Stand and Shake The HeavensEdit
In order to fully understand this, you must first have read, A Life Once Lived. If you don't feel like reading it, you may end up a tad confused. But just in case, I've included the following. Skip by if you already know.
What has gone beforeEdit
Six years ago, a deceptively powerful sorcerer known as Kenoru Ono succeeded in attaining the impossible. Killing Ranma Saotome, and severely wounding and scarring Shampoo and Mousse. His wife, Akane, mourned for a long time before remarrying Ryouga Hibiki. The two had a child together, which was born the same time as Ranko Saotome, the new daughter of Genma and Nodoka. Much had changed over the years. Ukyou had left for America, Nabiki had taken over the Ucchans, and Kuno had regretted his past actions.
But everything came crashing back one day, nearly eight months prior to our current story. Ranma Saotome came back, as a HellSpawn. A super-powered version of himself with the power of hell backing him. After making a deal with the devil himself, a creature known only as Malebolgia, he found his way back to Earth and regained his memory. Soon, things started to pop up everywhere. Mousse had returned, and rejoined Ranma's quest for vengeance against Kenoru. Ryouga and Akane learned the truth of Ranma's presence, as did his parents with Tatewaki and Kodachi. Before long, the entire team, plus Kinami Yabui, a talented young martial artist set out for revenge, meeting up with Happosai, Shampoo and Kei Tarou, formerly known as Pantyhose.
During the assault on Kenoru's restaurant, Tofu learned the truth of his brother, Kenoru. And a certain hunter located her next prey. Angela, an Angel warrior found Ranma, the current Hellspawn and fought him to a standstill. That was when she realized something. His eyes did not resemble those of a Hellspawn. Working together, they bound Kenoru to purgatory, cursing his body and soul to eternal nothingness, and broke up.
A week later, Angela returned with a message for Ranma. He was no longer a Hellspawn. And, in return for goofing up on Ranma's appointment after death, Heaven had restored life to the young martial artist, under the condition that he works as a warrior for Heaven. One of the only mortal Angel's ever.
Which leads us to this point... nearly eight months after the start of Ranma's new career.
Prologue: Project ConcordeEdit
"For I am crystal chrome, And I am shatter dome, And I am kremlin king of Angels avenged, To destroy the end..." ~ The End is the Beginning is the End - Smashing Pumpkins
Project: Concorde was a simple undertaking. It was a project run by a private laboratory in conjunction with the United States Department of Defense to experiment on, and subsequently meddle with the fabric of reality itself. While some would argue that nothing could be further from the truth, the truth was that nobody, not even the lead scientists within the project knew what the hell they were doing.
Oh, they would argue with that as well, of course. And they'd probably win the argument by spouting line after line of scientific theorem, possibly having something to do with equal volume displacement or complexity theory (although the basics of complexity theory itself state that nothing will go right), but nothing could change the truth. The truth was that they were messing with forces that they never understood, or even thought of.
They were trying direct mass teleportation. Though the idea itself was not impossible by any stretch of the imagination, the means in which they pursued the idea was just wrong.
Unbeknownst to the United States Department of Defense, or even the civilian scientists involved with the project, the technology already existed to undertake such an action. The only problem was that it was a technology only applied to the higher powers. Heaven and Hell, to put a fine point on it.
Some were able to do it by sheer will. Others, preferred to use machines or magical rituals to do by it. Either way, it had the same end result. Teleportation of mass from one point in space, to another.
The only difference was, they were doing it a different way. While the higher powers tended to deconstruct Figure A in order to send it to Point B, whereupon Figure A will be reconstructed fully intact, the scientists at the private laboratory just outside of Los Angeles, California had other ideas.
Capturing a large chunk of mass at one point in space, and transferring it instantly to another point. It simply couldn't be done like that. Not unless, of course, you wanted to mess with the fabric of reality.
Which brings us to a small private laboratory, where just such an experiment is taking place.
"Status?" the lead scientist asked.
"Power levels steady," another answered. "No spikes for the past few minutes. Volume displacement nodule is at minimum capacity."
Each of the twenty people present at the experiment looked upon a small pedestal in the center of the room. On said pedestal, a small mouse sat in a cage, running on its wheel.
"Okay, people," the lead stated. "We're ready to power up. Minnie should appear on the second pedestal in about thirty seconds."
Almost everyone present crossed their fingers, toes, held onto crosses, and prayed in general.
