On the Rewrite:

If you'll check my page, you'll note that the time difference
between my last attempt at writing and this one is a span of several
years. Now that I've got a bit of rust knocked off my skills I've
tried to rewrite for better story flow, and I've added a few bits to
hopefully make things more humorous. Huge thanks go out to Rick
"Creative to a Fault" Spiff and to The Eternal Lost Lurker for their
corrections and comments.

---

Otaku Muyo

(Because honestly, there's really no need for this.)

by Tannim Murphy

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction, any characters or events that
resemble real people are purely intentional, and hopefully hilarious.
I do not own any of the anime characters mentioned. Anyone else I
claim ownership, and plan on making a bundle on selling the movie
rights.

---

Chapter 1

---

As it so happened, it all started on a bright and cheery afternoon.

The sun shed its light on the uncaring campus of a community college
set out in the wilds of California (where land was cheap). Sunlight
rays illuminated students and structures alike as most of the students
themselves scurried from place to place, intent on reaching their
classes.

However, lost in a forgotten corner of land there was a building set
aside from the rest. Beyond the track and field, beyond the archery
range, beyond even the gardens where the agricultural students liked
to grow their strange creations, there stood a single building. The
area it was nestled in was more suitable for a fair tale setting than
a campus, and in order to reach the structure a person had to traverse
a dense forest that completely surrounded the facility.

Sweltering heat was made more uncomfortable by the still air of the
forest, and each breath choked with the smell of pine. Evergreens
dominated the area leaving the ground fairly barren except for a
carpet of pine needles. The path through the area had been cleared,
but not recently.

The steady crunching of needles scared away several woodland creatures
as the maker made no effort to conceal the noise. He was muttering
under his breath, and with each step his grumbling became increasingly
louder.

"...off the beaten path, through the woods, what am I, Little Red
Riding Hood?" A fist shook half-heartedly in anger at nothing in
particular.

The man was in his early twenties, wearing a blue plaid collar t-shirt
and a pair of jeans and dirty blonde hair parted down the middle over
a set of hazel eyes. His face looked young for his age, and it was
doubtful he would have looked even twenty save for the small patch of
hair on his chin kept carefully trimmed.

He was Tannim Murphy, a college student that had recently moved to the
area and was looking for a job. As it was late in the job hiring
season, and since most of the seasonal college students had already
came back, this was proving more difficult than he would have liked.

Tannim paused outside the building to stare at the architecture
thoughtfully. Mostly it was the giant 'WARNING: EXTREAME BIO-HAZARD'
sign that had caught his attention. The various other warnings and
cautionary signs did little to aid his comfort. Some joker had gone
so far as to tape a cardboard sign that read, "Abandon Hope Ye Who
Entree Here."

As he paused to wipe the sweat off his brow, Tannim glanced
uncertainly at the want ads he had clutched in his hand. There were
many things circled, but only the one in the center didn't have a
giant X over it. Not surprisingly it said "Looking For Subjects, No
Exp. Req."

Tannim growled in frustration. "This is your own damn fault for not
being able to stay away from that new box set," he muttered as anger
replaced the slight trepidation he had felt moments before. "You
can't even afford decent ramen!" He shoved any lingering feelings of
doubt away as he forcefully marched himself into the building.

Inside the air conditioning hit him with an arctic blast of chilled
air one normally associates with winter conditions. The sweet relief
from the summer heat was welcome and he paused at the entrance to
savor the sensation.

"The things I do for money," muttered Tannim as finally took a good
look around the science facility. One side of the entryway was taken
up by a giant bulletin board covered from the floor to the ceiling in
various flyers and promotions set up by the students and teachers.
Regularly interspaced between these were safety warnings and
regulations.

The other wall was lined with plaques. Upon closer inspection it was
revealed that the plaques held names and what accolades they had won.
It was generally along the lines of 'Most Likely To Become A Super
Villain,' 'Most Likely To Blow Up The Planet,' or 'Could Take Over The
World If She Felt Like It.'

"What kinda whackos run this place anyways?" he asked rhetorically.

