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Endings

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Ranma ½: Endings and Beginnings
by Randy "Ran-san" McCullick

Book One of the DoctorRanma Chronicles

Part 1: Endings

Nerima.
This is where I was born, and this is where I died.
For most of my life. I never felt at home, never…
And Then I met the uncute tomboy, the girl who I was forcibly engaged to.
And through the misunderstandings, and the zany adventures we had,
I finally began to feel peace and contentment…I thought it would never end.
That's what I thought.
But then came the Plague. Then came the Daleks and the War.
This is the story of my death.
This is the story of my rebirth.
This is the story of the End of the World.

Chapter One
Outbreak

I suppose that before we start, introductions are in order. My name is...er, was...Ranma Saotome. I was the heir to the Saotome school of the Musabetsu Kakutō Ryū, my family's martial arts form. Translated, it'd mean "School of Any Style", or with a little humor, "Anything Goes". I think for the sake of personal preference, I'll choose the latter. When I was five years old, my father, who was definitely in the omniverse's "Top Ten" list for "worst dad ever", decided to take me on an extended training trip across Japan and parts of China. For the next ten years, I had no home, no fixed abode. During this time, my father beat the Art into me...not maliciously, mind you. You see, my father was woefully lacking in a little thing called "common sense". He had less of it than your average Aperture Labs scientist. To him, results far outweighed any consequences...or my safety. I nearly died hundreds of times from one of his more or less offbeat training methods or harebrained techniques.. But I didn't die. And anything that didn't kill me made me stronger.

By the end of the ten year trip I was one of the best fighters my generation, with only three drawbacks. One, an early failure managed to instill in me a pathic fear of cats. And not just a minor fear, mind you. More of the "Whoa, Nelly" of fears. And if it got too bad my personality would go all Jekyll and Hyde and I'd become a cat in mind until I fell asleep. Sort of like The Incredible Hulk...but with a cat mind instead of a big green body. So not really like the Incredible Hulk at all, come to think of it.

Secondly, ten years of traveling with only my father for company had left me woefully socially inept. I never really had many friends. Those I did have were usually only fellow martial artists, whom I could relate to on that level. Only a couple really stand out. One turned out to be a girl, although I didn't know it at the time, as we were both around seven. The other wound up wanting to kill me...and I don't remember many others. Not to mention the lack of culture I received. At the time, I wouldn't know a Gundam from Mr. Spock. Which made it really hard to interact with any normal kids my age. Thinking back, it's a good thing I didn't really run into any.

The third, and by far the chief issue in my mind was the grand finale of this trip. My father, whom I should mention is illiterate in any language but Japanese and even then I'm not too sure, found a brochure written in Chinese that all he could make out on was something about a "Legendary Training Ground" called the "Pools of Sorrow", Jusenkyo. Now, I don't know about you, but if I read about something called the "Pools of Sorrow", my first instinct would be to stay the hell away from it. But not my old man...oh no! He has to go and drag me halfway across Asia to check things out...without doing any further research mind you. As it turns out, the "Legendary Training Ground" is only "Legendary" because it's cursed. Anything that falls in the spring there takes the form of whatever originally drowned in the spring. In my father's case, he turned into a panda. And I, with a splash of cold water, turn into a girl. Hot water changed us back, but only until the next time we get hit with cold. Now among other things, my father was a bit of a misogynist, really. Calling someone a "Weak, worthless, girl" was one of his favourite insults. You can imagine the impact this had on my psyche. Now I turned into my father's worst insult...it probably would have shattered my ego if it wasn't already the size of...well, Peru, more or less. But because of the threat to my being a "Man amongst Men" as my father wanted, I had to take my manliness up to 110% to compensate. In other words, I went from Jock, to Uber Jock.

The fourth issue...yes, there was a fourth, I had forgotten...was that to survive on the road while on this trip, my father had to do some rather...questionable? No...heinous? Nah...immoral? Yes, I think immoral will do...immoral things to get by. This included things ranging from petty larceny, to dine and dash, to...and this is my least favourite of the lot...selling his son...that would be me. Hello!...in marriage to several different families. Remember that girl I mentioned earlier that I met when I was seven? Fiancee. And I didn't find out we were engaged...or even that she was a girl...until I was sixteen. All in all, I'm glad the Jusenkyo happened last on our trip, and not earlier on, because if it had, I shudder to think how many boys I would have been engaged to.

So after all this, my father and I came back to Japan. He introduced me to his friend Soun Tendo, informed me that one of his daughters would be my fiancée...while not telling me about the other ones, nor about the gigantic stain on our family's honour he had cut across Japan. That's the thing about families and honour, really. It's like soup. One bad ingredient and the whole pot is ruined. And my father was one hell of a rotten tomato. After all this, he thought I should just be able to fit into modern Japanese society like a missing puzzle piece...it was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn't work. At least not without some serious, erm, "adaptation". Now, normally, I'm an adaptive person. It's a part of my art. It's why I managed to survive that damnable Neko Ken training with my sanity intact...well, mostly intact...alright, somewhat intact. I think. But regardless, normally I can adapt to change in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. But this time, I think I finally had gotten fed up with the constant bollocks that my father had fed me over the course of the last decade and I had enough. So I put my foot down and I refused. Refused my fiancée, refused to change...pretty much refused anything. It didn't help that of the three fiancée choices I had, two elected the third, who almost promptly slammed a table into my head. I had decided enough was enough. I was going to leave, go back to China, get a cure, and get on with life.

Fate had other plans, however. I wound up spending a year in Nerima. Well mostly. I mean, we went to the beach when it was hot in the summer. I'd go on the occasional training trip for a few days. Then was the trip to Nekonron, China when Akane...that was my chosen fiancée's name...got abducted, The trip to Toma's Island when all the girls got abducted. The trip to Ryugenzawa when Akane ran off after a phone call...then the trip to mount Horai to fight Herb when my curse was locked...not to mention the whole trip to Jusendo when Akane got abducted again...blimey, that happened a lot...anyway...I began to term that whole roller coaster ride I like to call "The Year from Hell" because new insanity was happening daily. Either Akane was getting abducted, or some Martial Artist would show up to challenge me, or one of my father's shady deals came to light and blew up in my face...and somehow, through it all, I fell in love this tomboy of a girl who I was trying my hardest not to. That's the contrary nature of humans. You tell a human not to think of purple. What's the first thing they think of? Purple! Not that I'd admit it, mind you.I think it took Akane nearly dying at Jusendo for me to admit it to myself.

Our parents noted the attitude change and tried to essentially hold what in the Deep South would be called a "shotgun wedding", I think. Only no shotguns. And Akane and I hadn't actually, er, slept together...so not much like a shotgun wedding at all...but "sleazy bribe" wedding doesn't sound as good. That's what it was though. A barrel of "Spring of Drowned Man" water...my cure...for wedding Akane. However, when the news got out. Chaos ensued. Some of my rivals had curses, too, and they wanted the cure. Not to mention my "other" fiancées weren't exactly happy, and decided to crash the wedding with explosive food...yes, actual food with gunpowder in it. On top of that, we also had to deal with Akane's suitors. Did I mention she had suitors? A couple, mostly nutters, but yeah. And they came with live steel...all orchestrated by the younger of Akane's older sisters. Who was kind of...okay she just was a money grubbing bitch who had taken great pleasure in helping make my life hell for the past year. She was essentially the Devil...if the Devil wore short cut-off jean shorts. "Daisy Dukes" I think they're called. Now, there's an image that will stick to the inside of your eyelids. The Devil in Daisy Dukes...yeesh!

And that's about where our story begins. It was about a week or so after the failed wedding…the ending of the "The Year from Hell". About two weeks after Jusendo and the battle with Saffron on Mt. Phoenix. Two weeks after I killed a demi-god to save the woman I…cared for. It was the day after the best night of my life…my first actual date with Akane. Mind you, Akane and I had gone out before...usually to something like the movies, but never pre-planned, and sometime forced on us against our will. And they usually didn't end well. So this was our first actual date date. We had spent a whole week conspiring on how to pull it off. Thanks to some assistance from unlikely sources, namely a newly contrite Nabiki and Ryoga, we had done it. The other fiancées and loonies had gone hunting for us out by Tomobiki, while Akane and I had gone east to dinner and movie in Nerima proper. We had talked, laughed, and generally enjoyed each other's company for the first time since we'd met without the violence or chaos that usually surrounds our lives. We had come home that night and Akane had kissed me outside the door to the Tendo home. It was our first real kiss, and it was…perfect. No one stopped us…no one came seeking our death, and the moment was framed by a star shooting across the heavens. It was absolutely spectacular!

For the first time since I had come to Furinken a little over a year ago, I think I was starting to adapt. It was as if the universe was apologizing for the year that had happened before.

I should have known better, I really should.

It wasn't apologizing for what had happened before.

It was apologizing for was going to happen next.


I remember hurrying down the stairs that morning, eager to get at my breakfast before the Old Man ate it. I also wasn't looking forward to his and Mr. Tendo's reaction to the date last night, but I wasn't going to let that stand in the way of one of Kasumi's breakfasts. In my hurry, I almost failed to see Akane coming in from her morning jog. I managed to keep from running into her but when we stopped, my face was inches from her. And time stopped. All we could do was stare at each other, a blush running to our cheeks as last night's kiss ran through our minds. Both of us considering doing it again...well, at least I was...but at the same time worried about the rest of the household's reaction if we did.

"You know, if you two keep that up, you'll be married by the end of the day."

I looked up to see Nabiki smirking at us from the top of the stairs. I had, in a fit of guilt-created anger over the failed wedding, verbally blown up rather spectacularly at Nabiki early last week. I had shot through all her arguments and self-rationalizations, and finally got through to her just how much of a complete and total bitch she'd been to myself and Akane over the last year...even longer to Akane. In order to make it up to myself and Akane, she'd masterminded "Operation: Date" when she learned of our intentions.

However, her recent unpleasant self-revelations hadn't slowed her ability to deadpan snark at the drop of a hat. I have to respect that in a person, just a little. Now she had caught us dead to rights. Old Nabiki would have taken a photo...blackmailing us to keep her from sending it to Ukyo or Shampoo, both of whom were still in my "dog house" for going crazy at my wedding. I had been extra cold to them all week. However, THIS Nabiki simply smirked at us from the top of the stairwell, amused but nothing more.

Now, had I been in this situation a week ago, I'd have been stammering about not wanting to marry the Tomboy. And had this been a year ago, I would have been punched out by the girl in front of me for daring to get this close. Even had this been a month ago, I would have been yelled at and given a cold shoulder all day. However, after last night's date, that feeling was gone. I simply gave Akane one last blushing look, which she returned, and headed into the dining room.

The old man and Soun were already dancing when I got to the table. I ignored them and sat down at my place. Akane did the same. It wasn't long before they realized Kasumi wasn't going to feed anyone until they were properly seated and sat down.

"Itadakimasu!" We began our breakfast.

"Excellent as always, Kasumi." Soun said after a few bites. He turned to me. "So, son, when are you going to marry my daughter?"

I twitched. This was the same man that a week ago announced that all wedding plans were off until I "took care of my personal issues"...meaning my other fiancées. "Weren't you th' one ta put that on hold?"

Soun was taken aback. "Well, I thought by the way you and Akane were getting along, you had already taken care of things."

I snorted. "Tell me how, Mr. Tendo. Shampoo ain't the type to take "no" for an answer. In her mind, we're already married, an' I'm just being stubborn. If I tell her I'm gonna marry Akane and that's final, she'd be trying to kill Akane within minutes! How am I supposed ta get her ta just give up and go home? Tell me that!"

My father frowned at me. "Boy, sometimes you need solve your problems on your own."

I snorted again. "Yeah, Old Man," I muttered, "Ya always say shit like that. It's your fault Ucchan's involved in this at all. If ya hadn't stolen her dad's damn okonomiyaki cart..."

"What was that boy? It was your choice, not mine."

Already sick of this conversation, I wolfed my food down and excused myself from the table, went to the other side of the room, and turned on the TV. I wasn't really paying to much attention to it, I just wanted the noise to drown out any further conversation. I was still seething at the two useless idiots in the other room, especially my father who dug me this hole and expects me to be able to wave my hand and make it go away.

"...And again, we're advising people to stay indoors and not go out today. Meteorologists at Tokyo Kanku Kishodai are saying that the heavy fog covering most of Tokyo, Chiba and Kanagawa is the result of a meteorite striking Sagami Bay at approximately 10:30 PM last night. The impact was approximately 20 kilometers north of Oshima Island. While not large enough to cause more than minor tidal raises, the impact did send several tons of water and steam into the atmosphere. While not harmful, this dense fog is causing visibility problems as far north as Shinjuku and Arakawa. Citizens are asked not to drive, and to stay indoors unless it's absolutely necessary. To repeat again, we advising..."

Akane came in the room and sat down beside me. "That's funny, I didn't see any fog when I went out this morning. Then again, we are as far away from the sea as possible while still being in Tokyo."

I nodded, paying more attention to Akane sitting beside me then I was to the television. Memories of last night's date and kiss kept finding their way into my head, and I was having a hard time concentrating on anything. I don't know how long we sat there, just enjoying the closeness of each other. Nothing truly intimate, just a togetherness that we hadn't really found a way past the awkwardness to express before. Not properly, anyway

The peace was not to last, however. It was broken by Kasumi shrieking from further in the house. "G-GRANDFATHER HAPPOUSAI!"

I started up and looked at Akane. "I wonder what the old perv did now?"

She shrugged, and we both hurried in the back to take a look.


Happousai looked horrible. By 'horrible', I mean 'Black Death' kind of horrible...not 'perverted letch' kind of horrible, which was unusual when talking about the Old Goat. His skin was pale; ashen and waxy. He was sweating, and was trembling or shaking...from chills or weakness I couldn't tell. The only time I'd seen the old letch so much as have a cold before was back when he suddenly come down with a dreadful illness that was predicted by one of our classmates, and I swear at that time he didn't look anywhere near as bad as he looked now.

I put my hand on the old man's head."He's burning up!"

Kasumi recovered from her shock. "I'll get a thermometer."

I looked over at Akane "'Kane, ya know that foul goop ya cooked up last time?"

She looked at me angrily for a moment, then calmed when she realized that the foul goop I meant actually was foul goop. "Yeah?"

"You better go get that recipe an' scrounge up the ingredients. I think we're gonna need another batch."


Akane spent the rest of the day making a new batch of the horrible smelling remedy she had made for Happousai before. My father and Mr. Tendo had rapidly decided to make themselves scarce and headed for the bars after that. I had run out to a 7-Eleven and picked up some "cold and flu" surgical masks to be safe. We usually used the cloth ones when someone was sick, but I decided getting the 3-ply masks would be better, as it would at least stop some of the horrific smell that came from Akane's remedy.

Happousai's temperature was over 40 degrees. Over the course of the day, we tried feeding him, changing his clothes, and even giving him an ice bath. You can imagine my joy at having my female form in ice water with the old pervert. However, he didn't do a thing. He just sat there and shook. He didn't ever talk or try to cop a feel. It was at this point I began to get worried. Not that I cared anything for the old nuisance, mind you. He'd made my life hell since he showed up. But I didn't really wish him harm. Not like this, anyway.

Even Akane's remedy had no effect, and we quickly tossed it away. By the end of it, I went to bed tired, frustrated, and worried. I hated the old goat, but no martial artist deserves to die like this. I hadn't changed back all day. I hadn't the time, and I was far too tired to even look for hot water. I just laid there on the futon.

There was a knock on the door. "Ranma are you okay?" Akane.

"No. I'm worn out, humiliated, and I don't think I did a bit a' good today."

Akane opened the door and came in. A moment later, she had her hand on my shoulder. "I know. I just wish that Tofu-sensei was here."

Doctor Tofu had left Nerima abruptly over 6 months ago. No warning or advance notice. Just one day someone went up to the door and had seen a sign saying the clinic was closed indefinitely.

"Yeah. The Doc mighta found a way t' fix this."

"Well, get some sleep, Ranma. If he's not better by tomorrow, we'll call Tokyo General."

I hesitated a moment before giving in. "...Okay."

"Good-night, Ranma."

"G'nite, 'Kane."


"Ranma! Ranma!"

I stirred in my sleep, and I'd been tossing and turning all night. Pop had decided to spend the night in the dojo in case whatever Happousai had was contagious. Finally, I awoke to look up into the faces of Akane and Kasumi. I didn't like what I saw there. Concern. Worry. Fear.

"Is it...?"

"He's awake. He's asking for you." Kasumi said.

I swallowed and headed downstairs into Happousai's room.


If anything, Happousai looked worse than before. His skin looked bloodless, his breathing shallow and ragged. The air about him was a funeral air. I knew he didn't have long.

I couldn't stand it. I tore off my shirt and grabbed his hand, putting it to one of my breasts. "Come on, you Old Goat! It ain't like you ta go down without a fight! You'd stay alive, if only ta piss me off more! Take it! It's right here. Ki smorgasboard! Take what you need an' fight!"

The yellow eyes opened a crack. "Ranma...zzat you?"

"Yeah, it's me. I'm in my girl form an' I'm offering you all th' ki you can absorb. Fight it!"

The wizened old head shook. "Can't...all scrambled me up inside. Can't focus enough to absorb..." He broke off into a cough.

I let his hand drop. There really was nothing that could be done.

"Ranma..." The Old Man's eyes widened and he grabbed my hand in a manic grip. "...you are the best Martial Artist of your generation. Better than Soun. Better than Genma. Better than me at your age..." he broke into coughing. "When I pass you are the next Grand Master. Learn all you can, pass it on. Keep the school...alive."

I nodded, tears in my eyes. "I will."

He relaxed his grip and sat back for a moment. Then he broke out in tears. "No! It's not fair! I'm not ready yet! I don't want to go! I don't want...to..."

He fell back and was still. Happousai, founder of Anything Goes was no longer in this world.

Behind me, I heard Kasumi let out a sob.

I reached out and closed his eyes. "Good-bye, Old Goat."

I stood and reached for my shirt. In front of me, I heard Kasumi starting to call for an ambulance to come and take the body away. In the dining room, I could hear the fathers' starting to celebrate the Master's death. I just walked solemnly into the bathroom. I didn't feel like partying. Not that I was sad for the old freak, but seeing death that up close and personal...it's disturbing.


That was not my only shock that day. After my bath I decided I didn't feel like staying around and decided to take a walk. Akane decided to join me, and together we left home for...well...were we planning to figure it out as we went along. It wasn't a date. Not really. After the last day we both needed to leave the house to clear our heads.

Unfortunately, fate was once again going to make such things impossible.

We had gotten less than a block from the dojo when I was nearly run over by a fast moving bicycle. This was Shampoo, my Chinese fiancée. More of a not-so-common-law wife, actually. Shampoo is from village of the Joketsuzoku, the "Tribe of Women Warriors" – an Amazon, for all intents and purposes, though supposedly without any of the Ancient Greek influence. The Joketsuzoku have a law. Any female that defeats one of their warriors receives the "Kiss of Death" and gets hunted to the ends of the earth until they are killed. It does make me wonder about the Mediterranean influence, however, because the whole thing sounds rather Sicilian to me. Males on the other hand, receive the "Kiss of Marriage" if they defeat a woman warrior he becomes their husband, their 'airen'. I'm pretty sure they made this one up themselves, and I'm pretty sure neither the U.N. nor Interpol recognizes it as a law outside the Joketsuzoku village. Try telling that to a purple haired bimbo glomp machine and her 300 year old ghoul of a Great-Grandmother, however.

Shampoo wasted no time in grabbing on to me. "Airen!"

I was still angry at Shampoo regarding the failed wedding and her usage of explosive food during that incident. I turned to glare at her. "I told you, Shampoo, I'm not-"

Any statement I had died when I saw her face. This was not happy bubbly Shampoo happy to see her "Airen". No, it was worried...and scared. "Airen come quickly to Nekohanten! Hiba-chan!. She-"

The look on her face said it all. I glanced sideways at Akane, sort of an "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" look and she nodded. Together, the three of us took off for the restaurant at a dead run.


Shampoo quickly let us into the Nekohanten, and went in the back and up the stairs, out of the restaurant level, and into the living space above. We made our way quickly to Cologne's room at the front, and we shocked by what we saw. But only mildly. As we had seen the exactly the same thing that morning.

Shampoo's Hiba-chan, or Great-Grandmother, Cologne, lay in her bed. All the color was gone from her body and she was shaking like a leaf. Next to her in a chair, Mousse, glasses down for once, was trying to feed her some broth...unsuccessfully. He looked up at the three of us when we came in and shook his head, sadly. Much like myself and Happousai, Mousse had no real love for Cologne. However, also like me, it was obvious he had put those feelings aside for this. This wasn't a fit way for a master of the Art to die.

Shampoo walked up to the bedside. "Hiba-chan?" She called softly. "Shampoo bring Airen just like Hiba-chan requested."

