Yumemi sighed as she traced her hand along the side of the Trans Dimensional Hyperspace Vessel. It was cool and smooth to the touch, the very slight curvature of the hull just barely noticeable.
Once this ship had been the centerpiece of her dreams. With the research she'd acquired from the journey across dimensions she had planned to revolutionize science. No, it was something more than that. She'd planned to revolutionize the world. Magic would have changed everything. The one inescapable truth of science was that everything will end. The laws of thermodynamics hung over reality like the Sword of Damocles. But the power of magic, the power to break rules, would have surpassed that. It could be the salvation of her universe. And it was also going to be her legacy. Her reason to be.
But it had failed.
Not the experiment. No, that had worked better than she could have imagined. She'd gained a massive amount of information about magic, and a whole bunch of other things. She'd grown as a woman and a scientist. But the results? The results had been killed by those terrible words, "Not properly scientific."
With six more years under her belt she could understand the academy's first few refusals. Her original paper was honestly garbage, filled with speculation and lacking in strong data. It should have been sent back, though they could have done a better job pointing out what she needed to fix. But as she worked more and more at the proposal, as she returned to Gensoukyo time and time again to collect more and more data, her findings had become near irrefutable. The only flaw in her results were the difficulty of replication, but if they wanted to they could go over and ask a magician themselves.
She leaned her head against the cold metal hull. The academy just wasn't interested. Even after she'd gone so far as to rip the word magic out of the papers, they just didn't care. It didn't fit the old theories, and until Yumemi could walk into the academy and blast them all in the face with spells of her own, there was damn little she could do to change their minds. In fact even that probably wouldn't work.
"You okay there, Yumemi?"
Yumemi tried to force a smile before looking up. "It's alright Yuri," she replied. 'Yuri' frowned but kept her peace. Her world's Chiyuri would have probably pressed the issue, but the Chiyuri from Gensoukyo still was a little hesitant to try to cheer her up when it came to Yumemi's issues with the academy. Even after they'd been dating for two years.
To be fair the sudden shift had been fairly confusing for the Chiyuri from Gensoukyo. She'd had to deal with learning how to live in a completely different world, while at the same time developing a completely new persona. The two Chiyuris had fought for a full week over which one would be the older sister, and then for another two days on who would take the nickname. Yuri here had accepted her name almost completely, but there had been many incidents as she'd acclimatized.
As Yumemi reflected on the past the girl in the red kerchiefed sailor uniform walked behind Yumemi and started massaging her shoulders. Yumemi sighed and relaxed as Yuri slowly kneaded her tense muscles while giving the status report. "Well we've got all the supplies on the ship. We can make a full four month voyage even without supplies. The other me says all the other systems are good too."
"Mmmm." Yumemi let out a deep breath and leaned back against Yuri. "Good." She tried to turn her thoughts forward, towards her journey.
"Why don't you let me just show off my magic to the academy anyway?" Yuri asked. "I mean, yeah there'll be a police investigation but I did stow away. And you'll be a famous researcher then too. There's no way you'll get in trouble."
Yumemi frowned and turned to face Yuri. "That won't work. Your powers are the creation of light based attacks and localized telekinesis. Something we can duplicate perfectly here with our technology, as your other self can demonstrate. The academy will just assume we're hiding the generators. And then I'll be in prison and you'll be deported."
Yuri winced. "Sorry. It's just..."
"I know." Yumemi sighed and hugged Chiyuri. Chiyuri stood limply for a bit, then returned Yumemi's hug with a rib bruising intensity. They'd all become frustrated by the system by now, but there wasn't anything they could do. Yet.
"Oi!" The two women started at the harsh voice. Yumemi turned to see her world's Chiyuri glowering down at them. "While I'm sure it's great fun for you to feel up the professor, we're on a schedule here, and damned if I'm going to be doing all the work. I'm not a paid post doc anymore."