"Sir, there's a spike in the power levels," someone said. "Shut down the experiment?"
"No!" the lead shouted. "We've come too far. Level off the spike and continue countdown."
"Yes sir," he continued, then started to drain power from the main system, ready to level it off as soon as he could.
"Power levels nominal," he stated.
The lead scientist rubbed his hands together. This was it. Now was coming the moment of triumph. The moment he had waited his entire professional career, nay... his life to reach, and now it was here.
He listened intently as another scientist counted it down, and when it reached zero, he focused directly on Minnie.
"Sir! Another spike!" someone exclaimed.
The scientist turned quickly. "What? I thought you were watching it!"
A bright light began to flood the room, in quick crackling motions. Almost like miniature lightning. The scientist trained his eyes on Minnie as the power levels generated around her began to suck her into the system. The power levels were too high, though! It would fry Minnie, and probably much of the system!
He never finished the sentence. Instead, he, and most of the twenty present within the laboratory were sent sprawling back as a noisy boom echoed throughout the facility.
When he stood up again, he looked at the pedestal. Minnie was gone. The other pedestal was equally as empty.
"Where's Minnie?" someone said.
A moment later, they were answered. With another boom, the entire room began to flicker around them. Flashes of a barren wasteland, with high, mountainous peaks that loomed in the distance stained their senses. It was as if it was overlaying the lab itself, although it was still there. Almost as soon as it had appeared, it disappeared.
"What the hell was that?" the lead scientist asked, picking himself up from the ground. He quickly went over to check the system. He sighed in relief. It was still intact.
Slowly, he turned toward the test area, to see if Minnie was back. His jaw dropped in shock.
There, in the place of the pedestal on which Minnie stood, was a young girl. A blonde, no older than sixteen.
"Oh, shit," he swore. He realized what must have happened. The damn system read the wrong way and Minnie traded places with some chick from outside the lab. A street kid, by the looks of her. "Some girl from the city. Damn, we'll have to take care of her and start over."
The girl looked around in abstract fear. The facility frightened her. Rightly so, anyone would be frightened if they just suddenly appeared somewhere else without so much of a warning.
"Perdit!" she exclaimed, gathering a mixed response from those within the lab. "Perdit hanoosa! Garthim!"
"I think she's from farther away from the city," someone said.
The lead scientist narrowed his eyes on the girl. She looked frightened. Frightened beyond belief, in fact... But her fear didn't seem to be directed toward the lab, or even the twenty people present... it was something else.
"Go... get her out of there," he said, motioning toward the testing area.
"Perdit! PERDIT!" she exclaimed.
That's when all hell broke loose. The skylight caved in, and those within the lab found the sun blocked by a great mass that came flying in at an immense speed.
It moved quickly, sending machine upon body flying. Claws slicing through flesh and bone, and screams left filling the air.
The lead scientist yelped in shock. What the hell was it? It moved too fast, it could have been--
No, it was evil. He had to leave, get out of there before it killed him. It had already killed most of those within the lab, it was destroying them at an exponential rate. Killing, killing.
He had to run. Had to go. He felt a warm liquid run down his leg as he witnessed another of his men dismembered by the Beast. Run. Run, he had to run.
Suddenly, he pitched forward, speeding. He had to move faster, faster or the thing would--
Pounce. He felt himself pushed to the ground, and only then did he see the blackness. The evil. The bloodlust contained within the Beast. It stared back at him and seemed to laugh. Seemed to say, 'Where are you going, little man? You think you can outrun me? Outrun the evil? It is impossible, for I am Hell, and I contain Hell within me. Gaze upon me and fear, for I am your death, your destruction.'
Of course, it really hadn't said that, but dramatics had always been important to the man. The thing sliced his belly open and leaned down to drink. Only then could he see past the beast. Only then could he see the girl, who watched in abstract fear. She seemed to hover over him, silently gliding over the Beast.
The last thing he saw before the life slipped away from him, was the image of the young girl, flying out through the skylight with a pair of golden, butterfly-like wings.
In a place outside of the normal realm of what we called Earth, existed a place of Angels. It was known only to the Angels and their direct opposites, although such entities were forbidden to enter the holy place.
It was called the Aethyr. Normally, beings within the Aethyr radiating calm and loving, as armed as they may be. This day, however, brought grave warnings.