The eyes, yellow with sickness, opened and focused on me. Even now, as ill as she was, she still radiated a serene wisdom. Had I known of Star Wars at the time, I would have been shocked to notice how close she looked to Yoda in Return of the Jedi.

Ever the paragon of tact, I walked right up to the bed. "Geez, Old Granny, you look horrible."

Akane gave me a glare. Shampoo and Mousse just stared at me in shock. Cologne, on the other hand, gave off a sound. Had she been well, it would have been one of her trademark cackles. Instead it was kind of a snorting chuckle that trailed into a cough. "Leave it to...Muko-dono...not to sugar coat things. I'm dying...if you hadn't noticed."

'Muko-dono' was Cologne's nickname for me. Essentially, 'Son-in-law'

"Yeah. I kinda figured."

"Before...I go...however...I had things to...discuss with you."

"Such as?"

"When will you...marry my granddaughter?"

I frowned. "Ain't happening."

Shampoo's look darkened. She stood to do something, but a grey, withered hand reached into the air. At the gesture, Shampoo quieted.

"That is your last...word on it?"

"Yes. Look, Shampoo's nice an' all, but-"

The old woman cut me off with a raking cough. "Troubling. This illness came on...so quickly. Can't use ki. Not even...Amazon remedies...worked."

I nodded. "That's what Happousai said."

Cologne paused. "Happi caught this?"

"He died this morning."

The old woman's laid back in her bed, eyes wide, as she processed the latest bit of news. "So...I won after all."

"What was that?"

"Nothing...not important...Muko-dono. To take down both Happi...and myself makes this...illness...quite formidable. I sense something dark...behind this...something evil. Consider this a dying old crone's...intuition."

She took another deep raspy breath. "You are the most talented martial artist I have ever seen. Perhaps the best the world has ever known...but you are too arrogant...too headstrong...too easily manipulated by others. This is a weakness. You will need to...overcome this to truly...shine as the best."

Abruptly she sat up, as if possessed by an unnatural strength, and grabbed my arm. "Promise me...Muko-dono...Promise me you'll take care...of my granddaughter."

"I told you! I'm not marrying her!"

"Just promise me...you'll take care of her...that you'll protect her from the danger to come."

Unable to say anything at that, I gulped then nodded. I knew Akane would be mad, but if there was danger coming, I knew I'd protect them...all of them.

She sighed then collapsed back on the bed. "Good...so tired now...need to rest."

For a long time...I didn't count the minutes...we stood there by the bed watched as the old lady rested, slowly drawing one breath after another...gasp after laborious gasp. Each time, we thought it was going to be her last. Finally, she gave out a tremendous gasp, looked up past us, at a point beyond all of us. "Hello, Happi." She said, then collapsed on the bed.

Elder Cologne, Matriarch of the Joketsuzoku was no more.

Shampoo gave a keening wail and collapsed against me, sobbing, while Mousse closed her eyes.

I gave an apologetic glance at Akane, but she was looking out the window...a sad, troubled look on her face.


After what was an uncomfortably long time, Shampoo stopped crying and let me go. I quickly excused Akane and myself and left as hurriedly as I could.

We walked, Akane and I, aimlessly for about half an hour. During that time, we didn't say a word to each other. Finally, I wasn't able to stand the silence anymore and I turned to Akane. "So...what's up?"

"What do you mean, Ranma?"

"You! You're all...out of it. It's freakin' me out."

"Oh! Well...it's how Cologne died. Surrounded in bed with family around her...it reminded me...of Mom."

Akane's mother had died of an illness when Akane was very young. Too young to have many good memories of her mother. Normally any memory of her mother would be a thing of joy. However, to be reminded of how she died...that was a memory anyone could do without.

Even though I still had Shampoo's lavender perfume on me, and had just put up with Shampoo doing this for far too long, I grabbed Akane and held her close. After a moment, shock I suspect, she opened up, and I let her cry into my chest as we walked home.

While we travelled the words of caution Cologne had given me were forgotten. If I had remember, if I had acted on those decisions, maybe then I'd have been more ready for what came after.


Akane had stopped and had dried her eyes by the time we had gotten home. To our surprise, the family was gathered around the television.

"Tadaima!" We both called.

Instead of the traditional response, Nabiki yelled. "Get in here, you two!"

Not sure if I could take any more surprises, Akane and I headed into the family room. On the telly, a news report was going on.

"...General reports more and more cases coming in from all over Tokyo. Narita International Airport has cancelled all inbound and outbound flights, and Tokyo Harbor has closed. Tokyo Metro has closed down except for emergency transit only, and The Shinkansen will not be stopping in Tokyo for the foreseeable future. An official at the Ministry of Health calls this a city-wide epidemic, and has declared a state of emergency and city-wide quarantine. Citizens are advised not to leave their homes unless necessary, and to take health precautions such as masks and gloves if they do.

"This just in! Reports from the Imperial Palace reports that Emperor Akihito has fallen ill, and has been rushed to medical attention..."

The assembled family stared at each other in shock. The Emperor was the lifeblood of the Japanese people...a living God. Losing him so soon after Emperor Showa's death would be a shock...one that the Japanese people would take a long time to recover from.

We all knew it, though none of us were going to say it. Things were going to get worse before they got better.


Next Chapter: Plague

Chapter Text

Chapter Two
Plague

I walked down the main street of Nerima arm and arm with Akane. I was wearing the tux I had worn during the reversal jewel incident, and Akane was wearing a sapphire blue evening gown that matched the natural highlights in her hair. It was quiet as we walked down the street, only our footsteps echoing. Akane leaned in towards me and I put my arm around her. All was right with the world.

Then, the wall from a nearby restaurant exploded and Shampoo burst forth, wielding that giant dadao blade she had used when we had first met in Japan. She pointed the blade at Akane. "Violent kitchen destroyer go too too far with Shampoo's airen! You I kill!"

At the same time, the middle of the road exploded and Ryouga leaped out. "Ranma! Prepare to die!"

A moment later, Ukyo came out of another shop, brandishing her giant battle spatula. "You have my Ranchan, Akane. It's the end for you!"

Chains came out from a nearby alleyway, barely missing us both. Looking into the alley, I saw Mousse leaping down from the wall. He drew a sword from his hidden weapons space and pointed it at me. "Ranma! You will die for two-timing my sweet Shampoo."

We backed up. The cast of Nerima nutjobs advanced, and were joined by the Kuno siblings. Each of them looked at us menacingly, showing no mercy or compassion, only homicidal rage.

Then, a shadow appeared above them. A giant foot smashed down, crushing the attacking group. Looking up, I was shocked to see Saffron's face, as big as a water tower, looking cruelly down at me. "You killed me, boy. Now, I'll have my revenge!"

He reached down for me. I leaped out of the way, but I was not his target. His hand wrapped around Akane and lifted her up above the rooftops. He smiled evilly.

I yelled, screamed at him to get his attention, but it just made him smile more. He held Akane at arms' length…and squeezed. There was an audible snap as bones crunched, and blood poured out of his hand. But the worst…the worst was Akane's face. The look of shock as the life drained from her eyes…her bloodless lips struggled to say my name as she…she…

"NOOOOOOOOOOO!" I bolted straight up in bed, body covered in a cold sweat. It was not the first time I had that nightmare, nor would it be the last. Saffron had been killed and Akane saved merely three weeks ago, and it still weighed heavy on my mind. Knowing I wouldn't get any further sleep that night, I went downstairs for a cup of tea.

For the last three days, life had returned to a semblance of normal around the Tendo compound. School had been cancelled due to the epidemic, and by and large we all stayed at home. I stayed inside the dojo and trained. Sometimes Akane joined me. The rest of the time she stayed in her room and did homework, aside from meals and baths.. Kasumi cooked and cleaned, and Nabiki stayed in her room. My Old Man and Mr. Tendo stayed in the dining area and played shogi. My mother would often help Kasumi in the kitchen or in the living room. Occasionally, one of us would be sent out to the store to buy necessities, but we were never gone long. Generally, we went to bed early, and woke up moderately late.

All of us avoided the television. The only thing on it was news of the plague and a list of known victims. Even so, this semblance of normality was frequently punctuated by the sound of an ambulance taking someone else in the area to the hospital…or the morgue.

As I reached the bottom of the stairs I found, to my surprise, that I was not alone. I saw Kasumi sitting at the table with a cup, staring distractedly out the open door into the yard.

"Kasumi?"

Kasumi snapped out of her musing and looked up. "Oh! Ranma-kun! Please, sit down!"

I hesitated only a moment before sitting down. It wasn't that I was afraid of Kasumi, more of that I really wasn't feeling very social at the moment. After the nightmare, I really wanted to sit and gather my thoughts. But this was Kasumi Tendo asking, and you just didn't say "No" to Kasumi. It just wasn't done.

"What's on your mind, Kasumi?"

Kasumi paused a moment before replying. "I was just thinking about the poor sick people out there. I heard on the radio that the hospitals are overflowing. They can't take any more victims."

"And?" I wasn't exactly a great humanitarian in those days.

"Well, I was thinking that Dr. Tofu's clinic could handle some of that overflow."

"Kasumi, Tofu's been gone for months now. His place is all locked up."

"But I know where Tofu keeps his emergency key."

"So we have a clinic, but who's going to run it?"

"I will."

I stared at Kasumi a moment. "You?"

"Yes me."

"But you're not a doctor."

"I don't have to be. I'm not trying to cure these people, Ranma. I'll leave that to the hospitals. I've read most of Tofu's medical books on caring for the sick and injured. I just want to keep them as comfortable as possible, and ease the burden off the rest of their family until the hospitals come through with a cure."

I just stared at her.

"Ranma, I've known these people my entire life. They are almost like family to me. I come from a line of Martial Artists, too. You know how we feel about protecting the week, and these poor sick people certainly qualify."

I felt a slight blush of shame fill my face as I was reminded of my occasionally slipshod sense of honour. "Okay, Kasumi, I understand."

"Do you think Tofu will mind if I borrow his clinic, then?"

I was about to make crack about Tofu probably never coming back but my shame made me catch myself. Instead, I said "As long as it's you doing it, Kasumi, I don't think he'll mind."

She beamed at me.

"Anything else I can do for you, Kasumi?"

"Well, Ranma, there is one thing..."


"Good afternoon. Kojira-sensei, Godai-san. I brought your lunches."

"Bless you, Ranma-chan."

"Such a good girl."

I tried not to grind my teeth and adjusted my grimace into a smile as I set down the chicken and rice soup for them. I was a guy, dammit. "Anything else I can do for you?"

"Could you fluff up my pillow, Ranma-chan?"

I gritted my teeth as I reached behind the old man and fluffed his pillow

This is how I found myself about a week later: in girl form, bringing food, fluffing pillows, emptying bedpans and changing sheets. Kasumi couldn't do it all alone, and she had asked me to help. Well, as I said earlier, you don't say "no" to Kasumi.

It took a day or so of hard labour to set up the clinic. The exam tables had to be moved out of the rooms and into storage and the upstairs had to be cleaned out and emptied. The upstairs kitchen became the hospital kitchen, and Tofu's old office because the medical supply and linen closet. When the people of the area found out what we were doing, they donated what they could. Old beds, cots, spare bedding; all was given to us to set up the emergency hostel. Once that was done, it became Field of Dreams. We had built it; so they came. Once word got out that the Tofu Clinic had reopened as a care hospice for the sick and that it was being run by Tendou Kasumi, the people really started to flock in, especially the locals that knew us and knew Tofu when he was here.

Akane and I were both drafted as "nurses". And we took shifts. I would get up early in the morning and hurry down to the clinic to start my shift taking care of the sick, while Akane would help out around the house and do her training and exercise. Then she would show up to lend a hand when Kasumi would be occupied preparing lunch. I would continue to work through lunch. Then it would be my turn to leave to do training and exercise while Akane worked in the afternoon. And all the while Kasumi worked through both of our shifts. I didn't know how she did it - I still don't. By the end of the day, both Akane and I were exhausted, while Kasumi never seemed to run out of energy.

All around us, we saw people we know fall ill to the disease and come to us for care. Friends, acquaintances, even just people we had met once or twice - no one was safe, and no one was excluded. We watched them suffer. We watched them die. One of the first victims was the old lady that used to throw water on the sidewalk on the way to school. She never struck me as particularly healthy, yet she always managed to splash me with that ladle. She went peacefully - well, as peacefully as someone with this virus ever went. After that, we saw Dr. Tofu's former chiropractic patients come in. We hadn't seen any of them in months, and now we had to watch them die. It was hard, very hard, but we still managed to do our jobs professionally...well, as professionally as possible for two high school students and a homemaker could be.

We had been at this for about a week, and already I was nearing exhaustion. When Cologne locked me in girl form using the Cat's Tongue Technique and was working me at the Nekohanten 12-15 hours a day to get my cure, I don't think I was half as tired. Fortunately, Kojira and Godai were my last two patients for the day. I staggered into the "linen closet" to change out of the pink nurses' outfit Nabiki had scrounged up for Akane and I to wear, in lieu of actually helping with the manual labour herself. I don't know where she scared it up, but the bloody things looked like some costume taken from a porn film...and knowing Nabiki, it probably was. It was much too short in the skirt and low cut in the top. Thus, I was grateful to change out of it and back into my usual clothes. Once that was done, I left the clinic and staggered back to the dojo. I didn't even bother to change back into a boy. I don't think I had bothered to all week, save for baths and the occasional hot water incident.

Silence greeted me when I got home. "Tadaima?" I said uncertainly. More silence was my answer.

With Kasumi at the Clinic all the time, keeping the dojo clean and food on the table had fallen to my mother to do, and Nabiki to acquire food and supplies for the Clinic. Both would be out now, getting what they needed from the few businesses deemed essential enough to remain open. However, with all the bars and restaurants deemed nonessential and closed, Pops and Mr. Tendou should be home. They'd usually be in the middle of their eternal Shogi game.

For reasons I'm unsure of even now, I started sneaking into the house...creeping around like a ninja. I crept down the hallway, around the bend, and then down the long hallway into the family room. And there in the dining room was my worst fear realized.

Pops and Mr. Tendou had collapsed unconscious at the shogi table. A cursory inspection showed they both had a high fever, which was one of the epidemic's earliest and most ongoing symptoms.

The epidemic had just hit home.

I gently picked Mr. Tendou and put him to bed in his room. Then I went up to Pops and my room, grabbed his futon, and brought it into Mr. Tendou's room. With some effort, I managed to move the Old Man in there and put him to bed. My fatigue had been forgotten. Immediately, I ran back to the clinic to tell Kasumi and Akane what happened.

Now, things were personal.


I hadn't thought our work could become even harder, but it did. Mom had fallen ill the next morning. Now in addition to having two people on duty at the clinic, one of us needed to stay at home and take care of the parents. And with mom down, the household need to be taken care of.

This meant we needed more than the three of us. Meals needed to be made for two households and supplies acquired. This meant we needed an expert. And I could only think of one. Akane didn't like it. Asking her for a favor, I mean. She knew she would hold this over our heads, and frankly I did too. But as I reminded her, our options were limited. Neither of us had a better choice. So that is why, two days later, I was heading down the main business row of Nerima, heading for the Ucchan.

Normally, I would have been over here frequently. But I had made a point not to go there since the failed wedding, as Ukyo was in the "doghouse" for bombing my wedding. However, this was just too important to keep that grudge. Nabiki had made that clear last night t myself and Akane.

I hesitated for a moment or two before knocking on the closed door of the restaurant. A few moments later the door opened and what appeared to be a cute girl in a formal kimono stood behind it. It was Konatsu, Ukyo's live in "waitress". He was a boy, raised as a girl and trained to be the most powerful kunoichi of this generation...which was about par for the course in Ukyo's life. "I'm sorry," he said. "But Ucchan's in closed due to the...oh. It's you. It's been awhile, Saotome-sama."

"I need ta talk ta Ucc...Ukyo."

He raised an eyebrow at the slip. "I...don't think that's wise."

"Cut th' crap, 'natsu. This ain't th' time."

Ukyo appeared behind Konatsu, a miserable look in her face. "Konatsu, what is...?" When she saw me the color returned to her face. "RANCHAN!"

I glared at her, but only lightly. "You haven't earned the right to call me that again, Ukyo. I'm here to talk this out."

She blanched again, and nodded. "Konatsu, let him in."

"Ukyo-sama! He's made you miserable for two weeks!"

"He had the right to! I screwed up. Let him in."

"...very well, Ukyo-sama." Konatsu moved aside and let me enter.

It had been a week since the restaurant had been allowed to be open, due to the state of emergency Tokyo had declared on the first day of the pandemic. However, the place looked spotless and ready to go at a moment's notice. Ukyo walked behind the grill and started mixing some batter. "The usual, Ran...ma?"

"I ain't going to be bought with okonomiyaki, Ukyo."

"I know, but if we're going to talk this out, it might as well be over food, ne?"

"So long as we're clear."

We waited a few minutes as Ukyo mixed the batter while the grill heated up, then cooked a few okonomiyaki. Internally, I was grateful for the pause, as it allowed me to go over what Nabiki had coached me on what to say and how to react. I was still pissed at Ukyo, but I needed her help, and this...wasn't going to be easy.

Finally, Ukyo flipped the okonomiyaki onto a plate and served it to me. Normally, I'd devour it, but for once I took my sweet time, trying to drag out facing Ukyo on this.

Ukyo, however, wasn't going to let me. "So, I screwed up."

I swallowed before replying. "Yeah, ya did. But at least you're admitting it."

"I'm surprised Akane didn't come with to make sure you didn't do anything stupid."

"She wanted to. But she had ta work and this was th' only time I wasn't so I could come here. I don't have long."

"Tell me, then, what did I do that was SO bad that you ostracized me for two weeks. I mean, at least you're using my first name now."

I paused a moment. The last time I had talked to Ukyo had been two days after the failed wedding. She had thought I would be grateful that she had helped to ruin the wedding. She had been wrong. I called her "Kounji" and told her she had screwed up badly, and then I had left her crying in the street. I hadn't even looked back. That was two weeks ago, and my rage had abated since then. And now I had deeper concerns.

"Ukyo, ya ruined my wedding. Now if ya had challenged 'Kane or me ta single combat, I wouldn'ta been half as mad. But ya didn't. Ya threw BOMBS, Ukyo. Okonomiyaki BOMBS. An' ya didn't really care where they landed. Ya could have killed someone, Ukyo. Not 'Kane or me, but non-combatants. Like Kasumi…" Ukyo winced. "…or Nabiki…" Less of a wince. Nabiki's reputation as queen bitch of Furinkan went pretty deep. "…or my Mom." There, Ukyo reacted like she'd been slapped. She knew how much my mom meant to me.

"I guess I really lost it, there."

"Yeah, ya did. Of all the fiancées, Ukyo, I thought you were th' one with th' most honor. Ya claim ta be a Martial Artist on top 'a being a chef. Martial Artists don't endanger th' weak. Now Shampoo ain't a Martial Artist. She's a warrior. She don't worry 'bout th' innocent. And that's why she ain't got no chance with me. But I thought you were different.

"And this's on top 'a what you, Kodachi 'n Shampoo did ta Mom's house a couple 'a months ago...because ya heard a RUMOR that there was an engagement ring. A ring that woulda been useless if I didn't GIVE it ta someone first. You three LEVELED th' house looking for it. Even after ya split th' damage three ways, your share more than compensates for th' Yattai Pops stole...even after interest and inflation."

Ukyo paled. "So that..."

"…negates th' contract, yeah."

Ukyo gave a looked that reminded me so much of Ryouga on a bad day it wasn't funny. "I see...I guess that's it, then."

"No, Ukyo. Not yet. I'm here ta give ya one more chance to be my friend."

She looked up in shock. "What?"

"Ya have one chance. And ya have two things ta do. One: stop acting like Shampoo and Kodachi. They both go so far that they freak me out. Don't use them as examples."

Ukyo could only nod dumbly at that.

"Two: I take it ya've heard what the Tendous and I have been up ta for the last week?"

Ukyo nodded. "You've turned the Ono Clinic into a hospice for the sick."

"Yup! Kasumi's idea. But we've hit a snag. Mr. Tendo is sick now, Mom and Pops, too.

"Oh, Ranchan, that's horrible!"

I let that one slide. "Yeah, an' we can't take care 'a them an' take care 'a everyone at th' hospice. We're overworked..." I sighed. "We need help."

"And you want us to help."

"Well, yeah. You know more than we do 'bout running a business. We need help with supplies and cooking, an' additional nursing duties would be good, too. Will ya make up for endangering th' innocent by helping ta heal them? Will ya be Ucchan again and help me?"

She paused for a long moment. "Well, I can't run my restaurant, so I've got plenty of free time. Of course I'll help, Ranchan. Konatsu will too, won't you?"

"Of course, Ukyo-sama. If you say so, it will be done."

"Great! We'll see ya first thing in th' morning. Don't be late! I gotta go now. It's my shift ta take care of Mr. Tendo and my parents."

"Didn't you just come from work?"

"Yeah, but like I said, we're shorthanded."

