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Xellos grinned as he finished setting up the boxlike device in the center of the clearing. Satisfied, he walked to a nearby stump, and with a wave of the hand turned it into a comfortable wooden chair.

Lina watched Xellos closely, wondering what he was up to. She still couldn't fathom the purpose of the box with the glass front, one that couldn't be peered into. After much internal debate, she decided to go with the direct approach. Sometimes Xellos was straightforward, when it suited his purpose. "What is that thing?"

"A magic box," Xellos explained.

"What does it do?" Amelia asked.

"It entertains by showing images of far-off places." Pulling out a small rectangle with a number of buttons on it, Xellos pointed it at the magic box and pushed a button. Suddenly the glass showed a snowy background and made an annoying static noise.

"I don't feel entertained," Zelgadis said dryly.

"It's poor reception. Gourry, pull out your Sword of Light."

Gourry did so.

"Now put your hand on the television set."

"The what?" Gourry asked.

"The magic box."

Again Gourry did so. Instantly an image started to form and voices could be heard through the fuzzy noise.

"Hold the sword high above your head," Xellos instructed. "More to the right. More to the left. More to the left. Just a little more. There!" Finally the image came in perfectly. "Stay right there."

Gourry couldn't help noticing everyone had sat down to watch the magic box, all except him. He stood on one foot, leaning so far over he was ready to topple. To compound the matter, his arm started to ache since the Sword of Light was pointed in a different direction than his body.

"How long do I have to do this?" Gourry asked.

"Until the show's over."

Gourry sighed.

A Ranma ½ / Avengers (the superhero group) fusion
by DB Sommer

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ owned by Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. The Avengers are owned by Marvel Comics. Yes, the superheroes, not the British TV Series.

Any and all C+C is appreciated. You can contact me at [sommert@connecttime.net]

Revised: 12/12/05

Act II, Scene 7: Hercules: Prince of Power
(Not a Sam Raimi Production)

The smell of decades old wood, worn from bare feet moving across it thousands of times, permeated the air of the dojo. Light filtered through a handful of windows set high in the walls, bathing the room in sunlight from dusk until dawn. Racks of martial weapons, some practice, some not, lined the walls. The center of the dojo was empty for one purpose: combat. Currently two fighters faced off against one another in aggressive stances, each eager to fight. A palpable tension filled the air, lending seriousness to the duel that was about to take place.

Off to the side, Ranma stood next to his father, watching intently as Soun and Nabiki kept their eyes riveted to one another. The older man was dressed in his standard brown gi, while Nabiki’s was night black, embroidered with sinewy golden dragons on the front.

"Are you ready?" Genma asked, hand raised high above his head.

The pair continued staring silently at one another, as though to blink was to admit defeat.

"Begin!" The hand dropped.

The two charged one another. Soun lashed out first with a hard right intended for his middle child's chest. Nabiki shifted to the side, the fist close enough to brush against the material of her uniform. Lightning quick, she lashed out with a punch to Soun’s jaw while he was off balance.

Soun took the blow and tried spinning around with a kick that would have come close to taking Nabiki's head off if it had connected. Instead she ducked under the kick, lashing out with a foot of her own at her father's leg, the one supporting him. It struck squarely behind the knee, causing him to collapse on his back. She followed with an axe kick, raised high above her head, before bringing it crashing down on his stomach. Soun *wuffed* as all the air was driven out of his lungs.

Nabiki fell on her bottom, next to her father's arm. "Time to practice joint locks." She grabbed his arm with her hands and scooted her body toward him on the floor, locking her legs around his chest and grabbing fully onto the limb. She twisted it in three different directions, none of them in the way they were meant to bend.

Soun slapped his free hand madly on the floor, babbling, "I yield!"

Nabiki continued bending Soun's arm in ways that would make a contortionist envious. "Oh come on, Daddy, I need the practice, and it's not like I've broken anything… yet."

"Get off him." Ranma moved toward the pair.

Just before he could lay a hand on her, Nabiki finally released the hold and rolled to her feet. "Don’t get so worked up. Besides, he's the one that was asking for it. I never wanted to learn martial arts. He made me do it for the so-called 'family honor'. So if he ends up with a few bruises… let's just call it reaping the whirlwind."

Ranma scowled in disapproval as Soun rose unsteadily to his feet, Genma lending a helping hand. The Tendou patriarch bowed before Nabiki. "It has become evident I have taught you all I can."

Nabiki's attitude suddenly brightened. "You mean I can quit these stupid training matches?"

"It means you'll be training with Ranma from now on." Soun breathed a deep sigh of relief and walked to the sideline, still trying to catch his breath.

