Badasses Of the Multiverse: Book 6: Volume 1: Chapter 05

Badasses Of the Multiverse: Book 6: “The Mexican, The Lawyer, And The Mechanic.”

Volume 1: “The Heroes.”

Chapter 05: “Off the Beaten Path.” (Or, “Gumming Up The Works.”)

By Paul Cousins.

Copyright Disclaimer: All copyrighted places, characters, items, and events, within the story, are held by their current owners. No profit is being made on this work of fiction.

(_)

Realty, Pedro and Lee's home reality. Date, a few days after the fight between Revy and Hernan. Place, De La Plata Podrido, Mexican. Inside the restaurant and bar of the Devil's Hotel and Resort. Time, early afternoon, on a sunny, cool day.

Inside the Devil's Hotel a restaurant, it was just after lunch rush, and the room had cleared out, save for three adults.

Two of those adults were Revy and Rock, whom had come into the restaurant, to have a late lunch.

Revy and Rock, were wearing their usual clothing. And Revy had completely recovered from her fight with Hernan. Though, Revy currently did not have her cutlasses on.

Their family and friends were elsewhere, in the city, either running errands, or having fun. Or, in some cases, taking care of their younger children.

The other person in the room was the bartender, Melanie, whom was behind the bar counter. Melanie was dressed in her usual clothing, when included pants, shirt, and shoes.

Unfortunately, after they finished lunch, at their usual table by the karaoke stage, Revy had gotten up, without explanation to Rock, and she had walked over to sit on a stool, at the bar counter.

When Revy reached the bar counter, and sat down, she had Melanie bring her a cold bottle of beer. After Revy had her fresh beer, she opened it, and she slowly sipped, as she just stared into the wall of shelved bottles, across the bar, in front of her.

From experience, Rock knew that something important was on Revy's mind, that Revy did not feel like not sharing with anyone.

This was the reason Revy was drinking beer. Because she wanted to drink something with alcohol that she could keep drinking for a while, without risk of the amount of alcohol she was taking in, would not effect her train of thought, nor judgment. And with her super-soldier serum enhanced body, she could drink beers all day and still remain sober.

Presently, Rock was still sitting at their usual table, by the stage. Though, Rock sat in a chair, which allowed her to have back to the far wall, across from the bar counter. This allowed her to quietly watch Revy.

While Rock silently watched her lover, she thought, with concern, 'Ever since that fight with Hernan, you have been very quiet. But, given we met with Hernan, and you were okay with him, I do not think this is about that fight. Nor, about Hernan. Something else clearly happened later that night, before you came to our room, to sleep.'

'I would ask you, but I know that would be the quickest way to upset you. Still, I am sure you will tell me in time. When you are ready.'

Just then, to her left, Rock noticed Lotton walk into the room.

Rock saw that Lotton was wearing her casual clothing, including her shirt, pants, long coat, and boots. She then saw Lotton come to a stop, and look around.

When Lotton looked at Rock, she started walking towards where Rock was sitting.

As Rock saw Lotton approach her, she thought, 'I wonder what she wants. She is usually when Shenhua, Sawyer, and their kids. So, this must be something important.'

A few seconds later, when Lotton reached the table that Rock was sitting at, she came to a stop, as she looked over at Rock, in Rock's face, as Rock looked at her face.

Rock asked, in english, “Hello Lotton. What can I do for you?”

Lotton answered, in english, “Actually, I was hoping to speak with Revy, but I see she is in one of her moods.”

Rock conceded, “Yes. I think it would be best not to approach her, right now. So, how is the rest of your family today?”

Lotton responded, “Fine. Sawyer and Shenhua are with our children, while I take care of this errand.”

Rock questioned, “And that would be?”

Lotton answered, “While I have no problems taking doing a basic disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling of my two Mausers. It has reached the point that my pistols need to have some thorough maintenance work on them. But, even I will admit they are antiques, and they required a skilled gunsmith to do a full field-strip, work on, and put together. Since I cannot find Chang, I was hoping to talk to Revy. To see if she has any advice on who I can go to for repair work?”

Rock suggested, “Fair enough. Still, even I know those are some of the more complicated pistols to work on. While don't you take this as a sign to trade up on your pistols, with newer models?”

Lotton responded, “My pistols have a lot of sentimental value to me.”

Rock thought, 'I think it is best not to ask you why that is.'

Lotton continued, “Besides, these are some of the few pistols that come with select-fire. I can use them as automatics, or as single-shot. Thought, I prefer single-shot.”

Rock complimented, “Nice. I can now see why you are keeping them.”

Lee happily replied, “Thank you.”

At the bar counter, due to her own enhanced hearing, Melanie could not help be overhear the conversation between Rock and Lotton.

Melanie looked over at Rock and Lotton, as she thought, 'I might as well help, or they are likely to get into trouble. And while those two are some of the nicest of the group. With this crew, when there is trouble, the bodies tend to pile up very high, very quickly.' She looked over at Revy, as she continued her thoughts, 'Besides, Revy's mood is bringing me down. We can all tell something is wrong. But, she is such a private person that the only person she might open up to is, Rock. And Revy is clearly not going to do that any time soon.'

Melanie then turned to her right, and walked towards the cash register, near the entrance to the room, where the closest exit to the bar counter was. As soon as she exited, she did a u-turn, passed Revy, while she headed for Lotton and Rock.

As Melanie approached, she saw both women turn to look at her.

A few seconds later, Melanie came to a stop beside Lotton, while she face both Lotton and Rock.

Rock asked, “Is there something you need, Melanie?”

Melanie stated, in a sincere tone of voice, “First, I want you to know that I did not mean to overhear you. But, with our enhanced senses, I could not help it.”

Rock casually replied, “It is okay. We have all been there, done that.”

Lotton commented, “Yea. With hearing like ours, one cannot help it. Especially, when Sawyer and Shenhua, have some girl talk with Revy. Even thought I am now woman, and a mother, there are still some things I do not want to know about the female anatomy. Such as how to safely hide very sharp objects in very sensitive places.”

Nearby, all three women heard, Revy softly snicker, from across the room, for a few seconds.

All three women looked in Revy's direction, for a few seconds, as Lotton said, “Case in point.”

A few seconds later, Rock turned back to Melanie, as she asked, “Okay. So, you overheard Lotton's problems. I take it that you can help us?”

Melanie and Lotton turned back to look at Rock, as Melanie answered, “Yes.” Melanie looked over at Lotton, as she continued, “I know a man in town that is an expect gunsmith. He even use to work on guns in Roanapur.”

Rock inquired, with mild shock, “There is a person here, from Roanapur, that we don't know about?”

Melanie shrugged, as she playfully said, “Actually, he is original from Nevada of another reality. But, he spent a lot of time in Roanapur. And he has been here for around as long as I have. Pedro uses him a lot, and when I met him, I recognize him for Roanapur. But, he did not recognize me, even before the gender change. I just didn't really say anything about it, until now. Though, now that I think about it, I believe Lee also recognized him, when I introduced him to Lee, before Lee got her own gender changed.”

Lotton questioned, “And why would Lee know him?”

Melanie coyly replied, “Because, he is a very recognizable man.”

Rock flatly asked, “Okay. Who is there man?”

Melanie answered, “Believe it or not. He is Burt Gummer. The survivalist from the Tremors movie and TV series.”

Lotton blurted out, “The same Burt that we went after? But, whom escaped into the multiverse, after he beat us, so badly, in such embarrassing ways, that Chang called off the hunt for him?”

Melanie replied, “Yes. The very same, Burt.”

Rock thought, 'This town just keeps showing us one surprise after another... At least we aren't to bored here. And everyone knows not to mess with us. But, I do need to know something about, Burt?' She commented, “That is interesting. Does he know about Lee's stories?”

Melanie stated, “The stories. No. But, considering the way he was able to convince the families there to let him work in the city, I am pretty sure he saw the Black Lagoon anime series. Or, at least read the manga. Before he came to Roanapur.”

Lotton flatly said, “Of course. If you were traveling the multiverse. And you have skills with weapons, including being a gunsmith. Where would you go to make a trade our of your skills? You would go to a city where the criminals use a lot of guns, without questions. And Burt did it by impressing Balalaika and Chang, with his gunsmithing skills, in the pistols he sent to them as gifts.”

Melanie commented, “I remember Balalaika showing us, of Hotel Moscow, the pistol that Burt sent her. It was a work of art, that was extremely easy to use and very accurate. Burt is an artist with his weapons.”

Rock mentioned, “Interesting. Revy told me that story, long before I read Lee's stories. And he became the exclusive gunsmith for both Hotel Moscow and Chang's Triad. Save for a few other customers that Balalaika and Chang signed off on, such as Revy.”

Lotton muttered, “Damn. Talk about making a buck off your enemies.”

Melanie said, “I know. And he did a good job of it. Also, his shooting skills impressed even, Balalaika.”

Rock inquired, “How good with a gun is he? Really?”

Melanie answered, “Burt is good with a pistol. But, he has a marksmen level skill with a rifle. Especially, high-powered rifles. He is one of the few people that could arguably out-shoot Revy, Balalaika, and Roberta, with a rifle, at long distances. Even the super-soldier serum enhancements. And while Burt has gotten a little older, from the few times that I was with Pedro, Hernan, and Bert, at the deserted stretch of beach, that they used as a gun range. Burt's skills have no dulled one bit.”

Lotton commented, “Remind me not to get on his bad side.”

Melanie stated, in a casual tone of voice, “Not to worry. He is a nice guy, If a bit rough around the edges. Also, he is very strict on gun safety. If you show that you respect gun safety in the way you handle your weapons, you will be fine.”

Lotton replied, “I will keep that in mind.”

Melanie offered, “Listen, Burt's gunshop should be open, right now. And as soon as I can find someone to take over for me, I will drive you there in my car.”

Rock said, “Thanks.”

Melanie responded, “Though, he does not know me as Melanie. So, we need to be on our best behavior, so he doesn't accidentally shoot us.”

Rock shrugged, as she casually replied, “Of course.”

Melanie then turned towards the door to the kitchen. She then walked through the bar room, and she entered the kitchen to find someone to take over for her, while she went to help Lotton when her errand.

Rock turned to Lotton, as she softly said, “Let's go talk to Revy.”

Lotton turned to Rock, as she quietly replied, “Okay.”

Rock and Lotton got up from their chairs, and walked over to face Revy. They came to a stop a few feet from Revy, by Revy's left side.

Rock turned to her redheaded lover, as she invited, “Revy, I know you are not in a good mood, right now. But, you always talked about how you liked to visit Burt, when you could. Because he is more into guns than you are. So, would you like to come with us?”

Revy turned to face Rock, as she casually declined, “Nah. I would just prefer to stay here. But, say hi to Burt for me.”

Rock said, “I will.” She then continued, in a more serious, through comforting tone of voice, “Also, if you want to talk, I will be here, waiting for you.

Revy give Rock a weak smile, as she calmly said, “I know. It is just I have some things that came up, all of a sudden, that I need to sort through on my own.”

Rock replied, “I understand.”

Revy then turned back to face the bar counter, as Rock and Lotton returned, to sit down, at the table Rock and Lotton had been at, while they waiting for Melanie to return.

(_)

Ten minutes later, Melanie found someone that could take over for her bartender job for an hour, and whom would not get on Revy's nerves.

With that taken care of, Melanie, Lotton, and Rock, left the bar, and they were making their way through the lobby, as they headed for the parking lot, and Melanie's car, when they saw Akira walking in their direction.

Unlike most times, Akira was not with her family. And given the cool weather outside, Akira was dressed in a casual shoes, shirt, pants, belt, and a jacket.

Also, Melanie noticed that the hotel lobby was about half full, with various guests.

While the three women continued walking towards Akira, Melanie noticed, as she thought, 'I can tell from the way Akira is moving, and the way that jacket hugs her upper torso, that she is wearing to shoulder holsters, with her revolvers. Speaking of which, she doesn't look busy, and I know her revolvers did come from Burt. I think she would enjoy going to visit him.'

When the three women came when ten feet of Akira, Akira finally noticed them.

As Akira turned her head to look at them, Melanie inquired, “Hi Akira. Are you busy?”

Akira, Melanie, Rock, and Lotton, came to a stop a few feet from each other, as Akira answered, “Not really.”

Lotton asked, “Where is the rest of your family?”

Akira stated, “They headed for Chang's casino, to use the indoor employee pool. But, I didn't feel like going swimming. So, I am here, by myself.”

Lotton commented, “That happens. And it is nice that Chang let's us use the employee facilities at his casino.”

Akira agreed, “Yes. It is. So, where is your family?”

Lotton answered, “Raising our young children.”

Akira smiled, as she said, “I remember that. It was real fun.”

Lotton returned Akira's smile, as she replied, “Yes. It is.”

Melanie offered, “Akira, I was wondering. Since you are not busy. Would you like to come with us?”

Akira inquired, “Where are you going?”

Melanie stated, “Believe it, or not. We are going to pay a visit to the man that made your revolver.”

Akira blurted out, “He's here, in town?”

Melanie replied, “Yes.”

Akira asked, “How?”

Melanie said, “We will tell you in the car.” She thought, 'This is not information that should be stated around strangers.'

Akira questioned, “Cool. So, how are we getting there?

Melanie responded, “We are taking my car. It is parked out front.”

Akira replied, “Okay.”

Melanie then started walking back towards the entrance, with the other three women following her.

Rock had been silent during the conversation Melanie and Lotton had with Akira.

Rock walked beside Akira and Lotton, while behind Melanie, as she thought, 'Why did Melanie invite Akira?'

Rock then walked up to be by Melanie's right side, as they walked.

Rock whispered into Melanie's right ear, “Not that I am complaining. But, why did you invite, Akira?”

Melanie looked in front of her, as she softly replied, “I believe that Burt will be happy to see some of his work return to his presence.”

Rock then remembered, as she thought, 'Oh. That's right. Burt made Akira's pistols, in the first place. And she likely had her pistols on her.' She replied, “Oh... Good point.”

Melanie giggled as she pulled open left door, of the double-doors that lead into the entryway, between the lobby and the outside.

The other three women handed off the door, and kept it open, as they filed into the entryway.

A few seconds later, they had reached the parking lot. And a minute later, they reached Melanie's car, which had not been repaired.

As the four women reached the car, Melanie used her clicker to remotely unlock the door.

Akira then noticed something, as she commented, “Hey. This car looks like the car that Hernan and Revy damaged a few of nights ago.”

Melanie responded, “That is because it is.”

Lotton commented, “It does not look damaged.”

Melanie stated, “That is because Hernan repaired it yesterday. He even did a rush order on the windshield. So, he could replace it for me. With all of his repairs and replacements being free of charge.”

Rock said, “That is nice of him.”

Melanie replied, “Barring what you saw of him that night. He is a nice man.”

Rock commented, “I realized that, when we talked to him.”

Melanie asked, “By the way, how did that conversation good.”

Rock said, “Quite well. I tell you in the care.”

Melanie replied, “Thanks.”

Lotton inquired, “So, does he know you are you?”

Melanie answered, “Yes. We had that conversation in this very car, as I told him home. He is okay with the situation concerning me.”

Lotton replied, “That is good.”

Melanie calmly requested, “I know. Now, get in. So, we can go see Burt.”

All four women then got inside and buckled in their seats.

Inside the car, Melanie was in the left side driver's seat. Lotton was beside Melanie, to her right. Rock was behind Lotton. And Akira was behind Melanie.

With everyone seated, Melanie used her car key to start the ignition of her car's engine.

Less than a minute later, they were out of the Devil's Hotel parking lot, and on the road.

While Melanie drove them Burt's gunshop, Lotton explained to Akira was they were doing. And Akira was okay with it.

(_)

Ten minutes later, they reached Burt's shop, which was inside of the town.

Melanie parked her car on the opposite side of the two-lane street, from where Burt's shop was located.

Melanie put her car in park, turned off the ignition, pulled out her keys, and unbuckled herself, from her seat. She then said, “We are here.”

A minute later, all four women had exited the car, with Melanie and the other women locking and shutting the doors behind them.

As all four women stood around, Akira asked, “So, where is Burt's place?”

Melanie answered, “That building across directly across the street from us.”

Melanie then pointed at a nondescript, three story building in front of them, across the street. There was a single door on that side of the building, but no windows on the first floor. Though, there were windows on the second and third floors.

While the other three women looked over at the building, Melanie stated, “That is Burt's gun shop. Actually, the first story is the gun shop. The second story is where his metal working, and gunsmithing. Along with a workout room. And the top story is his home.”

“By the way, the walls, floors, and ceilings, are made of concrete and steel. To help keep people from breaking in, and with fires. Also, there is a water sprinkler system, as well, for fires.”

“Also, the stairway leads the roof, with the room being flat, with proper rain drainage, with a three foot high, concrete and steel parapet surrounding it. Burt stated, that if he wanted to have the high ground, if he needed it.”

Lotton complimented, “Nice setup.”

Melanie replied, “I agree.”

Rock inquired, “Are they going to be any problems getting in?”

Melanie said, “No. You have to have key to unlock the door. Which he only gives to his customers. Which, I was one of, when I was Melvin.”

Lotton turned to Melanie, as she reminded the brown haired woman, “But, from what you said, you haven't reintroduce yourself to Burt, yet. So, he has no idea that you and Melvin are the same person.”

Melanie looked over at Lotton, as she said, “Yes. I realize that. And that is a real easy way to get shot, in this situation.”

Lotton rhetorically deadpanned, “You think?”

Akira and Rock turned to Melanie, as Akira asked, “Why didn't you just tell your friends that you changed. We have been here for a few years. Anyone with a brain, and a little knowledge, could probably piece together what is going on here.”

Melanie looked over at Akira, as she responded, in annoyed tone of voice, “Hey. It is not that easy. I cannot just go to people I know and say. Hi, I use to be Melvin, an elderly man. Now, I am Melanie, a twenty-something babe of a woman.”

Akira shrugged, as she casually said, “Why not? It worked for my parents. Actually, my parents also took the news well. They like Natsuru and Ranma. And they love their grand-kids.”

Lotton commented, “So, did mine. And surprisingly, my parents hit it off well with Sawyer and Shenhua.”

The three women turned then to look at Rock.

Rock flatly questioned, “What?”

Akira requested, “Rock, you might as well tell, Melanie.”

Lotton stated, “Yea. It was not that bad.”

Melanie could guess what this was about. She inquired, “What happened with you and your parents, Rock?”

Rock answered, in a slightly depressed tone of voice, “It wasn't bad. But, I would rather not talk about it.”

Melanie questioned, “So, they had a problem with your change?”

Rock replied, in a more normal tone of voice, “No. They had problem with Revy. But, we are still on civil terms.”

Akira teased, “Who doesn't?”

No one laughed at Akira's comment.

Lotton said, “Well, don't feel bad, Rock. You are still talking, and that means there is hope.”

Rock replied, in a grateful tone of voice, “Thanks.”

Melanie looked over at Lotton, as she requested, “You all will have to tell me about all that sometime.”

Lotton turned to Melanie, as she said, “Sure. I am more than happy too. Just let me know when? And where?”

Akira commented, “I don't mind.”

Rock said, “We will do it over some beer.”

Melanie replied, “I'll look forward to it.” She then turned to look at all three of the women, as she stated, “Okay. Since we don't want to get shot. No sudden, aggressive movements. And let me do the talking.”

Melanie the turned towards the building across the street. She then check both ways down the street, to see that the street was clear. Next, she walked across the street, with the other three women following right behind her.

When the reached the front door of the building, Melanie pulled out her key ring, from a pants pocket, and she used the key for the door, to unlock it. She opened the door, which swing inward. She then walked inside, while she put away her keys, back into the pants pocket the keys came from.

Rock second inside, then Lotton, and finally Akira, whom gently closed the door behind her.

As Akira let the door gently close, she turned to look at the door, as she saw that the interior side of it was made so that it would automatically lock when it was closed, but the knob on the inside could be turned, to open it, even when it was locked from the outside. Also, there was a spring at the top of the door allowed the door to close on it's own.

When Akira look back inside the room, she came to a stop, when she saw the other three women standing nearby.

The ceiling lights were soft yellow incandescent lights, instead of the usual florescent white lights. And the ceiling lights provided plenty of lighting for the room.

Akira look around the room, and she saw it was a large retail room, filled with various types of firearm. From pistols to rifles to large machine guns. Also, there were various boxes of ammo and ammo cans, various ammo magazines of several sizes, other gun related items. There are also some other items, including various knives, swords, and a few other melee weapons.

These items were found through the room. From the retail shelves on the floor, to hanging on the walls, to glass display cases, that served as counters around the left side, and back of the gunshop.

Given the room was very clean, the retail shelves on the floor were well spaced out, and all the merchandise was very organization. The room did not fell cluttered and closed in, Instead, the room had a very professional atmosphere that impressed Akira.

And while the room was quite large, a person could easily tell, from the side of the building outside, that the room did not even cover half the total area of the space for that floor level.

Akira thought, 'This place is larger, and it has a wider array of weapons, than Burt's shop in Roanapur. I wonder what connections Burt has here to get this sort of hardware? It goes without saying that Pedro likely helped him. But, I wonder who else?'

It was then that Akira saw where her three friends where looking. She turned in the direction they were looking to see saw a man calmly standing across a counter that had a glass display case in it, with pistols set inside, for show.

Akira thought, 'Yea. That is Burt Gummer. And he looks great for his age. Also, he was quite, as he came in. The others only heard him due to their enhanced hearing. Still, that is not bad for the old badass.'

The years had been kind to Burt. For a man in his late fifties, to early sixties, he was still very physically fit.

Burt wore a green, long sleeved button up shirt. A light brown pants, with brown leather belt, and brown boots. Also, he had a white baseball cap on his head.

Burt silently looked at them.

The four women then all noticed his hands were below the counter.

Melanie thought, 'Burt might pull a gun on us, if we don't explain ourselves soon.'

Melanie said, in a calm tone of voice, “Hello Mister Gummer. We have come here looking for you expertise in gunsmithing. Would it be possible for you to help us?”

Burt responded, “Well, that depends. I first need to know where you got a key to my door. The only people I have given keys are either married, or no better than to give their key to just a pretty face.”

Melanie agreed, “You are correct”

Burt pointed out, “And the only two people I know of that I cannot account for in the last few years, with one of my keys, is Paciano, whom, last I heard, joined the priesthood. And Melvin, who was kidnapped a few years ago.”

Melanie stated, “I used Melvin's key.”

Burt responded, “Well, that figures. I have never had much luck with people named Melvin. So, if you have his key, you can tell me what happened to him?”

Melanie sighed. She then answered, “Long story short, I am Melvin. I got my gender changed, and my youth restored.”

Burt took a closer look at Melanie, for a few seconds. He then said, “Melvin?... I can see the resemblance.”

Melanie replied, “I go by Melanie, now.”

Burt stated, “Oh, so you are that Melanie. I heard someone named Melanie took over at main bartender at the Devil's Hotel. But, in truth, you got your old job back at the Devil's Hotel, as the bartender, under you new identity, and name.”

Melanie responded, “Yes. The manager of the hotel was very understanding.”

Burt commented, “I bet that was an interesting conversation.”

Melanie said, “It was.”

Burt stated, “Still, that all makes sense... In a somewhat twisted sort of way.”

Melanie inquired, “I find it interesting that you seem to be taking this very well. And you seem to believe me off the bat. Why is that?”

Burt looked over at Akira, as he answered, “The answer is to your question, Melvin... I am sorry. Melanie. Is your blond friend, Akira.”

Melanie replied, “Either name is fine.”

Burt responded, “Thank you. Anyway, I remember the craziness that Akira caused on Roanapur.”

Akira smiled, as she thought, 'He does remember me.'

Burt continued, “And after everything I have seen, traveling the existence of the multiverse. I can believe just about anything.”

Lotton complimented, “That is a good outlook to take.”

Burt offered, “Thanks, little lady... Well come on over her, Melanie, Akira, and introduce me to your friends.”

The four women then walked across the room, to where Burt was standing.

Several seconds later, when they reached the display case of pistols, when was the counter, from which Burt was across from them, they came to a stop, side by side with each other.

Rock was on the outer left, then to her right was Akira. To Akira's right was Lotton. And to Lotton's right was Melanie.

Right after they came to a stop, Rock spoke up, “Revy sends her regards, Burt.”

Burt said, “That's nice. I guess that little redheaded spitfire is here in town?”

Rock replied, “Yes.”

Burt inquired, “Still... Not, to be rude... But, who are you?”

Rock responded, “Oh... I am Rock. Yes. The same Rock as in Roanapur. I went through the same process at Melanie. As did the white haired, young woman that is with us. You likely know her as Lotton.”

Burt questioned, “Shenhua's friend?”

Lotton said, “The very same.”

Burt flatly stated, “I don't want to know.”