I wolfed the rest my okonomiyaki and Ukyo's untouched one before running out of the Ucchan at full speed. At the time, I missed the thoughtful look on Konatsu's face as I left. It's funny how things all come back to you in hindsight.


The next morning, I waited at the beginning of my shift to help orient the two new volunteer workers we were expecting. When they showed up, they were not what I was expecting.

They were four.

Ukyo, Konatsu, Shampoo, and Mouse all showed up at the clinic that morning. Shampoo was a little more sedate than usual, wearing a white cheongsam rather than the usual pastels. White is, of course, the symbol of mourning in Eastern Society, same as black is in Western. She also had a somber but determined look on her face. Mousse stood slightly behind her, dressed in his usual white robes. Ukyo and Konatsu stood off to one side, Ukyo with a non-plussed look on her face, and Konatsu looked slightly smug.

I nodded to Ukyo and Konatsu, giving the latter a slight "What did you do?" Glare. He attempted to look innocent and completely failed. Then I turned my attention to the newcomers. "Shampoo? Mousse?"

Mousse started to speak, but Shampoo interrupted. "If Hiba-chan still alive, Hiba-chan would help Airen without delay. Shampoo can only do best to honor Hiba-chan's wishes. Shampoo bring Hiba-chan's medical recipe book. Many many recipes here for healing soups, like broth of vigor. Is too too good! Shampoo also once work as nurse for doctor here."

She had. I had completely forgotten that. Repressed, more like. "All right, Shampoo. Go upstairs to the kitchen and show Kasumi the book."

"Aiyah!" Shampoo scurried behind me. I turned to Mousse.

He shrugged. "Shampoo needs this, Saotome. She's been like a zombie ever since the Mummy died. Just hanging around the Nekohanten and moping. When Konatsu came and told us how much you needed help, she got that fire back in her eyes. I came to be there for her."

Mousse and I shared a cool glance. The meaning was clear. Truce. For now. Then I nodded and Mousse followed Shampoo into the clinic.

I turned my glare to Konatsu. "Please tell me you didn't tell everyone?"

Sheepishly, Konatsu reached into his Kimono and produced an envelope.

I gave him a rather intense glare, and opened it to read.

To the Lovely Pig-Tailed Girl,

I applaud the selflessness of you and the beauteous Tendou Akane in your attempts to alleviate this blight on our community. One can only hope that you will succeed and in the process find a way to break the holds Saotome has on you so you can fly to my person when all this is done!

As much as I would like to assist you personally in this endevour, it is unfitting of a noble scion of the House of Kunou such as myself to handle the sick and the dying. In lieu of my magnificent presence, please take this token of my esteem. May it go towards your heroic efforts.

With all love,

Kunou Tatewaki

Age 18

I pulled out the rather sizable cheque inside and sighed. "Well, at least ya got him and not Kodachi."

Konatsu gave an unladylike snort. "Even I'm not that crazy."


Thus the new team of seven began working there. Shampoo would show up early to help Kasumi start the soups, then spend the rest of her time nursing the sick. Mousse would run general errands and pick up supplies for us. Ukyo worked at the Dojo, making food for all of us not sick people, and Konatsu worked the afternoon shift as a nurse. I think he may have liked the outfit a little too well, as he took to the role like a duck to water. The dojo was turned into a kind of flophouse for everyone, and soon futons were brought over, and people slept there when they were off shift. Someone, Nabiki usually, would always wait by the phone, hoping that Tokyo General would call with the answer, the cure, and that Mom, Pops, and Mr. Tendou would be able to come back to us alive and well.

But that call never came.

It was three days later when Soun died. He was awake and the Tendou girls were with him. still crying about uniting the schools to the very last. He made Akane promise, on his deathbed, to marry me as soon as thing quieted down. She promised, and he passed on. The sisters were shaken, clinging onto each other for support.

I wasn't there when he died. I should have been there for Akane, but I was in the next room, fighting my own personal war against the plague.

Pops died early the next morning. I was with him when he went.


I had been working constantly through the night, applying cold washcloths and doing my best to keep their fevers down. I didn't know when I'd slept last. Or when I'd last ate. I didn't care.

"Ranma."

His voice was weak and trembling. Pops should never sound like that.

"I'm here, Old Man."

"I'm dying, son."

"Not if I can help it."

He smiled at me. Again. Something Pops shouldn't do.

"I just want you to know...I'm so proud of you, Ranma. All the work, all the training, all those years of my life. You are a living work of art, son. A proper legacy."

I couldn't help myself. I snorted. "Sure, Pops. I'm sure th' Neko-ken an' Jusenkyo will be a perfect legacy."

His face fell slightly. "I know I made mistakes son. And I'm sorry. But everyone makes them. We're not perfect. And you adapted to them, and used them to your advantage. Like beating Cologne that one time."

"If ya say so."

"That ability to adapt, to roll with the punches, and come back swinging. That's the gift I'm talking about. I didn't have it. Soun didn't. You do, and I'm proud of that.

I didn't say anything. I couldn't. I just kept working.

"Ranma?"

"Yeah, Old Man?"

"I...I..."

And then he was gone. I couldn't believe it. He had been a part of my life - my entire life - and now he was gone.


Mother died an hour later. All she asked was to look at her manly son one last time. I got some hot water, and poured it on myself. She smiled at me, just kept repeating "My manly son!"

And then she was gone. I was still in shock from losing father, and this devastated me. I had just become aware my mother was still alive only a few months ago, and now...now I had lost her again. And I was an orphan.

Akane and her sisters all had each other, and they'd been through this before when their mother died. True it had been almost a decade, but they knew how to cope. I'd never faced death close up like this before. I didn't know how to cope. I couldn't handle it. So I left. I fled, leaving Akane and her sisters to take care of things. This was not the most benevolent thing I'd ever done, I'll admit, certainly not the most selfless. But I wasn't thinking straight. I had suffered a Heroic Blue Screen of Death, and I needed to time to reboot and recover, so to speak.


Three hours later, Akane finally found me. There are only a few places I go when I try to get away from things. With the city on lockdown my training clearing in the nearby mountains was out. And the roof of the Tendo home was too close, and brought back too many memories. So I was under the bridge by the canal, my "home away from home", so to speak. It was raining and I was in girl form again. I hadn't noticed. I was just staring down at the water...I don't think I was even really seeing it. I just stared vacantly, like a lost soul. And that's what I was. Lost.

After waiting a few moments to see if I was going to acknowledge her presence, Akane sat down right next to me. I ignored her, still staring morosely into the water. After another moment or two, she spoke. "It hurts, I know."

I said nothing.

She tried again. "But death is a natural part of life, Ranma. It'll take a while, but it'll get better. I know. I've been here before. I know exactly how you feel."

That finally got a response from me, but not the one she had been expecting. "No, Akane, ya DON'T know how I feel."

Anger clouded her face. "Are you forgetting, Ranma? I just lost my father, too. I'm an orphan, same as you."

I rolled my eyes. "Akane, ya lived under the same roof your entire life. Ya always had your big sisters there. I ain't never had none a' that. Th' only single constant I've had in my life's my old man. Sure, he was a liar, an' a cheat, an' a thief, an' ya couldn't trust him as far as ya could throw him. He was lazy, an' not th' sharpest knife th' drawer, but he was THERE. He was th' ONLY thing that was there all th' time. And now he's...he's..." Tears began to stream down my eyes.

Speaking of eyes, Akane's were a big as saucers as the realisation of what I was saying hit her. "Ranma, I didn't realize! I'm -"

She broke off as I grabbed her by the shoulders. A low, keening wail escaped from my mouth and in a moment, I had buried my face into Akane's chest. I could feel emotions coming from Akane, shock, then anger, then shock again, and finally sympathy as she realized what I was doing. I was crying. Bawling my eyes out like the little girl I was at that moment. Akane had never seen me cry before, because I hadn't cried before...actually, factually cried...not in as long as I could remember - probably not since The Pit. Pops always said that men didn't cry. I could hear my mother commenting on how unmanly it was. Yet there I was, the loss of those very same people causing me to bawl like a baby. It's kind of ironic, really, in retrospect.

It shocked me when a moment later, Akane grabbed onto me and started crying, too. Unable to do anything else, we both just sat there under the bridge, in the rain, and wept onto each other.


It was at least a half hour later when I finally let go of Akane. She was looking at me sympathetically, her eyes puffy from crying. I suspected mine were, too.

As I looked at her, my male ego finally reasserted itself. It had fled in horror previously at what I was doing. "This didn't happen."

Akane looked at me confused for a moment, and then realization hit her and she nodded. "C'mon, I'll help you back to the dojo."

She helped me stand. I'd been sitting in one position for so long my legs were all pins and needles. Akane threw my arm around her shoulder and we started back towards home.

After a moment, I said "Akane? Thanks…for putting up with a big crybaby jerk like me."

She paused and looked at me a moment. Then, she threw back her head and laughed. "Ranma, that's not what I think of you. Jerk, maybe some of the time. But I wouldn't label you a crybaby." She let the humor drop out of her voice. "Not after today. Today was...really bad, okay? But tomorrow's another day. And we'll get through...one day at a time,"


And that's exactly what we did for the next few days. We soldiered on, one day at a time. I'd wake up every morning, and throw myself into working. And every afternoon I'd throw myself into training just as hard. It didn't leave me time to think or dwell on it, and when I did have the time, Akane made sure she was there so I wasn't alone.

And we thought something we were doing must have been working, because after a couple of days we began to have patients that didn't die. Young men and women in their twenties and early thirties would get sick, but would recover after a couple of days of care. No cure from Tokyo General, no nothing. They just got better. And the patients kept getting younger. Soon, Kasumi fell ill. Then it was our classmates that were falling sick. Nabiki was next, and she was down for about a day as well. Kunou went down about the same time, and Akane and I were the ones that had to take care of him for most of the day he was down. Then Akane, Shampoo, Mousse Ukyo, Konatsu and even I all caught it. Those five were down for half a day, whereas I came home, took a two hour nap, and felt right as rain afterwards. And all of our patients were getting better. We only heard of one person dying during this time: one of our classmates and one of my rivals, Gosunkugi Hikaru. He never was the healthiest of people at the best of times, and this plague must have been too much for him.

A few days after that, Tokyo General called, thanked us for the assistance, but told us we were no longer needed. The cases had dwindled down that the hospitals could take care of it again. The only fatalities at this point were infants and small children, whose immune systems were not developed enough to handle the virus. So we closed up the clinic, and headed for home.

It was only then we caught the news and learned of how bad things had gotten. Emperor Akihito had died, as had the eldest son, Naruhito. Prince Fumihito, however, had survived, so the Imperial Line was intact. However, that wasn't the end of it. The Prime Minister was dead, as was most of the Diet. There were gaps in government down to the local levels. People were still pointing fingers at each other and trying to figure out who was now in charge of what.

And that was the just the tip of the iceberg. It wasn't just Tokyo that had been hit. The entire planet had suffered what they were calling a global pandemic of epic proportions. Over half the world population was dead, maybe more than three quarters. United States President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore had died along with large swaths of Congress and the entire Supreme Court, leaving the US Government crippled and impotent. Likewise, the US Military...the most powerful fighting force on the planet, was in extreme disarray. Whole chunks of its command structure had fallen out, leaving it with more holes than a wheel of swiss cheese. Or even a M. Night Shyamalan film.

In England, Queen Elizabeth had died, as had Prince Charles. Princess Diana had survived, though, and was now Queen Regent for her son, Prince William. Politically, they were in the same state as Japan. Prime Minister John Major had died, as had large chunks of Parliament, leaving a power vacuum. Russia and China were in the same boat. In fact nearly every country on the globe was experiencing a power vacuum, and military confusion. If this had been ten or twenty years prior, this would have probably started World War III, by accident. But the Cold War ending a few years ago had quieted things down on that front.

The Catholic Church was in a similar state. Pope John Paul II had died, as well as most of the Cardinals, and Archbishops, and down the line. They were in extreme disarray, and thus unable to offer humanitarian aid to the decimated countries.

However, this was all far away and a far cry for us in Nerima. In fact, the Japanese are very good in a crisis, and as such we all came together. People searched house to house, making sure all survivors were accounted for. The stores were encouraged to sell food on a discount or give it away, to make sure all the new orphans, and there were quite a lot of those, got fed. No one was going to go hungry or thirsty on our watch. As soon as they we given the all clear, Ukyo planned to reopen and was going to provide food to the orphans "on tab", as it were. She had just received word her father had died in Osaka, meaning she was one of us, too…orphans. Shampoo, on the other hand. I don't think she intended to reopen. Not without her great-grandmother. It had really been Cologne's business, after all. Mousse maybe, but I don't think he'd be allowed to.

Besides all that, life was returning to normal – some semblance of normality, anyway. A "new" normal as it were.

Until the next big thing hit, and when it did it rocked what was left of the world.


I had just come in from the dojo and was about to head to the furo. Akane was in the dining room, idly flipping through some magazines. I saw "Today's Bride" and "Modern Japanese Wedding" and winced. Ever since things calmed down, Akane had been all gung ho about getting our wedding back on track, with all the gusto and zeal that her father used to. When I asked, Akane had reminded me that getting us married had been her father's final request on his deathbed. She then asked me if I was willing to go through with it, and I nervously said "Of course".

And I was. Willing, I mean, to get married. But the way Akane obsessed on those magazines; making notes and comments and asking questions, just caused a creepy crawly chill to run up my spine every time and I had to resist the urge to run for the hills and hide.

In fact, Akane was about to corner me to barrage me with questions when Nabiki entered the room and turned on the telly. What we heard next left us all speechless.

"...life. For those of you just joining us, the United States organization S.E.T.I. announced today that they have received a message from deep space. This startling revelation was corroborated by several Astronomical Associations including our own Kokuritsu Tenmondai. We are now going to take you live to Director Fujimitsu Susumu of the Nobeyama Observatory."

The scene shifted to a man in a white lab coat standing outside of an office building of some kind.

"At 2:30pm Tokyo Standard Time, we received the following message from deep space: 'We are aware of the virus that has ravaged your world. We have a cure for the disease and are willing to share it in the interest of peace and cooperation. We will arrive on your world in approximately six of your Earth hours.' The message then gave geographic coordinates for their landing site. These coordinates coincide with the New Tokyo International Airport."

It shifted back to the studio.

"And there you have it. Narita Airport will be home to first contact with aliens. Already, the surviving members of Tokyo's elite are gathering to greet the arriving ship..."

Everyone in the room just gaped at the telly, gobsmacked. Not surprisingly, it was Nabiki who was the first to recover. "So...aliens. Anyone want to place bets on whether or not they'll have some insanely powerful hand to hand combat expert that will wind up challenging Ranma to single combat for Akane?"

I was about to reply to Nabiki's comment with a semi-sarcastic reply when the door to our home was flung open and who would stride in but Kunou. "Tendou Akane! It is glorious to see you on this auspicious day!"

I frowned. We hadn't seen Kunou in a while...not since he got over the plague. I had honestly hoped it would stay that way. I not so subtly moved myself in front of Akane. "Whaddya want, Kunou?"

"Ah, Saotome. I had hoped the recent epidemic would have gone far to sweep your cretinous filth away. I see I am not so lucky. Normally, I would love nothing more than to rid the world of your vile presence, but I am afraid that must wait. I have business today with Tendou Nabiki."

Nabiki frowned at Kunou. "Me? What do you need me for? I told you I'm not selling you pictures anymore."

"Nay. 'Tis not photographs I require at this juncture, but rather your business acumen."

"Oh? And why is that?"

"The recent unfortunate pandemic has left me, Kunou Tatewaki, The Blue Thunder of Furinken High as the sole male heir of the Kunou Clan. My uncles died childless leaving all their assets, including Kunou Heavy Industries, in my care.

I saw Nabiki's eyes grow wide, but she quickly composed herself. Kunou Heavy Industries was not the biggest company in Japan, but it was nothing to sneeze at, either. "And?"

"Well, this may come as a shock to you, but mighty warrior that I am I am not in possession of fine business sense."

"Really? I wouldn't have guessed." Nabiki drawled sarcastically.

"But then, I saw the news today, and I realized that the company that had an exclusive contract with these benevolent aliens would easily be on top. And that company will be my company. And who better to negotiate then you, Tendou Nabiki."

"Me? Surely a company as big as Kunou Heavy Industries must have a team of negotiators more qualified than me."

"HAD a team. Most of them did not survive the last two weeks. And as for the others...I'm not sure who of them I can trust to get the job done. But I know you, Tendou Nabiki. We have been classmates since primary school. Never have I seen you lose a negotiation. And never have I seen you fail to achieve a goal once you have set your mind to it. That makes you, in my opinion, perfect for this task."

Nabiki stared at Kunou a moment. You could practically see the gears turning in her brain. "Are you offering me a job, Kunou?"

"Indeed."

Again Nabiki paused a moment. Then she nodded. "Let me change quick. Then we can negotiate my new salary on the way there." She ran upstairs.

Kunou again turned his attention to Akane. "My apologies, Tendou Akane, but I cannot bring thee, too. Necessity has dictated I bring my sister as well. And my sister would most likely attack you on sight." He paused. "That is something I need address before we wed."

After shuddering for a moment, Akane stood up and ran around the table to hit Kunou. However, Kunou had chosen to depart on that comment, leaving her with nothing to hit. She reluctantly sat down again, grumbling about the idiot.

A minute or two later, Nabiki hurried down the stairs. She was now dressed in business wear. I ran up to her before she could leave. "Nabiki..." I started warningly.

She glared at me, using that same mercenary look I'd seen on her for most of the past year. "Saotome, I messed with your life and I'm trying to make up for it, but right now you need to shut up and let me do this. For once in his life, Kunou-chan is right. Anyone who manages to make a deal with those aliens will be dictating world business for the next fifty to a hundred years. It could set this family up for life, and Kunou has just given me an opening through the front door. I'm damn well going to make use of it. Screw this up for me, Saotome, and I'll make you pay, brother-in-law or not. You'll spend the rest of your life making back every Yen you cost this family any way you can, up to and including renting "Ranko" out to interested parties to help with the re-population efforts! Are we clear?"

I visibly shuddered. "I really didn't need that image, Nabiki. I was just gonna say be careful. Somethin' 'bout all this is givin' me a bad feeling, okay?"

Nabiki's mask slipped for a moment, and I could tell she was honestly touched by my concern. But a moment later it was back again, and she broke into a smirk. "Why Saotome, I didn't realize you were developing women's intuition."

I glared at her.

"Don't worry. This is just a business thing. I'm sure police and the S.D.F. will be there in case something happens.

I nodded, still uncertain.

Behind me, Akane yelled. "Knock 'em dead, sis!"

Nabiki nodded, still smirking. "Hey, when it comes to business, Tendou Nabiki don't lose." And with that, she left.

Maybe I was developing women's intuition, because as I stared at the empty doorframe that Nabiki had just walked through, I had a funny feeling she'd never walk through it again.

Behind me, Kasumi seemed to echo my thoughts. "Oh my! I hope she'll be alright."

Akane snorted. "Nabiki? Trust me, not only will she make the deal, but she'll probably swindle Kunou out of at least half the company on the way back."

I said nothing as the ill feeling I had was creeping me out. After a few moments, Akane turned back to her magazines and I took that as a cue to head upstairs and out of her sights. I figured maybe a nap would stop this sense of foreboding.


About three hours later, the three of us, as well as Shampoo, Ukyo, Mousse and Konatsu all gathered in front of the telly to watch the big event. Even though the plague was over, local government was in such disarray that they had not lifted the emergency ordinance restricting non-essential businesses from operating. So Ucchan's still couldn't reopen, and as said before I don't think Shampoo ever intended to. That meant both of them had a lot of spare time on their hands, and both had been regular dinner guests the last few days, with Mousse and Konatsu more often than not tagging along. My guess is they got used to eating dinner here when they were helping out with Kasumi's hospice, and they never bothered to change the habit. Kasumi didn't mind, of course. She was used to cooking with our parents there. Akane always hid the wedding magazines the moment they showed up. If either one of them so much as caught of sniff of wedding plans we'd be back to the war again.

When the four showed up, the only thing Ukyo and Shampoo could talk about was the aliens.

"I wonder if they're going to look like little green men."

"No, Shampoo think they be super strong women!"

"How do we know they even look human? They could look like space dogs or ca-sorry, Ranma."

I glared at Akane for her comment and settled down to watch.

Moments later, NHK switched to show the scene live at Narita. Apparently, the Great and the Good had gathered there. By "the Great and the Good" I mean the rich and the influential - some exerting that influence for the first time, like Kunou. Millionaires, celebrities, and the nobility, all gathering on the main strip in Narita, all awaiting the aliens and their shot at planet-wide fame. After looking for a bit, I managed to see Kunou, Kodachi, and Nabiki standing patiently, waiting. Well, Nabiki was waiting patiently, not losing her cool. Kunou was looking around the scene like a samurai surveying his land for threats, and Kodachi was looking haughtily at the rest of the crowd, apparently trying to make them all leave with her stare alone. It wasn't working.