Yumemi chuckled as Yuri shouted back, "It's not like there's really any more preparations to do. If you're jealous you should just stop whining and join me." Chiyuri blushed at her counterpart's retort. That was one of the differences between the two. The girl from Gensoukyo was one to speak her mind in all things, and was far less obsessed with propriety.
Chiyuri pouted for a moment, then shrugged. "Fine."
Yumemi had just enough time to yelp in shock before Chiyuri leaped into the air and caught her in a flying tackle. She fell backwards, catching the other Yuri with her flailing. There was a confusion of arms and legs, and Yumemi found herself on the floor with both Chiyuris lying on her chest.
After a moment's recovery she put her arms around the two. "Well, if you insist." She couldn't help but smirk as they both blushed crimson. She was probably blushing herself, but not nearly as bad as her two lovers.
Yumemi held them a bit longer before letting them go so they could stand up. She laughed again when they both offered her a hand up, but she took them up on the offer. She'd been around the two long enough to realize their embarrassment was more the fact that they were in 'public' then any real issue. "Well, it's good to see you've recovered some of your humor," Yuri said with a roll of her eyes.
"So, what's our goal for this little trip anyway?" Chiyuri asked as she straightened her cap. "Why'd we need three months worth of supplies and crafting materials to boot? Don't tell me we're going to be collecting wildlife or something."
Yumemi flinched. She'd been avoiding this conversation for a while. But given the way the two Chiyuris were staring at her reaction she couldn't hide anymore. She sat down and hung her head. "We're going there until we find something magical that can be commoditized or mass produced." She looked over at her Genouskyo guide. "Since apparently it's hard to mass produce magic, we'll probably be looking for an energy source instead. Or some other service item. Which are apparently difficult to acquire."
The two Chiyuris blinked at her in tandem before both exclaiming, "WHAAAT?!" Yumemi sighed as the two leaned over her. "How will this help with the academy? They ignored all your previous samples!"
"I'm not going back to the academy." Yumemi slumped and looked down at her hands. Saying it hurt more than she thought it would. "We can't win. It's obvious now. They aren't even looking at my submissions. I'm 'Crazy Yumemi.' Why look at the facts?" She felt her nails start digging into the palms of her hands so she forced herself to cross her arms. "So we have to try something different. Make magic a household commodity. Rub the academy's noses in it until they're forced to look at the results and admit they don't have a damn clue how it works!"
Yuri just grimaced, but her old postgrad immediately set into her. "But you hate industry! You complained for weeks every time you looked for grant funding, and you despise sacrificing research for profit! Not to mention how much time running a business takes. How are you going to continue your theoretical work if you're running a company?"
Yumemi frowned. "Well if I hire someone-"
"Ha!" Yumemi winced as Chiyuri jabbed a finger into her chest. "I'm sorry boss, but you hate letting anyone else run the show. There's no way you wouldn't meddle. Besides you don't have the money to hire someone, which means you're CEO and marketing while me and myself do all the real work." Yuri nodded in agreement.
"Ugh." Yumemi spun away from the glares. "Look this is the only idea I have left, okay! It's this or give up on my life's research. Unless one of you has a better idea? Because I'm not going to just give up."
She wasn't going to let her dream die.
She heard some shuffling behind her, then a hand fell on each of her shoulders. "If this is what you want, boss, we'll back you to the end." Chiyuri said.
"We'll find something. Somehow," Yuri added.
Yumemi smiled. "Thank you."
She whirled around to face them. "Now let's get ready. We have a long voyage ahead."
Yumemi found herself smiling as she leaned back in her captain's chair. In front of her both the Chiyuris sat in front of their own consoles, while a viewscreen took up the front of the space. She wasn't sure why designing the control room like a movie starship made dimensional travel work better, but it did, and it was all sorts of fun. The mission might be bleak, but the journey was going to be something else.
"Status report," she snapped out. She loved every chance she got to use her command voice.
Chiyuri typed out a few commands. "Power at full. Dimensional pathways are clear. Supplies are secured properly."
