Gregory P. Wong
Epilogue: Eternal Warriors
The last year and a half following the last Sraida defense had been, well, good.
Meng Huo really liked the modern amenities that came with a nice house. Especially if said house was "modern", which meant friggin' awesome.
He sank down on a nice comfy couch and just thought for a bit.
This was a really cool house.
And, incredibly, he still had a job. Sure, there were a quite a few bozos who used "nanobots" and "sculpting retroviruses" to get a nice cut body, but there were an equal number of people who—like him—got their large collections of hard protein from lifting and exercising.
And, being as big as he was—his biceps were still larger than most people's thighs—he was elected as the prime candidate to manage weight training gym. Sure, he had had to figure out what the hell "force-field adjustable counterweights" were, but it hadn't been too much of a sweat.
The United Nations of Terra government had graciously thanked him, his wife, and the fourteen others in quite a few ways. One, of course, was a sum of money which was frankly obscene. And, they had a beautiful world to live on.
It was a fun life and all, though he still had to learn a lot before he got around this new universe smoothly. Who would've known that fusion was considered an outdated power source?
The gym was doing pretty well, too. He got plenty of customers, and that Keiji Maeda guy was there almost every other day. He was still beating the Japanese man, but only barely. A young brown Gryth he and Rong had befriended, Raastu was his name, was going pretty hot, too. Gryth, being pretty muscular racially, were into this sort of stuff.
He stretched to get up when he heard the front door slide open.
"Hey, honey," Huo said to Rong as she stepped in and clunked her briefcase on the hallway floor. Most of the other lawyers used their personal computers for this stuff—PADs were military issue—but Rong just liked the feel of real paper and a leather briefcase.
"Hey, sweety," she replied. "Getting lazy again?"
"Heck, yeah! I get a free day after working, and I'm using it to smooze," her husband said with a laugh as he enveloped her in those absolutely huge arms. "Well, how was work?"
"Fine, I guess," she said, more or less truthfully. "But, geez, even after eighteen months I'm still a bit off. I've never heard of the Maritime Article IX, Subheading 3 before today."
Huo released her and wagged his hands as if he was warding off something. "Whoa there. I'm not a lawyer, so don't torture me with those things. Tell you what, you debate the Article thingamajig, and I'll take a nap." Huo walked back to the living room, opaqued the selective-lighting viewing ports, and flopped down on the couch.
She smiled. She entered their bedroom hung up her business attire—some things didn't change—and got into her house clothes.
She padded back to the living room and looked from behind the couch at her husband.
"Being lazy on a free day looks like fun," she noted.
"Better believe it—Oof!"
She had levered her body over the couch unto Huo's muscled abdomen.
"Well, I'm free for an hour before we start making dinner," she said, and kissed him. She lowered her voice suggestively, "Let's see if I can work that laziness out of you."
"Be perfectly happy to," she heard Huo say. "But, no lawyering, 'kay?"
"Wouldn't dream of it. Let's see if those muscles are good for something, eh?"
"You're kidding, right?" Okuni heard Keiji ask her.
"Nope. She said 'mama' while you were away."
"Cool. Let's see if her vocabulary expands."
She giggled and snuggled up to Keiji. He and she were sitting in one of the public parks on this fine summer day letting their daughter wander a bit. Families, human and not, were enjoying the nice day.
The focus of the discussion, their little daughter Allison, gurgled happily as she crawled along the grass. Her husband scratched his hair. He tended to do that after she had cajoled him into getting it cut. Or, in his words, "mutilated."
"Let's hope the next word is 'da-da.'"
"Well, say da-da enough times around her, and I guess it'll happen," she laughed.
She'd taken up dancing again, forming her own troupe. It was a spectacular hit all over this world, and on quite a few others too. Kabuki hadn't been around for a little while, and it was coming back with a vengeance. Actually, she and her group had a tour over on the Arcone homeworld next week.
Well, the timing was perfect. She hadn't been able to do any dancing while she was pregnant with Alli, so it was great that Alli was out and old enough to travel, too.
"You going to follow me around again when we embark?" Okuni asked him.
"Do you really need an answer, sweetheart?"
Well, policing and stuff was a bit different form the early twenty-first century. He'd dropped off any career in modern law enforcement and done personal protection.
