Badasses Of the Multiverse: Book 6: Volume 2: Chapter 03

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

Volume 2: “The Villains.”

Chapter 03: “Prelude to Madness.”

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.

(_)

Reality, Pedro and Lee's home reality. Date, the day after the robbery at Daiyu Palace Casino. At Tuesday. Place, The Rats Nest, De La Plata Podrido, Mexico. Time, around noon.

It was a cool, partly cloudy day, outside of the Rats Nest. With the Rats Nest having long since been fully repaired a few days ago, around a week after Revy and Hernan's fight. And things had gone back to normal.

Inside the bar, Revy, along with her family and friends were sitting around the various tables, on the left side of the room, while Bao was behind the bar counter.

At one of the center tables, sat Revy, Rock, Lotton, Shenhua, Sawyer, and Eda.

At one of the small tables by the back wall, Janet and Benny sat across from each other.

At the large around table in the back, left corner of the room, sat Dutch, Violin, Aeryn, Roberta, and Yolanda.

At a large table, closer to the front, running along the left wall, by the large windows, sat Rebecca, Yukio, Mikoto, Yurika, Kristina, and Nodoka. Kristina and Nodoka sat beside each other, with Nodoka to Kristina’s left side.

At a table located on the front left corner of the room, sat Akira, Natsuru, and Ranma.

At the side of the bar counter, which facing the front windows, sat Barbossa, in a stool, with his back to the front windows. Barbossa has choose to set alone, as he enjoyed his bottle of beer. With Bao being introduced to Barbossa, when she met him.

The only ones not there were Sarah and Molly, whom were babysitting the four toddler children, Wenqian, Ivy, Thomas, and Gilina, back at the Devil's Hotel. This was due to Bao having an understandably, though strict rule, concerning that there were no children allowed in her bar. And Bao refused to relent on her rule, no matter how much gold, Dutch and the others offered her, to change her mind. For Bao, this rule was more important.

That morning, at breakfast, at the buffet in the Devil's Hotel restaurant, Revy, her family, and her friends decided they would have lunch at the Rats Nest. With then bringing their lunches there. While drinking something at the Rats Nest. This was not the first time they had done this. And Bao was okay with this, as long as it did not become a habit.

When they were ready to have lunch, they had called ahead, to request Bao temporally close her bar for them.

Given the amount of wealth they were paying Bao in gold, Bao happily followed their request.

When they got to the Rats Nest, they sat down, and they order their drinks from Bao. With Bao soon filling their orders.

Revy and a few others liked to do this, because Bao was a very skilled bartender, whom knew how to filling the drink orders given to her, in a timely manner, while still maintaining the quality of her service.

Most of those inside the bar were drinking bottles of beer. Which only a few drinking harder alcoholic beverages and mixed drinks.

Still, per Revy's promise to Hernan. Since she was drinking, she was not armed.

Presently, they had just finished lunch. With Bao clearing their tables of plates and trashing. Leaving only their drinks behind. Most of which were periodically refilled, or replaced, at time passed by.

(_)

Bao was standing behind the bar counter, facing the left side of the room, and her customers, at the tables, on the left side of the room.

Bao was not really doing anything, as she looked out at her customers. She thought, 'This has certainly turned out to be an interesting, and entertaining day. I like how Barbossa introduced himself. For an old pirate, he can be polite. And I loved how Revy could not keep her own secrets, secrets.'

'With Barbossa coming in here, they had to tell me that Revy was the reincarnation of Jack Sparrow. I got a good laugh out of that one. And in a twisted way, I can see how she could be a reincarnation of Jack.'

'It was also nice that Barbossa allowed me to take a picture of himself, with my polaroid camera, which he autographed, and let me keep.'

'And with what they regularly pay me in gold, along with them rarely trashing my bar now. While I request they do not make a habit of it. I don't mind them bringing lunch here, and asking me to temporally closed the bar to the public. Though, that was more for the public's safety, than the current customers in my bar. Also, they still order drinks for their lunches from here. So, I still make some money from their meals.'

'Speaking of which. I really need to invite Hernan to come here. Considering, he was the one to finally get Revy to stop bringing her guns with her, when she drinks.'

'And as tempted as I am to let them bring their young children in here... It was hard to turn down the amount of gold they offered to looked the other way... Still, I know that if I did relented on my no children rule, it would get me in real trouble with the locals. Especially, Pedro.'

'And I admire, respect, and like Pedro. And while we only did it a few times, years ago, he is pretty in bed.'

'Besides, it would be wrong for me to let children in here. It is one of those rules to being a bartender. A rule that I have kept since I started bartending, back in Roanapur, Thailand. You don't let children come into the bar.'

At that moment, Barbossa looked over at Bao, as he asked, “So, from the way you look at them, and the familiarity they have with you. I take it you know them?

Bao looked at Barbossa, as she replied, “Yes. I know most of them, very well.”

Barbossa responded, “Good. Because, I would like to know your opinion of them?”

Bao thought, 'Given some of them are eavesdropping on this conversation, with our enhanced hearing, I need to figure out how I honestly answer that question. While not upsetting any of them... Oh, that should work...'

Boa stated, “Most of them are as straightforward, and sharp, as the sword on your belt.”

Barbossa looked down at the sheathed sword, in his scabbard, on the left side of his belt. He then looked back at Bao. He cracked a grin, as he complimented, “Good answere.”

Bao thought, 'Now, it is my turn.' She inquired, “So, why are you still with them? You found out what Revy is the reincarnation of Jack. And given how friendly you are. You clearly not here for revenge. So, what is going on?”

Barbossa coyly said, “You could say I am just setting up my inheritance, for when I am gone.”

Bao replied, “Okay.” She mentally added, 'I am not sure what he meant by that. And chances are, someday, one of the others in this room will tell me. When they find out. So, I am not going to push the matter. Also, I need to tally up the bill for them. While they pay me gold. I still need to make up their bills, for my own records keeping. So, I know what I have in stock, and what I need to restock.'

Bao then turned, and headed over the cash registered, which was on the side of the bar counter, facing the left wall, with register, itself, being near the back of the room.

While Bao went over to cash register, to work on her customers bills, at one of the center tables of the room, Revy, Rock, Lotton, Shenhua, Sawyer, and Eda, sat clockwise around the table.

Revy and Shenhua sat across from each other, as they looked at a small, ornate, wooden, metal box, on the table.

The box belong to Revy, whom had bought a box, as a conversation piece for their meal.

And the box did generate a pleasant conversation. With the discussion eventually leading to someone asking what was in the box.

Unfortunately, the box was locked and Revy did not have key.

So, Revy and Shenhua looked a the box, as they both made suggestions on how best it would be to open the box, without risk of damaging the box itself, or what might be inside the box.

Meanwhile, the others at their table, whom knew the two women well enough, to not bother them went they had their mind set on doing some. So, Rock, Eda, Lotton, and Sawyer, just continued their own conversation, while Revy and Shenhua talked to each other.

Revy carefully inspected the small box, as she commented, “I cannot use my gun, that might damage it.”

Shenhua looked at the small box, as well. She replied, “I agree. Though, what is inside it might make it worth damaging it, to get it open.”

Revy stated, “I don't want to damage it. Just in case there is nothing in it. That way, the box is still worth something?”

Then, from a nearby table, Violin turned to Revy, as she asked, “Hey Revy. Where did you get that box from, anyway?”

Eda inquired, “You didn't steal it? Did you?”

Revy looked over at Violin, then to Eda, as she flatly answered, “Actually, I bought it.”

At another table, Akira questioned, “From where? And when?”

Revy turned to Akira, as she said, “I bought it, years ago, at an antique shop, back in my home reality.” She then turned the box, as she complained, “I know I should have asked for the key, when I bought this.”

Eda teased, “I didn't know you were into antiques.”

Revy continued to look at the box, as she answered, “I'm not. But, I was bored one day, and I took a look around at a store, on an island, near our tropical island home.” She then tried to open the box with her fingers. But, the lid would not budge, even a bit.

Lotton looked at Shenhua, as she asked, “And what is your interest in that box, Shenhua?”

Shenhua looked at the box, as she answered, “Pure curiosity. I would like to see what is in the box, as well.”

From the bar counter, Barbossa looked to his left, over at the box on Revy's table. He calmly warned, “Ladies. Experience has taught me. Concerning boxes like. That such boxes only bring trouble. And likely, it is best you just take that box to a remote location, and bury it, very deeply.”

Revy scoffed, “Thanks for yours concern. But, I am going to find out what is in this thing.”

Shenhua commented, “I am also not going to give up on finding out what is inside the box.'

Barbossa looked at Shenhua, as he dispassionately thought, 'The sad part is that I am Shenhua's previous incarnation. So, I will someday actually, be her. And so, at this point in time for her, we will not know better. And Jack certainly knew better. I guess people do have to relearn lessons, from life to life. Though, at least I warned them.'

Suddenly, Barbossa saw Rock, Lotton, Sawyer, and Eda, get up from their seats, pick up their drinks, and move to other, nearby tables.

Barbossa mentally added, 'I guess at least some of them had enough sense to heed my warning.'

Rock sat down by Ranma, at the table Ranma shared with her two lovers.

Meanwhile, Lotton, Sawyer, and Eda, moved to set down at a table, near the back, that was previously empty. They, then sat down their drinks.

Revy turned to Rock, as she asked, “Where are you going?”

Rock took a sip of her bottle of beer. She sit it down. She then looked over Revy, as she answered, “Given the lives we have lead. I am not taking any chances.”

Lotton looked at Sawyer, whom was sitting beside her. She then turned to Shenhua and Revy, as she stated, “And neither are we.”

Revy said, “Fine. Have it your way.” She then turned her attention back to the box in front of her, at the table, she was sitting at.

Ranma offered, “I could pick the lock for you, Revy. Without opening the box. So, we can then use tools to open it from a distance.”

Revy continued to look at the small box, as she replied, “I already tried picking the lock. Besides, I like a challenge.'

Ranma thought, 'Given the way Revy is at the moment. I think it is best to just drop my offer to help her. If I unlocked that box for her, right now. Which, with my skills and abilities, would only take a few seconds to do. She would take it as an insult. And I have no intent of upsetting her, even if she does not have her pistols with her.'

Janet suggested, “We could always have the box x-rayed. That way we can find out what is in it, without risk of damaging it.”

Revy did not take her eyes off the box, as she responded, “Nice idea. If I cannot get into it, within the next few minutes. I may take you up on your suggestion.”

Janet replied, “Okay. That will be fine.” She thought, 'At least, she is open to taking a different approach on this matter. I just hope she doesn't become too obsessed with that box. Because, when she gets like this. She acts like a little kid that wants to stick her hand in the cookie jar, without caring about the consequences, afterward.'

Revy finally took her eyes off her box, to look over at Shenhua. She asked, in a polite tone of voice, “Shenhua, could I please borrow one of your throwing knifes, to pop the lock to this box?”

Shenhua continued to look at the box, as she responded, “By all means. It is your box. Just don't damage my knife, and hand back when you are finished.”

Revy replied, “Sure.”

Shenhua used her right hand, to reach under the right side of her red qipao, for the garter belt on the right thigh. She then used her right fingers to carefully pulled out of her kunai throwing knifes.

She then looked up at Revy, as she offered her kunai, to Revy, with the butt of the hilt, facing Revy.

Revy then gently took the knife from Shenhua's right hand, with her own right hand, as she replied, “Thank you.”

Shenhua replied, “You're welcome.”

The two women then turned their attention back to the box, are Revy inserted the tip of the blade, along the slit that the lid created, near the lock.

Everyone in the room then silently watched, are Revy began carefully working the knife back and forth, along the latch of the lock, that held the lid closed.

While Revy continued to work the lock, she muttered, “Come on damn it. Give. Give.”

A second later, without warning, the lid burst open, with the latches on the back of the lid being the only thing that kept the lid attached to the box.

As the lid opened up, everyone saw a large puff of blue smoke emerge from the box.

The blue smoke hit Revy directly in the face, while a little bit of smoke hit Shenhua.

The smoke then swiftly dissipated, before it could reach anyone else in the room.

There was silence for a few seconds.

Ranma commented, “From my years of experience, with magical objects. That type smoke immediately appearing, then quickly disappearing, is never good.”

Dutch turned to Ranma, as she, “I will take this means that we should be concerned about what just happened” She turned to Revy and Shenhua, as she continued, “So, we need to check on those two.”

As everyone looking more closely at Revy and Shenhua, they saw that Revy had appeared complete dazed. Revy was so out of it, that she unconsciously dropped the knife in her right hand, onto the table.

Meanwhile, Shenhua's eyes seemed more focused. Though, she showed surprised in her facial expressions.

Sawyer and Lotton look at Shenhua.

Sawyer asked, with concern in her tone of voice, “Shenhua, are you okay?”

Lotton inquired, with concern in her voice, “Shenhua, do you need help?”

They saw that Shenhua's eyes and face return to normal, as Shenhua turned to Sawyer, and Lotton. She calmly responded, “I will be fine. Though, thank you for asking.”

Akira commented, “Okay. Don't feel bad. A sudden burst of smoke like that, would startle anyone.”

Shenhua looked over towards Akira, as she replied, “I realize that.” She turned to Revy, whom was clearly still daze. She continued. “Though, it seems that Revy took the brunt of the blast.” She turned to Revy, as she asked, with concern in her tone of voice, “Revy, are you okay.?”

Revy did not response.

Shenhua quickly reached over and picked up her throwing knife, by its hilt. She then looked down at her legs, as she carefully put away her kunai, where she had it, in her right garter belt.

After she had sheathed her throwing knife, she turned back to look at Revy. She thought, 'I do not know how Revy will react. So, I feel it is best to remove all sharp objects from her reach. Still, I hope I am wrong about what I think may have happened to her.'

Dutch commented, “Damn. I have not seen Revy this out of it, since Roberta here, gazed her head, with a bullet, back on Roanapur.”

Roberta said, “Actually, that was a grenade. Honestly, I was surprised that she survived that.”

Dutch responded, “I am surprised we survived any of this.”

Roberta conceded, “That is a good point.”

Janet questioned, “Back to the matter at hand. What should we do about Revy?”

Akira inquired, “How long do you think she is going to be like this?”

Natsuru suggested, “Should we take her to a doctor? Or, at least call one?”

Rock stated, “If we have too, I will call Simon. I have his cellphone number. He said he would more than happy to treat any ailments we have.” She thought, 'I will leave out that Chang stated that he would have to pay Simon to help us with any medical treatments. Though, that is between him and Chang.'

Yolanda commented, “That is good to know.”

Violin suggested, “Perhaps there is a clue to what has happened to Revy, inside the box. Shenhua, could you please tell us, what is inside the box.”

Shenhua leaned over the table, as she looked down inside the box. She then sat back down, as she turned Violin. She said, in a confused tone of voice, “There is nothing inside the box.”

Ranma commented, “Now, I know we are in trouble.”

Barbossa stated, “Actually. If this is magic. And sense is no one is dead, nor turned into something, nor asleep. She should be coming back around, in a few seconds.”

Over the next couple of seconds, the others noticed as Revy relaxed her face. Her lips curled into a crazed smile, as she took on a wild look in her eyes. Revy then jumped out of her chair, and onto her feet, as she exclaimed, in a slightly british accent, “I'm free, again!”

Ranma thought, 'Barbossa clearly has more experience with magical items than I do. And that is saying something. And Revy's action just now concerns me. If she has gone completely over the edge, it is going to be a challenge to tie her down, until we can get her some help.'

Barbossa looked at Revy. He cracked a grin, as he commented, in a humorous tone of voice, “I know that smile, and accent.”

Revy turned to Barbossa, as she said, in the same british accent, “That you do, you old gent.”

Natsuru asked, “What are you talking about?”

Barbossa continued to look at Revy, as he said, “Ladies, meet Jack Sparrow. Hi Jack. It is good to see you, again.”

Revy continued to face Barbossa, as she happily said, in her the same pirate accent, as before, “And it is good to be back.”

Barbossa calmly asked, “So, how are you enjoying your new body?”

Revy ran her hands down her body, as casually answered, in a pirate accent,“I am enjoying these lush curves. And this is not my first time in controlling this body.”

Barbossa thought, 'That is interesting to know. And that does explain how others knew, before we came here, that Revy is the reincarnation of Jack Sparrow.'

Benny stated, with worry in her tone of voice, “Oh no. She's possessed.”

Revy turned to Benny, as she casually said, in her pirate accent, “Not really, Benny-girl. I am not possessed. As you know, from Barbossa, here. Revy is the reincarnation of me, Captain Jack Sparrow. And if you are wondering. I have both Revy and my own memories. Just mine are more fun. And I am the dominate personality... Persona... Whatever...”

Benny remarked, “And what are you a captain of? The only boat you currently are a member of is the Lagoon. And Dutch is still the captain of that boat.”

Dutch stated, “And I am not resigning that captaincy anytime soon. And you know, you are not going to get a mutiny from this crew.”

Barbossa calmly commented, “They're right, Jack. The title of, captain, for you, went down with your body, on that noose, in Caracas.”

Revy groaned a little, as she admitted, “Well, you have me there? Though, there is a lot that we can do, that does not involve me being a captain.”

Janet inquired, “I can see the train wreck already coming. So, how do we get Jack back into the box?”

Revy turned to Janet, as she commented, in a mischievous tone of voice, “And why would you want to do that, my deary? Think of the fun we could all have.”

Benny stated, “I don't know about anyone else, but happy Revy is freaking me out.”

Dutch said, “You're not alone.”

Janet commented, “Yea. I am feeling the same way.”

Eda pointed out, “At least, she doesn't have her guns with her.”

Dutch stated, “Amen to that.”

Revy began to belly laughing at their comments about her, for a few seconds.

Everyone remained silence, as Revy laughed, because no one was sure how to react to Revy's present, jovial nature.

Meanwhile, Dutch thought, 'While Revy's Whitman fever always concerned me. We got that sorted out, and taken care of, years ago. And I am loath to admit it, but Lee did have a hand in helping Revy through that. But, this Jack-Revy, is something else entirely. My instincts tell me that she is capable doing almost anything, at any given moment. That she is truly unpredictable. That her actions have random, yet planned, natures to them. And that only confirms that Jack Sparrow is at the wheel. Because, that is Jack, to a, t.'

As Revy stopped laughing, she turned to Barbossa, as she playfully inquired, “Oh, Hector. Do you remember that party we went to, that night, at that whorehouse on Tortuga?”

Barbossa calmly answered, “Aye. Though, I believe if you tried that with this lot, you would likely not make it out of this room alive.”

Revy gave Barbossa a wicked smirk, as she replied, “It still might be worth the attempt.”

Benny asked, “What is she talking about?”

Meanwhile, behind the bar counter, Bao had been silent, as she paid attention to the conversation. She thought, 'Someone needs to answer Benny, before Revy gets herself in trouble, and starts a fight in my bar... Again.'

Bao commented, in a plain tone of voice, “Jack is trying to figure out how proposition all of us, at once.”

Sawyer let out a laugh. She then said, “And I thought Revy was crazy.”

Dutch commented, “If this is how Jack usually is, I can understand why Revy was returned back to normal.”

Barbossa shrugged, as he said, with mirth in his tone of voice, “Oh, this is nothing. Jack hasn't even gotten started, yet.”

Dutch stated, “All the more reason to return her to normal, as soon as possible.”

Eda commented, “Still, that might be easier said, than done.”

Barbossa said, “Well, that box clearly carried a curse that bought Jack back to the land of the living. And we have no idea how to cure Revy of her curse.”

Ranma stated, “That does explain why the box was otherwise empty.”

Barbossa replied, “Aye.”

Dutch commented, “Getting her back to the way she was cannot be that hard. From what we understand, this is not the first time this has happened. So, we know there is a solution out there. We just don't yet know what it is.”

Aeryn pointed out, “Though, Jack likely knows the solution to her current situation.”

Everyone continued to look at Revy.

Revy noticed this, as she looked around the room. She stated, “And I am not telling.”

Lotton deadpanned, “Of course. It would not be that easy.”

Yolanda calmly mentioned, “Well, yesterday morning. When we met Barbossa and Ahsoka. Revy called Lee on the phone about this matter. And she seemed happy with the answers Lee gave her. So, since Jack here said this is not the first time this has happened. I can guess that Lee was the one responsible for returning her back to normal.”

Revy turn Yolanda, as she commented, “Damn. I forgot how sharp everyone here can be.”

Yolanda gave Revy a warm smile, as she replied, “Thank you, my dear.”

Rock stated, “That is a start. And I am starting to understand why Lee would want to get Revy to return to her old self. Though, given who Lee knows. I think it was River and Annie that did the job. Lee just made sure the job worked.”

Dutch said, “That is very possible. Those two would be the only ones that could pull it off.”

Revy looked at Dutch, as she said, “You would be right about that. But, even there, I had to consent to it being done. And I don't feel like going back so soon. There is so much fun to be had here.”

Barbossa calmly requested, “Jack. Let Revy have her life back. You had your life. Now, let her have hers. She may not be the happiest person in the world, but I can see she has a good life. And these childish antics will only cause trouble for both you and her.”

Revy whined, “Come on. Can't a man... I mean woman, have some fun?”

Barbossa said, “Even I will admit that our type of fun will not work in this day and age. Our time has passed. Yield to the future. Like I have.” He then looked over at Shenhua, and then back to Revy.

Rebecca inquired, with a mix of worry and concern in her voice, “Mom.... Can I call you mom?”

Revy turned to the table that three of her five children were sitting at. She answered, “Sure, Rebecca. I remember carrying you inside me. Giving birth to you. And raising you. I will always be your mom.”

Rebecca stated, in a pleading tone of voice, “Well, then... Mom, I don't want to lose you.”

Yukio begged, “We don't want you to leave our family.”

Revy turned to Rebecca, as she said, “I will never let that happen, ladies. I will never leave what we have. I am just different, now.”

Barbossa stated, in a sober tone of voice, “Jack. Given your nature. You know you cannot keep that promise. You were born at sea. And the sea calls to you every day. If left to your own devices, you will not be able to help yourself, as you return back to the sea. This is likely not the same for Revy.”

Revy turned to face Barbossa, as she commented, “Actually, Revy had a similar nature in her love of the sea. She was just better at hiding it.”

Barbossa said, “Even so. Give your nature, and how you handle relationships. If you stay this way, you will wreck Revy's life, and harm those that care for her. Take a look around. And tell me, as Revy, you have not become richer than I, in so many ways.”

Revy slowly look around at the faces in the room. Most of them had the looks of concern in their eyes. Some showed caring in their eyes. And a few of them had fear of loss in their eyes.

As Revy faced Rock, she stopped turning. She saw such deep caring for her, in Rock's eyes. Revy slumped her shoulders, as she admitted defeated, “Alright. I will go back to sleep.”

Kristina commented, “Thank you, Jack. Besides. Most of us love you too much for you to leave without a fight.” She thought, 'And Sarah and Molly are going to enjoy hearing about all this.'

