This takes place a few minutes before Helen Fayle's story 'Name Checks', and
should be considered a prequel.


by BKWillis

"Are we even supposed to be talking to each other like this?
Won't it screw up the continuity? Technically, we haven't met

Nabiki regarded the currently-female Number One with her usual
coolly superior glance. "Not to worry, Ichiban-chan*," she purred.
We're outside even the loose 'To Die For' continuity right now, so
it's no sweat. Just think of it like that 'Author Avatar Night'
deal." She spooned another bite of shave-ice into her mouth and
turned her thoughts back to Buffy and Willow, who she was al-
ready thinking of ways to make money off of.

It was rather an odd gathering, even by This Time Round's odd
standards, and one that Number One felt terribly out of place in.
Not only was she the only guy there (she was still 100% male in
mind and spirit, regardless of whatever her body happened to look
like at the time), but she was also the only one old enough to be
able to drink alcohol. Nabiki, her friend Sayuri, and the two Am-
erican girls were all teenagers, while the magenta-haired girl
across the table had, upon being asked, hazarded the guess that
she was pretty sure she was two years old. The girl, whose name
was either Atsuko or Nuku-Nuku depending on who you asked,
had declined further explanation, being intent on scarfing down
platter after platter of fish sticks.

"That's the really weird thing about this place, isn't it?" Sayuri
commented. "You can be outside any continuity, even the place's

"I get a headache thinking about it," Willow said with a grimace.

Number One knocked back a long gulp of Dos Equis, only to find
the magenta-haired girl staring intently at her arm. "What is that
mark, Ichiban-san?" The girl pointed at Number One's tattoo.
"It's made on you, like a serial number, but Nuku-Nuku doesn't
recognize the symbol."

The redhead grinned and held out her arm for Nuku-Nuku -- and
Sayuri -- to inspect the tattoo, which was of a white flag with a
red Cross of Saint Andrew in its middle. "That's the state flag of
Alabama," she explained. "It's the symbol of my home."

"Ooooh," Nuku-Nuku said, wide-eyed. "Nuku-Nuku doesn't have
any marks like that, but Eimi does." She giggled. "Eimi has her
Mishima serial number on her butt."

Buffy suddenly perked up and looked curiously at the door. "Who
in the world is that? She looks just like Number One."

They all turned to look as a woman entered who was, indeed, a
virtual twin to the Alabamian, except that her hair was far longer
and she had a long-barreled revolver strapped to her thigh.

"That would be Miss Ember Ashe, the psychopyretic demon hunter
from 'Lesser Evils'," Nabiki said with a smirk. She turned to Number
One. "Incidentally, isn't that the name you're going by in 'To Die
For', Ichiban-chan?"

"Ye-e-es..." the redhead replied uneasily.

"Well, I was just thinking that the real Ember Ashe might not
take very kindly to being impersonated. If she were to find out,
with her being so powerful..."

Number One sighed. "How much, Nabiki?"

The Japanese girl smiled broadly. "I figure my silence is worth at
least 10,000 yen. Plus you pick up my tab."

"Do you take travellers' checks?"

"Does Happosai like panties, Ichiban-chan?"

Exchange rates were calculated, and the proper amount of funds
changed hands.

"I don't know why I come here," the somewhat poorer redhead
groaned. "Mucking around outside continuity, there's just too
many ways to get in trouble."

"Just consider it an occupational hazard," Nabiki replied, carefully
stashing her earnings.

"Yeah, right, I-- OWWWWWW!" Number One suddenly grabbed
at her left arm in pain. There was a terrible burning sting right
about where her tattoo was. She looked to see what was the matter,
and before her astonished eyes the tattoo began to change. The
white flag turned red and the red cross turned to blue, with white
stars. "What in the Hell?" she gasped as the pain ebbed and the
tattoo's colors stopped shifting.

"Nuku-Nuku thinks that was a neat trick, Ichiban-san! Can you
do it again?"

"No, I... I didn't _do_ anything..." The redhead rubbed at the
tattoo, and it was as real as before, only now her arm bore a Con-
federate battle flag in place of the Alabama banner. "What the
Hell gives?"

Nabiki held out her hand. "That information is worth two hundred
yen, I think," she said, holding out a hand for payment. Word-
lessly, the redhead passed over another traveller's check.

"Ichiban-chan," Nabiki said after pocketing the money, "you have
just fallen victim to another occupational hazard of working in a
fictional, multi-authored environment."

"Wait. You don't mean..."

"Oh, yes. You've just become the victim of a minor retcon!"