Completely unexpected, someone answered, "The kind of whackos that pay
handsomely for willing test subjects."

Tannim turned to meet the voice with an appraising stare. It was from
a very beautiful woman with her red hair held back in a practical
manner via a ponytail. The lab coat did nothing to hide her
impressive figure, and enhanced the chest area rather than diminished
it. She was also grinning at him with an odd expression on her face;
Tannim could only guess that it was some sort of Washuu-like glee at
getting someone new to experiment on.

'Hold up,' thought Tannim. 'If she's anything like Washuu, then
she'll want to... and THEN... and afterwards... in a nurse outfit!'

Tannim grinned lecherously as cheerfully stated, "Sign me up!"

The curvy red-haired bombshell held up a finger. "First question."

"Yes?" he said, distracted by the haze of hormone-induced delusion.
This one had dancing nurse outfits as its main theme.

The pause that the woman gave to slowly look over Tannim like a piece
of meat sent shivers down his spine. With a delicate lick of her
lips, she asked, "Do those jeans have metal buttons?"

He glanced down. "Uh, yes?"

She smiled slowly and broadly. "Then off with your pants."

"Yes!" he shouted and began grabbing at his zipper.

"And to help you with that, I'll turn you over to my personal
assistant, Tony. Tony?"

The man that Tannim turned to see looked like he'd be more comfortable
on a football field protecting quarterbacks rather than inside a
science facility. He towered over the two at his seven foot height
and with a bulk comprised entirely of muscle and it looked like he had
trouble fitting through doorways. By the same token it also looked
like wouldn't have had any trouble lifting a few tanks.

Tony cracked his knuckles menacingly and spoke with a voice
surprisingly soft for someone his size. "If you would step this way,
please follow me to the proper disrobing area."

Tannim nodded meekly in response.

---

Several forms (and minus one set of pants) later...

There was a serious draft that chilled Tannim's naked legs as he sat.
The bare metal on his skin didn't help matters. Once he got over how
cold things were Tannim finally took the time to contemplate the
machinery encasing him.

"Huh. This does look kinda like Washuu's device that she used on
Tenchi," he muttered in amazement.

Tannim was strapped into a chair with various miscellaneous mechanical
devices either clamped onto or over him, of all shapes and sizes. The
crowning touch was a metal headband lined with what looked to be
modified light bulbs.

"Are you into anime?" wondered Tannim.

"Huh? What's anime?" the red-haired scientist replied with confusion.

"Never mind," Tannim shook his head. "It's nothing."

"Interesting little patch of hair you've got there," said the
scientist gently as she tugged on Tannim's chin hair.

Tannim smirked wryly as he delivered his usual response. "Well, I am
an evil twin; we have to keep up appearances."

The woman giggled girlishly as she tugged slightly harder. "A bad
boy, huh? I never could resist those." She gave a seductive wink and
her hips swayed side to side as she sauntered off to check the
electrical connections.

The young man simply grinned wider, enjoying the attention. It was
fairly obvious the girl was just playing with him, but he didn't mind.
There were worst ways to spend the day than playfully flirting with
gorgeous women.

Within minutes the last of the probes and sensors were stuck, adhered,
and attached to numerous parts of Tannim's body. Once that task was
completed, the only door to the room was shut and locked.

As the woman was leaving, Tannim swore she put an extra bit of sway in
her hips just for him. He was reminded of a quote and found it
particularly applicable to this situation.

'I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave.'

A voice crackled over the set of speakers that linked the room to the
control center. This was not the same girl, but a man's voice. "Now,
you might hear a ringing noise, and feel a sharp stinging sensation,
but I assure you that's normal."

Tannim was left without a means of response. One of the last things
they added to the sensor list was something he had to clamp down on
with his teeth. It wasn't very comfortable either.

With a suddenness that was frightening, the lights went out and scared
Tannim half to death. He jumped as much as his restraints allowed him
to.

Static hissed for a moment as the speaker crackled in the darkness.
The voice speaking was very distracted now. "Uh, don't worry, that's
normal... uff da... here's the REAL switch."