"I have seen it and still it beckons trouble," the wisest of all Angels, Urania said as she looked deep into the crystal ball in her hands. She looked to her younger apprentice. "Mnemosyne, have you seen into the Tear and witnessed events as they have happened?"
Mnemosyne, a small Angel, merely nodded. "I have, your Grace. What foreboding fills you?"
"The newcomers. They are not natural," she sighed. "I seek guidance from the Throne. Transmit what we have seen."
Mnemosyne nodded and knelt to one knee and cupped her hands by her temples. A great emerald light shot up from her head, and moments later a similar light shot back down. Mnemosyne stood up at looked to Urania.
"The Throne has seen, and understands in earnest the implications," Mnemosyne said. "He is sending the leaders of the great squadrons to meet here in The Aethyr."
"Does He have a solution?" Urania asked.
Mnemosyne looked into the Tear of God and nodded. "He does. Look."
Urania looked and gasped. It was rare that the Throne controlled what she saw within the Tear, but this was a rare event. Within the tear, Urania saw a young man, dressed in white. With great skill he leapt from the street, chasing a lowly class one demonic entity. More curiously, however, he held within his hands the staff, the weapon of the Angel, yet he was mortal. Urania smiled, and understood.
"We must send a message, then," Urania said.
Mnemosyne nodded. "It has already been done."
"Waaaaahooooooo!!" the little impish creature exclaimed as Ranma punted it out of yet another body. Ranma swore to himself as he leapt over the man who the demon had inhabited just a moment prior. The man shook his head in shock.
If he had known how to take care of it when he had encountered it years ago, he would have done so without thought. But then, at that time, he didn't have his ribbons handy.
Ranma pulled his staff out from behind him. He usually kept it in a sort of null-space, as did most Angels, but this little imp was so fast and wiry, he needed it handy.
The ribbons attached to his staff flailed wildly, each ribbon reaching outward toward the imp. The first time he had dealt with the thing, it had infested Kasumi. After so much trouble, it had been put back in the box, only for Ranma to learn that the box itself broke and it was free again.
Now, all these years later, the thing decides to break out yet again. And it was from hell. He should've known.
"Come back here, you little freak!" he exclaimed, jumping wildly at the thing. God, it was tricky.
The call had been normal enough. Just a random check on his voicemail, and Ranma finds he's got a new case. Simple enough. Report to a local temple and help contain a simple class one demonic entity. Ranma could take class three's in his sleep, and he did end up taking out a class five during his days as a Hellspawn. But this little thing was beyond class one! It was as annoying as hell and twice as tricky... for such a little thing!
"Listen to me you little freak!" Ranma exclaimed, goading the attention of the imp. "Don't you remember me?"
The imp stopped momentarily and stuck its tongue out at Ranma. "Twirly-whirly-wheee!"
"They've gotta have senses of humour, don't they?" he muttered to himself. He looked up at the imp again. "I guess that means yes," he said. "Well, I've got news for ya!"
The imp continued to chuckle.
"I'm an Angel now, you freak from Hell!" Ranma whipped his ribbons upwards toward the imp, just as it floated out of range. It seemed even more wiry now, like it was merely playing before.
"Oh, no you don't," Ranma said, jumping into the air and hooking an arm on an overhanging streetlight. He flipped into the air and came down on the imp, landing on it with his feet and crushing it into the ground. The imp squealed as it struggled to get loose.
"Not so tough now, are you? Bean, my ass." He willed his ribbons toward the imp and sliced it to bits. The imp, of course, disappeared with an audible pop.
Ranma grimaced. "I hate it when they do that." He put his staff back into nullspace and leaned against the wall. It was better than Pop's workouts in the respect that it frustrated him more, but he was glad to have it over.
Ranma's past year as an Angel had done wonders for him. Sure, there was still his curse to deal with, but his new career gave him ample distraction. Besides, he found himself bonded to his curse, like it was just a simple extension of his being.
Besides, it was great for undercover work. He'd utilized the curse on many occasions to hide from his prey during the odd case. Mainly, he dealt with possessions, but from time to time, there would be a class three demon hanging about the sewers, feasting on transients and such. Sometimes incubi or succubi would pop up, and his curse was increasingly useful under such conditions.
