OH MY EVANGELION!
A Twisted and Evil Production of Stormwind Graphics
Ruthlessly Parodying "Oh My Goddess! (Ah Megami-sama!)" by Kosuke Fujishima
And "Neon Genesis Evangelion" by Hideki Anno
Written With a Flourish by Benjamin B. Donnelly
DISCLAIMER: I don't own "Oh My Goddess" or "Neon Genesis Evangelion" (I couldn't own what I don't understand); those belong to Kodansha and Gainax and other respective creators. Nor do I own "Tenchi Muyo!" as that series belongs lock, stock, and two smoking barrels to Pioneer. Which is too bad, because if I were in charge, Tenchi would be choosing Ryoko. Sorry, Ayeka fans, but Ryoko is a much better choice. I mean, why would anyone want to marry a conniving, psychotic, underhanded…I digress. Knowing that most otaku are more detail oriented than Congressional staffers, I humbly beg forgiveness for any factual errors that may be in this. Relax, don't do it.
It was a pleasant fall evening at the old temple. Keiichi Morisato sat on the veranda, sipping a mug of green tea, leaning against one of the posts. The sun sank slowly behind the distant mountains, casting long shadows across the city and the temple. Birds chirped quietly, providing a wonderful undertone to the entire scene.
What made it best, in Keiichi's opinion, was the warm body next to him. Belldandy leaned against his shoulder, and Keiichi put an arm around her, enjoying the sweet smell of her grayish hair. They had been together for months now, and Keiichi was more comfortable with having her this close to him, unlike in the days immediately after her arrival, when it had taken an act of courage to simply embrace her. Now even a kiss was an easy task, though, Keiichi was happy to say, never routine. Keiichi had been tempted to take their relationship to the next level, but was still a bit too shy for that. There were certain barriers, after all—he was a mortal human, Belldandy was an immortal demigoddess, for one. For now, Keiichi was content just for having her close to him.
"Keiichi-chan," Belldandy murmured, "do you know what would make this sunset even better?"
"What's that, Bell-chan?"
"Watermelon. I picked up some in the market today; would you like a slice?"
"I'd love one, Bell-chan."
She gave him a peck on the cheek. "I'll be right back."
Not realizing what a setup that statement was for disaster, Belldandy got up and walked into the house, sliding the shoji panel door shut behind her. The house was fairly quiet tonight, as Skuld was busy in the garage working on yet another one of her projects. Urd, for her part, was immersed in American-rules football, her latest obsession. Belldandy briefly listened as Urd screamed horrible curse words in several languages—loosely translated, Urd was highly disappointed at the referees, who were obviously visually impaired, of dubious antecedence and conjectural progeny. Belldandy smiled; Urd would never change. She decided to get a piece of watermelon for her sisters as well as she walked towards the kitchen.
* * *
In another universe, though still in the nation of Japan (strange, that so many weird occurrences happen there), another house was also enjoying a quiet autumn evening. Unlike the Morisato residence, this house was much newer and located deep in the mountains of southern Honshu. There were some resemblances, however, in that one male resident of the house had found himself surrounded by incredibly beautiful females, of which one was a prepubescent.
Keiichi Morisato had Belldandy: though Urd and Skuld had on occasion accidentally and purposely came between the two, neither sister wished Keiichi or Belldandy ill, and neither wanted Keiichi. Tenchi Masaki, on the other hand, would have cheerfully killed for such a situation. His polite demeanor had landed him square in the middle of a romantic war between Ryoko, space pirate extraordinaire, and Ayeka, Princess of Jurai. Both women wanted him, both women loved him, and the only other thing they could agree on was that the other would eventually have to leave or die screaming.
Tonight, however, the Masaki residence was absent its usual level of violence, which tended to make Tenchi's life a bizarre combination of a soap opera and the beach landing scene from Saving Private Ryan. Ryoko and Ayeka had achieved a shaky ceasefire that would have won Tenchi a Nobel Peace Prize, had that august committee known about it, so he was able to get some studying done. Exams were not all that far off, and he had to hit the books. He waved a greeting to Sasami, the young Juraian girl who served as cook, maid, and general peacekeeper, and his grandfather Yosho; both were studiously at work on a game of shogi. Tenchi came down the stairs and headed towards his kitchen for a quick snack, when he saw a small flash of light from under the door of the storage closet. He froze for a moment, waiting for a shockwave, but none came. Apparently, Washu the Mad was not playing around with something terribly explosive tonight.
Tenchi briefly paused outside the door. Nonwithstanding her penchant for building weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein would have salivated openly at, Washu was indeed the genius she boasted to be. Tenchi was stuck fast on a math problem; what better person to talk to than Washu? He overcame his fears—which were justified, since Washu seemed bent on "extracting samples" from him—and walked into the storage closet.
It was no longer that, of course. Washu had long ago converted it to a pocket dimension where she could invent and work in private. After a quick look around, to make sure no nefarious devices awaited him, Tenchi stepped inside. Ahead, on a raised dais, he could see Washu. Short but remarkably cute, for being nearly twenty thousand years old, Washu was intently welding on some sort of ball. With a brief pang of fear in his stomach, Tenchi recognized it as being the control sphere for Washu's temporal travel device—the infamous Time-Space Machine. The last time it had been used—abused was the more proper term—it had sent Tenchi, his father and grandfather, and the rest of his newly-acquired retinue into a series of adventures, most of which had revolved around Tenchi being fought over by Ryoko and Ayeka. To make matters worse, Tenchi noticed that the control leads were hooked up to the sphere, meaning it was active.
"Hello, Tenchi," Washu said in her nasal voice, without looking up.
