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Act 1, Scene 5: Thor and Raiden Present:
Lessons on Why It's Bad to Play With Electricity

A Ranma ½/Avengers fusion by DB Sommer

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ owned by Rumiko Takahashi and whomever she sold the rights to. The Avengers are owned by Marvel Comics. Yes, the superheroes, not the British TV Series.

As always, all C&C appreciated. You can contact me at: sommer@3rdm.net

Avenging is also being kept on DB's page at: http://angcobra.jumpfun.com/dbsommer.html

This might feel a little rushed. Not sure, myself. If so, I apologize for it. Also, if you want to preread for this series, let me know, and I'll put you on a list.

The blue corona of energy around Raiden faded as he drew nearer to his Asgardian opponent. Rather than simply vanishing, the glowing force moved from his body and gathered around his hands while more electricity flowed from his eyes, a sure sign that he was losing what tenuous control he had left over his anger. "I warned you never to set foot upon my island again, yet you have brazenly disregarded my warning, all but begging me to come. Well you have succeeded. This trespass will not be forgiven. In years past we have clashed, without a clear victor, conceited one. Now we shall have one last duel and show these mortals that even a god may die."

Upon Raiden's initial appearance, and learning who he was and that he was angry, Thor had intended to apologize and explain that no insult had been intended. But Raiden's arrogant boasts and slurs dismissed that notion. How dare he call her conceited! Just because she was three times the god of thunder Raiden could ever hope to be was no reason for him to behave in such an offensive manner. It was jealousy. He had always been envious of her superiority and handsome features. Several times in the past they had clashed because of his inability to deal with how much better she was than him. Well, that and her dalliances with Kitsune, whom Raiden fancied. But it wasn't Thor's fault that her godly form was so irresistible to the self-proclaimed Goddess of Foxes.

Thor recoiled at that memory. Not the specifics --thankfully those seemed to have been lost-- but there was one disturbing fact that was inescapable: Kitsune had most definitely been female. Very fox-like, but also definitively female.

"But I'm not a pervert!" Thor shouted to herself.

Raiden sneered. "What you are is an overbearing, arrogant, self-centered, egotistical, womanizing meddler that has challenged me for the last time."

The concerns brought on by the contradictory memory were forgotten as Thor prepared herself for battle. Fights were better than trying to deal with such things. You simply fought your opponent with all you had and either won or lost your fight. A good thing for Thor she never lost.

The next exchange the two deities of thunder shared was one of blows rather than words. Raiden connected with a fist to Thor's gut first, moving far more quickly than the larger Goddess of Thunder. A gasp of breath escaped Thor's lips from the force of the punch, but it was far from enough to prevent the retaliatory punch from her as she successfully landed a blow in Raiden's upper chest. The Japanese God of Thunder was sent back several feet from the force of the impact.

The rain seemed to increase in direct proportion to Raiden's darkening mood. "I see that you are as strong as ever, despite your obvious weight loss. I shall not underestimate you again."

"Flattery will achieve naught for thee," Thor said as she charged her opponent. The quick knockout she had hoped for never came as Raiden blocked her incoming blow with a wide arc by his right hand. That left Thor's midsection briefly open as Raiden used his blinding speed to strike his opponent dozens of times. Individually the blows had little force behind them, but the sheer number of hits, and the nerve centers of the body they struck, caused Thor to recoil back. Raiden was quick to follow up with a more powerful flying leap kick that centered again on Thor's chest. This time Thor was propelled through the air and across the street, completely destroying the door of the car that arrested her flight.

"Hah! I am more powerful than you after all. You're already finished." Raiden paused a moment to laugh at his fallen opponent's state.

An uru mallet flew forth from the wreckage of the car, sailing through the air leaving a dull orange trail of energy full of power in its wake. There was the sound of thunder as the hammer struck Raiden full in the chest, driving him back into the wall of a nearby store and through it.

"Finished by you? Mayhap when icicles ornament Surtur's fiery realm." The hammer flew back through the air to its mistress. Thor stood proudly, enjoying her handiwork for a moment before advancing towards the fallen god.

Raiden appeared less self-assured as he pried himself from the wreckage of the store. He had forgotten how powerful Mjolnir could be. But he was not without weapons of his own. Summoning the power of the storms, the rain increased a five-fold, becoming such a torrential downpour that Raiden almost seemed to disappear behind the falling sheets of water. Only the azure glow that still emanated from his eyes was bright enough to cut through the rain and show that he was still there.

With the tempest as its peak, Raiden caused twin bolts of lightning to strike the sidewalk before him. Rather than dissipating, they remained embedded in the remains of the walkway until Raiden removed them. He spun the twin shafts of azure energy, solid in his hands as they would be for no other. "Now we are more evenly matched."

"Only if there are other gods from thy pantheon about to join thy side."

Raiden's lip involuntarily curled at the insult. He gave a battle cry and leaped high in the air. For a moment it appeared as though Thor would remain where she was, but at the last second she leaped back. Raiden's twin shafts of lightning struck stone rather than flesh.

"I see you are not so brave after all," Raiden boasted.

"The mountain never learned to step aside." Thor brought Mjolnir into the pavement, causing a shockwave that shattered even more of the street into rubble and knocked Raiden off his feet. His grip on one of the shafts was loosened, and it went flying well out of reach. Once out of contact with the Japanese deity, it dissipated into thin air.

"Now dost thou understand?" Thor asked as she stepped towards her opponent once again.

