"May you live in interesting times."

- Chinese Curse


"So let me get this straight," Motoko began. "The entire reason you were in my bed in the first place was because you keep randomly 'teleporting' from one world to the next every time you go to sleep?"

"That's more or less the long and short of it," I shrugged.

Seems like I trade one issue for another around here. First I save myself from Motoko only to screw up her mind, then unscrew her mind only to have Naru in my face, and then get rid of Naru... In exchange for busting my hand up something fierce. Not to mention having Motoko and Luna attempt to beat the crap out of each other... But for all the trouble that was, I got it on camera.

Of course, with that over I was back at the teahouse, hand wrapped up and splinted to keep my fingers in place, being reminded every few seconds by the throbbing. The best I could do was distract myself from the pain by getting Motoko up to speed while I waited for my laundry to finish. I had to do it at some point; otherwise I'd run out of clothes. I just wish I had another pair of pants. I can't believe I only have one good pair. Why didn't I grab my shorts? WHY? All the more reason to find a way to make some money and buy more clothes.

Ugh... No matter... The lucky thing was those dryers in the laundry room weren't out-of-order like I had once suspected. Shinobu rather just used the clothesline on the roof to save on the electric bill. But I didn't have time to wait all day like that.

"I can't believe you didn't try to tell me last time," Motoko shook her head. "You could have avoided this whole mess if you'd just come right out with it."

"Feh!" I scoffed. "I didn't know last time. This place was only stop-number two. I thought the first 'jump' was a fluke of the universe. It took me two more jumps before I figured out when they occurred. Besides, it's not like you'd have believed me anyway."

"So why then," she continued. "Into my bed? Do you know?"

"Don't know," I shrugged. "I'd just as much like to have avoided that. As we're both well aware, popping up in your bed was not met with a very warm reception."

"I... see," Motoko looked away as if ashamed. "I apologize for that."

I waved it away.

"Don't fret over it," I shrugged. "I can't blame you for a natural reaction to a stranger appearing in your bed. Even if it did hurt like hell."

"Not just that," Motoko shook her head. "But my conduct later was also unacceptable. I pursued you for petty vengeance even though it was obvious you were in no condition for a fight. I acted just as you had said, like... Like a bully. My actions were dishonorable."

Motoko promptly got out of her seat threw herself into that absurdly formal prostrating bow the Japanese use when asking for deep forgiveness... The name of which eluded me at the moment.

"Get up," I ordered. "You're being silly."

Motoko looked up at me confused before slowly returning to a spot across from me. Luna let a small smirk appear on her human face before I forced her to suppress it with a momentary glance.

"Shit's over and done with," I continued. "Just forget about it, there was nothing inherently bad about your actions. You thought I was some kind of sick pervert, you were wrong. That's all."

"But-" she began.

"No more," I raised my good hand. "It's okay. I forgive you. You forgive me. We're even."

"Okay," she sighed, seeming to relax more than she had. "So when you jump, you land in bed with another girl, and each one is from what in your world is a piece of fictional work."

I nodded.

"I think that's rather creepy," Motoko stated bluntly. "No offense, it just is."

"Fair enough," I shrugged. "But consider my perspective for a moment. You just get creeped out by the pseudo-stalker routine. I have to play 'dodge the killer female' repeatedly. I've landed next to over half a dozen women and had to either fast-talk my way out of it, or fight back. The thing I can't figure out is the fact that they're all from fiction I know. It's as if someone's looked into my head and gotten a list of my favorite characters and thrown me into it."

"Wait," Motoko interrupted. "All your favorite characters?"

"Yeah," I sighed. "Like something or someone's reading my mind."

I looked up, and Motoko was blushing a new shade of red. Oh HELL... Here we go again.

"D- Does that make ME your favorite?" she asked demurely.

"Motoko," I sighed, resting my head in the palm of my good hand. "Now's not the time..."

"Right! Right..." She nodded quickly, averting her gaze and trying to fight away her blush.

This is definitely going to be a regular pattern. They're all characters I like. They're all female. I'm male. Obviously they're going to see it as some kind of affection. I just hope nobody takes it the wrong way. If I really am going on a loop of previous visits... It would be good to know what they might think ahead of time.

