Raccowrimo

Journey into Procrastination #1

"Preludes and Distractions" by Adrian J. McClure

Journey into Procrastination #1:
"Preludes and Distractions"
by Adrian J. McClure
Part of High Concept Challenge #24: Le Challenge French

Note: This is an anthology series for short-short stories and 24-
minute comics which I can write to get myself started again when I'm
feeling burned out on more substantial work, and reply to High Concept
Challenges when I can't manage to write a full story. Also, in the
spirit of the now sadly deleted Guttertrash, some or all of the issues
will be CC-licensed so people can build on them if they want to for
whatever reason.

***

Jenny tapped her pencil on the desk and stared at the half-finished
exam. The exam, much like an abyss, stared back. It wasn't that she
didn't enjoy this class, or that she didn't think it was important to
her even though she was an engineer. A class on 19th-century French
literature might not seem terribly relevant for someone who wanted to
get into physics and help design an FTL drive. But she felt that it
was important to have a complete education, so she could preserve the
wonder and adventure of studying science and not lose track of its
wider human context. It was just that, well...

She was Jenny Everywhere. She could access all the memories and
knowledge of all her counterparts in all parallel universes, and the
power to travel to any of them. And every single one of them, at the
moment, was more interesting than this one. The more she tried to
concentrate on her exam question, the more she found herself drifting
off and thinking about what she was doing on other worlds. In another
life she could be fighting demons, or exploring the underwater ruins
of Ys, or she could be exploring alien worlds right this second
instead of working on a completely unrelated task so she could do it
in ten years. She'd decided a long time ago against leaving this
world. The adventures she could have in the future were well worth
sticking around for. And if that meant suffering through a few exams,
well... The next universe over she'd just solved the Riddle of the
Omega-Sphinx. Dealing with a simple exam couldn't be too hard... could
it?

Why was she even doing this? Surely somewhere in the multiverse some
other version of her was working on an exam question about _The Three
Musketeers_. Couldn't she just pull the answer out of her head and
call it a day? No. It was important that she learn how to work through
these kinds of problems. Besides, in the other world the book might be
a little bit-or a lot-different.

She caught herself chewing the eraser and put down the pencil. She had
to concentrate. Think. Think about Athos, Porthos, Aramis,
D'Artagnan...

The three of them walked into the flickering shadows of the cathedral.
A cathedral with a conspicuous lack of crosses. They all drew their
swords at once. "Come out!" shouted Jenny. "Don't tell me you're
scared!"

Walking into this strange, dark building made her aware of how far
from home she was. The ship she was traveling in was taken from China
to this land called France by a tornado, and she was the only
survivor. So she disguised herself as a man and joined the Musketeers.
Together with her three comrades in arms Athos, Porthos and Aramis,
she had fought and won many difficult battles. Now they were going
forth to face the enemy who had harried them constantly and had worked
behind the scenes against them for what she hoped would be the last
time.

"You have corrupted church and state!" shouted Athos. "You have
feasted upon the blood of innocents! But no longer! Your day of
reckoning is at hand, Cardinal Dracula!"

The mist that seeped through the Cathedral drew together before the
altar. It took the shape of a tall, pale man in a cardinal's robes.
"Bah! Greater men than you have tried and failed. But enough talk!
Have at thee!" Cardinal Dracula drew his two black swords and struck
at them with the fury of the whirling storm that had brought Jenny
here. They battled him with all their might but, except for Jenny,
they could not hope to keep up with the speed of his strokes. Before
long they fell to the ground, exhausted. Cardinal Dracula fixed Jenny
with his terrible gaze. She felt the room start to spin around her.

"Do not fear, my child," whispered Cardinal Dracula. His voice was
dark, thrilling, and strangely soothing. "Soon, you shall become my
bride. Yes, I know your secret. And together we shall rule the world
entire!" She knew could break free if she tried hard enough, but his
teeth were already at her throat...