In answer to the Asgardian's question, Raiden hurled his remaining bolt of lightning. Thor brought her hammer up, allowing the shaft to strike the head of the mallet. The bolt of electricity was instantly absorbed, neither hammer nor wielder showing any ill effects from the blast.

"Thou dares to use the might of the thunderbolt against the mightiest god of thunder? Truly thou hast lost thy capacity for thought, no doubt due to mine most savage beating." Thor again stalked forward towards her opponent, the advantage clearly hers once again.

Cloaked in shadows nearby, Xellos found himself agreeing with the Goddess of Thunder. It had been his dearest hope that Raiden, whom he had warned of Thor's presence through an anonymous message delivered to his castle in the realm above, would prove more than sufficient to finish off Thor. After all, was not the Japanese god fighting within the lands where he had been worshipped? Surely upon his native soil he would be at his most powerful and would easily finish off the Asgardian, but instead the buffoon was managing to lose despite the advantage. Still, perhaps the blame did not lie at the Japanese deity's feet. Could it be Thor was more powerful than before, thanks somehow to the lame mortal he was connected to?

It was time to even the odds, and insure the outcome of the duel. Dropping his cloak of shadows and globe of silence, Xellos cast a spell that caused the ground beneath Thor to sprout moving black tentacles of eldritch energy. The thick, powerful magical appendages entangled Thor's arms and legs, halting her in her tracks.

"What base sorcery is this?" Thor cried out as she dug in and prepared to rip the tentacles from their earthy grasp.

The diversion distracted Thor and allowed Raiden a chance to recover. Seeing the opportunity before him, Raiden shifted the godly energy within his body, causing a blue aura to form around him once again. Mentally forcing the energy from him, Raiden shot forward and into the air, defying gravity as his body flew parallel with the ground like a living shaft of lightning,

Thor had only managed to tear a couple of the tentacles from the ground when Raiden's powerful attack struck her squarely in the jaw. What she had been unable to accomplish yet with her strength, the force of the blow did as her form was broken free from the tentacles grasp and sent sailing through the air just as far as Raiden had flown earlier from the results of her hammer strike.

"As with most braggarts, you caw until forced to coo by one more powerful than you." Raiden rushed forward again to engage his opponent in close-quarters combat once more.

A small smile broke across Xellos' face. Now this was more like it. Several more attacks like that and the fight would be over. And with Xellos casting spells, Raiden would assuredly have the opportunity to connect with such blows once more.

Xellos' hand began to give off a yellow glow as he prepared a particularly vicious spell that would cause Thor's body to be wracked with intense pain for several moments, when an arrow struck the ground in front of him. The instant the head of the shaft made contact with the pavement, it exploded in fury, knocking the sorcerer off his feet and disrupting his spell. Xellos was quick to recover as he shot to his feet. "Who dares interfere with me?"

Hawkeye blinked some of the water from the deluge out of her eyes as she kept her next blast arrow trained on him. "The name's Hawkeye, pal. I don't know what your game is, but that gaijin goddess over there is in a fair fight and seemed pretty okay to me. That means you're keeping your nose out of this and telling me what's going on or the next arrow goes someplace less pleasant than the street."

Much to Hawkeye's surprise, Xellos seemed completely unconcerned. His fingers made a series of intricate gestures, though they didn't glow this time. "Arrow? I see no arrow. Only a poisonous snake that's lashing out and trying to bite you."

Reflexively Hawkeye looked down at her arrow only to see that the man had spoken the truth. Somehow her shaft had transformed into a green serpent that was even now going from a long, rigid line to a loose wiry thing that attempted to coil itself around her arm. Hawkeye shouted in surprise and tried to throw the creature away, but was too late as it wrapped around her arm and began to slither its way up the appendage. Hawkeye fell to the ground in a desperate effort to pry the creature off her and cast it away.

"Mortals," Xellos shook his head sadly as he watched Hawkeye fumble her arrow around in her hands. Mortals were so susceptible to illusory magics. But the purple-garbed hero would never have a chance to learn the truth of that as the sorcerer's hand glowed crimson, and he summoned the power of a bolt of destructive energy with which to incinerate his foe.

Just as Xellos was about to unleash the bolt, a large circular disk crashed into his wrist, nearly breaking it and causing the blast to fly up into the rainy skies. Xellos looked in the direction the weapon had come from. "This is getting monotonous, and who are you, girl?"

The disc whirled through the air and returned to its owner's hand. "The guy who's going to kick your butt, you squinty-eyed jerk."

Xellos evaluated his opponent. A fighter of some kind. Female and by all appearances powerful, at least by mortal women's standards. That meant she was of no concern. There was no need for Xellos to sully his hands with such a brute. He had made other arrangements. "Somehow, I doubt that."

Xellos widened his hands, creating a glowing golden circle in the air that was three times as large as Bucky's shield. Within it, the redhead could see something moving, as though the circle was some sort of viewscreen instead of just a glowing… whatever it was.

The high pitched cry of Xellos' melodious incantation filled the air as he cried out, "I summon the most powerful of Trolls, he who was once the bane of Asgard and who did nearly destroy even the mighty Thor in personal combat. Prepare for your death, mortal, as I summon he who will rip the flesh from your body and grind your bones into powder. I call forth Ulik The Mighty!"

