I am not Jim Butcher, or anyone else who owns the legal rights to the Dresden Files. If I were, I would be utterly terrified of the reaction once people found out I was writing this instead of the next book in the series.
I am also not Hideaki Anno, or anyone who owns the rights to Neon Genesis Evangelion. If I were, I would be spending my time sleeping on top of a pile of money with many beautiful women instead of writing crossover fanfiction.
I've always known that when I'm really tired I can be a heavy sleeper, but I still can't believe I slept through the Second Impact.
I've never told anyone about that. After all, wizards are supposed to know things; hell's bells, it's in our very names that we're supposed to wise. For Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Wizard-for-Hire, to sleep through a world-shattering cataclysm really doesn't fit the all-knowing all-seeing image a proper wizard is supposed to project. What kind of crappy two-bit conjurer sleeps through the planet getting hit by a meteor bigger than the one that did in the dinosaurs?
This one, apparently.
I did have some really nasty nightmares when it happned; that much death creates a disturbance, millions of voices crying out in terror, and then being suddenly silenced. It gave me some nasty nightmares, but with the life I lead bad dreams aren't anything new. I tossed and turned, but I didn't wake up.
In my defense on the whole sleeping through the apocalypse thing, Second Impact didn't really have that much force left by the time it got all the way to Chicago; the tremors were only about a 4.0 on the scale, and the sum total of the damage to my apartment was a couple broken bottles that fell off the shelves in my basement. The Second Impact was huge, but being more than 8,000 miles away from Antarctica meant that Chicago barely got touched by it directly, and this far inland the tsunamis weren't a problem.
Naturally, a lot of the people closer to where it all happened slept through it too, because they were dead before they had a clue what was going on. The shockwave from the impact more-or-less killed every single living thing within two thousand miles of Antarctica, but the real killers were the earthquakes and megatsunamis.
It always seems strange pretty much nobody I knew died from the Second Impact. After all, by the time we finally got things settled down, Earth's human population had been cut in half. Of course, having magic can be handy when it comes to surviving the apocalypse; turns out wards designed for keeping out vampires, demons, and all other manner of nasties can do a decent job against extinction level events too, and a quick hop into the Nevernever will get you out of the worst-hit areas and away from the megatsunamis.
It also doesn't help that the Second Impact really wasn't an equal opportunity apocalypse. If you were south of the Equator or you could draw a straight line between wherever you lived and Antarctica without passing over any major landmasses or mountains, you were almost certainly dead. If you were north of the Equator and had someone else between you and the megatsunamis, you were probably alright.
In other words, South America, Africa, Australia, and Southern Asia all got screwed over, while Europe, North America, and Japan barely got scratched. I took it as proof that the universe has a nasty sense of humor; those parts of the world spend a few centuries getting screwed over by the people to the north of them, and just when we decide that maybe we shouldn't screw them over quite over so much, a big meteor kills them all.
Now, Antarctica getting melted meant enough water got added to the oceans for pretty much everyone living on the coast to be in trouble, but that much water takes time to spread out across the entire planet, especially since so much of it went out in the megatsunamis. By the time the water level evened out just about every coastal city was underwater, but the cities that weren't nailed by megatsunamis and were lucky enough to be in First World nations had enough time to evacuate just about everyone important. Some poor people and homeless folks got left behind, but nobody in a position of power seemed to shed too many tears over that, except for when they did it while there were cameras rolling.
The weirdest thing about the Second Impact was how little it really changed things. Sure, there was a huge refugee crisis, the rest of the world finally decided to give the UN some teeth, and the economy was in the pits for a few years, but by the time 2003 rolled around, things were pretty close to normal again if you lived in one of the areas that hadn't gotten hit too badly. Kids went to school, adults went to work, and people just went on with their lives, as if half the human race hadn't been wiped out a few years ago. I don't know if that's a testament to the endurance of the human spirit's ability to endure tragedy, or just proof that most people are callous, unfeeling bastards.