Melanie thought, 'For right now, I think it is best we don't tell Burt about the stories.'

Burt continued, “By the way, Akira, are you still happy with the pistols I sold you?”

Akira happily answered, “I am sure am.”

Burt offered, “If you need any work, on your pistols. Let me know. I will do so at a fair price.”

Akira replied, “I am sure you will. And if I need your help. I will you know.”

Melanie thought, 'I guess I was right to bringing Akira along. Her presence seems to have perked Burt right up.'

Rock thought, 'I guess Melanie was correct in bringing Akira. I am glad I trusted her on this matter.'

Burt inquired, “So, ladies... You're here. Now, what do you want me to work on? It must be a real challenge, considering you are coming to me.”

Melanie commented, “You could say that.”

Lotton then remember, as she thought, 'Melanie said that Burt respects gun safety. And from his movie and TV series, I believe she is correct. And it wouldn't hurt to do as Melanie suggested.'

Lotton requested, “Give me a minute to safely pull out everything.”

Melanie noticed Burt raised an eyebrow when Lotton used the word, safely.

Lotton them pulled out one of her pistols, hidden underneath her long coat. She kept the pistol pointed away from everyone, as she removed the twenty round ammo magazine. She then gently set the ammo magazine down on top of the glass display case. Next, she cocked the hammer, and she then pulled back the bolt of the gun, as she showed Burt that the chamber of the pistol was empty. After which, she allow the pistol's bolt to gently slide back in place, and she then safely decocked the hammer. Finally, she gently set the pistol, on the top of the display case, by the ammo magazine she had set there. With the end of the pistol barrel pointed away from everyone.

Lotton then did the same thing, with her other pistol, while making she she kept the pistol, in her hands, aimed away from everyone.

When Lotton finished both sets of ammo magazines and pistols, she looked up at Burt's face, to see that Burt had a little of respect on his face, towards her.

Burt continued to look at Lotton, as he grinned, while he complimented, “I do admire someone that practices proper gun safety.”

Melanie smiled at Burt's comment.

Lotton replied, “Thank you.” She thought, 'I will have to thank Melanie later for the tip on that gun safety advice.'

Burt looked down a Lotton's pistols. He then looked back up at women, as he inquired, “I take it that these are reasons you came to me?”

Lotton answered, “Yes.”

Burt looked down at the pistols, again, as he stated, “Ah... The Mauser M seven twelve Schnellfeuer… Not the easiest name to pronounce. Anyway, the weapon has select fire, for either single-shot, or full auto. With it firing seven point sixty-three millimeter bullets.” He looked up at Lotton, as he complimented, “And nice touch using the twenty round, detachable magazines.”

Lotton smiled at Burt, as she replied, “Thank you.”

Burt commented, “And you have two of them. You don't fire use these like Revy does?”

Lotton admitted, “I am not as good as her. But, I practice.”

Burt inquired, “Don't we all. Now, what do you want me to do with these pistols? Are they damaged in some way?”

Lotton answered, “No, they are not damage. They both function. I just need them taken apart completely, in a full strip down, cleaned, and properly resembled, to working order. And these types of weapons which require specialized skills and tools to field-strip, and put back together, again, in proper working order.”

Burt agreed, “Yes. They do talent and tools to properly work on.”

Lotton responded, “I was hoping you would have the tools and skills to completely take them apart, clean them, and put them back together, in working order.”

Burt stated, “I can do that. It will take a few days to do that. But, I am not busy this week. Though, if there are any broken parts that need to be replaced, it will take more time and cost more for repairs.”

Lotton replied, “I understand.”

Burt asked, “And now, what about payment? I cannot afford to do these jobs for free.”

Lotton questioned, “Would a small, eight ounce, gold bar be acceptable payment to you?”

Burt thought, 'An eight ounce gold bar at current market rate is a very good price for job like this, in this anti-gun, corrupt nation.”

Burt stated, “I am more of a silver man myself. But, gold will be fine. And you can pay on delivery.”

Lotton replied, “That will be fine.”

Burt said, “Good. When your pistols are ready, I will call Melanie, at the bar she works at. I have the number, and she brought you here. So, that shouldn't be a problem. Though, it will likely be a few days to repair. If it takes long, I will call Melanie to inform you have any problems.”

Lotton commented, “I can go along with that.”

Melanie complimented, “That is a good idea. And I give Lotton your message in a timely manner.”

Lotton stated, “I will looked forward to your call at the bar.” She turned to Melanie, as she said, “I trust you, Melanie. So, we should be good.”

Melanie turned to Lotton. Melanie smiled at the young white haired woman, in response to Lotton's compliment.

Burt questioned, “Okay. So, is there anything else you wish to discuss with me?”

Melanie and Lotton turned back to look at Burt, as Lotton thought, 'This would be a perfect time to find out a few things that Lee did not cover in his stories.'

Lotton answered, “Actually, I do have a few questions for you.”

Burt casually replied, “Ask away.”

Lotton said, “First, I have to say, that in some circles, you are a very popular guy.”

Burt commented, “Well, that is interesting.”

Lotton responded, “Yes. It is. Anyway, since it is likely that it is going to come out that you are here. We need to come clean with you on a few things.”

Burt guessed, “You were the ones that came after me, in Nevada?”

Lotton commented, “You already figured it out?”

Burt said, “Yes. During my time in Roanapur, recognized some of the members of Hotel Moscow, whom followed me into the mountains of Nevada. From their fatigues, weapons, and the fact they were all speaking in russian. It was not hard to guess who they were. And given you guys only do things for very serious reasons, I let the situation slide.”

Burt turned to Melanie, as he continued, “I just never confronted Melanie about it, because I saw no point in doing so.”

Melanie said, “I appreciate that.”

Burt replied, “No problem.”

Burt thought, 'Besides, for those of you in Roanapur, that was your future. And if I had tried to confront any of you, on the matter, it likely would have caused problems for all of us.'

Lotton complimented, “That is a very mature approach to take on the matter.” She thought, 'Though, if you learned the full truth, you would likely not be so mature, and calm on, the matter. So, it is best to be kind to you know. So, when you learn the truth, you will not be hostile towards us.'

Burt responded, “Thank you. Also, when I jumped one of them, in Nevada, and stole his traveling device. It was a... Unique learning experience.”

Melanie raised an eyebrow, as she recalled something. She asked, “This person you jumped. Did this happen in a small canyon?”

Burt replied, “Yes.”

Melanie flatly stated, with mild surprise in her tone of voice, “That was me.”

Rock, Akira, and Lotton, turn to their right to look at Melanie, with interest and amusement, in their facial expressions.

Melanie thought, with embarrassment, 'And I didn't realize it, until now. Though, I admit I skimmed the confrontation between John and Lotton, in Book Two. I can only take some much hamminess and cheese at one time. And I know I am not going to hear the end of this for a while. I just set myself up for some teasing from this. But, at least Revy, Chang, or worse, Balalaika, isn't here to make a smartass remark at my expense.'

Burt let out a laugh, which caused all four women to turn their attention back towards him.

Burt said, with mild amusement in his tone of voice, “Don't that beat all. Well Melanie, sorry about that. But, at the time, you were playing for keeps.”

Melanie calmly responded, “I understand. I hope there are no hard feelings between us?”

Burt said, “I have none towards you, over that.”

Melanie commented, “Good. And thank you.”

Burt inquired, “You're welcome. Still. Now, that is out in the open. I have to ask. Are you all still after me?”

Melanie replied, “No.”

Burt stated, “Good. That is all I need to know on that subject.”

Meanwhile, Lotton quietly listened to the conversation. She thought, 'Burt, you clearly knows when it is best not to pry.'

Burt questioned, “So, I take it the others are here, as well?”

Melanie casually replied, “Pretty much.”

Burt then realized something, as he stated, “Wait minute... You have been here for several years. Though, you other girls here have only been here for a couple of years.”

Melanie said, “Yes.” She mentally wondered, 'What is he getting at?'

Burt asked, “The woman at the Rats Nest. That is Bao? Isn't she?”

Melanie thought, with amusement, 'I should have known you would figure that out.' She compliment, “Good eye. And she is my girlfriend.”

Burt commented, “I hope you two are happy.”

Melanie warmly replied, “We are.”

Akira mentioned, “As fun as this conversation is. I find it interesting that you are not too concerned about the gender bending.”

Burt stated, “I tend not to point out a problem, unless it will effect me. Doing so is also a good way to not get shot.”

Akira agreed, “You are right. That is a good approach to take.”

Burt commented, “Well, considering you came after me in Nevada, I take you guys knew who I was, beforehand.” He continued, in a sarcastic tone of voice, “Why am I not surprised?”

Rock pointed out, “And it is clear that you have seen the Black Lagoon series.”

Burt shrugged, as he responded, “Well. I like women. I like guns. And I like action... As long as it is not happening to me. Except for being animated, I found it to be pretty good series. And before you ask. I came to Roanapur a little over a year before you did, Rock. And I had a great time there. A lot of excitement. But, like all good things. There came a time to leave. And when Chang start building that monstrous tower, I saw the writing on the wall, and I realized it was time to leave.”

Rock replied, “Okay.” She thought, 'Burt clearly has a good head on his shoulders to know when it is time to leave. Though, some of us clearly do not.'

Akira asked, “What happened next, after you left Roanapur?”

Burt answered, “I wondered around for a little while, until I came here, around the same time that Melanie here did. And when we ran into each other. We recognized each other. And it was nice to have someone to talk to about such matters.”

Melanie replied, “I fully agree.”

Burt commented, “Now that I know it is you. I will be coming by your bar more often to talk.”

Melanie smiled, as she said, “I look forward to it.”

Rock thought, 'This interesting. So, Burt and Melanie not only knew each other, during their time Roanapur, but they talked with each other, on the matter.'

'Also, From the information I got from Bao, several months ago, when we had drinks alone at her bar. She told me she showed up in this city around the same time as Melanie. So, Bao, Melanie, and Burt all came to this town around the same time. That is more than coincidence. But, I have nothing else to go on. So, there is no point in looking further into the matter. Besides, my life is crazy enough, as is.'

Burt inquired, “So, how do you know me, when you came after me? I know I made the news a few times in my home reality. But, not enough to sent an army after me.”

Akira thought, 'I guess nobody told him. And he didn't find out on his own. Not even from Melanie.'

Akira turned Melanie, as she asked, “Why didn't you tell him, Melanie?”

Melanie instantly realized what Akira was asking her about. She turned to Akira, as she stated, “I really didn't want to further complicate matters.” She turned to Burt, as she said, “Sorry, Burt.”

Burt calmly requested, “Okay. Just tell me now.”

Akira stated, “Well, you see, when it comes to fiction, it works both ways. We know you from a movie and TV series, called Tremors.” She mentally added, 'We will leave out Lee's stories, for right now.'

Burt responded, with intrigue in his tone of voice, “Interesting. How was that series?” He thought, 'I will have to check out this Tremors series, later.'

Akira said, “Movies one and two were good. Three was okay. Four was so-so. And the TV series just didn't mesh very well.”

Burt replied, “Okay.” He mentally added, 'I will still need to check them out. Fortunately, I have high speed internet access to this place, and a nice computer, as well.'

Akira requested, “By the way, now that this information is out in the open. I have to say that a number of my friends, including myself, are fans of yours. Not crazy, tear your clothes off fans, but just regular fans.”

Burt commented, “I have met my fans before. You are some of the nicest ones I know of.”

Akira smiled at Burt, as she responded, “Thank you. Anyways, if it is okay with you. I am sure we would like some pictures of us with you, and some autographs from you.”

Burt said, “We will see what we can do. And if I do, I will do so for free.”

Akira replied, “Thanks.”

Lotton commented, “Yea. That would be nice.”

Rock said, “I would like a few picture and autographs, as well. And I am sure Revy would, as well.”

Burt replied, “No problem.”

Melanie stated, “Well, I have been Burt's friend to long to be that kind of fan... No offense Burt.”

Burt replied, “None taken.”

Melanie stated, “Well, we better get going. I told my temporary replacement at the bar, I would only be gone an hour. And since Revy is there, having drinks...”

Burt spoke up, “You don't need to say anything more. Just get back there before someone gets hurt.”

Melanie requested, “Thanks. And don't be a stranger.” She mentally added, 'Though, Revy has gotten better over the years. And after her fight with Hernan, she is likely not going to do something stupid, like she use to, for at least a month. Plus, she decided to not be armed this afternoon, as she got something to drink. So, I believe she meant was she said, to Hernan, about not drinking, while armed.'

Burt said, “I won't. I will come by the bar, in a few days, for lunch, and we will talk.”

Melanie replied, “I look forward to it.”

Lotton commented, “Thanks for looking at my pistols.”

Burt said, “I admire a challenge.”

Akira stated, “It was fun meeting you, again.”

Burt replied, “Same here.”

Rock said, “Stay safe.”

Burt responded, “You as well, Rock. And have a wonderful day, girls.”

Akira smiled at Burt, as she said, “We will.”

The four women then turned around, and the walked back to the front door to the shop.

The Rock reached the door first, and she opened it for the other three women.

Burt watched Rock be the last women out of the door. The spring on the top of the door made the door shut on its own, and the locking mechanism then automatically locked the door to the outside, while keeping the knob on the inside unlocked.

Left alone to his thoughts, Burt mentally wondered, with mild amusement, 'I think my business, and my life, is about to become a lot more exciting... In a good way... ' He cracked a wicked grin, as he continued his thoughts, 'And what is life with some excite.'

Two days later, Burt finished his work on Lotton's pistols. He even did a field-strip, cleaning, and reassembling of Lotton's ammo magazines. Along with him testing the pistols and magazines, with ammo he had in his shop. With a basic cleaning afterward. The pistols and magazines worked fine.

It was noon that day, by the time he called Melanie to inform Lotton that her pistols were ready.

An hour later, Lotton returned, using Melanie key, which she had borrows. She then paid for the repairs and maintenance on her pistols, with an eight ounce bar of gold. She then took her pistols, her ammo magazines, and the bullets which she had left in her ammo magazines, which were in a clear, plastic bag. Lotton then left. Later that afternoon, when Lotton tested her pistols, she found that both pistol works like new. And later that night, she informed her family and friends that Burt did good job on her pistols.

And this news by Lotton brought Burt some more business to his gunshop. With Melanie gladly acting as a go-between.

(_)

On the afternoon of the day that Lotton met Burt, to repair her pistols, around two thirty PM, at the Last Resort Diner, the last of the lunch crowd had just exits. And like most weekdays, during that time of day, there were no more customers in the restaurant.

Presently, it was a Rico's turn to be cook for the day, at the diner.

For those that did not know her, they would see a pretty, slender, hispanic woman, with short green hair, and tanned skin, whom appeared to be in her mid-twenties.

And those that did not know her, would not realize that she, like her friends and family, had a much longer, and more interesting tale to tell. But, that was for another time.

Presently, Rico was wearing a white cooking outfit, as she stood behind between the counter, and the over. With her facing the stove, as she did some minor cleaning.

At the moment, out the four other employees in the diner, the manager, knowh at Ed Lowe, was in her office, doing some budgetary work. The office was located to the left back side of the diner, when facing the restaurant, with a door in the dining room leading direction to the office. Also, the men's and women's restrooms where near the office door.

Ed was a skinny woman, with tanned skin and short red hair. She appeared to be in her later twenties, but she was much older. She wore a waitress' uniform.

In Ed's office, helping her, was her long time spouse, Lori Lowe. She was a pretty slender, fair skin woman, with long black hair that hung loosely, down to her shoulder blades. She appeared to be in her mid-twenties, but she was far older. She also were a waitress' uniform.

The two other employees of the Last Resort Diner, were in the storage room, which was located to the back right side of the diner, when facing the restaurant.

Those two employees were the adult children of Ed and Lori. Their names were Lewis Lowe and Stan Lowe. The two brothers were the same age, and they could pass as fraternal twin brothers.

Except for some facial differences, it was hard to tell each of them from the other.

Both brothers were in their early twenties. They had tanned skin, and short black hair. They were tall, and had muscular bodies. And both men wore a waiter's uniform.

Back in the front of the diner, Rico stood in from the stove, as she read a piece of paper with to go order, she had just received by phone, she thought, 'It is nice of the Lowe family to let me stay in their home, and gave me this job. So, I can be around the excitement in this town. Still, the apartment I rented a month ago seems to be very nice. And it is fairly cheap rent, and is close to be beach. So, I can both afford on the salary, without digging into my savings. And I can walk to be beach and swim, when spring time finally arrives.

'And what an interesting two years it has been. It seem between Revy's group, Chang's group, and Balalaika’s Hotel Moscow, there is always something interesting happening. Though, none of it has been bad, towards us.'

'And more closer to home, I am now on speaking terms with one of my younger sisters, Fabiola. With luck, and her help, I might be able to show my face to the rest of my family. Though, it has been a number of years. And while my family is still alive, I need to do something soon. They are not getting any younger, like Fabiola and I, are.'

'But, that is a matter for tomorrow. Now, I need to see about this order.'

Just then, Rico heard the fronts doors open behind her.

Rico put down her tools, on the wooden plank in front of the stove. She turned around, and she saw two young woman standing in front of the counter, looking at her.

Rico noticed that the two women looked of japanese descent. And they appeared to be in their late teens to early twenties. Both were pretty, and had athletic physically builds. One had short black hair, and the other woman had short brown hair.

Both women were wearing casual clothing, which was, among other things, a plain long sleeved shirt, pants, and tennis shoes.

The two women stood behind each other, with the black haired woman being to the brown haired woman's right side.

Rico thought, 'I think it is best I speak in english.' She asked, in english, “How many I have help you?”

The woman with black hair, answered, in flawless english, “We are here for the waitress and cooking jobs, which your business advertised about.”

Rico looked to her right to see the help wanted sign set against the window. The sign was in both english and spanish. She turned back to look at the two women, as she stated, “Ah yes. The manager is here. And I will go get her, right now.”

Rico thought, '

The brown haired woman calmly said, in flawless english, “That will be fine.”

Rico turned around, and headed for the manager's office, as she thought, 'Ed and Lori have been advertising for some more help, in a few local ad magazines and the store from here.'

'Even with me helping the Lowe family. And them using those time dilation tricks. Which they have decided to not do as often. Because they Lewis and Stan did not want to in a situation where they were aging twice as fast as those here. I agree with them, that they should lay off of that trick, and they needed to hire more help.'

'So, with more help, all of us can get some more time off, without using dilation tricks. But, due to the reputation that our friends have gotten, none of the locals have taken up on the job offers. Though, these two women are clearly not local. Still, they are looking for a job, and that is the important part.'

By then, Rico reached the manager's office door. She then opened it and walked inside.

Rico saw that Ed was sitting in her chair, behind her desk, with Lori, sitting in a chair, beside her, to Ed's left side, behind the desk.

Both women stopped what they were doing, as they looked up at Rico.

Ed calmly asked, “What is, Rico?”

Rico answered, “There are two young women in the dining room, whom are interested in jobs at the diner.”

Ed replied, “Nice.”

Lori said, “We will have to go out, and greet them.”

Both Ed and Lori then got up from their seats and they walked around the desk, to the doorway, where Rico was standing at.

A few seconds later, Rico walked out of the door, with Ed and Lori following right behind her.

As the three women came to a stop, behind the counter, Rico standing by the stove.

Meanwhile, Ed and Lori standing closer to the counter, while not blocking Rico's view. Ed stood to Lori's right side.

Ed, Rico, and Lori, all looked at the two other women, as Ed stated, in english, “I am Ed Lowe, the manager and co-owner the Last Resort Diner. To my left is Lori. The other owner of this restaurant.”

Lori looked at the women, as she said, in english, “Nice to meet you. And the person you just met is, Rico.”

Rico just nodded once towards the two younger women.

Ed inquired, “So, I hear you are both looking for a job?”

The black haired woman and the brown haired woman looked at each other. They then looked back at Ed, as the black haired woman said, “Yes. We are both looking for a job. We saw the help wanted sign, and we realized you hope you have space for two new employees.”

Ed responded, “Yes. We do. Though, it depends. We are looking for people that are welling to wait on tables, cook, restock supplies. Along with cleaning both dishes, and the restaurant itself. Depending on what is needed. While remaining polite. And the hours will shift from time to time. But, we are negotiable about such issues.”

The brown haired woman stated, “That is alright. We understand these are entry level jobs.”

Ed asked, “Okay. Can you speak spanish? This is Mexico, after all.”

The black haired woman answered, “Yes. Along with japanese, and english. We speak, write, and write, a number of languages. Our parents taught us well.”

Ed inquired, “So, what are your qualifications?”

The brown haired woman said, “While we will need some on the job training. We are willing to learn. Also, strange things don't bother us. And we are willing to do what we are told, within reason, for a reasonable amount money, on a weekly salary.”

Ed commented, “It sounds like you are the type of employees we want.”

Lori asked, “What are you names?”

The black haired woman stated, “My name is, Irene.”

The brown haired woman said, “My name is, Leona.”

Lori inquired, “Do either of you have a family name?”

Leona answered, “Not really. It is kind of complicated. And though we don't look related, we are sisters.”

Lori replied, “I guess that really don't matter. Many of the people I know personally, only go by one name.” She thought, 'Still, it is odd. But, it is clear I am not going to get the answers I want.'

Meanwhile, Ed took a closer look at Irene and Leona, as she thought, 'Nice try, lover, but I think these two are not going to give us those answers. Still, they do look familiar. And there are other ways of asking questions for answers we want.'

Ed calmly asked, “Where are you both from?”

Irene coyly answered, “We would prefer not to talk about such matters.”

Ed mentally reflected, 'They are clearly not going to give us any answers. But, like almost everyone else that comes to this city, they have their own secrets. Including us. So, we'll hire them, and see how this played out.'

Ed stated, “Well, either way, you're both hired.”

Irene replied, “Thank you.”

Leona said, “We appreciate that.”

Just then, Stan and Lewis walked out of the storage room, from the right side of the diner, as they made their way towards the counter, while each of them carried a box.

The five women turned to look at the two men.

The two brothers continued walking, until they reached the counter, and gently set the boxes down.

The brother then noticed the two young women they did not know, standing across the counter from them. Along, with Rico, and both their parents, looking at them, as well.

The brother then walked a little closer to the other adults.

Stan came to a stop, across from his parents, on the right, back side of the counter, when facing the front of the restaurant.

Lewis came up to stand beside Stan, to Stan's left side.

Ed commented, with a bit of amusement in her tone of voice, “This is Stan and Lewis Lowe. Stan, Lewis, meet our new employees, Irene, and Leona.”

Stan looked at the two young women, as he hesitantly said, “Oh... Hello...”

Stan thought, 'I am so happy I do not call mom and dad, by those titles, at work. Or, this could become really complicated. Still, it is good that all of us discussed the issue a few years ago. And we decided that at work, we would all call each by our first names. So, we could keep things simple. And as to the Lowe family name. We just say we are related, and leave it at that.'

Lewis focus on looking at Irene, as he kindly stated, “Nice to meet you.” He mentally added, 'She's hot. And she seems so relaxed. The other woman seems a little more tense.'

Irene noticed Lewis looked at her, as she said, with interest in her evident in her eyes,
as she said, “It is nice to meet you, as well.”

Leona noticed her sister and Lewis looking at each other, as she casually replied, “Same here.”

Irene continued to look at Lewis, as she asked, “So, you two are brothers?”

Lewis and Stan answered, almost in unison, “Yes.”

Irene giggled a little, as she smiled at Lewis. She then said, “That is so nice.”

Lewis returned Irene's smile, as he happily asked, “So, what are you interests, Irene?”

Irene answered, “I prefer physical activities. How about, yourself. What hobbies do you like, Lewis?”

Lewis stated, “I prefer more intellectual pursuits. But, I do like to keep in shape.”

Irene complimented, “With a muscular body like that. It is apparent.”

Lewis offered, “Thank you. And I am open to any hobbies that you may like.”

Irene happily stated, “We will talk later.”

Lewis replied, in a slightly joyous tone of voice, “That will be fine.”

While the others watched this very clear display of affection between Irene and Lewis, Ed thought, 'They are clearly interested in each other. This is a good thing for myself. As long as he is careful, and doesn't get her pregnant.'

Lori mentally reflected, 'I am happy to see that Lewis has finally meet a girl whom he can get along with, at a romantic level. Irene is clearly seem smart, nice, and pretty. Everything Lewis would want in a woman. And it was a nice move on his part to say he is open to her hobbies. That will earn him points with her. And we will let this develop on its own, so there is less chance of it going off the rails.'

Stan thought, 'I am so happy that Lewis finally found a girl he likes.'

Rico mentally reflected, 'Ah, young love. I am so happy for those two... And I have clearly become such a romantic, in the last few years.'

