Badasses Of the Multiverse: Book 6: Volume 2: Chapter 08

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

Volume 2: “The Villains.”

Chapter 08: Epilogue: “Population: Badass”: Part Four: “Whatever Will Be, Will Be...”
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's home reality.

Date, a day after Chang's forces left, and then returned a few minutes later, local time, after attacking Gomez's spacestation.

Place, somewhere in high orbit, over Earth, closer to Earth, than Earth's moon.

Time, a late Saturday morning for those in De La Plata Podrido.

Matthew and Pedro flew through space in their white painted thunderbolt starfury. With their mission being to stop Nachla Geeze from potentially wiping out all life on Pedro's homeworld, with the ten biological missiles she had attached to her white pained thunderbolt starfury.

The two men had just reality jumped their starfighter to Pedro's home reality, in orbit of Earth, less than a minute ago.

The thunderbolt starfury was a two-seater starfighter. With one seat set behind the other side. With both men strapped to their seats, in crisscross straps.

Matthew was at the pilot's seat, which was the front seat. And Pedro was sitting in the gunner's seat. This was because, a few years ago, Matthew had been taught how to fly a starfury, during his time working for Michael Garibaldi, as a lawyer at Edgar's Industries, on Mars dome, in the Babylon Five reality.

On the other hand, Pedro did not know how to fly the ship. So, for once, it was Pedro whom had to rely on Matthew to do the fighting for the both of them. While Pedro was polite about the matter, when it came to his pride as a Police Chief of an entire city, the situation did not sit very well for him.

Fortunately, Matthew was displaying his skills in flying the ship they were in.

As they continued to chase after Nechla, Pedro asked, “How are we doing?”

Matthew answered, “Everything is looking good. I can see her on our instruments. We even teleport on the same orbital trajectory. And I have the engines going a little faster than she is going. So, we are gaining on her.”

Pedro inquired, “Given the fuel you are using, right now. Are we going to have enough fuel to land this thing on Earth?”

Matthew commented, “We can make it to the moon and back to Earth, before I would worry about the fuel.”

Pedro said, “Okay. I just had to ask.”

Matthew replied, “I understand.”

The two men continued their chase of the dangerous alien woman.

(_)

At that moment, slightly closer to the Earth, Nechla was piloting her white thunderbolt starfury, from the front seat.

As Nechla did so, she mentally lamented, 'Very soon, I will have my revenge. For what was done to myself, and my people. For all that was taking away from me. From being stripped of my rank of Poniff, to being declared an enemy of the stay. But, I accidentally brought back that gender bending virus, that effected Oriotera. My homeworld, and the capital of my Federation.'

“And not that Federation created by those from that backwater world of Earth, in other realities.'

'Our, Federation. The true Federation.'

'Also, we had a few years where Oriotera was quarantined from the rest of the Galaxy. That upset a lot of wealthy, politically powerful people, whom were stuck on the planet. Fortunately, a treatment was developed that stopped the disease from spreading, and changed the gender transformation trigger from water temperature, to changing at will.'

'And of course, somehow had to get blamed for all this. And while that intruding human man did originally convince my superiors not to punish me. Due to political pressures, I eventually was blamed, and I was arrested. Instead of that intruder, whom I was tracking through the multiverse... I believe he was a male human named Bob.'

'Though, I did stay imprisoned for a while. So, I could wait for them to medically treat me for that virus. Like everyone else. Once I was no longer contagious, I escaped my holding cell. The irony was that escaping my holding facility was the easy part. Getting off of Oriotera was the hard part.'

'I am glad I waited. I saw no point in trying to escape, and risk infecting the rest of my Federation. And now I can control the change at will. Like the others that were treated. Better to change at will, than with water temperature. Considering, I like both swimming, and taking a hot bath, as a woman.'

'Though, there was no point in waiting until after my trail, to escape. Because, while I was Poniff, I was part of that court process. I knew the trial was just a formality. And they were going to convict and sentence me to life in prison.'

'So, I escaped before my trial. As such, they tried me in absentia, found me guilty, and sentenced me to life in prison, when I was caught.'

'Fortunately, Gomez rescued me. Because he saw the value of me, as a person, my knowledge, and my skills. And even though we were previously enemies, I am grateful for him saving me. That was why I never betrayed him. And instead, I just bide my time, until he was too busy to stop me from having my revenge.'

'As such, I was loyal and quiet, towards Gomez, as I discreetly prepared for my revenge. And Gomez never suspected a thing from me.'

'And I have to ask... What was all this suffering for? Against me, my homeworld, and other places and people?... Some cheap entertainment from a backwater world that did not even have space travel, yet.'

'When Gomez first informed me of our reality being a work of fiction, by humans from another reality. I could barely believe it. Though, he showed me his proof. And I really am not surprised that Birdy has had such a... Colorful life, while she was on Earth.'

'Though, when Gomez informed me of Lee's stories. And the suffering Lee's stories had caused my people, and myself. I was livid. Gomez gave me a few days to calm down. But, he ordered me not to seek personal revenge against Lee. Which I gritted my teeth, and obeyed.'

'Also, Gomez later gave me copies of Lee's stories to read. But, I had to learn the human's language of english, to read them. Still, that was not much of a problem for someone of my intelligence.'

'And even now, I have kept my promise on not seeking personal revenge on Lee.
Destroying a planet for the actions of one individual on that planet, is much broader than personal revenge.'

'And as tempting as it is to try to use this Lee's stories to clear my name. I know that the attempt would likely have caused myself to been branded as a lunatic. And the only thing worse than being a criminal outcast, is a lunatic criminal outcast. Deadpool proves that point.'

Another reason why I do not personally go after Lee, was that he... Err she, is too well connected. If I directly went Lee, her friends would avenge her. As seen with the attack I just left, on the Interzone.'

'Still, if I after the entire world she is from. Then, that is another story. Her friends are skilled at killing at the personal level. But, not at a planetary level.'

'Let them try to use their skills against something they cannot reach. And germs too small for them to see.'

'Also, when I listened to the communications for a few minutes, during the attack on the Interzone. I realized those at the island, that Gomez had attacked, were responding in kind. I did not like that plan to begin with. I even voiced my opinion against it. And I was not alone in my opinion.'

'Though, I decided it was a good time to leave. With me using the confusion of the battle, to slip away, unnoticed.'

'I realized this was an excellent opportunity to exact my revenge. The right moment I was waiting to leave. And so I seized the day. As it were.'

'Besides, everyone on that planet is to blame for Lee's stories. They created the environment, that lead a lunatic to be inspired to create such an insane story.'

'Still, I am going to need all ten of these biological missiles to get my revenge on those of this planet. But, that will not be a problem. Then, I will teleport to another reality. Where there is a bar at, that I like to go to. And I think I will relax and have a drink, to celebrate my revenge. And what a poetic, and ironic, revenge it will be.'

'What is that old human saying?... Ah yes. What is good for the goose, is good for the gander. No matter which one is which, at any given time. And this is the same gender bending virus, as what Lee used on my homeworld.'

'And these weapons would definitely bring much deserved chaos to that world. While at the same time, forcing this reality to be quarantined from the rest of existence.'

Nechla then noticed the sensors showed another starfury begin to approach her ship, from behind.

Nechla continued her thought, 'So, my departure did not go unnoticed. Oh well. I will just have to deal with them.'

'Though, I might have been a been a little too bloodthirsty on my choice of armaments. Now, that I think about it, eight of these missiles could likely do the job. With two to help against any ship coming after me.'

'Still, this ship's four pulse cannons should be able to handle the job, against these interlopers.'

Nechla then turned her starfury in a wide arc, to face the oncoming enemy starfury, in the hopes of destroying the ship, and the crew insane the ship.

(_)

Inside the thunderbolt starfury that Matthew and Pedro was in, Matthew commented, “Well, she sees us. She just turned around, to come get us. From our front.”

Pedro looked out the canopy of the cockpit, and into space, as he inquired, “Good. Can you just fire a missile at her?”

Matthew commented, “No. She is too far out for our weapons to reach her.”

Pedro stated, “Okay. It was still worth asking. Though, I don't see her.”

Matthew said, “Don't both trying to find her with your eyes. She is also too far to eyeball. But, she will be here in less than half a minute.”

Pedro replied, “Okay.”

Matthew suggested,”And do not worry, it is a rookie mistake. We all make it at least once. Still, while it is a little late in the game. Do you think we should talk to her?”

Pedro pointed out, in a slightly annoyed tone of voice, “She is heading to my planet, to comment planetary genocide. I doubt she is in a talkative mood.”

Matthew replied, “Good point.”

Pedro questioned, “Besides, why would you want to talk to her? Especially, when she is heading back to kill us?”

Matthew asked, in a slightly sheepish tone of voice, “Well... Is it a bad time to say that this is my first time in an actual dogfight? I mean, I did dogfighting in the simulator. But, never in real life. Until now.”

Pedro inquired, “Depends. How good did you do in dogfighting, while in the simulator?”

Matthew replied, “Actually, I did pretty good. I scored well several times, on various types of hard modes. Up to taking out a whole squad of five, at once, and came out of it alive.”

Pedro said, “Then, no. It is not a bad time to mention that.” Pedro's lips curled into a feral smile, as he continued, “Now, go kick her ass.”

Matthew crack a grin, as he stated, “With pleasure. Now, hold onto something. This is going to get rough.”

In response, Pedro yelled, “Yeehaw!”

As the approached the other starfury, Matthew then flipped on the holographic targeting screens, between him and the cockpit monitor. As he prepared to fight the starfighter, and pilot inside.

(_)

As the two starfury starfighters came closer, both starfighter fired their pulse cannons. This forced both starfury pilots to verier in different directions, to avoid the shots.

They both then turned again towards each other, while again, firing their pulse cannons.

Each pilot was trying to get behind the others. Or, at least get a grazing shot against the other.

Though, both pilots soon found the other pilot was skilled enough to avoid being hit, or tailed behind.

During the conflict, Pedro was silent, so as to not distract Matthew.

Both combatants spun, and weaved around each other, as they tried to get a clean shot on the other. And neither allowed the other to behind their ship.

A minute later, as they continued dogfighting, Matthew noticed something about Nechla's flying abilities.

Matthew thought, 'Nechla is only making wide arcs in her flight path. Though, to be far, I have, as well. But, I do it because, if I did any of the crazy maneuvers that a starfury can do. I might create too many G's and cause Pedro and I, to blackout. And then, that is all she wrote for both us, and the people of Pedro's homeworld. Including, our friends, and his family.'

'Considering everything is on the line, and up to me, I dare take any unnecessary risks.'

'Also, from what I heard at the casino meeting, about this Nechla. I am sure that Nechla's alien body can handle far more G's than us humans.'

'Still from her actions, I can guess that she had not be trained to fly a starfury. And she has only learned standard dogfighting tactics. As such, she has no idea how agile a starfury can be. And I can work with that.'

'Also, this will likely be my only shot, so I better make it count.'

Matthew then allowed Nechla to get behind him.

As Nechla fired her ship's quad forty millimeter pulse cannons at him, Matthew spun his starfury, while turning in several directions. All the while, allowing Nechla to get closer into Matthew' trap.

A few seconds later, Matthew looked at the instruments for a seconds, on Nechla's distance. He thought, 'Now, you are close enough, for me to do this.'

Matthew stopped spinning, as he used show Nechla how agile a starfury was. By swiftly turning clockwise a hundred and eighty degrees.

In a split second, the two back left engines stay on, as the right engines shut down, as the two right front engines ignited. And at the exact moment, the on board computer shutdown the two left back engines shutdown, and the two left front engines came on. Allowing the starfury to continue moving, in a fluid manner, without losing any momentum.

Matthew was so close he could literally see Nechla show a face of surprise. Matthew did not waste a moment, as he then fired all ten of his conventional missiles, while also firing his quad forty millimeter pulse cannons, at Nechla's ship.

Nechla was to close to fly out of the way, as she swiftly took several hits from both Matthew's pulse cannons and missiles.

As Matthew's armament hit Nechla's ship, her starfighter exploded.

While Nechla's ship exploded from the firepower that hit it, Matthew and Pedro's starfury carried them, backwards, out of the blast radius.

A second later, without stopping, Matthew turned the ship another hundred and eighty degrees, with them now flying in a straightforward. He then turned the ship towards Earth.

Pedro had been silently watching the dogfight. After Matthew turned the ship, to fly forward, he happily complimented, “Great job, Matthew.”

Matthew look at his instruments. He commented, “Not good enough.”

Pedro asked, “What do you mean?”

Matthew answered, “She damaged upper right tail wing.”

Pedro inquired, “How bad?”

Matthew said, “It is not serious. We can still do re-entry. It is just not that wise to do so, with this damage. But, it can still be done.”

Pedro asked, “Okay. Tabling that discussion for a few moments. What about Nechla and her biological missiles?”

Matthew looked at his computer instruments. He stated, “I am not picking anything up from that area that is bigger than the size of my fist. And we are still too far for her to have successfully launched them at Earth. Starfury missiles do not have that much range. The missiles are destroyed.”

Pedro inquired, “And Nechla?”

Matthew answered, “No life signs. Though, she could have teleported. My sensors would not detect that. The only reason we would able to follow her, was that these ships were calibrated to detect each others reality devices. But, not other reality devices.”

Pedro commented, “Okay. Either way. She is no longer our problem. Let us head back to Earth. Can we just use the ship to teleport home?”

Matthew answered, “No. From what I am reading from the ship's computer monitors. It seems this ship uses multiple reality devices, fixed along the ship. One in the tip. One on the back. And one each of the wings. With all six working as one to reality jump. If one doesn't work. As is the case, with one being damaged with the upper right wing. There is a safety built into the system to prevent use of the teleport system.”

Pedro stated, “I won't fault them for adding that. These ships were were designed to work in groups. So, it would make sense to have that safety, built in. With them just calling for help. Though, what about this ship's communications systems?”

Matthew said, “This ship has only short range communications. And it does not work with you Earth's current communications systems... Wait a minute. Your cellphone. We can just call Chang's casino, for help.”

Pedro responded, “Yea. That might work. It is a satellite phone. It works anywhere on the planet. I will just call someone at Chang's casino. I am sure they have a ship somewhere they can come get us, before we run out of air.”

Matthew commented, “Don't worry. This ship's internal life support system will give us enough air for a week.”

Pedro replied, “Okay. There is at least that.” He then pulled out his cellphone, as he commented, “I am glad I recharged this last night.”

Pedro then turned on his phone, from sleep mode. A second later, he complained, “You got to be kidding me.”

Matthew asked, “What is it?”

Pedro put his cellphone back into the pocket he pulled it from He then stated, in annoyed tone of voice, “My phone says we are, out of area.”

Matthew could not help but let out a laugh.

Pedro grumbled, “Anywhere on Earth, but not above Earth. If we get back down to Earth. I am going to give the cellphone company I use an earful.”

Matthew inquired, “Let me know how that turns out. Still, what about the reality device you have on you?”

Pedro felt his reality device in his pants pocket, as he sadly stated, “You know. You were right. We should have gotten two reality devices. Because you are too far from me, for me to teleport you out of here.”

Matthew replied, “Nah, I saw the logic in only getting one. And I was the one that stole it, in the first place. So, you use it, and get out of here.”

Pedro responded, “No. As you pointed out, we started this together, and we are finishing this together.”

Matthew said, with pride in his voice, “I appreciate that.”

Pedro inquired, “So, what are we going to do? You know the capabilities of this ship more than I do.”

Matthew answered, “Well, the good news is we are close to Earth. And even damaged, this ship can, in theory, survive re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, and land. Still, it is a gamble.”

Pedro asked, “What about the chance of someone shooting us down?”

Matthew stated, “Nah. At long as I put us in a proper re-entry trajectory, and don't alter course. Those on Earth will think we are just a meteor on the radar, and not shoot us down.”

Pedro questioned, “Won't they notice us slowing down?”

Matthew responded, “By the time they do, we will have landed, before they can organize and air response. And the part of the world we are going to, they don't have missile batteries to take us down. And even if they did. I have some countermeasures for them.”

Pedro commented, “That is good.”

Matthew stated, in a very serious tone of voice, “Still, there is a real chance that we will burn up. So, keep your reality device handy, for your sake. If the ship starts to burn up and come apart, I want you to be able to escape.”

Pedro said, “I will think about it. Still, how are you going to navigate?”

Matthew stated, “While the phone and communications are not compatible. I seem to have gotten the ships computer to link up with the U.S. global positioning satellites. And I know the longitude and latitude coordinates to your island.”

Pedro complimented, “Good thinking? So, you want to do this? We do have a few options. We could try an emergency spacing, try to get together and teleport, before we flash freeze on one side. Fry on the other side. And suffocate. All at the same time.”

Matthew replied, “No thanks. When you put it that way. I think I will try the re-entry. It would be much safer. And if I screw up, less painful.”

Pedro lightly chuckled. He then commented, “Well, sometimes you just have to roll the dice.”

Matthew lips curled into a wicked grin, as he agreed, “Exactly. I want to be with you, to see the end. It looks like I am going to get my wish.”

Pedro commented, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Matthew mentioned, “Amen to that. And I have some good news. That being my navigation tells me we can make it back to Plata Podrido in a very gentle curve. So, we can take our time in slowing down. Less chance of burning up. But, not too much that we skip off the planet.”

Pedro asked, “That is good news. So, how long it is going to take to get back home?”

Matthew commented, “Within few hours. Likely an hour and a half. It is going to be a long, fast ride. And we will be going too fast to use your phone.”

Pedro stated, “I realize that. Did you ever study the Apollo missions, of the latter half of the twentieth century?”

Matthew said, “Yes. The communications went out during re-entry. Same principle here.”

Pedro commented, “And by the time we get to where I can call someone to help. We will be to close to landing for them to help.”

Matthew replied, “Exactly.”

Pedro commented, “Well, sometimes you have got to ride the bullet.”

Matthew stated, “In this case, that is literally what is happening. Considering, right now, we are going much faster than actual bullets. The trick is to slow down and land, without burning up, or crashing.”

Pedro said, “I am sure you can handle this.”

Matthew responded, “I hope so, as well. Cause here we go.”

Matthew then piloted the ship towards the Earth, as he began to use the global positioning satellites to plot a trajectory course to Earth, and Pedro hometown of Plata Podrido. With his ship's computer helping him find a safe path to take.

Fortunately, they were still far enough from the planet, they had a wide selection of courses to choose form. And Matthew chose one of the safer, though quicker routes to take. To help avoid being shot down.

(_)

During next hour, they were still in space. And with the ship's computers and sensors helping Matthew, he had no problem avoiding any space junk on their path. While still returning to their proper trajectory course, that he had selected.

As such, nothing was really happening. With the two of them occasionally talking. But, mostly there was silence between them.

As they got closer to the Earth. With them about to enter re-entry, Matthew decided to do something nice for Pedro. He turned the starfury upside down, so they could see the Earth, through their canopy.

For the two men, their sky turned from a nighttime of stars, to being completely replaced with the surface of the Earth below them.

Matthew commented, “Very few people from your world have seen the Earth like this. I thought you might want to enjoy the privilege.”

Pedro look up at the Earth. Which covered the entire sky for him. He saw they were on the southeastern part of Asia, heading eastward, towards the Pacific ocean.

Pedro was deeply moved to tears by the touching gift from his best friend. He said, with appreciation evident in his down of voice, “Thank you, Matthew. This is one of the best gifts I have ever received.”

Matthew looked up at the sky, as he responded, “I know. And you are welcome. Now, let's go home.”

Matthew then turned the starfury back around, with the bottom facing the Earth, as he piloted the ship into the atmosphere, on his re-entry course.

The next half hour was a bumpy ride, but Pedro stayed quiet, to allow Matthew to work without distraction.

As they got closer, Pedro could literally see them pass over the western part of his home country of Mexico.

Soon, he saw them pass over the countryside.

And he then saw them come closer to his hometown.

By then, Pedro could tell they were slowing down, with the land started moving more slowly, as they began their final approach.

Pedro then realized something important, that he should have remembered to mention earlier. He pointed out, “Not to sound stupid. And we should have talked about this earlier. But, my hometown does not have an airstrip.”

Matthew responded, “We are not going to land on an airstrip. It would cause too many question. We are going to land on the four lane hallway by Chang's casino, going east and west. There is no concrete divider, nor median between the two lands. Giving us plenty of room to land on.”

“And I know it is not unheard of, during emergencies, for light aircraft of your world have successfully landed on much smaller roads than this, with much bigger aircraft than this ship.”

Pedro agreed, “True.”

Matthew mentioned, “Also, From the location of the sun right now, it is mid-morning. And I know that road. My office, in the casino, overlooks it. That road is not busy during this time of day. And it is very straight, with no potholes. Because, to help his business, Chang had all the potholes filled.”

Pedro commented, “I actually thank him for doing that.”

Matthew stated, “I am not surprised. Anyway, it is our best landing zone.”

Pedro commented, “Okay. And you are gambling that between Chang's personal, and my boys, that we can get the ship off of the road, before someone else takes notice of it?”

Matthew said, “You know me, well.”

Pedro let out a laugh.

Matthew commented, “By the way, this ship does not have wheels. It has skids. They are designed to slide to a stop on even on rough terrain. So, we should be fine.”

Pedro replied, “Okay.” He thought, 'It is too late to do anything about it, now.'

By that time, Pedro saw they were flying between the buildings of his town, on the four lane highway, that Matthew had picked out as their landing zone.

Matthew then lowed the three landing skids of the starfury. On in the front bottom of the ship, and two that were on the back sides of the bottom of the ship.

Next, Matthew timed it just right, as he quickly dipped under the powerlines, that were strung on poles, across the street, every few blocks, without hitting them.

A few seconds later, Pedro felt the bump of the ship's skids hit the road, while they slid down the highway, as they continued to slide down the hallway.

Pedro then noticed that Matthew had intentionally landed them almost exactly between left two lanes, of on coming traffic. Though, Matthew was careful to avoid the reflectors, set between the two lands.

Matthew did this, so the vehicle drivers would see them.

Pedro thought, 'Smart thinking, Matthew. In this direction, they will see us coming. And since we are still going faster than the speed limit. There is less chance of hitting someone in these lanes, than coming up on drivers, from behind.'

Pedro was quickly proven right, as the oncoming driver did see them, as they veered out of the way of the landing spaceship.

They then passed under some streetlights, as they finally skid to a halt, near the middle of a four way intersection on the road.

As soon as they came to a complete stop, both men let out a breath of relief.

Pedro then complimented, “Good job, Matthew. You got us home alive. The first drink is on me.”

Matthew shutdown the engines of the thunderbolt starfury, as he asked, “Thanks. So, what happens now?”

Pedro mentioned, “Well, since I am still the law here. We get to keep this ship.”

Matthew commented, “Cool. And that was pretty much a text book, planetfall landing, for this type of starfury.”

Pedro stated, “Yes. It looked like that is the case to me. I always figured I would see an official UFO come to town, someday. And technically, that is what ship is, for the locals. Still, I just didn't realize I would be riding in it, as it landed, here.”

Both of them laughed a little, for a few seconds, at Pedro's comment.

Then, to the left of their ship, they heard a horn blown, a short distance, outside, from their cockpit.

Both men had just enough time to turn to the left side of the ship, see outside of the canopy window, to see what had made that sound.

When they looked, and they saw what had made the sound, Matthew's face gained a mask of terror, as he screamed in fear.

Meanwhile, Pedro started laughing even more so, than before, at the humorous irony of the situation, as a semi-tractor trailer truck, hauling of cargo container full of freight, could not stop in time. With the large vehicle directly plowing into the left side of Matthew and Pedro spaceship.

Though, the only good news for Matthew and Pedro, was that neither their starfighter, nor the truck, exploded from the impact.

(_)

Several minutes before Matthew landed him, and Pedro, back on Earth, there was a little get together happening on the terrace of the penthouse of Daiyu Palace Casino. On the corner facing the traffic intersection that Matthew and Pedro had landed on.

The terrace had stone tile flooring.

The terrace was fence in, on the outer sides having one meter high, iron railing, that rapped around the edge of the sides of the terrace.

The terrace has a heated pool, and a hot tub, the entrance to the bedroom.

But, by the entrance near a hallway that lead int living room, there was a metal table, with a large open umbrella on it, and four chairs surrounding the table.

Four adults sat in chaired, around the table.

Fortunately, the weather was cooperating for them.

Currently, it was in the early afternoon, on a clear, sunny day, with only mild wind, with only a slightly cool temperature outside.

Given it was near perfect weather, for being outside, those in the penthouse had decide to have an early lunch on the terrace.

Those whom attended the lunch were Chang, River, and Lee. Chang was male. While, River and Lee were female.

Along with them was their guest, Merlin, whom was in his Petros Xanatos disguise. All of them were wearing modern causal clothing, as they sat in metal outdoor chairs, around a metal table, with a large umbrella built into the center of the table. The umbrella was open, and shaded them all from them from the sun.

All in all, it was a pleasant lunch for everyone involved.

At the moment, they had all mostly finished their meals, as they talked. With them only consuming a few sips from their glasses, and some of the last bites of food from their dishes.

Merlin felt relaxed in the casual setting around him. He calmly said, “I must say. This has been an interesting and pleasant visit. I did not expect such a wonderful reception, when I came here.”

Chang happily said, “We try to please our guests. Especially, those whom are our friends, and acquaintances.”

Merlin replied, “Of course.”

River inquired, “Lee mentioned something about you being a Farscape fan?”

Merlin answered, “Yes. I found that to be an entertaining series. Though, a bit dark.”

River offered, “While it was. That was, then. This is, now. And we will have to introduce you to Aeryn and Violin. We good friends with them. And I sure they would be more than happy to meet you. Especially, since I know that Violin is a fan of the Gargoyles series.”

Merlin asked, “Thank you, for your offer. And though I know who Aeryn is. I do not know who this, Violin, is?”

Chang, River, and Lee, looked at each other for a few seconds. They then turned to Merlin.

