Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Multiverse Desperado A Jumpchain Fiction Chapter 19

Chapter 19: Over The Hump
It was after my twenty-second shot at Jump's face that I finally stopped. It cost me a thermal clip and it didn't do anything to her body – tore the hell out of the bed, the pillow, and the wall behind her though – but man did it feel good. I did note that there wasn't even a notable effect on her; I fired the gun and she simply stared like I was popping a firecracker.

I caught myself shaking as I ejected the clip. Jump just raised an eyebrow as I sat down. “Feel better now?” she said with a smile. The kind of smile you give someone after they finally confess some secret.

I could have easily been diplomatic and bit my tongue. On the other hand, this was building up for like five years.

So screw it, I gave her a piece of my mind.

“Oh that's fine other than the facts that psycho machine monsters have been trying to kill me since I got here, me being tangled up in bureaucratic red tape and kissing executive ass just to make sure we have better ways to kill said psycho machine monsters, every single person I talk to treats me like I'm some escaped mental patient, after spending half a decade in a galaxy full of wonderful people the one person I decide to be physically intimate with turns out to be a space succubus and, oh yeah, I miss having a fucking penis!” I threw my pistol at Jump's face for emphasis and got into her face, not even caring that the pistol went through her like air.

“Do you have any idea how ridiculous it is to sit down to pee every single goddamn time!? Hell, do you know how annoying it is to have to parade around in a backless dress knowing that every single person there is thinking of doing it with you!? Pigs every single one of them! How do asari- hell how do women in general deal with this shit!? And the high heels! Why wear them? So you can show off how good you look!? Why would you want to when all you're going to get is more predatory looks like you're a rack of lamb or whatever!? Hell it would just make you a bigger target for aforementioned space succubi!”

Jump opened her mouth to speak but I cut her off swiftly.

“And I know damn well what you're going to say! I didn't have to wear that stuff! Different culture, different species! You don't think I don't know that!? I had to wear that stuff cuz I needed backers! And investors like to think they're taking advantage of an idiot! And what's a bigger looking idiot than some inexperienced ex-criminal that is trying too hard to use sex appeal!? Every single party dealing with some hotshot or whatever staring at my tits thinking he was going to take me for a ride meant more product getting out there! Cuz the joke's on them! I don't care about my bottom line! I care about stopping the Reapers! Because apparently in my enthusiasm for wanting to be a part of this world I forgot I'm not fucking Commander Shepard who gets everything handed to him on a silver platter because he was a fucking war hero for a couple decades before the fact so I had to scramble this shit together!”

My throat was burning with pain, my entire body was shaking with fury and I could feel my vocal chords clutch up. I didn't care if I was going to go mute for a while. It was totally worth it.

Then Garrus ran into my room, assault rifle readied and eyes wide with panic. An instant later he relaxed, looking towards me. Clearly he was expecting a group of cutthroats being terrorized by the infamous Blue Bitch, not an asari in sweatpants and a sports bra towering over her mattress with a manic look in her eye.

“Variza, you do realize being on a covert mission is the last place you want to yell your head off right?” His tone was cold and critical. “If someone seriously wanted you dead, there are at least three sniper nests that could have taken you out using your little outburst as cover.”

I motioned towards Jump and gave him a leading look. He turned to look at Jump. Except he just... looked past her. Like she was a hologram or an optical illusion.

“Look, I get it,” he sighed. “These past few years have been nuts, and I've noticed that a certain somebody hasn't been scheduling some much needed medical appointments.”

“I'm as fit as ever and why aren't you addressing the woman on the bed?”

Garrus did a double take to the bed then back to me. “I meant your mental health, Variza. From the sound of it, you need it. Now excuse me, some of us are actually trying to sleep.” Then he left, closing the door behind me firmly.

Jump bowed her head knowingly, handing me my pistol like it was a squirt gun. I took a deep breath and counted to ten. I then got up and holstered my pistol to my full suit of armor hanging on the wall nearby.

“Well, now that we've established that no one else can see you and everyone else can hear me having one-way conversations to the point of possible institutionalization, let me try to ask this following question without screaming.” I clenched my fists several times and tried keeping my voice as level as possible. “What in the name of Zeus's butthole are you doing here?”

Right in front of my eyes a party hat and a noisemaker materialized on Jump's person. Several pops happened around me and I was showered in colorful confetti.

“Congratulations!” She declared as loud as possible. Then concert band music blasted throughout the room playing “For He's A Jolly Good Fellow” in total zeal. I shuddered at the sudden change in music and tucked my head down on reflex. Darting my head left and right expecting another noise complaint from Garrus – even though I knew in some small way he wouldn't hear it – I looked up and asked the burning question: congratulations for what?

“For hitting the ninety-sixth percentile of Jumpers.” She cheered, suddenly in a bubbly cheerleader outfit, pom-poms and all, spelling out the letters nine and six over and over... somehow, and bouncing on the remains of the mattress like it was a trampoline. The fanfare carried on, undaunted.