With the crescendo of Xellos' incantation complete, and one last elaborate wave of his hand, the glow within the disc disappeared and the scene in it became clear. Bucky could see that beyond the edge of the circle was what appeared to be an enormous cavern that was larger than any that could possibly exist on Earth. Stalactites and stalagmites seemed to be as gigantic as small houses, and there was the movement of many squat, powerful-looking orange-skinned creatures within the caverns. The most prominent of these beings was the individual standing right next to the portal; the creature stood about five feet tall and was nearly as wide as he was across. Several golden earrings adorned one of his ears and he wore the thick leathery hide of some creature that served as ragged pants and a vest. He wore no shirt underneath, and Bucky could see a hairy chest dominated by powerful muscles underneath. The being didn't look quite as powerful as the Hulk, but he appeared plenty strong enough.

The creature stepped through the portal and onto the street. He looked around, then proudly announced, "I am here to kick the hell out of someone's ass!"

"So you're the Mighty Ulik?" Bucky said as she prepared herself for a fight.

"No. He isn't." Surprisingly, that came from Xellos, who waved a hand, banishing the glowing portal. He moved in front of the troll, his eyes fully open for a moment. "Excuse me, but who in Hela's deathly realm are you and where's Ulik?"

"Ulik was busy, so he asked me to fill in for him." The troll beat his fist proudly against his chest. "My name is Ulos, The Pretty Damn Powerful. I'm Ulik's little brother."

"I didn't want Ulik's little brother. I wanted Ulik himself," Xellos pointed out.

"Big Bro was in one of his moods and didn't want to come. If you had dragged him here, he'd have probably ripped your arms off for trying to force him to bend to your will," Ulos explained. "But don't worry about it. I'm almost as strong as my brother, and a little faster in the head, if you know what I mean."

Xellos seemed to consider that. "True. Ulik is nearly as thick as the ground that he lives under. How do you feel about killing mortals?"

In response, Ulos pulled out a set of huge metal knuckles from a pocket on his vest. He put them on, then beat them together, producing a shower of sparks and a resounding ring that was loud enough to be heard over the peals of thunder. "Would you like them dismembered, pulverized, or torn in half?"

"Your choice." Xellos indicated the redhead before them was the target.

Ulos nodded in approval. "Right. Easiest money I've ever made."

Ulos moved slowly as he prepared to attack Bucky, amused that all he had to do was kill a single mortal for some quick cash. He would be able to take Alonacha the Most Beautiful out tonight. She had expensive tastes, but would put out at the drop of a hat if one spent lots of money on her. She was exactly the sort of girl a troll could respect.

Almost casually Ulos drew his fist back, confident that the mortal would be too terrified at his fearsome presence to move. So slow was his blow that Bucky was able to throw a punch of her own first, connected directly with Ulos's face. He paused after the blow landed; his own fist still raised in mid-air. Bucky leaped back out of reach to survey the damage she had inflicted.

Ulos blinked. "Hey now, I actually felt that." His face scrunched up in irritation as he moved towards his agile opponent once again.

"Oh boy," Bucky moaned as she prepared herself for yet another titanic battle against a huge and very powerful foe. And to make matters worse, his breath smelled ten times worse than the Hulk's.

Raiden rained a blinding series of blows upon Thor. From the moment he had connected with his human missile attack, he finally possessed the advantage in the fight. The sheer number of his blows was wearing her down, and Thor found the pain starting to affect her. Truly this fight with a fellow god of thunder was the mightiest battle she had found herself in since the recovery of her hammer. As painful and difficult as the battle was, there was a certain amount of joy in it as well. As the mere Akane Tendou, she had never experienced the delight that accompanied the knowledge that one was pressing herself to the limit of physical endurance in combat. In that confining past she could only live vicariously through the accomplishments of others, such as Nabiki when she won the occasional tournament she entered, and that caused more envy than anything else. Martial arts had been one of Akane's favorite things before the accident and to be denied that joy for nearly a decade still made her bitter, despite her newfound godhood.

But not at this moment. This was what life was meant to be like. The smell of sweat and blood as the rain poured down and the heavens roared. This was a battlefield, and to the winner would go a richly deserved victory against a worthy foe. It was something Thor desperately wanted to achieve, having tasted so little of it in her life as the much more mundane Akane.

Thor watched as Raiden broke off his attack and instead seemed to leap directly at a wall. For a moment, Thor was confused, until she sensed the buildup of power in his body and realized what the god was planning. Very clever, trying to use the wall as momentum for another one of his human missile attacks. But only if he had been able to sneak it past her, which he wasn't going to do.

Raiden bounced off the wall, glowing blue again as he became a blur and headed straight for his opponent even faster than he had the first time.

The increased speed threw Thor off for a moment, and she barely got her hammer up in time to allow Raiden to crash into it instead of her own immortal form.

The impact sent Raiden back to the ground, the god somehow managing to land on his feet. A second blow from Mjolnir sent him flying backward again and into a fire hydrant. The geyser of water that shot into the air was only slightly more powerful than what was coming down.

Xellos watched in disgust as the red-haired girl punched Ulos in the jaw again. The battle was going poorly for the troll. He might have been lighter and faster than his brother, but his speed was nothing compared to that of the mortal girl. She was bouncing around faster than a hungry Volstagg looking for food or Amelia on a sugar rush. And the few times Ulos managed to get close enough to land a blow, the girl's shield would block the blow, the piece of metal somehow withstanding the raw power unleashed by the troll. So much for the Ulos, the Pretty Damn Powerful.

Xellos returned his attention to the only fight that truly mattered to him. Thor had retaken the advantage again. It was that damn hammer. Without Mjolnir, the tide of battle would shift and it would be Raiden who would have the advantage. Then things would go Xellos' way at last.

