Author's Note: I was prompted to write about Mizael experiencing Earth-rain for the first time, so here ya go. :)

Mizael loved the rain of his world.

He stood leaning on the balcony, watching the clouds amassing on the horizon. His world was a world of energy, and nothing proved that the way the rain did. It came down in a spray of red light, rejuvenating the world with a wash of concentrated power that could sustain life even on their rocky terrain. Durbe would have understood the physics of it. Mizael only knew that he enjoyed being out in the rain, feeling the warm bright raindrops falling weightlessly against his skin, renewing his vitality and refreshing his mind.

Just as the first raindrops began to patter across the ground below him, Mizael heard footsteps falling almost as lightly behind him. He turned to see Durbe approaching.

"Have you seen Vector?" he asked. "He was supposed to deliver a status report, and he hasn't shown up yet."

"He's fooling around in the human world, as usual." He snorted. "He blew in about two hours ago, rummaged around in his rooms for a while, and took off sniggering."

"Oh, dear," said Durbe, looking genuinely concerned. He probably had a right to be. Vector was a valuable ally, and they often relied on his cunning and strength in troubled times, but his independence and unpredictability were occasionally troubling, and troublesome. Durbe did his best to keep order, but he'd never quite gotten the hang of keeping Vector in line. Nasch had been better at it, but...

"I suppose someone had better check on him," said Durbe at last.

Mizael sighed. "By 'someone', you mean me, don't you?"

"If it's not too much trouble," said Durbe. "If you really don't want to, I can go."

"No, don't bother," Mizael sighed. He knew how that would end. Gilag and Alit were still goofing off at the BARian, and no one was really sure what Vector was doing these days, other than that he was doing it on Earth and it was keeping him quietly occupied and out of their hair. That only left Durbe and Mizael to run things, and, well... Mizael was not the diplomatic type. Durbe was. He had the knack of flattering and cajoling people into doing things that needed doing in such a way that they ended up thinking they'd done it of their own volition. Mizael knew that if something came up, he was more likely to end up shouting at the problem, and, when that didn't work, storming off in a huff. He might be a formidable duelist and a great Barian warrior, but he wasn't a people person, not like Durbe was. "I'll track him down."

Durbe bowed his head in a gesture of gratitude. "Thank you. I knew I could count on you."

Mizael murmured something appropriate, if not sincere, and made his departure.

He touched down in the alley, just outside the BARian. He was in no mood to put up with Alit and Gilag's horsing around just now. From inside the building, he could hear the tinny sounds of Gilag's television playing high-pitched, fast paced music, along with a series of rapid dull thuds. Mizael made a face, feeling very glad he'd opted to manifest where they couldn't see him. Ever since Gilag had discovered that little human singer, he'd been listening to her music incessantly, to the point where only Alit could stand to be around him for any length of time. That explained the tinny music. The thuds, he guessed, meant that Alit had found a punching bag and was in the process of trying to hammer it flat with his fists. Mizael doubted that either one of them would be inclined to leave their room there for quite some time.

Good. That means I don't have to deal with them.

Dealing with Vector was going to be hard enough. Mizael wasn't even sure exactly where he was supposed to be. He'd been making himself scarce for some time now, and the sketchy reports he'd been handing in from time to time only stated that he'd been shadowing Astral and that all was going according to plan - whatever the plan was. You never could be too sure, with Vector.

But at least Mizael had some idea where Astral was. He was with the Tsukumo boy, and the boy would probably be at his place of education today. Maybe. He had a vague idea that human children went to be educated on some days and not others. Mizael didn't know which days those were, nor was he certain which day today was on the human calendar. Maybe it would be safer just to wait outside the boy's home and watch for him there. At least Mizael had some idea where the house was, and he knew it was close by. The BARian had been located in this place on the grounds that it was within easy reach of both the house and the school - at least, for someone with a Barian's superior physical ability.

Mizael began to walk. As he strolled along, he allowed himself to examine the human world. He hadn't had a chance to see very much of it on his last visit, and that hadn't been in a city. He was mildly amazed by the place - by the variety of buildings and the number of people. There were shops selling things he'd never heard of or imagined, and he couldn't help stopping to stare at them. What on earth was that gadget for? There was a whole display of them in a shop window, spanned by a banner that said "April Showers!", whatever that meant. The objects themselves were brightly colored contraptions, bits of cloth stretched over wire frames to make hemispherical shapes, with a long shaft protruding downwards from the center and curving into a hook at the bottom. Were they some strange form of decoration? A weapon? Did you carry things in them? He shook his head, baffled, and kept walking.

Humans make no sense, he decided.