“Will you stop that!?” I barked. The band stopped playing immediately, save for an errant tuba choking out an amusing off-key squeal. Sorry Garrus, my tolerance for impromptu small room parades is very low. In another instant, she was back on the mattress, returned to her sultry lady of the night look.

“First of all, there have been other... what did you call them Jumpers?” Jump nodded. “Alright. There have been other Jumpers? And second, why is that so important?”

“To your first question, yes. Yes there have.” Her tone was frank. “Hate to pop your bubble sport but just being a Jumper isn't special. You think I pick and choose some special little round peg in square hole and let them go on cool adventures? That would be silly and boring. I don't do bored.” That last part she said like a spoiled kid stuck in a waiting room. The look she added to it on the other hand was quite sinister.

“So the ninety-sixth percentile thing is special why?”

“The other ninety-five percent have died at this point.” She said with a smile. “Dead. Returned home. With nothing. On their first Jump.”

I was trying to think on the positive side of things. That I was alive and apparently part of a certain elite. But instead it felt like there was a rock in my stomach.

“May I ask how?”

“Oh a variety of reasons. Some couldn't cope with the actual world's rules and got in over their head. Some of them are your standard armchair atheists who think they can “logic” the world into serving them and they got shot in the face. Some just can't handle the change in technology or time period and make things worse for them. Some kind of forget that the world is more than just the media it was presented in. There was a guy who thought he could win an entire war in space by getting a certain weapon and power armor. He went AWOL after being court martialed for breaking that world's version of the Geneva Conventions and he was gunned down. It was hilarious.” Jump laughed.

Considering that what I was left with in this world isn't too far off from that poor soul I felt the rock in my stomach get bigger and spikier.

“Which of course leads me to you and your cute blue mammaries.” she teased. I barely fought the impulse to slap her across the face, instead I just crossed my arms.

“Honestly I wasn't expecting much. A bunch of money, some futuristic weapons, and some healing items just in case you got a boo boo, and choosing a race dependent entirely on maximum combat efficiency instead of wanting to see how the other way lives. So standard for a video game, so limited for a decade of life, wouldn't you say?” I looked away from her, trying to hide the sting of her words.

“Yeah, not gonna lie, I was expecting you to die on Purgatory Station.” she added callously. I immediately bit my tongue. She was right on that count. “But here you are. Five years strong, the head of your own financially floundering weapon company, actually got out of your bubble a bit and made some friends, and you got the ball rolling a bit early on the whole Reaper thing. Good job.”

“Well I knew they were coming and had an idea of what could be done to prevent it and I gave it a shot. You know, the whole “would you kill Hitler” thing?” I retorted.

But something else started bothering me in the back of my mind. The idea that I was being sleighted by Jump crept in and sat in my consciousness.

“Wait a minute... that's why you didn't fully explain anything before at the tavern.” I breathed.

“Ah. So I didn't. Yeah my bad.” She waved her hand dismissively.

“So all you heard out of me was I liked this world, a particular race in it and the battles in it and assumed I was just another adrenaline junkie looking for some consequence-free escapism?” I could feel my blood boil and my voice rising despite the protesting of my shredded vocal cords.

“A junkie that read a book once but that's about it.”

I started to get up and began taking some deep breaths again. I swear to god if I bit my tongue any further I'd bleed to death.

But then Jump got up and put a hand on my shoulder and gave me a look of...dare I say it... sympathy.

“But you know what? I was wrong, and I'm sorry.” her tone comforting. And like a balloon getting deflated, most of my anger left me. I didn't want to speculate as to why but her expression seemed as genuine as I'd seen out of Jump.

“That's another reason why I'm here. I'm going to be a bit more upfront with you now, since you're officially head and shoulders above the rest. So how about we go into your warehouse and we can talk in better company.”

My warehouse? I felt around in my sweatpants pockets and felt the old simple key still there. I never bothered to use it on any door. I was too busy establishing my cover as Variza T'Som that I completely forgot about that resource at my disposal. Shit.

“Wow. I know I said I was going to be nicer but...” Jump bit down on her fingers and looked away, her face scrunched up. “You haven't done anything to your warehouse?! Oh my goodness that is hilarious!” Raucous canned laughter filled the small room, mixed with Jump finally losing it, turning her back to me and holding her sides.

“You gonna keep laughing at me or are you gonna put your money where your mouth is?” I said as flat and deadpan as I could muster through clenched teeth.

She exhaled sharply and with a quick motion fished my key out of my pocket.

“Alright fine, when did you lose your sense of humor?” she began miming the act of opening a door in the threshold.

“Somewhere between going to jail and surviving death by Ardat Yakshi snu-snu.”

Jump flashed me a quick smile, then her profile became silhouette by a blinding light from the threshold. As my eyes adjusted I saw a large industrial looking storage facility. It looked to be at least twenty-thousand square feet in area and was lit by simple florescent bulbs, highlighting a simple yet dull concrete floor. There were no windows on the simple off white painted walls and there appeared to be no other doors going in.

Jump stepped inside and motioned for me to follow.