"Er…hi, Washu," Tenchi whispered, afraid to distract her for a moment.
"What do you need?" Washu stopped welding for a moment.
"I'm a bit stumped on a math problem, and I was wondering if you—"
"I'll be right with you. Just doing some spot welds on the old Time-Space Machine." She must have sensed Tenchi's uneasiness, for she added, "Not to worry; I've installed safeguards since the last time." She started welding again. "Give me a few moments and don't distract me, okay?"
Tenchi nodded. He stood in place; he had learned from painful experience that it was a poor idea to lean against anything in Washu's laboratory. He contented himself in looking around, having learned, again from painful experience, that it was an exceedingly dangerous thing to distract Washu, especially when she was working on delicate equipment.
Unfortunately, despite plenty of painful experiences on her part, Ryoko had yet to learn either lesson. Seeing Tenchi standing in the open doorway to Washu's lab, she could not resist the sudden urge to grab him. Whether it was because Ryoko genuinely loved Tenchi, latent catlike stalking instincts, or just a desire to glomp something, she grinned savagely and faded from sight. Silently, she crept up behind an oblivious Tenchi, reached forward, and grabbed him, wrapping her legs around his and sticking her tongue in his ear.
Rarely do disasters happen in a vaccuum: nearly every one is the end result of a chain of events usually involving human (or alien, in this case) error, miscalculation, and occasionally sheer stupidity. Ryoko's actions counted as all three. Tenchi, not expecting a pair of breasts being thrust into his back and a tongue stuck in his ear with the ferocity of a Polish lancer on a British infantryman, yelped. The sudden noise caused Washu to jump. To her credit, she dropped neither the welder nor the sphere, but the welder scored a long mark across the sphere's surface.
"Ryoko!" Tenchi yelled. "Don't do that!"
"Oh, did I scare my little Tenchi?" Ryoko cooed. "I'm sorry. You can spank me later, if you like."
"HEY!" Washu shouted. "You two idiots nearly made me ruin this thing!" She inspected the damage. "Well, lucky for you I was able to compensate with my matchless reflexes." Washu looked at the sphere, then sighed. "Oh, well, I was getting bored anyway. Might as well look at that problem, Tenchi."
"And what problem is that, Tenchi?" Ryoko purred, moving her legs suggestively up Tenchi's. Ayeka was in town with Kiyone doing a little shopping, and Ryoko was going to take advantage of the moment.
Washu chewed her lip in thought for a moment, then pointed at Ryoko. "Ryoko?"
Ryoko instantly noticed the look in Washu's eyes, and stepped away from Tenchi. "Y-yes…mommy?" She said it contritely, hoping her acknowledgement of her parent would deflect Washu from turning her into a water sprite again.
"Bang." Ryoko disappeared, only to reappear over the nearby lake, where she promptly fell in. Ryoko's blistering oaths could be heard in the surrounding countryside and most likely Tokyo, where several dozen anime characters looked up, wondering what disaster was going to befall them now. But since this story was already pushing the limits of crossovers, nothing happened. Washu led Tenchi out of her lab. Behind her, the sphere lay dormant.
Except for the tinest of sparks.
* * *
Belldandy thought she heard something on the wind, but dismissed it as Urd once more complaining about the inefficiency of the American school system and its effect on fatherless professional football players. As she neared the kitchen, she walked past a mirror.
Washu's machine effected dimensional travel as well as time, and the sudden spark had briefly closed a circuit, activating it. This sent out a signal that touched off Belldandy's means of extradimensional travel, that is, through mirrors. How this was possible was unknown, but it was science fact, and the readers should really just relax. The end result was Belldandy suddenly wrenched off her feet and pulled through the mirror.
The suddenness of the event kept Belldandy from being able to resist, but, with a last effort borne from her love for Keiichi, she grabbed either side of the mirror.
"KEIICHI!" she screamed, before she was pulled in and disappeared.
Outside, Keiichi was on his feet and through the door before he realized what he was doing. "Belldandy?" He looked around. "BELLDANDY?"
Behind him, the tea cup had smashed on the ground.
* * *
Dr. Ritsuko Akagi was bored. She would not have admitted it under torture, but it was true. She leaned back in her chair, keeping her expression that of concentrated interest, resisting the urge to yawn.
There were times that she wondered if Commander Gendo Ikari ordered synchronization tests to give the staff at NERV something to do. Of course, the sync tests were useful, allowing NERV to run diagnostics on the delicate biomechanical systems that ran the EVA suits, as well as keep a running tabulation of the abilities of the suits' pilots. For those reasons, Ritsuko never ignored a request for a sync test. Still, she wondered if it was merely to fill in the time between Angel attacks.
"EVA-00, synch rate at 160 percent. EVA-01, synch rate at 110 percent. EVA-02, synch rate at 125 percent." Ritsuko noticed that Maya Ibuki sounded just as bored as she felt. Ritsuko glanced at the monitor in front of her—what the techs called the "big board" when they thought Ritsuko wasn't in earshot. Nothing surprising there: Rei Ayanami, as usual, got into synchronization with her machine much quicker than the other two, Shinji Ikari and Asuka Soryu. And as usual, Asuka was just above Shinji. Ritsuko checked her watch. Another ten minutes to go. A debrief, some dinner, and then she could clear out some paperwork. Once that was done, she could return to her apartment and engage in her true passion. She swore to herself that, tonight, she would beat the Zentraedi Quadrono and advance to the next level. She hoped Gendo did not want her to stay on after the debrief; she could feel the stirrings of a headache behind her eyes.
