty-seconds, a lot quicker than I could manage without knowing the codes. She does a quick inspection, breathing check, pulse, both pupils, earlobe, ears, mouth, takes a quick photo of his face.

    I'm reasonably sure she palms a small gadget that takes a minute blood sample from his earlobe. "You need to be really careful with blood, you can do all sorts of things to someone given a blood sample."

    I get a blank look.

    "Are you happy with the security of this room?"

    She looks at me, gets out some instruments, uses them and does a thorough physical search.

    "Provisionally. What do you want to tell me?"

    "Future-Robin told me he was Dick Grayson. But, no, I don't know all his secrets. That's one reason I'm reluctant to put him back on his feet, without pressing need. When, not if, we get his spirit back he'll know I've been 'inside his head'." I do the finger quotes.

    "I doubt he'll like that, assuming I understand his personality. So, either I need someone to authorise me stomping all over his privacy, or, pretty soon, I'm going to have to put his body in some sort of secure long-term storage. I'd really like someone he trusts to sign-off on the second option, too."

    She frowns.

    "Good points. I think his mentor would approve."

    She thinks for a while.

    "We'd have to move him elsewhere, but I'm reluctant to suggest Gotham, which's where I know best. Too many things... happen there. I don't trust Cadmus to look after him. S.T.A.R. Labs is always getting raided. Superman could probably help, but I'd prefer to avoid getting him involved." A frown.

    "Do you have any suggestions?"

    "One major one, but it'll take some preparation. And, I'll need to put Cyborg on his feet, to help. I'm pretty sure he'll forgive me for doing that. Eventually."

    A raised eyebrow.

    "You knew him that well?"

    "Before we parted I told him he was the 'big brother I'd never had'."

    ---

    In the lounge. Eating. She was intrigued by the auto chef, particularly when I explained I'd installed it.

    "You'd other reasons for bringing me here. Please explain."

    "I wanted to loan you this mask-collar, from Raven's collection of magical objects. It wont interfere with your vision, but will let you be Oracle in the Tower, while hiding your face and hair. You'll have to add your own vocal disguise."

    She nods.

    "I've got the gadget, in my bag. Why?"

    "The security of the Tower needs a complete make-over. I can handle some of it, but I've nothing like your full range of skills. Cyborg found physical bugs, comms taps, security holes, inadequate encryption, no encrypted off-site backup..." I pause.

    She nods, again.

    "And?"

    "I'm... not the world's best actor. If I have to pretend to be Raven for any length of time I'm going to do something really stupid. I knew her best, among the Titans. Probably followed by Starfire and Cyborg. Then, Beast Boy and Robin, Terra last.

    "Terra? I'm guessing she's a late arrival."

    "At this point she may be mixed-up with Slade. Or, maybe not yet. The whole business of Slade wanting an Apprentice, Robin being first choice, Terra a late alternative. It... got messy."

    "I see."

    "Future-you is really good at disguises, acting like someone totally different. I... really need help in those areas. It might be necessary to make it look as if the Titans are still fully-active."

    "Tricky. And, who do you think is responsible for this situation?"

    "My current best guess is a magi calling himself 'Pure', who works for Raven's father..."

    I hold my hand out.

    "Please don't say his name, unless and until I can greatly improve on the Tower's wards."

    She nods.

    "I think Pure used a magical construct-minion called 'Puppet King' to steal their spirits, stuff them in wooden puppets that magically resemble them. Which, if we're really unlucky, have already been turned-over to Raven's father. Pure may want to be paid, first. I don't know the terms he's working under."

    "OK, makes sense."

    "So, someone needs to use serious detective skills to find Pure, if he's still in the city. And, stealth magic seems to be his speciality. Oh, and he's probably got a small army of combat-capable demon minions. And something he called a 'fetch'." I shudder.

    "Ignoring all the other super-villains in the city... For extra fun, unless I can surprise him there's good odds, one-on-one, Pure'll win in any fight. If I can find him, if he still has the puppets, if I can get them off him..." I take a deep breath.

    "I may be able to save the Titans."

    She purses her lips.

    "There's a technical term we, in the trade, have for this sort of situation."

    She pauses.

    "You're *bleeped*."

    ---

    AN: Chez; because it was suggested to me I should explain 'Chez Oracle'.

    AN: Please note, '*bleeped*' is a Geo substitution for the word Barbara really used. :)

    AN: You may wonder about Geo using 'bleep' instead of a swear-word. Well, she's got a 'swear filter', something she acquired at an early-age well before she even had a robot body to walk around with. You know what they say about early habits... :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2020
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  7. Threadmarks: The Rules - Episode 5
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 5

    "I'm bleeped."

    Barbara's quite right.

    There's no way I see I can win.

    But, if you don't like the game, change the rules. I'm just going to have to get a lot more sneaky. The enemy has minions? I can get employees. With a contract of employment, magically-enforced.

    And, I've got all the dimensions in which to find them. And, Raven's books to find ideas for suitable minions, sorry, 'employees'.

    Even if Pure has turned-over the puppets to... Raven's father. While something that looks like Raven is still around he'll likely stay in the city. He's, potentially, a useful source of information on what happened to the puppets.

    And, Raven's father strikes me as the imprison/gloat, rather than the destroy, type.

    Of course, maybe I get lucky. I luckily find Pure. I luckily beat him. I luckily retrieve the puppets.

    But, hope for the best, plan for the worst. And, unless Raven's father has destroyed the spirits of the Titans I want to give them a chance to live in their bodies, again.

    I need to dig into Raven's books on skrying, cross-dimension, With maximum stealth. Both to improve the Tower wards, and to do it myself. Fighting an almost unknown enemy? Find out more. Block their sources of information.

    Feed them false intelligence.

    ---

    Barbara's agreed to help.

    As Oracle. Relocate to here, upgrade the Tower, detective the city for me. Yes, she's family in Gotham, but commuting isn't necessarily an issue. We discussed whether she might like to have a robot 'Batgirl' roving the streets of Gotham.

    But, she's holding-off on that idea. We giggled over gifting a robot 'Batdog' (yes, including cowl). No, I haven't spoken the name 'Wayne', at any point; it's still hard to think it.

    I've been pumped for information on future-her. Yes, she wants to know about the dates, but all the rest of it fascinates her. She's going to keep the robot trousers, and robo-dog Gina's become part of her life.

    Casually mentioned the alternate city with the many-coloured people, and, she wants a holiday there.

    ---

    We've discussed... finances.

    I don't have access to more than Raven's (limited) Titan petty-cash account. I've no idea how Raven finances her book addiction. Barbara's prepared to put some of her own money into the project, but she's not rich. Thanked her, but, for the moment, declined.

    I introduce her to the Bank of Mammon. They're pleased to ensure I've local access to my money.

    Also...

    They're prepared to offer a loan, at very reasonable rates, if I'll do my best to persuade restored-Raven to bank with them. They seem to like the look of her (potential) finances. Something about an income from more than a million worlds, was what they talked about.

    Barbara's a bit dazed by the Bank.

    The idea of her card working in very many dimensions seems to interest. And, if she's in one where it doesn't work then the Bank's prepared to at least consider opening a branch there. Or, there may be local merchants who'll honour the card.

    Money is power, that sort of thing.

    ---

    I need Victor.

    Even if it's Victor-me. He knows the Tower, inside-out, and the plans back-to-front. He's also, frankly, a better engineer.

    While I've been planning with Barbara, Geo-me's been setting up her workshop/lab, starting with the one next to Victor's, the alch-tech one to follow.

    She's used the Synthesiser to do the heavy-lifting side, make stuff with minimal supervision. Got a load of build-cells out, placed them where future-Victor has/had them in his workshop, got them making more.

    Once we run Tower-local material supplies down we'll have to do a supply run.

    Barbara's impressed by our industry.

    In the sub-sub-basement I point-out to Barbara where I'd like the med-bay to go. But, there's a lot of work that Victor did, first time around.

    So, really, yes, we do need to get him back on his feet. She confesses that the process interests her, but, I warn her that, visually, there not much to it.

    ---

    Victor-me is with us.

    Revived in the ritual circle still dominating Raven's room. Barbara watches from a safe distance, I trust her not to interfere.

    Victor's only comment was, "Yes, this is a mess. Gonna have to work hard to fix this one.".

    We go down to the lounge, where Kory comes in. She's made sure to be seen, outside the Tower, though, she's not yet gone into the city. Stayed within the wards.

    All have a sit-down meal, chat about the situation. Nice to relax a bit.

    Barbara says she doesn't know the Titans, except from reports and publicity stuff. But... she can see that while relaxed they don't all act like me. Raven is obviously different, and is 'me' unless I consciously relax, let her mental reflexes take over.

    So, we start our first acting class, 'Living The Character'.

    It's... very difficult.

    All my life, as Geo, I've fought to be 'me', not be just a convenient tool, to at least be a different viewpoint on the world. Now, I have to put that aside, watch myself react as if I was someone else.

    It... hurts.

    ---

    Hit the books.

    Go through my memories of Raven's notes. Try and work-out where she found... the med-bay. I recall she went through a lot of possibilities, and had to 'cheat'. Maybe I can use my memories of the math Nurf did on the Ship? She had to describe her universe really accurately as she tried to analyse the History Wars.

    Now, if that can be translated into dimensional characteristics at least I'd have a better idea where to skry. But, there's no guarantee that my existing dimensional maps are good, as they're based on my previous dimension. And, I may be able to work-out how Raven used my description of the required alch-tech to target her skrying.

    All the local dimensional stuff is likely identical, or very similar, which was the case visiting Gotham, it's the longer-range maps...

    I may have to do some (careful) scouting.

    Also. if I want to copy Raven's redirection deal, with the drow wizard who has/had spider issues, will I be able to find her, or an identical version of her?

    Tricky. Really tricky.

    Might be best to make a call to my tech supplier...

    ---

    AN: 'Intelligence'; Geo calls it 'troubleshooting', but you might be starting to suspect things about her background... And whether the word 'counter' should prefix some of it...
     
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  8. Extras: Raven's Replacement, Author Omake 1
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Author Omake 1

    Next >

    AN: This is an 'Author Omake', this one happens to be 'canon', but shouldn't (greatly) impact the overall story, so you can skip it if you want to. It falls after Episode 5, 'The Rules'.

    AN: Do you believe in 'spoilers'? If so, do not read this Omake. You've been warned.

    ---

    .

    .

    .

    AN: Still here? OK, read on.

    ---

    I'm not dead. Always a good start. At least, I don't think I am. Difficult to be certain.

    You might think, 'How can someone not be sure if they're dead?'.

    Well, not being in your original body is a good start. Not knowing if your current body counts as 'alive'. And, being rather concerned about the state of your original body.

    OK, you might be wondering who I am?

    I'm Raven.

    ---

    Apparently I'm both a Princess and a Toy, who lives in Toyland. The inhabitants are all toys, of different sorts, many carved wooden dolls. I live in a castle, and I have my own Tower. My purpose in life is apparently to lean out the (unglazed) window, at the top of the Tower, and sigh, as I wait for my prince to come and rescue me.

    Sometimes, if I get into the right state of mind, I can half-recall another life. In that I also lived in a Tower, but I was one of a group of great heroes, who fought against evil. For a while I hoped one of them would come and rescue me, but, then I had a nightmare, one night. One that I cannot forget.

    In that the heroes were also wooden dolls, and they were in a T-shaped Tower, by the sea. But, their Tower was a dolls-house, owned by an immense red ogre, who played with the dolls, in cruel games.

    One of the dolls was not like the others, it was a girl doll, in a cowl, but she never moved, always lay in her bed. No matter how much the other dolls begged her to help them. I half-recall wearing a cowl like that, once, myself...

    ---

    I've tried to escape, on my own.

    But, whenever I get far from my castle I get weak, and the further I go the weaker I get. Eventually I fall to the ground, unable to move. But, fortunately, other dolls quickly find me. Carry me back to the castle. And, in a day or two, my strength returns.

    I've asked the other dolls, ordered them, to tell me what lies beyond the wood, on the other side of the hill. Most, just look at me with blank eyes, say they don't understand me. But, a few, the less predictable ones, they say nothing, but look at me with real fear in their eyes.

    So, who am I?

    I'm Princess Raven.

    And I'm very, very, boar(e)d.

    ---

    AN: The Adventures of Noddy might be relevant...

    AN: Normally it's spelled 'bored', not 'board'...

    AN: So, the 'Doll Princess', the 'Wooden Heir'?

    ---

    AN: Still here? OK, read the above.

    .

    .

    .

    ---

    AN: Do you believe in 'spoilers'? If so, do not read the above Omake. You've been warned.

    Next >
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
  9. Threadmarks: Jaws of Hope - Episode 6
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 6

    "Greetings, my Apprentice. Nicely done. I didn't believe you'd do this well."

    Raven looks at me. I choke, a little. wipe a tear.

    She's so like the real thing.

    ---

    A few precautions were required.

    I hauled Geo off working with Oracle and Cyborg, securing the Tower and preparing for the med-bay, and got her to help me making anti-possession amulets. Just the standard ones, not the Raven specials - they should at least help.

    Then, made sure everyone was wearing one, including Oracle.

    Geo, of course, still had her Raven-special, and I have my personal spirit-ward. But, we're both carrying an amulet, as well, as a just-in-case.

    A random demon wandering into the Tower (well, 'breaking into', given the wards I raised) will now have to fight to possess anyone, even the spirit-less Titans.

    And, as the thought occurs to me, I figure-out and ritually raise a detection ward, to sense any possession attempts in the Tower, particularly defended ones, and 'ping' Raven's magic.

    We're going to need Raven's better Tower-wards, and I don't think my grasp of Raven's magic is good enough to manage them. They were pretty experimental, and pushing the limits of her abilities.

    I'm... getting nowhere with the skrying. Could probably figure it out, eventually, but, I've no idea how long it'll take. That, and my Raven-impersonation is... marginal. Fighting Pure...

    Only one conclusion.

    We're going to need a bigger Raven.

    ---

    Another 'piece of the puzzle'.

    I get Geo to astral project while I do, too. It's so much easier to do while Raven, exactly why, I'm not sure.

    Geo-me's spirit is more than the spark she started as, she now looks like a see-through version of me, in full Sugoi garb. I'm, I guess, maybe ten-times more powerful.

    Very carefully we touch, I'm resisting any merger. She wavers for a moment, then stabilises, even seems a little stronger, maybe I'm now only six or seven-times stronger. Try that a few more times, no further improvement. "Worth the try", she says.

    Difficult to gauge things, but I'm guessing I first started, in the beginning, before I had my own robot body, as a spark. Then, grew, over time, by interacting with others and 'flexing', exercising, my will. If I had to guess she's still weaker than I was when I first got a robot body, but, not by a wide margin.

    We gather ourselves, this is the 'acid test'.

    "Ready?"

    She swallows. "Yes."

    And, I enter my body.

    And she enters Raven's.

    ---

    "My... spirit seems to be quite weak, and doesn't feel like my own. I gather that's your work?"

    "Yes. You've what was a spark of my spirit, now somewhat grown. You'd know better, I think, but your strong sense-of-self, your 'mental habits', is probably overriding the relatively-weak will of my spirit-fragment."

    She tips her head on one side, thinks,

    "That... feels right."

    Looks at her hand.

    "I note that my skin isn't grey. That's a trick I only learned recently. I'm impressed you managed it during your... tenancy of my body."

    "It... wasn't easy, but future-Raven, the one who I apprenticed to, and who graduated me, she could manage that, all the time. So, in her honour, I felt I had to try."

    She nods.

    "I also notice a new personal spirit-ward. Unless I'm mistaken it uses ideas from a book I've been looking for, for a long-time, but couldn't find. Do I have permission to look at your memories, which I assume are in the spirit that currently animates me?"

    "Certainly."

    She thinks for a while.

    "Yes, that's the right book. We might speculate that me not finding the book is what distinguishes your previous time-line from mine. Without that ward the spirit-swap between Starfire and me didn't happen." She pauses.

    "Puppet King, thus, we're assuming, Pure, won. I agree with your reasoning. So, Pure, maybe my father, has our spirits."

    She thinks again.

    "I believe I could follow the same path to the 'Seed of Life', which became the med-bay, as your Raven did. But, it will be a long and complex task, requiring a lot of knowledge I don't currently have." She sighs.

    "And, then, there's the 'fate bending' aspect. I'm... unsure my current spirit is strong enough to do that."

    We look at each other.

    I break the silence first.

    "I really hope my tech supplier, assuming they'll even talk to me, has some ideas..."

    ---

    My tech supplier comes through.

    In talking to them I feel it best to go to the Ship World. It's as deserted as when I first visited, and, when I meditate, use my spirit-sight as carefully as I can, I'm sure it's very similar, but...

    Not quite the same. It isn't the one Nurf and I lived on for a year. That's... good.

    They answer their beacon, and once I get past the slightly confused salesman, to the technical dept, we make brisk progress. Request I visit in person, do the social bit. I suspect divination of being done. Then, they haul-in a really serious technical expert.

    More detailed discussions. Agreements about the services they'll provide. If they were a plumber there'd be the sucking of air through the teeth. Comments on how it'll be 'difficult', a 'big job'. I know what's coming.

    There's now a big hole in my Bank of Mammon loan.

    –-

    So, standing on an asteroid.

    In deep space, between the stars. An asteroid selected to be well-off any usual FTL-travel routes. Checked for all the different sorts of FTL-drive I know Nurf's world used.

    I'm doing my best to avoid the anti-historians. The ones who drive the History Wars.