River coyly commented, “We will explain, later. We will need to talk to Violin and Aeryn before we can go into detail on that matter.”

Merlin replied, “I fully understand. We all have our secrets.”

River responded, “I am glad you do. Concerning them. We'll arrange something on your next visit, here.”

Merlin said, “That will be fine. It is always nice to save something for later. It keeps life worth living.”

River agreed, “Yes. It does.”

Lee turned towards Merlin, as she inquired, “I was wondering. I do not see your cane, nor staff, on you?”

Merlin answered, “I can summon my staff, and change it, at will. When I need it. I just have the cane in my guise as Petros. To give off more of older man look. But, in reality, I am not physically frail, at all. I am in really go shape.”

Lee responded, “I don't doubt that. So, what happened to your family, after you got back to castle Wyvern?”

Merlin stated, “We had a long discussion, over several personal matters. Though, I feel that my family and I came out of that discussion, better than when we began it.”

Chang inquired, “Merlin, while I am glad that Lee introduced you to us. Should we still be worried about reprisals from the Xanatos family? Please, do not take this the wrong way. But, your son, and his immediate family, do not take defeat very well.”

Merlin responded, “I fully understand where you are coming from. And you have a legitimate concern. Though, that was one of the matters we discussed. And the answer is, no. Though, they do plan to visit you, here, on this island, in the near future. Say, a month, or so. Your time.”

Merlin turned to Lee, as he continued, “Especially, David and Puck. David, because he likes a challenge. And you, my dear lady, beat him in a way he never guessed could be done. David has his eyes on you, now, Lee. So, be on your toes.”

Lee calmly replied, “Thank you for the warning.”

River questioned, “And what of Puck?”

Merlin commented, “He loves to be where the fun is. And I will agree, that this place seems to be quite lively.”

River agreed, “That it is.”

Chang thought, 'Now, to get the heart of the meeting. At least, for myself. Given, I have recently realized that is one area, in my business. That I am sorely lacking in resources.”

Chang stated, “Now that is settled. I have an offer for you, Merlin. While we have a wide array of resources. We do not have an expert on magic.”

“And I am not asking you to use your magic. But, instead, we could use a part time mystical expect, to advise us on concerns dealing with magic and magical artifacts.”

“As you can guess, in our line of work. We come across the occasional mystical artifacts. I even had a very of them locked down in some of the vaults of this casino.”

“Though, we know better than to mess with them. We do not really know what they are. Nor, what they do. And with us not being experts. We also realize it is very dangerous to deal with magic we do not understand.”

Merlin said, “Yes. I can see where you are coming from.” He thought, 'Maybe that is one of the reasons Puck stays around my son and his family. Along with his other duties, he probably has a similar job for David.'

Chang responded, “Also, there is the occasionally magical spell, or curse, we might need advice on. Or, even cure. And we may need to talk with someone about others that use magic. What I am trying to say is we need a part time mystical expert that we can contact, to help us. Whom we can rely on to give us honest and knowledge information.”

“We would be more than happy to pay you in gold. Per month. As a retainer. Along with the standard benefits package at this casino. And during your time here, you would be assigned a nice suite, that is free. Along with, free meals, drinks, and other items that suite comes with.”

“Also, barring emergencies. You can keep you own hours. And come and go as you please. And you can quit anytime you want. In which case, we will pay you for the difference for that month. And we will peacefully part ways.”

“Though, we do request you be discreet about what you do, and learn, while working for us.”

Merlin calmly said, “A fair offer. Okay. I will accept.”

Chang responded, “Thank you. We will work out the details on your next visit.”

Merlin replied, “Of course. There is no rush.”

River inquired, “Merlin, I was wondering. As an immortal, or near immortal, how do you handle did you handle learning that you are a work of fiction?”

Merlin answered, “Very well. This is not that far off from the ancient myths, such as Greece, where the gods toyed with mortal human, by created living stories, where the humans were characters of their tales.”

Lee asked, “Are the gods of Greek mythology myths in your reality? I know that there are a few of Oberon's children, and their descendants, that have claimed the names of some of those gods. But, are they the gods in question?

Merlin coyly responded, “As you know, there is always some truth in myths and legends. I am proof of that. But, that is a discussion for another time.”

River conceded, “That is one way to look at it.”

Lee commented, “I agree. I guess that is to deep a discuss for a casual lunch. Though, I have another question for you, Merlin. On a similar manner. Did you ever hear about a man known as the Magus, from castle Wyvern? A thousand years before the castle was moved to New York City.”

Merlin answered, “Yes. I was told that he was the one that cursed the gargoyles that made them sleep until the castle rose above the clouds.”

Lee stated, “Yes. And he spent the rest of his life making up for his mistake.”

Merlin responded, “I heard that, as well. Angela spoke highly of him. What is your question?”

Lee inquired, “I was wondering. Given the Magus was born with white hair, slightly pointed ears, and a gift for magic, could he be a descendant of the Third Race? Perhaps even a descendant of one, or more, of Oberon's children?”

Merlin answered, “That is very possible. I also heard how he died. I really need to check on him. Because, he might be dead, or mostly dead.”

Chang asked, “Like Westley in the Princess Bride film?”

Merlin responded, “Exactly. Having spirits roam on Avalon is neither good for those spirits, nor that land. So, I need to make sure if he is alive, or dead. If he is alive, I will heal him, and help give him a few more years of life. If he is truly dead, I will make sure that his spirit has passed on.”

River complimented, “That is very kind of you.”

Merlin responded, “Thank you. Though, this problem will is that it will likely be a while before I can do this. No matter how much I look on the outside. And hide my magic. The moment I set foot on Avalon, Oberon will immediately sense my presence. And while I am able to mask myself from Oberon, Titania, Puck, for a short time. I cannot do so, for long.”

“If I am around them for any extend amount of time, they will will eventually since who I really am. And they will learn about my human alias. Especially, when it comes to Oberon, and Titania, if they are both in the same room as I am. Such as, what almost happened, right after the birth of Alex."

“And if I had been discovered, on the night of my grandson's birth. Should those two learn the truth about myself. Then, my son, grandson, and daughter in law, would be back to square one, with them. And Oberon would probably try to kidnap all three of them, and take them back to Avalon, along with Puck, and myself.”

Chang said, “I can see the problem there. Also, if that happened, Oberon will likely learn that his binding spell on Puck has been removed. He will want answers. And given his level of power, and his personality, he will eventually get those answers.”

Merlin stated, “Yes. I thought about that, as well. My family already knows about other realms. And like myself, they can to travel to those realms. Though, they use technology. While I use magic. Still, David, Fox, Alex, and Puck, told me, that except for them, no one else on our world knows about the multiverse at this level.”

“I want to keep it that way. Especially, since my family is not known to clean up their messes.”

River questioned, in a casual tone of voice, “Let me guess. You usually ended up with the job of cleaning up their messes?”

Merlin answered, “Yes. Eventually, I got tired of doing so. And I then made myself disappear from everyone that knew me. Especially, my family. That is what first drew me to becoming a fisherman. It is hard for my family to find me, when I am not using magic, and I am in the middle of a very large body of water.”

“Most travelers will not accidentally run across someone in the middle of an ocean.”

River said, “I can see the benefits of that.”

Merlin replied, “Yes. I got some much needed peace in my life, from doing so. And from that life, I eventually met my latest wife, David's mother. And the rest is history.”

Chang stated, “Thank you for being so informative. By the way, from what I understand, if your series had played out further. Arthur has, or will soon be looking for you.”

Merlin thought, 'Interesting. While I have yet to fully see my series. I will have to do so. I am sure David has a copy of our series, for me to watch. Though, it is wise for me to answer their current question.'

Merlin commented, “Actually, as I am sure you know. From watching my series. Arthur has awaken, and found his sword. Well even before Lee visited me, and informed me of the truth. I knew Arthur has been looking for me. And I knew he had found Excalibur. Where I hid it. It is a long story. But, the Lady of the Lake could no longer hold it. So, she intrusted it to me. Though, that is a story for another time.”

“And while I detest avoiding my former student, and good friend. If he finds out who I am, it will start this whole mess again, along with creating another mess with that secret group whom my son has foolishly joined.”

Chang said, “I can see how you are in a bind.”

Merlin responded, “Yes. I am. Actually, I think this job you are offering might be a wonder way for me to get away, and have a nice working vacation. Because, I don't think trying the simple fisherman angle is going to work with my family and friends, again.”

Chang let out of a laugh. While River and Lee remained silent.

Chang stated, “I guess not.”

Merlin pointed out, “But, now that my immediate family knows who I really am. I can start the ball rolling on others finding out who I am, on my terms.”

Lee said, “And with the intelligence and resources of you and your immediately family, you might be able to make this entire situation work for you.”

Merlin commented, “Exactly.”

Chang calmly said, “Good luck with that.”

Merlin replied, “Thank you.”

River then noticed something in the sky, in front of her. Something small, and white, coming closer, as it ran across the skyline. She asked, “Is that an airplane.”

Everyone turned to look in the direction that River was.

With his enhanced vision, Chang clearly saw what it was. He stated, “That is a starfighter.”

Lee flatly said, with concern in her tone of voice, “We don't have starfighters on this planet.”

By then, the object was going below their altitude, at the top of the building, they were one.

As such, they all got up from their seats, to get a better look over the railing, and down towards the street. Fortunately, the umbrella was still high enough that their heads did not head the underside of it.

Also, from their vantage point, they still had a clear view of the object.

River said, “I think it is coming on approach to land, on the highway by us.”

Lee commented, “I agree. It would be a good choice. It is a straight, flat highway. And Chang here fixed the pots.”

Chang replied, “That I did.”

Lee explained, “That also means that it is either Matthew, or Pedro, is on that ship. Piloting it down. Because, only someone that knew that road was repaired, would try to make a landing on it.”

Chang suggested, “Good point. Should we try to block off the road for them?”

Lee said, “No time. That thing will be landing any minute. We will just have to hope they don't hit a car, or other vehicle, on their landing.”

At this point, the starfighter was about to dip below the building by it, as it lowered it's landing gear. Though, from the point of view of those at the top of the casino building. They could still see the starfighter, as it landed.

And Lee recognized what type of starfight it was. She stated, “It's both of them.”

River asked, “How do you know?”

Lee answered, “That white starfighter is a thunderbolt starfury. That ship is a two-seater. Also, the Lowe family stated they left spacestation together, on that type of a starfury.”

Chang agreed, “True. And if it is them, they are returning home in style.”

Merlin asked, “Why does the term, starfury, sound familiar?”

Lee continued to look at the ship, as it make its final approached. She answered, “The ship, and one of the people aboard, Matthew. Is from the Babylon Five reality.”

Merlin understood Lee's reference. He questioned, “Good series. Though, isn't a starfury a one seat ship?”

Lee said, “The original model is. The thunderbolt starfury is the update model of the original starfury in the series. And as such, it is a two-seater with re-entry, and escape velocity abilities.”

Merlin inquired, “Oh. And who is this Matthew and Pedro?”

Lee answered, “Matthew is a lawyer for us, at the casino. And he clearly likes to hide his abilities form us. And Pedro is the police chief of this city. Both of them are nice guys. We will introduce you to them, after they land.”

Merlin replied, “I look forward it it.”

Lee mentioned, “Also, they must have completed their mission. If they had not, they would not be landing now.”

River said, “I agree with you.”

Lee commented, “And I can guess Matthew is piloting that ship?”

Chang asked, “How do you figure that?”

Lee answered, “Because it is more likely for someone that was working for Garibaldi, to know how to pilot that thing, Than someone who lives here.”

Chang responded, “Good point. And Garibaldi also did like for his personnel to be prepared. Perhaps more so than we realized. Still, should we be worried they might crash?”

River pointed, “That is a good point. They are close enough, that I think I see one of their top wings is damage. If so, they are literally flying on a wing and a prayer.”

Lee stated, “I wouldn't worry. At this point, it is clear that Matthew knows what he is doing. And that wing has not caused them any flight issues. And given they have four wings. It makes sense they they could probably fly on just two of those wings.”

Chang commented, “I can see your point. And like where it got its name sake from, the A Ten Thunderbolt, has a history of taking a lot of damage, while still being able to fly home and land.”

Lee replied, “That is true.”

By then, they watched the starfury land on the road. With cars avoiding the ship, as the ship slid down the road. Until they came to a stop, near the middle of a four way traffic intersection.

Then, they watch the truck crash into the starfury. The impact crumpled the left side of the cockpit, was sent flying into the air. It landed in a roll, as it tumbled for a few times. Till it came to a stop on it's right side. Though, the starfury was still in one piece.

Melvin commented, “I believe your friends will be needing a priest.”

Chang asked, “Are they still alive?”

Lee inquired, “Also, how is the truck driver?”

River while it was some distance. Given, she could see directly at the people in question. She could use her telepathy to since them.

River answered, “Yes. On both counts. And the truck driver is fine. But, our friends are going to need some serious medical attention.”

Chang said, “I have just the treatment in mind. And we are getting a mostly intact starfury for our troubles. After we make sure those two are in stable condition, there is another matter we need to get with Simon on this.” He then pulled out his cellphone.

River commented, “Whether they like it, or not. They are probably going to need to undergo the vat process.”

Lee pointed, “At least we have options on that, now.”

Chang agreed, “True. We will do the same process on them, as on Wade.”

Lee replied, “I agree.”

River said, “So do I.”

Merlin halfheartedly asked, “Do I want to know?”

Lee looked towards Merlin. She shrugged, as she replied, “Not really.” Lee turned to look at the wrecked starfury.

Merlin commented, “It might best that I leave, now.”

Chang turned to Merlin, as he said, “Sadly. I agree.”

Merlin looked towards Chang, as he inquired, “Don't worry about it. Things happen. Would this time, next Saturday, be alright, for myself to visit you three?”

Chang responded, “Absolutely. Now, if you could excuse us. We have some friends we need to save.”

Merlin replied, “Of course.”

Chang then turned to his cellphone, as he dial the number for Simon's medical ward. As he did so, he thought, 'And after we deal with helping Matthew and Pedro. We have to go say goodbye to the Atlantic Riders, and see them off. And I cannot wait for them to leave this reality. Because I don't know what other trouble they might bring to my city.'

Merlin then soon left, while Chang, Lee, and River, quickly handled organizing help for both Matthew and Pedro, along with the truck driver involved in the accident.

Fortunately, they got Matthew and Pedro medical help in time.

Also, the truck driver was found not at fault by the local police. Due to him having a green light, and not time to stop. The incident was ruled purely as an accident. With no one involved charged, nor fined, for a crime.

And given the police chief was involved, and injured. They listed the starfury as an aircraft that had to do an emergency landing, which the truck driver had no way to stop his vehicle in time, not to collide with the shipship.

The police also allowed Chang to take care of their police chief, Pedro. And his friend, Matthew. Due to them already being taken into the casino, to be medically treated, by the time the police showed up.

And given Pedro standing orders of leaving those at the casino, alone. The police officers were put in a bind.

Though, those officers in question made it clear to Chang that if something happened to Pedro, he would regret.

While Chang took their threat in stride. He realized they were serious.

Also, the police turned over the starfury to Chang, in exchange for him getting it off the street, and out of sight, as quickly as possible. Chang did so, by having tow-trucks that belonged to the casino, come pick up the starfury, and move the ship to the back of the casino, near the garage.

And as a way to smooth things over with the local police. Chang also had the semi-tractor trailer truck moved off the road, and into the nearby casino parking lot, at no charge to the truck driver. As the truck driver made other arrangements to have it moved within the hour.

Within thirty minutes of the collusion, the traffic intersection that was involved, had been cleared, with traffic in that area being returned to normal.

(_)

It was mid Saturday afternoon, on an isolated part of the beach, on the island of Plata Podrido, as the Atlantic Riders were prepared to leave. Their modified Klingon Bird of Prey repaired, with all their crew, and equipment aboard. And the Atlantic Riders wanted to leave, as soon as possible.

The Bird of Prey itself was not cloaked, as it sat on the beach, displaying itself, in its green painted glory.

Those of the crew that could not be taking by vehicles, over the last few hours, were transported directly into the ship, by the ship's transporters. Still, those that were injured, were expected to make a full recovery.

And those that had transported the crew to the ship, had already left.

Those that were there to see them off, had driven there cars there. And parked them by a near by two lane road, that lead into town.

Those present, were in two groups. The first group were Chang, River, and Lee.

The second group was Lori, Ed, Lewis, and Stan.

There were also a few crew members present, on the beach, by the two groups.

All of them stood by the lowered back ramp of the Bird of Prey. With the ramp overlooking those standing on the beach

Those standing by Chang's group, were Data, Sally, and Professor Durban. With Durban still having a bandage wrapped around the top of his head. Though, he would be fine.

Simon had told Durban would not need the bandage in a few days. And he would be fully healed within a week.

Those by the Lowe family, were Lori's old friends. Whom were, Kyle, Wyatt, Cynthia, Denise, Tommy, and Evelyn.

Both groups had been talking amongst themselves, for the better part of an hour.

Among Chang's group, Sally sarcastically commented, “Well, it was a fun stay. Though, I suggest no boomers next time.”

Chang casually stated, “I can safely say. With us disposing of Gomez. And dealing with the top ranking officers of his organization. That will likely not happen, here, again.”

Durban said, “Chang, I don't mind you doing my job. As long as someone did it. And I am thankful to you, and your people, for doing so.”

Chang replied, “I am happy to hear that.”

Lee inquired, “Well, now that you guys are no long on the run, what are you going to do next?”

Durban look at Data, then back at Lee. He answered, “Like anyone who has been injured. It is best for them to visit their family and friends, while they get rest and recover. And Data has so been wanting to return to his home reality, in his proper time, for quite a while.”

Lee noticed Data smile at Durban's comment. Though, Data did not reply.

Durban continued, “And I always wanted to visit one of the Enterprises. Picard and his ship, is as good as any. So, we will give Picard, on his enterprise, a few years after Data's heroic sacrifices. But, we do so, at a distance. From what I understand. Star Fleet does not like surprised.”

Data turned to Durban, as he agreed, “That would be correct. And I do look forward to see my old friends.” He turned back to look at Lee, River, and Chang.

Lee replied, “That would be a wise precaution.”

Durban stated, “I am glad we all agree. And at the very least, during our visit, we could all use a medical check up. And Star Fleet has some of the best medical services in the multiverse. And they are known to help strangers.”

Lee said, “That they do.” She turned Data, as she asked, “I can guess, that you are not going to tell your friends in Star Fleet, the truth?”

Data looked at Lee, as he answered, “No. I do not believe they are ready to learn about such things. And after Q, the borg, and the dominion. They do not need to know this, just yet. I think they need a few decades to recover.”

Lee agreed, “Good idea. While you have clearly become a little more relaxes, in playing the rules, fast and loose. Just keep in mind they will still be sticklers for following the rules. Such as, the Prime directive.”

Data stated, “I realize that. I will vouch for the Atlantic Riders. The Atlantic Riders do not steal technology. And they will behave themselves.”

Lee commented, “Actually, I am more worried about the Star Fleet Department of Temporal Investigations giving you problems.”

Data said, “I doubt that we will visit long enough, for that to become a problem. I am going to say, hi. Contact my old friends. To let them know I am fine, and back among the living. But, none of us are planning on staying.”

Lee responded, “I hope you have a safe journey.”

Data held up his right hand, as he did the vulcan hand sign, with his right hand. He stated, in an even tone of voice, “Live long and prosper.”

No one dared laughed at what Data had done, because they could tell he was serious about his action and statement.

Lee calmly said, “I have done both.”

Data dropped his right hand, as he replied, “Good.”

River casually stated, “Well, good luck. You're going to need it.”

Data cracked a grin, as he playfully replied, “Wrong franchise.”

All of them got the joke, as they laugh for a few seconds.

As they calmed down, Durban then turned towards the nearby Lowe family group, as he stated, “Riders. Time to leave.”

(_)

Several feet away, those around the Lori's group, including Lori, herself, had heard Durban, as they turned to look at him. They then turned to look at each other, as Cynthia sadly said, “I guess all things must come to an end.”

Lori calmly countered, “This is not an ending. It is just another chapter in our life closing. But, a new one is bound to open, sooner than expected. And I am sure you will return, someday soon.”

Cynthia replied, “You're right.”

Denise promised, “We will come back to visit.”

Lori said, “I know.”

Stan requested, “When you return. Do you think you teach me one of those hover-cycles?”

Tommy happily replied, “Sure.”

Evenly offered, “When we come back, I will teach you to ride my hover-cycle.”

Stan replied, “Thanks.”

Lewis commented, “Just make sure to wear a helmet.”

Kyle stated, “We will make sure that he does, when he rides one of our vehicles.”

Ed said, “When you guys come back. I would like a chance to look at that computers on your ship. I would love to look at Klingon source code.”

Wyatt commented, “I am sure you would. But, that would be up to the Professor.”

Ed replied, “I realize that would likely be the case.”

Lori turned to her wife, as she said, in a supportive tone of voice, “Don't worry, dear. You can sweet talk anyone into doing what you want.”

Ed turned to her spouse, as she replied, “Thank you, honey.” Both of them then turned back to look a the group.

Kyle said, “Well, goodbye.”

Lori suggested, “How about, until next time?”

Kyle replied, “That will work. Until next time.”

In response, Lori just warmly smiled at Kyle.

Wyatt commented, “See you later.”

Denise said, “Goodbye.”

Evelyn commented, “Have a great day.”

Stan replied, “You too.”

Ed said, “Don't be strangers.”

Lewis offered, “Next time you come. We will do lunch, again.”

Tommy happily replied, “We will look forward to it. And goodbye.”

Lori soberly said, “You will be in our prayers”

Cynthia responded, in a thoughtful tone of voice, “You will being in ours, as well.”

The nine Atlantic Rides, whom were present, then turned, and walks up the ramp. When they reached the top of the ramp, they turned to face those still on the beach, as the ramp slowly began to close, by rising upward.

A few seconds later, the ramp closed.

Less an a less than a minute later Klingon Bird of Prey lifted off into the air.

When ship was fifty feet into the air, it then disappeared in the blink of an eye. Meaning the shipped reality jumped, instead of using its cloak. Which would have caused it to disappear in a shimmering effect. All those present, whom watched the ship leave, knew that. And as such, they did not comment on it.

As as seven adults looked at each other, Lee inquired, “Does anyone, beside me, want a snack?”

Lori suggested, “There is a good donut and ice-cream shop, in town, that is currently open, and undamaged.”

Chang commented, “I could use a donut.”

River said, “One won't hurt me.”

Stan replied, “Fine with me.”

Lewis stated, “Let me call Irene, to invite her, and, Leona over to meet us there.”

Lori said, “I will call, Rico.”

Ed complimented, “Good ideas, from the both of you.” She then turned to Chang, as she cracked a grin. She commented, “And Chang is buying.”

Chang rhetorically thought, 'Oh hell, why not? I have spent more money on worse things than treating some friends to something to eat.'

River giggled a little at Chang's thoughts.

Chang turned to Ed, as he casually replied, “Sure. My treat.”

The seven adults then headed for their cars, that were parked a few sand dunes away, by a two lane road. Soon, they were on the road, with Lori driving her family in their car. With Chang drive his car, with River and Lee inside. And they followed Lori to the donut and ice-cream shop, in town, that she knew was open.

(_)

Later that afternoon, around five PM, in their connected suites, Lotton, Shenhua, and Sawyer, were playing with three young toddler children, Thomas, Wenqian, and Ivy.

Their was actually two suites, connected together, side by side, with a set of doors connecting them. They got those suites, to make room for their children.

Over the last day, due to the super-soldier serum in her bloodstream, the cuts and bruises that Shenhua had sustained in her fight with Barbossa, the day before, had fully healed, without any trace of scaring on her body.

All of them were dress casually, as Shenhua, Lotton, and Sawyer, sat on the floor, as they played with their young children. There were baby toys were spread out on the floor, as their enjoyed their children having fun, casually playing with each other.

Though, Lotton and Sawyer could tell, from the quiet manner in which Shenhua was acting, that something was weighing heavily on Shenhua's mind.

Lotton turned to look at Shenhua, as she finally decided to ask, in a concerning tone of voice, “What is wrong, Shenhua?”

Sawyer turned to look at Shenhua, as she stated, “We can tell something is wrong. What is it?”

Shenhua turned to Lotton, and Sawyer, let out a deep breath. She then answered, in a sober tone of voice, “I did not know how to tell you both this. But, I believe you both deserve to know. My friendship with Barbossa was much deeper than student and teacher. You see, I am the reincarnation of Barbossa.”

Sawyer questioned, “Are you sure?”

Shenhua responded, “Remember, a week ago, when Revy became Jack?”

Sawyer replied, “Yes. How could we forget?”

Shenhua stated, “Well, as you remember, I got a partial blast from that box. And as such, I also got some of Barbossa memories. Though thankfully, I was still myself. And not Barbossa. And River and Annie, were able to seal those memories, and keep quiet about this. For which I am grateful towards them.”

Sawyer said, “That is good.”

Lotton commented, “I sense there is more to this. You never did tell any of us what happened to Barbossa.”

Shenhua quietly said, “I watched him die.”

Sawyer inquired, “What do you mean?”

Shenhua answered, “At the end of the boomer battle, I thought he betrayed me. But instead, he was just training me, and setting me up, to help him die.”

Sawyer flatly stated, “That is messed up.”

Shenhua replied, “You will get no argument from me, on that?”

Lotton asked, in a serious tone of voice, “Did he trick you into killing him?”

Shenhua answered, “Fortunately, no. But, he beat me, again.”

Sawyer pointed out, “You beat yourself. So, there is no problem there.”

Shenhua shrugged, as she gave her two lover a weak grin. She commented. “That is nice way to look at it. Though, in fighting me, his body could not take the strain of our combat. As such, he had a fatal heart attack. But, that did not immediately kill him. He still had time to help sort out our manners, before he died.”