Ritsuko was just composing an excuse when suddenly, it seemed, every alarm NERV possessed went off. Ritsuko was instantly on her feet and glancing at the monitors, looking for the problem. The three primary techs—Maya, Shigeru Aoba, and Mahato Hyuga—were also up and moving, training and hard-won experience shifting the control center into instant action. Behind them, there was a clatter, a startled yelp, and a crash of upholstery, followed by a particularly vile Japanese curse. Ritsuko smiled thinly: Misato Katsuragi had woken up.
"What the hell—" Misato expostulated.
Ritsuko ignored her. "Is it the EVAs?"
"That's a negative, ma'am." Mahato's fingers flew across his keyboard. "Blue signature alert—we've got an Angel on our hands, Dr. Akagi."
"Contact Commander Ikari immediately and notify Tokyo-3 JSSDF command. Where is it?"
"Trying to fix it now."
Ritsuko nodded. Misato, next to her, had grabbed a headset. "EVA pilots, we're interrupting the sync test—looks like we have an Angel on its way here. Stand by to deploy. Check in," Misato ordered.
"EVA-00 is ready," Rei replied flatly, as always. Misato was actually thankful for that; if Rei ever sounded rattled, it probably would signify Third Impact.
"EVA-01, ready," Shinji said, his voice slightly quavering.
"EVA-02, ready…ready to kick some ass!" Asuka was in her usual fine form.
"Okay. We're moving you to launch positions."
"What are we facing?" Rei asked.
"Ah, who cares, Wondergirl! A target is a target!" Asuka laughed maniacally.
"Stand by, EVAs. We're still getting that information." Misato looked over at Mahato, who shook his head.
"Shigeru, let's lower the Geofront now," Ritsuko said, her hands on his shoulder and Maya's. "Maya, where is Commander Ikari?"
Kazuo Futsuyuki walked quickly into Gendo Ikari's office. "Commander?" Futsuyuki stopped, surprised. Gendo was straightening his tunic and his glasses, standing next to an overturned chair. "Sir, were you asleep?"
"Of course not," Gendo snapped. "My chair slipped out from under me…maintenance will have to look at that. It's apparently broken, unless someone loosened the screws."
Futsuyuki seriously doubted that, mainly because he had thought he heard snoring coming from Gendo's office just before the alarms went off. "Commander, we have a possible Angel attack underway. Central Dogma is still trying to pinpoint where and what it is."
Gendo stopped adjusting his shirt. "An Angel attack, you say?"
Gendo quickly set his chair back on its wheels and tapped some commands into his computer. "That's impossible, Futsuyuki. The timing is completely wrong."
Futsuyuki shrugged. "I call them as I see them, sir."
Gendo spoke into a microphone as he leaned over his desk. "Akagi. What is going on down there?"
Finally,Ritsuko thought. You'd think he was asleep or something. "Commander, we have a blue signature reading. We haven't been able to pinpoint exactly where yet—"
"Got it!" Mahato exclaimed. "It's already down, on land."
"EVAs, launch!" Misato shouted.
"EVA-02—elevator to heaven, going uuuup!"
"Shigeru, get the buildings down, now!" Ritsuko snapped.
"Not much point to that," Mahato said.
He pointed to a map on his screen. "According to MAGI, the Angel is already in Tokyo-3."
"What?"Ritsuko, Misato, and Gendo said simutaneously, which was an extremely strange sound.
"I can't pinpoint it, exactly," Mahato explained, "but it's definitely inside the city. The signal's weird, but it's an Angel, no doubt. I can't get a good fix on it…"
"What can you give us?" Gendo said, icily calm.
"Not much, Commander. MAGI keeps losing the signal. I can pinpoint it into an eight block radius, and that's it for now."
Misato looked at the map. The orange, blue, and red dots that represented the three EVA suits showed them on the surface. "EVAs, the coordinates to the Angel are in your tactical displays. Form up into combat formation, collect weapons, and surround the sector. Watch your spacing and don't get spread too thin. You hear me, Asuka?"
"Yeah, yeah," Asuka said, ignoring Misato as she reached into one of the false buildings in Tokyo-3's skyline. She brought out a gigantic assault rifle, capable of firing hypervelocity gauss slugs. Her eyes lit up like a demented child opening a Christmas present. "Ja, I've been a very good girl this year!" Asuka laughed. "Oh, YEAH! Come to Asuka!"
Shinji had collected his positron rifle, and winced as Asuka yelled into the open channel. "This is like a bad episode of Gekiganger," he mused. He sighed as EVA-01 hefted the rifle. He looked around, turning in a complete circle, EVA-01 resembling a horribly deformed ballerina. "I can't see the Angel," he told NERV.
"It's there," Misato replied. "It might be invisible."
"Not again," Shinji groaned. He was still recovering from the last invisible Angel. "Rei, do you have a visual?"
Shinji took a deep breath. "Musn't run away," he told himself for the thousandth time. He was scared, but he didn't want Rei or Asuka getting hurt. Asuka would never let him forget it, and Rei had already done her impression of a pin cushion once too often. "I'll take point," he said.
"I'll take point," Asuka insisted.
"No, it's okay, I'll take point—"
Asuka brought EVA-02's left foot down on EVA-01's. Shinji screamed in sympathetic pain, and 01 began dancing around on one foot. "I'VE GOT POINT, DUMMKOPF!"
Gendo Ikari, hands folded in front of him, looked at the projected outside view and sighed. "There are times, Futsuyuki, I can understand why the Angels want to wipe out humanity." He glanced over at the old professor. "Was that a smile I detected?"
"No, Commander," Futsuyuki lied.
"01, 02, quit screwing around!" Misato yelled.