The light bulbs surrounding Tannim's head flashed brightly, and the
young man felt a crawling sensation over his entire body as his skin
attempted to escape without the rest of him.

Then Tannim stopped feeling any kind of sensation whatsoever, almost
as if someone had cut out his brain and stuffed it in a box. His mind
tried to race as he realized he couldn't feel his heart beating, but
without the proper glands to support the action Tannim really couldn't
work up enough interest to care.

Limbo would best describe the sensation. Experimentation revealed he
could 'speak' to a degree an 'out loud' of sorts. It would have best
been best described as a mental conversation, except for the fact that
there was no mind for it to take place in.

"So, this is it."

"...death."

"I'm dead."

"...damn..."

"...really wanted to absolve some sins, too..."

"...sorry God? Didn't mean it?"

"...no response...not a good sign..."

"Tannim..."

Tannim hesitated. That last thought didn't have his 'voice.' "God?"

"...you've got to wake up Tannim..."

"Huh?"

"...wake up...wake up...wake up..."

As he turned to search for the voice, Tannim finally felt all sorts of
interesting sensations return as he fell out of bed and slammed onto
the floor.

"Aaarg!" Tannim clutched his nose in agony as he hadn't been able to
prevent his face from hitting full force. Blood began to seep through
his fingers before he hastily clamped them shut.

Tannim convulsed pathetically as he fumbled his way off the floor.
His entire body had that 'asleep' feeling when circulation is cut off
for too long. He also had a nasty suspicion that if he didn't get
moving, and fast, the fuzzy sensation was going to turn into some very
painful pins and needles. He clutched desperately to the vain hope
that perhaps if he moved enough blood about before the needles set in,
he'd be all right.

"What's this all in here?" A nurse alerted by the noise grimaced as
she entered the room. Her white outfit clung tightly to her
over-weight form with a nametag that read 'Hattie.' She was obviously
somewhere in her mid forties, with raven black hair tied up in a bun.
"What are you doing out of bed?"

It was a hospital, Tannim realized. He also realized he was damn
lucky to have fallen off the bed on the side of his intravenous drip.
His attention was called to it as the nurse checked it while helping
him back into bed.

Tannim tried to convey his rising panic about the upcoming pins and
needles, but whatever was affecting the rest of his body was also
affecting his vocal cords. He could barely croak anything out above a
whisper, and even that was strained.

"...bodeeb...asleeb..."

"Oh, I get it!" Understanding dawned in the eyes of the nurse and
Tannim looked up at her gratefully. She proclaimed, "You want to get
some sleep!"

The nurse took Tannim's weak movements as sign of agreement as she
increased the flow of the medicine currently attached to Tannim's arm.
His eyes briefly bulged in horror, before the increased dose took
hold. With the last of his strength he quickly rolled over so that
his nose was pointing down, and he made sure that the blood from his
broken nose would not flow back down his throat while he was
unconscious.

---

Tannim awoke in a nightmare. He could feel his entire body on fire,
even through the haze of drugs. It took several minutes, but Tannim
finally realized why he couldn't move: it was due to the massive
amounts of muscle relaxants mixed liberally with the sleep medication.

He lost track how long he laid there in silent agony.

---

And as suddenly as it started, it was over. Somewhere along the line
the pain had become bearable enough to pass out again, and the third
time he awoke in the same bed, it was under less painful
circumstances. His nose had stopped bleeding, and normal sensation
was beginning to return.

The door to the room opened and a man wearing a large white coat
stepped through. But that wasn't the first thing to catch Tannim's
eye. No, the first thing to catch Tannim's eye was the bright blue
hair that covered the man's head.

"Woah, nice hair." Tannim was impressed. There had to be some
seriously strong neon blue dye out there to get it that bright.

"You like?" The man patted his head. "Runs in the family. My dad
always said, 'blue hair means brilliance.'" He gave a small laugh at
his own joke. "By the way my name's Ken, Ken Sanada. But enough
about me, how are you feeling?"