“And after the fight. Barbossa confessed everything to me. He then took us to a tropical beach, in our home reality. During his time. Where we sat under a palm tree, on the beach, as we drank rum, until Barbossa peacefully died. Then, I returned here.”

Lotton questioned, “Why didn't you tell us sooner?”

Shenhua responded, “I didn't know how to tell you. It is not something one mentions in casual conversation.”

Sawyer said, “True. And I, for one, can understand why you didn't tell us all of this.”

Shenhua went on to say, “Thank you. And besides, I was not sure how you would feel that I was a guy in a previous life.”

Lotton lightly laughed at Shenhua's comment.

Sawyer turned to Lotton, as she flatly said, “This is not funny.”

Lotton calmed down, as she pointed out, “It should be, to me. Because, I used to be a guy. And we all became guys to get each other pregnant, with these little rugrats here. As such, we are okay with this.”

Sawyer turned Shenhua, as she said, “Yes. We are.”

Shenhua gave them a warm smiled, as she replied, “Thank you guys.”

Lotton asked, “Anything else on the matter?”

Shenhua said, “I have Jack's magic compass. Barbossa gave me that, and a few other items, on his person. Including his pistol. Which I have disarmed, and put away. His sword. Which is sheathed in its scabbard, and put away. And a bag of gold dobla coins”

Lotton commented, “Nice. And that magic compass is a little fun toy to have.”

Shenhua mischievously stated, “I know. And he also said he was happy how my life turned out. Including, being with you, my family.”

Lotton complimented, “That was thoughtful of him. Or, you. I am not sure how you want us to think on that.”

Sawyer said, “Yes. That is nice.”

Shenhua responded, “I appreciate both of your sentiments, on this matter. And you can think of him, and myself, as the same person. I am okay with that. Also, if we ever decide to vision a pirate era, of an alternate Earth. I believe I may have a sailing ship for us to use. Though, we will need to hire a small crew for this ship.”

Sawyer asked, “What type of sailing ship is it? And what is the name of the ship? If it has a name?”

Shenhua answered, “Oh. The ship has a name. And you both know that name. As an inheritance, from Barbossa. He left me a refurbished, completely repaired, and upgraded, Black Pearl. Yes. That Black Pearl.”

Sawyer said, with curiosity in her tone of voice, “The Black Pearl. Intriguing.”

Lotton requested, with interest in her tone of voice, “Tell us more. Having a large yacht is nice. But, so is having a historical pirate ship.”

Shenhua cracked a grin, as she replied, “With pleasure.”

Shenhua then explained the where the Black Pearl was. In a warehouse, on Gomez's ship. And circumstances of how the Black Pearl had come to be there. Also, she explained how the ship had been upgraded with modern conveniences and weaponry.

Shenhua also confirmed that the ship does exist, due to the fact she had fought Barbossa on the ship.

Shenhua could tell that Lotton and Sawyer were becoming more interested in what she was saying, by the minute.

Also, Shenhua mentioned that she already figured out how and when to get it out of her new ship. Though, they first needed to find a place to put it. Which, fortunately, with resources, would not be a problem.

Which they planned to do something about the matter, within a week or so, in their time. Given, they could come back to Gomez's spacestation, five minutes after the Chang's attack teams had left. As such, time was not that great a factor for them.

And the best part was they all agreed that it was very likely that Revy, the reincarnation of Jack Sparrow, would have no interest in trying to claim the Black Pearl for her own.

In addition, Shenhua admitted that in a way, through her, Hector Barbossa had finally won, his contest of wills, against Jack Sparrow, over the control of the Black Pearl. Centuries after both of the great pirates had died.

And Shenhua found the situation both amusing and humorous.

Continued casually playing with their children, as they made their plans on the matter. When they were finished with their plans, they then talked about getting some supper, for themselves, and their three children.

(_)

The next day, it was clear, sunny, and slightly cool Sunday morning. Inside a first floor examination room, in the infirmary of Daiyu Palace Casino, Hernan Pena sat in a chair, at a table, across from Doctor Simon Tam.

The door was closed to the room. With Simon also sitting in a chair, as he used a few tools, in his hands, to finish some last few final adjustments to the internal mechanics of Hernan's new, artificial left hand.

The last two days had not been the most pleasant for Hernan. While his family had been rescued. And later cleared to be fine from Simon's medical staff. Hernan, himself, had to have his left hand, which had been crushed by Gomez, removed at the wrist.

Fortunately, while Hernan was sedated, with the advanced technologies and resources available to Doctor Simon Tam, Simon was able to attach a cybernetic left hand, like the once Roberta had, to Hernan's exposed left wrist. With him using Star Wars technology to attach the circuitry to Hernan's nervous system, at his left wrist.

Simon then used some technology from the Star Trek reality, to heal Hernan's wounds in a matter of seconds.

When Hernan came to, he found this his artificial hand matched his natural right hand. With his left hand's exterior skin even matching Hernan's natural right hand's nails, skin tone and hair growth. The hand even had its own unique fingerprints.

Still, Hernan had to stay for the next day, until this morning. To make sure everything worked. With no complications. Though, during his stay, Hernan was assigned a nice private room, in the casino medical ward.

And Hernan's family did visit him yesterday. With him being in good spirits.

Also, Hernan had learned, that the x-rays on Roberta's chest did show that she had a few cracked ribs. Though, no broken ones, and she was otherwise unharmed. Also, due to the super-soldier serum in her blood, given her enhanced regenerative abilities, she was expected to make a full recovery within a week.

Presently, this was the last little bit of medical treatment Hernan needed, before he would be released. And he was anxious to get this over with, and rejoin his family.

As Simon was checking over Hernan's new left hand, Chang was also in the room, as well. With Chang, standing a few feet away from them. As he looked over at Simon working on Hernan.

All three of them were wearing casual clothing. Chang in his black suit. Simon in his white doctor's coat, with a shirt and pants underneath his coat. And Hernan was in a t-shirt, jeans, belt, boxers, socks, and boots.

Hernan's clothing had been provided to him, by his family, an hour ago, when they arrived. So, he would have a fresh set of clothing, for when he checked out that day.

Hernan's family was currently waiting for him, in the waiting room, near the room he was currently inside of.

Chang watched as Hernan had his left hand laying on the table, with the palm facing downward. There was panel open on the back Hernan's left hand. With the panel flipping open to the left of the hand. With the panel open, Chang could see the mechanics inside the hand.

Chang could tell that Simon's tinkering was not causing Hernan any pain.

Chang joked, in english, “Simon. Right now, you seem to be less of a doctor, and more of a mechanic.”

No one laugh, and Simon did not look up from his work, as he commented, in english, “Bones McCoy has nothing on some of the things I have seen.”

No one laughed at Simon's joke, either, as Chang replied, “I will take your word on that.”

Simon then closed the panel on the back of Hernan's left hand.

Hernan felt the click of the panel close, than heard the panel close.

Simon set down his tools, as he looked at at Hernan's face. He said, “There we go. And you are done. The skin should seal around the panel within an hour. So, how does it feel?”

Hernan raised his left hand, as he flexed it for a few seconds. He then lower his left hand to his side, as he looked up at Simon's face.

Hernan stated, in english, “I have had this hand for over a day. And I still find it unbelievable. It feels just like my old left hand.”

Simon commented, “Yes. More human than human.”

Hernan asked, “Did you just make a Blade Runner joke?”

Simon cracked a grin, as he responded, “Sure did... And if you start feeling pain in that hand, without injury. Or, if it moves without your command. Let me know. It means the connection between the circuits and nerves in your wrist, are misfiring. Though, that is a quick fix.”

Hernan replied, “If that happens, I will do so.” Hernan turned to Chang, as he inquired, “I take, by your presence, that you wanted to speak to me, before I left?”

Chang looked at Hernan, as he calmly answered, “Yes. There a few things I wish to discuss with you, before you leave.”

Hernan questioned, “Well, before we get into that. I noticed that you took those two rifles away, when you help me, a couple of days ago.”

Chang stated, “Not to worry. We already returned them to Burt.”

Hernan replied, “Good. Those are the type of weapons that should not be lost track of.”

Chang asked, “I agree. So, have you thought about my offer to you, yesterday. On helping Kaylee with auto repairs, for this casino?”

Hernan stated, “I have had nothing to do here, but think. So, I have. And we all saw that mess. You are going to need help.”

Chang responded, “That is why I am asking you. And the mess was not as bad as it first appeared. Kaylee said that after clearing everything out of the way, that the situation was not as bad as she thought it was. We can probably savage between one to two dozen of the vehicles back there. Though, she is backlogged on everything else in that garage. So, we need help. And Balalaika mentioned you did good work on her, Zil.”

Hernan pointed, “She also paid well for that work.”

Chang pointed out, “I realize that. Though, I am giving you free medical care that you could not get in this reality. I think a fairer price might be in order.”

Hernan conceded, “Okay. You have a point there. Here is my offer. Since, from what I saw, we are talking working on volume, of mostly the same model vehicles. I can order more of the parts in volume. Also, this is likely going to be around a six month job. As such, I will give you a ten percent discount, on my standard fee.”

Chang, “I can live with that.”

Hernan said, “Though, we will have to work out the time table, later. Because, I have a few jobs ahead of you, that I need to complete first. Such as the police vehicles. But, I will not take on any new jobs. Unless, it is for a close friend. And will work around the jobs, as I do yours.”

Chang replied, “That is fine with me.”

Hernan commented, “Also, I will need to inspect each vehicle, to pull together a list of what I need. Then, I will have to talk to my suppliers. And given the volume here, I will need you to front some money for the parts.”

Chang said, “That can be easily arranged.”

Hernan stated, “Also, you will pay a little each week, along with a set amount for completion of each vehicle. I got a family to support. And I cannot just wait for a lump sum at the end of the job.”

Chang replied, “I can appreciate that.”

Hernan said, “And my family, and I, get free medical care from Simon and you medical facilities, in you casino, for life.”

Simon replied, “I am okay with that.”

Chang stated, “Hernan, you drive a hard bargain. But, you have deal.”

Hernan said, “Thank you.” He then held out his right hand for Chang.

Chang shook Hernan's right hand, with his own. Their grips were firm, but not tight.

They broke their handshake.

Hernan stated, “We will work on the details, in a few days.”

Chang replied, “I can wait.”

Hernan mentioned, “Besides, I am going to need someone to do maintenance on my hand. And Simon here is the only person I know who can do it. Also, I want to make sure that my family also gets the best care, as well.”

Chang commented, “Of course. Also, there is another matter I want to speak to you, as well.”

Hernan asked, “And that would be?”

Chang said, “There is a betting pool going on among our friends. In dealing with you. And a few others. I would like you to be a part of it. And do not worry. Giving what is being bet on, I figure you deserve to have a chance to in on it, as well.”

Hernan inquired, with concern in his tone of voice, “What sort of betting pool?”

Chang said, “Given how our lives have turned out. There betting pool is about how long you can still remain a guy, full time. By that, I mean. How long until you are turned into a woman. Either part time, or full time. Though, the instant woman packets don't count. Also, the betting pool is being organized through my casino.”

Hernan groaned. He then responded, in slight annoyance, “Of course. Given this group. I shouldn’t be surprised you, and your groups, would start such a bet about me. I am Roberta counterpart, after all. I even now have a cybernetic hand, like her.”

Chang said, “Exactly. And if it ends of being magic that chances you, chances are your artificial hand will change with you.”

Hernan questioned, “Are you sure about that?”

Chang answered, “When Roberta has used the instant man water packets, to change into a male. The change is complete. That magic even turns all her cybernetic parts human, and into male parts proportions to his normal human parts.”

Hernan said, “Interesting.”

Chang replied, “Quite.”

Simon said, “Being a woman is not that bad.”

Hernan turned to Simon, as he commented, “I already had that conversation with, Melanie.”

Simon replied, “Oh.”

Hernan turned back to Chang, as he asked, “So, what do you personally bet, concerning my fate?”

Chang said, “Unlike some people.” He turned to Simon. He looked back at Hernan, as he continued, “I have faith in you, Hernan. So, I put my money on one year. Which had about two to one odds against.”

Hernan sarcastically replied, “Gee. Thanks.” He turned to Simon, as he asked, “So, what was your bet.”

Simon gave an embarrassed expression on his face, as he quietly stated, “Two weeks.”

Hernan hesitantly said, “Okay.” He looked back at Chang, as he inquired, “Now, what are the odds of me making it five years, unchanged?”

Chang answered, “Twenty to one, against. Are you still interested?”

Hernan stated, “Put me down for either, two thousand U.S. cash, or two troy ounces of gold. Which ever is more, at the end of the bet. With my betting that I will make it for five years. And I will. I plan for that to be part of my children's college fund.”

Hernan thought, 'Fortunately, I have quite a bit of gold saved up at home.'

Chang let out a laugh. He then said, “Now, that is positive thinking. And motivation. Spike and Jetta are personally handling the bets. And Spike is on the floor this morning. On your way out, as you pass by the gaming floor, just tell Spike that you want in on this bet pool. And the amount, and time that you are betting on. And don't worry. I already spoke her and Jetta. She will put down you bet, without a problem.”

Hernan responded, “I will.” He thought, 'Though, while I do so, I will have Maria take our kids, to front lobby, to wait for me. As I place my bet. Still, I wonder.'

Hernan asked, “So, what is the current record on this?”

Chang stated, “The current record is held by Bob Lowe, for around twenty-seven years. But, he was just very lucky. She is now known as Lori.”

Hernan said, “Oh yea. Her.” He thought, 'From those screwy stories.' He continued, “I will be sure to talk to her. About this. She may be able to give me a few points.

Chang complimented, “Good idea.”

Hernan turned to Simon, as he asked, “So, are we done?”

Simon looked at Hernan, as he replied, “Yes.”

Both Hernan stood up from his chair. A second later, Simon stood up from his chair.

Hernan looked over at both Simon and Chang, as he stated, “I will talk to you both, later. I am now going to go see my family. And go home.”

Chang said, “Take care, Hernan.”

Simon offered, “We will be here, if you need us.”

Hernan replied, “I know.” He then turned around, and walked to the closed door. Opened it. Walked through the threshold of the door. And he gently shut the door behind him, he walked down a hallway, towards the waiting room.

When the door closed, Chang turned to Simon, as he dispassionately questioned, “Two weeks?” He continued in a more firmer tone of voice, “Two weeks?”

Simon looked over at Chang, as he commented, “You know, in this situation, his odds of staying a guy, full time, are very slim.”

Chang cracked a grin as he said, “Sure. But, it is going to be a fun ride, watching this play out.”

Simon casually replied, “You are right about that.”

Chang inquired, “So, how are you and Kaylee doing?”

Simon happily answered, “We are getting married in a month.”

Chang responded, in a joyous tone of voice, “Good. We were all wondering when you two were going to tie the knot. As a wedding gift, I am more than happy to pay for wedding, and the honeymoon.”

Simon replied, “Thank you, Chang. We both will appreciate that. Though, there are a few minor problems.”

Chang asked, “Which are?”

Simon said, “First, I would like River as my bestman. Either gender is fine.”

Chang replied, “I believe River will be okay with that.”

Simon requested, “Also, I would like Book to attend our wedding. After all, he is now my nephew. Though, I understand that due to the others not being in the loop, my other neices and nephews do not need to attend.”

Chang mentally lamented, 'I appreciate that. We had to have you for are doctor during that time. And you have keep quiet about the matter. And while you know the truth. River, Lee, and I, are someday going to have to tell the others, what River, Lee, and I, have been up to, in my kingdom, in another reality. But, not today.'

Chang said, “I appreciate that. Concerning, Book. I will see what I can do. Who else do you plan to help with your wedding?”

Simon stated, “We still haven't found a person to officiate it. But, that won't be a problem
Also, to stand with River, I would like you, Jayne, Wash, Annie, and even Arcee, in motorcycle mode. Along with, Book. If he can come.”

Chang commented, “It is nice of you to include them.”

Simon agreed, “Yes. It is. We will also invite all our friends and family to the wedding, and reception, afterward.”

Chang questioned, “Of course. So, what is the problem? Because, I don't see one.”

Simon answered, “Its the number of the bridesmaids that are the problem. To balance out things, we need more bridesmaids, then we have already assigned.”

Chang asked, “Such as?”

Simon said, “Well, Inara, Zoe, Faye, and even Jetta have agreed to be bridesmaids. And I am sure Lee will agree, when we ask her.”

Chang replied, “I can assure you that Lee will say, yes.”

Simon went onto to say, “I thought as much. And given how much Lee has been trying to make up for everything she has done. Kaylee and I both believe that she should be given the opportunity.”

Chang said, “I am glad you both realize that.”

Simon commented, “We all realize that. Just some of us won't admit it to Lee, nor you.”

Chang replied, “Okay. Moving on.”

Simon said, “Also, Spike said she would think about. And I think she will do. Even Julia agreed to be a flower girl.”

Chang responded, “Interesting. It is nice that you were able to include even Julia. And while I am sure most of them, along with Lee. Have agreed, or will happily agree, to doing this. Zoe, I wonder about. How did you get Zoe to agree to were a dress?”

Simon smirked, as he stated, “I am her doctor. I know things about her, that no one else knows. I know things about all of you that no one else knows.”

Chang replied, “Ah. Blackmail.”

Simon mentioned, “And I offered her and Wash a two week, paid vacation to Risa.”

Chang commented, “That would do it. Still, that would leave you one bridesmaid short.”

Simon said, “And there in lies the problem.”

Chang then realized who Simon had not mentioned. He flatly questioned, “You wouldn't dare?”

Simon's grin turned absolutely mischievous, as he stated, “Yes. I would. And if you are wondering. It was originally Kaylee's idea.”

Chang thought, 'I sometimes forget how twisted she can be.'

Simon continued, “Still, we just haven't figured out how to ask, or coerce Mal to turning female, and wearing a bridesmaid's dress, in public. Though, we think she would look lovely in such a dress.”

Chang could not help, but burst out laughing, From the mental image he had from Simon's comment.

A few seconds later, as Chang calmed down. He stated, “You still haven't forgiven Mal for that stunt he pulled when you two first met.”

Chang thought, 'In the pilot episode of the Firefly series. Where Kaylee was seriously injured. And Mal threatened your life if you did not save. And you did. Then, Mal lied and said she was dead. With you then checking to find that she was already... And not that I think about. Now, that I think about it. No wonder Kaylee thought of this idea. She is probably still upset about that incident to. She is just polite to openly admit it.'

Simon grin turned wicked, as he answered, “Not in the least.”

Chang offered, “Well, how about I help you figure a way to ask Mal, in a manner that does not end in someone being shot at.”

Simon continued grinning, as he replied, “I am open to suggestions.”

Chang and Simon this talked for a few minutes, before they parted ways, to resume their duties for the day.

(_)

Meanwhile, as Simon and Chang talked to each other, Hernan had walked through a few hallways, and finally reached the door that lead to the waiting room. He opened the door, and then gently closed it behind him. Next, he turned to face his family.

Across the room, Hernan saw his family sitting in seats, that lined the wall. Sitting in the chairs were Maria, Antonio, Carmela, Ramon, Roberta, Garcia, and Fabiola.

All of whom stood up from their seats, as they looked over at him.

Hernan warmly smiled at them, as he calmly said, in spanish, “Let's go home.”

After a brief discussion, Hernan, and the other eight members of his family, filed out of the medical ward, and into a main hallways, as they headed for the front entrance to the casino. So, they could leave.

As they passed through the gaming floor, Hernan had the rest of them wait for him in the front lobby, as he stopped by to speak to Spike. He then place his bet with her, without a problem. Next, he rejoined his family, in the front lobby.

None of Hernan's family asked what Hernan had wanted to do on the gaming floor. Because they all trusted him. As such, a few seconds after Hernan's joined them in the front lobby, they all headed out into the casino parking lot.

A minute later, they had gotten into their cars, which were parked in the casino parking lot. Then, they all headed back to the Pena family home. So they could celebrate Hernan's homecoming.

(_)

The next day, it was pleasant Monday morning. The day after Hernan returned to his family. Like the last few days. The weather was sunny, and cool.

So far, the day had been uneventful on the island of De La Plata Podrido. With the children returning to school, after having the weekend off. And for most of the adults, they were continuing the clean up and repairs from Friday's boomer attack.

Inside the third floor of the medical ward in Daiyu Palace casino, inside a two bed room, Pedro and Matthew each laid in a bed.

Suddenly, Pedro started to come to, as he smelled something strong and horrible. First thing he heard was a female voice questioned, “Smelling salts? That is kind of cliche.”

A male voice answered, “Well, it works.”

Realizing that he was not alone, Pedro quickly forced himself awake, as he leaned up in the medical bed he was on.

Pedro saw that Lee, Chang, River, and Simon, were standing in the front of the foot of the bed. All four of the adults were looking in Pedro's direction. From left to right, stood Lee, River, Chang, and Simon.

Lee commented, “Wakey! Wakey! Boys!”

To Pedro's right, he heard a male voice, say, “What the hell?”

Pedro turned to his right to see that Matthew was sitting up in a medical bed, like the one he had on. And Pedro noticed that all Matthew had on was a medical gown.

Pedro then turned to look at himself, to see that he was also wearing a medical gown. Next, he turned to look at the four adults that were facing him and Matthew.

The four adults continued to look at them, as River inquired, “Should we tell them?”

Chang answered, “In a minute. Let us first wait for them to fully come to their senses.”

Pedro flatly said, “I am fully awake.”

Matthew stated, “And so am I. Also, I prefer to get the bad news out of the way, first. Such as, what happened where are our clothes?

Pedro asked, “In addition, I would like to know why are we not dead?”

Matthew commented, “That is a good point. The collision with that truck should have killed us.”

Chang calmly said, “All good questions. First, your clothing, and many of your items, were mostly undamaged in the collision. And we kept them safe for you. Such as your wallets, and cellphones. You clothes have been cleaned. And you clothing and items will be returned to you, after this conversation. And Pedro, I will have someone to drive you home.”

Pedro replied, “Thank you.”

Chang went onto say, “You're welcome. Now, as to why you are in this state of undress. While that collision did not harm truck driver, it did a number on you. Internally, you were both a mess. Broken bones. Heavily bruised organs. And a lot of internal bleeding.”

“Fortunately, your spines and brains were intact. So, you don't have to spend the next few hours of testing, here, to make sure you can even walk and talk right.”

“Still, you needed major medical care. And it would taken months of being in a bed. And more months of physical therapy. For a chance of any near full recovering. So instead, we put you both through the vat process.”

Matthew and Pedro immediately knew what that meant. They both checked under their gowns, and they found themselves to be still male. They both looked back at Chang, Lee, River, and Simon.

Matthew pointed out, “Ah. We are still guys. I thought that vat process turned all men into women?”

River commented, “That is correct.”

Chang stated, “Along with the standard vat process treatment, we included minor brainwashing. Now, the reason you are both male is that we also used a new treatment on you. Some gene therapy, from the gender virus that we all have. Though, it is not the gender bending virus itself. So, you not contagious, barring one of you giving blood to someone, or getting someone pregnant. And the same goes for any person you infect. As such, you can now both change genders with a sneeze.”

Lee said, “Not to worry, about the brainwashing. You are not under our control. We just made you mentally comfortable in both genders, and you are now both bi-sexual.”

River mentioned, “Before you awoke, we forced you to sneeze, we cleaned the goo off of you, and we changed you back into men. So, this would not be as much of a shock to you.”

Matthew commented, “We appreciate that.”

Simon offered, “If you wish, we can provide you with the means to sneeze here. That way you can adjust to your new abilities, and forms, as quickly as possible. And as I am sure you both know, the change is completely painless, and instant.”

Pedro said, “I would prefer not to do so.”

Matthew replied, “Me neither.”

River said, “You will both eventually sneeze, on your own. I hope it is in private. Though, eventually you will be able to teach yourself to sneeze, and not sneeze, on command. It is not that hard. And once you learn how, you will be in full control this ability. Still, until then, be careful.”

Pedro sceptically said, “We will keep that in mind. Though, I am still having my doubts concerning your claims.”

Lee mentioned, “There are a few other ways to prove our claims. One is to check your penises. If you were previously circumcised, you will notice you have your foreskin back. Which is not bad. It is just there again. But, an easier way is to check your faces. You will notice they are smooth.”

“And from experience, long ago. I know that no matter the shave. There is always a bit of facial hair left.”

Pedro commented, “I think I will just check my face.”

Matthew agreed, “Same here.”

Both Matthew and Pedro used their hands to check for facial hair on their faces. They both found their faces to be smooth as a baby's bottom.

Pedro responded, in annoyed manner, “Ah hell. You're right.”

Matthew looked over at Pedro, as he commented, “I am not really crazy about being able to turn into a woman, as well.”

Matthew then looked back at the four adults standing at the end of his and Pedro's beds.

River said, “There is no point in crying over spilt milk. And it was the only way to save your life, and repair you bodies completely.”

Pedro replied, “Which is why I am not angry with you.”

Matthew requested, “So, refresh our memories. I seem to recall there is more to the vat process than just gender changing?”

Lee stated, “Yes. We were coming to that. For men. The gender changing part of the process, heals all wounds, scars, and other injuries and illnesses. You are not both physically in your mid-twenties. Also, you gain some extra physical and sensory enhancements. And you now have extreme longevity from both the super-soldier serum and gender virus. And they magnify each others life extending abilities.”

Pedro asked, “So, we will be young and healthy for a very long time?”

Lee said, “Exactly. And do not worry. You will get use to all these abilities. It will just take time.”

Pedro replied, “I will take your work for that.”

Matthew then remembered, as he questioned, “Wait. Doesn't it take a month to go through that process?”

Chang stated, “Yes. It does. We used time dilation to your advantage. You have actually spent a month in another reality. Then, we brought you both here, earlier this morning. We would have done it sooner. But, we had other things to do for the last few days. And we figured that you would likely prefer not to lose another month here.”

