by Jared Ornstead
Deep in the bowels of the caverns full of monsters that was the Invid Genesis Pit, outside one of the minor entrances to the Invid research hive that controlled the whole place, Doc came to a halt and began to whip out all sorts of scientific instruments and began to analyze the force field stretched across that entrance.
Willow regarded this with mild amusement, and, shortly after tossing a handful of gravel at it, then poking a stick through it, simply walked through the screen, then out again. "Doc," she smiled. "It's an environmental protection, not a security screen."
"Exactly!" Doc whispered excitedly while hurriedly making scribbled notes. "Do you have any idea of the commercial applications of such a device? Perfect protection against pests and ill weather, without hindering larger creatures at all? The residential market alone would be enormous! To say nothing of commercial farms or greenhouses!"
"Dear," Nodoka admonished, "We've got to get inside! Out here we're sitting ducks!"
"Yeah!" Xander blurted, before diving in the entrance himself. "Anyway, I thought you said their machines were pseudo-magical anyway?"
"Once an effect has been achieved, by whatever method, it is easier to recreate than invent from scratch. Mankind never needed the wings of a bird to fly, he only needed to look close enough at them!" Doc said excitedly. "I thought, with just a few readings, I might be able to duplicate this! Wait! I'm still not done..."
Doc looked heartbroken as Willow picked up his most crucial instrument, made a happy face at him, and simply backed into the hive, forcing him to follow if he wanted to keep access to the instrument doing most of his recordings.
Her smirk as she backed away with her prize also reawakened the strongest urge to reach for a Batarang he'd had in a very long time.
Nodoka bounced off the top of an Invid trooper's crablike shell and then dodged two swipes of its claws before the delayed effect of her Breaking Point strike caused it to explode.
Across the room, Xander had two scouts trying to strafe him with their plasma disks, but the ceiling was too low for them to be out of his jump range and, rebounding twice off of walls or unidentifiable bits of alien equipment built into the walls, he tapped and destroyed both of the attacking mecha.
"Fascinating!" Doc was totally absorbed in analyzing bits of the alien machinery.
Nodoka spun around, tapping two more soldiers as they entered the room, before calling out, "Darling? I think our situation requires us to keep moving."
"But I'm nearly there in figuring out how this works!" Doc cried out, tapping on one of his portable instruments.
"What is it?" Xander dodged behind a bank of machinery, causing it to explode as the new force of scouts opened fire on it.
"I could be mistaken, but I believe it controls water levels in the Pit!" Doc cried out in joy.
"WHAT?" both his companions yelled.
"We're dodging explosions while you study how the alien *plumbing* works?" Xander's voice sounded aggrieved, as he left his disintegrating cover, leaped high to touch down on one scout, then bounced off it to another as his Breaking Point caused the first to explode into shards of metal and purple goo behind him. "That's it. We're moving on."
"I believe your counterpart has the right of it, Dearest," Nodoka scolded, tapping a wall so the smoke and shards of the explosion obscured her as she ran up and tapped two new scouts that had been trying to get into the room. "Come along."
"But..." Doc ducked just in time as a volley of plasma disks came from behind him and obliterated the machinery he'd been analyzing.
An Invid hive would seem an astonishing fortress to most. Entrances irised open or shut at the will of the Invid. Gravity reversed itself in vertical tunnels at their command. Strange and incomprehensible devices that were neither living nor machine were everywhere.
As were, of course, the Invid, who responded to the invasion of their hive in hundreds.
"Good thing they can only come at us a couple at a time, huh?" Xander called out to his friends as he took shelter in one crater blown in the side of a narrow tunnel only a few dozen feet across.
"It's not luck!" Doc called out to him, leaping out of his own cover to touch the Invid scout that had tried to brave the human's cover in a rush, causing the mecha to explode and leave only rubble and purple gunk behind. "In the narrow confines of a corridor like this, they are unable to use their superior numbers. That's why I chose it as shelter when a large swarm began to rush us!"
