To the person complaining about Harry being taken out of commission:
Look, it had to be done in order to work in sexy nurse outfits for a pair of giant, horned and athletic demon girl twins. I hope that you can understand why that was of primary importance. If you can't, then we stand on opposite ends of a philosophical chasm, a distance of thought that no amount of conversation can bridge.
Both Umodin and Joe Lawyer seem to be MIA this time around, so I decided to just go ahead and post it.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Harry smirked wryly at the thought despite the persistent throbbing pain in his chest.
It wasn't often that a man was reduced to sneaking around him own home in his pajamas to avoid the attention of two horny ladies. He didn't even own a set of pajamas.
Or he hadn't, until Luna made him a set and forced him to wear them.
Judging that he had given his pursuers the slip, Harry walked through an illusory wall and navigated walked down the stairs, exiting the hidden passage three floors higher. Another turn of the corner and he was at his study.
In his current condition, he would be a liability in combat and he didn't dare do anything in his workshop that would require his complete focus. That left him with only his notebook and his theories.
The girls wanted him to rest and take it easy, but it wasn't like his current condition could be cured by bed rest. The only way to fix it would be to stop Malygos from fucking with the planet's leylines, or to pull his soul away from Azeroth. The first was a work in progress and the second was out of the question. He had spent too much effort reaching out to the slumbering titan to back out now, to say nothing that it would cause her further distress.
She didn't realize that she was hurting him by being so clingy and he wasn't going to tell her. It was an unpleasant and debilitating situation, but not physically harmful.
Harry stared at his notebook, trying to force his thoughts past the pain so that he could think. Most pain could be adapted to, but this was coming from his soul, so it was a little different. All he could do was endure.
Damn it, how do chronically sick or injured people not commit suicide out of sheer frustration. Harry had always enjoyed a strong, healthy body and did not appreciate this insight into the existence of the sick and crippled. Having flashes of pain constantly interrupting his thoughts was annoying as hell. If he was told that this was a permanent condition, he would have immediately started getting his affairs in order and terminated his relationship with life. This was no way to live.
He should demand to see Life's manager. I don't want your damn lemons! Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's going to burn your house down, with the lemons!
Harry's brow furrowed. Portal 2? Why the hell am I thinking of that? Could I make a magic GLaDoS to keep an eye on the orcs?
He gave it some further thought and imagined sneaking something like that in as an advisor to whoever was the Warchief.
"Oh, I see you're thinking of starting another war. That's fine. No, really, you were getting a little flabby anyway and I'm sure the rest of the world won't mind. They all love fighting and dying to satisfy your battle lust. By the way, I just released caches of deadly neurotoxin all across Orgrimmar. Have a nice day as you watch your children bleed from the eyes. There will be cake afterwards. Not for you, of course, because you'll be dead, but there will be cake."
"Let's put that one in the 'maybe' pile." Harry muttered. It would be funny, but he had a feeling that his wives wouldn't let him do it. Plus, it would be really hard to pull off.
Another flash of pain derailed any further thoughts on the matter, making him hiss in frustration as he grabbed the edges of his desk and waited for it to pass. Any by 'pass' he meant that he waited for it to dial down to a more consistent sense of squeezing agony instead of a sudden chest impalement.
"I hope you remember and appreciate this when you're a fully grown, planet-sized cosmic being of unfathomable power, Azzie." He muttered, trying to go back to his earlier project.
"Oh, Haaaarry~." Another interruption sing-songed its way into his study.
"You shouldn't run away from your caregivers like that." The second half of the interruption concurred with the first.
Sacrolash and Alythess stood in front of him, dressed in sexy nurse outfits. Tiny, tiny miniskirts and equally tiny tops all in the traditional white and red. Luna's initial designs had been slightly more modest, but the two undemonified eredar had insisted on maximum skimpiness.
Their tastes in clothing had not changed from their demon days.
"I needed to stretch my legs a bit." Harry lied blatantly.
The eredar twins strutted towards him with their usual perfect mirror image symmetry, each approaching from one side of his desk. They reached him at the same time and grabbed one of his wrists each, the other hand resting on his shoulder.
"If you wanted to get some exercise…" Sacrolash whispered into his ear.
"… All you had to do was say so." Alythess whispered into the other.
Then they were lifting him up and 'supporting' him over their shoulders, as if he couldn't walk by himself. Normally he wouldn't tolerate something like that, but these two were unfortunately not above using their own considerable powers to 'insist' on the matter and he was far from his best.
"Ladies, please, I really need to get some work done." He tried to negotiate. All this lying around was making him fidgety! It was fine in a slow and non-threatening world, but in Azeroth there was always stuff to do.
"We have plenty of work for you."
"Hard and sweaty work."
The two allegedly former demons chuckled perversely.
Harry was going to let himself be dragged off for more 'treatment', but a sudden 'knock' on the tower's wards made him stop in his tracks. It could be any number of people powerful mages flexing a bit, but…
It's definitely Azshara. I'd have noticed anyone else long before they made it to the wards.
The smart thing to do would be to call in the girls, but they were busy scouting the surge needles and he doubted the naga queen was here with violent intent. She probably wouldn't have knocked if that was the case.
"What is it?" Sacrolash asked, no longer playing around.
"We have a distinguished guest at the door." He replied, gently shrugging off their holds. "One that I must go welcome personally."
Sending servants to bring someone into your hall was ancient social-fu, a way of subtly telling someone that they were in a lower social position. Inversely, opening the door yourself was to acknowledge the visitor as an equal even in your house. That sounded like something Azshara would appreciate and Harry's arrogance didn't run in the social direction, so he didn't care what she thought of him, nor was he in a position where he had to keep up appearances.
"We will wait for you in the sitting room." The twins acknowledged.
Harry nodded and made his way down to ground level, using a couple of shortcuts to skip most of the stairs.
As expected, Azshara was at the door in all her tentacled snakey glory. She was alone and not carrying the Scepter of the Tides, which was promising.
"Azshara, what a truly delightful surprise." He said with a smile. "Come in, come in. What brings you by?"
The naga queen slithered in gracefully. "I thought I would see how you were doing, what with this tantrum Malygos is throwing. Are you alright?"
She was gathering information and acting on a hunch that he was even more affected than the average mage.
"I am in considerable pain." He admitted easily, knowing that she could probably sense as much already. "Azeroth suffers, and I don't think Malygos has considered all the consequences of what he is doing."
"Hmph, he was always weak." Azshara sniffed disdainfully.
You say that as if it wasn't partially your fault that Deathwing was able to nearly wipe out his flight.
Sure, she had nothing directly to do with the creation of the Dragon Soul, but Deathwing would never have had the justification to convince the other Aspects to pour so much of their power into it without the Burning Legion invasion.
Then again, it was kind of dumb of them to agree to that in the first place. Even if they absolutely needed its power, they should have insisted on Alexstrasza having control of it. They had been too trusting.
"I suspect that he's lost touch with reality due to his long isolation. I've seen it happen to humans in a matter of years. After ten thousand years, even an immortal being is liable to be affected." Harry shrugged noncommittally.
"Shameful." Azshara's tone somehow managed to suggest that he had been agreeing with her. "He calls himself the Aspect of Magic and wields such power, yet he breaks at the first difficulty. He is unworthy of his title."
You just want his power for yourself, you thirsty whore.