Ritsuko and/or Airi will be my next landing if things go according to pattern. Technically, while she's young enough to be a kid sister to me, Ritsuko's more my favorite character out of the two... Gun nut and all that. She'd probably freak out if she read it the wrong way.

Rei's unpredictable. Her personality is a touch abrasive, but if what Washu said pans out accurately, about mutual stress and bonding, she might be a touch more affectionate than I'd be comfortable with. I doubt Luna's going to keep things a secret there. I'll just have to be prepared. Rei might go off like a firecracker, or I could end up her personal shopping cart.

Shampoo might be flattered at the revelation... But if Mousse is any indication, she's rather single minded, and probably won't care.

Marller on the other hand... She's a demon, and does not take affection very well. Especially affection from humans...

And Quattro?

Fuck Quattro! I have no intent of letting her or anyone else there know about what's going on. The more I can keep them in the dark, the better for everyone.

"So," Motoko continued into my thoughts. Looks like she's gotten over her blushing. "You're getting to meet all your favorite characters from stories. I always thought that would be kind of cool myself. Like if I got to meet Miyamoto Musashi..."

"You would THINK," I laughed. "But trust me when I tell that it's nowhere near as easy as it sounds."

I raised my right hand.

"Case in point..."

Motoko nodded.

"I'm a computer geek," I continued. "I work on the computer, write music, play video games. I'm not an adventure hero by a long shot. I have some military training, which is where I learned that trick that kept you from killing me for real the first time. But it's been a while, so I'm kind of out of shape."

"So I've noticed," Motoko gave me the once over with an appraising look. "You're face is round, your frame is stocky, and your appearance leaves room for improvement. I would never have guessed military training looking at you."

"The look you gave me when you got your first good look at me pretty much told me what you thought," I chuckled. "I must have been a mess too. "

"You smelled rancid," Motoko smirked, looking up up to the right in an attempt to avert her gaze. "Like you hadn't had a bath in a week."

"It was the nanites," I shrugged. "They weren't geared to the damage you inflicted, and they almost boiled me in my own sweat. Ask Haruka."

"It must have been terrible," the humor was becoming contagious.

"You should have seen the look on Kitsune's face though," I started laughing outright at the memory. She was planning to take advantage of me, I could tell. And then the wind changed direction, and she went like this-"

I made the face Kitsune had made.

"And whatever she was doing fell flat faster than Naru trying to put Keitaro into LEO."

Motoko laughed. I don't think I've ever heard her actually laugh. Then suddenly she stopped.

"What's LEO?" she asked. Though the phrase came out sounding like 'Ree-oh'

"Huh?" I began, and then the question caught up. "Oh... Low Earth Orbit."

Motoko made a blank face for a few seconds and then she caught on and started to giggle... Covering her mouth this time to try and retain some semblance of dignity.

"But yes it sucked," I continued. "It sucked... I was tired, hurting, frustrated, and hungry. All I had to eat after breakfast was a few bananas."

"I promise I'll make it up to you," Motoko laughed. "I owe you that much at least."

"Bah!" I waved my hand.

"I mean it," Motoko glared at me suddenly. "I put you through hell last week, and you still had the guts to get past Naru and talk to me. I don't care what you say, I owe you."

"Fine," I sighed. "It's not like I can stop you when you get like that."

There was a pause as Motoko thought about it before she suddenly perked up.

"I know," she smirked. "I'll come with you!"

'ERRRT!' That's the sound of my mind slamming on the brakes.

"Come again?" I asked.

"I'll come with you," Motoko nodded more seriously. "You had to deal with a demon right? That means you have to fight. And I'm much better at that kind of thing than you are. And a little field training would be good for my sword."

Then she motioned with her head to the side.

"Plus I get to try out my new sword..."

I glanced at Luna with my eyes half-lidded, then gave her the Spock Eyebrow. Luna just scowled slightly and rolled her eyes. Motoko had no idea what she was getting into.

A little part of me that was sarcastic decided to kick in here. It was almost automatic.

"Sure," I looked at her, doing my best to keep my face neutral. "You can come along if you want."

Motoko smirked confidently.

"You just have to sleep with me."

And her face went from excited to thunderstruck in zero point eight seconds flat.

"Wh-wh-WHAT?" she almost shouted, blushing to levels beyond anything she'd managed to this point.