Meanwhile, Rei had taken point and was moving towards the target zone. "I still have no visual acquisition," she reported. She stopped, checking her spacing, and looked back at her two compatriots. EVA-02 was moving easily into position, mimicking Asuka's swagger, while EVA-01 was limping along. What was that she had seen on the television the other night? Oh, yes, now she remembered the phrase.
"Idiots," Rei said.
"EVAs, we've got a better fix on the Angel. The Angel is apparently much smaller than the ones you've encountered before," Ritsuko said. "It may even be human sized. Still, it should look much different, so please, identify your target before you open fire." The latter was for Asuka's benefit; the last thing NERV needed was for the fiery German to begin opening fire on everything that moved.
The EVAs moved into position around the target zone. Except for the warbling of alarms, it was quiet—luckily, most of the civilians had already gotten to the shelters. They had lots of practice doing so, after all.
Misato consulted the display on the big board. Shinji was on the western end of the zone, with Asuka on the east. If things went according to plan, they would converge from either end, flushing the Angel into the open. Rei waited on a hill north of the zone, ready to shoot. Central Dogma was silent, waiting for the command.
Inside EVA-00, Rei aimed down the barrel of her positron rifle. Her face betrayed no emotion, though inside, she was wondering why it always came down to blasting the Angel. NERV had never really tried talking to one. Rei found herself curious about the things she had to fight. She said nothing, merely waited.
Inside EVA-01, Shinji tried to steady himself. He hated Angels, but he hated Angels he could not see most of all. "Musn't run away, I don't suck," he chanted to himself. "Mustn't run away, I don't suck."
Inside EVA-02, Asuka was grinning, humming Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" to herself. I love the smell of LCL in the morning, she thought to herself.
Misato took a deep breath. "EVA-01, 02, move in! 00, stay in overwatch!"
The two EVAs began stomping forward, sweeping their guns, looking for anything suspicious.
"Major Katsuragi," Mahato reported, "I think I've got the signal pinpointed for sure. The Angel is definitely human-sized."
"Great," Misato groused. "Well, at least there won't be a big mess to clean up. Where is it?"
Mahato smiled. "Here's a switch. I can give you an address."
"NERV is going to be paying someone's insurance," Misato said. "What is it?"
Mahato read the address. "EVA-02, the Angel is at this address," Ritsuko said, then repeated Mahato's words. "Prepare to open fire; let's not take chances—"
"Like HELL you'll open fire!" Misato shouted, her face pale.
Ritsuko whirled to face her. "What are you talking about, Major, this is an emergency—"
Misato grabbed Ritsuko's lab coat. "That's MY frigging address, Ritsuko! The damn Angel is in my apartment!"
Upstairs, Gendo had been quickly jotting down notes on a scratchpad for further study later. He paused, then wrote quickly, Yebisu beer—secret weapon for luring Angels?
Belldandy groaned as her eyelids fluttered open. Everything was white at first, but gradually her eyes focused, and she found herself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. She was lying on something soft, and she realized that it was a rather comfortable bed. "Keiichi?" she murmured. There was no response. Slowly, Belldandy looked around. It was a small bedroom, kept rather neat, although a bit on the spartan side.
She swung her feet over the bed and shakily stood up, taking stock. She was alive, and she was in one piece. On the other hand, she had lost the connection to Keiichi and her sisters, which was theoretically impossible. She had a contract with Keiichi, which only the Almighty could break, so she should not be feeling apart from him, even if Keiichi had been on the other side of the world. She also loved Keiichi, so there should be that link as well.
That left only one option. Belldandy was no longer in the same dimension as Keiichi. The thought brought tears to her eyes. She fought down the urge to completely break down. "No," she said quietly to herself. "I am alive, and Keiichi is alive, somewhere. There must be a way to get back." Suddenly a thought came to her. "Of course! No matter what dimension I am in, there must be a way to contact the Goddess Help Line."
It was an apartment, and the few books in the room had kanji characters on them, so Belldandy reasoned that she was still in this world's Japan, and at least post-1900. She picked up a Walkman, and smiled; she knew she was in an era at least post-1980. The 1980s was not her favorite decade, though the music was good. Most importantly, there had to be phones, possibly even modems and faxes. All three she could use to contact Yggdrasil, and get herself back to Keiichi.
Belldandy walked out of the bedroom into a common area. Her nose wrinkled at the smell of beer. She had made the mistake of drinking only once, and the results had taken some doing to clear up. She looked around and spotted a phone. "Ah!" she exclaimed happily. "Touch tone. Perfect."
"Wark?" was the response she got.
Belldandy turned around and saw a penguin looking at her, the look of shock on its face obvious. She knelt, and the penguin waddled backwards. "Don't run away," Belldandy soothed. "I won't hurt you."
Belldandy slowly rose to her feet, and bowed. "My name is Belldandy."
"Wark wark wark?"
She shook her head. "No, I don't know why I'm here." She looked around. "To be honest with you, I don't know where here is." She smiled. "So what's your name?"
The penguin waddled up to her and pointed a flipper at a chain around its neck. Belldandy bent down. "Pen-Pen. Well, that's a cute name." She patted the penguin's head, and Pen Pen closed his eyes, giving her the penguin equivalent of a smile. "You don't live here alone, do you?"
Pen Pen shook his head. "Wark. Wark, wark wark, wark wark wark wark wark."
"Oh, good. There are humans in this world. Three of them, you say? Do they treat you all right?" Belldandy thought the penguin looked well-fed.
Pen Pen went into a long solioquy which we will not recount here. (Too many warks.) At the end, Belldandy nodded. "A wimp, a banshee, and a beerhound, you say? That's a little mean, don't you think?"
Pen Pen looked down. "Wark."