"Look, there's Nabiki on the right!"

The others murmured their appreciation. "Nabiki so lucky. Shampoo wish that Shampoo could have gone."

I again had that foreboding twinge. However, Ukyo's next comment wiped it from my mind. "You know, I always thought that Ranchan would be the first person I knew on television."

I had to grimace. While I would have liked the acclaim for my martial arts skill and prowess, with my luck over the past year, my debut on the news would probably wind up with me being blamed for the destruction of some historical landmark in one of my fights. I could see the headlines "National Manhunt Underway for Boy Who Destroyed Sacred Shrine". Thing is, it'd probably be Ryouga or Tarou or someone who destroyed it, it'd just be me who was seen afterwards and winds up stuck with the blame. That's sort of how my life works.

Then the clock hit eight thirty. There was a commotion, and after a moment the camera panned upwards. It took another moment to refocus.

There, in the night sky, was a flying saucer. It looked like the kind you saw in cheesy movies from the fifties, sixties, and pre-Star Wars seventies...or Gojira movies...only much better designed. And this one was real. It spun slowly in the air, descending, preparing to land. And land it did. Softly, smoothly, like gravity was of no concern to it at all. They owned that space on the ground like they had owned the sky a few moments before.

The camera panned back to the people in attendance. Most of them had straightened visibly, almost quivering in anticipation. Only Nabiki seemed unphased, standing patiently waiting for the flying saucer to open.

And open it did.

On the side facing the attending crowd, a ramp began to descend from the lower half of the saucer. With agonizing slowness, it dropped, leaving the cameraman plenty of time to pan between the ramp and the crowd. Everyone looked restless, even slightly nervous. Finally, the ramp hit the ground.

Nothing happened. The only sound on the tarmac was the wind. Other than that, you could hear a pin drop. The crowd began to get more and more agitated.

Finally, you could hear one of the news people say "studio can we cut out? Nothing's happ-" And at that exact moment, a shadow appeared in the door of the spaceship.

It was nothing like we expected.

It was metal, black, and a tall tapering cylinder, ending in a dome. Sort of like someone put a bullhorn on its end. But instead of the handle, there were three protrusions. The one on the top looked like a camera or lens on a stick of some kind, and one of the two on the midsection looked like a plunger, the other a tube of some kind. It didn't look pleasant, whatever it was.

It stopped at the top of the ramp and looked down at the crowd. "Which of you will speak for your world? Answer!" The voice was harsh and metallic. Warning bells were going off in my head. By the looks of some of the crowd, I wasn't the only one.

After a moment, a small official scurried forward. "I represent the Imperial Family of Japan. We apologize for the nonattendance of the family themselves, but they are currently in mourning."

"That is irrelevant! Your world will submit immediately!"

The man looked up "I...I'm not at liberty to make such an act."

"Also irrelevant! Your world will submit at once!"

The man just gaped like a fish.

I watched all this, my combat sense flaring warningly, behind the man I was sure I saw the briefest flash of metal on the camera, more of a gunmetal grey than a black, but moving like the other. I didn't like this, and I wished Nabiki would just run.

Speaking of Nabiki, it was her who finally responded. "You CAN'T just expect us to just roll over and submit. I'm sure if you're willing to negotiate we can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. But we aren't just going to surrender."

"There will be NO negotiation! If you will not submit, then you will be exterminated! EXTERMINATE!"

A beam shot out from the alien, and shot through the representative. Briefly, his skeleton could be seen in the corona of the blast. Then he collapsed, dead.

The crowd panicked at that point, and turned to leave. They got two maybe two steps in before stopping. Like I had seen before, there were more of the monsters behind them...shiny grey ones surrounding the airfield in a ring, leaving no exit.

The Police and the S.D.F. had gotten over the shock and begun to open fire on the aliens as well as the spaceship. As they did so, even more of these aliens became to come out of the ship. They began to fire at the police and army, each shot killing with lethal intensity. The television rang out with the sound of the dying protectors of Japan. At one point, I heard a voice screaming to cut the feed, but no cut came.

After a few minutes, only the crowd of V.I.P.s remained, surrounded by a ring of aliens.

For a moment the camera panned at them and I could see Nabiki. She was muttering something under her breath. Now, Soun's telly wasn't the best in the world, no 1080p HD or anything like that, but I knew what she was saying right then. Curse you and your 'women's intuition', Saotome, you were right.

She spoke up. "So, that's it? No negotiation or deliberation? You are just going to kill us?"

"Correct."

"Could I make some last words, then?"

The alien paused, as if deliberating. "That...is...allowed."

Nabiki took a moment to compose herself, then stared straight at the NHK camera. "Saotome, take care of my sisters. Then, when they're safe, kick the asses of these tin cans straight to hell."

She turned back to the alien and glared defiantly.

The alien paused for a moment. "Who is this...Sa-o-to-me?"

Nabiki smirked. "Someone who's trained his entire life to take down monsters like you. In the year I've known him, he never backs down, and he never loses. He doesn't know the meaning of the word 'failure'."

The alien moved oddly. Somehow, I got the picture that that was the equivalent of it shaking with rage. When he spoke again, the voice was thick with it. "He will learn! Let failing to save you be his first lesson! EXTERMINATE!"

The head alien fired, point blank, into Nabiki. The energy corona flared around her, for a moment her skeleton was visible to the naked eye. Then, due to the close proximity and power behind the blast, even that dissolved. When the blast ended, only dust and charred pieces of bone fell to the ground.

There was a collective gasp from the room I was in. Kasumi gave a sob. Akane just stared, her brain shut down in sheer disbelief. I moved to comfort her.

None of us were prepared for a shout coming from the television.

"Monstrous fiends! I was willing to look past your horrific countenance in the interest of interstellar peace, but to kill not only the Emperor's Hand, and his just defenders, but also the fair Tendou Nabiki leaves me no choice! Prepare yourself!" Kunou had drawn his Katana and had charged the alien, who seemed to give off an air of confusion. "I strike!"

Now in retrospect, I wonder if Kunou might have had a crush on Nabiki, possibly for a long time, but fear of rejection and in his insanity he transposed those feelings onto Akane and myself. However, I can't be certain, and the mental state of Kunou is rather academic at this point.

Kuno struck with a textbook Kendo strike right into the alien's side. Unsurprisingly, it seemed to do nothing.

However, to my surprise the alien jerked back "I am under attack! EXTERMINATE!"

Kunou's still smoking corpse soon joined Nabiki's remains on the ground. He didn't even have a chance to dodge.

I was on my feet at this point. I knew I couldn't arrive to help in time, and to be honest even if I could I wouldn't know what I could do. But I felt the need to do SOMETHING.

"BROTHER DEAR!"

Kodachi and Tatewaki had never been close. But Kunou had been her only surviving family member. Now, she was alone, and she was angry. However, like Kunou, she was futile. The alien gunned her down before she got halfway to it, ribbon in hand.

The remaining alien began opening fire on the remaining civilians. People began to fall left and right. They milled about like cattle, trying desperately to flee, but everywhere they turn, there was an alien with its death ray. Again the TV began to sound with the screams of the dying.

While this horror was going on, the lead alien rolled up to the camera.

"The Daleks are now the masters of Earth! All humans will leave their homes and await further instruction! The males, the Females, the descendants; all humans will obey Dalek commands without question! Any and all resistance will be met with Extermination! These are the orders of your Superiors! You will obey the Daleks! Obey! OBEY! OBEEEEY!"

And with that, the alien fired on the NHK camera and the screen went to static, followed quickly by the emergency pattern.


Next Chapter: Invasion

Chapter Text

Chapter Three
Invasion

I looked around at the others in the room with me. Akane still stared blankly at the telly, her mind failing to process what she saw. Next to her, Kasumi sobbed and was being comforted by Shampoo and Ukyo. Mousse and Konatsu were behind them; both had tensed up and were in combat mode, like me.

Fortunately my mind was working. I'd had enough mental trauma recently that I was just numb to it. I felt nothing, but the battle computer in my brain was still fully functional. "We need to get out of here."

Mousse nodded. Konatsu said nothing; it wasn't his place.

"Those things are gunna have to kill th' police and military backup that are probably arriving at Narita airport 'bout now. Afterwards, they're gunna come and pick up th' people, like they said. They'll probably fan out and search district by district. We're on the opposite side of Tokyo, so we have a bit a' time. We need ta find a place ta hide."

"But where?"

I thought about it for a minute. Nothing immediately sprung to mind. I mean, I had six people to watch over, and hide them from creatures I had no real knowledge of how to defeat. I mean, we'd need room enough to stay in, but hidden...something like to gymnasium at school, only under...

I slammed my fist down on my hand. "Principal Kunou's secret office!"

Mousse stared at me confused.

"Kunou's old man was our principal, an' he was crazier than Kunou. He converted th' basement under th' gymnasium into a twisted version 'a Hawaii...an' had his secret office down there. It's damn near impossible ta find. It's perfect!"

The others stared at me for a moment. I thought maybe I had actually said the stupidest thing ever. Then Mousse shrugged. "Works for me. I got nowhere else."

Konatsu simply nodded. He was in full ninja mode at this point, not talking.

The girls were still too stunned to say anything. I grabbed the still-insensate Akane. "Don't bother getting anything. We'll come back later when it's safe, but we have to go NOW!"

With that, we fled; fled our home, our one real refuge over the past year. And we ran, pell-mell to the school.


By the time we reached the Furinkan gates, we actually had a bit of a following. Several of our classmates had seen Nabiki's death on the Telly, and had decided to come out of their homes looking for us to see what we'd do. They had thought we would know what to do, and they were almost right. Upon finding us running in the streets, they followed along. Daisuke and Hiroshi, the closest things to friends I had in my class were there. I was also happy to note that Yuka and Saiyuri, Akane's two best friends in the class, we also present. I hoped that maybe they'd be able to help her get out of this blank shock state she was in.

We saw other people filing out of their homes, like sheep, not wanting to do it but scared of not complying. Fifty years ago, the people of Japan would have grabbed arms and fought to the last. But this was not fifty years ago. Japan was by and large a pacifist nation, now, so th thought of resistance hadn't even entered the minds of some. But a few, seeing us, had the common sense to follow as well.

Now, I wish it could be said I did my best Paul Revere imitation at this time. That I had yelled at the top of my lungs "The Daleks are coming! Come with me if you want to live!" Okay, so Paul Revere meets Arnold Schwarzenegger. Either way, I didn't. I said nothing. I just kept running. Nabiki had asked me to do one thing; keep her sisters safe. Not that I didn't intend to anyway, but that was added pressure now. And my mind kept going back to the slaughter I saw on the screen. I kept running it over in my mind, looking for anything, any trace of a weakness I could use to defeat these things. The problem was I kept coming up with nothing. The only odd reaction was when Kunou hit it. And I didn't have enough there to go on.

The School gates were closed, and had been for almost three weeks. Not really a problem. I leaped over the gate with practiced ease and opened it from the other side. We all made our way to the gymnasium, and with ease, opened the door to the deceased principal's underground lair. Once everyone was inside, I locked and bolted the door.

Only when I turned around did I realize what was in the basement with us.

Apparently, Principal Kunou's latest adventure in Psychotic Principaling 101 involved acquiring around 100 or so howler monkeys and training them to shave heads. He'd managed the former, and had only half finished the latter. So now we were staring down 100 or so pissed off howler monkeys that had just had their home invaded by about 20 teenagers and young adults.

Thus the remains of Team Ranma gathered together to face off against the Haircut Howler Monkeys from Hell.

They were well rested, well fed, and angry. We were tired and in shock. We also didn't want to make a lot of noise.

We let them go first.


About 10 minutes later, the howlers fell back to the far side of the room to nurse their wounds. We stopped to rest near the center. I was giving wary looks to the bananas and pineapples and coconuts, knowing the Old Pineapple-head used to like to rig them to explode. Still, the monkeys seem to be doing okay, and between the shock, the running and the fighting, I was starved. I reached out and grabbed a banana, earning me a death glare from the howler monkeys. I ignored it, peeled the top and took a bite.

The banana was good.

I was, in fact, so engrossed in eating and was on my fifth banana that I didn't hear a thing before the door exploded inward. "Life forms detected! Exterminate!"

I hit the deck, chagrining myself because everyone else already had. I remember thinking to myself that this was it. This is how I die. Cowering in a basement like some little girl. Pop would be so pissed.

It was about this time that the howlers decided they had had enough, and bolted for the door.

The dalek, surprisingly, backed off as the monkeys ran at them. "Scanning...life forms identified! Non-sentient primate. Not important! Ignore!"

And the dalek turned and left. Just like that. It assumed all the life forms in the room were monkeys. Now, normally I'd be a bit offended at being mistaken for a monkey. However at this point, I was just relieved.

It was a good ten minutes before anyone spoke. "Great idea, Saotome." Mousse said sarcastically. "You nearly got us killed."

"Hey! We're still alive, ain't we?"

"Only by your sheer dumb luck."

I could not argue with that.

Instead, I changed the subject. "We're gonna have'ta find a new place ta hide."

Konatsu nodded. "Yes, they'll probably check here again in a day or two. But where?"

I kept my mouth shut. I had no clue.


It was a couple of hours later when the answer presented itself, and from the most unlikely of sources.

Akane and I were sitting near the Principal's desk in the middle of the room. She had recovered, mostly, and was now sobbing next to me. I was awkwardly doing my best to comfort her. Even though we'd all been facing death the last two weeks, there was a difference between dying sick in bed, and being brutally murdered on TV in front of the eyes of the whole world. And having it be her sister made it too much for Akane to bear. The only reason I was okay at the moment was I was still going on "Fight or Flight" adrenaline, even hours later. I knew we weren't safe.

As I sat there, stroking the back of Akane's sobbing head and trying my damnedest to think of a better hiding place my nose detected a foul odor drifting in, and getting closer. Also, my combat senses began to detect movement coming from near the blasted down door. I leapt to my feet, surprising Akane. "Show yourself!"

A figure stepped out of the shadows. "Ranma-dono?"

My jaw dropped. It was Sasuke, the Kunou family ninja retainer. "Sasuke? I kinda figured th' plague got ya."

The little ninja rolled his eyes. "Please, Ranma-dono, I'm not that old."

"Uh...how old are ya?"

"I'm thirty-one."

I blinked. "Seriously? Ya look older."

"Working for the Kunous has a tendency to make one age prematurely, Ranma-dono."

I blinked again. I could buy that. "Why are ya here?"

"I come on the legal matter of the Kunou Estate."

A bead of sweat formed on my head. "Sasuke, this ain't th' time-"

"Please, Ranma-dono. This is my last duty to the Kunou Clan. I MUST finish this."

I let out a sigh. "All right. It's not like we've got anything better ta do." I sat down again.

Akane stood up and was about to walk off when Sasuke spoke up again. "Please, Akane-dono. You need to remain as well.

Akane looked to me. I shrugged. At least it would momentarily get her mind off of the Telly...and what we saw. Akane sat down again, and I, without thinking about it, resumed stroking her hair. She didn't protest.

Sasuke spoke up "You see, not only am I the retainer for the Kunous, but I was also their guardian in absentia of their father, and also the executor of the estate." I looked at the ninja in shock. "Normally, we'd have a lawyer do this, but as all the lawyers are being rounded up by the aliens or killed, I will do it myself."

He cleared his throat and began.

"I, Kunou Tatewaki, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, being of perfect mind and magnificent body -"

I gave a derisive snort. Akane rolled her eyes. "Mouuuu"

Sasuke looked at the both of us. "Might I continue?"

"Sorry. Go on."

"- body, do hereby declare this to be my Last Will and Testament. If this is being read, no doubt I am dead, probably slain in some heroic battle, or laid low by the foul deeds of Saotome."

Again, I snorted. Sasuke said nothing about that one and continued.

"In the event of this heroic demise, I leave the entire Kunou Estate and fortune to my dear sister Kodachi, provided she was not the one that killed me.

"If Kodachi did kill me, or is killed at the same time as me, I leave the following:

"To the lovely Tendou Akane, my true love, I leave the vast Kunou family fortunes and businesses. Surely the wealth involved there could assist her in buying her way out of the arranged marriage with Saotome."

"Not happening." Akane said.

I added my own two cents. "'Sides, th' Yen is useless, an' all the business are either gunna be stopped or taken over by th' aliens. Kinda a worthless inheritance."

"Not that I'd want one from Kunou-sempai, anyway."

Sasuke continued, eye twitching slightly.

"To the fiery Pigtailed Girl, also my true love, I leave the Kunou properties, minus the businesses, and all titles that go with them, in the hopes that this newfound status will get her out of the clutches of that vile womanizer, Saotome."

I twitched. Sasuke put the paper down. "The rest is just burial requests, which cannot be done due to the situation."

"So, ah, why are ya tellin' this ta me? Shouldn't ya be lookin' for th' pigtailed girl?"

"Ranma-dono: I know. Tatewaki-dono had me spying you know and again. I've seen you change. I know you are the pigtailed girl."

Akane piped up. "Why didn't you tell Kunou-sempai?"

"I did, but neither he nor Kodachi-dono would listen. Kodachi-dono thought I was making things up, and Tatewaki-dono thought I'd been enspelled."

Akane nodded her head. "That sounds like them. Well, Ranma, you got houses you can't live in unless you want to be found by the aliens and killed. It sounds like your inheritance is as bad as mine."

The gears in my head were turning. "Maybe...maybe not. Sasuke, ya remember that underground area under th' mansion?"

"The House of Traps?"

"Yeah, that's th' place. What else is under there?"

"Mostly emergency tunnels in case of a siege. Oh! And Kunou-donos' grandfather had a bomb shelter put in in the early 1950s. It's down deep."

I looked up. "A bomb shelter? That's it!" I stood up. "Guys, I think I got a new hiding place for us." A thought occurred to me. "Sasuke, ya drove Kunou ta the Airfield, didn't ya?"

"Yes."

"Why weren't ya with them?"

Sasuke looked down. "Tatewaki-dono had me stay in the car. However, I could see the even in one of screens in the airport. When Kodachi and Tatewaki-dono were killed...I fled." He looked ashamed.

I, however, merely nodded. In this case I probably would have done the same thing. "And how did ya get back without th' aliens seeing you?"

"I used the sewers."

THAT explained the funk that I had smelled. "Okay, guys. Here's th' plan."


At two in the morning, we set out from Furinkan to the Kunou mansion, going largely by sewer and storm tunnel, surfacing only when we needed air. It was slow going, trying to avoid patrols and keeping the group of twenty civilians alive and quiet.

About halfway through the trip, I realized we weren't far from the Dojo. I turned to the others and whispered. "Guys, I'll catch up. I need ta get a few things."

"Be careful, Ranma-dono."

Quickly, I headed off to the dojo, to get my travelling pack, and my Pop's. It had some supplies and some training gear, and we'd need it. As I quietly made my way down to where the Tofu Clinic was, I noticed something odd. The lights were on. I decided to investigate.

The door to the clinic was unlocked. I was certain we had locked it when we were done using it for hospice care. And there was someone moving around...something human. I stepped out, blocking the door. "All right, jerk, I don't know who ya are, but trying ta loot here is a BIG mis -"

"Oh! Hello, Ranma! I didn't expect to see you tonight."

I about tripped over my tongue, trying to switch gears in my brain. "…Ta-Ta-TOFU-SENSEI?"

It was, in fact, Dr. Tofu. Standing there smiling benevolently. "It's been awhile." He looked around. "It looks like someone used this place while I was away."

Still trying to get my brain in order, I replied "Yeah, Kasumi decided ta use th' place as an emergency care hospice when th' plague hit. We didn't think ya'd mind."

His glasses fogged slightly, but only slightly. "No. I would have done the same myself if I was here. How is-"

"Doc, we ain't got time for this. Everyone's in real danger right now, and I need ya ta come with me."

That cleared his glasses up. "Danger, what kind of danger?"

"I'll explain on th' way. Come on! Wait. Get bandages, antiseptic...anything else ya can carry. But hurry!"


A few minutes later, Tofu and I were running through the sewers. His face was grim. I had just finished telling him of the current situation. "So we're going to take refuge in the Kunou underground?"

"Yeah. Safest place I could think of. What about you, Doc? Where have you been?"

"China."

"Oh? Why'd ya go there?"

"Well, I suddenly had five patients that were inflicted by an unknown disease, so I felt it was my duty as a doctor to find as much research on it as I could."

"Wait. Who was sick?"

Yeah. I wouldn't earn any MENSA invites back then.

"Ranma, I mean you; and your father, Ryouga, Shampoo, and Mousse."

"Huh? Oh, ya mean the curse."

"Yes, Ranma. Jusenkyo was virtually unknown here in Japan until you and your friend showed up. So I decided to go into China and consult their medical texts."

I nodded. "Didja find anything?"

