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Previous chapter: 3. Nobody Said it Was EZ...

Celestial caught up with me two feet from the Fighter Station entrance. She looked confused.

“Okay Rube, what was THAT!?”

Edit: She looked VERY confused.

“You don’t really have an intense histrio-whosits! What’s going on!?”


I looked at her with as serious a face as I could muster. “I had a feeling it was something I was supposed to do. I don’t know why, I just did.”

This seemed to pacify Celestial, who returned to her naturally laid-back self. I breathed a small sigh of relief. The worst was behind me.


“Y’know, I kinda wanna test out my new battler. Can we make like a tree and try a Fossil Battle?”

I knew Celestial loved corny jokes. But I hadn’t counted on her being so anxious to return to her letter-writing. This careless oversight cost me the rest of my planned afternoon. I returned to my house and sadly sat on the front steps. A slight drizzle was coming down. I heard the soft pitter-patter on the rooftops and the yellowed cobblestone streets.  There’s something special about the air when it rains in Ribular. It makes the world feel… fresher, in a way. And it certainly clears the head better than anything I know. I took a deep breath and just… was… for a second. Calm. Peaceful. Quiet. I let my mind wander, then completely relax…


A verdant mountain sprang up in front of me, with abundant subtropical vegetation on either side. Mostly ferns and trees, not too important. I flew in for a closer look. I spied four kids, preteens by the looks of them, heading up along a nature trail. A boy and a girl were running up the path, with a brace of boys trailing behind. It didn’t look like the groups saw each other.  Then, out of nowhere, an Allosaurus came barreling down on the mixed-gender group, who found themselves slowly backing toward the edge of the nearby cliffside. I could clearly see the boy’s green boots trembling. How the heck are they gonna get out of this scrape? I thought to myself.


The answer was not long in coming. A macho man in a horned cowboy hat also noticed the plight of the distressed duo. He rolled out on his yellow Pterosaur, the mighty wings flapping… flapping… flapping…


The flapping became louder, choppier. I opened my eyes and looked up. A helicopter was touching down on the helipad in the middle of town. I sighed. I should probably be doing something productive. But what? I thought up several options. I could reconfigure my handheld sonar system… I could add decorative elements to my pickaxe…  I could do some Internet research on that new mind-blowing battle system… I could meet my new-


It was then that I saw her. Her straw-colored hair was neatly tied into two braids; one on either side of her head. She wore a teal and black dress with ruffles on the bottom and silver heels. Not very practical considering the weather, but then again I don’t remember her ever being practical. She carried two travel bags. One briefcase as well. One had wheels. She looked at me and smiled.


I smiled back. “Hey stranger. Need a hand with those?”


“Yes, thank you, young man.” She replied. I kindly took both bags. The first one was a little heavy but, I could handle it. I was reaching for the briefcase when she said, “I’ll hang on to this.” Together we walked in the house.


Dad was excited to see our visitor. “Mia! Home already?”


“Hey Dad! Can you gather up everyone in the living room? I have something for everyone.”


“Well, your mother’s out grocery shopping, so I think we’re all gathered.” Dad replied.


“Alright, sure. What’cha got?” I asked.


“Presents!”


That was enough for me. “Alright!” I shouted.


“Reuben, voice down a lot!!” Dad said.


“Fine.” I sulked for half a moment. But the sulk quickly subsided to anticipation for the new... whatever it is.


“First off, here’s Mom’s. As she’s not here, I’ll just leave it by the couch.” She unzipped her heavy travel bag and pulled out a tall, tissue-covered cylindrical thing. “It’s an authentic crystal vase!”


I suppressed a yawn.


Mia unzipped the bag again. “Now Dad, here’s some brittle, peanut of course…” Of course.

“Now Rubicon, your present is very special."

"Uh-huh?"

I’m sure you’ll take great care of it, but I’d like tell you in advance that it's no toy."

"Yes, what is it?

She reached into her bag the last time and pulled out... a backpack?


"Uhh, okay?"

Mia rolled her eyes. "C'mon Reuben. This is no ordinary backpack. This is an RPG HERO Backpack."

An... An RPG...?

