In the wide emptiness of the cosmos, a small building was floating. It was nothing more than a little barrack made of stones, almost looking like some sort of chapel...
Inside, there was only one, hexagonal room that was illuminated by several bright orbs that were attached to the walls. In the middle of the room, a round pool filled with a clear liquid was standing.
Two figures were standing above the pool and peered inside. One of them was a young boy with unruly, brown hair and a white toga. He was obviously some sort of angel, since he had a pair of white, feathered wings on his back. Next to him, a tiny girl with dragonfly wings was hovering, surrounded by a blue ball of light.
The fairy and the angel boy smiled at each other, then the boy made a sweeping gesture across the pool, and suddenly, the image of a sleeping boy appeared in it.
"Dear, kind-hearted Shinji..." Navi smiled. "Sleep tight. The next day will bring you more fortune."
"Maybe he'll finally ask Rei or Asuka for a date, what do you think?" Pit smirked.
"That would be nice indeed," the fairy nodded. "I just hope there won't be another Angel attack... that would ruin his whole day..."
"If that should happen, I'm there to keep an eye on him!" Pit grinned. "After all, I'm his guardian angel. And I will do my best to keep any harm from him."
"As well as I will try to bring him every good luck he can get," Navi said. "It is my job as his Fortune Fairy, after all."
"That's right," Pit nodded. "We have to make sure that Shinji's life will be a happy one. True, it might be hard, but we can do it."
"I just wish he still had his mother..." Navi sighed. "And his father is never there for him. If it wasn't for Misato and his friends, he would have nobody..."
"Well, Misato isn't exactly a perfect role model... but she does her best in her job as his guardian. You have to admire her, she manages to keep on eye on both Shinji and Asuka, in addition to her job... and her pet penguin."
"If only she wouldn't keep such a close eye on her cans of Yebisu..." Navi grumbled.
They were both surprised, when suddenly, a green, impish figure flitted into the room. They recognized it as a Pokémon with a big head and gentle eyes.
"Celebi!" Pit smiled up at his friend. "What brings you here?"
"Dire news, my friends..." the time traveling Pokémon said in a grim voice. "And they are regarding your young protege, Shinji Ikari."
"What?" Navi was worried immediately. "What could be so bad? What's wrong with our Shinji?"
"Is it because of us?" Pit wondered. "Is the council disappointed with our work? Tell them we can work even harder, we..."
"That's not it!" Celebi quickly said. "You are doing great, but the sad thing is, it won't do anything good. You see..." He sighed. "Shinji... is already doomed."
Both the Fortune Fairy and the Guardian Angel were stunned. "Wh-what makes you say this?" Pit finally murmured.
"I wish it would be different..." Celebi whispered. "But I consulted Dialga this morning and... he confirmed what I already glimpsed in the timestream. A horrible fate is awaiting everyone on Shinji's homeworld, and there is nothing that can be done to prevent it."
"But... surely it can't be that horrible..." Navi shuddered. "Will he die?"
"He won't die," Celebi told her. "But he could very well die, it would spare him the pain of being the only living human in a desolate world... the only AWARE human..."
"You're talking as if... all of this has already happened," Pit said with disbelief. "Isn't there anything we can do to prevent this?"
"You have to remember that I can see the future," Celebi said. "Be thankful that you haven't seen the horrors I witnessed... it will be worse than any Angel attack before."
"Why did you come here, then?" Navi sobbed. "If there is no way to save him... why tell us at all? Oh Shinji..." While she never met the boy in person, she got to know him over the past few weeks, closer and more personal than his own father would ever be able to. And she learned to adore the silent, gentle boy with the kind heart. She sniffed. "It's just not fair."
"My official reason for being here is that you are being transferred to a new working place," Celebi sighed. "To another human boy on another world... a world that is not doomed."
"That can't be!" Pit shouted. "I won't stand this! What did Palutena say about this? She can't just accept the death of billions of humans just because..."
"You know the rules..." Celebi sadly said. "We can guide the residents of all worlds into the right direction, but we cannot interfere directly... there has to be some sort of all-powerful deity who has already sealed their fate. And against fate, we're powerless..."