Apparently Raiden felt the same way. As Thor attacked with her weapon, the Japanese god struck the Asgardian in the arm, forcing the hammer from her grasp and making it fly from her hand, several feet away, causing a small splash as it landed in a pool of water that had formed in a basin formed from the wreckage of the street.

Having put everything into disarming his opponent, Raiden let himself open to a counterattack by Thor, which consisted of a meaty fist impacting with his jaw and sending him to the ground. Seeing her opponent stunned for a little while, Thor ran over to regain her hammer. As she bent down to retrieve it, the weapon seemed to melt into the earth, as though it was immaterial and gravity had taken over. Looking down, she could see no opening, nor even crack, to indicate that it had fallen into a hole; the hammer just seemed to have vanished.

Xellos smiled when he saw the panicked expression on Thor's face. He snickered aloud as the goddess wailed in impotent rage and smashed her fist into the street, shattering even more of the pavement in an effort to retrieve her weapon. It was a waste of time. Xellos' magic would ensure that it remained out of her grasp for the duration of the fight.

Shaking his head clear of pain, Raiden saw Thor bent over, smashing the street up for some reason he couldn't comprehend. Her reasons mattered little to him. Now he had an opportunity for a free shot at his foe, and it was one he would not pass up. He formed a shaft of pure electricity in his hand, similar to the ones he had wielded earlier. Seeing Thor had yet to return his attention towards his opponent, Raiden moved quickly.

Centuries of battle-honed senses made Thor look up at the last minute, just in time to partially brace herself for the impact of the blue staff as it struck in the center of her chest. Without the immunity to lightning conferred by Mjolnir, she felt the full effects of the weapon that knocked her to the ground and stunned her, leaving her at the mercy of her opponent.

Mercy was not the first thing on Raiden's mind, falling somewhere after 'Making Thor into tiny pieces that aren't recognizable as being organic material anymore.' Centuries of the wrongs the Asgardian had inflicted upon him, from romancing his love interests to claiming Raiden was nothing more than the 'God of Light Dew,' all bore down on him and powered his arm so that he would smite Thor with a blow that would end once and for all their rivalry.

Just as the staff was about to hit, the blue glow emanating from it highlighted Thor's features as the Asgardian lay on the ground, staring at Raiden while preparing himself for the blow. For the first time since the fight had begun, without a battle rage, darkness, or rain obscuring the distance between them, Raiden saw Thor, truly saw the Asgardian, for the first time.

"You're a woman!" Raiden gasped as the staff's course was arrested directly above Thor's prone form.

Whereas Raiden was surprised by Thor's current gender, the goddess was not as she rose to her feet and smashed Raiden in the face with powerful fist.

Sensing a clear advantage, and the opportunity to finish the overlong duel, Thor attacked again, relentlessly driving the Japanese god back with each blow, not giving him the opportunity to recover. Every fist and kick met solidly with flesh, swelling Raiden's right eye shut, splitting his lip, bruising his ribs, and giving him a host of other minor injuries.

She drove her opponent to the ground, deflecting what pitiful attacks he could mount. The punch she had hit him with while he stood in wonder at her gender --which was most peculiar, since he knew very well what it was-- had obviously been the telling blow in the conflict. She almost felt sorry for him having left himself so ridiculously open, but it really was his own fault. A true warrior needed to be prepared for any eventuality.

The near slaughter went on until at last, Raiden, his wide hat having long since been knocked from his head, looked through his swollen eye as he found himself hoisted in the air by his collar, too weakened to resist. Thor was smirking at him as she --and it truly was a she-- boasted, "Truly a magnificent duel, but at last it must draw to a close."

Raiden firmed his resolve to meet his fate with his eyes open. He saw Thor nod once, perhaps in honor of her foe, and draw her free hand back. Just as the fist reached the apex of its arc there was a flash of light, and Raiden found himself no longer suspended in mid-air. Instead he fell, Thor having released him. His beating had been so severe that he landed on his posterior rather than his feet. His godly stamina quickly allowed him to recover enough to regain his footing, only to discovered that his opponent had vanished, the Goddess of Thunder now replaced with a young Japanese girl, who seemed to be looking at her hands in surprise.

A quick glance around showed no sign of either a male of female version of Thor around. All that remained was the girl. He listened to her say in shock, "Why did I change back? I didn't tap Mjolnir again, I didn't even have it in my hands, so why I did I change?"

The words sent Raiden's mind racing. There was a trick he had learned, from a mortal mage of all people, which enabled him to see auras. Narrowing his vision, Raiden squinted at the obviously mortal girl and saw the multitude of auras that surrounded her. After a moment's pondering, he believed he figured out what had happened and smiled inwardly. This was going to be good. Shifting his vision back into its normal spectrum, he approached the girl with a slow but steady stride.

The girl cowered back at his approach, but almost as though sensing it would do no good, stopped. Her jaw set itself with steely resolve as she stood as proudly as she could, despite only reaching the height of Raiden's chest.

Raiden gave her a menacing glare, saw her flinch a little, and then smiled. He was barely able to contain his mirth as he said, "This new form of yours is disgustingly appropriate, oh Goddess of Thunder. I now give you permission to operate in my lands at your leisure. I will raise my hand neither to oppose nor assist you. You shall meet only silence." He turned to leave, but then gave one last glance over his shoulder towards Akane. "As much as I am inclined to doubt it, perhaps you will actually learn something from this ordeal, but I would not bet on it."

