Angelus Ex Machina
"So no-one told you life was gonna be this way.
Join the club."
Ssard blinked. Slowly.
Reread the slogan on Izzy's T-shirt.
Tapped his sunglasses to make sure that the personal chameleon circuit - currently, for various bizarre reasons, disguising him as Samuel L. Jackson - was not malfunctioning...
(Although he wondered, sometimes...)
Until, finally, shaking his head in disbelief, he walked over to the deckchair where Izzy was sitting. 'Izzy, have you seen the Doctor?'
Izzy opened her mouth to answer, looked, looked /behind/ him, and put her hand across her eyes.
Ssard sighed, and checked his timepiece. 'Friday, 10:34. That means the bokken. Excuse me a moment...'
'FOUL DEMON, PREPARE TO DIE!!!'
Without looking, Ssard reached out an arm and pushed Kuno into the swimming pool.
'So have you seen the Doctor?'
Izzy's mouth opened and closed, in her best goldfish imitation. An imitation which was made even easier by the fact that she already had the body to match.
'Grief. He's still at it?'
'Either that, or bowing before me, professing me to be the "most honourable Jackson-san"...' Ssard shook his head. 'Persistance is an admirable quality, one he has in abundance. Fortunately for myself, one admirable quality he /lacks/ is forethought...'
Izzy shook her head. '_Mad_...'
'I had thought that...' Ssard said. 'Incredibly self-deluded, perhaps, but he is not insane...'
'I didn't mean...' Izzy closed her mouth at the blank look on Ssard's face. 'Sorry. Long story... Umm, the Doctor? He's been in the TARDIS for the last few days, I think... Ask Charley, she'll know.'
Ssard nodded and turned to leave.
Then he turned back to her. 'Izzy...'
Izzy tweaked at the T-shirt in embarrassment, blushing slightly (insofar as a fish /could/ blush). 'Would you believe... two for one sale?'
The mighty Tatewaki Kuno, Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, having been caught most unawares by the foul demon which doth plague this island of paradise, and his attentions diverted as the creature made its nefarious escape, did seek to regain his composure in readiness for the next attempt.
For lo, the foul creature, and the witch that had summoned it, had entrapped the most noble Samuel L. Jackson, no doubt to enthrall him to their will, as did the infernal sorcerer Saotome enthrall Akane Tendo and the pig-tailed girl.
And the great Kuno could not let this scheme go unoppsed.
For was he not the bokken master of Furinkan High? An unparalleled master with the sword, capable of defeating all other mortals who dared challenge his prowess?
What better service for his fellow man, then, than to pit himself against the forces of the infernal that did threaten the innocent, the noble, and the wise?
Having freed himself of the demon's cowardly trap, noble Kuno called for ever-faithful Sasuke to attend, and to bring his master's spare robes.
Having so commanded, Kuno then sought to hone his skills, that he would not be so caught again.
And it was while doing so that...
Urd grinned. 'Hi, Ryouga hon!'
Ryouga winced. 'Urd-san... _please_ don't call me that...'
Urd blinked innocently. 'Why not? We /are/ your patron Megami...'
Ryouga winced. That _was_, in point of fact, the, um... , well, /point/.
In Ryouga's world-view, Megami were divine, wise, just, endlessly compassionate...
Well, they /had/ been, before a meeting with Skuld and a Skuld Bomb.
And, not to put too fine a point on it... it was, well... /undignified/.
And he wasn't ready to /deal/ with that, not now...
...and I wanted something to believe in, something worth fighting for...
...and I got _this_...
...and... it's just a *bit* of a shock to the system...
...So could you /please/ not call me hon?
At least until I get my head around this?
All this went through Ryouga's mind.
What actually came out was...
'Um. Urd-san... if you don't mind me asking...'
Urd glanced at her youngest sister, currently with her fingers in her ears, her eyes scrunched up, and singing "Stomp" at the top of her voice.
A tiny grin caught at her mouth. 'Oh, just some sister stuff.'
Urd noticed, and stored it away for future reference. Hmm... interesting...
'Go on then,' Skuld said.
Urd blinked. 'Hnh?'
'Go on, show him. You've been showing off to everyone /else/ 'bout it...'
Urd's mouth did an interesting flip-flop thing.
'But... I... Look...'
Skuld grinned. 'He /is/ one of ours, remember? That's /all/ of us. It's not like he's gonna run screaming into the street...'