"Isn't there... isn't there ANYTHING we can do?" Navi asked desperately. "ANYTHING?"
"Navi, no..." Celebi murmured. "You don't know what you're asking..."
"Please, Celebi!" she begged. "You are one of the time travellers... you are Dialga's assistant! You HAVE to know if there is a way to save him. Do you... do you really want to sacrifice his life, just because of... of FATE?"
Celebi suddenly got very nervous. "Well... actually... no, I can't... but then again, what if... No, no, it can't be done! That would be unjustifiable!"
"Celebi..." Pit said urgently. "If there's a way of saving Shinji, then tell us already! We still can decide if it's wrong to do it or not!"
The legendary Pokémon sighed. "All right, all right, you win! Oh boy... well, where do I start? Okay, I... I visited Master Hand not too long ago."
"The guardian of all champions?" Navi asked with awe.
Celebi nodded. "Yes, the very same! Well, and you might remember his report about champions from various worlds just disappearing into thin air..."
"Of course we remember!" Pit shouted. "It was all in the Skyworld News. But what does that have to do with..."
"I'm getting there," Celebi told the impatient angel. "See, it is very, very important for the balance of world that these beings, may they be on the side of light or shadow, are being found as fast as possible. Of course, Dialga and I can put them back in the same place of time in which they have vanished, but the longer they stay away, the more the balance of their homeworld will be threatened, and therefore, the balance of the whole multiverse. Therefore, Master Hand talked to me in private and he... he told me of a daring plan he has."
"What plan?" Navi asked.
Celebi took a deep breath. "He told me that it might be possible... to temporarily replace the heroes... with substitute champions, so to speak. Residents of other worlds that can fill the gap in their respective worlds, so the balance will be maintained. Of course, they won't know what to do at first, but... as long as they have the missing champions' powers and abilities, they should be able to do the job."
"You're not suggesting..." Pit gasped.
"I'm not suggesting anything," Celebi said. "But Master Hand himself told me that it is possible to put Shinji in the place of such a missing hero. As the boy is heavily tied to fate, he would be the perfect candidate for the job."
"You mean Shinji could be saved... and all he has to do is to be the replacement of one of the missing champions?" Navi asked.
"That was Master Hand's idea," Celebi nodded. "Actually, that's the main reason why I came here. He said we could never tell this to the council, you see? They would never have agreed to that plan. And I must say, I'm not too happy about it, either. But as long as Master Hand approves, the decision is up to you two... you are Shinji's guardians, after all."
"Which champion will he replace, should we decide to do it?" Pit asked hesitantly.
"I can't answer that question," Celebi told her. "Master Hand himself knows the secret of choosing a champion, even if it's just a replacement. It could be anyone, on any world where there's a champion missing. Shinji has to take over his role completely... or her role! Yes, Shinji could even become the replacement for a female champion. He also might have to become a member of a completely different species."
"Well, I know there's no way I will abandon Shinji," Navi said resolutely. "I'm for it!"
Celebi nodded grimly. "Very well... what about you, Pit?"
"I don't know..." the young angel scratched his head. "Navi, have you considered that Shinji will be a stranger on a strange world? He has to take over the life of someone he never met before, and we can't even tell him what's going on. He will be confused. And we don't even know what will happen to him if Master Hand finds the missing champions."
"I don't care!" Navi shouted. "It's still better than being the last human on Earth!" She sighed. "Still, it would be nice if at least a few of his friends could be saved as well..."
"I was afraid you'd say that..." Celebi sighed. "To tell you the truth, even his friends Asuka and Rei are strongly tied to fate, and maybe even a few of the others... but you aren't their guardians, you know? You can't speak for them. All you could do is to request that I speak with their guardians and..."
"Okay!" Pit said.
Celebi blinked. "Excuse me?"
"I hereby request that you go and ask the guardians of Asuka, Rei and everyone else that might be considered. As long as you do that, I'll be willing to put Shinji into his new role, whatever it may be. The chance that they meet each other are very slim, but still..."
"As long as there's hope, there's light!" Navi smiled. "An old saying of the Great Deku Tree."
"Palutena used to say that, too," Pit smiled.
"Okay, okay, I'll go and ask them," Celebi groaned. "You guys are going to kill me with this, you know that? All right, I'll go and inform Master Hand, and afterwards, I'll inform the other guardians. But you two better continue to do your job, you got that?"
Pit gave him the thumbs up and smirked. "You can count on us, buddy!"
And while Shinji Ikari peacefully slept, he was still guarded by two beings that might just not only have saved his life, but also those of several other people he knew...
And Shinji couldn't know that when he woke up, he would be in a very different place, in a different body, for a completely different task. And he also wouldn't know how he barely managed to dodge the cruel fate that was in store for him and his friends...
Shinji yawned. Then he blinked sleepily. "Huh? It's morning already? Why didn't Misato wake me...?"
When he realized that he wasn't in his room, he first thought that he was still dreaming. The landscape around him looked very strange, and exceptionally different from Tokyo-3. Green meadows, yellow brick roads, curiously shaped hills and mountaintops in the distance... he had never seen anything like it before.
He tried rubbing his eyes, but then realized that his arms must have somehow shrunk. He blinked again when he looked at them... they were pink, round and stubby.
As was the rest of his body.
"Okay..." he murmured. "This is definitely weirder than any dream I previously had..."
"What are you waiting for, Kirby?" a deep voice close to him grumbled. "Take that sword and defend yourself!"
Shinji was very surprised to notice that he wasn't all alone as he had thought: A small creature, with a round body just as his own, was standing a few feet from his current position, but while his new body was only cute and cuddly, this person seemed like a more serious guy. His face/body was covered by a intimidating, grey mask, with only a slit behind which he could see his glowing eyes. He was wearing a dark blue cape that was billowing in the wind, and in his right hand, he was grasping a wicked-looking sword.
The masked creature pointed its sword at another, simpler looking blade that was stuck in the grass in front of him. "What are you waiting for?" he hissed. "I can't train you for your fight against the Dark Matter if you don't pick up your sword. What are you, a coward?"
Shinji shook his head... body... whatever. "This isn't happening..." he mumbled. "I'm going to close my eyes now, and when I wake up, I'm back in Misato's apartment, just in time to hear another one of Asuka's rants..."
"ENOUGH OF THIS!" the caped creature yelled and leapt at him. Shinji cried out in shock when the scary sword got planted at the spot where he had been sitting just seconds ago. "I'm sick of this, Kirby!" his opponent grumbled. "Either you take that sword and show me what you're made of, or I'll take on Dark Matter by myself!"
"But... but I'm not..." Shinji muttered. He stumbled backwards, never noticed that they were standing at the top of a high cliff, tripped over a rock... and fell down into the depths.
"WHAAAAAAAAHHH!" he yelled while he was plunging down the deep chasm. "HEEEEELLLPP!"
That made Meta Knight hesitate. He lowered his sword in confusion, then he rubbed his ears. "I must be getting old..." he mumbled. "Or did I really hear Kirby talk just now?"
"HEEEELLLLPPP!" shouted Shinji as he saw the quickly approaching bottom of the deep canyon.
"Dang, he's getting himself killed when he keeps up like this..." Meta Knight grumbled. "What's wrong with him today? Oh well, I better go save the kid..."
With a single gesture of his short arms, his cape transformed into a pair of dark bat wings, which he used to fly after the rapidly dropping puffball that was Shinji.
"What are you doing, Kirby?" he shouted as he flew next to him. "Suck in some air and float, or do you want to die that badly?"
"Excuse me?" Shinji screamed. "Are you crazy? I'm not some balloon! Sucking in air won't help in such a situation! HELP ME!"
"Dammit, that kid's really irritating today..." Meta Knight grumbled. "Aw heck..." He quickly flapped his wings, caught Shinji's body just before he hit the ground and held him safely.
Shinji blinked. "I'm dead, right?"
"No..." Meta Knight sighed as he carefully dropped him to the ground. "But you better have a good explanation how you could just have forgotten to fly... and since when can you talk?"
Shinji took a few deep breaths and waited until his heart stopped pounding, then he took a closer look at the masked stranger. "Excuse me, have we met before?"
Meta Knight facefaulted.
Asuka groaned and turned around on her bed. "Mmmmmh... just a few more seconds, Misato..."
"Princess, you have to get up!"
Asuka winced when someone pulled the blanket off her body. "Noooooo... gimme that! That's mine!" And she pulled the blanket back up to her chin.
A sigh was heard. "Princess, I'm sorry, but you have to get ready. Don't you remember? The prince of the Zoras is arriving today."
The redhead snarled in annoyance. "What the heck are you...?"
She sat up in bed, ready to give whoever was bothering her a piece of her mind, when she noticed that the bed she was sitting in wasn't really her bed. Same thing for the silky nightgown she was wearing.
She blinked at the maid who was standing in front of her. "You're not Misato..."
The maid was taken aback. "Um... no, princess... it's me, Dina! Are you feeling all right?"
"Princess?" Asuka murmured and looked around. There was nobody in the luxurious bedroom than her, the maid and the oversized canopy bed she was lying in. Nope, no princess anywhere.
Wait a minute...
"Where... where am I?" Asuka shouted as she jumped out of the bed. "Where's Misato? Where's Shinji?" She ran to the window.
"Princess!" Dina gasped.
Asuka looked outside. And saw the medieval town down below her. She saw the spires and other towers of the castle she was in. And in the far distance, she could see the shores of a huge lake that was glittering in the morning sun.
"I don't think I'm in Tokyo-3 anymore..." Asuka murmured.
Dina walked up next to her and calmly put her hand on Asuka's arm. "Princess Zelda, I really think you shouldn't let anyone see you in your nightgown..."
Asuka stared at her. "WHAT did you call me?"
Rei looked into the mirror inside the tiny bathroom. A highly technological bathroom, indeed. Everything in here seemed to be automated... but that wasn't what her attention was fixed on.
Instead, she was focussed entirely on the fact that she was now an antropomorphic, blue-furred vixen... a fox-girl, so to speak.
She also looked at the blue spacesuit she was wearing, which was so unlike the plugsuit she used to pilot her Eva.
Someone knocked at the door of the bathroom. "Krystal, are you all right? You really gave me a surprise back there, storming out of our mission briefing like that. Can we talk?"
Fox McCloud, leader of the Star Fox Team, stepped back in surprise when the door in front of him opened, and Krystal, his team mate and almost-girlfriend looked at him with an unusual, cold expression.
"Is this a kidnapping?" she simply asked.
Fox was taken aback by that question. "Umm... no..."
Rei waited a moment before asking her next question. "Is this a dream, then?"
"Krystal... you're giving me the creeps here. Seriously..."
"Yeah, Krystal! Your name, remember?"
Rei stared down at her blue-furred hand. "I... see..." She looked back up at Fox's face. "And what is my... mission?"
"Uh... you didn't listen to the General, did you? We have to investigate the distress signal coming from Katina, you know? The one he talked about."
Rei nodded. As long as she was trapped inside this weird hallucination, she could still act accordingly. After all, she was trained to listen to orders. "Understood. What was your rank, again?"
THAT question surprised Fox more than any other. "B-but Krystal... it's me, Fox! Fox McCloud, your friend and commander! Don't you remember?" He looked very worried. "Or did you hit your head or something?"
"I am fine, Commander McCloud," Rei simply stated as she turned to go. "We should go. Please inform me about all the needed information on this mission on the way..."
"Um... fine," he murmured. "Krystal... that's the way to the quarters. The hangar's THIS way."
Rei turned around and followed her new commander. "Understood. Lead the way."
"Okay... just... just follow me." While the blue-furred vixen followed him with an emotionless expression, Fox inconspiciously activated his communicator. "Peppy," he whispered. "Please prepare a bed at sick bay... I think Krystal's not feeling too good..."