"You want to be on top or bottom?" I continued, dropping my gaze and playing with a salt shaker as if I was asking for her shoe size.

"I- wh- h..." she stuttered. "What kind of thing is that to ask a young maiden?"

"Maiden," Luna scoffed. I just ignored her comment. Luna was still sore about Motoko's attempt to 'exorcise' her.

"The truth," I continued to hold my neutral look.

"The-" Motoko continued. She seemed to be completely unable to figure out what to think. Her normal 'anti-men' reaction was warring with her seemingly new trust of me. And also at war with that hidden bit of romantic mindset she suppressed. "But to- How dare- With y- I mean so soon, but I'm- And it's..."

Funny how this worked... You say something with a double meaning and you can bet that ninety percent of the time people will take it the wrong way. It didn't help that I did it on purpose, but still... I could barely keep from laughing at Motoko's response. It was just that funny. I'd better quit while I'm ahead though. Before I mess her up again.

"Focus," I raised my elbow and let it drop onto the table.

Motoko finally used the interruption to collect herself.

"Surely you don't mean that," she asked. "Right?"

"Get your mind out of the gutter," I commented. "It's how the jumps work. Think about it for a second. I go to sleep; I jump. I appear next to a girl who's also asleep. That means that anything or anyone that goes with me has to be there when I go to sleep. And from the looks of things, in direct contact with me."

Motoko said nothing, but she continued to blush around a shocked look.

"So more or less, to go with me, you have to 'sleep' with me in a very literal sense."

I looked at Luna, who nodded in confirmation. Motoko took a glance, then did a double take.

"Does that mean that she..." she began... "And you..."

Gutterbrain...

"Luna," I sighed, rolling my eyes.

'POP!'

Luna landed on the table on all fours and sat down, tilting her head.

"Can you do this?" the feline asked. "I think not."

Motoko spent several seconds thinking as she tried to come up with the right response.

"Your choice," I continued. "If you're coming along, it's top or bottom. I'd pick top if I were you... I'm heavier than you are."

"I- I think I'll pass," Motoko commented, sounding dazed.

"Okay," I nodded. Phew, trouble avoided. Try explaining Motoko as well as myself to the next person in line... I guess that Motoko's refusal to take that option means that she's not infatuated with me as Washu had suggested. "You can do something for me though..."

Motoko looked at me expectantly.

"If I show up next to you again," I began. "Do nothing, just let me sleep."

"But-" Motoko began. "You... You're a man. I can't just let you sleep next to me like that! What would people think? It's not right!"

"Tell that to whatever entity is pulling this crap," I tilted my head. "It's not like I'm going to do anything... Well, I might roll over and squash you."

I made a slight chuckle, but Motoko's blush was back, and the joke fell flat.

"It's completely unacceptable!" she continued, fighting valiantly to control her voice. "How is that any different from your other proposal?"

"The first one you get a choice," I pointed out.

"And this one doesn't?" She asked. "That's just wrong! It's not fair!"

"DON'T TALK TO ME ABOUT FAIR!" I snapped in my 'drill' voice, causing both Motoko and Luna to jump back visibly at my outburst.

"Sorry," I sighed. "But I mean it. Nothing has been fair to me since this mess started. If it upsets you so much that you don't get a choice here, remember that I don't either. If I end up coming back here, I'm probably going to land next to you. I don't get any more say in the matter than you do. In fact, I've got the short end of the stick in all this... So the best we can do here is deal with it, or not deal with it."

There was silence for several long seconds. In that time Motoko glanced off into the distance, lost in thought. It wasn't fair. This whole mess just wasn't fair. Not for them, since they had to put up with me. And certainly not for me, seeing as I didn't even do anything to start this... I just woke up some place and it went from there.

"Fine," Motoko looked at me suddenly. "But let me warn you... Try anything, and I might forget I like you."

"Thanks," I nodded, seeming to feel a load come off my shoulders. "If I survive the next week I'll be sure to-"

Wait what did she-

"Hey!" Kitsune suddenly interrupted, walking into the small cafe. "Your laundry's done."

"Already?" I asked, dropping my previous line of thought. "That was quick."

"Those brown shirts of yours are almost paper thin," she shrugged. "What's with those anyway? Don't you have any style at all? The only other thing you have is that one black shirt with the weird face on it."

"I don't go places," I shrugged... Correction: "Well, I didn't go places..."