Laughing, Raiden summoned a bolt from above that struck the ground with only the softest of sounds. It remained where it was, extending down from the clouds above. Raiden shot one last, derisive smirk towards the girl, then placed his hand on the bolt. It instantly began to retract, taking Raiden along with it until it disappeared into the clouds again and took the god out of sight. The moment he disappeared, the storm seemed to abate somewhat, becoming half the elemental force it had been but moments before.

"What did he mean by that?" Akane wondered aloud.

A frown creased Xellos' features as he watched Raiden fly up to the clouds on his pole of lightning. How dare that arrogant Japanese god refuse to be manipulated by him into killing Thor! That arrogant popinjay was going to ruin everything. It had taken Xellos nearly three weeks after learning of Thor's predicament before he was able to come up with a plan to eliminate the god-become-goddess without his hand showing in the machinations.

Recovering the Masques of Hagalla had taken nearly two months on their own, and now it was all about to come to an end with that damnable Thor coming out of it none the worse for wear.

But there yet remained one way of salvaging everything and still be able to pin Thor's demise on Raiden. The air was still tinged with the duo's battle, and even Thor's mortal form would still be charged with Raiden's unique godly magics. Xellos' hand glowed blue as he magically prepared to summon a blast of electricity to complete the job Raiden should have finished on his own. Death by lightning. Assuming Odin or some other god investigated the demise of Thor, they would immediately assume it was the Japanese god of thunder's work and would seek vengeance upon him rather than the true culprit. Xellos' hands would be clean of any wrongdoing. He aimed his hand at Akane's unprotected back. It was perfect.

Or it was perfect right up until the moment a powerful hand clamped around his throat from behind and threw him hard into a wall, disrupting the spell. Xellos turned in anger toward the figure that had molested him. "Who do you think you are laying hands upon me?!"

"You know who I am."

Xellos' eyes widened in disbelief for exactly one second before a back fist caught him across the face. The blood roared in his ears from the blow. He loathed physical combat to the extreme. He never was one to withstand much physical punishment, and the blow scrambled his thinking enough to prevent him from casting any kind of spell. Instead, he began babbling, trying to buy himself some time. "Now wait just a Urk!" Xellos found a very long and very sharp blade poised at his throat. "Can't we talk this out, Sif?"

"Enough talk, trickster." The tall dark-haired goddess, who stood a good six inches above Xellos, spat as she kept the blade pressed against his flesh nearly hard enough to draw blood. "Should thou attempt to cast even the simplest of enchantments, I would be more than pleased to part thy head from thy shoulders. And unlike when Balder last did it, I should be mindful to make certain that thou dost not have enough left of thy body to reattach it to."

"Very well, you have my complete and utter attention," Xellos promised.

Sif's blade remained where it was. "Thou dost know the All-Father's edict that none of the Realm might interfere in the current matter involving Thor. Any who do would find themselves in direct violation of that order and would be punished most severely. Even those that are considered of royal blood, Lo-"

"Please call me Xellos for now," he quickly interrupted. "I wouldn't want it to get out who I really am, and you never know who might be listening. Some that know me in this form might not take kindly to my real identity."

"I care nothing of thy devious schemes," Sif said contemptuously. "But let me assure thee that no matter what punishment Odin would give, mine would be a thousand times worse. Death be not the end, as thou well know, and if thou wouldst dare to raise even the slightest finger against Thor, thou wouldst be marking thy moments till the end. Thou would not be counting for overlong."

Seeing the look in Sif's eyes, Xellos decided that he had better things to do with his time than to continue plaguing Thor. The trickster enjoyed his life more than he hated the God now Goddess of Thunder, especially since he found that fun group or mortals to play with in that other dimension.

Besides, being a woman was truly a fitting punishment for the oaf, as well as being cursed to be mortal at least part of the time. And since Thor apparently was at least partially mortal, who was to say some other accident might not befall him and end his annoying existence while leaving Xellos' hands clean? Yes, many bad things happened to mortals, and there was no reason to believe Thor was immune to such possibilities. Xellos could live with keeping an eye out to dance on Thor's grave should such a time come.

"Time to go." Xellos was annoyed to discover the blade still pressed against his throat.

"Release Mjolnir," Sif reminded him.

"But of course." With a wave of the hand, Xellos canceled his spell. There was no need for the goddess to worry; once he departed, the spell's effects would have ended on their own anyway.

Finally Sif removed her blade from his throat, while keeping it ready to wield against him should it be necessary. But it was not, as Xellos formed another glowing disc in mid-air, this one leading to an open field in some far-off countryside where no buildings were immediately present. Xellos stepped halfway through the portal before turning to confront Sif once again.

"One question."

Sif cocked her head quizzically at the man she trusted the least in all the universe. "Yes?"

There was true curiosity in Xellos' voice as he asked, "Why did you choose to interfere now and save Thor's life when he so unceremoniously dumped you without a second thought all those years ago? One would think you would want to see the oaf get his comeuppance."

A look of anger crossed Sif's face, though whether it was from the question or the memories that would have undoubtedly have been dredged up by it he could not determine. "My love for him is not dependent upon his love for me. I am not so petty as to wish to see him harmed because of the events that transpired between us."

Xellos' gave a sad shake of his head, and for once seemed genuine in his emotion as he fully opened his eyes. "Such ridiculous sentimentality. It pleases me that I have never fallen for this detrimental feeling others term love. It gets them into far more trouble than I ever could, even at my best." With that declaration, Xellos turned back to the glowing gateway and entered with a flourish of his cape. Once inside, the portal collapsed after him.

