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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

We'll Always Have Paris Archives
Starcross, Part I

Character(s): {{Jack}} and the Rat
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Jack and the Rat... Together Again for the First Time

"It's... a rat," Jack said, not taking it.
"Thank you!" the Rat cried.
"Okay, a talking rat," Jack corrected.
"Our Jack could talk to it. Understand what it wanted to say. It was a math thing."
"Hello, Ratty," Jack said. "Are you a good little rat?"
Ebreth sighed.
"Mebbe I can help, buddy," another rat said from the ground. "Ratsputin at your soivice. Are youze Jack Paris?"
"Does everyone here know me?" Jack asked.
"Thank you!" the Rat cried.
"Da question here seems to be, who do you know?"
"That was nice and cryptic," Mina muttered to Amatsu.
"Da rats have heard dat people are lookin' for youze," Ratsputin said. "And Seeker a' Places, 'ere, 'e's got someones youze need to meets wit'."
"He knows Dalen, but not very well, apparently," Vickie giggled to Garal.
"Look, I'ze gots business to take care of. I told Seeker dat I'd hook youze up, but I'ze gotta get going. Good luck wit' yer mission, whatever it is."
"Wait!" Jack called to Ratsputin. "How are we supposed to understand him?"
"You're da bigs, I'ze sure you'll come up wit' somet'ing."
With that, Ratsputin shot off at an incredible speed.
"That was less than no help," Ebreth sighed. "I think we need you and the Rat to do this mathematically."
"I miss my temple," Jack sighed.

***


Ratsputin watched from a canopy nearby.
He hoped that Seeker of Places knew what he was doing. Still, the alien rat had given Ratsputin very clear directions, and translating for him hadn't been part of that.
Paris Jack seemed to be starting to get the hang of it, so Ratsputin raced down the pole and into a rathole. He had work to do, and not much time to do it.

Character(s): Marty Hu
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Starcrossed
Title of Post: In Space, Apparently, Everyone Can Hear You Scream

"You know, Marty," Mina said, "space rats are just like Ataniel rats."
"That's what I was afraid of."

Character(s): More Annoying and Opinionated Elves
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen, slowest poster in existance... :)
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Khyrisse Wants a Week to Go Shopping in that Market!

“It speaks Boolean,” Khyrisse offered to Jack, a bit distractedly.
“It does?”
“Yes, it taught it to me.” Damn it, what was that scent? Surprise and caution and something else...
Jack just looked at her. “A rat taught you to speak Boolean? What were you using as a common language...?”
“Thank you!”
Jack sighed and pulled out his notebook.
“Khyrisse?” Vas waved a hand in front of her face, as she continued to stare back in the direction of the bar. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“What are you thinking about so ferociously?” he asked, leaning against the low wall next to her with an amused look.
“I’m trying to identify a smell.”
“Here?” Vas lifted his head, sensing the breeze. “With the market so close, it could be anything.”
“No, back in the bar,” she replied irritably.
“That could really be anything,” Skitch said, wrinkling up his nose. “That place stunk.”
Khyrisse sighed. “I was standing near to the insectoid,” she explained, with elaborate patience. “The thri-kreen language, at least, is partially pheromonal. It makes it a little hard to lie... but an insectoid could be reciting poetry right in front of most other races and they’d probably never notice anything but clicking. I smelled a pattern that I recognized.” Attraction? No, not quite strong enough or chypre enough. And if an insectoid found the sight of Val kissing Jack that personally intriguing, I don’t want to know.
“Whoa,” Skitch said. “You really are part butterfly, aren’t you?”
“Skitch, that was a legend.” ...More or less.
“How on Ataniel do you know thri-kreen?” Vas asked.
I don’t, not well... but it’s amazing what you can learn from being the wrong shape. “You really don’t want to know, Vas.” Interest of some kind, then. Combined with something else. Amusement? Anger? Damn, damn, damn! She sighed internally. “Rani, the insectoid back in the bar...”
“What about it?” the detective said, turning to look at Khyrisse.
“It was interested in Val and Jack.”
“More than I wanted to know.”
Khyrisse flushed. “No, I mean interested. Caution, a sort of a surprised recognition, and interest of some kind, plus... something else. I can’t pin it down.”
“Can you give me anything more than that?”
“You want to take a shot at identifying a pheromonal mixture by smell?”
“Not particularly.” Rani eyed Khyrisse. “So you’re telling me it was an informer.”
“Probably.” The psychometrist nodded, not looking terribly happy, but not very surprised either. “Jack, how long will it take you to figure out what the Rat’s talking about?”
“Um...”
“Right.” Khyrisse sighed and looked at the pyramids in the distance. “I don’t have enough information to figure out where the side of the angels is, at this point. My best guess is that we don’t want to be on the side of at least one set of invaders because they want Jack, and the Remnant probably doesn’t belong here either-- which tentatively puts us on the side of whoever is in charge of Starcross. Any objections to getting the flark out of here and trying that?”