Ed thought, 'We need to get this conversation moving forward, before we have some customers come in.' She looked back over at Irene and Leona, as she inquired, “Do you two have a place to stay?”

Irene and Leona turned to face Ed, as Irene answered, “We are staying at hotel, in the middle of town.”

Ed stated, “Those hotels are not that bad. Though, I will make some phone calls. And I will see if I can find a cheap, but decent, apartment that you both can rent.”

Irene replied, “We appreciate your help.”

Lori offered, “If we find something, we could give you an advance on your first paychecks, for the apartment?”

Leona said, “That is very generous of you. But, we have enough money to live on for the next few months. So, that will not be a problem.”

Ed commented, “That is good to know.”

Leona asked, “So, when can we start work?”

Ed stated, “We will get you some uniforms, and train you this afternoon. And see how you do for the evening shift. Which is from five to ten, or eleven PM. Depending on how busy we are at the end of the evening shift.”

Leona inquired, “What are your business hours?”

Ed responded, “Well, over the years, we have played with our business hours. But, for right now. We are open almost every day, from seven AM to ten or eleven PM. Though, we are closed Wednesdays. So, is starting work today, okay with you? I will understand if you have prior arrangements today. With you starting work tomorrow.”

Leona and Irene looked at each other, as Leona asked, “Is this okay?”

Irene said, “Yes. I guess so.”

Leona and Irene then looked over at Ed, as Irene commented, “We look forward being trained, and working for you, today.”

Ed happily said, “I am glad to have you both on board.” She turned to her sons, as she requested, “Lewis, Stan, could you two help Rico in front, as Lori and I take these two into the storage room. So, we can start training Irene and Leona, here?”

Lewis said, “Sure.” He thought, 'I look forward to getting to know Irene and Leona. Especially, Irene.'

Stan replied, “I don't mind.” He thought, 'I didn't have any real plans for today, anyway.
And with these two working here. All of us will be able to have more time off, to have some fun. Still, I think I might do a favor for my brother, since he is hitting it off so well, with Irene.'

Stan turned to Lewis, as he offered, “Lewis, I will do the dishes, while you check to make sure the sweet and unsweet tea brewing in the containers are still fresh.”

Lewis looked over at his brother, as he replied, “Okay, Stan.”

The two brothers then went to take car of their tasks, as Rico turned back to the stove.

Lori turned to Irene and Leona, as she stated, “Girls, please head to the storage room. Which is where Stan and Lewis came out from. We will join you in a minute.”

Irene and Leona did not reply, as the two sisters turned, and headed for the entrance to the storage room. With Leona walking right behind Irene.

Meanwhile, Ed and Lori casually walk behind the two sisters, with Ed being to Lori's left side.

The two spouses were walking together, as at intentionally much more slower pace than the two sisters were.

Ed and Lori soon saw Irene and Leona pass through the door to the storage room.

While they kept slowly walking, beside each other, Ed leaned over to Lori's left ear. She whispered, “I think Irene and Leona are daughters of the Knight Sabers. With Irene being Linna's daughter. And Leona being Leon's daughter.”

Lori leaned to her left, close to Ed's right ear, as she softly replied, “With their names, and Leona commenting that strange things don't bother them. I was suspecting something like that. Linna had a friend that died, whom was named Irene. And Leon also did like his... I guess now, her name. So, she would name her daughter after herself. And Leona is a nice name.”

Ed quietly commented, “Exactly. And Lee did mention she and the others had a run in with the Knight Sabers in Mars Dome One, in the Babylon Five reality. It would make sense that news of this city would likely filter around that family. And a couple of them may have wanted to check their place out. But, why do you think they are here?”

Lori whispered, “For probably the same reason all young adults come to a new city. For a fresh start. While they are still probably still on good terms with their family. They are just heading somewhere else that is new to them. And if they were spies, they would not use their real names. And they would apply for jobs at the Devil's Hotel, or at Chang's casino. No. They are just moving away from home. And trying to do something different.”

“Well will just give them the benefit of the doubt, and keep an eye on them. Anything more would be unreasonable.”

Ed softly said, “I agree. And keeping an eye on them is good idea. But, we will not be imposing on them.”

Lori quietly replied, “Of course not. It is best to keep an eye on them, from a distance. We don't want to run them off. Or, ruin their trust in us.”

Ed softly complimented, in a happy tone of voice, “That is what I like about you, honey. You have always had a firm grasp of understanding human nature.”

Lori quietly responded, “Thank you, dear. Besides, Lewis and Irene seem to like each other. I have so been hoping he would finally find someone that likes him. And they are both taking a liking to each other. So, we don't want to ruin the potential of such a relationship.”

Ed softly said, “I know. I don't care if Lewis prefers men, or women. As long as he finds someone whom he care about, and whom cares about him. And with his family abilities, he has some flexibility in that department. And I feel the same way with Stan.”

Lori quietly stated, “I fully agree with you. Now, let's go show the two sisters, how to do this job.”

Ed softly replied, “With pleasure.”

By that point, the two spouses had reached the entryway of the door. They leaned their heads back up straight, as Lori slowed down, to allow Ed to walked up to the door. She opened it, and went in first.

Lori followed right behind Ed, with her gently shut the door behind them.

Nearby, at the stove, with her enhancement hearing, Rico overheard what Ed and Lori said. While she finished cleaning the stove, and the counters by the stove, she cracked a grin, as she happily thought, 'It looks like things are going to keep getting more interesting here.'

(_)

On the evening of the day that Lotton met Burt, to repair her pistols, and when Ed and Lori hired Irene and Leona for the Last Resort Diner, Hernan had gone to a middle class, workingman's bar, with his two good, long time friends, Sans and Isandro.

The bar they went too was located near the middle of the city of Plata Podrido. The bar was call Coliandro's. The bar was run by a nice, older Italian man, with a shady past. Though, given the secrets of the city. No one cared about such secrets, as long as the people in question behaved themselves, while on the island.

All three men were sitting at the bar counter. Hernan was in the middle, with Sans to his right, and Isandro to his left. All three of them were each having a bottle of moderately priced beer.

And Sans and Isandro could tell that something serious was on Hernan's mind.

Meanwhile, Hernan was in deep thought, as he contemplated the situation between his family and the Lovelace household. He thought, 'Okay. I can see some of the similarities, between Roberta and I. But, there are not that many.'

'Besides the gender differences, Roberta can be so... Repressed... Well, not right now, but she use too... That repression was likely one of the reasons she went off the deep end, after Diego was murdered. That, intense misplaced guilt, and extreme lack of sleep.'

'On the other hand, I try to be open about everything, except for my past... Though, now that I think about it. I could probably be as bad as she is. Or, at least close to it. And that scares the hell out me.'

'Though, we both like tequila. And am just drinking a beer, because I don't want to get anywhere drunk, for the sake of my family. Because I have to be a role model for my family... Just like she use to try to present being a role model for Garcia, when he was a child. And we both prefer to be polite. And we can dish out the ass-kicking like no tomorrow.'

'Then, there is Maria. She is intelligent, kind, and polite. Just like I would guess that Garcia is. And Maria only prefers to be a housewife because she like raising our three children, and I am able to make enough for the five of us to live comfortably on.'

'I am sure that Maria has could take care of herself, and our kids, if she needed to. Fortunately, she does not. Because I am here.'

'Damn it... I guess there are some similarities for both Maria, and I, towards Garcia and Roberta...'

'And I still have to figure out how to explain to my wife that we are gender swapped counterpart individuals to two characters, from another reality, that are works of fiction in our reality. But, are very real, with Roberta current live in our very town, in our very reality...'

'I sounds like a lunatic, just thinking about it...'

'Also, I have no idea how these revelations will effect our kids. Once they find out.'

'I have seen the various series. I have read those insane stories. I know the insanity I just accidentally drew the attention of. And I just concerned about the welfare of my family. I know I could survive it. But, I am worried about those I love.'

'Though, on the bright side, I don't have to worry about someone trying to come after my family and I, in an attempt to hurt Roberta. Because anyone whom knows Roberta's reputation and abilities, would not knowingly cross that woman. And I am no slouch either, in the revenge department.'

Sans then broke Hernan's train of thought, by asking, in spanish, “So Hernan, what is on your mind?”

Isandro commented, in spanish, “It must be something important.”

Hernan admitted, in spanish, “Actually, several things are on my mind, right now.”

Hernan thought, 'I better change the subject. Because, I really don't feel like talking about this.' He questioned, “So, how is married life treating the both of you?”

Sans answered, “Emily is doing fine.”

Isandro said, “Grace is very happy. Now, how about you and Maria?”

Hernan thought, 'I have never lied to my two friends here. And I will not start now.' He stated, “We hit a rough patch.”

Isandro asked, “What happened?”

Hernan said, “Just someone from our past showed up.”

Isandro inquired, with concern in his tone of voice, “The cartel hasn't returned to town?”

Hernan quickly said, “No.”

Isandro mentioned, “Good. Speaking of which. I was pissed off at you, for a little while, because you didn't tell us what happened, until after it was all over.”

Sans said, “Yea. We are a team... Or, at least we were.”

Hernan stated, in a sober tone of voice, “Listen guys. I just didn't want to involve you two. They learned about me. You two are still off their radar.”

Isandro said, “Fine. So, who is this person that showed up?”

Hernan coyly responded, “I guess you could say the person is relative. I would rather not get into it, tonight.” He thought, 'And I don't want to drag you into my mess.'

San offer, “Okay. Though, keep in mind. We are here when you are ready to talk to us.”

Isandro said, “We are more than happy to hear about anything you have to say.”

Hernan said, in a slightly happily tone of voice, “I know.”

Isandro asked, “Say. You haven't see Pedro around, Hernan?”

Sans mentioned, “Yea. When we could make it to his movies nights, they were fun.”

Hernan thought, 'I cannot tell them that Pedro, and his friend, Matthew, got fed up with every thing that was happening to them. That they somehow got a small, hand held device, that lets them travel the multiverse. And they are no longer in this reality... I need to keep this simple, but sweet.'

Hernan said, “I heard he left town.”

Sans mentioned, “That is what the guys at the police station said.”

Isandro replied, in a halfhearted tone of voice, “Oh well. If he shows back up. We will have some more fun with him.”

Hernan honestly commented, “That is something I am hoping for myself.”

Hernan, Isandro, and Sans, then continued talking, and have fun being in each others company.

And while Hernan kept his secrets, he and his two friends had a good time that evening.

An hour later, the three of them said their goodbyes to each other, for the night. And they paid their bill, left a tip, headed out of the bar, and to the parking lot, were their cars were parked. Once they were in their cars, they each headed back to their homes, where their spouses, and for Hernan, his kids, were waiting for them. And since each of them only had two beers, over the course of two hours, all three of them were fine to drive home, that evening.

(_)

Reality, unknown. Date, unknown. Place, unknown, but a place with an Earth light atmosphere. Time, some time at night.

As Pedro and Matthew stood side by side, with Pedro to Matthew's right side, the next thing Pedro and Matthew knew, they were in a small, twenty by twenty, feet square clearing, that was surrounded by stacks of metal cargo crates. Each crates varied in sizes, from small, to large. But, all the crates were stacked together, at least fifteen to twenty feet high.

Though, there paths from the clearing, between the crates. These paths were three feet wide. And there was bright light coming from over the crates, that provided enough ambient light to see with. With the light coming from a single direction, to their left.

The temperature was comfortable. Not to warm, not to cool.

Pedro put away his reality device, into a pocket, as he looked up, above the crates. Even with the lighting, which was coming from a single direction, Pedro saw a clear sky and stars above Matthew and himself.

Pedro noticed, as he thought, 'Wherever we are, it is night. And from the feel on the bottom of my shoes we are on either pavement, or concrete. I get the feeling we are in the middle of supply depot. But, it is too dark to see the labeling on the crates. And I am not going to try to break into one of these crates. So, I don't know what type of depot this is.'

Pedro then strained his hearing, but he heard nothing, as he continued his thoughts, 'But, either this place is closed for the night. Or, the high walls of these crates are blocking out any sounds of machinery in the distances.'

'Given those lights, over the crates, are clearly artificial, and coming from a specific direction, I think someone here is still at work. Though, I am not going to complain, because they provide enough light for us to see with... Still, my instincts are telling me to be on guard.'

While Pedro and Matthew continued to look around, Matthew said, “Where are we?”

Pedro turned to Matthew, as he stated, “I don't know. I wasn't really thinking that clearly when I teleported us.”

Matthew turned to Pedro, as he deadpanned, “And you preach don't drink and drive. What about don't drinking and teleporting?”

Pedro retorted, in a sheepish manner, “Ah... Live and learn...” He then continued, in a more calm tone of voice, “But, I am still fairly sober. I was just in such a good mood that I wasn't clearly thinking.”

Matthew replied, “Okay. Though, this is getting to be a bad habit on your part.”

Pedro admitted, “I know. And that being said. I don't want to be unarmed here.” He then knelt down on the group.

Matthew looked down to watch what Pedro was doing.

Pedro immediately pulled out his semi-automatic pistol, and he set it on the ground. He then pulled out full ammo magazine from his shoulder holster, under where his pistol went, below his left armpit.

There were two slots under his pistol holder, on his holster, where spare ammo magazines for his pistols went. One was empty due to him giving Roberta one of his spare ammo magazines.

Pedro picked up his pistol, changed out the empty ammo magazine with the fully loaded one, with the empty ammo magazine set on the group. Next, set his pistol back onto the ground, by the empty ammo magazine.

Pedro pulled out a box of ammo, from a pocket. He opened it and pulled out seven forty-five caliber rounds. After which, he closed the box, and put the box back in the pocket it had been in. Pedro loaded the empty ammo magazine, with the seven bullets he had pulled out from the ammo box.

Pedro picked up the spare, loaded ammo magazine, and he placed it in a slot, in his shoulder holster, under where his pistol went.

Pedro thought, 'Now that I think about it. If this turns ugly, I could use some help.' He looked up at Matthew, as he continued his thought, 'And Matthew might be able to help.'

Pedro then noticed that Matthew was looking down at him.

Pedro thought, 'Good. Now, to make my offer.' He pulled up the bottom of his right pants legging to show his revolver in its ankle holster. He offered, “Do you want my Chief's Special? I think you might need it.”

Matthew responded, “In this situation. I am glad you taught me how to use a gun. So yea. I could use a pistol, right now.”

Pedro commented, “And it was fun teaching you. You are a good student.”

Matthew replied, “Thank you.”

Pedro pulled out his chief's special, a five round, snubnosed revolver, that used thirty-eight special caliber bullets.

Pedro looked up at Matthew, as handed it Matthew. Pedro inquired, “Would you like a speedloader, or two, as well?”

Matthew took the revolver. The hammer of the five round revolver was not cocked, but the trigger was double-action, so it could still be fired by pulling back the trigger. As such, Matthew took no chances. He held it in his right hand, by the grip, with his right trigger finger on the trigger guard, while he pointed the end of the barrel of the pistols away form them.

Matthew looked back down at Pedro, as he said, “Nah. If it gets that bad, we will just teleport out of here.”

Pedro complemented, “Good idea.” He then rolled down his pants leg. He picked up his semi-automatic pistol with his right hand. He then stood up straight. Next, he pointed his pistol away from both of them, while he placed his right trigger finger on the trigger guard. After which, he pulled back the slide, and release it, with the hammer cocking back, and round going into the chamber the pistol.

Pedro looked over at Matthew, as he stated, “Okay. Let's see what this place is all about.”

Matthew looked up, above the crates, as he commented, “Well, all the lighting it coming from the direction to our left. So, I suggest we quietly head that way.”

Pedro looked up at well. He then looked down at Matthew, as Matthew look at him.

Pedro said, “I will take point. You follow behind me. We will take this slowly and carefully. So, try to be as quiet as possible.”

Matthew casually replied, “I wouldn't have it any other way.”

Pedro took point, as they slowly made their way between the crates, while they followed the light above them. With Matthew quietly following a few feet behind Pedro.

The two men slowly made their way through the paths between the crates, while keeping their pistols pointed upward, with their trigger fingers resting against the trigger guards of their weapons.

Though, to follow the light, they had to make a few turns, at various clearings.

About ten minutes later, they found break in the crates, that lead to the open tarmac beyond the crates, with the light coming from that direction.

The break was created by several large crate creating a topless out alcove, with a stack of small crate, three feet high, six feet side, and six feet deep, between the large crates, but set so that there were three feet while paths on both side of the small stack of crates, between the large stacked crates, to the outside.

Pedro was still standing in the shaded path, beside the large crates, near the small crates, which were to his right.

Pedro turned Matthew, whom was standing right behind him.

Pedro quietly said, “Get behind the crates, and crotch down. We will should have a good view of what is going on.”

Matthew just nodded once towards Pedro, in acknowledgment.

Pedro thought, with delight, 'It is always nice to deal with someone who knows when to stay quiet.'

Pedro then turned back to the break, as he quickly walked over to the other side of the crates. He then quickly crouched down behind the crates, as he looked over, out into the field.

Matthew did the same, as he crouched down to Pedro's right side, while he also looked out into the field.

Both men had their heads held just high enough over the small stack of crates, to see out into the field. With Matthew being to Pedro's right side.

The lighting they saw allowed them to clearly see the field of concrete in front of them.

In the far distance, of a few kilometers, to both their right and left, they saw walls of stacked crates that went as far as they could see.

But, what they saw in front of them that took them by surprise.

In front of them, about two kilometers away, was the entrance to a large, aerial style hanger.

The hanger was the size and shape of a very large, old blimp hanger, that could have held several large passenger blimps.

The hanger had two very large entrances, with a curved, half cylinder shape, that rang down the sides walls, from the top, in a crescent shaped curve.

Fortunately, the light came from several dozen flood lights installed in, around, and on top of the hanger.

This allowed Pedro and Matthew to see the white, Imperial Star Destroyer, with its landing gear down, sitting on the concrete, hanger floor. The large, while ship completely fit inside the hanger, with room to spare. The front point of the wedge of the white Star Destroyer was facing out of the entrance, towards them.

Also, they could see industrial machines at work, both in and around the hanger. Such as forklifts and industrial cranes, which were in use moving various crates.

The two men continued to look at the hanger in front of them, as Pedro commented, “Okay. That is one big hanger.”

Matthew said, “And that is an Imperial Star Destroyer.”

Pedro flatly asked, “I know...” He then continued in a more concerned tone of voice, “What the hell did we just stumble into?”

Matthew then noticed something else, as he responded, “I don't know. Though, take a closer look at who... Or, should I say what? Is manning. And what they are doing. It was you whom showed me those OVAs, so are those?

Pedro looked more closely as well, as he stated, with worry in his tone of voice, “Yea... They are boomers.”

The two men saw several hundreds boomers, during various tasks. Most of the boomers were either combat boomers, or battle boomers. With the combat boomers outnumbering the battle boomers, by ten combat boomers for everyone one battle boomers.

Though, the closest boomers were about two hundred meters from them.

Among the various tacks the two man saw the blue humanoid combat boomers during. They saw the combat boomers the cabs of forklifts and the industries cranes, as they used their vehicles to move the crates around.

In the distance, Pedro and Matthew even saw the boomers using forklifts to move crates up and down ramps, and into the various cargo holds of the belly of the Star Destroyer.

On some ramps, the two men saw boomers moving crates out of the Star Destroyer. On other ramps, the two men saw boomers loading crates into the Star Destroyer.

Meanwhile, the larger, brown battle boomers, with their weapon lances on their right arms, were standing at varying intervals, of distance, in and around the large hanger.

Pedro and Matthew continued looked over the crates, at the boomers, as Pedro stated, “I think the only ones here, besides us, are the boomers.”

Matthew commented, with slight terror in his tone of voice, “Well, this is the first time I have seen boomers in person.”

Pedro responded, in a concerned tone of voice, “Same here. And even at this distance, they are scary.”

Matthew mentioned, “Well, at least, the closest boomers are two hundred meters away, and they have their backs turned from us.”

Pedro stated, “That is still too close to me.”

Matthew inquired, “I can agree with that. Now, since you're the fanboy here. What types of boomers are we looking at?”

Pedro answered, “The blue, human sized boomers are combat boomers. Right now, they jobs seem to be used as laborers. And the larger, brown boomers are battle boomers, whom seemed to be assigned to guard duty. But, don't kid yourself. Those things are walking terminators.”

“Both those types of boomers have built in arsenals of various types of weaponry. With each of those blue combat boomers being able to take out a squad of soldiers, from back home. And those brown battle boomers are basically walking tanks.”

“Also, both those types boomers have hover jets on the back of their backs, and for the combat boomers, their legs, that allow them to hover along the ground at high speeds. And though, while their hover jets are not designed to let them fly high into the air, they can do assisted jumps, with those hover jets, that allow them traverse high terrain very quickly.”

Matthew questioned, “I will keep that in mind. So, who could be doing this? Could it be Chang from the past?”

Pedro stated, “No. During Book Two, Chang preferred to keep all his boomers at his tower, Roanapur. Or, her tower, at the time.”

Matthew commented, “Well, somebody organization all this. And this is one hell of an operation, which would likely impress both Garibaldi and Chang.”

Pedro said, “I know. And I don't have a clue as to who put this together.”

A thought then occurred to Pedro, as he mentally reflected, 'But, given the direct light, I think we can see what is on these crates.'

Pedro then looked around at the crates. The lighting from the flood lights allow him to see the text on the sides of the crates. And what Pedro saw both surprised and worried him.

While Pedro did not know most of the languages on several of the crates. He recognized many of the symbols. And he saw crates with language symbols from Star Wars Imperials, Farscape Peacekeepers, Babylon Five Earthforce in english text, Star Trek Klingon, Star Trek Romulan, crates with the Genom brand and japanese text on them. Along with several other symbols, on various crates, he recognized from other various fiction realities he had knew of.

Then, the text on one of the large crates in front of him, caught his eye. The large crate was from Babylon Five Earthforce crate. The english text stated, '52mm Plasma Pulse Cannon Assembly'.

Pedro thought, with concern, 'If I remember my B Five canon correctly, those are the large, fifty-two millimeter plasma pulse cannon that are placed on Earthforce Omega Class Destroyer... Oh hell... Each of those cannons pack a hell of a sustained punch that even the deflector shields of that Star Destroyer, in front of us, would notice.'

Pedro eyes widened, as he realized, with worried, 'We are in in a multiversal weapons depot. Just by being here, we are in some serious trouble.'

Pedro turned to look back at the boomers, back in the field, as he said, “Judging from what is said, on the Earthforce crates, and other languages. I think these crates are full of weapons and weapon components from across the multiverse. And not just hand held weapons. The large Earthforce crate to our right, is the assembly for a plasma pulse cannon for an Omega Class Earthforce. This is some serious ordnance.”

Matthew looked at the Earthforce create to their right. He then turned back to look at the boomers in the distance, as he commented, “Well, we have surely stumbled into something big. Do you think this could be their main base?”

Pedro stated, “If it was, they could still raise a whole lot of hell. But, I don't think so. I think that star destroyer, parked in there, is used as a supply transport to somewhere else. With the hanger being camouflage for the Star Destroyer.

Matthew said, “And with reality traveling technology, they can just teleport Star Destroy somewhere else in the multiverse. Even in space. To add to that. With the hyperdrive engines on that ship, someone can teleport it to another reality, in space, and then use the hyperdrive engines to head to another location in that reality. Thus, making the ship even more difficult to track.”

Pedro commented, “Yea. And it can come and go from here. In and out. With no one else being the wiser.”

Matthew inquired, “Should we return to your island, and tell the others? Because, this is very important. This is too big for the two of t us to handle.”

Pedro flatly stated, “No, on both counts. If we return to the island, they may follow us there. And from what I see here. Which is probably just a minor supply depot for whomever is behind this. There is a literally army of boomers. A star destroyer. And likely enough weapons and ordnance in these crates to frag a planet, a few times over.”

“I do not think Chang and the others could handle this kind of heat. And I am certainly not going to risk my homeworld, let alone, my home town, by immediately returning from here, to there. If we did so, we run the risk them tracking us to my home reality.”

Matthew inquired, “So, do you plan to keep running?”

Pedro answered, “No. I do eventually plan to return to my home. What I meant is that we will only return to my home reality, after a few dozen reality jumps. And only after I am sure we are not being track by those in charge of this.”

Matthew asked, “Okay. And why don't you want to tell the others?”

Pedro responded, “Because, unlike you and I. Chang and the others like to stick their noses into things they shouldn't. Especially, Revy, River, and Annie. And as I said before, I don't think they can handle a frontal assault of this magnitude.”

“On the other hand, the two of us know better. Since we have no way of knowing who is behind this. And given how big this operation clearly is. We are going to leave in a minute. And we with luck we will just put this behind us. And we won't mention it to the others.”

Matthew said, “I can see your points. And I can agree to those points.”

Pedro replied, “Good.”