Sif stared at the residual glow until it vanished, then turned her attention back to the street. Even from her position in the side alley, she could see the lame mortal discover the enchanted walking stick among the debris of the street and caress the wooden staff in ways that reminded Sif of a much taller man who had caressed her with much the same affection. Who could tell what remained of her beloved and what did not? Only the All-Father knew for certain, and he had made it clear he would tell no one what the truth was.

The goddess turned to leave, fearful of what she might do if she remained. She only hoped the one she still loved would weather this trial somehow, even if it meant they would never be rejoined.

"Stand still, you hopping rodent! Ow!"

"Wow! Even with all of this rain you still stink like five-day-old roadkill. Do you have to try to smell that bad, or does it just come naturally to you?"

"When I get my hands on you, mortal, I'll show you foul odor when I force you to eat your own dung! Ow!" Ulos shouted again as Bucky darted in again and struck him in the nose with her fist. The fortieth time she had done so without him laying a hand on her. The few times he came close with his attacks, the damnable little gnat kept blocking it with her shield, which refused to give under his blows. What was the thing made of anyway?

Another blow connected with Ulos' stomach this time. This was becoming ridiculous. Here was he, Ulos the Pretty Damn Powerful, being made a fool of by a flimsy little mortal. And a female one at that. If Ulik ever found out, Ulos would never hear the end of it for the next millennium. He had to figure out a way to end it fast.

Bucky felt pleased with the way the fight was going. The poison from Wolf Mask's bite had long since faded and now she was kicking the ugly guy's butt, although it was taking a while to do it. Still, she was winning. Her fight against the Hulk had served her well, even if she hadn't exactly won that (but Bucky would be quick to point out she hadn't lost it either). It had taught her how to fight a MUCH larger and stronger foe, especially one with the IQ of a pea. This Ulos character might have been a bit smarter than old Greenskin, but all the other rules applied. Ulos wasn't anywhere near as strong or as powerful as the Hulk. Only his fighting skills were better, and they weren't enough to counter the hit and run tactics Bucky was employing. Slowly she was wearing the ugly guy down. With her super-soldier-enhanced body, she would outlast him easily.

She threw her shield at him again, and though it caught Ulos in the face, he managed to bat it down with his hand. Upon seeing her weapon lying on the ground, the one she kept hitting him with quite effectively, he picked it up, smiling at his opponent the entire time. "Now I'll show you what I intend to do. First I'll break the shield, then I'll break you."

"Don't try it or you'll be sorry," Bucky warned.

"Ha! Your pitiful attempts at saving your weapon will avail you nothing." He held the shield in two hands, then brought it over his knee in an effort to snap it in half.

"ARGH!" he cried out as it felt like he nearly shattered his shin. The shield fell to the ground as the Rock Troll hopped up and down, holding his leg in pain.

"Toldya so." Bucky smirked as she hopped up and down while holding the same leg as Ulos.

"Die!" the troll shouted as he forced himself to fight through the pain and charged forward. He was going to grind her into paste and then give the remains to a Bordargua.

Bucky waited until the last second before leapfrogging over his head and allowing him to continue on through with his charge right into a light pole. The force from the impact severed the pole in two, Ulos draping his form across the bottom half of the shattered instrument of light.

The part that still had a bunch of live wires that had been ripped open… Ulos was shocked for nearly ten seconds before his body jerked hard enough to break the connection. He stood up, then stated boldly, "That didn't hurt."

A thrown shield struck him right in the face.

"That did." Ulos's eyes crossed.

"If you thought that was something, wait until you get a load of this." Bucky leaped up into the air, bringing her fist back as far as she could. It was time to end it all on one of the newer techniques her father had made her learn in his efforts to create the 'Heroic Icon of Superheroism'

She shouted, "Saotom…err, Bucky Anything Goes School of Superheroic Combat Final Attack: Haymaker From Hell!"

The redhead connected with a mighty roundhouse right to Ulos' jaw. Much to her amazement, the troll stood there. He laughed, then fell face forward to the ground.

"Yeah!" Bucky gave a 'V for Victory' sign with her fingers as she stood over her fallen foe. A clean victory. It felt good. Real good, especially with how miserably her fight with the Hulk had gone. The five idiots in the masks she could have taken if Nabiki hadn't…


That errant thought reminded Bucky of who she had been protecting in the first place. After looking around in a panic, the masked heroine found Nabiki lying on one of the few unbroken portions of the street, along with the five members of the Mask Gang. All of them appeared unharmed save for a little singeing upon the various members of the gang. Bucky considered them lucky for getting off that easily.

The fallen girl's breathing seemed regular and besides a few bruises, appeared fine. Gently, Bucky sat the unconscious Nabiki up. "Nabiki," she said softly.

Nabiki's eyes remained closed.

"Nabiki," Bucky said even more gently.

Still, there was no response.

"WAKE UP, DAMMIT!" Bucky shouted as she shook Nabiki like a rag doll, but still there was no response. The redhead was going to try to revive the girl by slapping her in the face until something about Nabiki's behavior beforehand stuck in her mind. Looking through a small pocket sewn into the waistband of the costume, Bucky fished out a ten yen coin. She held it up in the air, then dropped it.

The instant the coin hit the pavement, Nabiki's eyes flashed open. "What was that?" she said panicked as her head darted back and forth --and felt for her money pouch-- as she tried finding the source of the disturbance.

"Some debris falling over," Bucky said quickly as she grabbed the ten-yen piece before Nabiki spotted it. The redhead might not have been the cheapskate her father was, but she was not the sort to give money away without good cause.

That statement made Nabiki look more closely at the world around her. Her eyes widened as she saw the condition the street, and many of the adjacent buildings, were in. "Did I do this?!" she shouted out, panicked.

