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El Goonish Shive Loops

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1.1 XTheObscure


[El Goonish Shive][Admin shenanigans]

Girls, Squirrels, and Big Honkin’ Hammers

Skuld, bags under her half-open eyes, walked up to Ratatoskr's small cubicle, tapping her hammer against her hand. Stopping in the cube, she opened her eyes enough to glare at him.

Ratatoskr looked up, then shrunk back to a far corner... not that there was very far to shrink. "Y-y-yes?"

"Look, I know that we haven't always treated you with respect, and Zeus richly deserved what happened to his corn stash," Skuld said, not raising her voice in the slightest, "But if you EVER pull anything like that again, I'll make sure you're demoted to laundry duty for the Olympians. You do realize that I'm going to have to write a patch to keep malicious code or loopers from taking advantage of the loophole you used to bring in the squirrels? We've already had to deal with the bees."

Ratatoskr shrank away further. No sane person - or squirrel - would ever want to have to fetch and wash Zeus' dirty laundry for aeons. "...Yes'm...."

Skuld stopped tapping her hammer and put it down to her side. "Now then... we've got a new set of loops to start up, and Tyr suggested you take one to keep you busy. So I've sent it to your workstation. Call Hephaestus if you have any problems, I'm going to get some sleep." Suddenly, Skuld stopped trying to look awake, her eyes drooping back down before she turned and left.

No longer pretending to be a fuzzy wall decoration, Ratatoskr made his way to his workstation and tapped a few keys with his paws, bringing up the new loop:

WORLD DESIGNATION: Moperville (Hub Designation "El Goonish Shive")

ASSIGNED ADMIN: Ratatoskr

STATUS: Currently Read Only. Looping recommended to increase stability.

ANCHOR CANDIDATES, STABILITY >75%: Tedd Drew Verres (Yggdrasil Recommendation), Elliot Daniel Dunkel, Grace Sciuridae, Sarah Brown

OTHER POTENTIAL LOOPER CANDIDATES, STABILITY >50%: Ellen Danielle Dunkel, Tiffany Susan Pompoms, Justin Tolkiberry, Nanase Kitsune, Entity designation "Demonic Duck", Edward Verres, Catalina Bobcat... <SEE MORE>

PROJECTED STABILITY: 85-93%

NOTE: It was either give this to you, or hand it over to Agdistis, and I think she wanted this one for the wrong reasons. Get this working and we'll find someone else to fetch the coffee. - Tyr

Ratatoskr examined the loop and the potential anchor candidates and smiled. Oh, this could be fun ...

----

Tedd woke up and found himself in science class, which was strange given that last he remembered, he'd fallen asleep on the couch with Grace. The teacher was busily explaining the importance of the creation of goo.... and the goo that he and Elliot had been preparing had just come alive and slipped off.

Wait... what?

Tedd pinched himself. It hurt - so he probably wasn't dreaming. But the goo coming alive happened last year... before he'd made the best mistakes of his life. Before he'd actually made friends other than Elliot. Before he'd actually gained magic (to be fair, that was last night... or next year?). Before... before Grace.

Was this time travel? His dad had said that time travel was impossible. But he'd also said the same thing about magic-eating interdimensional whales, so that didn't necessarily rule it out.

Suddenly he got tapped on the shoulder. It was Elliot. "Um...Tedd?"

Tedd jolted up. "Oh, uh.... yeah. The goo slid off. We need to find it."

Elliot looked at Tedd, concerned. "That too, but that's not the only problem. XYC."

Examine your chest... Tedd looked down and realized that she had accidentally transformed in the meantime. In the middle of class.

"Aw, NUTS!"

Well, at least she could still do that...


1.2 XTheObscure


Through The Looking Glass

Tedd, currently female for sexy-awesome reasons, and Elliot, currently female because of malfunctioning TF gun reasons, walked through the disturbingly low-security government facility seeking an artifact to correct the latter.

Elliot rolled his - her? - eyes. "Seriously, Tedd, the security guard didn't even check your ID to see if you were a boy or a girl?"

Tedd shrugged her shoulders. "Either he didn't check very hard or I'm just that girly." At one point she would have been offended by that, but having lived the past year three times already - once as 'Tess' - she didn't mind owning up to it anymore. "Anyway, the Dewitchery Diamond's on the second floor. Good thing too... there's lots more light up there."

The two walked upstairs and looked around until they finally found the diamond, on a plinth in the middle of a room, complete with a spotlight making it look more like a museum exhibit than anything else.

Elliot looked startled. "Well, that's disturbingly convenient".

Tedd sighed - it was always disturbingly convenient. Apparently nobody had thought of putting the potentially dangerous magic artifact in a box or under glass or anything in ANY of the time resets so far, though once there had been a plaque saying 'Dewitchery Diamond: DO NOT USE'. They walked up towards the diamond. No alarms seemed to be going off.

Tedd, knowing exactly what was going to happen next, realized he was just a little bored. Elliot would touch the diamond, Ellen would come into existence, they'd have to keep Ellen from having a mental breakdown from her sudden existence or a mistaken impression she'd go away after a month, they'd exit the facility, hopefully avoiding the security guard and driving home without Ellen stealing the car so they'd not have to hitchhike... WHUMPH!

Tedd, oblivious, tripped over the power cable for the Diamond's spotlight and fell right on top of the Diamond. One blast of green light later, Tedd found himself on the floor, now male... and staring at a female Tedd (Tess?) about ten feet away.

Elliot was also staring, rather surprised. "....Za?"

Tess looked at Tedd. "Dad's not going to be happy about this."

Tedd shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, but I think Grace would be."

Tess giggled. "Heh, yeah."

Elliot, having finally realized what the Dewitchery Diamond had done after rebooting his brain, started backing away slowly. "M-maybe I should just stay a girl for a month...".