Harry wasn't even thinking of her as a whore in the sexual sense. Azshara had the peculiar gift of being extremely sensual, while at the same time awing everyone too much for them to think of boning her.
Well, he still thought of boning her, but most people wouldn't.
"He probably should have retired and passed on his responsibilities with how damaged he was." Harry nodded sagely. "But I suppose it is the eternal curse of the young to be dealing with the problems caused by crotchety old geezers not wanting to give up their power."
"So, you believe that only the worthy should have power?" Azshara's tone was faintly smug.
This narcissistic bitch…
"That sounds like the start of a lengthy philosophical debate that I'd prefer to have my full wits about me for." Harry deflected, turning towards the sitting room. "I'm not sure if you've already met them or not, but these are Sacrolash and Alythess, formerly of the Burning Legion. Girls, meet Queen Azshara."
They were still wearing the slutty nurse outfits.
"We've not had the pleasure." Sacrolash said.
"Kil'jaeden was not part of the first invasion of Azeroth and we served him." Alythess continued.
Then they gave a short bow of their heads to their visitor. "It is an honor."
"Indeed." Azshara said, looking at the two with curiosity. "You appear to have managed to steal away two high-ranking demons from Sargeras, Harry. How commendably bold of you."
"Thank you." He acknowledged and sat down. "Please make yourself comfortable. Would you like anything to drink?"
"Some wine would be lovely." She said, slithering into an overstuffed armchair.
"Sacrolash, would you be a dear and bring us a bottle." Harry requested, certain that she would know to bring the best stuff. "I'm afraid it might not be up to your standards. I was never much of a wine collector and haven't been on Azeroth long enough to accumulate many vintages besides."
"I'm sure it will be fine." She lied.
As if anything could be good enough for someone as narcissistic as her. Still, Harry wouldn't complain about her cosmically massive ego, it was keeping him safe at the moment after all.
A different sort of enemy would have used his weakness to kidnap him again, but Azshara could not abide what such an action would say about her. Being opportunistic against a vastly more powerful foe? Merely good sense. Being opportunistic against a vastly weaker foe? What would be the difference?
But being opportunistic against a foe that was in approximately the same league? That smacked of cowardice, of fear. An admission of weakness if she had to act like a vulture.
Sacrolash came back with the wine and poured a glass for both him and Azshara, then settled against his side, once again mirroring her sister.
"So, how are things down in Nazjatar?" Harry asked to get the ball on this conversation going.
"Somewhat chaotic." Azshara admitted. "Malygos' actions have my subjects in quite the uproar. The fool even dared to send a messenger to me, suggesting that I ally with him if I don't wish to lose my powers."
"He clearly doesn't know you very well." Harry snorted in genuine humor.
"Indeed." Her return smile was all teeth. "I would be more willing to ally with you against him… if you need help taking care of him."
Ah, so that's her play.
"A most generous offer."
"Yes, because this was exactly what Northrend needed. More undead."
"You've been picking up too much sarcasm from Harry." Arko frowned at her friend, slightly amused.
Jessir huffed and waved her hand in the direction of their objective. "You can't tell me you aren't exasperated by this."
The 'this' in question was their target. They were in the Dragonblight, just outside of an ancient highborne ruin. It had clearly been abandoned since the Sundering at the minimum, if not longer. However, as with all highborne settlements, it had been built over a leyline and Malygos' forces had decided to deploy the surge needle directly over it.
Unsurprisingly, this had awoken the spirits of the dead highborne in the area, who had previously been apparently beyond even the reach of the Lich King. The ruined settlement was thick with ghosts and wraiths, all probably enraged at having their rest interrupted.
And the surge needle hovered above, blithely siphoning magic from the leyline. Even someone as talentless in the arcane as Arko could feel the world twisting from the mount of power being channeled.
"Of course I am, but there's no need to be sarcastic about it." She said evenly, doing her best to be serious. It had never been stated openly, but in Harry's absence, she and Colette were presumed to be in command. Luna might seem like the obvious choice, but the priestess was too flaky and whimsical to be left in charge and she knew it. Arko didn't know if she was ready for that kind of responsibility, but she was determined to take it seriously. "Aside from the surge needle, the Blue Dragonflight doesn't seem to have much presence here."
"No, they don't." Jessir replied thoughtfully, looking over the area with a careful eye. "These highborne ghosts don't seem to be under the Lich King's control… yet, but surely they are not relying on that alone to protect them?"
Arko worried at her lip thoughtfully. There was a ward keeping the ghosts away from the surge needle, but there really didn't seem to be anything else defending the mages performing the ritual.
"I'd say it was a trap, but none of this makes sense to begin with."
It wasn't a new observation. In the quick strategy session they had before sending out scouting parties to the surge needle locations, everyone with military experience had noted that Malygos was acting strangely.
Yes, the Alliance and the Horde were engaged with the Undead Scourge and had much of their military strength tied up in that conflict, but the Aspect of Magic had as good as declared war on the whole world and made enemies of practically everyone, including members of his own flight. That showed either supreme confidence in his ability or insanity… or both.
"If the mages up there are as undefended as they look, we could take them down before they could react." Jessir suggested.
That was true enough. Catching a mage mid-ritual was worse than catching one sleeping, even Arko knew that. If they were as undefended as they looked, then it would be like cutting down lame sheep.
Arko still vividly remembered what happened when she and Trey had thought they'd only be taking a quick look at a small warlock coven, only to find the Shadow Council's headquarters instead. Yes, disabling this surge needle here and now would be good, but she wasn't willing to risk it.
"No, our job was scouting only."
"Alright." Jessir conceded.
Things had been moving rapidly since Malygos had begun his assault on Azeroth's magic. Everyone knew that time was short and that they couldn't afford to plan carefully. With the aid of Kalecgos, the surge needles had been located and scouted in a matter of hours, now they were once more convening to share the results and plan their next action.
It was a very serious occasion.
"What in the world…?" Jaina muttered.
"Yeah, Luna insisted." Harry shrugged as much as he could, slouching in his wheelchair.
The wheelchair that he was tied down to, and which was being pushed by Sacrolash and Alythess, still in their ultra slutty nurse costumes.
"You need special care."
"Be a good patient and stop complaining."
"For fuck's sake, she's even taught them that anime laugh." He groaned.
He had a feeling that it was only a matter of time and opportunity before they would be going 'ara ara'.
"Right, let's just… move on." Jaina shook her head and sat down as Harry was wheeled to the table. She had been added to this council after Malygos struck, seeing as the Blue Dragonflight's actions affected everyone.
"We have confirmed the locations of all the surge needles." Kalecgos began, using a spell to project a map of Azeroth with glowing red dots blinking upon it. "As you can see, Malygos has deployed them on every major leyline, with the clear intention of funneling all the world's magic to Coldarra. Strangely, there are little to no defenses present, it is as if he does not expect retaliation."
"He may not." Alexstrasza frowned. "Malygos was always a dutiful sort. In his madness, he may genuinely believe that he is only doing his duty and that nobody will think to stop him."
"We will need to act quickly." Rhonin contributed. "All of us mortal mages can feel our powers diminishing steadily. Many are not taking it well and may choose to side with Malygos in desperation."
Harry could feel it, too. Probably more acutely than anyone else. "That should stop once the surge needles are disabled. And if Malygos truly does think that he isn't doing anything wrong, we have a perfect opportunity to strike at them all simultaneously."