'All, right, all right... You win, short stuff...' Urd looked at Ryouga. 'You might want to step back for this...'
Ryouga swallowed, and stepped back.
I was so young. So scared.
Scared of the truth. Scared of the reality.
The dream torn away...
...the reality before me...
And I couldn't shut it out...
And I /screamed/...
And she was gone.
For so long...
The only one...
...and I was afraid...
...now, we understand...
And I know..
Mirror of my soul...
'My angel...' Urd said. 'My other self...'
So terrifyingly beautiful...
The angel hovered over her.
One wing white, the other black.
One side white, the other black.
Black and white.
Between the two. Always between.
Ryouga finally gave up trying to control his mouth, and simply let it fall open.
'Hmph.' Skuld said, her back to the scene.
Hmph? /Hmph?!/ She sees something like this... and all she can say is /Hmph?!/
The angel settled over Urd's head.
The great winged creature settled over the maiden's head, and let out a great gout of fire.
And there was the foul sorcerer Hibiki, ally of the infernal Saotome.
No doubt /he/ had summoned this creature, and called it forth to devour these two innocent maidens.
No! No, sayeth Tatewaki Kuno!
This shall not happen!
I shall vanquish the beast, or die trying!
Ryouga's mouth was still open.
'Her name... Her name is World of Elegance...' Urd said, hesitantly. 'She's a... fire angel. Angels have an ...elemental... affinity with their megami... and our element is fire.' She breathed out. 'Bell's element is wind... and Skuld... Skuld's will... I *think*... probably be water...'
'If I'd only found out...' Skuld muttered.
'You're not powerful enough yet, kiddo...' Urd told her.
'Like that matters... I still miss her...'
'Um?' Ryouga said.
'Skuld's angel.... had to go back in her egg.' Urd said. 'Wasn't powerful enough to control it...'
'DEMONIC BEAST!! PREPARE TO DIE!!'
'Oh no...' Ryouga murmured.
Urd blinked. 'Hey, isn't that...?'
'Kuno.' Ryouga completed. 'No, he isn't a friend. Just an idiot.'
'THE BLUE THUNDER OF FURINKAN HIGH CHALLENGES THEE!! SET THESE MAIDENS FREE!!'
Urd's eyes widened in surprise. 'Nice trick.'
Ryouga sighed. 'Kuno-'
'SILENCE!' Kuno proclaimed. 'Do not think I cannot see what doth transpire here. Thou, most despicable Hibiki, hath summoned this beast-' His bokken stabbed at the angel.
'HEY!' Urd yelled. 'Where do you get off calling my angel a beast?!'
'Yeah! What, you need glasses or something?!' Skuld added.
'-This beast, so that ye may sacrifice these innocent maidens to it, and so gain its power!' Kuno drew his bokken. 'But I, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, shall stop thee now!'
'Umm... Kuno?' Ryouga said tentatively. 'Bokkens are made out of wood. The angel breathes fire. Fire burns wood?' he added, just in case Kuno didn't realise this (unlikely, but then this /was/ Kuno...)
'Hah!' Kuno declaimed. 'One blow with the might of my bokken, and the monster will be rendered powerless!'
Urd facefaulted. 'Ryouga, hon... does he /always/ do this?'
Ryouga considered this. 'Yes.'
Once he had tracked Charley down, she had confirmed the Doctor was in the TARDIS - working on a 'secret project', she had told Ssard.
...the Doctor had apparently decided to park the TARDIS on the hotel's front lawn (easy access, he'd claimed).
Why he hadn't parked it /inside/...
Ssard shook his head.
He had realised long ago that he was never going to understand mammalian foibles, and would have to suffer them the rest of his life.
It did not mean he could not appreciate them on occasion... although that was something he preferred to keep to himself.
_This_, however, was one foible he did /not/ appreciate.
Especially in this Sutekh-blasted /heat/...
And also on the lawn...
...oh, by all the Names of Oras!!
Not that sword-wielding...
Then Ssard saw who - and /what/ - Kuno was threatening.
And he /moved/.
Kuno raised his sword. 'Now... PREPARE TO DIE, SPAWN OF EVIL!!'
Unfortunately for him, he didn't notice Urd's - and her angel's - features darken at the boast.
Unfortunately /for him/.
He brought the sword down-
Kuno tugged. Then tugged again.
His bokken was stuck in something. If he could just get it free... then, he, Tatewaki Kuno, would show the spawn of evil how a /true/ hero fought!