"No, no," Bucky assured her.

Nabiki's whole form seemed to slump from the built up tension. "Thank god. That means no one can sue me for this."

Bucky began to sweat at that. Could a superhero be sued for trying to serve the public trust and save lives? That seemed wrong in some way, but who knew. Then her eyes turned to the fallen Ulos. Oh well. They had a decent scapegoat, at least. "Are you all right?" she finally asked Nabiki.

"I think so."

"You sure?"

"Absolutely." Nabiki sat up and moved around a bit, only a few aches and pain from the bruises she had endured at the hands of the Mask Gang. Slowing her down "See. I'm fit as a…" Nabiki trailed off as she saw Hawkeye hurtle past in a life and death struggle with her arrows. "Okay. Maybe I did get hit in the head a little hard."

Bucky stared at the archer's odd behavior. "Hey! Aren't you supposed to use a bow to shoot them instead of throwing them arrows around by hand?"

The question intruded on the illusion and snapped Hawkeye out of her panic. She paused, and in so doing, reexamined the 'snake'. She couldn't believe it. Her shoulders slumped as the energy seemed to leave her body. But that lasted only a moment as anger began to fill her. "That guy must have done something to my mind and made me think my arrows were snakes. That jackass!" she seethed.

Bucky flinched. There was something about the way the archer said that that scratched at a memory in the back of her mind. She looked the superheroes over more closely. He didn't seem familiar. "What's your name, pal?"

Hawkeye was taken aback by how intently the redhead in the odd costume was looking at her. Still, as somewhat rude as the question was, they had saved each other's lives, and taking offense at that would seem a bit uncalled for. "The name's Hawkeye."

"Hawkeye," Bucky said slowly. No way! It couldn't be him. That was too much to believe. It had to be a coincidence. Before Bucky could think more on the subject, another person approached, her manner indicating some degree of agitation.

After discovering her walking stick amongst the rubble of where it had melted into the street before, she had moved as quickly as she could behind an overturned car and hid. Given how terrible the storm had been, it was unlikely anyone had seen her change from Thor to her more mundane form. But now that the storm had abated somewhat, there was a chance someone would spot her if she tried switching into Thor once again. So she hid, making certain no one was around as she pondered her situation. Why had she changed back? It made no sense. The only thing she could figure out was perhaps it had something to do with Mjolnir. It had been swallowed by the ground, and she had been out of contact with the hammer for a short length of time. That seemed to make sense. Since she had first stumbled onto the power within the stick, she had always kept it with her, especially in her godly form. It sounded like the most likely probability; some sort of restriction on the enchantment.

Now came the second important question: could she change back? Her heart raced as the possibility of losing her godly form and its power reared its head. Giving a cursory look around to see if anyone was watching her, she tapped her walking stick into the ground. In a flash of light, Thor, Goddess of Thunder, walked the Earth once again.

"Praise the All-Father," Thor softly intoned as she made certain every part of her was there and that she had suffered no ill effects from the previous forced transformation.

Satisfied she was in perfect health, she turned her attention to other concerns. Such as the condition of her sister and the others that had been present at the start of the fight. Almost immediately she spotted the trio of people talking together. As she drew closer, she saw that the red-haired harlot was examining the one called Hawkeye closely. Too closely for Thor's tastes. A bit startled by the anger in her breast, Thor stalked towards the redhead.

Bucky could feel the hostility radiating from the goddess, and tensed up in response.

Thor stood next to Bucky, placing herself slightly between the redhead and archer. "Thou should keep thy tempestuous ways to thyself, harlot."

Bucky was confused by the accusation. Did the goddess think she was coming onto her in some way? They hadn't said two words to one another since the fight started. "What's that supposed to mean, Sore?"

"Mine name is Thor!" she corrected loudly and with a wave of her hammer.

Hawkeye couldn't understand why the two were suddenly so angry with one another. In an effort to placate them, she gave them her winningest smile and said, "Look, we've just been through a really tense situation here. Let's calm down and talk rationally amongst ourselves."

Bucky was basically unaffected by the gesture and just spun on her heels and crossed her arms. Thor was more easily swayed. Truly this Hawkeye had a most dynamic smile that served to put the goddess in a good mood. Since the archer was trying so hard, Thor let go of her anger, and said, "Very well."

Since Thor seemed to relax somewhat, and having no desire to continue an argument she hadn't started, Bucky said, "Okay. I have to get going anyway." There was a limited amount of time she had in which to get her normal clothes back, get some hot water, and come up with an excuse as to why Ranma Saotome had not made his way to the fight in time to help Nabiki like he had said he was going to do.

"Ah, I have other appointments as well." Thor hurled her hammer in the air and followed its passage by hanging onto the leather strap that hung down from the weapon. She had to turn back to Akane and be waiting for Ranma and Nabiki when they went to get to find her.

"I suppose I ought to hit the road as well," Hawkeye said. She had intended to go out on a brief afternoon patrol right after school to blow off some steam, but the battle had taken a while and it was starting to get late. She had to get ready for the evening crowd at her cousin's restaurant that she worked at. It was a pity she was so miserable at okonomiyaki style martial arts that her father had refused to give her a loan to start her own restaurant, but being a super hero was cool and realistically ate up too much time to allow her to run her own business anyway. She had her hands full just trying to keep up her grades, work, and go out on nightly patrols. But it was a juggling act she was determined to keep up for as long as she could.

