Outlaw Star Fan Fiction / Tenchi Muyo Fan Fiction ❯ Of Princesses and Space Pirates ❯ Chapter 7: No Need for Confrontations ( Chapter 7 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

I do not own the rights to any of the characters in this fanfic, nor do I claim to. The idea, however, is mine. Enjoy!
Of Princesses and Space Pirates
Chapter 7: No Need for Confrontations
Sasami took in her surroundings with wide eyes, as her jaw dropped open slightly. The bright lights of the bustling Outlaw safe-haven flashed brilliantly, and not since the Juraian festival Startica, had she felt so overwhelmed by activity. Ryoko was only a step behind Sasami as the girl walked down the street, however the princess didn't really take notice of how Ryoko's guard was up, as she was too distracted by the shops and vendors that lined the sidewalks.
"Hey you there, girl," a vendor called out suddenly, gaining Sasami's attention. Sasami stopped and turned towards the man, gasping in awe at his strange appearance. He was reptile-like, with his scaly skin and the slurping sound of his raspy voice when he spoke. "You look like a girl with exquisite tastes," he continued, beckoning her over. "Could I interest you in my merchandise?"
Sasami stepped closer to the booth, to get a better look at the merchandise. Expensive-looking jewelry was scattered across the table, and exotic silk cloths and clothing were neatly folded. A certain piece of jewelry caught her eye, and she smiled as she turned towards her companion. "Oh, Ryoko, can I get something," she asked. She frowned slightly as the woman didn't seem to hear her. Instead, Ryoko's gaze was fixed at a distant point, and she had a small scowl on her face. Reaching her hand out, Sasami grabbed Ryoko's arm, shaking it slightly.
"Huh," Ryoko mumbled, glancing down at the girl. "What is it, Sasami?"
"What's wrong, Ryoko," Sasami asked. "What were you looking at?"
"What? Oh, nothing," she stated quickly. She smiled at Sasami, giving a mental sigh as the girl returned her gesture. "What did you want?"
"Well, I saw something that I wanted to buy."
Ryoko glanced at the vendor, who, in her opinion, was staring at them a little too intently. Sending a sneer in his direction, she turned her attention once again to Sasami. "Go ahead."
"Thank you, Ryoko," Sasami exclaimed, turning back towards the vendor. She went immediately to what she had been looking at, and picked two matching bracelets up from the table. Clasping one around her own wrist, she turned back around towards Ryoko, and put the other one around the woman's wrist.
"What's this," Ryoko asked, taken by surprise by Sasami's actions.
"They'll be friendship bracelets, Ryoko," she answered. "One for me, and one for you."
"Surely, little girl, you want something better than that piece of junk," the vendor began. "How does this piece catch your eye?" He picked up two other bracelets - more than likely, two much more expensive bracelets - and held them up towards Sasami for her inspection.
"Um, no thank you," Sasami said politely, shaking her head. "How much is it for these?"
"Well, if I could just show you one more-"
"She said she likes what she found," Ryoko snapped, cutting the man off. "Let's go, Sasami."
As Ryoko began to pull her away from the table, Sasami pulled back slightly. "But we have to pay for the bracelets," she protested. "We wouldn't want any trouble."
"She doesn't know how right she is," Ryoko thought grimly. Sighing, she pulled out a few wong, slamming it down on the table. "This is enough." The edge in her voice and the look she gave the man left no room for argument, as he quickly nodded his head in agreement.
"It's just the right amount. Was there something else you'd like," he asked. Ryoko sent another glare in his direction, which went unnoticed by Sasami. "I-it'll be on the house," he quickly amended, stammering as he swallowed noisily. Shrugging, Sasami took one last look at the merchandise. A smile suddenly lit her face, as she picked up one other item from the table - a pair of earrings. As the vendor got a good look at what she had taken, his face grew pale. It had been a particularly expensive pair of earrings.
"Here Ryoko, put this in," Sasami said, handing one of the earrings to the woman. Ryoko watched as Sasami removed her own earrings and put the one, new earring into her ear. Smirking slightly, Ryoko mimicked the girl's actions.
"Now you really do look like an Outlaw, Sasami," Ryoko commented, as the gold, hoop earring dangled from Sasami's ear, glimmering in the light.
"How does it look, Mister," Sasami asked of the vendor, turning around towards him.
"It's perfect," he replied, as the pain of his loss crept into his voice. "Just perfect." Ryoko laughed at this, causing Sasami to look at her strangely.
"Let's go, Sasami," she stated, pulling her away from the table once again.
As the two walked away from the vendor, Sasami looked up towards Ryoko and smiled at the woman. "Thank you, Ryoko."
"No problem, Princess," Ryoko replied with a short laugh, as she returned Sasami's look. "It was worth it!" The two walked in silence for a bit more, with Sasami taking in more of her surroundings and leaving Ryoko to her thoughts. "We're being followed," she thought inwardly, darkly. "But who…? They'll pay, whoever it is."
"Hey, where is Ryo-oh-ki, anyway," Sasami asked, stopping so suddenly Ryoko nearly walked into her. "You don't think she's lost, do you, Ryoko?"
"She's fine, don't worry about her," Ryoko replied distractedly.
"But how do you know that?"
"We have a connection, remember," Ryoko asked, tapping the side of her head lightly. She closed her eyes briefly, taking in a deep breath of air. When she opened her eyes again, Sasami was looking up at her, concern expressed on her face. Shaking her head slightly, Ryoko placed a hand on the younger girl's shoulder. "Don't worry, she's fine, Sasami," she continued. "Besides, here she comes now."
The familiar mew of Ryo-oh-ki was heard in the distance, and as Sasami turned to look, she saw the petite cabbit bounding down the street in their direction. Smiling, Sasami rushed forward to meet her halfway. "Ryo-chan," she exclaimed, extending her arms as the cabbit jumped up towards her. "I missed you, Ryo-oh-ki! Where did you go?"
"Mreow, meow," the cabbit exclaimed, licking Sasami's face.
"Did you find anything interesting," Ryoko asked, walking up behind the duo. Crossing her arms in front of her, Ryoko asked the question with a hidden meaning. The cabbit looked at her, mewing in a low voice. Sighing, Ryoko nodded her head in understanding. "Damn," she cursed inwardly. "So you didn't turn up anything, afterall." Ryo-oh-ki looked at her with a sad expression, however Ryoko just smiled slightly. "It's alright, Ryo-oh-ki," she stated out loud. "I'm sure next time, you'll have much better luck."
"Are you hungry, Ryo-chan," Sasami asked. "Were you looking for food?" She laughed as Ryo-oh-ki licked her in the face again, and then she slowly stood up with the cabbit in her arms. "Okay then! We'll see if we can find a vegetable shop. How does that sound to you, Ryo-oh-ki?"
"Mreow, meow!"
"Alright, let's go then," Sasami exclaimed, and, calling over her shoulder, "c'mon Ryoko!"
"Yeah, I'm coming," Ryoko called out after her as Sasami began to walk down the street ahead of her. Ryoko was about to follow, when she stopped suddenly. Turning around, she saw a familiar-looking dark-haired woman standing near an alley entrance, staring intently in her direction. The woman wore a white kimono, and her hair was swept up into a high ponytail. Resting at her side, was a long, curved sword. Ryoko narrowed her eyes as she saw the weapon, however her concentration was broken when Sasami called out to her.
"Come on, Ryoko," she called down the street. "I've found the perfect restaurant!"
"I'll be right there, Sasami," she shouted back. "Go on in, and don't go anywhere!" Concentrating, Ryoko closed her eyes. "Ryo-oh-ki," she began telepathically. "Stay with the Princess, and don't leave her side. I mean it!" Opening her eyes again, she turned back towards where the woman was standing, however she was gone. "Damn it," Ryoko cursed as she ran towards the alley.
Sasami watched as Ryoko disappeared around a corner, and frowned slightly. "Where is she going, Ryo-chan," she asked the cabbit. Holding Ryo-oh-ki out in front of her, and turning her around, Sasami looked at the small animal intently. "Something's going on, isn't it, Ryo-oh-ki," she demanded. "You have to tell me!"
"Mreow, meow," the cabbit murmured, squirming to get out of Sasami's hold. She relaxed slightly, however, and stopped her struggle as the Juraian girl released a small sigh.
"I suppose you wouldn't know what Ryoko is doing," she stated. "I'm sorry I yelled at you, Ryo-chan. It wasn't fair of me to do that. Let's just get something to eat." As the cabbit mewed happily, Sasami gave one last look in the direction Ryoko had gone, before going inside the building.
Meanwhile, Ryoko ran down the alley that she assumed the woman had disappeared through. She slowed down and stopped as she came to a dead end, frowning as she noticed it branched off into two directions - one right and one left. "Ah, shit," she cursed as she punched the wall. "She got away!"
She began to turn back in the direction she had come from when the sound of running echoed through the alley, drawing her attention. Ryoko looked to the right and saw the retreating figure of the woman who had been watching her earlier. "Hey," she yelled, as she turned in that direction.
The woman stopped only once she reached the end of the alley, at an opened doorway. She stood completely still, and then turned slightly in Ryoko's direction. Giving the former space pirate a smug look, the woman turned back around, disappearing through the door. Ryoko laughed, and then began to slowly walk towards the door.
"You won't get away from me that easily," she called out tauntingly. Lifting herself into the air, Ryoko flew the rest of the way down the alley, and phased through the wall.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
"Gene, do you remember this place," Melfina asked quietly. Their walk had ended in a sitting area, where the dome above their heads gave them a wide view of space. Gene shook his head, watching as Melfina walked towards the artificial flower garden. Bending down, she reached out a hand to touch the petals of a fully bloomed rose.
"I remember," he stated. "This is where I made the promise to you to help you find out who you were." He sighed, running a hand through his hair. "We've been through so much since then, Mel. That day seems like a lifetime ago."
Melfina stood slowly, turning to watch as Gene walked over to a bench and sat down. He sat lazily in the seat, lying back and staring up towards the dome. She watched as he brought up a hand and covered his face, and a sad expression crossed her face. "Gene," she asked quietly, as she walked towards him.
"What, Melfina?"
"Have you gotten over your fear of space?" She was standing next to him now, and he sat up, looking in her direction. "Are you feeling okay," she asked as she sat down next to him.
"Yeah, I think so," Gene replied. A smile crossed Melfina's face, and she leaned forward, resting her head against his chest. "Mel-"
"I'm glad for you, Gene," she interrupted. "I owe so much to you and Jim. I don't think I'll ever understand why you helped me; why you risked so much for me."
Gene just stared down at the top of her head, as a small smile crossed his face. "Because you're the only person who can manage to keep Gilliam in line, Mel," he stated with a chuckle. He stopped laughing, however, as she pulled away from him. Looking up into his face, a strange light entered her eyes, before she brought a hand up and covered her mouth as she laughed.
"Gene," she giggled, "that's not true! Gilliam's not that difficult to get along with."
"You scared me there for a minute, Mel," Gene stated, as he laughed once again. "I thought you were going to start crying." He allowed his voice to trail, as she leaned against him once again. Wrapping an arm around her, he cleared his throat. "Mel?"
"Yes, Gene?"
"Are you happy?"
There was a long pause and he remained silent as she grabbed his hand in hers, and gave it a squeeze. "I'm happy as long as I can be with the people that I care about, Gene," she stated softly. "I'll be happy as long as I can be with my… my family." A silence settled between the two and Gene rested his chin on the top of her head.
"Where the hell did you go," a voice shouted, breaking the silence. "You can't hide from me!"
"Gene, what was that," Melfina gasped, as she sat up from their embrace. The two stood up from their seat, glancing around the room.
"I don't know," he replied, as the voice carried throughout the room. He continued to look around cautiously and then gasped as he saw her, the space pirate Ryoko. She floated in midair above their heads, and he swallowed hard, as she didn't seem to notice them yet. That changed soon, however, as she glanced down and spotted them.
"Well," Ryoko drawled out, as she floated down towards the ground. "You're the last person I expected to find here." She was finally on the ground, and she placed a hand to her hip casually as she looked at them.
"Gene," Melfina began, as she partially hid behind him. He didn't seem to hear her, though, as he stared at Ryoko.
She had an exotic look about her that he hadn't noticed before, and he allowed his eyes to wander appreciatively. She wore form-fitting leather pants, which hugged her hips, and her bellybutton was showing just about the waistline. The corset she wore made her waist seem even smaller than it already was. It was tied up the front tightly except for around her bosom, which allowed for some cleavage to show. Gene finally looked up into her face, and noticed that she was staring at him, amusement dancing in her golden eyes. He quickly averted his gaze, and shook his head.
"Get a hold of yourself, Starwind," he scolded himself. "You've got a job to do!" Clearing his throat, he looked back at her. "Shouldn't that be my line," he asked her, as he managed to smile cockily. "You're the one with a big bounty on your head. You're braver than you look." He laughed out loud, as she scowled at him.
"And I suppose you're the one that's going to turn me in, right," she snapped, narrowing her eyes in Gene and Melfina's direction. She watched as Gene looked beyond her shoulder and, turning her head slightly, she saw the woman she had been chasing standing several meters behind her.
"That's right, Ms. Space Pirate," Gene stated, gaining Ryoko's attention once again. "We're the ones that'll turn you in." Glancing back over her shoulder, he looked at the woman. "Suzuka, what're you doing here?"
"I was tracking her," Suzuka replied. "I didn't expect to come across you though, Gene. But it's a good thing I did. It will make capturing her much more easier."
"Well, this can be easy or hard," Gene began, looking at Ryoko. In a fluid motion, Gene ran his hand past his holster, retrieving his projectile weapon.
"Gene," Melfina protested. "You can't-"
"It's alright, Mel," he interrupted, glancing in her direction. "I'll be using a special kind of bullet, specially crafted here on Blue Heaven." Turning back to Ryoko, he smiled slightly. "So, Ms. Space Pirate," he continued. "Easy or hard. Which'll it be?"
A small smile appeared on Ryoko's face, followed by her soft giggling. "Oh, don't make me laugh," she exclaimed. Soon she was laughing loudly, as she held her sides. Her laughter subsided, and she wiped a tear from the corner of her eye as she took a deep breath. "But humor me, Gene," she continued. "How do you plan on capturing me?"
Ryoko stiffened as she heard the soft sound of running, and she phased up into the air just as Suzuka swung her sword in the spot she had been standing. Frowning slightly, Suzuka looked up into the air at her. "You're faster than you look," she stated as she straightened her stance.
"And you're a lot dumber than you look," Ryoko retorted as her beam sword appeared in her hand. She flew down quickly towards Suzuka, and as she swung out her sword, Suzuka used one of her techniques, knocking Ryoko back with a blast of wind.
"Go hide, Melfina," Gene stated, watching as Ryoko regained control over her body. She stopped in midair, and glanced over in his direction. "Go," he yelled, pushing the dark-haired woman gently. He quickly loaded a shell into the projectile gun, and aimed up towards Ryoko.
"Down boy," she exclaimed, throwing out energy in his direction. The beam sword struck his hand, knocking away his gun. Smiling, Ryoko turned her attention back towards Suzuka. However, the smile left her face as she saw the woman in midair.
With a yell, Suzuka swung out her sword, knocking Ryoko out of the air. She landed expertly on the ground as the other woman bounced hard along the unforgiving surface. Watching as Ryoko rolled to a stop, she turned towards Gene. "That took a lot more out of me than I thought it would, Gene," Suzuka stated, slightly out of breath. "Use that device Fred gave us!"
"Oh, right," Gene replied, as he retrieved his gun. He reached into his coat, however he stopped as a powerful aura began to gather around Ryoko. The bright light engulfed her body and the only distinguishable trait was her red eyes.
"Now you've really managed to piss me off," she screamed in rage. The light burst forth from her, momentarily blinding everyone.
"Gene," Melfina's scream was heard.
"What the hell," Gene exclaimed as he rubbed his eyes to clear his sight. As his sight began to clear, he could make out the figure of an unconscious Suzuka lying on the ground. "Shit," he cursed, rubbing his eyes once again.
"Gene, watch out! Above you," Melfina screamed.
Gene felt as a shadow fell over him, and blindly raising his projectile gun, he shot off a bullet. The force of the impact threw him to the ground as the shell hit Ryoko, and he heard the thump of her body hitting the ground. Sitting up, Gene's eyesight finally fully cleared, and he saw Ryoko lying not too far from where he was. "Mel," he asked, looking around for her.
"Gene, I'm okay," Melfina stated, as she began walking towards him. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, Mel," he replied.
"You won't be for long, idiot," Ryoko groaned. Gene watched as she sat up to her knees, and as she looked in his direction, she disappeared.
"What the-" he began. The wind was suddenly knocked out of him as he was forced back down to the ground, and he felt a sudden weight on his chest. His gun was once again knocked out of his hand, and it slid across the ground away from him. Gene felt as a pair of slim hands wrapped around his throat, and his eyes widened as Ryoko appeared on top of him.
"Was that the best you could manage," she demanded, as she began to tighten her hands around his neck, digging her fingers and sharp nails into his throat. "What a joke!"
"How," he wheezed, as he tried to get some air.
"Shut up," Ryoko yelled. "I could kill you right now!"
"Gene," Melfina exclaimed, as she moved towards them.
Ryoko looked up, frowning at the dark-haired woman. "Stay out of my business!"
"Please, we're just doing our job," Melfina began, as she continued to make her way over. Ryoko narrowed her eyes and, loosening her grasp just slightly, a beam sword appeared in her hand as she held one of her arms out.
"He's dead if you don't stop right now," Ryoko stated, lowering the sword dangerously close to Gene. She smiled as Melfina complied, however the look was replaced with worry as the other woman raised her arms in front of her. Gene's gun was in her hands.
"I-I don't want to hurt you," Melfina stammered, as she shakily held the gun. "But if you don't let him go, I'll be forced to."
"Hey, relax! There's no need to get so serious," Ryoko said, as she quickly released her hold on Gene. She slowly rose her arms into the air, as her sword dissipated. Beneath her, Gene gasped for air, and Melfina looked at him.
"Gene, are you okay," she asked, lowering the gun slightly. He tried to move as his breathing evened out, but couldn't because Ryoko was still perched firmly on his chest. He opted, instead, to give Melfina a thumbs-up sign, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Looking back over towards Ryoko, Melfina gasped as she saw the other woman holding her finger out towards her, as if she were holding a gun. "W-what are you doing," she demanded, shakily raising the gun once again.
Ryoko smiled, and winked at Melfina. "Bang," she exclaimed. Energy struck Melfina's hand, knocking the gun away. Laughing, Ryoko stood up, momentarily forgetting about Gene. "Now, what was that you were saying?"
Melfina took a step back, and shook her head. "I-I-"
"Be quiet," Ryoko snapped, her mood changing once again. "If it weren't for those damned Juraians, I could have just lived out the rest of my life happily." She allowed her voice to trail, and her shoulders shook slightly. "I won't live like this," she stated softly.
"Ms. Ryoko," Melfina began.
"I won't be hunted down like a dog," Ryoko screamed. Bringing her hands together, her beam sword burst forward, and, giving a yell, Ryoko ran towards Melfina. The dark-haired woman screamed, and brought up an arm to cover her face.
"Melfina," Gene exclaimed, as he struggled to stand.
"You should have just listened to me," Ryoko yelled. As she drew nearer to Melfina, she caught a flash of movement from the corner of her eye. Turning her head, a figure leapt at her, and she was once again knocked down to the ground.
"I'm sick of everyone starting the fun without me," a female's voice stated, laced with disappointment.
Ryoko sat up to a knee, and scowled. "Damn, just how many of you are there," she demanded angrily. Her eyes widened slightly, and she brought up her hand, feeling something wet and sticky on her cheek. Drawing her hand away, she looked at it and saw her own blood. Clenching her fist shut, she glared at the newcomer. "You'll pay for that."
"Aisha," Melfina exclaimed suddenly. "You came!"
"Well, of course I did, Melfina," Aisha replied. "I'm not going to miss out on anything else!" She put her hands on her hips, and glanced in Ryoko's direction. "So, this is her?" She watched as Ryoko stood up, and gave her a toothy smile. "You don't look so tough to me."
"Don't underestimate her, Aisha," Melfina warned. "She's very strong!"
"Oh, I'm not worried," Aisha continued. Extending her arm out, she pointed a finger at Ryoko. "You hurt Suzu and scared Melfina. So now, you have Ctarl-Ctarl trouble on your hands!"
"Ctarl-Ctarl," Ryoko replied. "I've heard of your race before." Pausing, a slow smile spread across her face. "The rumors seem to be true. You're just big, dumb animals!"
"Why you," Aisha growled, balling her fists at her sides.
"What's the matter," Ryoko continued to taunt. "Cat's got your tongue?"
"Don't call me an animal," Aisha roared. Taking in a calming breath, Aisha shrugged off her jacket, and tossed it to the ground. "I'm at my fighting best when I'm calm," she stated.
"You seem like you're all talk to me." Ryoko gasped as Aisha suddenly ran towards her, and for the second time, she was sent flying by the cat-woman.
"On your back is where you should expect to end up when you fight a mighty Ctarl-Ctarl," Aisha boasted. Laughing as she flexed her muscles, she watched Ryoko sit up to a kneeling position.
"Bitch," Ryoko spat. Bringing her hands together, a ball of energy gathered in her palms. She phased up into the air, and as she threw the energy at Aisha, she reappeared on the ground. Her beam sword extended from her hand, and she ran towards the other woman with a yell. Grasping the sword in both hands, she cut across Aisha's midsection. A satisfied smile appeared on Ryoko's face as the Ctarl-Ctarl woman doubled-over, however the look slid off her face as Aisha stood back up straight. As her eyes widened in disbelief, a sharp pain exploded at her temple, and she felt herself flying through the air briefly before she struck a wall.
"So, I see you chose the hard way, Ms. Space Pirate."
Ryoko struggled to open her eyes and once she managed to, her vision swam before her. Narrowing her eyes, she could make out Gene's silhouette. "Go to hell," she murmured painfully. Her eyes widened slightly, as he leveled his gun towards her.
"Just hurry and do it already, you idiot," Aisha snapped. "Before she regains her senses."
"Yeah, yeah, stop your bitchin', Aisha," he stated calmly. As Ryoko tried to move, Gene pulled the trigger. The gun shook in his hand slightly, before a light lit in the mouth. Energy suddenly burst forth from the barrel, striking and wrapping itself around Ryoko. Shackles appeared around her wrists and ankles, and a metal collar appeared around her neck. As energy bounced around Ryoko's body, Gene and Aisha stood completely still, and Melfina slowly approached them.
"Did it… work," Melfina asked cautiously, peering around Gene and down at Ryoko.
"It was a nice trick," Ryoko murmured, her breathing labored. Watching as Ryoko placed a hand against the wall and pushed herself up to a standing position, Gene, Aisha, and Melfina quickly backed away from her. Ryoko brought her hands together, and as her beam sword began to form, energy from the shackles began to electrocute her. With a scream, Ryoko fell to the ground. "Son of a-" she began weakly. Against her will, her eyes slowly closed and she lost consciousness.
"Just what the hell kind of weapon did Fred give us," Gene asked, bewildered.
"What does it matter," Aisha demanded. She picked Ryoko up with a grunt, and slung her over her shoulder. "We got our bounty, didn't we? Now it's time to collect the rewards!"
"Yeah, I suppose you're right," Gene replied, returning the gun to its' holster.
"Don't forget about Suzuka, Gene," Melfina stated.
"I'm glad someone's concerned for my well-being." The trio turned, and saw Suzuka leaning heavily against her sword.
"Suzuka, you're okay," Melfina exclaimed, rushing to her friend's side. Taking Suzuka's free arm, Melfina placed it over her shoulder. "Let me help you."
"Well good, it looks like we're all here," Gene began, smiling as Suzuka sent a glare his way. "Let's go find Jim."
"We have to find the princess, too, Gene."
Gene glanced over at Melfina, and nodded his head. "The hard part's over with, Mel," he replied. "It'll be easy to find our missing princess. Then we can blow outta here."
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
As Ryo-oh-ki happily ate her carrot, her ears twitched and her head suddenly snapped up, as if she sensed something. Giving a low growl she stood up, her carrot forgotten as her fur began to stand on end. She could feel that something wasn't right.
"Ryo-chan, what is it?" Sasami watched the cabbit's sudden, erratic behavior, gasping as she suddenly ran towards the door. "Ryo-oh-ki," Sasami exclaimed, as the petite animal phased through the door of the restaurant. "Ryo-chan, come back!"
Ryo-oh-ki ignored Sasami's words as she phased through the door onto the street. She stopped there briefly, twitching her nose in the air. She vaguely noticed as the door swung open behind her, but she ignored it as she began running once again.
"Ryo-oh-ki, wait!" Ryo-oh-ki glanced back behind her towards Sasami, then turned her head to look back in front of her. As she rounded a corner, she crashed into a figure, knocking the person down.
"Mreow," she cried, bouncing away from the figure as they both fell to the ground. Shaking her head, she became dizzy.
"Hey, are you okay there, 'lil fella," a boy's voice asked. Glancing up, Ryo-oh-ki quickly scrambled to her feet, bolting past him. "Hey, wait," he exclaimed.
"Ryo-oh-ki, where did you go," Sasami's voice called out. She ran around the same corner the cabbit disappeared around, and tripped over the figure on the ground. Falling down, she cried out as she hit the ground, gaining Ryo-oh-ki's attention. As the cabbit looked at the Juraian girl, Ryoko's words ran through her mind.
"Stay with the Princess and don't leave her side. I mean it!" Ryo-oh-ki stopped, and giving one last look in the direction Ryoko had been earlier, she turned back around, her ears drooped slightly.
"Oh man, are you alright Miss," the boy asked, as the cabbit approached them. "I didn't mean to trip you," he continued. "Let me help you."
"It's alright," Sasami replied. "I didn't see you, either." She blinked as the boy extended his hand to help her stand. "Thank you," she stated, as she grasped his hand. He pulled her up, and she smiled as she looked up into his face. As they made eye contact, a blush slowly spread over his face.
"It's you," they exclaimed in unison
"Your name's Jim, isn't it," Sasami asked, recovering first. Jim's eyebrows shot up slightly, and he smiled as he nodded his head.
"Yeah, but how did you know that?"
"Gene told me all about you."
"He did?" Jim watched as Sasami nodded her head. Sighing, he glanced down at their hands, and his blush deepened. "I-I'm sorry, Sasami," he stammered, quickly releasing her hand from his. "I-I didn't mean-"
"It's okay, Jim," she cut him off, laughing at his behavior.
Scratching the back of his head nervously, Jim cleared his throat. "I bet Gene told you embarrassing stories about me, huh," he asked, making a face.
"Not at all," Sasami replied. "All he really said was that you would flip when he told you he had seen me… whatever that meant." She giggled again as Jim made another face, and she glanced down as she heard a soft mew. "Ryo-chan," she exclaimed. Kneeling down, she picked the cabbit up from the ground. "What got into you earlier, anyway?"
"Just don't run away again," Sasami stated, shaking her head. She looked back at Jim, and smiled. "This is Ryo-oh-ki."
"Oh, that's right," Jim thought inwardly. "She was unconscious when Suzuka and I…" His thoughts trailed, and he shook his head as he looked at the cabbit. Bringing up a hand, he rubbed her head in the spot between her ears. "It's nice to meet you, Ryo-oh-ki," he exclaimed.
"So, Gene has talked about me, too," she asked suddenly. Jim looked at her in surprise, and a puzzled look crossed his face. "Well," she quickly continued. "You do know my name."
"Oh, right," he replied. "I guess that he did." He paused, watching as Ryo-oh-ki jumped down from Sasami's arms. "I, uh… I'm glad I got the chance to meet you, though." His face flushed again as Sasami looked back at him. "What I mean is, Gene had some really nice things to say about you."
"I'm glad to meet you too, Jim," she exclaimed as her face flushed slightly. "Say, Jim?"
"Yeah, Sasami?"
"How are Gene and Melfina," she asked uncertainly. "Are they okay?"
A surprised look crossed Jim's face, as he looked at Sasami. "You mean you don't remember what happened," he asked.
"Well," she began, "I remember that Gene saved me from a drunk man. After that, I guess I lost consciousness, because Ryoko said that's how she found me."
"Ryoko," Jim exclaimed.
"Yeah, she's my traveling companion," Sasami answered. "She's kind of like my guardian, and she's is the only person I have that I can depend on." Her voice trailed, however she shook her head. "Anyway, I just wanted to make sure that Gene and Melfina were okay."
"Uh, they're fine," he replied absently. He watched as a relieved look crossed her face, and he frowned in thought. "Traveling companion," he wondered. "Just what's really going on here? Sasami seems so comfortable talking about Ryoko. Like she was her friend, not-"
"Jim," Sasami's voice broke through his thoughts. He looked at her, returning the smile she offered him. "Would you like to join me for something to eat," she asked. "The restaurant is right around the corner." As she brought up her arm and pointed over her shoulder, Jim noticed for the first time that she was bleeding.
"Hey, you're hurt," he exclaimed, carefully taking her arm. "It must have happened when we bumped into each other."
"I guess so," she replied, glancing down at her arm.
"You should really clean that up."
"It's just a scratch," she stated. "I'll be okay."
"But you don't want it to get infected or something like that," Jim protested. "Look, my ship is right at the port. I've got supplies, and we can get you all cleaned up."
"Ryoko will be back any time soon, though," Sasami said, shaking her head. "If I'm not here when she gets back, she'll worry."
"It will only take a few minutes," Jim pressed. "Please?"
"Well," she began reluctantly, "only if it will be a few minutes." She smiled, and then grabbed his hand in hers. "But only if you'll agree to have something to eat with me."
"I'd be glad to."
"Good," she exclaimed, taking her good arm, and linking arms with him as they began to walk. "You can meet Ryoko, too."
"Mreow," Ryo-oh-ki mewed, bounding after them.
Swallowing, Jim offered a weak smile. "I can't wait."
"Don't worry," Sasami laughed. "She'll like you." A silence grew between them as they walked, and Jim cleared his throat.
"Uh, Sasami," he began. "How did you meet Ryoko, anyway?"
"That's a funny question to ask," she replied, frowning slightly. "How did you meet Gene?"
"I-I didn't mean-"
"I know, Jim," she cut him off. "It's just that, it's a sensitive subject for me." They walked through a sliding door, and then stepped onto a moving sidewalk. Sasami glanced at Jim from the corner of her eye, and let out a soft sigh. "Ryoko and I are running, I guess," she began, causing Jim to look at her.
"From what?"
Sasami didn't answer right away, opting instead to think about the question he posed. Meeting his gaze, a sad look entered her eyes. "From a place we thought was home."
A guilty look passed over Jim's face, and he smiled apologetically. "Sasami, I-"
"Jim, welcome back," a voice cut him off. Looking over, Jim saw Gilliam floating in the air. The pink cylindrical robot waved a tiny arm, and his eyes widened slightly. "Oh, and who's this that you have with you?"
"Hi," Sasami exclaimed, returning his wave.
"Oh, you must be Sasami," Gilliam stated. "I've heard a lot about you."
"Gilliam, have the others come back yet," Jim asked.
"Just a few minutes ago, Jim," Gilliam replied. "And they have a guest." Jim's face paled slightly, and he grew silent.
"Gilliam is your name," Sasami asked with a smile, watching as he floated past her. "You're so cute!"
"Why thank you, Lady Sasami." The smile left Sasami's face, and her eyes widened.
"What did you say," she asked. "Why… why did you call me that?"
"It's because it's in his programming, Sasami," Jim quickly answered. "He's just like that, because of his programming. He didn't mean anything by it."
"Um, okay," Sasami said, uncertainty laced in her voice.
"Come with me, Sasami," Jim stated, looking at her in surprise as she grabbed onto his arm again. "Uh…"
"Is something wrong, Jim?"
"No, nothing," he mumbled, shaking his head. Gilliam floated ahead of them through the door, and Ryo-oh-ki ran along right underneath him. As he and Sasami stepped through the door themselves, it slid closed, shutting with a soft whooshing sound. They paused momentarily, watching as Gilliam and Ryo-oh-ki disappeared down the hall.
"Jim, is that you," Gene's voice floated through the ship.
"Yeah," Jim replied. "Where are you?"
"In the main room," he called back.
"Are Suzuka and Aisha back yet," Jim asked, as he pulled Sasami along behind him. "Gilliam said that you had a guest, and I was wondering if-" He cut himself off as he turned the corner, stopping as he saw that everyone was in the main room. He glanced down at the floor, where Ryoko was tied up, and he swallowed hard. "Oh," he squeaked out.
"Jimmy," Aisha began, looking up at him. "What is this thing?" She held Ryo-oh-ki out towards him, and the cabbit began to squirm and hiss.
"Hey, what's wrong with Ryo-oh-ki," Sasami asked, pushing past Jim and stepping into the room. "Why is she…"
Gene looked up in surprise as Sasami's voice trailed, and he stood from where he was sitting. "Jim, you found her," he exclaimed. "Things are workin' in our favor today!"
"What… what's going on," Sasami asked. She looked at Aisha, where Ryo-oh-ki was struggling, and frowned. Her gaze shifted around the room and as she glanced down, it was then that she saw Ryoko lying on the ground. "Ryoko," she exclaimed, as she moved forward.
Jim went after her, grabbing her by the arm. "Sasami, it's okay," he began. "We're just trying to help you."
"Help me," she asked, pulling away from him. "What are you talking about?"
"Don't worry, Princess," Gene stated, causing Sasami to look at him incredulously. "She can't hurt you anymore."
"What have you done," she asked quietly.
"Sasami," Melfina stated.
"What have you done to Ryoko," Sasami scream hysterically. She began to back away, and as she did so, she bumped into Jim.
"I'm sorry, Sasami," Jim stated in her ear, his voice full of regret. Before she could turn around, he took a small device, spraying a gas into her face. She began to sway, and, wrapping his arms around her, he gently lowered her to the ground.
"Jim, why," she asked, as her eyes began to droop. Her head lulled to the side as her eyes closed, and unshed tears fell down her face. Jim set Sasami down on the ground with a heavy sigh, and as he stood up, he walked over towards Aisha.
"Sorry, Ryo-oh-ki," Jim apologized, as he sprayed the gas into her face as well. She slowly stopped struggling, and then closed her eyes as she passed out. He allowed his arms to drop to his sides, and the device slid out of his hand.
"Jimmy, what's the matter," Aisha asked, placing her hand on his head and rubbing her hand through his hair. "We got the job done, right? Sheesh, what's with you and Gene today?"
"Yeah, Aisha," Jim stated, "we got the job done."
"Sorry to interrupt, but you have a real-time message from Heifong," Gilliam spoke. The Outlaw Star crew looked up to the view-screen. "Should I patch it through?"
"Go ahead, Gilliam," Gene replied, crossing his arms. As they looked at the screen, Fred appeared.
"Hello Gene, Jim," Fred stated. He glanced behind them, noticing Melfina, Aisha, and Suzuka. Raising an eyebrow, he rested his chin on the back of his hand. "Ladies. You're all there. How's your progress?"
"Things are going just fine, Fred," Gene replied. "As a matter of fact, we've already gotten both the bounty and the princess."
"I knew I could count on you, Gene," Fred exclaimed. "This is good news for the both of us."
"What do you mean," Gene asked suspiciously.
"Business is business, Gene," Fred stated matter-of-factly. "You're in debt to me, remember? But with this bounty prize, well, let's just say you'll be debt free soon enough."
"Yeah, whatever, Fred. Just let us know where we've gotta go from here."
"Come back here, then," Fred replied. "Our Juraian contact will be here waiting for you when you return. Stay in touch now. Ciao." As the screen went blank, Gene turned to the others.
"Well, let's get moving," he stated, taking his seat in the pilot's chair. "We've got a bounty to collect." Both Aisha and Suzuka took their places, while Melfina climbed into the cylindrical chamber. As it rose from the ground, Melfina opened her eyes, and her voice could be heard.
"I'm prepared to launch when you are, Gene," she spoke.
"Alright, Mel," Gene replied, giving her a thumbs-up. "You ready, Jim?"
Sending one last glance down towards Sasami, Jim took his place in front of Gene. "Yeah," he stated. "Whenever you are."
To Be Continued . . .