Doc hurriedly dove for cover again as a rain of plasma disks commenced, blowing more holes and damaging the fortress further. "Of course," Doc called out from where he was hugging the floor, "I thought they'd be a little more reluctant to cause damage to their own hive!"
"What I want to know is, where is Willow?" Nodoka replied. "And why does the Breaking Point work on the Invid if they are alive?"
"Imagine if you will," Doc called out from where he was hugging the floor under a barrage of plasma disks, "A car. Say that this particular vehicle has somehow been outfitted for use by a person who is quadriplegic. Then say that, like Darth Vader's armor, that car contains life support so that the person inside can live, but that without that special support he will die. Now give that car the ability to fly, and arms and legs in place of wheels, shrink it to eliminate all passenger and cargo space, and that 'car' we have imagined up, is what most people think of when they think 'Invid'. They only see the vehicle, because the aliens never leave them. They don't think of the creature inside, because it is trapped there, like a biological brain of the mecha they wear. All we are doing is blowing up those alien powersuits. They are the ones who cannot live without them."
"I don't think the shrapnel as those suits explodes helps them any," Xander quipped from his side, having only just detonated an enemy soldier that was peering inside.
"So where is Willow?" Nodoka asked, repeating herself now that one question had been thoroughly answered.
"No idea. I think we got separated shortly after we entered the hive," Doc replied. "With all of the alien architecture, it sure is easy to get lost in here."
Outside of the corridor, a man-sized Invid enforcer mecha gestured to several workers. Then the trio of humans within the hall screamed aloud in alarm as the section of pipe-like corridor they'd been sheltering in was torn free of its mountings by Invid workers laboring behind the walls, and their section got flung into the air, where dozens of Invid soldiers then began to open fire upon it.
The torn apart section of corridor disintegrated under the hail of plasma blasts, and the three humans had only just jumped clear in time.
"They're intelligent. Got to give them that!" Doc shouted as the trio of dimension travelers bounced and rebounded off walls, or the Invid themselves, as they used Breaking Points indiscriminately upon everything they touched, both clouding the room with debris, and shattering the hulls of Invid troopers, who were now spraying plasma so liberally they were endangering themselves and other Invid.
Privately, as they dodged repeated plasma fire, all three humans were thinking their training with the bees might not have been extreme enough. This was something of a switch from an hour ago, when all of them had been convinced it had been needlessly excessive.
The ceiling had collapsed and they were lucky to get into another room.
Xander was sprawled over something he would be horrified to learn was an Invid medical table that was automatically analyzing him as though he were Invid, finding a disturbing lack of slug-like features to him, and feverishly working its little alien brain on how to remedy that, while Nodoka and Doc were panting, leaned up against each other in a corner.
"So, was that a fight, or what?" Xander panted the moment he had breath back, rolling over to face the duo, and unknowingly frustrating the little medical table he was on as he rolled right out of the way of the probe it had just tried to raise up to sample him.
Doc gave him a tired grin. "I believe we can classify that as a fight, yes." He reached up to finger where his hair had caught fire out of a near miss with a plasma blast, one that had very nearly taken off his head, and ended up only setting his hair on fire. Right now he had only a white fringe around the back and sides. The top was entirely gone, or blackened to ash.
Nodoka was fingering where one sleeve of her kimono was gone.
"Oh!" Xander sat up and stretched, inadvertently dodging another probe, which withdrew after the attempt. He lay back down. "Wow! After this, vampires will be easy."
"I don't think vampires will explode with a touch." Doc was fingering the ends of his burnt-off hair. "The bodies are dead, yes. But they are inhabited by a blood demon. I don't know how that changes things, if the Breaking Point applies or not."
"Well," Xander rolled into a reverse back flip, dismounting the table with a flourish, and this time unknowingly evading a set of grasping claws it had extruded. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm ready for another run!"