Nodoka smiled at Kristina, as she gave Kristina a quick kiss on her right cheek.

Kristina looked over at Nodoka, as she returned her girlfriend's smile. A second later, the young couple turned back to look at Revy.

Revy looked over at Kristina, as she sighed. She said, “I know... And damn it. This is a similar trick, as way Lee did, to convince me to go back, the first time.”

Eda commented, “That would be Lee, to a, t.”

Barbossa thought, 'There is something I have to know.' He asked, “Is this the same Lee? A young, slender, black haired lass? Whom I met, yesterday? At the casino?”

Violin answered, “Yes. That is the same, Lee. And a word of caution. Do not underestimate her.”

Barbossa looked over a Violin, as he replied, “I will make a note, not too.”

Revy turned to Barbossa, as she commented, with amusement in her tone of voice, “Oh, the things we could tell you about that person.”

Barbossa turned back to look at Revy, as he thought, 'While I knew about River being a telepath. And I knew the basics about Chang. I just thought Lee was a trophy girlfriend to Chang, and likely River. Given the way those three acted towards each other. But, if what the others here are saying is correct, I am starting to realize that she is likely as sharp as the rest. It might be best to keep my distance from her. And Ahsoka can take care of herself.'

Rock thought, 'I think it is best we don't let Barbossa know about Lee stories.' She turned to Revy, as she stated, “Jack. You are not to tell Barbossa about Lee. He is a very old man. And we do not want to give him a heartattack.”

Barbossa overheard Rock. He said, “Ladies. It is quite alright. I have solved all the mysteries I care to learn in my life. The rest can wait until, later.”

Only Shenhua understood the hidden meaning of Barbossa's words. But, she chose to remain silent.

Revy shrugged, as she replied, “Suit yourself.”

A thought occurred to Benny, as she inquired, “Hold up, a moment, Jack. I have a question for you. How good is your memory?”

Revy turned to Benny, as she said, “I have a very sharp memory.”

Janet inquired, “Then, why does Revy have such a poor memory?”

Revy looked over at Janet, as she answered, “Because, it is not so much that she has poor memory, it is that she doesn't feel like recalling many of the more unpleasant events in her life.”

Benny stated, “That makes so much sense that it is scary.”

Revy calmly replied, “I know.”

Rock thought, 'As fun as it is to talk to Revy, this way. We need to get her back to normal, before she is tempted to try to escape us. I am sure she realizes that we would easily track her down. But, it is just not worth the trouble. And I know who to call to fix this mess.'

Rock stated, “I better call Chang. And arrange for him to find River and Annie.”

Rock pulled out her cellphone from her right side pants pocket. The cellphone was encrypted, and given to her, as a gift from Chang. For emergencies, where Rock had to get in touch with Chang, or someone else at the casino. While, at the same time, she did not have to worry about someone eavesdropping on the signal.

While Rock selected the preset number for Chang's cellphone, she thought, 'I am glad I only had a single bottle of beer for lunch. Because, I know I am going to have to drive Revy to the casino, right after I finish this phone call. I am glad I brought my car keys to the GTO, with me. Given Benny drove, Revy, Dutch, Janet, and myself, here.'

By then, Rock had finished dialing the number, and she press the talk button to connect to the number. After which, she held her phone to her right hear.

Everyone else in the room, soon noticed that Rock was making a phone call. They knoew Rock well enough to realize that Rock would only be making a phone call, in this situation, as a way to help Revy.

They turned to look at Rock, as they went quite. To silently wait to see how her phone call would turn out.

Rock then began hearing the phone ring.

After a couple of rings, Rock heard the other end of the line pick up.

Chang said, “Hello.”

Rock stated, “Chang. We have a situation?”

Chang asked, in a disheartened tone of voice, “How many people are dead, or injured?”

Rock answered, “None, as of right now.”

Chang responded, in a much happier tone of voice, “Good. Then, what is the problem?”

Rock said, “I know this may sound hard to believe. But, Lee and River already likely told you. Revy is the reincarnation of Jack Sparrow. The problem is that Revy bought a magically bootytrapped box years ago, and a few minutes ago, she decided to open it. She has been the only one effected. But... How do I put this?... Jack is back.”

Chang chuckled a little over the phone. He then stated, “Actually, the last time this happened. I had a hand in getting Revy back to normal.”

Rock replied, in a slightly relaxed tone of voice, “Good. Then, you know how to help her?”

Chang said, “Yes. Pardon the pun. It was River and Annie that put Jack back into the box. But, Revy... Or, I guess, Jack, has to want to go back to normal. And it can be difficult to convince a trickster like Jack to do what you want her to do.”

Rock thought, 'So, Yolanda was correct.' She stated, “Fortunately, we convinced Jack to go back to sleep.”

Chang responded, “Good. I will call River and Annie up to my office, on the top floor. I will let the guards on duty, at the front elevator, let Revy through, without question. And since Jack has Revy's memories, she knows where to go. Also, I may send someone out to meet you.”

“Though, I will ask that only Jack comes up. From what I understand. This does require a some concentration. So, I have to request you not come with her, to the top floor. Even I will not be around, when they restore Revy back to normal.”

Rock said, “I understand. And that will be fine. I will just spend some on entertainment section of your building, as I wait.”

Chang offered, “And for keeping this a secret, from you. During your brief stay this afternoon, everything, but the gambling, is on me.”

Rock happily replied, “I appreciate that.”

Chang said, “See you there. In a few minutes.” He then hung up.

Rock disconnected her end of the line. She then put away her cellphone. Next, she looked over at Revy, as she stated, “Okay, Jack. Chang said he will get River and Annie, to meet us at his office, at the top floor of his casino. I am going to drive you over there.”

Revy turned to look at Rock, as she replied, “That will be fine.”

Rock then got up from her seat. A second, later, Barbossa got up, from his stool, as well.

The old pirate turned to Rock, as he requested, “If you don't mind. I would like to accompany you. So, I can talk to Jack, while I still can.”

Rock turned to Barbossa, as she replied, “That will be fine.”

Shenhua overheard Rock and Barbossa. She stood up. She turned to Rock, as she said, “I would like to come, as well.” She turned to Revy, as she continued, “Seeing Revy like this, amuses me.”

Rock looked over at Revy, as she asked, “You're call.”

Revy said, “Why not? The more, the merrier.”

Rock look over at all three of them, as she requested, “Okay. Just none of you start any fights.”

Barbossa said, “I will be on best manners.”

Revy replied, “So will I.”

Shenhua rhetorically commented, “Why would I want to start a fight? I think I will get plenty entertainment just listening to these two talk.”

Barbossa turned to Shenhua, as he agreed, “You might have a point there, my dear.”

There was some mild giggling from the others in the bar, over Shenhua and Barbossa's comments.

Dutch then requested, in a casual, yet humorous tone of voice, “Have fun, everyone. And let of know how it turns out.”

Rock turned to Dutch, as she said, “We will.”

Benny stated, “And be careful. And good luck.” She thought, 'With that this lot, you are going to need it.'

Rock turned to Benny, as she smiled at her. She said, “I appreciate that.”

Sawyer and Lotton looked over at Shenhua. Sawyer requested, in a concerned tone of voice, “Yes. Benny's right, Shenhua. Be careful.”

Shenhua turned back to Sawyer and Lotton, as she replied, in a warm tone of voice, “I will.”

Revy looked over at Rock, as she calmly requested, “Come on, Rock. If I was still Revy. I would be complaining about this. Due to my impatience. Me, on the other hand. I just want to get this over with.”

Rock turned to Revy, as she replied, “Okay... Jack.” She then turned towards the front door of the bar, as she started walking towards the exit, to the outside of the building.

When Rock reached the front door, she opened it. And she left the door open, as she walked outside.

Barbossa, Shenhua and Revy then followed behind her.

Revy was the last to reach the front doors. Though, unlike the other three adults, she did not immediately go through it, and instead, she turned back to face those still inside the bar.

Revy commented, in a calm tone of voice, “Oh. And whoever wants that box on the table, can have it. To be honest, Revy didn't really pay that much for it. So, she won't mind.” She then turned back towards the front doors. She walked through the threshold, to the outside, as she closed the doors behind her.

With Revy, Rock, Barbossa, and Shenhua gone, all eyes turn to the small, magical box sitting, with the lip open, on the table that Revy and Shenhua had just vacated.

Rebecca was the first person in the room to ask what was on everyone's mind, “So, who wants the box?”

Dutch flatly stated, “No thank you.”

Yolanda calmly said, “I would prefer not too.”

Ranma commented, “I will take the box. I have experience in dealing with worse magical items. So, I know how to properly handle such dangerous items.”

Benny turned to Ranma, as she inquired, “And how would that be?”

Ranma looked over at Benny, as she answered, “Very, very carefully.” She looked around the room, as she requested, “Now, do any of you have a pair of tongs, nearby? So, I can move this box without actually touching it.”

Bao stated, “I do.”

Ranma looked over at Bao, as she responded, “Good. Now, all we need is decently strong bag to put this box into, and we are all set.”

Ranma and Bao then went to work to take care of moving the small, magical box that was on the table.

(_)

A few minutes later, Rock, Revy, Barbossa, and Shenhua were on the road.

Rock was driving the three others, in Lagoon family's red GTO.

To Rock's right, sat Revy in the right front passenger seat. Behind Revy sat Shenhua, and behind Rock sat Barbossa.

None of them had their seatbelts on.

Barbossa had removed his sheathed sword, and placed it between his legs, in the back seat of the car.

As they drove down the road, the two side windows were rolled down, to allow the cool air to wash over them.

Revy offered, in Jack's pirate accent, “You know, Rock. Before we get to the casino, we could always, stop find a quiet spot, and have some fun. There is no way it could be considered cheating, since I am Revy. Though, I am also Jack. At the same time.”

Rock kept her eyes in front of her, on the road, as she admitted, “Tempting. But, we have company in back.”

Revy cracked a grin, as she replied, “Oh. Don't worry about them. I know Barbossa wouldn't mind watching. And I feel the same can said about Shenhua.”

In the backseat, Shenhua and Barbossa heard Revy's comments.

Shenhua turned to Barbossa, as she asked, “Was Jack always like this?”

Barbossa looked over at Shenhua, as he answered, “Aye. When I considered staging my mutiny against Jack. I first made a list of reasons I would want to so. It quickly turned into a very long list.”

Shenhua commented, “I am starting to see why.”

Barbossa just nodded twice, towards Shenhua, as a way to support her statement.

Revy overheard Shenhua and Barbossa. She let out a laugh. She then requested, “Speaking of which, Hector. I would like my compass back.”

Barbossa calmly responded, “No, Jack. I have need of it. While you clearly do not?”

Revy pointed out, “I could just take it from you?”

Barbossa responded, “You could try. But, as yourself. As Revy, you clearly have plenty more years to enjoy, before it is your time to move on, from your current life. While I have such fewer years. I will admit that a fight between us will most likely cost me my life. But, there is a good chance it would cost yours, as well. Do you wish to see the ferryman, again, so soon?”

Revy conceded, “Point taken.”

Shenhua commented, “Now, we know that it is really Jack in there? Because Revy would have taken Barbossa's comment as a challenge.”

Revy replied, “Don't be so sure.”

Shenhua inquired, “What do you mean?”

Revy answered, “Revy, in Roanapur, would have. When she had little to lose. Now, she no long takes challenges without reason.”

Rock kept her eyes on the road, as she teased, “So, you consider minor slights to be, a reason.”

Revy retorted, “I never said they were good reasons.”

Everyone in the car laughed a little at Revy's comment, for a few seconds.

As everyone calmed down, Shenhua asked, “So, when we reach the casino? What then?”

Revy answered, “I get to go back to sleep. But, this time, since the cat is out of the bag. I will request River and Annie to allow me to remember this day, as Jack. And I believe that Revy will remember this day very fondly.”

Barbossa commented, “You hope Revy will like being you so much, she will willingly let you out again.”

Revy admitted, “Exactly.”

Shenhua commented, “You seem to always be looking for the escape back into life, Jack.”

Revy inquired, in a curious tone of voice, “And how would you know?”

Shenhua lied, “Academic guess.”

Revy turned around, between the front seats, to look at Shenhua and Barbossa. She turned to Shenhua, as she gave her a risque smile. She threw a little charm into her voice, as she questioned, “Are you sure?”

Shenhua raised an eyebrow, as she replied, “Nice try. But, your charm will not work with me. I have tastes that even you would not dare attempt. That my two lovers are more than willing to enjoy with me.”

Barbossa turned to his right, to look at Shenhua, with a curious look to his eyes.

Revy noticed this, but she did not say anything about it. Instead, she teased, “Are you sure about that?”

Shenhua leaned over to whispered into Revy's left ear, for a few seconds.

In the driver's seat, with her enhanced hearing, Rock blushed, as she overheard what Shenhua said to Revy.

Then, Shenhua lean back away from Revy, and into her seat.

Revy looked at Shenhua, with surprise on her face, as she flatly asked, “You actually enjoy that?”

Shenhua cracked a wicked grin, as she replied, “Sure do.”

Revy commented, “I have done some very interesting things with other people. As both myself, and Revy. But, not that.”

Before Shenhua could speak, Barbossa flatly said, “I don't want to know. So, do not tell me.” He mentally lamented, 'I truly don't want to know. But, I know I am just going to find out someday. First hand, as Shenhua. Which at that point, I hope that she is honest about her enjoying whatever rattled Jack's cage.'

Shenhua started giggling at both Revy and Barbossa's responses.

Barbossa commented, “It is very rare to get that type of a response from Jack.”

While Shenhua calmed down, she kept her smile. She replied, “I know.”

Revy caught onto Shenhua's comment, as she asked, “And how would you know?”

Shenhua stated, “Because, you and Revy are clearly two sides of the same coin. Jack, you are light, to Revy's dark.”

Revy commented, “Deary, I am not so light.”

Shenhua countered, “No. But you are cheerful. In the same way I am. While Revy is always so serious. Even when she tries to relax. That has always been her problem.”

Barbossa could not help but ask, “Why is that?”

Revy looked over Barbossa, then back to Shenhua, as she demanded, “Don't you dare say a word.”

Shenhua answered, “Revy was falsely arrested, beaten, and raped as a teenager, by a cop... A deputy constable.”

Barbossa calmly replied, in an even tone of voice, “I know what a cop is.”

Revy looked at Shenhua, as she grimaced. She warned, “If I was currently Revy, I would have hurt you for telling someone that, so openly.”

Shenhua responded, “But, you are not Revy, right now, Jack. And it is a good way to explain to Barbossa why Revy is so different from you.”

Revy stated, “You do not know what you are talking about. That was not the final straw. Nor, the first. That event was just one of the worst... Bitch...”

Barbossa and Shenhua then watched a Revy started breathing slowly, as she forced herself to calm down.

Revy then looked over at the two adults, as she commented, “Relax everyone. I was just starting to let Revy's negativity seep through. And I had to calm down.”

Rock overheard the conversation, as she drive the car down the street.

Rock kept her eyes on the road, as she stated, “Jack. It is clear this conversation is bothering you. If you want to spend the rest of this trip in silence. That is fine with me.”

Revy leaned back, as she looked at Rock. She commented, “No, Rock. I... Don't have long, as Jack. And I need to enjoy my time to the fullest.”

Rock said, “I trust your judgment.”

Revy replied, with caring warmth in her tone of voice, “Thank you, Rock.”

Barbossa said, in a sober tone of voice, “Jack. While I know you loath pity. You do have my sympathies on this matter.”

Revy looked towards the backseat, as she responded, “I know, Hector. We have done a lot of horrible things to each other. But, there were a few lines we never crossed with each other.”

Barbossa commented, “And there are lines I would not cross with you, now. Still, I have always found it better to loosen a woman's legs with alcohol, than with force... No offense, ladies.”

Rock said, “None take.”

Shenhua commented, “I can live with it.”

Revy replied, “I've done worse, as Revy.”

There was silence for a few seconds in the car, as no one dared to inquire about Revy's comment.

Rock kept her eyes on the road, as she thought, 'While I suggested silence for Revy. Now, that I think about it. I need to keep this conversation moving. I have three unpredictable people, in the car. All of whom are known to be prone to violence. I need to keep them occupied with talking. Or, one of them might do something stupid.'

'I agree with Shenhua. Revy and Jack are just two sides of the same person. That is why I think of both Revy and Jack, as just Revy.'

Meanwhile, in the backseat, Barbossa then noticed that Shenhua had an intense expression on her face. He asked, “Something on your mind, lass?”

Shenhua sighed, as she answered, “Yes. But, I am not sure, I should tell you.”

Barbossa commented, “Don't worry, dear. I have heard it all.”

Revy flatly stated, “She is concerned, because is it clear that Shenhua is your reincarnation. And due to that puff blue smoke, she remembers your life, Hector.”

Revy statement caught Shenhua and Hector by surprise. Though, Rock only found the situation to be more amusing, than surprising.

Rock thought, 'That explains a lot.'

Barbossa looked to Shenhua, as he questioned, with concern in his tone of voice, “Is this true?”

Shenhua turned Barbossa, as she admitted, “Yea.” She look towards the front, as she inquired, “But, how did you figure that out Jack?”

Revy responded, “Simple. I have Revy's memories. I noticed that during that time Revy and you first met Barbossa, Barbossa looked at my compass, twice. The second time was after you first spoke to him. Given he had already used his compass, to confirm my identity, it makes sense he would find out about you, as well.”

“This also explains why he suddenly decided to take you as a student, and you were so willing to be his teacher. And the reason why he wanted to speak to you in private.”

Barbossa complimented, “Sharp as ever, Jack.”

Revy replied, “Thank you.”

Rock asked, “Okay. So, Shenhua, you are the reincarnation of Barbossa?”

Shenhua answered, “Yes.”

Rock commented, “Well, you are definitely not acting like Barbossa's personality is at the wheel.”

Barbossa said, “Aye. I would have noticed something, if that was the case.”

Revy commented, “We all would have.”

Shenhua stated, “You are correct. I am still me, Shenhua. For the most part. And I do not understand it, either. I have some of Barbossa's memories. But, it is a jumbled mess. And I certainly am not acting like Barbossa here. And that is what I don't understand. Revy is acting like Jack, but I am not acting like Barbossa.”

Revy commented, “The simplest explanation could be you got a glancing blow, while I got a full blast of the blue smoke.”

Barbossa commented, “Well, there is another explanation. No matter his, or her, life. Jack is always in love with himself, or herself.”

Revy smiled, as she stated, “True.” She looked over at Rock, as she continued, in a warm tone of voice, “Though, I believe that there is enough love to spread around.”

From the corner of her right eye, Rock noticed Revy was talking about her. She continued looked forward, as she said, “Thanks.”

Barbossa went onto say, “On the other hand, I have never really been that proud of who I am. While I have loved the life I lead, and I enjoyed many things. When I sit quietly in the dark, I do not like the person I ended up being.”

Barbossa turned to Shenhua, as he continued, “While, you Shenhua, do like yourself. So, the part of you that is me, and the part of you that is you, both want the part of you, that is you, to be you.”

Revy teased, “Hector, you are starting to sound like me.”

Barbossa quipped, “I had a good teacher.”

Revy began laughing, for a few seconds.

Shenhua stated, “That somewhat comforting... If, a bit confusing.”

Barbossa said, “Not to worry. I would not want to take control of your life, nor body. And from what I understand, we will soon have you both cured of these troubles.”

Shenhua replied, “I look forward to that.” She thought, 'While I have lead a violent life. And Barbossa's memories are a jumbled mess in my head. Some of Barbossa's memories, which I can clearly recall, disturb even me.'

Rock asked, “Jack, am I correct in assuming that the reason that you are in the driver's seat, instead of Revy, is due to you, as Jack, having a much more upbeat, positive personality?”

Revy looked over at Rock, as she smiled. She complimented, “That is what I like about you, Rock. You are a sharp as I am.”

Barbossa thought, 'Well, that does explain why those two are together.' He commented, “Well, at some point, everyone wants to be the wild one at the party. And Jack is always that.”

Revy agreed, “Quite true. Still, I am impressed that you are taking this so very well, Barbossa.”

Barbossa casually responded, “Come on, Jack. Compared to dying and coming back to life a few times. And being undead for a few years. This is nothing.”

Revy replied, “Fair enough.”

Shenhua requested, “I know this is a lot to ask. But, could you keep my connection to Barbossa a secret?”

Rock replied, “Sure.” She thought, 'There is nothing gained my letting this secret out. And Shenhua is a front to both Revy and myself. As such, I have no reason to tell this secret. And I am sure that Shenhua will eventually tell this secret, on her own. To the rest of us. When she is ready.'

Revy said, “Along, as it is okay with, Hector.”

Barbossa stated, “I am fine with it. I do not want the troubles of my life to haunt her life.”

Shenhua said, “Thank you.”

Revy turned to her left, so she could look between the front seats, and into backseat. She looked over at Shenhua. She gave the black haired woman a lecherous grin, as she stated, “That is very touching. Still Shenhua, I know I look a lot better than I did as Jack. And you are clearly far more appealing than Barbossa ever was.”

Barbossa said, “I won't argue that point.”

Revy ignored Barbossa, as she went onto suggest, “So, how about you and I have a little fun, before we reach the casino?”

Shenhua looked Revy directly in her eyes, as she flatly stated, “That is never going to happen.”

Barbossa said, “Jack, we maybe friends, over the course of lifetimes. But, we will never be lovers. There is not enough rum in the world for that. You see, there is one thing I realize that both Shenhua and I both still share in tastes, and distastes, for possible lovers. We find such open insanity, such as both you and Revy present, to be a complete turn off.”

Shenhua nodded once in agreement.

Revy replied, “Humph.” She then turned back around, to sit in her seat.

Rock asked, “Was Jack always like this?”

Barbossa commented, “Sadly, yes. Jack was very much the manchild. When he was not obsessed with each finding a specific treasure. Or, saving his hide. He preferred to spend his time with cheap rum, and cheaper woman.”

Revy muttered, “Those women in Singapore were not so cheap.”

Shenhua stated, “Well, Revy here is pretty much a womanchild. So, there is not much difference between the two.”

Barbossa said, “I am coming to realize that, my dear.”

Rock kept her eyes on the road, as she inquired, “Still, there is one thing I don't understand. Where is the karmic connection between you two? How did a pirate of the Caribbean end up reincarnated as a Taiwanese assassin for the Triad? I can understand Revy. She is mixed chinese-european american, from the eastern coast of the U.S. She likely has pirate blood in her veins. But Shenhua. I don't understand your connection to all this.”

Barbossa stated, “Concerning Revy lineage, that is very possible. As for Shenhua, I am not so sure.”

Shenhua commented, “Well, I do have two pirate ancestors that I know of. A mother and daughter team from Taiwan, that captained pirate ships together.”

Barbossa inquired, “Those two women you mentioned, Shenhua. The mother-daughter team. Where their names Qiaohui and Qiaolian?”

Shenhua answered, “Yes. They were. Qiaohui was known for her knife throwing, and Qiaolian was known for her swordsmanship skills. When I heard tales about them, as a child, they inspired me to learn how to use my knives. Did you know them, Barbossa?”