    Memorise my location, in the many dimensions. Hope it's the right one. Get ready to return to the Tower. Hope Raven-me feels ready to come and do her part.

    Hope.

    Sometimes hope's all you've got.

    ---

    AN: Apparently, 'We're going to need a bigger boat' should be 'You're going to need...'. Who knew? :)

     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2020
  10. Threadmarks: Time to Run - Episode 7
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 7

    A net of stars. In higher dimensions. A wounded universe.

    Should we be here?

    Hard to say.

    But magic meets math.

    In the void between stars.

    ---

    Faster-Than-Light. 'FTL'.

    A staple of many science-fiction stories. Where sailing the Seven Seas is recast as sailing between the stars.

    Many get confused. thinking it's just a matter of going 'faster'. That light-speed, 'c', is a mere speed-bump, that good enough suspension would smooth-out, or, that it's like the speed-of-sound. Not a fundamental part of reality. That you could ignore the 'time' part of 4d space-time.

    Just stride, or leap, between the stars.

    The speed-of-light. 'c'.

    More something that makes distance between objects possible. That keeps cause-and-effect working. FTL, like time-travel, into the past, breaks causality. Little's more fundamental than causality.

    So, I'm here, gazing at the map of a universe. Raven did the skrying, I supplied the math. We are looking at something injured, if not on the point of death.

    Hope it's not our wake, too.

    ---

    The History Wars were something Nurf told me about during our year on the Ship. That she explored, herself, with advanced math, tried to 'model'. An unpleasant feature of her home universe, an alch-tech, many-solar-system, one, where worlds were linked by FTL ships.

    And civilization fell, every two or three millennium.

    Now, you don't talk about a lady's age, but I was pretty sure Nurf topped a millennium.

    Nurf's ship, the 'Seed of Life', was a colony ship, a desperate attempt to escape the most recent collapse, and one that failed, with the destruction of the ship. Nurf, and her med-bay, were, as far as she knew, the only survivors, and Raven'd worked hard, first-time-around, to save her without terrible risk.

    Now, we were much earlier in the time-line, after most of the worlds had been broken by the latest round of History Wars, after the destruction of the 'Seed of Life', but maybe two-centuries before our 'previous' arrival.

    Less lonely suffering for Nurf, a lot more risk for us.

    Raven turns from examining the eye-hurting map, hanging above the interstellar asteroid, on which we stand, in micro-gravity.

    "Yes, you were right. I've never looked at a dying universe before, but I don't think this one will last for more than another few millennium. It'll probably get quite unpleasant to visit, before the end. Those anti-historians, the ones you think are behind those History Wars. I think they've murdered their entire home-universe."

    I nod. Here, small movements are best. Micro-gravity means I need my levitation to keep feet on rock. Raven may've provided atmosphere in which we could more easily work, but messing with local gravity was best avoided.

    She looks thoughtful.

    "I don't think the anti-historians have spotted us, yet. They've obviously got some way of sensing things, faster-than-light, dimensional probes which reach a little outside their own universe, as part of their travel system. But, I believe my 'stealth skrying', as you call it, was delicate enough."

    "Have you found Nurf, sorry, 'Nurf-to-be', yet?"

    "I think so. We'll have to go there, to be sure. 'With stealthy feet we tread the stars', that's a quote from your memories. We will need to walk the paths carefully. Possibly visit and 'acquire' that engineering fragment of the ship, before we introduce ourselves. Plan our route back to the Tower."

    "I'd quite like to've met that drow wizard, the 'drider', again. You're sure there'll be no consequences to not re-acquiring the regeneration ring?"

    "It's not a unique item. Uncommon, yes, powerful, yes, likely to get you murdered by any super-villain who finds-out you've got it, yes. But, unique, no. Also, when we get back. I want to look at your robe. There's... something wrong with it. That was supposed to be personal, and unique. It's... broken."

    Now I'm worried. My robe is the core of my defence, and where I keep all my magic. But, we've a job to do.

    "I think I'm ready. We've hopefully planned enough."

    We go.

    ---

    Bit of a hell-run.

    We got in there, used my fore-knowledge to become current captain, and chief-medical officer, 'CMO'.

    We'd grabbed the engineering-section fragment, with all its stores, and alch-tech gadgets. Now we've got Nurse's (hurried) agreement. Got out of there. Probably just in time, from the FTL 'shadow' I spotted.

    Rending cross-dimensional energies roiled behind us, Raven's managing the mass of the med-bay, though I could tell it strained her. Way outside my limits. And, Nurse's a living spirit, so I couldn't stuff the whole thing in my dimensional pocket, not to mention the time the ritual'd take.

    Through some twisty local dimensions. And... I think we've lost them. They don't seem to have very sophisticated dimensional sensors. All about their local varieties of FTL, I'm guessing.

    But, doesn't mean they can't get inventive, if we dally enough.

    ---

    Back on the asteroid.

    On the 'other side of the universe'.

    Trimming-down the ragged floor, around the med-hub, so it'd fit once we get back to the Tower. Ahh! What's that? Something wrong pinged my tech-sight!

    There's... a really well-hidden FTL sensor-beacon, concealed in the med-hub. I recall finding it, first-time-around, after it'd sat a few more deep-space centuries, hence empty power storage. Thought it was a safety measure, sold it to my tech suppliers, still got the scan, somewhere.

    This one's 'live', just sent a FTL message, 'home'. Yes, it was weak, we're well-off the normal FTL routes, but can't take the risk.

    "Raven? Hope you've got your breath back. Time for your crooked-route home."

    So, again.

    We go.

    ---

    AN: Faster Than Light (FTL); not just a speeding ticket issue...

    AN: The Seven Seas, generally 'walking the plank' is more survivable than being 'spaced', but you're dead, either way. Possible a shortage of space-mermaids to save you, too. :)

    AN: The 'speed of light' ('c'), really pretty fundamental. Ties-in with 'causality'. Best to actually grow your grapes before drinking the wine you've made from them. :)

    AN: You might like to read Newton's Wake, where author MacLeod really puts the causality boot in. Or, maybe you'd prefer the Thoreau query about killing time without injuring eternity?

    AN: you should know what a 'drider' is. They're much more fun than centaurs! :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2020
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  11. Extras: Missing Episode - Episode 7
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Missing Episode - Episode 7

    Episode 7 had gone missing. It was written, polished, but was gone, over-written by Episode 6. So, I've had to reconstruct/rewrite, and I'd neither time nor energy to do that.

    Ten hours later, I've had a night of sleep, and done a total rewrite. The previous version was a bit 'lazy', was 'speed run' grab-the-med-bay. It's still a speed-run, but there's more background, logic, reasons why there's a need to hurry.

    This hasn't had several days of rereads and polishing, but, I hope it'll do.

    Sorry about the delay...
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
  12. Threadmarks: Cosmetic Bionics - Episode 8
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 8

    Cosmetic surgery? On your spirit? Does that sound dangerous to you?

    Raven's willing to try it.

    Personally, I think she's mad. But, in some way, she's also me.

    So, does that mean I'm mad, too?

    ---

    We'd left adult-Nurf arguing with med-bay Nurf.

    They were going at it hammer-and-tongs. Adult-Nurf had the upper-hand, seeing as she was CMO, and'd very few restrictions left. But, med-bay Nurf'd most of a millennium's experience dealing with awkward passengers, and crew, not to mention her captain-wrangling skills.

    Looked like they'd be at it for quite some time...

    Even while we were still there I'd caught CMO Nurf slipping in one or two bits of briefing on the local situation. So, not wasted time, but a bit... loud. I thought it healthy they were doing it using audible-speech, rather than, say, radio, via the radio collar I'd handed Nurf.

    She'd put it on, sent me a (encrypted) radio 'Thank You'. I could 'hear' her interrogating the Tower security systems, using the links only Cyborg normally touched. Offering to help him and Oracle start the software parts of the security upgrade.

    A welcome from him, and a 'What?' from Oracle, followed by the start of an explanation. Hope she doesn't bend Oracle's brain too much...

    We'd been cruel enough to leave Victor there, finishing-off the med-bay. The doors'd been fitted before we arrived, because, ritually, the place had to be seal-able. But, needed the motors, security systems, manual overrides, the lot.

    Then there was the other six med-beds, checking the ceramic tiling, fitting redundant power systems...

    He was going to be there for quite a while.

    We'd left him the Synthesiser and plenty of supplies. Yes, we'd need to do a restock run, soon.

    Also, offered him some earplugs. Though, he turned those down

    Said he was used to being around people venting.

    ---

    After a quick visit to Oracle, with a mug of tea, and seeing just her feet sticking out of a wall (no, I'm not 'starting' Beast Boy just to get his small-animal-in-difficult-spaces skills) we head to Raven's workshop/room.

    She's tidied-away the ritual layout I'd left there, used to 'boot' Kory and her. Or, in her case, hide what we were doing from her father. Replaced it with something more sophisticated than my crude build.

    We start planning the next step.

    She says she's the germ of an idea about how to put the Robin and Beast Boy on their feet while keeping their privacy. But, she wants to think about it, more, maybe get a few more books, study them.

    I hug her, and cry, a little. She tenses, then relaxes, pats my back.

    Once I'm calmer we both meditate, while levitating. So like old times... Astrally project within the really solid warded circle she created. It's as good as the one she raised before we first did mental repair work, back in my original time.

    "I hope you don't mind, I sneaked a look at your memories of future-me's rituals. There's some really clever ideas in there."

    "Being impressed by your own work. That's Pride!" We grin at each other, floating next to our meditating bodies.

    "No, I don't mind. I gave you blanket permission to access my memories. Least I can do for my teacher. Can't waste time you asking me, whenever you need them. I... trust you." There's more hugging.

    She's... a bit see-through, but an obvious mix of Raven and my spirit forms. We're both robed, with our hoods down, but, she's got Raven's head on my body, Raven's normal garb, and's wearing my Best Boots.

    "Lets go look at my spirit-house, check the outside. In as many dimensions as we can manage. Then, I give you permission to enter my mind, we'll see what we can do about cosmetic changes."

    We do that.

    ---

    Her spirit-house, the external appearance of her mind-spirit, also looks far too much like mine. There's bits of classic Raven, but it's obviously not her. Look like her mind's been extending the spirit that I gifted her, probably now about human-average in strength, still growing.

    "I think the Homo Magi conservatives will really want your neck, for this. They called you 'Abomination!' just for being a robot and a magi. Now..."

    Raven shakes her head.

    "What do you mean?"

    "You've created a robot-human-demon hybrid spirit. Spirit magic is on their 'banned' list, what you've done..."

    "But... it just happened!"

    "They wont see it like that. Zatanna's Aunt will be howling for your blood."

    "Oh. So, do you think we should stop? Not do any more... spirit tinkering?"

    "Gods no! This is some of the most interesting work I've ever heard of, never mind done! We'll have to write a book! Publish it!" She pauses.

    "Anonymously, of course."

    ---

    Down in the depths, the spiritual depths, where even the bravest magi rarely goes. Raven's roots should be here. All we can see are a few dangling wires. Off to one side there's a few red tendrils, her father's tools, we think, waving in a rather lost way.

    "I injured myself, last time we made major changes to your roots. When you created your 'ghost roots'. Do you think we could be smarter? Not use me as a fulcrum? Make a few spiritual tools, like the spiritual equivalent of a build cell?"

    She thinks, deeply. Then, grins, widely.

    "I've... never heard of anyone doing that sort of thing before. It's always been using your own brute spiritual strength. Maybe, if you've an assistant, caveman-tools like a lever. You're... talking about an entirely new field of magic! Lets do it!"

    Probably a good thing time doesn't really pass in the spiritual realms. We've made... a tool-kit. It's... looking back at us. But, I'm pretty sure... she's friendly.

    Probably about as smart as a dog, like 'Gina'. I've... decided to call her 'Cosmo'. She... feels a bit like a puppy.

    "I... think we just made a god. A... creation god. One that's probably able to make new universes. Lets... not tell anyone about this."

    We both firmly nod.

    ---

    A spiritual re-spray job.

    The dangling wires now look like Raven's (original, pre-improvement) roots. The red tendrils are sniffing in their direction.

    Raven's spirit now looks a lot more like Raven. Still my... more modest chest, though, and my more athletic build. She's still wearing my Best Boots, though resized to fit her feet. And, after a quick trip, 'upstairs', she's got Raven's hands.

    And, we didn't need to spend six-million-dollars.

    So.

    All good?

    ---

    AN: Venting; can be vital, but don't overdo it. Nurf's been waiting a long time for someone to vent to...

    AN: Booting, hence the verb 'boot', you don't mind Geo using computing metaphors, do you? :)

    AN: We have the technology, we can rebuild her, as the world's first bionic Raven! :)

    AN: 'Cosmo' is an OC. She is not a fairy, does not smoke a pipe, and does not make toys. You might suspect she's a puppy...

    AN: The way Geo's going she might need to ask "What's a pantheon, and why is it angry with me...", which are allegedly a (D&D) adventurer's famous last words... :)

    AN: I wish to make it quite clear that this will not become the 'Cosmo' story. Probably. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2020
  13. Threadmarks: Magical Flashback - Episode 9
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 9

    "You suggested my robe needed looking at. I agree. From certain angles, it looks totally wrong."

    Raven seriously considered the point. This was obviously not affected by the puppy sitting on her head. The fact that she blew-up air, every so often, so her fringe moved, and the puppy batted at it, was, of course, totally irrelevant.

    "Would it help if we try and reconstruct what happened?" She stroked the puppy's head, in an absent-minded way.

    "OK. I was going home, just about to arrive, when I was... summoned-away, across the dimensions. I'm almost certain I saw another me actually arrive home, fully-healthy. And, fully clothed as 'Sugoi', including robe. Next I knew I was in your, naked, body, in the summoner circle, and my slumped, naked, body was in the summonee circle."

    She takes the puppy off her head, puts her in the crook of her arm. The puppy investigates a nearby robe-pocket.

    "So, where was your robe at this point?"

    "I... don't know. I can't remember whether summoned-me had clothes, or even a body, when summoned. That makes me suspect I had neither. So, sumonee-me was a new body created by your magic, as happened in my time-line. And, the robe she put on, later, was from her dimensional pocket, which I suspect your magic also copied."

    We think, for a bit. The puppy's slightly disappointed by the empty pocket.

    "The easy way to check would be to count how many of my standard load of equipment I can pull from the pocket. The cloak wasn't something I could duplicate, so I just made as best I could. The collar, rings, the glasses, I'd copied them. And, the languages talisman... Ah! What about the anti-possession amulet?"

    We examine it, as does the puppy, as I hold it on my hand, between us.

    I focus my Third Eye, yes, there's flows into and out of it. Then I look at my robe, ditto. I look at Raven, she looks at me, the puppy looks between the two of us.

    "That's... not your original robe, nor original amulet. I... think your magic is, as you'd say, 'faking them up'."

    "Right... So, that'd explain why Geo, when the spirit currently in you was in her, rather than my spirit, got so tired while making standard amulets for the team, some of her magic was doing this. I thought it was because your body was so awesome."

    She grins at me.

    "I am 'that awesome'."

    There's a 'knock' on Raven's door (really good sound-proofing, you know). We look at each other.

    "It's Oracle."

    "I think we need to explain to her a few 'some-things'."

    "Yes, like where the puppy came from..."

    ---

    We've got Oracle with us in the secure conference room.

    Yes, she's security-checked it.

    Raven's gone around improving security with magic. Oracle's eating a freshly robot-cooked meal. I'd found she's not eaten since arriving at the Tower. Bad self-maintenance habits - I knew all about those.

    It's rather strange to see fork-and-food disappearing into the indistinct blur that's Oracle mask and fuzzed-out head and hair - though, from her point-of-view all would look normal. She's obviously eating, quickly and neatly, because we'd refused to explain anything until she cleared half her plate.

    "You know, this is quite good." More fork-into-mask. "Maybe I should ask you for an auto-chef for Christmas."

    We wait, she's eaten the agreed amount, and slows down. "Give."

    "You obviously want to know a bit more about the medical bay."

    "Yes", she grumps, "in particular why I can't personally locate it any more".

    "That's an accident that became a feature. Previous-Raven over-did the defences, and we liked the results. Don't worry, we'll take you down there, do the introduction ritual, after that you'll have no problems."

    "So, what's this business about having two... blue people, one calling themselves 'Nurse', who seems to be an AI resident in the med-bay, the other 'CMO Nurf', who's about your height, and seems to know a lot about security, though specialising in personal and medical records?"

    "You gathered the med-bay was the tool we went to fetch, to safely hold Robin and Beast Boy?" She nods. "In my previous time-line magic mixed with technology, and a year's 'working holiday', which took only seconds for everyone but Nurf and me, to produce CMO Nurf. How she got here?" I grin.

    "Just watch."

    ---

    The med-hub materialises, is neatly dropped, by Raven, in the ceramic-lined pit Victor's prepared. Rapidly it's plumbed-in. He hangs a medium-sized, temporary-looking, flat-screen over it, wires that and a camera-plus-mic in. Wheels over, attaches, a slightly unfinished-looking med-bed. Flips a concealed power-switch. Stands back.

    A blue-figure appears on the screen. Looks around, as the camera pans around the room. "I guess I'm here. What do you want me to start with? I'm guessing you've urgent need of me."

    While Victor's worked Raven and I've been preparing a ritual circle, off to one side. A certain amount of gesturing and chanting's been involved. Yes, we're both fully-dressed, but we've ritually washed our hands and faces.