"First, we had better find Willow," Nodoka stood along with her husband.
"No need." Willow's voice came so cheerful into the room that Doc experienced a sudden stab of wanting to check Gotham Museum to see what cat statues were missing this time.
Instead, Willow entered the room, dressed in armor and walking a rather bulky motorcycle.
"Oh, wow! A Cyclone!" Xander fell into pure comic geek bliss as he rushed over to examine the Robotech motorcycle from every angle.
Nodoka found herself looking around the room for strange wind patterns. "What is he talking about, Dear?" she asked her husband.
He leaned over to confide, "That motorcycle is a transformable vehicle that can be as you see it one moment, then a suit of powered battle armor the next. It is a fairly nimble little machine. Lightly armed, but rather durable. They are called Cyclones. To transform, a suit of matching non-powered armor like Willow is now wearing is required. Otherwise the bigger set has none of the proper anchor points to latch onto."
Nodoka blinked for several moments as Xander ranted about the vehicle, before leaning close to her husband to ask, "And why is this so important to him?"
Doc gave a familial shrug, whispering back, "They were something he saw on television when we were kids. Imagine if you had a chance to see or handle something you'd seen on TV when you were that age."
Understanding now, Nodoka gave her nod of approval.
They'd been quiet, but Willow's ears had caught this whispered conversation anyway, and she gave a catlike grin, "Oh, in this situation it's rather more than that. The power cell on these things are robust, roughly equivalent to a nuclear plant for a short burst. And the bike can go fast enough to reach eighty eight miles per hour."
This instantly had riveted Doc's interest. "Was there anything else where you found this?"
Willow gave a casual shrug, affecting a catlike disinterest even as she toyed with him. "Only a few mounds of earth equipment. Most of it was pretty busted up, either damaged when they captured it, or by the Invid dissecting it later. But I found a bunch of repair manuals, and..."
Willow was shocked to find the proffered tablet computer already snatched out of her grasp by Doc, who shouted, "Amazon Speed Reading technique!" and began flipping through the displays at an astonishing rate.
"Amazon Speed Reading technique?" Both Willow and Xander asked together.
"Not only reading, but memorization." Doc replied, eyes still following the blur of displays his busy fingers kept summoning. "The moment I learned they had it, I would have given a kidney for it. Using this technique allows me to memorize large blocks of data in a short period of time. Since our memories are unchanged by alterations to the time stream, this method allows me to retain information, like technological development our meddling would otherwise erase! So, if I'd had this back on that Terminator world, I could have retained plans for their laser weaponry, vehicles and robots effortlessly, despite that future being erased!"
"Pooh," Willow pouted, placing her hands on her hips and cocking them sexily, probably without even being aware she was doing it. "Here I thought I'd been saving the big surprise for last."
"Oh?" Xander gave her his attention, even while Doc was still absorbed in memorizing every page and diagram in the little computer reference manual. Humoring her, he asked, "So what was the big surprise? Did you find our time vehicle?"
Willow gave a little frown over not having Doc's attention, but decided that having Nodoka and Xander's was enough. "Sadly, no. I am guessing they took that one to the hive we first saw, the one standing on stilts on the surface, not this deep underground hive."
"Then what did you find?"
"Oh, only an Alpha fighter." She mentioned playfully.
The effect on Xander was electric. "An Alpha fighter? Really?"
Watching her oldest friend bouncing in the air in glee like a little kid just finding that it was Christmas satisfied whatever Willow had been looking for, and she nodded. "Yes, really."
"Wow!" Xander popped through a complete flip before pumping a fist in the air. "What are we waiting for? Let's go get it!"
Now Willow frowned. She'd been hoping Doc would have an answer for this part, as she didn't want to let her friend down. "Unfortunately, they've already taken apart big chunks of it, and they weren't gentle. This was not 'taking out some screws' kind of disassembly, it was more of a 'cutting open a frog' type. I was hoping we could get Doc up there to fix it, or else we'll never get it out of here."
