This story is sponsored by the (Takahashi-)Mermaid's Charitable Fund. Give generously, and you will have our undying gratitude.

The characters of Ranma 1/2, and those from other series who make cameos herein, are the creation of and rightful property of Rumiko Takahashi. They are used here without permission. This story may be freely redistributed, but it should not be altered substantially or used for profit in any way.


"Where am I?" George called, hoping there was someone to hear.

There was no response to his shout, not even an echo. He heard nothing, saw nothing but endless gray. He couldn't feel anything under his feet, yet he didn't seem to be falling. Or maybe he was. There was no way to tell up or down, backward or forward. All he was aware of was himself, and... something else.

Some powerful presence surrounded him. It was the feeling he often got -- that someone was watching him -- but it was magnified a thousand times from the usual. He couldn't zero in on where it came from; it seemed to be everywhere.

Maybe this was a dream, he thought, though it didn't feel like one of his dreams. The last thing he could remember was being in the anime room at GenCon. He must have fallen asleep there. He remembered watching an anime about some mermaid's meat that made people live forever. That story had certainly been weird enough to give him nightmares.

A voice of sorts called out. **GEORGE TOCKUE!** It wasn't really a sound; it spoke in his head moreso than in his ears.

"Uhh... that's me." George tried to turn towards the voice, but it was coming from everywhere. "But I asked *where* am I, not *who* am I! And who am I talking to?"

**ONE MOMENT.** At once, the presence coalesced into the form of a shapely young pointy-eared woman, clad in a tiger-skin bikini. "Sorry about that. I forgot that you'd need a physical manifestation as a reference. What do you think? I've always liked this form."

"It's Lum," George said. He remembered having just watched a subtitled Urusei Yatsura TV video. A song started running through his head, the one he thought of whenever he saw this character, and he absent-mindedly sang it out loud. "It's Lum, It's Lum, she's in my head..."

"George no baka!" she yelled, as a giant bolt of electricity flew from her outstretched arm. George was wracked by pain as his body contorted in seven different ways at once.

He stood back up as she giggled coyly. His body ached, but he didn't seem injured. "You're Lum? The girl from outer space?"

She laughed again. "Oh, no. I just decided to make myself *look* like her. I'm a Kami. What you would call a Goddess. This is my plane of reality. I brought you here."

"Oh - KAY," George said, trying to digest this information. "A Goddess? You mean like Belldandy? Can I ask *why* you brought me here?"

"Do you remember what you said a little while ago? When you were watching Ranma 1/2?"

George thought back, but could barely remember his own name. "Uh... no."

"You said that if you had the chance, you could tell Ranma and the others how to solve all of their problems. All it would take is a little common sense, you said."

"Oh yeah. I did say that. Er, I mean, not that Ranma and those people are stupid or anything. It's like, they ought to be able to see what they can do to get what they want. It would be easy. But they won't do it."

"I'm offering you the chance to do what you said you could do. I can project you into the universe where these characters are real, and you can interact with them."

"Really?" George thought this over for a moment. If it was for real, it was exciting, but also frightening. There had to be a catch, something this Goddess wasn't telling him. He decided to stall. "Why? Why are you offering me this?"

"Because I think it'll be fun."

Fun for whom, George wondered. That thought wasn't encouraging. Something was going to go wrong, something she wouldn't tell him about until it was too late. That was how this kind of thing worked, wasn't it? "But I don't speak Japanese. Besides, I'm no good at fighting. If I went to Ranma world they'd probably kick my butt."

"You will be able to understand everyone there, and they you. All speech will be dubbed into English for you. As for your lack of combat skill, there are a couple of things I could do about that. I could put you in place of one of the non-fighting characters, say Kasumi or Nabiki, or perhaps Nodoka. No one would attack you. Or you could be a new martial artist, with an attack capable of taking down Ranma or any of his friends. What do you say, will that be enough to protect your 'butt'?" She smirked noticeably.

"Um... okay." That sounded reasonable. This Goddess had an answer for everything, it seemed. But he still felt suspicious. "But how do I get back when I want to?"

"You'll be in the Ranma universe for as long as the body that I give you there is alive. When you wish to return here, simply destroy your temporary body by killing yourself, and you will be returned here safely."


"Or I could just return you to your own universe right now. I'm sure you can find plenty of exciting things to do there."

"No. I'll go." There was no denying it, it was the chance of a lifetime, one he couldn't pass up. What could go wrong? He had thought of everything. "I'll be a martial artist. You're right, it'll be fun. Let's go!"

"Very well. Do you have a preferred style of combat?"

"Uh, no, like I told you I'm not much for fighting."

"Anything? A favorite sport, perhaps?"

"No, not really, my main hobby is working with computers, and..."

"Okay, that's good enough." The Goddess abruptly floated to a sitting position. She stared ahead blankly, ignoring George. He opened his mouth to try to speak, but no words came out.

He looked again, and found himself eyeing the Goddess' belly button. A second look confirmed that she had grown larger, and was expanding by the moment. Or was he shrinking? There was no way to tell which.

He drifted involuntarily toward one of her enormous eyes, faster and faster, as if he were in a plane that was crashing into a lake, or an ocean. He felt suddenly terrified. This Goddess had taken control of him effortlessly. He was completely unable to move, completely at her mercy. She could cast him into Hell, and there would be nothing he could do about it.

Inside the eye faint points of light flickered into view, which became stars as he tumbled through the blackness. He fell steadily and deliberately toward one particular light...