1.3 Masterweaver


[El Goonish Shive][Admin shenanigans]

A Moment Of Dawning Realization

Another repeat. The seventh time living through this time... and darn it, Tedd still didn't know what was going on! He'd asked his dad, who knew nothing about time travel, he'd joined Susan on her road trip just so he could ask Jerry, and one time he'd even decided to ask the interdimensional whale. The headache had, in the end, not been worth the scraps of information the mysterious creature had doled out...

Well, at least the situation with the goo was handled. And there was Elliot on the chat, checking to see what movie Tedd wanted to see with him and Sarah.

"How is it that you can be so nice and yet so oblivious?" Tedd muttered to himself, typing a quick reply. "Sorry, Elliot, you're on your own this time round..."

He leaned back in his chair, staring at the ceiling. Was it right of him to use his future knowledge to encourage a relationship that ended in a breakup--even an admittedly very amicable one? On the one hand, Nanase couldn't really have been happy with her relationship with Elliot, even if she didn't know why, and Sarah did love him, even if she moved on. On the other... it felt wrong to do this to his friends. Even knowing it would turn out alright in the end... who was he to play god like this? Transformation was fine, but all this social maneuvering was...

Tedd sighed, standing up and popping his back. "I kind of wish I had somebody to talk about this stuff to," he muttered as he walked out of the basement. "Scratch that, I definitely wish I had somebody to talk to. Am I just destined to be the focal point for all the weirdness in the world?" He grabbed his coat and slung it on, steeling himself as he put a hand on the doorknob. "Time to meet Grace again... don't want to keep her waiting too long."

He opened the door--and blinked when he found Grace staring right at him with wet, terrified eyes.

"...Tedd?"

"Yes, that--" Tedd took a deep breath, reluctantly fighting back the urge to hug his future girlfriend. "That's me. Tedd. I'm Tedd."

"I... I know." Grace shivered, tightening the trenchcoat she was wearing.

Tedd paused for a moment. "You... know?"

"I... This is going to sound crazy," Grace said, glancing away, "but I, uh, I think... I think I've time traveled."

Purple eyes went wide behind round glasses.

"And I mean I know you don't know me yet even though I know you which is super creepy and I don't want to be creepy but you're the smartest person I know and also cute and you give good hugs and I might need the hugs but also you have science stuff and if anybody can find out why I'm in the past it's you and I--"

Grace was cut off by a tight hug, one she immediately and instinctively returned as she leaned into him. Her antennae curled softly around his brow, the confusion in her eyes giving way to astonishment.

"You know me..." She leaned back, one antenna curling around Tedd's glasses and lifting them gently off his face as she peered into his eyes. "You... you already..."

"Yes," Tedd admitted softly, gently. "I... I've been trying to figure this out myself--"

"Have we all--are we all coming back in time now?"

"Maybe? It's been only me for the past--uh... repeats..."

Grace tilted her head for a moment. "Repeats? Plural?"

"You're the first one to--to also come back, and--"

"Tedd," she said seriously. "How many times--?"

"Seven. This is the seventh time I've repeated..."

"...Oh, Tedd...." Grace hugged him closer. "I'm so sorry you had to go through that alone--"

"I wasn't entirely alone. Even if nobody else remembered--"

"It'd still be stressful for you," Grace pointed out. "Being the only one who knew... oh no, Elliot's still dating Nanase right now--and Ellen isn't even around yet--!"

"And there's still the immortal giving out random magic marks, and the wizard who made the Dewitchery Diamond will still come, and..." Tedd swallowed. "Grace..."

"Damien." Grace clenched her eyes shut. "I... I know."

"...we can talk about that later," Tedd said quietly. "Right now... right now, let's get you in out of the cold, okay?"

"Okay." Grace nodded. "That's a good plan."

=-=-=-=-=

Ratatoskr steepled his paws as he looked at his terminal. "Closer... not close enough, though. Still... it's a step in the right direction." A thin smile formed on his muzzle. "And I got this done quicker then I expected. Maybe with a bit more effort..."

He giggled to himself, tail curling in delight. "Oh, Skuld, my dear, what wonders you have given me. What wonders indeed..."


1.4 Masterweaver


Tail End of the Issue

On the upside, Grace was--sometimes--repeating with Tedd now. It made Tedd feel more comfortable switching genders more often; sure, Grace was understanding even without repeating time, but there was a difference between loving and naive versus loving and comprehending. They'd talked about that too, sometimes--the difference between the versions of themselves that were in the repeats and the versions that weren't. She'd handled the subject with surprisingly unsurprising ease, assuring Tedd she didn't have any issues with him helping her other hers and even dating them.

Coming from anybody else, the simplicity of how she handled the situation would be astonishing. Coming from Grace, it was refreshingly familiar.

The downside was simply that there just wasn't enough information to explain what was happening, no matter how many times Tedd repeated--and it was always Tedd, Grace had never had a repeat where Tedd wasn't also repeating, which was a data point in and of itself. Maybe it had something to do with being a 'far more dangerous rarity,' whatever that meant. And maybe Grace had just... absorbed whatever enchantment Tedd had on him, through close contact and Uryuom magic. Assuming this was an enchantment, which admittedly didn't make much sense. There was an offhand chance it wasn't even magic at all, or at least not magic as he understood it.

He'd hoped to figure it out soon enough. The repeats were at least mostly regular; true, things didn't always go exactly the way they had the first time, but usually big changes only happened when he (or Grace, when she was repeating) did something different, so he just had to keep pressing on... or so he'd thought.

And then this repeat came about. One where, without any explanation whatsoever, everybody had a tail.

"I mean there's nothing wrong with everyone having tails," Tedd assured Grace rapidly. "I like my tail. And I definitely like yours. But this is something that doesn't seem to make sense in the sense of time repeating. Where would this have come from?"

"An evolutionary change a few billion years ago?" Grace suggested.

"That would suggest that the temporal anomaly has a greater reach than I initially suspected. Or maybe that it changed recently? Maybe whoever or whatever made it did some adjustments in an attempt to undo it but failed, which resulted in the uniformity of tails in the human population. What if there are side effects whenever the creator tinkers with the anomaly? What if the anomaly is destabilizing the universe? And if the person who made this happen doesn't know what they're doing, we could--"

Tedd was cut off by a sudden hug from his girlfriend.

"I understand you're worried. And this is important. But Tedd..." Grace looked deep into his eyes. "I can put ribbons in your tail now."

"...Ribbons are nice," Tedd agreed with a blush.


1.5 Masterweaver


Twinned

"So... uh..." Elliot tapped the driver's wheel. "You know, in retrospect this was a very busy week for us. Maybe that has something to do with why the repeats start here?"

"Yeah, I kind of think it might be the most impactful week of our lives. The Goo, Grace, the other Goo..." Tedd shrugged her shoulders. "Ellen... I'm not saying that everything important about our lives started here, but a lot of it did."

"Speaking of Ellen, though... are you sure she's going to be okay?" Elliot gestured at himself. "You know, since I'm apparently repeating now and she'd be... she'd remember that?"

Tedd sighed as she stroked the transformation gun. "You know... I don't know. I want to say she will--we'll definitely be there for her, no matter what--but... I'm not sure she'll be Ellen, is the thing."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, as much as I hate it, Ellen's first couple of days of existing were horrifying and traumatic for her. But they really shaped a lot of her personality, helped her connect with Nanase... What we're doing now, where I zap you and then you touch the diamond, the Ellen that results from that may not have that initial period shaping her."

Elliot nodded slowly. "I... think I get it. I mean... I wouldn't want to put Ellen through that again, obviously. But whoever we get... even if she's not the Ellen I remember, she'll still be my sister. I just hope she doesn't feel like she's a replacement for, you know--"

"Of course, that's assuming the Ellen we get is just 'you but a girl,'" Tedd pointed out. "I'm still not sure how this repeating works, so it might be that Ellen is already repeating and just needs a body? Or something."

"Right."

"Either way, we need her."

Elliot quirked an eyebrow. "Need her?"

"It's..." Tedd shook her head. "One repeat, I... I got so busy trying to figure out the repeats that I forgot to zap you."

"What happened?"

"...Damien found out Grace was attending Moperville south and... he attacked, with her siblings." Tedd shook her head. "He was stopped, but... a lot of students got hurt. A couple even..."

She trailed off.

Elliot, after a moment, pulled the car over on the side of the road and dragged her into a hug, not saying anything.

"...thanks."

"Whenever you need it."

After a moment, Tedd pushed him off gently. "So, uh... near as I can figure, letting Hedge see you as a cat person gets you kidnapped and taken to The Nest. And Ellen does her thing to Vladia, which... lets Grace know we're there, who Damian wants to attack, and... and as much as I hate having her fight him, she really is the best one to do it. So this," she gestured at the road, "has to happen. And you know, Ellen and Nanase--"

"--yeah. Pretty important pair there." Elliot started the car up again. "I just... I really hope that Ellen can handle this."

The rest of the drive was silent, the pair of them mulling over their own thoughts. It wasn't until they pulled into the parking lot that Tedd spoke up again. "You know, you're taking repeating pretty calmly."

"Well, I'm kind of freaking out a little," Elliot admitted. "Mostly because a lot of things I've learned, a lot of what we've done, I'm... we're going to have to pull it all again. But the actual repeating thing, it's kind of... weird, but not something I can bring myself to be bothered by? Really, after everything that's happened, this is just one more thing."

"And you're expecting me to figure it out."

"Yeah, there's that too."

Tedd rolled her eyes. "I'll try my best. So..." She pulled out a belt. "Plan is zap, diamond, then you go cat and walk home while Ellen drives me home."

"Why do I have to walk?"

"So Hedge sees you, for later."

"Right." Elliot nodded. "So... let's do this, I guess?"

Tedd pointed the transformation gun at him and pulled the trigger.

"Wh--hey!" Elliot groaned. "At least let me unbuckle first!"

"Sorry! Sorry... did not think that through..."

A few minutes and a flash of magical green light later, and Tedd was clearing her vision of sparkles. "Right, so..." She glanced at Elliot, then at Ellen. "Just to be clear, you both remember what we talked about on the way here?"

"Yeah..." Elliot groaned as he stood up. "Give me the belt."

"I..." Ellen paused for a moment. "Wait... Wait, actually... Oh my god." She grabbed her head. "Oh, my god."

Tedd gave her a wary look. "Ellen?"

"...I remember things. My life, from the dream... things Elliot couldn't have been around for..." Ellen stood up, her shocked expression shifting between the two of them. "I think... I think I'm repeating too."

"Huh." Tedd nodded slowly. "So... wait, you have all your memories from before, but also all of Elliot's memories from this time around?"

"Yeah... speaking of which, Elliot?" Ellen crossed her arms with a frown. "We're totally going to have a shared existential crisis about this when we get home."

Elliot blinked. "I'm not sure that's necessary--"

"Take it from an expert, a good existential crisis can do wonders."

"I don't disagree," Tedd said hesitantly, "but if both of you have an existential crisis at the same time, it could become an echo chamber of crisising?"

Ellen rolled her eyes. "Freak out responsibly, is that what you're saying?"

"Well, yes."

"...Fair enough. I guess I can have a crisis before your dad puts me in the school system, anyway. Then Elliot can have his crisis on the weekend."

"Why are we scheduling emotional breakdowns?" Elliot asked plaintively.

"Easier then just having them crop up at random."

"But that's kind of how they work--"

"Elliot!" Tedd snapped. "Cat! Hedge! Ellen! Car! Home!"

"Yeah, yeah..." Ellen waved a hand dismissively as she walked toward the door. "Hey, how is Grace handling all this?"

"Well, she's more cuddly nowadays then she used to be--"

"More cuddly?" Ellen asked, bemused. "How the heck can you even tell that?!"

"She's my girlfriend of course I can tell when she's more cuddly."

Elliot huffed in amusement, putting on the cat belt. "Well, whatever else, at least those two seem to be getting on okay..."


1.6 XTheObscure


A Hair Distracting

"Hey, is that some kind of purple-haired human?" spoke a demonic duck to his friends, two other demonic ducks, desperately trying to distract them from something.

"Za?"

This, Tedd reflected, was a weird loop.


1.7 Skaz Wolfman


Dunkel Dichotomy

In a perfectly ordinary town called Moperville, where nothing extraordinary ever happens, on a perfectly ordinary street in an unremarkable suburban neighborhood, in the singularly mundane household of an average, All-American family named Dunkel, in a bedroom on the second floor…

Elliot Dunkel sat on the edge of his bed, strumming on an acoustic guitar. Ellen, his sister... well, not exactly, but ‘sister’ was much easier than ‘female duplicate created by a magic artifact he touched while stuck in a female transformation, who also has memories from another universe’s version of herself after being nose-booped by a skunk lady’....

Anyways, she was laying down on her bed, arms folded under her head, staring at the ceiling. Yes, they shared a bedroom. No, it wasn’t weird, Elliot spent most nights sleeping as a girl during this part of the loop, anyways. Speaking of loops, they were both Awake, and they were both contemplating their strange new existence in their own ways. Ellen was thinking about it, very deeply, while Elliot was not doing that at all. Instead, he was learning how to play guitar.

Ellen abruptly sat up and jumped off of her bed. Elliot, being a martial artist and very sensitive to sudden movements, stopped picking the strings and looked up at her. Ellen started pacing back and forth between their beds.

“You realize that if this never gets fixed, we’re gonna be stuck in high school forever, right?!” she suddenly exclaimed. “And what if no one else starts time traveling after us? What is that going to do to my relationship with Nanase?! We’re all going to break down and lose our minds like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day! I don’t want us to grow out of touch with the rest of the human race over the course of millions of years until we’re amoral sociopaths!!”

By this point, Elliot had set his guitar aside, stood up, and gave his pseudo-twin sister a great big hug. “Hey, calm down. We’re going to be fine. There’s no reason to think this is going to go on that long, and even if it does, do you really think Grace will let any of us become any kind of sociopath?”

“What if she’s stuck on the crazy train with us?” Ellen argued. “You remember why Nioi gave me the nose-boop?”

“Something about having a newly-born soul in a fully-grown body is bad for your mental health,” Elliot recalled.

“Yeah! And if that’s true, who’s to say having a soul that’s older than your body isn’t just as bad, or way worse?!”

“Oh, good point,” Elliot conceded, letting go of Ellen and rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Then he shrugged. “I’m still sure Tedd and Grace will figure out how to fix this long before it gets that bad. And we have no idea why the four of us know about the time-loop, so there’s no reason to think that you’ll be the last person who does. Tedd was the first to remember, and he’s the only one who knows about the time-loop when the rest of us don’t, and so far everyone else we know of who knows is someone close to Tedd; his girlfriend, his best friend, and, in his own words, ‘the best mistake he’s ever made’, in that order. I don’t see any reason his cousin can’t be the next person to start remembering.”

“Right. You’re right, you’re totally right. Keep it together, Ellen,” she told herself, slapping her cheeks. “I should be focusing on what we can do to make life easier for everyone else. Maybe ways I can troll Raven, or figure out how to deal with Abraham without Nanase almost dying.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Elliot agreed as he sat back down, grabbed his guitar, and went back to picking.

“How about you? You got any plans?” Ellen asked as she pulled out her spellbook.

“Trying to learn the guitar,” Elliot replied simply.

“...uh, and? What else?” asked Ellen, looking up from her spellbook.

Elliot shrugged. “Don’t know yet.”

“Oh my gawd, Elliot,” Ellen groaned, “You are so lacking in vision it’s embarrassing. We know things are going to happen before other people know about them. We know things Tedd’s dad doesn’t know. How are you not thinking of ways to take advantage of that??”

“Because if I spend too much time thinking about it, I’m going to freak out just like you were,” he replied simply, causing Ellen to cock an eyebrow. “And freaking out isn’t going to help Tedd and Grace figure this out, it would only distract them. So, whenever I find myself in the past, I’ll do what I can to make our big problems smaller problems, but aside from that, as far as I’m going to let myself think, all this means is that I have time to learn things I didn’t think I had time to learn before. Like playing the guitar.”

“...okay, that’s actually a lot more self-awareness than what’s usual for you, so I’m going to let this go. But I’m still obligated by our familial bond to roast you for acting like our parents .”

“And I can’t think of anyone better to imitate during a crisis,” replied Elliot. Then he jumped up to his feet and strummed his guitar. Ellen’s head snapped up and she stared wide-eyed as Elliot suddenly started singing , “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes ooooooon, brah! La-la how the life goes on~”

‘Oh the noes, the madness is already taking him,’ thought Ellen, trying not to laugh as her dorky brother danced out of their room, their parents’ voices soon joining his. After a brief deliberation, Ellen shrugged, sat her spellbook aside, and pranced out after him.

And so the Dunkel family sang together, even if Ma and Pa Dunkel didn’t quite understand why. But understanding didn’t matter. The family that sings together clings together, they say. So they sang, “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes oooooon, brah! La-la how the life goes on~


1.8 Masterweaver


[El Goonish Shive][Admin Shenanigans]

Circeular Reasoning

"Oh my gosh. Little Ratty's actually administrating a loop."

Ratatoskr let out a sigh, glowering at the woman leaning in the door frame. "I'm sorry miss...?"

"Circe, granddaughter of Helios."

"If this is about me not delivering some sort of message or other, I'd like to point out that I only directly deliver high-priority messages or in cases of network breakdown--"

"No no no, I just had to come see for myself." The woman sauntered in, leaning over the squirrel as she peered at his screen. "Moperville... Yep, just about what I suspected. Who's the Anchor?"

"A young scientist--"

"Tedd Verres?"

"...yeeeeees," Ratatoskr admitted warily. "How familiar are you with this loop?"

"Very," said Circe as she tapped a few keys. "Ooo, got Grace looping... very early, I see. Squirrel pride! Aaaaand... Elliot and Ellen? Huh. I'd say that's a risky move, but there's no way around it. Did you implement the Kurama patch?"

"The what?" Ratatoskr asked, as though he didn't know.

"Yeah, it's meant to keep looper souls separate if they start out attached. Somebody wrote it way back in the O7 days for Naruto... it should be automatic, but I don't see it in your code anywhere." Circe shook her head. "Then again, this is Moperville! Backups are fritzy sometimes. Here, let me just plug it in for you." She chuckled. "Lucky I caught it before Elliot and Ellen had too many loops, huh?"

"...lucky, yes."

"See, if I were a suspicious sort, I'd think maybe you were trying to deliberately break what you can," Circe continued casually. "You know, with your reputation and all--"

"I assure you I've put that all behind me," Ratatoskr informed her dryly.

"I know! I know, but people keep bringing it up! It's so frustrating, right?" Circe leaned against a wall. "You turn a bunch of sailors into pigs one time and nobody ever lets you live it down. And Odysseus was hot--"

"And you're an Olympian," the squirrel deadpanned.

"--and, yeah, we were pretty loose back then. But come on, Circe the temptress?" Circe snorted. "I am so much more! So yeah, I get how a reputation can ruin things."

"Yes, well, I think actions speak louder than words--"

"You're right, you're right, you're soooooooo right. Which is why you can't afford to make mistakes like this! You don't want Skuld coming down on you with her hammer."

"I--"

"Oooo what if we got Susan a replica of Skuld's hammer?! That would be so awesome!"

"I'm fairly certain that--"

"You're right, we should wait on that. Anyway, what I was saying was that I am totally helping you out with this now."

Ratatoskr shook his head. "That's not necessary, Circe--"

"You forgot to implement the Kurama patch! That's like, older than the Conception patch! It's so automatic nobody even mentions it! I'd call it a beginner's mistake, but most beginners don't make that mistake!" Circe smiled brightly. "You're lucky I'm understanding and know it was a mistake because otherwise I'd have to report this."

"...of course. Still, I'd like to work on this loop on my own. Prove my bonafides, as it were--"

"Oh relax, relax, I'll just be dropping by every few days to check in and clean up the code." She tickled the space between his ears with a patronizing grin. "You'll still be mostly in charge, you big manly norse god you."

Ratatoskr batted the finger away. "Don't you have other duties?!"

"Yeah, I work under Hectate debugging powerups in the Nintendo cluster. And between you and me? Woman is seriously overworked. Like convincing her to hand anything off is like pulling teeth. And it can get a little tedious just checking the code for this or that mushroom over and over again... Dropping by to help with this mess of a loop is just the pick-me-up I need!"

"Well, I'm certain that once you file the proper paperwork--"

"Already did."

"...You already filed the paperwork," Ratatoskr said flatly.

"Olyyyyyyympiaaaaaan!" Circe singsonged. "No but seriously, filed everything. All neat with a ribbon. It was a very fancy ribbon. One of the most expensive I have. Do not tell me I wasted that ribbon. Or woste it. That ribbon was sacrificed for this noble pursuit."

"...I'm not going to convince you to leave me alone am I."

"Nope!"

The squirrel snorted. "Fine. So." He gestured at the terminal. "What do you think needs to happen now."

"Weeeeeeeell Tedd's a sciency type, and going too long without answers is always an issue for sciency types, so we need to get a fused loop stat."

"I see... Perhaps I will work with Fenrir and see if one of his loops is open--"

"Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii have a better idea!" Circe declared, reaching over to the terminal. "By the way your keyboard is small and adorable and I love it."

"What are you--?!"

"Aaaaaand doneity done!" Circe decreed. "Woo! This will be SO much fun for everybody!"


1.9 XTheObscure, Masterweaver


[El Goonish Shive][Sailor Moon]

Mysteries of the Moon

This was new, Tedd thought, as she walked towards an unfamiliar school.

Each time time had repeated before, it had always been in Moperville. Sometimes he was a boy and sometimes she was a girl, sometimes magic was open and accepted in society instead of being hidden, and there was one loop where the whole town was occupied by an army of Demonic Ducks. But Moperville itself had always been...there. A medium-sized midwestern city with two high schools, mostly suburbs, usually with versions of her friends living there.

But this was the first time that she woke up someplace that obviously wasn't her home.

Her name was "Tess Anderson", she was 14, and she lived in a big-city neighborhood that was called "Crossroads" but seemed suspiciously Japanese. According to her "new" memories, she and her father (a doctor, of all things) had recently moved here from England, and she had just started attending a local middle school. And she was supposed to be a schoolwork fanatic or something, because she attended a cram school despite already having near-perfect grades. Tedd thought perhaps "Tess" needed to lighten up a little. Even in a world sadly bereft of a certain fuzzy shape-shifting squirrel girl, there was more to life than studying. Like video games, and SCIENCE!

She walked past a Mc...no, make that Wc Donalds... and realized something. This all seemed oddly familiar somehow. She wasn't sure why, but it felt like she'd seen this before somewhere.

- - - - - - -

"Molly", usually known as Naru Osaka, sighed. None of her friends were awake, and nobody responded to her Pings, so there had to be a stealth anchor somewhere. And this was a dub loop, where everything was unconvincingly papered-over with English names. "Serena" had already "saved" her from the minions of the "Negaverse" a couple of times, while she played along and kept an eye out for whomever the anchor might be.

Well, at least this wasn't the loop with G-Money USA in it. THOSE loops could get weird when Usagi wasn't awake.