As Okuni's bodyguard, he followed her everywhere. And he was protective too. As his charge and his wife, Okuni came first. And since he was so damed intimidating, nothing bad had hapened.
Okay, a bit of an exaggeration. There'd been only one incident, and the slightly drunk individual had been waved off after seeing a slightly mad bodyguard.
"Of course not," his wife said simply, smiling.
He grinned and rubbed a hand through his hair and took a pointed glance at his wife. It was really a compromise. He liked it as it was, Okuni thought he would look great without any of it.
He'd said he wasn't no Buddhist monk, and the hair was there to stay. Okuni had retorted that his hair currently looked more wild than the jungle that grew on this world's other continent.
So, like a good spousies, it had turned into a compromise. He still kept the dyed hair, but now it was significantly shorter. He could live with it. When a son came along—which, at the rate he and Okuni were, uh, going, wouldn't take too long—he'd make sure the kid tried his wild-hair thing out, and that would be that.
"Keiji, it's really cute, you with short hair."
He shrugged. "Well, at least I kept the hair.
He felt Okuni punch him playfully along the shoulder. "Oh, not that again."
"Well," he puffed out his chest, "one of these days I'll just let it grow out again. And then—uh-oh, I'd better get our little traveler."
Alli had just wandered a little too far. He heaved himself off the grass. Maybe she modeled that wandering spirit after her daddy. Oh, well.
He ambled over and plucked up little Allison. Cute kid, but that's what you got when Okuni was mommy.
"Da-da?" Alli cooed as he picked her up.
He cocked an eyebrow at her. "Kid, you must be psychic."
His daughter just replied by giggling. He nuzzled Alli with his nose and took her back to where Okuni was sitting.
He looked down at his wife. "Well, at least I got second place!"
"How 'bout putting the buttress over there, and letting the stone columns take the weight?" Zhou Yu said to his wife.
He and Qiao were laboring over this really nifty program he'd cooked up. Though he'd had to get adjusted and all to the new computing powers of the current century, code was still basically the same. It was actually quite cool that the holograph projectors were so clear, and that Qiao, Ms. Architect, could manipulate the onscreen shapes with her hand.
Yup, twenty-first century building styles were coming back, courtesy of his wife.
"Well, that could work, if we reinforced the columns with diasteel rods. Wait! Maybe we could flange the buttresses! It'll take some of the stress off the central core."
Uh-oh, she was going into build-the-huge-Leggo-building again. What the hell were flanged buttresses?
He shook his head in what he hoped was bewilderment. "Qiao, I just thought it would be nice looking if you did that. I'm still puzzled by all those architecture terms."
His wife rolled her eyes. "Oh, whatever am I going to do with you?"
"Lock me up with some architecture books and throw away the key?"
He watched her shake her head. "No way! I like you too much for that."
"You betcha," His wife mock-sniggered as she moved her finger to move the appropriate buttress to a new location.
And then an error message popped up.
"Ah, man. It looks like I missed that little command line. Give me a sec," Qiao husband said as he tapped a little icon on the hologram display, displaying a gajillion-and-one numbers. Ah, the world of the computer dork.
Well, not a dork, but Yu always called himself that.
"Let's see. Oh, here it is. The binary switch I forgot to delete, and it's doing a domino effect on the..." Yu tapped some number lines "algorithm and gravitation equation codes. That should do it."
Of course, she had no clue as to what he was saying. But whatever.
A few more taps, and it was back to the 3-D building program.
And then her stomach rumbled.
"Hungry?" Yu asked her.
"A little. Some crackers?"
"No problem. Be right back."
Her husband got up, kissed her on the cheek, and walked to the kitchen.
She patted her stomach, which was just beginning to bulge a bit. A little boy was on the way, and thanks to this modern medtech, she didn't have to worry about things like morning sickness. She still got hungry as heck, though.
Yu got back with the crackers. She munched a couple as she zipped her finger along the building representation.
And, lo and behold, another error.
She looked at Yu sideways. Her husband just shrugged.
"Well, it looks like I have some cleaning up to do. I'll fix it up, and you just sit back and relax. I think we're done for today, anyway. Masa and Oichi will be meeting us by the beach, in... what? Three hours. Go ahead and take a nap."
"Nah. I'll stay here and watch you. I might learn something."
