Chasing Skuld

'So, how's it going with your girlfriend?'.

'For the last time, Anji, Urd is _not_ my girlfriend. We're just... friends, okay?'

Anji Kapoor raised an eyebrow. 'Oh yeah? Gorgeous woman like that, and you're just friends?'

'Well, she _is_ about five hundred million years older than me...' Fitz replied, smirking.

Anji shrugged. 'So? Patience is two million years older than the Doctor, and _they_ don't have problems...'

'Anji... She's dead, and he's amnesiac.'

'Like I said, _they_ don't have problems...'

Fitz sighed. 'She's a _goddess_, Anj...'

'Never stopped you before....'

Fitz's expression was something akin to what might have been expected on learning Joel Schumacher was going to direct the next ten Batman movies. 'Never. Say. That. Again. Ever.'

Anji wisely shut up.

'_Besides_,' Fitz continued, 'I already _have_ a girlfriend, okay?'

'Yeah, one on every planet...' Anji said under her breath.

Fitz shot her the Look of Daggers (tm) once again. 'Well, excuse _me_... Is it _my_ fault I end up with a reputation for serial monogamy?'

'Is _that_ what you call it...?' Anji said.

Just before this was about to get interesting...

'Excuse me, is this Tokyo?'

Fitz and Anji turned to stare at the newcomer, taking in the bandana, the fanged mouth, the whacking great umbrella...

'Umm... this is This Time Round...' Anji said. 'In Britain,' she added, realising almost too late that it was near-impossible for him to know where the Round was. Unless he'd appeared in Who or something, but she was _sure_ she'd have remembered that...

'Oh.' The young man looked at the map. 'Oh, so _that's_ what this map's for...'

Overcome by curiosity, Anji and Fitz peered over the young man's shoulders. Yep, definitely a map of Britain. There was Scotland, and Wales, and there was London, clearly marked...

...and near the coastline, there was a flashing light.

Anji and Fitz - very, _very_ quickly, it must be acknowledged - simultaneously realised what the light showed.

The young man held the map up. 'Damn. Last time I order from Jusenkyo Mail Order, that's for sure...'

Both Fitz and Anji could have sworn he muttered 'Ranma, this is _your_ fault. You _die_...' under his breath.


'What the-?' Fitz stared at the broomstick that had just pulled up outside This Time Round. And at the tall platinum-blonde who'd just jumped off. He managed to pull himself together. 'URD?'

Well, not _completely_ together...

Anji nudged Fitz. 'Hey, lover-boy, look who's here...'

'Don't _call_ me that!' Fitz hissed. He turned and waved. 'Hi...'

'Hi, Fitz. You haven't seen Skuld anywhere around, have you?' Urd said, a harried look on her face.

'Not _lately_...' Fitz said. 'Well, not since Compassion got that court order... Umm, do you _know_ this guy?'

The young man was still staring at the map. 'Maybe if I turned left _here_...'

Urd shot him a look. 'Well, it _was_ inevitable... Unfortunately... yep, I do. Meet Ryouga Hibiki, lost boy extraordinaire...'

'And I thought the TARDIS had a bad sense of direction...' Anji murmured.

Urd called over her shoulder. 'Sorry, Bell, she's not here!'

Fitz blinked. Hard. Again. Something was ringing a bell in the back of his mind. _Bell?_

Urd blinked. 'Bell?'


In This Time Round's main bar, a door had just opened in the back wall.

Which would have been perfectly normal, if the door had been there a moment ago.

And if the door hadn't had a sign saying 'DO NOT DISTURB. GREATEST MAD SCIENTIST AT WORK'.

A twelve-year-old girl, with spiky red hair, poked her head out of the door. 'So _this_ is where Adric-kun lives. Hmm. He never mentioned it was continuity-transcendental. Interesting...'

Then she noticed Sam, who was sitting quietly at the bar, and brought out what looked like a magnifying glass.crossed with a tricorder. Peering at Sam through the device, she muttered 'Hm. Human-Sidhe hybrid. Wonder how they managed that...?'


Adric sneezed.

