Sunday, March 1, 2020
Multiverse Desperado: A JumpChain Fiction 2
Jump 2: Pokemon
I kept looking in the mirror, imagining my ideal look. Jump was in the background, wearing a playful smile and an opulent black dress, the kind you wouldn't be surprised seeing in a 1920s jazz club. I saw my body flicker through the various ideas and outfits, until I finally decided on something...a bit cliched but spoke to me nonetheless. A simple cyan t-shirt, a pair of action jeans (those special kinds you can actually kick worth a damn in) held together with snake leather belt, and a long-flowing black coat tying it all together. Not a heavy duster, but the kind you comfortably wear during cold weather.
“You gonna throw some sunglasses on top of that get-up, Neo?” Jump ribbed playfully. I turned around with a flourish and gave her a bright smile.
“Say what you want, long coats and black was considered cool when I was a teen, and I still think they are. Besides, I'm in an elite few now. I think I'm allowed a little personal creative flourish after all I've been through.”
She cocked an eyebrow. I then stroked my chin and returned to the mirror. Maybe a more distinct bit of personal flourish is needed. And so, I concentrated on my reflection and added some details. A distinct multicolored fractal pattern was added to my shirt, making the whole thing like like a cracked stained glass window with little details and changes peppered throughout the cracked pieces. And some simple cyan straight lines were added to the coat. Simple, stretched lines reaching from the sleeves to the back, meeting in the middle in a circle, then branching out to the collar and bottom ending in a trim.
“There we go, I think that says me a bit more.” I twirled on the spot, enjoying the extra design.
“Or that you're getting ready to enter the game grid.” Jump laughed. I blew out a raspberry.
“Besides, I think you deserve a bit more of a personal badge of honor.” she added with a flick of her hand.
I quickly patted myself down in concern. Half expecting her to change my body again, but then I felt some different fabric around my breast pocket. I looked down and saw...a perfectly integrated N7 patch. I felt my heart twinge slightly.
“I think you deserve it. All the training you did with him, everything you pulled off. I think he'd approve of this promotion.”
“Yeah...it'll also be a good reminder of what I still need to do.” the images of Shepard and his crew in the hospital wing flashed through my mind, put there by my doing.
There was a moment of silence, then I felt Jump clap her hand on my shoulder. Her grip was strangely comforting. With a gesture, we exited together out of the rooms of the house and back into the Warehouse proper. A large collection of humanoid robots were scattered about moving crate after crate of product to a singular area. We followed.
“So, run by me again exactly what was added to this place?” I inquired.
“Well you got familiar with the medbay obviously, and met my Jumpbots. They're extremely basic and not meant for combat so don't even think about having them fight for you.”
“I wasn't. One universe of using robot proxies was enough,” I looked away in shame but then shook it off when I remembered they were used to crush the memetic Kai Leng and smiled.
“Hey, don't be too hard on yourself, you actually grasped you weren't unstoppable pretty quickly.” she responded, “Let's see, there's a library over here, a swimming pool over here, Jack's quarters are over there. Don't worry, she has all the trappings of home, plus some music and media from there. Even got you a copy of the same in your room.”
“Great, some decent techno music to listen to between universes, sounds relaxing.” I quipped sarcastically.
“Or you can check out the latest full sensory experience of Fornax you perv,” Jump chuckled. I flashed red and tried to look away.
“Hey, I'm only human!” I finally blurted out.
“Ah! We're finally here!”
I wanted to press further, but she was right. An elaborate storage vault stood before us. Multiple locks and security measures were peppered throughout it. Number combination, letter combination, keypads, riddles, a giant post-it note on the front saying “Property of the Manager, Touch At Your Own Risk,” eye and fingerprint scanners. Name it, it was there. Though to be honest, it looked like most of it was just set dressing since there was only one lock that legitimately mattered: A simple keylock made specifically for the Warehouse Key placed under the post-it note.
The Jumpbots finally placed the last of T'Som Manufacturing's weapons inside. The assault rifles, the grenades, the last of the Cain X1 portable nuclear launchers. It was all there. Jump allowed me to do the honors with a simple wave of her hand. I closed the vault door, then locked it with my Key.
“Never again,” I spoke aloud.
“You say that, but do you really mean that?” Jump asked, “I mean, the multiverse is a big place and there's plenty out there who sees this stuff as child's play. Why limit yourself like this?”
“Because it's the right thing to do. Morality still has a place, and I'll be damned if I abandon it for personal gain.” I turned around and walked past Jump as she gave a slight shrug.
“Eh, morality, such a human construct. But hey, it's your journey. Speaking of which, it's been about a week since you two have been chilling out here soooo.” in a flash, she was right in front of me, her stance and posture turning from composed ingenue to exuberant child, “let's talk about where you're going next!”