/Then/, his audial sensors handed a note to the rest of his brain.
[Wait a minute,] they said. [Isn't that voice... Jackson-san?]
Kuno turned his head.
And lo, the most noble Jackson-domo did have hold of the other end of his bokken.
Did this mean... that Jackson-domo desired to fight the great dragon himself?
Kuno let go of his bokken.
And thus came it to pass that Kuno did kneel before the great Jackson-domo, and offer up his bokken.
And Jackson-domo did take the bokken from Kuno's hands, and proceeded therewith to clobber Kuno over the head with it.
Urd blushed slightly. Even though she /was/ one of the Megami, having someone actually /bow/ to her was more than a /little/ flattering...
Well, make that a /lot/ flattering.
Well, actually... to put it simply, Urd's pride was now reaching a point where it could be seen from orbit.
Orbit around Alpha Centauri.
Ryouga was just _looking_ at Urd's angel.
Kuno was out cold.
Urd stuck out an arm to stop the oncoming advance. 'Uh-uh, kiddo...'
'Hey-!' Skuld protested.
'You wanted to know how he manages to make himself look like Samuel L. Jackson, right?' Urd raised an eyebrow. 'And what's Bell told you 'bout poking in other people's technology, hmm?'
'I was only going to /look/!!' Skuld protested.
'The last time you "only looked", the plumbing exploded. In the middle of my bath, nonetheless...'
Ryouga's nose started bleeding.
Urd grinned wickedly.
Ssard raised an eyebrow. 'I am sure the Doctor would be more than happy to lend you a personal chameleon circuit... under controlled conditions...'
'But that's no /fun/...' Skuld pouted.
'Fitz was right...' Ssard murmured. 'They /are/ too similar for comfort...'
'You do not wish to know,' Ssard advised her. 'Believe me...'
'I'd be careful about that...' Urd said, her eyes twinkling. 'Even saying 'don't wish' still counts as a wish...'
'But... oh. Oh...' Skuld said.
'Mm. Be careful what you say, because it just might happen.' Urd said, a shadow falling across her face. 'And you'll have to live with it...'
She looked up at World of Elegance.
Quietly, under her breath, she murmured 'I should know...
Her angel nodded, and...
Ryouga's face fell. 'Wonderful...' he murmured. 'Now Kuno thinks your angel's a dragon, /he's/ a demon... and Kami-sama only knows what else...'
Urd twitched. 'That idiot thinks /Ssard's/ a demon? He has no _idea_...'
'You do, though...' Ssard observed.
'Oh, I do. I do.
'I /am/ half-demon, after all...'
'You're *WHAT?!?!*' Ryouga gasped.
'Half-demon. On my mother's side...'
'That sounds familiar...' Ssard rumbled.
Urd raised an eyebrow.
'It is a long story. And sometimes we are uncertain how much is fact, and how much fiction.' Ssard said. 'Leave it for the moment.'
'Wait... wait, does that mean-'
Skuld shook her head. 'Uh-uh. We're half-sisters - we all have the same father... not Kami-sama, though...' she added hastily, before Ryouga could open his mouth.
'Divine genealogy has always proven difficult...' Ssard said. 'Especially with 740 gods in a pantheon...'
Urd half-smiled. '*That* must've been fun... You should hear some of the legends about /our/ parentage...'
'Perhaps-' Ssard began.
'FACE THE WRATH OF THE BLUE THUNDER, INFERNAL HORDES!!'
'...No-one was watching him, right?' Skuld said.
'Nope. I thought /you/ were doing it!!'
'Hey, it's /your/ job...'
'If we could turn down the sisterly bickering,...?' Ryouga said.
'/What/ sisterly bickering?!?!'
'Any ideas?' Urd said.
And so, in the last, great Kuno did stand alone before the hordes of Hell.
But he would prevail, for on his side were the forces of righteousness!
And all would acknowledge the greatness of Kuno, and his true loves would at last be freed from the wretched Saotome.
And when they realised who their saviour was...
...then, he could come before them, and choose which one would be his wife.
...but how could he choose?
How could he choose?
'I CANNOT DECIDE!! I SHALL HAVE THEM BOTH!!'
Skuld winced. 'Now /that/ sounded familiar...'
Urd's attention was on the oncoming threat. 'What the hell's he shouting about?!?!'