ARE YOU OKAY? Death asked.

'Could have _sworn_ someone was talking about me...' Adric said.


Four _very_ baffled faces poked around the entrance to the 'Round's car park.

Anji peered suspiciously at what she saw. 'All right. What is 'okonomiyaki', and why is there a cart selling it outside the 'Round?'

Ryouga blinked. 'Ukyou?'

'You _know_ that guy?' Fitz wondered.

'Girl.' Ryouga shuddered. 'Most _definitely_ a girl.'

Fitz gave him an odd look. 'Riiiiight....'

Urd was staring at the buyer, a girl of medium height with grey hair and a blue diamond mark on her forehead. 'Oy...' She slapped her hand over her eyes.

'You know her?' Anji inquired, in the tone of voice that _knows_ the answer's going to be 'Yes'.

'My _other_ sister...' Urd moaned. 'Belldandy.'

Anji peered at her. 'Doesn't seem _that_ bad...'

'No? You've never seen Bell with another chef...'


Urd thought about that. '_Boring_' She winced in recollection. 'She once spent four years talking to Thor about the best way to cook goat...'

Anji winced.

There was a whistling sound.

Anji looked around. 'Odd, I thought Nyssa'd already used the missile launcher today...'

Fitz looked up in the sky. 'Uh-oh... INCOMING!!'


'Ye _gods_,' Anji swore. 'No offence, Urd... _Nothing_ could've survived that!'

'No?' Fitz said.

A hand made its way over the edge of the crater. Soon followed by another hand

Anji looked to the sky. 'You'd think I'd know better than to say _that_ around here...'

The hands were soon followed by a teenage girl's face, framed by magenta-coloured hair.

'Arisa-san?' The girl looked around. 'Oh, Arisa-san must have forgotten she was wearing her special battle-armour...'

Anji turned to Fitz. 'Is it just me, or is this place turning into an anime hangout?'

A man in a formal dinner suit, complete with tuxedo and a face mask, ran past, muttering something about 'damn Negaverse'.

Without taking his eyes off the girl, Fitz replied 'No, it's just you...'


At this point, a brief explanation might be required.

This Time Round, and the surrounding area of British landscape (location classified), are continuity-transcendental. In other words, this means that people from wildly different continuities can meet, without any of those irritating temporal anomalies, paradoxes or technobabble.

Ucchan's Okonomiyaki Restaurant (and the Nerima district of Tokyo, come to think of it) is also continuity-transcendental.

The Subreality Cafe (found on the border between Imagination and Reality) is _also_ continuity-transcendental.

When quizzed on the subject, the Doctor had this to say:

'It's magic.'

After noting the crestfallen look on the interviewer's face, he added.

'I _do_ apologise for that, but to be quite honest, I couldn't think of a suitably technobabbly answer to satisfy you. So I went for the truth.'

The interviewer was later found watching 'The Daemons' for the 323rd time, and giggling whenever Miss Hawthorne came on screen.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled story.


Inside This Time Round...

Urd looked at the mirror hanging over the bar.

And grinned.

Chris Cwej suddenly developed a nosebleed.

'Hello, Q-chan....' Urd said seductively.

^Who, me?^ the mirror spelled out in fog. ^No Q here, just us magic mirrors....^

'Oh, Q-chan, you can't fool me. I'd recognise that power signature _anywhere_...' Urd cooed. 'So distinctive, so powerful and strong...'

The mirror glowed red. In a human, this might have been considered blushing. ^Of _course_ it's me. The one, the only, the most bold and daring deity-class entity in all the universes, the utterly unique Q!!^

'Wow.' Anji said. 'Even as a _mirror_, he's full of it...'

'Why, only yesterday I was talking to your wife...' Urd continued.

^My... my wife?!^

'Dear Lady Q. She gets so _lonely_, having to look after baby q while you travel the universe...' Urd continued.

^Umm... Oh, I hear Picard calling. Must go... Starship Captains to torment, you know how it goes...^ the mirror spelled out. And with that, Q was gone.

Urd smirked, and turned back to the table.

