I do not own anything by Satoru Akahori, Atsushi Suzumi or Steve Jackson Games.

This story idea is a fusion/reimagining of Venus Versus Virus and Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, though as usual for my stories taking much more of the serious nature of VVV than the more lighthearted, comedic air of much of GMG. The story ending will be quite different than both manga as well — I didn't really care for the finales of either. It is set in an alternate history steampunk Victorian Age, with a heavy dash of White Wolf's World of Darkness setting (pre-reboot) with a different version of the Hunters and very different version of the Mages (at least with respect to how the magic works — I thought that was way overpowered — and no Technocracy). The Steam Tech described at the end of the chapter won't play any real role in the first story, but may become important if there are sequels.

Just to be clear(er), in Venus Versus Virus you have a teenage girl - a civilian by anyone's definition and diabetes-inducingly sweet - who apparently by accident finds herself the "secret" weapon against the "viruses," and so on the front lines of a supernatural secret war. In Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, you have a teenage boy, more than a little effeminate - who is trying to deal with being rejected by the girl he loves by looking for flowers in the hills above his home city when he is hit and almost killed by an alien spaceship. The spaceship's pilot heals him, but inadvertently changes his sex to female in the process. The rest of the series is a little bit about her adjustment to her new sex, but mostly is about a love triangle involving her childhood (girl)friend and the girl she'd originally confessed to competing for her affections interspersed by the alien studying just what "love" is all about. And of course, I'm changing the setting beyond all recognition.


Oakland, California, 1898

Asuta whipped his bicycle around a slow-moving, rare steamcar (at least in that part of the city) and coasted to a stop next to a brunette standing on the cracked and broken sidewalk. In spite of the late hour, both were still in their school uniforms. "Have you found him?" the brown-haired rider demanded.

Tomari shook her head, hard enough that the twin ponytails on each side of her head slapped her cheeks. "No, he isn't anywhere!" She glared at Asuta. What did you say to him?" she demanded.

"I didn't say anything!" Asuta protested. "He was fine at lunch, then he never showed up for the afternoon classes, I don't know what happened!"

"He confessed to Yasuna."

Both teenagers whirled to find Ayuki standing between the two buildings behind them. The raven-haired girl pushed her glasses further up her nose with one finger as she continued, "Yasuna did not respond well. I saw her run away, and in class later it looked like she'd been crying."

The other two teens slumped at the news—they had been the ones to encourage their friend to confess his feelings. Asuta suddenly pounded a fist on his bike's handlebars. "That makes no sense!" he insisted. "With all the time they spend together on gardening projects, the way she smiles at him — the way she actually looks at him like no other guy — she likes him. So why would she refuse to be his girlfriend?"

Ayuki just shrugged, and Tomari turned to look down the street toward the wooded hills to the east, lit up by the late afternoon sun. "Well, now we know where Hazumu is — he'll be up there collecting meadow flowers, like he always does when he's feeling down." She glanced at Asuta and noted the sweat stains under the armpits of his white shirt, lifted an arm to sniff the puffy sleeve of her own white blouse, glanced down at her dirt-stained past-the-knees red skirt, and grimaced. "Hazumu will get back when he gets back, let's head to the dorms and cleaned up before we miss dinner and try to fix things in the morning."

/oOo\

Ignoring the sweat stains spreading on the white shirt of his school uniform and the dirt ground into the knees of his dark trousers, a slim, redheaded Caucasian boy stared at the wildflowers scattered over the sun-dappled mountain meadow and realized that he'd made a serious mistake. This was the meadow where Hazumu had first run into Yasuna — literally. He'd caught his foot on a root going around a tree and had slammed right into her, knocking her onto her back and falling on her. Not exactly the best way to get acquainted with an until-then distant classmate, but after the mutual blush-inducing embarrassment of being close enough to a member of the opposite sex to share breath she had taken it in stride. He'd been looking for flowers for his garden on the school rooftop and she had been separated while enjoying a hike and picnic with her parents temporarily back from their missionary work in Japan. She'd helped him gather flowers and he'd helped her find her parents and given some of those flowers to her mother, and for awhile all had been right with the world.

Since that day the two had met daily, studying together, tending the rooftop garden — she'd even eaten with him and his parents when they'd visited, between publishing their joint paper on the folkways of Amazon jungle aborigines and leaving for their expedition to study the African pygmies. (Oddly, his mother had seemed to alternate between knowing looks and happy smiles the entire visit.)

It had been his lifelong friend Tomari who had finally pushed him to admit — to himself as much as her — that his feelings for the quiet, refined raven-haired girl were more than just friendship, and once he did she and his best (only, actually) male friend Asuta had pushed him to admit his feelings to Yasuna ... and pushed, and pushed, and pushed, until finally he had screwed up his courage and ...

For a moment, the memory of Yasuna's face sprang into the redheaded boy's mind, that first split second when he'd been sure he'd seen pure joy shining from her eyes ... just before they'd filled with tears and she had run away, sobbing.