Lately, however, he had found himself letting his talents go to waste. They had been sticking him with class one or two entities, and it had gotten fairly monotonous. Still, there were always the alternatives. He now taught at the Tendo Dojo alongside Ryouga, Soun and even Akane or his father on occasion. Getting to know his little sister and Akane and Ryouga's son, who bore the same name as him.
Getting over Akane wasn't easy, but it was something that had to be done. He couldn't say he was completely happy with what had happened, but it was unexpected. After all, they thought him dead for five years.
Scratch that, he WAS dead for five years. Five years that could never be regained.
The shitty part was that Ranma was still only seventeen, while all of his friends and allies were now in their twenties.
Nabiki and Kinami stopped by every now and then, bringing news of good business moves, and the opening of a second restaurant in Kyoto. The Yakuza failed to bother Nabiki after hearing of what Ranma did just after his return. There were still rumours of 'The Red Ghost' that protected Nabiki and her family to no end.
Tatewaki had eventually married a girl he had been crushing on for several months. A western girl named Lily who had come to Japan to teach English. They were expecting their first child within the next three months.
Kodachi, on the other hand, had not fared as well. She began to harbour her old feelings for Ranma and once again took on the guise of the Black Rose. Soon later, she had been committed.
Mousse had came back to Japan after tying his loose ends in China, a brief pit stop on the way to America, where he was going to start a magician's act. Things didn't exactly go as planned, and Mousse ended up working for a man named McMahon in America. He became a professional wrestler.
Ukyou's fame had actually stepped up a notch while in America. A famous martial artist actor had discovered her while shooting a film out there and offered her a job on the spot. Ukyou was now a big name in Hollywood, and she was living in the lap of luxury, with a rich and equally famous boyfriend.
Shampoo never returned from China. The last Ranma had heard was that her rightful place within the tribe was returned to her upon news of Kenoru's death. Ranma was proud of her, but still refused to let her know that he still lived.
Kei Tarou still hung about California, in fact, the way Ranma understood it, he was trying to work his way up as an actor, and was constantly bugging Ukyou for a helping hand. She had helped him get auditions galore, but he never got a part. Ranma assumed it was simply because he sucked at acting.
As for the others... Kenoru, God damn his soul, was still rotting away in purgatory, and would continue to do so for a long time to come. Tofu and Kasumi had moved to Honshu after Tofu was offered a spot in a rather large and well-known practice. Count Cogliostro, whoever that old coot really was, left. Ranma hadn't seen him since his days as a Spawn.
Angela, on the other hand, he saw frequently. She had stopped in from time to time, usually just to say hello and see how things were going. She never said much, just that she had a problem with the Celestial Council and she would have to 'sod off' for a little while. She also mentioned for Ranma to try and keep away from New York for a little while.
And so, for Ranma, life continued on. Still living in his old room at the dojo, still practicing the art, still protecting the Earth from the minions of hell. Life was good.
Sighing, Ranma stretched and stepped out into the street. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small black object and flipped it open. He still wasn't used to such advances, but he had to admit... cell phones were pretty cool. He dialed a number and proceeded to check his voicemail.
"Hello? Is this thing recording?" It was Mr. Tendo. "Yes well, umm... could you tell Ranma that the afternoon classes are canceled? Ryouga got lost again and Akane's having a problem finding him so we'll have to wait on him."
Ranma sighed. Figures. He pressed a button on his phone.
"Ranma, this is Akane." Ranma scoffed. As if he couldn't recognize her voice. "Listen, if you see Ryouga anywhere can you give me a call and let me know where? Thanks, see you at dinner this weekend. Bye!"
He pushed another button.
"Ranma, it's me." He could have guessed. Ryouga. "I tried calling Akane and Dad, but they're not home. Probably out looking for me. If you hear from them could you tell them I'm near a really big white wall next to a row of houses? There's a bunch of students around-- oh wait. I'm at Furinkan! Err... okay, can you tell them where I am if you hear from them? Bye."
Ranma pushed the button once more.
"*SERAPHIC PRAETOR RANMA SAOTOME, LEVEL FIVE ANGELIC ENTITY. REPORT TO CELESTIAL EMBASSY--TOKYO IMMEDIATELY.*"
Whoa. This was new. That was the first time he'd heard that voice. It was usually Gabrielle, his case worker, who assigned his missions. This... was an anomaly. The voice was commanding, to the point, and definitely strange.
Shrugging, he started on his way to the embassy, making a quick pit-stop by Furinkan on his way.
The Celestial Embassy in Tokyo was not much of a sight to behold. It didn't stand out in any regards, and to the general public, much resembled a simple looking hostel located three blocks within the slums. Of course, nobody entered it, and nobody really thought of entering it. Whether it was because of people just not caring or some magic force repelling against the very idea of associating with such a hostel, Ranma didn't know.
Of course, Ranma didn't see a hostel. Not in any aspect. What Ranma saw stood out in the dilapidated area of Tokyo. What Ranma saw was a great building, almost as tall as any other in Tokyo, trimmed with gold and glass, and a sign at the base stating that the building was, in fact, the Celestial Embassy, Tokyo chapter.
Ranma had knowledge of at least five other embassies within what the Angel's called 'The Terrestrial Sphere'. The one here in Tokyo, as well as one each in Hong Kong, Vancouver, Los Angeles, New York and Paris. He was certain there were more, in fact... much more, but Ranma never took the time nor had the interest to learn of them.
Right now, he was busy grumbling to himself. Walking into the embassy, he stepped up to the front desk, and flashed his ID badge to the receptionist. She nodded and allowed him to pass. Moments later, he was in the elevator, on his way up to the eighty-first floor.
When the elevator opened, he stepped out, walked down the hall and entered an office he had so many times prior.
"Gabrielle," he greeted, walking up to his case worker as she sat at her desk.
"Ranma," Gabrielle greeted. "Good work. Payment should be transferred into your account by the end of the day."
"What's with the funky voicemail?" Ranma asked, leaning against the wall.
"I'm sorry?" Gabrielle asked.
"I got a weird voicemail. All official-sounding and stuff. Called me by my title, and told me to report here," Ranma said.
Gabrielle furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. "I don't think... hold on a second." She flipped on her computer screen and tapped a few buttons while Ranma toyed casually with Gabrielle's perpetual motion machine.
A moment later, Gabrielle's eyes went wide open. "Oh my..."
"What?" Ranma asked. "What's wrong?"
"This is from high up, Ranma," Gabrielle said. "And I mean HIGH."
"Eh?" Ranma asked. "You mean the big guy?"
"Not quite that high, but it might as well be. Urania."
Ranma blinked. "Who?"
"Urania? Matriarch of the Celestial Council?"
"Never heard of her."
"Let's just say that the big guy usually gets in touch with her... personally."
"What's up, then? What's Uranus, or whatever her name is, want?"
"Urania," Gabrielle corrected. "And I'm not quite sure. All I can tell you that it's class one priority."
"Something that threatens to bring time itself to an end," Gabrielle said. "And you need to get to Los Angeles."
"Los Angeles?" Ranma asked. "Whoa, what's going on?"
"No idea, but when Urania wants a Ranma, she GETS a Ranma. Best be on your way."
"How am I supposed to get to LA? I mean, do you got plane tickets or am I finding my own way?"
Gabrielle looked up. "Let's not worry about a plane. Come with me."
Ranma blinked in surprise as Gabrielle stood up from her desk. She almost NEVER gets up from that desk.
"Where are we going?"
"Up to one-hundred," Gabrielle said.
"One-hundred?" Ranma asked. "I thought everything above ninety was eyes only access!"
"Yes, well. Looks like your eyes count now. Besides, it's the only way you're gonna get to LA," she said. "Hold on a second."
Ranma followed her in silence as she picked up her cell and flipped it open. She dialed a number and then began to speak.
"Michelle?" she asked. "It's me. Look, we've got a problem."
Ranma's eyebrow twitched.
"Ranma's been tagged by Urania for class one priority."
Ranma watched in interest as Gabrielle pulled the phone from her ear as shouts of surprise rang throughout the corridor.
"I know. We need to get him to LA, but I need a senior Angel's authorization for the teleportation."
Ranma blinked. "Teleportation?" he asked.
Gabrielle put her finger up, pausing Ranma from speaking any further. "Right," she spoke into the phone. "Okay, I'll send him off them get the paperwork to you right away. Seeya." She pushed a button and flipped the phone shut as they stepped into the elevator. She pulled a card from her pocket and slid it into the card reader, then pressed the indicator for the one-hundredth floor.
"Teleportation?" Ranma asked. "You can do that?"
"Yeah," Gabrielle said as the elevator began to rise. "But it's not a fine art."
"So... you're saying it needs some work," he said. "Look, I'd rather fly if it's all the same to you. I'd rather not materialize in solid stone."