"Unfortunately, no. I checked in the Medical Archives at Peking University, asked about it at The University of Hong Kong. I even checked at Lanzhou and Sichuan Universities, the two biggest universities in Qinghai. Nothing. No information whatsoever. So I finally decided to go to Jusenkyo itself, but when I got there, it had been flooded."

I winced. I caused that flood, and it was not the most pleasant of personal memories.

Tofu continued. "So I made my way back here. I got as far as Osaka before the plague hit, and I was waylaid there, first helping with the victims, and then being one myself. Finally when things let up, I took off again for home. I just got in a few minutes before you showed up."

"Ya got lucky, Doc. I'm surprised th' aliens didn't see ya on the way in." Then again, I could never sense Tofu either.

The conversation was cut short there, because we had arrived. I motioned him to be quiet and climbed out of the storm tunnel we had been travelling in. There, in front of us, was the Kunou Mansion. Offhandedly, I wondered what to do with Mr. Green Turtle, Kodachi's pet crocodile. It's really not something I needed to deal with right there, but it just popped into my brain.

My musing was cut short when a voice called out from beyond the gate. "Ranma-dono?"

"Sasuke! Yes it's me. I've also found someone else I'm bringing in."

"Very well, Ranma-dono. I'll let you in and guide you through the traps."

The three of us walked gingerly through the tunnels under the Kunou mansion, making sure to follow in Sasuke's step and do exactly what he motioned us to do. When we were far enough in, I decided to make some discussion. "So, how did the Kunou family get a bomb shelter?"

"Well, Ranma-dono, Kuno-dono's grandfather was a businessman, even during World War II. His leg had been injured at a young age, and therefore could not qualify for the military. So he founded Kunou Heavy Industries to make armaments for the war effort. He had factories and warehouses all over Japan. One of the warehouses was in Nagasaki. He was due on August Ninth, 1945 to make an inspection tour of the warehouse, to try and find any remaining armaments for the Japanese people. He was delayed by a few hours due to transit issues. That saved his life, or he would have been killed in the blast. He arrived to see the devastation caused.

"Afterward, he was jumpy, paranoid that Japan would make the United States drop another bomb. This got worse in the fifties and sixties, when the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia heated up; to the point he came obsessed with the danger."

"So, in other words, he was a Kunou."

"He decided to spend his personal fortune to ensure his family's safety by making sure the Kunou Estate had its own shelter. The rest of the family thought he was crazy, but he continued determinedly on. He purchased only the highest grade Alaskan lead and Detroit steel, and had the outer shell constructed in a cavern dug beneath the mansion. He didn't stop until he was sure the whole clan could survive down there a thousand years."

It occurs to me now that even if the Kunous had survived a nuclear holocaust down there for a millennium, what would have come out would have been more inbred than a redneck family reunion in the Deep South. I mean, we're talking Egyptian Pharaoh Dynastic inbreeding here, and it didn't exactly work well for them. It took only around a thousand years for recessive traits to start breeding true in the Royal families of Europe, and that was a half dozen families interbreeding, not just one. Still, Kunous aren't exactly known for their wisdom and common sense.

Sasuke led us through what seemed like miles of tunnels, sometimes hitting a secret lever or stud...sometimes telling us where and when to step. Finally, he moved aside a secret wall. There, inside, was a steel ladder leading down. "Here we are, Ranma-dono."

"Was all that really needed, Sasuke?"

The little ninja shrugged. "All the Kunou family secrets are very well kept."

"And they're my secrets now." I moaned.

The ninja nodded. "Indeed, Ranma-dono"

"Well, look on the bright side, Ranma. If it's hard for you, it'll probably be hard for the aliens."

"Let's hope so, Sensei."


We descended.

After what seemed an eternity of descending, rung after rung, I finally reached bottom. "Wow. I'm surprised there's no elevator."

"There is, but the others took it."

I glared at Sasuke a moment, then gave up and looked around.

I had been expecting a small, cramped, enclosure where we'd all be rubbing elbows all the time and never had any privacy. I had forgotten this was Kunou made.

There was plush red carpeting, high domed ceilings with imported chandeliers, and space, space, space! The structure just seemed to go on and on. "THIS is a bomb shelter?"

"Indeed, Ranma-dono."

"It has ta be as big as th' estate above!"

"Bigger, actually. Kashi-dono needed additional space when he decided it would be more effective to switch to geothermal power."

I was still boggling at the immensity of it when another voice cut in. "TOFU!"

We blinked a moment before Tofu was slammed into by a Kasumi-shaped blur that glomped onto him, sobbing. "Where did you go? You've been gone so long?"

I watched carefully. Tofu's glasses started to fog, but with Kasumi sobbing instead of her usual cheerful self, he was able to focus it away. It seemed that his trip to China wasn't a complete waste after all. He had control. It wasn't absolute, but it was at least workable.

He looked at Kasumi's sad face. It had really been a hard few weeks for her. She had just been better at hiding it than the rest of us. But Nabiki's death had put her over the limit. Tofu opened his mouth to try to explain, but nothing came out.

After a moment, I decided to rescue him. "Tofu went into China followin' some leads he had for a cure for me an' the others."

Kasumi gave a brief smile "Did you find one?"

Tofu shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid not."

I piped in "But that ain't important right now! We have other things ta worry about at the moment."

Tofu nodded and went to look at the other refugees.


Considering the time and the amount of activity and trauma, we all decided to bed down for the night to get a grip on things and let it all sink in. Even though I severely protested at it, everyone insisted I take the Master Bedroom. After all, this was MY estate now, and hiding here was MY idea.

That is how I wound up lying in a big soft four poster bed staring up at the ceiling for the rest of the morning. Even in luxury, I could not sleep. Two weeks ago, my only real pressing worry was trying to find a way to take Akane out without alerting Shampoo and Ukyo. Now, I was responsible for the protection of twenty-four individuals from the forces of invading aliens. I had been trained to fight, not to lead. I was royally out of my depths, and I knew it. My head kept going over what I had seen on the telly. Something about Kunou's attack kept bugging me, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Still, I couldn't keep my mind on that all morning. I had to think of the future, and what to do next.

Only I had no idea.


It was around midday that we survivors gathered in the dining hall. It took me two or three tries to locate it, since we had not yet toured this underground mansion. Eventually, I was able to I follow my nose to where Kasumi had cooked a breakfast with the rations available for the group. I sat down and drank some tea. I felt sore and exhausted, and was no closer to solving my problems than when I went to bed.

Ukyo came in, and sat down. "Ran-chan, you look terrible."

"Well, I feel terrible, so it fits."

"What's wrong?"

"I'm just havin' a hard time gettin' a handle on all this. This ain't like fightin' Kirin, or Toma, or Herb, or Saffron, or any of our other nutjob enemies."

Ukyo nodded.

A long silence passed as I sipped my tea.

Ukyo finally said. "We really don't know anything about the aliens. We need more intelligence."

"Yeah, I'm really missing Nabiki an' Cologne right now."

There was a pause, more or less the length of a drum beat. "No...I mean like Military style intelligence. You know...information on the enemy?"

"Yeah, but that's really dangerous...I mean, I'd need a..."

Then it hit me. I knew what I had to do. Looking around the table I found who I was looking for.

"'Natsu, I want you an' Sasuke ta work together today on lookout."

Sasuke bowed. "Yes, Ranma-dono."

Konatsu just nodded.

"I'd like you two ta learn from each other, teach each other your techniques for hiding and stealth."

"Yes, Ranma-dono."

Konatsu hesitated a moment, then nodded his assent.

"Learn as much as ya can from each other, because starting tomorrow, you're both going ta teach th' rest of this crowd as much as they're capable of learning."

Sasuke bowed. "Yes, Ranma-dono!"

Konatsu, however, frowned. "Ranma-sama, I owe you much. But I am not your manservant, and some of those techniques are secret kunoichi techniques. I cannot teach them to just anyone."

I sighed. "'Natsu...normally I wouldn't ask this of ya, but I NEED lookouts. I can't have you two up there 24 hours a day. An' besides, as th' best people here at stealth, I'm going to need you ta spy on th' enemy."

He blinked. "'Spy'?"

"Yeah, spy. I need ya ta find out things like how often th' aliens are going ta patrol, where they're keeping people captive, an' find out what they're up ta."

"I see."

"Besides, I'm also gunna teach anyone capable of learning th' Umisenkan."

Sasuke and Konatsu looked at me in confusion. I assume Kunou or Kodachi had Sasuke elsewhere at the time of the Ryu Kumon incident, and Konatsu hadn't shown up yet. Neither knew I was referring to. I sighed. "It's a secret family martial arts technique for stealth. A sealed one. I promised Pops I'd never unseal it unless it's life or death." I didn't tell him it was a technique my father designed for breaking into houses.

"Truly, Ranma? You'd really unseal that?"

"'Natsu, over half th' planet is dead, an' as far as I know it's just us versus a bunch of aliens that have enslaved th' rest of th' population. This is as life or death as it gets."

Konatsu thought for a moment, and bowed his head. "I understand, Ranma-sama. You are certainly wise. I will do as you ask of me."

I nodded my thanks.


After breakfast, Konatsu and Sasuke took their leave to go keep an eye out for the aliens. The rest of us took the time to tour the "bunker" and see what was there. It was truly a testament to what someone with too much money and not enough sense can do. There were rooms and rooms in the mansion...areas filled with non-perishable foodstuffs, a library, a large artificially lit and watered hydroponics area, which I thought of as a "greenhouse", even a dojo, which I was pleased to see. The dojo was lacking in some equipment, but nothing I couldn't grab from the Tendous when the coast was clear. We even took a tour of the Geothermal Generator...which I didn't understand at the time...I just smiled and nodded and was glad we had power off the grid and it wasn't going away soon.

Even with all this, I was still concerned about the food situation. While it was there, the "greenhouse" as I called it wasn't set up, and none of us were really farmers, though Kasumi seemed willing to work on it, and I'm sure she could rope a few of the other refugees to help if it meant eventually not eating canned soup, spam, and baked beans every meal. In the meantime, I figured we could raid a store when it was safe and get some fresh food before it all went bad.

As we got back, we received our first surprise. Konatsu and Sasuke came back, with a new refugee. He was clad in a tattered JSDF uniform, and by the looks of him he had been on the run all night. He had a tired haggard look on his face, and what was left of the uniform was covered in blood, only some of which was his own.

His name was Yamada Shinichi, or Shinichi Yamada in the western style, and he had a story to tell us.


Yamada sat in the kitchen, hastily drinking tea and devouring the meagre leftovers from that morning's breakfast. Between bites, he tried to speak.

"My name is Sergeant First Class Yamada of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force 1st Division's First Reconnaissance Unit. As far as I know, I am the last survivor of the JSDF in this area...possibly the JSDF in total."

That caused every face in the room to gape at him. Nerima was home to Camp Nerima, which housed the whole 1st Division of the JGSDF. It was not too far north of here in Wako City. It had over 6,000 people attached to it. Add in a few of the units unattached to the 1st Division, that was around 7,500 JGSDF members in the area. Then you total in the Japanese Airbourne Self Defense Force and the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, who also had bases in the area, that's probably around 10,000 people. And now we are being told that the man in front of us is the sole survivor of all those forces, nearly the whole of Eastern Japan's military. A chill passed through the room, seeming to hit everyone simultaneously, who gave a collective shiver.

He paused, and continued.

"We were scrambled not long after the announcement that there were aliens coming. I'm not sure how, but someone cut through all the chaos and red tape and got us out there. Our primary task was to protect the Imperial Household should things go south. We called up the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Division out of Chiba and got a squadron of tanks out of Komakado and set up a perimeter around the Palace. We had troops stationed within and without. We also wanted to set up a cordon around Narita Airport but that got shot down by the higher ups...they said it would look too aggressive."

A couple of people snorted derisively, and got glared down by the rest. Hindsight always has perfect vision; it's foresight that needs to go to Vision Express for a new pair of specs.

"Our support vehicle had a link to NHK television, so we could watch the proceedings at the airport. When the Imperial Emissary and that young lady died…"

Akane and Kasumi sobbed. Tofu looked down, most of the others shifted uncomfortably in their seats. However, that may have been because I had just put finger grooves in the steel table when Nabiki had been brought up.

The man visibly noticed this, swallowed, then hurriedly continued.

"…we were scrambled at once. The JASDF and the 12th Brigade were all called in, and our Anti-Aircraft systems all went live. Additional units were called up, and they went to work on the Mother ship. However, it was useless. As it took off, we peppered it with A-to-A and SAMs, and it didn't even make it to the ship. Once it was fully airborne, it took only a moment, to swat our aircraft out of the sky like gnats. Then they moved...straight toward the palace. Our SAMs fired and again it did nothing. However, instead of using its shipboard weapons, it launched more of the aliens.

"It launched four. We didn't stand a chance. Even tank shells didn't harm them, and one shot from one could take out a tank or any other vehicle's fuel tank and blow it to smithereens. I had been in the command truck, and I BARELY managed to dive out before it went up. I think I survived only by playing dead in the wreckage. With all the thermo heat the burning vehicles surrounding me and the white noise obscuring my heartbeat, I think they assumed I was dead. Once the vehicles were slagged, they systematically took out every outpost and emplacement we had, and we were powerless to stop them. Last I saw, they had moved into the palace proper, and the only thing around me was corpses. I escaped into the sewer system after that."

There was a long uncomfortable silence in the room. "And the Emperor?" I finally asked.

He shook his head. "I don't know. All I got over the radio was screams of the dying. We can only assume if he is alive, he is their prisoner."

There were murmurs and mutters from the table. After a moment, he continued. "After my strategic withdrawal, I headed north to Nerima Base...on foot. I used the sewers as often as possible, only going out to get my bearings. It was dawn before I got there, and...I wish I hadn't. Nerima Base is gone.

"GONE?!" came a collective cry. He nodded.

"Asaka Base, too. Flattened. It looks like the ship moved to that location and just blasted it out of existence from the air. In fact, I'd bet that each military installation in the Tokyo Area got the same response."

I had leapt to my feet when he mentioned the destruction of Nerima Base, and now I slowly sunk into my seat. No Bases meant no military. No military meant no help. And the Emperor is missing...

Yamada took another shaky sip of tea. "To be honest, I planned to move out of the city from there, but I had no supplies and equipment. I was going to head down to the shopping areas in Shinjuku or Akihabara and grab some supplies, but I ran into your men when I came through here...and here I am." He paused. "Who are you people, by the way?"

I was distracted, disturbed by the loss of life, so I muttered automatically. "I'm Saotome Ranma, of - "

The man dropped his tea glass. "IT'S YOU!"

I stared, confused. "What?"

"You! You're the one that the girl mentioned before they killed her! The one she said would defeat the aliens!" He stopped, giving me a once over. "But...I thought you'd be older, and well, bulkier. How are YOU going to stop THEM?"

I would have kicked his ass, but he had a rather good question. The answer was "I don't know". But "I don't know" would not exactly provide confidence. So I responded with the only answer that I could think of that made sense.

"I'll find a way."


After that, Yamada was given a place to sleep, as it had been over 24 hours since he had any. He hadn't decided whether to stay or go. In the meantime, one of the other survivors had mentioned earlier that they had recorded the broadcast on tape and Konatsu had left to get it for me. It was a fast trip for the kunoichi. A quick trip upstairs got us a VCR and TV, and Hiroshi hooked them into my room. I sat there watching the horror over and over again. Akane took one look and left, and I couldn't blame her. I hated it, myself, but I couldn't afford to be squeamish at this time. Something was eating at me about the video, but I didn't know what. Hopefully whatever it was would be the Achilles Heel for the aliens.

It was three hours later when I got my second, and in my opinion, far better surprise that day.


I was rewinding the tape, getting ready to replay it for the hundredth time. Maybe it was mental fatigue coupled with physical exhaustion, or maybe just that my brain just had too much happen in the last 24 hours to devote any processing power to the concept but I couldn't figure out what was bugging me. I knew it was something to do with Kunou's attack on it, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what. What? What is it about that attack that made the Dalek actually back off like that?

I had just stopped the tape and was about to play again, when Hiroshi burst in. "Aniki! You have to come out here! You won't believe who Sasuke brought in!"

I frowned. "Aniki" is a Japanese term meaning. "Elder Brother". However, its street context is what one in a street gang would call their boss or immediate superior. I'm not fond of street gangs, as the ones I met in my travels are always a bunch of bullies and thugs. However, we weren't a military unit, and we weren't a class, and I'm not everyone's sensei. Frankly, I couldn't think of any other name that bloody well worked...so I settled for glaring at Hiroshi. He just grinned at me, shrugged, and motioned me to follow. Reluctantly, I chose to follow him into the main area. What was waiting there put a smile on my face as well.

Staring up at the roof in awe and confusion was a young man dressed in yellow and green clothing with a yellow and black handkerchief wrapped around his forehead. He was carrying a HUGE backpack in one of his arms, and a red bamboo and rice paper umbrella in the other. This was my archrival and arguably best friend, Hibiki Ryouga. I'd known him since junior high school, and at the time I thought we were friends. However, at the end of our last year, he challenged me to a duel in the lot behind his house. I showed up. He was late...four days late, and I had left after three. This is because Ryouga has a worse sense of direction than the entire cast of Lost. However, Ryouga had, in a fit of delusion blamed me for his tardiness and followed me all the way to Jusenkyo, where I accidentally knocked him into a spring and cursed him to turn into a pig. Not really my shining moment of honour, there. Ryouga then proceeded to follow me all the way back to Furinkan and kept challenging me to fight after fight. First it was because of revenge, and then later it was to try to win Akane away from me...and revenge. However, whenever we had a really big problem, like Akane getting kidnapped or me being locked into girl form, Ryouga was the first person behind me. If there's anyone in my group I'd trust watching my back, it's Ryouga.

Recently, Ryouga had fallen for a different girl, Unryuu Akari, and he had decided to stop trying to kill me for revenge. He only got involved in the failed wedding because of the Nannichuan water cure, and all-in-all I can't blame him for that. If anyone hates their curse worse than me, it's Ryouga. He even assisted Akane and I with "Operation: Date" right before the plague hit. He did this by using his god awful sense of direction to lead the rest of Nerima Nutcases on a quest to find me...in the opposite direction. We hadn't seen him since. Seeing him here alive and well actually was a relief for me. Some part of me had been worried about the porker. I couldn't keep the relief out of my voice when I called out "RYOUGA!"

Ryouga jumped, and then turned to glare at me. "RANMA! How DARE you try to scare me! Do you have any idea the HELL my last few weeks have been? PREPARE TO DIE!"

I was momentarily taken aback by Ryouga's sudden hostility, but with all the stress I'd been under, a good fight was something I was spoiling for. I expect this was on Ryouga's mind as well. "Yeah, bring it ON, pig-boy!"

Yyyyeahhhh...I was about to start a high-powered, destructive martial arts battle in the middle of the main living area of our secret underground hideout. I had just royally failed my Darwin Check.

Fortunately, others were more level headed. Akane and Ukyo had been drawn out here, either by my cry of "Ryouga" or Ryouga's cry of "Prepare to die!" Probably both come to think of it. Akane took one look at the situation and promptly punched me in the face. "Idiot!"

Simultaneously, Ukyo whipped out her ever-present battle spatula and bent it over Ryouga's head. "Jackass!"

We stopped. I rubbed my face. Ryouga rubbed the top of his head. "That hurt, you know." We said in stereo. There was a couple of titters from the Peanut Gallery.

"Are you trying to bring the roof down on our heads?" Akane snapped. I looked sheepish.

"Or worse, show off our position to them?" Ukyo added.

Ryouga looked confused. "Umm...who's 'them'?"

We stopped our arguing to stare at Ryouga. "You mean you don't know?"

It was Ryouga's turn to look sheepish. "No. I've been in the forest and desert for weeks."

If it had been anyone but Ryouga, I wouldn't have believed it. I sighed. "Okay Ryouga, follow me. I've got something you need to see."

Ryouga went back to looking confused. "Uh...okay." He followed me back into my bedroom.


Static hissed on the telly as Ryouga just stared into it. The look on his face had been sheer disbelief, followed by horror as the footage went on.

Finally after another five minutes, he said with a weak voice. "And all this is true?"

"Yeah. Dai taped it off a' NHK news the night it happened. Akane, Kasumi and I were watching live."

Ryouga gaped at the screen again before blurting out. "Well...fuck."

It's important to note that Ryouga wasn't the heavy swearer in our group. On the other hand, I with my street gutter accent could swear more than Gordon Ramsay on a bad day. Thus Ryouga making THAT statement was about as extreme as he can get without breaking something. I just nodded.

"So my parents?"

"Dead, most likely. Sorry to break it to ya, man, but we all went through this." I probably should have said it more sensitively, but I was not really all that good with feelings.

Ryouga sat there in depressed silence for a few moments before his eyes shot open. "Akari!" He stumbled to his feet.

I shot my foot out tripping him. "No, Ryouga! You can't leave!"

"Ranma! Let me go! I've got to find her!" He struggled against me, flailing madly.