Just then, both men saw a brown battle boomer, that was two hundred meters away from in front of them, turn in their direction.

The battle boomer saw them, as it pointed its right lance weapon, with its gatling gun, and bazooka house in the lace weapon, at them. The battle boomer then used its left hand to grip its right lance weapon, to steady it, as the boomer's back hover jets roared to life.

The boomer then started hovering towards Pedro and Matthew, at high speed.

Pedro said, with worry in his tone of voice, “Oh hell. We have been spotted.”

As the boomer approached them, Matthew stated, “Our pistols are shit against that thing.”

Pedro swiftly replied, “I know.”

Pedro immediately flipped the hammer safety on with his right thumb. Next, he holstered his weapon, in the shoulder holster under his left armpit.

Matthew requested, with desperation in his tone of voice, “Get us out of here.” He then moved a closer to Pedro.

Pedro hastily said, “Working on it.” He then pulled out his reality device. Next, he turned to Matthew, to see that his friend was couching right beside him, to his right side.

While Pedro didn't so much as think of a specific time and place to go to. What he did think, as he press the red button on the reality device in his right hand, was for them to head to someplace festive, happy, and safe.

The two men then instantly disappeared just before the boomer reached their position.

(_)

Reality, unknown. Date, unknown. Place, a spacestation floating in an unknown location in space. Time, unknown.

The gravity on the spacestation was Earth standard. And the atmosphere in the spacestation was mostly dry air, with the same proportions of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and argon, as on Earth. With the air pressure being equal to sea level on Earth.

Inside a secret, though large, spacestation, was the office of the politically appointed manager of the station.

Seated in a large, cushioned, office chair, behind the desk, was a fair skinned man with short blond hair. He had a moderately heavy physical built that was muscular, but this was hidden due to the green business suit he wore. The man also wore sunglasses.

The desk itself appear to be a large oak desk, darkly stained, with shelves on the back sides of it. The top of the desk, by the chair, had a monitor that was a touch screen.

There were no chaired in front of the desk.

The only light in the room came a small electric lamp, on the lower right corner of the desk, to the man sitting behind the desk. The lamp used a that single soft yellow, incandescent bulb.

Due to this only source of light, except for the desk itself, the rest of the vary large, open room was shrouded in darkness. With the high walls, distance to the side walls giving those by the desk a feeling of being alone in the darkness.

The wall behind the main was a solid, clear window, that allow the man to look out at the vastness of the starry night sky.

But, the man had precautions taken when installing that window. There were also two force fields on the window. One on the outside, and one on the inside, with both always left on. And should a crack in the window appear, or either of the force fields failed, emergency blast doors, from the outside, would immediately close the window, thus keeping the room pressurized from space.

The man in the green suit then heard as three sets of footsteps approached him, from the entrance to his office that was several feet away, in the darkness.

As the three people came into the light, the man took a look at them, as they came to a stop, while standing in front of his desk.

To the man's left, was a slender woman, with a youthful appearance. She had dark skin, and short white hair, that was cut at the neck like. The woman wore a purple and white federation police officer's uniform. Included in the uniform was a purple and white poncho, that was draped around the woman's neck and shoulder.

To the man right, in the middle of the group was a middle-aged man in fair physical shape. The man had fair skin, and short red hair. The man wore a while, short white coat, that was button up, along with light blue pants, and shoes.

And to the right of the group was a cybertronian that looked like a clone of Arcee, except this cybertronian had yellow colored armor, with red highlights.

The man in the white lab coat turn to the white haired woman, as he commented, in a playful tone of voice, in english, “So Nechla. How are your the people skills coming along?”

Nechla Geeze looked over at man with red hair, as she sarcastically asked, in english, “Have any experiments gotten loose lately, Anton?”

The man behind the desk, barked, in english, “Enough!”

The three people standing turned their attention back to the man at the desk.

Nechla questioned, “So Gomez, I see you summoned us here. But, I don't see the Xanatos family anywhere?”

Gomez said, “I will not disturb the Xanatos family, unless it is important. This is not that important.”

Nechla did not show any outward expression, to the veiled insult, but she grimly thought, with disgust, 'But, we are not so important, as those savage humans...' She forced herself to remain inwardly calm down, as she mentally reminded herself, 'Still, I just have to remember that I only have to wait a little while longer, and I will be ready to put my plan into action.'

The cybertronian calmly asked, in in english, “Why have you summon us, Gomez?”

Gomez thought, 'Finally, a mature question.' He answered, “The reason you all here, Jhiaxus, is that I wish to inform you of this.”

Gomez punched a button on his touch screen, with his right hand, as he thought,
thought, 'There is no point in having a command structure, if the command structure is kept out of the loop.'

Suddenly, a colored, holographic, detailed, two dimensional picture, facing the three people that was standing, started to play. The hologram was located on the left top corner of the desk, from Gomez.

The hologram was also at one twelfth scale, to what was actually recorded.

The people watched the video play, with was clearly recorded from the GUI screen that was a boomer's eyes, as the boomer turned around, seeing the two men, looking at the boomer, while couching behind a low pile of crates. The boomer then charged at the men. And finally the two men suddenly disappearing.

The video was sit on a loop, so when it ended, it just restarted at the beginning of the recording.

As the video play, Gomez stated, “Local time. This morning, one of our battle boomers, at a remote supply depot, in another reality, took this footage.”

Gomez then pressed a button on his touch screen, that paused the video, when the boomer got a close up of the faces of the two men.

Gomez calmly said, “It is clear that we have a couple of trespassers on our property. Though, I want your opinions on this, before I take action. Given all three of you have an eye for detail, I want to know what you each think of what those two men were doing there? And why?

Nechla stated, “These two are obviously spies.”

Doctor Anton Sevarius commented,”I doubt that.”

Jhiaxus replied, “I agree with, Anton.”

Nechla said, in annoyed tone of voice, “You always do.”

Jhiaxus ignored Nechla insulting tone of voice, as she commented, “The reason I agree with Anton, is that if you look at their expressions, you can clearly see surprised expressions on the faces of those two humans. Also, they do not have any powerful weapons, nor sensor equipment, on them. Finally, they are wearing civilian clothing. They are clearly not a spy team sent for reconnaissance. They are likely two fools that accidentally ended up there, realized they were in over their head, and disappeared by jumping realities.”

Nechla asked, “Are we sure they are reality travelers?”

Gomez said, “Yes. We picked up a signature of a reality jump.”

Nechla questioned, “Then, why don't we just follow them, and capture at their destination point.”

Gomez stated, “We already know when, where, and what reality they went to. And if sent a squad of boomers to follow them to their next destination, it would only lead to more trouble for all of us. For right now, there are only two people that have a clue about us. I do not want to arouse the suspicions of others.”

Anton spoke up, in a slightly hammy tone of voice, “Then, what do you have in mind, oh green suited one?”

Gomez coyly replied, “Something more subtle.”

Anton guessed, “A one man operation?”

Gomez said, “Something like that.”

Jhiaxus asked, in a casual tone of voice, “Not that I really care, one way, or another. But, what do you plan on doing about those two men?”

Gomez calmly answered, “Find them. And find out why they were there. Beyond that, depends on their answers. And if they are honest in their answers.”

Jhiaxus complimented, “Wise as ever, Gomez.”

Gomez calmly replied, “Thank you. And you all are dismissed.”

The three people that were standing, turned around, and walked into the darkness, towards the doors automatic sliding doors they had used to enter the room from.

A few seconds later, Gomez heard the office door close behind, signally his three subordinates had lead the room.

Gomez thought, with concern, 'I am beginning to think that Nechla is becoming slightly, mentally unstable. Though, losing her high ranking positioning in the federation government, due to Lee's stories. And being force to work with those she views as primitive savages, has got to grate on her ego. I think in a few days, I will order her to take some psychological counseling. She is too valuable to just let go. So, I will try to salvage the situation with her.'

'Though now, I have to deal with the matter at hand.'

Gomez swiveled his chair to his left, towards some of the shadows in his office. He stated, “You can come out, now.”

Gomez then watched as a man in black power armor, that looked like a cross between a Knight Saber hardsuit, and Ironman powersuit, walked out of the shadows, towards him.

The helmet and face plate looked more like an Ironman style. While the contours of body of the armor was more reminiscent of the Knight Saber hardsuits. Though, from the masculine build of the armor shape, this powersuit was clearly build, and was piloted, by a man, and not a woman.

The black armored man's face plate was closed over his face, and his armor was completely sealed from the outside. Save for the filters and vents needed to breath, and do various other things. Though, the suit could be vacuum sealed at a moments notice, with the person inside being able to breath the regulated air for a number of days. With his other life support systems keeping him alive for that long. Until he reached an friend atmospheric environment.

The black armored man came to a stop ten feet from Gomez. With him being just close enough to the lamp on the table, for the light to fully show on his face plate and the front of his armor.

The combination of the black armor reflecting against the light, and the dark shadows behind the armored person, allowed the black armored person to give off an eerie vibe.

Gomez calmly asked, “Did you pay attention to the meeting?”

In a deep synthesized voice, that was modulated by the speakers in the helmet of the armor, the black armored man flatly answered, in english, “Yes.”

Gomez ordered, “I want you to go after the two men on the holographic screen. I have already uploaded the data to your armor, of where, when, and what reality they are going too. That will be a good start. But, I realize, given where they went too, you might not be able to immediately capture them. So, take you time. Capture them when the opportunity presents itself. And when you catch them, bring them back here, for questioning.”

The power armored man responded, in his modulated voice, “Whatever you want, sir.”

Gomez stated, in a firm tone of voice, “Keep in mind, I want them back alive, and in a state they can answer our questions. Your suit has the technology to track them, and retrieve them. I want this done quietly. If it looks like it will cause too much trouble to catch them in one reality. Wait until they jump to another reality, where they are more alone, for your opportunity to catch them.”

The man in the armor stated, “Yes sir.”

Gomez reminded the man, “Do not forget all I have done for you.”

The man replied, “I never do, sir.”

Gomez said, “Good. Because I am putting a lot of trust in you, by giving you this mission. I do not want you to cause a massacre, in you pursuit of them.

The man responded, “I have always prefer intimidation over outright violence.”

Gomez said, “Which is why I am giving you this mission. Though, I will contact my other agents, in case they run across them.”

The man stated, “Of course. That would be a wise course of action to take.”

Gomez inquired, “When do you believe you will be ready to leave?”

The man answered, “Right now, sir. After you mentioned you had transferred the data to my armor, I pulled up the information, and started procedures to follow them. I have just gotten a lock on the coordinates you gave me.”

Gomez thought, while be mildly impressed, 'I do enjoy competent help, that are ready to do the job, when the request is presented.'

The man went onto say, “And I agree, given the destination point they went. Retrieving them there could be difficult.”

Gomez replied, “Use your best judgment.”

The armored man stated, “I will do so, sir. Though, given your parallel time regulations, I do not know when I will return. Also, I may end up chasing them into our past. Though, I will be careful.”

Gomez stated, “As I said. Take the time you need. And use your best judgment. But, if you find them in a situation could compromise our organization by you getting involved, back off, and capture them later.”

The man replied, “Understood, sir.”

Gomez said, “Good. Now go.”

Gomez then watched as the black armored man suddenly disappear.

Gomez then turned to face his desk, as he press another on his touch screen, which turned off the holograms of Pedro, and Matthew.

Gomez then turned pressed other key to turn off his lamp light.

Next, as he was now bathed in darkness, as he turned around, to stare at the window, and the stars outside.

Gomez leaned back in his chair, as he looked at the night sky. He mentally reflected, 'Sometimes my subordinates need to be reminded a few times. Such as the orders they were given. And that man is one such subordinate. Still, so far he had done a good job on his missions. So, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. And if I lose him, it will only be a small loss.'

'Now, I have much to think about, on other matters.'

'I have a few things that I need to think about, and work on, before I move forward on my plans. And I have a feeling that I may have to move up my time table on my plans.'

'If the enticement plan does not work, I will have to move onto plan B.'

'I probably should can contact the love birds, in their castle nest, and tell them to have their family start to prepare for their part in my plans, if the current part of our plan falls through.'

'Though, I don't think they will mind. For them, plan B, will be a lot of fun, with little risk.'

'But, the most important part of my plans are that I do not want us to be caught flatfooted. And this whole situation, with those two trespassers, has Murphy's Law rewritten all over it...'

'Still, I need to think over all of this, in my head, before I do anything. I have a few agents, still out of other missions, that I might want to include in this current plan, or plan B. So, I may have to wait a little while, before I continue forward with my plans.'

'Though, even with those minor inconveniences, I have found that patience truly is a virtue.'

Gomez then spend some time musing over his future schemes, in the darkness of his office.

(_)

Reality, an alternate Earth. Date, some time in the future. Place, somewhere in North America. Time, evening, just after dark.

The next thing Pedro and Matthew knew, they were in a dark, empty alleyway, with only a the light coming from nearby windows, providing illumination.

As the stood up, they looked over at each other, they also noticed that the temperature was cool, but not cold. And that it was night time.

Matthew commented, “That was close.”

Pedro pocketed his reality device, as he replied, with relief in his tone of voice, “I know.”

Matthew asked, “So, where are we?”

Pedro answered, “I didn't have a lot of time to think. So, I thought of going somewhere festive, happy, and safe.”

Matthew said, “Sometimes keeping it simple is best is the best approach.”

Matthew then held out Pedro Chief's Special, with his right hand, while keeping the barrel of the gun pointed away from either of them, while he kept his trigger finger on the trigger guard.

Matthew offered, “Here is your gun back.”

Pedro gently, and carefully took his gun, as he replied, “Thanks.”

Pedro leaned down, pulled up his right pants legging, holster the pistol in the holster on the outer side of his right black boot, he rolled down his right pants legging, and stood back up straight.

Pedro looked back at Matthew, with Matthew continued to look at him.

It was then that Pedro and Matthew began to notice up beat jazz music being played in the air, along with the sounds of celebration coming from the end of the alleyway that had lots of light.

Matthew commented, “I don't know about you. But, that music sounds very festival and happy.”

Pedro replied, “I agree.”

When they turned to look at that end of the alleyway, the saw party goers walking, or standing around, as they talking.

Matthew commented, “There is clearly a large party going on, nearby.”

Pedro suggested, “Then, let's join in.”

Matthew said, “I couldn't agree more.”

Both men then walked out of the alleyway, and onto a street. They came to a stop, at the exit of the alleyway, as they looking around, at the large street scene in front of them.

They saw that the buildings on both sides of the street were of an older fashion. Most of the buildings were two, or three stories tall. With some of the buildings being four, or even five stories tall. Most of the buildings had balconies and porches. In addition, there were lights strung up on the buildings. And the music was coming from speakers from the buildings around the street.

Also, there were party goers everywhere. Men and women. Human and various aliens. On the streets, on the balconies, on the porches. And while the buildings were old-fashioned, the party goers were wearing modern clothing. Though, a number of the people were in various types of costumes.

Pedro then realized where and when they were. He stated, “I am not sure on the exact date, and reality. But, I know went and where we are. We are in New Orleans, in the French Quarter, during Mardi Gras. And this party is held at the end of February to the beginning of March. Depending on when the dates for Ash Wednesday and Easter falls on a given year.”

Matthew and Pedro continued to look around, at the party in front of them, as Matthew complimented, “Nice pick for a destination.”

Pedro replied, “Thanks.”

Matthew stated, “I prefer to the cool, dry air of spring time, as it just begins, than the hot, humid air of summer time.”

Pedro commented, “I can appreciate that. Though, I am more of an autumn person, myself.”

Matthew rhetorically replied, “Who isn't?”

Pedro let out a small chuckle at Matthew's comment.

Pedro chuckle made Matthew crack a grin.

Matthew then noticed a group of three people, across the street, to his right, whom had weapons in holsters, on the right sides of their belts. And Matthew recognized who the people were.

Matthew commented, “I am not sure how to tell you. But, I think we are in a Star Trek reality... Though, that might now be a bad thing... Look to your right to see what I am talking about.”

Pedro looked in the direction that Matthew indicated. He saw a three person group. Two human men, and one vulcan woman, in Star Fleet security uniforms, with a phaser pistol holster the right side of each of Star Fleet members belts.

Pedro thought, 'Interesting. And those phasers are likely set to stun. Though, I don't want to test that.' He turned to Matthew, as he complimented, “Good eyes.”

Matthew turned to Pedro, as he replied, “Thanks.”

Pedro commented, “From their uniforms and weapons, I would guess this is the Next Generation era.”

Matthew responded, “Actually, I would say this is after the Dominion War. After the DS9 series. Given that Star Fleet preferred not to have an open security presence on the streets, until Dominion War, and after. And I say it is after that war because people would not be partying this openly during the security measures used on Earth during that war.”

Pedro said, “That is a good point.”

Matthew commented, “And you know. Speaking of the DS9 series. I found it annoying, that given the DS9 series occasionally featured scenes dealing with New Orleans. That they did not show New Orleans during Mardi Gras. To show us how Federation people truly partied.”

Pedro stated, “I agree. It was annoying. Though, at least know, we have that answer in front of us.”

Matthew said, “I know. And I am looking forward to enjoying myself here.”

Pedro replied, “So am I.”

A thought then occurred to Pedro, as he mentally reflected, 'This might even been the same reality that Bob use to hang around at, in Book Three of Lee's stories. Considering he, or now she, started visiting DS9, after the Deep Space Nine series ended, which was also the end of the Dominion War.'

'And the Star Fleet security presence is a lesson on how wars can cause the loss of civilian liberties and rights. Though, the Federation has always been a soft police state. With no civilian weaponry allowed. Strict travel controls between worlds. And the phasing out of currency.'

'And while the Federation is technically a democracy. That can be easily controlled, by arranging who runs for the elections, and who counts the ballots. Which, given all the technology here, is likely electronic. So, rigging an election here could be as easy as a few keystrokes, on a computer.'

'The only reason they government is not so strict and openly tyrannical here, is they have access to more energy than they need. Replicators are abundant and can create food, tools, machine parts, etc. As needed. At a moments notice. And their advanced medicine keeps almost everyone healthy.'

'As long as everyone is happy and healthy, with a full stomach, and entertainment to keep the occupied. They don't care how they are ruled.'

'But, that also means, we have to be more careful. Though, as long as we are careful, we can still have some fun, while we stay here. Still, we cannot stay here long.'

Pedro said, “I have been thinking. Even with security here, if we don't make a scene, we should be fine. Though, I doubt we can stay here for long.”

Matthew replied, “I agree. We can have fun. But, we are going to have to leave in a few hours. Before someone gets wise about us.”

Matthew thought, 'Pedro, I am sure you realize how heavily regulated the Federation is. So, that is why you say we cannot stay long. And that is why I agree with you.'

Pedro stated, “Yes. We will find lodgings in our next jump. Besides, I always want to see why the locals call this Earth, at this time, paradise?”

Matthew commented, “Every Trekkie wants to find that out.”

Pedro responded, “Well, we now have the opportunity to do just that.”

Matthew agreed, “Yes. We do. Let's go see what's out here.”

Pedro chuckled a little, as he thought, 'I see you are quoting Picard's line, at the end the Encounter at Farpoint episode. You may be a bigger fan of Star Trek, than me, Matthew.' As he calmed down, he replied, “Yes. Let's find out.”

The two men then casually walked side by side, with Matthew to Pedro's right side, as they made their way into the crowded streets of the French Quarter, on New Orleans, in on the Federation planet of Earth.

(_)

At the moment, nearby, down the street from Pedro and Matthew, but heading their way, were two people walking down the street, with people around them celebrating Mardi Gras.

Despite appearances, the two people were Garcia Lovelace and Michael Garibaldi. But, to those that looked at them, they would see two very different people. That being Garcia was currently in her cursed female teenager. And Garibaldi was in her cursed six year old girl form.

Both of them were in their female forms. For Garcia is was because she did not want to risk cold water being slashed on her, during the party. While, Garibaldi did not have any clothing for her much older, larger, male form.

Though, Garcia was in her male clothing, which fit her in her female form. She had on a yellow turtleneck shirt, under an open, blue denim jacket. She also had on blue jeans, with men's boxer shorts under her pants, a brown leather belt, and black socks, over her black boots.

Garibaldi wore the clothing the Jusenkyo Guide had given her, for her smaller, younger, female form, while in the Jusenkyo Guide's home.

Garibaldi had on a simple yellow short sleeved t-shirt, and black cloth pants, with a drawstring at the waistline. And small black slippers that fit her feet.

Two of them had departed the Ranma Half reality, several hours ago, for this very reality, time, and place. With them leaving the amazon village, after they betrayed Lee to the amazons and took her reality device from her.

The two girls had already had a nice lunch where they planned. Then, the found a hotel that would allow them to have a room, with no questions asked. After spending an hour in that room, to get cleaned up, and rest a little. They, they headed out, to enjoy the party in the city. With both of them have a good time, together, as friends.

Presently, two girls were enjoying the festival as best they could. As they walked side by side with each other, with Garibaldi being to Garcia's right side.

As Jazz music played from speakers on the buildings, and the two girls walked through the crowds, while the two were mindful not to get separate from one another.

Garcia then noticed Garibaldi was smiling more than the situation warrants. She then realized, in thought, 'Oh yea. It is probably that.'

Garcia commented, in english, “I am glad you are happy with at least one part of this gender change curse.”

Garibaldi continued to smile, as she looked around her. She commented, in english, “I just found out, less than an hour ago. In the privacy of our suite's bathroom here, that when I change gender, I keep my full head of hair. And it is the same shade of brown, I use to have, before my hair turned white. And best of all, my hair is the same length in both forms. So, I can have control on how I wish to style my hair.”

Garcia replied, “Yes. I have to agree, that is very good for you.”

Garcia thought, 'We would be happy that the clerk we rented the room from to pity on us, and allowed us to have a room for the night, without IDs. Without him alerting the authorities. And with me paying him with one of my gold coins, while lying to him, by telling him, we are sisters and will be meeting our parents, next day.'

'I did not know if the clerk bought our story, or not. But, I am sure my gold coin bought his silence, for us.'

'And while the gold of my gold coins in my pocket are not worth anything here. My gold coins have historical value. With that clerk at the hotel we are staying at, recognizing that value.'

'At least the two bedroom suite was nice. And we both got a nice hot shower. With use being able to confirm we change back to men, with hot water. But, not too hot.'

'Though, we had to use cold water to return to our girl forms. Given, in this situation, we are likely going to get hit with cold water, and change into a girl, in full view of the public, and any cameras that are around. And even I know, that being accused of being a shapeshifter, at this point in time, on this Earth, would be a very bad idea.'

'Besides, Garibaldi did not having clothing for his male form.'

Just then, Garibaldi stated, “And meeting you as been good. We have only know each other for a few hours. But, I can already tell we are on our way to becoming great friends.”

Garcia said, “I agree. Thank you.”

Garibaldi went onto say, “You're welcome. And at least, for all this mess Lee has gotten us into. I have to thank Lee for giving my full head of hair back.”

Garcia said, “I will keep that in mind.”

Garibaldi commented, “And in our next, where we go someplace that gold is valuable. We will get some clothing for both our forms.”

Garcia stated, “I fully agree. And I don't mind spending my gold on such items, for the both of us.”

Garibaldi said, “Thank you.”

Garcia replied, “You're welcome.”

While they continued walking, Garcia began to look around, as she commented, “You know, this place is pretty fun.”

Garibaldi agreed, “Yes. It is. I just wish I had clothing for my male form. Then, we could have some real fun.”

Garcia teased, “So, you can have a drink?”

Garibaldi responded, in a slightly serious tone of voice, “Actually, I am a recovering alcoholic.” She thought, 'By a few decades. Still... Speaking of alcohol. Most of those around us are likely so drunk, or caught up in the partying, that they don't care about two girls talking about strange things. Of course, this is a Star Trek reality. And as such, it is hard to gauge what the locals consider strange.'

Garcia said, in a sober tone of voice, “Oh right. Sorry. That slipped mind my.” She thought, 'How embarrassing... To forget that about Garibaldi.'

Garibaldi shrugged, as she casually replied, “It is okay. Still, some dancing would be nice.”

Garcia inquired, “I didn't know you knew how to dance?”

Garibaldi responded, in a playful tone of voice, “What? You think my charm was only with my witty comments.”

Garcia let out a small laugh. She then said, “No.”

Garibaldi questioned, with a bit of curiosity in her tone of voice, “Not that I would care to dance with you. Because I am either way too young, or way too old, for you, in either of my forms. But, do you know how to dance?”

Garcia answered, in a slightly quiet tone of voice, “Yes. My mother taught me, when I was very young... Before she died...”

Garibaldi thought, with slightly annoyance towards herself, 'Now, I am the one that is forgetful. Still, I know what I need to say. Thought, it would be best not to also remind her of her father's death, as well.'