What a whacko. "Well, doc, I--" Tannim was forestalled by an upraised
hand.

"I'm not a doctor."

Tannim blinked. Had he been drinking he would have done a spit-take.
"What?"

The scientist shrugged. "I'm one of the lab people that work here.
There'd been news you'd finally regained consciousness, and I'd been
sent to make sure you were okay."

Tannim took a few seconds to ponder the implications of that
statement. "...you mean I'm still at the laboratory?"

"Yep," replied a nervously grinning Ken.

"Why?" The young man was baffled, not to mention slightly horrified.

"Well, we figured what with hospital bills being so EXPENSIVE, and
all, and the nurses office here is equipped with the latest in medical
devices since we never know just WHAT kind of injury we'll sustain,
and what with the rising cost in health insurance, and also...
well..." Ken trailed off from his rambling. "Okay, we wanted to
avoid any sort of lawsuit for performing an experiment beyond spec,
alright? Someone leaned on a switch a little too hard, and a little
too much juice was used too fast."

Tannim sighed but realized Ken was right, there wouldn't be any
hospital bills. "Do I still get paid?"

"Well, see, about that..." Ken tugged nervously at his collar.

The look of sheer horror caused the scientist to avert his eyes in
order to deliver his next piece of information. "It seems that
several very new and very experimental procedures were used in order
to save your life."

Tannim's voice was hollow. "Yes? And?"

"These procedures, they were quite costly..."

"...no..."

"You owe the--"

"No!"

"I'm sorry, but even if we paid you quadruple time for hazard pay for
the entire time you were out, the cost is--"

"You can't do this to me!" Tannim protested. "I nearly died! In
fact, I think I might have!" The sudden jump in Ken proved it in
Tannim's mind. He stared hard and his voice went flat. "I did die,
didn't I?"

"Technically, we just think your soul was separated from your body.
Your physical form was unharmed." Sanada had the grace to look
sheepish. "And the use of the medical facilities also cost--"

Tannim held up a hand to stop Ken from speaking any further. "Okay.
I've had enough for one day. I'll accept that I owe you oodles of
money in exchange for me being alive. Can I at least rest up first
before I have to start paying you back?"

"Well, the credit cards we found in your wallet have already hit their
limit, and--"

"Out!" Tannim shouted and pointed at the door.

"Yeah, sure, take all the time you need." Ken left the room in a
flash.

Tannim Murphy shivered at the implications of his soul being separated
from his body. As important as that was, thoughts on the status of
his soul had to wait. It wouldn't be long before someone would be
checking in on him soon, and he figured they would probably try to
give him more sleep medication.

A quick check of the room turned up his clothes. As he lifted his
jeans, Tannim glanced down at what he assumed was his shirt. It was
the exact same design as his old one, except that it was green, not
blue. "Did they dye it?" muttered Tannim in confusion.

It didn't matter. As soon as he was dressed, he moved over to the
window. It was just as he had surmised; the room was located on the
first floor. Thankfully the window was well oiled and slid open
easily.

"Like hell I'm going to pay those kinds of bills!" Tannim grunted as
he hefted himself over the window sill and towards freedom.

---

The resulting scramble for the car and drive home did much to calm him
down. He didn't regret what he did, but he knew it might come back to
bite him in the ass. Tannim just hoped the laboratory would want to
keep the incident quiet and not report him to the police or anything.

As apartments go, it was actually quite nice, despite being on the
second floor. The property had a creek running behind it that
provided the area with some relaxing noises, as creeks are wont to do.
An open window usually could catch the sounds quite easily, and made
for nice background music. Since the complex was towards the edge of
town, the traffic wasn't bad either.

The door slammed shut with a very loud bang. Keys, wallet, cell
phone, and spare change quickly found themselves ejected and placed
onto a handy surface.

The sun was beginning to set, and Tannim decided to go to sleep early.
He felt as if he had been run over by a truck, and was out the moment
his head touched the pillow.

---

Tannim Murphy was not an early riser. His alarm had not been set the
night before, and he had just gotten through one of the roughest
ordeals of his life so far.

He slept until two in the afternoon.

It was the hunger that finally caused Tannim to stir. He shuffled his
way through the morning routine as he began mentally preparing another
day of looking for work.

Even though he knew it would do him no good, Murphy reflexively opened
the refrigerator door. Yep, still no food. "I have got to get
something to eat."

The young man settled down with the phone book, and opened it to
'pizza.'

"Hello? Is this Octagonal Table Pizza? Yeah, I was wondering if you
had any job positions available. No, but you always accept resumes?
Okay, thanks." He hung up.

Tannim dialed another number at random. "I would love to work for
Pizza Shack; do you have any job openings? No? Okay, thanks
anyways."

Another number. "Little Nero's Pizza, please let me work for you! I
beg you!" The line was cut off as the other end hung up.

Tannim stared grumpily at the phone. "You suck." He began dialing
again.

This time a young, hesitant voice answered the phone. "H-h-hello?
T-this is the Goddess Relief Office. T-there w-will be--"

"Oh, I'm sorry; I must have dialed the wrong number. I was trying to
reach Angelino's Pizza," Tannim interjected before turning off the
phone. While it was great to see a fellow fan with a sense of humor,
he was simply too hungry to waste any sort of time chatting.

He sighed as he flipped through the yellow pages once more. Tannim
paused over an ad for a gaming store. The restaurant idea to getting
him free food wasn't working.

"Sure, why not?" He dialed the number.

This time the voice was harsh and brooked no room for argument. Each
syllable was spat out rather than spoken. "MegaGamers, whaddya want?"

"A job." At this point Tannim was tired of beating around the bush.

"When can you start?"

Stunned, the young man replied, "I'm not busy at the moment."

"You're hired if you can get here in thirty minutes."

Tannim was out the door like a shot.

A few seconds later, Tannim's mirror glowed, and a strikingly
beautiful girl with light-brown hair emerged. Her exotic outfit
looked more appropriate for the theater rather than for casual wear.
Adorning her face were three strange, triangle-shaped markings. She
also looked to be about fifteen years old.

"Hello!"

Her energetic cry was met with the quiet air of the apartment.

"Um, hello? Is anyone here?"

Silence.

"Oh dear."

---

MegaGamers, a prominent local distributor of gaming merchandise, was
located inside the Crossroads Mall. The mall itself was quite an
impressive structure and boasted two stories worth of stores. It was
easily the largest mall in a three hundred mile radius, and thus was
fairly popular.

The parking was atrocious.

Tannim cursed as the third parking space he had finally spotted was
snapped up by a domineering sports mom in an SUV. The look of pure,
unbridled hatred at the world at having to deal with the screaming
terrors in the back had caused Tannim to hesitate.

In the end he decided to park back in the boonies. This was the
literal backside of the mall complex, where parking was scarce because
you had to walk quite a distance to get to the really good stores.
Incidentally, it was also the farthest one could possibly get from the
food court.

The entryway held one of those large directories that provided a rough
estimation of where all the various stores were located throughout the
mall. Tannim paused to check it as he hadn't actually been to
MegaGamers yet (he usually went to Greatest Purchase or somewhere
similar), and was relatively unsurprised to find it located next to
the food court... and quite a walk away from him.

There is a certain stride that people who have worked in large retail
stores develop. Tannim liked to call it the "Wally World Walk," from
where he learned it. Deceptively simple, the "Wally World Walk" was
very similar to the power walk, but you didn't wave your arms because
that would waste precious energy needed to function for the rest of
the work shift. This walk was used when one had to travel from one
part of the store to another to show that you were busy. It didn't
matter if you weren't actually doing any work, as long as you were
walking quickly place to place; you were less likely to be bothered by
a manager or customer. The side benefit of the walk was that it was
also very, very fast. It was one step below skipping in terms of
speed, and wouldn't get you funny stares.

Tannim used it now as he made a beeline for the back of the mall. A
glance down to his watch confirmed that he had five minutes to get
there, and he went into the auto-pilot every kid develops to navigate
high school hallways, ducking and dodging around groups as well as
individuals.