"No time," Gabrielle said as the doors opened. Two Angels stood guard at the door and eyed Gabrielle and Ranma warily. "Michelle authorized the transit," she told them.
"Time? I'm not talking time. I'm talking about being mixed with granite!"
"Won't happen," she said. "The Throne developed this, and if the Throne did it, it's pretty flawless."
"But you said it needs work," Ranma said.
"I said it's not a fine art," Gabrielle corrected.
"Close enough, look--"
"We don't have time to argue, Ranma," she said. "Step onto the pad."
Ranma blinked. "Uhh. I'm not sure--"
"Just do it," she barked.
With a sigh of resignation, he did so.
"Okay, you're all set," she said as she pushed a few keys in the console in front of her. "You'll be there in no time."
"You sure this is safe?"
"Safe? Totally," Gabrielle said.
Ranma sighed. "Okay."
Ranma smiled. "Thanks."
"Oh, and Ranma?" Gabrielle asked.
"This may hurt. Alot."
"Wha--" Ranma couldn't continue... because he simply wasn't there anymore.
Imagine, if you will, the pain involved in ripping yourself to pieces. To have your particles gather in the wind like a microscopic sandstorm.
Imagine being completely alive and conscious while such an event occurs. Feeling your skin ripped from its body, your organs rearranged to carry-on size. Your eyeballs turning to dust and your pain receptors registering every movement, every motion as each individual particle is shot across a great distance. A distance of thousands of miles. Through earth, through ocean.
Now imagine the pain involved in having just the opposite occur. The pain involved of rebuilding your skeletal structure, particle by particle, bone by bone. Organ by muscle and tendon and nerve. And finally, your skin, hair and clothing.
All that and more could not describe how much Ranma Saotome was hurting.
"--t? GAH!" Ranma hopped around as if he were on fire. "Goddammit! That hurt! Holy--"
"I'd watch what you say," a woman said, appraising Ranma. "After all, you ARE in a Celestial Embassy."
Ranma frowned. "She could have warned me, you know," he said to the woman. After a sigh, he reached his hand forward. "Ranma Saotome. I've never been teleported before."
"I know who you are, Mr. Saotome. You've raised quite a stir and a bit of controversy among Celestial Representatives over the past year," the woman said. "Not to mention scaring the wits out of us after what you did to The Violator, barely a day after receiving your Hellspawn powers."
Ranma frowned. "I'm not a Hellspawn anymore."
"No, you're not," the woman said. "You're not even an Angel... not completely, anyway." She started to walk out of the room, pausing for a moment to look back at Ranma. "Coming?"
Ranma snapped out of his reverie and started to follow, keeping up with the woman without many problems.
"So," he began. "Are you Urania?"
The woman seemed the chuckle. "No, my name is Celeste. Urania rarely ever comes down to the Terrestrial Sphere."
"Really? Then how am I supposed to meet with her? I got this weird voicemail, next thing I know Gabrielle is freaking out about some kinda class one priority mission. It's a little weird if you ask me."
"Well," Celeste began. "I can't say for sure I know what's going on. But I know what I was asked to do."
Celeste smiled as she stopped in front of a room with a card-reader lock. Above the room were characters that Ranma couldn't recognize. They vaguely reminded him of... Nordic runes.
"I'm sending you to meet her," she said as she slipped a card through the reader.
"Where?" Ranma asked, spying into the dark room. "Heaven?"
"Not quite. Go in, you'll see," she said, winking at him.
Shrugging, Ranma took a step toward the room, and simply vanished.
"Boy, I hope he comes out in one piece," Celeste said, sitting next to the doorway.
Nothingness. Blackness. A whole-lotta-empty. Any of these could be used to describe The Aethyr. It was a place of Angels, a place where no mortal had ever laid eyes. A place no demon could ever infiltrate. It was peace and serenity, yet none of that was present now.
Ranma blinked into existence in the place of nothing, and took in its sights. It didn't really have any, but it wasn't empty, and it was a place, otherwise the people wouldn't be there.
Sure, there was no ground nor source of light, but Ranma could stand and see just fine. In fact, Ranma absently noticed that she was in his girl form. She could have sworn she was male when she left. She drew herself away from the distraction as the woman before her cleared her throat.