I held him firm, as hard as it was. "Ryouga! I'll send 'Natsu ta find her as soon as he's free. I promise! My word as a martial artist! But ya go out now, you're gunna get lost...or captured...or killed by these monsters!" Like Kodachi. Like Kunou. Like Nabiki, I didn't say. I couldn't say it. It was still too raw for me

Ryouga continued to flail, and soon the others began filing in, to watch us struggle. Akane piped in "Ranma! What's going on?"

I managed to shout out between grunts. "Ryouga! He wants to go after Akari!"

Akane gasped. "You can't let him!"

"I know! But it's like trying ta stop an elephant!"

Suddenly a frighteningly familiar voice said "Attention people of the Island of Japan!"

Everyone stopped and stared at the telly, even Ryouga. During our struggle, we had managed to unplug the VCR. Now, the telly was back on broadcast, and on the broadcast was the same Dalek that had killed Nabiki, the Black Dalek who I now know is the color for the Dalek Supreme. "Attention people of the Island of Ja-pan. Many of you have not surrendered yourself to Dalek authorities. Watch now as your Emperor submits to us!"

Two more daleks glided in, forcing the new Emperor Fumihito between them. "Watch now as your Emperor kneels in supplication to the Daleks!" The Black Dalek turned to the captive Emperor. "Kneel!" It barked.

The Emperor remained standing, glaring defiantly at the dalek.

"KNEEL!" The Black Dalek bellowed, rage apparent in its voice.

The two daleks behind the Emperor applied their sucker arms to his shoulder blades. The Emperor collapsed to his knees, face contorted in pain.

The Black Dalek turned back to the camera. It began to speak, and I was fairly certain I heard smugness dripping from its voice. "Your Emperor has now submitted. You will do the same or he will be exterminated."

Emperor Fumihito suddenly spoke up. "My people! Do not listen! Resist! Fight them to the last man! Stop them! They-"

"SILENCE!" The Black Dalek practically roared the order.

The Emperor ignored him and just spoke faster. "They were behind the plague! I heard them speaking! They are responsible for the deaths of your friends and family!-"

"STOP SPEAKING NOW!"

"So I order you as Emperor to do nothing they say...resist! Saotome, if you're out there-"

"EXTERMINATE!" The Black Dalek's gun arm came up and blasted the Emperor and he crumpled to the ground, dead.

The Black Dalek was shaking with fury. "Your Emperor was a fool! You will surrender to Dalek might if you do not wish his end to happen to you! Your Sa-o-to-me cannot help you now."

And the screen hissed to static.

We all just sat there for a long minute. Ryouga's eyes were bugged out, staring at the screen in sheer shock. I was working my jaw, trying to clamp down my anger.

The Emperor was dead; the Yamato line had been broken. 1500 years of Japanese Emperors, and trust me, I now know that contrary to history belief they all existed, ended with the two week reign of Emperor Fumihito. And there was no one else to sit on the Chrysanthemum Throne. The Emperor was the soul of Japan, and the Daleks had broken it.

But they had made a mistake.

To attack the Emperor is to attack the people of Japan. To kill him is grievous insult that cannot be forgiven.

Next to me, Ryouga finally found his voice. "So...what do we do now, Ranma?"

I ground my teeth again. "We do what Nabiki asked us ta do, an' what th' Emperor commanded us ta do. We get settled in, an' take stock of our resources. Then, we find a way to kick these tin cans back to Mars." There was a murmur of agreement behind me.

For once, I had managed to say the right thing. It was well said, and it was exactly the right time to say it.

Now, I just had to find a way to actually DO it.


Next Chapter: Resistance

Chapter Text

Chapter Four
Resistance

It took a week for us to get ourselves set up properly. We operated mostly at night, raiding food stores for perishables and supply stores for gear. During the day, we'd lie low, Either Konatsu or Sasuke would take watch, while the other would rest and spend 4 hours training some of the others in stationary stealth and observation. Shampoo, Ukyo and Kasumi worked on stretching the rations we had over 20 odd people, and Kasumi double shifted as Tofu's assistant. Akane, Ryouga, and some of the others began working to get the underground farm up and running. While she couldn't cook food, she did find that she wasn't half bad at growing it. And Ryouga mentioned he'd worked on a farm previously in his travels.

None of us were professionals, except maybe Yamada. None of us really knew we were doing. Yet we managed. It was patchy, at times, but we managed. We didn't have choice. We had been tossed in the deep end, and it was either swim or drown. With that analogy, I should be thankful that it wasn't all up to Akane, or we would really be sunk.

Speaking of Yamada, he had found an old civilian radio. He began working on it with some parts we acquired from an electronics store. He believed that in a day or two he'd manage to upgrade it to receive and descramble the military bands.

As for me, I spent my time bouncing between trying to figure out what hurt that dalek in the tape to trying to figure out how to lead a resistance group. For the former, I only had my own instincts to trust. For the latter, there was a way to learn. Not my favourite way, but a way. The following night I made a daring midnight raid on the Furinkan High library and brought back books. At Akane and Kasumi's advice, I looked up books on the French Revolution during World War II. I began pouring over those books the way I would pour over scrolls with new martial arts techniques. And in a way that's what they were. It was boring, it wasn't my usual style, but the notes therein could contain the keys to my little group surviving against the Daleks.

However, the more I read, the less sure I became. La Resistance, as the movement was called, mainly leaked information to the Allied forces during the War. They lived in the hopes that their work would let the Allies sweep the Nazi presence from France. And it worked.

But I didn't have a superior force to communicate with.

Or did I? I began putting my brain cells together to come up with a plan.


The next morning, I put it into action at the breakfast table. "Mousse!"

Mousse looked up from his breakfast. "What do you want, Saotome?"

"Mousse I need ya ta do something."

"I'm not your servant, nor one of your fiancées."

Ugh. This was going to be like dental work. "Mousse, this is something only you can do."

"What?"

"I...need ya ta fly ta China."

He stared at me a moment. "You-you're joking!"

"Nope. No joke, man."

He looked at me again, and then snorted. "You're insane, then."

I think I understood why Akane would make those cute frustrated sounds all the time. Sighing, I tried to approach this rationally. The alternative was to beat him into agreeing, and Kasumi would more than likely kill me...if the aliens didn't. "Mousse, we're stuck here. I need help. Ta put up a good resistance, I'm gunna need warriors. Our best bet is th' Amazons, th' Musk, Kirin, even th' Phoenix people. But I can't go. Sasuke and Konatsu can't go, I need them ta spy on th' bad guys."

"Let them go. I'll spy."

"Not with your eyesight."

Mousse glared at me, but said nothing.

"They'll find an' kill any of us that try ta get ta China, but they won't be lookin' for a duck. It'll be like th' monkeys in th' principal's office. It won't be th' most comfortable trip, but you should be able t' make it. Warn your people. Warn Herb. Warn Kirin. Warn Saffron, even. Bring them here. We'll stay here, an' try t' gain information, an' find their weaknesses. When ya bring them to Japan, we'll have enough information an' forces ta starting fighting back."

Mousse sat there for a minute, pondering. Finally, he spoke up. "It's...not a bad plan, Saotome."

"Ya'll do it?"

Mousse nodded. "Give me a day or two to rest up and prepare."

"Ya got it."

"But, if you lay a finger on Shampoo when I'm gone..."

"Ain't plannin' to."

"Good. Keep it that way."


That afternoon, Yamada announced he had gotten the radio up and running. We all clustered into the office and he started surfing the radio bands. Finally he got something…in English.

"PACOM, this is Charlie Victor November, Six Five, over!"

"What did he say?"

"Yamada paused for a moment. "C-V-N-6-5. It's the Enterprise."

Someone in the back said "What, like Star Trek?" A thwap and a yelp of pain immediately followed.

"No, the Aircraft Carrier. U.S Navy. They're trying to raise Pacific Fleet Command in Hawaii."

"PACOM repeat, this is Charlie Victor November Six Fiver, we have the bandit on radar. Requesting firing permission."

A long silence followed.

Yamada fiddled with the controls.

"Starbase, this is Jolly Roger-1. We have this big son of a bitch in our sights. Requesting launch. Over."

"Do not fire unless fired upon, JR-1. We're waiting on permission now."

"What's this?"

"It's the fighter's radio. It's being bounced of a receiver or two so it's a bit staticy. 'Starbase' is the callsign for the Ship. It sounds like they are the Jolly Rogers. Or what's left of them."

"Who are the Jolly Rogers?"

"The best fighter pilots in the Pacific Theatre."

I nodded, impressed. I couldn't really tell what was going on, as my English was sporadic at best. It was definitely not my best class. However, even without knowing the language, you could FEEL the tension.

"JR-1 to Starbase. It's now or never, we're starting to reach bingo fuel stage. We're going to have to -"

A roar came through the speaker.

"It just took out Hutch and Blade. All planes return fire! JR-1, Fox 2"

"JR-3, Fox 3"

"JR-5, Fox 2"

"Okay, who's Fox?"

"It's a brevity code. Military jargon. 'Fox' means missile fire. 'Fox 1' is a short range radar guided missile. 'Fox 2' is a medium range Infrared guided Missile, and 'Fox 3' is a Long Range Radar missile."

The list kept going on and all as around 2 dozen planes all saying Fox 1, 2 3. Then there was a long silence.

"Starbase to JR-1, what is the situation, over!"

Another long pause. "Starbase, this is JR-1. Situation is Charlie Foxtrot. We are out of missiles and damage to Bandit is negatory. I don't think we scratched the bastard. Over"

I didn't understand the man, but I understood the tone. They had attacked the Dalek ship...and they failed.

"Starbase to Jolly Rogers, bug out and return to the barn. Get the hell out of there, over."

"Yo! Visual contact on the surface, we have a Russian Missile Sub, looks like a Typhoon-class."

"Cut the chatter, JR-9! You heard the man, return-"

"Sir, she's opening her hatches...I think she's going to -"

A huge screeching sound came over the speakers, and Yamada yanked the headset off.

A second later silence reigned.

"What...what happened."

"One of the aircraft saw a Russian Submarine surface in the combat area. It was a nuclear missile sub. It...launched on the spaceship at point blank range."

"While th' planes were there?"

"I don't think they cared."

"Bastards."

Yamada fiddled with the controls again.

"PACOM this is Enterprise. We've lost our flight wing when the Russian sub launched on the bandit. We recorded over a dozen nuclear explosions at the combat site. I suggest the Typhoon launched her entire complement. Returning to base. Over."

Once Yamada finished his translation, there was a long uncomfortable silence. Finally, Yamada went to turn the receiver off when it crackled back to life.

"PACOM, we have radar contact behind us! The bandit is undamaged and is in pursuit. Request assistance! Over!"

"Mayday! Mayday! This is the U.S.S. Enterprise, CVN-65! We are under attack! Mayday May-"

The radio lapsed into silence after that.

Two hours later the radio spoke up again with the head of the U.N reporting the unconditional surrender of all armed forces to the Daleks. Disgusted, I had Yamada turn the radio off.


Mousse was true to his word. The next morning he went up to the surface, with Ryouga and myself accompanying him. On the way up the elevator I turned to him. "So, what did Shampoo say when you told her what you were doing?"

Mousse looked sideways at me.. "She said 'Mousse very brave' and wished me luck."

I couldn't help but smirk. "Who knows, Mousse? Pull this off and maybe it's a turning point between you an' her. Maybe ya got a shot after all!"

Mousse started to grin stupidly.

"Then again, she'd be an idiot to give up on a shot at THIS for you." I motioned to myself vainly.

Mousse's grin turned into a glower. "You're incorrigible."

"Whatever."

The elevator stopped on the surface. .

"Ya got everything?"

"Safely hidden away."

Mousse started to undress, then turned to me. "Not a finger, got that?"

"Unless I'm yanking her outta danger, deal."

He mulled that over, finally nodded and finished undressing, handing me his clothes. "Okay, hit me!"

Ryouga threw a pitcher of cold water on him. A moment later, a duck flew away, heading west.

As I stood there holding on to Mousse's clothes and watching him fly away, I had a funny feeling again, like how I did when Nabiki left. I cursed myself and went back inside.


Another half a week passed before Konatsu and Sasuke felt safe leaving the new trainees on stationary lookout and could go out and look for Akari. And it was another week before they found her. As suspected, Akari had been captured by the Daleks and placed in a work camp. She was in the far northwest of Nerima, out by Tomobiki. This made sense as the Unryuu farm is out in that direction. However, this meant that rescuing her as I promised Ryouga I'd do was going to be a day trip, and need a lot of planning.

Konatsu showed up at our temporary headquarters, an old abandoned farmhouse near where the working gang was. Apparently, the Daleks were converting an old Shinto Shrine there into something...something that required resources and materials to be shipped in from elsewhere.

I looked up at the kunoichi. "Well?"

"Things look good. The Daleks only visit once...maybe twice a day, and then only one of them. The rest of the time the workers have human guards.

"Humans?" I scowled.

"Gaijins, it looked like."

My scowl got worse. Gaijin is a Japanese term originally meaning "non people" or "foreigner". It has a bit of a derogatory slant in this day and age, but that's not why I was scowling. If the Daleks brought in people from another country to serve as guards, that would mean they had brought in specialists...mercenaries. And that means that they were trained. We'd have to be extra cautious.

"Ranma, your face will freeze like that." Akane chided. She had insisted on coming with us. I just stuck my tongue out at her before turning to the others. "Okay. Here's th' plan. Ryouga, Shampoo an' me will handle the guards. 'Kane, you an' Ukyo get as many people as ya can an' get th' hell out of here. This is hit an' run, so no lingering. We'll follow ya as soon as we're able ta. Got it?"

"Ranma, I'm not going to leave you beh-"

"'Kane, you're gunna follow instructions or ya can go home now. Everyone agreed. I'm in charge, so I give th' orders. There's a reason I chose who I did. Deal with it."

Akane stared torn between punching me or walking away. Finally she just said, "Fine, Aniki."

She knew I hated that name.

However, today, I just grinned. "Okay, we do this just before th' midday meal break. Let's go."


It was about 11:30 in the morning. The progress in the construction crew went slowly. Concrete, or something like it, was being mixed and poured, and metal bars were being built and set into the superstructure.

The workers themselves were a motley bunch. No distinction was made by gender or class. All wore the tattered remains of the clothes they had on two weeks ago. Either the Daleks didn't know about or didn't care about hygiene. Some looked okay; others who had been wearing more delicate outfits were nearly naked. Akari was one of the latter. The sundress she had worn the day she'd been taken was definitely the worse for wear, and not designed for construction work. The sleeves were gone, and it looks like the skirt had been shredded, probably to make makeshift bandages. The rest of it was dirty stained and torn. I was worried the sight of it would give Ryouga a nosebleed. I looked over at him and to my surprise and relief, he wasn't about to pass out.

Ryouga was FURIOUS. And for once, it wasn't at me.

Above the workers, the gaijin guards went back and forth, their cammo outfits marking them as military of some kind. Each of them held a gun, and though they looked like normal SMGs in shape, the glowy bits on them seemed to indicate otherwise. There were six in all.

I waited until they had just finished patrolling this side of the line, and motioned to Ryouga. It was time to strike now. Ryouga nodded.

WHAM! The three of us hit the floor running from the bluff we had been hiding on. I landed inches from the first one, and before he could react, slammed my hand down at the back of his neck. He sank to the floor, unconscious. Ryouga did likewise. Shampoo, on the other hand, used her bonbori. She slammed one of the mace heads down onto the third guard. I don't know if she killed him or not, but he was down.

We didn't have time to take stock. We charged into the next group. Ryouga was running on full rage and just ran his opponent down like a runaway lorry. Mine had turned faster than the others, and managed to fire a shot at me. I dropped into a baseball slide, narrowly avoiding the green beam of hot energy that barely missed my head. I felt the heat as it passed. It was HOT. Sliding under the woman's legs, I quickly stabbed up and hit two pressure points on her inner thighs. Both legs buckled and she went down. A quick kick to the side of the head and she was out like a light. Looking down, I noticed a small bump behind her ear. A small metallic bump. A familiar looking bump. A Dalek bump.

As I was looking at this, the final guard got a shot off on Shampoo. She deflected it with her mace, but the plasma being fired by the guard liquefied it in a matter of moments. It gave her enough time to get out of the way, however, and she threw the melted mace away, suffering only a couple of spot burns where molten metal had hit her. "You pay now! That Shampoo favorite mace!" She used its matched brother to club the poor fellow upside the jaw, knocking him out of the fight.

"NOW!" I shouted.

Akane, Ukyo, and two other volunteers came down to help people get out. They had been chained to their location, so they could not escape on their own. Akane simply broke the chains, Ukyo sliced them with her spatulas, and the other two quickly grabbed a couple of the plasma guns and went to work.

Meanwhile Ryouga ran up to his missing girlfriend. "AKARI!"

"Ryouga-chan?"

Ryouga whipped off his belt, and with a flick of the wrist and a small expenditure of ki, it became rigid as a sword, and razor sharp. He sliced through Akari's shackles like a bagel knife through cream cheese.

Akari collapsed, sobbing, into Ryouga's arms. "Oh, Ryouga-chan! I was so scared! The monsters came right after I had finished feeding the pigs! Katsunishiki tried to protect me, but they fired a beam and he just..." She choked up again, and just held Ryouga tighter.

I began to notice that Ryouga was about to lose it at this point. His rage had held his nosebleed habit in place, but now that Akari was safe...and was hugging him in little more than her underwear...Ryouga's looked about ready to have a gusher and pass out. And I couldn't have him pass out here. "'Kane, get Akari outta here before lover boy here does an impression of Mt. Fuji."

Yep. I can't say it enough. Tact, thy name isn't Saotome Ranma.

Akane just glared at me as she took Akari's hand and got her out of the work site. Ryouga was glaring at me as well. I just smirked and did what I could to keep watch.

We had gotten maybe a half dozen people out when I felt it – an extreme amount of energy making my skin tingle. And in front of me, a dalek materialized. To my dismay, it was not the black bastard that killed Nabiki and the Emperor. It looked at me.

"EXTERMI-"

"MOUKO TAKABISHA!" Never had I said the words or gathered and released the ki faster than I had in that moment. The ball rocketed from my hands and hit the Dalek at point blank range.

I expected that it would do nothing, just skitter off of its shields. That the gesture would be my last and the dalek would shortly blast me to atoms.

I was wrong. My ki attack went through the dalek's shield like it wasn't there and slammed hard into its casing with a whump. The dalek reeled back and the gun was shoved sideways by the force, its blast going wild. "I AM UNDER ATTACK!" It screeched.

It was then that all the pieces of the puzzle in my head fell into place. Ki! I realized. The Daleks have no way to detect ki!

The Battle Computer that was my brain began to calculate the ramifications and possibilities that this new information provided; while my body, reacting on pure instinct, began to back away to a more defensible position.

The dalek recovered quickly and again turned its gun to me. "EXTERMIN-"

"BUTA JUUDENDAN!" A large sphere of red energy slammed into the dalek. I can't be sure, even now, but I think it actually dented the armor. The dalek went skittering sideways and slammed, "face" first into the dirt wall of the work pit. There it stayed.

Charging Boar Bullet? I asked myself internally. Ryouga's usual attack was the Shishi Houkoudan, or Lion Roar Bullet, an attack based off his depression. Looking over at Ryouga, I realized the difference. Ryouga wasn't depressed. As I mentioned earlier, he was PISSED. There was murder in his eyes as he glared at the dalek, hand still outstretched from shooting it into the wall. However, he was also panting and struggling to keep standing. That was the difference between my ki attacks and Ryouga's ki attacks. My attacks were smaller and less powerful, but I could fire a lot of them. Ryouga's were huge and powerful, but tended to drain him. I was a machine gun, Ryouga was a howitzer.

"Nice improvisation, P-Chan!"

"Thanks. I was saving it for our next fight."

I paled slightly at that, knowing that if he had pulled that out of nowhere, I'd have probably been caught flat footed. Still, I raised an eyebrow. "Charging Pig Bullet?"

He flushed slightly. "Well, I hadn't named it yet, and considering why I was mad..."

I opened my mouth to make a comment, and probably eat my foot in the process, when our banter was cut off by the dalek dislodging itself from the wall. It turned itself to face the still panting Ryouga, shaking. With rage or damage I couldn't tell.

As its eyestalk honed in on him, a mace came from apparently nowhere and slammed down on it. Well, that is to say it slammed down on the shield. The ki, however, kept the momentum and slammed into the stalk, breaking it off and blinding it.

"MY VISION IS IMPAIRED! I CANNOT SEE! MY VISION IS IMPAIRED! I CANNOT SEE! MY VISION..." The dalek screeched repeatedly as it began to spin around.

A cheer came from myself and my friends, and we began to close in to finish the job. However, I began to hear the whining noise that heralded the arrival of the dalek...in stereo this time.

I glanced. Akane, Ukyo, and the others had gotten out with some of the workers. It was time then.