"That is certain to enrage Malygos and I do not know how he will react." Alexstrasza said. "He has always been a prideful sort as well."
"If he intends to continue his war against mortal magic users then it makes little difference how much it enrages him." Rhonin said grimly. "I have already begun receiving reports of unstable magical phenomena occurring in the vicinity of the surge needles. I fear that Harry's warnings are true; Azeroth will not survive if it continues and if this is Malygos' first plan…"
"His next is likely to be even more destructive." Jaina finished with a sigh. "But fighting him won't be easy. Malygos is indisputably the most powerful arcane spellcaster in the world and Coldarra is the seat of his power. Just rushing in would see us crushed."
"It is fortunate that you kept hold of the Key to Focusing Iris." Kalecgos nodded towards Harry, who had the object in question on his person. As defended as the Guardian Tower was, it still made more sense to bring it to the Wyrmrest Temple and its many dragon protectors. Plus, they would need it soon. "With it, we have a chance to breach the defenses of the Nexus and the Eye of Eternity. Still, Jaina speks truly; the fight will be difficult."
Yes, Harry had definitely foreseen potential trouble and totally hadn't kept the Key because he was a hoarder.
"The Horde and Alliance will lend you what aid we can, but the Lich King has taken the opportunity to press us." Bolvar said, getting an agreeing nod from Dranosh. "We will not be able to divert large numbers of troops."
"It would have been impossible to invade Coldarra conventionally anyway." Kalecgos acknowledged. "The only land connection is a narrow bridge that can be easily destroyed and teleportation is impossible."
"And it would have been too wasteful." Harry contributed his own opinion. "The Scourge can afford to use swarm tactics, but we have to be a more conservative. Given the small numbers of blue dragons, it would be best to operate with small, elite teams."
"The Red Dragonflight will aid you in this." Alexstrasza declared, shaking her head sadly. "While I would prefer to sway Malygos away from this madness, he must be stopped at all costs. Our duty demands nothing less."
"Then we had best act quickly." Dranosh spoke up, always one for decisive action. "We know our target and time is short. We can prepare to fight Malygos after we disable the surge needles."
"There is another matter." Harry spoke up. "While waiting for the results of the scouting mission, Azshara came to visit me at my tower."
Numerous exclamations of shock came from the table. Even Alexstrasza got in on it.
"What did that one want?" The Dragon Queen asked with eerie calm.
"She came to ask if we needed help dealing with Malygos." Harry replied with a wry twist to his lips. "I have no doubt that she would be willing to send some of her stronger subjects if we are willing to ask for help."
"And incur a debt in the process." The Aspect of Life immediately deduced.
"You know her well." Harry smirked.
"She was difficult to deal with even when she was new to the throne of the Kaldorei Empire."
"Why did you even let her in?" Jaina demanded. "I've seen the wards on your tower, even Azshara couldn't have breached them before help would arrive."
He frowned back at her. "Because she's an enemy I can respect. Do you have any idea how rare that is for me?"
Jaina clearly didn't understand, but she was young and far too used to dealing with world-ending threats.
"Putting that aside, we should move to quickly disable the surge needles and then lay siege to Coldarra. The sooner we can breach the nexus and stop Malygos, the better." Kalecgos spoke up.
"Agre-EED!" Harry groaned, as another spike of pain interrupted his response. "Azeroth would really appreciate some haste in this matter."
"Are you going to be alright?" Jaina asked, slight concern leaking into her voice.
Harry was tempted to tease her, but was honestly just not in the mood.
"Not to worry."
"We will take good care of him."
And there went Sacrolash and Alythess again as they wheeled him away from the table, with deliberately lewd inflections.
"Have fun!" Rhonin called out after him, the cheeky shit.
Surge needles were incredibly large, incredibly unsubtle devices. Any mage with even a lick of talent could feel them operating from a hundred miles away. Moreover, any sane arcane practitioner would be desperate to stop them from operating.
As soon as they had been scouted and the level of resistance assessed, hundreds of mages and assorted helpers descended upon them and slaughtered the Blue Dragonflight-aligned mages performing the rituals on the surge needles.
As they had suspected, Malygos had only provided minimal protection. There was some level of fight as the surge needles unsettle local spirits, elementals or what have you, but by and large it was an absolute curbstomp.
Immediately after the surge needles were decommissioned by the handful of blue dragons standing against Malygos, an incursion into Coldarra was organized. With Kalecgos helping out, the Kirin Tor was able to breach the wards surrounding the place and establish an outpost called the Transitus Shield, which was protected solely by a paper thin illusion of there being nothing there.
If any loyalist blue dragon caught so much as a whiff otherwise and bothered to take a closer look at the area, the concealment would collapse and they would probably get blasted out of existence. Even something as simple as a random bird flying through the illusion barrier while being observed by the wrong pair of eyes would spell their doom.
It was, by any means, and insanely risky endeavor, but the small adventurer squads roaming across Coldarra and causing trouble for the Blue Dragonflight were keeping attention away from the hidden encampment.
At the moment, the Battle Harem and a couple of other adventuring parties had gathered there, each one having collected the pieces of a particularly strong arcane prison. Regular ones were in use by the Blue Dragonflight to imprison captured mages in a fractal dimension, but this one had been made to hold something more powerful and then broken into pieces.
Raelorasz, the red dragon chosen to be in charge of the Transitus Shield, reassembled it and then released it, preparing to fight just in case the prisoner proved volatile.
What came out was undoubtedly another red dragon in mortal guise, a redheaded human woman.
"…Keristrasza?!" Raelorasz was obviously surprised to see her. "The Blue Dragonflight took you prisoner?"
"Raelorasz." She greeted back with a frown. "Yes, Malygos' servants approached me some time ago and asked for an audience. I thought nothing of it and agreed, but once I was there he began demanding my cooperation for an insane plan to take all magic away from Azeroth by force."
"And then imprisoned you when you refused." The male red dragon scowled.
"At Saragosa's urging." Keristrasza scowled back. "She is as mad as Malygos and thought that he wanted me as a second consort. She spent the past month intermittently torturing me for my 'insolence' and gloating about their plans."
"I know dragons aren't naturally social creatures, but how did her disappearance go unnoticed for a whole month?" Harry murmured while the two dragons conversed. With the surge needles out of commission, he was no longer in constant pain.
Luna and Colette hummed an agreement, but Arko and Jessir just gave them puzzled frowns. Right, maybe it was more of a long-lived species thing, because those looks were saying 'but it was only a month'.
"I suppose I owe my freedom to your efforts?" Keristrasza aimed her words at both the Battle Harem and at the other adventurers who had recovered the pieces of her prison.
"It was our pleasure." Luna was quick to say. "Do you know Aurastrasza?"
"I do." The red dragon nodded with a smile. "I had heard that she went to watch over the new Moonlight Dragonflight you hatched. Is she doing well?"
"Mhm!" Luna beamed. "The whelps love her and we've been taking good care of her."
"Oh yes." Colette's tone was one of mischief. "Harry has even been making a heroic effort to fertilize her eggs and give her a few whelps of her own to look after."
If she was hoping for a reaction from Keristrasza, then she was disappointed. The red dragon simply raised an eyebrow. "I wish you the best of luck. New life is always a blessing."