Pedro conceded, “I agree. That was a good idea on your part.”

Chang replied, “I thought as much. And that is why your hair is a little longer.”

Pedro and Matthew immediately checked the back of their heads, and they felt their hand when and inch longer down their neck.

Both of them then lowered their hands.

Pedro said, “I can live with slightly longer hair.”

Matthew commented, “I use to have longer hair. I don't mind.”

Chang said, “Good.”

Chang thought, 'And doing the vat process on you two, and a few others, was also a good excuse to visit our family in my feudal kingdom, for a month. Though, Lee, River, and I, had to be female, in public, during our time there. Not that any of us minded. And it was fun visiting our families there.'

'And Book is doing such a wonderful job ruling my kingdom as the crown prince.'

'Still, due to circumstances. We had to go back and forth, from this reality, to that reality, a few times. But, for those in both realities, we were only going a few minutes. With us being careful, to prevent what happened when we chased after Matthew and Pedro here. From happening to us, again.'

'And Matthew and Pedro were not alone, on those that have recently undergone the vat process. We also had to put Abrego, Constantine, and Deadpool into vats, a few days before we did the process to Matthew and Pedro. Though, we only did the same minor brainwashing to Deadpool, as we did to Matthew and Pedro. And he now has the same gender bending abilities, as us.'

'I am surprised that Deadpool came out so well. Lee is right. We do such good work.'

'Also, when it came to Abrego, we also threw in some loyalty brainwashing. To help keep her out of trouble. And we did what Constantine requested, concerning her memory and personality alternations.'

'After Akira, Ranma, and Natsuru, explained the situation to me, I can understand why Constantine would request that. And Constantine is now Connie.'

'Abrego, Constantine, and Deadpool, came out of the vat process, yesterday. And I gave them a day to get use to their new forms and abilities. With Abrego and Connie starting their jobs today.'

'Though, it seems that Deadpool is going to need a to take a few lessons in card dealing, before he can start his part time job as a dealer. Fortunately, Faye agreed to teach him a few hours a day. And Wade should be ready to do his job in a week. Until then, he is just enjoying himself. Though, he has surprisingly behaved himself. I guess he really does not want to mess this deal up. Considering he is getting so much out of it.'

'And when it came to that strange green book of Constantine's. I did put that book, on a one of my shelves on my book case, in my penthouse living room. The book is in a middle shelve, in the middle of that row. With the bookcase being located in the back corner, on the other side of the room, from where I have our TV mounted to the wall. With the TV in the center of the room.'

'Though, I haven't dared opened that book, yet. For the reason that I don't want to know what my future holds. Because, I like my life now. I am in a good place. With good family and friends. And I want to stay there.'

River heard Chang's thoughts. She said, “Thank you.”

Chang replied, “You're welcome.”

Pedro inquired, “Has anyone else been given this type of vat process, with the gender changing gene therapy?”

Chang thought, 'I might as well tell them.'

Chang answered, “Yes. You are likely going to find out, anyway. Deadpool underwent the process. And it works fine for Wade. Along with a few other treatments we did to Wade, while she was asleep in the vat. And while the vat process removed and cured his cancer, we were able to lower him healing factor the point that it will not harm him, in either of his forms. I hope you are not upset?”

Pedro stated, “I am not. I guess you cut a deal with him? Including, offering him a job here?”

Chang thought, 'You're as sharp as ever.' He said, “You are correct. And I am surprised you are not upset.”

Pedro commented, “No. I support you doing so. Without the cancer and other medical problems with his body. He will be more happier, and saner. And with him having a job at the casino. You can keep an eye on him.”

Chang said, “Exactly.” He thought, 'Well, I am glad that you are happy about this, Pedro.'

Matthew asked, “So, what are we going to do, now?”

Chang said, “Well, I was hoping you would come back to work for me, to your old job. Say, in a few days. To give you some time to get use to your female form. And your abilities.”

Matthew said, “Fine. I have nowhere else to go.”

Chang thought, 'Later, when I have that starfury rebuilt and working, I will ask you to teach me to fly it. And I have no doubt that will happen. Given I tasked Annie, Kaylee, and Arcee to repair the ship. And they all consider a worthy challenge of their mechanical and engineering skills.'

'I know you were the pilot. From the flight records we found in the ship's computers, it was clearly you were flying the starfury. Also, in a few weeks. I will let you both know we found that out. And we will throw you a big party for saving this world.'

'But, I will not tell you, now. That would not be wise. You both have enough on your minds with your new gender abilities.'

'Still, there is one thing about you gender abilities, that you likely don't realize. Especially, you, Matthew.'

Chang stated, “Good. And keep in mind, Matthew. You are not wanted in your female form, in your home reality.”

Matthew responded, “Good point. I also need to look up Garibaldi. I know that he does eventually return to our home reality. I need to find out when, so he can get my mess, back home, sorted out for me.”

Chang stated, “Good luck with that. And just let me know when you need to borrow a reality device. And let him know that he, and his family, are welcome in my casino.”

Matthew replied, “I will.”

Chang turned to Pedro, as he said, “And as for you, Pedro. If you keep your old job. That is fine. If not. I could use a skilled investigator.”

Pedro stated, “I am keeping my job. Though, I will take that under advisement. It is nice to have options.”

Chang pointed out, “I agree. Also, keep in mind you do appear to be younger. That will require an explanation.”

Pedro said, “I will think of something. Given the strangeness in this city. My boys will not ask for too many details on my sudden improvement on looks.” He thought, 'As long as I do not change genders in front of them. I will have to be careful about sneezing, from now on.'

Chang replied, “I hope you are right. Also, as a way to keep our secret. While, Matthew already gets free medical care here. Pedro, you may now get free care, as well. Given your might need someone to do a check up on your female form. And occasionally your male form, as well.”

Pedro said, “Don't worry. I want to keep our abilities a secret. And I am more than willing to take you up on your offer.”

Matthew replied, “I agree to do so, as well.”

Chang said, “Good.”

Simon, whom had been silent for most of the conversation, finally decided to speak. He commented, “Along the lines of what Chang just said. As much as I would prefer you both to change now. I can understand your hesitation. And if you have any questions. Let me know.”

“While, I have already done a basic example on both your forms. Before you were awaken. To make sure you were both okay. I would prefer you both come in for more thorough examinations.”

Pedro warned, “If you next words are a suggestion that we eventually turn female, and have pelvic exams. I am going to hurt you.”

Matthew stated, “And I am going to help.”

Simon realized they were not joking. He said, “Not to worry. Any such exams would be done with scanners. Nothing would be put inside you.”

Pedro replied, “Good.”

Matthew commented, “That is comforting to know.”

Simon thought, 'For right now, I think it is best I lie to them. They have been through a lot. I do not think they would take the news well that I already did full pelvic exams on both their female forms. Including taking samples, to make sure they are healthy. Which they are. Though, I was careful not to break their hymens. So, no one is the wiser. Save, for River, here.'

River giggled a little at Simon's thoughts.

Simon thought, 'And thank you for keeping that a secret, sis. Though, there is another matter, I need to mention.'

Simon stated, “Also, as warning. Do not get circumcised as a man. Many of your male genitalia are equivalents to your female genitalia. And while we are have not tested this theory. If you get circumcised as a male, you risk damaging the female clitoral hood, and your labia. The outer parts of the female genitalia.”

From the looks on Pedro and Matthew's facing, Simon could tell they took his words of caution, seriously.

Pedro said, “I won't. And I wasn't planning too.”

Matthew commented, “Neither was I. But, thank you for the warning.”

Simon responded, “You're welcome. Also, the same works in reverse. Any damage to you female genitalia will damage your male genitalia. Though, this is not all bad. Once you hymen is broken in your female forms, it stays broken. Which means you only have to worry about the pain from that, once.”

“Also, breast reduction in the female form, does not effect the chest of your male form.”

Pedro commented, “I remember reading about Rock's boob reduction, in Lee's stories.”

Simon stated, “Yes. That is where I learned of that case, as well. And I even spoke to Rock about that. A long time ago. And she more forthcoming.”

“Also, if you decide to stay female. As long as you change male, at least once every three weeks, or so. You will not have to worry about the problems associated with female menstruation.”

Pedro chose to remain silent.

Matthew said, in with relief in his tone of voice, “That is a relief.”

River commented, “You are preaching to the choir.”

Matthew smiled towards River, as he commented, “That I don't doubt one bit.”

Matthew saw River's smile towards him, slightly widened.

Simon mentioned, “And by the same token, you have to stay female a few weeks, to reach the fertile period, if you decide you want to get pregnant, and become a mother. And if you get pregnant. You will lock in your female form until you have your child.”

Pedro flatly stated, “I am not interested in that one bit.”

Chang teased, “You may someday change your mind.”

Pedro realized the subtext of Chang's comment. Pedro thought, 'Chang has had children, as a woman.' He asked, “How many children have you personally had, Chang?”

Chang smirked, as he said, “Like I am going to tell you.”

Pedro flatly stated, “I don't want to know.” He thought, 'Chances are that River and Lee have also been pregnant before, and given birth.'

River smirked as well, as she commented, “That would be a good guess.”

Pedro then watched as River whispered into Lee's ear. And he saw Lee giggle a little.

Pedro thought, 'The less I know about this, the saner I will be.'

River looked over at Pedro, as she stated, “That is a strong possibility.”

Simon calmly spoke up, “Be that as it may. There are two other matter to discuss. While it is not easy to get pregnant. You can still get sexually transmitted diseases. So, if you decide to be sexually active. Please do so, wisely. And use a protection. Such as condoms.”

“Also, keep in mind that birth control pills do not work for us gender benders. And it is a very bad idea for gender benders to insert anything into the vaginal cavity, or uterus. Though, I speak from experience, when I say that penises and dildos will be pushed out, if there is an accidental change during sex.”

Matthew commented, “We will keep that in mind.”

Pedro agreed, “That we will.”

Simon responded, “Good. And if you do get something stuck in your body. Including any creams, or items. Call me immediately. Before the problem becomes serious. I will help you, and I do so, in a discreet manner.”

Matthew said, “Thank you for the offer.”

Pedro just slightly groan at how embarrassing this conversation was becoming, for himself.

Simon ignored Pedro's slight groan, as he turned to Matthew. He replied, “You're welcome.”

Simon turned his head towards River. He then look back to Pedro and Matthew. He stated, “And I know for a fact. From a few different sources. That if you are hit in the groin as a man. If you change into a woman. That pain transfers to the lower abdomen. Also, getting hit down there, as a woman, still hurts. It is just that the soreness does not last nearly as long.”

River thought, 'I should have never told you that, Simon. Though, I did tell my other friends, about that. And Jayne suffered a similar incident on Mars Dome. So, you would have found out, anyway.'

Pedro said, “I appreciate the warning,”

Matthew commented, “Yes. And such a blow is best to be avoided in the first place.”

Simon agreed, “Of course.”

Chang suggested, “Now, that is settled. You two do need to get accustom to your female forms. And subconsciously, you both should already be comfortable with being either gender. It is just your conscious minds do not realize this, yet.”

“The best way to do this is when you get home. Just change to your female forms, in the privacy of your home. And slowly look at, and play with your bodies. Though, at first, I suggest you do it in the nude. Because, it you don't, you might stretch out your clothing, in odd ways.”

“When you figure out the differences in body sizes between both your forms, you can get gender neutral clothing that you can change back and forth in, without damaging that clothing.”

Matthew said, “I think I will do that. I am interest in seeing my female form.”

River offered, “Call us, if you want any tips on having fun in either form.”

Matthew cracked a grin, as he commented, in a mischievous tone of voice, “Maybe, I will.”

Pedro commented, “Personally, I can wait.”

Matthew turned to Pedro, as he said, “Okay. When I am finished. I will tell you about it.”

Pedro turned to Matthew, as he replied, “I can live with that.”

Both Pedro and Matthew then turned to look at the four other adults in the room.

Simon cautioned, “Just make sure you get wet down there, before you have your fun, or it will likely be painful. And afterward, make you sore.”

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

Pedro conceded, “I guess that makes sense.”

Lee teased, “You two don't need to be so modest. We have seen your both nude, as female. You are both hot. And the super-soldier serum also buff up your male forms.”

Pedro said, “Now, that you mention it. I was beginning to wonder where my gut went.”

Lee commented, “Yes. Losing the fat around the waist is a nice perk.” She then teased, with a bit of mirth in her tone of voice, “And you might even end up dating each other.”

Pedro flatly stated, “Not happening.”

Matthew said, “Sorry. We are just friends”

Lee commented, “You know? We were not joking when we said we made both of you bi-sexual, during the vat process?”

Pedro said, “I have always held an appreciation for the beauty of both genders. I just prefer women. And I probably still do.”

Matthew mentioned, “You would be shocked at the sexuality of my reality, not shown on the Babylon Five series. Besides. During my drug fueled years. I have done it in many ways. With several different types of people. Women. Men. Even a few of the more human like aliens.”

River said, “You will have to tell us about those tales, sometime.”

Matthew replied, “I will do so, later.”

River commented, “I look forward to it.”

Pedro inquired, “Now, what about my weapons?”

Chang stated, “Among your items were you two guns, your rifle, your knife, and several magazines and speedloaders, for you weapons. They are some of the items we will return

Pedro questioned, “Good. And as fun as it has been. Can we leave now?”

Matthew said, “Pedro is right. We cannot just lay here all day.”

Simon responded, “I respect that. I will show you to your clothing, and items. I will even give both of you a few pepper packets. To help you sneeze, when you want to.”

Matthew said, “That will be fine.”

Matthew and Pedro then hopped off their beds, and they followed Simon out of the room. With Simon leading them to where they could get their clothing, and items.

Meanwhile, Chang, River, and Lee, silently watched them leave.

Chang thought, 'Now, that these fires are put out. We still have to handle another one, tonight. Fortunately, we were able to track him down, without a problem. We are just waiting for nighttime, because it will be easier to confront him.'

The three lover then looked at each other.

Lee asked, “So, what do you guys want to do this morning?”

Chang stated, “I will be busy, doing work, for most of the day. And we also have that business to conclude tonight.”

Lee replied, “Okay.”

River suggested, “I was thinking that maybe we could go to the Inara's spa.”

Lee said, “That is a good idea.”

River turned to Chang, as she calmly requested, “Chang, if you have time. Please, come join us.”

Chang looked at River, as he responded, “I will see if I can fit it in my schedule. If I can. I will do so.”

River kindly replied, “Thank you.”

The three lovers then also left the room, as well.

(_)

Meanwhile, downstairs, in the front lobby, a young woman was begin the first day on the job, of her new life, as one of the clerks at the check in desk.

She wore her casino uniform, and shoes, without a problem. She was happy with her new job.

While this woman did not remember much of her old life. She did remember what she had undergone. That she did so willingly, and at her own request. Also, she remembered just enough of her old life to realize she did not want to remember, nor learn about her old life. As such, she was looking forward to creating new memories, at the second chance she had been given.

This woman was once the man known as John Constantine. Whom, in his home reality, was feared by the forces of both Heaven and Hell. Now, she was known as Connie. And she was looking forward to what the rest of her life would bring her.

Connie happily stood at the front desk, in her new uniform, as she enjoyed her new job at Daiyu casino.

(_)

Near the front check in desk, another young woman was starting the first day of her job. Which was as a teller, at one of the booths.

That person being, Abrego. She did not complain about the uniform, shoes, nor her new job, that she was assigned too. She did not even complain about her gender change. Because, she was just happy to still be alive, with her health returned to her.

As Abrego stood at her booth, she notice that all the booths connected, on the back side, as a hallway.

Abrego then noticed the face of the teller right beside her, to her left. She also saw there were no customers around.

Abrego thought, 'Could she be? And with not customers around, I better ask her, while I have the chance.'

Abrego fully turned to face the woman, as she questioned, in spanish, “Gustavo? Is that you?”

The woman to her left, turned to face her. She calmly inquired, in spanish, “I apologize. But, do I know you?”

Abrego said, “It is me. Abrego.”

Gustavo face turned to one of job, as she responded, “Oh. Yes. It is me, Gustavo. We were wondering what happened to you. We thought Chang just killed you, years ago.”

Abrego replied, “No. I escaped. It is a long story.” She thought, 'It is good to see a friendly face again. And this time, I will treat Gustavo better. Because, I don't have that many friends left.'

Gustavo asked, “I bet. So, since you escaped. How did you end up a woman?”

Abrego said, “It was the only way to save my life.”

Gustavo responded, “Oh well. Being a woman is not that bad. Being female has its perks, and its drawbacks. And it is great to see you again. Even given the weird situation we are in.”

Abrego replied, “I agree. It is good to see you, as well.”

Gustavo asked, “So, how long have you been a woman?”

Abrego answered, “This is my second day.”

Gustavo questioned, “The vat process?”

Abrego said, “Yes.”

Gustavo offered, “Well, don't worry. I will you adjust to your new body. And you will find that the process gave us some interesting physical perks. I will show you them, later.”

Abrego replied, “Okay. Thank you.”

Gustavo inquired, “So, is this your new job?”

Abrego answered, “Yes.”

Gustavo said, “Good. Then, we will be working together, again.”

Abrego happily replied, “I was hoping that would be the case.”

Gustavo mentioned, “Also, this is a decent job. Great pay and benefits. And even after what he did to us, Chang is a pretty good boss.”

Gustavo then saw two women customers coming up toward their booth, with some money in their hands, which they clearly intended to exchange for casino poker chips.

Gustavo continued, “Unfortunately, we have some customers coming. So, we will have to talk at lunch. But, I do want to hear all about your adventures.”

Abrego said, “I look forward to telling you all about my journeys.”

The two women then turned their attention to doing their jobs. Of exchanging various currencies, along with gold, or silver, for chips. And vise versa.

And by the end of their shifts, both Connie and Abrego has a nice first day on their jobs. As Abrego peacefully reconnected with an old acquaintance. And Connie made some new friends.

(_)

Later that afternoon, in the Last Resort Diner. The boards to the front doors had been removed for the day, with a tarp left covering front entrance.

The only light was from the cracks around the plywood that had been nailed over the broken windows, and the ceiling lights of the diner.

Fortunately, after an inspection, the Lowe family found that the electrical system was okay, so they had lights and heating, from the heater-AC on the roof. But, they still had to throw out all the spoiled food, due to them having to turn off their refrigerators and freezers, for the last few days.

Also, they found that the gas pipes were damaged and needed to be repaired. As such, the gas as turned off.

The gas pipes were to a moderately sized propane tank that was stationed behind the building. Though, the propane tank itself was not damaged in the battle.

Though, they also had water, so they could use the toilets. Which meant they did not have to get portable toilets, as they repaired the diner.

To save money, the Lowe family was do repairs, in house. As such, all four of the members of the Lowe family, along with Rico, Leona, and Irene, were there, helping with repairs.

And they were all making progress was being made on getting repairs done.

Chang had already helped pay for some of the replacement parts and supplies
they needed to fix their diner.

Though, there was a backlog on some items, such as windows, due all the damage that had happened last Friday, when the boomers attack.

So, it would still take some time to repair the diner. With those doing the repairs having to do as much as their supplies allowed. Then, they take a break, until more supplies had arrives.

What those in the construction industry called, hurry up and wait.

Along with this, Rico had told them of her plan on continuing their business while they were repairing the diner

Rico's plan was to borrow Eda and Yolanda's food truck. Place the truck in their parking lot. And set up outdoor tables, chairs, and trash cans. So, customers could still come to eat their cooking. Even thought the diner itself was closed for repairs.

Luckily, both blond women had given Rico permission to borrow their food truck. Because, they had no use for it, at the moment. And it was better than to have the truck just sit idol. Which was not good for a vehicle's long term health.

Eda and Yolanda had even let Rico inspect the food truck. So, she knew what needed to be done, before she and the Lowe family could use it.

The Lowe family, along with Irene, and Leona, fully supported Rico's plan.

At the moment, all seven adults were taking a break. They were sitting at a couple of booths. One set was by the left windows of the room. Ed and Lori sat across from Rico and Stan. With Ed and Rico being on the inside of the booth.

And the others were seated was right across from the booth, And was set against a small partition half-wall, which on the others side was a small walkway to the kitchen area of the room, and then there was the center counter of the room.

Lewis sat beside Irene, across from Leona. With Lewis sitting on the inside of the booth.

Lori complimented, “I must say, Rico. Having Yolanda and Eda let you borrow their food truck was a brilliant plan on your part. Good job.”

Rico said, “Thank you. I am just happy that Eda and Yolanda agreed to loan us the truck.”

Lewis commented, “They have no reason to use it. So, we might as well use it.”

Rico stated, “Though, they did request we clean it, before we give it back to them.”

Lori replied, “Of course.”

Ed inquired, “Rico, have you seen the truck, yet? How much do we need to clean it, before we can open up? Also, does truck, or the equipment inside, need any repairs.”

Rico answered, “That truck, itself, is fine. Even the tires are in good shape. It seems that Yolanda and Eda bought this food truck, when it was new.”

“And while Eda is not the cleanest person in the room, Yolanda is all about cleanliness in what she does. Before they parked the truck at their home. They cleaned the truck of all food and other items. As such, the truck is still clean. Except for some dust.”

“But, I still believe the truck does need a basic scrubbing of soap and water, to get all the dust off. And to make it clean enough to safely use.”

“Also, along with getting some basic items. While the fryer and plumbing were cleaned out as well. We need to make sure they are clean, and ready to use.”

Ed commented, “Those issues will not be much of a problem to solve.”

Rico replied, “I agree.”

Stan questioned, “I have never worked in a food truck before? It is any different from running the diner?”

Ed answered, “Basically, working in a food truck is like working here. Only, with less space in the kitchen, and the restroom.”

Stan replied, “Okay.”

Lori pointed out, “Boys. I have seen inside of that truck, as well. There is not much space to move around in. And you two are big, beefy men. While your female forms are far more smaller and slender. When it is your turn to be the cooks, and cashiers, in the truck, you might have to work in your female forms.”

Lewis commented, “If I have to, I will work as a woman.”

Stan said, “If my size as a man becomes an issue, I will do the same.”

Lori replied, “I appreciate you both considering what I am saying.”

Ed turned to Irene and Leona, as she casually asked, “So, have you talked to your parents since the attack?”

Leona answered, “Yes. They are grateful to be given the chance to leave that spacestation, unharmed.”

Irene smiled mischievously, as she mentioned, “And they also mentioned they plan to visit in a few weeks.”

Stan commented, “You mother, Linna, stated as much, when we saw her.”

Irene replied, “I am not surprised. And she said you were all very polite.”

Stan said, “I am glad to hear that.”

Lori inquired, “So, is this a few weeks for them? Or, a few weeks for us?”

Irene kept her mischievous grin, as she answered, “They didn't say.”

Lewis warm smiled at Irene, as he commented, “Either way, will be fine.”

Irene smile became warm towards Lewis.

Ed asked, “Now, onto another important matter we have been ignoring. While we did mention the whole Merlin situations, to our friends. Do you think it is still wise for us to not inform the others of what Deadpool told River? That the story Lee wrote. Or, at least began. Is still going on.”

Lori responded, “Absolutely. They have been through enough already. And if Deadpool is right. They will likely find out, eventually. But, let them enjoy their break, for right now.”

Rico stated, “I agree. Besides, I am all for keeping this secret from the others, since they usually keep secrets from us. It is nice for us to be in the loop for once, and not them.”

Stan pointed out, “Except for River. And she is likely still trying to figure out how to tell Lee and Chang. Still, we have to worry if someone talks. And Deadpool does like to talk.”

Lori commented, “Good point. Also, Leona, Irene, please don't tell your family about this.”

Leona replied, “We won't.”

Irene said, “Just like the others. They have been through enough.”

Lewis commented, “And outside of Lee and Chang, we all know that River will keep this secret. But, as Stan pointed out. Deadpool has a big mouth. At least went he, or she, comes out of the vat process.”

Stan commented, “Well, if someone was going to spill the beans on this, it would be best that it is him.”

Lori stated, “True. But, then again, Deadpool might be wrong about all this. He is insane, after all.”

Just then, everyone heard the tarp flap open at the front entrance open, and then close. Meaning someone had walked inside.

They all turned to look at who was just walked in.

The woman was of average height, with slender, thought athletic build. She had fair skin, and very short blond hair that went to her neckline. And she was very beautiful. The woman was wearing a red evening dress, with red, flat soled slippers.

Rico asked, “As you can guess, from the damage around us. And the power tools. We are closed at the moment. Still, can we help you ma'am?”

The woman turned towards them, as she said, in a very beautiful female voice, “You could say that. And please, do not stop talking on my account. I did not come here for food. I came here to talk. Because, I like to talk.”

Lori pointed out, “Well, this was a private conversation.”

The woman said, “Of course it was. But, then privacy can be very subjective when it comes to fiction.”

Lori asked, “Who are you?”

The woman crack a grin, as she responded, “Here is a hint. You just finished talking about me.”

Lori guessed, “Deadpool?”

Deadpool said, “Dead on. Sorry for the pun, Lori. And you all know that I went through that altered vat process.”

Lori replied, “Yes. And that is why we are not surprised you are a woman, now.”

Deadpool stated, “Well, part time. But, we will get to that in a minute. And Stan was right. I do like to talk. But, I know when not to talk about the important things.”

Stan conceded, “That is true.”

Deadpool turned to Stan, as she said, “And I know you are Stan. Because, you are sitting with Rico, and your parents right now.” She turned to Lewis, Irene, and Leona, as she continued, “While Lewis is sitting next to Irene, and across from Leona.”

Lewis said, “That is connect.”

Deadpool replied, “Thanks for confirming that.” She then looked around the room, as she mentioned, “Also, I will keep the boxes out of this conversation. Considering only the mentally unbalanced can see them. Though, my boxes and I are looking forward to having a pleasant conversation with Violin and Harvey.”

Lori stated, “Well, please let us know what happens in that conversation, Deadpool. Also, we have nothing against your boxes, nor your insanity, are long as you are polite.”