They'd repaired to the bar, shortly after pulling the teenage girl (Nuku-Nuku, they'd learned her name was) out of the crater.

It wasn't that the girl needed a drink, Anji felt, but that _she_ most definitely needed one.

Preferably something that'd obliterate her brain the moment it went down her throat.

Which was why she'd asked for a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.

'So why _are_ you looking for that little mecha-freak?' Fitz asked, with his usual tact.

Urd took a close look at the glob floating in her drink. 'As Bell _keeps_ reminding me, she _is_ our sister... And the problem _is_ one uniquely suited to my talents...' She tossed the line off with heavy sarcasm.

'What problem?'

'Boyfriend trouble.'

Ryouga raised an eyebrow. 'Already? She's only...'

He looked at Urd's face. '...Oh.'

'Mm-hmm. Skuld's young by _our_ standards, but not yours... She's already got this crush on this one human boy - BMX champ, reminds me of Bell's boyfriend for some reason, nervous, shy, spineless, you know the type - but recently, she's been going goo-goo over this Star Trek ensign... what was his name again?'

'Wesley Crusher.' Anji tossed off, without thinking.

'Yeah, him. Now _he's_ very close to being a deity-class entity himself, *and* he's a gadget freak to boot...'

'...And she can't decide which one to go out with...' Fitz completed. 'Lemme guess, she hasn't told either of them she's a goddess, right?'

Urd nodded. 'We haven't seen her around in a couple of days. Bell got worried, she wasn't in any of her usual ice cream parlours, and...'

'You ended up here.' Anji completed.

'Speaking with the voice of experience...' Fitz began.

Anji giggled.

Fitz shot her another dirty look (he was running low, he reflected, he'd have to stock up). '_Speaking with the voice of experience_' he continued, '_no_ two-timing, if at _all_ possible.' He shuddered.

'Bad experience, Fitz-san?' Nuku-Nuku asked.

'Devastated a planet...' Fitz said. '_Literally_.'

'Woo. Sounds like one of my wilder dates...' Urd said absently. 'Nice advice. Shame Skuld isn't around to hear it...'

'Which planet was it, Fitz-san?' Nuku-Nuku asked.


Urd cocked her head. 'Hold on a moment... Anji, do you mind if I use your phone?'

Fitz tapped his chin. 'Wait, wait... I know where she might be...'


'Where would _you_ go if you were a teenage goddess having boyfriend trouble?'

Anji blinked. 'This isn't another of your weird jokes again, is it?'

'No,' Fitz said. 'Where _would_ you go if you were a teenage ice-cream loving goddess with boyfriend trouble?'

'Well...' Anji mused. 'I'd want to be as far away from my boyfriends as possible, somewhere it was unlikely as _hell_ they'd ever turn up... Somewhere where they wouldn't care _how_ weird I was, or what I said... and somewhere I could get as much ice-cream as possible, for the binge-fest.'

'And...?' Fitz prodded.

Surprisingly (a surprise on a level with discovering the Fountain of Youth in your bath) it was Ryouga who came to the right conclusion. 'The Subreality Cafe...'

Urd had switched off the phone just in time to hear this last. And put her hand over her eyes again. 'Oh, *great*...'

'Why does Urd-san keep doing that?' Anji asked.

Fitz stared at her. 'Oh, brilliant, now _she's_ doing Nuku-Nuku impersonations...'

'What, this?' Urd said, repeating the hand-over-eyes gesture. 'It's face-faulting. Everyone does it back...'

Lights went on in Fitz and Anji's eyes.

'Uh-oh...' Nuku-Nuku said. 'Urd-san shouldn't have mentioned that...'

Ignoring them, Ryouga bowed to Urd. 'Lady Urd. On my honour, I shall not rest until your sister, the Lady Skuld, is safely returned!'

He marched off. Through the 'Round's _back_ wall.

'No sense of direction, that boy...' Urd sighed. 'Come on, we'd better follow him...'

'Does he _always_ talk like that?'

'Only when he thinks there're scouts from samurai fics around.' Urd said.

'Huh?' Anji said. It wasn't exactly _coherent_, but it got the message across.