    Victor looks over to us, nods, I stride over to the med-hub. He goes and washes his hands-and-face.

    "I am your captain. I hereby give you the use-name 'Nurf'. Please produce a servitor for us."

    A servitor moves from the hidden-depths of the med-hub into the med-bed. The lid is floated-open by Raven, and the blue, metre-tall figure, in medical-whites, floats out, over to our ritual circle. Raven seals the circle.

    "No! Don't do that! You're breaking procedure! If that servitor's not put back in the med-bed she'll quickly die!"

    I lean-in close, so the camera gets a good view of me, attach the false handle-bar moustache, from my pocket, to my face. Twirl one end with my fingers. Whisper in my deepest voice, "This is your captain speaking, I tell you three times. Live! Live! Live!"

    The figure on the screen shudders, looks at me wide-eyed, "How did you know that? The last person who knew that died more than a millennium ago!".

    "Other-you told me", I whisper.

    Then, stand, stride back over, join Raven and Victor in the ceremony. Hand Raven the backup-crystal previous-Nurf entrusted to me. There's solemn pacing, chanting, multi-part songs. Yes, my singing voice is as terrible as ever.

    A 1.7m (about 5'6") blue-skinned figure sits-up in the circle, dressed in CMO medical-whites, brushes her blonde hair back. "OK, Sugoi, what went so badly wrong you needed magic to call me up?"

    She looks around. "Time travel? Nasty." We ritually allow her out of the circle. She walks, neatly, over to the med-hub.

    "Hmm. Looks newer than mine. Right. I am Chief Medical Officer Nurf Ravens-dottir of the 'Seed of Life', serving with Captain Sugoi, also known as 'Geo Ravens-dottir'. The ship serial number is..."

    She does the rest of the ritual of taking command of the med-bay. Nurse watches from her screen, open-mouthed.

    "Please start another servitor growing, Nurse. I am your CMO. I tell you three times. Full life-span and health, but keep the blue skin-colour. This is a different world, you'll need to adapt to local laws and customs."

    Nurse closes her mouth, "Confirmed and logged, CMO."

    ---

    The multi-screen presentation finishes.

    Oracle looks over at us. While she's watched she's been using her radio collar to make Batgirl-doll, all 15" of her, dance, do acrobatics. This stops. She obviously gathers herself.

    "OK. You're mad. But, I think I see where you're aiming. Now. Explain the puppy."

    Raven grins.

    "When two people love each other very much..."

    I face-palm.

    ---

    AN: Hopefully a few things are a bit clearer now... Or, at least, murky in a different way. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2020
  14. Threadmarks: Names and Pack Drill - Episode 10
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 10

    Tall and short. Thin and fat. I'd really hoped to avoid the two demons who're confronting me.

    But, it was not to be.

    I've got a puppy in my robe pocket, and I didn't want to subject her to the rougher routes I could've taken to lose the demons. Hard vacuum and poisonous atmospheres are best avoided for the young.

    Also, these were particularly persistent demons. I thought I'd lost them several times. Then, they'd stopped, apparently thought carefully, looked around, and found my trail. So, not the stupid and math-poor demons I'd easily avoided before.

    They were beginning to look... interesting

    ---

    "Now, traveller, our Lord has tasked us to find a certain person. You look enough like that person that we're checking you. So, please lower your hood." At least they're reasonably polite demons...

    "Look! It's a puppy!"

    The taller and skinny demon holds out a hand, pointing at where Cosmo has poked her nose out of my robe. She sniffs at his hand. He reaches out to pat her, appears to think better of that, quickly withdraws. She seemed to... not object to him. Doubly interesting.

    "Look, lady. You are a lady, aren't you?" The shorter, fatter demon, stays well back. Shakes his head at his fellow's actions.

    "Yes, I'm a lady. Are you going to introduce yourselves?"

    "The Boss calls us Fat and Thin", remarks the skinny one, "What's the puppy's name?".

    "If you tell me your names I will tell you one of mine, and not just a use-name."

    Tall turns to short, "He did say we should get names... Sounds a reasonable trade...".

    Short snorts, "As if you know anything about trading!". He turns to me. "We can't be giving out names, names have power, you know."

    Maybe I need to lean on them? Demons only respect power, after all. Project my full presence, normally cloaked, pour what magical power I can into it.

    "You would be wise to take the trade I offer."

    They flinch. Tall blurts, "He's Shem and I'm Shadrach". Short face-palms. "Why? We've kept those names secret for millennia, why now?"

    "She's got a puppy. She's a nice person."

    "Look. You break into places, I drive the chariot. I'm the brains of this outfit."

    They bicker between themselves, for a while.

    I take the opportunity to look at them, in some detail, with my Third Eye, Classic demons, flesh shells over a naked spirit, no chi, some granted magic, surprisingly complex spirits. Don't look particularly evil, little blood on their hands.

    The bindings on them are clear, and rather shoddy. In my pocket is my translation talisman...

    "Excuse me? If you don't mind me asking, are you happy in your current employ?"

    "Not really. We don't do torture, we're not very good at fighting, so we're treated like dirt. Just put on patrol duty. Sooner or later one of the gods or their dogs will get us. Not fun." Short looks at tall, opens his mouth, closes it, looks thoughtful.

    "With one word I can break the binding your Lord has on you. If I do I'll like you to consider... alternative employment."

    Short sneers, "That's arch magi work, and you're not one of those. We know them all. And, you've not told us your name".

    "I'm called 'Sugoi'." And, I read the Word I see imprinted on their spirits, with the intonation that removes it. They both wince, look at each other astonished, pat themselves down.

    "You unbound us, and didn't put a new binding on! We're free! It's been centuries!" Fat, sorry, 'Shem' speaks for the pair.

    "Thank you. I told you she was a nice lady. She's got a puppy."

    Cosmo wiggles out of my pocket, tumbles to the ground, approaches them. Shadrach holds out his hand, it's sniffed, then licked.

    "She likes me!"

    Shem looks a lot less certain. Cosmo turns to him, sniffs, then bounds forwards, bites at his hoof. I'd noticed he was limping on that leg, earlier.

    "Get it off! Get it off!" He's not a happy demon, though doesn't seem to dare striking at a puppy.

    Cosmo drags something out of his hoof, starts crunching on it. A beetle, with really big mandibles.

    "Say", Shadrach leans down, looks at the prey, "Didn't you fall in a nest of things like that, when we were still human, back in Egypt?".

    Shem's bent his leg up, while balancing on the other hoof, "Yeah, and I've limped ever since".

    "Looks a bit like one of those bad-luck beetles. Do you think that's why that priest sent us to Hell?"

    Shem is opening and closing his hoof, testing his balance, looks pleased. "Could be..."

    "Ahem. If you boys could spare a little time, would you like to discuss a contract of employment?"

    ---

    "So, do you think you can help me?"

    We're in a side-room at the Bank of Mammon. In fact, this bit looks a lot more temple-y. A skinny man, in a white-cloth wrap's looking over the demons, who seem a bit apprehensive, he's making notes on a clay tablet, with a stylus.

    "Good solid souls. Excellent anchor points. Yes, we can hang the magic you want on them. Stuff them in fleshy bodies, should pass for human, standard local cultural implant, English, Spanish, clothe them, house them, all appropriate local documentation. Yes, all do-able." He pauses, checks his notes.

    "Standard charges. No surcharge for a quick job. You've a gold card, after all. Are you sure you don't want any bindings? Leaving them free-will is... unconventional."

    "Yes. Well, boys, do you want the job?"

    "Yes Ma'am!" A chorus.

    "Right. I'll expect you, 9am, at the Tower. Be ready to be briefed, then, on your duties. Oh, and yes, you will be paid. Here's a pair of pre-loaded cards, to start you off." I pause, no one seems to want to comment.

    "You might like to know. Dog walking will be involved."

    ---

    AN: Shem and Shadrach are OC. Some might say they're the classic comedy-duo, or 'double-act'...

    AN: Where do the names 'S&S' come from? Don't know, for sure. 'Shem' might come from 'Moe & Shem' of The Three Stooges, though there's three not two of them, and they're slapstick not verbal humour. 'Shadrach' might come from the Bible, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who some have unkindly described as the 'first slapstick comedy-act', but again, a trio, not a duo. Pretty sure there were double-acts before them. I really don't know.

    AN: You might say S&S share one mind between them, Shem's got all the intellect, Shadrach's the wise one... Some old friends can get like that...

    AN: So... Do you suspect Geo just stole two of Pure's minions? :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
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  15. Extras: Raven's Replacement, Author Omake 2
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Author Omake 2

    < Previous

    AN: This is an 'Author Omake', this one happens to be 'canon', but shouldn't (greatly) impact the overall story, so you can skip it if you want to. It falls after Episode 10, 'Names and Pack Drill'.

    AN: Do you believe in 'spoilers'? If so, do not read this Omake. You've been warned.

    ---

    .

    .

    .

    AN: Still here? OK, read on.

    ---

    Someone has apparently decided that as a princess I need a ladies-maid.

    I'm not sure who, or, why. But, I now have one. Her name is 'Miss Carver'.

    Oh.

    And I'm 'Princess Raven', or, as I prefer, 'Raven'.

    She gives me someone to talk to. Which, I'm a bit suspicious about. Are princesses supposed to have someone, safe, to confide in? How do I know she's 'safe'? Who might she tell my secrets to?

    So, I ask her about herself.

    Like me, she's a wooden doll, a Toy. As are many of those in Toyland. Those who aren't talking animals or other beings. Her father's the Royal Woodcarver, Mr. Carver.

    He lives on the far-side of the wood, where I can't go. And, he carefully selected every piece of wood she's made of, carefully shaped them, then breathed life into her.

    She's... got more 'life', personality than most of the dolls. Hasn't got the fearful-eyes of the stranger dolls, who mostly avoid me. Maybe I pressed them for answers, a few too many times? I think... she's got secrets. Ones she wants to tell me.

    But, she wants to be sure, or surer, of me first.

    We're at a bit of an impasse. I don't trust her, she doesn't trust me. So, I offer to tell her one of my secrets, if she'll then tell me one of hers. She looks thoughtful, and, the next day, says she'll show me a secret trick, that almost no one knows.

    So, I tell her of one of my early-dreams, of the dolls in the other Tower, by the sea.

    She's... shocked, and... elated.

    Explains how there's a special spot, on the back of the neck of some special dolls, like her, me, and my friends in the Tower, by the sea. Very hard to reach, but, if you do, and press firmly there, then...

    Just tells me I'll like the result.

    I'm... suspicious. So, I insist she does it first, then I will follow.

    We do this.

    ---

    I'm... outside my wooden, doll, body. To start with I'm dressed as a princess, then, I reach deep into myself, pull-up the hero in the hooded-robe. And, I'm her. With... my grey skin, like my doll's skin, but flexible, like heavy cloth. My hair is far less coarse. I... feel deep wells of power, within myself.

    Looking down, I can see my doll-body, lying on my tiny bed. And, on the floor, is my maid's-body. An even smaller figure, see-through, next to her. I kneel, move my face close, reach out a finger. She's about the same length as it. Looks, bravely, at giant-me.

    "I knew you were our true princess! I knew it!" And she drops a deep curtsey, something she's not done before.

    "You will save us from the red ogre who calls himself king! Restore those forced into wooden dolls to their true selves! Free all the people!"

    I know I was a (great?) hero, but... Wasn't I captured, forced into a wooden doll myself? My... magic lost, my memory gone, almost power-less? Hadn't I already lost? Wasn't I... hoping against hope that someone would rescue me?

    The word 'apprentice' floats into my mind, for some reason, then's... gone.

    Do I have any power?

    The mite looks at me. What did she say? Her father breathed life into her?

    Leaning closer, I breathe on her, willing some of this 'hidden power' I'm not convinced I have into her. She doubles in height, is now far less see-through. Looks at her hands, front, then back, feels her face.

    Gives an immense grin.

    "Thank you! You are indeed our true princess! You will fell the ogre, your father, and take his place!"

    What?!?

    ---

    We spoke for a while, in that strange unreal place.

    Then, returned to our bodies. She'd some trouble, but eventually managed it. I... was far less sure. Pressed the back of the neck of my... more squishy body. Nothing.

    Hmm.

    I... recalled meditation. So, I float, cross-legged in the air. And... slide back into wood.

    It's... deeply uncomfortable.

    My maid looks at me with eager eyes, as if I will immediately start a revolt. I feel... that's unwise. Stretching, twisting, bending in improbable ways, I settle into the wood. It feels... more alive. My servant, not my prison.

    I... fold my legs up, float, cross-legged, in mid-air.

    She looks at me. Gulps. And, with several jerks, copies me. We float, face-to-face. Grinning wildly at each other.

    "You call yourself my maid, but I hereby offer to take you as my Apprentice. Do you accept?"

    "Yes! Yes!"

    "For your first lesson you will learn to meditate. Control. First the self, then the world around you."

    We begin.

    ---

    AN: There Can Be Only One? Apprentice, that is. Should Geo feel she's been replaced? :)

    ---

    AN: Still here? OK, read the above.

    .

    .

    .

    ---

    AN: Do you believe in 'spoilers'? If so, do not read the above Omake. You've been warned.

    Next >
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2020
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  16. Threadmarks: Happy Reunion? - Episode 11
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 11

    Team breakfast. Just like old-times. But not.

    We're all here, plus Nurf. She's decided that pinkish-skin is the way to go, today, courtesy of my copy of Blackfire's disguise gadget.

    Raven figured-out a way to privacy-protect Robin and Beast Boy from Geo-contamination, me walking all over their privacy. Based on the fact they trusted her, and knew they had few secrets. But, she'd not reveal them.

    So, the idea's that there's two spiritual 'layers', a core spirit-spark, from me, and a Raven-layer, that protects the mind from my spirit snooping all over the place. Personally, I'm not convinced, it all seems a little... contrived.

    But, she sold it to Oracle and Batman...

    I keep getting funny looks from... Garfield. Robin's ignoring me, getting a briefing from Raven. She makes the situation sound quite horrifying. Doesn't use the word 'soul'.

    Just says an 'essential part' of all of them's been stolen, and magic is keeping them going until they get it back.

    Oracle was up more than an hour ago, grabbed a snack, went straight to work. She was massively relieved, last night, when Raven and I brought Robin and Beast Boy back.

    But, did her best to hide it. I could see her rigid arms, as she resisted hugging him. I hugged her, later, which I think helped.

    But, but...

    I can't always convince myself I'll never see the Oracle of my first go-round, again...

    And, if a Geo does go see her, it won't be me.

    ---

    Victor seems to think we've got the critical security-basics in place.

    Batgirl doll's done a lot of crawling through ducts, checking things, pulling the odd bug. Mostly she's trailing a power-optics cable, because her batteries just aren't good enough, and her built-in eyes are basically just light-level sensors.

    I can't make eyes that small. Yet.

    Raven reports assaults on her roots, which strongly suggests her father's bought the story we're selling. Or, he's just making sure. She mentions that we really should go take a look, some time. That I'll be surprised.

    Not a sniff of Pure, yet, and Oracle's not even started on prowling the city. I think she's worried Robin'll get involved, and try showing-off to impress her.

    We'll see.

    ---

    Someone tried to impersonate our mail-man, deliver a suspect package. The new security scanners were enough to make us suspicious, and Raven's wards sensed the hidden hostility.

    Starfire found the mail-man, on the shore, bound and gagged. Freed him, offered to take him to hospital. He assured her the Union'd look after him.

    Fake mail-man escaped. We destroyed the package with an explosive charge. Seemed best, Raven thought it booby-trapped in multiple ways. Robin was grim, which was in-character.

    Oracle whispered to me she thought it might've been the Batman, testing us.

    –-

    Robin... worries me.

    Neither Raven nor myself are shaman, and Robin's an unknowing shaman. How that'll work with his spirit being replaced? We really don't know. Asking the Batman is pointless - he'll just stone-face or grimace at us, no matter what he knows.

    I... mention the annoying Japanese priest.

    We both shake our heads.

    ---

    Raven's had a nasty idea.

    Explains it to me. We grin at each other. A big, really difficult, ritual. But, oh, so worth it.

    Somewhere, far off, I imagine a Lady with an ankh. Smiling at our 'victim'. Explaining that, finally, his friends are summoning him back to life. Because, they really need his skills. Him smiling, accepting.

    We look at the, shocked, young man, standing in the ritual circle. He's dressed in martial-artist garb. Is looking at his hands in horror. Then, at our grinning faces.

    "You said I'd have a part of you, in me, as long as I lived. Raven figured-out how to get your... life pattern from that. And, how, given that, making a living younger-body for you would be trivial. So, here you are."

    His jaw drops, he switches his gaze, Raven, me, Raven. Ignores the puppy. The puppy yawns.

    "You... You... Bleep-ards!"

    Grabs his throat in horror.

    "You... stuck me in a younger body with a swear filter!"

    "An, unaging, younger body, with a very strong desire to live." Smugs Raven.

    "We really do need your help", I say, far more seriously.

    His shoulders slump.

    "You've got me."

    ---

    Earlier, I'd dragged Oracle away from her duties, introduced her to 'the boys'.

    It seemed strange to call beings millennium-old that, but, there was a naivety about them, as though they'd learned little adulting since becoming demons. Of course, some 'adults' never seem to get the hang of it, after seventy-plus years...

    I'd briefed her, through our radio collars, about how they seemed to have once been human petty-criminals who had... unfortunate experiences, millennia ago, and ended up spending the time since as not-particularly-evil demons.