Character(s): Rani and Ebreth, doomed never to like each other
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Take Me To Your Leader

"All right," said Rani, "we need to find out where the folks in charge are, then. From someplace bounty hunters don't hang out, preferably." She scanned the street, and pointed. "Hotel."
"Good idea," said Khyrisse.
"That's what you pay me the big bucks for."

***


"What’s your problem?" Rani snapped at Ebreth, as the others filed into the chrome-and-glass hotel.
"Did I say I had a problem?"
"Hello! Psionicist here!" She waved her arms at him. "Either stand a few good yards away from me, or don't give me this 'I don't have a problem' bullshit."
Ebreth paused. "You're sleeping with my best friend's girlfriend."
"And?" said Rani.
He paused again, a longer moment. "And don't expect me to like you." He didn't look back.

***


The hotel clerk looked rather surprised by the question. "The Arbiters?" she said. "They're on the other side of the station entirely. What you want to do is take the 1040B Starshuttle to Ender Square."
"I don't think public transportation is the best idea for us," Ebreth said, his concern about being mugged by bounty hunters reluctantly taking precedence over how much he really, really wanted to take the 1040B Starshuttle to Ender Square.
"You could take your own ship there. You just need to get onto the Xihfoix Expressway east."
Ebreth liked that idea even better, but sighed it away as something, maybe, for another time. "Um..." hemmed Jack.
"If we knew exactly where it was in relation to here, we could take a shortcut there," offered Garal.
"Yes, that's very nice," said the clerk, indulgently, and spoke over his head to Jack. "I wouldn't bet on their seeing you now, though. They have more than enough to deal with now, what with the Hunter's invasion force and the living dead taking one of the Pyramids of Light."
"Excuse me!" said Rani. "You've got directions for us, give them to our planeblazer, please!" She pointed at Garal.
The woman blinked. "But--"
"You think we hire him for decoration?" she demanded.
"Very--well," said the clerk, looking oddly at Rani, and then at the halfling. "Starcross Hall is about forty-five miles east of here. Then about four blocks south of the highway, which is six blocks north of here, but if you get forty-five miles east of here you won't be able to miss it."
"Garal?" murmured Khyrisse.
"I should be able to do that," he mumbled, clearly a little embarrassed by all the attention.
"Good," said Rani, clipped, and turned her back on him.

Character(s): Vickie and Garal
Author: Eric Gasior
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Garal's Discreet but Vickie's Persistent

Garal watched the detective as she defended him and then blew him off. She confused him more than most people.
"Don't worry about it Garry. She's tense." Vickie tried another arrangement for his hair.
"Well she," Garal abruptly stopped talking. That's their business. You don't even know that state of things between Val and Jack yet.
Unfortunately, Garal turned beet red.
Vickie looked him right in the eye. Quietly but firmly she said, "You know something."
"No." He said, too quickly.
"Yes you do." She grabbed him by the arm and dragged him to the hotel bar.

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: WAHP: PIKA
Title of Post: And I Thought VAS Was Bad...

Khyrisse opened her mouth, then closed it again as Vickie and Garal disappeared through the door to the bar.
Grendel, if she must be a loose cannon, does she have to drag away our transportation, too?
Khyrisse rolled her eyes. "I guess it's time for a drink. Not that I can have one."

