Chapter 10: Electric Sheep

Mireille fell to the floor, limp, coughing and wheezing. Air, she thought. Air good. Air so very, very good...

Her head stopped spinning, eventually. Stars and spots whirled across her sight. She blinked them away, and continued to do so for several seconds until she realized that the reason she couldn't see anything was that there was nothing, in fact, to see.

There was a warm hand on her shoulder.

She coughed, woozy from blood-loss, imaginary though it was. "K...Kirika?"

They embraced.

"Kirika," she whispered. "Took you long enough," she added, in an attempt at humour (her tears said otherwise).

"Yeah," she replied, doing likewise.

Mireille looked over her partner's shoulder.

The Master of Dreams lay dead upon the floor. There was surprisingly little blood. He was also surprisingly flat, having a great giant print upon his spine the exact shape and dimension of a running shoe that Mireille knew, instinctively, to be pink.

"You...stepped on him?"

Kirika nodded, still hugging her.

"But, I thought he said..."

She released her. "You never know until you try," she said, matter-of-factly.

"Oh."

Mireille shuffled over to his corpse. She noticed her wounds were healing already. I could get used to this, she noted, upon that observation.

The Master was indeed a rat, clad in a loose-fitting red-and-black shirt and a tiny hat, one hand wearing a glove with what looked like bits of tin can stuck onto the fingertips. He had a rather ridiculous bug-eyed look, with his tongue sticking out of his mouth at a strange angle.

"So much hatred in such a small creature," said Mireille.

"What a horrible life he must have lead," said Kirika.

"Yeah." Mireille gave the corpse an experimental prod with her foot. Suddenly, she felt giddy. "You know," she said, a smirk tugging at her lips, "he actually looks pretty ridiculous."

"Yes," said her partner, examining him carefully. "What with the eyes, and the tongue like that..."

"Squashed flat as a pancake."

"Yeah," she agreed, smiling faintly.

"The 'Master of Dreams'!" laughed Mireille.

"Heh. Yeah, that is kind of funny, I guess."

Mireille howled with laughter.

"Mireille?" said her partner, concerned.

The blonde one doubled over, shaking hysterically.

Kirika grabbed her. "Mireille?" She shook her. "Mireille! Please! Stop!"

Her laughter turned to body-shaking sobs, and she collapsed against her.

She held her close, afraid to let go. "Mireille? What's wrong?"

"I'm going insane," she whimpered.

"Mireille! Please, be strong! You'll get through this. We both will! 'Maidens bound together by love and fate,' remember?"

"How can you be so calm at a time like this?" she moaned.

"Um, actually, I think I'm in an advance state of shock, if it makes you feel better?"

She nodded. It did.

Mireille sniffed, and blew her nose on a tissue she plucked from nothingness (I'm getting too good at this, she noted). She surveyed the darkness around her. "I don't get it," she said. "We beat him, right? Why are we still here? Why haven't we awakened? Where is she?"

"Mireille!"

"Hm?" She turned, and gasped.

Kirika had transformed into a shivering, terrified thing. "Mireille? There's something...on...my...head."

And there was, as Mireille saw.

A very small woman with hair that sprung forth like a flower was perched on her partner's head. She wore small shoes, a (small) yellow dress, three (small) blue, diamond-shaped facial markings, and an exceptionally cute (and small) smile. She waved.

It was a small wave.

Mireille waved back, stunned.

"Mireille?" The voice was barely a squeak.

"It's okay, Kirika," said her partner, unable to look away from the little lady. "I think she's on our side."

"You have both done very well," said the woman, with a voice like sunlight. "You have saved my friend, and yourselves. Oh, but you have suffered much. But fear not; your long ordeal is over, and soon, you shall --"

Mireille finally realized that the rising noise on the edge of her awareness was not, in fact, a mosquito, as she'd expected, but her partner, Kirika.

"gggggggggggggggggetitoff getitoff get it off GET IT OFF!" She smacked desperately at her head before collapsing in a fit of hysterics. Mireille caught her, and held her sobbing form.

The presumably divine tiny woman had long since levitated off her head and alighted by the flattened Master of Dreams (AKA Iwata Mitsuo). "My! He's dead, isn't he!" She clapped her hands. Several pixilated cherubim descended from above and sprinkled dust on the corpse, tinkling like bells. "Wake up, Gan-Chan!"

"Ha HAH!" The Master of Dreams (AKA Iwata Mitsuo, AKA Gan-Chan) leapt to his feet, body healed and eyes ablaze with fury.

Mireille clutched Kirika protectively and brandished her Walther (which actually flew into her hand from several meters away) in his direction. "No! Stay back!"

"My loyal servant has revived me," cackled the rat. "And now, prepare yourselves! For now, you shall know TRUE PAIN!"

"Look!" said the woman, pointing. "Flying cheese!"

"Come to me, winged gorgonzola!" The Master of Dreams scampered joyously off into the blackness in pursuit of levitating dairy product.