Her husband gave a smile. "Well, first thing to know is that the Meyer's code over here..."
"No, no, no, no. We need to pack the charcoal, too," Oichi said to her husband.
"Old fashioned barbeque, eh?" Masa noted.
"Of course. No plasma torches, no sirree."
Masa just grinned roguishly.
Masa, she, Qiao, Yu, and a bunch of mutual friends were off to Aubrin's Beach—their front yard, really—a really nice area that was perfect in this weather. A nice little get-together.
"How about swimsuits?"
She pouted. "I can still fit into my normal one, can't I?
Well, that dream of having a nice peaceful life at a beachside home hadn't been a million years away. Well, the children were still coming, but that was far less than her initial estimate. Child Numero Uno was due in about eight months. So, she still fit into her normal suit. Qiao was a bit farther along, though.
She hoped that, if it was a boy, it would look like Masa. He was still handsome, and the scars didn't look out of place one single bit."
Masa looked up and down. "I guess so. You don't, er, feel any different, so I, uh, think you haven't grown too much.
She placed her fist on her hips. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, nothing," Masa said in a little voice.
Phew. Safe. Oichi wouldn't be calling him a—
"You walking testosterone package," Oichi said, and giggled. "You looked so guilty when you said that, you know? 'Feel different,' ha!"
He just shrugged. And smiled, of course.
He bent down, picked up the jumbo shrimp that were going to be sacrificed to the Barbeque God, and put them in the cooler. The device would keep it cold in there with a laser-induced cold-ion slurry.
This was a great life. Since he and Oichi didn't want to learn all the stuff that was taken for granted here, they just forgot about college. They had a ridiculous amount of money, so he and Oichi just decided to buy a nice home and spend the rest of their days surfing, swimming, snorkeling, and whatever.
"Hmm... Should we bring along some steaks, too?" he wondered aloud.
"Sure. Not everyone's a fish-eater like we are," he heard his wife reply.
"'Kay," he said, and placed the meat into the cooler, too. Then he had a thought. "What about that salsa you made?"
"I think it was just simply a blast that Yukimura somehow knew how to focus. That's the only probable explanation I can come up with," Zhuge Liang said to the holographic representation of General Adrian and about ten other officers.
He'd take up the job of being a psionic-theorist, which was a perfect fit for him. The way Yukimura Sanada had managed to nullify the Sraida techno-block was still a mystery, however. The current theory was that the Japanese man had released enough energy of the correct frequency to neutralize the energy the Sraida had been drawing from their own universe. While it was believed that the Sraida were extradimensional beings, it was still unproven. Indeed, the whole investigation was rife with question-begging and unanswered questions.
Maybe it would never be fully understood.
"Okay, then, Mr. Zhuge," said Adrian. "I'm sorry to bother you, but the R&D department needed your input. I'll leave you to your down time. Have a good day."
"You too, General," he replied and shut off the display. He turned to his wife. "Now, where were we?"
"It's your move," she said to Liang.
Her husband just nodded and peered at the Trichess board.
It was the current board game of the time... even though it wasn't on a board. The display was eight by eight by three, and it more or less followed standard chess rules. She and Liang had taken to it quite fast. It involved quite a few more pieces, however, and some pieces were modified. A pawn could jump from plane to plane, but a knight couldn't until its fifth move.
She knew this scene was familiar, with she and her husband playing chess while the sun shined. But the shadow of the Sraida was gone. The completed tachyon device collapsing the warp gate had seen to that.
She swept her bishop from the bottom plane and transferred it to the middle, capturing a pawn in the process. Liang captured it in turn with a knight, and she swept in with her queen—which had been on the third tier—and put Liang into checkmate.
Her husband nodded. "Excellent game."
She smiled. "Thank you. One more? Normal chess this time?"
Liang nodded. "Yes, of course."
She tapped a few buttons on the mobile hologram generator, and set up the board.
"Your move," she said, and smiled.
It was getting late, but she was enjoying the food and the company.
Noh sipped the wine, which was made from some exotic berry she couldn't pronounce the name of, and savored it as it slid down. This was a bit of a high-class restaurant, and the food and drink was simply astounding.