"No!" said Aramis weakly, struggling to stand up. "You shall not harm
my strangely attractive comrade in arms!" He hurled his sword at
Cardinal Dracula, who did not even flinch. "Fool! Your swords cannot
harm the Lord of the Undead!"

With Dracula's gaze turned away from her, Jenny was free. She drew the
other sword she had brought with her, a sharpened wooden bokken she'd
been given by her merchant father. It was the only thing of her old
life she had left. "I wooden stake my life on it!" she shouted,
plunging the blade into Cardinal Dracula's heart. Then she realized
that pun didn't work at all in French. One of her English-speaking
counterparts must be tapping into her mind. Oh well.

Dracula screamed in pain. Then he drew a metal object from his robes.
"Behold the Reliquary of Baphomet!" It glowed and his flesh began to
shift and change. His bones began to crack and reshape, he started
growing, and scales covered his skin. "Now at long last you shall see
why I am called... THE SON OF THE DRAGON!!!"

Wait a minute, thought Jenny, the Musketeer Jenny, to her counterpart.
Don't you have work you need to be doing?

Jenny snapped back to attention. The Cathedral of Cardinal Dracula was
replaced by the dull, barren classroom. She glanced at the clock and
saw that the time for the exam was almost over. But she was feeling
excited and energized after living through that battle. She looked at
the question in front of her and then somehow an answer popped into
her head, beautifully clear and fully formed. She took up the pencil
in her hand and started writing furiously. She put the last period on
the last sentence just as the class came to an end.

A few weeks later she got the exam back. She'd gotten a B. Every
question was correct except the one about _The Three Musketeers_. The
teacher told her that her answer was highly entertaining, but novel
didn't have any Mind Flayers, whatever those were.

Oh well. She shouldn't have been to surprised. She'd always liked the
Earth-44 Alexandre Dumas better.

***

Notes:

Circumstances kept me from doing a proper 24-minute comic today like
I'd intended, but I did try to write it in one sitting.

Jenny Everywhere is an open-source character, who can be used in any
story. Ever since I ran across her years ago I always thought her
concept had an enormous amount of potential, but could never really
think of a good story for her for a long time. Soon enough I'll be
writing an LNH story where a version of her appears, but I wanted to
post a shorter and simpler story that could serve as an introduction.

I realized too late that having the story told from her POV means I
didn't get to describe her appearance very much. This is how the Jenny
Everywhere FAQ at theshifterarchive.org describes her: "She has short,
dark hair. She usually wears aviation goggles on top of her head and a
scarf around her neck. Otherwise, she dresses in comfortable clothes.
She is average size and has a good body image. She has loads of
confidence and charisma. She appears to be Asian or Native American.
She has a ready smile."

Mostly, I think, people tend to use Jenny Everywhere as a gimmick. She
gets thrown a lot into webcomics as a cameo character or guest star,
but few of them actually delve into her character very deeply. This is
a shame because she actually has a very interesting concept and
personality. I wanted to write a story that explored her unique way of
seeing the world. This is a story I wrote for another site that does
so from a different angle, which I think makes a nice complement to
this one: http://ficly.com/stories/25444

I do have an idea for incorporating Jenny Everywhere into Classic LNH-
which I had meant to do in Ultimate Mercenary ages ago, before that
series collapsed under the weight of its own metaplot-so I'm
preemptively reserving her there. I have no idea what she would be in
the LNH20 world, though. Maybe she could be some kind of Flash Gordon-
esque space adventurer. Feel free to use her there-or in any other
imprint, obviously-however you want.

Also, I've never actually read _The Three Musketeers_. I never even
got around to seeing the latest movie. (Which is probably for the best
because what with Hugo-which was excellent-and the upcoming Sherlock
Holmes sequel, I might have been in danger of steampunk fatigue.) I
did see some of the old movies. My sister, though, loves the book
(she's a fencer) and I wrote this with her in mind.

***

The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with
only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication
involving Jenny Everywhere, in order that others may use this property
as they wish. All rights reversed.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ or send a letter to
Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View,
California, 94041, USA.