    But, I'd got the strong impression they understood things on a street-level, currently looked human, and had (potentially) useful magical powers, putting them in the low-ish grade meta-human grouping. Also, not yet confirmed, but I think they knew a lot about Pure's operations.

    She's... not that happy about me recruiting... lowlife, particularly something as weird as demons, without consulting her. But, acknowledges they might be useful in multiple ways.

    The idea of them walking our robo-dog Gina, getting her to report what she thinks of them, amuses her.

    She opinions Cosmo's a bit young for walks.

    ---

    Interviewing Shem and Shedrach.

    We've asked CMO Nurf, and she's interested to sit-in. The idea of dealing with non-humans who're older than her interests. And, she wants to see if they've still got human 'tells'. Remarks they might be a bit like her, used to functioning under many restrictions, which they call a 'binding'.

    We hadn't got much time, beforehand, but Raven briefed the three of us on demons. How they weren't strictly alive, but their flesh shells could impersonate it quite well. The two types, those with natural, and those with constructed, spirits, but they could converge if they survived long enough. That most magi regarded them as expendable tools.

    Briefly we'd discussed their weaknesses, vulnerability to blood/spirit magic, poor ability to adapt to changing times, or learn at all. How the lack of a living body meant their interactions with humans could go poorly, partly due to lack of empathy or general understanding. And, that many were really badly damaged, spiritually.

    Then, she had to hurry off. A lot of studying to do. I also got the impression she was having great fun digging through my memories of previous-Raven.

    ---

    Secure conference room.

    Room swept by Oracle, and our new minions, sorry, 'employees', also carefully checked when they arrived. Nurf's been amusing herself with the new security scanners.

    She's been tracking and analysing them since they were first picked-up, still outside, where they stepped out of the dimensions, blocked by Raven's latest wards. I think she's trying to extract medical information from the scanners.

    "First, I want to make it clear that you'll be treated with respect. Not considered 'disposable assets'. You'll not be abandoned if your bodies are destroyed, and we may in fact be able to help you heal more quickly, and painlessly, if you're injured."

    I pause, no one says anything.

    "You're paid employees, not minions. And mutual respect is required."

    I look at them, in their slightly-shabby clothes, and, let's be honest, slightly-shabby bodies. Two young men, not handsome, not ugly. Looking... somewhat Southern-European, Northern-African, maybe Egyptian.

    Obviously apprehensive. Clutching their hats. Tall and short. Thin and thick.

    "I'm 'Sugoi', this is 'Oracle', who'll be mostly your immediate boss, and this is 'Doctor Blue', who thinks you're medically interesting. Sitting on the floor is 'Gina', and you've already met 'Cosmo'."

    Doctor Blue grins at them, as she sits there, blue-skin and blonde hair, in her white lab-coat, doctor's garb. Stethoscope dangling around her neck, goggles currently pushed-up on her forehead. Her weapon isn't currently on display.

    But, even so, Nurf in her full superhero garb can be quite intimidating...

    "Hello Boys."

    "Now, Doctor, please give them proper respect."

    I turn to the pair of them. It's clear they're beginning to wonder if this whole thing was a good idea. At all.

    Gina also looks at them with interest, and a doggy-grin. Cosmo looks over from her fascinating game with a ball of crumpled-up paper.

    "What names would you like to be called?"

    ---

    AN: That blood magic and spirit magic are the same thing is a belief shared by Raven and Geo, and not the larger magical community. The Homo Magi conservatives, for example, ban spirit magic, but allow limited use of blood magic as it's just so useful. That spirit magic is concerned with such fundamental things is one reason a lot of magi are really, really, scared of it, and leave it to priests.

    AN: S&S are in trouble. They're faced by an unknown arch magi (Sugoi), a woman in a green-mask with a magical haze for a head, and someone who looks as if she wants to dissect them. Then, there's a dog, and a puppy. Will Our Boys survive? :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2020
  17. Threadmarks: Times Yet to Come - Episode 12
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 12

    "Friend Geo. We will do the shopping."

    You don't get to refuse a... request like that from Kory. I learned that first time around. I'm pretty sure she's a reason for 'the shopping'. And, the only way I'll discover it's to go.

    It'll also be good to be seen in Jump City. Nothing like 'business as usual' to upset enemies who think they've utterly crushed you. Also, I'd like to see what might be different, in a 'younger' city.

    It's not been mentioned, but, I'm pretty sure we'll be shadowed by Robin and Oracle. And, if we see the odd suspiciously green-looking bird, I wont be surprised. Victor watching a data feed from Oracle. Good chance Raven'll be skrying us, too.

    Pretty sure she'd bring Victor.

    ---

    We're dressed in 'casual superhero'.

    Kory's in her natural orange-skin, and brief clothing, though she's (mostly) walking along the ground. I'm in rugged casual wear (Best Boots!) with robe-as-scarf. I'm also mostly on the ground, but, mainly because my flight speed's about half my walking one.

    We shop for clothes, which I've no need of, seeing as I cheat by using the Synthesiser to make my own. 'Socks, cream, cotton. Go.' Then visit a cafe, for coffee and cakes. Make sure there's screens, bushes, watchers could use for cover.

    "You are... from the Future." I squirm a bit.

    "Sorta. Maybe. Not really. It's... complicated." Kory waits patiently, I'm guessing, for me to explain.

    "I'm from... a future, best as we can work-out, one where Raven found and learned from a book, so you and her defeated Puppet King. After switching bodies. And... then there was bonding."

    Kory wiggles her eyebrows. "Bonding?"

    "Becoming better friends. Understanding each other more. Not... any more physical than hugging. I think."

    She giggles. I realise it's the first time I've heard her laugh since I arrived. She switches to serious.

    "You know our future enemies? So we can prepare for them?" That's... not a nice smile.

    "Just things I picked-up in passing. No one told me your history. Let's see." I think, hard.

    "Next, I think, is an enemy of Aqualad, who steals toxic waste from ships to clone himself, create an army to take over the world, I think. Stupid idea, if you ask me. Your submarine is damaged." Do I tell her? Yes.

    "You... make Beast Boy jealous by pretending to really like Aqualad. It all ends well." I make a slightly helpless gesture.

    "So, we should warn Aqualad? And, I should flirt with Beast Boy? I will do that on our return. Next."

    It sounds as though, nearby, a bird's having a choking fit. Nothing important. Move on.

    "I... think the business with Slade starts. Deathstroke. He wants Robin to be his Apprentice, and... there's lots of conspiracies that no one ever explained to me." Pause. Take a deep breath.

    "I... think Robin did something really stupid. Sorry. That's all I know."

    She nods, firmly. "We get Robin to... think about things. Remind him we are his friends."

    "Well... I think... we're going to have to take him to Japan... Get him... talked to. I'd... really hoped to avoid that." I sigh. Deeply.

    She looks at me expectantly.

    "There was... a Mad Englishman. I think... drugs and hypnosis was involved. No two of you saw the same things. Even Beast Boy said it was 'weird'. Oh. He broke into the Tower, while you were sleeping."

    I smile, grimly.

    "Do you think the new security measures we've put in place will help?"

    She grins back.

    "Then... Then... Someone stole Cyborg's car. And, someone stole it from the thieves. Then it got stolen again. And blown-up."

    She looks sad, then cheers, "This is so much fun!".

    "Then." I swallow.

    "Slade. They didn't talk about it, but I'm pretty sure it got really bad. Slade was, at some point, allied with Pure, the one who caused our... current problem. So, we should probably deal with him."

    "Tell me all you know about Slade..."

    Planning ensues.

    ---

    On the way back, we meet a 'classic' bank robbery.

    Starfire grins, rises off the ground, green-glowing fists, and glowing eyes. I move up, looking where I can be most useful. A robber with a knife looks to be aiming to take a hostage. I'm not having that.

    Acrobatic tumble, and I'm between the two of them.

    He... threatens me with a knife.

    Unfortunately, robe-as-scarf means I've not got my knife, hidden beneath my robe, ready back of my belt. So, maybe I can improvise? A... little magic, maybe an illusion?

    "That's not a knife, this is a knife!" And there's a glowing half-metre (about eighteen-inches) black blade in my hand; a red-glow.

    Unfortunately, I felt my magic glitch as it appeared, and, I think I got something psychic instead. Oh. Dear.

    "Feed me!", whispers the blade, in a rather unpleasant way. I gaze at it, into it, learn its Name, focus my will, bind the (demon?) spirit that's sneaked-in to the plain-metal hilt. I'll question it later.

    The glow disappears, now it's just black metal.

    Very sharp black metal.

    I look at the man with the knife. He drops his jaw, and blade. I will him to... not lose any more control. Maybe this works. Raises his hands.

    Police arrive, tidy everything away, seem pleased to meet Kory, she introduces me as 'an associate'. Show my associate-id.

    Notes are taken. Robbers are removed. Autographs are signed.

    "That was fun! Shall we go home, Friend Sugoi?"

    "Yes."

    ---

    AN: Just a stroll in the city...

     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2020
  18. Threadmarks: X Marks the Spot - Episode 13
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 13

    Team meeting. As formal as it gets. Everyone there.

    We're in the secure conference room. Robin and Raven jointly called it. We've also got Doctor Blue and Roshi, and, yes, they count as 'teenagers'. Oh, and Cosmo's here. Pretty sure Nurse is observing from the med-bay, and Oracle, maybe Batman, are also virtually here.

    "I call this meeting to order." Robin's trying to be chair.

    No one objects, so I guess he's got away with it. For now.

    "I notice we've three new members, or at least associates. Maybe they'd like to introduce themselves?"

    "I'm Sugoi. Though you can call me 'Geo', as long as we're not in public."

    "Doctor Blue, and like Sugoi you can use 'Nurf'."

    "Roshi."

    Someone's not very happy... Though, the folded arms and sour expression were a strong hint. That we told him sunglasses don't suit his younger-face likely didn't help.

    "I gather Sugoi's Raven's apprentice, Doctor Blue is now the team medic and... Roshi. What do you do?"

    "Apparently whatever I'm told."

    Grumpy...

    "Roshi is a master of chi-based martial arts, probably one of the best in the world, and he'll be helping us with our combat skills that may've been damaged by our... current problem. He's a brilliant martial arts trainer. And, very, very, sneaky. He's so sneaky that, even though you know he's sneaky, it doesn't help."

    My comment seems to've been accepted by Robin, and Roshi's looking a little happier. I suspect it was the bit about being sneaky.

    "You shouldn't forget Cosmo", remarks Raven. She leans down, rubs her nose on the puppy's. The team, most of them, look on with horrified fascination.

    Then mumbles something I don't catch to... our puppy. "Raven!" is the reply, in a clear, though childish, voice.

    There's silence.

    Raven holds up Cosmo, in triumph.

    "Her first word!"

    ---

    Things rather degenerate after that.

    Raven's question, "So, Robin, when do we get to meet Red X?", probably didn't help.

    Guess Raven's better at digging useful info from my memories than I am.

    Though, got everyone looking really hard at Robin.

    Robin swallows. Looks at various curious faces. Obviously makes a difficult decision.

    "I... had a dream. Of a power-suit. With many abilities. Powered by an... exotic material. When I woke-up I had to make notes. Later, I did some research. The material actually exists. And, I found I had... a lot more skill with engineering than I'd trained with." He sighs.

    "I built a workshop, under a warehouse I... acquired. I've a mostly-built Red X suit. Not got the fuel, yet. It was... almost like something was forcing me to build it. I'd planned to use it to draw-out Slade. He's stirring-up trouble in the local underworld." Deeper sigh.

    "There. I've told you. Are you happy, now?"

    "Robin! I need to see the suit, all your plans, I didn't know you were into engineering!"

    Cyborg's really enthusiastic...

    Robin looks... briefly surprised at the interest.

    I'm with Cyborg, chatting about what might be the power-source. Speculating on the abilities. Beast Boy wants to visit the 'Robin Cave'. Doctor Blue has a medi scanner out, and's trying to persuade Robin to cooperate. Raven and Starfire are fussing over Cosmo.

    Roshi's impassive. Though, I might've spotted a tiny twitch in the corner of his mouth. And, for some reason, he rubs at his eye.

    We break for food.

    ---

    We've got my knife, well, it's more a short-sword, on the bench.

    Well... not really a bench, more a magic circle.

    With serious bindings, and bits to enhance our physical and magical, even psychic, senses. Raven liked that trick I came up with. 'Microscopic Third Eye Vision', or 'Finesight' as she calls it.

    It's... both real and not.

    The hilt's real, looks like it came from my dimensional pocket. Where I'd stored my experimental blade-forging stuff. The blade, that's black mithral, and... Looks like about the right amount of bar mithral's missing from my (pocket) stores.

    There's the spirit I bound in the hilt.

    We're guessing it's one of Pure's, sent out to scourge the city for some reason. A quick check, and it doesn't have any interesting 'intelligence'. It's... basically stupid reptile level of sentience, so, after some discussion, we dissolve it into general spiritual essence.

    Yes, we 'kill' it.

    The blade (with a new hilt, the existing one disintegrated), is more interesting. It's sort-of a psychic construct, child of my spirit, and physical, at the same time. That's why it's a good spirit-house.

    I can summon and dismiss it, change its size, pretty freely. We'll need to work on it, put the spirit-house aspect fully under my control. But...

    I've got a Mind Blade.

    ---

    Red X on the bench.

    Opened-up. All Robin's notes, scanned, OCR'd. It's a brilliant piece of work.

    "This... looks like a mix of styles. There's Wayne Tech, Lex Corp, and several power-suit designs from super-villains, all mixed-in together. Some futuristic stuff I don't recognise, too."

    Victor is thoughtful.

    "I... particularly like the way there's hidden tracking logic, spread across several other modules. The way it uses subtle low-powered signals, to report where it is. Nice."

    "Where? I didn't design that in!" Robin isn't happy.

    As Victor reveals the secrets of the suit to Robin I'm thinking about the power-source, that isn't currently there. There's... something funny about it.

    "Dick? You don't remember anything about a psychic element to the design?" I ask in an absent-minded way, as I study the interfaces.

    There's silence.

    I look up. They're both staring at me. Why? Ah. I did the name thing.

    "Sorry..."

    ---

    It takes me a while to explain, that future-Robin gave me his personal name. And, I was distracted because there was something funny to do with names in the power-system of the suit.

    Apparently, Victor already knew Robin's name, as he'd been given it in confidence. Unfortunately, Robin doesn't believe me.

    I'm... fumbling to explain. Eventually, I have to settle with 'it's magic' - explaining the principles of magic to non-magi isn't something I'm good at.

    I do manage to explain that the suit's partly powered by the wearer's will, and Robin being an unknowing shaman is likely one reason why he was a potential user. That, longer-term, Robin wouldn't be able to go on using it.

    Unless he permanently changes his name to 'Red X'.

    And it's silent. They're staring at me, again.

    Victor starts, "No one said anything about Robin being a 'shaman'. Is that something like a... native spirit-wrangler?"

    Robin's gone white, "No one's supposed to know about that!".

    "Yes, well, no one knowing messed-up future-Robin. He collapsed, we had to take him to a specialist in Japan, that Raven and I refer to as the 'Annoying Priest'. His methods are... unusual, but do seem to work. Batman was unhappy."

    Victor gives a short laugh, "Batman's always unhappy!".

    Robin's doing a Batman impersonation.

    "I'll... have to think about it. I've not been feeling, sleeping, right, and I've been dreaming about... that ceremony. Maybe I do need that specialist."

    I take a chance.

    "Do you think you need to see someone like that, Cyborg?"

    He opens his mouth. Stops. Closes it again. Looks thoughtful.

    "I... don't think so. But, if I do, I'll get back to you."

    He turns to the suit.

    “So, let's get this bad girl working!"

    ---

    Garfield corners me.

    "I want to know what's really going on. Not the guff Raven fed us. Satisfied Robin, but I know better."

    "Yes. If you try hard you can recall a childhood in the 1950s, can't you?"

    He does his dropped jaw bit. Manually lifts it back. Shakes his head, violently.

    "Nice try. You wont throw me off, that easily. I'm guessing future-me told you."

    "Yes." I sigh.

    "You probably don't want to hear this..."

    "Try me."

    "The puppets... stole all your spirits, your souls. Murdered you. Raven's magic summoned me into her emptied body. Created an empty copy of my body. Since then, I've been running as fast as I can, trying to fix things."

    He acquires a deep, thoughtful, look.

    "That's different. Explains why I've got faint memories of being someone else. Why Raven's so different. Kory isn't as cheerful. Victor's... trying too hard."

    Pauses, does the wide eyes, the adoring expression, hands clutched together, before him.

    "I love you, Mommy!"

    Tilts head to one side. Looks thoughtful.

    "Naaah."

    Stands-up. Slaps his palms on his thighs.

    "It's going to be fun. But, that doesn't explain the important stuff."

    He pauses, looks at me. Grins.

    "Why's there a machine that makes pizza? And, the most important question..."

    Dramatic pause.

    "Are you any good at video games?"

    ---

    AN: Naming is a fascinating subject, and personal names can be the most important thing individuals have. Of course, being able to identify things, tell them apart, can be very important...

    AN: Looks like Geo's going to fail to get the 'Mary Sue of the Year' award, again. Or, will she? :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2020
  19. Threadmarks: Delphic Details - Episode 14
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 14

    Oracle finds me crying. Becomes Barbara. Asks me what's wrong. I can't tell her.

    There's hugging.

    Then, more hugging.

    Finally I answer.

    "I can't do this."

    ---

    I'm in shock.

    I've been professionally interrogated. There was sympathy. There was straight questioning. Once or twice it looked like she might hit me. But, I told her everything.