"Our current concern will have to be the preservation of life." Raelorasz interrupted diplomatically. "Will you help us put an end to Malygos' madness, Keristrasza?"
"Gladly." She said grimly. "Saragosa guards the skies above the Nexus and will alert Malygos to any trouble. However, she is a glutton and frequently gorges on mana-rich crystals. Poisoning her would be simple."
Gorging on mana crystals? Was this the Azeroth equivalent of getting high on meth?
The Nexus War was by all indications looking to be brutal, but short. It turned out that Malygos didn't have his whole flight behind him. In fact, most of the remaining blue dragons, few as their numbers were, remained decidedly neutral, unwilling to go against the their Aspect but sane enough to see that his plans would bring only ruin.
With the amount of enemies Malygos had made, his defeat was inevitable. The Battle Harem didn't have to involve itself much in the lead up to the final battle, although they had secured a place in it.
This suited Colette just fine. She was finding herself to be a bit tired of war. Much of her life and all of her unlife had been war. Was it any wonder that in this second chance, her thoughts were straying in a more domestic direction?
"You're not focusing." Harry's voice murmured in her ear, tickling the pointed tip.
"Ah, you've caught me." Colette demurred, not bothering to deny it.
They were supposed to be meditating on the nature of the Void to help grow her powers, and perhaps his as well. Colette had insisted on leaning against his chest while they did so.
To be fair, that was what they had been doing at first. With M'uru's darkened heart in the pommel of her sword, the Void came easily to her command and could have drowned her spirit in darkness. But with her husband behind her – the fact that she could say such a thing still sent a shiver of giddiness up her spine – it was different. Instead of wallowing in depression, fear and grief, it was a peaceful dark that never failed to lull her into a state of drifting complacency.
"What has you so distracted?" He asked instead of scolding her.
Colette hummed and stretched, deliberately rubbing herself against him. Once she was done with that, she sighed deeply and considered what to say.
It was just the two of them for now. Luna was off making more moonwells in Northrend. Arko and Jessir were still in an adventuring mood and helping out with the Nexus War. The Eredar Twins were back in Stormwind, seducing impressionable young boys to the worship of Elune with their charming 'personalities'.
Nobody was quite sure where Garona was. The half-orc assassin reminded Colette of a cat, what with the way she tended to skulk and watch everyone. All the more so because Harry's efforts at gaining her complete trust meant allowing her to come and go as she pleased without explanation. Watching the young woman vacillate between committing herself to the group and going off on her own was terribly amusing.
And Aurastrasza was out in the 'backyard' looking after the moonlight dragon whelps. Colette wasn't clear on what her relationship with Harry was, aside from his determination to breed her.
Rubbing a hand across her belly, Colette finally admitted the deep, dark secret that had been distracting her.
"I want babies."
"Oh?" Harry's voice didn't sound shocked or disagreeable. If anything, it had an audible grin to it. He even started nibbling on the tip of her ear. "How many were you thinking?"
"Just like that?" Colette asked, keeping an amused lilt to her tone despite the flutter of anticipation squirming in her belly.
"Babies were always the plan and it wasn't like Luna was going to have it any other way. I was planning on getting started as soon as we put down the Lich King." He revealed casually.
"But do you want them?" That was a concern she'd had for some time. Harry's reaction to the idea always seemed so… bland.
"Don't take my lack of excitement as a bad sign, I'm just old." He said as if he could read her mind.
"Am I so predictable?"
"I'm just old." He repeated with an amused snort. "With how excitable Luna is at the thought of babies, I always come off as bored in comparison."
"Ah, to think that I escaped a political marriage to a man twice my age only to fall into the clutches of one ten times my age. Such cruel fortune." Colette said dramatically.
It wasn't as bad as all that. Her parents had been lining up a marriage for her before she decided to join the Church of Holy Light, but it probably wouldn't have been with some old man.
"Excuse you, I am twenty times your age." He retorted in mock outrage.
"My apologies, Honored Elder. Please don't punish me too harshly for my disrespect."
"Maybe I'll keep you barefoot and pregnant for a few years, just popping out babies until you learn to keep control of that smart mouth of yours."
Jesting and teasing aside, that… didn't sound so bad. With this ridiculously powerful body that she now occupied, the discomfort was sure to be minimal and Colette knew with utter certainty that she would be getting pampered a lot while she was pregnant.
"Are you sure that is wise?" Colette asked reluctantly. "Even after the Lich King is taken care of, Azshara will remain a threat. Children would be a weakness."
"The nice thing about an enemy like Azshara is that she considers herself civilized and sophisticated." Harry mused. "As long as we maintain proper courtesy, she will be the most polite enemy we could possibly have. Political maneuvering, leveraging owed favors, social pressure and even direct attack are all on the table, but nothing so base and churlish as taking hostages to force compliance. The real danger will be in preventing anyone associated with us from insulting her."
How ridiculous that she should find herself in the middle of a high stakes political game decades after joining the clergy to get away from it.
"Can't we just kill her?" Colette groaned.
"It's a work in progress, but she has a kingdom at the bottom of the ocean and is an insanely powerful spellcaster." Harry's voice was amused. "Unless she gets bored and does something self-destructive again, I think we might be in for the long haul with her."
"Lovely, she can be the evil aunt of the family." She said sarcastically.
"That is… actually not a bad idea." Harry replied contemplatively.
Colette froze in place, then silently turned around in his embrace until she was facing him. Taking a deep look into his eyes, she could see that he was not joking. "What?"
"Azshara has been on a pedestal her whole life." Harry's tone remained contemplative. "Always the perfect ruler, the ideal exemplar of her people, an object of worship and adoration… but never just a person. There is a distinct chance that she is starved for social interaction and thus vulnerable to emotional manipulation."
"Harry, even if that is true, we are not using our children for it." She said calmly.
She didn't even have children yet and the thought was horrifying.
"Oh, don't worry, I wouldn't put them in any kind of danger. "He chuckled. "Despite being over fifteen thousand years old, there is a distinct chance that she hasn't been in the presence of any children since she was one herself… perhaps not even then. I wouldn't let any of our kids anywhere near her until I could confirm that she doesn't hate them."
"Well, that is a relief." Colette sighed, crawling up his body and straddling him. "Your ideas for handling enemies are going to give me back my grey hairs, I just know it."
"I can just turn them black again." He assured.
"Maybe you should let yourself get a little grey." Colette suggested coyly, running her fingers along his temples. "Maybe a few wrinkles and a distinguished beard. The experienced look is the best one for men."
"My dear, I have never had a problem playing into my wives' kinks as long as they weren't too weird, but constantly switching between young and middle-aged bodies is asking a bit much. You already have me growing and removing chest hair every other day."
"Elves and their hairlessness." Colette sniffed disdainfully. "At least Luna knows that men should be rugged."
"It does still feel a little strange to be completely bare." He admitted.
"That is because you were not meant to be that way." Colette purred, working her fingers under his shirt and then up his chest. The wonderfully thick and coarse chest hair slid through them, allowing her to tug on the curls.
"I don't know about that." Harry mused. "I'm pretty sure I supercharged my testosterone production with my amateurish rune carving, so it's likely I wouldn't have naturally had anywhere near as much body hair as I ended up having."
Colette had only a vague idea what testosterone was from his explanation the last time she'd asked, but she gathered that it was a good thing that men needed to have a lot of.