Kitsune shook her head.

"Thanks for doing that for me though," I continued. I didn't want Kitsune of all people to pry into what my social life had been like. The last thing I need is HER attempting anything. "I'd have done that myself except-"

"Yeah, yeah," she waved it away. "Motoko wouldn't let you. That's okay. I can handle a few dirty clothes."

The way she said that, I caught the gleam in her ever-squinty eyes. When I looked straight at her and raised my eyebrow, she gave me the ever-slightest smirk that said 'you owe me another one, heh heh heh...'

"So I've noticed, Nabiki," I commented cryptically. Motoko missed it while Luna made the slightest wincing motion... But Kitsune simply gave me a V sign before quickly changing topics.

"You seem to be getting along with Motoko quite well now," she commented, grabbing a nearby chair. "Much better than before, and certainly a good deal better than last week."

"I think we've come to an understanding," I nodded at Motoko in front of me.

"An. Acceptable arrangement," she nodded with only a slight pause. "How's Naru?"

"Still a little shaky," Kitsune shrugged. "But calm now. She eyed to phone several times. I think she was trying to decide if she was going to call the police are not."

"Did you let her know that probably wouldn't do any good?" I asked.

"Eh..." Kitsune shrugged. "I just asked her what she thought the police could do to someone who could teleport right out of a jail cell. After that, she quit. But she was wishing Keitaro were here... I'm so keeping that one for later."

"Heh," I smirked. "When faced with someone 'worse', she finally realizes how good it is with Keitaro around."

"Well," Kitsune glanced at Motoko. "I have to admit Keitaro's a regular handy-man having to work repairs on the place all the time. Though his peeping can be annoying at times."

"I haven't been able to figure out if he's doing it on purpose," Motoko sighed. "Or if he's really just that plain clueless."

"I think it's more the latter," I shrugged. "Mixed with a little rule of funny."

"Rule of funny?" Motoko asked as if I had suddenly become a frothing lunatic.

"Yeah," I nodded. "A little trick of causality around here. It's kind of hard to explain with a straight face. Mainly because it sounds insane... But I know it works after earlier."

"That's right!" Luna piped up. "Your plan..."

"Plan?" Motoko asked, looked between the two of us for a few seconds.

"I need to explain that don't I?" I asked Luna. The feline simply nodded.

"Yeah," Kitsune nodded. "Whatever you were doing earlier didn't seem to make any sense. You wanted Naru away from the tea-house, but you never said exactly why, and you weren't even there anyway."

"Uh..." Motoko raised her hand. "Am I missing something?"

"Controlled Chaos," I explained simply. "In order to talk to you, I had to get past Naru first. But I couldn't do that without becoming the butt-end of a joke."

Motoko looked at me like I was crazy.

"What?" she asked.

"Okay," I sighed. "I'll have to explain this from square one. Near as I can tell, this universe-"

I waved my good hand about.

"-Seems to operate on a kind of law of causality I would term the Rule of Funny."

"What exactly does that mean?" Motoko asked.

"It means..." I grabbed the notebook I had been using earlier and anchored it under my bad arm, then snatched up the pen. "That for every logical solution to a problem, if there is an equal, yet more comical solution, the latter is more likely to occur. Think of it as a variation in probability."

No dice...

"Okay look," I continued. "We'll use Keitaro as an example here. You know Keitaro well enough. Let's assume that he's been out all day, but has to come in and clean the onsen."

I sketched a circle on the paper.

"Now," I continued. "For simplicity's sake: Let's assume that the onsen is either occupied, or unoccupied. Time of day doesn't matter. And Keitaro does not know the status one way or the other because he's been out all day. You following?"

Motoko nodded but wasn't sure where I was going with this. I quickly drew a slash through my image and wrote the number 'fifty' on each side.

"Alright," I continued. "Given that there is a fifty-fifty chance between occupied, and unoccupied. How often should Keitaro stumble into you guys, vs. how often should he go about his routine without a hitch?"

"Fifty percent," Motoko commented. "About half the time."

"Right," I nodded. "How often does this play out?"

"A lot more than fifty percent," Kitsune submitted.

"Exactly," I pointed my pen at her. "Why would you think that is?"

"Because Keitaro is a pervert?" Motoko asked, unsure.