Yuri poked at her own screen. "I've only got sixteen more mines to clear out."
Yumemi nodded. "Good. Begin final jump calculations."
One of the oddities that they'd run across was that both Chiyuris had to be at identical workstations equidistant from Yumemi's chair. This hadn't been required the first time they'd made the jump, but that was before their lovely stowaway had disrupted the energy balance between the worlds. Yumemi had no real idea why her command deck's feng shui helped fix that energy unbalance, but it worked, and that was good enough for lab work. Especially since her thesis had nothing to do with it.
"So are we ready?" she asked.
Both Chiyuris gave a thumbs up. "Ready!"
"Good." Yumemi stood and thrust her arm forward for dramatic effect. "Then Launch!" There was a beep as Chiyuri pressed a button and the mild tingling feeling of dimensional transit washed over Yumemi.
Sadly that was all the change. Crossing into parallel worlds was disappointingly dull. There wasn't even a light show outside for her to look at. They had to program up a screensaver instead. Yumemi sat down and waited. Fortunately, the transit wouldn't take long.
A chime rang through the craft. "Halfway point," Yumemi remarked. They'd crossed over from their universe. Now they just had to materialize in Gensoukyo.
Sirens blared and the room turned red. Yumemi had just enough time to leap to her feet before the walls rent asunder with the scream of steel. "Someone's in the same space!" screamed Chiyuri.
And then the grey void of interdimensional space swallowed her up.
Yumemi groaned. Her head throbbed in pain, drowning out her body's muted scream of agony. She considered getting up and finding some painkillers, but she was tired and cold. It'd be better to just pull up the covers and go back to sleep, right? She tried reaching for the covers, but all she found was more pain from her arm. Maybe Chiyuri'd stolen it? Or maybe Yuri? She groaned again, then forced herself to roll away from the thorn bush on the right so she could grope for the blanket, but her hand only fell upon cold earth. Sighing she kept reaching for the blankets, each failure forcing her further and further from the blessed realm of sleep and recovery. An accursed rustling from nearby only pushed her further towards wakefulness. With a final groan Yumemi gave in and opened her eyes. The forest around her was near black, with only a few scattered fires and the eyes of some beast to give any sort of light.
Sobriety hit her like a brick. Yumemi remembered the accident. She wasn't in bed. Those eyes in the bushes were real. She needed to defend herself. Fast.
"Yaaaah!" Yumemi yelled at the creature while raising her hands and triggering her devices. A Shield of David formed before her and flew at the startled creature. There was the hiss of power striking youkai flesh, then a pained cry and frantic rustling as the creature ran away.
Yumemi winced as pain flooded into her body again. Seeing the threat had passed she gingerly pulled out her pocket lantern and started checking her injuries.
Her quick inspection showed she didn't have any broken bones, though she'd want an xray on her little toe just to be sure. Her cuts and scrapes were mostly mild too. Whatever had happened, the ship's automatic systems had shielded her from the worst of the incident. She still felt terrible though.
That done she held up her glowing ball of light and started checking her surroundings. The forest around her was a twisted thicket, completely unlike anything at home. A few mushroom rings told her she'd ended up in the Forest of Magic in Gensoukyo. That was good, she was in the right dimension at least.
"Chiyuri?!" she called out for her assistants. Hopefully they'd landed somewhere near here. The twisted trees and underbrush limited her field of vision, but with luck they'd be able to hear her.
"Yuri?!" she yelled again as she started a slow circuit. She didn't want to move too far, but if they were unconscious she needed to find them before anything else did.
She pushed her way through some of the less prickly underbrush then froze at the sight of the clearing in front of her.
The Trans Dimensional Hyperspace Vessel sat in a field of splinters. Or at least about half of it did. The generators that filled its interior lay like broken columns among bits of furniture and basic appliances from the living area. The walls had splintered into fragments scattered about randomly. Yumemi just stood there for a minute in shock. Without the Hyperspace Vessel they were stuck.