Nabiki's ire returned, doubled. She snorted disdainfully at Ranma. "Forget it. I don't fight, or spar for no reason."

"Oh, afraid you'll lose?" Ranma asked haughtily.

"No, I'd win. I have nothing to prove, and there's no profit in it for me."

Unflustered, Ranma smirked at her. "I see. You're one of those people who cover up their insecurities with bravado."

Nabiki suddenly mirrored Ranma's attitude, right down to his posture. "Like you can bruise my ego with your transparent ploys." She was about to say more when she snapped her mouth shut with an audible click. Her eyes traveled over Ranma's form, and a smile returned to her lips. "Okay, I'll fight you under one condition. If I win, I'm no longer a contender for the engagement."

Soun was quick to add, "And if you lose, you agree to marry him."

"No way." Nabiki crossed her arms under her bosom and half-turned away.

Ranma made a choking sound and looked like he wanted to bolt. Of course he'd defeat Nabiki. It was a foregone conclusion, but no way was he marrying her or anyone else. He had to come up with some reason to change the stakes before the fathers blackmailed him into the fight, and he ended up an unwilling husband. "We, ah, can't do that because it, ah, wouldn't be fair to Akane or Kasumi."

Soun's eyes widened, then narrowed in consideration.

"A date, then," Genma suggested.

Soun rubbed his mustache thoughtfully, then nodded to his friend's recommendation.

Nabiki weighed the potential losses versus gains and said, "Fine."

"I agree too," Ranma said. He could live with a date. He had even gone out with the other girls already. At the same time, actually. It had made for an interesting time, and a good one since neither girl could put the moves on him without offending the other.

Nabiki brought up her fists, setting her legs as though she might attack at that moment. "Get ready to make it a two girl fiancée race, Ranma."

Ranma tensed up slightly. "The only chance you have of winning is if I'd gone ten rounds with the Hulk beforehand."

There was no more banter exchanged as Nabiki inhaled deeply. She intended to end things quickly using whatever means necessary. Once she was out of the running, she could help marry off Ranma to either of her sisters, have him carry on the Tendou school, then drop this whole martial arts crap. It was obvious he was overconfident. Many of her foes took that attitude since she didn't like martial arts. But not liking something didn't mean one wasn't good at it. On the contrary, she was very, very good, as Ranma was about to discover to his eternal regret.

Nabiki mentally pictured her first two attacks and calculated all of Ranma's potential defenses against them. She settled on one that she was certain would be effective against the big lug and prepared to take the battle to him. An early critical blow could end things quickly.

Just then a small red blur shattered a window and shot into the room, attaching itself to Nabiki's breasts. She froze in place, statue still. She looked down in horror at the new growth snuggling against her bosom.

A mostly bald cranium with a ring of white hair was there. The head turned upward to reveal a repulsive visage so wrinkled it looked like someone had tried to dehydrate a prune. It grinned broadly, flashing perfect white teeth, even if the smile itself could curdle milk.

"Sweeto!" the elderly ball of perverted energy declared.

The voice shocked Nabiki into action. She gave a shrill cry of "Get off of me!" and slammed her fist into the elderly man's face.

The force of the blow knocked him from his perch, but rather than resulting in injury, he simply bounced upon hitting the floor. His upward arc took him between Nabiki's legs and behind her. His tiny hands firmly attached themselves to her derriere, where he began rubbing against her bottom as he had her top.

Nabiki screeched in terror. She began spinning around, trying to figure out how to dislodge the ugly man, when the matter was taken care of courtesy of a roundhouse punch from Ranma. It hit the pervert solidly, driving him to the floor. This time the old man lay there, groaning in pain.

Genma shouted, "Don't let up, boy!"

"Yes, kill it before it has a chance to recover!" Soun seconded.

Momentarily taken aback by the men's bloodthirstiness, Ranma hesitated, allowing the little man to return to his feet unharmed, despite the force behind Ranma’s punch. Idly the pervert pulled out a pipe, which began smoking despite not being lit.

Surprised by the little creature's resilience, Ranma went to attack him again. The old man caught Ranma's fist in the crook of his pipe and casually used it to toss his attacker into a far wall. The impact shattered boards and shook the walls.

"It'll take more than that little tap to finish off Happosai, you young punk," Happosai boasted. He then turned to the pair of cheerleaders. "And you two. How dare you show such disrespect to your master."

Both men prostrated themselves before Happosai. Genma said, "We're sorry, Master."

"The only thing you're sorry about is not using more dynamite," Happosai replied.

By then Nabiki had fully recovered and was angry, angrier than she had been in years. "No one touches me like that and lives." She lunged for Happosai, aiming a chop at his skull, one that could shatter bricks into pebbles.