"You'd think," I nodded. "However, how often does he get caught 'peeping' at everyone?"

"Every single time," Kitsune pointed out. "As far as I can tell. He couldn't hide if his life depended on it."

"Right," I nodded. "Keitaro seems to peep a LOT, but he gets caught every single time. And when he gets caught... Well, Naru puts him through a wall, or Motoko here sends him flying. Take your pick. Given the end result of this action, it is logical that Keitaro would either learn how to not get caught peeping or stop peeping were he doing it on purpose. Make sense?"

Motoko nodded.

"So why then," I continued. "Does he seem to peep on you guys a WHOLE LOT, and get caught every single time, if logically, he wouldn't do it on purpose?"

I glanced between the two Hinata residents for several seconds. Motoko looked like she wanted to say something, but kept her mouth shut.

"Consider this." I continued at length. "As an outsider, which is more funny? Keitaro going about his business, or Keitaro walking into a 'situation' and getting his ass kicked?"

"You sure he's not just a masochist?" Kitsune asked.

"Has he ever said 'oh yeah!' after getting put through a wall before?" I asked.

Kitsune said nothing.

"Wait," Motoko cut in. "So what you're saying that because of this 'Rule of Funny,' it is more likely for Keitaro to accidentally stumble in on me in the onsen than not?"

I nodded.

"That's absurd."

I tilted my head to the side.

"Absurd?" I asked. "Yes..."

"But..." Luna added.

"But it works," I nodded to my feline companion. "I proved it with Washu yesterday. And I saw it in action in the kitchen today."

"So what's this got to do with this plan of yours?" Motoko asked.

"Simple," I continued. "As an outsider, what's more funny? Me talking to you without incident? Or getting my ass chased around Hinata non-stop for six hours every time I try to go near you?"

"So your plan had to bypass that?" Kitsune furrowed her brow.

"Yes," I nodded. "But it wasn't that simple. Because plans themselves are included in the Rule of Funny; Plans BACKFIRE."

Kitsune's eyes shot wide.

"Naru got into the kitchen!" she realized.

"Exactly!" I pointed at her.

"What?" Motoko was lost.

"Plans always backfire," Kitsune pointed out. "Especially ours for some reason. They backfire because it's funny for them to backfire!"

"Right!" I nodded.

"So your plan," Luna continued. "Was designed to take advantage of that?"

"Yes," I nodded. "But not just that, because reverse plans can backfire as well by going exactly how they're planned. The key is in the planned outcome."

Motoko just watched the three of us in rapt fascination as I began to sketch a block diagram of Hinata similar to earlier on the sheet of paper.

"The goal was to talk to Motoko without having to wrestle my way past Naru," I continued. "In order to do that, I had to remove Naru from the vicinity."

"But if you do that," Kitsune nodded. "You simply ensure that Naru will be there."

"And if you try to do it in reverse," Luna's ears were standing straight up. "She's STILL there."

I nodded.

"So I had to figure out how to remove Naru from the mix, without seeming like I was TRYING to remove Naru from the mix."

"You built a plan, whose goals were to go nowhere and do nothing," Kitsune pointed out. "Your objective was to use the plans themselves backfiring in order to keep Naru completely distracted without actually attempting to move her anywhere relative to Motoko."

"This is insane," Motoko shook her head... "I mean, to plan like you were expecting a joke to happen. Just how many plans was this?"

"Four," I stated in a no-nonsense tone.

Motoko's mouth nearly hit the table.

"FOUR?"

"FOUR," I nodded, holding up my newly recreated diagram showing a dot where Motoko was, and four arrows pointing between the teahouse and the onsen with lots of scribbles running through them. "Two destinations, two counter-destinations. Try and get Naru to one location, count on it backfiring, so play the reverse at the same time. Then repeat with another destination so that Naru would be stuck in a loop of to-and-from with these two locations. Once that's set up, everything else is ignored in the chaos."

Motoko seemed to have an epiphany.

"Controlled chaos!" she snapped.

I nodded.

Motoko smiled, proud of herself to understanding how my plan worked.

"So everything that was going on earlier," Luna began.

"Nothing but one elaborate decoy," I finished.

"And..." Motoko began. "It actually... worked."

The swordswoman focused her attention on me again, a look that couldn't decide if it was one of wonder, or of shock on her face.