Deadpool replied, “Good. And I will let you know how our meeting with Violin and Harvey goes.”

Stan commented, “So, this is case of speak of the devil, situation?”

Deadpool said, “Something like that.”

Lori inquired, “Not to sound rude. But, what are you doing here?”

Deadpool answered, “Well, I figured I might as well make my formal debut, for my female form, with this scene.”

Lori hesitantly replied, “Okay...”

Ed inquired, “From the videos, we know you cut a deal with Lee, Chang, and River. Did the altered vat process work completely? Or, are you stuck as a woman?”

Deadpool answered, “It worked completely. And I can chance back and forth by sneeze, with no pain and no problems. And I am feel much better than even I expected. And for the first time, in a very long time. I feel no pain, nor discomfort.”

Ed kind replied, “That is good to hear.”

Deadpool responded, “Yes. I know. It is a great relief to no longer being suffering. And keeping in mind I read this story, beforehand.”

“Also, the same process I went through worked on Matthew and Pedro. And we all had the same basic brainwashing as the others did. We are now are fine being either genders, and we can appreciate both genders, in more ways than one.”

Stan commented, “Yea. We heard about that, as well.”

Ed inquired, “And the your cancer and healing factor?”

Deadpool grinned, as she stated, “The cancer is completely gone. Down to the DNA change. I did retain my healing factor, but on a more calmer setting. So, no more physical deformities. At least, that is what the Star Trek, Farscape, and Star Wars medical tech, Simon has, states. And I will believe technology from those three places, any day of the week.”

“Also, I will get regular check ups. If the cancer does come back, it will be quickly taken care of with those same technologies. All that is left of me that is injured is my scarred psyche. That will take time to heal. And my mind will heal. With my other problems taken care of, such healing can finally begin.”

Ed questioned, “Glad to hear it. So, are you still insane?”

Deadpool stated, “Yes. But, I am much calmer now that I am no longer hurting all over, all the time. And, admit it, I look great. Am I hot, or what?”

Rico warned, “Don't push your luck.”

Ed said, “I will agree with you, Deadpool. Though, just don't try to compare yourself with any of the Lagoon woman, and you will be fine.”

Deadpool commented, “I don't plan too. You guys are polite. And barring Fabiola, Yolanda, and Rico here. They are not.”

Lori relied, “Thank you.”

Rico said, “I appreciate that.”

Lewis asked, “So, how are you feeling?”

Deadpool happily answered, with excitement in her tone of voice, “I feel great, due to the enhancements from the super-soldier serum. No wonder Steve swore by his serum.”

Lori asked, “Glad to hear it, Deadpool. Or, do you want us to call you Wade Wilson?”

Deadpool said, “Well, Wade doesn't fit as a girl's name. Though, neither does Benny, or Dutch, or some of the others. So, Deadpool is fine for the moment. Except for when I finally go to work. But, I will figure out something before that happens.”

“And before you suggest a name for my female form, keep in mind that Wanda Wilson was my counterpart. I personally knew her. And she is a good friend of mine. So, I cannot use her name. So, I was thinking, to keep this simple, I will have my IDs does list me as 'W. Wilson'. So, when I am female, I know people will assume that Wanda is my name.”

“But, barring Wanda, I don't mind what you call me, as long as it is not insulting. Still, I prefer to use my codename, Deadpool, when I am talking to others, while I am female. At least, until I come up with a name for this gender form.”

Lori commented, “That is not a bad idea for the IDs. At least the ones without pictures.”

Deadpool replied, “Thank you. And keep in mind. While I am not always correct. I am always right.”

Leona commented, “That doesn't make sense.”

Lori stated, “Don't ever try to understand the inner works of Deadpool's mind. That is the quickest way to go insane.”

Ed agreed, “My husband is right.”

Deadpool inquired, “I will give you that one. And I have to ask. When is this place going to open back up? Or, when will you get the food truck up and going? Because I am hoping to have home style cooked diner from here, some time. Also, the food truck idea is a nice touch, Rico.”

Rico replied, “Thank you.”

Lori said, “We are making good progress. The truck should be up in a week. And the diner should be open in a few of weeks. To a month”

Deadpool agreed, “That is good progress. And I look forward to your reopening.”

Lori commented, “Your money is more than welcome here.”

Deadpool kindly replied, “Thank you.”

Stan asked, “So, Deadpool, why are you so hot?”

Deadpool happily responded, “Glad you asked. The answer is simple. It is the same reasons I did not go after the person writing this story. Those being, that my female form is beautiful. And my male form is now as handsome, as this female form is beautiful. I have my youth, and health, back, in both gender forms. And the longevity part of the super-soldier serum, in my body, will keep me young and healthy for decades to come. And I still retain my healing factor.”

“I owe that person a lot. And I got what I wanted out of all this. And I am happy.”

“And though, before you ask, I think it would be best if I don't show you my male form while wearing this. Also, my voices in both forms are good for each of their genders. And I don't mind the changing gender being a sneeze. Along with having no periods, please.”

Rico was the first to get Deadpool's reference, as she deadpanned, “Lucky you.”

The others soon understood what Deadpool mention, as well.

Rico, Lori, Ed, Irene, and Leona frowned at Deadpool, for a few seconds. While Lewis and Stan had the decency to look a little embarrassed.

Deadpool defended, “Don't be like that. There is so much to talk about. Such as a fact that I am a virgin in this form.”

The other women dropped their frowns, as everyone giggled a little at Wade's comment.

As they calmed down, Lori inquired, “You're right. So, are you really working as a dealer, at Chang's casino? Because, I don't see Chang replacing Arcee and Annie, for you.”

Deadpool answered, “Yes. Faye is teaching me to be a card dealer, a few hours a day. And I am doing pretty good in my lessons. Such as, she hasn't tried to kill me, nor stormed off. Still, she guesses that in a week, or so, I should have it down. Then, I start a part time job as a card dealer, as the casino gaming tables. And we are all seeing where my job goes from there. And from what I am told, I have been been good, so far. During my stay here.”

Rico questioned, “That's nice. So, are you going to work as male, or female?”

Deadpool stated, “Female, for right now. But, that is my choice. And because this body is like a new toy for me.”

Ed reminded Deadpool, as she said, “Just keep in mind that you new body can get pregnant.”

Deadpool stated, “Yes. Well, I am already a father. Being a mother would just be another interesting experience for me. Still, that is something that is not going to happen, anytime soon. And I know that for a fact.”

Irene inquired, “Onto am important question. Given the story is still going on. That means that Lee is not the writer. So, who, or what role, does Lee have in all this?”

Deadpool complimented, “Good catch, Irene. I am glad someone noticed that. Well, Lee is Lee. And these last two book have been a trap for the entire cast. Including, all of you.”

Stan stated, “This I have got to hear.”

Deadpool went onto say, “And you will. Unfortunately, the writer of these books came to realize, that while spinning this web of a trap, there was a much larger web the writer of the story was caught in. Actually, many of the readers that are reading this still think they are in the real world.'

Deadpool thought, 'Sorry folks. But, you are in a work of fiction, just like the rest of us characters. Only, most of you don't realize this fact. Though, very rarely, fact and fiction are the same thing. But, in this case, it is.'

'And the truth is. Besides showing off my new female form. The reason I am talking to the Lowe family, and their friends, is because they are in on this secret. They are sane. And they are polite enough about the situation that I can discuss these matters with them, in a civil fashion.'

Wade continued, “Still, to answer you question. Have you seen the Star Trek TNG episode, Ship in a Bottle?”

Irene answered, “Yes.”

Deadpool questioned, “Do you remember the ending?”

Irene replied, “Oh.”

Deadpool commented, “That was book five.”

Lori realized what Wade was hinting at. She let out a laugh, as she said, “Now, that is devious.”

Ed pointed out, “But, won't the writer, whomever he or she is, know better?”

Deadpool stated, “Ed. You don't understand. The writer in question was written to write this. The writer is channeling someone elses writings. Like Lee was towards this writer's writings.'

Lewis questioned, “So, there is another writer? A third writer?”

Deadpool answered, “Yes. At the very least. And at this high a level, it is like mirrors reflecting mirrors. Infinite reflections, with no real, true reality. It is quite insane. That is why I was informed, in advance, about all this. Given I was already insane, there was no worry of me going insane.”

Ed asked, “Who informed you?”

Deadpool answered, “The second writer. And don't ask for details. I am not giving them. At least not yet.”

Stan asked, “Fine. So, what does all this mean?”

Deadpool smiled, as she said, “It means there is much more in the future, for everyone.”

Stan stated, “So, we are not going to get a straight answer from you?”

Deadpool pointed out, “Nothing in life is a straight answer. Though, when the others do find out, I need to talk to Revy. Jack Sparrow owes me some gold coins.”

“I do not want to get into it. But, since this Revy is the reincarnation of Jack Sparrow. Brilliant idea, by the way. I did a spit take, while laughing, when I first read Lee's big mental no, on the matter, back in book five, volume one. And anyway, I need to talk to Lee over this matter. But, not right now.”

Ed deadpanned, “Good luck with that.” She thought, 'And she clearly still very much insane. Even though she is likely telling the truth.'

Deadpool casually replied, “Of course, I am telling the truth.”

Ed hastily inquired, “When did you become a telepath?”

Deadpool pointed out, “It is not telepathy. I just remember reading your thoughts, when I read this story.”

Leona commented, “This is madness.”

Deadpool smile turned mischievous, as she commented, “And it is so much fun.” She thought, 'I bet you folks thought I was going to do a, this is Sparta, Three Hundred injoke here. Nope. That is not going to happen, because it would be too easy.'

Lori asked, “How close are we to the end? At least for this book. Whichever good it is.”

Deadpool answered, “We are close to the end for the second volume of book six. Which is the end of book six. With book five having three volume. And you have read books one through four. As you have guessed. Before I came in. We will then have a break. Then, there is the next story. This is life. No matter what reality one is from.”

Lori replied, “That is true.”

Deadpool complimented, “That is what I like about you members of the Lowe family, and your close friends. You get all my jokes. You are witty, and you have a good sense of humor.”

Lori replied, “Thank you.”

Ed inquired, “Anything we need to worry about? Such as horrible cliffhangers?”

Deadpool stated, “No. This is the epilogue for books six. And except for what happened to Pedro and Matthew. This chapter is just filled with a few more lighthearted, and heartwarming scenes, with a few mild twists. And then the end. And speaking of which. Since you were willing to talk to me. I was thinking of treating you all to some supper. Don't worry. I do have some wealth I have access to.”

Deadpool thought, 'Listen up. This is how you make friends, folks.'

Stan cracked a grin, as he said, “That is more liked it.”

Lori asked, “So, besides being your usual, talkative loon, self, what do you have in mind?”

Deadpool questioned, in a polite tone of voice, “What would you recommend? I am partial to Tex-Mex, myself.”

Ed asked, “Why do you like Tex-Mex? Even I never understood that.”

Deadpool commented, in a casual tone of voice, “Actually, in my series, I used the Tex-Mex food as a metaphor for myself hinting at being a fan of Black Lagoon.”

Ed rolled her eyes for a second. She then looked back at Deadpool, as she stated, “Of course. That makes sense now. So, it is like Revy's injokes dealing with my series.”

Deadpool raised her right hand, and shaped her fingers in fake pistol, that she pointed upward. She replied, “Bang. Right on the money.” She dropped right hand back to her side.

Ed asked, “Interesting. And I was wondering. Where are you keeping your cash? In you bra?”

Deadpool stated, “Nah. Too cliche. And I am wearing a nice red bra under the dress. Though, to answer your question, I have some cash strapped to a garter belt, on my right thigh.”

Ed replied, “Okay. That is one place to put it.

Deadpool commented, “Well, I thought bringing a purse would be pushing my luck.”

Ed replied, “I agree.”

Lori offered, “Well, come sit down, and join us.”

Deadpool happily replied, “I thought you would never ask.” She then walked over and sat in the inside booth, beside Leona, across from Irene and Lewis. With Leona moving over, to set against the partition.

As everyone continued their conversation, Deadpool thought, 'Talking to these guys is funner than I thought it would be. They are a little more down to earth than the others. Though, they still get my jokes. And they are polite to me. And I think I am going to enjoy my time here, in Plata Podrido.'

'Well, folks. I am really going to treat, Lori, Ed, Stan, Lewis, Rico, Irene, and Leona, to dinner, this evening. But, unfortunately, this is not part of this show.'

'Still, to those reading this, This my sign off for book six. Except for the party, tomorrow. And it was fun, and very rewarding for me.'

'On a related matter. I am so looking forward to finding kid Loki... Well, young adult Loki now. Wherever he, or she, is. So, I can point out that I now have a hotter body in either gender than he, or she, does. After we formally met. We eventually developed a slight friendly rivalry when it comes to insane stuff. Long story. Maybe someday you will read it.'

'Anyway, this reality I am now in is much like the one you are reading this story from. There are no native superheroes. And the powers some locals have are very subtle.'

'In others words, when it comes to realities in the multiverse, we are next door neighbors. I am also next door neighbors in geographic terms, by being in Mexico, and in time terms, by being in the early twenty-first century. And I am even closer to all of you with my reality device... You do not think I would let River, Annie, or Chang, have my own reality device? Did you? There is a reason my utility belt has so many pockets. And hidden pockets.'

'Strangely, no one looks for hidden pockets in utility belts. Except for me. Batman escapes half time, due to that very reason. Yes. I know about Batman, Slade, and all the rest, from the DC realities. Though, I don't want to get into that subject. We just don't have the time.'

'With that said, I might decide to come visit some of you.'

'And not to worry, I am no longer killing my fans. I quickly learned that did not work. Especially, when one of my fans pointed out that I was not paid to do so, and they like me in whatever form I am in. With them hoping for the best, for me.'

'You guys are not laughing at me. You are laughing with me, as we laugh, together, at others. The chick said, peep. Remember that one? Hehehehe!... Decades later, that memory still gives me giggles.'

'Anyway, I spared that guy's life, and that was when I stopped hunting my fans, to kill them. Have fun with them, yes. But, not to kill them.'

'And in fun, I mean having fun for all of us, and not just myself having fun, at your expense.'

'On the platonic level, I enjoy going to comic book and sci-fi conventions, in realities where I am considered just a fictional character, dressed in my custom and mask. And I now have so many fans, in certain times, places, and realities, with a number of them going to the cons dressed as me, I can blend in, without anyone being the wiser.'

'I have even won first place in a few of the costume contests at those conventions. And those contests have tough competition, considering the number of babes that wear the skimpy customers, that reveal more than they hide.'

'And now, with my gender bending, I can go as myself, or as Wanda Wilson, AKA Lady Deadpool. Which would make it even harder to spot me.'

'So, if you go such conventions, and you see several people dressed as me, in my Deadpool costume. There is a real chance, one of them is really me, Wade Deadpool Wilson.'

'And on the not so platonic level... Now, in my rejuvenated gender forms, I don't look anything like, nor sound like, Ryan Reynolds. Though, I am a big Ryan Reynolds fan.'

'And I know he is a fan of mine. I wonder what would happen, if we actually met each other... I better not. It would look bad for both of us, if I gave him a heartattack.'

'Still, I was okay with his role in Wolverine Origins once I realized he was parodying me. And to parody someone like me, one has to play me straight. Isn't that a mindscrew? And I also loved watching my film teasers, and viewing my own movie.'

'So, if you see a blond sexy woman in the nice dress, or that blond handsome stud of a guy in casual wear, coming to you, and then coming onto you. That might be me. And if it is, and you are willing, then both of us might be having a good time, later that night. And, depending on the performance between us, maybe some more fun the next morning.'

'And if you know anything about me, when it comes to such activities in bed, I am a sexual god. Well now part god and part goddess. I mean, even when I was disfigured, and a complete guy, no woman complained about my abilities in bed.'

'I even married to a royal succubus, once... Don't worry, it ended well for both of us. And we parted ways as friends. Still, when we were married, I could sexually satisfy her every time we made love... That's right, I sexually satisfied a royal sex demon, not just a common sex demon, but a royal sex demon, on a regular basis.'

'You can probably count on one hand, the number of men that can honestly make that claim, and still be alive, with their soul in one piece, afterward. And I am probably the only person in the multiverse that can honestly claim to have done repeat performances of that, and still be here, with my mind, body, and soul, intact, to tell the tale.'

'And some people wonder why she stayed married to me for so long. She wanted seconds, and I was more than willing to give it to her.'

'Also, with all this sexual prowess, imagine what I could do for you...'

'And since I am a virgin as a woman, I still have to find someone to pop my cheery as a woman... Maybe it will be you...'

(_)

Later that night, a few time zones away from Plata Podrido, Mexico, it had just gotten dark in Los Angeles, United States.

Inside his home, the investigative journalist, and photographer, George Benedict was sitting in his favor reclining chair, in his living room.

The TV was off, in the room. And the only light in the room was from a nearby lamp light, near the chair he was sitting in.

George had a glass of liquor was in his right hand, which he was slowly sipping.

There was only silence in the room, while George collected his thoughts, in the quiet of the night.

The last eighty two hours, or so, had not been the best in his life.

Right after boomer attack, George had quickly left De La Pedro Podrido. After returning his car to the rental company he had rented it from, he was able to quickly get on a plane, back to Los Angeles, and he returned home before ten PM, local time, the same day he had left the island. Which was last Friday.

The only real thing that George did Saturday, was unpack. The rest of the day, he just watched TV, and did basic things, around his home.

This was because George was not sure what he was going to do now. The truth was too insane. And if he told someone, it would wreck his career. But, he still took the money for the job. And he did not know who to return the money to.

But, George needed to talk to someone about this. And he knew just who to invite over.

Saturday evening, George had invited his friend, Mac, over to his home. And he showed Mac some of his pictures.

Though, George did not say anything about the pictures. He just let Mac look at the photos, with his friend drawing his own conclusions.

Mac stated he thought most of the pictures were actors and props for a movie, or TV series.

Though, Mac did compliment George on his photography skills.

George did not correct Mac. Because, he was not sure if he could trust his friend, on the matter.

Though, he did ask Mac whom had hired him.

Mac stated, he was not sure who had hired George, either.

After getting nowhere with Mac, George was polite enough towards his friend. And Mac soon left for the night.

Sunday and Monday were also uneventful for George. Until, an hour ago, when someone knocked on his front door.

When George opened his door, he saw two men in black suits, that screamed government agents.

George realized that it was likely the government had secretly hired him for the job. He had unknowingly been their stalking horse. Because he was the most qualify to do the job, without anyone else being the wiser.

The men did not identify themselves. But, one of them did ask for the photos George had taken, for his assignment.

George knew where the was likely going to lead. He requested for them to wait at the door, for a minute.

George then went and got his laptop computer and camera. He returned to the front door. As he handed one of the men, his devices, as he practically begged, “Here. Take them. I will give you everything I have on that godforsaken place. Just, let me live. I know I am a journalist. But, I mean it when I say I will keep my mouth shut. No one would believe me anyway. I would be flushing my career down the toilet if I told them what is going on.”

The man, whom took the devices into his hands, calmly responded, “Thank you for your cooperation, Mister Benedict.”

The two men then turned and walked way from George and his home. George saw the two men were walking towards a nice, black painted, four door car.

George quickly shut the door, and went to his kitchen, to fix a drink of liquor.

While it emotionally hurt George to lose his laptop computer, and his favorite camera, he also know that was a small price to pay for being alive.

George could replace both item. And he had back up copies of everything on his computer. Including the photos. But, the agents did not know that.

Though, George was sure that if he did mention what he saw in that island city, he soon never be seen again.

Still, worst of all. He had just used a small spare computer he had, to checked his bank accounts. His payments for the job were missing. When, yesterday, he saw that they were there. Meaning that he had been doing a job for the type of people that kill people for asking even one wrong question.

Still, while not even being paid, George still counted himself lucky to be alive, and away from that island lunatic asylum, in Mexico.

Though, he was still on edge. That meeting what had rattled his nerves to the point that he poured himself a few drinks of liquor to calm himself down.

And since then, George had only left his recliner chair, in his living room, either to get another drink, or use his bathroom.

Though, George was nowhere near drunk. He realized he was starting to get a little bit of a buzz.

It was then that George noticed that he was running low on liquor, in his glass. He got up, went to his kitchen, and to refilled his glass.

When George returned to his living room, he saw three adults standing across the room, from him, near his recliner. Two women and a man.

George quickly recognized Chang, as Chang wore his black suit. Standing to Chang's right side was a fair skinned red headed woman. And to Chang's left side was a fair skinned black haired woman.

To George's credit, he was still able to keep himself composed, as he held his glass in his right hand.

Chang calmly said, in english, “Hello George Benedict. You will be coming with us. We have a new job for you.”

George knew he was caught. And he did not even bother to protest.

(_)

The rest of the night had been very hectic for George Benedict.

The two women with Chang, quickly introduced themselves as River, from the Firefly series, and Lee, whom was native to this reality.

George was surprised at how polite they all were. And with River acting so remarkably lucid.

Chang had requested that George turned over his cellphone.

George pulled out his cellphone, and he handed it to Chang. Chang then set the phone on a nearby shelf. Chang then said, he will get George a replacement phone, later. Next, he told George to go packed a suitcase, with a few changes of clothing, and other items.

George did as he was instructed to do.

Ten minutes later, George finished packing, and he brought his suitcase with him, back into the living room. And he told to stand by, Chang, River, and Lee. After soon as he walked up to stand close to the three other adults, he then saw Chang pull something out from a pocket. And the next thing George knew, he, Chang, River, and the black haired woman, were standing in a hallway of a hotel.

Chang then put away the item, back into his pocket, as he explained, to George, that they had just teleported him to a third story hallway in his casino, on Plata Podrido.

And the experience was not like from Star Trek, with the slow energy transporting. But, instant teleporting.

Chang then turned to door to a suite, and pulled out an electronic key card. He then used the card on the electronic lock. Next, he opened the door.

Chang then turned and handed the card to George, whom put in a pocket, among his clothing.

Chang then explained that he had assigned George this suite, free of charge, for the time being. Chang also told him that he could order in room service. For food. For free. And that he need to stay in his suite, for the night.

That during the next morning, someone would knock on George's door, around nine AM, to take George to see Chang, in his office. Then, George would would find out, what his new job was going to be.

Also, Chang said he would be teleporting the rest of the items of his home, over the course of the next couple of days. And the items and furniture from George's home would be put into a nearby warehouse. Until, they could be sorted out, and arrangements could be made, to place them where he was staying. Or, for more long term storage.

Along with this, Chang had requested George not contact his family, nor friends. Until they could come up with a cover story. And also, for him not to access his bank accounting, and other from accounts, over the internet.

Chang stated he did not want George to be traced back to his casino.

George then realized he was in Daiyu Palace Casino. The casino he had been staking out, for the past week.

Though, George also realize it would be best to give into Chang's requested. George said he would do as requested. He then walked into his suite, and close the door behind him.

Chang, River, and Lee, then headed downstairs, to take the express elevator up to their penthouse apartment.

Over the course of the night, George complied with Chang's orders. He stayed in his room, and he did not contact anyone.

George did this because he knew that he was clearly out matched at every level.

George realized that Chang could have simply had him killed. Just like those that had hired him. So, he was going to give Chang, and his friends, a chance. And George would see how his situation would unfold.

George soon go ready for bed. And he then went over to the single bed of the suite, and set the alarm clock for seven thirty AM.

Fortunately, due to the alcohol he had consumed, he found he was able to get to sleep.

(_)

The next morning. Tuesday morning. The weather was sunny, clear, and cool.

Inside George's suite. His alarm clock had awoken him. He then got ready, and got dressed, in a fresh set of clothing.

By the time nine am rounded around, he had already had breakfast in his suite. He had ordered some room service to bring him some breakfast. When the food and drink arrived, he then had ate his breakfast, while he sat in a chair, at his kitchen table. He found his food, and glass of orange juice, to be tasty.

As exactly nine AM, on the dot, he heard someone knock on his door.

George then got up from the chair he had been sitting in. And he answered the door. When he opened the door, he saw a brown haired, fair skinned man, in a nice suit, standing before him.

The man happily greeted George, “Hello, George Benedict. I hope you had having a pleasant morning.”

George responded, without a hint of sarcasm in his tone of voice, “About as pleasant as being kidnapped, and made to work for a fictional character, can be.”

Matthew said, “I know the feeling. My name is Matthew McCormick. I am Chang's personal lawyer.”

Matthew then offered George his right hand.

George shook Matthew's hand, as he said, “You can all me, George.”

Matthew replied, “You can call me, Matthew. We will be heading up to talk to Chang, about your job, in a minute.”

Both men noted the other man's firm grip, but not a tight grip.

As they let go of each other's hand, Matthew said, “Listen, if you are as good as I have heard. At what you do. You will do fine. By the way, did Chang give you the whole changing issues talk?”

George asked, “What changing issues?”

Matthew stated, “Some of those here can change genders. Let me show you.”

Matthew pulled out a packet of pepper, opened it, and sniffed its contents. A second later, he sneeze, and instantly changed into a woman, whom was had a smaller physical frame, and a few inches short. But, she looked like Matthew's sister.

George was silent, as he saw this. Though, he thought, 'This place is getting more stranger by the minute.'

A few seconds later, Matthew sneezed again, and changed back into a man.

George calmly asked, “Is it contagious?”

Matthew stated, “Only by blood transfusion, or the like.” He thought, 'He would likely take the real answer of gene therapy the wrong way. So, blood transfusion is a simple enough answer. And I am not even going to mention the vat process.'

Matthew went onto say, “You won't get it by touching me, or the others that have it. Not even sex will give you it. Unless, you are the one that ends up pregnant. But then, it is the unborn child that gives the virus to the mother, which fortunately is not active during pregnancy.”

George hesitantly said, “Okay.”