'He always gets like this. /Anytime/ he thinks about Ranma or Akane...' Ryouga shuddered. 'It's not pretty.'
Kuno's face darkened. 'Do not mention the name of that foulest of fiends before me...'
Urd facefaulted. 'Oh... Kami-sama...'
She shook her head. 'Sorry about this, Skoo-chan...'
'Sorry about what?!' Skuld demanded.
Urd bowed before her. 'Oh great Goddess... I have seen the error of my ways, and turned away from the path infernal towards the light! Please, show this unworthy one how I might follow the path of righteousness!'
'Sis...' Skuld stammered. 'A-are you okay?'
'Play along, kiddo...' Urd hissed. 'Unless you /really/ want him popping up everywhere for the rest of your life...'
'Um...Um... Bow before me, for I am the Megami men call Skuld, and on my path lies righteousness!' Skuld said.
'I too have seen the light!' Ssard boomed. 'Let us honour the one who has shown us the path of truth!'
'Yes!' Ryouga shouted. 'From this day onwards, I renounce my evil works, and seek to make the world a better place for one and all!! Praise be to holy Skuld!'
'Praise be to holy Skuld!!'
Urd nudged Kuno. 'Hey, bright boy...'
'Oh... Oh! Praise the noble and holy Skuld, who must surely rank among Kami-sama's most favoured daughters! Who doth have the power to turn demons, dragons, and sorcerers away from the fires of Hell!! Whose power outshines e'en that of the Sun herself! Who...'
As Kuno continued his declamation, Ryouga facefaulted. 'Oyyy...'
'You're telling me,' Urd said.
'Sis.... *help!*' Skuld wailed.
'Noble Kuno... the goddess has seen fit to hear thy prayer!' Ssard announced. 'But now, she must work on the conversion of the demons to the way of Heaven - a sight not even the purest of mortals could behold! No, not even a one such as you, worthiest amongst men! Go now, and in her name, do good works!'
Kuno knelt and raised his bokken. 'I go!'
Thunder rumbled behind him.
And with that, he was gone.
Urd shook her head wonderingly. 'How the /hell/ did you manage that?'
Ssard shrugged. 'The priest at my nest was a fundamentalist Orasian.'
'Oh Kami-sama... Onee-sama's gonna be so /angry/ when she hears 'bout this...' Skuld moaned.
'Oh, don't worry 'bout it...' Urd said. 'I'll have a word with her.'
'Um... you /do/ know he's going to be popping up to worship you everywhere you go...' Ryouga said.
'Where'd Ssard go?'
Urd eyed the police box on the lawn. 'He's... around.'
Ryouga followed her look. 'Oh...'
A /long/ silence.
Urd waved Skuld off. 'Just waiting...'
Skuld facefaulted. 'Oh no... You're not /still/ on that Holmes kick?! It's only a TV programme!'
'All right, all right, _be_ Little Miss Ineffable...' Skuld muttered.
Ssard stepped out of the police box, and closed the door behind him.
His eyebrows raised a notch at seeing the three of them still there.
He started to walk over to them.
And World of Elegance came forward.
Angelic wings reached out, encircling her.
Light and darkness.
Black and white.
And then... the angel disappeared.
Vanished into the machine.
Urd's face turned to regard her youngest sister.
Skuld gasped, and fell silent.
Angels... angels reflect our innermost souls.
When... when I got mine...
...I wondered... was it true?
*Was* I half-demon?
I still hoped, you see, that it might not be true... that an angel /didn't/ reflect your soul... Still hoped her wings would be pure... dreamed of it, so long...
But the reality... when I saw the reality...
...her black wing, where both should be white...
...When I had to face it... to realise the truth...
I... I /screamed/...
I said... "I never want to see you again!"...
Angels are utterly obedient, you see... She had no /choice/ but to obey...
And the only other one who knew... my mirror, my innermost self... my angel... she never came out again.
Because I /believed/ it. I /believed/ she would never come out...
But Bell reminded me... told me that an angel is utterly obedient... but obedient to their mistress' /soul/...
And I believed her. I wanted it, with all my heart and soul, had wanted it for so long, had been for so long without her, my other self, my other me...
I faced her, my other self...
And I understood.
And now she will be with me - we will be together - for so long as I live...
After so long...
It had been so long....
Fire circled and swirled around the police box, immolating it in its flames
And Urd watched, her expression never changing.
And the angel came forth from the machine.