Character(s): Back at last...
Author: Jonah Cohen
Storyline: Lianth Shrugged
Title of Post: Back to our Regularly Scheduled Story

One day til Lianth. One day.
For some time, she had been impatient, anxious, horny, lonely, impatient, and more. But now, Lady Roxana DeLaMatrie was calm. Just one more day.
Five years ago, she had met Schneider -- and while there had been some attraction, she mostly regarded him as another weird pal of Kari. Kari knew lots of weirdos. Then the two of them had gotten to know each other, flirted a lot, then just settled into being friends. Very good friends. They'd seen each other through good times and bad times and just plain absurd times. They'd been tempted many times to try to do more, but had always managed to fumble things. Some of the mistakes had been hers, some his. OK, mostly his. But through it all, they had never let the other get too far away.
Then Bane came.
She had watched a city immolate itself -- Hell, had practically handed it the lit match! -- and it had been the scariest four days of her life. For weeks afterwards she had suffered from shakes and panic attacks and nightmares. She was lucky, and recovered quicker than many. Like Schneider.
Post-Madness Syndrome seemed to spell the end for them, maybe the end of everything for him. She'd wanted to break things. But somehow, he'd made it through. So had she. And now? Now maybe happier times were right around the corner.
Roxy sighed. One day.

Character(s): The Rat Pack (back with the Rat!)
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Bar Chatter

"She slept with Marty, didn't she?"
"No."
"She's hooked on strength potions."
"Uh, no."
"She's really a man."
"Well, uh, getting warmer, I guess."

Jack wandered up to the bar. He had put on a pair of glasses and combed his hair out of his eyes. He hoped it would be a good enough disguise.
"I'll try one of those," Jack said.
"Me too," Flicker added.
"Run for your lives!" the Rat cried.

"Hermaphrodite?"
"No. Colder."
"Doppleganger?"
"No."
"Exotic dancer?"
"Uh, much colder."

"So, uh, Rani? I wrote you a poem."
"If I plug my ears and hum, it's just my way of appreciating it."
"Okay, cool! It goes, 'Rani, Rani, young and sweet...'"
"Bartender, two more."
"'Your little toes and little feet...'"
"Make that three."

"Hey, Otter, do you know what Khyrisse and Ebreth are talking about over there?"
"No, Mina," Otter admitted. "Ebreth said something about needing to talk to her about a guy named Sam Hill, so I headed over here."
"Remind me to tell you where I keep my diary."
"Excuse me, ladies," Orlen interrupted, "but they seem to be placing bets on our comrades... should we interfere?"
"Bets?" Otter asked.
"Jack and Flicker... who can drink more."
Mina smiled. "This ought to be good. Jack can hold more than one might expect."

"She's pregnant."
"No."
"She's a thief about to backstab Khyrisse."
"I would tell people if I thought it was dangerous to the party."
"I'm going to keep guessing until either you spill or Flicker gets drunk."
Garal looked over his shoulder. "Are they taking bets?"
"I hope so. I'll put everything I've got on Flicker. Is she a dragon avatar?"
"Very, very cold."

"'Then I gazed upon your lovely knees...'"
"I can't... take much more... of this..." Rani muttered to the bartender. "You have anything sedative?"
"'They bend in your leg like little fleas...'"

"That's J.P. thirty, Flicker, thirty," the bartender said.
"Five more," Flicker said.
Jack breathed on his hand and smelled it.
"Uh, maybe make it ten."

"She's got an alternate personality that comes from a possessing ancestral spirit?"
"No."
"She's really Anakin Skywalker."
"Please stop, Vickie... you're not even making sense..."
"C'mon, I'm just getting started!"

"Whose idea was it to come here?" Val asked Crandall, the two of them standing by the door like wallflowers.
"I think it was Jack's."

"Well, we'll just have to see," Khyrisse sighed to Ebreth. "What's going on over there?"
"Looks like Jack versus Flicker in a drinking contest."
Khyrisse busted out laughing.

"Um, who's paying for this?" someone asked, but no one heard them.

Character(s): Rani, embarrassing herself again
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: The World's Lamest Poetry Slam