"No," Kitsune shook her head. "It failed."

"But he-" Motoko began.

"It failed because Naru still showed up," Kitsune pointed out.

"Yeah," I nodded. "Exhibit A..."

I held up my lame hand again.

"Something screwed up," I continued. "It worked long enough for me to get PAST Naru, but Naru still showed up."

I picked my pen up and tapped on the paper with the ballpoint a few times thinking.

"The question is: What?"

Looking down at the page, I started to rework the entire setup in my mind, mumbling in English as I went. I missed something in the setup phase. Knowing my luck, probably something obvious.

"Well," Motoko expressed into my thoughts. "Didn't she show up with the Demon Cat?"

"How many times does it have to be explained that I'm NOT a demon?" Luna snapped.

"Well usually if it's not human-" Motoko began in a raised voice.

"Enough!" I snapped, shutting them both up. "Now what were you saying Motoko?"

"Well, what was SHE supposed to be doing in this plan of yours?"

"Naru seemed to trust her," I continued. "So she was supposed to contract Naru for protection from YOU while she got that bath she's been wanting... You never did get that bath, did you Luna?"

Luna shook her head, and then Motoko raised her hand.

"Wouldn't Naru simply confront me herself?" she asked. "Wouldn't it be faster to just resolve the issue herself?"

I dropped my pen on the table and simply glanced at Motoko with a satisfied look on my face as I leaned back in my chair.

"That's it," I nodded. "You hit the nail on the head."

Yep... It was an obvious mistake. Motoko was on the outskirts of one of the plans. Which means she'd inevitably get involved. It was a mistake that could be summed up in one word.

"Oops..."

"Wait a minute," Kitsune cut in. "A tiny little factor like that can derail a whole complex plan that easily?"

I nodded. Kitsune leaned back in her chair, resting her hand on her chin while immersed in thought.

"Pulling something like that off is harder than I thought," she mused.

"Not thinking of attempting something like that yourself are you?" I asked.

"Huh?" she looked up. "I don't know, just seems like a challenge."

Hmm...

"I don't think you could pull it off," I added.

"What?" Kitsune asked. "What makes you think I can't do it?"

"I have two big advantages over you," I pointed out. "One: I'm an outsider, so by my very nature I'm not bound to the rule of funny as far as I can tell. Which means I'll probably notice it better than you can. Two: I have the advantage of knowing you guys almost inside and out. So I know what strings to pull, and what buttons to press."

"So what's that got to do with her not being able to pull a plan like that off?" Motoko asked.

"I have all those advantages and I still screwed it up," I answered. "How will Kitsune hope to match me if she's blind to the Rule of Funny, and doesn't have the same level of working knowledge of her targets that I do?"

"Easy," Kitsune grinned. "I'll spend more than five minutes sketching it up on a notepad."

"Heh," I smirked wryly. "You do that then. I'm going to find some place a nice safe distance away to watch. I think the surface of the moon should do nicely."

"What's that supposed to mean?" the aptly named 'Fox' asked in response.

"Nothing," I feigned innocence before suddenly belting out another yawn. Mentally noting this, I pushed up away from the table with my good arm. "Anyway, I better go grab my laundry."

"Wait up," Motoko stood up in response. Luna quickly bounded off the table and returned to humanoid form with a pop, startling Kitsune in the process.

"I don't think I can get used to that," she laughed.

A previous assessment of mine concerning the Hinata residents. They must be fit. Indeed, after having been up and down the stairs to the teahouse more than half a dozen times today, I could see the workout they must be getting. With my strength settings turned all the way off, I had to work to climb the steps.

Motoko, who was walking up the steps next to me, wasn't even breathing any harder than before. To tell the truth, it was making me kind of self-aware at my body's shape again. Once upon a time, I could run two miles, haul around eighty-pound bags like they were just another backpack, and not even notice a few flights of stairs in the process...

Now I can't even climb half way up these stairs without having to mentally gear up as if I were preparing to run a lap at a dead sprint.

How the 'mighty' have fallen...

"Dammit." I muttered in English.

"What?" Motoko looked at me.

"Nothing," I spoke up. "Just pissed at myself for being in crappy shape. I used to be conditioned for this kind of thing. Now I've lost it."

"Work hard," Motoko replied. "And you'll get it back."