"They treat you well, so you should be satisfied with your place." She did not think drinking beer and eating fish was nutritionally right, but each to his own, even penguins. "Can you excuse me? I need to use your phone, just for a minute."
Pen Pen shrugged. "Wark."
"Thank you." Belldandy bowed again, and picked up the phone. Her fingers were just about to dial when the door to the apartment suddenly burst open. Two heavily armored NERV troops leveled assault rifles at Belldandy. A woman wearing a red beret and matching jacket stepped through the door, and pointed a pistol directly at Belldandy's head.
"Step away from the penguin," Misato snarled. "Or I'll turn your head into a canoe."
"Oh my," Belldandy replied.
* * *
Keiichi's shout had brought Urd and Skuld running. For all Skuld disliked Keiichi at times, and for Urd's singular obsession with television, the tone in his voice was enough. "Whrf ong, Kemhi?" Urd said around a mouth full of chips.
It took a moment for Keiichi to decode that. "Belldandy screamed. Didn't you hear it?"
Skuld shook her head. "I was in the garage. I heard you yell her name, but that's all."
Urd shrugged. "I've got twenty yen on the Dolphins, so I was watching TV. I figured you two were having fun, so I left you alone."
Keiichi turned bright red. Skuld looked between the two, then what Urd meant sank in. "Urd! You're sick!" She reached into her dress. "Neo Skuld Bomb—"
Keiichi grabbed her wrist. "Never mind that now! Belldandy's gone—I can't find her anywhere. She said she was going into the kitchen for some watermelon."
Skuld nodded once. "I'll get Banpei."
Urd nodded as well. "And I'll do a spirit imprint. If she was heading to the kitchen from the veranda, then she could have only walked down this hallway." She winked at Keiichi. "Not a worry, Keiichi; we'll find her in no time." Urd dashed around the corner, then stopped and looked back around. "You guys had watermelon?" Not liking the homicidal look Keiichi was beginning to acquire, Urd went back to finding the powders she needed.
It seemed to take forever, but he waited as Urd went to work, as close to all business as she got. Skuld ran up to Keiichi, worry etched in her face. "Keiichi," she almost sobbed, "Banpei's detection system can't find Belldandy. If she's in the city, he should have detected her."
Urd's finger went up in the air. "Fancy robots and cool technology are no match for a good bit of potions at your side, kid." She stood and pointed. "Behold—Belldandy's footprints."
Keiichi bent down. "Well, it looks like she was moving towards the kitchen…got in front of this mirror…and the prints just stop." He straightened up, and saw that Urd had acquired a checked overcoat, a funny hat, and a pipe. "Urd…your sister is missing. Can't you be serious for one minute?"
Urd tossed the pipe to one side. "Is it going to do Belldandy any good if I mope around and cry and scream?" Keiichi had to agree with that. "Besides, this isn't the first time she's up and disappeared. She always comes back." Urd scratched the back of her neck. "Of course, the last time, it took her a hundred years or so…"
Keiichi grabbed Urd around the throat and began shaking her, making sounds of rupture. Meanwhile, Skuld had bent down to inspect the footprints with another of her inventions. Luminous green letters marched across its surface as it zoomed in. "Hey, look at this!"
Keiichi stopped strangling Urd, which had a strangely liberating effect on him. "What is it, Skuld?"
"Urk." This from Urd.
"Well, according to my Super Skuld Mark Five-A Focusing Light Computerized Visual Enhancement Device—"
"Computerized magnifying glass."
Skuld shrugged. "Well, if you want to take the fun out of it, Keiichi. Anyway, it looks like Belldandy was yanked off her feet. There's a slight impression on the floor where her right foot dragged on the ground."
Keiichi put his hand on the mirror, but nothing happened. He tried to look past his own reflection, but there was nothing there. "Urd, could Mara have been behind this?"
"Banpei would have detected her!" Skuld insisted.
"Maybe she found a way around him. Could Bell be sealed in the mirror?"
Urd, still massaging her throat, closed her eyes and mumbled something. A brief purple glow surrounded the mirror. "No, it's not a seal mirror. And Mara won't be anywhere near here for awhile."
Keiichi raised an eyebrow. "Did you beat her at Pong again?"
"Tetris, this time. She lost the bet, so she has to stay away from here for a year."
"What did you bet?" Skuld was curious despite herself.
"You WHAT?" Keiichi shouted.
"Relax, Keiichi. Mara hasn't won a game of Tetris in a thousand years, and I didn't bet your neck, did I?"
Keiichi made a mental note to cut off Urd's sake supply for a few days. He began to pace. "All right. Belldandy was kidnapped. Mara probably isn't behind it. So what do we do now? I can't just sit here and wait."
Skuld's eyes lit up. "Of course! I should have thought of it sooner!" She grabbed Urd's arm. "Urd, Yggdrasil can track us! Peorth could find Belldandy."
Urd grinned. "Well, let's give her a call, huh?" She looked over at Keiichi. "Wonder if she still has the hots for ol' Keiichi here?"
Keiichi turned red.
* * *
Meanwhile, in yet another dimension…
Washu returned to her lab, looking immensely satisfied. Solving Tenchi's math problem had been child's play, of course. Then she had looked in on Sasami and Yosho's shogi game, and used the Second Ithmar Defense to get Sasami out of a trap. She had then wandered into the kitchen, helped Mihoshi put out a fire she had started in the microwave (when, Washu wondered, would Mihoshi learn that ramen does not heat faster with aluminum foil wrapped around it), and ate three of Sasami's delicious blue tarts. All in all, it had been a wonderful way to spend an hour. She conviently ignored a sopping wet Ryoko's promise of imminent violence on Washu's being.