Garibaldi stated, in a calm, thought comforting tone of voice, “Well, look on the bright side. We both have seen enough to believe. And I know from first hand experience, that there is life after death. So hopefully, in a very long time, you will see her again.”

Garcia though, 'And my father, as well.' Garcia quietly said, “Yes. I hope so.”

Garibaldi thought, 'Now to put her in a better mood.' She said, in a slightly excited tone of voice, “Cheer up. We are here to have fun. That is why we decided to stay for the evening. Sure the gumbo we had at Sisko's, was good for lunch. And supper was pretty good. But, those were only the appetizer to the fun we can have tonight.”

Garcia responded, in a slightly happier tone of voice, “You're right.” She then joked, in a clearly happy tone of voice, “And girls just want to have fun.”

Garibaldi giggled, as she got the music reference. She then playfully warned, “Don't go there kid. It only leads to trouble. I know. I have a teenage daughter of my own.”

Garcia let out a laugh. She then replied, “That is why it's so funny.”

Garibaldi thought, 'At least she is happy again. Now, to have some fun.' Garibaldi asked, in a casual tone of voice, “I wonder if they still allow women to flash their boobs for beads, at this party?”

Garcia asked, with mild surprise in her tone of voice, “That actually happens?”

Garibaldi casually replied, “Oh yea. I have been to a few of the parties, myself. When I was young. And I saw those events, first hand, in the New Orleans, of my home reality.”

Garcia said, in a slightly worried tone of voice, “Still, I don't want to get arrested for staring at a woman's breasts.”

Garibaldi pointed out, in a casual tone of voice, “I doubt they are going to arrest a little girl, and a teenage girl, for looking at woman's breasts. So, as long as we avoid hot water, we should be fine.”

Garibaldi thought, 'Though, it would be bad if someone here thought were were changelings, like Odo's people. That would cause problems. Still, technically, we are very basic shapeshifters, that change gender, and age for me, depending on if we are splashed with hot, or cold water.'

Garcia teased, “You know, you are a very dirty old man.”

Garibaldi playfully retorted, “Well, right now, I am a dirty young girl.”

Garcia pointed out, “Still, you're married.”

Garibaldi gave Garcia a leering grin, which looked eerily cute on her little girl face, as she happily replied, “That doesn't mean I can't look. As long as I don't touch.”

Garcia could not help bit giggle a little at the Garibaldi's face, and Garibaldi's comment, for a few seconds.

Garibaldi dropped her grin, as she thought, 'Now to talk about something more serious.' She said, in a slightly serious tone of voice, “Now, as I said earlier today, at lunch. We have no IDs. So, we need to be careful not to attract attention. While we lucked out at the hotel. We don't want to end up captured by Star Fleet, or local authorities.” She mentally reflected, 'Especially, since I appear to be a child to them. And you are a teenager in both gender forms.'

Garcia immediately stopped giggling, as she understood what Garibaldi said. Garcia flatly replied, “I know. I know.” She then continued in a more playful tone of voice, “But, we can still have some fun.”

Garibaldi agreed, “True.”

Garcia thought, 'Though, now that you mention IDs. It might not be wise to stay her for the night. We will be sitting ducks in our sleep.'

Garcia suggested, “Also, I am having second thoughts about staying at the hotel we rented for the night. So, when we are ready to get some sleep, we will head to another reality, to find decent lodgings that don't care if we are young, and have no IDs.”

Garibaldi complimented, “Good idea. Too many things can go wrong, if we stay here too long.”

Garcia inquired, “I am glad you agree. So, what would you like to do, now?”

Garibaldi happily mused, “Hmm... I have a few thoughts on the matter.”

Garcia and Garibaldi continued their conversation, as they walked through the crowds of people, on the street.

(_)

At the moment, in an empty alleyway, on the same side of the French Quarter, as where the alleyway Pedro and Matthew had teleported into, but not the same alleyway, Roberta and Fabiola suddenly appeared.

Both women were in their maid outfits. With each of their outfits holding a small arsenal of weapons.

The two women had just come from the chinese amazon village in the Ranma Half reality, with them tracking Lee's reality device to the reality, time, and place, they were currently in.

The alleyway itself was mildly illuminated from the bright lights coming from the nearby buildings. This allowed the two women to clearly see each other, and around themselves.

Fabiola was the one holding the reality device in her right hand, and the tracking tablet in her left hand. She looked at her tracking tablet for a few seconds, to check to see if their prey had left. Which was not the case. She then turned to look her friend, and teacher, Roberta, whom was clearly not in a good mood.

Fabiola put the devices in her hands, into her her dress, as she thought, 'Roberta, you are clearly not happy. And now is probably the best time to do so. But first, there is some information, I need to inform her of, that should help get the reaction I want from'

Fabiola calmly said, in spanish, “We are in a Star Trek reality. If our tracker is correct, this is the same reality, as the one that Bob use to go too. During the same time period. A few years after the Dominion war. We are on Earth, in the North American city of New Orleans. The local time is nine thirty PM.”

Roberta turned to look at her student, Fabiola, as she commented, in a low tone of voice, in spanish, “Good job.”

Fabiola thought, 'I will give her credit, that she is trying to stay civil with me. Now, I hope she can listen to reason.' She stated, “Now, before we continued, we need to talk about something important, that pertains to you.”

Roberta growled, “What?”

Fabiola stated, “That. I didn't want to say anything, in front of the others, on Mars, nor Lagoon Island. And I am proud that you have kept you anger in check. Especially when you were talking to Cologne, a few minutes ago. Also, I will admit that being a bitch, for a while, can be fun. But, you have got to tone it down some, while we are here. We do not want to cause trouble here. Like we did on Mars, in the B Five reality.”

Roberta replied, in a cold tone of voice, that could chill the air around them, “Why?”

Fabiola looked Roberta in her eyes, and she continued to do so. Which given the feral look in Roberta's eyes, was not an easy task. Though, Fabiola was still able to find the courage to hold her ground, as she said, in a firm tone of voice, “Because if we start trouble here, the local authorities can instantly transport us both into holding cells. And these holding cells have forcefields, and walls, that can hold even you. And as they transport us, they can disable, and possibly even remove, our equipment. Including our weapons, and reality device. Which will leave us stranded and imprisoned in a foreign reality.”

Fabiola could see the ferocity leave Roberta's eyes, as the purple haired woman understood what Fabiola was saying, and thus, Roberta forced herself to calm down.

Fabiola thought, with relief, 'Good. She is listening to reason. I do not know what I would have done if she went the other way.'

Roberta admitted, in a calmer tone of voice, “You're right, Fabiola. We do need to go about this more discreetly, while we are here. In this reality. So, when did Lee and Garibaldi arrive here?”

Fabiola answered, “They arrived around noon, local time. So, they have about half a days headstart. But, I don't have a teleport signal of them leaving. So, they are still hear. Also, I loath reminding you. But, we are under orders, not to harm, nor kill, Garibaldi, unless necessary.”

Roberta flatly commented, “I could care less about that old man. One way, or another.”

Fabiola responded, “Me too. But still, it would be best if we bring him back unharmed. And we also need to bring Lee back alive. Unless you want to hear Revy throw another one of her temper tantrums.”

Roberta cracked a grin, as she commented, in an amused tone of voice,”It has been a while since I have seen Two-hands do one of those. Though, I see your point. We will bring Lee back, alive. I can do alive. Unbroken, I am not sure. But, alive, I can do.”

Fabiola replied, “That is all I ask, from you.”

Fabiola turned towards the alleyway entrance to the party going on in the French Quarter. She stated, “Still, if the music, and the commotion, are any indications, we are in New Orleans, during a massive party.”

Roberta stated, “Given the cool weather, it is likely late winter, and we are in the middle Mardi Gras.”

Fabiola looked over at Roberta, as she said, in a slightly more excited tone of voice, “That is even better. And if we are a little more subtle than we usually are, we can use the party as cover. So, when we find Lee and Garibaldi, we can snatch them up without anyone else being the wiser.”

Roberta complimented, “That is what I like about you, Fabiola. Even in stressful situations, you have a clear head.”

Fabiola responded, “Thank you. Now, let's take a deep breath, and then head out into the crowd, and look for, Lee, and Garibaldi.”

Roberta looked over at the entrance that lead to the French Quarter, as she commented, “Still, finding Lee and Garibaldi should not be too difficult. They will likely be the only two tightass men, in suits, whom are not inebriated.”

Fabiola giggled a little, at Roberta's comment. She then agreed, “Exactly.”

Roberta looked back over at Fabiola, as she cracked a feral grin. She said, with a bit of excitement in her tone of voice, “Now, let us not waste anymore time. And let us renew our hunt.”

Fabiola shared Roberta's feral grin, as she happily replied, “I fully agree.”

Both women then turned towards the exit of the alleyway, that lead to French Quarter, and the throngs of people partying in that part of the city of New Orleans.

While they began walking towards the party, Fabiola to Roberta's right, as both women looked forward to finally finding, capturing, and punishing, their prey.

(_)

At the moment, in an empty, but well lit, alleyway, across the French Quarter, from the alleyway that Roberta and Fabiola were exiting, River, Daiyu, and Lee suddenly appeared.

The three women were looking at each other, in a group, as the had teleported into the Star Trek reality.

Fortunately, their arrival went unnoticed.

River was holding her reality device, in her right hand, while Daiyu and Lee were empty handed.

Lee was the first of the group to speak. She asked, in english, “So where, when, and what reality, are we, River?” She thought, 'Given you didn't want to tell us, until we got here.'

River pocketed her reality device, as she answered, in english, “To be honest, this is not the first reality that Pedro and Matthew came to, after leaving your home reality, Daiyu.”

Daiyu questioned, in english, “When, where, and what reality, was the first place they went too?”

River said, “They went to a remote planet in the Star Wars reality, that Annie is from. Around a few decades after Annie was originally kidnapped from that reality. But, they were only there for around fifteen minutes. I believe that they accidentally jumped there, ran into trouble, and immediately jumped to this reality. And since my tracking device was able to scan both jumps, while were are in Caracas, I decided to sidestep some potential problems, and come directly here, instead.”

Daiyu complimented, “That was very wise of you to take us here, instead of there. And this is the kind of intelligent thinking that I have come to expect from you. Good job, River.”

River replied, “Thank you.”

Daiyu commented, “You're welcome. That is the risk of reality travel. One must think clearly on what reality, when, and where, they want to go, when he, or she, uses their reality device. Or, that person runs the risk of ending up in a reality, place, and time, he, or she, doesn't really want to be at.”

Lee said, “That is true. In Book Three, I hinted that Bob had that problem a few times, when he was search the multiverse for a cure for Boris' cancer.”

Daiyu commented, “Yes. And along those lines, I must say that Boris looks hot as a woman.”

Lee responded, “Don't me. Thank Tex-Mex, for making Boris turn out to be a pretty boy as a teenage, in the Viva Youth omake. I just used that idea, and added a gender bent, adult twist, to B. Hell, I think the pretty boy joke for Boris was put in by Tex-Mex, before he forget to put Boris in the gender bending, Boys and Girls omake.”

Lee thought, 'And while I won't verbally admit it. And River, I know you will keep this to yourself. But, I gave Boris cancer as both an excuse to show how much his new friends cared for him, and as an excuse to have him under go the vat process, to cure the cancer, and be turned into a woman, whom then went by the letter, B.'

Lee then saw River nod once in agreement to Lee's thoughts on what she would, and wouldn't, do. And that she would keep Lee's secret.

Lee thought, 'Thanks, River.'

Daiyu stated, “I can see the logic in you doing so. And I don't mind what you did to me. In giving me gender bending abilities. Even I will admit that being a woman, sometimes, has its perks.”

Lee shrugged, as she casually said, “I know. And your actions in bed have proven that time and again. You as well, River.”

Daiyu and River could not help but smile at Lee's complimented.

River complimented, “Good one, Lee.”

Lee inquired, “Thank you, River. So, where are we, now?

River answered, “We are in the same Star Trek reality that you wrote about, Lee?”

Lee questioned, with slight curiosity in her tone of voice, “The Star Trek reality where Bob use to go to?

River responded, “Yes. To be specific, we are a few months after Bob stopped regularly going to Quarks, on DS9.”

Lee commented, “I wonder how that whole gender bending water curse plague panned out on Ferenginar?”

Daiyu pointed out, “It might be best we don't try to find out. They might realize you are responsible. In which case, they would likely put the largest in the multiverse, on your head.”

Lee winced, as she quickly said, “Oh. That is a good point. And I agree that we shouldn't look into it, for those very reasons. But, still I wonder?”

Daiyu stated, “Wonder all you like. As long as we don't look into that event. Nor mention it, while here. We should be fine.” She turned to River, as she inquired, “This is clearly not DS9. So, where are we?”

River looked over at Daiyu, as she answered, “Actually, we are on Earth. In New Orleans, right by the French Quarter.” She then grinned mischievously, at her two lovers, as she continued, in an excited tone of voice, “During Mardi Gras.”

Lee returned River's smile, as she said, “Nice.”

Daiyu cracked a grin, as she complimented, “Well, whether by accident, or intention, I will give Pedro credit. He knows when and where to go for a party.”

River mentioned, “Yes, but the tracking tablet, back in Caracas, stated they just go here a few minutes ago.”

Daiyu smiled widened slightly, as she commented, “All the better. And while we are here, we can have some fun. Maybe even stay here a while. As soon as we get Pedro and Matthew to hand over their reality device, they won't run from us. And I am sure they won't be against spending a few days here, during this party season.”

River complimented, “I like the way you think, Daiyu.”

Lee thought, about their situation for a few seconds. She then dropped her grin, as she said, in a more sober tone of voice, “Actually, that might not be such a good idea. The Federation and Star Fleet are real strict on IDs for lodgings. And we do not want the local authorities to know we exist.”

Daiyu looked over at Lee, as she replied, “Unfortunately, I have to agree with you, Lee.”

River said, “Lee does have a point. And we had plenty of fun in Caracas.”

Daiyu looked over at River, as she responded, “True. And we can always come back here, later. Such as go home, get some sleep, and come back later.”

River complimented, “That is a good idea.”

Daiyu smiled at River. And River returned Daiyu's smile.

Lee commented, “Still, this doesn't stop us from having a little fun while we are looking for Pedro and Matthew. Maybe even have few drinks, after we find them.”

River and Daiyu turned to Lee, as Daiyu said, “You're right. So, let's head out there.” She then turned towards the exit of the alleyway, where they saw people and lighting, along with them hearing some jazz music playing in the background. She continued. “And it doesn't take genius to know which way Pedro and Matthew likely went.”

River stated, “Yes. Those two would know that it is best to blend into a crowd. So, let's go.”

River then turned towards the alleyway entrance to the French Quarter, as she began walking.

Lee and Daiyu joined her. With Lee walking to River's left said, and Daiyu to her right said.

A few seconds later, as the three women walked out of the alleyway, passed the sidewalks, side by side, as they walked onto the crowded street.

As the three women began to make their through the crowd. Suddenly, to their right, two much younger girls appeared from between the groups of people.

The two girls walked right in front of Daiyu, River, and Lee.

Fortunately, the three women were able stopped just in time to prevent running into them.

And the two younger girls came to a stop, a few feet away from the three women, as the two of girls looked at the three women.

At the same time, the three women looked down to see a blond haired, fair skinned, girl in her mid-teens, and a six year old girl with fair skin and brown hair.

The teenage girl said, in english, “Sorry about that.”

River took one look at the two girls, as she read their minds, and her jaw when slack in suprise. Though, she was able to compose herself, a second later.

Meanwhile, Lee recognized the two girls, as well. A wicked smile curled up on her lips. Though, she was less angry, and more amused by the situation she found herself in.

Daiyu also noticed the blond teenage girl, as she thought, 'I have seen this teenage girl, somewhere before. But, I just cannot place her.'

Daiyu sighed, as she looked down at the two younger girls. She calmly said, “Next time. Just watch where you are going.”

The six year old girl replied, in english, “We will.”

Lee looked at the two younger girls, as she said, in a playful tone of voice, “Well, look who we bumped into?”

Daiyu continued to looked at the two younger girls, as she asked, “Who?”

Lee continued to wickedly smirk, as she responded, “If I remember correctly... It has been a while... But, these two are in their cursed, female forms. The blond teenager is Garcia Lovelace. And the brown haired six year old is Michael Garibaldi.”

Daiyu's eyes when slightly wide for a seconds. She then made her eyes return to normal, a she turned to River, whom nodded once in confirmation with what Lee had just said.

Daiyu turned back to look at the two younger girls, as she thought, 'It is Garcia. But, she is so young, in her female form, I just didn't recognize he. Besides, whenever I saw Garcia in her female form, was at those Lagoon bikini parties, when she was flanked by Roberta and Fabiola, and I wisely paid much closer attention to those two women, with her, than of Garcia.'

Garibaldi looked over at Lee, as she asked, “How do you know us?” She thought, 'She looks familiar, but I just cannot place her.'

River suddenly realized a few issues with their situation, as she thought, 'These two are from our past. Also, Garibaldi does not like telepaths. Especially, telepaths that are reading his... Her mind. We will have to be gentle in how we deal with them.'

River warned, “Be careful what you both say to Garcia and Garibaldi. Always keep in mind that they are from our past.”

Lee dropped her grin, as she looked at River. She flatly said, “Fine.” She then turned back to look at the two younger girls.

Lee stated, “To answer you questioned. It is me, Lee. I am all grown up. And for me, it has been number of decades after you had me captured by the Amazons. But, I am guessing, that for you, I was earlier today. Considering you talked about going here, for lunch, to get some gumbo, at Sisko's, in New Orleans, in this reality, during Mardi Gras.”

Garcia and Garibaldi suddenly showed slight shock on on their faces, as they visibly squirmed a little.

Garibaldi thought, 'I expected a little pay back from Lee, someday. But. not this soon. And I don't think being in the physical form of a little girl is going to help me much.'

Garcia thought, 'After everything she has done, she knows that if she even touches me, with intent to harm me. Lee knows that Roberta and Fabiola will kill her. If she is lucky.'

A few seconds later, as they forced themselves to calm down, Garcia admitted, “You would be correct. It has only been less half a day since we dumped you there, with the amazons.”

Lee casually asked, “So, how was the gumbo, at Sisko's?”

Garibaldi replied, “Pretty good.”

Garcia said, “I enjoyed it.”

Lee happily responded, “Nice. I may have to try some there, when I have the chance.”

Garibaldi mentioned, “The shrimp creole and fried stuffed oysters was also good.”

Daiyu looked over at Garcia and Garibaldi. Then, to Lee. And she turned to Garcia and Garibaldi, as she said, in a concerned tone of voice, “Be that as it may. We hope you don't plan to cause trouble, because we don't want Star Fleet to know we exist.”

Garibaldi responded, “We fully agree.”

Garcia commented, “Yes. That would cause to many questions to be asked.”

Daiyu thought, 'It is good they both realize that causing trouble will be counterproductive to the situation.' She replied, “Good.”

Garibaldi thought, 'We are out numbered, and outgunned. So, we might as well be nice.' She complimented, By the way, Lee, you look great.”

Lee asked, “I feel great, too. Were you aware that the amazon were planning to teach me how to fight?”

Garibaldi thought, with worry, 'Ah oh. This just got worse for us.' She answered, “No. We did not. Though, I hope there are no hard feelings between us and you.”

Lee responded, “You both are lucky that things worked out for me, or I would be pissed with both of you. But, as of right now. I am okay with you both, at the moment.”

Garibaldi replied, “Good.”

Garcia said, “Glad to hear it.” She thought, 'Though, given the maids are after you. We know that you are not going to touch me. And my extension, my friend, Garibaldi.'

Daiyu continued to look at the two younger girls, as she thought, 'Since you are from such a distant past, Garcia. And If you don't recognize me as Chang. Which is good, because from your point of view, and time period. You would consider me scum. With you blaming both Lee and I, caused most of you problems. Which, sadly, you would be correct about. But, if I mention who I am, it could wreck this wonderful meeting we are having. Which may turned out well for all of us.'

'As such, I will not say anything on the matter of my identity. So, as to prevent the risk of a paradox, and problems right now. And I doubt even Garibaldi recognizes me. So, there are not problems there... Though, I do plan to have some fun with you both.'

Daiyu rhetorically asked, “So, these are the two the took down the mighty, Lee?... Not bad.”

Daiyu thought, 'Though, given who you two are, I am not surprised. Garibaldi, you are as much as badass as I am. And I have known for years. Since the time Roberta came to Roanapur, for a second time. That you, Garcia have all the makings of a badass. You, as a he, stood up to Roberta, at the Bloodhound's worst, and you got her to calm down, even after you were shot by her. You then recovered, as you helped her recover. That is no small feat. And I respect you for that.'

'Also Garcia, you just need a few more years of experience under you belt, to be a full fledged badass. Which you have, in our present. And even without the maids, everyone thinks twice about messing with you. Because, given what the Roberta and Fabiola have likely taught you, in all that time, none of use are really sure what you are capable of. And we all know better than to try and find out.'

Meanwhile, Garcia could not help, but crack a grin, at Daiyu's comment. She looked at Daiyu, as she mischievously said, “And she never saw it coming.”

Lee grumbled, “I had other more important things on my mind at the time.”

Garibaldi inquired, “So, did you ever sort out your mess with those after you?”

Garcia commented, in a slightly insulting tone of voice, “Since she is still breathing, I would guess the answer is a, yes.”

River thought, 'Normally, I would act towards someone insulting one of my lovers. But, from Garcia and Garibaldi's point of views, they just got cursed to turn into a girl, today. And concerning Garcia, she knows Lee is at fault for her being curse. So, as long as Garcia and Garibaldi keep their insults tactful, I will let their comments slide.'

Lee coyly replied, “We came to an understanding. I would explain further, but you two our from our past, and we don't want to create a paradox.”

Garibaldi said, “I fully understand.”

Garcia stated, “When I reached your point in time, I am sure Roberta and Fabiola will tell me all about what happened...” Her voice became sadder, as she continued, “That is... If I make it home.”

Lee recalled what Roberta has told her a number of years ago. She said, “Besides what I wrote about you, Garcia. Which unfortunately. Or fortunately. Was not much. From what I understand. You both make it back home. But, I do not know how.”

Garibaldi commented, “I will take that as a comfort to know.”

Garcia responded, “I figured if I was lost out here, that Roberta and Fabiola would never stop searching.” She thought, 'I did leave a letter with my other... More normal maids, to be given to Fabiola, or Roberta. If either of them had returned to the my plantation. So, they would know I did go after them.'

River heard Garcia's thoughts, which were in spanish, though she completely understood Garcia's thoughts.

River thought, 'That was very clever of you, Garcia.' She commented, “And given those two. They would have never stopped, until they found you. Fortunately, I know for a fact that you were, or will be, waiting for them, at your home, when they return.”

Garcia turned to River, as she asked, “That is fortunate to know. And you are?”

River answered, “Do not you recognized me? Fabiola told me that you were a fan of the series I was in... Oh. That is right. I started occasionally dyeing my hair red. But, my natural hair color is brown.”

Garcia took a close looked at River. She then recognized River, as she bluntly stated, in surprise, and worry, “Oh no. You're River Tam.”

Garibaldi recognized the name, as she realized who Garcia was talking about. She thought, with worry, 'River, from the Firefly series... Oh no. No. No. No. This is bad. A violent, lunatic, telepath. My worst nightmare come to life.'

River quickly stated, in a relaxed tone of voice, “Calm down. Though, I look young. It has been alive for number of decades since that series, and the movie, happened to me. I have since been able to claw my way back to near permanent sanity.”

River thought, 'Of course, if I told you that the main two reasons for the return to my sanity, after my mental breakthrough over learning what happened on Miranda. Was that I started dating Chang, and I had lessons on controlling my telepathy from Annie. Whom use to be Darth Vader. You with think I was still insane. And I admit that on paper, such comments would sound insane.'

Garcia asked, “How sane are we talking about?”

River stated, “Well, I am talking you in a calm, lucid manner. And I am not on any medications. That is a vast improvement to how I use to be.”

Garibaldi commented, “She has us there.”

Lee mentioned, “Also, she is the voice of reason for our group.”

Garibaldi deadpanned, “That is not a comforting thought.”

River requested, in a calm tone of voice, “Just give me a chance. Actually, give us a chance. We are talking in a civil manner. That is a good sign for all of us. Also, Garibaldi, I know you don't like telepathic scans. And my abilities are purely passive. I cannot actually enter your mind. I cannot make anyone do anything with my telepathy. I can only sense surface thoughts. As long as you are not thinking about something, or you have cleared you mind, I cannot sense your thoughts. Even, basic mental shielding can block my ability.”

There was silence among the group, for a few seconds, as Garibaldi thought on what River has just said. Garibaldi then said, “Okay. I will give you the benefit of the doubt. For now.”