Barbossa casually said, “Aye. You could say that I did. While I commanded the Cobra. My own ship. Long before I met Jack and joined him on the Black Pearl. I knew Qiaohui. And you see... Qiaolian is our illegitimate daughter.”

Barbossa's revelation took Shenhua by completely surprise. Shenhua yelled, in surprised, “What?! I am my own great, several times removed, granddaughter?... Oh no, I actually remember them.”

Revy could not help but laugh, for a few seconds, at Shenhua's outburst. As she calmed down, she teased, “I thought you said you were pure blood Taiwanese?”

As Shenhua forced herself to calm down, she flatly answered, “Two centuries, or more, is considered pure enough.”

Revy laughed some more, while Rock chose to remain quiet, as she drove the car down the road.

Barbossa turned to Shenhua, as he said, “It would appear to be that way.” He then looked in towards the front seats, as he continued, “I won't laugh too hard, Jack. Given the number of women you slept with, in your previous life, by now, a quarter the planet, of our home reality, is likely related to you. You are even probably related to the current you.”

Revy heard what Barbossa said. She forced herself to calm down, as she replied, “You're probably right. Still, it is funny.”

Shenhua looked over at Barbossa, as she requested, “Barbossa. Please, tell us about Qiaohui and Qiaolian?”

Barbossa turned to Shenhua, as he said, “Both were wonderful women, and fierce pirates. And both were very beautiful women. Though, I did not marry Qiaohui, I did make sure she and Qiaolian were well taken care of. With some of the booty I made from my raids, while commanding the Cobra, going to them.”

“I even taught Qiaolian how to use a sword. Eventually, when Qiaolian reached adulthood, both mother and daughter wanted to get back into piracy. I helped them find their own ship and crew. And for a few years, they were very successful pirates.”

Revy commented, “I don't ever remember meeting those two.”

Barbossa replied, “Actually, I did introduce you to them at a pirate hideout, on the east coast of Thailand.”

Revy responded, “Now, I remember. Those two. Your daughter was quite fetching. And she was fun in bed. I even remember the next night, after you introduced me to them. When we got drunk, while on the Pearl. It was a bright, moonlit night. We had the ship taken out pass the cove, to test how long it would take us to do so. In case we needed to make a quick escape. While, right outside of the cove, we had the crew take shots with our cannons on that giant Buddha Statue in the harbor.”

Barbossa reminisced, “Yea, that was fun. We even blew off most of that statue's face.”

Rock spoke up, “Buddha statue? On the east coast of Thailand?”

Revy asked, “What is it Rock?”

While Rock kept her eyes on the road, and she did not turn her head towards them. She stated, “Revy. Don't you realize, as Jack, you and Barbossa visited Roanapur before it was even Roanapur. And you are the ones whom were responsible for destroying the head of that statue, we passed, all the time, while on the Lagoon.”

Revy realized, as she said, “You're right, Rock. Every time we passed by that statue, I always felt that I was some how responsible for damaging it. Now, I know why, and how I did it.”

Shenhua stated, “I can see it. I can honestly see it. Roanapur started as a pirate hideout. Then, as piracy on the high seas waned, the pirates went into hiding there, as fishermen. Eventually, the Japanese would move in there for a decade or so, and then leave. Allowing the place to go back to a fishing village. Then, the refugees and former soldiers starting coming in, and the whole place when back to being a pirate city. Until Chang destroyed it all.”

Revy commented, “I won't worry. The pirates will one day return there. And it is still a better fate than what happened to Port Royal?”

Barbossa said, in a sad tone of voice, “Aye. Those of Port Royal did not deserve such a calamity to befall them.”

Shenhua asked, “What happened?”

Barbossa stated, in a sober tone of voice, “An earthquake. A bad one. The earthquake sank both the buildings, the harbor, and the ship moored to the dock. One morning Port Royal was there. An hour later, the city was gone, beneath the waves.”

Shenhua quietly said, “Oh...”

Revy stated, “Aye. That was a dark day for piracy... Still... Now, about those two women we were talking about. I seem to recall. Didn't we sink their ship a month after you introduced me to them?”

Barbossa pointed out, “Well, we did let those two women live. And we allowed them to safely make it to shore.”

Revy said, “Wait a minute. We never found any treasure on their ship. We killed all of the men, but you convinced me let those two women live.” Realization dawned on her eyes, as she continued, “And it was your idea to have the Pearl attack their ship, in the first place.”

Everyone else in the car realized what Revy was alluding too.

Barbossa commented, “Well, to be fair, we offered them surrender, in exchange for their lives. And Qiaohui did put the matter to a vote, and all the men voted to fight. And they did need to retire from piracy all of a sudden, given you, Jack, got my daughter pregnant.”

Revy asked, “I did. Why didn't you tell me?”

Barbossa explained, “Because Jack. Unlike Revy. You are promiscuous. You would have never treated my daughter right. That is one of the reasons we are putting you back into your bottle. We don't want you to screw up Revy's life anymore than you already have.”

Shenhua jumped into the conversation, as she commented, “I have to agree. The one positive thing we all agree about Revy, is that she is monogamous.”

Rock calmly spoke up, “And happily so.”

Barbossa said, “Anyway, Qiaohui and Qiaolian needed the money. And quickly. If they had divided their wealth with the crew, they would have had barely anything. This way, Qiaohui, Qiaolian, and our future grandson, whom I have met a few times, were set for life, from the fortunes they made as pirates.”

Rock kept her eyes on the road, as she stated, “Barbossa, I find what you did to be deceitful, underhanded, and everything else I have come to expect from a pirate of your caliber.”

Barbossa turned towards Rock, as he responded, in a pleasant tone of voice, “Thank you, Rock. It takes years of experience to become so skilled. Especially, when tricking a trickster, like Jack.” Barbossa turned to Revy, as he stated, “By the way, when I found out you got my daughter pregnant. That was the first time I ever genuinely entertainment the thought of taking your ship and crew from you.”

Revy said, “Oh. That explains a lot. Still, I find that a bit hypocritical of you, given you got her mother pregnant, in a similar situation.”

Barbossa defended himself, as he stated, “True. But unlike you, once I found out, I made sure she had enough wealth to be fine, and that our daughter were raised well. I doubt you would have done the same, for your child.”

Revy was silent for a few seconds. She then admitted, “You're right about that.” Revy then slyly smiled, as she moved to looked between the front seats, and towards Shenhua. She commented, “You know what this means, Shenhua? That we are likely related.”

Shenhua warned, “Don't remind me.”

Rock stated, “This is all interesting. The blood ties explain the Taiwan angle, and the weapons angle, but this does not explain the Triad angle.”

Revy said, “That one is easy. Chang and Hong Kong are the keys. At the time, Hong Kong was still a common wealth of Britain. Barbossa here is not originally British. But, he did become a privateer for the British crown. As you said, Barbossa. Where's the harm in joining the winning side. And you do meet a nicer class of person.”

Barbossa replied, “Aye.”

Revy went onto say, “And I have come to agree with that opinion. Anyway, just as Barbossa was an outsider that joined the British navy, as a privateer. Shenhua was an outsider, from Taiwan, that joined the Hong Kong Triad. I guess history, in a way, repeats itself. And in this life, we even met each other again in the middle of nowhere. And even now, centuries later, across the realities, we are still working together, while sniping at each other.”

Barbossa commented, “There is quite a bit of symmetry in that.”

Revy replied, “Yes. I see it, too.”

Shenhua disappointingly questioned, “We are going to be together until judgment day, and trumpets sound? Aren't we?”

Revy said, in a sober tone of voice, “It looks that way.” She then turned back, to sit in her front, right side, passenger seat.

Rock asked, “Barbossa, you actually told Jack that?”

Barbossa admitted, “Aye. The first movie pretty much nailed that scene. And it is a great quote.”

Rock agreed, “Yes. It is. And at least it never gets boring with this group.”

Barbossa replied, “Aye. I see why you are with them.”

The four adults then continued their conversation, as Rock drove them down the road.

(_)

Ten minutes later, Rock, Shenhua, Revy, and Barbossa, had reached Daiyu Palace Casino.

Rock had parked the car, rolled up the windows. And got out. Barbossa left his sword and scabbard, in the backseat of the car, as Rock and Revy locked the car doors, and shut them.

The four adults then walked inside the casino, from the front entrance.

As they walked into the front lobby, they were walking in a side by side, with Barbossa to the far right, Rock was to Barbossa's right. Revy was to Rock's right. And Shenhua was to Revy's right.

While the walked, they saw Simon in front of them, on the other side of the front lobby, by the large hallway that lead to the gaming floor.

As the four adults saw Simon look at them, they watched as Simon began to walk towards them.

While Simon came closer to them, Revy stated, “Looks like we have someone here to greet.”

Rock commented, “Chang said he would send someone to greet us.”

The four adults came to a stop, as Simon approached them.

A few seconds later, Simon came to a stop, six feet front of them.

There was currently no one else around the five adults.

While Simon looked at the four other adults, he calmly said, “Hello. I know who you are all. Rock, Revy, and Shenhua, know me. And I know of you, Mister Barbossa. I am Doctor Simon Tam. River's my sister. Whom you met, yesterday.”

Barbossa recalled, as he said, “Ah, the redhead.”

Simon replied, “Yes.” He thought, 'Though, her natural hair color is brown.'

Barbossa commented, “Well, it is always nice to meet a doctor.”

Simon said, “I appreciate that.”

Rock inquired, “Simon, how much did Chang tell you?”

Simon answered, “I have been apprised of the situation.” He looked over at Revy, as he continued, “Now, should I refer to you, as Revy? Or, as Jack?”

Revy replied, “Either way, is fine.”

Simon said, “Well, if you would follow me, we will head to the penthouse level, where River and Annie are waiting to help you.”

Shenhua calmly requested, “I need to come with, Jack, to meet with Annie and River.”

Before Simon could protest, Revy said, “It is alright. We will explain, when we get up there.”

Simon thought, 'There is no point in arguing with these two women.'

Simon responded, “Okay.” He turned to Rock and Barbossa, as he stated, “Now, Chang said that you two may use the casino facilities to your hearts content. Except for gambling, he will cover your expenses, within reason. Stay out of trouble, and we will be fine.”

Barbossa said, “There is no profit in trouble by itself.”

Simon agreed, “Very true.” He thought, 'I think it might be best to keep Mal and Barbossa away from each other. Those to might bring out the worst in each other.'

Rock inquired, “I take it we will be contacted when Revy is back to normal?”

Simon replied, “Yes. By your cellphone.”

Rock said, “That will be fine.”

Barbossa asked, “Is Ahsoka here? I hoping to see if the young lass was now having some fun.”

Simon answered, “Unfortunately, she is not here, at this time. Though, I do know she has been having fun, with Annie, while she has stayed here.”

Barbossa replied, “That is nice to know.”

Rock questioned, “Where is she?”

Simon said, “For obvious reasons. Due to Annie being busy. To keep an eye on Ahsoka, Arcee is giving her a ride around town. And I have no idea when they will be back.”

Barbossa asked, “Who is Arcee?”

Rock replied, “I will tell you at the bar. Just follow me.” She looked over at Revy and Shenhua, as she said, “Good luck.”

Shenhua remain silent, so as to no tip off her secret, but she did give Rock a warm smile.

Revy replied, “Thank you.”

Simon said, “This way.” He then turned around, and started walking towards the hallway, leading to the gaming floor, and front elevator bay.

Revy and Shenhua followed right behind Simon.

Rock and Barbossa watched the two women, and one man, leave.

Once the three other adults had entered the hallway, Barbossa turned to Rock, as he inquired, “So, while we wait for them, what can a person do in this place, besides gamble?”

Rock looked over at Barbossa, as she answered, “Well, a lot, actually. Along with the internet and TV connections offered by wireless, here. There is a stage theater, near the middle of the building. A guest movie theater, in the front right side of the building. Two separate gyms and heated pools. One set, in front, for the customers. One set, in back, for the employee staff.”

“We both have access to the employee facilities. The casino also has a spa, with masseuses. It is free to employees. But, guests has to pay for an appointment.”

“I know the director of the spa. She probably forgotten more about giving pleasure, than the both of us will ever know. And this place has a top rate medical staff and resources. And that is just the short list.”

Barbossa commented, “Well, when you list all that. I am starting to have second thoughts on deciding not to stay here, instead of the Devil's Hotel.”

Rock thought, 'It is better if I warn him. I don't want something bad happen, that will cause problems for everyone.'

Rock said, “You likely do not know this. But, the security staff this casino has, use to be space private... Well, bank robbers. And all of them know about your compass. If you stay here, you will likely lose your compass on the first night.”

Barbossa responded, “Thank you for the informing me. I see I made the proper decision, in the first place.”

Rock replied, “I agree. And you're welcome.”

Barbossa asked, “So, where is this bar.”

Rock answered, “Straight ahead of us, and when we reach the gaming floor, the bar is to our right. You cannot miss it.”

Barbossa suggested, “Then, let's go get a drink and talk more about the wonderful friends Ahsoka is making.”

Rock happily replied, “With pleasure.”

Rock and Barbossa then started walking towards the hallway, that lead to the gaming floor, front elevator bay, and the casino restaurant, which had a bar counter in it.

(_)

A minute later, Simon, Revy, and Shenhua, had already reached the front elevator bay, and the express elevator. The guards let them pass, without question. With Simon using his key to open the doors.

As the doors opened, all three adults walked passed the two female chinese guards,, whom were dressed in black business suits, and dress shoes.

After Shenhua turned around, to face the door way, she saw her reflection in the doors, as they closed. And for a brief moment, she caught a glancing memory, that was not hers. The memory had a touch of emotion to it. But, the memory was gone as soon as she realized it was there.

As the doors fully closed, Shenhua thought, 'I wonder why looking at my reflection makes me feel sad. Unfortunately, with the jumbled mess that is my memories are, right now. I may never know.'

(_)

A few hours later, in an auxiliary room, on the penthouse level of the casino, Shenhua woke up.

As she leaned up, she saw she was laying on top of a white cot, in a small room, with her clothes on. But, she saw that the door to the room was closed, and her slippers were off her bare feet.

Shenhua then heard Revy snoring.

Shenhua turned to see Revy sound asleep on a cot, right beside her, to her right. Revy's clothing on her, but her boots were off.

Shenhua then recalled the events of the day, as she thought, 'Oh. Yea. Annie and River were willing enough to help us both. And while they sealed our memories, they agreed to let us both remember what happened to us, today. Also, they said that we can let ourselves out, when we woke up. Which is fine with me. The less people that know who I once was in my previous life. The less chance of my secret getting out.'

'Still, I wonder why Annie was acting strangely around Revy? Revy was once Jack, before. And River and Annie sealed Jack away, that time. It is possible that the two of them might have done something naughty, while Revy was Jack.'

'But, given they were about to work on my mind, I was not going to say a word about the matter. Though, River likely read my thoughts on the matter. But, she was nice enough not to say anything, because I chose not to speak of the matter, either.'

'Now, do I still have Barbossa memories? And are my memories fine?'

Shenhua spent the next few minutes reviewing her own memories.

Shenhua then continued her thoughts, 'Well, I seem to still have my memories. And all of Barbossa's memories are sealed. But, to the relief of my entire soul.'

'Though, I do remember being sad, in the elevator. But, I do not really know why. Given the jumbled mess of those memories. I should just be happy I still have my own memories, and leave it as a mystery, for another time.'

'Though, I wonder where are our shoes are?'

Shenhua look around, and she then noticed that her slippers and Revy's boots, were in the gap, between the two cots.

Shenhua thought, 'Good. They are right there.' She turned to Revy, as she continued her thoughts, 'Now, need to check check to see if Revy is still Revy, and if she also remembers to day, as well.'

Shenhua looked back over at Revy, whom has turned on her back, as she slept.

Shenhua thought, 'Revy has always liked to sleep in, late. I can leave without her. Because it will annoy Rock, and likely Barbossa. And if I wait for her to wait up, we will both likely be here, all day. So, I am I going to have to wake her up. Though, I will have to be careful, when I do so... Well, here I go.'

Shenhua then leaned over, towards Revy, as she used her left index to gently nudge the top of Revy's shoulder. As Shenhua did this, she calmly said, “Come on, Revy. Wake up. We don't have time for you to sleep all day.”

Revy said, “Huh?”

Shenhua immediately removed her hand, from Revy's reach.

Shenhua then saw Revy's eyes go wide, and she quickly sat up in her bed.

Shenhua thought, 'Depending on how she reacts in the next few seconds. This could be good. Or, bad.'

Revy looked at Shenhua, with a dazed look on her face. She plainly asked, in a slightly confused tone of voice, “What just happened?”

Shenhua thought, 'Good. She is not upset about being awoke. Now, to find out what she remembers.' She said, “A lot. How much do you recall?”

Shenhua then saw Revy mentally collect herself. Revy facial expressions turned more normal, for herself. She held the palm of her right hand, on the right side of her face, as she groaned, “Enough to be embarrassed about. Did I really try to proposition everyone in the bar, at once?”

Shenhua replied, “Yes.”

Revy kept her right hand in her fact. She could barely get out the rest of her question, “Including my own children?”

Shenhua said, in a kind tone of voice, “Yes. Though, we were all polite enough not to point that out.”

Revy dropped her right hand, to her side, as she looked at Shenhua. She responded, in a warm tone of voice, “Thank you. That is likely the most embarrassing thing I have done, while sober, in my entire life.”

Shenhua thought, with mild amusement, 'It is so tempting to twist the knife, right now. And tease her about this. But, it is not worth it. That is for later.' She asked, “You're welcome. So, how much do you recall?”

Revy answered, “I recall what happened today. I recalling being Jack. All the way, until Annie and Revy made me go to sleep. But, I don't have any of Jack's memories, right now. It is like I know what I did. But, I do not know why I did it.”

Shenhua guessed, “Sort of like being drunk?” She thought, 'From personal experience, I guess that is one way to put it.'

Revy replied, “Yea. But, with no hangover, afterward.”

Shenhua agreed, “That is true.”

Revy asked, with a bit of concern in her tone of over, “So, how are you?”

Shenhua answered, “I'm good. Now, are you still going to keep my secret?”

Revy said, “Yea. There is no point in spilling it. If I do say anything, the others would just think I was trying to deflect attention for myself.”

Shenhua thought, 'Good.' She replied, “Perhaps.”

Revy began, “Still...”

Shenhua questioned, “What?”

Revy admitted, “I would really like to be Jack, again. I mean, I really had a lot of fun, as him... I mean her.”

Shenhua pointed out, “That was Jack's plan in the first place. Having you remember being Jack, as a way to get you to bring him, or her, back to a conscious state.”

Revy responded, in a slightly annoyed tone of voice, “I realize that. And that is why it sucks. Deep down, I now know I have a cooler, more happier personality, than I am.”

Shenhua thought, 'No good will come from that line of thinking. I need to do say something.' She suggested, “You can always try to be Jack, in other ways. Not the sex angle. But, trying to be more cheerful.”

Revy deadpanned, “When have I ever been cheerful?... Well, truly cheerful?”

Shenhua countered, “Good point. But, you can at least try.”

Revy said, “True. Let's go see Chang, in his office. So, we can have him contact Rock, and Barbossa. And we can catch a ride back to the others.”

Shenhua agreed, “Good idea.”

Revy then noticed her socked feet. She turned to Shenhua, as she asked, “Though, where our my boots?”

Shenhua answered, “Between the cots.”

Revy looked down, between the cots, and saw her boots, and Shenhua's slippers. Revy replied, “Oh.”

Shenhua and Revy then reached over and picked up their shoes. Shenhua put on her slippers, on her bare feet. While Revy put on her boots, laced them up, and tied them.

After they had their shoes on, they moved off their cots, and stood up.

Both women then headed to the closed door to the hallway, with Revy being the first one to the door.

When Revy reached the door, she stopped, as she turned around, as Shenhua came to a stop in front of her.

Revy recalled something, as she said, “Oh yea...”

Shenhua asked, “What?...”

Revy leaned close to Shenhua, and she then used her right hand to slap Shenhua across her left cheek.

Shenhua demanded, in anger, “What was that for?”

Revy sternly answered, “For telling Barbossa about my rape, when I was younger.”

Shenhua thought, 'I believe it would best let it slide. Since, Revy is in a good mood. And is she wasn't, she would be a handful, over me telling that. But, I do have something to say on the matter.'

Shenhua pointed out, “Well. At the time, I also had to deal with Barbossa's memories.”

Revy replied, “Fair enough. I will let the matter drop.”

Shenhua thought, 'Good.' She commented, “Besides. Anyone that watches that series about us, will learn about that incident.”

Revy flatly stated, “That doesn't matter. You don't talk about such things, in public. Especially, when it concerns your friends.”

Shenhua thought, 'Well, I am glad she still considers herself to be my friend. I best apologize.' She replied, “Okay. I apologize.”

Revy said, “Good. Apology accepted. Now, let's get out of here.”

Revy turned back around, and opened the door, that lead to the hallway. Revy walked through the threshold, and into the hallway.

Shenhua followed Revy into the hallway, and she shut the door behind her,

A few minutes later, they both reached Chang's office. With his door open. Chang was inside, and he was happy to learn that Revy was back to normal.

Much to Shenhua's hidden delight, it seemed that Annie, nor River, had informed Chang of Shenhua's connection to Barbossa.

Chang then called Rock on her cellphone. With her and Barbossa still in the casino common areas. With Chang relying the message between them, to meet at the front entrance.

Revy and Shenhua then left Chang's office to use the front express elevator.

While Revy and Shenhua used the front express elevator to make it down to the ground floor, Rock had called Dutch, on Dutch's own encrypted cellphone, which was a gift from Chang. And Dutch had informed Rock that her friends and family had headed back to the Devil's Hotel. With Dutch was happy to hear, from Rock, that everything was back to normal, concerning Revy.

A few minutes later, Revy and Shenhua met Rock and Barbossa, at the front entrance.

The four adults then headed to the Lagoon family's red GTO, in the parking lot, and they were soon on the road, heading to rejoin the others, at the Devil's Hotel.

(_)

Across town, around the same time Revy and Shenhua had awoken on their cots, in the casino penthouse, in his mid-town motel room, George Benedict had been a quiet, though very busy man.

In George's small suite, the heavy window curtains of the room were drawn closed, with the only light in the room, being from a soft florescent yellow bulb, from an electric lamp, on the small nightstand by his bed.

George was sitting at his chair, on the small table in his room. He had his laptop turned on, and plugged in.

Beside his laptop, was his camera, with a telescopic lenses attached to it. Also, attached to the camera was a wire that lead to the laptop.

At the moment, he was reviewing the digital photos he had taken yesterday, at both the Devil's Hotel, and the Daiyu Palace Casino. He had transferred the photos from his camera, to his laptop computer.

Fortunately, for George, the previous day, the photographer had decided to stake out the front of the casino, first. And he had taken several photos of the robbery that had happened there.