The woman smiled.

Mireille dropped the gun, weaving a bit. She was distantly aware that the neural networks in her brain were fusing into something resembling a lump of coal. "Wha...how...guh?"

"Fear not," said the woman. "His rage is forgotten; he will trouble you no more."

"Forgotten?" sniffed a girl.

"Kirika?"

"But," said Kirika, "what is forgotten...can be remembered. Won't he return? Miss...?"

"Oh my, where are my manners?" She levitated before them, and curtseyed low. "I am the Goddess, Belldandy." She did a pirouette.

"A 'goddess'?" Mireille heard what she imagined must be Rational Thought bouncing off the walls of her skull.

"Miss Belldandy," continued Kirika. "That rat, that...Master. Will he come back?"

"Alas, yes," said Belldandy. "Every night. Each night, the madness takes him, and he invades another dream, and another soul must fight to escape." She looked away, sadly. "I, I do what I can, but sometimes..."

"There's no way to prevent this?" asked Mireille. "You're a 'goddess,' right? Can't you just, I dunno, magic some discipline into whomever keeps torturing the bastard?"

"I do try, but they can be so stubborn sometimes. But fear not!" she said, with that ever-present grin. "I'm positive they'll treat him better this time!"

"I'll never sleep again," whimpered Kirika.

"Can you at least get us out of here?" asked Mireille. "Please? We can't take much more of this!"

She nodded. "The time and place are right. The path to the World of Waking is open to you now. Just click your heels three times and say, 'Klaatu Verada Nikto,' and you shall return to your regularly scheduled lives, already in progress."

Mireille and Kirika, already way past the point where such dialogue would surprise them, climbed to their feet. "Thank you," they said.

The divine one inclined her head.

"And please," added Mireille, "do something about that rat!"

"I will."

They clicked their heels, thrice, said the words, and braced themselves.

XXXXxxxxxxxxxxx.....

It was an unusually smooth transition.

Mireille opened an eye, experimentally. "Um...we're still --"

"-- Here," finished Kirika.

The goddess blinked. "My! That usually does the trick..."

"We're trapped here?" asked Kirika. "No!"

"Please!" begged her partner. "There has to be another way!"

"One moment, one moment!" she shushed. She thought, deeply. "Entangled souls...yes, that must be it..."

"Be what?"

"You two share a bond of life, love, and death. It is your greatest strength, but with great strength comes great burdens in life...and in dreams. The easy way, the...painless...way, will not work for you."

Mireille sighed. "Okay, lay it on us. What do we have to do? Slay the dragon? Rescue the princess? Cast it into the fire? What?"

She shook her head. "Your way back to life lies in that very bond. The bond of love, and..."

"Death," said Kirika, realizing what she meant.

Mireille's overloaded brain caught up with events. "We...have to die?"

The goddess was serious, almost grim. "Normally, if you die here, your soul would be lost forever. But, if you two use the bond between your souls..."

"We...have to kill each other?" said Kirika, horrified.

"If you do so, and your love for each other is true, you shall escape this dark underworld."

They slumped on their haunches, stunned. Subconsciously, their weapons had found their way into their hands.

"Can...can we have some time to think about this?" asked Mireille, her voice hollow.

The goddess nodded. "You are safe here. Take as long as you need." A thought occurred to her. "And I know just how to pass the time!" She snapped her fingers.

A small table with five small chairs actualized with a resonant ping. Two women, with similar facial markings, were seated at it. One had black hair, the other white. Both were doing a remarkably good job of cosplaying a certain green-cloaked assassin. A full moon shone through a nearby window.

"Tea?" asked the goddess, raising a cup of it.

Mireille and Kirika shot each other, in unison.

XXXXxxxxxxxxxxx.....

"Aaaaaauuuhhmuhgawdh..."

And with that triumphant cry, Mireille Bouquet, splattered with alcohol and tomato juice, head aching and joints throbbing after being held in questionable positions for several hours, returned to the land of the living. She felt exhausted, heavy, in fact, almost as if someone was sitting on her chest.

She croaked, and rubbed her eyes. A life-sized poster of Orlando Bloom as Legolas™ slowly came into focus. Gods, she thought, why did I ever let her put that thing up there.

She gasped. "Kirika!"

"Mm?"

"Kirika?"

The young Asian blinked until her eyes were moving in sync again, and then lifted herself off Mireille's chest. "Mireille?"

"When did you get back? I didn't hear you come in?"

"Um, just now, I...think? I came in, and you were...Mireille! Are you okay?"

"What? Oh, yes, yes, I'm fine. Looks like I had a bit of a spill or something."

"Oh." Kirika noticed something. "Um...Mireille?"

"Yeah? Uh, why are you blushing all of a sudden?"

"Um...this position...did we...?"

Mireille suddenly realized exactly how Kirika was sprawled on top of her. "What? N-no, no! Of course not!" she said, defensively. "We're still fully-clothed, for one," she added, as an afterthought."