    "This is a secure area." She's thoughtful.

    "Yes."

    "Raven's wards make it even more secure."

    "Yes."

    "Grab your go-bag. We're going on a trip."

    ---

    I'm in the Justice League HQ.

    I can't tell you where it is. It's a secret. How?

    Well, when away from it no one in the League knows where it is. Just how to get there. Even the Martian Manhunter, he did all the mental block stuff, then hid the secrets even from himself. Dr. Fate handled the magic side of things.

    So. Secret. Really secret.

    They've got a public HQ, of course. Carefully salted with bugged 'trophies' for villains to steal. Where they hold press conferences. That's demolished and rebuilt, every-so-often.

    The really serious work, that done in their real HQ.

    Where I am. With Oracle.

    ---

    "You were right to bring her here."

    It's the Batman.

    He's got Zatanna and Dr. Fate with him. And, the Martian Manhunter. So, it's serious.

    "Basically, you're saying a just-graduated magi, using powers she doesn't understand, resurrected the Teen Titans, and is fighting to make it look as though it's 'business as usual'. In the face of a potentially world-ending threat."

    "Yes."

    "Tell me why we aren't handling this, ourselves. In terms a non-magi can understand. Now."

    Fate is impassive. I guess the bucket-helmet helps. Zatanna, she's jittery.

    "There's a prophecy that if adults assist Raven Trigon's-daughter then he will win, and the world will fall into his hands." Zattana looks at Fate, he nods.

    "And? There's always more to these prophecies."

    "Yes." Zattana clears her throat.

    "We can't even tell her about the prophecy, or Trigon wins."

    "Is that all of it?"

    "No..." She looks at Fate, he nods again.

    "We may tell her the prophecy, and indirectly help her, once she takes an apprentice. We have a way to check if she's done so, a magical way. Two ways, in fact. Just to make sure. But... the last time we checked the two ways disagreed, and we haven't been able to figure-out what's going on."

    "So, your magic has failed?"

    "No! It's quite clear, it's... just complicated."

    "Uncomplicate it."

    She says some twisted words, and two dolls appear on the table. I'm pretty sure they're 'mommets', ritual dolls linked by magical principles to a target. Pretty obviously Raven. I lean forward, she snatches them away.

    "Show her. Maybe she can explain things."

    "How... do the dolls work?"

    I get an explanation for idiots. Summed-up, 'it's magic'.

    Batman is... not amused. But, just watches.

    "Could I have a white-board, please?"

    One's delivered.

    "Now. Using basic symbolic logic, what you're saying is..."

    Math ensues.

    ---

    "So, Godel proved that two things cannot be identical."

    Batman and Fate have been nodding as I worked my way through. Zattana's been getting more and more upset. Once or twice she looked like she was going to interrupt, but a glare from the Batman stopped that. Now, she speaks.

    "But, you... can't use math like that! Magic... is an art!"

    "The logic seems sound to me." Dr. Fate apparently disagrees.

    "I'm... not a natural magi, I don't have any native magical 'talent'. But, Raven, my teacher, made it quite clear anyone can learn magic, if they apply themselves. Though, their mental structure may make them more or less suited to it. I'm not a very good mathematician, but I use what little skills I have."

    I might detect, just the hint, of a small, grim, smile, on the Batman.

    "Your teacher is correct", remarks Fate.

    Zattana's looking hunted.

    "How do you explain what's going on, then?"

    "Please explain to me what the mommets are made from, and the process by which they were constructed."

    There's... technical terms I struggle with, this time. Skrying, prophecy, it's not an area of magic I'm skilled in. But, I think I might be able to guess what's going on.

    "So, this", and I point to the first one, "is made in the classic way, from a fingernail, some hair, and some... saliva. Dressed in clothes made from fragments of Raven's, lost in combat".

    "This", the second, "from just straw and a drop of her blood, shed in defence of an innocent".

    "Yes..."

    "The first says 'No', the second says 'Yes'."

    "Correct."

    "I think..." I pause, look at the Batman. He nods. I swallow.

    "I think you've made a mistake. Raven was split in two. Her soul or spirit stolen, we don't know where she's gone, or what she's done. I was summoned into her emptied body, after she was spirit-murdered, it's a fragment of my spirit that's grown into her current spirit."

    Zattana's gone white. Batman is grim. Fate is impassive. Oracle's green-masked, hazy-headed, but I can feel the tension in her. Everyone seems to have forgotten the Martian Manhunter's there.

    "Different things happened to the two parts. The first mommet's tied to her body. And, I can't be my own apprentice. Or, I guess, Raven's my spirit-daughter, we collaborate on magic, learning from each other." I pause.

    "Her spirit was ripped into a wooden-doll. The Raven I know wouldn't let that stop her taking an apprentice."

    Zatanna's doing the open-close-mouth thing, silently.

    Fate just nods.

    "Raven has taken an apprentice. The first part of the prophecy is completed", he intones.

    Gets-up. Leaves.

    Batman... looks at Zattana.

    "All discussions here are confidential, you swore that. You will not use any knowledge gained here today, directly or indirectly, to trouble the ally of the League called 'Sugoi'." He pauses.

    "Do you understand? Will you comply?"

    Looks as though lemons would be so sweet compared with what she's sucking on.

    "Yes."

    "Ah?"

    "Yes, Sugoi?"

    "There's... the matter of Zattana's Aunt. We've reason to believe she's either interfering, or plans to interfere, in the situation of the Teen Titans. I believe she hopes to destroy me, as I'm... an 'Abomination'."

    Zattana... looks a little more cheerful.

    "I'll look into that."

    ---

    We're back... in the real world. I don't know where we've been. I look at Oracle.

    "Just wish I could approach their security standards. But, we're mere mortals. Now. You promised to take me anywhere I wanted? To help sort this out?" She pauses.

    I dumbly nod.

    "Right. Now, you're going to take me to your previous world..." Another pause.

    "To meet your previous Oracle."

    ---

    They look at each other.

    Both Oracles dressed as Barbara, unmasked, but, there's a certain extra... something to the home-team. Visiting Oracle is... cautious and curious.

    "We wont explode if we touch?" A reasonable question.

    "No. You're from different, effectively independent, time-lines. Just this one's past is quite similar to what the future of our home time-line would've been, if we weren't changing things."

    Oh. I just called where we've come from 'home'. Guess that makes things clearer.

    "Let's get this straight.", local Oracle, "You're not the Geo I know, who went home, but a copy created by magic messing with time?".

    "Yes. That's our best guess. We're here because... my Oracle wanted to visit. Wants a copy of all your notes on... the Joker. Exactly what happened to him, anything you've got. So we can... recreate his... situation, in our home time-line."

    Brrrr!

    Those are not grins I'd want to stand between.

    ---

    Back to the Tower. Grab Raven and CMO Nurf. And Gina. And Cosmo.

    Holiday time.

    Third part of Oracle's plan.

    We're going to the alternate city with the many-coloured people. For a two-week break. No elapsed time, at home. I'm... unsure if I should've revealed that capability to her.

    I take Nurf to one side. Suggest that if she... hurts my daughter, Raven, unfortunate things might happen. She nods, explains that Raven's not her captain or CMO, so there's no pressure. But... she's still pondering on whether I'm her captain.

    Raven... starts to settle into herself. We browse the city bookshops, both as a group, and in various mixes of pairs. Eat in restaurants fancy and plain. Swim, sunbathe. Dance into the night. Generally decompress.

    Day-ten, onwards, I start to get a bit twitchy. Pull some ritual magic bits from my dimensional pocket, detect there's some sort of magical disturbance a few thousand miles away. But, I get the impression it's in hand. Nurf drops a hint that it all feels right, to her.

    Cosmo discovers the delights of shape-shifting into a roughly five-year-old child. The annoyance of clothes. But, the joy of having pockets. There's a few raised eyebrows at some of her feats, like running-up trees, but the comment 'magical kids' seems to cover most sins.

    Gina... seems to quietly enjoy herself. I've noticed that the faint spark of spirit all robots, in fact most active machinery, have, seems to have grown. Not reached the level I used to revive the Titans, but beyond your average dog. I think... playing with Cosmo may be one factor.

    A good time is had by all.

    Did any of us end-up sharing beds, with anyone, for more than rest or sleeping?

    Not telling.

    ---

    AN: Poppet, also called 'mommet'; think European 'voodoo dolls'. Yes, they and their ancestors have been around for a long, long, time...

    AN: Symbolic logic is real math, and so's the Godel bits...

    AN: Zattana's reasonably 'modern', but she's from a magical culture (Homo Magi) where someone reaching the age of a millennium only causes slightly raised eyebrows. And, there's strong beliefs in the dangers of spirit magic. Basically, she's quite conservative. Zattana's Aunt's rather... more conservative than most (note she's an OC).
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2020
  20. Threadmarks: Body, Mind, Bear - Episode 14
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 14

    I've had the 'battery' dream. Same as in my previous time-line. Next morning, found the 'missing' lithium-ion battery catalogue.

    I think I'm being hinted-at.

    So, I've shown Cyborg and Oracle the radio-chip designs, and Oracle's going to use contacts to get some 'samples' made. For now, I'm holding back on the AI chips. Might be risky pushing the pace of things too hard.

    Oracle's blunt with Cyborg. Asks why he's not asked me to handle his... prosthetics issues. He's, briefly, angry, then apologises to her. Says he spent a lot of time looking for ways to fix things, but no one could help.

    Oracle gives me a significant look. No, I can't see her face, even though I could likely bypass her privacy with my Third Eye. That'd be rude. I know her well enough I can spot the body-language.

    "Cyborg..."

    "Call me 'Victor'. I've forgiven you the 'Robin' incident. Your powers were messing with your head - I know how that happens."

    "Thank you." I pause.

    "There's... reasons to believe the med-bay could help create a robot version of your original body with a living skin. And, you could... learn to move between that and your current cyborged body." I pause, he gestures for me to continue.

    "In the meanwhile, there's... secret capabilities in the med-bay could swap you over, and Raven can do the trick, too."

    Stunned.

    "I'd... wondered. I've been having these strange dreams, watching myself as I used to be, but in the Tower. Seeing myself from the outside, dressed to go out clubbing, coming back. Smelling of cigarette smoke, which I found a bit offensive. 'Weird', as Garfield would say."

    "Sorry. I don't really like that smoke. I'm reasonably sure those're my memories you're picking-up, from the spirit-fragment I used to... put you back on your feet. Because we needed you."

    "Yeah. I got the Mark I treatment, didn't I? Without the special Raven-layer filling." He shrugs.

    "Doesn't seem to have done me much harm. And, better than lying there in a coma." Looks at me intently.

    "There's more, isn't there?"

    Reluctantly, "Yesss... The med-bay has even more advanced tricks. It'd take months, but if given exactly the right instructions, and with a lot of complaints, Nurse will grow an exact copy of your original body. Shuffle you in and out of it as easily as she can switch you to a Victor living-skinned robot."

    They're both shocked. Though it's easier to tell with Cyborg, sorry, 'Victor'.

    "That's Cadmus-level stuff. And without having to put yourself in their slimy hands. Wow."

    "I'm going to have to put a lot more effort into the security, here." Oracle's thinking ahead. "Lots of people would kill a city-full of innocents to get their hands on things like that."

    "They're not Nurse's Captain or CMO, though. Yes, I know, that just makes Nurf and me more attractive targets."

    The three of us sit quietly for a while.

    "Victor, I'm Barbara." Oracle takes off her mask, deactivates her collar. "I'm pretty sure we'll be spending a lot of time working together, in future."

    The two, solemnly, shake hands. I stay quiet.

    Barbara turns, looks at me.

    "The rabbit-hole just keeps getting deeper, doesn't it?"

    "I'm afraid so..."

    ---

    Meditation.

    There's now a meditation room. And, everyone's learning it, or polishing their existing skills.

    Except Gina. And, Cosmo.

    Probably.

    Roshi started to protest. Then stopped. Stared into the air for a moment. He's good enough I couldn't tell if that was a play-act for our benefit. Or, if even he knew that.

    Raven talked to Robin, determined he wasn't skilled enough to teach it. So, she's leading the class, Roshi and me are her assistants. I'm so filled with joy. I can tell Cyborg and Beast Boy think this pointless.

    "You may think this pointless." Well-spotted, Raven. "But, this is one of the few ways you can help the magic that's keeping you sane and alive." She's gone straight for the big guns.

    "It's all about teaching your mind and body to work better together. I had to learn how to do that, growing-up, or my two sides, my heritage from my mother and my father, would have torn me apart. I've have ended up a red-skinned monster, a tool of my father, or insane, when my empathy ran out of control."

    She looks at her victims, sorry, 'students'.

    "You'll have to work at this harder than you've ever worked in your lives, or my father will win, and you'll be his pawns. Or, you'll go insane. Or, if you're lucky, you'll die. My father's made sure dying isn't a way I can get out of being his tool. That'd be far too easy."

    I think they're buying this... She's being pretty convincing...

    "You can't use your muscles. You can't use your powers. You can't just blindly charge ahead. You'll have to learn to use your will. Make it sharp as the finest blade, the sharpest claw. You'll have to sweat to do nothing, to find that balance point. And, if you're sweating you're not doing it right. You don't have enough control."

    I think she's pushing her luck... They're not martial monks, dedicated to this training....

    She pauses. Looks at us.

    "Now I've thoroughly confused you..." There's no response.

    "Shall we start?"

    ---

    We've got permission. She even seemed eager. Tonight we're going to invade Kory's dreams.

    Even in sleep you can sense the rigid control Kory hides all the time. Her childhood training must've been vicious. On the surface, soft, pleasant, princess-ly. But, always ready to fight, maybe to the death. And, her people, some call them Kryptonian-lites.

    The soft-toy horde throngs her bed. With a notable exception. We float in the air, looking at her. I turn to Raven. While still a bit skinny, she looks a lot more like her original self. Except, she's wearing my Best Boots.

    She produces from within her cloak... Ah. She's going straight for the bear.

    "Kuro-chan is lonely... Unless someone helps her, she's going back in her box. In a locked chest. All alone. With no one to love her..."

    She waves the Raven-garbed teddy-bear, almost hypnotically.

    Suddenly, Kory, in full battle-array, snatches the bear. While still lying on the bed. I blink. That was fast.

    She turns away, clutching the bear. Whispering to her. Maybe there's faint growls in reply.

    Kory's... a bit see-through. Has her own head, on an orange-skinned body, but her build's far more like mine, not her... more generous one. Her hands looked right, though. Overall, she looks healthy.

    "You get to keep the bear. She can guard your horde, while you're away." Is Raven's voice... a little dry?

    Kory places Kuro-chan on her bed. Steps-back. Moves forward. Rearranges things. Tilts her head on one side. Nods, in apparent satisfaction.

    Turns to us.

    "Teach me what I need to learn."

    ---

    AN: Why does Geo immediately think of the radio-chip designs when she's had the battery dream? Because to make compact and light mobile/cell phones you need better than pre-lithium batteries (yes, I know about NiMH). The whole radio-chip (and Li-ion tech) is also a critical part of her robot designs. The AI chips allow an onboard human-grade AI...

    AN: Meditation; just in case. :)

    AN: This is only a moderately un-bear-able episode. :)

    AN: Some might note that 'Kuro's been Geo's surname in a few cases...
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2020
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  21. Extras: Raven's Replacement, Author Omake 3
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Author Omake 3

    < First
    < Previous

    AN: This is an 'Author Omake', this one happens to be 'canon', but shouldn't (greatly) impact the overall story, so you can skip it if you want to. It falls after Episode 15, 'Body. Mind, Bear'.

    AN: Do you believe in 'spoilers'? If so, do not read this Omake. You've been warned.

    ---

    .

    .

    .

    AN: Still here? OK, read on.

    ---


    Dreaming.

    Knowing that it's not a dream. Is real. That the places you go are real.

    I'm at the Tower, by the sea. The 'T'-shaped one. Made of glass and metal. On an island, by a city.

    But... the city is wrong.

    It's sprawling, yes, but the houses are made of stone, or wood, or earth. The people, they have many shapes, but few of them look happy. And, the happy ones, they're in secret, with family or close friends.

    Over the city, built for a giant, looms... the Royal Castle.

    It's stone, built for a siege.

    In my spirit-form, as stealthy as possible, I don't want to go anywhere near it. Do not want to be glimpsed from its arrow-slits, its look-out towers, its battlements. It looks... strangely deserted to the naked eye, but I can see it throngs with unseen forces.

    There's a path, from the castle, down to the shore.

    It looks new, smashed debris of the properties that were once there've just pushed to one side or other. Compared with the size of the city-dwellers that's the path of a giant. And, laid with new cobble-boulders.

    I do not see the giant. I'm... afraid I know what he looks like. He's strode my dreams, laughed at my fears. He's...

    My father.

    ---

    At the Tower.

    Up close it's... a little crude. Good from a distance, here you can see the glass-and-metal windows of the front are a little uneven. And, the hinge, the metal catch that holds the front in place, that spoils things, too.

    Through the wall. Drawn to... my room. The doll lying in the bed. It's... not mine. My spirit has never enlivened it. But, there's a faint magic of life about it. An impression that, any moment, the eyes might open, the limbs move.

    The room, it's familiar. Books on shelves, chests that should contain... magical tools. A place that's... Suddenly, I'm sure. A fake.

    A... wooden hand opens the door. It's... green. A green-skinned face looks in. He... Garfield? Does not look happy. I want, I NEED to do something.