River replied, “Thank you.”

Garibaldi thought, 'I know you are reading my mind, River. And since you are being polite, we will see what happens.'

River gave Garibaldi a smile, to let Garibaldi know that she read Garibaldi thoughts, on Garibaldi comment.

Garcia asked, “So Lee, did you ever find a cure for our curse?”

Garibaldi commented, “Yea. You informing us, will save us a whole lot of time and effort.”

Lee, River, and Daiyu, facial expressions also became neutral, as Lee stated, “I was never really looked into the cure part of the water curse. I was more from the angle of curing my own cancer. And it worked.”

Lee thought, 'Though, I guess the gender bending virus that I got from River, could be viewed as a more controllable form. Bob's DNA even allowed the water curse form of the virus to change triggers to sneezing. But, that is to risky to do. And I don't want to give either of you false hope.'

Garcia flatly replied, in a disappointed tone of voice, “That figures.”

Garcia then noticed the expression on Lee, Daiyu, and River. Garcia asked the three older women, “What are you not telling us?”

Daiyu answered, in a sober tone of voice, “Not to upset you, nor cause a paradox. As River pointed out, we are from the future, Garica. And we know you from the future. And you do not get cured.”

Garcia looked down, as she said, in a sad tone of voice, “Well, at at least that saves us time. Just not in the way we hoped...” She looked up at the three women, as she asked, “So, tell me how Roberta and Fabiola handle learning about my curse?”

Lee answered, “As you know. They are pissed with me about you being cursed. But, they both still care about you, no matter what form you have on the outside.”

Garcia looked up at the three women, as she replied, in a slightly less sad tone of voice, “Okay. I can live with that.”

Daiyu mentioned, “Also, when Roberta and Fabiola do return to you. Roberta will have had the body parts she lost, replaced. She will be able to walk and move like normal.”

Garcia admitted, “That does make me feel better.”

Daiyu mentally replied, 'I thought as much.'

River commented, “And besides. Once you have some clothing for your male forms. You can switch back to men. And as long as you keep an eye out for possible cold water problems. You will be fine.”

Garibaldi pointed out, “I am not sure. I mean, in the series. Ranma got hit with water all the time.”

Lee flatly stated, “Let's be honest. Outside of fighting, and learning martial arts, Ranma is not the most observant person in the multiverse.

Garibaldi let out a laugh. She then said, “You are right about that.”

Garcia agreed, “Yes. I guess you have a point there.”

Lee commented, “As River said. Just be mindful of your surroundings, you should be fine. The only difference is you are just going to have to wear something also covers you chest, along with your bottom, when you go swimming in cool water.”

Lee mentally reflected 'Besides monthly, or for you two, irregular, menstrual periods. But, I am not mentioning that because I still plan for you two finding out that, on your own, as my little revenge against you for betraying me to the amazons. I may have turned out well, in the end. And I will let a lot of what you both did to me, slide. But, that still doesn't make up for your betrayal, in the first place.'

Garcia replied, “That does not sound so bad.”

Garibaldi asked, “Yes. I can see that... So, what about me? Do I make it back home?”

Daiyu answered, “I don't know. After Lee's issues with the others were settled, Garcia, of our present, your future, mentioned some things about you making it home. But, she never got into the details.”

Lee said, “Actually, Garcia, your future self made the comment, in passing. Given the situation, at the time, I did not ask for details.”

Garcia replied, “Well, it is just one more event that we will learn in the fullness of time.”

Garibaldi grumbled, “That sucks. But, not as much as it sucks to be a girl.”

River looked down at Garibaldi, as she frowned. She flatly asked, “And what is wrong with being a girl?”

Garibaldi realized what she had say out loud. She responded, “Okay. I admit it. I suck my foot in my mouth.”

River relaxed her expression, as she replied, “At least you are being, honest. And being a girl is not as bad as you may think.”

Garibaldi reminded River, “While I admit to sticking my foot in my mouth, with my previous comment. Keep in mind, I have a daughter that I watched go through puberty. I know how bad this can get.”

River thought, 'Damn. She has a point there.' She hesitantly replied, “Okay... You may know how bad this can get. But, it is not the end of the world.”

Garibaldi agreed, “No. It isn't. And just because you say we won't be cured, doesn't mean we cannot try.”

Garcia looked over at Garibaldi, as she said, in a slightly happier tone of voice,”Hey. You are right, Garibaldi.” She then looked at River, Lee, and Daiyu, as she stated, “We still have to try to find a cure. Just for the very sake of our sanity.”

Lee thought, 'We are not going to be able to talk them out of this.' She said, “Look. I know you both have seen the Ranma Half series. And you have likely read the manga. So, keep in mind how many times Ranma trying to find a cure for her curse. Only to have all that effort wasted.”

Garibaldi commented, “While Ranma is a gender bender. I thought Ranma was mainly a guy, upstairs?”

Lee replied, “Right now, in her mind, she is a she, in our present.”

Garcia asked, “You sound like you know, Ranma?”

Lee answered, “Yes. We are friends. And she can still change genders. She just prefers to live as a woman. Also, you will eventually meet her, Garcia.”

Garcia responded, “Well, I look forward to that. Since Ranma is an interesting character. Or, should I say, person.”

Lee stated, “Person. Always say, person. And yes. Ranma, and her family, are fun, and interesting, people to be around. And as someone that has lived in crazy situations that are on par with Ranma's life. It is not fun. And looking for a cure might put you in such situations.”

River commented, “She is right about that.”

Garcia thought, 'I have a feeling that I don't want to know the details.' She flatly replied,
“We will keep that in mind.”

Lee said, “Anyway, you don't want to waste your lives looking for a cure you will never fine.”

Garibaldi stated, “We will look for a few months. And if we cannot find anything, we will call it a day. Does that sound reasonable?”

Lee commented, “That sounds very reasonable.”

Garibaldi replied, “Good.”

Lee warned, “Also, try to avoid relationships. Gender bending, even if you are not the gender bender, tends to attract crazy people...”

River coughed a little.

Lee turned to River. She then looked back at Garibaldi and Garcia, as she continued, “And formerly crazy people, like honey to a bear.”

Garibaldi, Garcia, and Daiyu, giggled a little, for a few seconds, at Lee's comment.

Meanwhile, River remained tactfully quiet.

As they calmed down, Garibaldi thought, 'I am married. And Garcia has one... Maybe two, crazy, violent, though caring, girlfriends. We do not need any more romantic attachments.' She said, “You may have a point there. We will be careful.”

Lee replied, “I know you will.”

Garcia commented, “I have been open about my feelings for Roberta. And I don't think there is anyone in the multiverse that can be crazier than her.”

River stated, “I will admit that she is crazier than me, at my worst.”

Daiyu said, in River's defense, “Well, to be honest. You were more of a wallflower, on your off days.”

River shrugged, as she agreed, “True. And I found it better to go that way, than the violent way.”

Lee commented, “We are all happy about that. Though, I can think of one, or two, people that are crazier than Roberta.” Lee then joked, as she continued, “But, none of them would look as good in a bikini, as she does.” She thought, 'I should know. I have seen her in one, during the bikini parties. And I have seen her nude before, in person.'

All five of them laughed, for a few seconds, at Lee's joke.

As they calmed down, Garcia said, “Well, that proves you did settle things with the others. Because, if you did not. Otherwise, you would not have lived to see her in a bikini.”

Lee thought, with mild amusement, 'Actually, I first saw her in a bikini in that Black Lagoon magazine by Tex-Mex. But, I did see Roberta in a bikini at Lagoon Island. And I also saw you and Fabiola in bikini, as well. Also, from the way you talk, you must have seen Roberta in a bikini. Which doesn't surprise me. You're estate has a pool in it. And with Venezuela being warm all year around. I am sure you and Roberta went for a swim, a few times in it. Though, I know better than to ask about such matters.'

Lee said, “Yes. And she wears it well.”

Garcia happily agreed, “Yes. She does.”

The five women of them then went onto to talk to each other, on various matters.

(_)

As the five girls continued their conversation, Pedro and Matthew were casually walking towards the group's location, from up the street.

While they walked, they both kept looking around them, as Matthew asked, “So, what do you want to do first?”

Pedro answered, “Find a nice R&B jazz club to listen to some authentic New Orleans jazz and blues. Culturally, this city is known for two things. Their food. And their music. And I want to enjoy plenty of both while we are here.”

Matthew cracked a grin, as he complimented, “Sounds like a plan, my good friend.”

Then, in the distance, there was a break in the crowds of people between the two groups, as Matthew saw Lee, River, Daiyu, Garcia, and a young brown haired, fair skin girl.

Matthew stated, in a casual, though slightly annoyed tone of voice, “Well, if that don't beat all. Take a looked in the break in the crowd, thirty meters, up the street, slightly to our right, near the alleyway entrance, between two buildings.”

Pedro did so, and he spotted the five girls. With him immediately recognizing four of the girls.

Pedro stated, “Damned it. They are fast.”

Matthew commented, “And I doubt they even bothers to headed to that depot place. They were likely able to track us there, then here, while in Caracas.”

Pedro responded, “You are probably right. And let us try not to think about it. I don't want River to pick up our thoughts on the matter.”

Matthew replied, “Agreed. And we don't want to cause more problems, by tempting River's curiosity.”

Pedro said, “Exactly. And I am beginning to think that those three are using the excuse to chase us, as a way to have a vacation away from everyone. I mean, they have had plenty of chances to catch us. And while I am not sure about, Lee. I know that either River, or Chang, could take us down, by their self.”

Matthew replied, in a serious, and concerned, tone of voice, “Dear lord. That actually makes sense.”

Pedro suggested, “Yea. So, let us go see what is going on with them?”

Matthew stated, in an offhanded manner, “We might as well. We are walking in their direction, anyway. And they won't dare try something out in the open.”

Pedro said, “That is my line of thinking, as well.”

Matthew inquired, “An other matter. Does Garcia look a little young to you? Even as a woman?”

Pedro answered, “Yes. For our present. So, that means she, and likely the little girl, are from our past. As such, we will have to be cautious not to cause a paradox.”

Matthew commented, “We will just be careful what we say, while we talk to them.”

Pedro said, “I think we will be fine doing that. Also, call Chang, Daiyu. Because, we are not sure how far into the past Garcia is from.” He thought, 'Though I have a feeling that little girl will likely be the most surprising of them all.'

Matthew replied, “I will keep in that mind.”

Pedro commented, “Though, with this coming up, it sucks that we did not even have a chance to get another drink, yet.”

Matthew said, “After the drinks you had with the Bloodhound, I think you have enough for tonight.”

Pedro stated, “Hey. I am still sober.”

Matthew replied, “I know. And that is exactly how you need to be.”

Pedro realized, as he thought, 'You has a point. Getting drunk here, would be a bad idea.' He said, “Fair enough.”

The two men then continued heading in the direction they were going, which would take them directly to the five girls, whom were standing together, on the street.

(_)

As Pedro and Matthew approached the five person group, Garibaldi was the first to noticed Matthew and Pedro walk up to them.

Garibaldi inquired, “Matthew?”

The other four people in the group turned to look at Matthew and Pedro.

As Pedro and Matthew walked over to them, Matthew heard the girl call him, by his name.

Matthew overheard Garibaldi, as he mentally wondered, 'I wonder how that little girl knows my name?'

A few seconds later, Pedro and Matthew came to a stop in front of the other five people.

River was the first to speak, as she stated, “Well... After Caracas, I am surprised you would walk up to us.”

Pedro said, “Well, we saw the five of you here. And we wanted to see what was going on. And our curiosity got the better of us.”

River shrugged, as she casually said, “That happens to the best of us.”

Garcia asked, “What happened in Caracas?”

Pedro answered, “My friend and I went into a bar, for a few drinks, and... Well, it went downhill from there.”

Garcia hesitantly said, “I... See...” She thought, 'I believe it is best not to ask any more questions, on that event.'

Matthew turned to look down at Garibaldi, as he inquired, “So, little girl, how do you know my name?”

Garibaldi looked Matthew in his face, as she stated, in an authoritarian tone for voice, “Do not give me that, little girl, bit, McCormick. It is me, Garibaldi. Your boss.”

Matthew looked a little closer at Garibaldi's face, and the others could see from his facial expression, that he wanted to laugh, but he was so far willing himself not to do so.

Moments later, Matthew was still trying to prevent himself from laughing, as he apologized, “I am sorry, sir. I am trying very hard not to laugh. But, you look so damn cute.”

Garibaldi thought, 'I can see on his face that it is a losing battle.' She said, “You have my permission to laugh.”

Matthew then burst out laughing, for several seconds.

The others remained silent, as Matthew laughed.

As Matthew calmed down, he said, “Thank you. I needed that.”

Garibaldi replied, “No problem.”

Pedro looked over at Matthew, as he asked, “I don't get it. You didn't have this reaction to other gender benders?”

Matthew turned to Pedro, as he answered, “You don't understand. As an old man, Garibaldi here, could give someone a stare that would make paint peel off the walls. To see my boss, or former boss, relegated to this little girl form is too much for me to handle.”

Garibaldi shrugged, as she commented, “I admit. I can see your point of view. So, you say I am your former boss. What happened?”

Matthew looked down at Garibaldi, as he answered, “Well, you left me in a bind. You disappeared. A good portion of the headquarters was destroyed. After the police station was wrecked. With an insane chase between those two locations, that was filmed by a news copter. And I was the only one still around that could be connected to all of it.”

“So, before I could get arrested, and wrongly blamed for that mess, I had my bags already packed, and I was on my way to the spaceport, to get off world, when Chang's employees caught me, took me to another reality, to be Chang's personal lawyer.”

Garibaldi muttered, “That must have been rough for you.”

Matthew look over at Daiyu, then back to Garibaldi, as he commented, “It was not that bad. And the pay and benefits have been nice. But, the others there just pushed myself, and my friend here, too far, and we decided to leave.”

Garibaldi commented, in a supportive tone of voice, “Hey. I know the feeling. It happens.”

Daiyu looked over at Garibaldi, as she spoke up, “We are in the process of fixing the problems that caused them to leave in the first place. That is why we are using the kid gloves approach to bringing them back.”

Pedro thought, 'Well, that confirms that.'

Garcia thought, “So, these women work for Chang.'

River hid her smile, from the thoughts she read from both Pedro and Garcia.

Garibaldi looked up at Daiyu, as she said, “Well, Matthew here is one hell of a lawyer.”

Matthew cracked a grin as Garibaldi compliment. He said, “Thank you, Mister Garibaldi. And I am not going to say, Ms. You are not a Ms. No matter your firm. You are a mister in my eyes.”

Garibaldi returned Matthew's smile, as she replied, “I appreciate that.”

Daiyu noticed this, as she thought, 'That is the type of respect that take year to garner. And I respect that.' She commented, “I am just beginning to realize that.” She turned to Matthew, as she continued, “Though, he seems to be modest about his skills and past.”

Garibaldi took Daiyu's comment as a compliment, as she said, “What can I say? I taught him well.” She then looked over at Matthew, whom was still looking down at her. Garibaldi continued, “And Matthew, when I get back, I will sort everything out with the police, so you can returned, as well.”

Matthew replied, “I am sure you will. And thanks.”

Unlike Garibaldi's previous smile towards Matthew, she gave Matthew smile that was unintentionally a very girlishly cute smile.

Matthew successfully held back a chuckle, at the look of Garibaldi's smile.

(_)

At that moment, across the street from five girls, and the two men, Roberta and Fabiola where walking through the crowds, when they noticed group, a mere thirty-five feet from them.

The two women came to a stop, as they continued looking at the group composed of mostly people they recognized. Though, the did not know why the members of the group were together, in the first place.

Fabiola stood to Roberta left, as Roberta commented, in spanish, “Well, isn't this a surprise.”

Fabiola agreed, in spanish, “Yes. I see Garcia, Chang as a woman, River, Chief Del Soto, Lee's lawyer, along with a little girl, and a black haired woman, I don't know.”

Roberta responded, “And it appears, from the way they are acting towards each other, there are three groups talking to each other. There is Garcia and the young girl. Chang, River, and the black haired woman. And Chief Del Soto and Lee's lawyer.”

Fabiola commented, “And Garcia appears so young.”

Roberta stated, “It is a safe estimation that this is Garcia of the past. And he never really told us what happened to him, when he first traveled the multiverse, and became cursed. All we really know for sure is that he became cursed right after his first jump from our reality, to Ranma's home reality.”

Fabiola said, “He likely never told us because we are about to meet his past self.”

Roberta finished for her student, and friend, “As such, he would not want to create a paradox by telling our past selves about this.”

Fabiola responded, “And he kept it this secret for our protection.”

Roberta replied, “Exactly.”

Fabiola wondered out loud, “How long do you think Garcia has been cursed?”

Roberta stated, “From the look of her age, the face we just came from Jusenkyo. Given we know that Garcia was cursed at Jusenkyo. And the date between reality jumps, with Rock's stolen reality device, when compared to local time. I would guess he has only been cursed very recent. Likely less then a day.”

Fabiola commented, “So, the young master just got cursed. And this is the next place he came to. I would love to hug him and tell him it will be alright.”

Roberta responded, “So would I. But, doing so in front of our enemies, at this juncture, would be unwise. Also, keep in mind Garcia has a strong spirit. He will persevere.”

Fabiola inquired, “I hope so. But, how did Garcia jump realities, to get here?”

Roberta commented, “I believe that the little girl is likely the key to that answer.”

Fabiola asked, “With Garcia cursed in his previous jump, the little girl could be cursed as well. Could she be Lee in a cursed form?”

Roberta answered, “I doubt it. Garibaldi was with Lee. Now, there is only one person with Garcia. And Rock's reality device was used to get here. It is possible that is little girl is Garibaldi. And Garibaldi is too clever to be tricked by Lee. Garibaldi could have the girl curse, due to him diving in to help Garcia.”

Fabiola agreed, “That makes sense.”

Roberta theorized, “Both the young master, and Garibaldi, are very clever. At least as clever as Lee. It is possible Garibaldi told Garcia who Lee was, and they betrayed Lee, and took his reality device.”

Fabiola commented, “Then, we must have passed, Lee. But, when?”

Roberta commented, “It is very likely that Lee is in the amazon village. And the old woman lied to us. She has Lee.”

Fabiola asked, “Do you want to head back there? Because, I really don't want to fight Cologne and her amazons.”

Roberta responded, “Neither do I. But, before we even contemplate going back, we need more information on both the situation in front of us, and the situation we just left behind. Information to both is right in front of us.”

Fabiola agreed, “Yes. We do need more information.”

Roberta stated, with a bit of forcefulness in her tone of voice, “We will go over there. Those that know us, know better than to cross us. Those that don't know us, will be informed by their friends not go cross us. And we will get the answers we seek.”

Roberta and Fabiola then started walking towards the group of seven people, at a slightly hastened pace.

(_)

Thirty-five feet from Roberta and Fabiola, down the street, among the seven person group, Garibaldi commented, “Oh, the stories I could tell you about Matthew.”

Lee commented, “Matthew, you never did tell me about that time you and your friend did a wicked burn on Babylon Five.”

Pedro turned to Matthew, as he stated, “What is she talking about? You never told me that you have been to Babylon Five. Let alone raised some hell there.”

Garibaldi said, “He told me that tale once. It is absolutely hilarious. And it is one of the reasons I hired him. Of course, after Elizabeth found out I hired him, she didn't speak to me for nearly a year, after that.”

Garcia looked down at Garibaldi, as she requested, “Will you tell me about it, later?”

Garibaldi looked up at Garcia, as she replied, “Sure.”

Garibaldi and Garcia then looked back at Matthew.

Daiyu commented, “Now, this does sound juicy.”

River said, “From what I am getting from Matthew’s mind. It is juicy. And very funny.”

Pedro requested, in a polite tone of voice, “Please, explain.”

Matthew realized all six of the others in the group were looking at him. He sighed, as he answered, in a matter of face tone of voice, “Well, there was this other Matthew. An evil Matthew. And I killed him.”

The other six members of the group got the joke, as they all laughed, including Matthew, for a few seconds.

As they calmed down, Pedro inquired, “I should have never showed you the movie, Twister. Still, why didn't you tell me?”

Matthew responded, “Well, as a friend, I like you, a lot, Pedro. But, your a cop. And I didn't want to admit that my friend and I, in over the course of a few days, committed over two hundred non-violent felonies. Countless misdemeanor crimes, ranging from intoxication to general jackassery. And one count of forgetting to leave the tip at a restaurant.”

Pedro stated, “As I said before, it is not my jurisdiction. Besides, from what Garibaldi says, the tale would be worth hearing.”

Matthew offered, “I will tell you about it, later, over drinks.”

Pedro replied, “That works for me.” He then turned to Garibaldi, as he commented, “I see why you hired him. People this lucky, and skilled, need to be kept close.”

Garibaldi said, “My thoughts exactly.”

Just then, the from corner of Matthew's left eye, he spot two women, he recognized, approaching them.

Matthew commented, “Well, as fun as it is to talk about my past. You guys need to take a look to my left.”

The group then turned to Matthew’s left, and they were just in time to see Roberta and Fabiola walk up to them, through the crowds of people on the street.

As Roberta and Fabiola approached the seven member group, what happened next caught them by surprise.

Matthew was the first react to them. He turn towards them, as he lightly waved with her right hand. He casually said, “Hi Roberta, and Fabiola.”

The other six members of the group turned to look at them. Garcia and Garibaldi had neutral expressions on their faces. Daiyu, River, and Pedro looked concern. And Lee had her poker face on.

As the two maids came to a stop in front of the group, River immediately read their surface thoughts. She warned, “Careful. These two are from the past, when they were still after, Lee.”

Matthew looked over at River, and then back to the maid. He hesitantly said, “Oh... This is one of those past, present, and future meetings, situations.”

Lee thought, 'So, this is what Roberta, Fabiola, and Garcia, were being so coy about, at the island, in the S&M dungeon. And this just means we are stuck in another time loop.'

Beside Lee, River softly said, “That is quite likely.”

Lee heard what River said, but she did not react to it, given how close they were to Roberta and Fabiola.

Meanwhile, Pedro continued looking at the maids, as he deadpanned, “No kidding.” He thought, 'This can be very bad, or very good. Considering how we play it. Still, we need to be very, very careful.'

Roberta and Fabiola came to a stop, seven feet from the other seven people. The two women turned to Matthew, as Roberta thought, 'From what I overheard, it sounds like will catch, Lee, in our future. But first, we need to know why Lee's lawyer is acting so casually towards us.'

Roberta inquired, in english, “You know us?”

Matthew answered, “Yes. Pedro and I are from the future. So, are the three other adults here. And we do know you both, fairly well.”

Fabiola asked, in english, “How do you know us?”

Matthew continued looking at the maids, as he thought, 'I best not look over at Lee. With them then connecting the dots. Causing us a whole lot of problems.'

Matthew stated, “After you sort this mess out with Lee. I never asked for the details. Nor, do I want to know the details. Anyway, eventually, back on the mexican island my friend here is from...”

Matthew looked over at Pedro, and then back to the maids. He continued, “You and the others decide to make Pedro and I, your designated drivers, when you went drinking. And none of you gave us much choice in the matter.”

Pedro looked over at Matthew, and then back to the maids, as he took over the conversation. He said, “We would love to tell you more, but we don't want to risk a paradox.”

Fabiola ordered, “Prove you know us.”

Matthew said, “Fine Roberta, except for you, I have never seen someone chug that much Tequila at one time, and live. Let alone be able to walk straight, afterward. You take binge drinking to a whole new level.” He thought, 'Though, you rarely do that. And I think you do it to remind Revy she is not the only serious drinker in the group.'

Fabiola let out a laugh. She then turned to Roberta, as she stated, “Yes. He knows you.” She then turned back to look at the others.

Roberta looked over at Fabiola, then back to Matthew and Pedro, as she firmly requested, “And do you know Fabiola?”

Pedro commented, “Let us just say. On the few times we have seen her drunk. Fabiola here likes to stretch her body in very provocative positions.”

Roberta cracked a wicked grin. She calmly stated, “Fine. Since you will prove useful to us, in our future. We will spare you, for now.”

Matthew and Pedro both let out a sigh of relief.

Roberta turned to Daiyu and River, as she asked, “Now, what are you doing here, Chang, River?”

Daiyu mentally grumbled, 'Thanks, Roberta, for spilling the beans on me, in front of past Garcia. If this turns into a fight, I am holding you responsible.'

River thought, 'I agree, Chang. But, it is best to keep this conversation moving forward, and hope Garcia and Garibaldi overlook Roberta's comment.' She looked at Roberta, as she shrugged towards Pedro and Matthew. She stated, “We are trying to get the two fools to return to Pedro home reality, with us.”

Roberta replied, “Fair enough.”