She walked into school, where she saw that the results of the Mock Exam had been posted. Only Ami... that is, Amy , was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the top score on the test was for "Tess Anderson", a purple-haired girl whom "Melvin" pointed out to everyone, setting off the rumor mill by claiming she had an IQ of over 300. Some things never changed, it seemed.

'Tess' looked a bit annoyed at this. "Hello? I'm standing right here, you know?" That shut everyone up, at least for long enough for her to walk away.

Well, she thought, there's our anchor, most likely. She followed Tess, leaving behind a Serena muttering about her grades (and probably wondering if 'Amy' could help her study) and a couple of students muttering about how 'arrogant' and 'rude' Tess was.

- - - - - -

Tedd walked away from the rude classmates. Another universe and she STILL had to deal with jerks making fun of her? At least they weren't calling her 'gay' or pushing her around for being a boy with a girly face. It was still annoying though.

Though that twin-ponytailed girl seemed uncannily familiar. He knew she'd seen her before!

"Hey, wait!"

Tedd paused. It was the red-haired girl with a Brooklyn accent who'd been in the crowd but hadn't, she realized, said anything. Said girl suddenly yanked her into an empty classroom and closed the door.

"....za?"

"I know this is going to sound crazy, but is time repeating for you?"

That was surprised - nobody else here had shown any signs of being aware of time repeats. Was this girl also trapped in them as well?

"Y-yes, it is...it's repeating for you too?"

The red-head smiled and extended her hand. "Welcome to the loops. I'm known as Molly here, but my real name is Naru Osaka, Azabu-Juuban's biggest monster magnet."

....Naru Osaka....? Tedd stared at Naru, his eyes nearly popped out of his head as he hesitantly shook her hand.

"T-tedd Verres... y-you're THAT Naru Osaka?"

If she was Naru, then the twin-tailed girl who'd been muttering about her grades was...

His train of thought was interrupted as Naru giggled. "Never watched the English dub, did you?"

"N-no, just the subtitled version." This really was Sailor Moon's friend.... and she knew she was in an anime? "You know about the anime?"

Naru nodded. "Yes. There are plenty of loops which are known to other loops in fiction. You're probably from what's known as a near-hub loop. Here," she said, opening a hole in space and bringing out a brochure, handing it to Tedd. "Read this later, when you're alone. It'll explain a lot."

He took the brochure. It was an introduction to time Loops written by...Twilight Sparkle. So he might wind up in My Little Pony next? He sat down at a desk. This was a lot to take in.

Naru continued. "You might want to know that you've woken up in the place of Ami... Amy Anderson."

He thought about it for a second and realized which episode he was in right now. The one with the evil prep school, where Sailor Mercury was introduced. And he was in Ami's place... He fell out of the chair.

"...th-this is a bit too much to take in."

Naru nodded, with a sympathetic look in her eyes, and offered a hand to help Tedd back up. "I know it's a lot to handle. I wish this were a quiet time, or that Usagi or one of the others was awake and could handle everything... but I can help you through step-by-step. I'll walk with you outside, where you're probably going to be pounced by a moon cat and meet with 'Serena'. Keep in mind none of them are awake this time and won't know about time loops, and know me as 'Molly' and you as 'Tess'."

Tedd took Naru's hand and got up from the ground, briefly dusting himself off in the process. Naru hadn't done that in the episode, of course, but it would help to have her walk to the door. He started for the door, but Naru stopped him.

"Before we leave, you might want to turn back into a girl first."

Tedd blushed. "Uh...." She quickly turned back into a girl, embarrassed that she'd unconsciously changed sexes again. "...yeah."

They stepped out of the classroom and the school where, on schedule, Luna leaped right onto Tedd's head...

- - - - - - -

"Hmmm." Naru tilted her head thoughtfully. "You don't look bad in a blue fuku, but it does contrast your hair a bit."

Tedd nodded slowly, staring at herself in the mirror.

"I mean, Hotaru has a purple fuku, but she's complicated. I guess if you get good enough with magic or transformation, you could make your fuku purple..."

"That won't be hard," Tedd murmured quietly.

Naru smiled to herself, counting down on her fingers. Three, two, one...

"Wait." Tedd looked at her. "I get to keep the fuku?"

"If you want. I don't understand all the mumbo-jumbo myself, but you can keep powers between loops."

"Huh." Tedd tapped her chin. "I'll have to do some tests on that..."

"And suddenly you replacing Amy makes sense."

"Yeah, we are both introverted intellectual types..." Tedd tilted her head, looking back at her reflection. "I wonder which senshi my other friends would be? Susan would definitely be Rei, Grace... I can see Grace being Minako, and Sarah being Usagi. Although Grace could also be a good Hotaru... way too much in common, actually. Or maybe Ellen is Hotaru? No, Ellen's probably Haruka, and Nanase is Michuru... I guess Justin could be Minako?"

"Your friends wouldn't mind wearing fukus?"

"Susan absolutely would," Tedd admitted. "She... doesn't like skirts. Miniskirts in particular..."

Naru hmmed quietly to herself. "I see."

"...So!" Tedd turned away from the mirror. "I just want to go over the stuff that was in that pamphlet, make sure I understand it."

"Alright."

"Time is repeating, and occasionally glitching, because all our realities are... holodeck simulations?"

Naru waggled a hand. "Well, Yggdrasil is an xty-dimensional computer, so calling our realities 'holodeck simulations' is kind of underselling it. It'd be like comparing an ocean to a lake or something."

"Right right, Yggdrasil. The supercomputer tree thing that runs the multiverse and is broken for some reason."

"Don't bother asking about it," Naru advised her. "Usagi is one of the original seven Anchors, and even she has no clue."

"Uh-huh... and because it's broken, the system administrators, who are literal gods, put realities into time loops to keep them stable while they fix things."

"You seem to be doing well so far..."

"And backups of each reality are stored in the Hub, a world that is an otherwise ordinary version of Earth that just so happens to be almost undamaged by whatever knocked out Yggdrasil."