"Yeah," I nodded, a scowl crossing my features as my pessimistic side took hold. "If I'm not dead before then... "

Motoko paused for a moment while I continued to climb. Once at the top, I stopped to wait for the others, then moved on. My mood was quickly turning sour at my own self-loathing. I hate getting like this. I turn into Mr. Groucho and then I don't want to be bothered by anyone. Just spend a few hours locked in my room listening to-

"I know what I need!" I suddenly snapped. My sudden explanation caused the three girls to nearly jump when I suddenly started digging into my pocket.

"What?" Luna asked. "What do you need?"

"You'll see..." I smirked. "Hah!

I pulled out Washu's little gravity based MP3 player and brandished it to them.

"Music," I concluded. "Heheh... I'm glad Washu stuck this in my pocket before we left. My Ipod was dead."

Now I just have to figure out how to use it...

Instead of retrieving my clothing, my mind was temporarily occupied by working out how Washu's little gravity player, or GMP3000 (It actually said it in English lettering) worked. Two sets of buttons were labeled 'volume' and 'radius', again, in English. Washu must have designed this more with me in mind. That or the general galactic populace used a lot of mixed in English. I still don't get how the Galaxy Police could apply English but use Japanese.

Getting it turned on didn't take long. Aside from the unique features, the little disk had a control scheme like your average Ipod or MP3 Jukebox. Once it was on, the screen displayed the volume in decibels, and a radius in meters. Then it displayed the usual fare, repeat, shuffle, playlist... That kind of thing.

"ACDC," I commented. "Andy Hunter, more Andy Hunter. Huh..."

Oh that's right, she copied the contents of my Ipod, which was a copy of all the MP3s I could find on my computer... Ah! AHAH!

"Ahahahaha!" I laughed.

"What?" Motoko looked at me warily.

"My music!" I laughed. "My tracks are in here too!"

If the track labeled 'Asteroid Mine' was any indication anyway.

"What's the big deal about that?" Motoko rolled her eyes as I turned to set the player down for a moment.

"I write music remember?" I grinned as I snapped open the dryer to retrieve my shirts. "I put this stuff up on Youtube and everything."

"Uh, What's Youtube?" Kitsune asked.

"Oh yeah," I sighed. "Temporal offset crap... I'm in twenty-ten... You're in like, ninety-nine or two thousand."

Without thinking, I turned around and accidentally thumped my bandaged hand into the dryer door.

"GFFFLT," I choked, but did my best to shake it off. God DAMMIT I hate when I do that.

"Here," Motoko shook her head and stepped in to grab the remainder of my clothes. "Before you bust that hand up even more."

"Thanks," I gritted my teeth. After making sure I wasn't going to slice a hole in the wall or a washing machine (or any of the three females in the room), I managed to open my portal with the help of my thankfully still functional thumb.

"Shouldn't you fold them?" Motoko asked me.

"They're all undershirts," I shook my head.

"So you write music?" Kitsune continued as Motoko shrugged and tossed my shirts right into the portal.

"Yeah," I nodded. "Been doing it for about five years now."

"What kind?" she asked.

"Eh," I shrugged. "A mix. A lot of what I like to call 'power orchestra', some techno styled things mixed in."

I've been asked this set of questions so many times it's not funny. It has been my experience that the best way to explain my music to a person without any formal schooling in the matter myself, to simply play a track.

"Here," I turned and picked up the GMP3k where I had set it. It only took a second to find play.

Now, in the last week or so, I hadn't had any chance at all to show off what I was really good at. Sure, I've done my fair share of impressing the likes of Luna and others by stumbling my way through this situation with all the collective grace of a bull in a china shop...

But I haven't yet had a real chance to show off my hobbies. Music writing is one of said hobbies. It's too bad I didn't get into it sooner, or I might have been even better at it by now. Either way, I'm self-taught in the art of making music. My Theory is absolute crap, but I play it by ear. It helped that my uncle is an industry professional, and taught me the keys to good mixing and mastering.

The fun part is that the electrical side of working with the music equipment was very close to working on satellite communications equipment. So my training in that, especially signal flow, really made it easy to switch over to, and understand musical recording equipment...

Of course, if I attempted to explain the complexities of the human ear and human hearing to the current party present, I would probably get nothing but blank looks. Kitsune might know more than she lets on, but I doubt it. And Motoko?