She went over to the Time-Space Machine, picked up the sphere, and was about to go back to finishing the welds when she noticed that there was more damage than she thought. She inspected the sphere, and saw that the welder had indeed penetrated the metal skin. "Not good," she said. "Computer!"
There was a chirping noise, and the computer spoke in a voice not unlike her own. "Yes, Washu, Oh Great and Powerful Washu, Genius of the Multiverse, Mad Scientist Extra—"
"Never mind that now. Replay Tape AAA-144-6969." Luckily, Washu had at least one camera in her lab going at all times. She enjoyed replaying her scientific achievements, so as to bask in her own glory.
"Playing, Oh Mighty One."
There was a slight click as the computer uploaded the images and sounds, and a screen appeared over the lab. Instantly, noise blasted from unseen speakers. "AAHHH! Oh, yes, Mecha-Tenchi, that's it, faster, give me more—"
"EEK!" Washu squeaked. "Computer, cancel!" The image faded away. Washu quickly looked around to make sure no one had wandered into the lab. "Er…I mean, Computer, replay Tape AAA-144-9696."
This time, it showed Tenchi waiting patiently as Washu welded on the sphere. She saw Ryoko wander in—the cameras could still detect her, even when invisible—and surprise Tenchi. Washu watched herself port Ryoko away, and leave with Tenchi. "Computer. Stop and enhance image, top left corner." It did as ordered, after a paean or two.
She saw the spark arc up from the sphere. "Oh, no!" Washu flexed her fingers, and a keyboard appeared in front of her. She quickly tapped in a number of commands, and studied the results. "Hmm. Evidence of intradimensional travel. So a signal was sent out, and it touched off something." Her fingers raced across the keys again. "Well! This is interesting. According to the trail debris, whoever got snagged was…an angel?" Washu peered closer to the screen. "No…a goddess of some kind." She folded her arms. "Damn. Now I'll have to go looking for that number again." She licked her lips. "But not before I grab me another one of Sasami's tarts."
* * *
Peorth was having one of her less stimulating days as Chief Programmer for Yggdrasil. The eternal computer was running smoothly. People's needs were being taken care of. And she needed her lunch break. Her fingers drummed the side of her seat as she watched the clock. "You would think," she murmured to herself, "that heavenly time might run just a bit faster."
"Miss Peorth?" One of the lesser goddesses below her looked up, one hand to her headset. "Call for you, ma'am."
"Send it up here." Anything to relieve the boredom, she thought, putting on a headset. "Chief Programmer Peorth speaking."
"Hi, Peorth, how the heaven are you?"
Peorth's hands noticeably clenched. "Urd! I'm hoping against hope that you have a valid reason for calling me. If you're just asking if I have Prince Albert in a can or if my refrigerator is running again, I swear to Tezuka I'm going to come down there—"
"Hush, Peorth, or I'll tell Kami-sama about the time you drank too much ambrosia and spilled your guts to Nostradamus." Peorth visibly paled. "Okay, now that I have your attention, we've got a teensy problem."
Peorth rolled her eyes. "Now what?" That Morisato kid just attracts disasters.
"Well, we've sort of lost Belldandy."
"You lost her?"
"Yeah. She screamed, got pulled into a mirror, and now we can't find her anywhere. It's not a seal mirror, and Banpei can't detect anything either."
Peorth rubbed her eyes. "I see. It could be Mara or some other demon. Hold on." She shouted down to the programmers below her to run a trace on Belldandy. "All right, we're working on it. I'll get back to you in about twelve hours."
"TWELVE HOURS?!" This was from Keiichi.
"Yes, Mr. Morisato, twelve hours. If you want to shout at someone, I suggest you look around you. There should be a short, young female with black hair who likes to invent things. If she was up here, we wouldn't have to devote so much space to bug-killing programs and more to processing speed." Peorth was working her way up to a real tirade when her headset beeped. "Hold on, I have another call coming in." She tapped a button set into the side of her chair; it was her private line. "Hello?"
Peorth winced and rubbed her ears. "Washu, not again!" She gritted her teeth. "I'm not going to ask how you got this number."
"It's because I'm the universe's greatest genius, the mind of the age—"
Peorth cut her off. "What do you want, Washu? If you're selling something, we don't want it. The last time we used one of your programs, it caused the Tunguska Blast of 1908."
"Bitch, bitch, bitch. Actually, this time, I might be able to help you."
"We don't want your help, Washu. You avoided demon classification by the skin of your teeth."
"Oh. Well, never mind then. I guess you can find your missing goddess on your own then—"
Washu sounded indescribably smug. "Ah, so you are missing one of your workers. Who is it this time? Urd? Rissa? Zeruel?"
Peorth sighed. "Belldandy."
"Really? Fascinating, I thought she was perfect. So what happened?" Peorth decided she had little to lose by telling Washu, so she did. "Ah. Erm…" There was what writers call a pregnant pause, and then Washu came back on the line, her smugness gone. "You see, it was an accident. I was doing some spot welding on my Time-Space Machine, and Ryoko distracted me, and—"
Peorth covered her eyes. "Why am I not surprised? Fine. You made the mess, Washu, so you can help us clean it up."
"Well, I do owe you for helping me beat that demon charge a few thousand years ago. It just so happens that I have her trace. I can upload it direct to Yggdrasil—"
"NO!" Peorth shouted, turning every head in the chamber (and some outside, as well). There was no way in heaven or hell that Peorth was going to allow Washu even indirect access to Yggdrasil. Armageddon could result. "Just tell me the data, Washu." After a few minutes, Peorth nodded. "All right. We'll get on it. I never thought I'd say this, but thank you, Washu."
"I can help—"
Peorth hit the button on her chair. Hard.