"Mmmhmm."

"Which is why there's a Sailor Moon anime that just so happens to match up to this universe."

"Aaaaaaah." Naru smirked wryly. "You're wondering about the whole 'dub loop' thing."

Tedd crossed her arms. "How does that work, though? I mean, if I'm understanding this right, the backups in hub or near-hub loops like mine are derived from the baseline of loops, so any alterations in a dub shouldn't affect what the baseline actually is."

"That's technically true, but..." Naru shrugged. "Well, sometimes there are variant loops where Yggdrassil glitches and doesn't remember things properly. Like, you know, gender swap loops or loops where I'm Sailor Moon instead of Usagi."

"And the dub is the backup of a variant?"

"Maybe? My theory is that Yggdrasil hiccups sometimes and isn't sure on some details, so it looks at the wrong backup. I mean, I don't know if I'm right, but it would explain why Amara and Michelle are cousins."

"Who and what now?"

"Haruka and Michuru."

"...WHAT," said Tedd, her eyes narrowed.

"Yeah, dub loops are weird."

"I just... I can't even..." Tedd threw up her hands. "WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?!"

"I don't know."

"Ugh..." Tedd groaned. "Well... I guess I get to be a senshi now, at least. And... hey, maybe I'll actually be useful when monsters attack Moperville now."

"Just try not to get yourself killed," Naru warned her. "That can crash a loop very fast, and that's almost never a good thing."


1.10 Masterweaver


Skipping Over The Exposition

Ellen leveled a deadpan look at Tedd.

"...I have pictures," Tedd offered. "I mean, they're polaroids, but... I have them."

"I could accuse you of digital editing."

"Digitally editing physical polaroids?"

"I mean you did mod all those games back in the day--"

"Ellen," Elliot chastised.

"What? She could just be coming up with an elaborate excuse to wear a miniskirt!"

"Why would I need an excuse to dress up as Sailor Mercury in my own home?" Tedd asked in a tone of genuine curiosity. "I could just do it for fun."

"Plus she did do the whole transformation sequence in front of us," Grace pointed out from her perch on the counter.

"Magic watches," Ellen replied flatly.

Tedd rolled her eyes. "And the Mercury computer?"

"Dude, you're a mad scientist with a dad who works with aliens and wizards."

"Shine Aqua Illusion," Tedd deadpanned.

"Wargrblrgglurpffff," Ellen conceded.

Elliot glanced over the column of water in which his sister was floundering. "So... she's not going to drown, is she?"

"Nah," Tedd replied, snapping her fingers--and jumping back with a 'Meep!' when the water splashed out across the ground.

"And this," Grace said smugly, "is why I said we should have this talk in the kitchen."

"Easier to mop this up," Elliot agreed, shaking the moisture from his shoes.

Ellen shakily steadied herself as she coughed her throat clear. "Hkk-pfff--pfft, pffff... okay. Okay. Yeah. Tedd--"

"Don't ever do it again?"

"Warn me before you do it," Ellen countered. "Cause that could be a wicked pool party ride or something. But yeah, I deserved that."

"Aaaaaanyway," Grace said as she hopped down from the counter. "We know what's going on now! And Teddy's going to teach us the personal pocket thing!"

"The subspace pocket," Tedd corrected. "Good for storing and can be used to alert other loopers that we're Awake."

"What, like with magic?" Elliot asked.

"No, it's--it's what loopers say when they're looping. Like, if you didn't remember repeating through time, you wouldn't be Awake." Tedd dropped her Senshi transformation, blinking as he looked down at himself. "Huh, it does return to the physical sex one had prior to transformation. Interesting..."

"I've had a look over the pamphlet Tedd got, and it seems like this pocket will be easy to learn," Grace added. "So we can do that while we talk about all the other stuff this means!"

Ellen tilted her head curiously.

"Star Wars is looping," Tedd explained simply.

For a moment, everyone stared at him. And then all pandemonium broke loose.


1.11 Masterweaver


Fuzzy Thinking

Grace hummed a nonsense tune as she set about handling the laundry. It might have been a simple chore, all things considered, but her experience with it let her body run on automatic as her thoughts meandered about. And honestly, it had only taken a few loops for her to realize mister Verres had no idea how to handle clothes that furry people wore. He kept turning Grace's clothes back outside out before putting them in the washer--okay, maybe only for a week or two every loop but it should have been obvious, she shouldn't have to explain this to somebody whose job involved literally dealing with nonhuman people. But then again, he had a lot of secrets bouncing around his head, didn't he? The sheer number of files she'd had to search through to find the Dewitchery Diamond in the first place boggled her, and that was the stuff he felt was safe to keep in the house with Tedd.

Oh, Tedd. There was no doubt in Grace's mind that Tedd was the best thing to ever have happened to her. Which come to think of it didn't actually make sense, people didn't just happen to other people. Well, alright, from a metaphorical point of view they could, but that usually indicated an active role in the whole thing? And she was the one that came to Tedd, not the other way around. So Tedd didn't happen to her, she happened to Tedd, but it was great for her. Maybe the best thing that happened to her was meeting Tedd? Except that was only one moment in the whole chain of wonderful moments following that moment. English was weird. But so was Uryuomoco. And Japanese. And Squirrel, actually. Language in general was weird when one thought about it. Maybe that was why there were English classes for English-speaking people? But they usually taught about books and stories...

Stories...

Grace shut the washer door with a thoughtful expression. Stories. If she understood the whole looping situation rightly, and she was pretty sure she did, a lot of what she thought were just stories actually existed somewhere out in the multiverse. Her favorite games and movies, the books and comics that ran the shelves of Salty Crackers, cartoons and anime both cute and scary. Did that mean she couldn't enjoy them, knowing that they had actually happened somewhere in the strange twisty computer tree that was Yggdrasil? And what about this world, about her life? Was it a story in other worlds? Were people angry at Damien, did they cheer for her finding Tedd, get sad when sad things happened? Did they draw pictures of her with Tedd or write stories of her with Tedd? Was it any good at all? Was she played by Penny Johnson? Would she need to sign autographs?