"NOW!" I reached into my pocket and pulled out some pellets that I had gotten from Sasuke. Shampoo and Ryouga did the same. We threw them on the ground and a thick opaque smoke began to bellow forth. Ninja smoke pellets. As the smoke covered myself and Ryouga, I pulled out a bottle from hidden weapons space and poured it over myself, then quickly changed clothes.

"REPORT!" I heard the staccato bark of a dalek. I knew immediately it was THAT dalek; the black one.

"Visibility lost. Armor plating damaged superficially by unknown attack. Assailants were two males, one female. Location: unknown."

I heard scrabbling behind me. Turning, I saw Ryouga in pig form trying to climb up the side of the pit, and failing. The earth was either too loose or too steep, causing him to lose footing on his hooves and fall back down. Well, so much for using the Umisenken. I quickly scooped him up and started to sneak to the exit.

"HALT!" I winced. The smoke had cleared and I had been spotted.

I around to see the Black Dalek bearing down on me, gunstick already pointed dead at me. I was dead.

"What is your name?"

My mind raced. Quickly, I put on by best "cute girl" voice. "U-U-Unryuu Akari." I acted like I was terrified. It wasn't that hard, really, because quite honestly, I was terrified.

The dalek paused a moment. "Did you see the rebels?"

I nodded dumbly. There was no point in denying it. Everyone here had seen the assault. Nothing worse than getting caught in an obvious lie.

"Which way did they escape?"

"I-I-I couldn't see when all the smoke rose up, I'm sorry." The gun twitched. "But before the smoke, they were standing over there." With my head I motioned to a more or less random spot on the far side of the room, near the other exit of the pit.

The dome of the Black Dalek turned to its undamaged underling. "Pursue!"

"I obey!"

The other dalek zoomed off. With the attention off me, I began to sidle off.

"HALT!"

I froze.

"Why are you not chained?"

"Th-the rebels were releasing me when your fellow arrived. They left me in their haste."

"Return to the work party."

"H-hai." I started back to the group.

"HALT!"

I paused again.

"Why are you carrying that animal?"

I looked down and realized I was still holding Ryouga. He had been so still I had forgotten.

"Oh! I found this little one wandering around the lip of the pit. I think he was someone's pet. He must've been attracted to the sound of voices and fell in the pit. I was going to take him back with me and when the shift was over I was going to turn him into pork dinner." I tried to look hopeful and ignored the shocked, betrayed look Ryouga was throwing me.

There was a long pause before the Black Dalek finally said "That...is...allowed. Return to your work party."

I went back to the work party, breathing a sigh of relief.

I had managed to sneak Ryouga over the lip before lunch, and it was shortly thereafter that the human guards were replaced and the daleks left. Once that happened, I was able to quietly break my chain, sneak into the Umisenken, and withdraw.


I circled the outskirts of the work pit until I found Ryouga, whose instructions in the event of becoming separated from the rest of us was to move out of visual range of the pit and wait for one of us in pig form. True to form, he was almost exactly on the opposite side of the pit from where he SHOULD have been, and was angrily waiting, facing the wrong direction completely. Not being able to resist, I snuck up on him from behind and scooped him up. He gave a "bwee" of surprise, and then proceeded to stare at me furiously. Doubling back, I returned to our "dust off zone" - a nearby barn where we had hid some thermoses of Hot Water and a change of clothes. Ryouga glared at me the furiously whole way back.

I quickly changed, then doused myself with one of the thermoses and noted that there was only one other. Shampoo must've gotten here already. I threw the remaining one on Ryouga. He paused only long enough to dress before turning on me. "RANMA! HOW DARE YOU TRY TO HAVE ME FOR LUNCH!"

I dodged a punch aimed at me that cleanly broke one of the support beams in the barn. "Easy Ryouga, I didn't actually mean ta do it! I just needed something ta say so they wouldn't take ya away!"

"SHUT UP!" He threw another punch at me, which I dodged. It went through another support beam. "You used my worst fear against me! That's low, Ranma!" He punched at me again, failing to connect, and hitting yet another beam.

"Dammit, Ryouga! Would ya rather have me let them take ya ta do who knows what? But if you want a fight, I'll - "

My retaliation was cut short by a sharp crack coming from above, followed by a menacing creek. In our scuffle, it looks like one too many support beams had been broken, and now the barn was protesting. The flooring of the hay loft had cracked, and looked to be shortly coming to greet us on the main floor.

"SHIT!" We both yelled simultaneously. I grabbed Ryouga's arm and rapidly led him out of the barn. Behind us I heard the loft give way, followed by a large chunk of the roof. We decided not to stick around, and quickly headed back to base before the incident was investigated.


When we arrived home, there was a festival air going on. We had faced the Daleks and we had won. In the process we had rescued about a half-dozen people from Dalek slavery.

Ryouga had barely come in through the hatch when he was glomped onto by Akari, who fortunately for Ryouga had been re-clad in someone's spare outfit. "Ryouga-chan! You came for me! You saved me! I knew, deep down you'd come."

Ryouga looked at me, confused. I mimed making a circle with my arms. Tentatively, Ryouga put his arms around Akari and she snuggled in.

He looked up at me again, and this time the look only had one thing...gratitude. I had given Ryouga my word, and I had kept it.


That night, I lay down in my bed staring up at the ceiling, my belly full from the feast that Shampoo, Ukyo, and Kasumi had made that night in celebration of our first victory. However, I knew the truth. We had gotten real lucky. I now knew the Daleks' weakness, but I didn't know how to take advantage of it.

All Martial Artists use ki to some degree or another. Most use ki internally, as a form of body hardening. This boosts their natural abilities, allowing them to move faster, jump higher, hit harder, and absorb more punishment. The Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken, or Chestnut Fist, is the ultimate extension of this kind of ki use, boosting my muscular speed and reaction time to deal an impossible amount of punches in a few seconds.

The next level of ki use is infusion. This is similar to body hardening, but instead of infusing themselves, the Martial Artist infuses an inanimate object with his or her own ki. When Ryouga first came to Nerima, he used this power on his belt and bandannas, making cloth apparel into deadly weapons. Likewise, this is part of the secret behind Mousse's hidden weapons technique. By the end of the year of hell, Kunou, Ukyou, and Shampoo had all learned to infuse their weapons while trying to keep up with me.

The last level, at least as far as I'm aware, is ki projection. Simply put, this is the ability to channel ki into a ranged attack. Of everyone in the group, only Ryouga and I had ever developed ki usage that far, though I am sure Happousai and Cologne could both have used one, too, if they wanted to. My enemies Herb and Saffron, Saffron in particular, used projected ki attacks, too.

So of our group, that meant only myself and Ryouga could attack the Daleks from range. It would bypass their shields, but it still left their armour. And that was nothing to sneeze at. It took precise shooting to hit a Dalek in a place where the armour was weak, and while I could do it, finesse shooting wasn't Ryouga's style. Anyone else would have to get in close and use a weapon. And that presented its own set of problems. Shampoo's second mace had been half slagged by its exposure to the dalek's shields. Ukyo's battle spatula would be in the same boat. We'd be fighting a war of attrition with the Daleks using weapons, and I was quite sure they had more Daleks than we ha weapons.

So I needed something more...something else to give me an advantage over the Daleks…something else before I could really take the fight to them. But for the life of me, I didn't know what.

What I didn't know at the time was that the "something else" wasn't a what, but a who.


NEXT CHAPTER: DOCTOR

Chapter Text

Chapter 5
Doctor

Below us, the slave workers toiled in the pit, slowly welding together the metal plates that were built into the lip. Between them were the mercenaries, obviously former PRC soldiers before the Daleks had taken control of them. They patrolled the floor and made sure the slaves didn't escape.

At the top of the lip, Ryouga, Shampoo, Ukyo, and Akane all got into position. Once each of them got into their assigned location they looked to me, waiting for my signal. I put up a hand, forming a sign I found in a book on commando tactics that signified "wait". My eyes drifted down to the pit. Slowly, the mercs finished their circuit and moved their backs to us. I moved my hands into the signal for "Go!", and as one we jumped down into the pit.

These mercs weren't as hard as the originals, probably regular army, and not the special forces we had dealt with before. Their reactions were far too slow, and we had them sprawled unconscious before they could fire a shot.

Quickly, we cut the chains and the prisoners fled for their lives. I was about to call for a withdraw when I heard movement behind us. I whipped around just in time to see the merc captain fire. With mounting horror, I realised who his target was...Akane. I tried to move, to reach her in time, but I was too far away and not fast enough. I could only watch as the bullets slammed into Akane's back. Her body arched as her back exploded in an eruption of red. She staggered forward, and then began to crumple. As the light left her eyes she looked at me as if saying "Why? Why couldn't you save me..."

"AAAAaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!"

It was a few moments before I realised I was still in my four-poster bed in the master bedroom of the Kunou bunker. My bunker. I sat there for several seconds, panting, gasping for breath, and sweating. I was grateful that this room at least had an additional layer of soundproofing.

While they weren't as frequent as they had been before the daleks, I still had the nightmares often enough. Some nights it was mercs or daleks. Other nights it was Saffron…or Kirrin, or Toma, or Herb, or even Pantyhose Tarou. But they all ended that same way. Akane dying. Her looking at me as if to ask why. Me waking up screaming.

After 3-4 minutes, the shaking stopped. I got out of bed and started the long walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

It had been three months since the day we had rescued Akari from the work pit. Three long agonizing months when I lived through it, but now in retrospect seems far, far too short. As much as I hate to say it, over that time we began to adjust into our new situation. Perhaps it's a tribute to the adaptability of all my friends that we could adjust so quickly. Perhaps some of my own adaptability had rubbed off on them after so long, so that now insanely hard and bizarre situations just seemed merely commonplace. To be honest, I'm not quite sure which. A little of both, maybe.

Considering that most of the people that had come with us had been classmates, we only had about a third of our standing population as adults and the rest of us were in our mid-to-late teens or younger. And, thanks to a combination of me being the strongest fighter, Nabiki's declaration to the Daleks naming me as their downfall, and simple fact that I owned our main base of operations, all made me the reluctant leader. This made the situation seem a bit "Lord of the Flies" ...or better yet, "Peter Pan"- which ironically enough considering their lack of dexterous appendages, would put the Dalek Supreme in the role of "Captain Hook". Either way, the feeling was rather surreal for all of us.

About two days after our victory in rescuing Akari and the workers, Dr. Tofu had made a discovery that pleased him. One of the storage closets that hadn't been checked yet was found to be filled with medical supplies and equipment. Not the latest mind you, but good enough. Apparently, someone had mentioned to Kunou's grandfather the possibility of airborne diseases mutating in an enclosed environment, and he hoped that one of his family would be a doctor and could deal with it if the situation came up. Tofu immediately began sorting, testing and cataloguing all the equipment in his spare time.

It was a stroke of luck that the half dozen people we rescued with Akari were from the same area as her, the rural areas north of the city. Most of them were farmers, farmhands, or rural day labourers, and immediately volunteered to help with the hydroponic "greenhouse" in our new home. I must give Kunou's grandfather credit. For the most part, he had it all planned out. The storerooms were filled with provisions and all the nutrients needed. It was a little different than what the farmers were used to, and most wished for some decent soil to plant crops in instead. I assured them that if things were safe enough, I'd arrange a soil gathering expedition for the next batch.

One of the things that did surprise me was the praise the farmers heaped on Akane. Like I said before, while she still couldn't cook food worth a damn, she could grow it. Quite well indeed, for someone with zero agricultural training. The farmers assured me that she was a great help in setting up the greenhouse, and she had a talent for it. Every day, she went down and made sure all the plants were cared for, all the lights were in exactly the right place...and she would come back with a smile on her face, a look of accomplishment as every day the plants grew a bit more. Who knew Akane would have a flair for botany? Not me. And unlike Kodachi, the things that Akane grew were normal edible plants, not dangerous toxic hybrids.

After that first mission, I became aware that I would need a deputy leader. I elected Ryouga as my second-in-command, so to speak. Yamada had insisted we needed one, and had assumed it would be him what with his military background and all. When I chose Ryouga, he was incensed and went off and sulked for a week. I don't know why, but I never did really trust him. Something about him seemed…oily. He was too eager, too ambitious, and that was setting off warning bells.

Speaking of Ryouga, we found it necessary to assign him a "handler", to make sure he got around without getting lost. Usually Akari would do the task with glee. However, Akari needed to rest sometimes, and when she did Hiroshi, Daisuke, Yuka, or Sayuri would fill in. Ryouga would grumble about it and would blame me, not that that was unusual, but I think deep down he appreciated the effort we put into keeping him with us.

All in all, we quickly found a routine. Dr. Tofu did the same thing he always did: healing the sick and injured. His new facilities weren't as large as the clinic, but he made do, and Kasumi would assist him when she wasn't busy with cooking and/or cleaning.

Kasumi, as I said, fell into the role of head of household, dealing with the cooking and cleaning…only now she was doing it for 30 odd people and she had help. Shampoo and Ukyo were used to cooking in a restaurant environment and thus assisted with the cooking, while Yuka, Sayuri, and a young woman named Miki helped with cleaning, which was in itself a full-time job.

As for the others, they were being trained by Konatsu, Ryouga, Akane, and myself. Martial Arts, Ki, stealth, and speed were the lessons of the day. It didn't matter if you were thirty-two or eight, you learned what you could. There wasn't much there in the way of talent, but I thought some would go decently far from sheer determination.

I was trying to get Akane, Ukyo and Shampoo to progress in ki manipulation. Shampoo and Ukyo had a headstart, but Akane was absolutely set on catching up. We worked three times a week all afternoon on it, with Ryouga and myself teaching. Not a lot of progress was made, but this is a something that most martial artists would take years to master. This was why Ryouga and I were the best of our generation. We learned in days what would take most years to do.

And I wasn't laxing off in my own training, oh no! I knew my current ki attack was insufficient to stop a dalek. So, I was experimenting with various emotions, trying to find one that I had enough of to fuel ki attacks with, and was powerful enough to punch through that metallic hide. Thus far, I hadn't had much luck.

As for everything else, well, most of us developed into a sort of extended family. I think this was how clans were formed back in feudal times. We were all forced to live under the same roof and even though the bunker was spacious, personal space was still at a premium, and some concessions had to be made. Baths for instance. While the bath was large…more of an underground onsen, or hot spring, really…heated by the geotap below us…there was still only one. Shared baths were a necessity, and after some debate and issue, it was eventually decided that mixed bathing would be allowed. It made sense, really, with people of both genders working assorted busy shifts it would be obvious that eventually two people of the opposite gender would need to use the bath at the same time. Of course, this would prove true less than 24 hours after this was agreed upon, and of course, the two involved would be myself and Akane.


It had been a long day of teaching and training, and I was completely exhausted. My muscles were sore and tired. All I wanted was a nice long soak before bed.

I had just finished undressing in the anteroom and opened the door to the onsen when I realized someone else was in there. Akane was standing in the room, one foot in the water. She stared at me a moment and I stared at her, flashbacks to the first day we met going through my head.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of us staring at each other Akane said "So, getting your jollies, pervert?"

I frowned. "Hey! I argued AGAINST this rule for exactly this reason! I knew if there was a chance that I could walk in on someone, or they could walk in on me, I'd get the blame!"

There was a long, tense, pause before Akane's face softened. "I know you did. Wash up and get in, Ranma." I didn't hesitate any further before filling the washing pail and dumping it over my head, triggering my transformation. Not a word was said as I hastily scrubbed down, then jumped in the water, transforming back. For a few minutes, neither of us said anything. I spent that time staring at the ceiling rather than looking at Akane.

Finally, I broke the silence. "So, how's the greenhouse?"

Akane huffed, "It's NOT a greenhouse. It's a farm!"

"I know…it's just easier to say 'greenhouse' than 'hydra-whatchamajigger'...

"'Hydroponic'?"

"Yeah. That's the one." I had learned much recently, but big words in Latin weren't on the list. "Anyway, just calling it 'farm' seems...wrong somehow. Ta me, 'farm' says wide open skies, wind, and food going t' market. Here, everything's all closed in and we're only growing enough t' feed ourselves." I paused. "A farm, I guess, is something they can strive t' have when all this is over, an' we start rebuilding th' world. 'Till then, they have t' settle for 'greenhouse', like we have t' settle for 'bunker' instead 'a 'house' an' 'training room' instead 'a 'dojo'."

Akane paused. "That's actually pretty deep, Ranma."

I gave her a wan smile. "I have a lotta time ta think these days."

Noticing my lack of enthusiasm, Akane frowned. "What's wrong?"

I looked at her. And I couldn't tell her. I couldn't say that I had NO idea what I was doing; that each time I walked through the halls and saw my classmates and the people I rescued look at me with hope like I'd lead them all into unequivocal victory, I felt like the biggest fake in the history of mankind. I couldn't tell her that everything up until now had been done on simple instinct for survival, not with any plan for victory…that all I could do is hope we could hold out until reinforcements came, then pass the reigns over to a more experienced leader.

I couldn't tell her that.

"Nothin'. Just tired is all. Big day in the training room."

"Oh." She said simply.

Again, we sat in silence, soaking.

Finally, I broke the silence. "Ya know, this ain't bad."

"Yeah, you get a free show, pervert!"

"That ain't what I meant an' you know it, 'Kane. I mean you an' me. Just sitting here. Talking. No stress, no pressure. If ya don't think 'bout it, ya can pretend that the world hasn't gone ta hell an' everythin'."

Akane paused. "Yeah, but if it hadn't, I'd be hitting you for being in the tub with me."

I snorted. "Feh. Leave it ta us ta be stubborn 'nough that everyone has ta DIE for us ta be able ta relax 'round each other." I chuckled grimly, then after a brief pause, I continued. "Still, I meant it. This IS nice. No-"

"Ayah! Shampoo get off work early…spend time with Airen!"

"Ranchan! Let me help you scrub your back!"

Closing my eyes, I muttered to myself "And heeere we go…"

"What pervert-girl doing with Airen! Ranma Shampoo's."

"No way, bimbo. Ranchan is MY fiancé!"

"Shampoo fix! Get rid of spatula girl and pervert girl and Ranma be with Shampoo!"

"You can try, jackass!"

"ENOUGH!" I roared at the top of my lungs. The two naked girls who were now standing in the bath ready to kill each other stopped and looked at me in shock.

"I've had it! A month ago, ya stopped me an' Ryouga from going at it in th' main room, and here you two are going ta do th' same thing in th' bath! No. Do you really want th' daleks finding this place?"

The two reddened in humiliation.

"One, I ain't your Airen. Amazon laws don't mean shit here, an' me livin' th' life of an 'Amazon Husband' AIN'T. HAPPENING. EVER!

"Two, you ain't my fiancée, Ukyo. I TOLD you that th' shit ya did ta my mom's house negated th' dowry an' annulled th' engagement. Even with what's happened that's still true.

"In fact, I'm gunna make two new rules right here, right now. Rule One: th' words "fiancée", "husband", or "Airen" are forbidden in my presence until further notice. Rule Two: if one member 'a this community ever deliberately hits another one outside of practice in th' training hall, they are banished from th' community to th' surface, effective immediately. Now, get out of my bath!"

"But everyone say bath belong to all!"

"Well, everyone is WRONG! This is MY bunker, and MY bath, one which I graciously choose ta let th' community use outta kindness an' a mutual need ta survive. However, you both have profaned it by trying ta fight here, a fight which woulda destroyed it if it happened. So you ain't welcome in it right now. So leave. Now!

Ukyo hung her head and walked over to get dressed.

"I said NOW, Ukyo!"

"But my clothes…I'm naked!"

"You're only at the end of the hall. Streak it."

"But…"

"Don't make me tell ya again!"

Blushing like a tomato, Ukyo fled the bath. Shampoo didn't bother to protest, she simply walked out calmly. This left just myself and Akane, who was staring at me, jaw dropped in total shock.

I took a deep breath and released it slowly. "And there's that stress again…"

This snapped Akane out of her daze and she smiled. "Well, I think you handled it beautifully."

"Really?"

"Maybe a little harsh on Ukyo. She was really blushing."

"I know. But she burst in here and ruined my relaxing-"

"'…OUR relaxing…'."

"-Our relaxing bath, sorry 'bout that. All because of th' stupid fiancée shit."

"You do know that both of those two have lost everything, right? You're all they have left of their old life. This isn't going to stop them."

I sighed. "I know. But hopefully, they'll think twice 'bout fighting it out."

"Well, my bath is ruined. I'm going to leave." Akane stood and left, well aware that my eyes never left her the entire time. She toweled off quickly…but not TOO quickly now that I think about it…and put on a yukata. Before she left, however, she turned back and said, "You know, Ranma, you sounded a bit like an actual feudal lord back there, with the 'profaned' and the making of rules."

I looked confused. "I did? Oh kami-sama, I did!" Then the colour drained from my face "Kami, I sounded like Kunou! Ack, 'Kane, it's contagious or something!"

I could hear Akane laughing as she left while I tried to beat the Kunou out of my head by banging it against the side of the furo.