"Seraphic Praetor Ranma Saotome," the woman said. It wasn't a greeting. Ranma let her jaw drop as she took in her image. She looked, in every respect, like a wise woman. However, from her figure and formal wear, you wouldn't think it. She wore thin golden armour which covered her torso, but left her sides bare, as was the traditional Seraphic Warrior armour. A silver habit covered her head and shoulders while a long loincloth covered the... more intimate parts of her body. The traditional black mask and white eyes adorned the face itself. On her head, a large golden crown started at her forehead and reached at least a foot over her head, where several purple ribbons trailed down her back like hair. Above her roving hands, a crystal ball floated in free space. All in all, she was one of the more impressive Angels that Ranma had seen in her career.
Behind the woman stood several other angels, mostly warriors of several cultures. Some brandished broadswords, others carried katanas. One even had a high-powered rifle. Ranma held back memories of the Joketsuzoku village of Nyuchezu as she looked at them. Some of the angels present reminded her so much of the big, burly, almost mannish members of the Amazon tribe.
More curiously, however, was a young Angel. As a human, Ranma would have guessed her at about twelve or thirteen years old. But as an angel... who knew? All Ranma really knew was that she looked out of place. A short, skinny waif among wisewomen and warriors. Sure, the girl had two daggers by her side, and wore the traditional armour, but what was her purpose there?
"Where the hell am I?" she asked, wide-eyed.
"You are in The Aethyr," the wisewoman said. "A thin sliver of time-space between the Terrestrial Sphere and Heaven."
Looking at the wisewoman, Ranma smiled. "You'd be Urania, I take it?"
"I am and always have been," Urania replied. "You have come as I had requested."
"Of course," Ranma said. "Isn't that how it goes? You call, I come running?"
"Indeed." Urania continued to allow the crystal ball to hover between her hands. "Do you wonder why you have been summoned?"
"I can't say I'm not curious. But I am kinda wondering why I had to come all the way to America to talk to you."
"The Aethyr cannot be traversed by mortals unless we allow it," Urania said. "To prevent such an abomination from happening, we only have one place in all of the Terrestrial Sphere from which such a task could be accomplished."
Ranma raised an eyebrow. "Los Angeles," she said. "Makes sense."
Urania closed her eyes for a moment, and let her hands drop by her side. The crystal ball stayed in place, and floated out several feet from Urania before she opened her eyes again.
"Seraphic Praetor Ranma Saotome," she said. "Lay your eyes upon the Tear of God so that you may see."
Sensing that the strange, floating ball thingy that was coming towards her was the so-called 'Tear of God', she watched it. As it came closer, she began to make out shapes, movement, and strangely enough, sounds.
She saw. She saw what had occurred that very morning, in a remote underground facility just outside of Los Angeles. She saw what those who had survived those last few moments there saw. She saw the barren wastelands of another world. She saw the frightened face of a young girl trapped somewhere that was not home. She saw the blood splattered against walls as gnarled claws rent flesh and shattered bone with naught but a simple gesture. She saw as the girl saw, and took flight, revealing strange, nearly-transparent butterfly-like wings from her back. Finally, she saw the crystal as it became clear once again, and she found herself back in The Aethyr, among Angels.
"What... what the hell was that?" she asked.
"There are few things The Throne cannot do," Urania said. "Among them are acting outside His own spheres of influence. Those spheres are simply Heaven and Earth."
Ranma raised an eyebrow. "You're saying that--"
"The girl and dark force are from a place beyond Earth. A place beyond Heaven or Hell. Another reality itself, broken into by the will of mankind," Urania said.
"Okay... so what do you need me for?" Ranma asked.
"You must find them," Urania said.
"Whoa, why me? Not that I'm afraid or nothin', but there have to be a lot of people better qualified than me... and more... uhh... Angelic."
"Mnemosyne?" Urania asked, not turning from Ranma.
"Yes, Your Grace?" the young Angel next to Urania spoke.
"Explain to him our quandary," Urania said.
"You must know of the war between Heaven and Hell better than most on Earth, so I shall skip past that," Mnemosyne said. "What you do not know, or realize is that certain rules must be followed. For Heaven to have an embassy on Earth, so too must Hell. For Hell to have a Hellspawn on Earth, so too must Heaven appoint a hunter. However, should any side attempt direct intervention in Terrestrial Affairs other than minor influences, then the other side can and will send in their own. This would be what Malebolgia and his accursed ilk would wish for. In order for them to start storming the gates of Heaven, we must make the first move. As long as we do not, he continues to strengthen his army."