After which, George had decided it was time to leave, for a little while. Until, those at the casino had calmed down. So, George returned to the motel suite it was staying at, in the middle of the city, and he had organized all his work. Which he found took him all the rest of yesterday, to lunch time of the present day.

Now, George was just paging through his photos, as he decided what to do next.

George paged through the photos. Including, photos of the hole being blown open in front wall of the casino. Along, with photos of various people coming and going from the casino. Including, what look like people in costumes. And a flying car landing and taking off.

George happily thought, 'I am so happy that I went casino first. In my entire career, I have never seen in anything like this in real life. And I caught it all on film. Though, it is clear most of the action happened inside. I still got a lot photos from what happened outside.'

'And the surprising thing of all this was that a flying car I saw. And actual flying car. And those two that go in, were dressed in costumes. I would find seeing that in a movie, to be corny. But, this happened in real life.'

'From the locals I talked to, that evening. The rumor stated that morning, the casino had a robbery, and the thieves escaped. Given what I saw, I tend to believe that. Those two men in costumes were carrying briefcases, so that is likely where their loot was, when they escaped. And that is not all...'

George then pulled up another computer folder he had complied the night before. The computer file had some of the pictures of various people he had taken photos up, coming in and out of both the Daiyu Palace Casino, and the Devil's Hotel. With a lot of the photos showing the same people visiting both locations.

George thought, 'I have traced a number of people coming and going. From both the casino, and the Devil's Hotel. There is clearly a connection between the two locations. While I don't know what the connection is. I know it exists. And while I cannot yet identify any of the people in these photos. They do look familiar to me. Especially, the women. I just cannot place them. But, I will figure out who they are, eventually.'

'Still, I am beginning to realize that there is a far grander mystery in this city, than I once thought. A mystery that I need to look further into.'

'I think I will stake out the casino, first, this afternoon, and this evening, until around Ten tonight. Then, I will do the hotel in the morning.'

'The heat at the casino should have died down, by now. Also, I believe that hole has been completely repaired. And I would like to see the repairs. If for any other reason than to confirm that these people can repair, and sweep things under the rug, very quickly. Which just means I will have to continue to keep my distance from them.'

'But, this isn't my first rodeo. And I am not going to chicken out, because the big mean bull glanced at me. That just means I will have to be more careful. Which, I am more than prepared to do.'

George then continued to look through the photos had had taken for another hour, before he put his belongings back up, and to his equipment, including his camera, and laptop, to the car he was using. So, he could stakeout the casino, for the rest of the afternoon, and evening.

(_)

Later that afternoon, Arcee had returned Ahsoka to the Daiyu Palace Casino, through one of the back garage entrances.

This was after an afternoon of fun, and riding around. Which they both enjoyed.

Ahsoka had won a full helmet, with her visor down, that fit her, and did not bother her three lekku head tails.

As they rode through the city, no one paid them any mind. Which Ahsoka and Arcee found comforting.

When they returned, Arcee contacted Annie, by Annie's encrypted casino cellphone, that they had returned the casino.

With Annie meeting with them, the privacy of the garage.

When Annie met with them, she brought Ahsoka a change of clothing, for what they were about to do. And Annie told them what had happened, while they were gone. They all got a good laugh from Annie's news about Revy actually becoming Jack Sparrow. Even Arcee commented that she would have like to have seen that.

Though, at Shenhua's request, both Annie and River had agreed to keep quite on the matter that Shenhua was the reincarnation of Ahsoka friend, Barbossa.

Also, the three of them already decided, earlier that morning, to do something that both Annie and Ahsoka had been looking forward to. With the former student and teacher planning to spar with one another in the employee gym, around the time Arcee had returned Ahsoka, back to the casino. Because, the gym was mostly empty during that time of day.

Ahsoka had used her red hood and cloak to head to the employee gym, which was near the garage.

Arcee also came in motorcycle mode. With Annie walking with them.

And so, when Annie, and Ahsoka entered the gym, with Arcee rolling in behind them, in her motorcycle mood. All eyes in the room turned towards them. Annie was wearing sweat pants and a sweatshirt. With her not having her lightsaber on her person.

Also, Ahsoka was wearing her red hood over her heard, and cloak over her body. Though, Ahsoka had also had on some sweatpants and a sweatshirt that Annie had lent her, when she met with them in the garage. With Ahsoka having place her dirty clothing, and lightsabers, in a safe place, in the garage, that Kaylee had showed her. With both Annie and Arcee, vouching for Kaylee's honesty.

As they entered the gym, Annie politely requested that everyone in the room, finish what they were doing, and leave within twenty minutes.

Given, Annie was both being polite, and giving everyone a reasonable amount of time, none of them complained, and they had all exited the room within twenty minutes.

Also, while not everyone on the employee staff knew of Annie's origins. They all did know that when Annie made a request, it was best to fellow her requests.

After everyone had left, Annie, Ahsoka, and Arcee moved to the back of the gym where the matted floor, with blue square mats, was located.

As Ahsoka and Annie got ready to spar on the mats, Arcee transformed back into robot mode, and she sat down by a wall, as she watched her two friends have some fun.

After Ahsoka took off her red cloak and hood, they began to spar.

The form of sparring that Annie and Ahsoka had agreed on was simple hand to hand combat, with no use of the force abilities, what so ever.

The two women were currently on their fifth match. With both of them being tied, two for two, for the last four matches.

Then, Arcee saw Ahsoka catch Annie in a hold, and bring her down to the floor.

As Ahsoka held Annie down on the ground, Annie yielded, “Okay. I give.”

Ahsoka then let go of Annie, as she leaned up. She took a few steps away from her former teacher, as she commented, “I am glad you now know when to yield.”

As Annie stood up, she replied, “Well, I would have saved myself a whole lot of trouble, if I had learned that lesson, sooner.” By then, Annie was standing, as she faced both Ahsoka, and Arcee, with the cybertronian being to her right side.

Ahsoka offered, “So, do you want to do four out of seven matches?”

Annie responded, “Nah. I know when I am beat. And you clearly have gotten better at hand to hand, over the years.”

Ahsoka commented, “Thank you. You should see my lightsaber and force abilities.”

Annie stated, “I plan to. Though, I just need to make arrangements for us to have a secluded location, where we can really spar with each other.”

Ahsoka responded, “I look forward to it. Though, I have never seen you accept
defeat, so graciously, as you just did.”

Annie said, “Yea. I finally grew up.”

Ahsoka teased, “And all it took was to have your gender changed.”

Annie replied, “Well, it was more than that. But, I do no wish to elaborate on the subject.”

Ahsoka requested, “That is fine. Still, maybe we can go visit Barbossa tonight, for dinner, at the hotel he is staying that.”

Annie said, “That will be fine. Though, you missed Revy acting strangely this morning.”

Ahsoka replied, “True. But, from what you all have told me. Revy almost always acts strangely.”

Annie giggled a little. She then said, “Yea. But, we don't tell her that, to her face.”

Ahsoka let out a small laugh. She then responded, “I won't say anything, if you won't. And thanks again for loaning me this clothing.”

Annie replied, “No problem.”

Ahsoka turned to her left, to look at Arcee, whom had just been silently watching and listening as the pair talked. And Ahsoka just look at Arcee for a few seconds.

Arcee calmly looked back at her.

They stared at each other for a few seconds. Arcee then flatly asked, “What? Didn't you have fun on our little sight seeing tour of this island?”

Ahsoka stumbled on her words, as she commented, “Yes, Arcee. I did. But... Well... Seeing you like this, instead of your motorcycle mode. Well... I have never met a droid like you, before.”

Arcee stated, in an annoyed tone of voice, “For the last time, Ahsoka. I am not a droid. I am a cybertronian.” She then forced herself to calm down, as she continued, in a more pleasant tone of voice, “And while I am trying to be polite. I am well versed on the discrimination that organics of your reality have for robotic life forms. Your people treated them like garbage. And I find the concept and use of your so called mind wipes to be disgusting. It is too close to mnemosurgery for my tastes.”

Ahsoka asked, “What is mnemosurgery?”

Arcee stated, “Altering the mind through use of needles into the brain casing. It is a practice that few do, and it is frowned upon by many. Including, myself.”

Ahsoka stated, “Okay. And I admit that we do not have the best track record when it comes do how we treat droids.”

Arcee pointed out, “Just keep in mind that when the imperials treat your kind like dirt, due to not being human. Think about how you treat the robots you know.”

Ahsoka quietly said, “I will keep that in mind.”

Arcee mentioned, “Good. Still, your civilization's discrimination against inorganic life is nothing compared to the fanaticism of the Vong.”

Ahsoka questioned, “Who are the Vong?”

Arcee cracked a wicked grin, as she coldly replied, “You may someday find out.”

Annie thought, with concern, 'While I can understand Arcee's disgust by my civilization's culture, in its treatment of robots. I think it is best not to mention the Vong, to Snips, right now.'

'I remember reading the Star Wars book series on the Vong... The stories were... Disturbing to say they least... Compared to them, I was a saint, even when I was Darth Vader. And that is disturbing and frightening, on so many levels...'

'And while I do not have nightmares over what may, or may not, happen to our home reality. I already had Thrawn look into this. Should the Vong ever reach my home reality's home galaxy, in my timeline. We will be well prepared to deal with them. But, I need to change the subject, before Arcee says anything more concerning the Vong. And I know just what to say.'

Annie decided to change the subject, by saying, “Ahsoka, Arcee's species is very special. Just like organic beings, her species have souls. Including, herself.”

Arcee spoke up, “We call them, sparks.”

Annie responded, “Yes. And you may have noticed that when you sense Arcee, through the force, that she does not feel like a droid, but instead, she feels like an organic being would.”

Ahsoka said, “Yes. I sense her in the force. And I have been wondering about that?”

Arcee stated, “It would take too long to explain. But, we have sparks, and sparks are the core of our being. They are just like your souls. Though, unlike you, our spark casing can be removed from our bodies, for an indefinite about of time. I have had this done to me, previously, when I went a little too wild in battle. Once. I didn't find it to be a that bad of an experience.”

Ahsoka was not sure how to reply, as she said, “I will take your word on that. Still, does that mean you can use the force?”

Arcee answered, “I am not sure. But, there are a number of individuals of my species that have somehow learned, or gained, supernatural abilities, that we cannot explain. Some can project forcefields. Some can turn invisible. Some can sense things on levels that are beyond detection of what their sensors should be able to detect. Some of them can move things with their minds. Although, they were checked, and found not to have the hardware to do any of this. Yet, they can still perform these feats of wonder.”

Ahsoka inquired, “Fascinating. So, how old are you, Arcee?”

Arcee calmly answered, “By your calender. I am millions of years old.”

Ahsoka asked, with a bit of surprise in her tone of voice, “Really?”

Arcee replied, “Yes.”

Ahsoka commented, “You don't act like you are that old.”

Arcee questioned, in annoyed tone of voice, “And how should one my age act?”

Ahsoka conceded, “Point taken. I will admit that even Yoda had his moments.”

Annie agreed, in a playful tone of voice, “That is true.”

Ahsoka and Annie giggled a little at their private joke.

Arcee calmly requested, “I look forward to you telling me, some time.”

As Ahsoka and Annie calmed down, Annie said, “We will.”

Ahsoka inquired, “So, who built you, Arcee? Your species? And how did your kind come to exist?”

Arcee answered, “The previous generation builds the next generation. As to our origins. That depends on who you ask. I did not come online until several millions of years after our civilization began. In comparison, the continuous written history of this world's civilization is less than tens of thousands of years old. And they have not even reached the stars, yet.”

Ahsoka commented, “Our civilization is far older”

Arcee pointed out, “In a number of ways. Though, being Annie's friend. I have done extensive research on your home reality, and the alternate realities of your home reality. I have found that the continuous line of history of your galactic civilization is only just over twenty-five thousand years old. Much younger than my kinds' history. But, to answer your question, there is some evidence that we have evolved in our history.”

Ahsoka replied, “Interesting.”

Arcee agreed, “Yes. It is.”

Ahsoka asked, “Given your age. I have to ask. Do you perceive the continuance of time the same as we do?”

Arcee stated, “Yes. A minute to me, is likely as long as a minute to you. And, before you ask, my species memories are not perfect. We do remember most of what has happened to us. So, while I don't recalled everything. Which I find comforting, for a number of reasons. And for myself. My life span has been a very long time to me. And the same is true for the rest of my species.”

Ahsoka questioned, “Being so old. And clearly so patient. I take it you come from very peaceful, and wise, civilization?”

Arcee burst out laughing, for a few seconds. As she calmed down, she plainly stated, with a bit of mirth in her tone of voice, “Anything but. We have never really had a peaceful civilization. We have had dark ages. We have had autocratic ages. But, never truly peaceful ages. And we all live so long that old grudges build up over time, until there was a massive wars. And by then, both sides are too stubborn to try to find another solutions, besides violence. And the war, I was in, lasted for millions of years.”

Ahsoka responded, in a sober tone of voice, “That is so sad to hear. So, how did your war start?”

Arcee answered, “From what I have learned, a miner, in the lower classes, wrote writings that preached from freedom and equality, through peaceful means.”

Ahsoka inquired, “What happened to this cybertronian?”

Arcee said, “He remained peaceful, until the corruption he railed against finally beat him to the point he believed that the only path to achieve his goals would be through use of violent means. Use of force... Not the force. But, use of brute force.”

“And he then started a war, in which he dragged everyone with him into the conflict. Lines were drawn. Sides were taken. And both sides committed unspeakable acts that can not be stated in polite company.”

Ahsoka asked, “What was his name? The person who started it all?”

Arcee all but spat out the answer, “Megatron.”

Ahsoka noticed Arcee's tone of voice, as she guessed, “I take it that you don't like him?”

Arcee said, in a stern tone of voice, “You are correct. I don't like him. I despise him. Or, more aptly, I despite what he became. And what he did to my species, and our homeworld. Though, I will admit, that in the beginning, he had the best of intentions.”

Arcee looked over at Annie, as she continued, “But, like many people, he allowed his fanaticism to consume him the point that his quest was no longer about freedom, but power, and domination.”

Ahsoka turned to look at Annie, as she understood what Arcee was hinting at. She stated, “Well, Megatron is not the only one that fell to darkness over good intentions.”

Annie noticed the two other people in the room, looking at her. She stated, “I know the feeling. I know I did wrong. And I have gotten better. I learned my lessons, and I have tried to make up for what I have done.”

Annie thought, 'And while I have not been a saint. I have truly tried to make up for my actions, and become a better person, than who I was. Which, given where I was at, was not that difficult. It is true. Some people only admit a problem, and fix it, after they realize they hit rock bottom. And that is what happened to me.'

'Still, I would mention that I am still friends with Megatron. And through the force, I have sense he was sick of that war, as well. It was just that he was to emotionally invest to leave it. And he lacked the means stop it. If he tried, his very army, or the other side's army, would have killed him. And he knew it.'

'Though, I did learn that war did finally end. At least in Megatron's home reality. And I was happy to learn thought. But, I think it is best I not mention any of this, right now. To them. Because they will likely take my comment the wrong way.'

Ahsoka replied, “Fine.”

Arcee just shrugged, in response to Annie's response.

Arcee and Ahsoka then turned back to look at each other.

Arcee stated, “But, that is not the great poetic irony to that war. That achievement belongs to the leader of the other side of the war. The one who read Megatron's original writings of peace, and equality, which he took to heart. And he ended up fighting Megatron. Defending Megatron's own original beliefs of freedom and equality, against Megatron, and his armies, with his own armies.”

Ahsoka could not help but giggled a little. She then said, with a bit of amusement in her tone of voice, “That must have annoyed this Megatron to no end”

Arcee cracked a warm grin, as she agreed, “I believe so, as well.”

Ahsoka asked, “So, what is your leader's name?”

Arcee answered, “His name is Optimus Prime. But, after the end of the war, he walked away from his leadership, because if he had not, the war might have restarted. There is still a lot of bad blood on both sides.”

Ahsoka glanced her eyes back to Annie. She then looked back towards Arcee, as she said, “I can understand why he did that.”

Arcee replied, “I do, as well.”

Ahsoka inquired, “What about other alien, space fairing species, of your home reality? How did you people handle them?”

Arcee stated, “We all tried to drag the entire galaxy into our war. And the galaxy eventually washed their hands of us. And the Galactic Council, the loose ruling body of our home galaxy, warned us, that if we continued to involve our war with their member planets, they would annihilate us. So, we left them alone.”

“But, that did stop both sides from plundering, and fighting over planets and moons, that did not belong to that Galactic Council. And turning these locations into burnt out husks. Including, worlds inhabited by those that had yet to even figure out how to travel into space.”

Annie commented, “Sort of like the opposite of the Federation's Prime Directive.”

Arcee replied, “Exactly.”

Ahsoka turned to Annie, as she asked, “What is the Prime Directive?”

Annie looked at Ahsoka, as she said, “I will tell you, later.”

Annie and Ahsoka then turned their attention back to Arcee.

Ahsoka questioned, “So, how did your war end? Or, did it ever truly end?”

Arcee answered, “Oh, it did end. When both sides finally admitting that there was nothing left fight over. Megatron had disappeared. Prime left. Those that were in hiding, across the galaxy, started showing back up. And except for a few hardliners. Everyone else just wanted to stop fighting. So, we start rebuilding our homeworld.”

“Though, the beginning of the end started when we began to fight over an Earth much like this one. In my home reality.”

Ahsoka commented, “This planet doesn't seem like much to me.”

Arcee stated, “You would be surprise what you may find on Earths like this one. The people here can adapt to a situation very swiftly. As both sides in our war found out, the hard way.”

“Ironically, it was the humans of the another Earth, that tilted the scales on the war, to its conclusion. Though, they did not tilt it to either sides favor. But instead, from a moral standpoint, they pushed us to the breaking point. Which we had be on the verge of for a very long time.”

Ahsoka questioned, “So basically, many of the rank and file had been looking for an excuse to stop the fighting for a very long time. But, none of your were able to stand up to your higher ranking officers.”

Arcee conceded, “Yes. That is one way to put it. But, some of us, just liked killing too much to give it up.”

Ahsoka asked, “Are you talking about, yourself?”

Arcee admitted, “Somewhat. But, I had my revenge. And with the war over. Like many of my people. I am asking the same question, as they do. Now what?”

Ahsoka asked, “But, why were you seeking revenge?”

Arcee coyly responded, “You haven't figured it out, with the pronouns used in this conversation?”

Ahsoka replied, “No.”

Annie stated, “Arcee has been referring to the others of her species, using male pronouns. While, Arcee refers to herself, with female pronouns.”

There was silent for a few second, as Ahsoka began to understand what the two other women were getting at. When Ahsoka realized what they were talking about, she said, “Oh...”

Arcee said, “Yes. I am living proof that a robotic being can be gender bent, as well.”

Ahsoka stated, “I guess the pink color of your armor should have tipped me off.”

Arcee responded, “Well, I have been considering changing my armor color.” She turned to Annie, as she asked, “Do you think I could pull off, red? Or maybe, black?”

Annie turned to Arcee, as she answered, “I think you can pull off any color you like.”

Arcee said, “Thank you.”

Ahsoka commented, “And I thought, my life could not get any stranger.”

Arcee and Annie turned to look at Ahsoka, as Arcee stated, in a mischievous tone of voice, “You haven't seen anything, yet.”

Annie commented, “While you spend your time with us, you will find out about many strange and wondrous things.”

Ahsoka inquired, “Scary things? Or, cool things?”

Annie replied, “Both.”

Arcee stood up, with the ceiling high enough for her to stand fully upright, without her head touching the ceiling.

Arcee offered, “Speaking of which, I still have some errands that I would like to run in town for, today. I would be more than happy to invite you both to come with me. My motorcycle form can fit both of you, at the same time.”

Ahsoka replied, “I would love to.”

Annie said, “I always enjoy riding with you. Though, I will be sitting up front.”

Ahsoka stated, “That is fine.”

Annie pointed out, “Still, we need to get cleaned up, and change our clothing.” She turned to Ahsoka, as she offered, “You can borrow some more of my clothing. I don't mind.”

Ahsoka turned to Annie, as she replied, “Thanks.”

Arcee commented, “I can wait.” She thought, 'It's not like I have anything better to do.'

Ahsoka requested, “Good. Still, I skipped lunch, and I would like to get something to eat.”

Annie recommended, “I know a good local diner, called the Last Resort Diner. The restaurant a nice selection of cooked meals for lunch. And since it is after lunch rush, there are not very many customers there. Also, I am sure Arcee wouldn't mind visiting that diner.”

Arcee responded, “Not really. I won't mind seeing the Lowe family, again. The owners of the diner. I even heard they hired a couple of new waitresses that I would like to meet.”

Annie replied, “I heard that too.”

Arcee cracked a wicked grin, as she stated, “And I know the Lowe family will love to meet Ahsoka here.”

Ahsoka could guess what Arcee meant by that, as she groaned, “No more Star Wars fans. I have met so many, since I got here.”

Annie said, in a sober tone of voice, “Sadly. They seem to be endless.”

Ahsoka replied, in a disheartened tone of voice, “I know.”

Annie commented, “Still, these fans are good cooks and they promised me no more jokes about those movies, and series.”

Ahsoka voice become more positive, as she said, “Good. I can tolerate the polite fans.”

Annie responded, “Well, then. You won't have any problems with these fans. I know them personally, and they are very nice.”

Ahsoka replied, “Good. Now, let's start getting ready to head over there.” She then walked over to where she had dropped her red hood and clock. She leaned over and picked up her clothing. As she stood back up straight, she put back red cloak around her body, as she pulled the hood over here head.

While Ahsoka adjusted her hood, slightly, for a better fit, she though, 'At least Kaylee was nice enough to find a motorcycle helmet that would fit me okay. So, I can at least enjoy riding down the road, without attracting too much attention. And I do wonder who the Lowe family are. Well, I am about to find out, after Annie and I each get a shower, and change our clothes. Then, we will head over to their restaurant.'

Arcee transformed into her motorcycle mode, and the three women then headed towards the front entrance of the gym, and towards and elevator that would take them to Annie's suite.

Fortunately, the elevators were designed to handle much more weight that what Arcee weighed.

Soon, the three of them reached the elevators, and then Annie's suite. Where Annie, and Ahsoka would each get separate showers. Then, change into some fresh clothing. And get something to eat, at that Last Resort Diner.

Half an hour later, Arcee took Annie and Ahsoka to the Last Resort Diner, with the Annie and Arcee, in motorcycle mode, in the diner, introducing Ahsoka to the Lowe family, and the Lowe family's friends.

It was a pleasant and enjoyable meeting for all. With Annie and Ahsoka then getting some lunch, which they found okay to eat. Due to them not be raised on the food the diner provided, they are not fond of such food. But, they could eat it, without complaint.

(_)

Much later, that evening, after dark, a black painted limo suddenly appeared in an alleyway, on the south side of Plata Podrido.

The limo then started moving, and turned onto a street, soon it was on the highway, heading for its destination.