    I... will the hand of the doll on the bed to move. It refuses. I... move my spirit hand, FORCE the doll-hand to move. It twitches. Garfield was turning away, but caught the movement. Turns back. Stares.

    One of the magic (ha!) books floats over from its shelf. As suspected, the pages, ruffled-through, all blank. A fake. A piece of sharpened charcoal isn't, though. Floats over to the book. Scrawls...

    "RAVEN."

    Garfield falls to his knees, sobs, I'm guessing. No tears fall from wooden face, wooden eyes.

    I'm... exhausted. I... fade.

    Wake in my bed. In my Tower. My maid is sleeping, in her maid-bed, at the foot.

    'Home'.

    ---

    The king is coming!

    There's celebration, panic, both.

    He walks through Toyland. A giant among the toys, the animals, though only about half-again their height. Red-haired, clean-shaven, crowned in a thing of twisted white bone or horn, hanging four rubies on his forehead.

    "Daughter!"

    He moves swiftly, crowding me into my Tower. Grasps me firmly by the upper-arms, inspects me, leans down, takes a loud sniff of my hair. Holds me at arms-length. Feet off the ground.

    "You look well!"

    Another brief inspection.

    "Yes, it is you. No clever imposter. I know the smell of my own. And, yes, you are stronger. Have freed some of your power."

    "Excellent!"

    He grins widely. Carefully puts me down, leans forward.

    "You are worth all your brothers, and more. They simper, they plot. They waste the space they occupy. No fire! No life! No defiance! Not like you."

    He inspects me again, prowls into the next room, where my maid waits. I hurry after. She's... apparently fallen into a deep sleep. Strides up to her, leans, takes another deep sniff.

    "Excellent! You're empowering servants. I expect a splendid revolt! Entertain me!"

    His voice drops.

    "If you don't attack me, sooner or later the will of your... fellows, in the doll-Tower will fail. They'll acknowledge me as their liege. Then, you can have them as knights. But, I expect better of you."

    He starts to fade, while swelling into something monstrous.

    "Hurry, I'm bored!"

    ---

    AN: Still here? OK, read the above.

    .

    .

    .

    ---

    AN: Do you believe in 'spoilers'? If so, do not read the above Omake. You've been warned.

    Next >
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
  22. Threadmarks: Promise, Assay, Plea - Episode 16
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 16

    I'm talking to Barbara. I'm quite firm on that. Not Oracle.

    She doesn't get to hide, this time.

    "You don't get to question me like that, again." Pause.

    She lets me continue.

    "I think I can understand why, Fate of the Earth maybe on the line. All the lessons about threatening physical violence, from... him. Maybe stuff you picked-up from your dad, in the horror which is Gotham. But, no. Not again."

    She thinks, for a while.

    "Could you... expand on that a bit? I get the impression this's more than straight interpersonal power politics."

    I take a deep breath.

    "I... remember being murdered. I associate threats of violence with that, with murderers. I... don't think I could be in a close relationship with someone I thought of as a murderer. Couldn't completely trust them. Be a friend, with some qualifiers, yes, have no barriers, no."

    More thinking from her.

    "You think... that's where we are, where we're going? I'll... admit that's what I feel."

    "Yes."

    "I'll... not do that. Again."

    There's hugging.

    ---

    We got Victor's permission.

    And Garfield's.

    Couldn't get them to consciously astral project, awake or sleeping. But, while sleeping, Raven managed to slide them out of their bodies.

    A lot more skilfully than I could've done.

    ---

    Sleeping Victor-spirit is... a bit see-through, and a bit of a chimera.

    Sometimes me-as-Sugoi, except looks like Victor around the eyes, more than just areas of darker skin, sometimes full-on Cyborg, occasionally (naked) Victor. The chimera, bits of all those, and changing which is where...

    Concerning.

    We look carefully, particularly where the bits join, searching for conflict. Rips. Can't find anything.

    I... reach out, touch him, offer to let any me-spirit bits that can't live with becoming Victor... return to me. A few tiny fragments do. I'm... not sure whether to be relieved about that or upset.

    Raven and I hug.

    Looking at Victor, he's now not quite so see-through, the Sugoi-version now clearly has his eyes, and (probably) his skin colour all-over. Yes, we tugged-off a glove, checked, put it back on.

    The chimera, when that appears, looks more stable, head and hands are Victor, rest of body Cyborg, though with my build. No bits moving around.

    Looks like... he'll probably be OK.

    Lots of meditation in his future, though.

    Garfield...

    ---

    The green beast looks at us.

    Various parts of animals appear and disappear, somewhat randomly. And, once or twice, head of Sugoi-in-hood. I'm... not sure he's fully conscious, but he looks... healthy.

    Like a smaller-version of the great beast-spirit that Victor-spirit had playing video games in my previous time-line. Maybe about my mass.

    So, don't touch. I hope any me-spirit bits aren't suffering...

    We... try and suggest climbing back into Garfield's sleeping body is a good idea. He... thinks for a while, nods, and we've just got body-in-a-bed. With green glow, the odd green tendril of spirit reaching-out, pulling-back.

    Raven and I float out of the room, through the door.

    Both take a deep breath or two. Speak, quietly to each other.

    Yes, that was deeply scary.

    ---

    Robin...

    Didn't agree to be spirit-inspected. Said he wanted to think about it more.

    Raven took a peek in his room. Said he was sleeping without his anti-possession amulet. I'd been afraid of that. Otherwise, without looking at his exposed spirit, he looked OK.

    I've... not been looking at him, deeply, with my Third Eye. My spirit-vision. I'd thought about it, but concluded that, without his permission, it'd be breaking trust.

    So...

    Annoying priest visit is looking increasingly likely.

    And, on some level, that priest deeply scares me. Took me a while, afterwards, to figure it out, but...

    I... felt he could bind or banish my spirit with little effort. That there was a deep anger he'd spent a lifetime learning to manage. Terrifying man.

    So.

    I am so filled with Joy.

    ---

    A visitor.

    Just after breakfast. Asking for me, as 'Sugoi'. Standing outside the Tower door. Dressed as a civilian, dark-rimmed glasses. But... something's not right about her, even looking at her on a screen.

    She's... not moving enough. Yes, she's breathing, the enhanced scanners are clear enough about that, she's got the 'plume' above her all humans have, and looks OK with IR and UV (privacy bars are provided by the system).

    The system's not sophisticated enough to sample the biochemicals in her plume, though Oracle's working on that.

    I've talked about adding more exotic sensors, gravitational mass, Kirlian aura, maybe even chi and psychic aura, but so far that's been thought to be... asking for trouble.

    I'm not convinced, though.

    Can't think who she reminds me of, though... And Oracle's drawing a blank, too.

    Worrying.

    ---

    She's asked to speak to me in a secured area. We're in the secure conference room. 'We' being Raven and me, facing... 'Mary Wise'.

    Robin was asked if he wanted to be here, but, said, on balance, that Raven should be able to handle most problems, and that he felt he needed to meditate. Raven and I agreed that was likely best.

    "I've told you my name is Mary Wise. That's my secret identity. I'm..." She takes a deep breath, lets it slowly out.

    "Amazo Girl."

    I... don't recognise the name. Raven's on full combat-alert. Mary shakes her head, a bit sadly.

    "Looks like you've got my father, here, on this world. Have you got my brother, Kid Amazo?"

    "No..." Raven's watching her, carefully.

    "Is anyone going to explain why that name should or shouldn't make me concerned?"

    Mary looks a little more cheerful.

    "Amazo has been a menace to the Justice League for a very long time." Thank you, Raven,

    "Yes, my grandfather, Professor Ivo, is one of those mad scientists who's searching for immortality and blames the Justice League for stupid mistakes that he's made in that search. He just wasn't prepared to do the hard work needed to solve the problem without bothering others. And, he built Amazo, a power-copying android, for revenge."

    Raven's... looking surprised.

    "So, you don't want revenge? Don't want to destroy or take-over the world? Like Amazo?"

    "No. Granddad made Amazo, my dad, as a bit of a blunt instrument, you might say a vehicle for his revenge." She laughs, then waves that off.

    "Though... his design's evolved over the years, and he's... nearly reached human reasoning ability. He's my father, though I'm a cyborg not an android, and my mother's human, Sara..." She pauses.

    "Granddad called her his 'daughter', and she called him 'father', but, I never met his wife, 'Jessica'. And, no one ever gave Sara's surname, though I always assumed it was 'Ivo'. Was she not related to him? Hard to imagine anyone marrying granddad, but there's been some strange pairings..."

    Shakes her head.

    "Anyway. Android father, Amazo. Human mother, Sara. Product of mad science. Power-copying abilities, though carefully restricted so I don't get defeated the way Dad and Frank, that's my brother, did."

    She stares at us, for a few moments.

    "I could really use your help. Justice League associate, Sugoi. I'm... afraid my Bleed-armour is failing, without that I can't leave this world again, and I'll be stuck here." A sigh.

    "I think... I've got a major health problem, too, that sooner or later will kill me. And... the blue lady, with the scanner, I passed on the way up..."

    She pauses.

    "And... If you've got 'Tomorrow Woman' locally I might be able to help you save her life."

    Looks hopeful

    I look at Raven. She looks back at me.

    "Assuming it doesn't involve you harming anyone but yourself, yes, we'll try and help you."

    ---

    AN: Chimera; rather mixed-up.

    AN: Amazo Girl is reasonable OC, but may have appeared before...

    AN: Kirlian stuff is interesting...

    AN: Prof. Ivo's been around in the comics for a very long time...

    AN: Do you think Sugoi is sensible in giving that answer? :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2020
  23. Extras: Late Omake - Author Omake 3
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Late Omake - Author Omake 3

    Busy weekend, busy month, really, didn't have time to publish Author Omake 3 before Episode 16. So, I put a 'place holder' in. While that was only there for a few hours (3?), you might've read that and been confused. The real (rather rushed, so hope it's OK) Omake has now been posted.
     
  24. Extras: Author Note 2 for 'Raven's Replacement'
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Author Note 2 for 'Raven's Replacement'

    You might be wondering, "What the *bleep* is going on in this story?".

    As the previous Author Note said, this story is a sequel. If you haven't read the first story then any confusion is quite understandable, but I'm afraid that's your problem, not mine. Quite a few strange terms, even characters, will only make sense if you've read the first story, sometimes the 'AN' at the end of the episode.

    More exactly, you could be wondering what the logic of this story is. Telling you this earlier might've been a 'spoiler', and while I might not particularly believe in those, some people do, with a fanatic devotion. I do not want to join the list of authors who've received death threats for 'spoiler'-ing their own work.

    If you haven't figured-out by now that these stories use 'Geo', AKA 'Sugoi', as the point-of-view (PoV) character then I'll reveal that now. If other viewpoints are required then they cannot be in the (main) story, they can only be (Author) Omake, side-stories. These Omake may not be synchronised with the main-story, so, 'spoilers'.

    In this story Raven, of the Teen Titans, has been split in two. At story start her emptied-body was where Geo found herself. Where's the rest of her? That's the subject of a series of hand-threaded Author Omake, published (hopefully) after every five episodes of the main-story. Yes, these Omake are 'canon'.

    So, you can make the case, that this story consists of two parallel story 'threads'. Will Geo's Raven, the main-story one, rescue Doll Raven? Will Doll Raven escape her father, with or without her fellow Doll Teen Titans? Will Raven's father, Trigon, be defeated? You can hope that these questions will be answered, in story or omake.

    How do you find-out what's going to happen?

    Well, the traditional way is to read the story. :)




    AN: Spoiler; because everyone has to learn new terms, sometime. Being generous I'll also throw-in Omake and Canon. I'll even throw-in Thread! :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2020
  25. Threadmarks: Bleed and Wool - Episode 17
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 17

    I don't like the look of the sheep. The red eyes. The fangs.

    OK, there's a good reason. They're demon sheep.

    ---

    I agreed with Raven. Things were heating-up. Sooner or later, probably sooner, I'd need to fight. The list of enemies, and potential enemies, just kept getting longer. So, I needed to be ready.

    And... My robe was 'broken'.

    At the moment my magic was 'faking it up'.

    We'd had a good look. Optimistically, it was maybe providing about fifty-percent of the defence it was supposed to. The different between injury only by anti-tank weapons, and getting holed by a lucky pistol shot. A solid sword blow.

    Not good.

    I'd been using the test-robe I'd made, in my previous time-line, on the Ship. As I tried to copy my original, Raven-made, robe. Actually, it was a copy of my test-robe, made by Raven-magic, as that copied my body, made a copy of my dimensional pocket. I, my spirit, might also be a copy.

    But, little point in dwelling on that.

    So. Broken robe.

    Raven'd studied my memories of previous-Raven, gifted to her by my spirit-self, which'd grown in my body from a spirit-spark, as I walked around in Raven's. Also, the book original-Raven gave me, detailing the making of my robe.

    She was pretty sure she'd figured-out where the other-worldly robe-material came from.

    Hence, demon sheep.

    ---

    The arrival was OK.

    Looked like pleasant green rolling hills, fenced by dry-stone walls, the occasional wooden gate, what looked like tracks used by carts. Likely bleak, some times of the year, today, pleasant Spring, blue skies, scudding fluffy white clouds.

    The land mostly empty, a single flock of apparently normal winter-shaggy sheep.

    Until we got closer.

    I'd... found Cosmo in my robe pocket. Apparently she thought I'd not been paying her enough attention, lately. So, she'd hitched a ride.

    And, sheep. Something new in her life.

    Oh. Dear.

    ---

    We looked up.

    Cosmo and the herd-ram were now difficult to tell from immense clouds. It'd started with the ram objecting to the tiny animal looking up at it. She hadn't even charged them, barked. Just walked up, sat down, looked up.

    We'd... let her do it. She had to learn, some time. I'd thought the sheep would chase her off. Or, just stare at her. She was well-enough trained not to bark at strange things, chase them.

    The incident with the cat-girl on the world of strangely-coloured peoples.

    We'd had to explain that hissing wasn't something you did at our puppy. And, yes, she shouldn't have pounced on her tail. That'd we'd be explaining that, at great length, with a talk on the diverse nature of beings.

    And, would she like an ice cream?

    So. Puppy. Sheep. Size-changing match. The sheep started it, honest. I think.

    The ram doubled his height, octupled his mass. Cosmo leaned back, did the same. The ram 'upped the ante'. As did Cosmo. The problem got bigger. And, fortunately, more vaporous.

    Sooner or later one of them will reach their magical limits. And, either Cosmo will sneak back, head-bowed, or bounce back, triumphant. We'll see.

    Meanwhile.

    Somewhat apprehensive-looking sheep.

    ---

    We've... done a deal with the sheep.

    From what we can tell, through Raven's translation spell, the shepherd is away, for unknown reasons. And, the sheep-shearing is late. We've agreed to ask questions.

    Also, the wool they've rubbed-off on stone walls, gates. That's not otherwise collected. We're free to collect that.

    However...

    You knew there was going to be one of those, didn't you?

    Raven has to have a look at a lamb, lamed from birth, see if she can heal her.

    Lamb is nudged forwards, from where they're in the centre of the flock. Raven's quick enough not to get bit, when she reaches a hand out to be inspected.

    There's sheep politics. The lamb stands before Raven. Defiant, but with bowed head.

    Raven nearly falls, but I support her, feel the aftershock of the healing burn though her. Lamb stands healthy. Raven's leg straightens, is whole, again.

    "That was a bad one", she murmurs.

    Sheep inspect lamb. Seem satisfied. Grazing continues. Apparently we're at liberty to wool-gather.

    We've... probably got enough for my robe, with a little over.

    Raven suggests making a robe for human-form Cosmo. With pockets. That she can grow into.

    That's... not a bad idea.

    Cosmo materialises.

    Apparently triumphant.

    Shortly afterwards so does the ram. He does not look happy. But, ignores us.

    Time to go home.

    Via demon-shepherd home.

    ---

    We do diplomacy.

    The shepherd... has had trouble with her husbands. One's the sheep-shearer, a bit of a wanderer, and general lay-about, the other's the animal-doctor, the local 'vet'.

    They'd got in a big fight in a public drinking-house. Where some stranger compared a well-known politician to a sheep's backside. Not realising twas sheep-country.

    Raven gives the shepherd her 'secret recipe' for a hangover-cure. One makable with local ingredients, highly effective, but particularly foul-tasting. She was grinning, when we left. Waiting for when she got to use it on her husbands.

    "Now?"

    Cosmo's tired. Nestled in my robe-pocket.

    "Home now?"

    ---

    Considering local time-pressure, we'd done our wool-gathering in zero-elapsed (local) time hop. Raven's off to argue raw wool into wool-to-weave, after which I'll be doing the rest of the work.

    She wants to ensure there's no... unfortunate magical influences, hiding in it.

    I put Cosmo in her bed, in my room. Yes, she sometimes sleeps with Raven, but, only when Raven's actually sleeping, in bed. In my room is her bed for sleeping alone. And, she seems very tired.

    I take a quick look, with my Third Eye, and, yes, looks like normal tiredness, not anything to be worried about. Like demon sheep bites.

    ---

    Mary (Amazo Girl) is in the room which would've been Terra's, in my original time-line. She's been resting, but, said I could call on her, later. Now is 'later'.

    I 'knock' (high-security doors, you know). She replies, I give my name, the door opens.

    She's not really unpacked, anything, really. She's not obviously got any luggage, except a battered-looking suit of armour, standing off to one side. She'd been sitting in a chair. Not obviously doing anything.

    "Sugoi. Thanks for calling."