Happosai leaped out of the way, using Nabiki's head to vault up into the air. He dropped straight down as Nabiki passed under him. As he landed on the floor, he caught the waistband of her pants and pulled them down, revealing a black thong underneath.

"Nice taste in panties." Happosai leered.

Nabiki made a wholly girlish screech and pulled her pants back up.

Before Happosai could say anything further, he narrowly avoided a fist intended to crush his entire body. He looked at his attacker. "Say, kid, you're pretty resilient. Who are you anyway?"

"Ranma Saotome, the guy that's going to kick your ass."

"Only after I do," Nabiki snarled, moving alongside him.

Startled by her willingness to stand at his side, Ranma said, "I thought you didn’t fight if there wasn't something in it for you."

"Revenge is always worthwhile," Nabiki said in deadly tones.

Happosai ignored their conversation and turned to Genma. "He's yours?"

Genma nodded in pride. "Yes. In fact, we decided he's the one to carry on the Anything Goes legacy."

"We did?" Soun asked, then a knowing light came on in his eyes. "Oh yes, we did. He's much better than us and there's nothing else we can teach him. He is the one to carry on the art. He should be your student instead of us," he pleaded.

Happosai looked Ranma over, then nodded. "Very well. He shall become my student. I can tell he's got more potential than both of you put together."

The two men shouted, "Free!" and hugged one another, tears rolling down their faces.

"What in the hell is going on?" Ranma bellowed.

Genma detached himself from Soun. "Ranma, meet Happosai, the founder of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts and your new master."

Ranma recoiled in disgust. "You've got to be kidding me."

"Nope. It's all true," Happosai assured them. "I was your fathers' teacher until they got me drunk, tied explosives to me, and sealed me in a cave." He shot his two former pupils a dirty look, showing the matter was far from over even if they weren't his students. "Since I'm your new master, you need to show me some respect."

"I'll show you my fist!" Ranma shouted.

"And mine!" Nabiki seconded.

Both ran to attack the diminutive man. He taunted, "Catch me if you can!" and darted out of the dojo with the pair hot on his heels.

Soun watched the events develop, tears flowing from his eyes. "Saotome, is it true? Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?"

"Yes, Tendou. Our children are working together. The future of our families is secure."

Akane used her cane to support her as she made her way through the home. It was a bad day for the leg. Worse, she had overheard her father talking about training with Nabiki and had avoided the dojo. She hated watching anyone performing the art; it was too heartbreaking. And she hated Nabiki for wanting to reject the very thing Akane would have given anything short of her soul for. At least she had two bright things in her life: Dr. Tofu and her alter ego. She could go on like that. In fact, maybe she should go out and change now. There was nothing quite as exhilarating as not being a cripple.

She considered locating Kasumi and letting her know she was going out when a red blur landed right in front of her. An elderly face looked up at her and bowed. "Hey ya, Babe. The name's Happosai. You wouldn't happen to be Soun's youngest, Akane, would you?"

Akane's eyebrow twitched. "Od's blood. A troll on Midgard. And it knows my name."

"Don't even think about touching her, you lech!" Ranma shouted as he ran into the room, trying to kick Happosai, who darted out of the way. Ranma followed hot on the little man's heels as they left the room

Before Akane could think, Nabiki shot past. She paused long enough to say, "Don't worry, Sis, we'll kill that thing before it tries anything else, like breathing," and then exited the room.

Akane considered everything that had just happened. Yes, it was definitely best to visit Avengers Mansion. She'd just leave a note to say she'd be out until evening.

Kasumi toiled away in the kitchen, making lunch, when the red blur shot into the room and firmly attached itself to her bosom. Like her younger sister, she froze for a moment at the sensations coming from a body part that was not used to stimulation of any kind.

Happosai looked up from his perch. "Say hello to your uncle Happi!"

Kasumi screamed at the top of her lungs and slapped him across the face, unleashing a full power 'sting' at the same moment. Happosai went flying into a wall, cracking it before landing hard, a smoldering handprint left on his cheek.

Ranma and Nabiki ran into the room. The instant they spotted Happosai, they stopped in their tracks. Both of them looked at Kasumi in surprise.

Nabiki said, "Whoa, Sis. What did you do to him?"

Kasumi, surprised at being able to unleash her blasts at full size, thought quickly. "I slapped him."

"He's smoking," Ranma pointed out.

"I must have hit a vital spot."

Nabiki picked the unconscious little man up. She shook him once, disappointed to note he was still twitching. "Let's throw him out in the garbage before he comes around."

"Good idea." Ranma grabbed some garbage bags and went in search of some heavy duty chains.