* * *
Washu looked at the phone. "You're welcome." She sighed. "Ah, Peorth. Always wound too tightly. Urd was a lot more fun to be around." She sat down and looked at the sphere. "I always wondered if I'd ever invent something I wish I could disinvent." She smiled, and then she cackled. "Ha! As if!" She leapt to her feet and headed for the door. "I'd better let Tenchi know I might be gone for a few hours or days. I'll have to pack, too. Oh, and I'll have to invent an aura suppressor. After all, I don't want them to think I'm an Angel or something…"
* * *
"Not yet, Dr. Akagi." Maya Ibuki looked up at Ritsuko. "She's still just sitting there."
"Has she said anything?"
"No, but she turned and waved at me once."
Ritsuko rubbed her chin in thought. This isn't like an Angel at all. They've never been in human form before, though it's certainly possible or even probable that they would. Still, she's so…nice. Ritsuko shook off those thoughts. The Angels were dangerous in any form, and she wondered why Gendo had allowed one to be brought, alive and intact, so close to Terminal Dogma.
Behind her, Kaji Ryoji smiled around an unlit cigarette—Ritsuko had explained, in excruciating detail, what exactly would happen to him were he to light up around her precious computers. "Ritsuko, why don't we just talk to her?"
"Talk? To an Angel?"
"Why not? We've never tried that before. Usually we just let them waltz in, we blast 'em a few times and come up with some cockeyed plan that somehow works, and they blow up. This one doesn't show any signs of killing anyone or blowing up, so why not talk?"
Misato, standing nearby, snorted. "Talk with an Angel. You're being more annoying than usual, Kaji. We should hang her up by her thumbs and stick her somewhere."
"Major," Ritsuko warned.
"Or better yet, we could lock her in a room and make her watch Battle Skipper. That would do it."
"That's cruel and unusual," Ritsuko responded. "No. We'll keep watch."
Kaji shrugged. "Well, all right, but giving her the third degree isn't going to—"
"We haven't given her the third degree yet." A cold breeze swept the room as Gendo Ikari walked in. There was silence in his wake. "Kaji is correct. This approach is not working, Dr. Akagi. We should try another tack." He stepped to one side, revealing Rei Ayanami, still wearing her plugsuit and looking strangely bewildered. "We will send in Pilot Ayanami."
Belldandy leaned back in her chair and looked at the ceiling. She knew she was being watched, and she could see who was watching her. What a strange world this is, she thought sadly. So violent. So devoid of hope. Perhaps I am in the 1970s instead of later. She tried to hum a little to herself, but the tune would not come. Poor Keiichi.
The door suddenly slid open, and in walked a teenaged girl with short blue hair, wearing a strange armor-like suit. She looked very serious…but also very sad, for some reason. Belldandy's heart instantly went out to her.
Belldandy stood and bowed. "Good morning. My name is Belldandy. What is yours?"
The girl looked startled for a moment, then hesitatingly returned the bow. "I am called Rei."
"Pleased to meet you, Rei." Belldandy motioned Rei towards her chair. "This chair is very comfortable. Please take it."
Rei was, by now, completely confused. The Commander had ordered her to talk to this creature, which was strange, since talking was not something she was good at. Rei had come to the conclusion that the Commander had something in mind, but this Angel was so polite. Not knowing what else to do, Rei accepted Belldandy's offer. Belldandy smiled and took a seat in the other chair.
There was silence for a few moments, then Rei said, "Why did you appear in Major Katsuragi's apartment?"
Belldandy shook her head. "I don't know. I was going to get my friend Keiichi a slice of watermelon, I was pulled through a mirror, and that is where I arrived."
Rei blinked. Twice. She decided to try another tack, remembering one that the Commander liked to use. She set her face as sternly as possible (which was not very much), and said, "I do not believe you."
Belldandy looked at her shoes. "I'm sorry. But I don't lie. I can't."
"Who is Keiichi?"
"Keiichi is a very good friend of mine." The words were not good enough, but she had no idea what else to call Keiichi. They were not lovers, not yet in any case. She thought about Keiichi, who was surely worried deeply about her. She could still feel the warmth of his body against hers, and a tear drifted down from her eye. "I'm sorry," she repeated. "I miss him very much."
"Oh, she's good," Misato said.
Maya sniffed back a tear. "It's so sad!" She looked at Ritsuko, her eyes shining. "Two Angels, in love—who would have thought! Oh, how lonely heaven must be!"
Everyone turned and looked at her for a moment. Were this an anime instead of text-based fanfiction, there would be a sweatdrop forming on the NERV staff's heads. But it is text based, so no such occurrence happened. Instead, everyone turned back to watching the monitor, which was a close fit with eight people.
"Dr. Akagi," Gendo half-snarled to Ritsuko, squeezed in on his left.
"Would you please remove your hand from my posterior?"
Akagi returned Gendo's icy stare. "My hands are nowhere near your posterior, Commander."
Gendo turned to his right. Mahato looked back, then jumped. "Er, sorry, sir. Thought you were Misato, sir."
"What is your purpose in coming here?" Rei asked, sure that this would get some sort of response she could use.
"Do you mean here, in this room, or here, as in the world?"
Rei had to think about that one for a moment. "The world."
"Oh. Well, that's hard to answer." Belldandy decided she had nothing to lose. These people would not rest until she told them the truth, and the sooner they knew, the sooner they might allow her to leave. "You see, my friend Keiichi called me one day. Well, not me specifically, but the Goddess Help Line. I responded to his call, and because he called the Help Line, he received a wish. He wished that I could stay with him forever."