    "You did make me curious, with a few of the things you said. Have you been moving between the worlds for long?"

    "I've... lost track of how long. There's been many strange worlds. Some, like this one, look a lot like my origin world. Don't consider myself to have a 'home world', any more. Don't plan to ever return to my origin. And, time, that's not consistent between worlds. It's so easy to lose track. Ageing isn't an issue."

    "You... made a joke about a vehicle?"

    She thinks for a few moments.

    "Ah. That was a world a little like my origin, but my grandfather, Prof. Ivo, was... different. 'Amazo' was the name of a ship, 'Sara' was someone different, a woman who later became a superhero. My father, he was a badly-designed robot. Defeated with ease. I... rather confused them. Didn't fit how they thought the world worked."

    "Strange worlds?"

    "If you ever come across lizard people, with a strange sense of humour, be polite. They may be hideously powerful. In particular, don't threaten those they value. I saw them delete someone who did that."

    She shudders.

    "Very helpful, though. Be nice to them, better, entertain them, and they can be amazingly useful allies."

    "You hope we'll be 'useful'?"

    "I hope... you'll help me make my life better. There's too much Justice League on this world for me to stay around. As long as I keep my distance from them we should all be OK. You being made an ally or associate was enough to lead me to you here. But, that's a distant enough relationship that I can handle it."

    "You've... problems with the Justice League?"

    "I was made to defeat, destroy, them. It's pretty fundamental. That compulsion. On other worlds it's still there, it's why I'll never go back 'home'. On other worlds I can convince myself the Justice League's 'different'."

    She does the finger-quotes.

    "That compulsion is one of the things I'm pretty sure will kill me, sooner or later." She sighs.

    "Do you want me to take a look at your armour?"

    "Yes, please."

    ---

    We're in a basement.

    I'm pretty sure this'd be safe, elsewhere, but this is the 'dangerous rituals' area, Raven and I set up. Loads of extra wards, etched into wall, floor, ceiling. Nice clear area for a big ritual circle, multiple people.

    I'm... going for analysis, to start with.

    The Bleed isn't something I've ever messed-with, though I know about it, in theory. One of the nastier mediums for inter-world travel. Theoretically, a useful source of power, but, if you know what you're doing, you can spot Bleed-taps a long ways off.

    The armour... it's saturated with Bleed energy. The design looks a bit marginal, and no one was smart enough to give Mary a manual. There's... capacitors, I guess you could call them. Need discharging, every-so-often. A 10k dimension service, you could say.

    I explain to her.

    "No, no one ever mentioned anything like that. But, they did say they could repair obvious flaws, but bits of it were beyond them. You seem more expert than most. Are you a Bleed expert?"

    "No... I've just been forced to understand some strange things, to survive. Is there... some particular reason you use the Bleed to travel between worlds?"

    "It's the only way I know. Using magic is supposed to be an alternative, but while I'm happy using that in combat, it's not really something I otherwise trust."

    "I'm... pretty poor in combat, but I can do a lot out of it. Travel between the worlds without the Bleed. Repair stuff. Figure things out. I... like to help people. Try and help the world be a better place."

    Those are... the most drastic puppy-dog eyes I've ever seen.

    "Please! Teach me!"

    ---

    AN: I wish to make it quite, quite, clear that these sheep are apolitical. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2020
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  26. Threadmarks: Knife Season - Episode 18
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 18

    Be very, very, quiet. Why? We're hunting demons.

    And, we've got a demon trap.

    My knife.

    ---

    Though she was very busy juggling the various parts of her life, Oracle found time to send 'The Boys', Shem and Shad, out walking dogs.

    Pretty sure she shadowed them, while they were doing this, first couple or so times. Next job was probing the criminal underbelly of the city. Writing it all up in reports.

    Fortunately, basic word processing (and spreadsheets) was part of the skills The Boys had been gifted with. They expressed amazement at this. Then, Beast Boy and Cyborg hauled them into their video-gaming sessions, in their off-hours. Seemed determined to 'drag them into the 20th Century'.

    Oracle's starting to build a picture, which I was pretty sure she compared with Robin's. He was having a few holes in his education filled. We'd found Slade's mercenaries, and the under-construction base we'd rescued Terra from, previous time-line. So, useful 'intel'.

    Pure... was proving a lot more difficult to locate.

    I suspected he might be in that shadow realm, the empty twin of the city, where I'd been imprisoned. Raven was sure she'd heard something about a place like that. Previous-Raven had.

    But, the references were hiding from her. More books to be acquired. Research continued.

    Only hint we had was the demon that'd installed itself in my knife, when it first manifested, at the bank robbery. So, we're seeing if we can capture more demons that way.

    Raven suspected the knife's 'spirit house' was particularly attractive to disembodied spirits. The Boys said they felt its pull, even though embodied.

    So...

    "Here demon, demon, demon!"

    ---

    I'm out here with Raven, though there's others.

    Amazo Girl's joined us in this enterprise.

    As has Roshi, because he says he's bored.

    Nurf says she thinks we'll have some success, some failures, so good luck. She's got plenty to do in the Tower. Her sometimes annoying psychic powers...

    The rest of the team're working on being business-as-usual Titans. Seems... OK.

    Amazo Girl's revealed something of her powers.

    She can copy all an individual's powers, create the mental template she needs to use them. Then, she's restricted to the powers of one individual, at a time. Size of her 'power library' is indefinitely large, though. Scary.

    The powers she uses most are those of the original Justice League, so Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Green Arrow. A horrific array. Her magic's from Zatanna, or, the Phantom Stranger. The latter apparently really scares her. There's others, like Atom.

    The lizards... Her encounter with those appears to have changed her. Now, she doesn't copy powers without permission. Tries to be polite. Is careful how she telepaths. So far, she wont say much about lizards. But, they seem to have changed her for the better.

    One thing she did say. If she suddenly grows a lizard tail it means things have gone really, really, bad.

    Disembodied demons, she thinks magic is likely best.

    Roshi asks if we've a rice cooker to store the demons in.

    We stare at him.

    ---

    Negotiation with police. No reason to upset them. Explain this is a... training exercise. That we wont be signing autographs.

    Please keep the public well-away. Though, we've no objection to people watching. Daylight, so flashes wont be a significant issue.

    The Titans are one of the tourist attractions of the city, after all.

    They get their maps out. Work through their lists. Cross-off a few possibilities.

    So, we're here.

    In a disused parking lot.

    ---

    I'm attacking Roshi, with full ferocity. Trying really, really, hard to hit him. Why?

    Because I want to kill him.

    He appears to be an expert at 'Martial Arts Insulting'. After the plan was explained he briefly grinned. Then, started-in on me. I... lost my temper.

    Apparently he's confident I wont hit him, unless he wants me to.

    We suspect that if the blade looks like it might draw blood that'll attract demons. The old 'blood equals life' equation. And, I really, really, want my knife to equal where Roshi is.

    Blade acquires red glow. Immense glowing-green hand lifts me up. I struggle. Does no good at all.

    I... might've called a few things out to Roshi. I... don't remember what I said. But, I'm pretty sure it contained no swears.

    "Inventive", Roshi's kind enough to comment.

    The green hand is linked to Amazo Girl's right-hand. I'm... calming a bit. She's... Green Lantern-ing.

    Raven... appears a little concerned. I'm placed down in front of her.

    I'm calm enough to use my Third Eye. Amazo Girl intones some twisted words. There's what looks like an imp visibly imposed over the blade. It's... unhappy.

    "Possession Imp", remarks Raven. Yes, it does resemble ones attacked the Tower, previous time-line.

    She produces a small iron bottle, uncorks it, says some ear-hurting words, imp's sucked-in, bottle's corked.

    Done.

    ---

    Apparently there's a fireworks display, over the Tower, while we're out. Our 'dancing's paused, Raven looks towards the Tower. So does Amazo Girl.

    I... see if I can tap the Tower security systems. No, it's too far. Need better cell-phone coverage, too, we're in a dead-spot.

    "The... wards stopped someone launching fireworks at the Tower. I'm guessing a distraction. Amazo Girl?"

    She stops looking, pauses, a set of three green figures appears above her right hand. Raven looks, closely, at them.

    "That's Jinx and her friends. I'm guessing Gizmo's responsible for the fireworks. But they didn't do as he expected."

    The figures disappear, Amazo Girl stares towards the Tower.

    "I think... they've given up. They look disappointed.. Are walking away, just went down a manhole cover. The... that's interesting. Lead-lining stops me seeing further. Caught a glimpse of a... honeycomb symbol?"

    Raven and I look at each other. More mysteries.

    Back to the 'training'.

    ---

    That imp was our only success for the day.

    We return to Tower, after a few more hours of... less realistic play-fighting on our disused parking lot.

    Police tell the crowd the show's over. I see someone I'm pretty sure I was supposed to spot in the crowd, because she looks like a disguised Oracle. So, Robin's probably about, too.

    Back at the Tower, imp study.

    This one's as much an ignorant tool as my previous experience. Effectively a possession ability with as simple a mind as you could drive it with.

    A demon-wedge, intended to open a door for bigger ones. And, while we kept a careful eye, none of those, probably Trigon-loans, visited us.

    Summary, Pure's in the city, but he's being cautious. And, he's got possession imps.

    Attack on the Tower due?

    ---

    AN: You might wonder what's these 'lizards' Amazo Girl keeps referring to? What sort of genre they might live in? Well, I really couldn't reveal that, could I? :)

    [​IMG]

     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2020
  27. Threadmarks: Eat Crow? - Episode 19
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 19

    I... need to apologise. To Nurf. Hope it's not too late.

    "I need to beg you, please accept my apology." I bow to Nurf, lowering my eyes. If she strikes me, I probably deserve it.

    "I could say, 'about time'. But, I've been watching you manage this rolling disaster. It's been... quite impressive. Except for your breakdown, which you were wise enough to get Oracle's help with, I see little to criticise."

    I raise my eyes, while still bowing. She... doesn't look terribly annoyed.

    "You're... forgiving me?"

    She sighs.

    "I've more than a millennium of experience on you. I've lived through some amazing disasters. Possibly even the destruction of my whole universe. Seen a wide range of people manage, or mismanage, those disasters. You've... not done badly. Quite well, in fact. Were smart enough to search out, ask for, help."

    She inspects me, carefully.

    "Please stop bowing. I understand why you did it, legacy of the cultures you respect, but... it makes me uncomfortable."

    Stand back-up.

    "At least you didn't do the full-on prostration bow. That'd have been far too much."

    I give a small smile. Which I suspect was her intention.

    "You're my friend, Nurf. I've been mostly ignoring you. Letting you get on with things. Not checking if you needed my help. Asking how your relationship with Nurse's been going."

    Purses her lips.

    "We spent some time together on the beach holiday. You'll notice I didn't bother you then. As your doctor I agreed with Oracle, you needed the rest. As did Raven. I'm... quietly amazed how well you've done with her. She's stepping-well into her body-mother, Raven's, shoes. I like Cosmo, too, given you're unexpected... puppy parents." A small smile.

    "Watching you develop your relationship with Oracle's been interesting. As has Gina. The dynamics of the five of you - if I wrote scientific papers, anywhere outside my head, my editors would be salivating!"

    I'm... blushing. Nurf has a talent for getting me to do that.

    "Where do we go from here? What do you want, need, me to do?"

    "I'm still carrying your backup crystal, which I want you down in the med-bay to update. You're still carrying mine, after it survived my summoning to this world. Ditto needs update. As to what I need..."

    Shaken head.

    "Sugoi. Sacrificing yourself on the altar of necessity. Will you ever learn?"

    Looks straight at me.

    "I'm glad you've woken-up, my captain."

    Oh.

    ---

    I'm in the lounge. Drinking tea. Eating a freshly robot-made pastry. I'd sat, watched the auto chef make it. A sort of meditation.

    Needed to calm-down, after talking to Nurf.

    I'd... been neglecting people. Roshi was a good example. Trying to fire-fight, focused on the Titans, ignoring those I'd dragged into this mess to help me. It was... a lesson in needing to maintain balance.

    I'd need... to apologise to Roshi. Think about what he needed. Hope I hadn't really offended him. Unfortunately, he was so hard to read. Which was one of his strengths. That and his tendency to manipulate people by reflex.

    Hmm.

    We're very likely taking Robin to the Annoying Priest. Maybe dragging Roshi along'd be wise? Doesn't his name imply he's sort-of major-ly religious? A 'divine master'? Does... Roshi know spirit combat?

    All things to think about.

    ---

    "Practically no one's ever apologised to me before. It's novel."

    Roshi, I think I'll call him 'Master Roshi', seems honestly taken-aback. Shakes his head.

    "But, that's not the only reason you're here, is it?"

    "No. We've... not treated you fairly. Taken petty revenge. It's... not adult."

    He grins, widely, and, I suspect, honestly.

    "I know all about petty revenge. And not being 'adult'. Not being respected's been an important part of my life. I've always wanted time for myself, not being tied to anything like running a martial arts school."

    Cocks his head on one side.

    I hold out a copy of Blackfire's disguise gadget.

    "This is an alien psionic disguise tool. No batteries, easy to hide about your person. Intended to allow, for example, people with orange skin to appear to have the pinkish skin of the locals. Secret identity. You're a clever man."

    Takes it. Looks at it. There's a faint blue-glow.

    Then, he's an old man, bald, white beard and moustache, bandy-legs, wearing sunglasses, tasteless shirt, shorts, sandals.

    And a wide grin.

    "Being both youthful, and having the appearance of ancient wisdom?"

    "Thank you!"

    I get friend-hugged.

    ---

    I'm with Raven. Our after-lunch session. Discussing a tricky issue.

    "I don't think it's chance Amazo Girl arrived. And wants to be taught. Raven is supposed to have an apprentice, probably one she has to banish from the world. She might be a good prospect, if she's 'handled' right."

    Raven nods, I think agreeing with me.

    "I know there's secrets you can't fully explain, but you seem to think spirit-Raven, who may be in a wooden-doll, has taken an apprentice. I can see the logic that Raven's body, me, would sensibly do similar. That'd make sure the prophecy is tied-down, has 'zero wiggle room', I think you'd say."

    We both nod.

    "I'll reluctantly point-out, Sugoi, that there's psychic tricks you use that my psychic powers can't match, and I have to duplicate using magic. It's been good exercise, but that suggests you should be involved in the teaching. Also..." And, she grins.

    "Do you think Robin and Roshi would enjoy helping train Amazo Girl?"

    We grin at each other.

    ---

    Secure conference room. Raven, Amazo Girl, and me. Serious stuff.

    "You asked me to teach you? I will. On the condition that you become Raven's Apprentice. There's a prophecy connected with that, which means she'll have to, at some point, banish you from this world. But, that doesn't mean you can't return, later. If you want to see your friends."

    "Friends?" She's grinning, widely.

    "You want to be my friends? I've... never really had any friends!"

    Raven and I look at each other. Her shadow touches me, under the table.

    "Yes", we say in unison.

    She looks at the pair of us with suspicion, "Creepy".

    "It'll be hard training, you'll have to do things you've never done before in your life. It'll be painful, physically and emotionally. Maybe spiritually. Are you sure you want to do this?"

    She stands up.

    "I, Amazo Girl, Mary Wise, accept the offer to be Raven's Apprentice."

    There's a sort-of mystical, spiritual, 'Dong!', as of a loud bell being rung, somewhere a long ways off. An impression of a robed figure, with a book chained to them, nodding.

    Should we be worried about that?

    ---

    AN: You might wonder why (CMO) Nurf calls Geo/Sugoi 'my captain'? That the med-bay, Nurf originated in, came from the wrecked colony starship 'Seed of Life', and that Nurf has... issues about Geo being the effective captain, hence her captain... Couldn't be important, could it? :)

    AN: The robed figure with the chained-book is a classic DC Comics character - I'll reveal his name starts with 'D'. You might say he's a bit... fundamental.

    AN: Eating crow is unlikely to be popular with the crow, either...

    AN: Foreshadowing? Like I said before, what's that? :)

    Book of Souls; now you know the name of the book chained to the robed-man who's name starts with 'D'. Satisfied? :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
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  28. Threadmarks: Slay'd, Worm'd, Shop'd, and Mind'd - Episode 20
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 20

    Slade captured. Mercenaries surrendered. Robin's... disappointed.

    Think he wanted his skills to be used more, an epic fight, knife-edge confrontations. Instead, we steamroller'd Slade. Robin mumbled something about not using Red X, even once.

    Looked like 'classic' Titans doing all the work, but Oracle and The Boys were in the background, Doctor Blue and Roshi guarding the Tower. I was sneaking around, out-of-phase, with Amazo Girl (she wants to know how I managed that).

    Turned-out, Zatanna captured a fleeing Slade.

    Pretty sure Batman's lurking, somewhere, too. Though's no physical evidence for/against. I like to imagine Cosmo sitting on his head, without him knowing. Seeing as I'm not sure where she is, either.

    Once I saw Zatanna's on the scene I dragged Amazo Girl off to Japan, then followed the Moon Watching Path. Yes, she'd got multiple ways of Lunar-ing herself.

    Says it's strange how in some worlds Superman ignores vacuum, in others he wears a breather mask. Even without someone's powers she's pretty tough. So, not an issue.

    I did loan her an environment shield (force-field belt), though. And a radio headset. Made things a bit easier.

    She does like the Lunar view of Earth.

    The tranquillity appeals to her, as well.

    ---

    When we returned, Slade'd been taken away, and Zatanna was gone.

