On Thin Ice

Tatewaki Kuno shook his head. Ah, such firey passion from his pigtailed love. Soon enough, Saotome would unchain her from his unholy sorceries, and then would they be together for all time.

Still and enough, once noble Kuno had removed himself from the icy crater whence his love had flung him, he would once more rush to the pigtailed girl's side and proclaim his love.

A shadow fell across him, blocking out the sun (and, incidentally, the hole in the roof Kuno had left as he landed).

'You dare defile the sacred rink?!' demanded a low-born peasant, a fair-haired boy with barely the down of manhood on his cheeks, dressed against the cold. Before Kuno's own handsome looks, this boy was as naught but a simple pretty boy.

'Am I to be blamed if your humble rink served to break my fall?' Kuno inquired of the peasant. 'Rest assured, this day your rink has seen a nobler deed than any before, in breaking great Kuno's fall.'

'You have damaged the sacred rink. And for that, you will die!'

'So, the peasant dares to challenge me? Very well. But know that to go against Tatewaki Kuno is to lose before you begin!' Kuno reached for his bokken, only to find it was no longer there.

He looked around.

'Kawaii's' closest equivalent in English is 'cute'. However, 'cute' is insufficient to fully express the full range that 'kawaii' can cover. Cuteness. Bounciness sufficient to make flubber look like a lead brick. Brightness that makes the sun look like a burned out light bulb. Sweetness compared to which Pollyanna looks like she just ate the EU salt mountain.

All of these terms and more could be used, with remarkable accuracy, to describe the girl currently holding Kuno's bokken.

'Maiden... return to Kuno his bokken.' Kuno requested politely.

The girl clutched the bokken closer to her. 'Widdle Marie's *mine*!'

'Marie?' Kuno echoed. 'You call my bokken *Marie*?'

The boorish peasant coughed. 'Ahem. I am Mikado Sanzenin, and my partner, Azusa Shiratori, is the young lady who has taken a liking to your bokken. Together, we are the Golden Pair of Martial Arts Figure Skating.' He bowed.

Yelps and screams started coming from the men's toilets, as did several embarrassed men.

'Behold, varlets! The Lady Skuld herself has come to deliver the vengeance of Heaven upon thee!' Kuno declared.

A young girl with long black hair, blue circle markings, one each on her forehead and both cheeks, in a T-shirt and jeans, and with a hammer almost as big as she was strapped across her back, came running out of the toilet, shaking her head.

If anyone had been listening closely, they might have caught her mumbling '...just my luck I ported to the *men's* toilets...' under her breath.

Mikado took in the newcomer, and turned back to Kuno. 'Tatewaki Kuno needs a child to deliver Heaven's vengeance?'

'Though she be young in years, the full might of Heaven is hers to command!'


'I'll show him the might of Heaven...' the little goddess said through gritted teeth, as she stormed towards the rink's barrier. 'What's keeping Kamen Biker Chronos, anyway?'

'CHRONOS?! WHERE?!' several of the bystanders squeaked.

Skuld sighed. 'Not the actual one. Sorry.'

'Awww...' Looks of disappointment from the audience.

A Chinese boy in a biker's leathers, a young, blonde gaijin girl with chubby cheeks, in a tunic and trousers, and a well-built young man with a bandanna in his black hair, and a truly *massive* backpack slung across his back stumbled into the main rink.

Skuld rounded on the Chinese boy. 'Lee! *Finally!*'

'Sorry 'bout that. We got caught in traffic on the way.' Lee apologised.

'I thought the traffic was getting caught in /our/ way. At least, I could when we could stop screaming...' the blonde girl remarked.


People turned their heads at Mikado's explosion.

He jabbed a finger at the bandanna-wearing boy, oblivious to their attention. 'You. You too are one of those who dare to damage - to defile - the sacred rink! You, too... shall pay!'

Ryouga had the strangest feeling of deja vu.

It was just that, well...

...that was usually *his* line.



'Uh-uh,' Azusa said. 'Marie is *mine*!'

'And I shall begin by stealing your lovely partner's lips!' Mikado pronounced.

Ryouga blinked. He knew Mikado was a pervert, but even so... 'What, you mean Skuld?'

Mikado clasped a hand to his breast. 'Please. What do you think I am?'

'A sex-obsessed neurotic?' Ryouga muttered under his breath.

'I mean the blonde girl.' Mikado continued.

'My /name/ is Charley Pollard.' Charley said, calmly, coolly, and absolutely outraged. 'And what gives you the idea I'm going to let you kiss me and let you walk away standing?'