He pushed the memory away and looked out across the meadow. This was a bad idea, he thought sadly. Still, the view from here was magnificent. He walked to the edge of the cliff along the west side of the meadow and looked out across the city of Oakland — the sea of houses that had spread out even in the few years he had known of the view, much less in the years since his parents had arrived to study the ways of the long-secret Japanese Christians that had immigrated after that nation had become an ally by treaty of the United States. (Much to Great Britain's displeasure, not that US had cared much about the British Empire's tender feelings after the mother country had helped the Confederacy win its freedom — as the US had further demonstrated when it had seized western Canada by force in the war that followed that unhappy event and so joined the territory of Alaska it had purchased from Russia to the rest of the nation.)

And beyond the city the freighters in San Francisco Bay with smoke billowing from their stacks and even a battleship, and dirigibles silhouetted by the setting sun, coming in to pick up cargoes for the inland towns they serviced. None of the dirigibles would be jump liners servicing the colony on New America, of course, not this far south of the jump zone around the North Pole. Someday he was going to go out to study the fauna of other worlds —

Hazumu sucked in a breath as the angle of the sun finally registered — this had been a really bad idea. It was already late afternoon, it would be nightfall before he could make it back to the school. And night was when the things came out, and Tomari wasn't around to keep them away like she had the bullies when they were younger...

He ran for the hiking path back to the city.

/oOo\

Yasuna lowered her flute with a sigh, before setting it aside on her desk and rising to step to her dorm room's open window — her attempt to practice had been an abysmal failure. She had hoped that the joy she took in what was normally the center of her life would calm the storm in her heart, but now she was learning just how much her music had been a cover for her loneliness. A loneliness that had become so much a part of her world that she hadn't recognized it for what it was, not until Hazumu's confession after lunch, and now she thought about her only real friend that she had just thrown away, and her father, and stared out at a sunset that seemed the perfect symbol of her future — dark, dreary, and alone.

Finally, she closed the curtains and turned away to fall backward across her bed. Staring up at her white-painted ceiling, she murmured, "Oh, Hazumu, why couldn't you have been a girl?"

/oOo\

He had been right, he hadn't been able to reach safety before nightfall, and now Hazumu was beginning to shiver, and not just because of the sweat staining his shirt. The streets were supposed to be gas-lit, but Oakland's Japantown was toward the bottom of City Hall's maintenance priority list, and the dark stretches were numerous, unavoidable. Already he could feel eyes following him. And unlike the things he'd seen and sensed for most of his life, lately those eyes felt hungry.

Then as he neared the school, along the school grounds wall toward the gate, his eyes caught a sparkle on the sidewalk on the edge of a pool of light from a working gaslight — a brooch, a shining red faceted jewel set in gold filigree, beautiful enough to take his breath away. He knelt and picked it up, forefinger tracing the gold twists and whirls. I can't keep this, he thought, someone is really going to miss this.

On the other hand... He rose to his feet and slipped the brooch in a pants pocket, eyes scanning the buildings across the street — the mostly empty buildings at this time of night, warehouses and offices in American style rather than Japanese (the immigrants didn't arrive with enough funds for extensive renovations, mostly just happy to have a home — though that was changing). There was no way he was going to be able to find who the brooch belonged to, there were simply too many people passing through during the day. It had to belong to someone passing through, the brooch was clearly Western so it wasn't an heirloom of a local family. And he couldn't simply go from door to door, someone would claim it whether it belonged to them or not and he'd have no way of knowing if they were lying —

He never did know what alerted him to the presence of something behind him, but he whirled around, looked up, and froze in place, his eyes wide in shock — he'd been half-seeing half-sensing things all his life, but nothing like the tentacled, flaky-skinned, pustule-covered, diseased-looking thing glaring at him through its single huge bloodshot eye from where it sat on top of the school grounds wall. It opened its lipless mouth to reveal jagged teeth and hissed, and as it lifted itself up on its tentacles all Hazumu could do was stare as the thought I'm going to die, I'm going to die racing over and over through his mind.

The thing's mouth stretched open wider and wider until it seemed as if it was going to split in half, a slimy mold-green tongue slithered out to run along its lower teeth, then it sprang toward Hazumu and those teeth seemed to fill his vision — and two massive thunderclaps shattered the night as the thing jerked to the side, slamming into one shoulder to knock his spinning to the cobblestoned street. He levered himself up on one elbow and looked around frantically for the thing that had tried to eat him to find it lying beyond him in the middle of road. Thick steam rose from the unmoving body and an evil-smelling stench filled the night air. Even as he stared it collapsed into itself, turned to dust, and a light breeze swept both dust and stench away.

"Aren't you out a little late?"

Hazumu twisted wildly around at the sound of the voice to find a young woman — Caucasian, with platinum-blond ponytails over each ear, dressed in a black dress split down the middle with a panel preserving modesty, billowing sleeves and a high collar, a cross on a chain around her neck. She stood a few yards away, calmly removing two empty cartridges from the open cylinder of a massive revolver. The dress was scandalously short, barely covering her knees, and he realized that she wasn't more than a few years older than he was, her body slimly curved. She would have been attractive if not for the large, off-putting black patch with an embroidered pointed cross over one eye and the coldness that even in the dim glow of the streetlight seemed to lurk in the single eye that gazed calmly down at him.