Garcia looked over at Daiyu, and she immediately saw the resemblance. She turned back to looked at the maids, as she inquired, “She is Chang? As in our Chang?” She thought, 'So, Chang ended up as a girl, as well. Now, that is poetic justice.'

River thought, 'I guess Garcia did put the piece together.'

Fabiola answered, “Yes. A lot has happened. We have settled our differences with Chang. If you take look at Roberta, you will understand why. Remember she looked like before Chang made his offer.” Fabiola then turned her head towards Roberta.

Garcia took a closer look at Roberta, with Roberta looking back at her.

Roberta had a slightly calm expression on her face, towards Garcia.

Garcia then realized what Fabiola was talking about. She thought, 'So, they are right. Roberta will return home in much better shape than when she left.' She stated, with joy in her tone of voice, “Roberta, you look like you did, before you were hurt by the Grey Foxes.”

Roberta calmly explained, “Actually, the body parts I lost were replaced with cybernetic parts. But, they work just as well. Though, when my past self will be reunited with you, the cybernetics I will have, will look a little more... Mechanical. I believe you didn't mind. And, as you can see, I did later have upgrades to the appearance of my artificial parts.”

Garcia said, in a comforting tone of voice, “Roberta, I don't care what you look like on the outside. As long as you, and Fabiola, return to me in a good health.”

Roberta gave Garcia a slightly warm smile, as she calmly responded, “And I feel the same way about you. I do not care what you look like on the outside. At long as you are still you, on the inside.”

Garcia returned Roberta's smile, as she replied, “Thank you, Roberta.”

The others in the group stayed silent for a few seconds, so as to not ruin the mood. Daiyu then thought, 'I might as well make the most of the situation.' She spoke up, “As Fabiola pointed out, I did keep my bargain, on that point. And Lee gets part of the credit.”

The others in the group turned looked over at Daiyu, as Fabiola flatly asked, “Where is, Lee?”

Daiyu said, “We will tell you in a minute.” She looked at Garcia and Garibaldi, as she continued, “We do not want to create a scene out here. And risk alerting the authorities to our presence.”

Garibaldi and Garcia realized that Daiyu was talking to them.

Garibaldi thought, 'She is right. If we tell these maids that Lee is right beside them. It would be like pulling the pin from a grenade, then setting it right beside oneself. The maids would likely start a fight. With River and Chang jumping in to defend, Lee. With Garcia and I, caught in the middle. And we would create one hell of a mess. With Star Fleet security showing up to stun us, and transport us into security cells. And that would only create a larger mess for all of us.'

Garcia thought, 'I hate to admit it. But, Chang is correct. We cannot let my friends know that Lee is standing near them. We do not want Star Fleet to know about us. And that just means we will have to wait a few minutes. Until we find someplace private.'

River heard Garcia's thoughts, as she thought, 'Good idea, Garcia.'

Roberta calmly said, “I can appreciate you sentiments.”

River turned towards the alleyway they were near. She then turned back to the maids, as she suggested, “How about we all walked into the alleyway. So, we can have some more privacy.”

Daiyu complimented, “Good idea, River.”

Lee commented, “Yes. That is a marvelous suggestions.”

Roberta stated, “That would work well towards our goals.”

Fabiola nodded once, as she agreed, “Yes. That will be fine.”

Roberta turned to Garcia, as she asked, “What are you thoughts on this, young master?”

Garcia looked up at Roberta, as she replied, “I am fine with it.” Garcia turned to Garibaldi, as she inquired, “How about you?”

Garibaldi turned to Garcia, as she said, “I am good with this plan.”

Garcia and Garibaldi turned to look at Roberta.

Roberta looked over to Pedro and Matthew, as she asked, “And what of you two?”

Matthew said, “We are willing to go with the flow. As long as we are not caught in the middle of any possible battle.”

Pedro shrugged towards Matthew, as he commented, “What my friend said.”

Roberta stated, “That is fine with us.”

Daiyu said, “Roberta, and Fabiola, will go first. Then, the rest of us. With River and I pull up the rear. When we get into the alleyway, we will group up into our subgroups.”

Roberta stated, “I can live with that.”

The others in the group knew better than to argue with Roberta and Daiyu.

The nine person group started walking towards the alleyway with Roberta and Fabiola walking passed the others, and being the first to enter the well illuminated alleyway.

Garcia, Garibaldi, Pedro, and Matthew followed behind the two maids.

Lee was about to join them, when Daiyu used her left hand to gently grasped Lee's right wrist.

Lee turned around to look at Daiyu. Daiyu let got of Lee's right wrist, as she said, in a firm tone of voice, “Stay close. And if things start to look bad, get beside us.”

Lee replied, “Absolutely.”

River, Daiyu, and Lee then turned towards the others, as they followed them into the alleyway.

(_)

On the other side of the street, on top of a flat roof of a three story building, a man in black power armored stood in the shadows, as he watched the nine person group walk into the alleyway, across from him.

Behind his faceplate, the man was laughing to himself, as he thought, 'I will have to give these two men credit. They certainly know how to walk into trouble... They are brash, arrogant. And from what my suit's sonic sensors are telling me of their conversation, they have bit of a mouth. They kind of remind me of myself, in my younger days.'

'Still, I certainly am not going to go after these two right now, and risk crossing the maids. Especially, when the maids are in uniform and armed.'

'Powerarmor, or not. I know they have taken down far worse than me, with less. And should I ever confront the maids, it will be on my terms. When they are both unarmed and out of uniform.'

'As for the two fools I am after. I will just track them when they jump, and catch them in the next reality they go to.'

'For right now, there party going on right below me. And I always liked parties. I will just say I am in costume. That usual works. And I can have some fun for a while, until I leave.'

'Also, this suit is shielded from telepathic and empathic scans. So, there is no chance of the odd alien down there psychically reading me. So, I am safe that way.'

'And what Gomez doesn't know, won't hurt him.'

The man in black powerarmor turned back towards the shadows, as he headed for the alleyway below. He then safely jumped down to the ground floor. After he landed, he casually walked towards the crowds, and deeper into the party, to have some fun. While, at the same time, he used his armor's sensors to avoid both the group of nine, and the security personnel stationed around the area.

(_)

Across the street, in the alleyway, the group of nine had all entered the alleyway, which was empty except for them. And there was enough lighting come from the nearby street and buildings, that all nine of the people could see clearly, in the alleyway.

Given Fabiola and Roberta were the first of the group to walk into the alleyway, they came to a stop, further in the alleyway, than the others. They made it nearly to the other exit of the alleyway, when they turned around, to look at the others.

They stood side by side, with Roberta to Fabiola's left.

To Roberta and Fabiola's left, further up the alleyway, Pedro and Matthew stood against the wall on the side of the alleyway, with Matthew the one closest to them.

On the other side of the alleyway, Garcia and Garibaldi stood against the building on that side of the alleyway. Garcia was the closest, of the two, to the maids.

And on the other end of the alleyway stood Daiyu, River, and Lee. The three women faced the others, with Daiyu in the middle. Lee was to Daiyu's left side, and River was to Daiyu's right side.

Daiyu said, “Now that we are all here. I might as well tell you where Lee is.”

Roberta flatly stated, “That would be a wise course of action.”

Daiyu then used both her hands two swiftly Beretta Seventy-Six pistols from her holsters, behind her waist, under her shirt. Both of her pistols already had a bullet in each of their chambers. And the safeties to the pistols were off.

Daiyu pointed the pistols in her right hand at the center of Fabiola chest, and she pointed the pistol in her left hand at the center of Roberta's chest.

Daiyu casually said, “I apologize for the double-cross. But, River and I have come to care for Lee. And well, Lee is right here beside me, to my left. And we are not going to let you two hurt her.”

Meanwhile Lee placed her face in the palm of her right hand, as she gently shook her head.

Roberta bitterly thought, 'Why am I not surprised?'

River complimented, “Because you are one of the sharpest women we know.”

Roberta flatly replied, “You are not helping the situation, River.”

Pedro thought, 'Chang and River versus Roberta and Fabiola. Somehow I just know this was going to happen. I don't want to be in the city, let along between them, when this fight goes down.'

River stated, “Relax, Pedro. We haven't started fighting, yet. And we may not.”

Pedro chose to remain silent, so as to not draw any more attention to himself.

Fabiola commented, “River has a point. We are only interested in Lee, and not the rest of you.”

Lee then looked up at Daiyu, as she dropped her right hand back to her side. She flatly stated, “Daiyu. Your gun fighting skills are top notch, and full of style. But, all those twenty-two caliber bullets are going to do is pissed off the maids.”

As Roberta and Fabiola heard Lee's comment, they laughed, for a few seconds, while Daiyu continued to point her pistols at them.

As they calmed down, Roberta then said, “Chang, you should listen to Lee. She is trying to save your life.”

Everyone remained silent for a few seconds, as Daiyu thought about what her next actions should be.

Then, Daiyu shrugged, as she commented, “You're both right.” She placed her pistols back into their holsters that were behind her waist, and under her shirt.

Roberta stated, “Good... And Lee, don't think that just because you are a woman now, that we are going to go easy on you.”

Lee turned to the maids, as she calmly said, “I fully understand that.”

Just then, Garcia walked between Lee and the maids, with Garcia facing Roberta and Fabiola. Fabiola.

Lee requested, “Garcia, please stand out of the way. I know you want a piece of my ass. Hell, everyone does. But, none of us want you injured.” She turned to Garibaldi, as she continued, “The same goes for you, Garibaldi.” She then looked back to Garcia, as she went onto say, “I want you two to go join the two men by the wall. I will vouch that those two men are good people. They will not harm you. And they will help you, if you need it.”

Roberta looked over at Garibaldi. She then turned to look Pedro and Matthew.

Pedro looked Roberta in her eyes. He simply nodded towards her, to confirm what Lee had said.

Garibaldi noticed all this, as she thought, 'Lee might have a point there.'

Roberta thought, 'I guess Chief Del Soto is a better person than I thought. And I glad I spared his life.' She looked back to Lee and Garcia, as she commented, “I believe you, Lee. Young master, please, move out of the way.”

Garcia looked at Lee, and then at Roberta, as she said, in a disappointed tone of voice, “Alright.”

Garcia then walked over to Pedro and Matthew, with Garibaldi doing a quick sprint across the alleyway, to where Pedro, Matthew and Garcia were.

Lee requested, in a calm, polite tone of voice, “Before you two tear into me. I ask that you please hear me out.”

Fabiola warned, “This better not be a case of you still trying to get out of our revenge on you.”

Lee responded, “Quite the contrary. As River and Matthew stated. What we have here is a temporal situation. Garcia is from the distant past. You two, and Garibaldi, are from the more recent past. And Daiyu, River, myself, and those two men, are from your future, which is our present.”

Roberta commented, “That is what I have come to believe, as well.”

Pedro thought, 'Looks like I was right.'

Lee said, “Well, in my past, your future, you all have your revenge on me. Except for Garibaldi.”

Garibaldi flatly stated, “I could careless about revenge, right now. Besides, seeing you in this situation is enough satisfaction for me.”

Lee continued to look at the maids, as she calmly said, “That is what I thought you would say, Garibaldi. And when it did come to revenge, you two, and the Garcia of your time, make me your bitch for a single night, at that special room the Lagoon family have in their basement.”

Roberta raised an eyebrow, as she thought, 'Could she be talking about that S&M room at the Lagoon family's mansion? Still, I don't want the young master to be aware of such smut, at such a tender age, as he is, right now... There is time enough for that, later... So, I will keep my questions simple.'

Roberta questioned, with interest in her tone of voice, “Really?”

River read Roberta's thoughts. She then thought with admiration for both Lee and Roberta, 'I will give credit to Roberta. She knows how to ask question, without giving any details of what she knows.'

'And Lee... Damn. I see the years have not dulled Lee's skills at manipulation. But then, now that I think about it, she never had any problems getting any of our children to do what she wanted. So, maybe she has been using and sharpening her skills without any of the rest of us realizing it... Though, either way, I need to help her.'

River stated, “Yes. I was there. All three of you put her through the ringer.”

Roberta stated, “So, I will have my revenge on you.”

Lee answered, “Yes.”

Fabiola leaned over and whispered into Roberta's right ear, as she whispered, “Is she talking about Revy's S&M dungeon?”

Roberta quietly replied, “I believe so.”

Fabiola then leaned back up straight, as both her and Roberta continued to look over at Lee.

Fabiola pointed out, “Still, this could be a trick. So, why should we believe you, Lee?”

Lee stated, “Because I have never lied about such matters. And I just convinced Garcia here to step out of the line of fire, between you and myself. I am being as straight forward, as possible, with you both.”

Garcia said, with candor in her tone of voice, “Lee, is correct. From what Garibaldi has told me. While, Lee is deceiving, she clearly does not directly lie to people, save to protect herself. Also, I have had my measure of revenge against her. And it sounds like we have more revenge to look forward to, against her, in the future.”

Roberta thought, with concerned, 'I have to know' She asked, “What revenge?”

Garcia answered, “While Garibaldi and I share the same spring of drowned girl curse. As you see, Garibaldi's cursed form is a young girl. While, as far as I can tell, I am same age in both forms. It seems when teenage boys are cursed, they stay the same age in both forms. But, when older men, and I guess women, are cursed, their bodies take the forms of young girls. I guess that is why it is call spring of drowned girl, and not spring of drowned woman.”

Roberta calmly inquired, in only a hint of annoyance in her tone of voice, “Young master. While, I appreciate your explanation, is there a point, when concerning, Lee?”

Garcia stated, “Yes. There is. The same thing that happened to Garibaldi, happened to Lee. I was there when they fished me out of the spring of drown girl, and preventing me from drowning.”

Fabiola pointed out, “But, Lee is the one responsible for you falling into that spring, and getting cursed, in the first place.”

Garcia conceded, “That is true. And I consider it a fair trade on that point, that she saved my life, with Garibaldi's help.”

Roberta commented, “Fine. We will keep that in mind. Now, tell us of you revenge.”

Garcia said, “At the time, Lee was in the body of a young girl, as well. We made it to the amazon village, and while Lee was.... Distracted, we convinced the amazons to capture her. After she was tied up, we took her reality traveling device, and left. Given Lee is now an adult, I believe she spent a lot of time with the amazons.”

Roberta stated, “We already figured out that part. Though, we did not realize that Lee obviously spent so much time with the chinese amazons.”

Lee thought, 'While we all personally know Ranma. And they read my stories. They talk like have a fair good amount of knowledge of the Ranma Half series, itself. I wonder...' She inquired, “Roberta, Fabiola, you have seen the Ranma Half series anime, and read the Ranma Half manga?”

Roberta answered, “Yes.”

Fabiola commented, “It was... Interesting.”

Garcia thought, 'I have not shown them the series, yet. But, this just proves that I will, as a way to inform them of this situation, without them realizing it. A minor temporal loop.'

Lee stated, “Well, even though I ended up a member of that tribe of chinese amazons, I don't believe in that kiss of marriage, nor kiss of death. So, even though I willy to admit defeat to you, you don't need to kill me on that account.”

River turned to Lee, as she mentioned, “Well, there was that time with, Revy.”

Lee turned to River, as she said, “I was brainwashed at the time. And don't you dare deny the fact that you have on occasion considered taking a shot at Revy, as well.”

River shrugged, as she casually admitted, “Yea. I have.”

Lee and River then turned back to face the maids.

Roberta conceded, “I will admit that Revy can be... Trying, at times.”

Fabiola commented, “Yes. We agree with you, on that.”

Daiyu calmly said, “You're preaching to the choir.”

Roberta stated, “Since we do not have to worry about such foolish vendettas, that does make things easier on us, concerning you, Lee. But, not by much. You still have to make up for forcing the young master to face going through the monthly indignities that all women must face.”

River thought, 'That is what you think.'

Lee thought, 'Just great. I was hope for that to be a surprise for Garica and Garibaldi, later. But, I guess not.'

Pedro thought, 'So, that is why Roberta and Fabiola are so pissed off. And I am not touching this one with a ten foot pole.'

Garibaldi thought, 'Well, that confirms that. At least I don't worry about it for a few years... Though, Garcia, on the other hand...'

Garcia looked at Roberta and Fabiola. And to everyone's surprise, she just shrugged, as she casually said, “I realized that was a possibility.” She turned to Lee, as she inquired, “I take if it I switch back and forth, that it will lengthen the time between periods?”

Lee looked at Garcia, as she answered, “Yes. Though, speaking from years of experience. Going through that is not the end of the world. Compared to some of the experiences you have been through already, this will be more than a reoccurring annoyance, than anything else.”

Garcia responded, “I thought as much. And you were locked as a girl, when we left you. So, you have probably dealt with this for several years.”

Lee replied, “Yes.” She thought, 'I will leave out that with the gender bending virus, I no longer have to worry about such matters.'

Garcia asked, in an even tone of voice, “So, concerning this problem, how long until I have to worry about my first time?”

Lee answered, “From what I understand, a few months”

Fabiola commented, “Lee is correct about that. And you do not experience your first time until after we all returned to the Lovelace Plantation.”

Lee and Garcia looked back towards the maids.

There were a few seconds of awkward silence, with no one sure how to follow up Fabiola's comment.

Then, to everyone's mild surprised, Garcia happily said, “That means. Before I have to deal with such issues. I, and both of you, from my time, will be returning home in a few months. This is actually good news. And this will help my relationship with both of you. I will then understand what you both go through. And if you two can handle such problems every month, than so can I.”

Roberta and Fabiola looked over at Garcia, as they were both mildly put off guard by the way Garcia had responded to the matters she talked about.

Roberta hesitantly thought, 'This was not how I expect Garcia to response to such matters. Though, this does explain why she was unusually calm during her first period.'

Roberta complimented, in a warm, positive tone of voice, “Young master, your maturity continues to surprise me. I admit that I did not look at the matter that way.”

Fabiola thought, 'So Garcia, this is why you were so calm about having your period, for the first time. You had some of the usual physical problems, and you were a bit moody, but you were not as troublesome as Roberta and I expected you would be, during your first time.'

Garcia said, “I have come to realize that one much look on the better parts of life to remain sane.”

Roberta agreed, “Very true.”

Fabiola said, “I agree.”

Daiyu complimented, “That is a good philosophy to have.”

Garcia commented, “Also, Lee is has been locked as a girl since the day we have left her with the amazons. She is now an adult, with at least a decade and a half of life as a girl. Of which, she likely spent at least a decade, where she had to deal with this issue every month. So, she had gone through the same problems as the rest of us. And it is clear we will have eventually have further revenge on her.”

Lee thought, 'While they will eventually find out on their own, that I have the gender bending virus. As long as they don't know now, I should be find. Because by the time they found out, they would have had their revenge on me. With most, if not all, of their desire for revenge, being sated, by that time. And River, Chang, Pedro, and Matthew, know better than to say anything further on the matter.'

River thought, 'I believe you are correct, Lee.'

Pedro thought, 'Matthew and I are not going to mention that Lee can now change back and forth. Still, that is nothing compared to the fact that I am so happy that Garcia is taking the high road on this matter.'

Garcia continued, “And though, she does clearly survive and recover from that revenge, we probably were able to put our desire for revenge behind us during that night, and afterward. So, I suggest you both call off you hunt. And instead spend this time reflecting on how you wish to conduct you revenge on Lee, for that upcoming night... That is what I plan to do.”

Pedro thought, 'I guess I spoke too soon. Still, this might turn out for the best for us.'

Though, Roberta's thoughts were contrary to Pedro's thoughts, as Roberta mentally reflected, 'So, young master, you already realized what Lee was hinting at, about our future revenge against her. And even with that being the case, you are still taking the high road with her. I admire you for that.'

Matthew thought, 'I hope Garcia convinced Roberta and Fabiola to stand down, because, if they should decide to act, even if we are not the intended targets, we are going to be in real trouble.'

There was silence for a few seconds. Then, Roberta turned to her right, towards Fabiola's direction, as she asked, “What are your thoughts on this, Fabiola?”

Fabiola looked over at Roberta, as she admitted, “Garcia does make a good case. We will have revenge. It just won't be today. Also, it is clear that Chang and River care for Lee. And fighting them will only cause of trouble, with the others.”

Roberta pointed out, “Yes. And it was already clear River cared for Lee before we left Plata Podrido.”

Fabiola responded, “True. And Revy made a good point, then. We do not want to make River, Chang, and their friends our enemies. Especially, since it sounds like we will have our revenge in the near future. All we have to do, is show a little patience, and let Lee go, for now.”

Roberta sighed, as she said, “Fine. We will call off this hunt.”

Roberta and Fabiola turned to look at Lee, as Roberta coldly stated, “What Garcia has stated, does change matters. You have the young master to thank for mercy. Not us. We will be patient. We can wait a little while longer for revenge.”

Lee wisely chose to remain silent.

Roberta turned to Garcia, as she thought, 'Now, onto a more important matter, that should have been addressed sooner.'

Roberta said, “For now, we are more concerned with the young master. Who is from our past.” She continued, in a warmer tone of voice, “So, how have you been, young master?”

Garcia answered, “All things considered. I am doing fine.”

Roberta calmly replied, with a hint of kindness in her tone of voice, “I am pleased to hear that.”

Fabiola agreed, “So am I.” She then continued, in a slightly sadder tone of voice, “Though, I do feel sorry that you will have to keep the secrets you learned today from us, for many years.”

Garcia responded, in a comforting tone of voice, “Not to worry. I can keep a secret. And since I know we will all turn out okay, it will not be that heavy a burden to bare.”

Fabiola replied, in a somewhat more hopeful tone of voice, “I hope you are correct.”

Roberta said, “Still, we will have to talk to your future self, when we return to the plantation.”

Garcia stated, “That is a discussion that I will be looking forward to having with the two of you, in the years to come. Though, I do hope you will not be too upset that I will have to keep these secrets from you, for so long.”

Roberta responded, in a kind tone of voice, “We could never be truly upset with you.”

Fabiola agreed, “No. We would not.”

Garcia said, “Then, it will be a wonderful discussion.”

Fabiola stated, “Yes. Full of many things.” She looked over at Lee, then back to Garcia, as she continued, in a mischievous tone of voice, “Including, plans for revenge.”

Garcia grinned wickedly, as she agreed, “That too.”

Garcia, Roberta, and Fabiola, then giggled a little, for a few seconds.

As they calmed down, Roberta thought, 'Now, to deal with one last issue with this hunt.'

Roberta looked around at the others, as she firmly stated, “I suggest you all leave, before we change our minds.”

Daiyu said, “Don't worry, we were just going too.” She thought, 'We will catch Pedro and Matthew, later. For, we will head back to that wonderful hotel in Caracas. I am so happy River and Lee let me handle the check in. Because, I rented us our very nice suite for a week, and we only stayed six out of the seven days. And I never checked us out of there. And we have day left on our reservations. I had one of the keys to the suite. And we can always run the place out for a few more days, after that. We will just head back there a few hours after we left.'

River looked over at Daiyu, as she complimented, “That was very intelligent of you.”

Daiyu turned towards River, as she responded, “Thank you. Care if I do the honors.”

River realized what Daiyu as requesting, as she replied, “Go ahead.”

Lee looked over at River and Daiyu, as she asked, “So, where are we going?”

Daiyu looked over at Lee, as she answered, “Back to that nice hotel in Caracas, that we all liked.”

Lee replied, “That is fine with me.”

Lee and River then took a few steps closer to Daiyu, as Daiyu pulled out her own reality device, from one of her pants pockets.

Daiyu then thought of where, when, and what reality, she wanted to go to, as she pressed the red button on her device. And in an instant, all three women disappeared into the multiverse, in the blink of an eye.

Pedro overheard the three lovers. And with River gone, he allowed himself to think, 'So, I was right. They are using this as an excuse to go on vacation.'

Fabiola turned to Matthew and Pedro, as she inquired, “And you two?”

Pedro turned to Fabiola, as he requested, “We would like a minute to speak with Garibaldi and Garcia?”

Fabiola turned to Roberta, as she said, “Those two have been straightforward with us. I do not think it will hurt for them to talk with the young master and her friend, for a few minutes.”

Roberta turned to look at Fabiola, then back to Pedro, as she stated, “Fine. But, be quick. We will see the master and his charge leave, after you leave. Then, we will leave.”

Pedro said, “Thank you.” He thought, 'You are using the term, his. Though, I guess you view Garcia as male, no matter what Garcia's outer form is. And I will not fault you for that. Now, to deal with the matter at hand.'

Pedro and Matthew then turned to and looked down at Garibaldi and Garcia, whom were right beside them, as the two younger girls looked up at them.

Pedro said, “It is nice to meeting you both. I wish it was under better circumstances.”

Garibaldi responded, “Yes. I agree”

Garcia said, “I, as well. But, I do not believe we have been properly introduced?”

Pedro thought, 'She already knows enough to crucify Lee already, in the past. So, I guess it won't hurt.'