"Well then, how about you put it to use?" Her purr deepened and she started working on his pants.
"As if I had any plans of letting you go after how you teased me earlier."
Her sword, previously used as a meditation aid, was shoved off the bed, quickly followed by their clothes. Less than a minute later, Colette was sinking down on his shaft with a satisfied groan, digging her fingers into his chest.
Then, just as things were getting heated, the tower shuddered in that particular metaphysical way that meant they were under attack.
Colette locked eyes with her husband for a long, disbelieving moment, just processing the fact that they had been interrupted at such a horribly bad time. Then they quickly decoupled and activated the bracelets sitting on their right wrists.
A basic undersuit and suit of armor appeared on their forms, not nearly as good as their main armor but compensating for it with the convenience of being summonable directly onto their bodies. After the last time they'd been caught unprepared, Harry had made these and they were seeing use much earlier than expected.
"Whoever this is, I'm going to kill them so hard they're going to reincarnate into a miscarriage." Harry swore darkly as they rushed to get into defensive positions.
Colette smirked at the dark humor, but didn't say anything. She wasn't any happier at the interruption than him and planned on making a few examples as well. She felt the pull in her blood as Harry dragged his hand across the collection of bracelets on his arm, calling for help.
"Is it that big of an attack?" She asked as they rushed to get into defensive positions.
"There's quite a few of them, yes." Harry confirmed grimly, hands clenching on his bladestaff. "And… they're going for Aurastrasza?!"
Colette's eyes widened in alarm. The nesting ground for the moonlight dragon whelps was hidden in the nearby trees while still technically being on the land they 'claimed'. Nobody should even know how to properly find the place, much less have interest in doing so. Aside from being a curiosity, the Elune-aligned dragons were not important to anyone.
Facing a dragon for no gain was madness… although Aurastrasza was not much of a fighter.
With this new information, Harry grabbed hold of her shoulder and teleported them close to the nesting ground. As soon as they appeared, they were able to see the flashes of spellfire and hear the roars of a red dragon.
There were indeed quite a few enemies, all garbed in the icy colors of the Blue Dragonflight.
There was no need or time for strategizing, so the two of them simply crashed into the enemy ranks. Colette drew on the Void to shroud her and became a twisting shadow moving through the eternal twilight of Ashenvale.
The first foe to fall to her Voidblade was a burly blue drakonid wielding a frost-enchanted polearm. He died without ever realizing that he was in danger. The next ones were less easy.
Harry drew most of the enemy's attention with flashy displays of magic, but there were still plenty for her. A human mage hurled spears of ice at her and she responded by slashing through it with a blade of shadow, forcing him to hide behind a tree. Another pair of drakonids rushed at her and she had to defend herself. Their polearms made them a pesky threat at range, so she smashed on aside and dashed into knife range, dragging her shadows greatsword through his guts.
The other roared something at her and struck, getting a free hit on her shoulder. Ice spread from the point of impact and made her hiss in pain. In response, she drew deeper on the Void and consumed both the magic and the cold, lashing out with the life draining powers of a shadow priest to heal what little damage had been done.
The drakonid flinched and then died as she impaled him on her sword. They weren't very good fighters, but they were certainly doing the job of keeping her and Harry from reaching Aurastrasza… who was no longer roaring or spewing fire.
A trio of water elementals firing jets of high pressure water at her force her to focus once more on the task at hand and she quickly cut them down before going after the mage that had spawned them.
"We are done here, kill the whelps!" An imperious female voice ordered, the pitch having the distinct melodiousness of an elven throat to Colette's ears even through the magical enhancement.
The order was received with fury by both her and Harry, and they fell upon Malygos' minions with a vengeance. She could also sense that the rest of their family had already returned and probably heard the enemy commander's heinous order as well.
But it probably did its job, Colette acknowledge angrily in the back of her head. The leader of this operation – a flash of golden hair moving through the twilight confirmed it as an elf – was able to move towards the edge of the wards unimpeded while she and Harry were busy killing her minions to stop them from attacking the dragon whelps.
Even so, they were not completely successful. Colette saw splashes of crimson over silvery scales as they passed by the nest in pursuit of the enemy. Dragon whelps could be notoriously aggressive despite their relative weakness – they had no doubt tried to fight and paid for it. Luna would be heartbroken.
The thought spurred Colette on as they cut their way through more of the enemy, approaching the edge of the Wards.
The enemy commander was waiting just past that line with a superior smirk. She was a golden-haired blood... no, a high elf. The formerly fel green eyes of the blood elves might once again be blue after Harry had convinced them to swear themselves to Azeroth, but they would not have been able to side with Malygos. This one must have been one of the traitor Kirin Tor mages that had never stopped calling themselves high elves.
In her hands was an arcane prison, identical to the one that had until recently held Keristrasza.
"Stop!" The imperious tone was the same even without magical enhancement. "I am Grand Magus Telestra and I have a message for you from Malygos."
"Let me guess…" Harry's voice was dark with the promise of violence and made Colette shiver inapproriately. "He wants the Key to the Focusing Iris and sent you to take Aurastrasza captive to force me to hand it over."
"Exactly so." Telestra nodded with a smirk that made Colette want to cut her face off. "Present yourself before the Nexus in three days time, alone."
Then she teleported away, giving them no chance to answer or take Aurastrasza back by force.
There was a prolonged period of dangerous silence before harry started growling. "I fucking hate hostage situations."
"You are not going to comply." Colette said more than asked, familiar with his hatred of compromise.
"Of course not." He snorted angrily, stomping back towards the nest. "Even if Malygos' word could be trusted, we need the Key to the Focusing Iris to enter the deeper layers of the Nexus. Malygos' inner sanctum is unbreachable without it and the scaly idiot will find a way to wreck the world even without the surge needles."
Colette nodded. It may sound callous, but they absolutely could not trade Aurastrasza for the Key to the Focusing Iris, even if it meant her death. "What will we do, then?"
There was another silence as Harry considered the situation. They were almost back at the nest, where Luna was already doing her best to resurrect the moonlight whelps. Colette had never quite managed to master resurrection when she had still been a devotee of the Light, but she knew that some of the more damage bodies were beyond hope… and dragons were not quite mortal in the same way as humans to begin with.
"I need to go talk to a gnome about a trinket." Harry finally answered, something in his tone causing an altogether less pleasant shiver to go up her spine.
Three days passed in seething tension. The girls were all armored and waiting, as were the forces of the Wyrmrest Accord dedicated to stopping Malygos, but Harry walked before the Nexus alone.
Malygos was not alone.
The big blue lizard was flanked by his followers, all of whom looked quite smug and pleased with themselves as Harry walked up to them, unarmored and unarmed.
At least visibly.
"You came." The Aspect of Magic spoke, with unnecessary gravitas. "I did not honestly think you would."
"You took something of mine. I'll be taking it back." Harry responded, unimpressed. He'd used similar theatrics himself too many times.
"As will I, it seems." Malygos growled. "The Key to the Focusing Iris that you stole from Sapphiron."
"You can't steal from a corpse." Harry corrected. "If it was so important to you, you should have retrieved it from the Scourge yourself instead of sulking."
"SULKING?!" Malygos roared in outrage.
"Oh? Did I strike a nerve?" Harry taunted viciously. "Does the big bad dragon not like being reminded that he spent the past ten thousand years being a useless lump?"