Inside the limo were three individuals. In the front, in the left driver's seat, was the chauffeur, whom was a short, slender man, with long white hair. Also, he had long pointed ears. He wore a white business suit, and white dress shoes, that went well with his hair.

In the back of the limo, sitting beside each other were two middle-aged adults. Both of whom were in peak physical shape.

One of the adults was a man, with tanned skin, and long brown hair that was tied back in a ponytail. The man also had a well groomed mustache and goatee. The man wore a nice black business suit, with black dress shoes.

The other adult, sitting to the man's right side, in the backseat of the limo, was a woman. The woman had fair skin, with long orange hair. She had a teal tattoo over her right eye. She wore an orange evening gown, and orange flat soled slippers, which matched her orange hair color.

The woman turned to the man, as she calmly asked, in engish, “So, how do I looked?”

The man turned to the woman, as he responded, in a kind tone of voice, in english, “Lovely, my dear. You don't look a day older than when I married you.”

The woman replied, “I will take that as a compliment.” She thought, 'Though, there is some truth in that. And my skin has become a touch paler than it use to be.'

The woman used her left hand to reached up and adjusted something on the back of her left ear. As she did so, she commented, “Is this telepathic jammer annoying you, as much as it is me?”

The man calmly replied, “Not really. But, some things are necessary for our part of the plan to work.”

The woman dropped her left hand back to her side, as she agreed, “True. And it is not like our part of the plan is that difficult. All we have to do is be ourselves, and have fun for the evening.”

The man replied, “Yes. If only all our plans where so simple.”

The woman commented, “But, we both love challenges.”

The man responded, “Yes. We do dear. And that is what makes life worth living. Still, I wonder what our son is up to?”

The woman said, “He told me what he is planning to do this evening. I believe he will be fine.”

The man replied, “I trust your judgment.” He then turned to the driver, as he inquired, “How long until we get there?”

The chauffeur kept his eyes on the road in front of him, as he said, in english, “Turning in, right now.”

The chauffeur then pulled into the parking lot, and steered his limo towards the front of the large, well lit, building in the middle of the parking lot.

From the tinted windows of the back seats, on couple could see them approach the large, well lit building.

The woman commented, “Well. That doesn't look like much.”

The man said, “When compared to what we have, very few things measure up.”

The woman responded, “Yes. And I guess it will have to do. It is not like we are spending the night there?”

Man replied, “No. We are not.”

The woman said, “Good. As such, I don't see a problem.”

By then, the limo drove up, under the large awning that was attached to the front of the building. The limo came to a stop, by the curb, to the front doors, facing the limo's right side.

The driver put his limo in park, and he got out of the vehicle, leaving the driver's side door open. He then walked around, from the front of the car, to the right side of the vehicle. He then opened the back, right door to the limo.

From inside the back of the limo, the couple watched the door, to the woman's right side.

The man turned to the woman, as he said, “Well, my dear. It's showtime.”

The woman looked over at the man, and gave him a smile. She then turned back got out first. The chauffeur helped the woman up to her feet. The man soon followed the woman out of the limo.

With both his passengers outside of the car, the chauffeur gently closed the right back door behind them.

The chauffeur turned to the nearby female valet, he requested, “Find a nice place to park this vehicle. We will be back for it later.”

The woman just looked at the chauffeur, and nodded one. She then handed the chauffeur a ticket stub. Next, she walked around to the front limo, get into the open driver's door, and it. After which, the valet put the limo in drive, and she gently drove it to another part of the parking lot.

The chauffeur then turn see the man and woman start walking, side by side, towards the front doors, with the woman to the man's right side.

The chauffeur caught up with the couple, to walk around them, and opened the front left door in front of the couple.

As the couple approached the entrance, the man calmly inquired, “So, what type of gambling would you like to do first?” The man thought, 'With the stack of U.S. thousand dollar bills in my interior coat pocket, we will have no problems purchasing chips for the gambling tables.'

The woman answered, “I have always enjoyed the roulette wheel. How about yourself?”

The man responded, “Well, dice has a certain appeal to me. But, we will try our luck with the roulette wheels, first.”

The woman happily replied, “Thank you.”

The couple then took their time, as they made their way to the front doors of the Daiyu Palace Casino.

When they made it to the door their chauffeur was holding for them, the wife went int first, then the man, and finally the chauffeur entered, with him shutting the door behind himself.

After which, the man and woman then started walking beside each other again, with the woman to the man's left. And the chauffeur followed right behind them.

Though, the three adults are intentionally taking their time, and they walked slowly, as they moved through the front lobby, and towards the large hallway, in front of them, which lead to the gaming floor of the casino.

(_)

At that moment, in the security room Jayne, Mal, Zoe, and Wash, stood of the room, as, from the wall of monitors in front of them, they watched see three newcomers. A woman with long orange hair that was loose and rand down her back. A man with the brown ponytail. And a short, slender, white haired man with pointed ears, and long white hair that went down his back. Enter the building, from the front entrance.

While the woman drew a little of their attention, was the short, slender man, with long white hair, and long pointed ears, that caught their attention.

Jayne was to the far right, Mal to Jayne's left. Zoe was to Mal's left. And Wash was to Zoe's left.

Due to the lateness of the hour. There was no one else in the security room, that was on duty for the shift. Though, there were still plenty of guards stationed, in, and around, the casino.

Jayne commented, “Well, you don't see an elf, every day.”

Mal agreed, “Certainly not.”

Zoe recognized the three individuals, as she flatly stated, “Oh hell, guys. We are about to be in some real trouble.”

Mal asked with concern in his tone of voice, “Who are they?”

Wash inquired, “Can you tell us?”

Zoe pulled out her encrypted cellphone, as she answered, “I will tell you both, in a minute. But, I need to inform Chang, right now. This is way over our heads.” She then dialed the phone for Chang's cellphone.

(_)

At that moment, in the dining room, or the penthouse apartment of the casino, Chang, River, and Lee, sat around their dining table, eating small snacks, as they talked.

Chang was still in his business clothing, with River and Lee wearing casual clothing.

Suddenly, Chang's encrypted cellphone rang. Chang pulled it out, and answered, “Hello.”

Zoe stated, “Mister Chang. I would not call you, at this time, unless it is important. But, there is something you need to know, that cannot wait.”

Chang thought, 'Ah oh. Zoe only used the term, Mister Chang, with me, when it is important.' He asked, “What is it?”

Zoe said, in the calmest voice she could muster, “David Xanatos, Fox Xanatos, and their friend Puck, just walked through the front doors of the casino.”

Chang exclaimed, “What?!” He thought, 'Oh hell. This is bad. Very, very bad.'

Nearby, Lee turned to River, as she quietly asked, “What is going on?”

River looked over at Lee, as she answered, “It is important. But, I will let Chang explain. Sufficient to say, our snack is over.”

Chang sighed, as he requested, “Okay. Tell me everything.”

Zoe answered, “Not much to say, sir. They pulled up in a limo. One of the valets took the vehicle to our parking lot, while all three of them walked inside, the front entrance.”

Chang inquired, “Where are they heading?”

Zoe said, “It looks like they are just taking their time.”

Chang thought, 'I wonder why. Not that it really matters. They just bought us more time.'

Zoe mentioned, “Also, as I said, Puck is there. And he is out in the open, in his true form. Not as Owen. And I don't see Alex anywhere. I think Puck has his powers back.”

Chang complimented, “If that is the case. I agree. And good catch. If Puck is openly showing himself, without Alex around, that means he likely is back to full power.”

Zoe said, “I think it would be unwise to call Annie and Arcee into this. Though, do you wish have tracking device hidden on the limo?”

Chang responded, “Do not place a tracking device on their limo. We do not want to antagonize them. Also, I agree on you not contracting Annie and Arcee. I will take care of contacting them. Should I feel it is necessary to do so.”

Zoe questioned, “Given how dangerous they are. Do you want us to bar them from the building?”

Chang flatly answered, “No. They would not be doing this in such an open manner, unless they were doing something in a more peaceful manner. Though, I will handle this. I am also coming down with River and Lee. I want you and Mal, to meet with us. In case this goes south, we will all be in this together. Though, only bring your pistols, and keep their hidden. As I said. We do not want to antagonize them.”

Zoe replied, “I understand, sir.”

Chang hung up his cellphone, but he left it in his right hand. He turned to River and Lee, as he stated, in a serious tone of voice, “I will keep this short and sweet. Since we don't have time to come up with a good plan.”

“And since River has already read my mind, and knows what is going. I am just going to say it straight out. David Xanatos, Fox Xanatos, and Puck, just walked through the front doors of the casino.”

Chang saw Lee's eyes go wide for a second, before Lee forced herself to calm down.

Chang continued, “Zoe, and I agree, that since Alex is not present. And Puck is in his original form. He has his power back. I want us all to head down there. I will handle David and Fox. You two, handle Puck. And I know none of us have any illusions about the dangers we are facing. Puck is the most dangerous in the group. And not just in power. He has probably forgotten more about being a magnificent bastard, than David and Fox ever knew. And that is saying something.”

“You two are the most manipulative people I know. Keep Puck from being creative. Keep him from using his powers. If nothing else, just talk to him. But, don't let him become mischievous. I am counting on the both of you.”

Lee stated, “Okay. We will try our best. Though, David Xanatos is the Master of Gambits. And his family are a close second, in those categories..”

Chang said, “I know. And I agree. And I realized we do not have time for you two to get properly dress for the event. But, you both look fine, as is. You will just have to go they as you are.”

Lee replied, “That will be fine.”

River commented, “I okay with what I have on, as well. Though, if they do try something. I will know first, before they can action.”

Chang stated, “Don't count on it. I would not be surprised if the Xanatos family did not have counters to telepathic scans. And maybe even empathic scans.”

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

Chang replied, “Good. Now, let us get down there.”

The three of them got up from their seats, and they headed for the door that that was directly connect to the hallway, that lead to the express elevators.

Chang started dialing a phone number.

(_)

Down in the security room, Zoe had just put up away her cellphone. She turned Wash, then to Mal, and Jayne, as she said, “Chang wants Mal and I to head over to meet him, River, and Lee. As we confront these three individuals. Though, we should go with only with our pistols, hidden.”

Jayne asked, “Why don't we came in, in full force?"

Zoe turned to Jayne, as she stated, “Because we do not want to upset them. For very good reasons.”

Wash asked, “Do you want me to come, Zoe?”

Zoe turned to Wash, as she answered, “No. I don't want you to be anywhere near they. They are too dangerous.” She thought, 'And we are just finally back together, again.' She continued her thoughts, with more firmness, 'And I am not going to lose you, again.'

Mal asked, in a confused tone of voice, “Okay. But, wait a minute. Am I not in charge?”

Zoe looked back to Mal, as she answered, “The situation is to urgent to delegate rank, right now.” She looked over at Jayne, as she stated, “Jayne. You and Wash, stay here, and keep an eye on things. And let us know if something comes up.”

Jayne turned to Zoe, as he replied, “Alright. I will.”

Jayne thought, 'I am not sure what is going on. But, it is clear that Zoe and Chang do. Which makes it important.'

'If I cannot get any information on the computer system, maybe I will call the Lowe family, later. And ask them what is going on. They might know. But, for right now. I would like to see how this plays out.'

Jayne then turned back to look at the wall monitors.

Meanwhile, Mal and Zoe headed for the exited, Mal inquired, “While Chang doesn't want us to have any more weapons, than our pistols. Do we believe we will need our weapons?”

Zoe said, “No, Captain. That would only likely make the situation more dangerous.”

A few seconds later, Zoe and Mal reached the exit to a small auxiliary hallway. They then turned and walked in the direction which would lead them to the front part of the casino.

(_)

A few minutes ago, from when the Xanatos family had just arrived in the casino.

Inside the casino garage, Annie, Ahsoka, and Arcee, whom was in robot mode, stood around, as they watched Kaylee finish working on a car.

Kaylee was leaning under the open hood, which her tools in hand, while she finished what she was doing to that engine of that car.

As she finished working on the car, she said, “And that is how you install a car transmission.”

Ahsoka replied, with curiosity in her tone of voice, “That was interesting.”

Annie commented, “See. I told you, that you would like learning this. It is not the selector gearbox for a hyper-drive engine, but is interesting to see how a car transmission is take out, replace, and installed back into the engine.”

Ahsoka replied, “You're right.” She turned to Kaylee, as she said, “Thank you for showing us, Kaylee.”

Kaylee leaned up, from under the hood. She turned to Ahsoka, as she replied, “You're welcome, Ahsoka.”

Kaylee then turned and walked over to tool box, where she kept her tools at. As she left down her tools, on top of a tool box, she said, “I have known starship engines, that I have personally worked on, that were less temperamental than some of these vehicles transmissions. The engines of the Serenity being the top among them.” She then turned around to face the others.

Ahsoka inquired, “So, you were a starship engineer?”

Kaylee happily answered, “Yep. And proud of it.”

Arcee commented, “Well, Ahsoka. You might find this interesting. But, much like Kaylee, Annie has made it a hobby to work on the vehicles, in this garage, as well.”

Kaylee said, “And she is a great help, too.”

Annie stated, “I have always loved working on machines. Even as a child. And these vehicles are one of the few things I can get to work on regularly, without people asking me questions.”

Kaylee complimented, “And she can use the force to set the timing of an engine better than a computer. I am sometimes worried, she might take my job.”

Annie casually replied, “Nah. I like working on an engine. Though, I don't want to make a career out of it.”

Ahsoka said, “I am glad you found another hobby, Annie. And thanks again for today. I enjoyed it. I have to say, that the Lowe family were interesting to meet, for lunch.”

Kaylee commented, “They always are.”

Ahsoka stated, “Yes. They appear to be a very entertaining, and pleasant, family to be around. And it was nice to see Barbossa for dinner. That was fun, as well.”

Annie responded, “I am glad you had a good time. Still, I have to know. What is the back story to him singing that the karaoke version, Kokomo, by the Beach Boys? Which he heard him do, earlier this evening, at the karaoke stage, at the Devil's Hotel restaurant. That song is so not him.”

“Yet. He sung that song with style and skill. So, he has sung that song a few times before. So, I have to know how he originally end up choosing to sing in the first place.”

Ahsoka coyly answered, “It is a very interesting, and long story. But... Let's just say that he likes the song. And he enjoys singing it. He says the lyrics of the sing resonate with him.”

Annie recalled the lyrics of the song. She then realized that Ahsoka was correct. She replied, “Okay. That explains why he was so good at singing that song.”

Just then, Arcee and Kaylee noticed Annie and Ahsoka tensed up.

Arcee asked. “What is it?”

Annie answered, “Someone powerful just walked into the front side of the casino.”

Ahsoka commented, “Very powerful.”

Kaylee inquired, “Should we contact Chang?”

Annie commented, “It depends. Right now, we need to decide how to go about telling Chang. Using the excuse, of feeling something in the first. Become a very tired excuse, over time.”

Kaylee said, “I can see what you mean.”

Ahsoka stated, “Beside, I sense no maleficence, nor danger, from that person.”

Annie commented, “I sense the same thing.”

Arcee said, “That is comforting to know.”

Suddenly, Annie's encrypted cellphone rang. Annie pulled it out, press the talk button, put the phone to her right ear, and answered the call, “Hello.”

Chang inquired, in a serious tone of voice, “Hello Annie. I need to know where you are at? And who you are with? This is very important.”

Annie could tell that Chang was being series. She stated, “Hello Chang. I am in the garage, with Ahsoka, Arcee, and Kaylee.”

Kaylee quietly commented, “Chang called us first. Damn. He's good.”

Meanwhile, on the phone, Chang said, “Good. That means you can give Arcee this message, as well.”

Annie asked, “So, what is going on?”

Chang responded, “Quick question. Did the Lowe family every show you the Gargoyles animated series?”

Annie replied, “Yes. Why?”

Chang answered, “Because, David, Xanatos, Fox, Xanatos, and Puck, just walked through the front doors of the casino. Alex is nowhere in sight. And Puck is in his original form. So, we are guessing that Puck has his powers back.”

Annie flatly said, “Arcee and I can be in the lobby, in less than two minutes.”

Chang stated, in a strong tone of voice, “I don't want either of you to come. Also, keep Ahsoka with you. It would only create problems. With these people. Civil discussion is likely a better coarse of action.”

Annie questioned, “Okay. So, what do you want us to do?”

Chang answered, “Stay away from the front of the casino. Use the employee facilities. Go up to your suite. Take a ride around town. Just don't confront these three people. And keep an eye on Kaylee and Ahsoka. I know Ahsoka can cause trouble. You were her teacher, after all.

Annie sarcastically thought, 'Ha. Ha. Though, I will let that comment slide.'

Chang continued, “And if something happens to Kaylee, River and Simon will never forgive us.”

Annie replied, “I understand. I am will comply.”

Chang replied, “Thank you.” He then hung up.

As Annie put away her cellphone, Kaylee asked, “So, what is it?”

Annie turned to Kaylee, as she answered, “The Xanatos family just walked in through the front door of the casino. And Chang wants none of us to go near them.” She turned to Ahsoka, as she stated, “That includes you, Snips.” She looked around the group, as she went onto said, “He wants us all to stay in the back of the casino. He said he would handle them.”

Arcee commented, “That understandable. I have seen the series. What that group. I admit that discretion might be the best approach to take.”

Annie responded, “I agree. But, let's stick around, for a while. Just in case we are needed.” Annie looked over at Kaylee, as she said, “And Chang wants us to watch you, Kaylee.”

Kaylee shrugged, as she replied, “Okay. I don't mind the attention. So, what do you suggest we do.”

Annie answered, “Well, since we are going to be spending some time in the back part of the casino tonight. Do any of you want to go swimming, in the heated, employee pool. It uses salt water to remain clean. No chemicals.”

Ahsoka replied, “I'd love to.”

Kay said, “I could use a soak.”

Arcee stated, “I really don't feel like swimming. But, I won't mind keeping you company.”

Ahsoka turned to Arcee, as she asked, “You can swim.”

Arcee looked over at Ahsoka. She smiled, as she responded, with a bit of amusement in her tone of voice, “I can do a lot of things.”

Ahsoka happily replied, “Cool.”

Ahsoka then remembered, as she commented, “But, I don't have a swimsuit?”

Kaylee offered, “We will find something for you.”

Ahsoka turned to Kaylee, as she said, “Thank you.”

Annie stated, “Well, come on girls. Let's go have some fun.”

Annie then started walking for the nearest garage exit, to the back hallway, with Ahsoka, Kaylee, and Arcee, whom transformed into her motorcycle mode, following behind her.

(_)

At that moment, in one of the interior hallways of the casino cages, Zoe and Mal walked at a quickened pace, as they made their way to the doors that would lead them to the front lobby, where they would meet with Chang, River, and Lee, to confront the Xanatos family.

They walked side by side, with Mal was to Zoe's left.

As the two very good, platonic friends, walked beside each other, Mal asked, “So, who are the Xanatos family?”

Zoe responded, “Do you remember that animated series about Gargoyles the Lowe family showed us?”

Mal said, “I didn't really care much for that series.”

Zoe stated, “Well, the Xanatos family is from that series.”

Mal inquired, “And why does that trouble you?”

Zoe said, “Did you ever wonder if someone was better at this game than Chang, or Lee?”

Mal replied, “Yea.”

Zoe commented, “Well, in a way. Chang and Lee have both been using the playbook that the Xanatos family wrote.”

Mal requested, in a more serious tone of voice, “Okay. Tell me who we are dealing with?”

Zoe responded, “The black hair man is named David Xanatos. The woman with orange hair, and the tattoo on her face, is named Fox Xanatos. They are husband and wife. Both of them have more money than god. And they know how to use it. They are both highly educated, and highly intelligent. Both are sharp as they come. And in combat, either one of them could hold their own against Roberta. Then, there is their servant, Puck...”

Mal commented, “I am not going to like what you have to say, about this Puck? Am I?”

Zoe stated, “No, sir. You are not. Puck is an ancient mystical being that can pretty much literally do anything he wants. The good news is that while he does have a sense of humor. He also has sense of fair play, and honor. He won't start anything, unless her, or his friends, are provokes. Which includes the Xanatos family.”

Mal asked, “Okay. Still, should we call in Annie and Arcee?”

Zoe answered, “Chang and I both agreed that it would be a bad idea. If Annie and Arcee got into a fight with Puck, this city might not be left standing. And I am not embellishing, sir. I honestly believe that this city would be rubble, by the time the battle ended. Think Serenity Valley, sir. That bad.”

Mal hesitantly said, “Okay...” He thought, 'I have only heard Zoe use Serenity Valley as an example, a few time before. And all of them were very bad situations. I am just happy the two of us survived that hell hole.' He commented, in a more normal tone of voice, “This night is just getting more interesting, by the minute.”

Zoe said, “Look on the bright side, captain. Chang is the one that is going to be handling this. We are just be there as back up.”

Mal replied, in a slightly sarcastic tone, “Yea. That doesn't really inspire me with confidence.”

Zoe pointed out, “Keep in mind, sir. If a fight does break out. They will likely go after Chang first. Then, us.”

Mal conceded, in a slightly calmer tone of voice, “Well, that does make me feel better.” He thought, 'It gives us time to run, if we need too.'

Zoe replied, “Glad to hear it, captain.”

The two friends then continued walking, at a quickened pace, towards the front lobby.

(_)

Less than a minute later, David, Fox, and Puck had just reached the other end of the front lobby of the casino, towards hallway that lead to the gaming floor, when they saw three adults see them come towards them, from among the small crowd of people moving back and forth, with people coming to the gaming floor to use poker chips, and people coming from the gaming floor, to the tellers, to cash out their poker chips.

They then saw the three adults approaching them were one man and two women.

The man was Chang, whom was in usual business clothing.

To Chang's left was a woman with long red hair. She wore a blue blouse, black jeans with a black belt, and blue tennis shoes.

To Chang's right was a fair skinned woman with long black hair. She wore a red long skirt, blue t-shirt, and black flat soled slippers.

At the same time, the Xanatos family saw two other adults exit a doorway, along the left side of the hallway they faced.

The two adults immediately turned to face the Xanatos, they turned and walked towards them.

The two adults were a fair skinned man and a dark skinned woman. Both were dressed in black business suits, like all the other security in the casino.

David thought, with amusement, 'Right on schedule.'

David was the first to come to a stop, with Fox stopped beside him, to his right side. Puck walked around stand beside Fox, to her right side.

Fox quietly said, “Took them long enough.”

David softly replied, “Easy. Let's not tip our hand, yet.”

The three adults then waited silently for the other five adults to approach them.

A few seconds later, Chang, River, Lee, Mal, and Zoe come to a stop, by each other, as they all were facing David, Fox, and Puck, to Lee's right side, and David's left side.

Meanwhile, the customers and other staff that passed by them, knew better than to stop and attempt to listen to the casino owner's business.

Chang calmly said, “Hello. I am Mister Chang. And this is my casino.”

David calmly responded, “Nice to meet you. Might I ask why the three of us have been singled out for such special attention?”