The mall was busy as usual and Tannim had quite the time of it. He
focused his attention so much on his progress that he felt like he was
in something approaching the 'Soul of Ice' technique. In approaching
a sort of Zen state he let go of his consciousness and simply let his
reflexes navigate the mess for him, and this worked well up until a
point.

It was at the food court that things had started to go wrong.

In retrospect Tannim decided he had made his first mistake the moment
he laid eyes on the MegaGamers store. It was as if everything else in
the world ceased to exit. He made a bee-line for the store without
bothering to consider how his path might affect others, and there was
a steady stream of people cursing behind Tannim as he turned on the
Wally Walk to full blast.

Normally a large group of beautiful women ranging in ages from
thirteen to nineteen would have been noticed by anyone. Tannim would
have noticed if he hadn't been so determined to get a job and a decent
meal. As it was he ignored the group completely in favor of focusing
solely on the MegaGamers storefront. These women were obviously not
used to moving out of the way of other people, and it was with
considerable surprise that the one girl in the center of the group
carrying a drink was suddenly blindsided.

Tannim awoke with a start from his trance as he halted his forward
progress. The girl he had bumped into looked to be around sixteen,
and was wearing a very fashionable blouse. The drink Tannim had
knocked onto her was currently soaking the front of it.

The group around the girl had fallen deathly quiet.

"Sorry bout that," Tannim mumbled and quickly walked off, the entrance
to MegaGamers a mere hundred feet away. He wasn't trying to be mean
or rude, but his stomach was hungry, and would brook no interruptions.

He had just gotten to the outside of the circle when a piercing scream
split the air. "GET HIM!"

He wasn't sure who had said that but for the second time that day,
Tannim found himself taking off like a shot. That fraction of a
second head start proved enough as he managed to dash inside the
store's entrance just ahead of the chasing girls.

Tannim ducked behind a group of kids discussing the latest Pokemon and
Yu-Gi-Oh cards. He even went so far as to position two of the
children so as to be better hidden from view.

The girls tried to follow, but were immediately swarmed by the
multitude of kids who had gathered after school to spend their lunch
money. "Ack! No! Brats! Retreat!"

Tannim peered over the shoulders of his cover. "The coast clear?"

The kid nearest to Tannim, sporting a red cap, nodded. "Those Amazons
won't be back for a while. You're safe. What'd you do to piss them
off, anyways?"

"Heh, Amazons, huh? I bumped into one of them and spilled their
drink."

"Ooo, a clothes defiler. Man, I feel sorry for you when you leave
this store."

Before Tannim could discuss the subject further he was interrupted as
sharp voice rang out behind him. "You that kid from the phone?"

Tannim looked up to see the face of an older German man peering down
at him. He stood and grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, sir, I was hiding
from some Amazons."

"Well hurry up, the little monsters have been released from school and
they demand their appeasement. Get in the back and start bringing out
the boxes for this weeks tournament."

"That means I'm hired?"

The older man glared hatefully at the children. In response, one of
them showed him their tongue.

"Yes. Now get to work before I take out my frustrations about my job
on you."

Tannim got to work.

MegaGamers was a store that devoted its stock to as many gaming
publications and figurines as one person could possibly fit into a
store. Role-playing books took up one fourth of the store in their
own little library section, while an impressive selection of playable
figurines took up another fourth. The middle of the store was
dominated by large tables that were used in weekly tournaments for the
various games. The wall the cashier was located on also housed all
the various card game sets.

Tannim was kept busy with requests to fetch various cards and
memorabilia from the top shelves. He was also beginning to understand
why the job opening was available. While his boss wasn't exactly a
mean person, he was very, very bitter.

It wasn't a bad work environment, since he had worked at Wally World
before, and knew the ropes so to speak. Still, it was difficult; the
sea of children was not something that could be dealt with lightly.
It actually was amazing to think that his boss had been dealing with
them for quite some time.