"Uh huh," Ranma said, semi-understanding. "So what does that have to do with me?"
"You are mortal," Mnemosyne said. "You may still age and die as a human being, and be appointed to Asgard as a new warrior upon such a death. But until such a time, you are mortal and may affect Terrestrial affairs without rousing the armies of Hell."
"Wait," Ranma said. "I'm part Angel. Angela told me herself, I'm part Angel."
"Indeed," Urania spoke. "But in return for our blunder concerning your appointment after death you were given life again for as long as you assisted the Celestial Council for Terrestrial Affairs."
"Wait, so you're saying I'm not an Angel?"
"You are, but in the loosest sense of the word. You are indeed a Seraphic Praetor, and may utilize the ribbon, a weapon only usable by Seraphim, because your soul itself is Angelic in nature. Your body and mind, however, are mortal. That is all that matters."
"So I can mess around down here without major problems, while you guys are stuck up here in limbo and can really only watch, right?"
"Indeed," Urania replied. "Although I would not have worded it as such."
"Okay, but... just one more question?" Ranma asked.
"You may ask."
"If these... umm... newcomers were brought here by Terrestrial Affairs, as you called them... then why not let the Terrestrials handle it?"
Urania sighed. "Mnemosyne?"
Mnemosyne spoke again. "The girl seems to be peaceful, but the entity that followed her over is just the opposite. It is a Class Seven Demonic Entity."
"Uhh... Which is?"
"A negator of souls. In all of history there has only been one other, but he had come from this plane itself. Urizen, the Dark," Urania explained. "Mnemosyne, continue."
"Yes, well," Mnemosyne urged herself onward. "This entity swallows the soul of its victims and uses it to strengthen itself. Those twenty who were killed as a result of the Terrestrial Experiment will never see the golden streets of Heaven, or even the rancid shores of Hell. Furthermore, their presence here offsets the balance of worlds."
"Err, I barely graduated High School. Wanna give me something a little more than 'offsetting the balance of worlds?'" Ranma quipped.
"In language you can understand, Seraphic Praetor," Urania continued. "The longer those two entities remain on the Terrestrial Sphere, the closer Heaven and Hell will become to Earth. The fabric of the Aethyr already suffers, and if something is not solved within forty days, the Oceans shall become stained red with the blood of Angels and Demons."
Ranma's jaw dropped. "What?"
"I believe you understand now what is at stake."
"Wait... What about Hell?" Ranma asked. "They had to have noticed this, right?"
"More than likely," Urania said. "We will be watching for their involvement."
Ranma shook his head. "You know, I've been in tight spots. But this has got to be... Okay, my task?"
"Locate the first entity. The girl. Find out as much as possible from her as you can. You may recruit as much outside help as you wish, but they must be mortal. Any more Angelic blood than what you hold within yourself may attract unwanted attention."
"Once that's done?" Ranma asked.
"If no other option presents itself, kill the female," Urania said. "Once her soul is separate from her being, it may go back to her home plane's version of Heaven or Hell. If not, then it will remain here, but either way it should double the amount of time we have to deal with the second entity."
Ranma sighed. "I'll do what you ask," he said. "But I have a condition."
Urania raised an eyebrow. "You may speak."
"I'll kill her only if I am forced to, not of my own free will. I'd rather face the second entity first if she's harmless."
Urania sighed. "Very well, Seraphic Praetor," she said. "But know that preserving the Terrestrial Sphere is our primary concern, not the life of an otherworlder. If the Throne so wishes her life be forfeit, then it will be done, your condition or not."
Ranma nodded. "I understand."
"Then back to the Terrestrial Sphere you shall go. The first entity is within the city, seek her out and you will find the second."
Ranma nodded. "I'll look for her," he said.
Urania raised her arm, and a rip appeared in the blackness of the Aethyr. Ranma nodded and stepped through it.
As the rip closed, Urania sighed. "Mnemosyne," she began, looking toward the younger Angel. "Transmit to the Throne. Let them know what's happening." She turned and faced several of the warriors behind her.
"Astra, Bethany," Urania began. "Prepare your squadrons. Send word to Domina and her phalanx. We have forty days to prepare for war."
Somewhere, on a parallel world, a small mouse named Minnie ran around on her wheel.