Mikado skated to a halt in front of Charley, ending up on one knee. 'Such fire... Should I win, then we shall date-'


Skuld removed her hammer from Mikado's head. 'Pervert.'

Mikado shook his head, as if to clear it. 'Ah, but were you a few years older-'


'Doesn't this guy think about anything else?' Skuld demanded.

'No.' Ryouga said. 'He's always been a sex-obsessed lunatic.'

'HAH!' Kuno declaimed. 'See, e'en now, how your debauched partner falls to Skuld's divine wrath. Return my bokken unto me, and mayhap I shall ask Skuld to show mercy to one so fair!'

'I was afraid of this. It's contagious,' Lee murmured sotto voce.

'Oooh... That hammer's so /cute/!' Azusa squeaked.

'Watch it, otherwise *this* gets implanted in /your/ skull!' Skuld said, pointing her hammer at Azusa.

In retrospect, that probably wasn't the brightest idea.

Skuld is a technological genius. When it comes to human interaction, though, she has the emotional maturity of any girl her (apparent) age.

Azusa, unfortunately, has the maturity of a four year old.

'Ooh, widdle Azusa want Michelle!' Azusa gushed, grabbing for the hammer's head.

'Michelle?' Charley said to no-one in particular.

'MICHELLE?!' Skuld roared. 'THIS IS *MY* HAMMER!'

'Michelle is *mine*.' Azusa pouted cutely. 'And so is Charlotte.'

'I BEG YOUR PARDON?!' Charley spluttered. 'I'M NOT YOURS!'

'I don't mean *you*, silly. I mean him.' Azusa pointed at Ryouga. 'He's my widdle Charlotte!'

'I...Uh... Er... That is, ah... Who's Charlotte?' Ryouga said intelligently.

'Widdle Azusa even made a widdle collar for her widdle Charlotte, all ready for when she came home with her.'

Lee whistled innocently. 'Somethin' you need to tell us... Charlotte?'

'_Please_ don't...' Charley said.

'And now she's /found/ him again!' Azusa glomped Ryouga tightly. 'Now she can take you home, and pet you, and cuddle you...'

Unfortunately, in Asuza's rush to get hold of Skuld's hammer, she had dropped Kuno's bokken, allowing the kendoist to retrieve it.

'Maiden... what dost thou mean, calling my fellow in Skuld "Charlotte"?'

'*His* fellow in Skuld?' the goddess in question echoed.

'He's my pet piggy-wiggy!' Azusa retorted, glomping Ryouga even tighter.

'He doesn't know about P-chan, does he?' Charley said rhetorically.

Ryouga shook his head.

Lee snapped his fingers. 'Wait a minute... "Charlotte"'s /P-chan!/ Hey, does that mean-'

Ryouga flushed bright red. 'NO IT DOES /NOT/! P-CHAN IS A /BOY/!!'

'No he's not. She's Charlotte, aren't you?!'

'Maiden... are you perhaps touched in the head, to call this doughty warrior a pig - and to call him a woman's name?' Kuno inquired.

'Look who's talking...' Ryouga muttered under his breath.

Charley winced. Off Skuld's baffled look, she explained 'Sorry. Bad memories.'

Azusa shook her head, her fair hair bouncing. 'Uh-uh. He's my pet piggy Charlotte!'

'I will not stand for this!' Kuno declaimed. 'I, Tatewaki Kuno, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, do declare that-'


Charley blinked.

'Whoa..' Lee breathed. 'I didn't even /see/ that!'

Ryouga was suddenly unglomped (and able to breathe again). Skuld's hammer had disappeared from her hands. And Azusa...

Azusa waved Skuld's hammer from near Kuno's impact crater. 'Come and get iiiiit...'

'GRRR...' Skuld's eyes narrowed, focusing on her hammer.

The hammer trembled.

Azusa blinked, and stared at it. 'Michelle? Is something wrong?'

Skuld took a deep breath, releasing the tension, and focused on her hammer again.

The hammer suddenly jerked in Azusa's hands.

'Oh no. Widdle Azusa not letting you go like that! Bad Michelle!' Azusa scolded the hammer.

'This's getting /surreal/...' Lee murmured. 'Kinda like the good old days, huh?'

'This is positively run of the mill for surreality.' Charley assured him.


Skuld's forehead symbol glowed.


The hammer jerked out of Azusa's hands, and floated into the air.

'MICHELLE! COME BACK!!' Azusa wailed.