She looked over at Nobunaga. He fit the model of a CEO perfectly. In fact, he was the chief of her own clothing line. And, ever since they had been transported to the "future," he'd kept the hair out of that silly old-style bob. It had been quite impressive, that year and a half ago, to see him with his mane of black hair blowing in the wind.
Her husband also had changed inside. He was more... what? Optimistic? Sanguine?
She had been a demon's wife, but she would like being a Nobunaga's wife, wouldn't she?
Whatever it was she was going to describe him as, it was definitely better.
It was a step in a positive direction, for sure.
With her makeup and perfectly tailored gown, he really couldn't see any reason why she wouldn't resume being a fashion model.
And being a clothing designer, as well. Noh was going to probably give up the walkway in a few years, though. It didn't matter though. The line of traditional Japanese garb was popular among the younger generation, and was sure to remain so even when Noh retired.
Somehow, the word "retired" didn't seem right. To him, "retired" meant being too old to work. True, during the Dot Com rages, there were 30-year-olds hanging up their monkey suits; however, that word still gave that connotation.
But, it didn't apply, really, to him or the other fourteen. Like the Mindlancers and other psionic warriors, Noh and he had extended lifespans and something surprisingly like "eternal youth." He'd stay at frozen at his thirty-three years for quite a few decades.
This was indeed a blessing. Now that he thought about it, he and Noh hadn't had the best of marriages, modern or ancient-Japanese. These years would allow him to mend that relationship completely.
"That dress... I think it would look better in blue," he said to Noh.
His wife fingered the material. "You think so? This red color emphasizes my hair."
He nodded. "True, but it does so by clashing a bit, in my opinion. If it were in blue, probably a dark blue, it would meld with your hair and makeup."
Noh nodded. "Maybe."
He watched Noh's eyes gaze at their empty place. A smile quirked his wife's mouth.
"Well, I have this hunch that I know were you'd want this dress right now."
Noh slipped one strap off of her shoulder.
He stared at her for a second. Then he smiled and cleared his throat.
"Waiter! Check please!"
"Chan!" he called to his son. The little crawling rascal was now doing his best to scale a tall bar stool that stood near the wet bar. Liu Bei hurried over and got Chan down before something involving gravity and a hard floor happened. Chan, being a little child, just burbled happily as he deposited his son on the floor. Chan immediately toddled off towards another tall object. His wife saved the little explorer.
"EMT can't take a little child?" Shang said airily as she walked over and took a seat next to him on the couch. Chan, obviously sensing a nice warm spot next to mommy, fell asleep.
"Not Chan. It's your genes, and I couldn't ever hold you back."
Shang chortled wistfully. "Yes, you have. I got married to you, after all."
He chuckled. "Isn't that a bit different?"
"I don't think so."
He laid his head on her shoulder.
"Hey! I can only take one baby at a time!" she mock-groused.
"You can put Chan in his bed..."
"Oh, you," his wife said, barely keeping back laughter. "Men..."
"But I'm no ordinary man. It was a firefighter's joke that EMTs are hard to nail down."
With the new technology, he really wasn't quite suited to new firefighting procedures. However, the human body was still very much the same. He still extensively knew first aid, and the know-how of then was still valid for the know-how of now. Yes, medical devices were much more efficient, but he was considered one of the best EMTs in the city.
"But, since I did get you, I must be extraordinary."
He considered saying something funny, but somehow...
"Shang," he said in a serious tone, "you are extraordinary. You are the most incredible women I have ever met. You are still the most incredible woman I have ever known."
It was those things he said that convinced her that Liu Bei was the best.
"Thank you," she said quietly, her own musing tone disappearing. She thought of what she could say to him. "Bei?"
"And you are the most extraordinary man I have ever met."
She and Bei just pressed close to each other for a few moments, the peacefully sleeping Chan between them.
Bei pressed his lips to her neck for a second. She snuggled a bit closer.
"You know," said Bei, "in addition to being such a perfect woman, I still think you look good in that two-piece."
She snorted. "Well, if I can get a sitter for a few hours... I hear the beach is quite nice this time of year."
"Yeah. But you still have to let me race you. I like the competition."
She was still a champion swimmer. A week from today, she would be competing in the city championships. That little stint with poor Lenny Crewfort hadn't been a fluke.
"Do I have a choice to do otherwise?" Bei murmured.
"If you want to see me in that coveted two-piece of yours, no."