Matthew thought, 'He reacted far better than when I did, when Chang showed me that ability, when I first came here. Also, Chang, and the others, were right. There are other perks with this ability, and the other abilities Pedro and I received from the vat process. Having more stamina is fun. Especially, when one is having fun. Either with others. Or, alone.'

Matthew commented, “It also greatly extents one's longevity.”

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

Matthew said, “And we have other ways of reversing the aging process.”

George inquired, “That is interesting. Also, I take it you all want me to keep quiet on this?”

Matthew replied, “Of course. Now, let us talk, while I lead you to Chang's office.” He then moved back from the door.

George replied, “Okay.” He then walked into the hallway, and he shut the door behind him. With the door automatically locked, as it shut.

Also, George had his keycard in a pocket, on his person.

Matthew then turned, as he started walking down the hallway, with George catching up, to walk beside Matthew, to Matthew's left side.

George asked, “By the way, were is Chang's office?”

Matthew answered, “His office is on the penthouse level. But, to get there, we need to go downstairs, and take an express elevator, which requires a key to use. Fortunately, I have a key. We will take the back express elevator, because there are no guards by that elevator. Though, the front elevator is guarded more for show, than anything else. But, those guards are real, and I know they can kick some serious ass.”

George thought, 'I better tell someone, before they found out on their own.' He stated, “Okay. Say, Matthew. I didn't have the chance to tell anyone, yet. But, the government took my photos, and records on this place, before Chang, River, and the black haired woman showed up.”

Matthew responded, “Do not worry about it. We always have plans within plans. And that fair skin black haired woman with Chang, goes by the name of Lee. She is a very nice woman. Also, if you see a blacked haired asian woman with River and Lee. That will likely be Chang, in her female form.”

George inquired, “Like from the Boys and Girls omake?”

Matthew inquired, “Yes. Chang, and a few others here, have this gender changing ability, as well. Including, River and Lee. So, you have seen the Black Lagoon series?”

George answered, “I have.”

Matthew inquired, “Good. By the way, have you seen the series Babylon Five?”

George said, “Yes”

Matthew stated, “Well, I am from Mars Dome One. Circa early Twenty-two Eight-one. I even use to work for Garibaldi, himself. At Edgars Industries. As one of his lawyers.”

George replied, with interest in his tone of voice, “You don't say?”

Matthew responded, “Yea. And he was more of a badass in real life, than that series ever let on.” He thought with amusement, 'I am sure, even as a little girl. Still, I am not going to mention Garibaldi’s cursed form to you, George. At least not yet. Until I know I can trust you. Or, you find out on your own. Which is possible.'

George said, “Cool. You will have to tell me about him, someday.”

Matthew stated, “I will be more than happy too. Maybe, I will even be able to arrange for you to meet him.”

George replied, “Nice.”

Matthew stated, “If you haven't figure it out. We have the means to instantly teleport to any time, place, and reality, in the entire multiverse.”

George asked, “After seeing so many people from various fiction series, that was kind of obvious. By the way, is there a decent place to get a drink in this town? I do not drink on the job. But, since I am now here on a more permanent basis, I would like to know.”

Matthew answered, “Actually, I know a few good bars, and bartenders, in this town. But, the customers are a little to rough, for someone as new to this, as you.”

George questioned, “How rough?”

Matthew shrugged, as he cracked a grin. He said, “If you have to ask, then you are not rough enough. So, for right now, I suggest you just have a drink at the casino restaurant, until I feel you are ready to meet the others.”

George thought, 'I better take Matthew's advice.' He replied, “Okay.”

Matthew cautioned, “Also, do not hit on the women, unless I tell you they are safe to do so. Most of the women I know can literally break someone, twice their size, in half.”

George said, with a bit of concern and worry in his tone of voice, “I will keep that mind.”

Matthew commented, in a reassuring tone of voice, “Still, if you are polite, and do your job, you will be fine. A minor mistake will not get you killed, as long as you are polite.”

George responded, “That is conforming to know. Any other tidbits of information you wish to impart?”

Matthew thought, 'I would be tempted to invite him to the party being thrown at the Rats Nest, tonight, at seven PM. With neither Pedro, nor I being designated drivers. But, he is to new to be thrown into the deep end, like that. Still, there are some things that I need to tell him.'

Matthew stated, “Of course. I have a lot to tell you. But, we will discuss it, later. For now, there is one person I need to tell you about, before you have a heartattack, by accidentally learning who she is, from elsewhere. Or, more aptly, who she once was. The person I am talking about is wonderfully nice woman, who works at the casino, and who helped me when I first came here. Her name is Annie...”

They soon made it to the elevators. They had to go to the ground floor, and then use the express elevator to get to the penthouse. Once there, they quickly made their way to Chang's office. And George soon found that that he would be the casino's public relations director. Which, George felt, would not be a problem for a man of his skill.

(_)

At Nine ten AM, as Matthew took George to see Chang, across town, in the bedroom of his home, Pedro was getting undress, as he neatly laid his clothing on his bed.

After being awaken that previous morning. And learning was had been done to him and Matthew, the rest of Pedro's day had been surprisingly uneventful.

After getting dressed, retrieving his weapons and items. Checking out his weapons. And placing his pistols in his holsters, on his person, Pedro been driven by a casino employee, to his home.

When Pedro made it to his home, he got of the car, with his FN FAL L Two A One automatic rifle in his hands.

With Pedro out of the car, and Pedro shutting the door behind him, the casino employee headed back to the casino.

Meanwhile, Pedro checked around his home. And Pedro found that his home, and the neighborhood he lived in, had been untouched by the boomer attack.

After making sure that there was no damage to his home, Pedro used his keys to unlock his front door. He closed and locked the door behind him.

As he walked around inside, to find the inside of his home was was untouched.

Pedro then put his FN FAL in a safe place, in his home. Next, he went to the garage, and he got into his car, which was still parked in his garage.

Once he had opened the garage door, he back his car out, onto his driveway. He then closed the garage door, with his remote. After which, he safely back out onto the street, and he headed for the police station.

Those at the police station did not ask why Pedro was gone over the weekend, without notice. Though, a few did ask why he looked a few years younger.

Pedro lied and said he got a face lift, over the weekend. With the procedure using new surgical techniques that did not require any down time. His subordinates did not ask further on the matter.

Except for checking on how things were going on clean up and repairs, throughout town, nothing else was happening for the police. They did not even make any arrests that day.

Though, he had talked to his superiors on the mainland, for a few minutes. And they said they could care less about what happened to those on the island of Plata Podrido, as long as, said events on the island did not make them look bad. As such, Pedro kept his job as police chief of Plata Podrido.

Pedro had also called Fabiola, Matt, and Leigharch, to let them know he and Matthew were okay. They had heard what as done to him and Matthew. But, they did not ask any detailed questions.

Fortunately, Pedro did not accidentally sneeze once since awakening at the casino medical ward. For Pedro had yet to test out his gender abilities. Though, he did note that he had not felt this physically good in years. All of his old aches and pains were gone. Which he was very happy about.

Also, that evening, Bao and Malanie had called Pedro, on his cellphone, on a simple matter. The two women were polite enough not to ask about what he and Matthew had been through. And Pedro did not feel like mentioning what happened, over the phone.

Though, this morning, Pedro had finally worked up the nerve to do change genders. After calling the police station, to inform them that he was taking the morning off, but he would return to work that afternoon. He then went and got some breakfast restaurant, and he drove to the grocery store, from some food and other supplies, that he needed for his home.

After Pedro had returned home, and put away his groceries, he walked into his bedroom, locked the door to his bedroom, behind him. And he made sure the curtains on his locked bedroom window were completely closed. He then began to get undressed.

He brought with him. Into the bedroom. Some packets of pepper that Simon had given both him and Matthew.

Matthew had even called him the previous night to tell him that being female was not that bad, and the Pedro might even enjoy experiencing how the other half lived. Also, Matthew mentioned a few other items about their new abilities.

Pedro's response was that he would take Matthew's comments under advisement. Also, he told Matthew that he was happy that Matthew got his old job back.

Though, Pedro had thought about what Matthew said. And it was Matthew's comments that finally allowed Pedro to decide to see what his female form was like.

At the moment, Pedro was now nude, as he in front of the mirror in his bedroom. He had a packet of pepper in his right hand. He also had another packet of pepper laying on top of his folded clothing, and weapons.

Pedro looked at his body's reflection in the mirror. While Pedro's male body was still basically his same body. Though, his body now looked different in a few ways.

Pedro noticed his physical changes from the body he use to have. The scars had on his his body were gone. His slightly longer hair, on his head and neck. His more muscular, trimmer body. As such his clothing was a bit loose on his body. And he had to tighten his belt a few inches.

Pedro also noticed the foreskin on his penis.

Though, Pedro mostly focuses on his physique, as he said, “I really am buff, as a male... I like it... And I don't mind the slightly longer hair, and the foreskin. Still, I have to find out about my other abilities. Enhanced senses are nice. Such as I can hear more clearly. And I am a strong and faster than I was. But so much, that I am not able to control my strength and speed.'

'And when Matthew called me. He told me that same thing about, his new abilities.'

'Now, to find out about this part of my abilities. Now, for the moment of truth.'

Pedro then opened the pepper packet and sniffed a little

A few seconds later, he allowed himself to sneeze. And he watch, through the mirror, as his body suddenly changed from male to female.

A split second later, the gender change was over.

Pedro left her open packet of pepper drop to the floor, as she looked at herself. And she was surprised at what she saw. She was now much more slender, and athletic, when compared to her male form. And due to her masculine hair cut being slightly longer than it should be, she looked cute with her hair the way it was. With her hair being slightly longer in her female form.

Pedro realized that her female form looked beautiful. Even with her unflattering masculine hair style.

As Pedro continued to look at her body, both in the mirror, and directly, with her own eyes, she thought, 'This is not too bad. It was both painless, and instant. And I am not going to complain. My other abilities practically make me a super-cop. Also, at least I do not have to shave anymore. And the flip side. As a woman, I don't have to worry about that time of the month. Unless, I stay in my female form for a few weeks.'

'Still, I will have to get IDs made for my female form. But, with my connections, that will not be a problem. And I will eventually tell Paciano. Though, not right now.'

She ran her hands along her arms, as she thought, 'And I seem to have no body hair. Actually, the only hair on my body is the black hair on my head, and the black public hair between my legs.'

Pedro looked more closely at herself, as she allowed her mind to wonder, a bit. She thought, 'You know what? I don't look that bad, as a woman. Actually, Lee was right. I look kind of hot. With this body, in the right dress. I could get laid by any woman, or man, I want. And manners are manners. No matter the gender. As long as one is polite, and does not swear much, there is usually no problem.'

Pedro then noticed that she was feeling a warmth, with a slight tightness in her lower stomach. Along with a slight wetness started to form between her legs, and her areolae had started to slightly expand, as her breasts became more sensitive to the open air, and to her own touch.

Pedro quickly realized, as she thought, 'Oh no. I am turning myself on. This is wrong. On so many levels. Still, this is what it is like for a woman to be turned on. It is not that bad. But, as tempting as it is to go further. I do not want to have my first female orgasm for the wrong reasons. I will have to continue this later, for the right reasons.'

Pedro walked over to her bed, she picked up the pepper packet on top of her clothing. She then opened the packet, and sniffed a little of the pepper inside. A second later, she sneezed, and instantly, and painlessly, changed back into her male form.

Pedro set down the pepper packet, onto the top of his bureau, as he looked down at, himself.

Pedro thought, 'Still, painless and quick. Nice. And I seem to be back to normal. Or, at least as normal I am going to be. I will have to let Matthew know that he was right. Being a woman is not that bad. But, I will do so, later. For right now, I need to get to work.'

'Though, I wonder. While this gender bending is not directly contagious. It seems to be circumstantially contagious, by way of Murphy's Law. And the thing is, both Matthew and I, knew the vat process was a likely in our future, if we stayed in this city. So, we ran, and we still ended up back in the city, and undergoing the vat process. As we predicted.'

'But, I am happy that neither of us are stuck was woman. We still have our free will. And we can change back and forth, between genders. Along with each of us being healthy, and in one piece. Still, there is some irony in our situation. But, I will think more on that, later.'

'For now, I looked forward to that party, at the Rats Nest, that Matthew and I were invited to, yesterday, by Bao and Melanie. I believe it becomes at seven PM. It seems that all the regulars are being invited. And they are coming. With a few extra people. And we are going to have a party. And best of all, neither Matthew, nor I, are going to be the designated drivers. So, we can have some drinks, as well. And with our abilities. It will take a lot to get us drunk.'

Pedro then got dressed, holstered his weapons, unlocked the door to his bedroom, opened his bedroom door, and headed to his garage, to get into his car.

Two minutes later, Pedro was driving down the street, as he headed to the police station, to begin working, at his job, as police chief, for the rest of day.

(_)

Early that afternoon, Balalaika and B met Chang, as his casino. Chang then called Burt, to arrange a meeting between the four of them.

Given neither Chang, or Balalaika, had a key to Burt's gunshop. And Chang knew from Lotton that one needed a key to get in. Along with it being well known that Burt was always armed, and a touch trigger happy. With Burt being a very good shot with his firearms. Chang though it was best to just call Burt with the number that Lotton had given him, and arrange the meeting.

Fortunately, Burt answered the phone, and told him that they could come over, right then.

Burt then gave Chang directions to his gunshop. And soon B drove both Balalaika, and Chang, in the black SUV that she and Balalaika had come to the casino in, to Burt's gunshop.

During the trip, Chang, Balalaika were in the back seat, while B was up front, in the driver's seat. As they traveled in the car, they had some small talk, on various topics. And Chang learned that Balalaika and B's children were currently being watched by Shenhua, Lotton, and Sawyer. With Alexandra and Dmitri, having a play date with Thomas, Ivy, and Wenqian.

When they reached the gunshop, they saw Burt was waiting at the front door, to his gunshop for them.

B parked the black SUV she was driving, on the other side of the road. With her, Chang, and Balalaika, getting out, and walking over to greet Burt.

Burt, then gave Chang, Balalaika, and B, each a key to the door to his gunshop. So, Burt would not have to open the door, the next time either of them would have to stop by.

Burt gave the keys to the three adults, because Chang and Balalaika requested this. And they also had a good reasons for making requests from Burt.

After Chang, Balalaika, and B, put away their new keys, the four adults went inside Burt's gunshop to talk.

B was the last one inside. After she gently closed the front door behind her, Burt lead Balalaika, Chang, and B, herself, further into the gunshop.

While B walked inside, she saw that the room was well lit, from the yellow ceiling lights. As she looked around, and she recognized many of the weapons, and other items, in the room.

B thought, 'Burt has a nice selection here.'

When Burt reached the counter in the back of the room, he came to a stop, with the three other adults stopping a few feet behind him, Burt then turned around to face them. He asked, “Before we get down to business. I have a few questions we need to sort out, beforehand. The first being, is who is the brown haired woman with you two?”

Burt thought, “I gave her a key, only because you asked me to do so.'

Balalaika answered, “Her name is now, B. Though, you knew her as Boris.”

Burt immediately recognized the name, in association with Balalaika. He replied, “Oh.” He thought, 'Okay. Now, I don't mind giving Boris... Well, B, a key. Though, I believe it is best I not ask questions on this matter.'

B said, “It is good to see you again, Burt.”

Burt commented, “Same here, Boris. Or, do you want me to call you just, B?”

B replied, “Whichever is fine for you.”

Burt inquired, “I also heard on the grapevine that Pedro is back in town?” He thought, 'For a second time, within a month.'

Chang said, “Yes. He is fine. Though, he somewhat different, now.”

Burt flatly asked, “Is he still a he?”

Balalaika and B could not help but snicker a little bit at Burt's comment. While Chang maintained a straight face.

Chang coyly answered, “Yes. For the most part.”

Burt said, “I don't want to know.” He thought, 'But, I will ask Pedro about it, later. In person. Also, what about Matthew?'

Burt questioned, “And I take it Matthew is back, and in the same state as Pedro?

Chang replied, “Yes. Good guess.” He thought, 'For a person that doesn't want to know. He asks a lot of questions. He will probably talk to them, personally, on the matter. And we have other business to discuss.'

'Still, Burt is to valuable a player in this game, to just let him die of old age. Though, he is not that old yet. And he clearly is still in good shape.'

'And since Burt has put this much together. He probably has a basic idea of what the vat process was. And with the new gender bending vat process having worked, there is that option, as well. Still, I could even offer him that regeneration process that Ed, Fabiola, Garcia, and Ranma used.'

'And worst come to worst. If he dies. I can just have him reincarnated. Like River and Lee did with Wash and Book... Though, we will have to find a willing mother. Which would not be that hard. But, doing so could complicate matters for everyone involved.'

Burt inquired, “Now, that those matters are settled. What I can do for you three, today?”

Balalaika answered, “For the most part. We came to talk about possible future dealings with you.”

Burt responded, “I am open to negotiations with both your parties. Though first, I need to make some things clear. Unlike Roanapur, I pick and choose my customers. And not anyone else.”

Burt saw Chang and Balalaika look at each other. Balalaika then shrugged. Both adults then looked back at Burt, as Chang commented, “That will be fine.”

Burt said, “Good. Now, Balalaika. And I am sure that you, Chang, and B, are interest in those weapons that Hernan and Roberta had carried into the casino, a few days ago.” He thought, 'I am glad I got the two rifles and grenade launchers, you took, Friday night, back, Saturday morning.'

Chang admitted, “Yes.”

B replied, “Of course.” She thought, 'Considering, with the super-soldier serum, we can use those weapons to their fullest.'

Balalaika commented, in a casual tone of voice, “I did admit to an affinity for them, during our last meeting.”

Burt stated, “Well, the rifle is known as the Beretta XM five hundred. And the grenade launcher is the Russian RG Six.”

Chang said, “Eastern and western weapons literally working together. Intriguing.”

Burt commented, “Yes. The irony is not lost on me, either.”

Balalaika thought, 'I do find that amusing, as well. Though, now to ask some questions on the matter.' She asked, “How many of the weapons can you procure for us?”

Burt stated, “Well, for me, the main difficulty was getting the weapons and ammo. Pedro and a few others, had to call in some favors to get the ones I had. But, I am sure you can get them.”

“Putting the weapons together, then properly aligning and sighting them was not that difficult for me.”

“So, on that matter, if you can get the weapons and ammo I need to properly put them together and sight them. I will do so at the same general rate, as I did when I was working on, and performing maintenance on one of your large weapons. On the same general time table for said work. Though, I would prefer to take payment, in silver or gold. At the proper amounts. Instead of U.S. cash.” He thought, 'We will talk about exact weight amounts, later.'

Chang said, “That will be fine.”

Balalaika responded, “I will agree that is an equable arrangement. And speaking of maintenance. I would not mind having you work on a few of the weapons in our arsenal.”

Burt said, “Barring the change in payment types. I would suggest we do the same deal as before. Though, as always, custom orders will still be more expensive.”

Balalaika stated, “Understood. I will agree to those terms.”

Chang said, “You have yourself a deal.”

Burt offered, “Good. Now, that our business is out of the way. Let me show you some other interesting weapons that this world has development, that you might not know about. A few of them, I don't have. But, I will pull them up on my computer. And I am sure you could get them on your own.”

Chang, “Sure.”

Balalaika commented, “I always value advice from knowledgeable sources.”

B said, “I am more than happy to hear you out.”

Burt responded, “Okay. We will start the tour, right now.”

Burt then lead Balalaika, Chang, and B, around the store front of his business. As he showed them some of the more interesting weapons and equipment on display, for the next ten minutes.

After they were finished, they spent the next hour talking about business deals, and weapons. With Burt showing them some of the more interesting items he had in stock, in back of his story. And then showing them some items on his wish list, that he found online, with his computer.

While Chang, Balalaika, nor B, bought anything from Burt that day. By the time, Chang, Balalaika, and B, left Burt's gunshop. Everyone, including Burt, was sure that those at Chang's casino, along with Hotel Moscow, were very soon going to become regular customers for Burt firearm business.

After which, B drove Balalaika and Chang, back to the Chang's casino. Where, they dropped of Chang. With the two lovers then heading to the Devil's Hotel, to pick up their daughter and son.

(_)

A few hours later, Chang had returned to his office, in the penthouse level of Daiyu Palace Casino.

Chang was sitting in his chair, behind his desk, was reviewing some paperwork, on his desk, as his cellphone began to ring.

Chang pulled out his phone, held it to his right ear, and he answered it, “Hello.”

On the other end of the line, Akira said, “Hello Chang. This is Akira. I just wanted to check on Constantine.”

Chang answered, “Hello Akira. I have been keeping an eye on her. Since you are wondering, she doing fine.”

Akira inquired, “So, you already completely her vat process?”

Chang stated, “Yes. I had her put in a vat in another reality, for a month. And I used time dilation to bring her here more quickly, for us. I saw no point in keeping everyone waiting here.”

Akira complimented, “That was a good idea on your part.”

Chang replied, “Thank you.”

Akira questioned, “So, what is she like, right now? Is she happy?”

Chang side, “Well, Connie. Which is her name, now. Doesn't remember much. But, she remembers that was by her choice. And she seems to be happy in her new job. And her new life. She is even making some new friends, at the casino.”

Akira commented, “Glad to hear things are working out for her. We will stop by later, to check on her.”

Chang said, “Just try not to make her remember her old life. Those memories are sealed, not erased.”

Akira replied, “We will keep that in mind.”

Chang thought, 'I hate myself to for asking. But, the subject does need to be addressed.'

Chang requested, “Though, since you already know her. At least, more than I do. You might want to give her the talk about monthly female cycles.”

Chang mentally lamented, 'While I have been through it. I do not like talking about it. Especially, in detail.

Akira asked, “So, you are not going to have someone else give her that talk. Such as, Simon?”

Chang commented, “Simon has other matters to worry about.” He thought, 'Like helping Kaylee arrange their wedding, and eventually them getting married.' He continued, “And you do have the time. While I do not.”

Akira playfully teased, “Chicken.”

Chang thought, 'I will let that one slide.' He stated, “I am her employer. It would not be professional to get personally involved in an employee's life. Unless it is necessary.”

Akira conceded, “Point taken. We will take care of this.”

Chang replied, “Thank you.”

Akira inquired, “By the way, did you put that green book, that Constantine had, in your private collection?”

Chang was caught mildly surprised by Akira's question. He asked, “Yes. How did you know?”

Akira answered, “Constantine told us that is where it would go. Before we left the spacestation. And reading a little of that book was a real screwy experience for us.”

Chang admitted, “I won't know. I have not opened it, yet.”

Akira commented, “Well, it might be best if you don't.”

Chang said, “I will keep that in mind.” He thought, 'I wonder what secrets Connie still has her head. Still, a deal is deal. And this will keep Akira, and her family, happy with me. And I can always find out, later.'

Akira stated, “Well, I will talk later, Chang. And thank you for answering my questions.”

Chang replied, “You're welcome.”

Akira then hung up her end of the line.

Chang disconnected his end of the line, and put up his phone.

Chang then leaned back in his chair, as he thought, 'Well, that was an interesting conversation. I believe that Akira and her family are going to that party at the Rats Nest, tonight. Which I heard about, on the grapevine.'

'Still, while we are not going. I know a few others here are going. I believe those going are Matthew, Arcee, Annie, and Ahsoka. And I hope they all have a great time. But, I believe the rest of us can have some fun here. And I know just how to organize my party.'

'I am so glad that Lee and River showed me the Ocean's Eleven film trilogy. Those movies were very entertaining.'

'And fortunately, I have plenty of time to pull this together, and send out the invites to my friends. I think I will start with having the kitchen staff begin working on the catering, and seating arrangements.'

Chang then pulled out his cellphone, and began dialing the extension to the head of the kitchen staff of his casino. And soon after, he started sending out invitations to his party.

(_)

At that moment, in the restaurant of the Devil's Hotel, Akira was sitting at table, with Ranma, Natsuru, and their three adult daughters, Yurika, Mikoto, and Nodoka. As the six of them were having some afternoon snacks, with non-alcoholic drinks.

The other five family members at the table had been quietly listening on on Akira's side of the conversation. And they were able to realize most of the topics that her discussion, with Chang, had been about.

Akira had just hung up her cellphone and put it away.

Natsuru asked, “So, how was the conversation?”

Akira looked over at her family, as she answered, “Everything that Constantine claimed that would happen, so far, to him. Or, now her. Has come to pass.”

Natsuru replied, “Interested. That does open up some more possibilities for us.”

Ranma said, “True. Still, that is neither here, nor there.”

Yurika commented, “At least, you have settled all that.”

Akira stated, “Very true, Yurika. Though, we are going to check on Constantine, from time to time.”

Ranma agreed, “That is a good idea.”

Akira mentioned, “Though, Chang requested that we have the monthly cycle talk with Connie. That is who Constantine is now.”

Ranma groaned, while Mikoto, Yurika, and Nodoka giggled, for a few seconds.

Natsuru said, “Well, someone has to do it. And if we, or Chang, asks someone else. They are going to wonder why a fully grown woman does not already know this.”

Mikoto said, “Though, if I remember. Those that came out of the vat process. It take around two months for that becomes a problems. So, we have time to figure out how to tell her.”

Akira responded, “Those are good points. But, I feel it would be best if we get this out of the way. And I figure it will take five minutes. At most. To have that discussion.”

Natsuru agreed, “I concur.”

Ranma stated, “We will talk to her in a few days.”

Natsuru said, “That will be fine.”

Akira replied, “Agree.”

Mikoto asked, “Now, onto a more comfortable topic. Are we still on going to the party tonight, at the Rats Nest? At seven PM?”

Natsuru answered, “Yes. And almost everyone is going to be there.”

Ranma commented, “I heard that the Lowe family and their friends declined their invitations.”

Akira stated, “They prefer not to be a part of the more wilder aspects of our lives. Not that I hold that against them for it. That is their choice.”

Yurika mentioned, “I heard that Lewis and Irene are now dating.”

