Plotbunny: The Xi-Files

Sometimes my brain just goes odd places….

The rule of a righteous emperor suppresses demons! …So of course any records of such attacks would be hushed up, or buried in administrative files, to preserve the stability of the empire. And yet, a truly righteous emperor (or at least some of his more far-sighted and practical minions) would see things need to be handled.

Enter Coroner Su Kuli and Investigator Mu Du (called Du’er by some). In their adventures they encounter:

The Lone Archers, three would-be scholars who’ve failed the imperial examinations due to their impious and frankly weird answers, who’ve turned to street performances, storytelling, and managing a messenger pigeon network to get by. They’ve got access to some hidden library troves, and lots of other info….

The Pipe-Smoking Man, a mysterious figure who may or may not be an imperial eunuch, but definitely has Connections in various armies and shady places.

Monsters, monsters galore. Just check out the Record of Things Strange for inspiration. Also recall that historically China got pirates and merchants from Japan, Korea, and just about anywhere else, so if it’s a case related to a port town anything might turn up. And I do mean anything. You could easily replicate one of the X-Files’ “monstrous infections of almost everyone in X place” with one penanggalan cooking stew….

The episode format doesn’t have to change a bit. Mu Du’er drags something out of the archives or the Lone Archers’ pigeon messages, the pair of them hare off to the nearest mess, everyone else swears it’s regular kidnappings, people getting eaten by tigers, or bandit attacks….

(Cue a scene of bandits attacking some helpless traveler – only to find they’ve Mugged the Monster. Or they kill some of their victims only to have the Monster show up to eat ALL of them.)

Of course, in this setting Su Kuli must be a much better rider, to take advantage of the fastest travel available. She’s also likely an excellent archer. (Mu Du’er, not so much.)

It’s a tossup if you want to make the aliens/black ooze just more monsters (if weirder than normal) or some kind of foreign influence from a frozen, barbaric land. The Himalayans could hold all kinds of horrible secrets; the Siberian tundra, likewise.

Not sure how you’d want to model someone always losing their cell phone. Unless their messenger pigeons regularly fall prey to hawks and cats.

…I would be so amused if someone wrote the story using the imagery of brush-strokes appearing at the bottom of the screen to label the latest time and location.

Oh, and in a setting where who wears what robes and color combinations is often prescribed by law, Du’er’s colorblindness should get him in serious trouble. It’s even possible he got an assistant to keep him out of horrible color choices first, and coroner experience later….


22 thoughts on “Plotbunny: The Xi-Files

  1. Not sure how you’d want to model someone always losing their cell phone. Unless their messenger pigeons regularly fall prey to hawks and cats.

    Incredibly improbable bad luck on just ALWAYS BEING MISSED or messages going missing, having a subplot of trying to figure out who/what is doing it?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. A good pun (not the simultaneously watered-down and purposely mis-applied modern ones) historically was a test of intellectual acumen, and a proof-by-example of skill and education (in the days when you couldn’t just look at someone’s degree/certification and easily look up how reliable it was at telling what they were capable of). Of _course_ a good pun gives “a whole new level of delight” if you “get it”.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Yep!

        It’s like a really good easteregg in a movie– if you don’t “get” it, it’s fine. But if you know what you’re seeing… well, it’s like how in the first episode of Justice League, they have an astronaut.
        On Mars.
        ….his name is John Carter.

        Liked by 4 people

  2. The funny thing about X-Files was how they caught the paranormal fan community feel, but not the feel of government secret programs, academic paranormal investigators, real evil bureaucracy, etc.

    Ward Carroll’s fighter community channel has a story about how a secret program was used to mask a really really secret program. Or Jimmy Akin’s interviews on his podcast with government research psychics and a real paranormal investigator. That sort of thing.

    I could never take XF all that seriously, because a lot of my friends’ dads and moms were in secret programs at Wright-Patt. And even if they would have been nefarious actors, it would have been in a different way. (Frankly, a scarier way.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The scariest part of the Stargate psychic program interviews by Jimmy Akin is when the first guy is describing what happened when the program was under the control of a general who liked the program, and was trying to be helpful. Ugggggh. It would be funny if there weren’t sad consequences.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. So I guess what I mean is that the fantasy/SF elements become more plausible, if the feeling of working for a bureaucracy has verisimilitude. If the ninjas have a standard assassination form to file, you believe in government ninjas.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. There was a Chinese painter once who said that the hardest things to paint were horses and dogs, and the easiest things were ghosts. I add the corollary that the ghost will be implausible if the horse and the dog are bad.

        I once was in a lively discussion of Roger Zelazny’s *Doorways In the Sand* in which the aliens have incorporated us into their culture and so the Mona Lisa and the British Crown Jewels are touring the stars, and having the chirality of the molecules in your body flipped makes everything written look like mirror writing to you, and two cops go undercover as a wombat and a kangaroo — and we were arguing whether college professors would really object to a student who would never take a degree so he could keep within the bounds of his uncle’s will, where he had the income as long he was in college and hadn’t gotten a degree. (Our final agreement was that they really objected to *him* and used that as an excuse.)

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Silly, but this is what screws up stories.

        I can take that there’s a gerbil that throws lightning bolds.

        I can’t take that you make generators start working, without fuel, by hitting them with lightning bolts.

        :glares at Pokemon:

        Liked by 3 people

    2. I honestly didn’t watch it in any organized manner, I got the impression that the Other Conspiracy STuff was best explained by either aliens or lizard-men, honestly.

      Not actual people conspiracies.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. There were supposed to be human conspiracies, who were secretly dealing with aliens, black oil guys, and so forth. In exchange, the human conspirators got tech goodies, and anything they could scavenge of alien knowledge… unless the aliens didn’t like it and came and took it back.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. ….I think watching it with the Newbie Priest was better. 😀

        (It was on after our youth group time…and we always went long, so we got to watch things like that episode with the dead twin trying to kill everybody and being exorcised by Greek Orthodox with a HUGE Catholic geek and it was awesome.)

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Is it wrong that I read that as lizard-“meth”? Which totally sounds like it could cause all kinds of plots by itself, really….

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Then there’s the over-arching conspiracy plotline.

    The Emperor is righteous, but his spiritual influence is drained/blocked by someone plotting against him!

    And/Or some of the monsters are brought in to create a scene and undermine the Emperor’s authority.

    Liked by 4 people

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