This story is rated T, by for a bit of strong language, some moderately strong thematic elements early on, and some mild sexual content later on.
Disclaimer: El Goonish Shive and all related characters and devices are owned and copyrighted by Dan Shive.
Chapter One: The Moper of Moperville
"A tweak tweak here, a crank crank there, and then I can go to bed…that's how a mad scientist works, in the merry old lab of Tedd…"
Tedd Verres sat in his basement lab, humming merrily to himself as he thumbed a screwdriver with one hand and a small towel in the other, making adjustments to his prized possession, the transformation gun.
"A trigger wipe, a V-3 type, to give her a catgirl head…you'll find the craziness abounds, in the merry old lab of Tedd," he sang, chuckling at his own wit.
"Y'know, that's just a tad annoying."
Purple hair and bespectacled eyes spun around to face the voice and replied in the same tone, "Y'know, you don't have to hang around here and keep me company."
A brown-haired, well-toned teen dressed in slacks and a black T-shirt lounged on the couch in Tedd's line of sight, rolling his eyes. "Yeah, well…I felt like it."
Tedd rolled his eyes right back and returned to his work. "C'mon, Elliot, stop moping. I'm telling you it'll all blow over soon."
Elliot Dunkel only grunted in response, folding his arms and curling up on the couch. "That's what you said two days ago."
"Couples fight all the time, dude. Grace and I managed to butt heads just last week. It happens. Deal with it."
Elliot sighed anyway, not answering him. He was having a really, really bad couple of days. That was about when it had started: his first big fight with Sarah. And that was no exaggeration; it was a BIG fight. He'd never, ever seen Sarah so upset, and certainly not at him. He knew, of course, that Tedd was right, that such things happened with couples every now and then. But he'd always thought that he'd be prepared for them, that he'd know how to resolve them when they finally came about. He always had been when he'd dated Nanase, in any case. He'd always been able to identify what the problem was and find a solution for it, when they fought. But this fight with Sarah was different. For the first time he was honestly and completely stumped as to what her problem was. It was most definitely not a good feeling.
Tedd stood, holding his prized possession in both hands. "C'mon, let me take your mind off it. Check out my latest addition to the TF Gun! The 'stun' setting!"
"Mmm," Elliot mumbled disinterestedly.
Tedd pressed on nevertheless. "Ever since Ellen's V-5 beam ended up stunning that super-goo-monster thing instead of morphing it, I've been trying to replicate that effect with the TF gun, and well…here it is!"
"Uh-huh," came Elliot's grunted response.
"It'll be able to create a variety of stun effects depending on the settings, from a simple immobilization to full-on, knock-you-to-the-floor unconscious, and lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours! What do you think of that, eh? I haven't fully tested it yet, but all the calculations seem to be more or less correct, so with a few more adjustments I'll have it perfected."
Tedd frowned, glaring at him. "And then maybe I was thinking about making out with your sister."
Tedd rolled his eyes, turned, and put on an expression of mock-surprise. "Oh look, Sarah's here!"
Elliot jerked into motion. "Sarah?!" he shouted, spinning around toward the stairs and of course finding no one there.
"Jeez, Elliot, you are pathetic when you're moping," Tedd said with another eye-roll.
"Shut up," Elliot muttered back, a bit embarrassed.
"And you still haven't told me exactly why you two are fighting."
"That's because I don't know why we're fighting!" Elliot burst out in frustration. "She's just…mad at me for some reason, and I don't know what it is…"
"Sarah can't be mad at you for absolutely no reason at all," Tedd reasoned. "…Unless of course it's that time of the m--"
A pillow was hurled at his face before he could finish. "Don't even joke about that," Elliot insisted, shuddering. "Besides…that was last week."
Tedd grimaced. "And now we've reached the realm of 'too much information.'"
Elliot ignored him and went on muttering to himself. "It just doesn't make sense…why is she mad at me…?"
"Well, there's always the lovely and very distinct possibility that you did something really stupid without realizing it," Tedd observed.
"Trust me, I've considered that," Elliot said. "And it's not the answer."
"How are you so sure of that?" Tedd asked.
Elliot didn't respond immediately, and a pained look came over his eyes. "Because--"
He was interrupted, however, by the sound of the basement door opening and closing, heavy footsteps moving down the stairs, and the irritated voice of Tedd's father speaking into a cell phone.
"I understand that, but…" he tried to say, but whoever was on the other end clearly interrupted him, and it was a moment before he spoke again. "…What?! You can't expect me to babysit the thing forever!"
Tedd turned toward his father, intrigued. "What's going on?"
Mr. Verres shushed him with a wave of his phone hand, for the other was wrapped around a cardboard box with a variety of official-looking stamps and markings on them, many of which said things like "confidential" or "government property." Needless to say, this only intrigued Tedd more.
"Alright, alright, fine! But you owe me!" Mr. Verres finished and slapped the phone shut, muttering. "Great…just what we need…"
Tedd grew more excited than ever; anything that annoyed his father was likely to provide him endless hours of entertainment. "What's going on, dad?"
Mr. Verres sighed and set the cardboard box on the desk, which Tedd eyed greedily. "The PTTAOLUTASF has been disbanded."
Now it was Elliot's turn to take interest as he sat up and looked at Mr. Verres. "The place where we went to use the dewitchery diamond?"