The hammer floated across-

-and landed with a firm 'whump' in Skuld's outstretched hand.

Skuld's symbol dimmed, returning to its normal blue.

Charley and Ryouga's jaws dropped. As did most of the bystanders'.

'Simple telekinesis.' Skuld explained. 'Neat, huh?'

'HAH!' Kuno declaimed. 'See how the power of holy Skuld overcomes all obstacles!'

'Oh jeez...' Lee muttered. 'Can't you use it to shut him up?'

'Don't think I haven't tried.' Skuld said, eyes on the enraged kendoist.

'CHARLOTTE!!' Azusa wailed, glomping Ryouga again. 'THE NASTY LITTLE GIRL TOOK MICHELLE!!'

'Little?' Skuld echoed dangerously.

Charley rubbed her temples. 'This is getting confusing...'

'No it isn't.' Lee said. 'You're Charley, he's Charlotte, and the hammer's Michelle.'

'V-Very funny.' Ryouga scowled.

'Desist, woman! Or face the wrath of mighty Skuld!' Kuno boomed.

'Yeah! Let him go, or face my ...er... mighty wrath!' Skuld was most /definitely/ not going to mention that she'd taxed her power to the limit as it was.

'AZUSA WANTS HER WIDDLE CHARLOTTE!' Azusa howled, in a voice that would have shattered glass.

'FOR GOD'S SAKE, AZUSA, WILL YOU SHUT UP ABOUT CHARLOTTE?!' Mikado roared from the ground. 'Anyone can see he's /not/ a pig!'


'Wearing a pig's collar? Never would have thought it of the Hibiki boy.' a voice in the crowd observed.

'Really?' someone else said. 'I would.'

Ryouga's blush grew even deeper.


'Oh, kinky, too...'

At this point, quite understandably, Ryouga's panic mechanism kicked in.

Unfortunately, Ryouga's main panic mechanism is to scream, flap his arms, and run through any walls, leaving piles of rubble in his wake. Equally unfortunately, the only wall in his way - the same one Azusa was glomping him over - led to the ice rink.

End result...

'YAAAAAAHHH!!! I CAN'T SKATE!!' Ryouga howled, from the middle of the ice rink.

'Ooh,' Azusa moaned, from where she'd landed on top of Mikado, knocking him unconscious once more. 'Widdle Charlotte plays rough...'

'Stop wailing like a woman, Hibiki!' Kuno said, taking a step forward. 'A true warrior is prepared-unk!'

He took another step, and fell flat on his face.

'Well, we'd better get them.' Charley paused. 'Um, I can't skate, either. Um, can either of you-'

Lee and Skuld shook their heads "uh-uh".

'Still... we've got to get him...' Charley decided.


'Okay... Lee, don't let go of the wall.'

'No chance,' Lee said, one arm firmly hooked over the barrier.

'Skuld, do you have a hold of him?'

The little goddess nodded. 'Yep.'

'All right. Now, keep steady...' Charley reached out an arm to the flailing Ryouga.

Kuno, rather more sensibly - inasmuch as the term can be applied to Kuno - remained laid out.

'Come on... Come on, just a little closer...' Charley urged.

Ryouga reached out an arm.

'That's it... only a little closer...'

'YES!' Ryouga clutched onto Charley's arm as if it were his last lifeline.

Charley staggered at the sudden strength on her arm.

And lost her grip on Skuld.


You know, a tiny part of Ryouga's brain observed, she has very pretty eyes. Sort of a stormy blue...

The rest of him was less concerned with Charley's eye colour, and far more concerned that there was a girl lying on top of him.

Girl. Lying on him.

He could feel the familiar gushing feeling welling up again.

Oh *brilliant*.

'Okay...' Skuld said, unhooking her hammer from its straps across her back. 'Grab hold of this.'

Charley tried to lever herself up and over to the hammer. The ice made it difficult to lever her hand into the right position, but eventually...

'EEEK! PERVERT!!' Skuld squeaked.

Charley fell forward again.

'What was /that/ about?!' Lee wondered.

'He had a nosebleed!' Skuld protested.

'Let's...' Charley's voice was muffled by Ryouga's clothes, 'try that again, shall we?'

'Perhaps if you allowed me.'

Charley looked up, her head still ringing from the fall.

Mikado Sanzenin was standing over her, his arm outstretched. 'Never let it be said that I am anything less than gracious towards my opponents.'

Charley reached up, and took Mikado's hand.