Doc was suddenly there before them both, holding out the display screen with two images on it, "Did the Alpha fighter look like this? Or this?"
On the screen were two pictures of slightly different jet fighters. Willow tapped one. Doc immediately went mental, grasping his hair and spinning about. "A Shadow Fighter! We've got to get it! Nothing about their special cloaking device is included in this repair manual!"
"Cloaking device?" All three others echoed.
"Yes!" Doc agreed intently, holding out the tablet saying data on those was not included, as the person to whom this computer was first issued did not have the clearance to work on them. "I know what you're thinking, and it's not that. Unlike just about every other kind of cloaking device that ever existed in science fiction, this does not make anything invisible. It just conceals the vehicle from all kinds of mechanical sensors, including the special energy sensors of the Invid. Still, that ability is priceless! We've got to come back for it!"
"Come back?" all other voices echoed.
"Yes." Doc was suddenly normalized. He waved his arms in a 'Don't you see?' gesture. "Repairs on something like that to get it out of here could take weeks, and that is if it was a fairly light amount of damage. To have that amount of time, we'd be forced to kill all of the Invid in this hive! And, should we manage something like that, we'd be better off doing our study of the cloaking device here, where we had ready access to food and supplies! No. Our only hope of getting the time we need to get that fighter out of here is to either get hold of it before it got damaged, or come back with overwhelming numbers, and both of those courses of action require our time machine - which is something we dare not use this close to the Invid, for fear of their scanners detecting or duplicating the energy pattern. So we must leave in order to get sufficient distance to use our tools properly."
They all looked towards the one Cyclone.
"Can one motorcycle hold us all?" Nodoka asked dubiously, as she didn't see how.
"We're more agile than most Chinese acrobats. Of course we'll fit, even if we have to form a human pyramid on top of it while accelerating to eighty eight miles per hour," Doc assured her in flat, matter of fact, tones. "Now let's get out of here."
"Exit's this way," Willow waved toward a corridor.
"You'd think they'd think up something better to say than 'Surrender humans, this is your last chance'." Xander mocked the large group of Invid enforcers who'd been guarding the exit, but were currently getting kicked around by those same humans they were commanding to surrender. "'Please don't hurt us' could be a better choice."
Unlike virtually all other Invid, this particular brand of aliens were actually advanced enough to survive without their artificial metal shells - until the martial artists punched or kicked or threw them into walls or otherwise finished them off, of course.
"It's not really words. It's a telepathic imperative that is being broadcast," Doc advised. "It's just your brain finds it easier to interpret that as words."
He then yanked one Invid enforcer into the path of the energy beam of a second, using the first as shield, then charging the second as the first enforcer blew up from its ally's blast.
Nodoka's sword slashed in half two of the Invid who'd lost their body armor, then she kicked another still in its suit, which immediately began to crack around the contact point, then exploded.
"Using the Breaking Point with your feet. Handy," Willow surmised as she tied up another Invid with her makeshift whip.
"The hard part is really detecting the point," the proper Japanese woman advised, brushing a stray lock of hair out of her eyes. "Forcing chi in to detonate it is the easy one."
"You know, something just struck me," Xander announced, as he was bashing apart the head of an Invid using the arm shield that alien had dropped.
"What's that?" Willow inquired, casually breaking the neck of the last of this bunch of aliens.
Xander pointed to one of the rock walls of the Invid Genesis Pit. "Ryoga uses this technique to tunnel all of the time, in the show. We don't have to find an entrance. We can make one! Just point us at any old rock wall and we can blast ourselves a tunnel going upwards!"
Everybody looked at Doc.
"What?" he apologized. "Even I can't think of everything."
A short while later a much bedraggled party of martial artists emerged from a hastily blasted tunnel onto the surface. Covered in rock dust, Doc stood up in the sunlight and inhaled deeply, brushing off his hands and clothes as he did so. He turned a manic grin back on the rest of the group as they all emerged in a similar state from the tunnel behind him. "Well, whatever our original purpose, this stop *did* provide us with a first-class training journey!"
"You can say that again," Nodoka breathed aloud in both relief and wonder. The woman who *never* allowed herself to look disheveled, not even a hair out of place, was at that moment in a frightful state, covered in rock dust, with loose hair and torn robes. It stood as a silent testimony to just how hard that whole experience had been for her.
Willow gave one of those feline-aloof looks that made Doc want to reach for a Batarang, and reminded Xander of a cat that had just fallen down off a sofa, or done something else amazingly clumsy, yet was pretending that nothing like that had ever happened.
Both girls were plainly interested in long baths and a great deal of personal grooming in their near futures.
Xander had to grin. "Yeah. It's too bad we couldn't bring everyone on it."
They did indeed have to form a human pyramid, Doc on the bottom and the two girls standing on his shoulders, on the back of the Cyclone to get all four of their people to ride on it at once.
And that did make the acceleration to eighty eight miles per hour interesting.
Doc, being the sort of fellow who thought ahead, had carefully noted the time their time vehicle had been stolen by the Invid at the same moment he'd been noting the route and trajectory of the thieves.
He had also carefully recorded just how long it took them to walk from the beach, all of the way to the Stilt Hive they'd first encountered before falling into the Genesis Pit, omitting the amount of time they'd stopped and trained during the middle of that trip.
So, because he was careful to record those things, it was a fairly simple matter to go an amount of time into the past that allowed them to be concealed in ambush at the entrance to the Stilt Hive a comfortable amount of time before the Invid carrying their car reached that point.
Xander and Nodoka leaped out, touching both the scouts carrying their car, activating their Breaking Points and causing them to explode, while Doc jumped out in the middle of them and did the same to their car, reducing it to so much metal shrapnel.
"What did you do that for?" Xander screamed.
"We're seven hundred feet in the air!" Doc pointed down from where they stood on the side of the highly elevated Stilt Hive. "The car couldn't get itself down intact. I couldn't carry it down in my arms, and neither could you! In fact, I'm positive that all of us together couldn't lift that much mass and weight, carry it all that distance down, and still dodge Invid fire all that way! Nor could any of us manage something that large and heavy in Hidden Weapon space. No, our only concern was that vehicle must never fall into the hands of the Invid! We can already travel back home, and as for that car, I can buy another base model to install all our specialty parts in! Come along! Now it's time for us to get out of here!"
After all the practice they'd been having it was no longer any particular challenge for the three to dodge Invid out away from the hive, lose them in the brush, then rejoin with Willow where she'd been keeping their motorcycle safe from harm.
The trip back to their Ranma universe went exactly as expected, which led to...
"What are we doing BACK here?" Xander shouted, as they watched over three dozen martial artists practice katas on the beach while Doc gleefully examined a dead flower, which hadn't survived the trip home and back.
"Simple!" Doc answered. "I can give you two very good reasons. I'd still like to get hold of that Shadow Fighter we had to leave behind in the underground hive on our first visit. And secondly, this really was a top notch training journey. All of our skills improved by leaps and bounds. So, I thought to kill two birds with one stone! We need extra fighters to be able to take out enough of the Invid in that research hive to be able to properly secure the fighter, and many of our friends could use the increase in their martial arts skill!"
Xander thought it over for a moment. "I guess that works."
"What if someone gets hurt?" Willow questioned.
Doc gave a slight frown. "Well, I *was* going to use that Instant Jusenkyo powder to make twins of everybody, and send only the copies through the experience. I figured if the twin died, then when the curse was over at worst you'd be half-dead, and half dead is certainly better than all-dead. But no such luck. Jusenkyo curses don't appear to work outside of the Ranma universe. So I guess we'll have to chance it."