"But, um, is that always an issue? I mean, I read in this book..."

Mireille's internal librarian sputtered about before drawing up the right reference card, and passing it over, hesitantly. She rolled her eyes. "Kirika..."

"Mm?"

"When I said you should read a book on....that subject, if you had any questions..."

"Uh huh?"

"I did not mean The Kama Sutra."

"But it had pictures and everything," she said, sheepishly.

She sighed. "Just...get off me already, please?"

She did, and helped her up. She wheeled the swivel chair back over to its usual spot by the computer, and took a look at the screen. "Mireille!" she scolded. "Bejewelled? You promised!"

"It was a moment of weakness!"

Kirika shook her head in disapproval.

"Well, this is a mop job, no question about that," said Mireille. "Man, my head hurts. And my neck is...killing...me..."

The room was suddenly quiet, as its two inhabitants had simultaneous flashbacks.

"Mireille?" whispered Kirika.

"Yeah?"

"Did you...did we just have..."

"A dream?" Confused, half-remembered images vomited up from her subconscious. She shivered. "Yeah..."

"There, there was...a small woman?" said Kirika, struggling to recall the images (even as she loathed to do so). "With pigtails? And...a dog? With a bazooka? And, and then there were..." She grew pale.

"It...it was just a dream, anyway," said Mireille. "Forget about it."

"No, wait." She thought hard, and came to a realization. "You...you were there. With me. You, you said something. To me. About us. It was important. But, I can't remember the words..."

Mireille, on the other hand, did. "Uh, neither do I," she lied.

"Oh." She looked depressed.

"But..." She came to her side. "It is said that dreams are a window into the subconscious. They can tell us a lot about who we are, how we think, what we really feel...about others."

Kirika nodded. "I guess the word's aren't important...since I remember the feelings behind them." She smiled, faintly.

Mireille cleared her throat, suddenly flustered. "So, uh, how was your trip? Ah, never mind, it's almost six o'clock; you can tell me over dinner."

"But I ate on the plane?"

"Something light, then? C'mon," she said, on her way to the kitchen, "I'll fix you a club sandwich."

Kirika went white as a sheet.

"Aaaaand by 'club sandwich,'" said Mireille, as she recalled certain curious details, "I mean 'omelette.'"

"I'll make the tea," she said.

They gathered in the kitchen, and set about their tasks. "Let's see," muttered Mireille, "I think I have some eggs, still." She opened the fridge.

There was a celebratory honk. A paper noisemaker bounced off her nose. Confetti followed.

She blinked. Behind her, a teacup shattered on the floor.

There was a large paper banner stretched across the interior of the fridge. It had "Congratulations!" written on it in big, fat letters. Pink ones. Beneath it were three very tiny women, dressed as a mariachi band. One, whose hair did spring forth like a flower, snapped her fingers and kicked up her dress. The trumpeter and guitarist played a snappy Mexican number as she danced with castanets in either hand on a container of sour cream. They reached the big, foot-stamping finish, and posed. "Olé!" they said.

She slammed the door shut. Several magnets fell off. She whipped it open.

Eggs, milk, cheese, pastrami, lettuce, three-day old dim-sum...

Carefully, taking care not to drop anything, she selected what she needed, set it on the counter, and eased the fridge door shut.

"Mireille?" Her partner was deathly pale.

"Yeah, Kirika?"

"Did we..."

"No," she said, firmly. "No we didn't."

"But I --"

"No."

"But if that was her, and she was there, doesn't that mean we could still be...?"

Mireille took a deep, cleansing breath. "I'm going to make dinner. We'll eat it, and you'll tell me all about your trip as we do so. Then, I'll get a mop, and clean the floor. Then I'll wipe Bejewelled off the drive. Then I'm going to have a shower, and go to bed. To sleep. And I'll have nice, normal, perfectly ordinary dreams that will not involve any little women, any talking rats, and absolutely, positively no giant mutant undead cyborg chainsaw-wielding hell-penguins!"

Kirika considered this. "Giant undead...?"

"Don't ask," said Mireille.

"Don't tell," she replied.

And all throughout the Dreamscape, dancing through the wreckage of shattered minds and broken dreams...

GAN-CHAN WAS LAUGHING

XXXXxxxxxxxxxxx.....