'You'd be surprised. Samurai scouts get _everywhere_.'

'What, like Sailor Scouts? - OW!' Fitz said.

Urd rubbed her fist. 'Thanks, Anji.'

Anji shrugged. 'Hey, it's nothing _I_ wouldn't do...'

'At least it gets Lost Boy's mind off Akane.' Urd continued.

'Akane? Who's Akane?'

'Long story...' Urd said

Anji peered in the direction Ryouga had taken. 'Somehow, I think we're gonna have a _lot_ of time to listen... Let's get after him, before he gets us into Galaxy Quest or something...'


'Hey, bar-bar... wossname. Triple chocolate ripple, chocolate sauce, three Flakes, and whipped cream.' The young girl with a mallet strapped behind her back sitting at the bar thought about this. 'With five chocolate ices.'

The denizens of the Subreality Cafe watched in horrified fascination. In their long and chequered history, there had been wars, flames, trips to the future and visits from the Writers.

But they'd never seen anything - _anything_ - like _this_ before.

A three day, non-stop, ice-cream binge. With _no_ credit limit.

The Gambits had given up trying to bet when she'd finish (apart from one last hold-out, who was trying for 'a year').

A Gambit turned to a Wolverine. 'That girl... she got _major_ boy problems, eh mon?'

'Y'know, Remy, yer might be right...' the Wolverine in question replied. 'Reminds me of that time Jubilee...'

He was interrupted by a ZAP from outside.

'They're with _me_, got that?'

'Rules 're rules,' the Bouncer's (slightly singed) voice said. 'They ain't been in a fanfic, they ain't getting in...'

'We _have_ been in a fanfic!' yelled a female voice.

'In comics?'

'Umm... Does This Time Round count?'

Silence, as the Bouncer thought this over.

'Yeah, that oughta do. For now. Next time, though...'

'Um... Okay...'

The door opened.

There was the silence of many people trying _not_ to gasp in shock.

The short Pakistani woman in the business suit was the first to speak. 'Oh my...'

The tall, thin young man behind her boggled. 'And I thought _Benny_ had binges...'

' "Doctor Who" characters?' someone asked a Batman in the corner.

'You _might_ say that...' the Dark Knight said.

The tall, beautiful platinum-blonde (with that odd blue triangle on her forehead) gasped. 'Skuld...?'

The girl turned around. 'Oh, hi...' Her forehead creased as she tried to remember. '...Sis? Hey, wanna ice cream?'

'I _think_ you've had enough already...' the blonde said (the girl's sister? the denizens of the Cafe thought in shock. Then again, there _was_ a family resemblance...).

'Don... Don' be silly, Sis...' the girl said. 'Y... Y'can _never_ have enough ice cream...' She burped.

And started to fall over.

The young man furrowed his forehead.

Skuld swung back up into her chair. 'Hey... Hey, I know ya... You're that Revelation Dude, ain't ya...?'

'Gordon Christ, she is _smashed_...' the young man said. 'And that's Revolution _Man_, thanks so much, if you're gonna use the name...'

A magenta-haired teenager popped up behind him. All the Professor Xs in the Cafe suddenly found themselves with a sudden urge to use a scratching post.

'Revolution man, Fitz-san?'

'Long story,' the Revolution Man said. 'Maybe later.'

'Okay! Nuku-Nuku wait till then!'

'Nuku...?' Skuld said.

The blonde nodded. 'Yep. Remember her? Cyborg with a cat brain?'

'Now that...' Skuld slurred. '_That_ was good work, for a mortal...'

Her face creased. 'Mortal...mortal... My Sentaro... WAAAAAHHHH!!!'

Waterfalls of tears started streaming from her eyes.

'Anime staple,' a Mr Fantastic in the corner explained to an unlistening audience.

'I CAN... CAN'T MAKE UP MY MIND!!' Skuld wailed. 'WAAAAHHH!!'

'Choosing an ice cream isn't _that_ hard...' a Tony Stark said, before the Punisher clobbered him over the head. 'Quiet, you.'