“So...you were being literal when you said it was a warehouse.” I smiled.

“The Cosmic Warehouse my dear Jumper, and it will be where you can keep any useful items or vehicles you get along the way. It's also a place where you can rest in more...conventional accoutrements.” She gestured at the last statement towards...my home.

My simple single floor house that I have spent most of my life was right there, sans the drive-way and front lawn. Like an asari possessed I ran to the front door and opened it. The living room exactly as it was with its red floor carpeting, floral print love seat, light green couch and simple beige rocking chair, all tied together by a flat screen television on the plain white wall. I wandered through the rest of the rooms trying to see if everything was here. It mostly was. No computer or internet network set-up, and the television in question had no cable box. Other than that. It felt like home.

After discovering that the kitchen was full of regular twenty-first century drinks and snacks I flopped on the couch after cracking open a can of Coca Cola and drinking deeply. That rich sugaring carbonated teeth rotting taste, how I missed it. Jump was sitting on the love seat opposite, a genuine smile on her face.

“So does this make up for the bad first impression?” Jump asked.

I looked around for a while, drinking in just how much of this simple place of warmth I missed so badly. Five years away from here... I felt my eyes start to tear up a bit but fought them back.

“It's a start.”

The next three days waiting for Aria to arrange my meeting with Kasumi went by relatively fast. Not because of the Queen of Omega's hospitality or the cheerful disposition of a space station at the farthest reaches of the galaxy full of unpredictable criminals, lowlifes, and downtrodden homeless, but because of the renovations I was doing in my Warehouse.

Thanks to dipping into my trust fund a bit I was able to purchase a brand new Kodiak shuttle from a local merchant, was even able to get him to rip out some manual shut off stuff since he knew me by reputation, and through Jump's instructions I was able to fly it inside no problem. Cash upfront, non traceable. Then after window shopping for several top of the line examples of certain medical facilities and inventory management software, I was able to work with Jump to get a working medbay and storage terminal in the warehouse as well. Garrus was ignorant of these proceedings, if he wasn't accessing an extranet terminal for private conversations, he was cleaning his rifles and tweaking their sights. Considering how expensive such transmissions are in the Terminus Systems I had to assume he was updating Shepard on our progress.

The meeting at Afterlife could best be described as cheerfully hostile. Aria closed down the club so no scantily clad asari dancers or EDM pulsing through the building. We were searched and stripped of our weapons, and when the crates finally arrived full of my payment to the criminal queen, I had to witness her and several trusted grunts open them up, examine and test them. You don't become the head of Omega by being a fool after all.

We were then seated at a booth and told to wait. It was a relatively uncomfortable thirty minutes. Garrus and I didn't even try small talk, we really didn't have too much in common anyway.

Then a profile of a woman materialized in front of us, winking into existence as a high pitched whine quickly died down to nothing, a slight discharge of energy flying off of the bent light around her. Kasumi Goto, one of the greatest thieves in the galaxy had revealed herself. She was a bit on the short side, though her lightly plated catsuit left little to the imagination. Her figure was lithe and built for absolute dextrous movement, the kind catburglars wish they had. Her face was partially hidden behind a cloth hood, making it difficult to get a look at any more distinct facial features. Aside from her lower lip marked with a simple purple square of lip gloss, she had no real defining physical characteristics. Simply put, she was a professional, but one that enjoyed a bit of a personal touch.

“Miss Variza T'Som I take it?” her voice was light and playful, a smirk accompanying it.

“And by your appearance you must be Kasumi Goto.” I bowed my head in greeting.

“I'm flattered.” her smile brightened, though I noticed movement in her eyes. Looking for possible exit and ambush points no doubt. “So tell me why do I have the pleasure of speaking to the kind of people I wind up stealing from?”

I looked around at Aria's entourage and saw they kept putting their fingers to some ear pieces, clearly keeping Aria abreast of our proceedings. I couldn't have her people get involved, it would lead to more complicated matters with me and her, which would mean a larger paper trail leading back to my company breaking the shaky edifice of success I was trying to keep up.

I activated a data pad and slid it across the table towards her, quirking my eyebrows.

After an uneasy bout of silence, Kasumi looked up from the data pad.

“Alright, I agree. I will undertake this mission. On one condition. The payment offered by Aria T'loak for my time here I shall redeem now.”

“Which was?” The rock in my stomach that vanished three days ago apparently had a litter of pebbles.

“Your assistance in a heist I am undertaking. That's all.” Her smile now mixed with a twinge of inquisitiveness.

Oh thank goodness. Another chance to slap on some armor, load up some guns, and help a master thief plunder some poor soul. The spy thriller I've been waiting for.

“And if I disagree I'll be shot on sight?”

“Either that or she'll 'find a way to make you regret it for the rest of your life' as she said.”

“Well then, guess I'm in. Whose the mark and how are we going to get it?” I asked, a bit too giddy at the prospect of doing a heist.

“I have a plan for those already. The bigger question is what size dress are you? I need to know so we can coordinate for our date.”

I blinked several times.

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