"Then I guess I'm racing you," her husband said with a large grin.
The night was still young, but Makie just wanted to spend it with her husband.
Makie... not just Makie, but Makie Omori Sanada.
Makie... but still Kunoichi.
She snuggled up closer to Yukimura as moonlight streamed into their bedroom.
"Hey, Yuki," she whispered to him.
She took his hand and ran it down her stomach. Yuki always told her he liked the smooth, flat, soft-yet-muscled feel.
Oops, he was wandering a little too low. He might miss the message if they started that. Better pull those finger back up.
"What do you feel, sweetheart?"
"I feel someone incredibly beautiful whom I love, that's what." Yukimura smiled roguishly, the dimmed lights barely illuminating him. "And if I could move just a little lower..."
"It's a bit more than that, Yukimura," she said, giggling. "Well, I guess you can't feel it, but, you know what? You're feeling life."
Well, a little more cryptic than her usual way of talking... but perfect for the situation.
She saw surprise stretch his features. "No way!"
"Yes way. My doctor confirmed it today."
"Makie!" She felt her husband's muscular arms wrap around her. "That's wonderful!"
"Sure as heck is, Papa Sanada," she giggled.
Yuki let go and rolled to his side of the bed, placing his hands behind his head. He looked like was staring off into space.
"A father. Huh. Am I ready for that?"
"A mother. Huh. Am I ready for that?" she mirrored.
"Of course you are, my little honey-ninja."
"You too, by super-brave warrior you."
Yuki chuckled and turned his head towards here.
Uh-oh. He had that "I'm-so-damned-in-love-with-you-right-now-please-let's-do-everything-possible-the-human body-can-do."
Well, she was sure she had it too.
She moved over to Yukimura and flopped down on his chest. Her arms drew him closer, and his arms wrapped around her body.
She couldn't think of anything to say right now.
She lowered her head and kissed him passionately.
Well, sometimes actions spoke louder than words.
What time was it?
Yukimura took a look at the clock, careful not to jostle Makie, who had her head on his chest. She was probably extremely tired.
Well, he was surprised he had enough energy to wake up. He'd never knew either of them had that much stamina. Even after eighteen or so months.
He turned his head and glanced at the holographic chronometer.
"Hmm..." he muttered to himself. "If I remember... it's almost sunrise."
That would be beautiful to see. The master bedroom of the house faced east, towards the ocean and jungle. Thankfully, the sun rose in the right direction on this world.
It would be beautiful.
But never, ever as beautiful as Makie.
"Up so soon?" he heard his wife say from his chest.
He smiled into the darkness. "How could you tell?"
"I'm a ninja, remember?" Makie answered. He could swear he could feel her smile. "Heartbeat quickened a bit, minute movement, stuff like that."
"Acute senses?" he asked.
"You could say that."
He nodded on his pillow.
"Makie, it's only a few moments until sunrise. Let's take a look."
He tossed the covers off.
"Hey! It's freezing," Makie yelped.
"Yeesh, ninja-chick. Fine, you stay close to my nice warm body, and grab the quilt off the bed.
There was some rustling in the dark. A rather cold, rather sexy, rather bare body plastered to his. He pulled a downy quilt over his and Makie's shoulders.
A finger poked him in the ribs. "Yuki! I feel those goose bumps!"
"So?" he asked challengingly as he led her to the balcony.
"I guess the fiery warrior gets cold sometimes, too."
He smiled and wrapped an arm tighter.
"Even warriors need someone, sometimes."
Makie hugged him tighter as the sky began to brighten. "And so do female ninjas."
There wasn't anything to be said, really. What could be said? He loved her, and she loved him. Nothing more was needed. He tightened his hold on Makie as the sun peeked over the ocean.
He and Makie gazed at the burning orb until it was too bright to look at. Then they retreated back into their room. Hung on one wall were their weapons. Yep, that dojo he and Makie had opened was doing wonderfully. There were always loads of people who wanted to learn fighting styles, human and alien.
He pulled her back down on the bed and stared down at her lovely face.
What to do, what to do?
A romantic kiss seemed in order. He joined his mouth passionately with hers.
Well, it wasn't surprising that their bodies started doing things that involved a tad more than kissing.
But, that was life.
Life went on, and with his love at his side, it would go on gloriously.