Noir: Contracts

Final Status Screen

Difficulty: Last Trial

Play Time: 7:12:45

Saves: 0

Continues: 0

Special Items: Mr. Wuffles, Piece of Lettuce

Parodies/References: Men's Pocky, Stephen Hawking, Jimmy "Super Fly" Snuka, Kotono Mitsuishi, Monty Python, H.P. Lovecraft, Rudyard Kipling, Scenes from the Life of Madame and Monsieur Trousseau, the Chicken Soup series, the US Anti Drug advertisement campaign, Frank Herbert's Dune, Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Mouse that Roared, Nightmare on Elm Street, Ghostbusters, Lord of the Rings, Mystery Men, Big Trouble in Little China, Kill Bill, Men in Black, Matrix: Reloaded, Star Wars, Fight Club, Army of Darkness, The Phantom of the Opera, Star Trek: the Next Generation, Bob the Builder, Seinfeld, Azumanga Daoih!, Keropi, Excel Saga, Hamtaro, Gunsmith Cats, Read or Die, Adventures of the Mini Goddesses, You're Under Arrest!, Oh My Goddess!, Serial Experiments Lain, Marathon series, Bejewelled, Harry the Handsome Executive, Mozilla, Metal Gear: Solid, Fallout 2, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, Perfect Dark, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, Final Fantasy VI, Medal of Honour, Unreal Tournament, Hitman: Contracts.

Character: Mireille/Kirika

Shots Fired: 49/32

Kills: 21/6

Accuracy: 61%/13%

Favourite Weapon: Walther P99/HK G11

Awards: Multi-Kill, Most Deadly/Most Professional, AC -10 Award

Ranking: True Noir

Unlocked: Tasteful Dress Mode, X4 Firing Rate, "Making Of" Featurette

XXXXxxxxxxxxxxx.....

The Making of Noir: Contracts

So, you beat the game on "Last Trial" difficulty, eh? Congraturation! A Winner Is You! Enjoy your unlockable bonus!

For best results, open this chapter in a separate window and read it simultaneously with the actual story. Um, this may require the ability to move your eyes in two directions at once.

[I wasn't going to do this originally, but then the references and in-jokes got so Byzantine that I couldn't keep track myself.]

General Comments

This train wreck of a crossover was essentially written at 3 AM over a number of days. Having hit a roadblock on Scenes from the Life of Madame and Monsieur Trousseau, I decided to let my mind wander a bit. And I thought about another fantastic story on this very website, Swordskill's Liberi Fatali, and said to myself, "Self, Noir is about two contract killers, yes? So where are all the stories about hypothetical contracts? I mean, there should be thousands of them, yes?"

At this point, I laughed manically, ran downstairs, and wrote the teaser text, with a scrawled side note listing some possible scenarios.

I think I'd gone 48 hours without any sleep at this point, if it matters.

Things went downhill from there.

Special thanks to:

- The Marathon Story website for accidentally inspiring this whole mess.

- Lack of sleep, for, well, lack of sleep.

Chapter 1

I think this was 3 AM at work again. That's definitely where Bejewelled and the V-8 tonic came from.

If it matters, I actually did have to dig up a copy of Bejewelled. And almost got addicted to it.

"This'll show that punk 'L1n0fT3hW1r3d' who's the REAL Queen of the 'Net!'"
And hey, everyone plays Bejewelled, even, I presume, Lain. Although she'd probably cheat, what with the whole "rearranging the universe how she sees fit" thing.

Assassinations could go stuff themselves; this was her new anti-drug.
For those not in North America, the United States government has, for several years, run a series of ads in popular magazines exhorting young people to find their "anti-drug" and, y'know, not shoot up, so they don't hallucinate like this story. Oddly enough, I was not, in fact, under the influence of drugs at any point during its creation.

The pigeon? Penguins? 3 AM. I think I was experiencing random muscle spasms at this point.

The swivel chair? Get a Macintosh and download Harry the Handsome Executive from Ambrosia Software. Hilarious game.

And now, the Marathon explanation. I figured that since this story deals with weird dreams, why not draw inspiration from the most well-written FPS game in the universe, Marathon Infinity? All the epigraphs come from bits of Thoth ramblings (except for Chapter 9, explained below). The titles are all reworks of Marathon levels. Really, really bad reworks.

Ne Cede Malis = Latin for "Do not yield to misfortunes."
Ne Cede Concussu = "Do not yield to concussions."

Move on to Chapter 2, and find yourself starting back at the beginning of Mireille's career.

Chapter 2

Fatum Iustum Stultorum = "The just fate of the foolish."
Fatum Iustum Bibliophile = "The just fate of a bibliophile."

This chapter was most definitely inspired by Star Otaku's Ripped from the Pages.

The woman crossed over to her side of the street, sighing romantically. A flowerpot plummeted from five stories, missed her head by inches, and shattered messily. She didn't notice.
Sadly, for those of you unfamiliar with Read or Die, this isn't much of an exaggeration of Yomiko Readman. Including the strongly­implied yuri action.

"Why are you wearing a dress?"
And yeah, why is Claude in a dress, 3 AM?

Chapter 3

Two for the Price of One = unchanged from Marathon, here referring to two concussions (and hangovers) from one drink.

Massive cranial trauma became a running gag really fast. Does it show?

This chapter is the result of another scrawled note: "Both K&M have combat reflexes, so what happens if they hear a bang or something?" And what if she's jet-lagged, too? I get the impression that Kirika's got so much raw skill sloshing around in her veins that it probably takes a great deal of effort on her part to do something normally.