It was easy to judge the true loyalists from the opportunists based on how offended they got.
None were as offended as Malygos, however. "Your lesser intellect could not possibly begin to understand what I suffered, mortal! I am tempted to demonstrate a fraction of the pain I suffered due to that infernal disk."
Ooh, somebody still had PTSD from the Demon Soul.
"Considering I had to listen to Azeroth crying in pain while you were butchering with your surge needles, I think I understand quite well." Harry's tone was deliberately dismissive and unsympathetic. "Besides. Alexstrasza was hurt by the Demon Soul worse than you, but you don't see her trying to destroy the world."
"Ah, your claims of a nascent titan in the depths of the planet and that you speak for her." Malygos had a particular 'gotcha!' tone of voice. "As if a lesser being could ever know such things. Your dabbling with powers beyond your grasp has clearly damaged your mind."
…that was it? His big zinger was dismissive racism?
Harry was quite fond of dismissive racism himself – it had myriad uses, ranging from insults, politicking and social manipulation – but it wasn't a good basis for threat assessment! Just ask Sauron what happens when you dismiss someone as a non-threat without knowing anything.
"Is that really the best you can do?" Harry asked in disappointment. "Look, if you're not going to put any effort into this verbal spar, then we'd best just get on with the exchange."
"Hmph, despite your insults, I will give you one chance to join me. Pledge fealty and you will be spared as the Blue Dragonflight cleanses the world of rogue magic users." Malygos said with finality.
"First, you should have made that offer before attacking me. At this point we are already enemies. Second, you are still bent on destroying Azeroth whether you admit it or not. Third, I don't pledge fealty to anyone or anything. Now, Aurastrasza, if you please." Harry's words also carried a sense of finality.
There was silence for a moment before the blue dragon spoke again. "So be it. Where is the Key? I do not sense it on you."
Harry twisted his left hand in the wide sleeve of his robe, making a box pop into his hand. "In a box just like this. With the right spell, the boxes will switch and the Key will be here. Where is Aurastrasza?"
Grand Magus Telestra, standing near to him, stepped forward with the arcane prison. "I have her here."
"Release her, and I switch the containers."
"Switch the containers, and she will be released." Malygos countered suspiciously.
Harry scowled, but it was mostly for show. This entire song and dance had been mostly for show, to make it look like he was trying to be clever and full of bravado in a bad situation. The ruse would soon be over.
So he cast the spell that would switch the boxes and then another to pop it open. The Key to the Focusing Iris sat within. The box snapped shut a few seconds later before anyone could even think about getting hasty.
"My dragon nanny now." He demanded.
Telestra looked up at Malygos and received a nod, releasing Aurastrasza.
The red dragon looked fearful and guilty, very much unlike the powerful creature she truly was beneath the mortal guise.
"Harry, I'm sorry." She said. "I wasn't able to stop them."
"It's alright, they caught us all by surprise." Harry soothed and decided to get a jab in at his current enemy. "We were expecting this kind of behavior from the Black Dragonflight, rather than the Blue."
"You dare compare me to Deathwing?!" Malygos roared.
"Your people killed two moonlight dragon whelps beyond hope of resurrection just to slow us down. You made Luna cry, so I'm going to compare you to whoever the fuck I want."
"Hmph, that pain is nothing compared to what I suffered." Malygos scoffed.
Harry's teeth creaked as he ground them together in anger. He absolutely loathed whiny, self-pitying little shits who turned suffering into a competition. Whenever someone tried to use personal pain as a brush off for something else, he had deliberately hurt them even more. Being a mopey bastard was one thing, but actively fishing for pity like a fucking five-year-old?
The last time it had happened… Harry briefly searched his memory for the incident.
I think it was that Frey idiot back on Planetos? Something something about being disrespected and how many of his family members died keeping the freaky fish people from getting too far inland.
Harry must not have been the only one fed up of that guy's whining, because they cheered when he pitched him off the nearest cliff.
"Whatever." He rolled his eyes, deliberately doing his best teenager impression. "She walks towards me and I throw the box your way once she is halfway here."
"You think I would betray my word?" Malygos sounded offended.
"I never trust my enemies."
That was a lie. He trusted his enemies to act like themselves. It just so happened that the Aspect of Magic was both insane and childish.
"Very well." Big Blue agreed. And why wouldn't he? This entire situation was skewed severely into his favor.
"Alright, Aura, get your cute scaly butt over her." Harry beckoned with his right hand, the left still holding up the box. "Nice and easy."
The red dragon started walking, nice and easy just like she was told.
The tension ratcheted up further with every step. Everyone expected a betrayal of some kind, although Malygos' side felt secure since he was alone with no allies in sight. The fools.
Aurastrasza reached the halfway point and Harry wound up to throw the box. He saw her expression go tense and knew that she understood what a bad idea this trade was. All eyes followed the box as it flew through the air.
Nobody was looking at Harry as he did a little twist of the wrist of his right hand to deposit a bag in it. The bag was nothing special, save for the fact that it was stitched with runes to contain any and all traces of magical energy.
From the bag fell a large golden disk on an elementium chain. The Demon Soul.
Malygos' head snapped towards it faster than something that big should be capable of moving, but it was too late. Harry was already swinging the disk upwards and unleashing the immense powers held within.
A multicolored beam of destructive force lashed across several of the blue drakes and dragons that had remained loyal to Malygos, instantly causing fatal damage. The beam then raked across Malygos and instantly pulverized the many passive magical protections and the active shield he had weaved into existence.
Against the Demon Soul, which contained a significant portion of his own powers, such defenses were useless.
Malygos was sent ragdolling away, wracked with agony.
Harry struggled to keep the powers of the Demon Soul under control and only barely managed to keep it aimed in the general direction of his enemies. Fortunately, nobody was brave enough to actually attack him, completely demoralized by the artifacts horrifying power.
He saw Malygos shrink and be carried off by several of his minions and allowed them to go. It didn't matter and would actually be better to defeat him the conventional way. They were all teleporting or running away, not noticing that it was keeping all of his focus just to wrestle the Demon Soul back into quiescence.
As soon as he could be assured it was contained, he shoved the artifact back into the bag and hid it away. Then he could start breathing again.
"Holy fuck, that's some bad juju." He gasped to the empty air, bracing his hands against his knees. Using the Demon Soul without preparation like that… it would be nice if he never had to do it again.
"Harry?" Aurastrasza asked meekly from where she'd thrown herself belly first into the snow. Smart girl.
"I'm good." He took a few deep breaths and walked towards her.
"What was that?" She asked, picking herself up.
"Something that is going to get me into a lot of shit with Alexstrasza." He replied and scooped her up in his arms.
"What are you doing?" Aurastrasza was unfortunately not as cutely flustered as he'd hoped, but you couldn't have everything.
"It's tradition to carry the girl home in a princess carry after saving her from the dragon." Harry reasoned.
"But I am also a dragon."
Before they could go celebrate Aurastrasza's rescue in the customary fashion, Harry had to pay a quick visit to a certain gnome-shaped dragon.
"Thank you, I couldn't have saved her without this." He said, handing over the bag to an uncharacteristically serious Chromie.
"We are both going to be in soooo much trouble with Ally and the others for this, I hope you realize that." The bronze dragon said.