The work day was fairly uneventful, though Tannim did spot several
women prowling the entrance. It was as if some sort of nerd-field
kept them repelled from actually entering the store. Given the horde
of kids Tannim was currently catering to, he really couldn't blame
them.

He even managed to finagle some money from his boss so he could afford
to eat on his lunch break ("That's coming out of your paycheck,
bucko!"). Tannim wasn't so incredibly stupid as to actually venture
outside to fetch it himself, but a pack of cards worked like a charm
to bribe some kid to get it for him.

Time passed, and eventually the store emptied. Some lucky ten year
old had won tournament and parents had shown up to reclaim their
children.

It was six o'clock when it happened; Tannim was restocking the
depleted card game displays, and Mr. Gunter (the only name Tannim
could finagle out of his boss) was in the back retrieving supplies for
the next round.

"My name is Makoto Kino, and I'm calling you out!"

The proclamation shocked Tannim to his very core, and he dropped the
box he was currently holding. He turned sharply to see the speaker.

Sure enough, standing outside the store was a really tall
half-Japanese girl. Aside from those two features, however, she would
blend in perfectly with a crowd of gossiping cheerleaders. Her
fashion sense could have been picked out of a Macy's Catalogue.

"Ha ha, very funny," said Tannim, and he turned away from the girl in
disgust. Was there a hidden concentration of insane cosplaying women
in the area he didn't know about? First the Goddess Relief Hotline
joke and now this.

"Don't take me lightly!" she shouted, pointing a finger for emphasis.
In her anger she took a step forward. "You'll pay for what you did
you our Queen!"

Tannim didn't know whether to be more surprised by the fact that Mr.
Gunter had materialized next to him as if out of thin air, or the fact
that he was now wielding a shotgun. He decided on the latter.

"You know your kind isn't welcome in this store. Always window
shopping, and never buying!" Gunter stated menacingly and he chambered
a round for effect. "I have the right to refuse service to anyone,
and I choose you. Now git."

Makoto beat a hasty retreat, but not before throwing a hate-filled
glare in Tannim's direction. The look was returned was one of
befuddled amusement.

"You'd best steer clear of those girls, boy. They're nothing but
trouble." The older man casually rested his shotgun on his shoulder.

Tannim eyed the weapon warily. "Not that I'm not grateful and all,
but where did you get that?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Tannim shook his head to the negative. Gunter
shrugged and said, "I used to be a terrorist."

Tannim really had no response to that. "Oh. So, when do I work
tomorrow?"

For the first time that day, Gunter's face was a mask of puzzlement
rather than bitter resentment. "You are not frightened at the
prospect at working with me? Those little bastards think its 'cool.'
I've threatened to shoot them a couple of times, but they just laugh
me off." He kicked at nothing in particular in a gesture of
irritation.

"As long as you don't blow me up, I'm cool. Besides, I need the
money."

Gunter grinned at this clapped a hand onto Tannim's shoulder. "Ah, a
man after my own capitalistic heart. Come, we have paperwork to fill
out."

The younger man grimaced in remembrance of the last time he heard
those words. "Actually, I'm kinda trying to lay low. Is it possible
to work under the table?"

"Wellllll..." Gunter stretched out the syllable as he mulled it over.
"I suppose I could give you trading card boxes and let you sell them
off for your own personal profit..."

This time it was Tannim's turn to grin. "Thanks boss, you're a life
saver."

He was waved off. "Don't thank me yet. Once you know the store
enough, I'll finally get a day or two off." Gunter smirked.

Tannim blanched at the prospect. "I'd rather face the Amazons.
Speaking of which, I guess I'd better figure out what's the deal with
them."

"Do you require backup?" Gunter hefted his weapon for emphasis.

"...only if I run back into the store as if the hounds of Hades were
on my tail," the young man muttered despondently.

"Right."

Tannim moved forward slowly. It was humbling to realize the scariest
situation he's ever stepped into was against a horde of teenage girls.
The young man's mind was working in overdrive at this point, with
plenty of adrenaline pumping for whichever he decided: to fight or
flee. It was in this state that he noted that the girl claiming to
Makoto did, in fact, look remarkably like her. It was the hairstyle
that clinched it, Tannim decided.