Chang thought, 'With these three, there is no point in trying to hide what we both already know.' He said, “You are very well known to us. Mister and Mrs Xanatos. Along, with you, Puck.”

Puck commented, “Of course. With reputations such as ours. I would expect nothing less.”

Chang went onto say, “And while we are not sure what came about to bring you here. We only want to make sure you have a safe, pleasant time here.” He then looked over at Puck, as he continued, “While leaving our other guests, and staff, in peace.”

Puck looked over at Chang, as he stated, “I promise to be on my best behavior. I will leave the gambling tables, and the people alone. And as long as my charges are not harmed. There will be no problem.”

Chang thought, 'That is about as good a promise as I am going to get from Puck.' He replied, “Then, I will insure that nothing does happen.”

David response dripped with sarcasm, “Of course.”

Puck noticed his friend's sarcasm, as he calmly replied, “We will hope for the best, then.”

Chang looked at all three adults in front of him, as he complimented, “Yes. That would be the proper outlook to take.”

Fox turned to Mal and Zoe. She then looked at Chang, as she inquired, with a tone of voice like ice, “So, we will be having chaperons?”

Chang answered, “Not exactly. We will just keep a few more guards on the gaming floor. And make sure no one does anything stupid. Beside which, given how wealthy you are. A little extra security will not harm anyone.”

David conceded, “I guess that is more than reasonable.”

Chang cracked a grin, as he said, “I am glad that you agree.”

Meanwhile, River slowly turned her eyes towards David, then Fox, then Puck, as she tried to passively read the thoughts. She did not even sense David and Fox. And while she could sense Puck, the magical being was doing something to block his thoughts from her.

River thought, 'Chang was right. Fox and David must be using something to jam my ability to read their thoughts. I cannot even tell that they are there. If they just walked by me. I would not sense them. And even though, I can sense Puck, he is clearly blocking my thoughts.'

River then noticed Puck was looked at her, in her eyes. She continued her thoughts, 'Oh hell. I better stop, right now, before he catches me.'

River quickly broke eye contact with Puck.

Puck then noticed that Lee was looking into his eyes, as well.

As Puck and Lee's eyes met, Lee just nodded once. Before Lee broke eye contact.

Puck raised any eyebrow, in interesting, from Lee's response.

As this went on, Zoe looked over at Fox, and she noticed a look in Fox's eyes that concerned her. She thought, 'Fox has a look in her eyes that is practically, feral. Like the look that Revy sometimes has in her eyes. And to think this man actually married her... No accounting for taste.'

(_)

At that moment, among the crowd that parted around the group of eight adults, a middle-aged Japanese man, with playing chips in his hands, walked by the group, from the lobby, towards the gaming floor. When facing the gaming floor, the japanese man walked against the far right side of the hallway.

The man had come in, just after the Xanatos family, and he had bought some poker chips, from a nearby teller, in the lobby. And now, he was ready to play on the gaming floor.

Unlike the Xanatos family. This man had parked his car, in the parking lot, and walk inside the front doors, by himself. Without anyone really paying him any mind.

For those around him, he was just another customers, for the casino.

The japanese man had a will groom, partly bald, black head of hair, which was cut short. He had a clean shaven face. He was in good physical health. Average height, with a medium physical build. He wore a gray business coat and gray pants, with black belt. Under his gray coat was a white short sleeved button up shirt, with a dark blue tie around his neck. And for shoes, he wore a part of black leather loafers, which comfortably fit his black socked feet.

The japanese man quickly made his way around the right side the right side of the eight adults, with him passing behind Mal and Zoe. With the japanese man, then walking further towards the gaming floor, without any trouble.

(_)

Back in the group, standing by the hallway, in the front lobby, that lead to the gaming floor, Fox looked from River to Lee, as she commented, “While I can understand why these two are here with you... Mister Chang.” She turned to Zoe and Mal, as she asked, “Though, whom are these two?”

Lee thought, 'I think we have just been insulted.' From the corner of her left eye, she saw River nodded her chin once in agreement.

Mal turned to Fox, as he calmly stated, “I am Chief of Security, Reynolds.” He gestured with his right hand, towards Zoe, as he continued, “And this is my second in command, Washburne. And as head of security. I have to ask. What are you plans for tonight?”

David thought, 'Well, given he is security. I guess we have to answer.' He said, “Well, we intend to gamble at some of the tables. And have a little fun.”

Mal inquired, “Are you planning on spending the night in the casino?”

David replied, “No. We plan to leave in a few hours.”

Mal replied, “Then, enjoy yourselves.”

David thought, 'I think he just gave me a veiled threat. Though, I don't want to ruin my evening with my wife, and friend. So, I will let his comment slide.'

Fox looked around at the group in front of her, as she said, “I must say. You have some an interesting selection of people here?”

Chang commented, “Having a diverse customer base helps keep the doors open.”

Fox turned to Chang, as she responded, “Of course. Thought, I was not talking about the customers. I was talking about the staff. Some many people, from different realities, in one place.”

Chang plainly stated, “It stands to reason you would know about the world as myth concept. Though, if you wish to discuss that, I will have to ask that we do so in private.”

Fox said, in a sly tone of voice, “Oh. I am not going to get detail. But, it must as been such a story to bring you together.” She then looked at Lee.

Lee looked back at Fox, as she thought, 'Oh hell. They know about my stories.'

Chang noticed Fox looking at Lee. He put two and two together, as he thought, 'They know about Lee's stories. That does not surprise me.' He calmly responded, “So you know our back stories. In more ways then one. That just puts us on an even keel, with one another.”

Fox kept her gaze on Lee, as she replied, in a smug tone of voice, “Quite so. Still, I am surprised you would be so open with the one that caused all of you so much trouble.”

Fox hit a nerve for Lee. Lee continued to look at Fox, as she grimaced. She stated, “I went through hell and back, to get where I presently am at. Some of us are not daddy's little, rebellious, trust fund baby.”

Fox face turned to a mask of fury. She started to approach Lee, as she said, “Why you little...”

Lee did not response, as Fox suddenly found she as not able to move.

Fox moved her eyes to her right, towards Puck. She saw the little man just smiling at her.

Puck commented, “Now, now, Fox. I am not going to let you ruin this wonderful evening. You started this. And as a writer. She would know how to push someone's buttons. Besides. Take a little at her. She wasn't going to fight you. She knew I was going to pull this.”

Fox looked over at see Lee smirking at her.

Fox then felt herself be able to move. She did not take a step towards Lee. Though, she continued to look at the black haired woman, as she inquired, “How did you know?”

Lee dropped her grin, as she said, “Pre-cog.”

Fox replied, “Oh.” She thought, 'I should have paid more attention on the reports about this person.'

Puck turned look at Lee, then to Chang. He requested, “Please, forgive my friend here. She sometimes gets this way.”

Chang looked over at Puck, as he thought, 'Well, that both confirms that Puck has his powers back. And that he is will step in to stop a problem from occurring. The latter I find to be a relief. He clearly wants to keep things peaceful. So, he can help keep David happy. Which is understandable.'

Chang calmly responded, “I can sympathize. Just don't let her go anywhere near Revy. Nor, most of Revy's friends.”

Puck replied, “I won't. That wouldn't be fun for us.”

Chang said, “I am glad we agree.”

David spoke up, “That would be a wise suggestion.” He turned to his wife, as he continued, in a warm tone of voice, “Besides. We came here to have some fun. Not start a fight.” He thought, 'Though, you sometimes liked to start bar fights as a from of entertainment. With you walking away, the clear victor.'

Fox looked over at David, as she forced herself to calm down. She replied, “Okay.” She turned back to Lee, as she warned, “This is not over.”

Lee looked at Fox, as she calmly said, “It never is.”

The group continued their conversation.

(_)

Nearby, the middle-aged japanese man, in the gray suit, whom held his poker chips in his hands, approached the gaming floor.

The japanese man continued to looked around, while he walked. As he did so, he happily thought, 'Sometimes being one of Gomez's lower profile agents has its perks. And I guess that telepathic blocker on the back of my left ear is working, or River would have sniffed me out, by now. Also, as long as I watch my emotions, I don't have to worry about Annie, at all.'

'I wonder if Chang here, would find it hilarious that, over the years, we have known so many of the same people. But, we have never actually been in the same room, until tonight.'

'Though, I am not going to say a damn word about it. And blow my cover.'

'Still, Masahiro Takenaka, old boy. I know how good I got it now. A good paying job. That is less dangerous than the life I use to lead. I received a wonderful health benefits package. And I get to go to places where I am not a wanted man. Life can be such fun, at times.'

'Though, it took some effort for Gomez to find me. While, at the time, I did not have the details of Chang little insanity, I did find out he was after me. And unlike others, I know how to go to ground. And stay there.'

'But, three months after Chang's first fall. Which I see he came back from. I was eventually found, by Gomez.'

'At the time, I was still a bit of a communist ideologue. That was until Gomez showed me that Black Lagoon series. Especially, episodes eleven and twelve, that dealt with me.'

'Watching that series changed my point of view, very quickly, in several way.'

'And now, I find it slightly poetic that all the political struggles that I, and others, have been through, to be meaningless fiction of other people, in other realities.'

'And that was when Gomez offered me this job, and I gladly took it. I find it funny, that given my origins, I have gone from an enemy of the state, to a government agent. Then again, some pirates ended up becoming privateers. Though, it is not like I have anything better to do.'

'Gomez had also informed me that he had looked further into my history. And he revealed to me, that he liked what he found. That I was very good what both being a spy, and a mercenary. That I could keep a level head tense situations. That I knew when to cut my losses and walk away.'

'And that is how I have stayed alive this long.'

'Also, to help insure that I would be loyal to him. Gomez did a few other things for me. He pulled some strings, and I am no long a wanted man in my home reality. He even had me undergo a rejuvenation therapy that added another good thirty years to my life, and it even helped clean out my lungs from decades of smoking. As such, I gave up smoking. And I am better for doing so.'

'As such, I decided, since I now had a new lease on life, I was going to enjoy it. And this job, along my reality device, and perks that come with it. Has so far been one hell of a great ride, that I had have no intention of quitting, anytime soon.'

'Fortunately, Gomez respects what I can do. Between my skills, and polite manners, I can get into many places, and get the information we need, while remaining undetected.'

'Now, to do my job. And plant my electronic bugs, while the Xanatos family are keeping everyone distracted.'

By then, Masahiro Takenaka was approaching on of the Blackjack tables. A few seconds ago, he had saw a four of players leave the table. And he also noticed who the dealer was.

After Takenaka recognized who the dealer, he walked up to that dealer's table.

As Takenaka reached the table, he set his two rolls of chips onto the table itself. He then looked up at the dealer, as he greeter her, in english, “Hello little lady.”

The dealer, Faye Valentine, her dealer's uniform, look across the table, at Takenaka.

While Takenaka looked at Faye, he thought, 'Records state that this woman's name is Faye Valentine. And she is from a reality close to my own. Though, the date she left her reality, is far into my own future. She is a conartist, and a cheat... It makes sense she would be a dealer in this place like this... Though, to be fair, records also state that Chang tries to run this place honestly, and cleanly.'

'That is no point in cheating, if he is making such a large amount of money in such a direct way... Along with that screwy gender bending whorehouse, Chang also has, elsewhere on this island... I will admit, as twisted as such a whorehouse is, that is actually, quite a brilliant way to make money. It take one's vices to the extreme, without those vices turning ugly, nor painful...'

'Still, back to focus on the matter at hand... While Faye's job here is on the lower end. She is connected all the way to Chang. I need to see if I will be recognized. And it is best to just see if I can pass the sniff test, now. Before I start planting the bugs. Chances are, if she doesn't spot me, none of them will. And those that are watching right now, will likely give me a pass, if Faye gives me a pass.'

Faye said, in english, “Hi to yourself...” She then looked more closely at Takenake, as she commented, “Say... You kind of look family.”

Takenaka casually replied, “I just have that type of face.” He then placed a couple of chips to bet, as he continued, “Now, let's play some cards.”

Faye shrugged, as she said, “I meet a lot of people. So, that is probably the case.” She then reached over to the automatic poker shuffling machine that was by her, to her left, and she pulled out some cards for both her and Takenaka.

Takenaka found he won the first hand. He pulled back his winning chips. He then looked up at Faye's face, as he said, “That is a great way to start a game.” He thought, 'I wonder if she lost intentionally, to lure me into a false sense of safety, in gambling. So, she could make more money on the back in. That is likely.'

Faye inquired, “Yes. Care to try you luck further?”

Takenaka set out a few chips to bet with, as he replied, “Sure.” He thought, 'Now, since she does not recognized me, it is time for me to do my job.'

As Faye turned her attention to the automatic shuffling machine, Takenaka reached under the table with his right hand. He then palmed an electronic surveillance bug onto the bottom of the table, from under his right sleeve.

He had a number of such electronic bugs on both his sleeves. And they would not turn on for another few hours. Making them less likely to be detected while he was still there.

Takenaka then lost the next two rounds.

As Faye pulled back the chips from the third round, she asked, “Do you want another go?”

Takenaka stated, “No. My dear. I know when to cut my losses.” He mentally added, 'Story of my life.' He commented, “I think I will have a drink at the bar.” He then began to collect his chips

Faye replied, “Enjoy.”

Takenaka then turned and started walking towards the casino restaurant, as he thought, 'Now, to plant some bugs in the restaurant. Then, I need to work my wait around the customer areas of this floor.'

'While, we likely won't get any major information this way. It will just be one more stepping stone to learning about this place. By showing us the day to day schedule of the gaming floor. Thus, allowing us how to figure out how to infiltrate further into this place. Such as, the casino cages, offices, and personal areas... But, for right now, I think I will have a drink, while I continue with my job.'

A few seconds after Takenaka left Faye's blackjack table, a few more gamblers showed up to try to their with her, as their dealer.

(_)

Several feet away, Spike was the acting pit boss for that shift. She wore her black business suit and dress suits

While Spike did her job, and looked around the gaming floor for possible trouble, to stop, she saw the middle-aged japanese, with a handle of chips, had caught her eye.

The man had just finished playing a few hands from Faye's blackjack table, and he was currently heading for the casino restaurant.

As Spike looked at the man, she thought, 'Something about that guy sets me on edge. But, I cannot tell what. Though, since Faye didn't spot anything about him, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. Faye could spot a cheat a mile away. And if she sensed that something was wrong, she would have alerted me. So, I think we are fine.'

'Now, I just cannot wait to get off this shift, so I can be with Julia. At least Jetta was nice enough to watch, tonight, her for me.'

Spike then went back to her job, as looked around the gaming floor.

Meanwhile, Takenaka made to the casino restaurant, without a problem.

(_)

Back to the eight person group, in the front lobby, their conversation was starting to drag on, as David though, 'This is getting us nowhere. I better move things along before Fox has another outburst.'

David said, “Well, I believe you have taken too much of my wife's time. So, if you don't mind? I would like to treat her to a night out?”

Chang thought, 'Meaning, you are worry that you wife is growing impatient. Fine. I have not interest in antagonizing you three. I will let you have your fun.'

Chang replied, “Have fun. And let us know if you need anything.”

David did not reply, as he turned to his left, and started heading towards the tellers, to purchase some poker chips.

Fox gave Chang a feral smile. She said, in a demure tone of voice, “Oh... We will.” She then walked over to join her husband.

Puck turned to his two friends, as he said, “David, Fox, I will be with you in a moment.” He looked over at River and Lee, whom were also look back at him. He continued, “I have a few things to discuss with those here, for the moment.”

While David did not turn around to face Puck, as he kept walking, with Fox by his right beside him, to his left. He brushed his right hand, backwards, as he stated, “Take your time. We are in no rush.”

Puck turned towards his friends' direction, as he replied, “Thanks.”

Meanwhile, Chang watched the married couple head to the tellers, as a thought then occurred to him, 'I wonder why they immediately did not go purchase some poker chips, when they got here?... Unless they were waiting for us... They wanted to meet us... Meet me... That also explains why they took their time, walking across this lobby. And given the inner workings of their Machiavellian minds, that is no way to know as to why they would go about meeting me in this way.'

'And I know better than to ask them. Still, I will just count ourselves lucky if these three behave during their stay here. And all evidence I have seen so far, points that they will. Though, there are a few other things I need to do, before the Xanato's family makes it to the gaming tables.'

'Including, reminding the dealers there is a limit in place for bets.'

With the married couple no longer in ear shot, Chang turned back to Zoe and Mal. He said, “Come on. We need to inform Spike that we have some foreign dignitaries to keep an eyes on.”

Puck overheard Chang. He turned to Chang, as he commented, “That is a nice way to put it.”

Chang turned to look at Puck, as he said, in a kind tone of voice, “You're welcome. Enjoy your stay.”

Puck replied, “We will.”

Chang then turned towards the gaming floor, as he started walking across the hallway, and gaming floor, to reach the pit boss on duty, which was Spike Spiegel.

Then, Zoe and Mal followed right behind Chang.

With Chang, Zoe, and Mal gone, River and Lee looked over at Puck, as Puck looked at them.

Puck inquired, “I noticed that you two were looking at me, a few times. So, what do you two want to talk about?”

River answered, “So many things.”

Lee said, “To start with. We are big fans.”

Puck stated, “It is always nice to be admired. I don't mind dealing with fans. As long as you are polite.”

Lee said, in a polite, sincere tone of voice, “We will be on our best behavior.”

Puck chuckled a little, as he realized Lee was quoting what he had told them, a few minutes ago.

Puck responded, “Touche. So, which one of you is Chang's girlfriend? I was wondering about that, myself.” He thought, 'Even Gomez's records were not exactly clear on that point.'

River said, “It is complicated.”

Puck thought, 'That means they are probably both involved with Chang, in some sort of three way. Not that I am one to judge.” He replied, “Isn't everything in life. Still, what you said to Fox was not wise.”

Lee responded, “She cannot be any more dangerous than Roberta, the Bloodhound.”

Puck conceded, “I will give you that one. Though, just try to stay on her good side from now on.”

Lee said, “I will do so. And thank you for stopping her, when you did.”

Puck responded, “She started it. If you had started it. I would have let her attack.”

Lee inquired, “I understand. Still, given the situation. And the fact my friends own and run this place. I have to ask, are you still bound by Oberon's decree? I am guessing after that little display with Fox, and Alex not being here, the answer is, no.”

Puck smirked, “And you would be correct. We found someone to remove that little problem. With Oberon, Titania, and the others, not having a clue about my newfound freedom.”

Lee sarcastically thought, 'Just great. A near immortal, reality bending magical trickster in this casino. And I doubt any iron bells are going to work with him. He knows to look out for such dangers. In all honestly, Puck is as intelligent and genre savvy as David and Fox. If not more so... Besides, if any of us tried such a trick against Puck, we would likely piss off all three of them. With even them, later on, possibly becoming the least of our problems.'

River read Lee's thoughts. She commented, “Well, we appreciate you deciding to be on your best behavior.”

Puck shrugged, as he answered, in a casual tone of voice, “It is okay. I am not in the mood for tricks, right now. Besides, I don't pull pranks while at work. It is bad form. And we are only staying for the evening.”

Lee thought, 'This is good. Also, I have a good idea why Puck is here as Puck, and not Owen.' Lee questioned, “Let me guess. The reason you are not as Owen, is that you have moved from being the stoic servant, to the witty servant?”

Puck complimented, “Yes. Very perceptive. While playing the ultimate straight man was fun, once everyone around me knew who I really was, the joke slowing soured. But, I still enjoy working for the kids. So, as soon as that binding spell was lifted, I started working as Puck, instead of Owen. And it has work out quiet well.”

Lee agreed, “Yes. A good balance between stoic and crazy can be fun.”

Puck responded, “You are right about that, Lee.”

Lee inquired, “From what Fox said, I am guessing you have heard about all of us?”

Puck answered, “Yes. We know about all of you. By the way, River, I love the red hair. And you look great. Sanity really appeals to you.”

River replied, “Thanks.”

Puck inquired, “I heard that Annie was here?”

Lee answered, “Yes. But, we asked her, and a few others, to avoid you three. No offense. But, I am not sure how your magic and her force would react to each other. And we really don't want to risk a fight between you, too.”

“So, while Annie is now a nice person, and I am sure you would get along with her, she and Fox might get into it. And if that happens, it will snowball from there. With the current theory being if you and her got into it, there is not be a city left. And that is not even counting Arcee.”

Puck responded, “I can understand you discretion on the matter. Maybe, I can see her again, when it is just myself whom is visiting.”

River said, “That would be possible.”

Puck replied, “Good.”

Lee thought, 'I take you cannot sense there thoughts.'

River shook her head once.

Lee thought, 'Damn.'

Puck commented, “It doesn't take long ears to tell you two are talking to each other. But, it helps. Let me guess, River. You are reading Lee's thoughts, and answering her in none verbal ways?”

River admitted, “Correct.”

Puck complimented, “Not bad. You two turn silent communication into an art form. Though, what I want to talk to you about is, Sam?”

River thought, 'Chang said that keeping this man happy is our number one priority. And I agree. He is the priority. And we will let Chang handle David and Fox. Still, we should be careful around him.' She coyly inquired, “You heard about that?”

Puck replied, “My dear. There have been many things I hear about.”

Lee suddenly became very aware of how public their surroundings were, as she suggested, “Perhaps this is not the best place to discuss such matters.” She thought, 'River, I don't like our private lives made open to the public.”

River quietly said, “Neither do I.”

Puck commented, with mischievous glee in his voice, “River, I can guess what thoughts you were responding to, from Lee. And what is the fun in taking this conversation some place private. While I promised to behave. That does not mean I cannot have a little fun. And I heard you two are very good at dealing with talking about things in plain sight, while appearing not too. So, we can make a game of how vague we can keep it.”

Lee thought, 'It is your call, River.'

River said, “Okay. Say your piece.”

Puck stated, “First, we have all read your stories, Lee. Contrary to Fox's abrasive tone of voice, we found them quite funny. From what you wrote, and what you have done since being hunted by the others you wrong. To the point where you are now. As one trickster to another, I am impressed.”

Lee questioned, “Thank you. You also hinted that you have seen your series? Is that true?”

Puck answered, “Oh course. And we all loved it. David even has a favorite episode. That being, the episode titled, Vows.”

Lee stated, “Of course. Because it showed, as he put it, how he became a self made man. And let me guess, your favor episode is, The Mirror.”

Puck responded, “Nope. My favorite episode is, The Gathering. Both parts. That two part episode is also Fox's favorite episode.”

Lee replied, “I can see why.”

Puck commented, “Thought, The Mirror, is a good second runner up.”

Lee requested, “So, what else do you have to say?”

Puck gave River and Lee a wicked grin, as he stated, “Well, for River here. I have to say your little role at Sam was truly entertaining to learn about. Before I heard what you pulled, as Sam. I thought my Owen gag was pushing the envelope of playing against the type. I was clearly wrong. River, you took it to a whole concept to new level. And you pulled it off, beautifully.”