Nabiki watched the three heroes depart and sighed. That had been a complete waste of time. She was beat, her clothing torn, and now she had to find Ranma and Akane. The only useful thing that happened was meeting those superheroes. They seemed relatively nice, even if they had been a bit destructive. Although now that she thought about it, there was something about them that was nagging her. She was pretty sure that Bucky girl had called out her name, but Nabiki had forgotten to ask her how she knew it since Nabiki hadn't given her name. Could she really have been someone Nabiki knew? Now that sort of knowledge could be useful.

The wheels of Nabiki's mind began turning as she went to find her sister and the boy who would never be her fiancé.

The rain had finally stopped as Bucky found her father waiting for her several blocks away. One costume change and kettle of hot water later, Ranma was back in his uncursed form. Now it was time to discuss how to solve the final problem with his father.

Ranma finished up saying, "So you see, Pop. I need a reasonable excuse as to why I wasn't there in time to help them."

*I agree wholeheartedly,* Genma-panda signed.

Ranma's eye took on a sinister gleam. "I think I've got something. How about we say I got jumped by a sixth member of the Mask Gang?"

*Sounds reasonable,* Genma-panda agreed.

"A panda."

*Works for me.*

"And I beat him up, which was what took me so long."

*A terrible plan boy. They'll never buy it.*

"Oh, I think with a little 'proof' they'll believe it." Ranma cracked his knuckles for emphasis.

Genma-panda backed away in fear. *Wait a minute. Let's put our heads together. We'll come up with something else.*

Ranma continued to stalk menacingly towards his father. "Now come on, Pop. Aren't you the one that's always going on about how there's no sacrifice too great for me becoming a super-hero?"

All Genma-panda could do was whimper about traitorous sons who knew no concept of honoring their fathers. Though later on, he was able to live with the consolation that when Ranma showed Akane and Nabiki his mud covered form (from the pounding into the soft earth he got courtesy of his son), which they mistook for a brown bear, they believed his son's story and didn't arouse their suspicions. The trio had departed, leaving Genma's animal form wallowing in the mud. It was undignified, but it had worked just like they had hoped.

And when all was said and done, Genma found himself hoping Nodoka appreciated the sacrifices he had undergone. Being a superhero's sidekick was tough work.

The man sat back on the lounge chair, enjoying the rays of the sun beating down upon him. Truly that travel agent had been correct when he claimed this Rio De Janeiro beach was magnificent. He had been here nearly two weeks, enjoying the delights this city had to offer: both those that took place during the daytime and those that could only be done during the night.

But now something had happened to disrupt what was otherwise a luxurious vacation. Somehow, someone had tracked him down and delivered a telegram to him. To his knowledge, no one knew where he was vacationing. And yet still, there was the telegram before him. His eyes looked over it once again, their enigmatic words filling his mind.

My Old Comrade.

It is with great pleasure that I inform you that I am back among the world of mortals. I know I have been absent overlong, but am feeling well and ready to renew our friendship, which I pray will grow in new directions. I will let you know that I have undergone significant changes, changes that I hope will spur a change in our longtime relationship and make us closer in ways that it could never be before. I am now based in Nerima, Japan, and look forward to seeing you once again.

--Thor Odinson

Truly an unexpected event. Rumor had it something happened to Thor while he was in Asgard a while back, and no one had heard from him since. There was a lot of speculation as to what might have happened, from some sort of disfigurement, to a scorned woman, to some kind of law broken for which he was on the run. He asked around, but had been unable to uncover any precise information. Though he and Thor were friends, and at time rivals, they were not really all that close, and since he had other important things to do, and Thor had not been gone for more than a hundred years, a virtual eyeblink for immortals, he pushed the thunder god's absence from his mind and went back to the thing he enjoyed most: living life to the fullest.

But now Thor was back, and it was just the sort of thing to liven his day. It would be good for the two of them to reunite and make many more memorable events between them. Thor was always good for a round of heavy drinking and the occasional wenching. Sometimes a friendly fight or two. He wasn't as good as the man was at it, but then no one was. It would be good to hang out with a fellow immortal once again. Yes. Thor would be in his near future.

Just as he was about to get up and arrange flight reservations, Hercules eyed several shapely forms saunter down the beach, one of the vixens lowering her sunglasses as she walked past, obviously basking in his godly presence. As he got up, he decided he would visit Japan once he was done with a few more parties. Then he could meet his old comrade-in-arms and they could renew their association once again. There were such things as priorities, after all. But soon he would head out for that little island in the Pacific.

Very soon.

In a dimension not so far away, Xellos laughed long and hard. True, he had promised to not meddle in Thor's affairs anymore, and in the best interest of his health he would do so, but it had been impossible to resist causing that little inspired bit of trickery, and all it had taken was a telegram. Maximum effect with a minimum of effort. Truly it was one of his better works. And it wasn't as though this encounter would prove physically harmful to his moronic stepbrother, sister, sibling, or whatever term now applied. Who knew, perhaps the Goddess of Thunder would enjoy the company of her old comrade in arms.

Yeah, right.

Xellos burst out laughing again.

"What's so funny?" the short red-haired girl that was standing a few feet away asked.

Xellos turned to her direction, opened his mouth, then placed a single finger to his lips and said, "That is a secret."

"Ohh, I hate it when you do that!" Lina stomped off without another word. And Xellos continued laughing in amusement.


To be continued.

Author's notes: A little shorter than the others, but it was a good place to end it. Going back to work on the next chapter of 'Should Acquaintance' next, but am planning to come back to Avenging after that. Hopefully I will keep this up for a while.

Act 1-6
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