Now, on the spooky side of things, everything went crazy, but not really in a bad way. Well, there were some initial bits of trouble in the immediate aftermath, like that crazy pack of FBI werewolves I had to deal with about a month after the Impact, but that was an isolated incident. However, the White Council came out of the whole thing surprisingly intact; like I said before, wizards are good at staying alive, and have lots of tricks up their sleeve. It also probably didn't hurt that the Council's always been a bit Eurocentric; don't get the wrong idea, we don't call it the White Council because we like the dress up in bedsheets and burn crosses on people's lawns, it's just that Europe's always been the traditional heartland of the Council, and Europe took almost no damage from Second Impact.
Now, a lot of people would think that having half of the next generation of prospective wizards wiped out might have been a serious long-term problem for the White Council, but you'd be mistaken. While the Council would never admit it, the simple truth was that it didn't have the resources or organization to handle humanity's explosive population growth during the 20th century, and the accompanying rise in young people with magical talents. Now that the number of young wizards coming into their powers had been cut in half, the Council was doing a much better job of it.
Way too many kids wind up going warlock not because they're inherently evil, but because they don't have any clue what they're getting into. It's easy to start breaking the Laws of Magic when you don't know what the laws are, and once you start using dark magic it blackens your soul to the point where soon you don't care anymore. Magic comes from the soul, the very essence of who you are; once you start using it do bad things, it warps your perspective. Instead of people, you see meat-puppets to mind control, or potential corpses for your zombie army. I would know how dangerous dark magic; I've come a lot closer to crossing the line than I'd ever like to admit.
That said, while the Laws of Magic are important, I don't always agree with how the Council enforces the laws, considering the fact that the only solution they ever like to use is to have a Warden with a really big sword lop your head off, and one of those heads nearly wound up being mine (and I like my head is just fine exactly where it is). However, fewer new young wizards means fewer kids slipping through the cracks, which means less kids getting their heads chopped off for dabbling in things they shouldn't because they didn't know any better. I won't complain about Molly becoming my apprentice within a few weeks of her talents manifesting; after all, she's my best friend Michael's daughter, and has enough of a rebellious streak that I just know she would have gotten herself into all kinds of trouble if I hadn't been able to keep an eye on her.
But enough about us wizards; as you might have noticed, we have a tendency to talk about ourselves as if we're the biggest, toughest kids on the block. Now, don't get me wrong, a pissed-off wizard is not something you want to have aimed at you, but we're not necessarily the top of the food chain; it's a big, scary world out there, and most wizards are still squishy human meatbags at the end of the day, even if we are squishy human meatbags who know some really cool tricks.
First off, there are the Vampires. One of those handy little side benefits of Second Impact was that the Red Court was pretty much gone, and good riddance to the freaky bat-faced bastards. Apparently, when you put the Red King up against a 1000 foot wall of water moving at slightly less than the speed of sound, the Red King loses. The Red Court's base of power had always been South America, and like I said earlier, South America got the short end of the stick in the Apocalypse lottery. There were still plenty of Red Court vamps outside of South America, and not all of the South American vamps were dead, but groups like the Fellowship of St. Giles decided this was the perfect time to settle a couple centuries worth of grudges against the Reds. I certainly didn't complain when they burned down the Velvet Room and a put an end to Bianca and her lot, though any rumors that they had some help from your friendly neighborhood wizard are vicious lies with no factual basis.
While the Reds were vamps that really got his hard by Second Impact, they're not the only bloodsuckers running around. The White Court Vampires were so enmeshed in the upper echelons of human society that they had an easy time surviving, and the Black Court vamps had survived centuries of being hunted down by everyone with enough sense to read Bram Stoker's How-to-Guide for killing them weren't going to be fazed by a little thing like the apocalypse. Luckily for the rest of the world, the White Court seemed content with using the rebuilding process to boost its wealth, power, and influence within mortal society. The Blacks were not nearly so helpful, but as nasty as the Black Court was on an individual basis, there just aren't enough of them to cause serious problems.
Then you've got your assorted demons, ghosts, and other critters. Obviously, having three billion people killed off left behind some ghost problems, but it's pretty rare for ghosts to be a serious problem for a fully trained and prepared practitioner. Ghost-hunting has kind of been my bread-and-butter since the Second Impact. It's not glamorous work, but it pays the bills.