And for a moment... just for a moment... her wings reached out...
...And perhaps, if you didn't imagine it...
...they gently reached out to touch one of those standing there...
...And perhaps you did imagine it...
World of Elegance settled back into Urd.
And Urd breathed out.
'What just happened?' Ssard asked calmly.
It was the kind of calmness that covered a deep and burning shock, a terrifying anger.
Urd closed her eyes. 'Heh...'
Something which might have been called a smile, by anyone who wasn't there to see it, twitched at Urd's mouth.
'You call *that* MAKING FRIENDS?!' Skuld squeaked.
Urd shrugged. 'In a sense... Call it... a communion of sorts. An... understanding.'
And maybe the burning dimmed a little.
And maybe not.
'And the Doctor?'
Urd's eyes widened. 'Oh... *OH*....'
Ssard's expression didn't change.
'He's... he's all right...' Urd said, finally.
She breathed out again. '...though he does... understand?... is aware of?... what just happened... and he's not unhappy.'
'Very well,' Ssard said.
Urd looked at him, then. 'She didn't want you to be caught in this. She asked if I'd wait, until you were out of this. And I agreed.'
While they spoke, Ryouga looked back at the hotel, not a little wistfully.
Then he facefaulted in realisation.
'Oh no... I think we'd better stay outside for the moment...'
'Kuno.' Ssard said.
'No problem.' Urd grinned. 'I know this /great/ little place where we can eat...'
Ssard looked back at the hotel. 'It /has/ been a long time since Stacy and I went out... but letting her know would be difficult, to say the least...'
Urd smiled again. 'No problem. How's she feel 'bout robots?'
'Robots?' Ssard blinked.
'Oh, Skoo-chan...' Urd said in her most charming voice. 'You wouldn't mind letting Banpei help them out now, would you... ?'
'Yuck!' Skuld said.
/Eventually/, they managed to persuade Skuld to let Banpei get ahold of Stacy (almost literally, given his lack of a voice).
And, once Stacy came down...
... they walked off together to a place where the meals were quiet, the people dozed in the shade, and the insanity was /at least/ at tolerable levels...
The Doctor sat at the drafting desk in his study, his pencil making smooth quick sketches on the paper.
The Doctor looked up and put his pencil down. 'Ssard. Everything going all right?'
Ssard nodded. 'Doctor. Yes, everything is fine. But I had one final request...'
Ssard pulled out a card.
Beneath it was a simple legend.
Two of Swords.
'I wondered if...'
'...I would make it your ID card?'
The Doctor smiled at Ssard's barely concealed twitch of surprise. 'Most of the others have already asked me that... It wasn't what I had in mind when I had them made...'
Ssard looked down.
'...But... I rather like the idea. It feels... appropriate, somehow.'
'You will do it?'
'Of course.' The Doctor looked down at what he had been drawing. 'First, I have to finish _this_... and then there's the anniversary...'
Ssard nodded. 'Of course. When do you expect to be finished?'
The Doctor's features were suddenly serious. 'In... hmm...
The Doctor shook his head. 'Sorry about that. That's the earliest I can start...'
Ssard almost smiled then, a wondering half-smile. 'No... no, that will be fine...'
The air folded and reshaped itself.
And a figure in a black robe stood on the lawn.
He looked at the TARDIS, nodded..
...then grinned massively.
/This/ would push the Auditors of Reality to breaking point.
Fate, Luck, Death... here, outside continuity, both inside and outside linear time...
Here, they bent and twisted the rules into something resembling (but not quite) a pretzel.
And to the Auditors, who embodied the rules, who despised chaos in all its forms...
...including the rather interesting one known as Life...
...it was... anathema.
And now, with Urd's communion...
He grinned again.
Soon enough, they would have no choice but to respond. He knew this.
And when they did...
Well, they'd see.
He concentrated, reached out, touched, /pulled/...
Deep inside the hotel, inside the AI that ran it...
...something long-buried, long unused...
...activated. Came to life.
Responded to a command.
And, in accordance with the command, the AI began to reshape a tiny corner of the hotel.
To rebuild it, from the mathematics up.
Equations. Points. Lines. Planes. Dimensions.
Size. Location. Mass.
/Program completed. Continue? Y/N/
The figure grinned. /Y./
/Thanks,/ the AI said. /Haven't had a chance to do this in *ages*.../
The figure bowed.
Then the air folded...
...and he was gone.
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat.