Outlaw Star Fan Fiction / Tenchi Muyo Fan Fiction ❯ Of Princesses and Space Pirates ❯ Chapter 8: Reality Check ( Chapter 8 )

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

I do not own the rights to the characters in this fanfic, nor do I claim to. The idea, however, is mine. Enjoy!
Of Princesses and Space Pirates
Chapter 8: Reality Check
"Kiyone! Kiyone, wake up!"
The green-haired woman quickly sat up in her seat, instantly alert. Bringing up her arm, she wiped the corner of her mouth with the back of her hand. She then trailed her hand to the back of her neck, rubbing away the numbing soreness caused by her unexpected nap. Turning slightly in her chair, she saw Mihoshi smiling at her. Embarrassed that the ditzy woman had caught her sleeping on the job, she scowled slightly.
"What is it, Mihoshi," she demanded bitingly, as she suppressed a yawn. Glancing at the view-screen above the console, she made a face. "You didn't get us lost while I was asleep, did you?"
"No, I don't think so," Mihoshi began, pointing at the screen. "Look. I think that we made it." As Kiyone looked to where Mihoshi was pointing, she frowned.
"We've reached Symka 5 already," she thought, as she studied the screen. Placing a finger against a blurb on the screen, Kiyone turned to Mihoshi. "Is this what you're talking about," she asked.
"Well, yeah," Mihoshi replied. "Isn't that the station?"
"Yagami," Kiyone sighed, looking back at the screen. "Enhance this image, please." As it grew larger on the screen, she gasped. "Mihoshi, that's no transit station," she exclaimed. "That's another ship!"
A beeping sound emitted suddenly from the console, drawing both officers' attentions. "Lady Kiyone," Yagami's computerized voice spoke. "Hostile missiles approaching. Estimated impact time, 15 seconds."
"What," Kiyone yelled. "They're attacking us?" Before any action could be taken, however, the missiles struck the ship, throwing both Kiyone and Mihoshi to the ground.
"Kiyone," Mihoshi cried. "What's going on? Why are they attacking us?"
"Be quiet," she snapped, quickly pulling herself back into her seat. "Yagami! Shields to full-power now." As the shield power gauge lit up on the corner of the view-screen, Kiyone smiled grimly.
"Lady Kiyone, shields are fully engaged," Yagami stated.
"Then give me a damage report," she commanded. An image of the ship appeared on the screen, and began rotating to show all sides.
"Damages are minimal to none," Yagami spoke after a slight pause. "And there seems to be a message from the hostile ship."
"Patch it through," Kiyone replied, as she looked up at the screen.
"Connecting," the ship stated. And, after a few moments, the message began to play.
"Under the PSF code 0SPC4, you are in direct violation of our security space," a woman's voice spoke, as a box reading voice only appeared on the screen. "Since you have ignored our attempts to hail your ship, you have been given warning shots, and are hereby ordered to-"
"Warning shots," Kiyone demanded angrily, interrupting the woman. "I don't know who you Private Security hotshots think you are, but we received no such previous warnings!" Frowning when she didn't get any sort of reply, she gritted her teeth. "Under the GXP code 1JRL7, you are interfering with Galaxy Police investigations, and therefore are subject to prosecution." After a pause, she continued, "you are aware of that code and of its' consequences, are you not?"
"Yes, ma'am," the woman replied grudgingly. "But ma'am, you never-"
There was an interruption on the other side, as a man's voice spoke to the woman, telling her to move aside. After a brief moment of dead air, the voice only sign disappeared from the screen, and an image appeared in its' place, causing Kiyone to gasp slightly.
"This is Private Security Force Officer Duuz," the man's rough voice spoke. He narrowed his black, beady eyes slightly, as he sneered at Kiyone. "If you're an officer for the Galaxy Police as you say, then you won't have a problem allowing us to board your ship for inspection."
"This is ridiculous," Kiyone stated angrily. "You attacked us without warning-"
"That's just not true," a blonde woman spoke, appearing on the screen just beyond Duuz's massive, muscled shoulder. "As I said, you were issued several warnings stating our intentions."
Slamming a hand into the console, Kiyone stood up rigidly. "Now listen! My partner certainly would have-"
"Kiyone," Mihoshi interrupted, causing the woman to look in her direction. "I forgot to mention, I dozed off too! So maybe… maybe they did send us a warning." She laughed slightly and placed a hand on the back of her head, embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I messed up again, didn't I?"
Swallowing a lump that had formed in her throat, and her pride, Kiyone looked back towards the view-screen, smiling weakly. "It seems like there's been some sort of misunderstanding," she began, as she felt heat rise in her cheeks. "You're welcome to come aboard our ship."
"Then cut your engines and prepare to be boarded," Duuz stated, before promptly ending the transmission. Kiyone stood completely still, and Mihoshi watched as the other woman's shoulders shook slightly.
"Don't talk to me right now, Mihoshi," Kiyone stated in a low, surprisingly calm voice. She turned her head to look at the blonde once again, only this time her eyes flashed with barely contained anger.
"Kiyone," Mihoshi began in a wavering voice. "You're scaring me. I didn't mean to fall asleep!" She gasped in surprise as Kiyone suddenly lunged towards her and grabbed a fistful of her shirt. Roughly pulling her out of her seat, she shook the blonde woman slightly.
"Does this uniform mean anything to you at all," Kiyone demanded. "Why must you always embarrass me? You're a disgrace to the Galaxy Police, Mihoshi!" Releasing her grasp, she pushed Mihoshi away slightly. "You're the type of officer that's dangerous to have on the force," she continued. Watching as Mihoshi's eyes filled with tears, Kiyone sighed and shook her head. "Mihoshi-"
"I know that I'm not the best partner in the world," the woman blurted out, cutting off Kiyone's sentence. "And I know I screw up a lot, too, but I try really hard, Kiyone!" Tears streamed down her cheeks, and she wiped at her face with her sleeve. "I-I really do," she hiccuped. "You're the best partner I could ever wish to have, and I hope that one day that's how you'll feel about me, too!"
The hardened, angry look in Kiyone's eyes slowly dissolved, and she released a low sigh. Watching as Mihoshi cried, Kiyone's tension dissipated as her body relaxed, and she shook her head. "Mihoshi… just try to pay closer attention to what we're supposed to be doing the next time," she relented. "If I screw up, then I'll need you there to clean up my mess."
"Alright, Kiyone," Mihoshi sniffled, as she wiped away the last remnants of her tears. "I'll do my very best! I'll try harder than ever!"
"Right," Kiyone stated. "Why don't you start Yagami's shutdown process?"
"Okay," Mihoshi exclaimed, sitting back down in her seat. "Yagami, it's time for you to enter sleep mode. Cut off all the engines."
"Beginning shutdown procedures, Lady Mihoshi," Yagami stated. The soft whir of the engines began to slow down, and finally stopped. "All engines have become silent," the ship's computerized voice continued. "Should I go into lockdown?"
"No," Kiyone answered as Mihoshi looked at her. "We're expecting someone, but I will want you in stand-by mode. We'll need some power."
"As you wish, Lady Kiyone. Entering stand-by mode now." Kiyone flopped down in her chair with a soft grunt, slouching in her seat. Placing a hand to her head, a sudden, small frown creased her features.
"Yagami, run a background check on that Private Security vessel," Kiyone commanded, as she sat upright. "I want all the information you can collect."
"Their ship is called the String 4," Yagami stated after a few moments. "Officers Duuz and Valeria lead the Private Security vessel, and they're guarding this quadrant of the Oracion system."
"So everything is legit then?"
"Yes, Lady Kiyone," Yagami replied. "Nothing is out of the ordinary."
"Great," she sighed, placing her head in her hands. "There's another blemish to mar my permanent record."
"Kiyone," Mihoshi stated, turning in her seat. "I think they're ready to board our ship." The dark-haired woman looked at the screen, watching as the String 4 moved parallel to Yagami, and the connecting tunnel extended from their ship to Yagami's airlock bay.
"I'd better go greet them, then," Kiyone stated, as she stood. "You stay here, though."
"But Kiyone-"
"If something happens, you'll need to lockdown the ship," Kiyone exclaimed. "Princess Ayeka and Lord Tenchi must remain safe! It will be up to you to protect them."
"Okay, I understand, Kiyone," Mihoshi replied. "But don't worry, nothing bad will happen."
Kiyone smiled, and nodded her head. "I'm sure you're right." Grabbing her hat and placing it on her head, Kiyone left through the door and it slid closed behind her. Kiyone walked down the short corridor leading to the airlock room, and as she reached the door, she saw two figures in space suits standing in the room as she looked through the window. "So, that's them," she said softly. Reaching a hand up to a control pad, she pressed a sequence of buttons, and a soft hiss was heard as the room pressurized. As a green light flashed, the door before her slid open and she stepped into the room.
"Well, at least your intentions were honorable," Duuz's gruff voice spoke, before Kiyone could even say a word. He removed his helmet, and a woman - that Kiyone assumed was Valeria - did the same.
Narrowing her eyes, Kiyone glared slightly. "I see that this will be pleasant," she spoke sarcastically. Pulling out a device, she flipped it open, and a hologram appeared. "I'm Galaxy Police First Class Officer Kiyone," she stated, as an image of herself appeared along with her information. "I do have to apologize for the earlier incident."
"I'm Valeria," the blonde woman spoke, extending her arm, and smiling as Kiyone shook her hand. "You're a little out of your jurisdiction," she continued politely. "What brings you to the Oracion system?"
"As the name implies, the Galaxy Police patrol where it's necessary," Kiyone replied as she put away her badge. "Please, come with me."
"Do us a professional courtesy, and don't treat us like second-rate officers," Duuz stated begrudgingly, as he and Valeria followed Kiyone. "I won't stand for it."
"If that's what it sounded like, that wasn't my intention," Kiyone stated. The trio entered through a door into the cockpit, causing Mihoshi to turn around.
"Oh, Kiyone," she exclaimed, as she stood up. "You're okay. I told you everything would be fine!"
"This is my partner, First Class Officer Mihoshi," Kiyone quickly introduced, as Duuz sneered.
"At your service," Mihoshi chirped, as she saluted the two officers.
"And now you're mocking us," Duuz stated angrily, causing Mihoshi to blink in surprise and confusion.
"Duuz," Valeria said gently. "Calm down."
"Look," Kiyone began. "No one's trying to treat the Private Security Force like they're inferior! We at the Galaxy Police realize the importance of your jobs. Your duties are commendable, and I'm sure very challenging. That said, I hope you'll be speedy with your inspection so that we can continue with our job."
"Yes, we have somewhere important to be," Mihoshi added. "Why-"
"Be quiet, Mihoshi," Kiyone interrupted. Sighing, she looked back to Duuz and Valeria. "We'll cooperate, of course, but I must remind you that you're interfering with important Galaxy Police business."
"Fine," Duuz growled. "What kind of cargo are you hauling?"
"We're a patrol ship," Kiyone reminded. "We're not hauling anything. Just following leads on a case."
"Are there any other passengers aboard," Valeria asked. Before Kiyone could answer, the door leading from the passenger chamber slid open.
"Kiyone, Mihoshi," Tenchi began, as he entered the room. "What-" His voice trailed as he saw Duuz and Valeria, and he swallowed nervously. "Uh, what's going on here?"
"Who's this," Duuz demanded.
"Just one of the two passengers aboard," Kiyone quickly answered. She groaned slightly as the door hissed as it opened once again. Looking up, she saw Ayeka enter the room
"What's all the commotion," the Juraian princess asked. "The ship shook so violently not too long ago. Is everything alright?" Beside Kiyone, Valeria gasped.
"Aren't you the first princess of Jurai, Princess Ayeka," Valeria asked.
Ayeka smiled, and nodded her head. "Yes," she answered, as she turned to look at Kiyone. "Are they going to assist in our search for Ryoko's ship?"
"No, Ms. Ayeka," Kiyone stated. A disappointed look crossed Ayeka's face, and she sighed.
"Well, do they have any information, then," she pressed.
"Is this about that missing princess," Valeria asked suddenly, causing Ayeka to look at her. "We may be of assistance to you. No ship can pass through this quadrant without our knowing it."
"Valeria," Duuz began in a warning tone. "Let the Galaxy Police handle the affairs of the Juraian family. It's out of our jurisdiction. Besides, there's almost nothing worse than dealing with royal-types."
"You know we can't do that, Duuz," Valeria replied. "If this ship passed through here, then we have to help. The lines of jurisdiction will allow it."
"Please," Tenchi pleaded. "We could use your help. It's important that we track down this ship, before anything worse than has already happened occurs."
"Fine," Duuz stated with a grunt. "But you'll have to come with us to our base of operations."
"We'll follow you, then," Kiyone said, as she held back a sigh. Duuz shook his head, and then turned on his heel, leaving the room.
"We'll be as helpful as we can, Princess," Valeria stated, turning to Ayeka. "Duuz seems rough on the outside, but he has a good heart. So do not let his mannerisms offend you." Nodding her head, she turned to follow her partner.
"Kiyone, did I do something wrong," Ayeka asked, as she saw the look on the woman's face.
"I just have a bad feeling about this," Kiyone answered. "The Private Security has good intentions, but they'll probably hinder our search more than help it." She paused, sighing as she shook her head. "Mihoshi, start Yagami up again."
"Alright, Kiyone!"
"And Ayeka," Kiyone began. "Just try to relax, and let us do our job from here on, okay?"
"A-alright, Kiyone," Ayeka said softly, watching as the woman left the room. She jumped slightly as a hand landed on her shoulder, and she turned to see Tenchi. "Lord Tenchi?"
"Why don't we just have a seat out here, Ms. Ayeka," he suggested. She allowed Tenchi to lead her to extra seats in the cockpit. As he buckled himself in, he allowed his thoughts to wander. "Where are you, Sasami," he thought silently. "I hope both you and Ms. Ryoko are alright."
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
"Nyah," Ryoko groaned, as she felt her head spinning. She could feel the cold, hard ground underneath her, and as she brought up a hand to press against her pounding head, the sound of chains rattled. "That bastard," she stated vehemently, as she remembered what had happened to her. "What the hell did he do to me?"
"So, you're finally awake, Ms. Space Pirate."
Ryoko's eyes snapped open at the sound of his voice, and her vision swam before her eyes as his face slowly came into focus. He was kneeling next to her, and the taunting smile on his face already was beginning to piss her off. Sitting up to her knees, Ryoko glared at him. Then it suddenly dawned on her that they were in a different place, and she gasped as she took in her surroundings. "Where are we, Gene," she demanded, as she looked around the small room.
"On my ship, but don't worry about that," Gene stated with a wink. "You're safe, for the time being. I can't say the same for you once we turn you in, though. And it's really too bad. You're cute."
Ryoko sneered at him, and then turned away. "I've gotta get out of here," she thought, annoyed. She looked around once again, and noticed from where she was, that she really couldn't see anything. Placing her hands against the floor, she slowly began to push herself up until she was standing.
"Y-you can still move," Gene stammered, in a slightly nervous tone.
"Well it does looks that way, doesn't it," Ryoko replied. She took a few, wobbly experimental steps, and as she stumbled, she reached her arms out, and caught herself against a wall. Leaning against the surface and breathing heavily, she rested for a few moments before she pushed off the wall and began walking towards the only door in the room.
"Where do you think you're going," Gene demanded. "You're supposed to be a prisoner, you know! You can't just go walking where you want to." As she continued towards the door, ignoring his words, Gene moved to her quickly, grabbing her roughly by the arm. "Hey, are you even listening?"
"Get the hell off of me," Ryoko stated angrily. Mustering what little strength she had regained, she placed a hand against his chest and pushed him away. Surprised at her sudden movement, Gene released his hold, and she stumbled backwards. As she fell into the door, it opened, and she fell, landing hard on her back.
"Lady Ryoko?"
Ryoko opened her eyes, and saw a pink, cylindrical object floating above her head. It moved back as she sat up, and she frowned slightly. "What are you," she asked.
"I'm Gilliam." He floated towards her, only to have her bat him away with her hand. "Well, you're just as rude as Gene," he stated, causing her to scowl. "May I ask what you're doing out here?" Ryoko ignored his question as she stood up, and began walking away from him. As Gilliam began to float after her, the door behind him slid open. Gene ran out of the room, only to collide with Gilliam, knocking them both to the ground.
"Damn it, Gilliam," Gene cursed, as he grabbed his nose. "Why don't you watch it!"
"My apologies, Gene," Gilliam stated, as he floated back up into the air.
"Yeah, whatever," Gene replied. "Just tell me which way Ryoko went."
"I believe she was headed for the cockpit."
Cursing under his breath, Gene pushed himself up off the ground, and ran in the direction of the ship's control center. Upon entering the room, he nearly ran into Ryoko, who stood in the doorway. "I think you've done enough sight-seeing for now, Ryoko," Gene began. "Let's go." As he reached towards her, she moved forward, further into the room.
"So, this is your ship," she asked, as Gene followed her into the room. She looked around, and frowned slightly. "Where is everyone?"
"Look, my patience is wearing thin," he began, as he watched her walk around with a wary eye.
"What is the piece of junk called, anyway?"
"Hey! The Outlaw Star is not a piece of junk," Gene stated angrily. "She's the fastest ship in the galaxy!"
"If you say so," Ryoko replied nonchalantly, as she sunk down in the pilot's chair. A daunting, flirtatious smile appeared on her face as she sat up. "Tell me, Gene, what's the bounty worth on my head?"
"I don't have time for this," he yelled slightly. "You need to get up, now or I'm gonna-"
"Is it worth your life," she interrupted, a sudden edge in her voice. Gene looked at her in surprise, and saw a challenging glint in her eyes. "Once I find a way out of your little toy, here, I'm going to enjoy paying you back!" She frowned as Gene suddenly began to laugh, and she glared at him. "What's so damn funny?"
"Do you really think you'll be able to get out of those restraints," he demanded. "It was given to us by a Juraian inventor, with a guarantee that no matter how hard you tried, you wouldn't be able to break it." Gene smiled as Ryoko scowled, and both turned to look as a door slid open.
"Gene, I thought I heard your voice in here," Melfina stated, as she entered the room. Jim followed behind her, supporting Sasami as she walked. The affects of the gas were still evident. She relied heavily on Jim's support as her head bobbed with her movement, and her eyes were glazed over slightly. "The Princess is feeling somewhat better, now, although…." Melfina allowed her voice to trail as she spotted Ryoko, and her hands flew up to her mouth as she gasped. "Gene, are you alright?"
"Sasami," Ryoko exclaimed, as she stood up. Jim looked up sharply at the sound of Ryoko's voice, and he looked at Gene uncertainly.
"Don't just stand there, get her out of here Jim," Gene exclaimed, as he moved to restrain Ryoko.
"You bastards," Ryoko exclaimed. "What the hell have you done to her!" Her fists were balled at her sides tightly, with her knuckles turning white. She looked at Gene, and anger flashed in her eyes. "I warned you! I warned you that if any harm were to come to Sasami, you'd pay for it!" She began to form her beam sword in her hand, and as she did so, electricity danced around the shackles on her wrist. Gritting her teeth, her sword fully formed, and she lunged at Gene. However, the electricity intensified, and she screamed as it struck her repeatedly. The sword dissipated, and she fell down to her knees.
"You're a slow learner," Gene commented, as he watched Ryoko breath unevenly.
"So I've been told," she wheezed.
"Gene," Jim began.
"I told you to get Sasami out of here," Gene shot back.
"Ryoko," Sasami murmured inaudibly.
"Let's go, Sasami," Jim stated, as he turned her back around towards the door. Sasami looked back over her shoulder, and she blinked as her sight came into focus.
"Let me go," she exclaimed suddenly. She struggled against Jim's grasp as she saw Ryoko, and pulled away from him forcefully.
"Sasami, wait," Jim protested.
"Ryoko," Sasami cried, ignoring Jim as she ran towards the woman. Pushing past Gene, she fell down next to Ryoko, and wrapped her arms around the woman's waist in a tight hug. "Why are they doing this to us," she sobbed hysterically, burying her face into the woman's bosom. "Why have they taken us prisoner?"
"Shh, Sasami, it'll be okay," Ryoko stated. "I'll get us out of this, I promise." Sasami gasped as a hand wrapped around her upper arm, and she felt herself being pulled away from Ryoko. "No, stop it," Ryoko yelled, watching as Gene pulled Sasami away. "This is all so stupid! You don't know anything about us!"
"Look, I don't care about your sad, tragic past," Gene snapped. "All I care about is the bounty."
"Let me go," Sasami yelled. "I just want to be with Ryoko!" Pulling away from Gene, she drew back her foot, and kicked him in his shin. Cursing loudly, he released his grip, and Sasami ran back over to Ryoko's side.
"Little brat," he stated. "Don't be such a royal pain in the ass, Princess." Gasping, Sasami looked at him in surprise. "All we want to do is take you safely back to your family, and get the reward for our trouble."
"Back to my family," she demanded. "I don't want to go back to my family! What are you talking about?"
Ignoring her question, Gene looked up in Ryoko's direction. "What, did you brainwash her or something?"
"Just shut up," Ryoko stated quietly.
Confusion passed over Sasami's face, as she looked at Ryoko. "What… what's going on? I knew something was wrong, Ryoko. You've been acting so strangely. What is he talking about?"
"There's a bounty on my head, Sasami," Ryoko answered. "A big one, and your family's the ones that put it on me. They think I kidnapped you."
"Well, that's crazy," Sasami protested. "I stowed away on your ship! How could they possibly think-"
"Don't be so naïve, Sasami," Ryoko cut her off. "With my past, and the history between me and your family, do you really think that thought wouldn't cross their minds? Of course I'm a suspect! They wouldn't doubt it for a second."
"You're right, Ryoko," Sasami stated with a deep sense of remorse. "I should have known this would happen. Please, you have to forgive me!" Ryoko simply smiled at the young Juraian girl, and rubbed the top of her head.
"Hey, don't give up hope just yet," she said. "I told you I'd get us out of this."
Sighing, Gene ran a hand through his hair. "Why don't you have a seat, Sasami," he suggested. "We'll be taking off again pretty soon."
"I'll stay right here," she replied, as she sat on the ground next to Ryoko.
"Sasami," Jim stated quietly. "You should take Gene's advice. The ride might-"
"Don't you talk to me, Jim," she yelled suddenly, cutting him off. "You're the worst! You pretended to be my friend."
"It wasn't like that, Sasami," Jim protested, taking a step towards her.
"No," she exclaimed, as she looked at him defiantly. "I don't want to hear anything else you have to say!" She watched as his shoulders slumped forward slightly, and then he turned away from her altogether. Releasing the breath she hadn't realized she was holding, Sasami brought her hands up, rubbing her arms as a chill went through her. She gasped as she felt a cloth wrapped around her arm, and looking down, she noticed her injury was bandaged, from when she had fallen. "Why, Jim," she thought, as she rubbed her arm gingerly. "Why'd you have to betray my trust?"
"Hey, what's all the racket about," Aisha asked from the door, as she and Suzuka entered the room. Noticing Sasami, she smiled toothily. "You know, this thing is really sort of cute," she stated, as she held Ryo-oh-ki out for her inspection.
"Uh, Ryo-chan," Sasami gasped. "Let her go!" Ryo-oh-ki's ears moved slightly, and she slowly looked up. Upon seeing both Sasami and Ryoko, she began to wriggle in Aisha's grip.
"Hey," Aisha protested, as the cabbit scratched her furiously. Releasing her hold on the petite animal, Ryo-oh-ki jumped down, and ran to Sasami.
"Nice job protecting the Princess, Ryo-oh-ki," Ryoko stated sarcastically. Ears drooping, the cabbit looked at Ryoko, mewing pathetically. "Yeah, yeah, Ryo-chan, you did as good as you could," she continued, crossing her legs and slouching as she lazily rested her hands on the ground. "If only I could get out of these damn shackles!"
"Mreow!" Ryo-oh-ki moved towards Ryoko, and sniffed the shackles around her wrists. Taking them into her mouth, she tried to chew through them. Electricity crackled around the chain, and then zapped both her and Ryoko.
"Ryo-chan," Sasami exclaimed. Reaching out, she grabbed a hold of the cabbit, being shocked in the process. Clenching her jaw, she managed to pull Ryo-oh-ki away. "Oh, are you alright," she asked, looking down at the animal as her eyes swirled.
"Just give it up already," Gene stated, waving a hand in an annoyed fashion. "You're not going to be able to remove those restraints. Melfina!"
"Yes, Gene?"
"Let's get ready to go," he said, as he hopped into the pilot's seat. Behind him, Melfina climbed down into the navigation chamber, and it raised up from the ground with the bars still in place.
"Gene," Gilliam's voice spoke suddenly.
"Yeah, what is it, Gilliam," Gene asked, his fingers running expertly over the console as he prepared to launch.
"You have another message from Heifong. Shall I patch it through?"
Looking up at the screen sharply, Gene nodded his head. "Yeah, go ahead," he replied. As soon as Fred appeared onscreen, the red-haired man scowled slightly. "What's goin' on, Fred," he demanded. "You're not backing out on us, are you?"
"Whoa, whoa, Gene, calm down," Fred exclaimed. "I'm just glad I caught you before you got here."
"Yeah, we were just about to head there to Hugo," Gene replied, relaxing slightly. "We had to make a pit stop."
"Well, don't."
"What, wait a minute," Jim stated, joining the conversation. "What do you mean?"
"Your client has changed her contact point," Fred continued. "So, it would be a waste of time for you to come here. I'll send you her new location."
"Yeah, thanks Fred," Gene said.
"We have unfinished business, too, don't forget," Fred reminded. "So make sure to come here when your business in done elsewhere." The screen went blank as Fred waved, and Gene sat in his chair quietly.
"Uh, Gene? Are you okay?"
Looking over at Jim, Gene let out a sigh. "He's going to make us pay back every last wong that we owe him," he replied. "He was really serious about practicing good business."
"Well, as long as I get my cut, I'll be happy," Aisha stated, sliding into her seat.
"Mel," Gene exclaimed, ignoring Aisha's comment. "Are you ready yet?"
The bars retracted, revealing Melfina, and she opened her eyes, looking out at the crew. "All systems are green," she replied.
"Oh, I see what kind of ship you run, Gene," Ryoko drawled. "How kinky." Melfina looked towards her, a slight blush staining her cheeks.
"Aren't you going to drown in there," Sasami asked suddenly, concern creeping into her voice. Melfina smiled at the girl, shaking her head.
"I'm fine, Sasami," she stated. "But thank you."
"S-sure," Sasami whispered, averting her eyes to avoid the woman's gaze.
"Gene," Gilliam's voice spoke. "The information that Fred sent has been extracted." An image appeared on the screen, and he continued, "It looks like you'll be going to the Towards Stars Inn, on transit station Symka 5."
"Symka 5," Jim repeated, his voice wavering slightly. Gene glanced over at him briefly, and then nodded his head as he turned back to the screen.
"Alright then," he exclaimed. "Melfina, set a course for us."
"Our estimated arrival time will be about an hour, Gene," Melfina stated. "Everyone should just relax, and leave everything up to me."
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Sasami stood in a void, unsure of her surroundings once again. Her heart began to pound in her chest as she realized, with a sinking feeling, that she was terribly alone. No sensation of light existed in the place. Everything around her was pitch black and she didn't know up from down, left from right. That changed, however, as several buildings slowly rose from the ground all around her, throwing her back into a familiar place. Gasping, she looked with a wandering eye at the building now looming in front of her.
The sound of footsteps running caught her attention, causing her to cautiously follow the sound. She stopped immediately after, however, and confusion gripped her as she found herself suddenly in the middle of a temple. Laughter filled the air as she caught a glimpse of a figure disappearing around the corner, and she began to run after it.
"Wait," she called out. "Who are you?" As she came around the corner, she stopped as she saw the figure - a girl that looked around her age - standing motionless in front of a wall. "H-hello," Sasami called out, her voice wavering. "Who are you? Where are we?" The figure laughed again, and as the girl turned around, the Juraian princess gasped in surprise. "What's going on," she demanded, horrified. "Why do you look like me!"
Turning around fully, the girl smiled at Sasami. "I am you, Supreme One," she spoke eerily. Sasami began to back away as the girl advanced towards her, however she stopped as the girl suddenly disappeared. Wrapping her arms around herself, Sasami began to sob quietly as she sank to the ground.
"Why is this happening," she cried, digging her nails into her arms. "What's going on?"
"Welcome back to your place of origin," the girl's voice suddenly whispered, her breath hot against Sasami's ear. A body pressed close against Sasami's back, and a cold, damp hand caressed her cheek. "You are the catalyst." Screaming, Sasami scrambled away from the girl, half-crawling and half-running. As Sasami reached the wall the girl had been previously standing by, she pressed herself against it, allowing her tears to flow freely.
"Please," she sobbed, crying into the wall. "Just leave me alone!" A light flashed behind her, and Sasami's body tensed once again.
"This is a terrible ordeal for you, isn't it Sasami," a woman's voice asked softly. The Juraian girl's crying ceased, and slowly, she turned to see a person very familiar to her. Standing, she ran over to the woman, throwing herself into her awaiting arms.
"Tsunami," she cried.
"Shh, and listen carefully to me, Sasami," Tsunami spoke, stroking the girl's hair. "I have entered your dreams, to issue you a warning. You must never step foot upon this desolate planet until the appointed time. You are the catalyst, young princess, and if you come here, then you will awaken a great power. She has finally awoken from her sleep, but she is trapped here, within this temple."
"I don't understand," Sasami murmured, as she looked up into the woman's face.
"You don't need to, for the moment," Tsunami replied with a gentle smile. The look fell from her face, however, and a frown replaced it. "My time is almost up, I'm afraid. You must wake up now, Sasami."
"Tsunami," a voice spoke, as a wind passed through the temple. Both Sasami and Tsunami turned as a faint green glow began to emanate from the wall, and the Juraian girl gasped as a figure began to emerge from the flat surface. A head appeared first, and then the torso of a woman. More features began to form, and soon, brown locks of hair fell from the once-bald head of the figure. Strange markings appeared on her face, and as she opened her eyes, cold violet-blue oculars stared out at the woman and the girl.
"Run, Sasami," Tsunami exclaimed, pushing her slightly. "Go!" Turning on her heel, the young princess began to run towards the entrance of the temple. Behind her, a pair of arms snaked out from the wall, and shot straight for Tsunami. However, they passed through her as the woman began to fade away. Her imaged shimmered, and then was gone.
"Tsunami," the figure yelled out. Eyes narrowed, the woman focused on Sasami's retreating figure, and reached out for her. As she grabbed a hold of Sasami's hair, the girl screamed.
"Let me go!" She felt herself being pulled inevitably towards the wall, despite her painful struggle to get away. She could feel her hair coming loose, as strands fell in her face. Soon the hands were turning her around, and as she looked into the woman's face, a numbing fear passed through her.
"Bring her back," the woman hissed, as her eyes filled with hatred. "Bring Tsunami back!"
"I-I can't," Sasami stammered. Her eyes widened as the woman's hands wrapped around her throat, cutting off her air supply. "P-please…"
"I will not remained trapped in this prison," the woman continued. "You will come to me, or you will die!" Slowly, she began to regress into the wall, pulling Sasami with her.
"Can't…breath," Sasami whispered, as her lungs burned for air. Her sight began to get foggy around the edges, and then everything began to turn black. "R-Ryoko… help… me…"
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Ryoko sat quietly on the ground, staring blankly at Gene. Ryo-oh-ki rested peacefully in her lap and Sasami, who sat leaning against her, had slipped off into a slumber shortly after the ship had departed. And so, out of boredom, the woman had resorted to studying the crew of the Outlaw Star. Every once in a while, her eyes would pass over to look at her other captors, however her eyes would always return to the red-haired man. "Damn it," she cursed inwardly, narrowing her eyes in concentration. "He has to have a key or something to get me the hell out of these restraints." Her eyes passed over his form again, and she quirked an eyebrow. "But where," she whispered out loud. He looked over suddenly, and her gaze shifted to meet his.
"What are you staring at," he demanded, causing the rest of the crew to look in their direction. "You're not planning something, are you?" Instead of answering his question, however, Ryoko simply smiled. Slightly unnerved, Gene turned his attention away from her, and looked back at the screen.
"Idiot," she snorted with a laugh.
"Ryoko," Sasami spoke quietly, suddenly, drawing the woman's attention. "…help me." Her head lolled to the side, before she fell backwards. Landing on her back, her breath came out with a soft whoosh, leaving her staring up at the ceiling blankly.
"What? What's the matter," she asked, frowning slightly. When she didn't get any sort of answer, her stomach began to turn. "Sasami, aren't you going to answer me," Ryoko asked, as concern crept into her voice. Pushing Ryo-oh-ki from her lap, she moved closer to the princess. Looking down at the girl, she saw the vacant look in her eyes, and gasped. "Sasami!"
Gene looked over as Ryoko gasped. Walking over towards the woman after he jumped out from his seat, he kneeled down next to her. "What is it," he asked, glancing down at his charge.
"Sasami," Ryoko exclaimed once again, ignoring Gene's question. She grabbed her by the shoulders, shaking her slightly. "Wake up, Sasami!"
"Mreow," Ryo-oh-ki mewed quietly, as she licked Sasami's face.
"Sasami," Gene echoed. "Hey, wake up." Frowning, he grabbed her wrist, feeling for a pulse.
"Gene," Jim began, getting up from his seat and rushing over to join him. "Is she-"
"No, she's fine," he interrupted.
Jim sighed in relief, and his brow shot up in surprise as a faint light emitted from Sasami's forehead. "What the hell's that," he exclaimed, watching as the symbol upon her forehead began to glow.
"Sasami," Ryoko questioned. The glow slowly faded, causing the former space pirate to gasp. Instead of triangles, two circles were now upon Sasami's forehead. Ryoko looked down at her wrists as the jewels there began to glow, and her eyes widened slightly. "No, Tsunami," she whispered. "Tsunami is awakening."
"Tsunami," Jim asked, vaguely aware as Suzuka and Aisha came up behind the group. "Who is-"
"No," Ryoko screamed suddenly, cutting him off. "You come back here, do you hear me?" Tears began to sting at her eyes, and she squeezed them shut briefly, before looking back down at the girl, her golden eyes flashing with determination. "Damn it, Sasami, wake up!" She slapped the girl across the face, waiting for some sort of reaction. Time seemed to slow, before Sasami finally blinked.
Taking in a shuddering breath, Sasami quickly sat up, her breathing ragged. She felt a dull pain on her face, and she brought a hand up to touch her stinging cheek. Her sudden movement caused her hair to come loose from her braid, and as her hair fell forward into her face, Ryoko inhaled. Looking up, she blinked once again, her eyesight finally coming into focus. "Ryoko," she stated quietly. "Why are you all sitting around me?"
"You scared us!" Sasami looked over at Jim as he came forward, enveloping her in a hug. "You scared the hell out of us," he repeated, hugging her tightly.
"Jim," she exclaimed in surprise, her voice trailing. She awkwardly brought her arms up, and as she was about to return his hug she stopped herself, opting instead to pull away. "Jim, I'm fine now, thank you," she stated. She looked down as Ryo-oh-ki jumped into her lap, missing the look of disappointment on Jim's face. She smiled as she took the cabbit into her arms, and hugged her tightly. "I'm fine now," she repeated.
"Sasami, what happened," Ryoko asked, gaining her attention. "And why was Tsunami starting to awake," she added quietly.
"I had a premonition, Ryoko," Sasami answered, her eyes tearing slightly. "Something terrible is going to happen. A terrible force is coming."
"Gene," Melfina asked suddenly. "Is everything alright?"
"Yeah, Mel," he answered, standing up once again. "Everything seems fine."
"Good," she stated, her voice flooding with relief. "It seems we've reached our destination. Symka 5 if within range now."
"Then prepare to make a landing," Gene instructed, slipping back into the pilot's chair. He looked up as Sasami walked past him, cradling Ryo-oh-ki in her arms. Her long, cyan-colored hair dragged along the ground behind her as she walked, and she stopped as she reached the view-window. Placing a hand against the glass, she looked out at the transit station below the ship as it grew nearer. She looked up as a hand touched her shoulder, and saw Ryoko's smiling reflection in the glass.
Before too long, the ship was docked at an available bay. As Melfina rose up from the navigational center, the other crewmembers made preparations for departure. Gene slipped on his overcoat, while Suzuka stood calmly with her sword resting at her side and Jim watched Ryoko and Sasami quietly. Aisha, however, stretched her arms over her head, and let out an excite growl.
"Oh, I can almost taste the bounty reward," she exclaimed. "In just a matter of moments, we're going to be stinkin', filthy rich!"
"Show some restraint, Aisha," Suzuka stated. "Don't forget, Gene does have quite a large debt to repay."
"Aww, Suzu!"
"Do not call me Suzu," she sighed.
"Ms Ryoko," Melfina said, causing Ryoko to look up. "I'm sorry that we had to meet under these circumstances."
"I'm sure you are," she replied.
"I'm being sincere," Melfina exclaimed, one hand flying to her chest. "I'm sure we could have been friends, if it weren't for the bounty."
Smiling with a shrug, Ryoko looked back at the dark-haired woman. "I'm sure we'll never know," she stated. "I, for one, have had enough of your company." Wrapping an arm around Sasami's waist, she waved at the group with a flick of her wrist, and then stepped back towards the window, phasing through it. The Outlaw Star crew watched in shock, as she, Sasami, and Ryo-oh-ki dropped out of sight.
"Gene, what just happened," Jim asked, dumbfounded.
"The bounty," Aisha screamed. "This can't be happening!"
"Gene, correct me if I'm wrong," Suzuka began, "but wasn't the device Fred gave us supposed to prevent Ryoko from using her powers?"
"Don't ask me," he exclaimed, frustrated. "And while we're all standing here, she's getting away!" Grabbing his weapon, he checked to make sure he had shell. "I'm way too close to getting that reward, to let her escape now. Let's go!"
To Be Continued . . .