"Now what are we doing *here*?" Willow questioned as their second model of amphibious time car came out of the temporal warp.
"Like I said before," Doc exulted. "The Earth on a Robotech timeline goes through three separate and distinct invasions. We'd initially arrived during the Invid occupation period, where very little human civilization survived on the planet. As I told you, that occupation ends when a returning human space fleet drives the invaders off, at great cost to all sides involved. But with the exception of a few late-war developments like the Shadow Cloaking Device, that fleet was *BUILT* and launched before the second invasion! So all of the technology we might have learned by examining devices we found there, was just better done by stealing records of that technology *here*, during the second invasion!"
A swarm of giant humanoid mecha, specifically twenty two foot tall bioroids in service of the Robotech Masters, were doing battle against native Earth hovertanks on the horizon.
"Yeah, but..." Xander sputtered to silence as these particular invaders showed off their near-perfect hover technology as flying platforms zipped about overhead.
"Yes," the doc noted when his younger counterpart's attention had wandered. "The Bioroid Hover Craft, basically giant technological surfboards with two guns and a handle. They are impressive, aren't they? That's one major reason why I chose to return here, when those aliens were doing battle with the Earth's army, in hopes of picking up some portion of the alien's technology. Their hover boards in particular, as their maneuverability is unparalleled. One can hover stationary, attain speeds of nearly two hundred miles per hour, maneuver through narrow streets and corridors with the greatest of ease, fly as low as three feet above a surface, go from ground to orbit or even attain limited space flight, stop on a dime, accelerate to maximum speed within a few seconds, or fly straight up or down. If we could build a car with that kind of technology we'd never have to be worried about a rough entry after a time jump again. So you can see the source of my curiosity."
The aliens, in retreating from battle, were gathering all of their mecha into larger ships. Doc crossed his arms and assured, "Those Robotech Assault Carriers would be an even better score. A bioroid is about twenty two feet tall, and their hover boards are thirty one feet long, yet each Assault Carrier holds seventy-two of those monsters simultaneously, and delivers them to and retrieves them from battle. The Assault Carriers themselves are very nearly as nimble as the hover boards, while at the same time being much faster, routinely reaching speeds of three thousand, three hundred and fifty miles per hour. They've also got some very heavy guns of their own, and a hull so sturdy heavy laser artillery could barely scratch it. Supposing we could duplicate one of those, it would make our luxury liner look sick, and aside from the Breaking Point, there is very little even a cargo of heavy duty martial artists could do that might damage it."
"Yeah. I could see your interest." Xander was nodding. Shuttling carload after carload of drugged and sleeping martial artists home after their raid on that Invid hive had been fairly tedious, and had reawoken a desire to have a vehicle large enough to haul them all.
"But dear," Nodoka began, "Just how are we going to gain access to all these things?"
The group blinked. She did have a point. No one is foolish enough to make their cutting edge military technologies public record. So they couldn't just look it up in a library, or whatever.
Doc brought a hand down on Willow's shoulder. "Well, it just so happens that we have a nearly unstoppable cat burglar among us. And everything we'd want to study, Earth has already shot down some examples of, and their best scientists have been studying. Here is a list of all of the key technologies we are after. Let us know what you find, won't you, Willow? The rest of us are going to extend our beach trip."
More flashes of lightning, as their car once again emerged from a time displacement. Willow was in the back seat pouting, while the rest of them were tanned and covered with sand, a beach umbrella or two poking out among their luggage.
The Earth they emerged onto was almost a complete desert as far as the eye could see.
"What are we doing here?" Willow asked the expected question.
"End of first invasion, before the start of the second, when the crew of the crashed Earth battlefortress had started trying to rebuild society planetside. The battlefortress was badly damaged, but not yet totally destroyed. When we are right now is before the aliens they'd tried to include in human culture launched a final attack, ruining what was left of the operational sections of the crashed battlefortress."
"That is when, not what, nor why, Dear," Nodoka gently scolded her husband.