"Rani, Rani, your lovely larynx..."
"You know the word larynx?" said Rani, with great skepticism.
"Whoa, yeah. I'm totally scared of them."
"Let me show you yours."
"You're so loving, and so caring."
"Caring doesn't rhyme with larynx."
"Is my poem winning your heart?" said Marty, eagerly.
Rani considered the potential of various lies. I'm allergic to you. I'm married. Stand over there or I'll make your brain explode. I like you as a friend. None of them seemed likely to have good results. "Marty," she said, with as much patience as she could, "I am not attracted to you. I never will be attracted to you."
"Rani, Rani, thin and fair," Marty started the next verse. "Your pretty eyes, your pretty hair."
"I do not like you near or far. I do not like you in the bar. I do not like you on the stair. I do not like you anywhere."
"When I see your lovely ankles, then my heart goes tinkle-tankle."
"Marty, give it up." She threw back her drink. "I'm already involved with someone."
Marty's face fell a little. "I think I'm better-looking than J-ran," he offered.
"Oh, God. Marty, I am not sleeping with that self-righteous prick. I don't know where to begin with that."
"Are you in love with Master Ebreth?"
"No. Marty, I'm a lesbian. This means I like women."
"I like women too!" He perked up. "We have something in common!"
"No, I mean I'm attracted to women."
"Me too!"
"Marty, I'm having sex with Valende!" she shouted.
At precisely one of the moments the bar fell absolutely quiet.
Everyone turned to look at her.
"Oh," said Marty, in the moment of uncomfortable silence. "I'm not, uh, doing that."
Rani hid her face behind one of her gloved hands. "Another drink," she mumbled at the bartender.
"Lucky Valende," one of his heads grinned back at her.

Character(s): Vickie Dare, Garal Tinderhook
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Starcrossed
Title of Post: I Liked My Theories Better

"Is that it?" Vickie asked Garal.
"Yeah," Garal said, almost disappointedly.
"Eww." Vickie crunched her face up. "That's just gross." She wagged her hands back and forth like there was something on them.
"Not that there's anything wrong with it," Garal offered.
"I'm not going to be able to sleep now until I see a penis."
Garal said nothing but turned bright, bright red.

Character(s): Marty, Valende
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Starcrossed
Title of Post: The Lessons We Teach

Marty wandered up to Valende, who was still stunned by the sudden exposure of her private life.
"Um, Miss Valende?" Marty asked.
"I don't want to talk about it," she sighed to Marty.
"I was just wondering if I could sleep with you so that Rani would like me more."
"This is some majorly fucked up shit, right here," Crandall muttered.

Character(s): Rani
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Thanks A Lot, Marty

"Thank you." Rani threw back the shot and scattered some coins across the bar. The left sheaf of her hair was conveniently obscuring her fairly scarlet face. "Get away from her. Shoo." She pushed Marty away and grabbed Valende by the arm. "Can we just get out of here," she mumbled, with terrific embarrassment.

Character(s): Crandall, Marty
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Covering

"But..." Marty started.
"Go," Crandall said. "I'll take damage control."
"Thanks," Rani said, heading outside.
"But..." Marty repeated.
"Marty, don't make me show you a pencil," Crandall sighed.
Marty shuddered. "I think I'll go somewhere, uh... else, now."

Character(s): Khyrisse
Author: Kristin L.K. Andersen
Storyline: WAHP: PIKA
Title of Post: Oh For A Muse Of Distraction

Khyrisse leaned across the table as she got up and whispered to Ebreth, trying to suppress laughter, "...You don't suppose it's her birthday or anything?"

Character(s): {{Jack}}, Flicker
Author: Douglass Barre
Storyline: We'll Always Have Paris: Starcrossed
Title of Post: It May Stop, But It Never Ends

Jack was at forty-seven-point-eight-five-two shots when the embarassing shout rang out.
But I thought... he started, then shook his head. I guess I don't understand what's going on around here after all.
"Flicker?" he said as he placed the glass carefully in the pyramid he was building. "Do you ever get the feeling that you only comprehend the tip of the iceberg?"
Flicker took his forty-eighth shot and nodded. "Someday remind me to tell you about my relationship with Maxwell Silverhammer."
Jack smiled weakly. "Okay, I was hoping it wasn't just me."
"So, how long before we tell them?" Flicker asked.
"I think I'd rather stay here a while longer, actually," Jack said.
"Skol," Flicker offered.
Jack clinked his glass in toast.
To what, he hadn't the foggiest idea.

Character(s): Rani and Val
Author: Laura Redish and Kristin L'Kar Andersen
Storyline: WAHP: Starcrossed
Title of Post: Ditty Bout Rani And Valende

Rani dragged Val out the door of the hotel. "Listen," she said, "I'm really sorry, that wasn't--what I meant to broadcast all over this fucking alien bar."
Valende, as the shock faded from her face, was dissolving into helpless giggles. "That's all right, Rani," she gasped. "Marty's poetry is enough to drive anyone momentarily over the edge."

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