The building referred to as Avengers Mansion had been formerly known as the Kunou ancestral home. The building itself was large, able to comfortably house two dozen family and staff. The grounds surrounding the building took up a number of acres, a sign of old money given its location in Nerima. However, anyone approaching the mansion would be most surprised by the lack of activity in the buildings surrounding the estate.

That silence was due to the missing Kunou patriarch, who had purchased the surrounding land, not for developmental reasons, but because he found his neighbors 'too noisy'. So now every building surrounding the estate lay vacant, making things very quiet indeed.

Along with serving as the headquarters for the Avengers, the mansion held but one servant (Kodachi preferring to live in an apartment near her lab), an individual known simply as Sasuke, the Kunou family's faithful butler/ninja.

As far as Sasuke was concerned he had landed the best job in the world: butler to the Avengers. It was like heaven. For the first time in his life, he felt like he was making a difference. True, he was still doing the same things he did as a normal butler, but it was for superheroes who helped protect the world from bad people. Since he made a difference in their lives, that meant he made a difference in other people's lives. It was like an indirect kiss, which were the only kind he ever experienced.

Besides, he was a ninja, and he was certain once he impressed them with his ninja-like abilities, they'd put him on the team and then he'd be able to land the babes. It was only a matter of time before they acknowledged his talents, then he could choose a name. 'The Ninja' sounded pretty good to him.

Currently only the Hulk and Thor were in residence. He had already won over the Hulk with his sneakiness, even if the green goliath insisted on referring to him as 'Small Mouse Man'. One day he would earn the title of 'Small Sneaky Man'. Someday.

Sasuke was still in the midst of pondering his superhero name when his communicator beeped — and it was an official Avengers communicator, too. His communicator was tied directly into the house's central computer, a device designed by Kodachi. The whole house could be controlled via a computer that could see to its denizens' needs, which was how Sasuke was able to maintain the sizeable mansion on his own. Nothing but state of the art for the Avengers. It alerted Sasuke to the exterior defenses having been activated. That meant an intruder of some kind. Luckily, the numerous protective devices hidden throughout the grounds were non-lethal in nature. Already they had neutralized a number of prospective thieves and the occasional low-powered supervillain: the Grinder, Mister Fish, and Kangaroo had been laid low on separate occasions by the defenses. Personally, Sasuke felt they didn't need the defenses and he could have defeated them all on his own to prove his worth, but his mistress wouldn't hear of it. Obviously she valued his butler skills highly to want him to stay out of danger. But the beckoning call of heroism couldn't be denied. It was in his blood.

In any event he had to see who had tripped the defenses and alert the proper authorities to round them up.

Sasuke opened the door to find himself confronted with a very large male gaijin. He was huge, taller than anyone other than the Hulk, and his musculature was incredible, more so even than Captain Japan. His costume consisted of little more than a short skirt with a wide belt, boots, and a leather strap that fit over one shoulder and served as additional support for his skirt. He had a beard and a friendly smile.

More disturbing was the path of destruction that lined the walkway to the door, and that the man showed no sign of being affected by the defenses in any way. No, that wasn't exactly true. There was a torn mechanical arm wrapped around his ankle. It was composed of titanium and could confine an elephant.

For a brief moment, Sasuke envisioned defeating this intruder to prove his worth to the Avengers. Then he decided being a manservant was a perfectly reputable job. They also serve who only stand and wait, after all. Words to live by, which were infinitely better than words to die by.

The stranger said in archaic Japanese, "Greetings, manservant. Is this the domicile that Thor doth reside in?"

"Yes, it is," Sasuke said meekly.

The man looked the mansion over and muttered. "Truly mine friend is doing what the mortals refer to as slumming." More loudly he said, "I am the Thunderer's comrade of old, Hercules. Dismiss your awe and announce my presence."

"You can come inside," Sasuke offered.

Hercules shook his head. "Nay, I would prefer to remain without and play with more of these entertaining devices that line thy yard."

"I see." Sasuke closed the door and had the computer locate Thor. Hopefully this being was a friend of the Goddess of Thunder, because he didn't like the idea of being near a villain who thought the house's protective devices were a form of entertainment.

The butler found Thor in the main meeting chamber of the Avengers, tapping an impatient finger as she watched the trouble monitor. Employing his ninja skills, Sasuke was about to sneak up on Thor when the goddess in question asked, "What dost thou want?" without turning her head.

Sasuke shrugged off the failure. She was a goddess, and he but a mortal. No contest at all when it came to stealth and detection. "There is an extremely large man outside that claims to be an old comrade of yours. A Mr. Hercules."

Thor shot out of her chair, a bundle of eagerness and delight. "Mine old friend! Where is he?"

Sasuke was relieved the man was who he claimed. He didn't want to know what sort of damage Hercules could inflict on the manor, or the ninja serving in it. "He wanted to wait outside so he could… test our defenses."

Thor was off like a bolt of lightning, which fit well with her status as Goddess of Thunder. It had been centuries since she had last fought alongside her Olympian comrade-in-arms. While they were from differing pantheons, they got along infamously. Well, after they had nearly beaten each other to death thanks to the machinations of Loki and Ares. But they had discovered the plot to set one against the other (technically it was Sif and Hermes who had uncovered it, but Thor would have done it eventually), and soundly thrashed the Gods of Mischief and War. Since then they had undertaken grand adventures, like defeating the Egyptian Death God, Set, recovering the Cask of Ancient Winters, and destroying that self-proclaimed angel, Adam, in the Antarctic. Larger than Fafnir, still the creature had fallen to the gods' combined might. Well, it had taken Odin to prevent catastrophe by impaling the beast with his spear, Gungnir, to keep him from exploding and destroying most of the southern hemisphere, but how was Thor to know 'Angels' were so volatile?

Ah yes, many a fine adventure had been experienced with Hercules. Many unending nights of drinking and debauchery to be had. Like when they raided the hundred woman harem of that mad sheik, Abdul Azzurah. By the time he and Hercules were through with them, they had shown the women what there was to 'immortal might' indeed….

Thor felt heat rush to her cheeks. No, that was not right. She had not done any such thing. She couldn’t have. It was a mistake. Yes, that was it. Her memories were scrambled for some reason. She wouldn’t do that sort of thing with a woman, or a dozen women to be more accurate, skin gleaming in oils….

Thor shook her head free of her erroneous thoughts and rushed through the house and arrived at the entryway. She took a moment to compose herself, then opened the door to greet her old friend.

And there he was, standing in the doorway, wide smile on his face. Thor returned the smile with one of her own. "Greetings, my fr—"

And then Hercules drew back his fist and struck Thor with all of his godly might.

There was a resounding boom as Thor was belted through the entire length of the mansion, destroying wall after wall with her immortal body, until she went through the last wall. Momentum finally killed, she skipped across the ground several times before skidding to a stop.

Hercules was in motion so quickly that he was halfway through the house by the time she landed. He spotted her on the ground, and rushed up to her. He gave a jovial, "Greetings, my old comrade. It hath been too many centuries since last we met."

Thor had just gotten up on all fours when Hercules kicked her in the stomach, punting her through a fountain lined with plump granite cherubs, and a stone retaining wall. He followed quickly behind her once again.

Thor lay on her stomach, trying to collect herself. As she tried to rise, she unhooked her hammer from her belt, but before she could do anything she was picked up by the back of the neck and pulled a foot off the ground.

"Thou hast lost much weight, Thunderer. You are as light as Artemis now." He drew back and threw Thor like a football, her hammer slipping from her grasp. She flew like a javelin straight into one of the large buildings surrounding the mansion, collapsing most of the five story structure right on top of her.

Rather than chase after his old friend a third time, Hercules waited for Thor to reappear, but no one emerged from the wreckage. The Olympian held his hand to his chin in thought. "Hmm, perhaps I greeted Thor too enthusiastically. The might of Hercules is not to be trifled with, and the Thunderer was always weaker than mineself."

Hercules was about to walk over to see if Thor needed excavating when he became aware of an aura of anger the likes of which had not been felt since Zeus heard the Titans were being considered for parole. He turned around, only to find himself having to look up into a ton of emerald fury.

The Hulk shouted, "You hit Hammer Girl, now Hulk hit you!"

Hercules had just enough time to brace himself for the blow, which is why he only flew to the edge of the grounds of Avengers Mansion instead of Detroit.

For a moment, Hercules couldn't think. It was then he realized the blow had rendered him momentarily senseless. He slowly rose to his feet, looking around to see he was lying in the center of a pit nearly ten meters across.

The emerald goliath leapt into view, landing a handful meters away from Hercules, a distance that could be crossed in a second with his prodigious might. The Olympian examined his new foe in a new light. "By Hades, thou dost hit with the might of Zeus's thunderbolts." Rather than being angered, Hercules appeared excited.

The Hulk shouted, "Hulk not hit like thunderbolt. Hulk hit like Hulk."

And Hercules proved he could hit nearly as hard as a Hulk as he leapt to the attack, landing a punch that sent the Hulk sailing away back into the partially destroyed fountain, making it completely destroyed.

The Hulk rose to his feet, angrier than ever.

Hercules appeared even more delighted. "And thou has the endurance of Typhon. Truly thou art a worthy challenge to the Prince of Power."

The Hulk responded with an articulate, "Hulk smash!"

And then the fight was on.

Matsui Tanaka of the Tokyo Seismic Institute shot out of the chair he had been leaning back in and shot to his feet as the sensor he had been staring at suddenly registered a tremendous shock. As he rubbed his eyes to make certain he wasn't dreaming, a second tremor was recorded. A third and fourth followed as he dialed up his supervisor.

After misdialing it twice, Matsui shouted, "I think a big one is coming! We're getting a number of hits, increasing in intensity." Panic seeped through his statement, despite his attempt at professionalism. His entire family lived in Tokyo.

"Calm down," his supervisor soothed. "Determine the epicenter and we'll work from there."

Matsui went over to the proper computer and used a program to determine the location. "It's… Oh, it's Avengers Mansion."

"See? There's nothing to worry about," the supervisor said in a tone identical to a parent assuring a child there was no boogeyman under his bed.

Matsui hung up the phone, suitably humiliated. It was all the fault of those damned superheroes. As far as he was concerned, anyone that pretended they were a natural disaster should be treated as one. Someone should do something about them.

He had dark thoughts regarding them for the rest of his shift.

Yusaku Hino, aka The Crusher, stood outside Avengers Mansion, eager to show the world his anger by crushing all of the overrated superheroic scum (hence his supervillain name. Well, that and the fact he possessed superhuman strength due to his being a mutant), and he was starting with the Avengers.

Like many mutants, his powers had been triggered through adolescence and a traumatic incident. In his case it was learning the love of his life, Hikaru Hiyama, was in a lesbian relationship with Madoka Ayukawa. The shock had proven too much for poor Yusaku. From that day onward, he became a walking testament to self-pity, excessively melodramatic misery, and a propensity to whine about how no one could understand his pain.

Basically, he became a full-fledged teenager. Except for his ability to bench-press fifteen tons.

Yusaku stood on the periphery of the estate grounds and shouted, "Come out, Avengers, and prepared to be crushed by… The Crusher!" He flexed his arms to show off his impressive physique.

In answer a huge boulder came hurtling through the air. Yusaku had just enough time to register it before it landed on him. Unfortunately for him, the boulder weighed sixteen tons. It broke all of his limbs and twenty-three out of twenty-four ribs. When Yusaku was dug out by emergency crews later in the day, the headlines would read 'Crusher Crushed by the Avengers'.

Akane Tendou grimaced at the scene of destruction wrought by the Hulk-Hercules fight. Nearly half the buildings surrounding the mansion had been leveled, and the grounds had been forever altered. Only the mansion had escaped damage, at least more damage than what Akane had inflicted when her old comrade had used her as a human missile. Despite the signs of intense battle, the pair attacked one another just as viciously as at the start of the fight, even if both sported a number of bruises. It appeared they could go all day long. Not that the area could take it.

Akane probably could have stopped the fight earlier, save Mjolnir being knocked from her grasp by Hercules's final blow, the one that had brought half the building down on top of her. By the time she had unburied herself, a minute had elapsed and she had reverted back into her mortal form. Now she was forced to limp across the battle zone, trying hard to keep from becoming collateral damage as she sought her stick. As intent as both men were upon beating each other to death, she doubted if a cruise missile could catch their attention. A high school girl stood even less of a chance of being noticed, at least until it was too late. She had to find her stick. Then the fight would end. Cruise missiles had nothing on Thor.

Luck was with her for the first time all day. The area she had dropped her hammer looked like a no man's land, but her stick lay unharmed between two newly hewn craters. Akane had just grasped its handle when a giant uprooted tree came hurtling through the air straight toward her. Two sets of lives flashed before her eyes as she reflexively brought her arms out in front of her.

Hercules pounded away at his emerald foe, delighted at the fight. While in the beginning he was stronger of the two, now the tables seemed to have turned as the creature was hitting for far more damage than perhaps even Hercules himself could inflict. Truly it was amazing. Not that brute strength was the difference. While Hercules relied on his strength, his skills in battle were unmatched after centuries of fighting. The emerald one lacked even the basic rudiments of trained combat, simply opting to 'smash, smash, and more smash' as his technique. Still, between that and his ability to absorb literally godly amounts of punishment, it proved an effective strategy. Hercules would win, of course, but he would have to earn this one. He wouldn't have had it any other way.

Lust of combat clouding his senses, Hercules leveled the Hulk with a divine fist. As the Hulk went down, Hercules brayed to his foe, "This contest is magnificent! Not since I last strove against the Destroyer have I met a being of thy mettle. Let this be a fight to the finish, so that bards may sing of it for the centuries to come."

"This fight is finished!" a feminine voice shouted out behind him.

Before Hercules could react, a hammer thrown with the full fury of the Goddess of Thunder struck him squarely in the back. It was bad enough that the attack caught him unaware, preventing him from bracing for it, but the blow threw him straight into a full strength punch of the enraged Hulk. A fist nearly as large as Hercules’s skull met his unprotected face, throwing him through the air and destroying yet another section of trees. When his aerial journey finally came to a stop, he lay on the ground, unmoving.

Seeing his foe beaten, and that Thor was in good health, the Hulk began to calm down. He turned to the goddess. "Hulk did not need help smashing Muscleman."

"The blow was to restore my pride," Thor assured him. "Besides, he did not truly intend me harm. Hercules is merely… exuberant in his greetings. Now it is time to deal with the muscle-bound dolt."

Consciousness returned to Hercules, and on its heels, the memory of what he had been doing. "The fight!" He tried to rise, but found himself unable to move, his arms and legs bound to a chair he was seated in. He found himself in what appeared to be a meeting chamber. He was poised next to a huge table with an 'A' enclosed by a circle in the center of it. Seven chairs, some quite large, surrounded the table. Hercules was in the second largest one. "Who tempts the Fates by daring to bind the Prince of Power?"

"I did."

Hercules turned to see his former foe and Thor standing side-by-side, unamused.

Seeing his old friend, Hercules's mood changed as fast as Hermes as he gave a cheerful smile. "Thor, mine old friend, how good it is to see… you?"

Thor suddenly became uneasy as she saw Hercules staring at her chest. He had never looked at it like that before, she was certain. She’d have remembered, even with a memory as full of holes as hers was.

Exerting his full godly might, Hercules snapped the cables snaring him and shot up from the chair. He rushed up to Thor and grabbed her breasts. "Zounds, they are real!"

Thor grabbed him by the wrist and twisted his arm backward, "Ware thy hands, else comrade or not, thou shall be taking the place of Prometheus on his stone of woe. And I will see to it the vultures pick at things other than thy entrails." She stared meaningfully at his groin.

Hercules stared at her, stunned. "How can it be that thou art a woman?"

Thor stared at him, bewildered. "I have always been a woman."

"Nay. While much time has passed since last we met, I distinctly remember thou being a man, as many a wench can attest to," he assured her. "Of all mine companions not Olympian, thou were easily the only one almost capable of keeping up with mineself. Remember that time we fornicated with Indra's wives? The ones with four breasts?"

Thor smirked. "Truly that was…" The goddess turned green. "Nay! I never did such things! I am not a pervert!"

"I concur!" Hercules said, a lascivious leer on his face. "There is nothing perverted about wishing to indulge in pleasures only women can experience. And I would be honored to be the one to initiate you in such pleasures." He grabbed her in his arms and bent her low, as though about to kiss her. Thor was so stunned she froze in place.

Before Hercules could lower his lips to hers, his head was engulfed in a giant green palm. "Hulk will not let Muscleman kiss Hammer Girl."

Hercules released Thor, who landed on her bottom. He effortlessly batted away the Hulk's hand. "So, it is a challenge then. To the victor shall go the Goddess of Thunder."

"Hulk accept."

"I don't!" Thor shouted.

A pair of eyes peered through the walls of the mansion, seeing all, hearing all. This was bad. Extraordinarily bad. It was a good thing he had come to Earth to personally supervise the matter regarding Thor. The Enchantress’s breaking the Imperial Edict prohibiting contact with Thor had been bad enough, but by some miracle neither Urd nor Skuld had said anything to upset the plan. Hercules was another matter altogether. Being Olympian meant he could ignore the edict, and already he had given Thor too much information. Another word might upset everything, and that could not be allowed to happen. Too much was at stake.

Stretching out with senses far beyond those of anything short of a cosmic entity, he searched the dimensions for anything that could be used to remove Hercules from Thor's presence; anything outside of having to intervene personally was acceptable. Almost instantly he discovered a solution. All he had to do was plant a little information in the leader's head, and then reach out and guide them right in the heart of the room.

Just as Hulk vs. Hercules Round Two was about to begin, a swirling vortex of sparkling light filled the far side of the room, taking up nearly the entire wall. All three occupants stopped their argument and tensed up at the unexpected display.

Emerging from the vortex were a dozen women, all but one nearly as tall as Thor. Every one of them was a testament to human beauty and perfection.

The woman in front, taller than everyone but the Hulk, moved boldly forward. She wore a red bodysuit, with pieces cut out along the navel, top, leg and arm. Yellow lightning ran up both sides of her yellow ankle boots. On one of her arms was a manacle with a huge chain on it, one that looked like it weighed two-hundred pounds and could be used to break out of a prison rather than keep one in. She was the most beautiful by far, with long strawberry-blonde locks that traveled halfway down her back and carrying an air of authority about her.

The woman said, "Where is the one called Hercules?"

Hercules's tension disappeared and he shot the woman his most winning smile. "I am, oh giantess of beauty. And might I ask your name?"

"I am Thundra, Queen of the Femizons." Anyone hearing her tone would have no doubt she was not only a leader, but used to being obeyed. "I shall speak plainly. I have come from a planet similar to this one, though in a different dimension. On our world men have been wiped out. Because of this we are forced to seek out virile males, the more powerful the better, in order to have children. Sadly, since we Femizons are incapable of producing male children, we must do this several times a generation. Word reached us of the mighty Hercules and his legendary prowess, and we felt drawn here."

Hercules laughed hard. "I assure you I exceed whatever rumors thou has heard. I have little doubt I could satisfy whatever demands you have of me." It appeared as though he was ready to pick up the lot of them and drag them through the portal himself, but he then turned and gave a questioning look to Thor.

Thor's eyebrow began twitching. "Thou should go. It shall be infinitely less painful than the course of action thou was about to take." She fingered her hammer meaningfully.

"Then it is settled." The god turned to Thundra. "Now, how many women are there?"

Thundra said, "Currently the ratio is about 1000:1, which is why there are other groups searching as well. We should really bring back more than just you." Thundra appraised the nearby Hulk, while he stared at her, oblivious.

"There is no need," Hercules assured her.

"I beg your pardon." Thundra's eyebrows knitted in confusion.

"I am immortal and have tremendous stamina. A thousand shall take but a few months. A mere blink of the eye, as any god can tell you."

"I see," Thundra said, gazing upon him in a new light. "Very well, we shall return to our homeworld now and you may begin aiding us with our procreation problem."

The group departed the way they had arrived, one extra member in their ranks. The vortex closed behind them, as though it had never been.

"Truly a trying day," Thor said, collapsing in her chair.

The Hulk nodded. "Hulk is going to get Little Mouse Man to get him some beans, then Hulk is going to sleep."

"Sleep well, mine comrade. There is much I must ponder." Thor held her hand to chin in thought, trying to sort out the jumble of conflicting and missing memories in her head.

It was a trying night as well.

The figure relaxed. That had been close. Too close, and it did not feel as though it had been Fate that had dropped Hercules in Thor's lap. No, this had all the earmarks of one whose primary goal in life was mischief, and confounding Thor to the best of his abilities. Punishment would have to come. Immediate punishment.

"Damn!" Xellos said, slamming his staff into the ground.

"What are you getting so worked up for? The show wasn't that interesting," Lina said.

Zelgadis nodded. "Yes, I couldn't really get into it. I couldn't sympathize with the characters because they were too unrealistic. I mean, people running around with superpowers? It's completely ridiculous."

"True," Ameila seconded. "Maybe if they had used some magic in it, it would be believable; but as it is, no way."

“And I wasn’t amused at all,” Lina added. “I can’t see this catching on as a form of entertainment. Doing things yourself is much more interesting than watching someone else doing them.”

It was at that moment a swirling vortex of sparkling light appeared in the middle of the clearing. A number of incredibly tall, scaly, obese women with yellow skin emerged from it.

The tallest and ugliest among them, who carried an air of authority, spoke, her voice similar to nails being drawn across a chalkboard. "Where is the one called Loki?"

"Never heard of him," Lina said, absently noting that Xellos was beginning to back away.

The woman scratched her head, then snapped her beefy fingers. "Oh yes, he goes by the name of Xellos here."

"Squinty-eyed guy over there." Lina pointed at him as he had by now made it to the edge of the clearing.

The woman said, "I am Ugley, Queen of the She Beasts," she said, and anyone hearing her tone would have no doubt she was not only a leader, but used to being obeyed. "I shall speak plainly. I have come from a planet similar to this one, though in a different dimension. On our world men have been wiped out. Because of this we are forced to seek out virile males, the smarter the better, since we rate intellect more important than mere muscle. Sadly, since we She Beasts are incapable of producing male children, we must do this several times a generation. Word reached us of the trickster Xellos and his legendary mental prowess, and we felt drawn here."

"He's all yours," Lina said casually.

"My thanks." Ugley pointed a large spear at Xellos. "Get him, girls!"

Xellos tried casting a teleportation spell, but found his abilities blocked. With the She Beasts nearly upon him, he turned tail and ran.

And the race was on.


To be continued.

Author's notes: Special thanks to Bert Miller and Edward.

Act 2, Scene 8
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Last revision: May 21, 2007

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