STOP! This story is a crossover between Girls, Girls, Girls and Diane Castle's The Secret Return of Alex Mack, and includes spoilers for that story. If you have not yet read The Secret Return, well, you're missing out on an incredibly good megacrossover for one, but also, reading this story will ruin an important plot development late in the story. I strongly recommend that you read The Secret Return before going any further. And while you're at it, check out the other stories in the "Alexverse" -- aka the "Teraverse" -- at Twisting the Hellmouth under the the series name A Brane of Extraordinary Women. You won't be disappointed.
"Terawatt," Shar whispered.
For a moment it was bright, too bright for Shar to see, too bright not to see even with her eyes closed. And for a moment it was hot, hotter than any fire she'd ever made before, so hot she knew she was going to burn right up.
And then it wasn't.
Shar scrunched her eyes closed tighter. She didn't know what had happened, or where she was. But she couldn't feel the heat of the explosion any more, or the heat of the sun either. And where a moment before she'd been flying in the air, now she could feel solid ground under her feet.
And where a moment before, the nanobots had been just about to take her over, now they were gone. Totally. The little alien minds were nowhere to be found.
Shar kept her eyes closed tight. Something had happened, but it wasn't what she'd expected. "If this is a trick," she whispered, and her voice sounded funny to her ears, "it's a really mean one."
"It's not a trick, Charlene." It was a girl's voice, and she sounded about Alex's age. She sounded nice.
Shar unscrunched one eye, then the other.
There were two pretty teenaged girls standing in front of her. One was dressed in red and white. She had long shiny black hair all the way to her feet, warm brown eyes and strange blue marks on her face. She was smiling, not a nasty smile, but a friendly one, like Alex's smiles. The other girl was wearing a long dress of some silky white cloth that had gold and silver threads running through it. She had skin almost as white as her dress, and short, messy hair that was blue — not dark blue like Azure Crush's hair, but much much lighter. And her eyes were red, almost like blood. Around her wrist was a ribbon, also red but much brighter, and her feet were bare.
And she had wings the same color as her hair.
"Are you an angel?" Shar blurted, forgetting to be afraid.
The blue-haired girl smiled a tiny smile, knelt down in front of her and raised a pale hand to cup Shar's cheek. "I am," she answered in a voice so soft it was almost a whisper. "You can call me Raye."
"And I'm Skuld," said the other girl. It'd been her who'd said it wasn't a trick.
"Where am I?" Shar asked. She looked around. Everything was white — the sky, the ground, and the fog that seemed to start about fifty feet away on all sides. And right at the edge of the fog, behind Skuld and Raye, there were other girls and women. Some of them were dressed like superheroes, and those that weren't were still wearing strange clothes. They were standing that way Uncle Jack called "parade rest", all in a row, watching Shar and Raye and Skuld.
Skuld reached out and touched Shar's other cheek. "We're somewhere very special. We're at the gates of Heaven."
"Heaven?" Shar suddenly had a very bad thought. She looked first at Skuld and then at Raye, who was still kneeling in front of her. "I'm dead, aren't I?" The thought almost broke her heart — she'd never see Alex, or Aunt Barb, or Uncle George, or Willow, or Jack or... or... anybody! ever again.
"Yes," Raye said. "You died when you destroyed the Xymos building and all the nanobots. But then you knew that you would."
"Yeah," Shar admitted. "I did." Sher looked around again. "I don't see any gates."
Skuld laughed, and so did the girls in the line behind her, but it wasn't a mean laugh. It was more like Alex's "aren't you silly?" laugh. Raye's tiny smile got a little bit bigger. "That's because you get to make a choice first," she said.
"A choice?" Shar scrunched up her face in confusion. "What kind of choice?"
"You get to choose which Heaven to go to," Skuld said.
"Which Heaven?" Shar repeated.
Skuld nodded. "Have you ever heard of the Vikings?"
"Sure," Shar said. "Big guys with axes and swords and horns on their helmets and they all rode dragons after Hiccup showed them how."
Skuld giggled, then said, "Something like that. Well, the Vikings had a special Heaven for heroes who died in battle. It's called 'Valhalla'. In Valhalla you get to fight for fun during the day, and have a party at night, every night. And because you died in battle to save the world, you can go to Valhalla if you want."
"Fight for fun?" Shar asked. "Like sparring?"
Raye and Skuld shared a smile. "A little rougher, but still all in fun," Skuld agreed. "And everyone who gets hurt heals right back up again right away. And nobody dies."
Shar leaned in to her. "I can firebend them?" she asked in a whisper.
Skuld laughed. "They'd think it was very cool. They'd think you were very cool. There's a seat saved for you at the table between my father Odin and my brother Thor because you're one of the greatest heroes ever."
"You are," Raye said, and cupped her cheek again. "I am the Angel of Heroes, Shar, and I tell you that you are one of mine. And if you don't want to go to Valhalla, you may go to the Heaven you learned of in church, where your mother and father are waiting for you."
Shar felt her eyes grow wide. "They are?" She suddenly felt guilty — she'd hardly thought of Daddy and Mommy in the last few months, and she hoped they weren't mad at her.
Maybe Raye read her mind, or maybe it was the look she had on her face, but Raye smiled again and said, "Don't worry. They're very proud of you. And they won't be angry or upset if you choose Valhalla."
Shar bit her lip. "I want to see them again, I do. But I want to spar with everyone, too. Do I have to choose just one? Can't I do both?"
"Told you!" one of the girls in the line whispered loudly, followed by friendly laughter from the rest. Shar blushed. She hoped it wasn't too much to ask, that she hadn't broken some kind of rule and they wouldn't let her into either Heaven now.
But if anything, Raye and Skuld's smiles just got bigger. "Why not?" Skuld said.
"Yes," Raye added. "It can be arranged."
"Look," added Skuld softly, looking past Shar.
Shar turned around, and behind her, where there had been just white fog before, now there were huge gates made of gold and light. And coming through them, Shar saw...
"Mommy! Daddy!" she shrieked and ran into their arms.
Skuld smiled gently as Rei stood and dismissed her wings. "Well," she announced with a huff of mock annoyance. "So much for the plan to have everyone form an honor guard and escort her in."
Rei glanced over at her, red eyes half-lidded. "I'm certain you will survive the disappointment."
Skuld giggled, then grew thoughtful. "Last thing I expected to have to do this stop was choose a fallen hero for Valhalla," she mused. "But I see why Father set us the task rather than one of the Valkyries from this universe."
"Yeah." Behind them, the line had broken up, mostly forming into little groups of chattering girls as Lisa stepped forward to join them. "It's not every day you get to welcome the first superhero to reach Heaven. Or the first eight-year-old einherjar. Let alone both in the same person." She shared a lopsided smile with the angel and the goddess. "Not to mention your overself's local avatar is one scary lady, Skuld, and her Valkyries are almost as bad. Shar would have been freaked, totally."
Rei nodded. "Far better for her comfort that we were her psychopomps. One's arrival in the Life After should never be a frightening thing."
"Yeah." Lisa watched the reunion between parents and child, a wistful look on her face, and Skuld recalled vaguely that there was some kind of estrangement between the MegaTokyo-born Sailor Senshi and her own mother. "She's not going to stay eight years old for all eternity, is she?" Lisa asked softly, her eyes never leaving the sight.
"No," Rei replied. "It would be cruel to deny her the full growth of her potential and leave her only partially capable of even understanding Heaven."
"Her mind and soul will develop at whatever pace she's most comfortable with," Skuld added, "until they reach the maturity that best suits her."
"And when she is capable of fully understanding her options," Rei continued, "she may be offered right of return, to go back to mortal life at a time when she is needed."
"Once a hero, always a hero, eh?" Lisa asked, a smile breaking out on her face.
"This is truth," Rei said. "And the world — every world — is always in need of heroes."
"And should the Ragnarok come before then," Skuld mused, "she will be at Father's side, among his bravest warriors. This I See."
"Good." Lisa nodded, more to herself than anything. "Good. Right!" She clapped her hands. "Now that that's done, time to move. Mark this timeline down as another where metahumans are appearing for the first time, and let's get back on the road."
As Lisa strode back to the other girls, Skuld glanced over at Rei and raised an eyebrow. "Well, you heard the lady," she snarked, and followed.
Rei turned back to where the gates of Heaven were closing behind their charge and her parents. She raised her hand and the Lance of Longinus unwrapped itself from her wrist to take its proper form in her grip. "Hail to thee, Charlene McGee, called 'Pyre'," she said in her quiet tones. "And Heaven's blessings upon thee."
Raise thy weapons on this day,
Ye shall not die alone.
Fight and die, let valkyries fly,
For they shall take thee home!
I promise thee that on this night,
Ye shall be by my side!
Asgard's halls await with heroes:
Brothers that have died.
For thee we wait at Asgard's gate;
Come join us by our side!
Valhalla waits, so choose thy fate,
For all of us must die!
— Manowar, "Army Of The Dead, Part I"
This work of fiction is copyright © 2015, by Robert M. Schroeck, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.
"Charlene 'Pyre' McGee" based on the title character from the novel Firestarter by Stephen King, filtered through the imagination of Diane Castle, and is used without permission.
Oh! My Goddess, and the settings and the characters thereof, are copyright by and trademarks of Kosuke Fujishima, KISS and Kodansha Ltd., and are used without permission.
Neon Genesis Evangelion, and the settings and the characters thereof, are copyright by and trademarks of Hideaki Anno and GAINAX, and are used without permission.
Bubblegum Crisis and the settings and the characters thereof are copyright by and trademarks of Artmic Inc. and Youmex Inc., and are used without permission.
Many thanks to Diane Castle, who graciously allowed me to give Shar this send-off.