Pedro stated, “I am from the same reality as Lee. I am Police Chief Pedro Del Soto, from Mexico, on the gulf northwestern coastline, in the early twenty-first century. You can call me, Pedro, Mister Lovelace.” He thought, 'I will use male pronouns, to help keep in the maids good graces. Considering, I am sure they are overhearing this various conversation.'

Garcia commented, in a polite tone of voice, “Garcia is fine. And thank you for calling me, by a masculine title, even given this form.”

Pedro replied, “Garcia, you are welcome.”

Garcia inquired, “How did you end up with Matthew, traveling the multiverse?”

Pedro answered, “It was my island city that all your... Friends decided to move too.”

Garcia stated, “That explains everything.”

Pedro let out a small chuckle. He then said, “I know. And it was Lee that lead them to my home town, in the first place.”

Garcia commented, “Given what Garibaldi has told me about Lee, that does not surprise me in the least.”

Garibaldi turned to Matthew, as she inquired, “So, how are you doing, Matthew?”

Matthew cracked a grin, as casually he responded, “I am doing fine, boss. Besides the obvious, how are you?”

Garibaldi shrugged, as she said, “I could be worse. If I had known that Lee would drag us both into this level of trouble, I would have never sent you to find and help him.”

Matthew commented, “It's okay. And just to let you know. The guy with me is on the level. You would like him. He is cut from the same cloth as you are.”

Garibaldi turned to look at Pedro. She then looked back at Matthew, as she replied, “I am sure.”

Pedro said, “Thank you, Matthew.”

Matthew looked over at Pedro, as he replied, “You're welcome, Pedro.” He then looked back down at Garibaldi, as he asked, “So, it sounds like you have only been at this for a day?”

Garibaldi answered, “Yes. We have only been cursed for less than a day. For me, it has been around a day since I last saw you on Mars.” She then gave a childish yawn. She turned to Garcia, as she requested, “We really need to find some place to rest.”

Garcia turned to Garibaldi, as she responded, “I agree. The day is starting to catch up with me, as well. But, like we talked about, we will find a place to stay on our next reality jump.”

Garibaldi replied, “Agreed.”

The two girls then looked back up at the much taller men, as Garibaldi questioned, in a casual tone of voice, “So, how about yourself? How long has it been since you left Mars.”

Matthew sighed, as he said, “A lot longer.”

Garibaldi thought, 'I think it is best that I don't ask him exactly how long. I know I am not going to like the answer. Because, from what it sounds like, with our conversation with Chang and River, it has been a long time. Though, it cannot be that long. He does not look that much older since I last saw him. Besides, I have my own problems, to deal with, for the moment.'

Garibaldi commented, “Well, I am sorry to hear that.”

Matthew replied, “Well, as I said before. It has not been that bad. And I am not that worried on the matter.'

(_)

Nearby, with her enhanced hearing, Roberta overheard conversation happening among the four person group.

Roberta thought, with admiration, 'The manners these two men are displaying towards the young master and Garibaldi are impeccable. So, I will give them their time together... For now.'

(_)

At that moment, among the four person group, Garcia look from Matthew to Garibaldi, as she inquired, “What exactly is the story behind you two, when it comes to Lee? Matthew, Garibaldi didn't mention you, until just now? And how are you connect to Chang and River?”

Garibaldi and Matthew looked at each other, as Matthew requested, “Can I tell her?”

Garibaldi replied, “Sure. Go ahead.”

Garibaldi and Matthew turned to look at Garcia, as Matthew stated, “Before I was kidnapped, and made to work for my current employer. Chang. Which is not that bad a job. I worked for Garibaldi here. Which was an even better job. Anyway, I was the lawyer sent by Garibaldi here, to go to a police station, to legally represent, Lee. And then your two friends over there attack the police station, and I ended up riding shotgun, down the highway, with Lee driving, while Roberta chased us.”

Garcia replied, “I will admit, I have been in such a chase. And it can be stressful.”

Matthew flatly said, “To say the least. Anyway, we made it to Edgars Industries Headquarters, which forced Roberta to called off the chase, for a time. I then immediately demanded a vacation. So, I could get off world.”

Garibaldi commented, “A vacation I did give him.”

Matthew went onto say, “Yes. Mister Garibaldi was nice enough to grant my request for a vacation. I then get a company car, and headed back to my apartment to pack. The next thing I know, a few hours later, Edgars HQ is under attack, and my boss here goes missing. Then, on my way to my car, to head to the spaceport, I get picked up by two of Chang's subordinates, and the rest is history.”

Garcia thought, 'That answers my questions.' She said, “I am glad you came out of it in one piece.”

Matthew flatly stated, “So am I.” He looked at Garibaldi, as he continued, “And I have a feeling that you will return home someday. And I may someday return, as well.”

Garibaldi looked up at Matthew, as she responded, “I hope so. But first, Garcia and I have to find a cure to this curse. Even though, Lee and the others said we would fail. We still have to try. So, I have to ask, what are your thoughts on this?”

Matthew turned to Pedro, as he said, “Pedro, you know a lot more about this, than I. So, I am leaving the explanation to you.” He then turned back to look at the two girls.

Pedro heard Matthew request, as he continued look at Garcia and Garibaldi. Pedro weighed his options, as he thought, 'I am not surprised you would, Matthew. And that is a good question, Garibaldi. Still, I can think of some solutions. But then, those solutions might create a paradox. Though, I have an idea that might be amendable to both preventing a paradox, and be beneficial to Garibaldi and Garcia, here.'

Pedro stated, “That is easier said than done. But, you might concern making this curse work for you.”

Garibaldi inquired, “How so?”

Pedro suggested, “Well, you could find a way to use the youth of your girl form, to transfer some of that youth to your older male body. In that your female form will be a young adult. I would say that around twenty, is a good number. While your male form will be in your thirties to forties.”

Garibaldi thought about what Pedro said for a few seconds. She then grinned, ear to ear, as she happily complimented, “That is a very good idea.”

Garibaldi though, 'In that case, when I return home, I could be with my family even longer. And it wouldn't be so bad to be in this female form, if it wasn't so young. If I was an adult in both forms. With my male form no longer an old man. It would spice up love life with my wife, no matter what form I was in. But, will Garcia be okay for me to looking for someone to do just that?”

Garibaldi turned to Garcia, as she asked, “Garcia, I think I will go that route, instead. If it is okay with you?”

Garcia looked over at Garibaldi, as she responded, “That is fine... Actually, I think that is a good idea. That way you would be able to live longer, and make the most out of both your forms.”

Pedro thought, 'I think will refrain from mentioning the rejuvenation therapy that Ed, Fabiola, and your future self used, Garcia. Because, that therapy has risks. Lee told me that Jet had a bad reaction to it. Which forced Jet to undergo the vat process to save his life, which turned him into a woman. Though, it is nice to have options for myself, in the future, which do not require gender bending.'

'Still, Matthew and I need to help push this idea for Garibaldi and Garcia.'

Pedro turned to Matthew, as he asked, “What are you thoughts on this?”

Matthew noticed Pedro had directed his question towards him. He turned to Pedro, as he replied, “Your idea has merit.” He turned to look at Garibaldi, as he continued, “And a good employer is a rare thing. I would prefer that Garibaldi return to his, or her, position, for a few more years. Maybe even longer.”

Garibaldi and Garcia turned to look up at the two men, as Garibaldi happily replied, “Thanks for you vote of confidence.”

Matthew complimented, “It is well earned.”

Garibaldi gave Matthew a warm smile in response.

Garcia asked, “I do have one question that I believe you two can answer, that I believe the others will not. Lee said that she know knows Ranma, and that Ranma is now a her. And it is clear that Lee and Chang are living as women, as well. So, I have to know, are we going to start to want to live as women?”

Garibaldi stated, “Yea. That thought occurred to me, as well. We want to know the answer to this question. It would definitely put a crimp in my marriage, if that is the case.”

Pedro noticed Matthew look at him, as well.

Pedro thought, with mild resignation, 'Yea, Matthew. I know you want me to answer this question. And talk about dropping a grenade in one's lap.'

Pedro answered, “While the answer is complicated. Fortunately, everything I know for you two, is the answer is, no. Garibaldi, you have spent literally a lifetime as a man. Unless you didn't like being a man, which I doubt is the case. Then, you are going to be a man, upstairs, for the rest of your life. And Garcia, everything your two friends...”

Pedro looked over at the maids, and then back to Garcia and Garibaldi, as he continued, “Have mentioned in passing about you, they have said that you are still living as a man, well into your adulthood.”

Garibaldi let out a breath, as she said, “That is a relief.”

Garcia asked, with relief evident in her tone of voice, “I agree. Though, what about Ranma, Chang, and Lee?”

Pedro said, “While I have met Ranma. I do not know her that well. I am not really sure why she lives as a woman. To be honest, I blame her father, Genma, for his twisted teachings towards Ranma as a child. That woman are soft and give into the temptations that life offers. While a man should know only a life of hardship.”

“And while all four of us know that is total bullshit. At the time, Ranma did not.”

“Now, throw in the girl curse, and a few years for Ranma to realize that women are not that much different than men, upstairs. And it would not much for Ranma to decide between hardship as man, or a pleasant life as a woman, that he would start choosing to live as a she.”

Garibaldi stated, “I can see that. And you clearly built a profile of Ranma on the fly.”

Pedro responded, “My job as Police Chief was similar to your job as Chief of Security on Babylon Five. In both jobs, we were paid to build profiles on people, to avoid trouble for our cities.”

Garibaldi shrugged, as she replied, “True. And Chang and Lee?”

Pedro stated, “While Chang was a women when you met her just now. Back in my home town, Chang is usually a man. And he acts like a man. Most of the time.”

Matthew commented, “Pedro is correct about that. At the casino where I work, and Chang is the owner and boss. Chang is almost always a man. Unless Chang is doing something intimate with River and Lee.”

Garibaldi replied, “Oh...”

Garcia commented, “I did not need to know that.”

Matthew said, “We agree.”

Pedro stated “That being said. Chang is likely a woman right now to avoid accidentally running into her past self, and being recognized by him, or someone else from the past.”

Garibaldi agreed, “That would make since. And Lee?”

Pedro went onto say, “Well Lee... I am not so sure. After knowing Lee for a few years, I can say that I have my suspicions, but I do not wish to share such opinions with others.” He thought, 'I suspect Lee is a male-to-female transsexual. But, I am not going to state that out loud in front of people that are planning to have revenge on her... She still is a friend of mine.'

Garibaldi replied, “I understand you position.”

Garcia thanked Pedro and Matthew, “Thank you for your answers on this matter, gentlemen.”

Pedro said, “You're welcome, Garcia, Garibaldi.”

Matthew replied, “Any time, Garibaldi, Garcia.”

Pedro thought, 'Now, to get to a topic I have been wanting to talk to you about. But, I don't want to be to forward about this.' He calmly stated, “Now, not to ruin the mood. But, even though you both are in the bodies of young girls, it is nice to meet you both. I am a big fan of the both of you.”

Garibaldi commented, “Except for Lee, and Garcia here. I have yet to meet any of my fans. At least those who know who I really am.”

Pedro thought, 'Perhaps, you should count yourself lucky on that. Still, I wonder?...' He inquired, “So, do both of you plan to see your series?”

Garcia answered, “Yes.”

Garibaldi answered, “Yes. We plan too.”

Garcia commented, “Given we have both seen the other series, and mine is short, we will start with mine.”

Pedro cautioned, “Be careful. Some of it will not be pleasant for you to watch. The tail in end of the series deals with Roberta's returned to Roanapur. With you and Fabiola following her. And the aftermath.”

Garcia replied, “Thank you for the warning. Lee said something similar to me.”

Garibaldi commented, “Yes. We warned me, as well.”

Pedro stated, “I don't doubt that. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that while Lee is as messed up as everyone else in this mess. She does not want to see harm come to others.”

Garcia said, in a sober tone of voice, “I am beginning to realize that.”

Pedro mentioned, “Also Garibaldi. About your series, Babylon Five. The end of season three, and the first half of season four deals with that whole Bester mess, over him brainwashing you to betray your friends. And when you watch season five, everyone agrees that season five was a mess. And that is when you are shown to fall off the wagon for a while.”

Garibaldi stated, “I will keep that in mind.”

Pedro stated, “Also, you need to check out the Black Lagoon omakes. Animated shorts. The subtitled anime versions are much better than the manga versions. Though, from what I understand...” He thought, 'From what I read of Lee's stories.' He continued, “There are english dubs of those omakes. I believe using the same north american cast as the series, itself, uses. And I prefer that cast to the original japanese dub cast.”

Garcia asked, “Interesting. Though, why did you want us to watch those animated shorts?”

Pedro stated, “Besides the omakes being extremely funny. Such as, from a purely platonic way, Roberta looks cute in a school girl uniform. Almost as cute as Eda in a cheerleader uniform.”

Suddenly, in the distance, Roberta burst out laughing, for a few seconds.

Pedro thought, 'That confirms she has been eavesdropping on us. Not that I blame her, given she and Fabiola are concern for the welfare of Garcia here.'

As Roberta started to calm down, in the distance, Pedro stated, “Believe it or not, Lee did not coming up with her gender bending ideas for you and your friends. She got them from watching the Boys and Girls omake, by you creator, whose alias is, Tex-Mex. Yes. Like the food.”

Pedro then mentally realized, 'Now, that I think about it. A number of the series that are in Lee's stories have an undercurrent, and recurring jokes about food. Half the trouble Ranma had in her series dealt with food in someway.'

'Tex-Mex is a type food. Pretty good food. And as it is a cultural hybrid of Mexican and U.S. dish. Which is kind of what Black Lagoon is. A hybrid of many different actions genres and concepts. Then, there was a running gag that Revy liked the china bowl soup at the Kao Han restaurant, in Roanapur.'

'And there is the whole Swedish meatball running gag in the Babylon Five series. Where most of the major alien races has their own version of Swedish meatballs, by various names. Made from various ingredients. Though, each dish tastes just like Swedish meatballs.'

'Given that the Vorlons had a hand in the development of those races, in that reality. Maybe the Vorlons just liked that dish. Or, they did it as a joke. Or, it could just be a joke by JMS, or someone on the B Five creator staff.'

'Though, these are mysteries for another time. That I really don't have time to get into right now. As, this is not the proper place and time to do so.'

Garcia said, in slightly shocked, “Huh?... You're kidding?” He thought, 'And my creator took an alias, after a type of food. That is just embarrassing.'

Pedro responded, “No. I'm not. Though, just be happy that unlike you female counterpart. That as a girl. Lee did not give you long, curly golden locks, tied back in a big red bow. Along with a cute, frilly light violet colored dress, and red pendent necklace around your neck.”

Garcia hesitantly said, “Perhaps I have misjudged, Lee.” She thought, 'I have no interest in wearing such a dress. Even in jest. Nor, growing out my hair. Let along putting it in curls.'

Pedro replied, “Don't feel bad. We all have.”

Garcia asked, “Given that revelation. I have to know. Is my creator insane? If so, it would explain a lot.”

Pedro answered, “I don't know for sure, but all of us sometimes wonder that. And if you visit my reality, you need to check out Lee's stories on the web. They are titled, Badasses Of the Multiverse. While I don't know about Tex-Mex. I can confirm that Lee is insane.”

Garcia said, “I am not surprised. Garibaldi, here, mentioned Lee's stories. And from what he has told me, these stores are very twisted. And from what little I know of Lee. I could tell that she is mentally unbalanced.”

Pedro thought, 'To say the least. Though, about Lee's stories.' Pedro commented, “Yes. Those stories are likely more twisted, than Garibaldi hinted at.” He mentally reflected, 'And very funny. But, I am not going to say that, in front of you two, and the maids.'

Garcia inquired, “So, you said your home reality and time the same as Lee?”

Pedro said, “Yes. I am from an island city in Mexico called, De La Plata Podrido.”

Garcia questioned, “Of the Rotten Silver?”

Pedro answered, “Yes.

Garcia asked, “And where is Lee from?”

Pedro replied, “I am not sure myself. Though, I do know that Lee is from somewhere in the southeastern United States.”

Garibaldi flatly said, “Lee is a redneck.”

Pedro agreed, “I would say that, as well. But, she does know her manners.”

Garibaldi replied, “I will give you that one.”

Garcia commented, “Well, since we need to check out all this. I think we should held to your reality, Pedro.”

Garibaldi said, “I am okay with that.”

Pedro commented, “You're more than welcome too.”

Garibaldi said, “Well, I guess we will get going.”

Pedro stated, “Same here. But, before we part. I want to say to you, Garibaldi, that you're an inspiration to me. You went through the ringer, and you came out smelling like a rose.”

Garibaldi replied, “Thanks.” She then extended her small right hand towards Pedro.

Pedro used his right hand to firmly shake Garibaldi smaller hand.

As they shook hands, Pedro mentally noted, 'Her hand is small. But, the grip is firm.'

Garibaldi thought, 'He is a firm grip. But, it feels like he is slightly varying his grip, because he does not want risk harming my small hand. I can appreciate that.'

A few seconds later, they broke the handshake. Pedro said, “Maybe, if we see each other again. Someday, we can come to visit you both. When you are both male and adults. We will have a few drinks, with you being the designated driver, Garibaldi.”

Garibaldi smiled, as she happily stated, “That sounds like fun.”

Garcia said, “Maybe, we will. Well, good luck Pedro and Matthew.”

Matthew replied, “You too, Garcia, and Garibaldi. And we will likely see each other again. If not, it was nice seeing you again, boss.”

Garibaldi replied, “Same here, Matthew.”

Pedro turned to Matthew, as he said, “Let's heard out, first.”

Matthew looked over at Pedro, as he replied, “That works for me.”

Matthew and Pedro then turned and walked away from both Garibaldi and Garcia, and towards the center of the alleyway.

As they walked, they kept their distance from Roberta and Fabiola, while they looked at the maids. With the maids looking back at them.

The two men came to a stop, as they turned around to looked at Garcia and Garibaldi, whom were also look at them.

Matthew asked, “So, where to next?”

Pedro casually said, “I could use a cup of coffee”

Matthew calmly suggested, “Well, we have the entire multiverse, to choose from, to get a cup of coffee. So, let us do this with some style. Have you ever had a cup of coffee from a real New York City diner, in the evening, after dark?”

Pedro answered, “No. I have not. How about you?”

Matthew commented, “Nope. But, it sounds like a good idea.”

Pedro let out a laugh, as he pulled out his reality device, from a pocket. Pedro cracked a grin, as he agreed, “Yes. It does.”

Pedro then thought of going to a modern, New York City diner, in the evening, after dark, as he pressed the red button on the device.

Both men then disappeared, as they immediately jumped to another reality.

(_)

After the four other girls watched the two men disappear, Garibaldi turned to Garcia, as she said, “I have a feeling that our lives are going to even become more exciting from now on.”

Garcia looked over at her friend, as she said, “I agree. And for us, that is saying something.”

Garibaldi pulled out her reality device, from one of her pants pockets, as she asked, “So, were do you want to go?”

Garcia suggested, “Let's check out Pedro and Lee's home reality. Pedro's home city might be a good start. But, let's head there before everyone we know settled in that city. Maybe a few months after Lee first arrived there.”

Garibaldi replied, “Sounds nice. From the way Matthew treats his friend, Pedro, I am sure Pedro has a good handle on his city. I am starting to respect that man. Though, we will have to avoid the others.”

Garcia commented, “That should not be too hard. As far as everyone is concerned. We are not suppose to be there. They don't know you have a girl form. And I will key and eye out, so they don't spot me.”

Garibaldi stated, “That should work. And Lee did mention that we will meet him, in the past. And I looking forward to see him there. In the situation, Lee mentioned.” She thought, 'I believe it is best I don't mention to the maids that Lee said I will get to beat up his past self, as a little girl. While they will get a laugh out of it. It might give them ideas. And they already have plenty of ideas on dealing with Lee.'

Garcia replied, “I agree.” She thought, 'And though I will stop the fight. I will enjoy watching it for a few seconds. Though, I will have to make it look like I am sincere in stopping the fight. But, that will not be a problem. Now, onto another matter.'

Garcia said, “I can also translate for you. And given that we will be in Mexico. I can get us a room at a decent hotel, in the city. Along with some food, clothing, and a computer. We will also make sure that the hotel has access to the internet, so we can read Lee's crazy stories.”

Garibaldi responded, “That all sounds good. Though, just make sure it is a small hotel. If we get the nice hotel, we will likely bump your friends. Whom will probably be staying at a nicer hotel.”

Suddenly, Roberta stated, “Avoid the Devil's Hotel, on the north end of the island, and the other large hotel on the south end of the island. They are on opposite ends of the islands. I suggest one of the smaller hotels on the island, in the middle of the city. Also, avoid the Rats Next bar, and the food truck by the beach. Lee and Lee's friends like to go to the Rats Nest. And Eda and Yolanda ran that food truck as a way to try to trap Lee.”

Roberta thought, 'I cannot stop them from going. But, at least I can warn them. And I won't mention Lee's friend Sam, is River. Because, they might react negatively, and blow River's cover in front of Lee. Thus creating a paradox. At least, with the way things have played out. We will have our revenge. We just have to wait a little while longer.'

Garcia looked over at Roberta and Fabiola, as she smiled at them. She said, “Thank you, Roberta. I look forward to seeing you, and Fabiola, in the future.”

The two maids warmly smiled towards Garcia, as Fabiola responded, “We feel the same way, young master.”

Roberta maintained her smile, as she said, “Yes. We do.”

Garcia replied, “I will see you both, later.”

Garcia turned to Garibaldi, as requested, in an excited tone of voice, “Please, get out of here. I cannot wait for the future to get here, so I can be reunited with my friends.”

Garibaldi let out a laugh. She then said, in a casual tone of voice, “Ah. The impetuousness of youth. How I have forgotten that.”

Garibaldi then thought Pedro and Lee's home reality. Being on a sidewalk, in the middle of the city of De La Plata Podrido, Mexico, around noon. A few months after Lee first came to that city.

Garibaldi held that thought, as she pushed the red button on her reality device, with Garcia and herself, immediately disappearing, by jumping to another reality.

After Roberta and Fabiola watched Garcia and Garibaldi leave, they turned to look at each other.

Fabiola asked, in spanish, “So, what do we go now? It is not exactly like we can still go after Lee. She is in that amazon village, now. And I am not going to fight them, to get Lee. They are too dangerous. Besides, we learned from that future Lee, that we will have our revenge on her. And we know where to find her in her future. So, if she is lying, we can go after her.”

Roberta calmly stated, in spanish, “I realize that, as well. Perhaps, we should return to Lagoon Island, and keep quiet about this, until we speak with the young master. Until, we have our revenge.”

A thought then occurred to Fabiola, as she happily suggested, “While I agree on keeping quiet, about this, except for the young master. I just had an idea. We still need to blow off some steam. How about we do a little traveling first.”

“We can make a vacation trip out of the hunt we are now having. And we can use this time to think of what we are going to tell the others. Because, we clearly cannot tell them we met Lee from the future, and she is now with Chang and River. We might accidentally start a war between Revy's group and Chang's group. And it would possibly cause a paradox.”

Roberta responded, “You are likely correct. For the sake of our friends, we do need to come up with a cover story. Or, we just need not tell them anything at all.” She warmly smiled, as she continued, in a calmer, more relaxed tone of voice, “But, I do like your idea of taking a break, and going on vacation, before we return. It would be fun, and would take our minds off our troubles.”

“And given that it is clear that Garcia already realized what was going on, long before we left to hunt Lee. And that we will have our revenge on Lee, in the future. Our quest for vengeance is a moot point.”

Roberta then dropped her grin, as she asked, in a slightly confused tone of voice, “Though, what I don't understand about giving up on this hunt, is why don't I feel empty about the situation?”

Fabiola pointed out, “Because, Garcia is okay with the situation we are in. He knows what we have done, before we did it. So, we don't have to explain our situation to him, when we return. Because we have nothing to hide. Thus, our relationship with him is intact.”

“And now that I think about. As a girl, when Garcia had her first period. The two of us were more frantic about the situation, than she was.”

Roberta said, “True. She was unusually calm. And after tonight. I understand why. Because, she already knew to expect it.”

Fabiola replied, “Exactly.”

Roberta calmly requested, with more certainty in her tone of voice, “Though, let us not think about such matters, right now. Now Fabiola, where do you want to go?”

Fabiola smiled, as she responded, in a relaxed, happy, tone of voice, “How about we just stay here for a few hours? Enjoy the party, as we decide where to go to next.”

Roberta complimented, “That sounds like a good idea.”

Roberta and Fabiola then casually started walking, side by side. They soon exited the alleyway, and into the crowds of people, as the two women began to have a good time at Mardi Gras. While they left their worries behind them.

To be continued.



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