She trudged up the stairs to Mireille's apartment, waved to a pointless cameo known as Madame Trousseau, yawned, and fumbled for the keys.
The "pointless cameo" popped in because I was writing that other story at the same time.

Women's Pocky: the emancipation of Japanese women continues.

Ah, slapstick. Gotta love it. Yet it's also one of the best action sequences I've ever written.

Chapter 4

Acme Station = the pinnacle of design
Acme Education = the pinnacle of, well, y'know...and there's that company called Acme too...

L'École du Coups Puissant should be obvious, I hope.

This whole chapter just flowed. Especially since Osaka and Tomo already had such pronounced homicidal tendencies. It was also hilariously fun to write up this whole scene as a super complex, tense, Metal Gear: Solid espionage sequence. It took some doing not to have Kirika hide under a cardboard box, I tell you.

"A. Kasuga is one of the most wealthy and influential figures in the Osakan crime syndicate."
If you think this story goes too far, you obviously haven't read DB Sommer's Azumanga Royale. Yeesh...

"Ah! Hisakawa sama!"
Ring any bells? Looked at Hitoshi Doi's site recently?

An orange-haired, pig-tailed munchkin with eyes half the size of her head (a bit small for her age, in other words) smiled at her from the doorway.
"When I was young and half my face was eyes" is an Ekplixi Original Joke, copywrite 2003.

Cthulu? Why not? F'tagn.

"Enn joh Koh sai," said the voice, in terrible Japanese.
Enjoh Kosai = ...uh...look it up.

"Sakaki O'Ren Ishii."
Y'know, it's remarkably convenient that Sakaki doesn't actually have a given last name, isn't it? (And you've all seen Kill Bill, yes?)

She flung the kitten over the wall. It yowled noisy. Suddenly, she felt depressed.
3 AM. 'Nuff said.

A Great Pirenees, to be exact, although her Soldat indoctrination was curiously lax when it came to cynology.
Cynology = the study of dogs.

"B-but don't we need some sort of complicated ritual recited by three Miskatonic professors to make her vulnerable first?"
I guess she read The Dunwich Horror, then.

Human Resources Weekly: this month, a special feature on reducing headcount!

"Jimmy "Not the Super Fly" Snooker did it in '78."
Jimmy "Super Fly" Snuka is a wrestling legend, famous for kamakazie dives off the top of the steel cage.

"And there's the assassin's motto: nil mortifice sine lucre."
Nil mortifice sine lucre ("No killing without payment," hence, "With payment, no killing") is the motto of the Assassin's Guild in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.

"Take Only Lives, Leave Only Corpses, Because Only You Can Prevent High-Speed Police Chases'?"
Ever heard of "Take only pictures, leave only footprints" and "Only you can prevent forest fires?" Didn't think so.

"Mentioned something about trepanning..."
And now you know the real reason for Osaka's spacey behaviour.

Chapter 4

One Thousand Thousand Slimy Things = unchanged from Marathon, although here it would paraphrase Coleridge as, "And a thousand thousand slimy things / Lived on; and so did she."

It wasn't until this chapter that I really started getting into trouble. First off, I realized that every damn one of my contract hits took place in Japan. Second, I realized that, contrary to expectations, having Mireille and Kirika repeatedly assassinate Excel (the original premise behind this story) was actually quite boring; I mean, it happens all the time in the actual show. Eventually, I hit upon the idea of our favourite assassins getting some heavy artillery.

Oh, and I'd had another 3 AM moment here, wherein I established an actual plot arch. That's why Kirika is getting a little bit suspicious of what's going on. I figure that with her mind already under so much pressure under ordinary circumstances she'd probably be the first to notice.

"...alias Excel No-Not-Like-Access™, alias Bob the Builder."
Microsoft Access is Microsoft Excel on steroids. Bob the Builder? 3 AM. It's a kid's show that's pretty popular in the UK.

"Was once bitten by a moose in --'"
Everyone should recognize the moose bit from the opening credits of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you don't, may you be savaged by a cute fluffy rabbit.

"Ah, right. 'If I knew that, then I could yadda yadda.'"
It's a parody, right? Of course I have to wreck the second-most dramatic line in the series with a Seinfeld-ism.

"Are you sure? I mean, you were mixing Mydol with vodka on the flight over..."
'Mireille as a drug-addict' is an Explixi Original Joke, copywrite 2004.

It's probably just me, but I hear the Nazgul music every time Excel shows up.

The penguin jokes continue in Excel's monologue. I suspect CLAMP has something to do with this. And I'm not sure if I've done Excel right; probably not nuts enough.

"...and I missed and hit the curry udon..."
Curry udon is an Azumanga Daioh-ism.

"...Pinot Grand Fenwick..."
If you ever find a copy of The Mouse That Roared, read it.

She shook her head. "No, I mean, that voice. It sounded like yours."
Didya know that not only did Kotono Mitsuishi do the voice of Excel, and Aya Hisakawa the voice of Skuld, but that Yumi Touma voiced both Urd and Silvana The Inviolate Haircutter? It's enough to drive one mad!