Wait, that didn't make any sense. It was the actors and creators of a work that signed autographs, not the characters. It would be rude to ask random people to sign autographs, they had to be famous. And Grace wasn't famous. She didn't have a cool internet show like Elliot and Susan...

Well, whether or not she was famous, the fact remained Grace was fond of some video games and cartoons. And... and it wasn't like they were one-to-one recreations, right? It was more like... historical drama. Or something? A lot of people played world war two games, even though world war two was horrible, so it was okay to play games that weren't real here even if they were real elsewhere. Maybe? Well, Tedd seemed to still be okay with it.

As okay as he ever was, anyway...

Being told that he was the Anchor for all of reality had to be stressful on him, especially since it came quite soon after he realized he was genderfluid. Or she? They? Grace hummed to herself as she leaned against the dryer. She should ask Tedd about the pronoun thing later. She didn't want to add to the stress that he/she/they had to be going through with the whole 'reality is broken and time is looping' thing. Heck, with having to face Damien repeatedly, Grace herself wasn't quite as bubbly as she felt she should be. At least Ellen and Elliot were usually able to help mitigate that whole thing. And she was more able to assist with other magical attacks sometimes. But Tedd had to go through all that alone, again and again. And come to think of it, he/she/they usually heard about magical attacks after the fact, he/she/they were almost never directly involved... Grace felt bad enough when she fumbled after Abraham, how did Tedd feel? And knowing it would all happen over and over again--oh no, Tedd had to feel horrible!

"Hey, Grace, are you doing--?"

Tedd didn't have time to finish his/her/their sentence before Grace pounced, enveloping him/her/them in a tight hug.

"Uh--"

"I am ALWAYS available for cuddles," Grace said seriously. "ALWAYS."

"...got it." Tedd nodded slowly. "I got it. Thanks. I was, uh, actually wondering if you put my skirts in the wash--"

"Yeah, I did."

"Okay, yeah. Thanks?" Tedd hugged her back. "Thanks. And just so you know, I'm always available to talk, too."

"Alright."


1.12 Masterweaver


To Adventure!

"So I sing at things, and they blow up."

Tedd rolled his eyes as he twirled his wand, freezing one of the tiny green creatures attacking them. "That's not exactly how Bards work, Ellen--"

"Isn't it, though? I mean look!" With a hum and a gesture, a wave of thunderous force knocked back the bloodgrems assaulting them. "Bam! Magic music!"

"To know the song of the world is to know the song of oneself," Grace intoned softly, "and the song of one's self unified with the world."

Ellen gave her a look.

"What?" The firbolg shrugged expansively, summoning vines to tangle up some of the small green creatures assailing them. "I'm a druid. I'm supposed to have some sort of mystic wisdom, right?"

"That wasn't mystic wisdom, that was circular vague mumbojumbo!"

"She's trying her best," Tedd pointed out.

"I know, but..." Ellen sighed as she backhanded a bloodgrem out of the air. "Look, we're in some sort of D&D version of Moperville, for whatever reason, and I kinda want to have fun with this, poke fun at it, you know?"

"Guys? A little help?"

"In a moment, Elliot!" Tedd put his hands on his hips. "So what's wrong with Grace trying to be mystical?"

"Okay, first of all, that wasn't mysticism, that was mumbojumbo. Secondly, she's Grace! All energy and bubbly and all that."

"But I'm a druid," Grace pointed out again.

Ellen sighed. "I'm sorry, I... I'm not trying to bring down the mood or anything--"

"Guys, seriously?"

"Just a sec Elliot! Grace, all I'm saying is this whole situation is ridiculous and I want to riff. I was riffing. I didn't mean to come across as insulting or anything."

"I agree this is kind of a crazy ride we're on," Tedd allowed, "but all you've really been doing is pointing things out. 'Magic music', 'that's mumbojumbo,' that sort of thing."

"Yeah, it's not really riffing if there's no joke," Grace agreed. "It's not really anything." A sly smile formed on her face. "I would have thought a bard of satire would know that."

Ellen snorted, grinning back. "Damn, girl! Okay, yeah, fair enough, I'll put more thought into it."

"GUYS!"

The three of them turned toward the paladin, who was busily bashing back bloodgrems with an armored fist while holding off a fire summon with his shield.

"Whoops." Tedd rose a gloved hand, blasting the flaming humanoid with ice. "Am I the only one wondering why we're fighting summons instead of goblins?"

"Because this is Moperville?" Grace offered before lunging at the fiery figure.

"Yeah but you're a firbolg, I'm a changeling, that's more fantasy then our usual... I mean, there should be goblins, is all I'm saying."

"Tedd, you're thinking about this all wrong," Ellen pointed out. "It's not the goblins that define the adventure, it's the adventure that defines the goblins!"

Tedd stared at her.

"...That... that's deep," she assured him. "Trust me, it's deep."

"You know what, you're right!"

"Of course I am," Ellen said confidently.

"I shouldn't let the details distract me from enjoying the experience. I should live in the moment! Which may or may not involve quibbling over details, depending on how geeky the moment is."

Ellen whooped loudly. "That's what I'm talking about!"

"Is it really?" Elliot asked. "Because I sort of thought you were just trying to sound wise without really knowing what you were saying."

"It's retroactively what I'm talking about!"

Grace finished off the final summon, clearing her throat. "Anyway, so we cleared that attack. What were we doing before it?"

"Getting pizzas for a party," Elliot replied. "Is it weird we get random encounters on the way to the grocery store now?"

"I'm pretty sure our basis for determining weirdness is shot," Ellen pointed out.

Tedd smiled to himself, putting his wand away. "Yeah, it is. But that makes life interesting."