These thoughts kept Tannim from worrying about the slowly enclosing
half-circle.

"Okay, I'm sorry about the drink, but don't you think personal
challenges of honor are a little bit much?" Murphy tried to reason
with them.

The one he had spilt is drink on earlier was looking quite angry. Her
brown hair was swept out of her eyes in a gesture of irritation. "We
do NOT appreciate Our new blouse being ruined by the likes of YOU."

Tannim knew he was in deep trouble, but that nervous energy that
filled and energized him also found that statement to be hilarious.
He couldn't help but chuckle. "What, that blouse belonged to all of
you? Was it on a time share?"

The darkened glares he received in response shut him up pretty quick.

"We do not appreciate your jokes. However, according to Amazon
Tradition, once a challenge has been issued, none may interfere." The
anger was replaced with confidence. "We're certain that Our subject
Makoto, though she is young, will still be more than a match for you."

It was a bit shocking to Tannim to say the least. "You mean you're
honest to goodness, real life Amazon Mallrats?" he asked
incredulously. Before they could get angry with that outburst, Tannim
interjected with another one. "Wait, you mean I've got to fight her?
The fourteen year old girl?"

The girl in question stepped forward at this with a smirk on her face.
"I will not fail the Queen."

Tannim had to quickly reevaluate the situation.

Makoto, while half-Japanese, was blessed with the other half of her
genetic makeup composing of the 'very tall and strong' genes. She had
studied martial arts, and had finally found acceptance in a group
(something her Japanese soul had yearned for). She was confident, and
not backing down. Her stance said it all.

The realization struck Tannim with all the force of a twenty pound
sledgehammer. He whispered to himself in shock, "I am going to have
my ass kicked by a fourteen year old fangirl pretending to be Makoto
Kino from Sailor Moon." Unbelievable.

Well, it was all or nothing, and if he didn't get the all, he'd be
left with nothing. No dignity, at the very least. Tannim assumed a
casual stance; he'd seen them often enough in martial art flicks to
replicate the feat.

"I warn you, the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu style is a killing art. I cannot
be held accountable for my actions if I defend myself." Not only was
Tannim sweating bullets, but his voice was wavering and cracked. His
fate rested on that line of complete and total bullshit.

Sweet relief flooded Tannim, and mentally thanked the Lord for
bubbleheads because some of the girls bought it. They moved back a
few precious steps, just enough to create an opening. With this boost
in confidence Tannim was able to convincingly play out the next phase
of his plan.

He posed dramatically for the assembled crowd. "But I suppose I must
end this quickly! Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu style final attack!" Makoto
firmed her stance, while the rest of the girls took a few more steps
away.

Tannim acted like he was winding up for some spectacular attack with
his arms, but in reality he was really getting his feet into a
runner's starting position.

"Shining, Sta--oh my God, what's that over there?" This was delivered
with a hint of fear in his voice, a shocked look, widened eyes, and
finger pointing.

Bless their mallrat hearts, every one of them fell for it. For the
third time that day, Tannim took off like a shot. By a quirk of fate,
the girl claiming to be Makoto was smack dab in the middle of the
biggest hole in the girls' perimeter. He actually had to bowl her
over as she was starting to face forward in order to escape.

"I accept your challenge!" Tannim shouted as he ran away as fast as
his feet could possibly carry him. He didn't dare look behind.

---

It was a bruised and weary Tannim that climbed the stairs leading to
his apartment. Every last one of his bruises had resulted from him
running into things, or falling over, in his mad dash to escape. He
was just thankful that he had made it to his car without anyone
following him.

The young man tried to use his key to unlock the door, but found that
it was already open. He was in the process of recalling how in his
mad dash to leave had had forgotten to lock the door, when he finally
spotted someone else in his apartment.

"Greetings!" The girl cheerfully proclaimed. "I am the Goddess--"

"Belldandy?"

---

TBC...