He had asked Chromie to take a brief trip into the past and 'borrow' the Demon Soul from where it had been hidden after the War of the Ancients.
"I know, but it was the only way to beat Malygos in a head on fight." Harry shrugged.
The Aspect of Magic was simply too powerful to be beaten without some serious backup. Alone against him and his minions, Harry had no chance at all of coming out on top. The Demon Soul was the only ace powerful enough that he could pull, and Rhonin had destroyed it decades ago, so taking it from the past was the only way.
"At least I won't be alone when I get yelled at." Chromie sighed.
"Ah, I should mention that I'll be troubling you to do this again sometimes in the future." Harry grinned fatalistically. "I'm sure Alexstrasza will appreciate the irony of killing Deathwing with his own creation."
Chromie paused to consider that. "Well… she does hate him. If we present it to her right, she might agree to it."
So it appears that I've run out of ideas for Buffy omakes and I've been playing a lot of Cyberpunk lately. Abrupt genre switch!
OMAKE – Experimental Solutions
V had just received the devastating news that the biochip she'd stuck in her head in Arasaka Tower was going to kill her, rewrite her brain make room for Johnny Silverhand. She hadn't even had time to process Jackie's death, much less her own shortly after at the hands of Dexter DeShawn, and now she was going to get a repeat, being erased bit by bit?
"There has to be something you can do, Vik!" She begged, not in the mood to maintain the image of the badass mercenary and former Arasaka counter-intel operative.
"If I could, I would have already done it, kid." Viktor said sorrowfully, crushing her desperate hopes. If one of the best, if not the best, ripperdocs in Night City couldn't help…
"But…" V looked up at Viktor's hesitant continuation. "… there might be someone who can."
"Who?" She near demanded, scooting forward on the chair.
"I don't want to say anything yet." Viktor made a warding gesture with his hands. "You should get some rest. I'll ask around, call in some favors. With a little luck, I might be able to get into contact with someone who can do something for you. But V… it's still going to be a longshot."
"Better than no shot at all." V muttered gloomily.
The rest was not very restful, what with the ghost of Johnny Silverhand showing up, trying to take over her body and when that failed, get her to kill herself. But it was a new day now and she was at least mostly functional.
The call from Takemura asking to meet was unwelcome. The message and subsequent conversation with Mama Welles was painful.
The call from Rogue, Night City's Queen of Fixers, was just plain unexpected.
"Hello?" V picked up the call with some confusion. She and Jackie had been aiming to become big shot mercs, but they'd never graduated to getting a meeting with Rogue.
"Hey, kid. I heard you're looking for a miracle." The fixer said.
"Yeah, I guess I am." V admitted, not sure how much she should say. Viktor had clearly been as good as his word and done some asking around.
"Well you're in luck, because there's a guy in town who can supply them… if you're willing to risk it." Rogue finished ominously.
"Who is he and where can I find him?" V couldn't quite keep the hopeful tone out of her voice. The risk didn't matter, not when she was already on death row.
"Calls himself Harry, and you can find him smack in the middle of corpo central. He's rented out the entire top two floors of the Biotechnica Hotel." Rogue's tone of voice was carefully neutral.
"A corpo?" V frowned. Being a former corpo herself, she knew just how untrustworthy those types are. Someone rich enough to rent two entire hotel floors was bound to be made of pure evil.
"… But only Biotechnica employees can stay at the corp's hotel."
"I guess nobody told him that. Way I heard it he walked right up to the manager, dropped a whole ballet of gold bullion in front of him and told him to evict everyone from 'his' floor."
"How is he not dead?"
"He's been pulling this same stunt for over a hundred years. Shows up bold as brass, does whatever the fuck he feels like, kills everyone that tries to get in his way, then vanishes for a few years or decades before showing up again." Rogue explained.
"How have I not heard of someone like this?" V asked incredulously. A guy this crazy should be everyone's topic of conversation.
"He hasn't been around for almost twenty years this time, and the corps do their best to muddy the waters. Everyone from Arasaka to the gangs has tried to get control of him and the only thing they have to show for it is bodies and collateral damage, because I wasn't exaggerating when I said he can work miracles. The planet getting greener? That was him. Stories of monsters in the ocean? Him again. MaxTac getting into a fight with cannibal half-spider woman? Definitely him."
"What?" V said, stunned. She'd heard of the first two – although Biotechnica was claiming that they were the ones responsible for the planet's recovering biosphere – but she had definitely not heard of the last incident.
"Right, Vik did mention you were out of commission for a while." Rogue nodded. "Anyway, if you need a miracle then this is the guy you need to talk to, but keep in mind that you might not be walking back out. He occasionally hires mercs to bring him interesting 'specimens'. Sometimes everyone walks out with shiny new upgrades better than anything money can buy. Sometimes it's a standard gig. Sometimes nobody involved is ever seen again."
"Okay." V exhaled gustily. At the end of the day, she still had no choice. "How do I get into contact with him? Do I need to make an appointment, or…?"
"Nope. Just show up at his door and knock. If he finds you interesting, he'll let you in, but no guarantees what happens after that."
"Alright. Thanks, Rogue."
V had put off going to visit the supposed miracle worker until after Jackie's ofrenda, just in case walking into the mysterious Harry's abode ended up being the last thing she ever did.
Now here she was, walking into the lobby of the Biotechnica Hotel.
"Setting up in Biotechnica's backyard like this and messing around with bioware… it would have been less insulting if he waltzed into one of their board meetings and rubbed his dick in their faces." Johnny commented. "I like this guy already."
She and Johnny had come to a sort of silent agreement recently and were pointedly not mentioning the attempted forced suicide incident.
"Rogue said he's been around for over a hundred years." V thought at him quietly. "You ever hear about him?"
"Not really, but there's always been stories about weird shit happening and corpo squads ending up wiped out. It might have been him." The long dead man replied.
Since Rogue said that the guy she was looking for had rented the entire top two floors, V had been wondering how she was going to find the right room, but that mystery resolved itself.
The elevator only went up to the penultimate floor and did not open to the characteristic carpeted hallway, illuminated by electric lights and lined with doors. Instead, it opened up to a long black marble hallway illuminated by torches with only a single door at the end. A door that was made of heavy, steel-reinforced wood carved into the face of a glaring demon with burning eyes, an old-fashioned door knocked held in its fanged mouth.
"What the actual fuck." Johnny said what they were both thinking.
"I was wondering how he kept casually nosy bastards and medias from bothering him if it was so easy to approach." V muttered, cautiously skulking forward. "This would do it."
Genuinely afraid that the demon carving would bite her fingers off or shoot laser beams at her or something, she very carefully took hold of the door knocker and pounded it against the wood a few times.
When she had heard that the guy she was looking for was over a hundred years old, V had been expecting someone that looked like Sabura Arasaka. Medical tech could keep people alive far beyond what was once considered possible, but nobody had as of yet managed to reverse or stop aging.
Except Harry, apparently, because he was looking awfully good for a man more than a century old. Shiny black hair, glowing green eyes and a body bigger than most Animals. He didn't look a day over thirty, had no visible cyberware and her Kiroshis couldn't scan him.
"Well hello there." He said, looking her up and down.
V knew that she was beautiful. She'd put a lot of effort and eddies into her looks and was damn proud of the end result. If it made him more likely to help, preem. If he wanted to be paid with sex… well, working for a corp taught you to be pragmatic. She didn't exactly have a lot of negotiating power here and he was far from ugly. It would be a little humiliating at worst.