"Apparently someone upstairs decided it was a waste of funding to support an office that no one cared about and had little use to anyone," Mr. Verres said ironically. "And funny you mention the dewitchery diamond…"
At that, he opened the cardboard box, and Elliot suddenly became aware that Mr. Verres was wearing thick leather gloves over his hands. He reached inside the box, and lifted out its contents: a large, shimmering crystal, clear as any other diamond, but with a distinct green glow emitting from it as Mr. Verres held it in his hands, and all present recognized it for exactly what it was.
Tedd's jaw dropped to the floor in awe. "No way…"
"Yes way," his father answered with a bit of a grimace. "With PTTAOLUTASF disbanded, everything in it had to go somewhere. A lot ended up in various storage rooms, but since the government realized this thing actually has some use after the incident with it last month, a new home for the dewitchery diamond is being specially designed, to avoid running the risk of anyone touching it and accidentally cloning themselves. Until that's done, however, for some god-awful reason, I've been assigned custody of it."
Elliot looked warily at the glowing diamond, now understanding the reason for the thick gloves. A variety of mixed emotions and memories flooded him at the sight of the artifact. It had caused him an incredible amount of trouble, not the least of which was getting him arrested for a few hours and putting him through multiple transformation pains. He almost wished he'd rejected Tedd's plan to use it and just lived as a female for that month. But at the same time, the adventure with diamond had resulted in his own duplicate, his twin sister Ellen, being created, and he already loved and cared for her as closely as any other member of his family. He certainly couldn't imagine a life in which she never existed.
"Why did they pick you?" Elliot found himself asking.
"Well, apparently, my superiors decided that since I have prior experience dealing with the effects of the diamond, I'm somehow qualified to watch over it," Mr. Verres answered, sounding as though he completely disagreed with that logic. And with a son like Tedd around, who was clearly itching to toy with the thing, Elliot couldn't help but agree with Mr. Verres.
"Dad--" Tedd began.
"NO!" Mr. Verres cut him off instantly. "The dewitchery diamond is not a toy!"
"But Dad!" Tedd almost whined. "If I could just do a few experiments with the diamond's morphing effects, it could really help further my research with the TF Gun technology!"
Mr. Verres shook his head vehemently. "Absolutely not. It's far too risky. I do NOT want another incident involving this diamond on my hands. The last thing I need right now is two of you."
"But I promise I'll be really careful!"
"Sorry, son, I just can't risk it," he said, striding across the room and toward a blank section of the basement wall. He tapped at a particular spot on the rough stone surface, and to Tedd and Elliot's amazement, a chunk of stone about the size of a television slid back and out of the way, revealing a safe tucked inside the hole.
"Since when has that been there?!" Tedd exclaimed.
"Since I had this house built to government-employee-specifications," Mr. Verres answered as he dialed in the combination and opened the safe. He set the diamond inside the thick metal, shut the door and ensured it was locked, then tapped another spot on the wall that made the missing section rise back up into place seamlessly.
"Now I don't want either of you trying to snoop your way into that safe," he said sternly to the two boys. "Don't forget the collective headache we all ended up with the last time you got yourselves involved with the dewitchery diamond."
"Gee, so my sister is a headache? Thanks…" Elliot muttered.
"You know what I meant!" Mr. Verres amended. "We just don't want another incident like that on our hands. Now promise me you won't go trying to break into the safe to get at the dewitchery diamond!"
"But Dad…" Tedd actually did whine this time.
Tedd sighed. "Fine. I promise."
"Good. And now if you'll excuse me I'm long overdue for my evening coffee."
Mr. Verres nodded to Elliot, then turned on his heel and climbed the stairs back to the main floor of the house. Predictably enough, the instant the basement door had shut, Tedd, rushed to the wall and ran his hands over the surface, analyzing it.
"Absolute genius…it's seamlessly sealed…definitely some Uryuom technology at work here…I wonder how Dad got his hands on it…"
"Tedd, you have a blaster that can switch people's gender. A sliding wall can't possibly be more interesting than that."
"Doesn't mean the sliding wall is un-interesting," Tedd countered, still focused on the wall. "Hmm…wonder how he made it open…"
"Didn't you just promise your dad you wouldn't go prying?"
"Weren't you just moping about Sarah?"
Elliot winced, and curled up on the couch again, muttering.
Tedd sighed. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry, that was a low blow…"
"Oh, c'mon Elliot, it's not the end of the world if she's mad at you. Heck, maybe she wasn't even mad at you…maybe she's mad for some other reason and just happened to take it out on you by mistake."
"For two days?" Elliot countered sharply.
Tedd shrugged. "Best I can come up with, if you have no clue why she's mad."
Elliot sighed again. "That's just it, though…"
Tedd frowned. "Huh?"
Elliot looked up at him for a moment, then back at the floor. "I can't think of any reason she'd be mad at me specifically…but I know why she might be mad in general…maybe you're right…maybe she is taking it out on me for some reason…"
After a quick battle of interests, Tedd abandoned his inspection of the wall and sat down next to his friend. "So why are you moping about it down here instead of going and talking to her? Maybe she's gotten over it and realized she's taking it out on you and wants to apologize. That's not gonna happen if you hide down here."
"I'm not hiding," Elliot mumbled. "Besides…this isn't the sort of thing you just 'get over' in two days time…"
Tedd nodded. "All right, so…spill. What is she mad about?"
Elliot found himself turning over to stare straight up, as though looking straight through the walls of the house and into the heavens, and it was not until Tedd nearly gave up on hearing an answer that Elliot finally opened his mouth and gave him one…
Author's Note: For those who didn't recognize the joke, the song Tedd is singing in the beginning is a parody of "Merry Old Land of Oz" from The Wizard of Oz. Just wanted to ensure that was clear.