He grinned an apology. "Very simply, each era has their own distinct technology. At the end of this one, they have figured out all they are going to about their first generation Robotech systems, but have not yet started on new ones. So, if we should break into their records and steal what they know about what they've got now, it will make our next stop that much easier."
Willow looked up towards the giant, crashed battlefortress still being used as a civilization hub, a new city radiating out from the lake it had crashed in. "Right. Shouldn't take me more than half an hour."
"We'll have a picnic lunch ready for you when you get back," Nodoka promised.
"So, Dear, we've read all the records these people had as far as technology, why are we still here?" Nodoka asked as their car emerged from yet another time jump.
Doc gave her an only slightly demented smile and answered, "Why, I thought you should be pleased that we're going to save several generations of humans from each perishing in their own distinct orbital bombardments."
Everyone in the group blinked in shock at that.
"You're going to prevent that?" Willow suddenly *reeked* of approval.
"Of course!" Doc replied back.
"How?" They all echoed.
"That," Doc pointed to the giant, space battlefortress sitting new in its launching cradle, "is the answer. The first alien space fleet bombards the Earth looking to force that ship to surrender. The second race of aliens attacks the planet seeking treasure from its ruins, and the third attack comes because of what was sealed in there getting released to draw them here."
"So..." Xander tried to carry that thought forward, but couldn't.
"We're going to steal it." Doc grinned madly.
There came a long moment of silence.
"Can you do that?" Nodoka blinked up at the giant space battlefortress nearly three quarters of a mile in length.
"Why would you want it?" Willow felt bewildered. Some nice jewels, sure. A city? Or rather, a ship big enough to hold one? Where would you put it?
Catwoman was really more interested in some nice diamonds than giant starships.
But Xander now felt bemused wonder. "Oh, I dunno. You've got to respect a ship whose main gun could blow a hole clear through the Death Star. A hole a couple miles wide, so that you could sail the biggest Star Destroyer right down it without touching the sides. Hit that thing's main reactor and, just like in Return of the Jedi, the whole Death Star should blow up. And, if you want to take it a step further, the books say the SDF-1's main shield could take a hit from their own main gun before going down. So I'd say there's a good chance the Death Star's main laser might not do any better. So, no, you've really got to respect a ship that could go toe to toe with the Death Star and win. Each could hit the other with the worst they've got, the SDF-1 would destroy the space station, and not be destroyed in turn."
All the others had joined him in wonder.
This story was an experiment. It was an attempt to get back to the happy, light style I was first known for. I admit, the stuff I write as Lionheart is often choked with explanations. Part of that was an attempt to obscure my writing style so folks who'd read both could not identify me as easily. But an increasingly large part of that was a legitimate response to readers who wanted this or that question explained. Then often those explanations were challenged and required more explanation as a response.
Anyway, this story was an attempt to drop all that and go back to happy, fun and funny stuff like I wrote before. And, judging by the response, I will be the first to admit the experiment has failed. Half the reviews are complaints or demands, while the other half barely muster a tenth the positive responses I could have expected from posting equal chapters of any other thing. Which is a shame, as this is the only one I'd ever attempted where the whole story was plotted out from the very first chapter clear through to the end.
I am happy when I can tell you guys are, but that really hasn't been the case for this story. So it simply no longer holds my interest. I can't write something that bores me, so barring a miracle, expect this to be the last chapter of this story.
I'd kept thinking "Oh, next chapter it will catch on. Next chapter word will have spread and it will have enough of a following." I kept thinking that from the first chapter on. But, if anything, it has gone the opposite direction. I had my largest response to the first chapter, and it has consistently gone down since then, with even some of my former best reviewers turning wholly negative, or, like Katdemon18, who on this story at least has reliably provided more text review alone than all others put together, just apparently lost interest.
So, no. I no longer hold out any hope for it to finally catch on, and will close up my notes and consider it abandoned.