Belldandy's words touched something deep within Rei's heart. She did have feelings, though she had difficulty developing them. It was such a wonderful story that Rei's soul, or the weird combination that passed for it, stirred.
She sniffed again.
And then she began to cry.
"Oh, no!" Belldandy said. "Oh, I'm so sorry—I didn't mean to make you cry, oh you poor dear!"
Gendo's features darkened to real anger. Immediately people began moving away, except for Maya, who was sobbing into a hankerchief. He turned to Misato. "Major, get Rei out of there. This Angel is insidious." Misato saluted and walked out of the control center, stepping over the unconscious form of Mahato Hyuga.
Kaji shook his head. "This isn't going to be easy. We shouldn't have sent in Rei. She just isn't equipped to deal with this sort of threat head on."
"Correct." Gendo almost smiled. "We have tried ice. Now we shall try fire."
Belldandy had been seriously tempted to punish the raven haired woman in the red jacket, who had threatened to turn Belldandy's skull to modern sculpture if she did not move away from Rei. A gray haired older man helped a still-sniffling Rei from the room, and the other woman retreated. The door remained open, so Belldandy moved towards it.
"Back off, witch," snapped Asuka Langely, who stomped into the room. She roughly shoved Belldandy into a seat, then kicked the door shut behind her. "I may not like Wondergirl all that much, but it'll be a cold day in Tokyo-3 before I let an Angel get the better of one of us!" Asuka grabbed the other chair, whipped it around, and sat down. "So, Belldandy, or whatever your name is, what should we talk about?"
Belldandy composed herself. "It's not necessary to be so impolite. I don't even know your name."
Asuka smirked. "Asuka Langely Soryu. I should warn you that I've killed three of your kind already, and I'm always looking for another scalp to pin to my wall." Actually, in all three cases, Asuka had help from Shinji and Rei, but she wasn't about to tell Belldandy that.
Belldandy was aghast. "That's terrible!"
Asuka grinned savagely. "I would cooperate, if I were you. We have ways of making you talk. So. Why were you in Major Katsuragi's apartment?"
"But I told Miss Rei—"
Asuka leaned across the table, almost knocking her chair over. "Liar! You expect us to believe you! How dumb do you think we are? Don't answer that!" She drew within less than two inches from Belldandy's face, close enough that the goddess could tell what Asuka had for lunch. "Now I grow tired of asking this question, Angel Belldandy. Why did you appear in Major Katsuragi's apartment? Don't wait for the translation—answer the question now!"
Belldandy had the patience of her station. Goddess Help Line operators had to have a great deal of it, because not all contacts were as mannerly as Keiichi. But even Belldandy had a limit. Her eyes narrowed and she looked directly into Asuka's blazing eyes. "Your mother would be very ashamed of you."
Asuka's mouth fell open. "My…mother?"
"Yes. I would think she would have taught you better manners. You dishonor her."
Asuka's lower lip quivered. "Mama?"
"Now that's low," Kaji commented as Misato escorted a bawling Asuka from the room, screaming at Belldandy to stay back or she would turn her brains into wallpaper.
Kazuo Futsuyuki leaned over Gendo's shoulder. "I thought Arael wasn't supposed to show up for awhile," he whispered.
Gendo ignored him. Now in his usual pose, fingers steepled before him, his scowl had deepened a few centimeters, which was a sign of utter rage for Gendo. "Very well. It seems we have no choice." He looked at Ritsuko. "Send in Pilot Ikari."
Shinji tried to control his trembling as he opened the door. "Musn't run away," he said to himself, but it did no good. He desperately wanted to run for all he was worth, for this Angel had broken Rei and Asuka already. Somehow, Shinji summoned up what little courage he had left and entered the room.
"H-hello," he said. The Angel Belldandy looked at him, and to Shinji's surprise, her eyes were reddened, as if she too had been crying.
"I have no idea why I was in Major Katsuragi's apartment," Belldandy said quietly. "I have no idea how I got here."
"Um…okay," Shinji said. He managed to make it to a chair. "Shinji Ikari my name. I mean, my name is Shinji Ikari." He quickly put his hands beneath the table, not wanting to show her his trembling. "So, uh, let's not talk about Misat—Major Katsuragi. Let's talk about…um…" To his horror, he realized his mind had gone blank. He could not think of anything. Belldandy stared at him, waiting and wondering what torture she would be subjected to now. "Um…let's talk about…" Words suddenly popped into his head. "Ramen noodles!" He cringed as soon as he said the words.
"Ramen noodles?" Belldandy asked. Then she smiled. There was something about this Shinji Ikari that reminded her of Keiichi. There was the same, shy habit of looking down, the same inability to speak when comfronted by beautiful women, the same humility that had attracted Belldandy to Keiichi in the first place. "Well, all right, if you want to. I like the shrimp kind."
"Really?" Shinji had readied himself for some sort of psychic blow, but none had came. "I like the shrimp kind, too. I, um, don't eat ramen that often, because I like to cook…"
Belldandy's face lit up. "So do I!"
"They're comparing recipes," Ritsuko sighed.
Gendo's scowl deepened even further. "I could have walked down to the corner store, Yui," he said to himself. "It would have only taken a moment to buy the family planning kit, but nooo…"
"Kyoto beef is better," Belldandy said.
Shinji nodded. "You're right. It's much more tender." He laughed. "Wow. An Angel that likes to cook. Who would have thought?"
"Why do you insist on calling me an Angel?" Belldandy asked.
"Uh…because that's what you are…right?" Shinji's smile faded.
Belldandy's only widened. "Why, no."
Shinji felt truly ridiculous. "Then…what are you?"
"Oh. I'm a Goddess."
Dead silence reigned throughout Central Dogma.