He helped her stand up. 'Alas, that such a one as you is denied the beauty of skating... I would rage against the heavens themselves for such an injustice.'

Charley looked down at her hand, and then back up at Mikado. 'Oh no...'

The ringing in her head grew louder.

She snatched her hand away. 'Forget it. If you're doing this just so you can steal a kiss - sorry, but I make it a point never to kiss strange men.'

Ryouga hauled himself up, rage bubbling up inside him.

'Get. Away. From. Her...'

He slashed at Mikado's legs.

But before the blow could connect, Mikado had lifted his legs underneath him, letting the blow pass through without connecting.

'What...?' Lee breathed.

Mikado landed, spraying ice in Ryouga's face, and took Charley's hand. 'Strange? Perhaps - but I feel as if we are but destined soulmates, destined to be lovers.'

Skuld's mouth twisted in disgust. 'YUCK!'

Her hand glowed-

-and "YUCK!" stamped itself across Mikado's face, sending him staggering. Just a little-

-but it was enough.

Ryouga rolled, and *kicked*-

-and very shortly, Mikado Sanzenin found himself in low Earth orbit, courtesy of Kuno's hole in the roof.

'Note to self,' he observed to himself. 'Blondes are /not/ more fun.'



'You okay, Diane?' Heather asked worriedly.

Diane rubbed her nose. 'Fine, fine,' she reassured her Adric Defense Force colleague. 'Could have sworn someone was talking about me, though...'

'Probably that poor boy you snogged senseless...' Heather observed wryly.

'Oh, come on. It's been ages, and it wasn't *that* spectacular... was rather nice, though. Mmm, tongue...'


Charley sighed. 'Honestly. You can't go anywhere here without getting glomped by a pervert.'

'Occupational hazard.' Ryouga observed, as he got to his feet.

'Ryouga...' Charley said. 'is there /anything/ that stops old enemies coming after you?'

'Not that I'd noticed. Why?'

'I think Charley's thinking 'bout back home. Back there, the bad guys don't usually come after you once the story's done.' Lee supplied, from his position by the barrier. 'Not much point if it's a companion - or one of the Docs - you're after, we're probably gonna be needed in a story sooner or later, and even if you try, we still come back... same goes for the monsters, too, so... everyone usually gets along.'

'That's part of it...' Charley acknowledged. She shook her head. 'I don't know... there's nothing stopping them, nothing but that we're needed, and apart from that, they could try anything they liked?' She groaned. 'Oh, my /head/...'

'Pretty much..' Lee said, concern touching his voice. This wasn't like Charley... 'Hey, Charley, wanna sit down for a while?'

'I... I don't know...' Charley admitted. 'I don't know... It's... OW!' She winced.

'What is it?' Lee said.

'Something's coming for me. Something's coming after me...' Charley's face screwed up. 'Why is it so hard to *think*? Not /yet/, but it's coming... three months at /most/...' She scrunched her eyes closed. 'And it wants me, it /is/ me...'

'Charley?' Ryouga stepped back.

Charley's eyes opened.

They were filled with storms.


The blast knocked the others to their knees.

'GET OUT!!' Ryouga screamed, as the winds started to howl. 'AKIRA ALERT! GET OUT NOW!'

The onlookers didn't need a second warning.

Within seconds, the rink was clear.

'WHAT'S HAPPENING?!' Skuld yelled.

'ADAPTATION!!' Ryouga began to push himself up against the wind. 'SHE'S ADAPTING!!'

Kuno hauled himself up, but was almost knocked to his knees. 'NO!'

He hauled himself up again, the winds battering at his body, using his bokken to support himself, his face a mask of rage.

'I... WILL... NOT... BE... STOPPED...!'

'I can hear them.' Charley's voice was soft and quiet, almost gentle, but it carried over the winds.

'I hear the people sobbing, praying, hear the flames crackling, burning...

'The airship screaming around me, as it rushes towards its final end.

'The Doctor never saved me. He was never here.'

'Oh jeez...' Lee whispered. 'Oh jeez, Charley...'

'What is it...?' Skuld whispered. 'What's she /saying/?'

Impossibly, Kuno began to raise his bokken.

Charley's voice was remorseless, relentless. 'I know then.'


'I know that this is where the lightning first strikes. Where the storm begins.'


'Where the web begins to fall apart.'


'Where I should have died.'


The winds howled, louder and louder and *louder*-

Lightning struck, filling the world with bright, searing, painful *white*-

When it faded, the rink was empty.


To be continued...


Copyright 2002 Imran Inayat