The worst bit of excitement I've had since the Impact (not counting the razing of Bianca's, which I most definitely was not involved in) was a nasty run-in with a group of demons called the Order of the Blackened Denarius. Seriously bad news. Supposedly, there are thirty of them, each of them trapped in old Roman silver coin (yes, those thirty pieces of silver), and they want to finish the job Second Impact started. Apparently, they think that if they kill enough people, it start the end times … or maybe they just like killing people for shits and giggles, it's hard to tell. Worst of all, their leader Nicodemus has definitely read and memorized the Evil Overlord List. He didn't even tell me his entire evil plan when he had me at his mercy and was about to kill me, which is definitely cheating. Still, with some help from Michael, a couple other Knights of the Cross, a mob boss, and possible divine intervention, we managed to save the world.
I did wind up with one nasty little side effect from that adventure. After we foiled his scheme, Nicodemus tossed out one last parting shot, and threw one of those demon-coins at Michael's youngest kid, two-year-old Harry (I've always been somewhere between honored and a bit embarrassed that Michael actually named one of his kids after me. I mean, I'm not the kinda guy you should name your kids after). The kid naturally wanted to pick up the pretty shiny coin, so I had to grab it myself to keep him from taking it. Grabbing the coin left me open to the demon inside of it, but I'd rushed back to my lab and torn up my basement floor to very thoroughly bury the coin, and then slapped every single containment spell I knew over it. At least I'd survived the experience without getting taken over by demon, and with the coin seemingly safely buried and contained for the last couple months, I was reasonably certain I'd dodged any permanent damage.
So, that's everyone except for the Fae. Things have been more than a little screwed up in the Nevernever ever since the Second Impact. Apparently, all the scientists who said that the planet would freeze after a big meteor hit got it wrong, because instead we've had eternal summer. Now, for the most part the Fae are split into two camps, the Summer Court, and the Winter Court, and they hate each other. As you might have guessed from the names, a lot of their power and influence is tied to the turning of the seasons, so non-stop summer for several years throws things horribly out of balance. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that ever since the Second Impact Summer has been kicking Winter's ass whenever they have their big faerie fights.
Now, personally I wasn't too bothered by the fact that Winter was losing. I would like to think that's because Summer has always been liked to growth and rebirth, something the planet could really use after the Second Impact, but in truth my reasons were mostly selfish. See, back when I was young and stupid (well, stupider than I am now), I'd made a deal with a winter Fae known as The Leanansidhe (or Lea, if felt like saving a couple syllables of effort). At the time, it had seemed like a good idea.
The really dumb ones always do.
So, long story short, when it was time for me to hold up my end of the bargain, I decided that I didn't want to let Lea turn me into a dog after all, and tried to back out of the deal.
The Leanansidhe was less than pleased by this development.
So, ever since then I've made a habit of trying to stay out of her way. Fae are limited in what they can do outside of the Nevernever, and cold iron will mess up just about anything they can do magically or physically. Needless to say, I try to have some on me at all times. However, with Winter on the metaphorical ropes, I was pretty sure that Lea had bigger problems to deal with than one wizard who welched on a deal a decade ago. Eventually, I got a bit too confident, and stopped being careful.
Stupid, stupid me.
"Good Morning Harry." The melodic voice that woke me up sounded entirely too cheerful for this early in the morning. Some people wake up full of cheer and energy, ready to leap out of bed and experience the joys of a brand new day, and those of us who aren't insane know that a new day will just bring the same thing we got yesterday, and would rather have a bit more sleep before dealing with yet another day of the same crap as yesterday.
When my response was limited to a vague grunt and burrowing a bit further into my pillow, the woman repeated her greeting, a touch of frosty annoyance entering her tone. I meant to respond by asking for five more minutes before I had to wake up, but between my half-awake state and the fact that my head was still buried in a pillow, what actually came out of my mouth sounded more or less like. "Mphrghlmmslpfvmrmnts"
Moments later, I was completely drenched in water so cold that there were actually chips of ice in it. An instant later I was entirely awake, and glaring murderously at the woman who thought it would be a good idea to douse me in ice water, until my mind woke up enough to process just who the tall, slender, and impossibly beautiful woman with an ageless face and long, lustrous red hair was. Now, normally being woken up by incredibly beautiful woman isn't a bad way to start the day, but this particular was one of the last people I ever wanted to see.
"Good morning Harry." The Leanansidhe declared brightly, a disturbingly pleasant smile on her face. The smile didn't quite reach her bright green eyes, a few too many teeth showed behind her blood-red lips, making her smile seem less like a pleasant greeting and more like a cat who had come upon a particularly tasty morsel of food.
I feel I should make it absolutely clear that the sounds which issued out of my throat when I realized that Lea had somehow managed to bypass all of my wards and ambush me in my sleep were manly bellows of shock and dismay, and most certainly not high-pitched girlish shrieks of terror. Because I am a man, and men don't scream like little girls, even when they're terrified out of their wits.
"Are you quite done?" Lea asked with an amused smirk once the last of my manly bellows subsided.
"Why are you here, Lea?" Despite the fact that it was probably pointless after my little display earlier, I tried very hard not to let even a tiny bit of fear show in my voice.
Lea arranged her face into an annoyed pout. "Harry, Harry, Harry. You never come to visit any more. I haven't seen you once since before the Second Impact. What kind of godson doesn't even take the time visit his godmother once for three years?"
Yes, I have a faerie godmother. Obviously, whoever it is that's responsible for assigning them made a mistake somewhere along the line, because instead of a benevolent guardian who gives me pumpkin carriages and glass slippers, I got a manipulative bitch who wants to strip away my humanity. Why do I always get the short end of the stick? "Lea, we both know that if I had actually tried to visit you any time in the last three years, you would've used it as a chance to turn me into one of your hellhounds."
"La, excuses." The Leanansidhe dismissed my facts as utterly irrelevant with an airy wave of her hand. A moment later she brightened up and returned to laying on the charm, accompanying it with a low-level glamour. "In any case, child, let's not dwell on the past, when we should be discussing your future."
"My future. Right. Does it involve turning me into a hellhound? Because that's not happening" I dragged myself out of bed, and set my mind to getting out of my damp pajamas. I pulled out a reasonably clean T-shirt and a pair of slightly ratty jeans, and then nearly made a terrible mistake by asking Lea to leave the room while I changed. You don't ask Sidhe for favors, even piddling, insignificant little ones like giving you privacy to change your clothes. Asking a Fae for a favor creates an obligation on your part to do a favor for them in return. That's how I'd gotten into this whole mess with Lea in the first place, but I like to think that after my early screw-ups I learned my lesson.
I thought about going into the bathroom to change, but that would mean taking my eyes off of Lea for long enough to let her cause all kinds of trouble. Granted, if she'd really wanted to do so, she probably would have done whatever she pleased before waking me up; as it was, I would need to toss out all of the food in my pantry and fridge, just in case she'd enchanted any of it or replaced some of it with fae food. After a moment's hesitation, I resigned myself to changing in front of Lea; it's not like she was human after all, Even so, I decided that my boxers were clean enough to not need changing.
Lea gave my body a clinical glance, and let out a tut of disapproval. "Really child, you're skin and bones. When was the last time you had a proper meal?"
At the mention of food my stomach gave a loud grumble, making it's thoughts on the matter known. Of course, since Lea had broken into my apartment, I couldn't trust any of the food I had, so my only option was to go out. Sadly, a quick check of my rather deflated wallet revealed the flaw with that plan.
The Leanansidhe was quick to pounce on the opportunity. "I shall make you an offer, child. I shall provide you with a proper meal. Untainted mortal food." Lea pre-empted my first objection. "In exchange, you will hear me out. I offer you my pledge that I shall not attempt to coerce or threaten you in any way, or incite any other Fae to do so, or target any friend or associate of yours, nor will I use this as a means to collect upon the debt you owe me. No tricks. No hidden loopholes. We shall simply sit, eat, and discuss."
I considered the offer a moment, carefully searching it for any hidden traps. Fae were bound to always keep their word, but they were also very good at finding ways to keep to the letter of any promise they made while thoroughly violating the spirit of the promise. "I'm free to leave to at any time?" That was one bullet dodged; otherwise, Lea could have kept me there for years, claiming that the conversation wasn't over yet.
"You will give me at least half an hour of your time after our arrival at a mortal restaurant of your choice." Lea countered with a knowing smile on her face. "You'll not simply stuff your face in a few seconds, and then run out the door."
I thought it over a bit longer, and couldn't find any other ways for my Faerie Godmother to ruin my life with this particular bargain. In all likelihood, it was just the bait to set me up for what she really had in mind with the conversation she was fishing for; it was there that she would actually set the hook. "Fine."
"Excellent." The Leanansidhe's smile bore an uncanny resemblance to that of a cat who had just caught a particularly elusive mouse. Not a good thing at all when I'm the mouse. "Now then child, where do you wish to dine."
"Well, since you're paying, we'll go to the best restaurant in town."
"This is the best restaurant in town?" A mixture of disdain and skepticism colored Lea's voice.
"What can I say, I'm a simple man with simple tastes." I shot back glibly as the two of us walked into Burger King. "Sure, other places might have better food, but this is the only place that hands out a cheap cardboard crown along with the food."
"Charming." Lea deadpanned.
I put in my order with the pimply teenager running the counter, and had to repeat myself a few times since he was far more interested in gawking at Lea than he was in getting my order right. A few minutes later I had a tray full of fast food, and pair of cardboard crowns, one of which I promptly donned, while handing the other off to Lea. "Put it on; it's tradition. You're a guest in restaurant, you have to follow their traditions."
"Do you take pleasure from your constant efforts to bombard beings that could crush with a single thought with petty annoyances?" Lea asked in a long-suffering tone.
"Yes. Now put the damn crown on."
Lea let out an annoyed sigh and grumbled a few less than complimentary things about me under her breath, and then placed the crown on top of her head. "It is less trouble to simply indulge your silly whims than to argue with you."
"Hail to the Burger Queen." I declared loudly enough to draw a few stares from the other patrons in the diner.
I felt a chill run down my spine as Lea used a bit of her faerie mojo to distract anyone who might want to listen in on our conversation. "If you're quite done making a fool out of yourself, shall we get down to business?" Lea's tone made a glacier seem warm.
"I'm not making a fool out of myself, I'm making a fool out of you. Important difference." Despite my bravado, that was going to be last shot at Lea for a while; needling her was fun, but I could tell her patience was wearing thin, and pushing her over the edge into seriously pissed off would be the sort of thing I could end up regretting for a long, long time. So, no more being a smartass at the angry Fae … well, unless I came up with a really good line. "So, you wanted to talk. Start talking." I took a bite out of my sausage biscuit, only to discover that the sausage had apparently frozen into a solid block of ice right before I bit into it.
"Next time you ask for a meal, you might want to specify that you want your food to be hot, child." Lea offered me a wintry smile. "Or perhaps you could simply refrain from being an annoying pest for a few moments."
Content with having gotten the last word in, Lea unfroze my food with a casual wave of her hand. "Now then, to business. I wish to strike a bargain with you."
"No." The fact that my mouth was full of biscuit when I said it somewhat muffled the impact of the word.
"Will you not even deign to hear my offer out before you refuse it?" Lea offered me an amused grin.
"I think I've learned my lesson about taking anything you offer me." I shot back after I'd swallowed food and washed it down with some coffee. "I'm not doing too badly for myself right now; I've got enough work to pay the bills, and nobody's tried to kill me for a few months now. I don't need anything, and you don't have anything to offer that I want badly enough to get even more tangled up with you than I am already."
"Ah, but that's just the thing, child." Lea looked entirely too pleased with herself. "What I'm offering you now is a chance to clear all of your obligations to me."
The biscuit paused halfway to my mouth. Sure enough, she had found the one thing that could possibly convince me to cut another deal with her. My debt to the Leanansidhe had been hanging over my head for my entire adult life; the chance to finally settle the matter was … too tempting to ignore. "I'm listening."
"In return for this generosity, all I require from you is a simple favor. A few hours from now, you will receive a job offer. Accept the offer, and we will be quits." With a grin, Lea amended. "Aside from my role as your godmother, of course."