Even the sky was all wrong here. The sky in the Barian world was generally pretty consistent: it was red. Sometimes it was a darker or lighter shade of red, but it was always reliably red. The last time he'd been here, the sky had been blue - a cold and off-putting color for a sky, he thought. It made the world feel icy and hostile, even in warm weather. Now it was an even more grim shade of gray. Even the humans didn't like it. They kept looking worriedly up at it and then walking a little faster towards wherever they were going. Mizael wondered what they thought was going to happen.

Whatever it is, I can handle it, he told himself. After all, even if he was assuming human guise at the moment, he wasn't one of these weak humans. He had powers they could only dream of. Surely if they could endure it, he could.

He came to a crosswalk. It was a busy street, and not even he felt like exerting himself to dodge the rapidly oncoming traffic. He waited impatiently among the other people who had gathered on the corner.

"Come on, hurry up," said one of them, staring balefully up at the lights. "It's going to rain, dammit!"

Mizael regarded the man with some confusion. In his mind, a bit of rain could only improve the day. Having to spend his afternoon stuck on Earth might be more tolerable if he had a few raindrops to enjoy while he was doing it.

The light changed, and everyone surged across the street, bumping and jostling. Mizael snarled as someone's elbow collided with his shoulder. He staggered a little to one side, colliding with a heavily perfumed woman, who glared down her nose at him. He glared back, and was mildly gratified to see her go pale and hurry off in another direction. That would teach her. Foolish humans, thinking they could push him around as though he was part of the common rabble. He was a superior species, a Barian - not just a Barian, but one of the Seven Emperors, the greatest of their kind. If any of these humans could see him as he really was, they would probably run away screaming...

Something cold splatted onto the top of his head, and he gave an undignified yelp. He ran his fingers through the dampness and studied them, then held them to his nose and sniffed them. The substance appeared to be water. He looked around for the source.

Another drop hit the sidewalk in front of him, leaving a dark patch on the pale concrete. A second drop and a third joined it in short order, and soon the ground was dappled with small damp spots. Mizael glared up at the fat gray clouds above him.

"Water?" he murmured. "From the sky?"

What kind of crazy mixed up world was this? In his mind, water bubbled up from the earth from springs, warmed by the heat of the inner earth until it rose to the surface, then flowed off toward the poles where it cooled again and sank back into the ground. Sometimes it became fog for a little while, but it always stayed close to the ground where it belonged. It didn't go up into the sky where it could pounce down on unsuspecting travelers.

The water was coming down harder now, becoming a roar of falling droplets. It was as if the whole city had been relocated to the base of the universe's biggest waterfall. Wind buffeted Mizael, blasting his face with stinging points of cold water. It ran into his eyes and made them burn. He raised his arm to shield his face, but it did little good. Already he could feel his cheeks going numb from cold, his clothes were clinging to his skin, and his hair was sodden and heavy with water. That last annoyed him the most. He wouldn't have admitted it aloud, but he was rather vain of his hair, and he took it as a personal offense that this ridiculous world was attacking it.

He broke into a run and managed to take refuge beneath an awning. He stood there for a moment, glowering at the downpour with the sullen conviction that it had shown up just to torment him.

After a while, he calmed enough to notice that the humans around him were still moving about, apparently less bothered by the deluge than he was. That was because they were carrying the colorful cloth-and-metal objects he'd seen in the window earlier, the ones that had mystified him so much. That was when it clicked in his mind: this downpour was what humans called "rain", and these oddities were what they used to cope with it. Perhaps humans weren't as stupid as he'd thought they were.

"Hey, buddy," he heard a voice say.

Mizael turned to see a young man standing in the door of the shop, watching him with a look of understanding.

"Got caught out in the rain, huh?" he said. "And in your nice clothes, too."

Mizael was forced to admit that this was the case.

"Well, today's your lucky day," said the man in the shop. "Some lady left her umbrella behind a couple of weeks ago and never came back for it, so I figure she doesn't need it as much as you do. Here."

Much to Mizael's surprise, he found a folded object - an umbrella? - being thrust into his hands.

"Thank you," he said automatically, and immediately felt a desire to cringe. Thanking a human. What was the world coming to?

"No problem," said the man, and disappeared into the shop again.

Mizael fumbled with the umbrella until he found a button to press. It expanded with a whump that made him jump a little. He examined his new possession with some interest. It was bright yellow, with black stars spangled across it. He liked yellow. It galled him to admit that an inferior species had created something that was so attractive and functional.

Thus shielded, he walked back out into the rain again. For all it seemed like the cloth of the umbrella should have let the water soak right through, it kept him surprisingly dry. He soon became more confident in his new mode of protection, and found himself taking a certain enjoyment that he was holding off this fierce storm with something so apparently flimsy. There was even something rather soothing about the steady drumming of the rain on his umbrella. Now that he was safe and dry, he could watch with some interest as the rain gathered itself into tiny rivers on the sides of the street or spilled in miniature waterfalls from awnings. A silver veil had been thrown over the world, imparting a strange beauty even to this polluted world.