She finished replacing the spent bullets, snapped the cylinder closed with a snap of her wrist, shoved the revolver into a heavy holster belted to her waist, and asked, "Well?"

"Uhhh ... what?" Hazumu replied half-unconsciously. He sat up and dabbed at several scrapes as he struggled to comprehend what had just happened.

She rolled her eye and repeated in a long-suffering tone, "Aren't you out a little late?"

"Oh!" Hazumu bolted to his feet. "I'm late!" He whirled and began to run toward the gate only to pause, then turned back around and bowed deeply to the girl. "Thank you for saving my life," he said softly, then turned back around and raced for the gate. He was in so much trouble...

/\

Lucia watched the boy disappear through the school's open gates, eyebrow lifted in bemusement. "Well, that was ... unexpected," she murmured.

"Yes, it was. What a polite young man."

Lucia glanced back over her shoulder at the earth-haired, thin, goateed and mustached, elegantly dressed man standing behind her. She shrugged. Reaching into the purse attached to her belt, she pulled out an open pack of cigarettes and some matches, tapped one out and lit it up, then turned toward the alley that her guardian had come out of. "He's one more sheep to be protected.

Nash followed her. After a moment, he said, "I'm still not entirely reconciled to using children as bait. It's dangerous."

Reaching the dark shadows of the alley, Lucia turned to lean back against the wall and sighed. "We've already discussed this," she said in the tired tone of one rehashing an old argument. "The children are already in danger, one's even disappeared — as good as dead. This virus is disturbingly clever, hiding in the shadows and feeding on dregs to stay unnoticed. The brooch will lure it out, and it will take long enough to ooze from its hiding place for me to get there. The children will be in no more danger than they already are."

Voice softening, she continued, "Go back to the shop, Nash, get some sleep. We aren't both needed, once the virus is out in the open it'll be easy enough to handle. But if it resists the brooches pull long enough you may need to spell me."

Nash hesitated, but finally nodded. "Be careful, Lucia," he murmured. You're all I have left hung between the two, unsaid.

"I will," Lucia promised, forcing a faint smile.

Nash returned the smile, then turned and strode down the alley.

Lucia turned back to stare at the school, only the faint glow of the tip of her cigarette visible in the night's shadows in which she hid.


JUMP LINER TL(5+N)

This semirigid airship travels the polar regions, where its paraplanetary jump drive allows instantaneous travel to other worlds. It carries 30 tons of cargo and mail on each trip, plus 3 tons of provisions. There are cabins for 2 first-class and 8 second-class passengers, and 10 third-class bunks. A comfortable salon is available, as well as a sick bay in case of emergency.

The modern environmental controls ensure passenger and crew comfort even in the worst arctic ice-storm. A very-long-range wireless communicator allows contact with nearby vessels or distant port facilities. A 200-power astronomical telescope and a dedicated Complexity-3 calculator give +3 to the navigator's Astronomy rolls.

A 1,200-kW fuel cell system supplies the ship's power. Mechanical energy for the jump drive is diverted from the aerial propeller engine via a clutch. Time to ready the jump drive depends on propeller setting, from almost a full day to less than two hours.

Hammocks are provided for two crew shifts, each consisting of 24 gasbag riggers, three chiefs, a mechanic, and two gunners/lookouts. The ship's cook and porter are also assigned hammocks. Bunks are provided for two bridge crew shifts, each consisting of a pilot, a navigator, and a wireless operator. The jump engineer and the ship's medic are also assigned bunks. A shared cabin is provided for the captain and the first officer.

Maximum cruising range is 2,500 miles.

PARAPLANETARY JUMP DRIVE TL(5+N)

The paraplanetary jump drive uses jump points located in the polar regions of terrestrial planets. It is normally mounted on an airship, due to the wide variation in polar terrain to be found on different worlds.

Vessels can only utilize the jump drive within 0.01 planetary diameters of a planet's north or south pole; on Earth, this is a distance of 80 miles. Incoming vessels appear within the same distance of the poles. Most civilized worlds will have coal stations near the poles to serve interstellar airship traffic.

The heart of the drive is a "jump crystal," mounted in a gimbaled hydraulic press. These crystals are unbreakable by any force known to man, but if sufficient mechanical pressure is applied and then abruptly released, they dissipate their energy (stored within the drive crystal itself over the course of several hours by drawing power from the airship's engines through a belt and pulley system) by translating themselves — and the attached vessel — from one jump point to another. The maximum range of this translation is roughly 6 parsecs.

Fortunately for Victorian adventurers, jump points only seem to connect worlds with breathable atmospheres and with temperature and gravity comparable to Earth. Most philosophers claim that the Creator deliberately arranged this network for the benefit of mankind, but a few free-thinkers consider them an accident of nature. There has even been speculation that similar networks of jump points might connect the blazing poles of stars, or the freezing gas-clouds of worlds such as Jupiter, perhaps used by unimaginable creatures native to those climes.