Natsuru said, “I won't be surprised. Lewis is a nice guy. And I am glad someone finally noticed.”

Akira mentioned, “I spoke with Lori, a few days ago. Before this city was attack. And she said that Irene and Leona were nice women.”

Ranma stated, “True. I wish only the best for the both of them. Though, that still is going to make for interesting in-law situations.”

Akira joked, “You would know.”

No one laughed at Akira's joke.

Natsuru stated, “None of us are ones that should talk on that matter. Still, I won't worry too much. I went by the diner this morning. They still got weeks of repairs to go, before they reach the point where they can open it. But, Ed and I did talk about that matter. It seems that, while on Gomez's spacestation, the Lowe family, and Linna, Irene's mother, had a heart to heart talk on the matter.”

Akira commented, “That makes sense. The rest of us fight. And they talk to the enemies that come after them.”

Yurika rhetorically asked, “How do you think they stay out of trouble? Most of the time,”

Natsuru agreed, “True. And it is clear that Ed and Lori both like Linna. And Linna is one of the more saner members of the Knight Sabers. With Linna being able to keep the rest of them grounded. So, I do not see any serious problems developing between them.”

Ranma replied, “I hope you are right.”

Akira commented, “At least, the Lowe family have us to fall back on. If they need us.”

Natsuru happily replied, “Yes. They do. And we would be more than happy to help them.”

Ranma agreed, “Absolutely.”

Nodoka inquired, “Back to the matter of the party tonight. After the party, me and Kristina are going to have some private time. If that is alright?”

Ranma answered, “That is fine with me. Just don't let either of you get drunk. And try to stay out of trouble.”

Nodoka said, “Of course. We both prefer to stay out of trouble.”

Ranma stated, “I am happy you both feel that way. And be careful.”

Nodoka replied, “We will.”

The six family members then went back to more casual conversational topics, as they enjoyed their snacks, and drinks.

(_)

The rest of the day has been uneventful for the city of Plata Podrido.

At the casino, Connie and Abrego had good seconds day as work, as well. With both of them making friends.

Such as, Abrego and Gustavo were getting along great.

Along with this, Akira, Ranma, and Natsuru checking on Connie. And they befriended her and talked to her some. And it was a good meeting for everyone involved.

Also, George had a pleasant first day at work. With him being introduced to several people at the casino. And he was able to off on the right foot with most of them.

(_)

That evening, after supper, Chang put his plans for a party in motion. He party was a poker room, for him and his friends to place some hands of cards, at a few poker tables, for the guest to play out.

The party was held in an axillary room, back of the casino, on the ground floor. There was plenty of space for everyone whom was invited. Chang has assign the hotel kitchen staff to cater and prepare the party. Which they did a good job of doing, an on time, an hour before the party even started.

The kitchen staff had set up the chairs, and tables. They even set up a buffet, on the back wall, with a nice selection and plenty of food, drinks, plates, utensils, glasses, and napkins.

All of the furniture was stylish, with the room lighting slightly dimmed, to give the effect of a private gambling room. Which was what the room was for the night.

Chang even pulled some card dealers, from the gaming floor, to man the tables.

And since it was just a casual party, they would just be playing for chips and not money.

Among the guests that attended included, Mal, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, Inara, Simon, Kaylee, Faye, Lee, River, Spike, and, as the host, Chang, himself.

Jetta, whom was on duty that night, as pit boss, was even allowed to spend a few hours at the party.

George was also invited. As a way to introduced him to everyone there, in a social scene. And he did attend, and he had a good time, as well.

Even Julia was allowed to attend. She was nearly a teenager. So, she was mature enough to behave. Though, everyone made sure she didn't accidently have any alcohol.

Also, the presence of a child helped to keep the party civil.

Julia sat by her mother, Spike, as Spike taught her daughter how to play cards, for real, with others, while playing a few hands with their friends.

When all the guests were present, Chang admitted to the guests that he got the idea from the ending of the movie, Ocean's Twelve. Those whom had seen the movies, agreed was good inspiration material for this type of party.

And so, they got the party started.

As the party continued, Deadpool eventually crashed the party, as a guy, in a nice red suit. But, no one complained, because he was such good conversationalist. Though, most of those present didn't have anything against him attending. And those that knew Deadpool, also knew that he was fun at parties.

So, Deadpool was given some chips, and dealt into one of the poker games. With the skills he showed, to be respectable.

But, after Julia has been taking to bed, by Spike. With Spike also retiring from the party. Those that had that stayed at the party really shouldn't have taken Deadpool suggestion to switch to strip poker.

Because they also soon found Wade Wilson to be surprisingly good poker player. And he had been holding back on his skills, earlier in the evening.

Though, the only reason Wade allowed the others to keep their clothing, at the end of the party, was out of common courtesy. And the fact he wanted to keep his job. Though, he was polite throughout the entire party. So, he was fine, with the others attending.

And still, all in all, those that had attended the poker party had a good time.

(_)

Across town, another, slightly more wilder. Well calmer, after Wade started making suggestions at the casino. Party was taking place at the Rats Nest.

The party had started at seven PM, with it lasting into the night.

Those that were present were Bao, and Melanie. Melanie was able to get someone to fill in for her, at the Devil's Hotel restaurant, that night. So, she could help her girlfriend, Bao, run the Rats Next bar that night.

Those attending as guests, to the party that night, were Roberta, Fabiola, Garcia, Hernan, Maria, Matthew, Pedro, Matt, Leigharch, Burt, Annie, Ahsoka, Arcee, Yolanda, Eda, Shenhua, Sawyer, Lotton, Aeryn, Violin, Balalaika, B, Natsuru, Ranma, Akira, Yurika, Nodoka, Mikoto, Dutch, Benny, Janet, Rock, Revy, Rebecca, Yukio, Kristina, Sarah, and Molly.

For simplicity sake. Everyone was having their conversations in english. So, everyone present could understand each other.

Of those present, that could switch back and forth between genders, Pedro, Matthew, and Garcia were men. The rest of those with gender abilities, were women.

As a favor, the Lowe family had agreed to take care of Gilina, Ivy, Wenqian, Thomas, Alexandra, and Dmitri, for the evening. Until, their parents came to pick them up, later that night.

Everyone present wore casual clothing, save for Arcee, whom was in her motorcycle mode. So, she could keep from taking to much room in the bar.

Except for Bao and Melanie, whom was standing behind the bar counter, as they were listening to the others. And, Arcee, whom was in her motorcycle alt mode. The rest of those present were sitting in chairs, around the tables of the room.

Also, everyone knew better than to ask Annie, and Arcee, why they brought Ahsoka there. Still, it was a time to have some fun. So, no one complained on the matter.

Since Pedro and Matthew were not the designated drivers for the night. Annie and Yolanda had volunteered to do so. Though, that did not mean they could not each have a few bottles of beers. Due to the super-soldier serum in their bodies allowing them to handle such amounts of alcohol without a problem.

Given the night was young, most of the others people in the room, were also only having bottles of beer at the moment.

The conversations were mostly casual. Then, Leigharch asked, “So, what about your car, Maria and Hernan?”

Janet asked, “Maria. Hernan. We heard about your car. Do you need help paying for a new one?”

Janet thought, 'Best to offer favors, when the opportunity is present. Doing so many come back to reward my family and I later. With Hernan and Maria being counterparts to Roberta and Garcia. I don't see how making the offer could hurt us. The money spent on a new car here would be a drop in the bucket for us. As such, offering, could only help us in the long run.'

Maria and Hernan were sitting next to each other. With Maria to Hernan's left side.

Maria turned to Janet, as she calmly answered, “Fortunately, Garcia and Roberta already help us pay for a new SUV.” She thought, 'And a nice one at that.'

Hernan turned to Roberta and Garcia, as he said, “Yes. They have been a gracious help to us.”

Hernan looked back at his wife, Maria, he happily thought, 'I am so happy that Sans and Emily agreed to babysit Antonio, Carmela, and Ramon for the night. And fortunately, our children get along great with them. Along, with them being fine with Isandro and Grace. And I am sure our children will be fine, tonight.'

'Still, this means Maria and I have the evening and night to ourselves. And we will pick our children up in the morning.'

Janet thought, 'Oh well. No harm in trying.' She replied, “That is good to hear.”

Matthew said, “By the way, guys. I heard that Chang and the others at the casino, are having their own party.”

Rock commented, “I hope they have a good time.”

Arcee mentioned, “It is a poker themed party.”

Rock joked, “Then, I hope everyone that attends is able to walk away with at least their shirts on their backs.”

Everyone in the room laughed a little at Rock's joke, for a few seconds.

As they calmed down, Pedro inquired, “So, how is the new left hand, Hernan?”

Hernan turned to Pedro, as he held up both his bare hands. To show everyone that his hands looked like mirror imagines of each other. He then flexed both hands for a couple of seconds. After which, he dropped his hands back to his sides.

Hernan answered, “Fine, Pedro. So, how is the gender bending?”

Pedro asked, in an uncomfortable tone of voice, “You heard about that?”

Revy sat by Rock, with Rock to her right side. She stated, “We all hear about that. Though, we are not going to try to force you, or Matthew, to change for us. Because we realize that doing that to the local police chief, and his best friend, is a bad idea.”

Pedro said, “I am glad you realize that, Revy.”

Matthew replied, “Yes. We appreciate that.”

Benny asked, “So, Pedro. While we know Matthew has changed back and forth. Have you change, yet? Or not?

Fabiola questioned, “And did you change willingly? Or, was it by accident?

Pedro stated, “Yes. It was willingly. And only to make sure I could. And help prevent myself from accidentally changing.”

Fabiola replied, in a skeptical tone of voice, “Sure.”

There was some giggling from a few weapon in the room.

Fabiola shrugged, as she looked around the room. She went onto say, “So, I lost that bet. Big deal.”

Rock commented, “Most of us did.”

Pedro inquired, “What bet do you mean?”

Fabiola explained, “We had a bet going on if your first switch would be accidental, or intentional. And most of us thought your first change, after waking up, would be an accidental.”

Pedro questioned, “So, who bet that I would do so, intentionally?”

Nearby, Benny turned to Janet and Dutch, as she said, “I guess we are going to clean house tonight.”

Janet replied, “I think so.”

Dutch commented, “It sure looks like it.”

Pedro overheard the three women, as he replied, “Oh.”

Matthew commented, “I bet that you would willingly change, as well.”

Pedro said, “Of course. And thanks for having faith in me.”

Matthew apologized, “You're welcome. And sorry, for not telling you about the bet, sooner.”

Pedro replied, “No problem.” He thought, 'And it was easy money for you. And you can pay for dinner, for the both of us, the next time we have a guys night out, for just the two of us.'

Garcia turned to Pedro, as he inquired, “So, what do you look like as a woman?”

Pedro cracked a grin, as he answered, “I could give Maria and your female form, a run for their money.”

Maria said, “Thank you.”

Pedro stated, “Though, I am not changing, right now.”

Garcia replied, “Of course not.” He turned to Matthew, as he questioned, “And you Matthew? How good do you look in your female form?”

Matthew casually responded, “Let's just say that I won't change, because I do not want to make some of the women here jealous.”

There was some laughter among the crowd, for a few seconds.

Hernan asked, “By the way. I know about my betting pool. But, what are Leigharch odds in his betting pool?” He thought, 'If I have a betting pool on the matter. I am sure Leigharch does, as well.'

Leigharch asked, with slight confusion in his tone of voice, “What betting pool, about me?”

Maria said, “Just take a look around. Even I can figure that one out.” She thought, 'I am glad that Hernan told me about that betting pool. And with my help, we are going to win it for our children's sake.'

Leigharch did so. He then realized what Maria was talking about. He quietly replied, “Oh.”

Rock commented, “To answer you question, Hernan. His odds are worse than yours.”

Hernan replied, “Okay.” He thought, 'Though, it is likely wrong. Somehow, hearing that, makes me feel better.'

Fabiola looked over at Matt, as she asked, “What about you, Matt?”

Matt calmly answered, “I am just going to remain silent. And not jinx myself. As I take it easy for the next few weeks.” He thought, 'Until I go home. I have been meaning to have a vacation. And I realize this is about as good an opportunity as I am going to get, in having one.'

Roberta complimented, “That is a wise idea.”

Hernan turned to Pedro, as he asked, “So Pedro. I have been meaning to ask you. Since you got back, Thursday night. Did you lose your job, over your absence?”

Pedro stated, “Fortunately, no. I kept my job, mainly because, before I left, I stated I was going on vacation. So, no one questioned that I returned soon. Also, returning to work, just in time to help with that battle kept people from asking to many questions.”

Maria inquired, “And what about clean up efforts?”

Pedro answered, “Coming along nicely. I am not getting anything from the mainland to help. But, Chang is sharing his resource in rebuilding. Also, there were surprisingly only few injuries, and only a handful of deaths. None of whom were children, nor parents.”

Maria commented, “That is good.”

Benny asked, “What about your looks, and that you are now physically around two decades younger.”

Pedro stated, “While none of them said anything about my longer hair. A few of them asked me about that. I just said I got a new type of face lift that didn't require a long recovery. It is embarrassing excuse. But, it is the best I can come up with. Though, that explanation seems to have worked. And with the type of clothing I wear, no one at work has noticed that I have lost a few pounds around my waist.”

Revy teased, “Just don't sneeze in front of them.”

Pedro replied, “I don't plan too.”

Melanie stated, “I look forward to seeing your female forms.”

Rock commented, “Melanie is right. Though, there are better places to see such things. As on our island.”

Pedro realized what Rock was alluding to, as he thought, 'She is talking about those bikini parties.' He stated, “You are not going to get me to go to those parties.”

Maria whispered into left Hernan's ear, “What parties?”

Hernan softly replied, “I will tell you, when we get home. But, they are bikini parties. Do the math.”

Maria thought, 'Bikini parties?... And Pedro and Matthew now have female forms... Oh... And they want them to be female as they wear bikini... That is funny...' Maria then blushed a little bit, as she thought about that. While she did her best not to giggle out loud.

Revy commented, “But, they are so much fun. Even Lee likes going to them.”

Pedro pointed out, “Of course, Lee likes those parties. Lee invented those parties.”

Revy conceded, “Oh right... Still, they are fun.”

Dutch commented, “Besides, we have gotten more stubborn individuals to go to our parties.”

Pedro questioned, “Such as whom?”

Dutch replied, “Bob.”

Pedro calmly countered, “Actually, I can only imagine the possible promises, in bed, at the time, that Ed made to Bob. Or, should I say, Lori. To go to your island, like that.”

Dutch let out a laugh. She then said, “I will give you that one.”

Annie turned to Matthew, as she casually asked, “What about you, Matthew? I guess you will be coming to those parties, as well. And Revy is right. They are fun.”

Mathew looked at Annie, as he joked, “I thought you were my friend?”

Annie, along with a few of the women, started laughing, for a few seconds.

While Annie, and the others calmed down, Annie was still smiling, as she said, “I had to, at least, ask.”

Matthew said, “You will have to take it up with Chang. Considering, I still work for him. Though, unlike my friend, here. I not against going. And I do know the rules of those parties.”

Annie commented, in a pleasant tone of voice, “I am glad you are being more rational about the subject. And knowing Chang. She, River, and Lee, would being willing to let me take you shopping tomorrow morning. With you returning to the casino, with a small wardrobe of unmentionables, by the afternoon. Also, the others, at the casino, go to these parties. So, I see no reason you cannot.”

Matthew responded, “Okay. You might have a point there. I will think about it.” He thought, 'Unlike Pedro. Saying I will think about it is a much better stalling tactic, than outright refusal.'

Annie sarcastically replied, “Right...”

Matthew noticed the sarcasm in Annie's voice, as he thought, 'Oh... I forgot Annie is an empath. And she can read the emotions of others. And she just caught me in my stalling tactic.'

Annie looked over at Pedro, then to Matthew. She stated, “I will take you both shopping, tomorrow morning, for the needed clothing items. Matthew and I will leave in a car, at the casino, at ten.”

Annie turned to Pedro, as she continued, “We will be by your house to pick you up. At least with me, you know I will not put either of you into too much of an embarrassing situation.”

Annie cracked a grin, as she continued, “And do not forget that I am telekinetic. If I have too, I can move you with my thoughts alone.”

Pedro noticed this, as he replied, with defeat evident in his tone of voice, “Fine.”

Matthew sigh, as he said, “Alright. You, me, and Pedro, only. And not a word to the others at the casino. That is the deal.”

Annie turned to Matthew, as she replied, “Done.” She the looked around the room, as she warned, “And none of you breath a word of this to those at the casino. Until at least tomorrow night.”

Roberta looked around the room. She then looked at Annie, as she spoke up, “I do not think you have to worry about any of us saying a word, until then.” She thought, 'Even I would think twice about crossing you.'

Annie look at Roberta, as she calmly replied, “Good.” She turned to Ahsoka, as she continued, “And Ahsoka is coming to these parties, as well.”

Annie turned to look at Dutch, with Dutch and her looking at each other in their eyes.

Dutch commented, “As long as she leaves her lightsabers at home.”

Annie replied, “Done.”

Ahsoka, whom was sitting by Annie, to Annie's left, looked over at Annie. She said, “Thank you.”

Annie turned to Ahsoka. She smiled at Ahsoka, as she kindly said, “You're welcome”

Meanwhile, Leigharch was not sure what the others were talking about. He inquired, “So, what are these bikini parties? They sound interesting and fun.”

Revy responded, “Oh. They are. They last a week on the tropical island that we own. Where our mansion is.”

Leigharch requested, with intrigue in his tone of voice, “Interesting. Tell me more.”

Revy with a mischievous smile, as she said, “With pleasure. You see. There is a rule. That all the woman there have to wear bikinis while at this party.”

Leigharch commented, “So basically, with you all. It is like being on a photo-shoot of a swimsuit edition?”

Benny pointed out, “Something like that. But, there is a catch.”

Leigharch asked, “What is the catch?”

Janet answered, “The only ones allowed on the island for these parties have to be female at the time.”

Leigharch commented, in a disappointing tone of voice, “That figures.”

While Leigharch did not realized the full implications of Janet's answer. Maria did.

Maria thought, 'She said, have to be female. Not, women only. That means that men are invited, but they have to be turned into women. No wonder Hernan wanted to tell me about this in private.'

Fabiola turned to Maria, as she calmly said, “By the way, Maria. You are invited to the next party we have. When we have it.”

Revy commented, “We still haven't set a date for the next party.”

Fabiola went on to say, “And we have the means to temporally turn men into women. With no lasting physical side effects. The transformation even works on cybernetics. So, it will work Herman's cybernetic left hand.” She turned to look at Hernan, then Leigharch, as she continued, “So, Hernan and Leigharch can come, if they are willing to see how our half lives.”

Maria thought, 'I see I was right. And she said no lasting physical side effects. Not, mental effects. Besides, neither Hernan, nor I, are going. That would break Hernan's bet right there. Though, I will let Hernan make the first comment.'

Leigharch stated, “If that is the case, I will not be going. But, I would love a photo album of the event.”

Shenhua offered, “That can be arranged.”

Leigharch turned to Shenhua. He smiled, as he replied, “Nice.”

Hernan said, “I will have to decline. Outside of the Lovelace home, I prefer to stay in my own reality. As myself.”

Maria commented, “I feel the same way. I have traveled enough, now.” She looked over at Garcia, Roberta, and Fabiola, as she continued, “Barring a few exceptions.”

Garcia, Roberta, and Fabiola noticed that Maria was talking about them. Garcia offered, “You, and your family, are always welcome to come to our home.”

Maria replied, “I know. And thank you.”

Fabiola shrugged, as she said, “Still. To each their own.”

Dutch mentioned, “Also, if you are wondering. We have a strict rule of not changing children. So, no boys during the party. But, girls are allowed. And when children come to these parties. We keep things clean, and civil.”

Maria turned to Dutch, as she stated, “While I appreciate you have such rules. I would not allow any of my children near such parties.”

Dutch looked Maria, as she calmly stated, “I fully understand.”

Molly looked over at Ahsoka, as she inquired, “So, has anyone told the new girl about Lee's stories, yet?”

Annie looked over at Molly, as she said, “Yes. I did. But, I will let Ahsoka explain.”

Ahsoka looked at the group, as she answered, “Annie told me Lee's stories. And I have started reading a copy of them. I feel like both crying, and laughing. But mostly, I figure, if I am going to go insane, I might as well enjoy it. So, I prefer to laugh.”

Benny said, “Well, insanity is not uncommon in this crowd. So, you are among friends.”

Everyone laughed at Benny's comment, for a few seconds, including Ahsoka.

As they all calmed down, Ahsoka turned to Shenhua, as she inquired, in a sober tone of voice, “Shenhua. I was informed that you were the last to see Barbossa alive. I also heard what he did to you. I will understand if he is dead. Though, he is... Or, was my friend. And I would like to know what happened to him?”

Ahsoka noticed that as Shenhua turned to look at her, both Sawyer and Lotton looked at Shenhua with concerned looks on their faces. Sawyer and Lotton then turned to looked at Ahsoka.

As Shenhua continued to look as Ahsoka, she thought, 'And I do feel a slight sense of friendship from her, from my previous life as Barbossa. And I feel if I tell her the truth, it will help put to rest my past as Barbossa, in my previous life. And given she is a Jedi, she will sense I am tell the truth, through the force So, there is no problem there. Also, I have a feeling that when I tell her, there is a very good chance we could become good friends. And I could use a few more good friend.'

'But, not here. This is a conversation to be told in private.'

Shenhua stated, “I have some good and bad news on the subject. Though, I believe you will feel better when I tell you what happened. But, not here. I need to do so in private. But, in a matter of speaking. Barbossa is still among the living.” She thought, with amusement, 'From a certain point of view.'

Ahsoka could sense with the force, that what Shenhua has to say would make her happy. Ahsoka smiled, as she replied, “Okay.”

Balalaika stated, “Now, on to another matter. After I heard a rumor, last Friday night, when we got back from the Interzone. During our drinks, at the casino restaurant. And I started thinking about that rumor, for a while. I then realized remember something, last weekend. And I called Chang to confirm it. And he happily did so. That being.”

Balalaika turned to Matthew, as she continued, “Matthew.” She looked at Pedro, as she went onto say, “Pedro. I still find it hard to believe that you two were the ones that started it all in that bar in Caracas.”

Those that were involved in that event, turned to look at Matthew and Pedro.

Benny looked from Pedro, to Matthew, and back to Pedro, as she commented, in a halfhearted tone of voice, “Yea. It is hard to believe that the two were the guys that started that whole mess, were you two. We have been meaning to ask you two about that.”

Matthew cracked a grin. He then pulled out his cellphone and selected a picture of that night of Benny, as a guy, Revy, and himself.

Matthew showed to Benny and Revy, as he said, “Look at it and weep.”

Benny looked at the picture and said, “Well, I guess it is true.”

Matthew turned to Revy, as he stated, “I will be collecting on that two grand, one day.”

Revy smirked, as she replied, “You can try.”

Matthew put away his cellphone, as he just shrugged in response to Revy's comment.

Benny asked, “Since you knew all of this was going to happen, why didn't you warn us?”

Matthew answered, “Besides not wanting to create a paradox. You guys treated us like crap. And we wanted to have a little fun.”

Roberta looked over at Pedro, as she said, “It was fun.”

Pedro noticed Roberta looking at him. With a grin on his lips, he replied, “I am glad you enjoyed those drinks, as well.”

Roberta smiled, as she commented, “You knew my brand. And you were polite. At a time, when I really needed a few kind words.

Pedro said, “I am glad I could help.”

Benny asked, “Do Lee write that event?”

Matthew responded, “No. But, she, River, and Chang, of our time, in their female forms, were there.”

B guessed, “The three women talking to you, up front?”

Matthew answered, “Yes. And good memory, B.”

B said, “Thank you, Matthew”

Nodoka commented, “This discussion raises a good point. None of you have really told us, what you were up to, during you adventures through the multiverse.”

Matthew looked over at his friend, Pedro, as he asked, “You want to tell them some of the more interesting things we saw in the multiverse.”

Pedro turned to Matthew, as he said, “You go ahead. You are having so much fun talking, I don't want to stop you.”

Matthew looked around the room, as he said, “Well, during our journey. We have seen some really strange shit, even for you all.”

A few of those present raised an eyebrow at Matthew's comment.

Yolanda inquired, “Such as?”

Matthew said, “We went to one reality where your counterparts existed. You counterparts were very different from when you were in Roanapur. Such as Rock never existing, or at least not meeting any of you.”

Rock replied, “I do not exist there?”

Revy gently hugged Rock, as she said, “Do not worry about it. You exist here. And that is what makes me happy.”

Rock smiled towards her lover.

A few seconds later, Revy then let go of Rock, as she leaned back in her chair.

Matthew explained, “Yea. And the place we are are talking about is not Roanapur. Instead, you all were in Santo Domingo, of the Dominican Republic. Same basic formula through. Lagoon company playing pirates and smugglers, as the local mafias fight for the drug trade between Latin and South American, towards the rest of the world. With some major, and sometimes scary differences. For example, instead of being a chinese badass, Chang is a mexican badass, running the local mexican mafia, named Chavez.”

Mathew's comment got a laugh from everyone, for a few seconds.

As everyone calmed down, Shenhua asked, “What am I like, then?”

Matthew stated, “Actually Shenhua, in that reality you and Sawyer are a composite person, known as Senora de Santa Muerte, or Lady of Saint Death. Chang's chief enforcer. Think your body, with Sawyer's facial looks, and hair.”

“And this Sawyer's weapons were like yours. She used Mexican style bladed weapons, instead of oriental style weapons. Instead of the cute goth look Sawyer has going here. That Sawyer a more mature sexy, and scary goth look going. Complete with a black cloth hood and cloak. Though, she had a normal, female voice.”

Sawyer admitted, “Me and Shenhua put together. Now that is a scary thought.”

Dutch asked, “So, what is Lagoon Company like? What are the differences?”