"Harry?" She said/asked. "I'm V, and I've got a problem that I've been told you might be able to help me with."
He stared into her eyes for a moment, then his lips quirked into a grin. "Got a little ghost in your brain, hmm?"
"How did you…?!" She balked at his knowledge.
"Never you mind. The important part is that you've brought me something interesting. Come right in." He stepped aside in a clear invitation.
"I've got a bad feeling about this, V." Johnny commented.
So did she, but she'd been having a bad feeling ever since Dexter DeShawn had first mentioned klepping from Arasaka. It was a bit late to start listening to bad feelings.
The interior was less deliberately ominous than the hallway outside, but Harry had clearly done some serious remodeling since moving in. V had a feeling that Biotechnica hadn't approved any of it.
It was spacious in a way that only top-level corpo execs could afford to have in their private mansions, but not nearly as over the top opulent. Everything looked handmade and it was of exquisite quality.
"Please, sit." Harry invited, gesturing to a soft leather armchair.
V sat and noted that the armchair was indeed right in that perfect middle spot between firm and soft. Harry brought out a couple of glasses and poured them some kind of golden drink that she had never seen before.
She drank, not really fearing poison. The beverage was alcoholic, with a sweet aftertaste and a nice kick. It left what felt like a warm fire burning in her belly that made its way through her veins and had her relaxing into the armchair with a sigh, the stress of… everything since that fucking Arasaka gig seeming to melt away.
"That is a really good drink." V complimented genuinely.
"Thank you. A couple of my sons first came up with it and I've occasionally tinkered with the recipe over the years." Harry said, taking a sip from his own glass.
He had sons? Given how he seemed to delight in pissing everyone off, V had not expected that.
"So, I assume that you want my help in getting that ghostie out of your brain?" He asked, mostly rhetorically.
V blinked at how on the ball he was. "That's right. I put an experimental Arasaka biochip in my head and now it's rewriting my brain."
He hummed. "Do you just want it gone, or do you want me to put Johnny in a new body?"
Johnny suddenly showed up. "You can do that?" Then he remembered that nobody could see him and turned to V. "He can do that?"
"Yes, I can do that." Harry answered before V could say anything.
"Wait, you can see him?" V goggled incredulously. That also explained how he knew who was in her brain.
"I can do a lot of things." Harry smiled mysteriously. "You've brought me something interesting, so I'm feeling generous. I have just one question for you, V."
"Yes?" She prompted cautiously, wondering if this was where the catch was going to show up.
"Do you like snakes?"
V, in fact, loved snakes. She had a snake tattoo coiling around her body and had her Kiroshi optics set to display slit golden pupils instead of the normal human round ones. That it added to her exotic appearance and creeped people out a bit was just a bonus. She was also fond of using neurotoxin knives and hoped to make them part of her merc image. The Serpent's Fangs or something. Back when she was still a corpo, she'd had her heart set on getting some kind of venomous snake as a pet if she ever made it high enough up the ladder to afford it.
The very first impression V got upon waking up was confusion. She waited for the usual boot up sequence to start, but it failed to initiate. Eyes flying open in panic, she fell over as the source of the strangeness in her body revealed itself.
Her legs were gone from the waist down, replaced by a massively thick serpent body at least twenty feet long, shimmering with green-black scales.
"What the fuck did you do to me?!" She roared at Harry as she spotted him watching her with a small grin, almost absently noting that her Kiroshis were gone too.
"Made you better." Harry answered unrepentantly. "And I got Johnny boy out of your head."
She followed the direction of his nod and could only stare at the unconscious man in the chair. It was recognizably Johnny, minus his distinctive silver arm.
"You turned me into a snake monster!" Johnny's new lease on life was entirely secondary to that realization.
"Lamia. Or naga if you prefer that term." Harry corrected. "And there's no need to be so angry. Just will your lower half to turn into legs."
V felt that there was, in fact, plenty of reason to be angry, but his words confused her enough to forestall it for a moment. Not really expecting much, but hopeful nonetheless, she did as he instructed.
It was strange for a moment, but then something 'clicked' in her mind and her serpentine lower body began to shrink rapidly. In a matter of seconds she had her legs back. She was naked, but that was also secondary.
V stared. There was no fucking way that twenty feet of snake had just shrunk into her legs.
"But wait, there's more!" Harry continued like some kind of TV salesman. "Those scales are bulletproof and knife proof and your skin is also a lot tougher. I've also taken the liberty of reinforcing your bones, muscles, ligaments and everything else, as well as restoring the neuroplasticity of your brain. You can now dislocate your jaw at will and you have venom sacs in your mouth, a pair of extendable fangs that will be able to pierce through any armor, along with an immunity to all mundane poisons, venoms and toxins. Anything toxic that you do ingest will be processed by your body and increase the potency of your own venom. Your nails are now extendable claws that can do the same as your fangs. It's not very snakelike, but it's a lot more convenient. You also have a slow-ish regeneration factor. As a final touch, I gave you Gorgon Eyes."
"Gorgon Eyes?" V echoed. With the knowledge that she could still shift back to human form, she was starting to get excited about all these nova-sounding biomods. Sure, it was a dick move to install them without her approval, but Johnny was out of her head and they were all snake themed.
She couldn't wait to try out the fangs.
"Hmm, that one is best demonstrated." Harry said and slapped the sleeping Johnny over the head.
"Ow!" The former bane of her existence jolted awake, staring around wildly.
"Now, V, stare deep into Johnny's eyes." Harry instructed.
Extremely curious, she did so.
"V, what the fuuuu…!?" Johnny's question trailed off as she felt her eyes pulse and he froze in place.
"Paralyzing stare." Harry explained with a smirk. "Cool, huh?"
"It's fucking nova!" V enthused.
Sure, not having the functionality of her Kiroshi optics would suck, but she could get a visor or something. The neural uplink she could probably get chipped back in by Viktor, but there was no force on the planet that would convince her to give up this set of 'ganic eyes. It would mean never letting any whisper of their powers get out into the wild, but that was acceptable.
She had no idea how 'ganic eyes could paralyze people and she didn't care. They were so far past top shelf that it wasn't even funny, and if the rest of the stuff he gave her was even half as good then she had a collection of the most preem biomods on the planet.
"Glad you like it." Harry grinned. "I'd hate for you to be disappointed after you brought me such an interesting gizmo."
V knew that she was free of the looming death of the biochip. The constant background pain from having her brain rewritten was gone and she felt more herself than she had since waking up in that landfill.
"So, ah, how much do I owe you?" She asked with a wince, already anticipating some monstrous number. The possibility of paying with sex suddenly looked extremely attractive.
"My, dear I don't think you understand." Harry's smirk was suddenly sinister. "You paid by bringing me something interesting and being my test subject. What you brought just happened to be valuable enough that I gave you things I knew you would like. Otherwise, I'd have not bothered to give you the ability to shift back or all the other extras. That's the only reason I come to this world – test subjects and inspiration."
V swallowed the sudden jolt of fear that shot up her spine, feeling like she had dodged a bullet. "Okay, I'll just take Johnny and get out of your hair, then."
"Sure. Go raise some hell out there, kids! And come see me again if you come across any other interesting stuff."