As he walked, he watched the humans around him scampering around, trying to get to some sort of shelter, with their shoulders hunched and their umbrellas pulled low over their heads. They weren't looking at the rain at all.

All this beauty around them, and they aren't even looking at it, Mizael thought. Humans really are fools.

He strolled languidly up the sidewalk, secure in the knowledge that he knew secrets about this world now that its inhabitants didn't.

Eventually, he reached the correct neighborhood, and he paused on a street corner to take stock of his surroundings. The Tsukumo house seemed to be empty and deserted save for a robot (also carrying a pink umbrella) who was in the process of taking out the trash. There was, however, a light a bit further on, and he followed it into a small outbuilding.

The building turned out to be what he surmised was a tool shed. It had tools in it, anyway. Umbrellas might be unfamiliar to him, but implements to cut things apart and affix them back together again were more or less universal. There was also a young human in the middle of the shed, surrounded by metal scraps and bits of leather. Mizael, leery of chatting with strange humans, began to back away again, but the young man looked up and flashed him a grin. Mizael took another step back. Something about that look gave him the uneasy feeling that those teeth were moments away from sinking into his throat.

"Why, Mizael!" he crooned. "So lovely to see you again! To what do I owe the pleasure?" His sunny expression melted into one of edgy irritation. "Did Durbe send you to spy on me?"

"He sent me to remind you that you've missed your rendevous with him," said Mizael crisply. He wasn't sure what annoyed him most: the fact that for a moment, he'd been frightened by what he thought was a human, or that he'd been frightened by Vector.

"Durbe knows what he can do with himself," Vector answered, waving a hand dismissively. "Tell him I was unavoidably detained. Tell him I'm doing something important."

"What are you doing?" Mizael asked, surveying the mess around him.

Vector held up a rectangle of leather with an ornate gold shield affixed to it. He beamed as if it were the grandest accomplishment of all civilization.

"I'm making police badges!" he said.

Mizael rolled his eyes. "Do you mean to tell me that the rest of us have been fighting to overcome our enemies while you're sitting around making... costume props?"

"Exactly!" Vector crowed.

"You're an idiot," said Mizael. "Of what possible use are those?"

"Oh, you'd be amazed," said Vector.

"Fine," said Mizael. "You go back to your arts and crafts. I will go and inform Durbe that you are too preoccupied with your little games to be of any use, and he should concentrate his energies on those of us are who are actually trying to do something useful."

"That sounds good," said Vector blithely. "You get on with that. You're so cute when you're taking yourself seriously."

Mizael gave him a long flat look.

"You know," he said, "this is why none of us want to talk to you."

Vector gave him another toothy smile. "Oh, my. Do you suppose maybe I planned it that way?"

There didn't seem to be anything to say to that. Mizael gave him another look to make sure his feelings were known, and then unfolded his umbrella to leave.

"Hey," said Vector, "where did you get an umbrella?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" said Mizael loftily.

"I want an umbrella," said Vector.

"Go get one."

"Give me yours," Vector suggested.


"You don't need it. You're going back to the Barian world. I'm staying here, and it's still raining."

"No," said Mizael. "This is my umbrella. I like it. You get your own umbrella."

"Don't be so selfish!" Vector scolded. "Give me that!"

He made a grab for it, but Mizael flicked it out of reach. Before Vector could recover his equilibrium, Mizael transported himself back to his home world. As he vanished, he fancied he could hear a thud as Vector lost his balance and fell.

He rematerialized in the throne room to find Durbe waiting for him.

"Did you find him?" Durbe asked.

"Yes," said Mizael. "Let it suffice to say, I don't think we can rely on him to be of any help at the moment. He appears to be thoroughly enmeshed in his own plans, whatever they are."

Durbe bowed his head, clenching a fist in frustration. "That Vector. Sometimes I don't know what he's thinking... Well, we'll just have to do what we can without him. Thank you for trying, Mizael."

"It was no trouble," said Mizael. "I found it... educational."

"Ah," said Durbe. He gave Mizael a considering look. "What is that object you're carrying?"

"This is an umbrella," said Mizael. "It is a cunning human device. I have been mastering its applications."

"I see," said Durbe. "I'm glad this trip wasn't a waste of your time, then."

Mizael assured him that it had not been and made his exit. He walked out of the stronghold and out into the rocky land that surrounded it. The rain of his world was still falling, warm and glowing with light and life. He stood there a moment, feeling it warming his skin. After a few moments, he raised his umbrella over his head again and went strolling off over the landscape, a bright shape in a dark country, shielded by a galaxy of stars.