Matthew answered, “Well, you were a guy and so was Benny. But, you were younger. Around the same age as Benny and Revy. Benny and Revy were not only dating, but living together.” He thought, “Chang mentioned that to me, yesterday. When he and I were talking in private. With the two of use comparing notes, on what we knew of that screwy reality. Including, some things that River picked up, on the thoughts of some of the locals.'

Benny and Revy's jaws dropped as they look each other.

Meanwhile, Rock and Janet giggled a little.

Benny said, “If I only had the balls, at the time, to ask you on a date, when we first met.”

Revy admitted, “I might have said, yes.”

Benny looked over at Janet, as she said with a smile on her lips, “Still, I am happily married. And you have a great lover.”

Revy turned to Rock. She smiled at Rock, as she agreed, “That is true. And I am happy with Rock.”

Benny commented, “Yet. It is interesting knowing what happened on the road not traveled.”

Revy nodded once, as she agreed, “You got that right.”

Eda asked, “What about the Church of Violence?”

Matthew stated, “That is no Church of Violence. Instead, the second mafia vying for control there is the Florida mafia. Only this Florida mafia is headed by Yolanda, and your counterpart, Eda, was her chief enforcer. And from what I was told, she looks like you in a sexy cowgirl outfit.”

Eda said, “That makes sense. And it would be great if that Eda do not to have to deal with dressing like a nun... Wait a minute, cowgirl outfit. I had Russell's role?!”

Matthew answered, “Yep.”

Except for Eda, and Matthew, the rest of the room laughed, for a few seconds.

Eda whined under her breath, “That figures.”

Matthew turned to Benny, as he thought, 'Given how close that place was to what Pedro described, during that morning in Caracas. And with what Chang told me. I guess he was spot on. But, I still need to check on a few things. Just for my own curiosity.'

Matthew continued to look at Benny, as he asked, “Benny. I was wondering. Was the information you hacked, that forced you to flee Florida, about a connection between the Florida mafia and the U.S. government?”

Benny said, “Good guess.”

Matthew commented, “That is what Pedro and I figured. And that is not all. Fabiola was with us, and she met her counterpart. From what I understand, they got along great.”

Fabiola said, “It was a good conversation for the both of us.”

Matthew stated, “I hope it was. And, from what this Fabiola told me. Fabiola's counterpart is as much a badass as she was at her age. When she first came to Roanapur, for the first time. If not more so. And the Garcia of that reality, was also a young badass, considering whom his guardian was.”

Balalaika said, “I will have to check out that reality some time.”

Pedro cautioned, “I would suggest you don't. We were warned not to come back there. By Garcia's guardian.”

Balalaika asked, “And who was that?”

Pedro answered, “Garcia's guardian is a composite of you and Roberta. She looks like Roberta, only with your sanity, and scars.”

Balalaika and Roberta looked at each other with worry and fear evident on their faces, for only a few seconds, before they reigned in their emotions. They then looked back at Pedro.

Roberta said, “Me and her?... Alright. That scares even me.”

Balalaika agreed, “Yes. That is an unsettling thought.”

Rock commented, “Two of the most badass, skilled, and scariest women in the multiverse, combined into one badass. Yes. That would be one scary woman.”

Nearby, Hernan quietly chuckled, a little. He thought, 'So, I have another counterpart, whom I now know about. And whom even worries my sister and Balalaika.'

Pedro smirked, as he went onto say, “It gets better. Instead of her mafia being, Hotel Moscow, composed of retired badass Russian soldiers. This Roberta's mafia is called, Hotel Caracas, and her organization is composed of former FARC badasses like her. And they really hate the Columbia Cartels, with a passion.”

“But, otherwise they were very polite to us. Especially that Roberta. She just asked us all to leave their reality. Instead of killing us. And we gladly complied with her request.”

Balalaika said, “I never thought I would say this, but I think there is now a mafia more badass than mine.” She looked at Pedro, as she continued, “Pedro. You are correct. We need to stay away from that reality. I do not want to make an enemy of that Roberta and her Hotel Caracas.”

Pedro commented, “A wise decision.”

Boris asked, “If there is no Hotel Moscow, where am I at? Or, do I even exist there?”

Matthew answered, “Your counterpart is guy. And he is the bartender at the local dive everyone goes to. Like the Rats Nest, here, of the Yellowflag in Roanapur. And that bar is even called the Yellowflag.”

Everyone lightly laughed, for a few seconds. Including, B and Matthew.

As those laughing calmed down, B commented, “That is not a bad fate.”

Matthew agreed, “No. It is not.” He thought, 'That is not a bad fate, at all.'

Nearby Bao and Melanie were standing next to each other, behind the counter. With Bao being to Melanie's right side.

Bao softly commented, “That is funny.”

Melanie quickly said, “I fully agree.”

At one of the tables, in the bar, Aeryn and Violin were sitting next to each other. With Aeryn to Violin's right side.

Aeryn turned to Violin, as she asked, “With this group. I wonder what the future will bring?”

Violin looked over at Aeryn, as she answered, “Who knows? But, I am sure it will be fun and interesting.”

Everyone then continued to enjoy the party, as those that were new there, and those that had been there a while, got to know each other.

And they all had a good time that night. Eventually, the party ended, and everyone either left directly for home. Or, they went to pick up their children. The designated drivers, Annie, and Yolanda, helped more than a few them.

Soon after, those that had attended the Rats Nest party that night, and their children, safely made it home, or their hotel suites. To get some sleep for the night.

(_)

Reality, Gargoyles Reality. Date, a few weeks after Matt Bluestone first left his reality, with Pedro and Matthew. Place, New York City, U.S.A. Inside the third story of the building that housed the New York Police Department Twenty-Third Precinct.
Time, earlier afternoon.

For Matt Bluestone, it was a few weeks later. With Matt returning to his home reality, with only a few weeks having passed there.

While Matt was able to bring back a few souvenirs with him. He mildly regretted that was not able to bring his carbine back because, first it belonged to Burt. And it was loan. And second, it was unregistered for his reality. As such, even as a cop. If he was caught in possession of it. He could get in a whole lot of trouble. So, he left that weapon behind.

Though, due to Matt becoming good friends with Burt. Burt gladly worked on Matt's semi-automatic pistol. He worked on the trigger, he accurized the weapon, and he even skillfully installed a good safety lever on the left side of his pistol, right below the slide, where the edge of right thumb rested, when he held the pistol. So, Matt could use his thumb to switch the safety level on and off, with easy.

And Burt had installed the safety so skillfully, that when it was selected off, it did not effect the firing, nor accuracy of the pistol. In truth, after working on the pistol. When Matt test fired his weapon, it fired better than ever. With Matt's seal of approval. Burt, then re-blued Matt's pistol black.

Burt did this to fix the scratches that were made by him, while he worked on the weapon. As such, Matt would have to patiently wait three weeks, before he could fire, or clean, his weapon, for the bluing chemicals to bond to the metal of the pistol. Of which, one week had already passed. If Matt did not wait, the blued finish would start to come off. Fortunately, Matt did intend wait, as he was instructed to do so.

Burt even gave Matt a five round, thirty-eight caliber Chief's Special revolver. Like the Chief's Special that Pedro had. With the pistol have a serial number that did not flag for any known crimes.

Burt also included a right ankle holster, and two speed loader. In case Matt needed to use a weapon before the time was up for his blued semi-automatic pistol.

Matt was grateful for the gifts that Burt, and other people in Plata Podrido, had given him.

But, all this was a small matter for Matt. And he was happy with what Burt had done for him. And Matt was able to stay his goodbyes to his friends. Before Roberta teleported him to an empty alleyway, near the headquarters for Twenty-Third Precinct.

Matt headed into police headquarters, to check in with his Captain. While, Roberta then immediately teleport back to Plata Podrido.

Matt had agreed with a few others, that it was best, that he would come back a few weeks, later. Instead of immediately, due to a few recent grooming choices he had made, during his time on Plata Podrido.

Matt soon check in with his superior, Police Captain Maria Chavez. Whom was getting close to retirement.

Also, given the strangeness of his job. Disappearing for a few weeks, without notice was not unheard for the officers of this precinct. As such, there was a good chance this disappearance would not be held against him.

Along with this, Matt had an exemplary service record, for his years of service with the NYPD. This included several merits and awards he had received during his time with the NYPD.

As such, Captain Chavez was willing to give him some leeway on the situation he found himself in.

Still, when Captain Chavez had asked Matt what had happened to him. Matt had declined to explain where he had been. But, he said that he had been dropped somewhere else. Where he could not contact anyone in the NYPD for help. And that it took him time to get home. And it seemed that was an honest enough explanation, for Maria. And Matt was allow to keep his job.

Presently, when Matt was dismissed, by Captain Chavez, he left Maria's office, and he then headed to the nearby desk of his partner, whom was NYPD Detective Elisa Maza.

As Matt came up to Elisa, he saw she was sitting in her chair, at her desk, among the other desks the detectives were assigned at.

While Elisa was a years older, than when Matt had first met her. And she had a few gray hairs. She had been able to maintain both her figure, and her looks.

As Matt came to a stop by Elisa’s desk, she looked up at him.

Matt casually said, “Hiya.”

Elisa inquired, in slight surprise, and happiness, in her tone of voice, “Matt? Where have you been?”

Matt coyly replied, “Here and there.”

Elisa then stood up from her seat, as she stated, “Well, I was just heading out for my shift.”

Matt commented, “So am I.”

Elisa said, “Good. We will take my car. And I will drive. And, on the way, you can tell me what happened to you during your disappearance.”

Matt replied, “Okay. But, not here.”

Elisa realize that there were too many people around for such a discussion. She complimented, “Fine. By the way, I like the mustache.”

Matt used his right hand to rub his simple red mustache over his upper lip, which matched his red hair color. Matt then dropped his right hand, while he smile. He said, “Thank you. I think I will be keeping it.”

Both of them starting walking side by side, towards the stairs. With Matt to Elisa's left side.

As the two detectives started walking, they soon came it to the large stairwell. As they started walking down the steps, Elisa noticed no one around, as she asked, “So Matt, are you going to tell me what really happened to you?”

Matt answered, “Elisa, I am sure you remember that magical Avalon mystery tour you had a while back.”

Elisa replied, “Of course.”

Matt answered, “Well, I just came back from my owe experience. Which was like that.”

Elisa asked, with concern in her tone of voice, “Oh, Matt. Are you okay?”

Matt answered, “Yea. I will be fine. But, damn what an adventure. Given what we have both been through. Given who we are friends with. I thought I use to know what the big picture was. And I was proven wrong. And when I tell you what is really going on, you are likely going to think I am insane.”

Elise commented, “After having first hand knowledge of learning that practically every myth and conspiracy out there exists. And being there, in person, when most of them were proven to be true. That is a tall order.”

Matt smirked, “I know. It's that big. Still, how was your week?”

Elisa answered, “Strange.”

Matt inquired, “So, it was normal?”

Elisa said, “No. Stranger than normal. And it had nothing to do with my boyfriend, and his family.”

Matt answered, “Now, you have my interest.”

Elisa commented, “We will have a lot to talk about later, then.”

Matt suggested, “Yea. We will. Let us get a late lunch.”

Elisa said, “Yes. Let's do that. I missed lunch, getting caught up with paperwork. Which I am now done with. Then, we will start our shift.”

Matt commented, “Good idea. By the way, I found out who Merlin is.” He mentally reflected, 'A secret like that is hard to keep. Fabiola told me. And she got the information from her hacker friends, whom saw the whole thing go down with the Xanatos family, at the spacestation. But, I am not going to spill that secret, right now.'

'Also, there is the matter of Puck's binding spell on his powers being removed. But, I am not going to mention that to Elisa, either. Because I do not want to get on Puck's bad side.'

'Still, that trip was fun. Especially, those last few weeks in Plata Podrido. And once I got to know those badass men and women. I found out they are not that bad. And they can actually be kind of fun to get along with. As long as I did not get on their nerves. Which I am good at not doing.'

Elisa asked, “So, who is he?”

Matt replied, “I doubt you would believe me.”

Elisa requested, “As I just said. With everything we have been through, try me?”

Matt stated, “Later. After I figure out if I want to open that can of worms.”

Elisa replied, with interest in her tone of voice, “It must be juicy.”

Matt cracked a grin, as he said, “To say the least.”

Elisa questioned, “All I need to know is do I need to worry?”

Matt stated, “Actually, you could say he is already doing a good job of helping to keep our lives more peaceful.”

Elisa asked, “That's good to hear. So, are you going to tell me, about all this, over lunch?”

Matt teased, “Most of it.” He thought, 'Maybe not the whole truth. That we are living in a fiction reality, and I met characters from other fictional realities on my journey. Also, I will save Merlin being David Xanatos' father, Petros, for later. I do not want to upset that family.'

Elisa all but begged, “Come on, Matt. You have to give me something.”

Matt mentioned, “You never did give me the full story on your Avalon journey.” He thought, 'But now, after watching that Gargoyles series, I know what happened on your journey. Possibly more than even you do.'

Elisa sheepishly conceded, “Oh... Right...”

Matt held back a small chuckle, as he said, “Don't worry, Elisa. I will give you the highlights.”

By then, they had reached the ground floor, and soon made exited the building, out of the double-door entrance.

After they walked down a few steps, to the sidewalk, both Elisa and Matt came to a stop, with both of them putting on their sunglasses, to shield their eyes from the sunny day outside.

Elisa noticed, that as Matt put on his sunglasses, and with his mustache, he had a very authoritative look to himself. Though, she decided not to say a word about it.

They then turned to their right, as they started walking to the nearby car garage, where Elisa usually parked her car.

As they walked, down the sidewalk, Matt thought, with concern, 'Though, now that I think about it. The one thing that worries me, was that a few of weeks ago, for me. We had an interesting adventures in Plata Podrido. A few days after that party at the Rats Nest, on the Tuesday, after we came back from the Interzone.'

'And during that mess. Deadpool told me that his past self. Before he even started his whole adventures in the multiverse. Will come here, to this reality, and meet my future self.'

'I do not know how to feel about that. While Deadpool is insane. Unless one threatens him, or someone around him. Or, if he is paid to come after someone. He usually is not violent with people, in general. So as long as I keep myself, and my friends, from starting a fight with him. We should be fine fine with him.'

'Still, I am not sure how I am going to broach that subject with my friends. Explaining Deadpool, takes time. Deadpool's history is basically trying to explain a complicated story.'

'Like Lee's stories. I read them. And I re-read them. I even had a copy of them in a memory stick, in my pocket, that will work on my personal computer, here, in this reality. Still, I do not fully understand those stories.'

'And if seems, from what some of the others told me, in Plata Podrido, that the stories are still going on. Though, I prefer not to think about that matter. That way of thinking will only lead to madness.'

'Also, I am sure that Deadpool is not lying. He has no reason too. So, I know my adventures with those of Plata Podrido are not over. And I will just be on the look out for Deadpool, and the others.'

'Though, until then, I am just going to enjoy my life.'

Five minutes later, they reached the parking garage, and they came to Elisa's car, on the first floor of the garage. When they reached Elisa car, Elisa used her car clipper to unlock the doors. Elisa then got into the driver's seat. While Matt got into front passenger seat, on the right side of the car.

A minute later, they were on the road, as they headed somewhere to get something to eat, as Matt told her an abbreviated version of his adventures in the multiverse.

(_)

Reality, unknown.
Date, unknown.
Place, location unknown, save for it was the headquarters of Reality Express.
Time, it is mid-afternoon, local time.

In another reality, time and place. Inside the hanger of Reality Express headquarters.

Little D and Yuuichi just reality teleported their cargo ship from Gomez's spacestation, to prearranged, empty part of they tarmac, of their hanger, at the proper time and place in the reality they were going to.

A minute later, after they put the ship in standby mode, they had exited their ship. The two men were walking side by said, with Yuuichi to Little D's left side.

As they made their way from the hanger, towards the main parts of the headquarters, one of their assistants walk up them, and handed Yuuichi a file folder, as he stated, “The person you were interested in is here, outside your office. And here as the results from his tests and exams.”

Yuuichi took the folder, as he said, “Thank you.”

The assistant then walked away from the two men.

As Yuuichi opened the folder, and looked at it, Little D inquired, “What is this about?”

While Yuuichi looked at the folder, he answered, “The new recruit, I mentioned. Walk with me, so we can meet him together.”

Little D replied, “Okay.”

The door to the hallway they approached, was left open.

As they walked into nearby hallway, Yuuichi continued looking at the folder. He knew this area by heart, and he was not worried about running into things.

Little D asked, “So, who is this guy? How old is he?”

Yuuichi answered, “He is twenty-one years old. He is from an early twenty-first century era.” Yuuichi flipped a page in the folder, as he continued, “Tests show that he is an expert in hand to hand combat, melee weapons, and firearms. He knows how to fight in a mixture of those three styles. And he also is an expert at dual wielding both pistols, long knives, and a long knife and pistol, at the same time.”

Little responded, “That just means he can protect himself and the load. Is he a shapeshifter?”

Yuuichi flipped a couple of pages, to where he had the answer. He stated, “Nope. He is completely male.”

Little D questioned, “How did he check out on the tests for piloting? And maintenance?”

Yuuichi flipped back a few pages. He stated, “Driving and engineering tests show he knows how to pilot, and maintain, everything from an old big rig, to a spacetruck.”

Little D smiled, as he commented, “Nice. And the psyche exam?”

Yuuichi flipped a page. As he read the next page, he said, “Psyche exam says he sane, polite, trustworthy, intelligent, and well educated. He can even read, write, and speak multiple languages. Though, he prefers speaking either spanish, or english.”

Little D stated, “It looks like we have another winner. Where is he from?”

Yuuichi answered, “Mexico.”

Little replied, “Okay.”

By then, they walked up to the entrance of to Yuuichi's personal office. Standing there was a young man in his early twenties.

He had latin american facial features, black hair cut short, fair skin, and a clean shaven face.

He wore a white t-shirt, blue jeans, black belt, and blue tennis shows.

And the man had piecing blue eyes.

As the two men approached the younger man, Yuuichi closed the folder, and tucked it under his left arm.

The man turned to face them, as Little D and Yuuichi came to a stop, six feet from the younger man.

Yuuichi said, in english “Hello. I am Yuuichi, and this is Little D. We are the co-owners of Reality Express.”

The man polite responded, in fluent english, “Nice to meet you both.”

Little D stated, “Nice to meet you. It says in your folder that you from Mexico?”

The man answered, “Born and raised there. For the most part. But, my parents are from South America.”

Yuuichi inquired, “In your tests, it showed you had a lot of knowledge of combat skills. But, it did not state where you learned those skills from. Were you in the military?”

The man answered, “No. My father and my aunt. His sister. Taught my siblings, and I, how to fight, when I was younger.”

Little D asked, “Who is your father and aunt?”

The man coyly responded, “I would prefer not to say. Both of them have a bit of a reputation.”

Little D sympathized, as he inquired, “It's okay. I completely understand where you are coming from. So, you have family. Any tragedies that you neglected to mention?”

The man answered, “No. My family is still alive. Everyone knows not to mess with them. That is all that needs to be said on the matter.”

Little D replied, “I agree.”

Yuuichi spoke up, “So, what brought you out here, to want to work for us?”

The man began, “Long story...”

Little D quipped, “Aren't they all.”

All three men chuckled, for a few seconds.

As they calmed down, the man continued, “Yes. Unlike my older brother, older sister, and younger cousins. I did not care for the life of excitement we found ourselves in. So, when I became an adult, I did some traveling. Eventually, I decided I needed to get a job. And I heard about you guys. And I am looking forward to nice, calm, steady job.”

Little D pointed out, “This is not a calm job, nor lifestyle.”

The man responded, “It is when compared to what my life was like, before I left my family.”

Yuuichi replied, with mild amusement in his tone of voice, “I hear that.”

Little D inquired, “Now, before we continued. There is one more question we have for you. Given the line of work, and type of lives our employees have lead. Some of them had inadvertently brought some personal baggage with them. Mainly, in those cases, it had to do with personal relationships. We do not list this on our forms due to it not looking right. But, we have to ask. Do you have any serious relationships that might come back to haunt you? If so, we can work this out now, instead of having it surprise us all later.”

The man commented, “Relax guys. While I have had some dates in the past. I have only had one serious relationship.”

Yuuichi requested, in a calm, polite tone of voice, “Please, tell us about this woman? Or, is he a man? Not that we mind, either way.”

The man flatly said, “Woman. She is very much a woman. Unlike some others I know of.”

Little D casually commented, “Yea. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.” He mentally lamented, 'Or, in that case, bikini.'

Yuuichi nodded once, as he said, “That stories we could tell you. Though, please continue.”

The man stated, “Anyway, this woman I dated was from my home town. A few years back, we started dating for a while. When I was in my late teens. And she was a few years older than me. But, she was not so much older than me. And the age different did not matter to either of us. Actually, she looked about my age. So, it didn't matter at all. Though, she did have an odd hair color.”

Yuuichi questioned, in an offhanded tone of voice, “Was she a redhead?”

The man answered, “No. Her hair color was green. I thought she dyed it. But, it turned out that was her natural hair color. And she inherited her hair color from her mother. And I do not have a clue who her father is. She never talked about him. And I did not ask about him.”

Little D complimented, “Smart man.”

The man responded, “Thank you. Anyway, she is a very sweet, sane, woman. In that respect, she is very rare, compared to some of the women we knew. She is also in good healthy. And we got along great”

Little D asked, “So, what happened?”

The man answered, “It was our parents. My mother adored her. She considered her to be like a second daughter to her. Though, my father and my aunt, along with her mother, did not want us to date. Something about the fact they did not want us to have children. Because they thought the multiverse could not handle mixing our two bloodlines together. Though, we ended our relationship on a good note. And we are still good friends.”

Yuuichi happily inquired, “That is nice. So, what was this woman's name?”

The man said, “Julia Spiegel.”

Yuuichi and Little D looked at each other, as Yuuichi questioned, “You don't think?”

Little D responded, “Could be. He is from Mexico. And it could be the same city.”

Yuuichi mildly sighed, as he suggested, “We really need to change our forms to list cities, as well.”

Little D said, “Yes. I agree. And that would mean he could be.”

Yuuichi replied, “Yea.”

The man was slightly confused by Yuuichi and Little D's comments. He asked, “Is there something I should know?”

Yuuichi and Little D looked over at the man, as Little D answered, in a relaxed tone of voice, “No. It is something we need to discuss with each other. Then, we will talk with you, about it, later.”

The man replied, “Okay.”

Little D asked, “So, what is your name?”

The man answered, “Ramon Pena.”

Yuuichi and Little D looked at each other again, as Yuuichi said, “I guess that is the case.”

Little D replied, “Uh huh.”

Yuuichi and Little D looked back at Ramon. Yuuichi offer his right hand to Ramon, as he stated, “Well, Mister Pena. Good to have you here.”

Ramon shook Yuuichi hand. With both men notice that the other had a firm, but not tight, handshake.

After they broke their handshake, Little D stated, while offering his right hand, as he said, “Glad to have you aboard, Ramon. Welcome to Reality Express.”

Ramon shook Little D's hand for a few seconds, with both men also have a few grip on the other's hand.

As both men broke their handshake, Ramon responded, “Glad to be here.”

Yuuichi stated, “We will get you a uniform, a rig, and find you a partner, to work with. And we will talk a little bit more about this, in my office.”

Ramon replied, “Okay.”

Little D turned to Yuuichi, as he inquired, “So, do you think V.T. would be okay to show Ramon here the ropes?”

Yuuichi looked at Little D, as he answered, “Sure. We will just offer her a bonus for teaching him.”

Little D replied, “That should work.”

Yuuichi asked, “So, what are you doing for the rest of the day?”

Little D answered, “Once we are done with Ramon here. I am going to visit my family, in the S.A.C. reality.”

Yuuichi requested, “Say, hi, to them, for me.”

Little D replied, “I will.”

They then turned, and took a few steps to reach Yuuichi's office. Little D opened the unlocked door. And he walked in first. Then, Ramon. And finally, Yuuichi. With Yuuichi gently closing the door behind them.

(_)

Reality, Ghost In The Shell, Standalone Complex.
Date: Decades after the Standalone Complex series ended.
Place, one of the nicer neighborhoods of Tokyo, Japan. On the third story of an apartment complex.
Time, mid-afternoon.

Little D teleported down to the exact minute he want to, right in front of the door to a nice, large condominium, that he had paid for.

After Little D and Yuuichi had finished getting Ramon situated in his new job. And convincing V.T. to be Ramon's new partner. Little D teleported to the S.A.C. reality, at the proper time and place, where he had planned in advance to go to.

The reason he choose to come in the mid-afternoon, was that he planned some activities with those he cared for, that were inside his home, before the evening of they day he come to.

Little D then pocketed his reality device, and he pulled out a key. Next, he used the key to unlock his front door. After which, he gently opened front door, and pocketed his key.

Standing in front of him was a beautiful, slender, middle-aged woman, whom was wearing a nice purple dress. The woman was with a mix of japanese and caucasian physical features. She had tanned skin. But, she also had long blond hair, that went down her back, to her shoulder blades. With the woman allowing her hair to remain loose.

In the woman's arms, was a healthy baby boy that are she gently held, in a blanket.

Also, there was a wedding ring on the woman's left which showed that she was Little D's wife. And the young child in their arms was their son. Whom had a fairer complexion than her mother, which he received from Little D's side of the family.

The husband and wife loved each other, and their son, very much.

Little D walked inside their home. He then gently shut the door behind him.

The father, wife, and young son, then made their way further into their home. To have a pleasant day with each other.

As they walked further into the home, they passed by an old picture, on a small table, by the wall, to their right side.

The picture was of a happy family. In the picture was the blond woman known as Hanna Solas Nakano. Whom still looked to be in her early thirties. With her husband Doctor Takashi Nakano. And three children. Of which, one of the children was Little D's wife, when she was a child.

Not The End... Never The End...



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