'What if one of the Chiyuris is stuck in there?'
The thought turned to action. Yumemi dashed into the wreckage. Cursing and swearing at the pain she started lifting up fallen debris and pushing over some of the rubble in her way. "Chiyuri! Are you here?!" She had to find them!
"Whoa! Looks like you've gotta problem here."
Yumemi looked up to see a familiar witch hovering over her. The woman, Marisa was a fair bit older of course, but that getup and voice was utterly unmistakable.
Marisa gave her the same appraising look. "Oh hey! You're the person who tried to kidnap me for research awhile back. Well the one who tried to kidnap me for magic research, not for human research. Anyway~!" The witch girl dropped down next to her. "Seems like you had a bit of a crash. Need a hand?"
"Yes!" Yumemi dashed over to the magician. "Can you search for people? The Chiyuris might be somewhere near here."
"Chiyuris? Plural?" Marisa raised an eyebrow, then shrugged. "Well whatever. I've been looking to test this spell out. Let's see, borrow a bit of blood from you and-" Yumemi yelped in pain as Marisa dabbed her fingers across a scrape on Yumemi's arm. The magician drew her finger through the air while whispering in a harsh tongue, then the magician was suffused in red light. The aura around Marisa pulsed twice, like a heartbeat, then rolled off her in a wave. Yumemi felt a chill as the crimson shockwave passed her, then it was gone.
"Knew stealing some of Remi's spells would come in handy," Marisa said with a self satisfied nod. Yumemi shifted back and forth as the witch closed her eyes and pondered things. "Well I can't sense any other humans near here. Makes sense though since someone blasted teleportation magic all over the place. Kinda surprised you're still here."
"Damn! I have to go find them!" Yumemi painfully hopped into the air, stumbled as her movement turned to a weak hovering. "Shit! Without the ship's generators active I can't even fly right!"
"Whoa whoa whoa!" Marisa dropped down to sit in front of her. "You shouldn't be going anywhere in that shape. I know you're worried about your friends, but chances are if they aren't in the forest they're pretty safe. Especially if they're like the gal you were with earlier and she brought along her totally awesome laser pistol."
"That's-" Yumemi gritted her teeth in frustration. She hurt, she was worried, she was cold and she was bone tired. Worst of all she really couldn't do a damn thing.
Marisa patted her broom. "Come on. I'll let you borrow a cot or something. We can talk about what you owe me later."
Yumemi hesitated again. She didn't want to accept she was powerless. Her friends could be in danger. Going off to sleep would be abandoning them.
Marisa rolled her eyes. "Look, if it makes you feel any better I can start working up a spell to make sure they aren't dead or dying. If they're in trouble I'll wake you up and drag you all over Gensoukyo if you want."
The magician's words entered Yumemi's mind, but they just seemed to bounce around without meaning for a while. Visions of an endless search through the hills and valleys of Gensoukyo slowly swirled through her mind, starting and restarting time and time again, yet never leading anywhere. She started planning out exactly how she would search, the items and resources she'd need, the different places they could be, and the various ways to accept the offer she'd just been given. Time and time and time and time again.
A spasm of pain from her abused limbs knocked her out of her reverie. She nodded to the witch. "Thank you." Gingerly she sat down on the magicians broom, then held on tight to the staff as Marisa rose into the air.
"You look really banged up there, so I'll take it a little slower then normal," Marisa said as they began to slowly move forward. Yumemi nodded, then turned her thoughts inwards again. She needed to find both Chiyuris and repair her ship now. Those were the only real things that mattered. Rather she needed to get back to wherever she was going and get a good night's sleep, preferably in a real bed since she'd need to start in early in the morning if she wanted to get the ship back together. Generators like the ones she had in her ship didn't just grow on trees after all, and she was going to have to work overtime with Chiyuri to calibrate them to the proper settings so she could find Chiyuri...
As her mind spiraled towards darkness, Yumemi fell into a fitful sleep.