'It's Ranma's fault. I keep telling them it's Ranma's fault, but does anyone listen?' someone said in the back.

'Shut up, Ryouga...' the Pakistani woman said. She smiled in embarrassment at the Cafe. 'Sorry about this...'

'Umm... Could somebody _hurry_?' the Revolution Man said. 'Two days of ice cream does _not_ make a girl any lighter...'

The Pakistani woman shot him an 'I'll get you for that' look.

'Nuku-Nuku take care of that, Fitz-san!' the cyborg said happily. 'Ups-a-daisy, Skuld-san!' And lifted Skuld into her arms effortlessly.

'WAAAHH!! PUT ME _DOWN_!!' Skuld sobbed. 'Leave me wit' the ice cream!!'

'Hm. Hold on...' the blonde said. 'Hey, Skuld, there's a Sasquatch!'

Skuld stared at her suspiciously. 'There's no Sasquatch...'

'Are you referring to me?' a Sasquatch said.

While Skuld's mouth flopped open, the blonde flicked a pill into it. '_There_ we go...'

Skuld swallowed. Then her eyes bulged.

Then she flopped in Nuku-Nuku's arms, out cold.

'Sleeping pill,' she said, in response to the bemused stares from the Cafe-denizens. 'It'll wear off in an hour, don't worry...'

'Um... Call again later!' the Manager/ess said, as the door closed behind them.

The holdout Gambit collected the pot. And was promptly set upon by all the _other_ Gambits.


Later, outside the 'Round...

Urd had a thoughtful look on her face.

'Urd?' Belldandy asked.

'Hmm? Oh hi, sis...'

Belldandy sat down next to her. 'Are you... all right?'

'Mm? Oh, yeah, I'm fine...'

'Bell...' Urd began after a long pause. 'did you ever wonder what'd happen if we met a time-traveller?'

Belldandy frowned. 'A time-traveller?'

Urd nodded. 'Mm-hmm. Fitz said something that... well, sparked off an old memory. I finally did a check on a few of his friends, especially the Doctor, and most of _them_ were time travellers, too...' She frowned. 'Although the Doctor's records are incomplete, for some reason. The office couldn't explain why...'

Belldandy looked at the 'Round behind them, then back at Urd.

'We _are_ the Goddesses of Past, Present and Future,' Urd said. 'Shouldn't there be... oh, I don't know... some kind of protocol for this?'

'There is,' Belldandy said.

Urd caught the look of embarrassment on Bell's face. 'Bell...'

Belldandy coughed. 'The protocol states...' She trailed off.

'_Bell_...' Urd said, this time with a harder edge to her voice.

'The protocol states...' Belldandy began again. '...that we notify Mara, and allow her to deal with them.'

There was silence.


Belldandy looked down at her feet. 'Hell did. It was part of the original Universe Operating System protocol. And there was something else...'

She whispered in Urd's ear.

Urd's scream _this_ time shattered the Round's ground-floor windows (and several of the companions' decibel records).


'So why'd you take a week to get back?' Sam asked.

Anji grinned. 'Genius Boy over there,' she nodded in Fitz's direction, 'gave Ryouga the map...'

Sam thought about this, and winced. 'Oooohhh...'

'The Afterworld's nice, this time of year...' Anji added as an aside. 'How've you been?'

Sam's face took on a haunted, terrified look. 'Anji... if a twelve-year-old girl who says she's the greatest mad scientist in the universe comes up to you and says "Would you mind if I ran some tests?", do _not_ say yes...'

Anji blinked. 'Oooo-kayyyy....Why?'

'Don't ask.' Sam shuddered. Anji could have sworn she said 'but I learned far more about wombats than I wanted to...' She shook her head. Must have misheard it.

Unfortunately, the alternatives didn't sound any better.

'And Skuld?' Anji asked, in the tone of voice of someone who wants to change the subject, _now_.

'I CAN'T _CHOOSE!!_' came the wail from inside the 'Round.

Followed by a burst of crying.

'You _did_ wonder why the 'Round's being repaired for flooding, yeah?' Sam said.

'Ohhhh...' Anji nodded in understanding.




Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat