Dire Fates: A Hellblazer/Oh My Goddess! crossover.


"Just the once, though.  I'm not having you turning into my 
 trusty sidekick or something." 

"Quick, Chas- to the piss-upmobile!"

	 -Conversation between John and Kit,
          "John Constantine: Hellblazer"


                           -*-


Somewhere in the world, a man who had it coming to him finally
got a promotion in a company he'd spent a lot of time in.  He
loved his job, was good to his co-workers, and was a generally
nice man.  Thanks to that reward, his family would make some
vital payments and avoid eviction from their home. 

A reward from Heaven, some would say. 

The man who lost the job due to that promotion snapped, bought a
rifle, climbed up a bell tower, and gunned down more than a dozen
bystanders and caused several vehicles to crash. 

One of the vehicles was carrying a heart to the nearby hospital,
where a girl in dire need of it was waiting.  Because of the
crash, the heart didn't get there in time. 

And on that day, tears fell from Heaven. 

It wasn't supposed to be like this. 

It was supposed to make things bettter. 

Why? 


                           -*-


                   David Tai & Rod M. 
                       present... 


                       Dire Fates
             A John Constantine: Hellblazer
                    Ah!  My Goddess! 
                        Crossover

        Part 2:  "Charge of the Trenchcoat Brigade" 


                           -*-
        

It was a standoff. 

Wisdom vs. Youth. 

Mortal vs. Immortal. 

Male vs. Female. 

John Constantine vs. Skuld. 

"Look, luv, how about you just GO away?" John said. 

Skuld frowned.  "No.  Not till I find out WHY I was sent to you." 
She stamped her foot.  "And you CAN'T order me around!" 

John waved a hand.  "Right, whatever.  I told yer friends, and
I'm telling you, I don't mess with 'em people up there."  He
flicked a hand carelessly at the sky.

Now Skuld began to look agitated.  "But we've been so busy
dealing with disasters and something's wrong, but I don't know,
and he said you're the one I should go to!" 

John sighed.  "Kid, y'wet me trousers, and I gotta get changed. 
When I'm back, y'better be gone and outta me face.  Now scram." 

Skuld glared, and turned away in a huff.  "Fine!  Why the
Stranger wanted an idiot like you to fix up everything...!" 

This caused John to pause a moment. 

"Hey, kid, did you say the Stranger?  As in the Phantom Stranger? 
Tall, dark, brooding?" 

In response, Skuld turned back around, hmphed, and nodded before
turning her head away again.

This, thought John, was something he really didn't need.  More
shite from the Phantom Wanker.  John had never liked the pompous
enigmatic being, thinking he was nothing but a big blowhard.  But
if the Stranger wanted something, then maybe there WAS something
to it... 

No. 

His face hardened as he lit a cigarette.  Damned if he was going
to be jerked around. 

"Ah, hell, I don't care.  Clear outta here, willya kid?" 

Skuld turned to look at him with angry eyes. 

John sighed.  "'S nothing personal.  I got better things to do
than deal with..." 

Whatever else John might have said was lost, as his apartment
shook suddenly.  "Wha'the...?"  He looked around as the room
vibrated, and then suddenly grabbed Skuld and covered her as one
or two small bits of plaster fell down. 

The shaking stopped.  John stood up, and dusted the plaster dust
off him.  "Now what the hell was that?"  He took his squashed
cigarette out of his mouth, grimaced, and tossed it into the
sink.  "Dammit!" John said, clearly annoyed. 

John then whirled around and headed into the living room, where
he turned on his television. 

//-unusual and unexpected tremor has just hit England, the
epicenter located 2.5 miles to the east of England's coast. 
However, it was a mild tremor, and scientists do not expect
any aftershocks.//

"Christ onna bike... earthquake in London?" 

"I think... I think this is part of what's going wrong," said
Skuld, frowning, standing next to him.  "This is what the
Stranger was talking about!  Something's wrong and we're supposed
to fix it!"  Her demeanor changed suddenly, switching into
puppy-dog-eyed-CUTE-mode, her eyes almost producing tears. 
"PLEEEEEEEEAAAAASE help, Mr. Constantine!  The Phantom Stranger
said you could!" 

John winced.  "Aw, don't give me _that_ look, kid..." 

Skuld gave him more of _that_ look. 

John sighed, and then looked at Skuld skeptically.  "Okay. 
Right.  Do you have ANY idea then, at what we're to be looking
at?" 

Skuld blinked, clearly confused.  "You mean... you don't know?" 

"No, luv... do you?" 

"Um... no." 

"Well, did the bloody Phantom berk tell you where we should start
looking?"

"Um, no." 

"Dammit!  Bollocks!  Just bloody typical!"  John sighed.  Looked
like today was DEFINITELY going to be one of _those_ days. 


                           -*-


Urd fumed.  This was UNBELIEVABLE!  Just WHAT did Skuld think she
was doing chasing after that magus Constantine?

She spent a moment pacing around in Skuld's room after Keiichi
left, just frustrated that her little sister would do something
so utterly stupid.

"[That little idiot!  When I get my hands on her...]" Urd muttered
in Norse.

Before she could say another word, a ring of blue light
surrounded her.

"[What the...]" 

Then the ring transformed into a cylinder, trapping her. 

"[HEY!]" 

"Urd." 

She spun around, a snarl on her face.  "What the Heck is going on
he-... y-you!"

Before her stood the Archangel Raguel, looking _very_ solemn. 
Urd had plenty of reason to worry.  Raguel was not only an
Archangel, but he was entrusted with carrying out the Vengeance of
the Lord.  He wasn't the kind that made social calls. 

"Goddess Second Class Urd?" asked Raguel, in a deep, almost
condescending voice.

"Y-yeah, that's me." 

The Archangel knelt over Skuld's computer and looked at it.  "Was
this your doing?" he asked.

"I was just looking!" Urd protested. 

Raguel, his eyes ablaze, stared at Urd.  "Goddess Second Class
Urd, you are hereby accused of accessing the Yggdrasil System by
forbidden means.  You will come with us until further
investigations are made."

"Wait!  This is a misunderstanding!" 

"This is for us to judge," Raguel said, in a cold unemotional
voice. 

"HEY!  I'm INNOCENT!  It was Skuld!  She's the one who did it!" 

"Trying to blame your younger sister?  Tsk.  You should be
ashamed of yourself." 

"I TELL YOU, THIS IS ALL THE BRAT'S FAULT!" 

With a blinding flash of light, they vanished into the air. 


                           -*-


Taking a stroll around the heavenly streets of Silver City, the
home of all that is angelic or deified in Heaven, Peorth
contemplated current events.  Just what was it about Constantine
that had everyone in alarm recently?  Her contemplation was
interrupted by a sudden amount of yelling going on nearby.  She
turned to see Urd being escorted sternly by the fearsome
Archangel known as Raguel. 

What, she wondered, was going on? 

"I'm telling you, it was the BRAT!" Urd shouted. 

Raguel's scowl didn't change as he prodded Urd to keep moving. 
"Silence, half-breed.  We know about you and Mara.  The fact that
Mara was seen conversing with John Constantine... it seems fairly
obvious that you somehow convinced your sister to hack into
Constantine's files, and are now planning the downfall of heaven.
This cannot be forgiven, half-demoness." 

Urd screamed, "I'm NOT planning anything against heaven!
Especially NOT with _that_ demoness!  That friendship was a LONG
time ago!" 

Raguel's scowl turned to a sneer as he hauled Urd away.  "That is
for the Tribunal to decide." 

A smile slowly formed across Peorth's face.  Sooooo... that was
what was going on with the mortal.  Now what to do with him. 
Redeem him?  Send him as bait to trap Mara and Urd? 

Peorth laughed.  Oooooh, things were bound to be interesting any
way she looked at it.


                           -*-


What was he supposed to do now? 

John plopped down on the sofa in the living room, mulling this
question over.  The sulking Skuld nearby, waiting expectantly,
didn't help matters.  He ignored her, trying to think.  If there
wasn't anything related to Hell that could be causing this,
then... what could it be?  He pondered. 

The sound of sirens screaming down the streets outside caused him
to look out the window.  Ah, yes, London on fire and such after
the 'big quake'.  Pathetic.  He frowned and closed the window. 

After a few more seconds he turned off the television.  It was
just the same old news anyway.  Car crash, riot, robbery, fatal
accident, et-cetera.  Only things that ever changed was the who
and where. 

He wasn't in the mood for it.

There was the chance that Gout wasn't being straight with him,
but Gout was usually good with the information.

Bored with waiting, Skuld wandered over to John's den.  A small
doll's house, or something resembling one, caught her attention
immediately.  It was opened, revealing intricately made furniture
that seemed to have originally been matchboxes. 

John, soon realizing that the small self-proclaimed deity was 
roaming free in his home, found her there shortly.  As soon as 
he saw what she was looking at, he froze.  "Oi!  Careful with 
those, kid!"

"Mr. Constantine, who made these?" asked Skuld, sounding... 
somewhat curious but also disappointed with what she was
examining.  "Did you?" 

"None of y'business, squirt." 

"I mean," continued Skuld, "for miniature replicas, I'd think
something along the lines of molded or cut plastic would work
better.  Or if you want to make sure it's sturdy, metal alloys
are good."

"But the point WAS to use matchboxes!" protested John. 

Skuld blinked.  "Oh, so you did make them?" 

"Never mind!  Just... drop the subject.  And stop messing with
that, hm?" 

John walked back to the kitchen with Skuld at his heels, neither
looking particularly happy at the moment.

He sat down and sipped some tea. 

She sighed. 

"Got any ice cream?" she asked. 

"Hm?  Wossat?" 

"Ice cream.  Got any?" 

"Well... yeah... got some in the fridge, why?" 

Skuld's eyes went into puppy-dog-eyes mode again.  "Can I have
some?  Please?" 

"Um.  Sure, help yerself." 

A few seconds later, John watched in surprise as Skuld
frantically attacked his gallon of peanut ripple fudge ice cream. 
A minute later the gallon was gone, which left Skuld in a
somewhat content and zen-like state of mind. 

This also meant she was attempting to think things through. 

The first thought went like this: 

"Wow, this ice cream is good!" 

In reply, John merely gave a muffled 'hah'. 

The second thought: 

"I really LOVE ice cream!" Skuld exclaimed, licking her spoon. 

John shook his head.  Kids. 

The third thought was a bit more relevant: 

"Maybe I should go back up there and ask around..." Skuld said,
tapping her spoon on the table thoughtfully. 

John blinked.  "Back where?" 

Skuld looked at John like he was a complete idiot.  "Heaven, of
course!" 

John blinked.  Heaven... say... wasn't there someone he could
contact?  He pondered a minute. 

Skuld shrugged and went back to contemplating.  Eeew, what a
messy apartment.  Maybe she could make a housekeeping robot... 

John jumped up.  "Of course!" 

Skuld blinked as John walked over to his phone and made a call,
mumbling into the phone quickly before hanging up. 

John walked over to the door, grabbing his trenchcoat on the way. 

"Mr. Constantine?  Where are you going?" Skuld asked. 

He put on his trenchcoat, reaching into his pockets for his
cigarettes.  "I'm gonna see someone.  Why don't you run along
home, luv?  I can take care of things... 's no place for a small
sprog like you."

Skuld blinked.  "Wait, I wanna come too!" 

John pulled out his cigarette pack, and shook it.  Empty.  Damn,
he'd have to get more.  He looked at Skuld.  "Nah, run along,
play with yer dollies or something." 

He walked out.  Skuld followed him. 

Outside, John stood there waiting, as Skuld pouted next to 
him, a stubborn look on her face.  John was doing his best to 
ignore her, hoping she'd just GO AWAY... 

A cab pulled up, its driver side door opening to reveal a
somewhat rough looking individual with a mean face and dark short
hair.  "Oi, John, let's make this quick, right?  I got things to
do today." 

"Yeah, yeah, don't piss in yer pants, old son." 

"Hey, who's the tyke?" 

"Hi, I'm Skuld," said the Goddess. 

"Oh, hello there.  I'm Chas." 

"Left at my doorstep," sniped John.  "Wouldn't worry about it if
I were you.  C'mon, c'mon, let's go." 

"Aw, don't you let him worry you," said Chas to Skuld.  "He's a
big softie at heart." 

"Shattup Chas!  And get in the bloody car.  Weren't you in a
hurry?" 

Chas frowned.  "Okay, okay, I'm coming." 

Skuld stamped her foot angrily and began turning red.  "Hey!" 

John got in, and then held an hand out at Skuld's attempt to
follow. 

"Ah-ah-ah.  Not so fast.  What did I just say?" he asked slowly. 

"But I wanna go with you!" 

"I -said- I was going alone.  Look, this is for your own good." 

"But the Phantom Stranger said-" 

"No, luv."  He pointed a finger and poked right between her eyes. 
"Now GO HOME!" 

With a faint blue aura forming around her and gritted teeth,
Skuld watched the cab pull away from the curb.  This, she felt,
was definitely an insult.  Considering the events of the last 24
hours, she was NOT in the mood to take insults kindly. 

"You... you... YOU JERK!  YOU BIG STUPID JERK!" 

"Awww, lookit the thing, she's screamin' for you.  Cute little
girl," said Chas as they drove off.  "Reminds me of my own." 

John snorted from the back seat.  "I don't think yours was as
bratty, Chas." 

"Tsk, John.  You shouldn't be so harsh on kids." 

"Shattup and drive, mate." 

"Grouchy today, aren't we." 


                           -*-


Peorth descended from the heavens to Earth.  She smiled a feline
grin as she flew, dreaming of schemes half-formed and
possibilities forming. 

The Phantom Stranger stood in her way. 

She wasn't expecting that, nearly crashing into him. 

"AAAGGGGH!  What're you doing here?!" 

The mysterious stranger merely looked at Peorth.  "Be careful,
Peorth.  You are not the one to solve Heaven's troubles." 

Peorth stared at the stranger, then smiled.  "You have no secrets
from me, Stranger.  I know who and what you are.  You do not
frighten me.  It's all related to John, isn't it?" 

The Stranger merely inclined his head, and was gone, fading out
of sight.  His last words were a whisper in the wind, and they
struck Peorth with the impact of a sledgehammer.

"Do as you will.  It is not for you to thwart the will of God." 

Peorth stood staring for a while.  Then slowly, she began to
smile. 

John Constantine was becoming more and more interesting by the
minute. 


                           -*-


The drive to Weeble's turned out to be more irritating than
Skuld.  Due to the minor quake, the streets were crowded with
people overreacting, either racing to a loved one's place, buying
emergency supplies 'just in case', or just getting the hell out
of London.

Whatever the case, it caused a soul-crushing slag of a mess on
the road that really bugged the hell out of John.

"Hey Chas?  I need more silk cuts... just drop me at the corner
store there and I'll go the rest of the way, eh?"

"Sure."  Chas steered the cab to the side, letting John exit. 

"Thanks, mate."

Chas popped his head out of the cab window.  "Hey, John, you
better have me money ready for the game later today, eh?"

With a smirk, John replied, "Don't count on keepin' it too long." 

"Yah, bugger off, you sod.  Later." 

The cab pulled away as John headed into the store.  Briskly
walking in, he said, "Two packs silk cut, luv." 

The cashier, a girl he'd seen many a time (and he suspected once
or twice she'd looked at his bum) smiled in return.

"Two silk cuts then?  Hold on."  She reached up to a cigarette
rack hanging above the counter and sorted through them.  John,
being the naughty boy he was, took that moment to discreetly
admire the view.  "Right then, that'll be... uh... what the..." 

Noting the cashier's startled look behind him, John turned his
head.  He blinked as a hand emerged from the coffee pot behind
him, followed by black hair, exotic clothing, and a big mallet.

"Mr. Constantine!  Wherever you go, I'll go too!" Skuld 
exclaimed. 

John looked away with a groan. 

"Wh... what's that?" the cashier asked. 

"That, luv... is a bloody pain in the butt, that's what." 

John dropped money for his cigarettes, then grabbed Skuld and
hustled her out of the shop.

The cashier was left shaking her head.  "Funny old world, ennit?" 


                           -*-


"What the hell did you think you were doing, you little git?  I
told you to go home!" John hollered. 

Skuld frowned, a stubborn look that John was already coming to
know all too well settling on her face.  "I will NOT!  I wanna
know what's going on!" 

John grimaced.  "I'll know better IF you aren't underfoot!  Go
home and let the grownups take care of this business, eh?" 

Skuld pouted.  "But I can help!  I know I can!" 

John groaned and started walking, lighting up a cigarette on the
way.  Skuld followed him closely, taking two hurried steps to his
one long stride. 

"I don't do sidekicks, kid, so get lost already!" 

"NO!" 

"SCRAM!" 

"NO!" 

John grumbled.

Somehow, in some way, he was going to make the Phantom Stranger
pay for this.  And pay dearly. 


                           -*-


-WHAM-WHAM-WHAM-

"Weeble!  Oi!  Weeble!  Open up, fat-arse!" 

Skuld looked disapprovingly at their surroundings, which was at
the moment the fourth floor of a dimly lit and claustrophobic
apartment complex.

"Ew, what is this place?" she asked.  "Why are we here?" 

John paused in his doorbanging.  "Y'see, sprout, I got a friend
who's a medium."

Skuld blinked.  "If he's medium, why are you calling him fat?" 

"Agh, no.  A spiritual medium, y'know?  Makes contact with the
souls of the dearly departed an'all that?"

"Ooh."  Skuld paused.  "Why?" 

"Believe it or not, I got a few friends in Heaven.  Weeble's
gonna be me telephone, so to speak."

"Oh." 

"Right then.  WEEBLE!  I KNOW YER IN THERE!  OPEN UP!" 

The apartment door opened to reveal a _very_ rotund man slobbily
dressed in a stained t-shirt and pajamas.  "Dammit, Constantine,
I was in the middle of a deep'n meaningful conversation!"

"Sure, Weeble, I believe ya." 

John walked past him casually and let himself into the slob's
nest that was Weeble's apartment.  "Oh-ho, wotcha got on the
table here, Weeble?"

Before Skuld could follow and see what John was pointing to,
Weeble quickly stormed back into the apartment and swiped
something off the table.  Skuld only saw a flash of something
pink.

John, meanwhile, was grinning like a devil.  "So, who'd they
belong to?"

"Marilyn Monroe, if you must ask." 

John whistled.  "Weeble, Weeble, that must've cost you." 

Weeble grinned.  "It's worth it.  She's everything they say she
was, y'know, and lots more." 

Skuld was being ignored.  She hated being ignored.  If something
didn't change soon, she'd scream.

"Really?  Was she really bonkin' Jack'n Bob, then?" asked John. 

"Haw!  She was keepin' Camelot entertained.  King, Queen, AND
court."

"No way," replied John.  "I didn't figure Marilyn was into that."

It was then that Weeble finally noticed something amiss.
"Hey, John, who's the kid?  You doin' the Lolita thing or what?" 

Skuld scowled.  "What's HE talking about?" 

John shot Weeble a mean glare.  "Shut your hole, fatso.  Weeble,
Skuld. Skuld, Weeble." 

"This is the medium?" asked Skuld, looking at Weeble in a manner
akin to the way she looked at bugs.  "Ew." 

"And Weeble, if you must know, Skuld here is a spiritual entity-" 

"I'm a Goddess!" 

"-of a somewhat high level, possibly a Goddess." 

"DEFINITELY a Goddess," sneered Skuld. 

Weeble tilted his head at Skuld doubtfully.  "What, a little
thing like this?  A Goddess?"  He turned around to look at Skuld
more carefully.

Unfortunately, Weeble forgot to properly shove the previously
mentioned small pink item entirely into his pocket.  In fact,
there was enough of it hanging out for Skuld to recognize what it
was.

"EEK!  PERVERT!" 

-WHAM-

As Weeble's unconscious mass slumped to the floor, something
small and pink fell out of his pocket and dropped to the
floor.

A pair of panties. 

"What did you just do?!" yelled John.  He seemed startled, but
Skuld couldn't fathom why.  "What the bloody hell did you just
do?!" 

"I malleted him," said Skuld, wondering why John was at the
moment kneeling at Weeble's side and checking on his head. 

"You bloody whalloped him in the noggin with that big bloody iron
mallet!"

Skuld shrugged.  "He'll be fine in a few minutes." 

"After getting hit by a bloody sledgehammer like that?!  Are you
insane?!"

"Stop yelling at me!  I told you he'll be okay in a minute or
two!  Check yourself!  He's not hurt!" 

"If you mallet ANYONE else while you're with me, I'll drop you. 
Got that?"  To himself, he mumbled, "S'a miracle the big slob
doesn't havva big bloody lump on his head." 

"Hrmph.  See?"  She _really_ didn't see what his problem was. 

"Great, now I've gotta wait till the turd wakes up."  He pulled
out a cigarette and was about to light it when he suddenly felt a
hand holding his arm back.

"You really shouldn't smoke," said Skuld solemnly.  "They're bad
for your health."

"Kid, you have absolutely no idea." 


                           -*-


In the pub of the Lord of the Dance, Mara had returned and was in
a celebratory mood.  Marching up to the bar happily, she jumped
onto a bar stool and spun around in it a few times. 

"Hehehe!  Life is GOOD!" 

Behind the counter, the Arcadian lifted an eyebrow.  "What's this
then, Mara?  Had a turn of good luck, have you?" 

"Oh, y'might say that.  Yeees, you just might."  She grinned like
the demon she was and leaned merrily forward on the bar, resting
her chin in her hands.  Her informants had told her Urd was
currently tied up with the angels.  An unexpected twist, but it
left her to work on her plans in peace.  She laughed at the irony
of it. 

Oh yes, plenty of irony here.  The Archangels removed one of the
obstacles in her path, and the one whom she hated was slowly but
surely headed in the direction she wanted him to go. 

Constantine. 

For once, HE was the one being used instead of the one using. 
For all of his obnoxious ways, for all the times he's caused
chaos in hell, and ESPECIALLY for Ellie... 


                           -*-


Hell, for Demons and Demonesses and the like, was very similar to
a corporation in Los Angeles.  That is, the people below you were
looking to take your place, and the people above you were always
keeping a wary eye downward because they thought you were out to
get them. 

Friendships in Hell amongst its denizens was incredibly rare. 

Mara never did like that side of Hell, the infernal rat race.  It
distracted her, and everyone, she thought, from the big picture. 
They were there to test and tempt humanity, to drag them down to
Hell, and to one day storm the gates of Heaven. 

Was it too much to ask, she wondered, to have a somewhat normal
life?  She had that once, or something close to it, when she
was young.  It was her and Urd, such a very good friendship. 

But time changed everything.  Urd had her duty as a Goddess, and
Mara had hers as a Demoness.  Such was life. 

And once more, she was alone.  Oh, there were plenty of Demons
and Demonesses to pal around with, but she dared not trust them. 

Then she met Ellie. 

Ellie, like Mara, didn't care for the inter-office politics of
Hell.  She was content with her place in the ranks and didn't ask
for much else.  It wasn't that she didn't have ambition.  She
looked for ways to climb up the ladder.  Unlike most others in
hell, however, Ellie didn't actively look for ways to stab her
co-workers in the back.

With Ellie, she didn't have to worry about what she said, or fear
that she'd be betrayed.  She had a friend in Hell, which was a
rare, thing, and she valued that. 

Then Ellie, the stupid little succubus, got ambitious, and that
got herself in trouble.  And of ALL the people in the world, WHO
did she run to for help? 

John Constantine. 

Mara told her that the name Constantine was one of infamy, that
he would bring her nothing but trouble, but did Ellie listen? 

Hell, no. 

And of course, the day came when John went too far and made HIM
mad, the First of the Fallen, the original Devil, he who was in
Hell before Lucifer Morningstar ever fell. 

Any demon who was known to be an ally or enemy of Constantine was
sought out by the Devil, which put them in one of three categories.
They were either direct puppets of the First, dead, or _real_ good
in hiding their connection to the man.

Ellie, on the other hand... when The First came to her, the girl
panicked.  She fled Hell in a mad dash and never looked back. 
Ever since then, she was hunted. 

Oh, there was a moment when Ellie could have resurfaced, never
again to fear the Devil's wrath, but John blew it. 

And Mara, who was helpless as these events unfolded, cursed John
every step of the way. 


                           -*-


She smiled and laughed bitterly. 

Fools.  All of them.  The devils below and the angels above. 

She felt rather foolish about it herself for not seeing it
sooner.  It was, when she took the time to calmly mull the entire
situation over, entirely too simple.  Urd, Belldandy, Skuld,
everything, it all added up. 

Hell, Heaven, the entire WORLD was hers for the taking, and it
would be John that would take the fall.  All she needed for John
to do was to-

"Demoness Mara?" 

She blinked.  Her senses screamed at her: there was a Goddess in
the room! 

"Who the Hell are you?" she snarled, swiveling around in her
seat.  What greeted her vision was someone that had an... uncanny
resemblance to Skuld (if Skuld was an adult, that is). 

"I am Goddess First Class, Second Category, _Unlimited_, Peorth," 
said the woman, sauntering up to the bar cattily.  "And you have
been quite a naughty demon."

"Well, it's my job, isn't it?" replied Mara. 

"I'm just here to let you know... I'm on to you.  Whatever you're
up to, whatever you're planning with my Johnny, I'm on to you." 

And, with a light draft of wind and a dramatic flash of light,
Peorth was gone. 

"Damn."  Mara spun around in her seat.  "Damn damn damn.  Just
like a Goddess to ruin my mood." 

The Lord of the Dance said nothing, merely shaking his head. 
Politics, he really hated it. 

"And where the hell does she get off saying 'My Johnny'?!" 
snarled Mara.  Thoughts swirled in her mind, plans and
contingencies.  How much did Peorth know?  Not as much as she
hinted at, surely, else she'd have put a stop to it by now. 

Peorth knew John was involved. 

And... 

No.  That had to be all.  She still wouldn't realize what the
real prize was until it was too late. 

"Drink?" asked the Arcadian. 

"Ah, hell with it.  Just gimmie an ale, dearie." 


                           -*-


When Weeble was finally up and about, he and John took a seat at 
the table in the living room, while Skuld pouted in the corner. 

John gave Weeble a small black and white photo.  "The fella's
name is Brendan Finn." 

"Brendan Finn.  Right.  Hold on."  As Weeble closed his hand
around the photograph, ethereal white smoke seemed to steam from
his eyes and mouth and his posture became rigid.  A few seconds
later, Weeble suddenly relaxed in his stance, leaning forward on
one elbow.  In a thick Irish accent he spoke. 

"Johnny!  Haha!  I din't expect ye to be payin' me a call!" 

John smiled.  "So how's Heaven treatin' ya, Brendan?" 

"Oh, good as ever, I suppose.  Now now, who's the wee lass
sulking in the corner?  Don't tell me she's one'a yer
illegitimates!  HAHAHA!" 

Skuld looked at John with an annoyed expression.  "What's he
talking about?  And who is he?" 

"Ah, lemme make proper introductions then," said John.  "Brendan,
this cute little nuisance is Skuld.  Skuld, this is Brendan Finn,
an old mate of mine." 

"A pleasure t'meet ye, lass," said Weeble/Brendan with a smile. 

Skuld blinked, feeling awkward at the situation.  She'd HEARD of
this sort of thing happening but never really actually SEEN it. 
It seemed, to her, really weird. 

"Um, hi," she said. 

"A shy lass, isn't she?" asked Weeble/Brendan.  "She looks t'me
like a rather powerful entity." 

"I'm a Goddess," said Skuld proudly. 

Weeble/Brendan gave Skuld a sideward glance, then looked at John. 
"Interesting company ye be keepin' these days, son." 

In response, John shrugged.  "The Phantom Stranger told'er to
stick by me.  Bugger if I know why.  Might still be mad about the
time I pissed on his shoes." 

"Heh.  Hey, I know this ain't likely t'be a social call, Johnny. 
What's on yer mind?" 

"Heard anything about what's going on up there?  Any major
deities doin' anything shifty?" 

"Nae, I canna say I heard anythin that'd be of use t'ye. 
Something amiss in Paradise, John?" 

"You might say that, Brendan.  London just got its first
earthquake." 

"Aye, I heard'o that.  Seems to have the Powers That Be a bit
puzzled, that one does.  P'raps a scheme in Hell?" 

"Well, there SEEMS t'be nothing brewing in Hell," said John.  "I
was just checking all possibilities.  You sure there's nothing
odd going on?"

"Well... them Archangels, they've been a bit dodgy as of late,
they have.  Turned themselves inta regular bloody stormtroopers,
they have, goin'aboot an' interrogating people."

"The Archangels, y'say?" asked John.  He frowned.  That bunch
could be trouble.  "You watch your step then, Brendan.  That
bunch is nothing to mess about with.  Best we end this
conversation now, I think."

"What, already?"

"Yeah.  Sorry mate, but if word got about you was talking to me,
you'd be deep in Archangels.  And believe me, they're total
bastards."

"Ah, right then.  Take care, John."

"You too, Brendan." 

"And stop pissin' aboot with the Devil, crazy sod. Yer lucky to
still alive," said Weeble/Brendan with a grin. 

"Heheh.  Only if he won't piss with me." 

Weeble/Brendan slumped back in his chair for a moment, blinked,
then ceased emitting ghostly strands of smoke. 

"Bugger, that was a neat experience," said Weeble.  "I kept on
hearin' harps in the background." 

John smirked.  "Angelic choirs or such, hm?" 

"Nah, sounded more like bloody elevator music if ya asked me." 


                           -*-


As John walked away from Weeble's apartment building, puffing
away discontently on his cigarette, a little Goddess followed on
his heels looking every bit as agitated.

This, thought John, was getting ridiculous.  Skuld was dogging
his heels almost every step of the way.

As if he NEEDED a damned little git... 

Wait. 

The ice cream shoppe. 

Perfect. 

He turned into the ice cream shoppe.  Skuld brightened and
followed him immediately.  John dug into his pockets and pulled
out some change.  "Hey, luv, whaddya want?" 

Skuld's eyes shined as she started pointing to this, then that,
then almost everything on the list.  "That... no, wait.  That... 
Oh!  I can't decide!  I want everything!" 

John grimaced.  "One strawberry ice cream." 

He handed the cone to Skuld, then headed to the bathroom.  Skuld
followed, licking her ice cream cone. 

"Luv, don't follow me. This's the MEN'S bathroom, see?" 

Skuld nodded, happily eating her cone. 

John went into the bathroom, opened a window, and climbed out,
barely squeezing through the still. 

He hesitated, just a moment, feeling a little guilty about
abandoning a little girl like this.

Then again, he didn't feel comfortable about kids at all.  And
his track record with 'sidekicks' was not only bad, it was
absolutely deadly.  The last thing he needed in his great list of
accomplishments was the death of a young Goddess left in his
charge. 

He also remembered what she did to Weeble.

"Eh, kid can take care of herself." 

And off he went. 

For the best, really, he told himself.  The sidekick idea was just
wrong, she was tough enough to be unwatched for a while, and if
he was going to make any progress at all, she'd have to be out of
the way.

Some time later, Skuld realized that John had ditched her.  She 
stamped her feet angrily, and stormed into the ladies' restroom.

After all the trouble she had finding him, she swore, he wasn't 
going to escape HER.


                           -*-


"Stupid bloody friggin' Phantom Pisser.  He'll pay for this." 

There was some mean vibrations coming from the infamous John
Constantine as he stomped his way up the street and into his
apartment. 

Just in front of his door, two roguish fellows stood waiting. 
One looked generally grouchy while the other one was clearly a
punk, with an orange mohawk-esque hairdo. 

The punkish one rushed up and yelled wildly in John's face, "OI,
CONJOB!"

The other one just winced at the loud volume. 

"Oh, Chas, Rich.  What brings you two here?"  John unlocked his
door and headed in, quickly followed by the two. 

"Stupid git," grumbled Chas.  "You forgot about the game already?" 

"Chelsea versus AAAAAAAAAArsenal, Conjob!  Hahaw!" 

John winced.  "Oh shite, the game!  No, not today!  Not today!" 

Rich, the middle-age punker, walked in with a bit too much spring
in his step, while Chas, who was in comparason rather subdued,
followed after. 

Rich and Chas represented two extremes of John's youth.  Chas was
the kid that always was a 'stick in the mud', the one with the
overbearing parents and whining girlfriend that would soon become
an overbearing wife.  The stresses of living a mundane life made
Chas quite the brawler, with a hair-trigger temper and muscle to
back it up. 

Rich, however, was the opposite of Chas.  Rich was a member of a
small punk band that never got anywhere, much like John's own
'Mucus Membrane'.  Rich, however, never grew out of the punker
stage and remained one to this day.  He also seemed to be
eternally stoned out of his gourd. 

A further emphasis on the difference between these two: Rich
and John were punk band leaders.  Chas... he was the roadie. 

"Wotcher mean 'not today', Conjob?!" said Rich. 

"I mean I got crap of the supernatural kind dogging my arse
today, lads.  And if things keep on going as they usually do,
mates, I'll be fucked up for the rest of the day." 

"What, so you're missing out on the game?" asked Chas, clearly
annoyed. 

With scowl set in place, John marched towards the bathroom.  "Be
damned if I won't go.  But mind you, shit's just happening today. 
Consider yerselves warned, eh?" 

He unceremoniously slammed the door shut.  Soon after, the sound
of running water could be heard. 

"Wonder what it is this time," grumbled Chas.  He'd been on only
a handful of adventures with John.  He'd only caught small
glimpses of the supernatural, and that was enough for him.  On
the other hand, despite seeing those things, he usually believed
most of John's tales were utter bullshit. 

"Cor, Conjob's restocked the beer-shack!" cheered Rich, rummaging
through John's refrigerator.  "Want one, man?" 

"Yeah, why not?  Thanks." 

And so the pair sat there, Chas channelsurfing, while Rich
warbled wretchedly to a classic punk tune that was playing only
in his head. 

Suddenly, there was a great shout and a feminine scream.  Chas
and Rich looked at each other. 

"What the bleedin' hell was that?" Chas said. 

Rich had a wicked grin on his face.  "Oooh, Conjob's got a gel
inna shower, ey?" 

The question was answered a moment later, as a very wet John
Constantine, wearing nothing but a towel around his middle,
dragged a beet red Skuld out by the collar into the living room
and hustled her in front of Chas.

"Now YOU... _STAY_ there, and don't MOVE till I'm done with me
shower.  Chas, keep an eye on the little git, eh?"  With that,
John stormed back into the bathroom, leaving Rich and Chas
blinking and very confused. 

"Bloody 'ell.  E's got toddlers in the loo," said Rich. 

"Um... hallo," said Chas awkwardly.  "You're.... Skuld, yeah?" 

Skuld, far too angry for pleasantries, didn't notice Chas and
just stomped to the sofa, jumping in, and sulked. 

She emphasised the sulk with an angry swinging of legs. 

*THUMP THUMP THUMP* her feet went. 

Rich looked at Chas, who shrugged, and walked over to sit next to
her. 

"Whassamatter, kid?" 

Skuld hmphed and only sulked some more. 

Chas sighed.  "Don't worry about it, girl.  He's not gonna stay
mad at a little kid like you forever."

"He promised to help me!" she whined.  "Instead he's always
leaving me behind!" 

"Help you?  With what?" asked Chas. 

"He was supposed to help me find out what's causing everything! 
The earthquakes, the fights, the chaos, everything!" 

Chas blinked, slowly, then nodded his head.  "Uh-huh," he said,
trying to hide the skeptical sound in his voice.

"Really?  At'sounds cool!" spazzed Rich.  Chas glared at Rich.
Skuld was too morose to notice.

"I wish I knew why he keeps on leaving me behind," said Skuld
moodily. 

Now this was safer territory for Chas.

"Well," said Chas, putting a hand on his chin, "he never was
comfortable 'round kids.  Even mine.  He walked 'round her as if
she was made of glass or something.  Mainly 'cause of a big mess
he made a few years back." 

Rich, who was making a somewhat modest effort to key into the
conversation, nodded sagely.  On him, however, a sagely nod
looked more like a stoned-out wobble. 

"Oh?  What happened?" asked Skuld. 

Rich scrached his mohawk.  "Say, issis the bit about Newcastle
that Conjob tol'me about?" 

Chas nodded. 

"What happened at Newcastle?" asked Skuld. 

He sent a little girl to hell is what he told me, Chas was about
to say.  After a moment of pause and a realization that telling a
little girl this wouldn't be of any help, he decided to do some
judicious editing. 

"Well... he was trying a bit of magic once... and a little girl
got hurt rather badly." 

"Oh.  I see."  Skuld mulled this point over.  "So you think he's
just being overprotective?" 

Chas thought about it.  It sounded a lot better than saying 'No,
John can just be one utter shithead sometimes and this might be
one of them.' 

"Um... yeah, that's right," said Chas.  "Innit right, Rich?"  He
gave the Punk a quick glare. 

"Um... YEAH, roight.  Over-bloody-pro-tec-i-tayve." 

"I wish there was a way I could get him to stop worrying," said
Skuld. 

"Ey, why don'cha come out to the game wif'us?" asked Rich. "It'll
be a blast!" 

"Hold on, Rich!  We got enough tickets?" asked Chas. 

"Got one for my old lady, but she din't feel up to it today." 

This had Skuld's interest.  Watching a game couldn't be a bad
thing, right?  "Game? what game?" 

"FOOOOOOOTBAAAALL!" yelled Rich happily. 

"Don't mind him," said Chas casually.  "He's stoned." 

Rich, still in a fairly good mood, said in a mock-angry tone, saluted
Chas with middle finger extended and said, "up yers, Chassie."

"Oi, not in front of the kid," hissed Chas.

Skuld blinked.  She thought about asking what they meant by that,
then decided it was probably an insult and that she wouldn't be 
told much more.

Instead, Skuld turned her attention to a more useful question.

"So John likes football a lot?" she wondered. 

"Dunno, e'seems ruther subdued when we go," said Rich. 

"That's just the way he is... well, now anyway," explained Chas. 

"What DOES John like?" asked Skuld.  "What is he like?" 

"Conjob?  E's a roight bastard, s'wot," said Rich with a grin. 

Chas hmmed.  "He's a slick bastard, John is.  Y'see, when things
aren't going the way he wants it, he can be one total bastard. 
When he's not a bastard, though, he's one good mate.  As for what
he likes... um, he chases magic around, or so he says, in that
ratty old trenchcoat of his.  Probably got cards up his sleeves,
that one."

"Trenchcoat?" 

"Ayup, luv... seems like he's always wearing that bloody
trenchcoat."

"Y'fink tha man was born wif it on or summink," said Rich. 

Skuld hmmmed. 


                           -*-


John growled as he grabbed his towel and dried himself off.  It
was getting so a fellow couldn't even have privacy in his own
bleedin' bathroom, for chrissakes! 

He got dressed, and then headed back into the living room. 

"Chas?  Rich?  Where'd everybody go?" 

Silence greeted him. 

"Oi!  Guys!  Where'd y'go?"  He nearly stumbled over an empty
beer bottle, which set off a small round of curses.  "Shite,
Rich!  You slob!  Don't be leaving bloody empties on the damn
floor!"

As he made his way from kitchen to living room, something small
and pink popped up in front of him.  It was Skuld. 

"Hihi, Mr. Constantine!" 

John stared.  "Wha... wha?" 

Skuld twirled in front of him, beaming.  "What do you think? 
Chas told me about these neat trenchcoats you're always wearing,
so I thought I'd get one!" 

She was wearing a trenchcoat, all right.  It looked a lot like his,
only...

John frowned.  "It's... er... pink." 

Skuld smiled.  "I know.  Isn't it CUUUUTE?"  She stuck her hands in
the trenchcoat pockets and beamed.

"Er... ah..."

He tried not to.

"Aheh..."

Really he did. 

"HAHAHAHAHAA!" 

"STOP LAUGHING!" 

"Aheh... heh... sorry, luv, but... HAHAHAA!" 

She was getting mocked.  Again.  Skuld's anger was bubbling up to
record levels once again, and she felt bitter tears reach her
eyes. 

"Aw, hold on," said John, calming down from his laughter.  "I
didn't mean t'make you cry, now." 

"I'm NOT crying!" she said, emphasizing it with a 'hmph', and
spun on her heel away from him.  "And Chas and Rich SAID it
looked good on me!" 

John smirked.  "Oh, did they now?" 

Skuld continued to ignore him. 

"Aw, c'mon, luv.  Don't stay mad.  Tell ya what, we'll go out for
ice cream." 

This only made Skuld even more irritated.  "You'll just try to
leave me behind again!" 

John sighed.  "THIS time, I won't do that.  Really." 

Skuld looked at him doubtfully.  "Promise?" 

"Yeah, I promise.  Maybe we can talk things over and figure out
what to do next, hm?" 

Skuld reluctantly nodded. 

It was at this point that John remembered something was missing. 
"Say, where's Rich and Chas?" 
  
Skuld smiled.  "Oh, they said they'd be at the soccer game, and
they said I should come along too!  They were going to ask
someone else, but Chas said I could have the ticket!" 

"Nope, sorry luv, but we don't have time to watch the game." 

"Aw!"  Rich seemed so enthusiastic about it.  She was really
curious to find out what went on in those games. 

"Saving the world, remember?" 

"Oh!  Yeah, aheheheh." 


                           -*-


Urd sighed.  This was turning out to be a very tedious Tribunal. 
She'd been answering so many questions, over and over again, and
she was really bored, exasperated, and antsy.  She looked around. 

The Archangels were seated at a U-shaped table.  They were
muttering among themselves, although Raphael looked at her
nervously once or twice.  Only one was not muttering.  Raguel,
sitting at the head of the table, was giving Urd a very cold
glare.  To counter, she looked away, noting the two empty chairs. 

One gave off an aura of importance, of significance, of an 
Archangel supremely aware of his duties.  It looked warm and
wise, yet distant and haughty.

Gabriel's. 

The other was cold, distant, yet beautiful and lovely to behold.
It held promises of the beauty of the dawn and of shining light
yet to come, but was shaded by arrogance and pride.

Lucifer's. 

Urd shuddered and looked at Raguel again. 

Raguel didn't look anywhere near happy, or even neutral, as he
looked down at the computer terminal in front of him.  "You say
that you were investigating the Demoness Mara?" 

"I already told you that!  How many times do I have to go over
this?" 

Michael frowned.  "As many times as we want you to." 

"Why, you...!" 

Raphael tried to smile, a conciliatory smile.  "Please, Urd." 

Urd sighed.  "All right...  See, Mara disappeared from Japan all
of a sudden.  Usually, she's around bugging Belldandy, me, or
Skuld.  Knowing Mara, she's got bigger fishes to fry if she's
stopped bugging us."

Raguel frowned.  "What would those bigger fishes be?" 

Urd grimaced.  "How should I know?  She just disappeared,
isn't that enough?" 

Raguel shook his head.  "No.  Have you got any information?" 

Urd grimaced.  "Not much.  I did pick up a tidbit." 

Raguel nodded.  "Share it with us.  Please." 

Urd's eyes widened.  "Did you just say PLEASE?  Goodness, I may
faint!" 

Raguel merely stared at Urd. 

Urd sighed.  "All I know is that John Constantine is related to
it." 

Saraquael's frown deepened.  "Of course.  You and Mara were
working together.  Using your sister Skuld, who was undoubtably
manipulated into it, you dug up information on John Constantine.
And all this troubles on the mortal realm is related to you."

Urd shouted, "I DID NOTHING!" 

Michael raised an eyebrow.  "Like the time you manipulated the
System into letting you down on Earth, resulting in total chaos
of the mainframe for a time?" 

Urd giggled nervously.  "But I didn't do anything this time!" 

Uriel stared at Urd.  "What about the time you took off after
that cherry blossom spirit of yours, arranging the System's
priority tasks in the process, to allow you to see him?" 

Urd started.  "How did you know... er... heheheh..." 

Michael tsked.  "Really, Urd.  Your inclinations towards trouble
are well known.  You've caused more trouble in Heaven than most
demons of Hell put together."

Urd frowned.  "Well... maybe, but..."  She took a deep breath. 
"I DIDN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS!" 

Raguel took in a long, deep breath.  "Let's go over this again." 

"OH, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!" 


                           -*-


"Right then, let's start this from the beginning, shall we?" 

Skuld nodded from behind a mountain of 41 flavors of ice cream. 
This, John thought to himself, was going a little rougher on the
wallet than he thought. 

"Okay.  Now.  When did all the trouble begin?"  He waited
patiently as Skuld gulped down a scoop of double-fudge-mint. 

"Well, it-" 

"Y'got a bit of a smudge on yer lip, luv." 

Looking embarassed, Skuld quickly covered her mouth with a paper
napkin.  "Oh?  Where?" 

"Right there, to the left." 

"Did I get it, Mr. Constantine?" 

"A bit more.  There.  Better."  Normally, John would care less if
a child in his company was a total slob, but for some odd reason
it just bothered him to see Skuld messy.  "Now, you were saying?" 

"Oh, um... well, there were these odd disasters that were
happening.  They weren't _right_." 

"There's a right sort of disaster?" asked John skeptically. 

Skuld nodded.  "Sometimes, an earthquake, or hurricane, or some
other disaster is due just because nature can't hold back any
more.  That's normal.  But sometimes there's disasters happening
when they shouldn't." 

The sarcastic side of John was going to comment on how there
_shouldn't_ be any kind of disasters if Heaven was running things
properly, but somehow, for some reason, he held back just this
once. 

"So then, recent events have been unusual, have they?" 

"Mm-hm.  The earthquake that hit Tokyo recently wasn't right.  We
could feel it.  So was the hurricane and tsunami that hit
afterward." 

John hmmed.  "Yeah, it did seem a bit much, all that mess hitting
Japan." 

Earthquakes.  Something was causing earthquakes.  Something
supernatural.  But what?  He planned on thumbing through the
books for supernatural entities linked to quakes a little later,
definitely. 

"Y'know," said John, giving Skuld a quick appraising glance, "you
don't look very Japanese.  Wotcha doing in Japan?" 

"I'm staying with my sister Belldandy," said Skuld.  Her face
soured quite a bit.  "She's staying with... a boy." 

"Ooooh, she's in love, is she?" asked John.  He couldn't help but
grin.  Skuld's envy was... just so amusing to him.  A part of his
mind took note of the name 'Belldandy' and tried to think of any
deities he might've heard of by that name.  Nothing came to mind. 

"Hrm!  I don't see what she sees in him.  Not at all." 

"Ah, you'll understand later in life, luv." 

Skuld cast him a very skeptical look, then resumed her leisurely
destruction of her ice cream tower. 

"So you've got just the one sister, hm?" asked John. 

"Nope!  I've got two.  Belldandy is really neat!  You should meet
her some time.  She's the best... even if she is stuck with that
stupid boy." 

"Okay.  And your other sister?" 

"Oh, that's Urd.  She's the oldest." 

This little revelation caused John to raise an eyebrow.  "Wait... 
did you say Urd?" 

Skuld nodded. 

"Tall, tanned, got platinum blond hair?" 

Skuld looked a little surprised.  "You met her?" 

"Yeah, just recently." 

Skuld frowned.  "She's always mean to me." 

During a moment of silence accompanied by the sound of Skuld
eliminating seven flavors, John pondered over things. 

"Say, luv, I've always wanted to know...  what's it like up
there?"

"Oh, it's nice!  There's deities and angels and everything's so
pretty!  You'd like it there." 

"How about God?" 

Skuld paused.  "Hm?  What about Him?" 

"I mean... what's the fellow like?  Pleasant?  Kind?  Fire'n
brimstone type?  What?" 

"Well... he really doesn't get involved much." 

John frowned.  "Excuse me?  What?" 

"God doesn't like to interfere too much with things.  Every now
and then he steps in when there are BIG problems, but usually he
just watches." 

"That would explain why the world's gone to crap," grumbled John. 
A voyeuristic God... that seemed somewhat perverse. 

"What?" 

"You mean to tell me God leaves the world to chaos?" 

"Oh no, absolutely not."  Skuld halted a moment to down another
spoonful of ice cream, then continued.  "You see, the universe
is like this big clockwork machine, with all the parts spinning
around moving other parts kind of like a clock with lots and lots
of gears." 

This, in John's opinion was not an improvement. 

"So, wait... if the big man upstairs is hands off, what are the
rest of you deities doing?" 

"Well, we do the maintenance and stuff.  The Gods, Goddesses,
Archangels, angels.  We're the balancing force against the
guys in Hell and keep everything running."

"Uh huh.  And there's Demons and Hell because...?" 

"Bad people should be punished." 

"Ah.  Of course.  So.... what you're saying then, is that even
though sometimes bad things happen to good people, on the whole
it's part of the big plan." 

With some uncertainty, Skuld nodded. 

"Sounds lousy to me." 

"That's not fair!  We're trying our best!" 

"I'm not criticizing you, luv.  Just God." 

"Oh... well... you shouldn't do that." 

"Heh, don't worry, darling.  He's used to it by now." 

John mulled it over.  The image of God sitting idly by while
good people rotted and bastards took the Parliament really ticked
him off. 

A jet rumbled far overhead.

Sirens continued to wail in the distance.

A shadow fell across the table.

John and Skuld looked up. 

"Mara!" 

Mara smiled seductively at John.  "My, my, John... slumming among
the lower classes of Heaven, are we?" 

Skuld growled. 

Mara gave Skuld a languorous look.  "Nice look, kid.  Out to join
the Trenchcoat Brigade?" 

Skuld turned red and was about to reach back for her mallet when
John intervened.  "What do you want, Mara?" 

"Oh, just wondering what you're up to, Johnny boy."  She pulled
up a chair and joined them at the table, next to John. 

"Oi, nobody invited you to the table," grumbled John. 

"I'm a Demoness and this is a table in an ice cream shop.  If I
was a vampire and this was a house, you might have a point."  She
leaned over.  "Besides, if I were a vampire, I wouldn't be doing
this now, would I?"  And she grabbed him by his trenchcoat and
gave him a kiss on the lips. 

John froze.  Skuld turned red in anger, and began digging around
in her backpack, irritated.  "Where'd I put it?!" 

"I'm surprised you're bringing the kid along for the ride," said
Mara, leaning back leisurely.  "I mean, you don't exactly have a
spotless record with children."  She turned to Skuld with a sly
grin.  "Say, kiddo, he ever tell you about what happened in
Newcastle?" 

The expression on John's face went from mildly annoyed to
absolute rage.  "Don't you bring that up.  Don't you DARE bring
that up!" 

"So he hurt a girl doing some magic!" yelled Skuld defiantly. 
"Accidents happen!" 

Mara's grin grew even more.  "Oh, little Goddess, you really
don't know, do you?" 

"Shut the FUCK up, Mara," growled John. 

"Know what?" asked Skuld, annoyed. 

Mara stood up from her seat and circled around the table, pacing
slowly.  "I wonder if Skuld will turn out like your other
friends, John.  Y'know, like Zatara, Nigel, Header, Rick,
Ritchie, Emma, Sister Anne-Marie, Frank, Benjamin, Dez... so
many names... it's hard to keep track of."

"You're really pissing me off, Mara," growled John. 

"Or maybe she'll end up like Gaz!" said Mara merrily.  "You
remember Gaz, don't you?  He was your childhood buddy!" 

"Old news," he said, face set rigidly. 

"Go away!" shouted Skuld defiantly. 

Mara was thoroughly pleased, having the infamous John Constantine
squirming from her words.  Enough was enough, though, so she
decided to needle Skuld a bit.  After all, fair was fair... 

"So, Skul... uh-oh." 

-WHAP-

John looked somewhat surprised as Mara vanished with a violent
explosion and a scream as Skuld whapped her on the face with
something heavy and metal. 

"What was that?" he asked. 

"Hm?" 

"What'd you hit her with?  Holy sigil or something?" 

"Oh.  No, just this.  She's vulnerable to good luck charms." 

John looked.  He blinked.  Then he started laughing.  "A bloody
horseshoe?  That's it?  Haw!  What a wimpy demonesss!" 

Seeing John finally smile around her, Skuld couldn't help but
laugh with him. 

"Y'not so bad, kid," said John casually. 

She beamed at the compliment.  "Thank you!  Um... by the way... 
Mr. Constantine, can I ask you something?" 

"Call me John, eh, luv?" 

"Okay, um... John... is my English all right?" 

"Eh?  Yeah, why's that, luv?" 

"Because you're talking funny." 

"Eh, luv, you're the one with the accent." 

Skuld blinked, clearly confused.  "I have an accent?" 

John nodded solemnly.  "Mm-hm.  Think about it now, what's the
language called?" 

"Um... English." 

"And what am I?" he said slowly. 

"British?" 

"The other term is 'English', luv.  I'm an Englishman.  I speak
English.  Therefore, s'you that's got the accent, see?" 
Satisfied with his explanation, John leaned back and put his
hands behind his back.

"Ooooh, I see."  Skuld nodded her head and beamed. 

John smiled.  The kid was learning. 


                           -*-


Tumbling, falling, streaking across the planes of reality like a
shooting star, Mara fell, an imprint of a horseshoe on her face. 
After what seemed to be an eternity, she landed unceremoniously
on her rear in a generally vague part of Hell. 

"Great.  Humiliated by the small one."  She sighed, dusted
herself off, stood up, then froze in her tracks. 

Clad in nothing but a loincloth and ragged cape, was a man, with
muscles on him like the gods of Olympus and an aura of sheer
evil.  He seemed to be calm. 

Even a little pleasant. 

Mara thought it was sarcasm. 

"Hello, Mara," he said calmly. 

Now she was sure of it.  Because she knew who this man was. 

"M-my Lord and Master!  Um... how are you this day?" 

"I wanted to... talk." 

Mara gulped.  When HE wanted to talk, it usually wasn't good
news. 

Because this was the First of the Fallen. 

The First of the Fallen was someone to be taken _very_ seriously. 
What he was wasn't quite clear.  It was said that when Lucifer
Morningstar fell from the Heavens, he was there to greet him.  He
was the most ancient of Evil, and now that Lucifer had decided to
take a long vacation from running Hell, The First was back in 
charge.

She had better obey if she wanted to avoid the most exquisite
agony that the First could devise, Mara thought as she held her
cheek, where the horseshoe had struck her.  Because HE was very,
very good at it. 

"A-anything you wish, my lord." 

"I understand you have this... little scheme of sorts."  He paced
around her casually, while she was too frightened to move an
inch. 

"Ah... plan?" she stuttered nervously. 

He cast off his polite demeanor and stood before her, his face
inches away.  "Don't play dumb with me, demoness.  This is Hell,
this is MY Hell, and the walls literally have ears." 

"I'm sorry, my lord!  I... I do have this plan." 

"Good.  Tell me." 

She began to talk. 


                           -*-


John shook his head in amazement.  Skuld was just finishing the
last of her ice cream.  He handed her a napkin, motioning for her
to wipe her face. 

"Kid, too much ice cream's not good for ya, y'know?" 

Skuld beamed.  "Well, it's how I recover energy!"  She leaned on
the table.  "Just like Urd recovers energy when she drinks, but
she gets weird when she drinks, you know?" 

John smiled.  "So you goddesses recover energy from different
things?" 

Skuld nodded.  "Yeah."  Suddenly, she frowned, and looked down. 

"Eh, luv?  Whassamatter?" 

"It... it's just that my sister, Belldandy, is still sleeping. 
It's how she recovers energy." 

"Oh?" 

"Yes.  She used up her energy in Japan.  So now she's sleeping at
the temple, and Keiichi is watching over her!"  Skuld frowned. 

"Belldandy... this is the one staying in Japan, yeah?" 

Skuld nodded. 

Something in the back of John's mind went -click-. 

"Staying in Japan, you say," he said. 

"And you too?" 

Skuld nodded again. 

"And your sister, Urd... she's staying there too, is she?" 

"Mm-hm." 

-click-click-click-

Mara's words back at London Bridge echoed in his mind. 

   There's Heavenly Deities on Earth. 

   They're STAYING on earth, as in permanent residence. 
   
The pieces of the puzzle began to come together slowly.  There
wasn't a complete picture yet, but there was enough of an image
for him to get really suspicious. 

John narrowed his eyes and hmmed.  "And... just how long have you
bunch been staying in Japan?" 

"Um... a few years now, I think." 

"And you _live_ there, right?" 

Skuld was getting a little tired of nodding, but she did it again
anyway. 

-click-

Ah-hah. 

"Say, luv, mind if I meet your sister?" 

"Oh... um... sure."  She beamed.  "I'll take you to meet her!" 

John nodded, then acked as Skuld grabbed him.  "Wha...?" 

In a minute, they were gone. 


                           -*-


Keiichi was lying in the bath.  He shook his head worriedly. 
With Urd disappearing, and Skuld in England, he wasn't sure what
was wrong.  Belldandy was taking an inordinately long time to
recover.  She might've strained herself too much, and he wasn't
sure who to ask... 

Suddenly a hand shot out from between his legs. 

"AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" 

"[Oops, sorry, Keiichi!]"  Skuld said in Japanese, jumping out of
the bath.  She pulled on another arm, and soon had a sour-looking
blond man in a trenchcoat out of the bath. 

Keiichi, after scrambling for a towel, looked at him.  "[Who's
he, Skuld?]"

John looked at Skuld.  "Bloody hell!  Gimme some warning when
you do that!  S'gotta be a better way to travel!"  He stumbled 
awkwardly around, shaking some water from off his shoes, then
finally took notice of Keiichi.  "Oh, sorry 'bout that, squire.
Just coming through." 

"[Will you ALL get out of here?]" Keiichi hollered. 

"I take it, luv, he's not happy about us being here?" John asked
Skuld. 

Skuld was about to answer when Peorth poked her head through the
bathroom doorway. 

"Ah, you're here.  About time, you guys," Peorth said, with a
smile aimed at John. 

"Bloody hell, what am I today, a Goddess magnet?" mumbled John. 

"What are YOU doing here?" Skuld demanded to know. 

"[Will you people PLEASE get out of the bathroom?!]" yelled
Keiichi. 

Peorth blinked.  "[Oh!  Heya, Keiichi!]" 

"[EVERYBODY OUT!!!]" 


                           -*-


John looked down at the brown-haired goddess.  For some reason,
he suddenly felt very scruffy.  He surreptitiously ran a hand thru
his hair. 

Skuld looked at Banpei.  "[Hasn't she woken up yet?]" 

Banpei shook his head. 

Skuld sighed and sat down on the bed, holding Belldandy's hand. 
"[Oneesama, please wake up.  We need your help.  I can't do this
alone.]" 

Sensing an opportunity to get John away from Skuld, Peorth
smiled.  "John... can we talk for just a little bit?" 

"Hm?  What for?" 

"Oh, this and that," she said casually.  In a whisper she added,
"I think it's best we leave the sisters alone right now, don't
you think?" 

"Oh, yeah, good point." 

Quietly, the two left the room.  Peorth led them to the
courtyard, where cherry blossom trees and fresh air greeted them. 

At this moment, John decided a cigarette was in order. 

"Filthy habit, you know," said Peorth. 

"Which is why I'm doing it," replied John with a grin.  He looked
around warily.  Still had that same feeling he had back in
London, that feeling of being watched by someone.

"So, John, how's it going?" asked Peorth, strolling about
casually.  "The mission, that is." 

"Hah!  I don't even know the bloody point of it all yet." 

"Well... whatever it is you're up to, I want in."  She really
did, too.  After all, who wouldn't want in on the will of God? 
Especially if she could get her word in too. 

She didn't expect him to say no. 

"No." 

After all, who'd say no to a beautiful goddess like her? 

Wait. 

"No?" she asked in disbelief. 

"No," repeated John.  He vaguely remembered the words from a
dream somewhere, echoing in the back of his mind. 

   Divinities will court you for favors. 

Urd, Peorth, Skuld. 

   Already a Demoness watches your every move. 

Mara.  SHE was watching him. 

   Trust no one.

He wasn't going to trust them anyway, but now there was a good
reason why he shouldn't have.  He just wished the Phantom
Stranger explained it to him instead of being his stupid bloody
friggin' mysterious self.

   Let a child lead the way.

Skuld.  Let Skuld lead the way. 

Oh boy. 

"Is there anything I can do to change your mind?" pleaded Peorth. 
"_Anything?_" 

He looked up at the sky thoughtfully for a moment, then took a
breath from his cigarette.  "Nothing I can think of at the
moment, luv, no.  Sorry."

She sighed, a tad overdramatically, and pouted.  "Oh well. 
Should you _ever_ need me, Johnny, here's my card."  She handed
him a card, on which was a picture of Peorth surrounded by roses
in a rather artful way.  "Just touch it and call my name.  I'll
be there for you." 

She began to walk away, when she paused.  "You know, Johnny... 
they may be past, present, and future... but I'm forever.  Don't
you forget it."  With a wink and a smile she walked out of his
life yet again.  He was sure it wasn't going to be the last time,
either. 

Wait... what did she mean by past, present, and future...? 


                           -*-


Hidden in the branches of a nearby tree, Mara watched the events
unfold.

Peorth's further involvement was unwanted but not unexpected.
She still didn't have a clue as to what the big picture was.
Neither did John or Skuld, but she had a feeling they'd be
piecing things together by now.

Any minute now.

And she'd be ready.

Or the First of the Fallen would have her head on a pike made of
her ribs.

She really wished she had listened to Ellie.


                           -*-


When John returned to Belldandy's room, Keiichi was at one side
of Belldandy's bed, and Skuld on the other.  Both of them were 
alternately giving Belldandy worried looks and giving each other
fidgety glances, as Banpei stood quietly in a corner.  John 
sighed, and started to speak. 

"Um..." 

Skuld looked up at him.  "Oh, John!  Um... do you want a drink or
something?" 

John shook his head.  "Not now, luv.  I thought maybe I'd talk to
yer sister, but she's apparently not going to be up for a while." 

"What did you want her for?" 

"Information, maybe." 

Skuld blinked.  "Oh!  You can use the computer in my room!  It's
got a direct link to Heaven.  Down the hall, to the right!" 

John nodded, and started to light up a cigarette, when Keiichi
murmured something in Japanese. 

John stared.  Skuld looked apologetically at John.  "He said..." 

"Yeah, yeah, no smoking, right?" 

He waved carelessly at them and went looking for Skuld's room. 
He peeked into the nearest room.

Good God.  What the hell was this?  A love hotel room?  Bleah,
this couldn't be Skuld's room.  He backed out and went on
to the next room.

Lots of machines.  Hmmm?  This couldn't be... wait.  There was 
the desktop.  This must be her room.  Hm... it seemed Skuld was
mechanically inclined.  He smiled to himself.  Skuld was
certainly very different from the typical deity he usually dealt
with.

He walked over to the desktop and stared at the screen of the
monitor, sighing deeply. 

Here was a direct link to the files of Heaven, and it just had to
be on computer.  He hated computers. 

Currently, the screen was on him and his record. 

At the very least, he had the fundamentals of scrolling up and
down settled.  It was that up-arrow-thingy and the
down-arrow-thingy that did it. 

He noticed his name was highlighed in blue. 

Hrm. 

What to do about that... the up and down keys weren't of any
help.  What was that they were using nowadays?  A mouse, or
something like that? 

"Bloody computers," he grumbled. 

Ah.  Right.  A mouse.  He grabbed what he assumed was one and
moved it around.  That seemed to do something, as a little arrow
thingy started zooming about to and fro. 

Now... about the name... move the arrow... and... click. 

Hrm.  Hello, what's this? 

-------------------------------------------------------------------

SEARCH RESULTS: 

(1) Constantine, John
    [profile] | [history] | [current status]
    [good deeds] | [unredeemed sins]

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Unredeemed sins?  He frowned and unsteadily moved the arrow to
that section and pressed the button. 

The first thought he had was: 

They counted THAT?  Cripes.  Petty friggin' bastards. 

He had no idea singing punk songs on stage while clad in nothing
but boxer shorts while being stone drunk was a sin.  Where was
THAT on the Ten bloody Commandments?

As he went further down the list, his face darkened.  They might
be petty bastards, he admitted, but they were thorough petty
bastards.  They were all listed in there, his little hall of
shame.  Fron Astra to Zatara, with a big mark next to the little
incident he had with Gabriel.

"Bullshite!  I got Astra out of Hell, didn't I?" 

He scowled and fumbled a bit, trying to get out of that particular
area.  After a few loud beeps that clearly meant he wasn't doing
it right, he finally managed to get back to the main screen. 

And just in time, too. 

"Hi, John."

"Skuld!" 

He breathed a sigh of relief.  That particular part of his life
was something he didn't want Skuld to see. 

Skuld sat down next to him, looking despondent. 

John looked up at her.  "Is your sister going to be fine?" 

Skuld sighed.  "She's never slept this long before." 

John nodded in sympathy. 

Skuld looked at the desktop.  "So, are you doing all right?" 

John frowned.  "I'm trying to get any relevant information, but
I'm bloody useless with computers." 

"I can help," she said confidently.

"Yes, I'm sure you can."  He meant it too.

"So... what are you looking for?" she asked, while John moved
aside and let her take over the keyboard.

"Hrm... where to start... ah.  List all the 'unnatural' disasters
for the past... four years?"

"Okay."  Skuld began typing at a speed which John felt was a
surely supernatural.  "This'll take a moment."

While Skuld blazed through dozens of screens of data in mere
seconds, John turned Peorth's phrase over in his head.

   They may be past, present, and future....

They?  They who?  The only people he could imagine her talking
about would be Urd, Belldandy, and Skuld.  That didn't seem
right, though.  The name Skuld nagged at the back of his mind, as
if he read it somewhere before, but he definitely never heard of
any deity named Urd or Belldandy.

Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, these three weren't.

"Oi, Skuld."

"Not ready yet, almost there," she replied, still typing away at
light speed.

"What culture are you three from?"

"Norse," she replied quickly, distracted by her task.

Norse mythology, eh?  He didn't deal with the Norse folk much,
hence his inconvenient lack of memory recall in the area at the
moment. 

Skuld finally stopped typing and proclaimed, "Okay, here it is!"

On screen were hundreds of listings of tragedies, from killer
tornadoes to teen Nazis on the rampage.  There were riots and
rapes, plagues and pillaging, a long list of human disasters by
one means or another.  John got an headache just looking at the
first screenful of it. 

So, he thought, it wasn't _just_ about earthquakes.  Now it was
beginning to make sense.

"Ugh, this's gonna be a mess," he grumbled.

"How did you want to view it?" asked Skuld.

"Hm?  Wot?"

"As in chart, or graph, or detailed description..."

"Oh!  Right then, gimmie a... whasit... a line graph orgainzed
by... er..."

"Month?" suggested Skuld.

"Yeah, month."

A few more seconds of typing from Skuld resulted in a nearby
printer spitting out a few pages of line graphs.  They were
clearly on the increase.

John held the papers in his hand, sorted them around a bit, and
thought some more.

"Skuld, have a look at these, hm?"

She took the charts from John and looked at them.  "What?"