Didya know that I had to repost this chapter for the millionth time when I realized I'd misspelled "Hisakawa"?

Didya know that I had to repost this chapter a million times because the blasted text editor filters out all asterisks and pointy-brackets?

Didya know that I'm apparently the only person in the universe that has the above problem, and that that fact probably contributed much to this story's inherent madness?

"Let's just say," said Mireille, with a wry smile, "that that woman's little trick was enough to fund my Masters in Literary Appreciation, okay?"
Apparently Miss Readman had a strong influence over a certain young Corsican, as evident in the degree she pursued. Hey, how else can you explain her quoting ways, eh? She's obviously an English major. Erego, all English majors are assassins. It's true! It's why Arts degrees are so popular!

"...the paramilitary group FREEMEN-1..."
Hmmm, FREEMEN-1...hey! Didya know that Keiichi of Oh My Goddess! often abbreviates his name as "K-1" because 1 = ichi?

The audio for the scene where our heroines enter Rumschmit 'n Pat's Tobacco and Hot Wax Emporium is an exact recreation of the start of Monty Python's "The Cheese Shop" sketch, complete with bazouki player. Come to think of it, this place is also uncontaminated by cheese. Huh.

The shop itself could have come from anywhere, but where it did was from Men in Black (not the sequel; that one sucked).

"Booooooom," said the one called May.
I can easily envision May going "Booooooom," but the specific reference is to the semi-hidden NPC Algernon in Fallout 2, who provided you with free weapon upgrades.

"The SOCOM's pretty popular nowadays, but you look more of a Walther kind of woman."
The SOCOM probably is pretty popular, what with Metal Gear and all. That thing Solidus uses on the Metal Gear Rays is an FN P90, by the way.

Not a huge fan of how the myth turned out, but, meh. Rattori Banzo is probably Hattori Hanzo's cousin or something. And "God of Small Mice" is a pretty good name for the evil blade, all things considered. June 9, 1817 actually was the last heliocentric alignment. It's a bit early for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, so I'm guessing this was a forerunner to the group. As for Rudyard Kipling? Don't ask.

Half were gold, and glowed with menacing red aura, as if already drenched in the blood of innocents. The others were silver, and radiated a frigid, electric light that hinted at divine retribution.
It was only after I'd finished this scene that I realized I'd paired up the two super-shells with my two stars in terms of colour scheme. And it does seem fitting that Mireille would get the demonic one.

"Well, it's a bit tough to tell, actually. Seeing as you've offered me a carrot cake and all."
Carrot cake? Actually, I was well-fed and rested when I wrote this bit, so your guess is as good as mine.

"We were out of forks," she explained.
The spoon is a reference to The Blue Rajah from Mystery Men. "A spoon? Who throws a spoon!?"

She unlatched her arms from the severely-bent larch she'd hooked onto, slumped to the ground, and then opened her eyes.
"Number 37: the larch." (Python, Monty)

In a sort of bizarre reversal of the Tunguska explosion, all the vegetation surrounding the clearing was now almost level with the ground, pointing towards its centre.
The Tunguska explosion was a weird incident back in Russia during the early 1900s where people heard this loud bang out in the middle of nowhere. When they investigated, they found that an entire forest had been flattened, almost as if some sort of nuclear weapon had gone off. See the Internet for more; I think the current theory involves some sort of anti-matter meteorite.

Right about the time I wrote this, actually, Stephen Hawking announced he had lost a bet with another scientist on the subject of black holes.

"You never know until you try," replied Mireille, smiling.
"You never know until you try," said Jack Burton.

Chapter 6

Habe Quiddam = Get Something
Ham Quiddam = Ham (Ham) Something

In the reviews for this story, someone asked that I "get some Chloe stuff going on." Uh, this is it. Sorry.

"Many are now their willing slaves, tending to their every need; some even transport them around town on their shoulders and feed them by hand."
The Hamtaro cast is obviously a well-organized, fanatical terrorist organization. Think about it: they employ people from all nations and backgrounds, have access to vast amounts of financial resources (where do all those sunflower seeds come from?), and have infiltrated the social-political lives of everyone of significance in town, blackmailing them for affection. They're a small, highly mobile group that nonetheless takes down persons and organizations much larger than themselves ("Little Hamsters, Big Adventures"). They cheat, steal, deceive, manipulate, and terrorize everyone around them for their own nefarious ends, and perform acts of industrial, technological, and agricultural sabotage almost every episode. Oxnard himself is obviously a heroin addict, his syringe graphically replaced by a sunflower seed. Add a complex network of underground tunnels and fortified bunkers and, well, the evidence speaks for itself.

"Known only by his serial number, SN-ZR, he managed to infiltrate the upper echelons of the cult's theocracy as a sleeper agent."
Of course Snoozer's a sleeper cell. Think about it: he arrives without any explanation, moves about undetected, and yet has so effectively gained the trust of this Ham Quaeda cell that they plan out all their operations while he's in earshot. He's obviously got a satellite phone hidden in that sock of his.

"Project Zwei Hahm."
Zwei = "two," hence, "Ham-Ham."

Le Patron = The Boss.

"Can't hit him," she replied, still shooting. "Too fast."
I find this line hilarious for some reason.

It was some sort of tiny, severely burnt, yellow cloak.
HA! Fragged them all, even that stupid Pikachu-squeaking thing! HA HA HA! ...Hamtaro? Bazooka? 3 AM.

"We discussed this already; these guys are fast and vicious in close, right? So we hang back 100 meters and use an accurate automatic with a high ROF."
The HK G11 is probably a remarkably stupid weapon for Kirika to have in this scene, despite its accuracy and insane burst-fire rate. I realized afterwards I should've given her a shotgun. Hamtaro! Both barrels! Ch-chick! BOOM!

"And why the hell are you dressed like a clown!?"
Don't ask me, it's not my dream sequence.

A purple haired girl in exceptionally dirty clothes stumbled up to the table, clearly intoxicated.
Chloe as a wino is an Ekplixi Original Joke, copywrite 2004.

"How 'm I supposed t' meet curfew when I gotta freakin' WALK back home? From Switzerland?! Huh!?"
Y'know, ya gotta wonder if Chloe and Kirika really do walk everywhere, or if they don't just hop into a private helicopter whenever the camera cuts away. Or maybe they take a shortcut through the Astral Plane or something.

"We'll swallow your souls!" they howled. "We'll swallow your souls!"
Ash of Army of Darkness would recognize this line.

Chapter 7

Where are Monsters in Dreams = straight from Marathon, and one of its most trippy levels.

This, theoretically, is where the "horror" part of this story's classification comes in, if, by "horror," you mean, "horribly bad horror."

I'm not content with the lead-up to the shooting. I cut it short on purpose, since I'm not comfortable with so blatantly rehashing a moment from the show. Especially since I despised all those flippin' flashbacks. Stock footage! Fast-forward!

"We live, breathe, and die at His command, at the will of the great Author of our lives."
I used "Author" since I figured more cynical readers would think I was pulling a stupid self-insertion on them. Nope, I leave that for the commentary track.

The chain snapped; pearls sang through the air, as did the watch itself, hurled by her hand.
Ever notice how the Watch of Doom is pictured as being hooked on a string of peals in about 2000 different pieces of artwork, but nowhere in the actual series? (End-credits don't count, dork.)

The world shattered.
The "world-shattering" effect is an old one, but I got it from a well-written episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation entitled...crud, can't remember. You know the one. Yeah, that one. With that doctor. Who tries to drive Riker insane.

Someone laughed in her ear. A great, leathery hand with claws of steel closed over her vision, and pressed down.
Who better to manipulate dreams than Freddy Krueger himself? (Snicker!)

"It's just a penguin."
The penguin...uh...yeah. The fight scene itself was inspired by the Cave Troll sequence, obviously, although he goes out like The Witch King. As for the penguin, that was random brainstorming. "Okay, she's afraid of penguins, right? So, what's scarier than a penguin? A giant one? A giant, zombie, demon, cyborg one? With a chainsaw? Booyah!" It kinda snowballed from there.

"Never...wearing...heels...again!" she gasped.
Anyone who thinks Mireille's an idiot for wearing poor balance, highly-breakable high-heel designer shoes instead of some sensible silent runners, raise your hand? Anyone who wants to call me out on the fact that chibi-Mireille doesn't wear high-heels, shaddap! It's a dream; obviously, part of her adult self has managed to emerge in this scene.

The goop did, in fact, taste a bit like marshmallow.
I liked Ghostbusters. That is all.

"Sorry, haven't the foggiest, signed Rational Thought," she read.
Rational Thought became a full-fledged character in this chapter.

The figure was still bathed in light, but she could just make out a feminine silhouette. A dress. Wings. Hair that sprung forth like a flower. And a radiant smile. The radiant one was either very, very far away, or very, very small.
"Hair that sprung forth like a flower." Says, "My!" a lot. Now, who could this be?

"You two share a bond, a special bond, one of life, love, and death."
Wow, character-developing dialogue in a train-wreck crossover parody-spoof. Surprised the hells outta me, that's for sure.

Chapter 8

Thing What Kicks... = according to The Marathon Story website, a reference to an enemy called the Juggernaut, which, in Nebulonese, is called "The Big Floaty Thing What Kicks Our Asses." I LOVE this game!
She What Kicks... = who's doing the kicking here?

"But..." said the original, as she and the others advanced on the bewildered Corsican, "the problem with being me is..." She smiled, wickedly. "...There's so many of me."
I figured that since every piece of modern fiction is now contractually obliged to spoof the Burly Brawl, I might as well. Funny thing was, I also had room for character development.