A gray derby hat suddenly appeared on top of Puck head. He used his right fingers to tip the hat towards River, while still remaining on his head, as he said, “And I tip my hat off to you.”

A second later, the hat disappeared from Puck's head.

River thought, 'That was a very nice compliment on his part. And I will accept credit, where credit is due.' She said, warm tone of voice, “Well, thank you, Puck. And I was inspired by you.”

Puck happily responded, “As I expected.”

River mentioned, “Well, besides your role as Owen Burnett. You were the first to throw gender bending into the mix with that game, of playing against the type, in a modern setting. That was in the episode, Future Tense. When you pretend to be Elisa, when you tried to trick Goliath out of the Phoenix Gate.”

Puck raised an eyebrow, as he complimented, “Good memory. You know, you two are really a pair of jokers. And with a trickster like me, think of the fun we could have. We could even have a little contest?”

Lee flatly stated, “We will have no gag contests, here. We will have no giant eight balls rolling down the hallways.”

Puck caught Lee's reference, as he let out a laugh. He then questioned, “Night Court fan? Eh?”

Lee answered, “Yea. I loved that series. It was good on all levels. And Harry Stone was the first trickster character I was introduced to as a child.”

Puck said, “Girl, right at the beginning, you dived into the deep end of trickery.”

Lee agreed, “Yes. And I learned from both the best, and kindest, characters in that department.”

Puck responded, “And it shows. Still, you are being a bit of stick in the mud. I am surprised you haven't tried to pull any more gags on this island, after you got back from those chinese amazons.”

Lee said, “I am not surprised you know about that, as well. Considering I occasionally still dress in the clothing I had from the tribe I belonged too.”

Puck complimented, “And I must say those people have a real sense in fashion and style. Though, their sense of humor needs a little work.”

Lee thought, 'Interesting. It sounds like you have visited them, before.' She stated, “Thank you. And to answer you question. It is just that I do not want to upset, Revy, and her small army of badass women, again. Given each of them can be as scary and dangerous, as Demona, if not more so, on one of her bad days. I believe I have good reasons not to push my luck.”

Puck replied, “Point taken.”

Lee inquired, “By the way. I have always wondered. Why does Fox have orange hair? Does she dye it?”

Puck said, “No. That is her nature hair color. How she ended up with hair color, I don't know. And Alex has the same color hair. I guess Titania has a sense of humor.”

Lee responded, “Okay. That also explains why their son also has the same orange hair color. And I think we can agree that Demona has red hair because of her fiery personality... No offense, River.”

River replied, “None taken.”

Puck stated, “I would go along with that.”

River inquired, “What I would like to know is what is with pain associated with Demona's change? She has to go through it twice a day. I do not see how that is constructive. And your actions always seemed to level of constructiveness to them. Why you can be vindictive. Like anyone else. You clearly prefer not too. Much to our relief.”

“And given that Demona is one of your friends more dangerous enemies. I would think you would want to at least keep her in a good mood.”

Puck answered, “I will admit. That is a good question. The pain is tied to her level of hatred for humanity. The less she hates humanity, the less pain. No hatred for humanity, no pain.”

River pointed out, “It was might have been a good idea to tell her that, up front. After a thousand years of getting into trouble. She clearly is not one to learn from her own lessons, by herself.”

Puck said, “True. But, there are some things you have to learn on your own. No matter how long it takes. Anyway, speaking of tricksters, I heard that Jack Sparrow is around here, in some form. Jack owes me five gold dobla coins for a bet he lost to me, once.”

As Lee and River continued to look at Puck, they immediately realized several things about Puck, at that moment, including...

Lee thought, 'River, Puck has traveled between realities. And, from his point of view, he likely has been doing it for centuries, before any of us, from our realities did so. And I did not write any of this.'

River flatly said, “I realize all that, as well.”

Lee inquired, “So, you have traveled beyond your... Realm.” She mentally added, 'Realms can have many meanings. From kingdoms, to realities. And we need to try to keep this vague, and from any prying ears.'

Puck answered, “Oh yes. And for quiet a while. Magic works just as well as technology in that area of travel. And I have been to quite a few places, over the years.”

“I was even the one whom inspired Heinlein's, world as myth, theory...” Puck lightly chuckled. He then continued, “At least, in my realm.”

Lee thought, 'At least, he is using the term, realms. So, he is keeping the game we are playing. And I believe him on his claim to that theory.' She said, “I believe you are creatively crazy enough to pull that off.”

Puck responded, “Thank you. And that is a nice term. Creatively crazy. I like it. And before you ask. Yes. I believe one of my kind was Shakespeare. I am not sure which one. It wasn't me. But, my money is on Oberon himself. Or, maybe Titania, as either Shakespeare’s wife, Shakespeare, himself... Yea, she use to be as crazy as you, River. Though, she was a touch snobbish, when she was younger. Though, long, long before she had Fox, she finally emotionally grew up, and became a much more interesting person. Like, you, River.”

River replied, in a slightly confused tone of voice, “Thank you... I think.”

Lee thought, 'Before we continue this conversation. I better check on something.' She asked, “No to sound rude. But, are you sure this is the right Jack Sparrow? You could be looking for another Jack Sparrow, from an alternate reality?”

Puck coyly said, “Unlike others. I can tell one Jack, from another.”

Lee got the movie reference, from part three, of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. She commented, “That was an interesting scene.”

Puck commented, “True. Anyway, Jack's group literally fell into another realm, for a little while. And they got the attention of others. And the grapevine eventually reached me. I then track Jack down. With Jack and I ending up having such fun together.”

“And as I said. I believe that this is the same Jack as the one I met so long again, because I can tell that Chang here, and the others from his realm, are from the same realm, as the realm Jack was from.”

River said, “Interesting. Unfortunately, it would be unwise to contact Jack at this time.”

Lee agreed, “River is correct. It would only cause problems.”

Puck replied, “Mores the pity.” He then look over his left shoulder at David, Fox, and he saw that they were finished with the teller. David carrying a box of poker chips towards the floor, with Fox by his side, to his right, as they headed for the gaming floor.

Puck turned back to River and Lee, as he stated, “Well girls, it looks I need to head back to my friends. Still, we need to get together sometime, at a later date. Where we can have a more formal, sit down discussion, and debate on the finer points of trickery.”

River said, “Perhaps.”

Lee commented, “As long as we keep it civil.”

Puck gave them a warm smile, as he happily replied, “Then, I look forward to it.”

Then, River and Lee heard Pucks voice softly speak in both their mind, in a calm mental, tone of voice, with was emotionally pleasant for them to hear, in their minds, 'By the way, for someone with my abilities. Telepathy is a cakewalk. And don't worry, at the moment, only the two of you can hear me like this. Though, I do prefer not to use this little trick. I find it too easy.'

River complimented, in thought, 'Then, you are a better person than I, in that area of expertise.'

Puck said, out loud, “Thank you. And like I said, we really will have to do this again, some time.”

River and Lee then watched Puck turn and walk over join David and Fox, with him walking up a few feet behind them.

As River and Lee saw Puck follow right behind Fox and David, River took a few steps closer to Lee. She leaned over, as she whispered into Lee's left ear, “We're fucked? Aren't we?”

Lee thought, 'Absolutely to the wall. I suggest we don't give details about our little conversation with Puck, to Chang and the others, unless they ask. They are clearly going to have enough problems with David and Fox. And since Puck is the type of person that, while powerful, he prefers not to be a threat, unless provoked. There is no point in worrying about him harming us.'

River quietly said, “Agreed. Still, should I look go get some iron chains, and an iron bell.”

Lee thought, 'No. Absolutely not. If we harm Puck, especially in such a cheap manner, we rest invoking the wraith of not only the Xanatos clan, but the Third Race. The Children of Oberon, as well. Besides, as twisted as it sounds. Puck is the voice of reason... And most sane person in his little group.'

River leans back up right, as she softly replied, “Fine. We will just figure out a different way to help mitigate that situation.”

Lee thought, 'Exactly. And this is likely going to be a long night. Though, if they are just here to have fun, right now. And they plan to leave in a few hours. Then, we should just ride out this situation.'

River whispered, “I hope you are right. Because, I really don't see any other options we can take.'

Lee thought, 'I know.'

(_)

Nearby, as Puck followed behind David and Fox, he cracked a grin, as he overheard, with both with his long ears, and telepathically, River and Lee finish their conversation. He thought, 'Well, these kids are a lot more wiser than most of the people I deal with. And that is nice to know.

(_)

In front Puck, David and Fox entered the gaming floor, with them approaching one of less busy roulette tables.

While they continued walking, David asked, “So, do you still wish to go to the roulette wheel, first? Or, have you changed your mind?”

Fox coyly responded, “Yes. After that, I am not sure. We will see, I see how fun the wheel is. Then, we may play soon dice. Like you prefer.”

David commented, “That will be fine. Still, I wonder how our son is handling things?”

Fox stated, “Given Alex's training, and pedigree, I doubt he has much to worry about, over his plans for tonight.”

By then, the two spouses had reached the roulette table, and they started gambling.

(_)

At the moment, across town, in the restaurant of the Devil Hotel, Revy, Rock, and most of their friends and family were enjoying karaoke night at the stage, in the restaurant of the hotel.

Those present were Rock, Revy, Dutch, Benny, Janet, Ranma, Akira, Natsuru, Yolanda, Eda, Molly, Sarah, Kristina, Rebecca, Yukio, Yurika, Mikoto, Nodoka, Roberta, Lotton, Sawyer, and Shenhua.

The only ones not present were Barbossa, whom had retired to his suite early, to get some sleep. Along with Aeryn and Violin, whom were babysitting their young daughter, Gilina, in addition to watching Ivy, Wenqian, and Thomas.

The women were sitting in their usual tables, near the stage floor of the room.

There are also other customers scattered throughout the room. Along, with Melanie behind the bar, and a few waitresses serving drinks to the customers in the room.

Sawyer had just finished her karaoke version of Amazing Grace, which she got a standing ovation at the end for, and she was now exiting the stage. She soon made it to the table she shared with Lotton, Shenhua, Eda, Yolanda, and Roberta, where she sat back down in her seat.

Nearby, from the table Benny sat at, with Janet, Dutch, Rock, and Revy, Benny commented, “Look's like I am up.”

But, just as Benny was about to get out of her seat, someone immediately appear standing on on stage.

The person standing stage, facing the crowd, was a thirteen year old boy. He had fair skin, and orange hair that was cut short, and parted to his right side. He was very well physically fit for his age. He wore a pink turtleneck shirt that was tucked into black pants, along with a black belt, white socks, and black tennis shoes.

And unbeknownst to those in the room, the boy was Alexander Xanatos. The son of Fox and David Xanatos. And Alexander went by, Alex, to his friends.

All eyes turned on Alex, as he looked out at the crowd. He thought, 'Under different circumstances, I would be asking for autographs, right now. But, I just simply don't have the time.'

Benny quietly said, “I guess not.” She then sat back down in her seat.

At the table Janet, she asked those around her, “Who is that?”

Revy replied, “Whomever it is, it's a kid.”

At the table she was sitting at, Dutch commented, “Well, he just teleported here, so this cannot be good.”

Rock suggested, “Let us find out who he is? And then, we can politely ask him to come down, peacefully?”

Dutch replied, “Good idea.”

Revy look over at Alex, as she inquired, in a slightly loud tone of voice, “Hey you? Who are you?”

Alex looked over at Revy, as he thought, 'I would love to tell you who I am, Revy. And that I know who you are. But, if I did so, I would likely get in trouble with my parents. And my mother did teach me not be to open about who I am with strangers.'

Alex answered, “I would rather not say.”

Rock calmly asked, “So, why are you here?”

Alex thought, 'I might as well be honest.' He stated, “A personal test of character, courage, and conviction in one's actions, as it were.” He turned to look at the karaoke machine to his left, in the corner of the stage. He looked back at the crowd as he continued, “I see you guys like karaoke. So, I have one question, for all of you. Are you Jim Carrey fans?”

Suddenly, Alex's used his magic to turn his clothing into a male calypso costume. The costume had yellow shirt, with orange cloth ruffled sleeves on the arms. Black pants, with a black belt. And black dance shoes. Also, there was a pair of colorfully painted maracas attached to the right side of his belt.

With his new suit on, Alex said, in an excited tone of voice, “Hit it!” Suddenly, the karaoke machine started playing the song, Cuban Pete.

(_)

Meanwhile, back in the security room of Daiyu Palace Casino, Jayne and Wash watched as the Xanatos family made their way to a roulette table.

Jayne was sitting in a swivel chair, at a computer workstation. With Wash standing near him.

Jayne thought, 'Something bad is going on here, and I need answers. Though, these computer ID system is turning a blank on these three. Though, that is possibly because I do not have proper access. If these guys are as dangerous as Zoe stated, Chang could have put a lock on their files, for only him, Mal, Zoe, Arcee, Annie, River, and I guess, Lee.'

'And I with Wash here, I don't want to just search the internet for information on them. I don't want them to believe that I am still somewhere less well thought out, in my actions, and beliefs, than I really am.'

'Fortunately, I know just who to ask.'

Jayne then pulled his encrypted cellphone and dialed a number.

Wash noticed this, as he asked, “So, who are you calling?”

Jayne stated, “Someone that might have some answers, that I am good friends with. And I will let you know what is going on, as soon as I do.” He thought, 'And Zoe is right. It is nice to have you back, Wash. Next to Kaylee. You were the fun one of our group.'

Wash replied, “Thank you.”

Jayne said, “You're welcome.” He then held the phone to his right ear, he here the phone begin to ring.

A few seconds later, Jayne heard the other end of the line pick up, and a recognizable female voice said, in english, “Last Resort Diner. How can we help you, Jayne?”

Jayne requested, in a pleasant tone of voice, in english, “Hey Ed. Could I speak to Bob, real quick.”

Ed replied, “Sure thing.”

(_)

Across town, inside the Last Resort Diner, Ed was the acting cook, as she held the wireless phone to the restaurant, in her right hand, while standing near the stove, behind the counter.

Rico and Lori were acting as waitresses that shift, and Stan was washing dishes.

Lewis was on a date with Irene. And Leona was back in the apartment she shared with her sister, enjoying her day off.

Ed still had the wireless phone in her hand, away from her right ear. She stood facing the front double-door entrance to the diner, from behind the counter, in the center of the room.

Ed saw Lori walk across the front of the counter.

Ed said, “Lori.”

Lori stopped and turned to her wife.

Ed noticed this, as she stated, “Jayne is on the phone.” She thought, 'While I could just walk over and hand Bob the phone. This is the type of conversation, we need to keep form the customers.'

Lori replied, in english, “I will be right there.”

Lori walked behind the counter, to where Ed stood. Ed handed the phone to Lori. The redhead then went back to cooking one of their customer's orders.

Lori held the phone in her left hand. She held the phone to her left ear, as she said, “Hello.”

On the other end of the line, Jayne replied, “Hey Bob.”

Lori smiled, as she responded, “Hi Jayne. How are things going with you?”

Jayne answered, “Not so good. I have question that I think you can answer.”

Lori replied, “Sure. Go ahead and ask.”

(_)

At the casino, Jayne looked at the monitors, of River, and Lee walking over to join Chang, Mal, Zoe, and Spike, as all six adults watched the Xanatos family gamble, near by. He stated, “A few minutes ago, we have a couple of guests show up, with their servant, into the casino. And they seem to have rattled Zoe, Chang, River, and Lee.”

(_)

At the diner, Lori thought, 'It takes lot to get those four to be concerned.' She requested, “Describe them?”

Jayne said, “The man and woman are of average height, are both in physical good shape. The man is wearing a black suit, while the women is wearing an orange dress. The man has tanned skin and brown hair. He has a mustache and goatee, along with a short ponytail. The women is wearing an orange evening gown. She has fair skinned, with long orange hair, and she had teal tattoo around her right eye.”

Lori thought, 'Teal tattoo around her right eye... No. It could be them...' She asked, “What are their names?”

Jayne answered, “Zoe said their names were, David and Fox Xanatos.”

Nearby, with her enhanced hearing, Rico could not help but listen to what was going on, as Lori blurted out, “David and Fox Xanatos are at the casino?”

Lori's comment also caught Stan and Ed's attention, as well.

Rico, Stan, and Ed, all stopped what they were doing, as they listened to the conversation.

On the phone, Jayne replied, “Yes. “

Lori thought, 'Crap... Wait. Jayne said there was another person with them. Please, don't be who I think it is.' She inquired, “You said they had a servant there with them?”

Jayne answered, “Yes. I believe his name is, Puck. He is a small, fair skinned, skinny man. He has long white hair, and he is wearing a white business suit. Also, he had long, pointed ears. I would guess that he looks like an elf. He might be an elf.”

Lori responded, “Actually, you are not that far off the mark.” She thought, 'Oh hell. It is, Puck. But, is he still under Oberon's spell that binds his powers to protecting, and teaching magic to, Alexander Xanatos? There is one way to know for sure...” She inquired, “Is there a child with them? A boy?”

Jayne answered, “No. I did not see them come in with any children.”

Lori thought, 'If Alex is not there, and Puck is showing his true form. Chances are that the binding spell on his powers has been removed. This is very bad. The only good news is that while David and Fox are, on their best days, civil, but dangerous. Puck is a much nicer person. While Puck is dangerous and powerful, he is also good natured, and honorable. Meaning, he won't start a fight, unless he has to. But, I need to warn Jayne.'

Lori stated, in a serious tone of voice, “Jayne, I want you to listen very carefully. Do not do anything towards these people. Do not bother them. David and Fox are each as dangerous as Roberta, River, Chang, or Balalaika. And their servant is more dangerous than Annie, or Arcee. Let Chang, River, and Lee handle them.”

“Also, if it looks like things are about to go to hell. Get out of there. Don't try to fight them. And don't mention this information to Mal, or Zoe, or Wash, for that matter. Mal and Zoe might do something stupid, if they knew the level of danger you are all in. And Wash will mention what you tell him to the other two.”

Jayne commented, “Actually, from the way Zoe was acting, I think she realizes this, and she is letting Chang take lead.”

Lori replied, “Good. I was worried she might try something unwise.”

Jayne asked, “So, do you have any good news for us?”

Lori answered, “Yes. The good news is that, chances are, if the Xanatos are making such an open showing, it means they are doing something underhanded, but not an immediate danger to any of you.”

Jayne said, “Understood. And thank you.”

Lori inquired, “You're welcome. Is there anything else?”

Jayne asked, “Yea. Are we still on for beer night, on Thursday, at eight?”

Lori replied, “Sure. If you don't mind being a woman.”

Jayne stated, “It sucks that you wife doesn't trust me around you as a guy.”

Lori looked over at Ed, whom was looking back at her. She agreed, “Yea. It does. Still, it is not that bad.”

Ed just shrugged towards Lori, before she turned and went back to cooking.

Jayne replied, “Well, I have reached the point I don't mind.”

Lori commented, “And you can change back and forth, while I not long can.”

Jayne stated, “Some things we just can't help. Still, you are a great person to have as a drinking buddy. And as long as I don't have to wear anything frilly, nor short, below the waist. I don't care.”

Lori said, “Good. I will see you then.”

Jayne replied, “Bye.”

Lori said, “See you later.”

Jayne ended the connection on his end of the line, just as Lori did the same. Lori then hung up the phone on its base, on the back wall, away from the stove.

Ed continued cooking, as she casually asked, “So, what is going on over at the casino?”

Lori answered, “The Xanatos family showed up at Chang's casino. David and Fox. Along with Puck. Not Owen. Puck.”

Ed commented, “Well then, those three and those at the casino, are going to be in for a ride.”

Lori replied, “I agree. And it means we are going to have to avoid the casino for a while.”

Ed agreed, “True. Also, it sounded like the Xanatos' son, Alexander was not there.”

Lori said, “Yea. You're right on the money. And that concerns me, as well. Also, I doubt Alexander is a baby, anymore.”

Ed commented, “Possibly. And Alexander could be a handful, by himself.”

Lori responded, “I agree. Let's just hope we don't get mixed up in this mess.”

Ed said, “Yes. I would prefer it is we just watched.”

Lori commented, “Honey, you are preaching to the choir.” She then thought, 'I am glad that Irene and Leona are not here, right now. Because, I don't want to explain to them what is going on. Still, I will have to tell Lewis what is going on, when he gets finished with his date with Irene.'

'Speaking of which, I hope their date goes well for both of them. And at least they are not having their date anywhere near the casino, Devil's Hotel, nor the Rats Nest bar.'

'Though, I will find out, later. For now, I need to held back to my job.'

Lori then went back to waiting, and cleaning, tables.

Nearby, Rico and Stan heard Ed and Lori's comments. Though, they did not comment on the matter. But, as they continued going back to their work, they thought about the news they had just heard.

(_)

Back in the main security room of Daiyu Palace Casino, Jayne put away his cellphone.

Jayne continued to watch the Chang, River, and Lee, Mal, Zoe, along with the Xanatos family, on the monitors on the wall, as he thought, 'At least Bob explained what was going on. And I will just have to be careful, and keep an eye on what is currently happening on the game floor.'

Wash asked, “So, what is it?”

Jayne turned to look at Wash, with Wash looking back at him.

Jayne stated, “Well, those people are some major players, from another reality. And it is best if we just let the others handle them. So, grab a seat. This is going to be a long night.”

Wash replied, “Thanks for letting me know.”

Jayne said, “You're welcome. And it is good have you back.”

Wash stated, “Good to be back. By the way, did I hear right. That you are going drinking Thursday night, as woman?”

Jayne said, “Long story on that one. But, it is not what you think.”

Wash commented, “At this point. For both of us. And our family and friends. There are likely very few mysteries when it comes to either gender.”

Jayne stated, “From am a physical standpoint. I guess so. But, from an emotional standpoint. There is still plenty of mystery. In a lot of ways, I am still a very simple person. In either gender. And that is also the case for me in best.”

Wash teased, “Don't tell me your cheap?”

Jayne said, “No. I just don't play games, like our friends do.”

Wash commented, “You always were simple in that way. So, you have done it in both forms?”

Jayne retorted, “Like you haven’t done with Zoe, both ways, for both of you.”

Wash replied, “Good point. And you would be correct.” Wash cracked a grin, as he continued, “You know I haven't seen your female form.”

Jayne responded, “And I have not seen your female form.” He playfully went onto say, “How about, you show me yours. I will show you mine.”

Wash chuckled a little. He then said, “Maybe later”

Jayne inquired, “That would be fine. So, are you ever going to give us the details on what you were up to for the last several years, as you grew up?”

Wash coyly replied, “Sometime. When I have permission for my parents.”

Jayne said, “Fair enough. And I hope you are not keeping these secrets from your wife.”

Wash stated, “I am not. And Zoe knows to keep quiet.”

Jayne suggested, “Good. Now, let's got back to watching what is going on, concernining these special guests.”

Wash agreed, “Good idea.”

Jayne and Wash then walked over to a couple of the workstations, set downs the wall with the monitors. They each sat down in a chair, as they continued to monitor the situation.