"What kind of job is this?" I asked warily. I've gotten plenty of weird job offers over the years; aside from the people who think the only wizard listed in the Chicago phone book is a great target for prank calls, you get plenty of people who want me to do things I either can't do or would get in huge amounts of trouble if I got caught doing, and you can't really explain the laws of magic to someone who barely even believes that magic is real. That's not to mention that some seriously nasty people have tried to recruit me over the years, running the gamut from a mob boss who thought a little magical muscle would help him tighten his grip on Chicago to the Order of the Blackened Denarius. No way in hell I would agree to accept any job before I knew what I was getting into.
"A simple consultation for a government agency." Lea announced breezily. "Not unlike the work you have done for this city's law enforcement, except on a slightly larger scale."
That caught my attention. I've done off-and-on consulting work for the Chicago Police for a while. It was a pretty simple arrangement; when weird stuff happens that they can't explain, they hire Chicago's only wizard to tell them what's going on. It had been a good arrangement, and the cops working at the Special Investigations department were good people; together, we'd stopped some seriously bad guys and monsters. Sadly, ever since the Second Impact the job offers from Special Investigations had been sparse; with all the money going into rebuilding a world that had been torn half to hell, there wasn't much left for things like hiring a wizard consultant whenever a weird body turned up at the morgue.
"So, this job. I go in, answer their questions, and leave. That's it?"
"That's it." Lea confirmed.
"Alright, what's the catch?" The old saying about being wary of anything that seems too good to be true goes double when it comes to dealing with Fae. "You've been holding this debt over my head for half my life; there's no way in hell you'd drop it just for a few hours of normal consulting work."
"Harry, I'm your godmother." Lea chided me, a disappointed expression decorating her face. "Why can't you just trust that I have your best interests at heart?"
"You tried to turn me into a hellhound."
"That was for your own good Harry. Besides, you shouldn't hold onto pointless grudges over things that are in the past."
"If I don't do this favor for you, you'll try to turn me into a dog again, won't you?" I suppose you do have to give my godmother credit for creativity; most people who try to threaten me into working form them go with the old classic of threatening me or my friends with death or severe bodily harm; obviously that was too mainstream for the Leanansidhe. Effective too; once you've gotten a couple dozen death threats they really start to lose their impact, but the idea of spending the rest of my life as a hellhound still scared the crap out of me. Death was quick; spending decades or even centuries as one of Lea's puppies wouldn't be.
"Harry, you can't spend your entire life worrying about what might happen in some vague, hypothetical future." The fact that she didn't actually deny that she would dog-ify me if I didn't do this favor for her spoke volumes; for all their skill as masters of deception, their very nature makes it impossible for the Fae to speak an outright lie. Of course, if she had wanted to Lea could have come up with a very effective way to spin the truth around on its head so I wouldn't know what her intentions were, but apparently she didn't feel the need to manipulate me subtly. After all, sometimes subtlety goes over my head, or just makes me even more of a wiseass than usual; brute force was a lot more reliable.
At the end of day, it wasn't really a hard choice to make. I'd spent a long time running away from Lea, most of my adult life really. By ambushing me this morning Lea sent a clear message; I couldn't run away from her forever. Hell's bells, for all I knew she might have just let me get away from her in the past because she thought chasing me was good sport. Now, it looked like running away wasn't really an option; even if I got away today, Lea wasn't the type to give up easily. I could either let Lea turn me into a hellhound, or go along with this job she wanted me to take, and maybe have a chance to finally get away from my entanglements with the faeries once and for all. I knew Lea's deal wasn't entirely on the level, but whatever the nasty surprise waiting for me was, it couldn't be worse than the certain doggyfication that awaited me if I didn't go along with it.
If I'd actually known just what the hell I was getting myself into when I agreed to Lea's deal, and just how much craziness I would have to deal with over the next dozen years because of it, I might have decided that spending the rest of my life as one of her hounds wouldn't be such a bad thing after all.
Author's Note: Since Evangelion is a wonderful mishmash of different continuities, I'm planning to take advantage of that to some degree with the story. This story will be based on the Eva TV series, but I will steal a few bits from the manga adaptation and/or the Rebuild movies when I think those versions put a slightly better spin on things.