I gave a small chuckle at her energy and nodded in agreement, doubling my pace to put as much distance between me and the vault as I could.
“What, so I actually have a proper say this time? None of this boot from the nest and see if I fly nonsense?” I asked as we made our way to Jack's quarters.
“Nah, I say you've earned at least some autonomy. Like you said, you're above most people who take this journey, credit where credit is due.”
“So...anywhere?” I couldn't help but hide my excitement.
“Well...almost anywhere.” Jump tilted her head. “It's a bit complicated but hey, we'll have plenty of time to discuss it if you get back.”
“So much for credit where credit is due,” I frowned.
As we walked out, Jack was already stepping out to meet us, dressed in her original leather jacket and pants attire, ponytail sported.
“Couldn't really think of a new look?” I asked.
“I think you're new enough for the both of us, blue.” Jack responded before jabbing me in the arm. I grinned and beared the hit.
“So before this whole thing goes down I have to ask you something, what the hell is this?” Jack then held up a...no way.
“You have got to be kidding me.” I took the pokeball from her, despite her protests and held it in my hand. Suddenly I was eight years old again, giddy with anticipation.
“Uhhh blue? Variza? Whatever you wanna be called? What is going on?”
Without thinking I pointed at Jump and yelled, “hit it!.” and without missing a beat, a certain iconic cheesy guitar rock chord exploded from the air.
“I wanna beee the very best!” I sang, pointing at Jack with theatrical flair, “Like no one ever was! To catch them is my real test! To train them is my cause!” I tossed her the ball and slid to my knees, the emotion overtaking me.
“Gotta catch 'em all!!! Pokemon!!”
Jump lightly clapped. Jack just stood there, confused.
“I...pokey what now?” she finally replied after not blinking for several seconds.
“Pokemon! Ohhh my gosh yes! It's real! It feels exactly like I thought it would!” I exclaimed, moving my hands over the smooth metallic surface of the pokeball. Then curiosity overtook me and I clicked the tiny circle in its center.
A burst of white light erupted from the ball, pooling onto the floor in front of us, rapidly dissipating to reveal an adorable brown-furred four-legged creature. An Eevee.
Jack jumped in mild surprise as it ran up her shoulder and started nuzzling her.
“I..what the hell is this thing!?”
“A Pokemon!” Jump and I said together in unison. She gave it a sharp look and flexed her fist, poised to strike.
“Wait! It's harmless! It's in a ball which means its tamed...right?” I turned to Jump on the last word. She nodded.
“Yeah, it's harmless. It's like a pet.” I took a moment to choose my next words carefully, the Eevee unrelenting in its passionate display of affection for Jack's neck, “Pokemon are...well pocket monsters. It's kind of a portmantau. Basically creatures with extraordinary abilities that you can capture and train in various activities with these.” I pointed to the ball. “There's an entire world dedicated to humans and Pokemon living together. Making life easier, co-existing with nature, participating in competitive fighting tournaments and beauty contests. It was the biggest cultural phenomenon for people of my generation in my world all over. Video games, animated shows, comic books, novels, music, it was the hottest trend. Hell, last I checked it was still going strong for almost twenty years”
Jack took a moment to lightly lift the Eevee off of her shoulder and give it a good solid look. It looked happy to be held. She looked quizzical.
“This... thing spawned twenty years of merchandise and entertainment.” She cocked an eyebrow.
“Well, there's a lot more than just Eevee there. There's like...seven-hundred different types of them now, all as diverse as there are aliens in your Milky Way galaxy, Jack.”
She took another moment to examine the Eevee, almost like she was looking for a magical angle to see the thing the way I did with childlike fervor.
“So what exactly do you do with them?”
“Well most of the games had you use them in battles against other trainers. Sometimes in competitions to prove you're the best in the world, other times to stop criminal organizations from using Pokemon for evil, and other times to shut up little kids who won't shut up about how great shorts are.”
Before I could reply, Jump interrupted with, “Eevee, use Swift attack!” and in an instant, its eyes glowed a brilliant yellow and several glowing energy stars blinked into existence around it....
...and went flying straight at me. The blows hit me fast and hard like blows from a tiny hammer wielded by a madman. I was on the floor cursing under my breath within seconds. Jack's eyes lit up with surprise. Jump laughed.
“And the funny thing is Jack, that one you're holding is a common house pet. There's much bigger and worse stuff out in that world as well. And like he said,” She twirled the pokeball on her finger and with a gesture recalled the Eevee back into it in a flash of red light, “you gotta catch 'em all.”