(_)

Fortunately, events went smoothly that night at the casino. About a half hour of playing at the roulette table, the Xanatos moved to one of the dice tables. Later on, they tried their hand at some of the card games, as well.

An hour after the Xanatos family had started gambling, Takenaka had finished his job of planting his electronic bugs, and he then slipped out of the casino, unnoticed, except for the Xanatos family, whom noticed him leave, as scheduled.

Two hours after Takenaka left, the Xanatos family called it a night. They exchanged their poker chips for money. And they found they had broke even for the night.

During this time, Chang was professional enough to say good night to the Xanatos family, and have their limo waiting for them, under the awning, outside the front entrance.

When they reached the front entrance, Puck redeemed the ticket stub, from valet that head the keys to the limo. Once Puck had the keys, he used the clicked on his keyring to make sure the doors were unlocked. After which, he opened the back door of the limo, which faced them. That being the right side of the vehicle.

After David and Fox entered the limo from the back, Puck closed the door behind them. He then walked around to the front left driver door. He opened the door and got in. Next, he closed the door, started the engine, and gently drove out of the parking lot of the casino, and into the streets of Plata Podrido.

With the Xanatos family gone, River and Lee had decided head up to the penthouse to get some sleep.

Meanwhile, Chang stayed downstairs, with Mal, Zoe, and Spike, until Jayne called Chang, on Chang's cellphone, to inform Chang that Wash and him had tracked an outbound reality jump, which they guessed was the Xanatos family.

Chang stated he believed that was the case. He then turned Mal and Zoe, as he kept his cellphone turned on. Chang ordered that his security team to assign some personnel to do some security sweep of the first floor. Just to be sure that everything was fine. And that he, Mal, and Zoe, would have a meeting, sometime in the middle of the morning of the next day. To talk about what happened that night.

Mal said that would not be a problem.

Chang then used his cellphone to contact Annie and Arcee. He informed them that the Xanatos family was gone, and everything was back to normal.

Chang then put up his cellphone, and he head up to the penthouse, to get some sleep, as well.

(_)

Meanwhile, at the Devil's Hotel restaurant, twenty minutes after Alex had first arrived in the restaurant, the party was in full swing, with dancing and music.

There had been several songs played and a lot of fun had.

And the party had evolved into a massive conga line on the floor, with the present customers, and staff, being a part of it. And Alex was at the front of conga line, with maracas in his hands, while he had a wonderful time.

But, Alex could sense that the song was winding down, and so what his spell that kept it all together.

Alex continued dancing, and directing the conga line, between the tables, as he thought, 'While I am having a ball, I really need to cut this short. I wonder if this is how Cinderella felt like at midnight. And while everyone is having a good time. Most of it is the magic. And I can only compel people to act in the way I want for so long. Though, since I just had people dance and have a good, casual time. I doubt any of them will have any hard feelings over the matter. Now, to end this.'

The music then started its downward tempo in ending, Alex stopped the conga line. He then put away his maracas, back into this belt.'

Next, Alex took a step from the crowd, with the women behind him letting go of his waist. He then took a few more steps, before he turned around, to face the crowd.

Alex calmly said, “See you later.” He then took a bow.

A second later, Alex instantly disappear from sight, as the song came to an end.

Then, it was as if a mental veil had been lifted over everyone, with everyone coming to their senses, as the conga line fell apart.

Kristina asked, “What just happen?”

Yurika said, ““I think we just got played. Big time.”

Sarah commented, “At least it was in a fun way.”

Molly agreed, “True.”

Nearby, Eda commented, “Aeryn and Violin are not going to believe what just happened.”

Lotton pointed out, “The important part is that the kids are with them. Out of harms way. And not here.”

Shenhua stated, “Yes. Much to our relief.”

Sawyer said, “It is good they were none of them were present for this.”

Shenhua replied, “I agree.” A thought then occurred to her, as she turned to Revy. She coyly asked, “Revy. Is everything still fine, upstairs?”

Revy turned to Shenhua. She understood what Shenhua meant by her question. Revy answered, “Yea. I am fine. And all me.” She thought, 'I can sense that my Jack persona is still sealed.'

Shenhua said, “Good.” She thought, 'My memories of Barbossa are sealed.'

Yolanda looked around, as she stated, “At least, no one seems to be upset.”

Nearby, Roberta said, “That's good.”

Revy stated, “I am still annoyed that boy could pull a trick on us, like that, so easily.” She thought, 'And it has only been hours sense Jack was sealed. If I had still be Jack, with that boy here. Things could have turned really bad. With the things I would have suggested to the boy might want to try with his powers.'

Akira responded, in an offhanded manner, “Oh, come on, Revy. You have admit it was fun.”

Revy said, “I will put this way. I am not angry about what happened.” She thought, 'I am just upset that I have had my mind played with twice in one day. The most upsetting part, is that I enjoy both times that this has happened, today. Though, with some many customers here. I cannot make a scene, without people asking questions. And there are secrets I have that I would rather not be made public.'

Akira casually replied, “Well, that is good.”

Natsuru said, “It is nice that kid has good taste in music, or there might have been problems.”

Ranma commented, “I am just surprised that everyone could stay in beat with each other.”

Revy inquired, “So, how could he get all of us to go along with him so quickly? And so easily?”

Eda commented, “Well, most likely, that was magic the boy used on us.”

Dutch said, “Obviously.”

Lotton stated, “I will give that boy props. Jim Carrey's The Mask, is one of my favorite films. And that Cuban Pete scene, with the cops, was a classic.”

Sawyer said, “And it nice to meet someone who knows how to really dance and sing.”

Shenhua asked, “Should we tell Chang, and the others at the casino, about this?”

Rock stated, “Oh yes... But, we will call Mal tomorrow morning. Because if this happened to us. There is a good chance something happening at the casino, right now.”

Dutch suggested, “Should we head over there?”

Rock answered, “No. If they cannot handle such a situation. No one can.” She mentally reflected, 'And with magic, that boy had us. Like putty in his hands. We are just extremely lucky that all he wanted to do was have a little harmless fun.'

Benny asked, “So, who was that boy?”

Rock stated, “I think I know who it is. But, I want to check with Mal, and Chang, first.” She thought, 'If I am right, then it is likely Chang and the others will be having their hands full tonight with that boy's parents.'

Janet agreed, “Good idea.”

Mikoto stated, “Waiting till tomorrow morning will all us time to clear our heads.”

Rock agreed, “Exactly.”

Nodoka asked, “Still, why would that boy pulls such a trick on us, of all people?”

Revy deadpanned, “That's obvious. He said it was a test. He knows who we are and he wants to see if he could get away with pulling off such a stunt on us.”

Ranma commented, “Well, considering no one was harmed. I would suggest we let what he did go. We had some fun. And I have been through much worse with magic. This is just a mild taste, when compared to some of the things I have been through.”

Dutch stated, “I agree with Ranma. There is not much we can do. Besides, he clearly likes us. And I really don't want to piss off someone that can make us dance on command, and have us like doing so.”

Benny said, “It was the, liking, part that I could not get.”

Janet stated, “Me, neither.”

Benny commented, “But, I am with Dutch on this.”

Janet agreed, “Same here.”

Revy said, “Alright. I will let things be.”

Ranma replied, “Good.”

Rock looked around and saw the other customers in the room, whom were not part of her family and friends, talking amongst themselves.

Rock thought, 'There were so many witnesses to this. That this is not good. I need to speak to someone about this.'

Rock then noticed Melanie nearby, with Melanie looked at her.

Rock thought, “She'll do.' She asked, “Melanie. What about everyone else that is here during this event? There might be questions.”

Melanie answered, “I doubt it. Weird stuff like this occasionally happens in Plata Podrido. Even before your group showed up. Since no one has been hurt. By tomorrow morning. Not many people are going to talk much about this, nor ask many questions. As such, it will likely be completely swept under the rug within a week.”

Rock replied, “Well, that is good.”

Melanie commented, “I know. Though, I do now need to deal with the crowd.”

Melanie then looked around the room, at the crowd, as she stated, in a loud tone of voice, “Okay everyone. Since no one was hurt. We are just going to go back to what we are doing, and continue the night like normal. Alright?”

Everyone quieted down, as they turned to look at Melanie. Though, no one responded

After a few seconds of silence, Melanie continued, “Good. Now, to help settle everyone's nerves. I am offering a free beer to anyone that wants it. Just let your waitress know.”

That was a mild cheering, as customers went back to their tables, and the staff went back to their jobs.

A few minutes later, karaoke singing resumed, with Benny being next in line.

Eventually, everyone called it a night, paid their bar tabs and tips. Then, they left to get some sleep for the night.

(_)

Reality, Gargoyles reality. Date, Saturday, October seventieth, two thousand nine. Place, the dining room of Castle Wyvern, on top of Xanatos Enterprises Tower, in New York City. Time, morning.

It was hours passed dawn, in the morning. The Gargoyles living in the castle, had long since turned back to stone for the day.

David, Fox, and Alex Xanatos sat around the dining room table, having breakfast, which was served by Puck, in a conventional, none magical way.

While Puck was a magical being, he preferred to prepare, and cook the meals he served the Xanatos family, by hand. He found it to be more professional, and he enjoyed cooking. And he did not want such skills, he had, to get rusty, in case he lost his powers again.

This morning, Puck had prepared a simple breakfast for the Xanatos family. With scrambled eggs, toast, a selection of jellies, an assortment of sliced fruits, and an assortment of a dozen fresh bagels, that Puck had ordered in from a nearby bakery in New York City.

To drink, Alex had a glass of orange juice, while both David and Fox each had a cup of coffee, and a glass of ice water.

Everyone present had already had a good night's sleep. With them dressed and ready for the day. Along with this, Alex did not have to worry about school, given it was a Saturday morning.

As they ate their breakfast, and sipped their drinks, they were having a casual conversation on various topics.

Fox took a sip of her coffee. She then set her cup down, on the table, as she commented, “I am pleasantly surprised that none of the others of the castle asked where we went last night.”

David calmly stated, “Let's not look a gift horse in the mouth.” He thought, 'Though, I have begun to wonder why none of them had asked why Puck has started staying as Puck, for the most part. Not that I am going to mention that out loud. Goliath and the others are very sharp. They must be wondering about that binding spell on Puck, that they don't know is now broken. Still, they won't address an issue unless it becomes a problem.'

Fox shrugged, as she replied, “Perhaps.” She then noticed Puck coming by with a pot of coffee, to refill her glass. She turned to Puck, as she asked, “Well, Puck. I have been meaning to ask you. How did your little conversation go, with those two women, at the casino?”

Puck came to a stop be Fox. He used the coffee pot he held, with his right hand, by the handled, to refill Fox's cup of coffee. Not a single dropped spill, as he did so.

Puck then held the pot back up, as he answered, “It was very enjoyable. Those two women clearly know a thing or about trickery.”

Fox commented, “Coming from you, that is a high compliment.”

Puck replied, “Yes. And I hope to visit them again, some time.” He the headed to attend to David and Alex.

Fox offered, “We might be able to make arrangements for that.”

David stated, “Yes. We don't mind you making new friends. Now, onto another matters.” He turned to his son, as he inquired, “So, Alex how was you evening, yesterday? You mother would not tell me what you had planned. But, I trust it was interesting.”

Alex responded, “Oh, it was. Do you remember that dance scene I liked, in the comedy movie, The Mask?”

David replied, “Yes.”

Puck came to a stop. He turned to Alex, as he accused, “You didn't.”

Alex cracked a grin, as he admitted, “I did.”

Fox commented, “As a trickster, Puck. I would believe that you would appreciate what he did?”

Puck responded, “I admit. That movie was entertaining. And a good primer on trickery. But, there are just some things one does not do, unless absolutely necessary.”

David calmly thought, 'And that is why you are Alex's teacher, Puck. When it comes to magic. You understand the responsibility that comes with such power. And you have kept that power from corrupting my son. By showing him ways to use it, that are harmless fun, but still useful. Now, to find out how foolish Alex has been.'

David turned to Alex, as he calmly asked, “What did you do, son?”

Alex looked over at his father, as he stated, in a slightly prideful tone of voice, “I followed you three to that reality you went to, last night. I spent twenty minutes there. Though, instead of going to the casino, I went to the restaurant in the Devil's Hotel, on the other side of the island. There I met those Black Lagoon women. Among others. Whom I read about in those computer files you have. Concerning them.”

“And then, I had the karaoke machine start playing, Cuban Pete, and a few other songs. While we sang and danced. We even did a conga line, together. Where I was in the front. Eventually, I literally disappeared, before the spell fully ran its course.”

David could not believe what he had just heard, as he flatly asked, in a tone of disbelief, “You did what?”

Alex responded, in a casual tone of voice, “Relax, dad. I didn't do anything to bad. And everyone had some fun. It was a basic mind trick spell, is all. And all they did was dance and sing a little. So, I should be fine...” He turned to his mother, Fox, as he continued, “I mean, I talked to mother, before I did it. And even mom here said it was okay for me to do this.”

David turned to Fox, as he flatly asked, “Fox?”

Fox turned to her husband, David, as she calmly answered, “I believe our son needs to learn how to handle strong women. So, I gave him my blessing for his plan.”

David stated, with serious tone of voice, with a hint of worry to his tone, “While, I agree that our son needs to learn that lesson. I do not consider taunting some of the most dangerous women in the multiverse as wise way to do so. It is not wise to upset such women.”

Fox shrugged, as she calmly responded, “You may have a point there. But, what is done, is done.”

David sighed, as he thought, 'I am not going to win this discussion.' He turned to Alex, as he requested, “Fine. But, next time, Alex, talk to me, before you decide to do something like this. I do not want you to get hurt.”

Alex turned to his father, as he said, “I understand. And I promise I will.”

David replied, “Thank you, son.”

The Xanatos family then continued on their conversation for another half hour, before they finished their meals, and went about the rest of their day, occurring to the schedules they had set for themselves.

(_)

Reality, Pedro and Lee's reality. Date, Wednesday, morning after the Xanatos visit to Plata Podrido, Mexico. Place, Chang office on the penthouse floor of the Daiyu Palace Casino. Time, middle of the morning.

It was around the middle of the morning, as Chang, Mal, and Zoe, held a private security meeting, in Chang's office. They were discussing the events of the previous day. Mostly concerning the Xanatos family.

Chang had decided to wait until the middle of the morning, to allow for all three of them to have a good night's sleep, with plenty of time to get ready for the meeting.

Chang sat in his chair, behind his desk. In front of Chang's desk, Zoe sat in the chair to his right, with Mal sitting in the chair to his left.

Due to this being a private meeting, the door to Chang's office was closed. Which was unusual for Chang.

The first part of their meeting had covered what Chang was present for. Now, they were talking about anything else on the matters pertaining to last night.

Chang calmly asked, “So, are there any other items that I not know about?”

Zoe answered, “Two items of note.”

Chang questioned, “What is the first one?”

Zoe stated, “This morning, Rock called the casino security. It seems they had a run in with someone last night. And they guessed something may have happened here, as well. Which is why they call us, instead of you, directly.”

Chang complimented, “Rock has always had sharp instincts on these matters. So, what happened?”

Zoe said, “I did not get all the details, but a teenage boy, with fair skin, and orange hair, cause them some minor trouble. He seems to display magical abilities, and he escaped.”

Chang commented, “So, that was where the son was. At least, we now know where he was during that time.” He thought, 'And Alex is not a teenager. Though, he must either still be immature, or crazy, to try something with those women. And given his age, and his teacher is Puck. It could be either possibility.'

Chang stated, “That was likely Alexander Xanatos. Also, known as, Alex. He is David and Fox's son. And it seems that he has grown some, since we last heard of him. Which only makes that situation more dangerous.”

Mal asked, “Should we be concerned about him?”

Chang answered, “No. Whatever he did over there, must have not been that serious. Or, we would have heard more than just a phone call from Rock. Alexander likely just did that out of pure fun. With no one harmed. Did you informed Rock of what happened last night at the casino?”

Zoe replied, “No. I figured it would be best for you to handle informing them.”

Chang said, “Thank you. And I will take care of it, later.” He thought, 'I will call Rock later, and talk to her over the matter. I will tell her what happened last night with us. And we will compare notes.'

Chang requested, “And the other matter?”

Mal said, “In our sweeps, last night, our security teams turned up some electronic bugs on the gaming floor, and restaurant.”

Chang inquired, “Why was I not notified sooner?”

Mal stated, “We only just finished our sweeps an hour ago. And it also took a little time to back track on the cameras, and find out who was responsible for planting those bugs, last night. And that person is long gone. And the bugs taken care of. There was no urgency to inform you sooner.”

Chang said, “Fair enough. So, who is this person?”

Mal pulled out his cellphone, from a pocket, and he then selected picture. He handed his cellphone, across the desk, to Chang.

As Chang took Mal's cellphone and looked at the picture of a man, in a gray suit, on it, Mal stated, “We took this photo from the security cameras. The person in question is a middle-aged japanese man. We have yet to identify him. They only thing we do know, is he is good at this. And he has clearly done this before. He slipped in during the commotion with the Xanatos family. He then played a few hands of cards, and had a few drinks, as he slowly worked his way around the gaming floor, and restaurant.”

“He also had a casual, relaxed demeanor about himself. Which even fooled Faye and Spike were fooled. Once he was finished planting his electronic bugs, he did even bother to cash out his chips. He just walked out the front door.”

“And even the electronic bugs are interesting. They were pre-programed not to turn on for a number of hours, after he left. So, there would be less chance the sensors on the gaming floor would pick up the tiny machines. At least, while he was there.”

“And these bugs are not just audio recorders. The techs are having a field day with them.”

“On top of quality audio recording, these bugs can scan through the furniture and walls. The detail of the scans can tell, in detail, who is who. Along with the audio recording, together, the recordings could identify us, and record our schedules, for those that come and go from the gaming floor and restaurant.”

“In addition, the bugs designed to record, but only broadcast, all together, in a single, data burst, at the same time. A few days from now. We guess that whomever planted them, would show up them.”

“The problem is that these bugs broadcast on a frequency that we have problems tracing. Also, it is a long range signal. So, even if they return, they will likely not be on this island. And we cannot trace them.”

“This was clearly first step, in a long term plan to breach our security. Learn our routine for one section, so next time, they could breach further into the casino.”

“Whomever this man is. He is a pro. He knows what he is doing. And he is very likely working for someone with deep pockets, and interesting resources.”

Chang continued to look at the picture, on Mal's cellphone, as he commented, “These guys are smoother than we thought. That is Masahiro Takenaka. He is from my reality. He is one of the few people to have a brush with both Revy and Rock, and live.” He mentally reflected, 'Considering, after I took over Roanapur, he was one of the few I was interested in, that escaped my hunters. I always wondered what happened to him. Now, I know. And I am glad he is still in the game. Also, from this picture, he is looking great.'

Chang then handed Mal back his cellphone. Mal took his cellphone, and he put it back into the pocket, that he had pulled it from.

Zoe asked, “Who is this, Mashahiro Takenaka?”

Chang turned to Zoe and Mal, as he stated, “A communist terrorist from Japan, that ran from his homeland, and into exile. He eventually became a freelance spy and mercenary. I always wondered what happened to him. Now, I know.”

Mal inquired, “Do you think he is connected with the Xanatos family?”

Chang flatly answered, “Oh, hell, yes. While I know it is hard to believe. I wouldn't be surprised, that last night, the Xanatos family used themselves as a distraction, towards us, so we would be so caught up in handling them, that Takenaka could sneak in, plant his electronic bugs, and sneak out, without us realizing it. And their plan work, perfectly. And I would expect nothing less from the Xanatos family.”

“Though, they probably didn't take into account that we regularly sweep for electronic bugs. And after that robbery, two days ago, we have beefed up security. Including, how often we do those sweeps.”

Chang though, 'If robbery had not happened. It could have been weeks until we spotted those bugs. So, it seems that robbery was actually fortuitous for us.'

Mal thought, 'I have never seen both Zoe and Chang so concerned about potential enemies. That worries me.' He asked, “Are the Xanatos family really this diabolical?”

Zoe and Chang turned to Mal, as they answered, almost in unison, “Yes.”

Zoe said, “Captain... Mal... The Xanatos family are one of the few groups that I doubt even River, Annie, Roberta, and Arcee, working together, could take then down in a fight.”

Chang agreed, “Zoe is not joking. They are that formidable.”

Mal hesitantly said, “Okay. They are dangerous.” He thought, 'I will have to watch that Gargoyles series, then. Again. I guess I should have paid attention, that time the Lowe family loaned up their copy, to watch on the Serenity. Though, I will admit. While I did not care for the series, the rest of the crew did. Chang had fun rewatching it. Jayne and Zoe both commented they considered it interesting. Kaylee and River said they enjoyed it. And Simon commented that it was worth a watch.'

Chang stated, “Exactly. The Xanatos family never do something on the spur of the moment. They will always have a plan. Which means the we are now caught up in a Xanatos gambit, by the very people whom invented the concept of a Xanatos gambit.”

Mal thought, 'I may as well ask.' He inquired, “Given how knowledgeable Lee has. What is Lee's opinion on the Xanatos family?”

Chang said, “Lee has on occasion, called David Xanatos the Master of Gambits. After all, the Xanatos gambit is named after David Xanatos. And Fox, Puck, and likely David and Fox's son, Alex, are just as good as David is, at playing this type of game.”

Mal asked, “Then, how should we proceed?”

Chang answered, “Very cautiously. These people are all about plans, moves, and counter moves. They are one of the few people that could probably out think Lee on working the angles. And Lee even admitted that to me.”

Mal thought, 'Considering, if she wanted to, Lee can play us like a fiddle. This is bad. Very bad.' He suggested, “If they truly are that dangerous. Perhaps, we should head to their home reality, and investigate them further?”

Chang flatly stated, “No. While they are one of the more dangerous groups and individuals, in that reality. For all the dangers the Xanatos family present. They are pragmatic. They possibly realize how dangerous reality travel would be, in the wrong hands. And as such, they have likely kept the secret of reality travel from their contemporaries, in their home reality.”

“Where as, there are other, dangerous individuals, in their home reality, whom would likely become very destructive. On a genocidal level. If they gained reality travel technology, and the benefits such technology could afford one to have.”

Zoe thought, as she realized, 'Demona would likely be at the top that list. Still, there is something else we can do.' She said, “I suggest we have all the security staff, and upper management, see the Gargoyles series, as soon as possible.”

Chang stated, “I agree. I have the original english copy of the series on the casino computers. For just this occasion. We will pull some copies from there.”

Zoe thought, 'Intelligent thinking, Chang.'

Mal thought, 'At least, I don't have to embarrass myself, in asking for a copy.'

Zoe went onto say, “I will also start working on a basic profiles on each of the Xanatos family members. Their known history. Their abilities. Their known family, friends, and associates. I should have a file for the security staff, and the upper management, by this evening.”

Chang complimented, “Good idea. Because, until we learn more about what their plans are. And who their allies are. All we can do right now is keep our guard up. And I do not like playing defensive. I do not like that at all.”

To be continued.



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