"I am her cold sweat," said another.
This sequence (except the bit noted below) is from Fight Club, obviously.

"I'm the old man." "I'm the old lady." "I'm soup."
Best dialogue from You're Under Arrest, courtesy The Junior Thespian Society. The best part, of course, is that, if you look really carefully in the last OAV, you can actually see the kid who's playing the role of Soup.

It bounced, rolled, and snarled like a wounded wolverine, spraying mayonnaise everywhere, then charged with a speed that gave the words "fast food" a whole new dimension of terror.
I've got a mad club sandwich; of course it will fight like Gollum. Or maybe Wolverine. Y'know, I think this is, like the sixth food-related gag in this story so far?

Chapter 9

Ex Cathedra = "from the cathedral," a proclamation that is accepted without question.
Ex Muris = "from the mouse."

The spectral fog rolled in, bearing whispers. And there were arms, hands, and faces there, by the hundreds, all dead, all rotting...and all too familiar.
Huh, the Path of the Dead. Meh. Since when did I say this story was original? Hells, it's fanfiction, after all; I'd probably be shot if I didn't rip off everything in all creation.

"I am here."
The Phantom of the Opera musical did exactly this with surround sound, to great effect.

"Fear is the mind-killer," she gasped, "the little death..."
Y'know, I never could get into Dune, but this famous little mantra seemed appropriate.

Mireille nodded, looking over his shoulder. Keep this guy busy...
I realized later that this tactic made metaphysical sense, too; if this was the dreamworld, and will is all, and Mireille keeps the Master's will focused on her...

"I am the Master of Dreams! I. AM. IWATA MITSUO!""
The sad thing is, given what happens to the poor guy in Mini-Goddesses, Gan-Chan as Freddy Krueger is a distinct possibility.

When the time comes, whose life will flash before yours?
Actually from the Marathon level "Hang Brain," spoken/typed by the dying AI Durandal who is in the process of merging with the player character. Essentially, he is wondering whose life will flash before the player's eyes at the moment of death; his/her own, or Durandal's? Considering how close Mireille and Kirika have become at this point, she just might be thinking the same thing.

Chapter 10

Electric Sheep = title of a series of dream levels in Marathon. Each is actually a hallucinatory version of the very last level; all the enemies behave strangely, and the text terminals are filled with bizarre statements and stories, seemingly from the player character's own thoughts. The player enters this level (ideally) three times throughout the game, in an amazingly complex dimension-hopping quest to prevent a horrible thing from happening. (Sound familiar, yet?) Moreover, if you finish the Electric Sheep levels the "wrong" way, you end up zipping back to an earlier level in the game, making your Marathon: Infinity session a potentially endless one.

Several pixilated cherubim descended from above and sprinkled dust on the corpse, tinkling like bells.
Ever heard of this spell called "Life 3"? It's in this sort of role-playing game popular in Lithuania. "Penultimate Mythology," or something.

And all throughout the Dreamscape, dancing through the wreckage of shattered minds and broken dreams...
GAN-CHAN WAS LAUGHING

Taken from the end of the first Marathon.

The Final Status screen draws upon multiple games. The first few categories (and the Ranking) are from Metal Gear: Solid. The character specific categories are from Perfect Dark. "Multi-Kill" is Unreal Tournament (earned for fragging 15 hamsters at once), Most Deadly is Perfect Dark (she had the highest kill-count), as is Most Professional (Kirika was tough to hit, went for headshots, like a pro) and the AC -10 Award (she was tough to hit, as if she had an Armour Class of -10). We have a "Tasteful Dress Mode" since a Nude Code wouldn't do anything for Mireille. X4 Firing Rate is a Medal of Honour invention.

Oh, and here's the breakdown on the statistics:

Mireille: 3 Walther P99 shots (2 misses, one hit, one kill (pigeon)), 1 crossbow (book, scenery object, so a miss), 7 rounds to Yomiko (blocked), 1 tranquilizer dart, 1 shot to Excel (kill), 1 super-bullet to Excel (kill), 7 rounds to the CwotU (kill), 1 bazooka round to Hamtaro (15 kills for the entire cast), 17 shots to the penguin (kill), 5 shots (estimate) at the sandwich (misses), 3 (estimate) to the Shadow Host (misses), 1 to Gan-Chan (miss), 1 to Kirika (kill).

Kirika: 1 super-bullet to Excel (kill), 9 3-round bursts from the G11 (misses; this is where her accuracy plummeted), 2 Beretta rounds to Altena and Chloe (kill and kill again), 1 melee attack to the sandwich (kill, but not a shot, so not counted), 1 round to Gan-Chan (miss), 1 stomp to Gan-Chan (kill, not counted in shots fired), 1 round to Mireille (kill).

Thanks for taking this little trip with me, although I can see from the other stories on this site that I've much to learn of madness yet.

Editing completed on August 26, 2004.

Boo Freakin' Yakka,

Kevin "Section 8" Ma