John handed her a pencil.  "Now mark on the chart which month you
three first got here."

Skuld flipped through the pages to a couple of years back, then
marked the month Belldandy had arrived in Japan.

"You three arrived on that month?" asked John.

"No.  Belldandy came here first.  Then Urd followed her, and I
came after that."

"Right.  Mark those months down."

She marked them.

And, with fear and a sinking heart, she saw.

"The unnatural disasters really start increasing after... after I
left?  B-but... but why?  What'd I do?"

John'd been mulling over Norse mythology for quite a while, while
Skuld was busy, and finally, he remembered something.

The name Skuld definitely did sound familiar.

"Norse Goddess of the future," he mumbled.  "That can't be right.
The Norn Sisters would be Skuld, Urth and Verthandi...  Ur..."

And then a few more pieces of the puzzle snapped into place.

Urd... Urth... Verthandi... Belldandy.

And with a -click-, Gout's words fell in place.

   ThE dEmOnEsS bItCh?  FeH!  sTiLl ShE wAgEs uSeLeSs WaR aGaInSt
   ThE fAtEs, As ShE aLwAyS hAs. 

Oh.  Oh damn.

"The three Norse Goddesses of Fate are on a holiday in Japan?  
What's this bollocks?  Aren't you three supposed to be determining
fate or something?"

"Um, what we really do now is keep the system running," replied
Skuld, her mind still frantic about the implications of what had
happened.

"System?  What system?"

"The Yggdrasil."

Yggdrasil?  He'd heard of that somewhere before.  "Some kind of
tree, innit?"

"It's the computer that manages lots of stuff on Earth and
Heaven.  Me and my sisters operate it when it needs to be
adjusted."

"So what you're saying," said John in a somewhat irritated voice,
"is that NOBODY is watching the Yggdrasil right now?  A bloody
computer with the powers of a deity is running amock?"

"Someone should have told us if something went wrong!  They
always do!" she said, the panic in her voice rising.  "Oh no,
they'll blame me for this!  Maybe it's my fault!  I thought one
of the others was gonna watch it!  Why didn't anyone call?!  Oh no
oh no oh no!" 

John, on the other hand, was surprisingly calm about things.

"Now, luv, don't panic just yet."

"Don't panic?  DON'T PANIC?!"

"It never helps to panic, kid."

"I've got to get back up there!  I've... I've... got to calm
down.  You're right.  I'll be right back."  She stood up suddenly
and strode to the door.

"Oi, where are you going?"

"Ice cream.  I need ice cream."

Skuld left the room with much urgency, leaving John there to mull
things over.  Unknown to her, he had some suspicions on what was
really going, and the bastardly little schemer in him was
beginning to get a little lively.

God save the Heavens.  John Constantine was forming a Plan.


                           -*-


Urd sighed.  This was reaching nightmare proportions.  They were
all there, with the exception of Raphael, who said something about
previous obligations and left.  The other Archangels seemed a bit
tired of the proceedings except Raguel, whose intensity in the
matter was as strong as iron.

At the moment, the Archangels were digging into her childhood
pranks.  She always knew it'd come back to haunt her.

Saraquael looked at Urd.  "Do you deny that you stole the
eight-legged steed Sleipnir?" 

Urd sighed.  "No, but that was when I was a CHILD!  What has this
got to do with anything?!" 

Michael frowned at Urd.  "Character." 

Urd glared.  "I'm NOT working with Mara, goddamn it!" 

All the archangels gave her a harsh glare. 

"Ah, um, I mean, darnit!" 

A few mumbled to each other and eased off their glares, but
Raguel did not.  She wondered what it would take to get them off
her back. 

"Just because I borrowed a horse years ago to try to help my
sister...!!!" 

"You broke the rules on countless occasions," Michael frowned. 

Uriel ahemed calmly.  "Now, Urd, shouldn't you just admit your
faults?  God forgives." 

Urd screamed.  "I was just TRYING to help!" 

Raguel frowned.  "Help the forces of hell, you mean?  By contacting
the mortal who made Gabriel fall?"

"That wasn't WHAT I meant to do!"

Uriel raised an eyebrow.  "So what did you intend to do? 
'Accidentally' set up the rest of the Archangels to fall, as
Constantine and his slut did unto Gabriel?" 

Urd groaned.  This had just gone beyond nightmare status and
was approaching the realm of paranoia.


                           -*-


Skuld returned a few moments later with a gallon of chocolate 
ice cream and proceeded to slowly chip away at the contents while
staring out at the window.

John paused for a minute.  Christ, this might be a low thing to
do, but... 

"Skuld... I think you should go back to Heaven to sort this out."

"Mm?  Yeah, I think so too."

"Yes.  And I think I oughta go along with you."

"Would you?" she asked, surprised.

John grinned.  The Constantine Charm, it never failed when he 
needed it.  "Oh, yeah kid.  You'n me all the way.  If anyone
gives you a hard time, I'll have a word with 'em."

"Thank you!"

John found himself hugged, which didn't feel half-bad at all.  Of
course, he kept his his calm exterior.  Had a reputation to keep,
after all.

"Oh, wait... I need to find a way to get you into heaven."

"What, you can't just go through a tub'o water like last time?"

"Hold on juuuuust a moment."  Skuld grabbed what appeared to be
some blueprints, a small toolbox, and a robot that just happened
to be walking past the doorway at the moment.

"This won't take long!" she yelled, as she dragged Banpei down 
the hallway.

John blinked.

He had a Bad Feeling about this.


                           -*-


A few minutes later...

"Behold!  The new and improved Banpei RX Turbocharged Heavenly
Chariot!" Skuld beamed. 

They were outside in the temple courtyard.  John looked.  Banpei
was standing there.

"What's the big deal?" 

"Watch.  Banpei, Configuration Number 259!"

Banpei morphed into a go-cart. 

John stared. 

"And... what is this again?" he asked, clearly confused. 

"This is your ride to Heaven!" she said proudly. 

He looked at it again. 

And again. 

"No." 

"What?" 

"Abso-bloody-lutely not.  No way.  Surely there must be a better
way to get into Heaven.  Martyrdom, for example." 

"Hey!  What's wrong with it?" 

He sighed and felt the strong urge for a cigarette.  "Surely you
can find a better way?"

"There's a quicker option, if you're in the right condition,"
said Skuld.

"Which is?" 

"If you're good, die." 

He blinked.  "Ah, martyrdom _is_ the other option." 

With great trepidation, he stepped into the go-cart.  "So, which
way do I go?" he asked. 

"Banpei will drive you," she replied.  "Just leave it to him.  I
even gave him an English translator, so he can talk to you!" 

John had a foot in the cart.  He hesitated, then stepped out again. 
He just couldn't accept this.  It looked too ridiculous.  HIM, in
a dinky little vehicle like THIS.  No. 

Surely, he thought, there could be a way around this? 

"No.  I refuse to accept this.  Now, explain to me, _exactly_,
why this is THE option?  Isn't there a doorway or a path or some
odd bloody spell you can do?"

"Um... I'm not good enough at spells yet," said Skuld
apologetically, "and I'm not allowed to tell mortals how to get
into Heaven before their time or lead them there without
approval."

"Not allowed to..."  John grinned.  "Clever girl, using the
technicalities."  Skuld's happiness level jumped a bit with the
compliment. 

John's grin faded as he looked at the go-cart again. 

"A bleedin' go-cart.  Me mates will never let me hear the end of
this if they find out," John muttered, as he settled in.  "Hope
Brendan won't see me like this.  Else, I'll get bloody grief for
eternity." 

A fierce gust of wind hit suddenly, tossing John's trenchcoat
open.  He struggled for a brief moment, then closed the jacket
and held it firm by tying up the belt.

He had that nagging feeling he was being watched again.  John
looked around, but saw no sign of Mara.  He'd be expecting her
sooner or later, though.

Skuld dove into the pool to head for heaven, and Banpei prepared
to leave as well, starting up its motor.

"Onward ho, Bombay."

A small computer display on the dashboard flashed silently.

//Banpei.//

"Oh.  Right then, onward ho."

The scooter silently hummed out into the streets, then through a
narrow forest path.  The go-cart began beeping merrily.

"Oi!  None of that.  S'bad enough I have to ride in you."

//Sorry.//

John sighed and pulled out another cigarette.

The computer display beeped.

//No smoking.//

"What?!"

//Sorry.//

"Now see here, kiddie-cart, I'm about to go running about in
Heaven, where I just KNOW I'm not going to be welcome.  If this
stunt doesn't get me eternal damnation, it will certainly get me
extremely rough treatment by deities of various sources. 
Therefore, I have a RIGHT to this cigarette, see?" 

//No.//

"Tough luck, son."  He lit the cigarette.  A small mechanical arm
tipped with a hose came out and extinguished it immediately.

John narrowed his eyes.  He could see this wasn't going to be a
pleasant journey.

"Tell me, at the VERY least, you have something to munch on
during this trip?"

A robotic hand whipped out and handed him an ice cream cone.

"Ah.  I see."

This was going to be a long drive.

For some reason, poem lyrics came to mind.

"Theirs not to make reply, theirs but to do and die,
 Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred." 

The Charge of the Light Brigade.  Damn that Tennyson, and the hours
spent in detention studying.

He tried not to remember the final fate of the Light Brigade. 


                           -*-


The First of the Fallen nodded and smiled on his dark throne. 
Mara's plot was actually surprisingly workable, but didn't go far
enough.  He did have to give her credit, though... for a small
mind, her observations were astute.

But soon, very soon, he would have his revenge. 

Revenge, at long last, on that smug little bastard John
Constantine.  He'd savor every moment in which John would be in
Hell.  The Devil would rejoice at every scream and tap-dance on
his bones. 

John Constantine was doomed. 

Oh yes. 

And God too. 

-= end part 2 =-