I doubt she knows much about acoustics. She knows swords, not sounds.

Then of course, there was Luna, with her super sensitive cat hearing... At which I immediately remembered to turn it down. By the time the song hit the first peak, it was clear Kitsune was enjoying it. Motoko just remained neutral.

"So," Kitsune grinned when it was over. "Do you need a manager?"

"Not you," I shook my head.

Kitsune gave me a rather showy pout. Obviously not serious...

"You do realize," Luna interrupted. "If Rei finds out about this, she'd going to try and get you to write songs for her."

"She has nowhere near the equipment required to produce high quality music," I replied. "But now that you mention it..."

I never thought about that. I'm a music writer; Rei wants to be a singer. Maybe when this shit's all over and done with, and I've found a way to ensure that I can fix that world so it doesn't end in tears and fire, I can hit up Rei for some actual recording.

After all, my gear is second rate, but it's twenty years ahead of anything from half the worlds I've been to.

You know... That might just be a way to make money. Lord knows I need money at the moment. Hmm... What's my next stop? If everything goes according to pattern...

"Okay," I nodded, turning off the GMP3k. "Let's go Luna."

"Er," she began. "What?"

"Bed time," I shrugged, walking out into the main entrance of the annex. "We have things to do..."

Now I just needed my other 'companion'. But he's somewhere with Su. How am I supposed to find him?

"Wait," Motoko blinked. "You're leaving?"

"Yeah," I nodded.

"Just like that?"

"I have to sleep at some point," I glanced at her. "Otherwise I'm going to start getting antsy, grouchy, and generally a lot less nice to be around. Right Luna?"

Luna winced, obviously remembered how borderline psychotic I was in the middle of Shampoo's rampage.

Hmm... Why not?

"SENBEI!" I bellowed in my 'Drill' voice. "FRONT AND CENTER!"

There was a momentary delay in which everyone had damn near leapt out of their skin at my shouting, and the sudden, starling pop as Senbei quickly teleported into the room, rigid as a tent stake.

"Here!" he snapped, looking a bit nervous. Okay, maybe the drill voice in that tone wasn't the right thing to use. But it worked.

"Time to go," I advised.

"You tired enough for it?" Luna asked. "Washu had to gas us to put you to sleep before. You think you can pass out here?"

I stopped and frowned. Luna's right. I'm acting like I'm about to jump in my car and go on a road trip, not hit the sack. How am I supposed to 'sleep on command' here? It's not like Washu can remote-gas us or anything...

"You're right..." I sighed. "This might prove to be a problem."

I turned to Motoko and Kitsune.

"Got any Nyquil?" I joked.

Wait... That's not a bad idea.

"Wait," I blinked. "Where's the medicine cabinet?"

Kitsune perked up and showed me into the kitchen. She always kept aspirin and other such things in a cabinet there in case of a hangover. I was tempted to explain that a little something to eat and a quart of water would kill most hangovers faster than you'd ever think possible, but decided to skip it.

Now, if they had the usual mix of household medications here, they should have...

"What are you looking for?" Luna asked as I started rapidly rummaging through their medicines. It didn't help I still couldn't read any of the labels. But then again, what I was looking for would have an obvious bottle design.

"No," I muttered. "No... No... No..."

"Need help?" Kitsune asked.

"Start reading the labels for anything that contains the active ingredient Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride," I instructed.

Kitsune quickly started sorting through the small pile of bottles and boxes (some of them seemed to be leftover medicines Grandma Hina must have used.) while I went through a few more with ingredient labels I could read. After a few seconds Kitsune suddenly turned and handed me a small blue box.

"I see what you're up to," she smirked.

I took the box from her and looked at it. Pills, I hate pills.

"DREWELL," I noted the cosmetic use of English on the front of the box.

I flipped it around.

Incomprehensible babble... And then: '50mg'

"Diphenhydramine?" I asked.

Kitsune nodded.

Fifty milligrams? Holy-

"That'll work," I chuckled.

"So what are you after?" Luna asked again.

"Effectively," I turned to her, holding up the box. "Sleeping pills."

And here all I wanted was some Benadryl...


Post Story Notes: The track 'Asteroid Mine', along with many other works, can be accessed on youtube via the link in my profile page.