“I think one of them hit me in the nuts. Oh god I forgot how badly that hurt.” I groaned.
“Oh suck it up, you got shot in the gut that one time” Jump remarked, completely cold to my suffering, “So, Jack, you interested?”
She tilted her head in curiosity, then something changed in her eyes.
“Well, you said the stuff in my world was around for about nine years, and even then you didn't get everything right. Which means if we go here, it'll be a lot easier... right?”
I shook my head in confirmation, trying to stand back up.
“And...when you say gotta catch 'em all?”
“It was a tagline. A catchphrase, like collecting all the dolls or action figures in a set. But in Pokemon's case, the stuff you could capture and train could be something that commands the earth and sea itself. Or life and death. Or time and space.”
“Yeah, it's really ridiculous. But if you knew what you were doing, you could tame and control basically demigods.”
“Let's do it.” She responded immediately.
“Perfect!” Jump exclaimed, holding out the elaborately ornate character sheet she showed me back in the Mass Effect universe. Then she flicked the page with the deft showmanship of a magician to reveal a second sheet; Jack's.
“Alright, first thing's first. You know I can't exactly let you take an entire planet's worth of Pokemon with you. Trust me, there's not enough space in this Warehouse and that might make things...boring,” she said the last word with a sigh through clenched teeth, “so I'm letting you know right now that whatever you have on you, your team of six, that is what will come with you when your decade is up. No storage PC, no Pokemon as companions. Six each. Got it.”
I nodded. Jack cautiously nodded as well, barely understanding half of the terms Jump was using.
“So let's talk about backgrounds.”
“Backgrounds? You mean like...an established history?” Jack inquired.
“Of course. None of this 'hey I'm actually from a different universe' stuff is actually optional. That would get a little one-note wouldn't you say?”
I clenched my teeth and balled up my fists, “Yeah, it would have been even better if it wasn't thrust upon me with as little warning as possible.”
“Cool beans. So what are you thinking? Well-off? Rural? Bra size?” She shot me a look with the last question.
“Oh screw off!”
“Okay, boy this time around,” she smiled.
I wanted to say something else, but with a quick gesture of the hand, everything stopped.
“And with that the sheets are done,” the sheets vanished from her hands in a puff of smoke. What? I don't even remember writing anything or confirming anything.
“Sorry guys, a life is more than just stats and numbers,” Jump replied, answering my unspoken question, “only by living it can you truly grasp what you have been given.”
Jump then took out a gray blocky device, a classic Game Boy, pulled out a simple gray cartridge from the ether and jammed it into the slot on the back.
“Now...let's start this new game, shall we?” and she flicked the power on. In an instant, everything went dark, the only sound being the chime of the handheld's activation.
“Terry...Terry wake up. We're here.”
I groaned awake, the light rumbling of the truck's engine that rocked me to sleep finally slowing to a complete stop. I looked down relieved to see Bruce still asleep in my arms, his light orange feathers all ruffled up around his neck, his body glowing slightly from his natural heat. I looked out the window, to see the bright purple and orange haze of the early morning and the quaint dirt road leading up to an unassuming house in the distance. I quietly took out my pokeball and returned Bruce, almost immediately missing the warmth of my friend in doing so, and unfastened my seatbelt.
“Mom, how are we going to get all of our stuff in there?” I yawned, “It'll take forever,”
“Not to worry, son,” my dad beamed, dancing three pokeballs in his open hand as he killed the engine, “I rented some Machoke to help with that.” I blinked in surprise. I won't have to haul my desk and things in myself? Wow, his new job at Silph Co. might really be for the best.
I stepped out into the cool morning dew and cautiously walked outside the front yard, and... it still didn't feel right. I missed the light salty seabreeze of the air of Hoenn, I missed my friends. I furrowed my brow, trying to come to terms with this newfound melancholy.
“It's okay Terry,” I heard my mom behind me, her hand on my shoulder, “It's...part of life. Change. Experiencing new things. It's...kind of how we humans evolve,” She smiled at the turn of phrase.
I turned up to meet her gaze, “I guess it's the kind we can't stop with an Everstone, right?”
“Now how in the world did you become so smart?” Mom laughed.
“Reading Professor Juniper's published papers on Pokemon and stones.” I confessed.
“Darn it son, if you're reading stuff like that at your age, you could probably replace her in a decade or two,” Dad joined me, kneeling down to meet my level, the Machoke working effortlessly in the background hauling box after box into our new home.
We stayed there in silence for a while, my hand tightening around Bruce's ball.
“Well...at least I still have you.” I muttered under my breath, “and together, we're going to go on so many adventures together. I promise.”
“Yeah, that's the spirit... the journey's just begun.”