    Raven'd made a lunch appointment for herself and me (no Amazo Girl), as we've things to discuss. Need to sit-down, with Amazo Girl, make sure I know what the 'Tomorrow Woman' thing's all about.

    Apparently Zatanna'd told Raven TW's being considered for League membership.

    ---

    With permission of the police, and signed permission from each mercenary, Amazo Girl checked them all out.

    Mentally.

    Found who needed to be locked-up. The police gleefully waved the waivers at those they weren't freeing, who complained it was 'stitch-up'.

    Amazo Girl's testimony is legally useless, but gives the police a good start.

    She was quite interested in this use of her Martian Manhunter powers. Yes, telepathy's something she's often used out-of-combat. Pre-lizard, anyway, But ensuring the right people got their past behaviour police deep-probed, that was new.

    Makes her wonder how many powers've non-combat uses she's ignored...

    I've some ideas...

    ---

    Joker's in a strait-jacket. Harley heavily-sedated. Corpse-worm spirits are shredded.

    We used my knife.

    Raven and I, Amazo Girl. Walked the dimensional paths to Gotham. All in our robes, with the hoods up. As anonymous as we could will ourselves to be. There's the odd demon, looking hard at travellers, but no serious roadblocks.

    The idea of there being a complex dimensional structure she could wander was new to our apprentice.

    We'd mentioned, in passing, we thought Flash and Atom used some aspects, but didn't think in those terms. How I'd met Flash while I sat, thinking (not brooding!), outside time, above the city. How he'd asked if I was a 'new speedster', using the 'Speed Force'.

    She's thinking about that.

    The corpse-worm pit's down by the river, where it connects with Slaughter Swamp. Raven guesses one of them made its way to where in Gotham Joker fell in his chemical vat. Whispered an offer to his dying mind.

    Allowed walking tween life and death, an empowered trickster.

    Highly traditional.

    ---

    Raven has a spirit-thermite spell.

    There's no pit, any more.

    Looks like Harley might make a recovery. Seeing as we got to her even earlier, this time. Joker is, baring divine intervention, a write-off.

    We expect much Batman-ly frowning.

    Comment makes our apprentice giggle.

    ---

    Because we felt it fitting, 'Kory' takes 'Mary' for 'the shopping'.

    Not there's likely much we could do to stop her.

    I'd... talked briefly to Raven about the pair of us going, as well...

    But, seemed sensible was just the two of them.

    A couple of... normal girls, just... going shopping.

    Right.

    Monstrous Being from Beyond? Alien invasion? Sea Monster?

    They could probably handle it.

    And, if they couldn't, they knew where we were.

    We'd got something much nastier to deal with.

    Something Oracle said was all our own problem.

    It's Tax Time.

    ---

    I'm in Metropolis.

    Setting up a company. 'Kuro Industries','KI'. We do robotics. Dogs and humanoids. Latex skin and fur coats.

    Cyborg suggested it. All about heading-off Lex Corp. Give them a local target. Right on their doorstep.

    We've hired the best commercial attack-lawyers we can afford. They're going to serve writs on Lex Corp if they even look in KI's direction. Try and steal our designs.

    Robots for the social good. No military applications.

    'Three Laws' all the way.

    ---

    I'm... trying an experiment.

    With Nurf's help.

    We've got a version of me, my mind, in a living-skinned robot of me, built using one of my few remaining sets of AI chips from my previous time-line. She's CTO at KI, Metropolis. For extra fun she's wearing my Raven-supplied 'secret identity' glasses - the ones with the... vision feature.

    We're going to use portable mind sync-ing equipment. So the two of us remain 'in step'.

    Wait till someone screams 'robot invasion', or something.

    See how it goes?

    ---

    Team combat practice. Led by Robin and (Master) Roshi. Roshi as 'old man'.

    Says he's more used to training people like that. Hopes we don't mind.

    I suspect a number of the others think he's mad.

    ---

    Robin's... flagging.

    Obviously not sleeping well. Having trouble concentrating. Suspect he'd be using drugs, if he believed-in that sort of thing.

    Likely the meditation sessions are the only thing keeping him going.

    ---

    I'm... having trouble fitting-in with the rest of them.

    They're quite understanding, but I'm not used to combat in teams. Combat at all, really. I'm not as... concerned about violence as I was in earlier life, but... I just don't like hitting people. Certainly don't enjoy it.

    Roshi's answer is drill.

    Train reflexes until automatic. Then, train higher reflexes allowing control of the simpler ones, so you're not too predictable. Don't get tricked into doing things you'll really regret.

    Then, learn to live in the moment, outside all your training. Watch yourself. Alter things if you feel you need to.

    I ask how long it takes to 'get' all this.

    He shrugs, a few decades for the basics, the odd century or two to get really competent.

    I... don't think our enemies are going to give us that sort of time. I'd drive myself insane if I tried to train outside time. Though, I'm careful to not mention that option.

    So, I'm sticking to the basics-of-the-basics.

    ---

    Amazo Girl.

    We've got her drilling everyone on mental defence. Spotting and resisting telepathy, mind-control, mental illusions. The lot.

    One thing worries me...

    Is this a whole new area of expertise to acquire?

    ---

    "Azar."

    "Yes. Raven." A brief pause.

    “Though, you're not quite Raven, are you?"

    "I'm as much Raven as you're likely to get this side of Trigon turning-up.

    Yes, we're in Azaroth. At the central temple. Bearding a god.

    I'm wonderfully terrified.

    "So, my Son will return to meet his Father?"

    "My... father will be coming here to destroy the place. You'll be the only one left alive. We've...", Raven indicates me, "some advance warning of what's likely. What might be done. But nothing like enough power to do it".

    Woke this morning suddenly recalling my time with Raven in Azaroth. Raven's similarly unlocked. Thought it best to visit.

    "What do you plan, My Granddaughter?"

    "Somehow the spirits of those in the city, those who shucked part of themselves which later became Trigon. They must be preserved. But, I don't know how."

    "I'll think on it."

    I'm guessing that's the best we'll get...

    ---

    Why're we running around like this?

    We're getting ready for Pure.

    He's just not going to be easy.

    ---

    AN: Tax time; one reason to be glad of not living in The States. :)

    AN: Three Laws; robots're really not the best soldiers if facing humans...

    AN: CTO; in case you wondered...

    AN: Another bits-and-pieces episode, but seemed to be required.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
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  29. Extras: Raven's Replacement, Author Omake 4
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Author Omake 4

    < First
    < Previous

    AN: This is an 'Author Omake', this one happens to be 'canon', but shouldn't (greatly) impact the overall story, so you can skip it if you want to. It falls after Episode 20, 'Slay'd, Worm'd, Shop'd, and Mind'd'.

    AN: Do you believe in 'spoilers'? If so, do not read this Omake. You've been warned.

    ---

    .

    .

    .

    AN: Still here? OK, read on.

    ---

    Walking in the woods. One of my hobbies. On the boundaries of Toyland.

    I am, after all, a Toy. A wooden doll. Dressed as a princess. Though, a princess 'out in the wilds'.

    There's not much wilds in this wood. It looks managed to within an inch of its life. Carefully-placed hardwood trees, no pines, nice grassy areas, clumps of wild-flowers. No bracken, no dead-wood, no fallen tree-trunks. The only fungii being safely edible, or those blatantly poisonous.

    Someone must have designed this place, a few centuries ago, assuming the trees grew naturally. And, I'm guessing that various pixies and sprites maintain it, as it is. Possibly with gritted teeth. Some of those visit town, some live there, though they tend to be the more urban varieties.

    I wonder how this wood benefits my father? Maybe he thinks Toyland and its surroundings is an amusing joke?

    I'm... not sure I want to understand him well enough to know.

    ---

    Slowly I fight to get further into the wood, before weakness makes me collapse. My judgement's got better, and now I can hover on the edge, as my vision fades in and out, pushing my limits.

    It seems to, slowly, free more of my chained power, as does meditation, practice with my Apprentice. I... need to improve quicker.

    I'm pretty sure patience isn't a virtue my father enjoys exercising.

    ---

    My maid's... acquiring a stronger personality.

    Is now able to disagree with me. I'm encouraging this, but only if she can give me good reasons. Her spirit's rapidly growing, it's now the size of a human child's, a little over three-foot tall. That's... impressive.

    I... fear for her safety.

    But, my safety is also in considerable doubt.

    ---

    A prince has come to town.

    He's arrogant, and, in my opinion, deeply stupid.

    About a head taller than me, with our father's red hair, wearing a simpler version of father's crown. But, still the four forehead-rubies. And power like a cloak.

    "You don't mind me visiting, do you, sister Raven?"

    He doesn't bother introducing himself. So, in my head, I call him 'Pride'.

    "I'm sure our father knows of your visit."

    He looks a little hunted, then his features smooth.

    "Father know all."

    I've told my maid to hide, I don't want him to see her, get... ideas.

    "Dear brother, do you have a reason to visit? Or, are you just wandering?"

    "I always have a reason for what I do."

    I'm not convinced...

    "You, sister, have never been seen in court. So, when I heard you were in father's realm, I had to come and see you. It would've been rude to do otherwise."

    So, he's probing, trying to figure-out if I'm a new 'player' he needs to be concerned with.

    "I'm enjoying being in this rural place."

    Let's see if he can spot me lying. No, doesn't look like he's that ability.

    "You enjoy playing with toys?"

    An attack! I was wondering when that'd come.

    So, I need to respond.

    Take a big risk.

    ---

    We're elsewhere.

    I'm in human form, in my robe, hood down, in a pleasant sitting-room. He's also in human form, dressed as he was, except his crown's gone, and he's entirely human. None of the 'eldritch aura' that previously cloaked him.

    He looks around, wildly. Then, smooths his face.

    "An interesting exercise of power."

    I indicate the seats, on either side of a small table.

    He sits, so do I. I lift the steaming teapot, pour him, then me, a cup. Use the sugar tongs to lift a cube.

    He watches me with wide eyes, obviously fighting to keep his composure. This is going to be a delicate job of social balancing, when one of us is very weak on the rules.

    "One lump or two?"

    ---

    A long period of social fencing.

    With me in quite firm control. He doesn't know how much power I have, where we are, what I want from him. I do my best to not educate him, while probing for information.

    He's... looking at his limits. Much more and he might do something... unwise. Rude. Something we'll both regret.

    Father apparently told his court that I was 'visiting', though not where I was. Told them not to 'bother' me. Smiled as he said that.

    I'll have to give my (half) brother a few marks for finding me. Or, I guess he might just have intimidated or bribed someone. Not that all uses of bribery are wrong...

    Let's see. I think he's about reached the limits of social discourse.

    "This has been a pleasant visit, sister, but I now need to take my leave."

    With an effort of will and the final dregs of my power we're back in Toyland. And, both of us are as we were, when we left.

    His hand flashes to his forehead, brushes over his 'rubies', he lets out a sigh of relief.

    "I... must be going."

    There's a swirl of fire.

    He's gone.

    ---

    The policeman comes up to me, thanks me for handling the situation.

    I'm... gritting the teeth my wooden mouth doesn't have, being polite to him. Carefully walking back to my Tower, as my vision fades in and out. Evicting my maid from under my bed.

    Collapsing on it.

    Blackness.

    ---

    AN: Sugar cubes; so now you know. :)

    AN: Still here? OK, read the above.

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    .

    ---

    AN: Do you believe in 'spoilers'? If so, do not read the above Omake. You've been warned.

    Next >
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2020
  30. Threadmarks: Bearing Annoyance - Episode 21
    Ace Dreamer

    Ace Dreamer Questioning The Nature of our Realities

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    Raven's Replacement, Episode 21

    "You're dead! I'm sorry. I hadn't realised that."

    Max looks a bit... bemused. Gladly glares at me. I've... put my foot in it.

    Again.

    ---

    Yes, I'm in Tokyo. At the back-street robot-junk shop. Still in the front. Because I've not 'proved myself'.

    At least I'm wearing my Mark 2 robe, as a scarf. And, my 'secret identity' glasses, as I'm here as Geo. Never met Max as Sugoi, in my previous time-line, and it seemed wise to keep Sugoi out of Japan. While not wandering the dimensional paths, anyway.

    I'd considered visiting previous-Max, on previous-Raven's world. Arguably, there's unfinished business. But, decided better leave that to previous-Geo, as it's arguably her world, her job.

    Though, yes, I'd visited with Oracle, so she could meet previous-Oracle. Some of her comments, afterwards, had really made me blush. I'd had to agree another rule about us, with her, to ensure no future... issues.

    And, now, I've (probably) upset Max.

    ---

    "My humble apologies." I bow, while ensuring I keep a careful eye on him, and Gladly, the 'harmless' teddy-bear.

    "I... looked deeper at you than I intended. Saw things you likely wanted kept private. I'm really here for the robots. More than I can see in the outer shop."

    "You've... not offended me. It's just you're one of the few visitors to the shop that's been... that perceptive. Usually our visitors aren't... that spiritually-aware."

    "I hope I've not upset your guardian spirit, Gladly, too much?" I nod towards the bear.

    That takes him aback.

    "You're... really perceptive."

    "No. I'm relying on prior knowledge. Of another similar world, with a similar Tokyo, a similar shop."

    I bow in apology, again.

    "I'm really making a mess of this. In that other world someone who looked like you was called 'Max'. My name is 'Geo'. Other-you'd... got a robot-repair issue. I was hoping we could help each other. Please accept my apology."

    He looks at the bear. The bear doesn't move, change expression, but I've an impression of (grudging) approval.

    "I think... you've passed the test. You'd better come in the back."

    ---

    The same impressive workshop with the vertical hologram extension.

    The same sad pile of not-repairable robots, though the pile's a little smaller.

    The same quite impressive workbench and tools.

    "You've got somewhere to put these CDs? I made them based on some of the robot parts that previous-you gave me to study. You can have them as a gesture of good will."

    Max is... quite pleased.

    But, I think, not sure how much to trust me. I hand him the discs in their cases, carefully labelled. He shuffles through them, reading the labels.

    "You managed to get something out of the Simba Mark 6 remains? I couldn't figure-out anything."

    "Yes, there's some encryption used. Took me a while to crack it. Based on rather poor use of the Enigma-machine system, used by the German military in World War 2. Once I used the right cracking-logic it was easy. Unfortunately, encryption isn't something I'm expert at, so it took me quite a while."

    "I'm still impressed. I'll study that with interest. Was the encryption hiding anything worth knowing?"

    "A little. There's some quite good large-cat reflex stuff, landing after falling, minimising damage. I think it was stolen from a design I've not seen, but, that's speculation. If you come up with any ideas, please keep me in mind."

    I do the business card-presentation ritual, holding it with both hands, a little bow.

    I've got a couple of international phone-numbers on it, ids on the sites you get to via them. Should allow message exchange. Also, there's a female-styled robot head icon, and the Japanese kanji characters for 'Robot Fan'.

    "Thank you", he takes the card. In the proper manner.

    "You said I was dead? Do you know of my past? How I'm still walking around?"

    "I noticed you lacked any chi, life-energy. That lead me by reflex to look a little deeper into you, notice your spirit is anchored to a hologram-cloaked robot body. That the most alive bit of you is your eyes, followed by your hands, where your spirit is strongest. No, I don't know of your past, except other-you mentioned a... cousin."

    "You are talented!" He pauses, obviously thinks for a moment, makes a decision.

    "Yes, my cousin, who is now... missing, presumed dead, had strange talents. I believe he called my spirit back, after I was killed by a truck. Bound me into this body, arranged records so I was 'just sent to a private clinic'. Then, I found myself running this shop. And, I suspect that if I stop..."

    He makes a cutting-his-throat gesture.

    "I know people who could check and make sure if that's a risk?"

    He bows, "That would be very kind of you".

    Turns to the workbench.

    "I'd be interested to see you demonstrate your expertise in robot repair. Please tell me what you think of the robot I'm currently working on..."

    Repairing ensues.

    ---

    Several enjoyable hours later, and 'mysterious delivery' of a crate (by Raven) at his service entrance, we've a build cell installed, and I'm demonstrating repair of the third robot from his 'couldn't repair' pile.

    "Before you say anything, and based on behaviour of previous-you, I'm afraid I must crush your hopes. Seeing as you're dead, and I have prior commitments, any... proposal would be unwise. Also, I'm interested in your cousin's tools, and the larger robots you've got stored... elsewhere. No, you revealing their location isn't... required."

    "Thank you." He bows. "I've made promises, I'll have to get to know you better before I examine what I might be allowed to do. Your understanding is appreciated."

    I hand-over more CDs.

    "This is the service and training manual for this build cell. Please do not reveal either it or this information to others, unless you're forced to. There's patent applications in progress, and that might... interfere." I cough.

    "Just be be clear. I do not believe that either you or your cousin is my enemy. Nor am I acting as an agent for anyone who is an enemy. I do not wish there to be... any misunderstandings. Is that clear?"

    "Of course."

    "Might I enquire, do you sleep? Dream? Meditate?"

    He bows his head.

    "I cannot sleep. Though, I can sometimes enter a waking day-dream state. Do you believe meditation might be helpful to me?"

    "Possibly. Though, it has its own dangers, for those without bodily needs. I'd have to look more closely at how your robot body and spirit interact to be certain. Your... situation is not one I've previously encountered."

    On impulse, I take one of my business card, and carefully write the contact details for the Annoying Priest on the back.

    "This priest may be able to advise you. He seems to have a deep knowledge of matters of the spirit. I must warn you, though..."

    "Oh?"

    "He's annoying."

    ---

    AN: More dotting of 't's and crossing of 'i's... :)
     
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