Still seeing the confused look on my face, she pressed on.

"An RPG HERO Backpack. It has these nifty little things called hammerspace-augmented pouches. Basically, when you put something in here, the backpack envelops it in its own little pocket dimension thingy, allowing you to store tons of stuff- without it actually weighing tons. It can even hold stuff bigger than the pack itself as long as you're able to get it through the opening. Try it!" she said, tossing it to me.

"Woah. Seriously?"

"Yeah. Test it out, I dare you."

Mia was evidently pleased with my reaction. She smiled once more at me and started up a conversation with Dad about recent events.

I used the opportunity to slip upstairs into my room. Let's see what I can haul...

The first thing I thought of was my laptop. However, I quickly put that thought aside. Better to start with something more easily replaceable, in case something goes wrong. I grabbed a baseball instead. Slowly, I unzipped the backpack and reached my arm in. Guess what? I was able to extend it almost up to my shoulder and still not feel the bottom! I dropped the baseball in, withdrew my arm and re-zipped my pack. I put it on. Mia was right; I couldn't distinguish if the baseball was in there. It didn't feel any heavier.

Now, let's see if I can get it back out...

I unzipped it, turned it upside-down and shook it a few times. Sure enough, out popped a baseball. But something else also came out. Two slips of paper. An instruction booklet and a care and precautions insert. I read both right away.

Hmmm... 16 different "pockets", each can contain 30 unique items and their duplicates up to 100 litres... oh, each can be can be reduced for convenience of extraction... active pockets can be changed either by a dial on the pack or by included remote... "L and R buttons?" What? Oh, it must be talking about the remote. Speaking of the remote... takes two AA batteries... runs on a subspace channel so as not to interfere with electronics... I bit my lip at that last part. I'd read several online arguments for and against that notion. It was kind of a hot topic back then. With all the conflicting viewpoints, it was hard to definitively settle on the truth. The only fact I was absolutely sure of was that subspace is a reliable and quick method of transmission that works well even over large distances. This is mostly experimental technology... how much did Mia pay for this?

I continued reading: WARNING: Upon its first opening a hammerspace pocket will naturally suck some air out of its surroundings. We at Mochila strongly recommend that you do the initialization in an open-air environment to avoid oxygen deprivation.

Yikes. I'd better not forget that.

Do not fully submerge bag or remote in water... Seems pretty straightforward. Do not in anyway way attempt to disassemble or modify your Mochila RPG HERO Backpack. Doing so will void your warranty. Heheh. Void away, my good company. Modding is my passion; you're gonna have to try harder than THAT to discourage me. Maybe something along the lines of a "PUNCTURING OF THE INTERDIMENSIONAL FIELDS MAY RESULT IN THE UNTIMELY UNRAVELING OF THE UNIVERSE, with EXTRA UNs." would do it for me. But a simple warranty void leaves me unconcerned.

Well, that seems to have covered the basics. Now... what am I going to haul, and how should I organize my stuff?


*Long period of set-up and gear stowage*


"Hey Reubster! I'm going for a walk!" Mia shouted from downstairs. "Want to come along?"

Her voice snapped me out of my packing craze. Do I want to come?

...

Yeah, I do. I want to field test this thing.

"Yeah, one moment!" I shouted back.

I checked the window. It was still lightly raining. Alright then. Better put my windbreaker on. Oop, can't forget my new backpack. Wasn't there something else that came wit- OH RIGHT, the remote. I quickly stuffed the remote in my right windbreaker pocket. ...Though I can't explain why, having a backpack over my shoulder feels right. It allows for easy transportation of personal objects, goods and supplies while still keeping the arms free. It's one of the most brilliant inventions of all time, alongside rubber bands, the Internet, cameras, ovaltine and nylon.

I walked briskly down the stairs. Mia was standing by the door, wearing black hiking boots, faded blue bedazzled denim pants and a yellow raincoat. She also had a friendly smile on her face.

"Dad said dinner won't be ready for another half hour. I figured we could take a little hike to work up an appetite. How does that overlook up on Petrified Woods sound?"

"Sounds great."

So we started walking.

Next chapter: 5. MvR

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