Akane and I were soon proven right. After that, the proverbial gauntlet had been thrown down, and the "race for Ranma's heart" had started all over again. It didn't matter that society had essentially ended. It didn't matter that there was no elders or parents to enforce the engagements. It didn't matter that I had declared most of them null and void. Each was once again pursuing me in their own unique way. For Ukyou and Shampoo, this was simply updated versions of their old ways. Shampoo acted all bimbo-ish when I was about...all glompy and touchy-feely. Ukyo acted by reminding me she was the "cute one" and hand delivering me food (extra food was out of the question, of course, as we were strictly rationing ourselves). However, as per my instructions, I never heard "fiance", "airen", or "husband" again, at least where it applied to me.

Hmm, it seems I got a bit off track, there…where was I? Ah, yes. Nightmare. Walking to the kitchen.

The kitchen was located in the "north wing" of the bunker, whereas my room was in the "west wing", about as far from the kitchen as you can get. I use the term "Wing" loosely, as the bunker itself was circular...more or less, and "wing" simply refers to the direction of the corridor in it. I had just finished going through the central areas, and was in the hallway to the kitchen when I heard voices.

I frowned. Voices in the kitchen at this time of night was unusual.

I should take a moment to explain here that although we lived underground and about half of us hadn't been above ground since they got here, we still affected the same day/night cycle as we had before. Thus, most people were sleeping at this time, the only people on duty were the night-shift sentries, which were chosen by lot weekly, with the previous week's night-shift exempt. Thus, I knew that the only people up should be Hiroshi and Daisuke, who had drawn the short straw this week. And they should be up in the lookout 'tower', the highest point in Kunou manor.

As I approached, I was able to confirm that one of the voices was indeed my friend Daisuke. I still could not place the other voice for a moment, until I peeped around the corner.

Daisuke was there, tying a string around the bentos that Kasumi had left for them. Talking to him animatedly was Yamada.

I frowned, a little annoyed with myself for not recognising his voice. On the other hand however, I think Yamada had been going out of his way to avoid me since I had decided to make Ryoga my second-in-command instead of him. After he got done sulking, I don't think I got more than one word sentences from him when we did talk, which was rare. Considering how much I had on my plate and on my mind, it's no wonder I didn't recognise his voice.

I was just about to step out and announce myself when the words being said finally reached my ears.

"-een four months now and what do we have to show for it? Nothing!"

"We're still alive." Dai's voice chided softly.

There was a pause. "Okay. Granted. But still, we're no closer to beating those monsters!"

"Heh. Ranma'll do it. I'm sure he's just waiting to learn or perfect a new technique, or get some more friends from China, then he'll proceed to kick those cans until they flee the planet."

"Surely we need guns…tanks…fighters-"

"Humanity already tried that way, Yamada. Or have you forgotten the royal ass-kicking that brought you here in the first place?"

There was another pause, and I suppressed a snicker as I could feel Yamada seethe from the next room.

Finally, Yamada spoke up. "Surely, you don't think that boy can do better."

I bristled. The only person that had the right to call me "boy" like that died in bed four months ago while I watched on.

Dai spoke up again. "You don't know Ranma like I do, Yamada. He first showed up around 18 months ago and the first thing he did was beat the strongest fighter in our school…handily…like he was a rookie. Then Ryouga showed up and while they were a close match at first, soon Ranma was beating him all the time, too. Then another challenger showed up, and another, and another…each one bigger, badder, and more dangerous than the last. Heck, I heard one of his fights leveled a mountain in central Japan."

"Rumors. Hearsay, nothing more."

"Maybe. But I wouldn't doubt it was true. I'd think the giant flying minotaur monster was a rumor, too, except I saw that one with my own eyes."

There was a startled pause. "Could it have been a fake?"

"Nope. It was Jusenkyo. The same thing that turns Ranma female. You've seen that one yourself. It was real, and Ranma beat it down. That's the thing about Ranma. If there's a way to beat an opponent, he'll find it. It doesn't matter how big or powerful they are. Ranma will find a way. He doesn't have the word "lose" in his vocabulary and he can't fail at anything…except maybe his math and english finals."

I blushed from the praise Dai had heaped on me, even with the comment about my math skills. Still, I could only hope to live up to his expectations.

Yamada had paused again, and this time I felt no outrage from him. Instead, I could almost hear the gears turning in his head. When he spoke again, the anger was gone, and that oily, slimy voice he used was back. "Okay, assume that the boy-girl manages to run off the daleks. Once that's done, we have a lot of rebuilding to do."

Dai snorted. "Ain't that the truth."

Yamada continued. "Infrastructure will have to be rebuilt, government will have to be reestablished…and the Chrysanthemum Throne will need to be occupied."

Dai dropped the plastic pitcher he had been using to fill portable containers of water for himself and Hiroshi. "What"?

"The Throne will need to be occupied. The Japanese will need a new emperor, someone to rally behind. Who better than the...person...that ran off the greatest enemy the world has ever seen?"

I nearly blew my cover in shock. Me? The Emperor? He can't be serious! I thought to myself.

Hiroshi was in a similar state as I was. "Ranma?! Emperor of Japan? But he's not of the Yamato line!"

Yamada shrugged. "I'm sure with all the chaos of the Dalek War, records could be "found" that links the Saotomes to the Line of Amaterasu somehow. And I'm sure the Japanese people will accept it. Because they'll want to. And think, as the Emperor's friends, I'm sure we could get whatever position we wanted in the new government."

"I'm not so sure. Ranma's fine here as a leader on war footing, but I really can't see him as Emperor. He's a warrior, not a diplomat."

From my listening spot, I nodded in agreement.

"Well then, I'm sure he'll need close advisors to make sure he does the right things, won't he?"

"Um…I'll think about it. Now I gotta get this off to Hiro and get back to my post. I'm late as it is."

With that, Dai flew out of the room. The glass of water forgotten, I snuck back to my own bedroom. I had much to think about.


The following afternoon Akane and I were taking another bath. It had become something of a daily ritual for the two of us. We bathed and caught up on each other's day. What had formerly been a source of embarrassment and anger in our relationship had turned into a source of comfort and relaxation, and honestly one of the few things I looked forward to each day.

However, that day was a bit different. In the privacy of the bath, I told Akane what I had overheard the night before.

"The Chrysanthemum Throne?" Akane parroted incredulously.

"That's what he said." I replied, a dour expression on my face.

Akane just looked at me for a moment, before breaking into laughter.

"You? The Emperor of Heaven and Earth?"

I looked at her reprovingly. "Hey!"

"Hehe. Sorry. It's I had this mental image of you sitting on the throne in girl-form wearing your muscle shirt and boxers, scratching yourself. It's hysterical."

I stared at her a moment, before chuckling. "That is more my style, 'xcept, ya know th' whole girl part." Then I dropped the mirth. "But still, they want ta make me some pampered figurehead, locked away in th' palace."

"So, don't so it that way...do it your way. A lot of Western rulers led from the front lines, do that. I see you more as some barbarian king, like the end of that American Movie we saw a few months ago on television. Remember, before Saffron?"

I nodded, remembering. It had been better times, one of the few moments Akane and I just got to be a couple without interruption. It had been a Saturday night. Kasumi was visiting an old school friend, Nabiki was out with her crew, Pop and Mr. Tendo was out at the bars. Akane and I had decided to stay in, eating takeout we had gotten from someplace that wasn't the Nekohanten or Ucchan's, and watching one of the late movies on television. The movie in question had been a dubbed version of Conan the Barbarian, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was cheesy. However, I hadn't seen much of the sword and sorcery genre before, so it interested me a bit. I remembered the scene Akane was talking about at the end of the movie: King Conan, sitting on his throne, staring at the camera with a troubled brow. "Yeah, I'd probably be like that. But how d' we stop Yamada from having his way?"

"Simple. We let him appoint you, and if he tries to take power, we have him arrested or exiled. Since we KNOW of his plot, it'll be easy to look out for."

"I guess." I said a bit non-committal. "How about you, 'Kane? Ready ta be Empress of Japan?"

Akane blushed with her entire body. To me, it was the cutest I'd ever seen her. Of course, it was the closest I'd ever gotten to propose to her. Finally, she recovered enough to look me in the eye and say. "I guess I'll have to. Someone needs to provide you with common sense."

I looked at her and, surprisingly, chuckled. Inside my mind, however, I hoped and prayed that someone would come to give me advice and a direction to take.

A week later, my prayers were answered.


It had been a troublesome week. The Daleks had gone suspiciously quiet for weeks now. Ever since they had completed the domes they had built all over the city, they seem to have hunkered down for the duration and we'd had so sign of them. Not before they had carpet bombed the city, though. Most of the town lay in ruins and shambles. The dojo, The Clinic, Furinken High, the Nekohanten and Ukyo's Restaurant were nothing but rubble now, and the Kunou mansion had taken heavy damage, leaving only a few walls and towers intact. Fortunately, the blast seemed to be intended to wipe out all life on the surface, but wasn't worried about underneath. The underground bunker, while it had felt the blast, had survived damage free. The Daleks had started on the eastern part of the city, so we had enough warning that everyone was safely in the shelter before the blast hit.

No, the problems were more on the domestic front. People were starting to get a touch of cabin fever, and tempers were at a premium. Adding to that is the fact that we had to repeatedly quell an alarm that kept going off from the geothermal tap. It was sometimes not getting the pressure needed to run the turbines. We spent hours trying to figure out what was wrong, but none of us were technicians of any real kind. Our best speculation is that construction on one of the domes or the bombing must have opened a vent, either accidentally or deliberately, and the pressure was escaping there. Either way, if the drop off continued at its current rate, we'd be powerless in a month's time. Then we'd have to move or do without power. All in all, it was another ball of stress to add to my growing collection.

We had just finished a training session in the dojo. By "we" I mean myself, Akane, Ryoga, Ukyo, and Shampoo; and by "finished" I mean the girls were lying on the floor covered in sweat and gasping for breath, while Ryoga and I were looking forward to actually starting some training of our own, rather than just instructing the girls. I was so close to a breakthrough on my ki problem, I could feel it.

Ukyo was the first to speak, sitting up with a moan of pain and fixing me with a withering glare. "You're a slave driver, you know that, Ranchan? A bonafide sadist."

"Shampoo agree. Feel worse than after workout with Hiba-chan."

I gave them both an unrepentant grin. "Tough. You wanna help Ryouga an' me fight? Then I need all three of ya as good as I can get ya as fast as I can get ya with what I've got ta work with." I gestured around to the rest of the bunker. "If that means I gotta adapt an' use things from th' Old Man's playbook, then that's what I do. An' that means th' kiddie gloves are off."

Akane got shakily to her feet. "And, personally I'm fine with that. I've wanted Ranma to take me seriously in sparring for a year now. I just wish it hadn't taken the Alien Apocalypse to do it." She paused and leveled me a serious look. "But if you think you're going to train our kids like this, think again."

It's amazing how while I can be completely clueless when I speak dangerous lines in front of others, I can instantly recognize when others do it. If had just been Akane and myself alone, I would have simply blushed and moved on. But with Shampoo and Ukyo right there hearing it, what had come out of Akane's mouth was easily the biggest bomb dropped in Japan since Nagasaki. Immediately, I could sense an aura of lethal intent coming from both Shampooand Ukyo. Even Akane realized what she had just walked through Pampelona on July 7th waving a red flag. She paled and slipped into a defensive stance. I moved to stand between them.

It was a tense moment. Only their exhaustion, my previous warning in the bath, and the look on my face was causing Shampoo and Ukyo to hesitate in their assault. On my side, Ryouga, Akane and myself had slipped into defensive stances. For a long minute, no one moved. Each side weighing and evaluating the other. I opened my mouth to warn the two. However, no sooner than I had done so, and the doors to the dojo flew open, distracting everyone.

"ANIKI!" Hiroshi burst into the room, excited.

Grateful for the the timely interference, I turned to Hiroshi. "What is it?"

"Aniki, we just got word from Konatsu. He and Sasuke found someone wandering the streets. Gaijin by the sounds of it. Sasuke's bringing him in now. They're in the sewers about 15-20 minutes out!"

This was news. It had been about a month since we'd seen anyone at all, outside of our group. The construction on the domes had finished and none of us could find a way into them. The subsequent bombing had left the possibility that someone had simply been overlooked virtually nonexistent. It was possible he was from another resistance group...Konatsu and Sasuke had been under orders to keep an eye out for other survivors or freedom fighters. This might be the first real hope we have, other than Mousse. Then again, it could be a trap.

"Okay. I'll get cleaned up quick, and I'll be in the central hub. Ryouga, if the girls have enough energy to fight, they can go another round. Work them through it, and then training is over for the day."


I got there, showered and changed, about a minute before Sasuke brought in the man in question. Slowly, I looked him over.

He was indeed a foreigner, only a couple of years older than I was…nineteen, maybe twenty on the outside. I assumed he must have been a foreign student at Tokyo University, or one of the other area schools, and got caught here when the Daleks invaded. He had dark hair - a dark brown, almost black - and an understandably pinched and exhausted look on his face. He was rail thin, gaunt even, like he hadn't eaten anything in months…not really all that surprising, all things considered. His outfit was a charcoal grey suit with a black tie. All in all, he reminded me of a slightly older foreign version of Gosunkugi, and dressed like he was on his way to attend a western funeral, not trudge through the devastated remains of Japan's capital. Even his eyes, looked tired. They had a weary look in them, like one who had seen far too much for far too long. But that was the odd thing, too. His eyes looked old, like he'd seen far more than the young man in front of me could have possibly seen.

But then, we had all seen a lot in the past four months. I hadn't really looked at my own eyes in the mirror recently.

The main glanced casually at me a moment, and then continued to scan the room. A moment later, he did a double take, and then he just stopped and stared. The look on his face was one of sheer disbelief. "Good grief." Then he broke into an unexpected grin. "As I live and breathe, it's Ranma Saotome. So, you're this "Aniki" fellow my escorts were talking about, eh? By the term, I was expecting some kind of Yakuza boss, but this is much better. In retrospect, I should've known. If anyone could survive long enough to raise hell against the Daleks, it'd be someone like you."

I looked at him in confusion. "You know me?"

"I know OF you. Let's say I've read about all your exploits."

Under my breath, I cursed Nabiki's name. If she was still alive, I'd have probably killed her for that. Okay, well, not killed her, but her life would not have been happy. I also would have been wrong to do so, since that was not actually where this man got his information.

"So ya know who I am… but who th' hell are you?"

He stood there grinning at me for a moment with a look of enthusiastic disbelief for a moment before sobering up and composing himself. "Of course. Sorry. It's just sometimes when I meet celebrities I forget myself." He extended his hand. "Hullo, I'm the Doctor."

Not really used to western gestures, I ignored the hand. "Ain't ya a little young to be one?"

After a moment, he realized he was committing a slight social faux pas and lowered the hand. "Things aren't always what they seem."

I shrugged. "Well, if ya want to talk shop, you could talk ta Dr. Tofu after we're done here."

He looked confused for a moment. "Dr. To…oh! Ono Tofu…right. Funny, I thought he'd left."

My eye twitched. "He came back a coupla months ago. How'd you know that?"

"Nevermind. Anyway, I'm not THAT kind of Doctor. Well…actually I am, but it's not for medical reasons that I'm here."

"So why are ya here?"

"Let's just say I'm here to help in the interest of 'Pest Control'."

I boggled a moment. "'Pest control'?"

"Yes. Large metallic pests with eye stalks, sucker arms, and death rays."

The entire room collectively sucked in their breath. "You know the Daleks?"

"Yes, unfortunately. It seems I've spent all my lives stopping the Daleks from conquering one part of the universe or another."

Everyone in the room stared at the young man standing in front of me, even Ryouga, Akane, Shampoo, and Ukyo who had arrived just in time to hear the last statement. Finally, I spoke up. "Did…did you say the Universe?"

"Well, not THIS exact universe per se, but in the universe where the Daleks and I come from…yes. A planet here a galaxy there...sometimes the whole universe at once. I've spent close to 5,000 years stopping them."

Everyone stared.

"Oh. Didn't I mention? Sorry, I'm a bit out of practice. Let me start again." He paused to clear his throat, then resumed. "Hello, I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord, from the planet Gallifrey in… another universe. I'm 5,183 years old. And I'm here to stop the Daleks from spreading themselves across not just this universe, but every universe that exists in an attempt to end all life but theirs. I think that about covers it."

Again, everyone stared at the young man making such an impossible statement. Finally, to my relief, Dr. Tofu spoke up. "If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to verify some of that."

The Doctor held out his arm. "Lay on, MacDuff!"


About an hour later, everyone had gathered in our War Room…which was the dining hall. Maps of the Greater Tokyo area were spread over the table, with the recent changes made by the daleks marked on the map in marker. With Kasumi helping Tofu with his exam, Shampoo had made some tea and we were all sipping it anxiously.

Finally, Tofu came out, a stethoscope still around his neck. He looked more out of it then I had seen him since the Kasumi crazy days. But he was still rational...just shocked. I looked at him. "Well?"

"Well. I can't determine his age, or if he's from another universe, but one thing is for sure…he's definitely not human." He shook his head. "…two hearts…"

I looked at Tofu. "Any…?" I make a dome shape with my hands.

"Oh! No. Nothing like that."

"Like what?" The Doctor said, entering the room and straightening his tie.

I spoke up. "When fighting th' dalek's human guards, I noticed that they had a strange metal lump behind their ear."

The Doctor nodded. "Ah yes. A Dalek Control Nodule. You should have seen the originals. A big, unwieldy helmet." He chuckled grimly. "We called them Robomen back then, because the technology was so bad the people acted more like automatons than a person…they lurched and their talking was slow and methodical. Mind you, I was still in my early days back then. Just a tad over 500. By the time I was 950, they had evolved the technology to a simple microchip behind the ear, and the personality remained intact…mostly. Even later on, they began using nanotechnology…total rebuild of the body into a dalek slave. They used them as sleeper agents during the War. It was like The Terminator only all dalek-y and worse. However, for a smash-and-grab job like this where they have thousands, if not millions of slaves and only one dalek scout ship to control them, they need the bump…as a receiver, probably connected to satellites in orbit."

Someone…Daisuke, I think…interrupted. "Wait. 'Smash-and-grab'?"

The Doctor nodded. "Yes. They don't plan on taking over your world and staying here indefinitely. They want something. All this is just to get what they want, then leave."

Yamada, who had been silent, finally spoke up from the back of the room. "Well, that's good, right? All we have to do is hold out until they have what they want, and they'll leave us in peace, right?"

All eyes turned to Yamada, and glared angrily at him. I remembered all our fallen friends and loved ones, our Emperor...Emperors, technically, but the one on my mind was the one we saw them actively kill. I thought of my parents, Mr. Tendo, and Nabiki. All around me, I could see similar thoughts in my friends.

Only the Doctor didn't glare. His eyes seemed…sad. "It's not that simple." He said. "Do you really think after everything they've done…all the people they've killed...that they'll leave and let you live? The Daleks aren't that kind or merciful." He paused a moment to let that sink in. "You see, the Daleks have a sort of 'Scorched Planet' policy. They think they are the superior life-form in the universe, and all other life is Inferior, and thus must be destroyed."

"Kind of like the Nazis?" A voice spoke up in the room.

The doctor rolled his eyes slightly. "Please. I've met the Nazis. The Daleks make the Nazis look like the "Free Love" movement of the sixties. For all their faults, the Nazis were still human beings. Most of them still had consciences, and some of the things their leadership made them do gave them nightmares. Also, their hatred and bigotry were focused primarily at only a couple of racial groups...namely the Jews and the Gypsies, which was unfortunately a common bigotry in Europe in the early 20th Century. Not that I'm a proponent of the Nazis, mind you...I'm just referring to a matter of scale. You see, the Dalek's fore-bearers, the Kaleds, were more like the Nazis.

"No, the Daleks are more like if a Nazi scientist had taken all of that hatred and bigotry and distilled it into one being in an attempt to create the Nazi Übermensch…in the process removing anything we consider a positive trait today: Compassion, Caring, Mercy, Love…all thrown in the rubbish bin to create the perfect soldier, one that considers itself the superior life-form, and all others to be vermin worthy of enslavement and eventual extermination. Now take this solder, clone him a few million times, and give each one his own personal Panzer. That's exactly what the Daleks' creator did, only with a more high-tech tank.

"So no, the Daleks don't intend to leave anything alive on this planet. I suspect they only kept your people alive as long as they were useful in building their domes. As that project is completed, I'm fairly certain all the work crews have been exterminated by now."

A grave silence settled over the table. The Doctor had just casually mentioned that most of the surviving population of the planet had probably been killed. I looked uncomfortably at my friends before turning to the Doctor "You sure 'bout that?"

The Doctor paused. "No. Not one hundred percent, to be certain. The one dome I broke into was full of bodies...gassed by the looks of them, but that may not be indicative of all the domes. Still, it doesn't matter. If the Dalek's plan goes off as they want, no life will remain on this planet."

"You know what they're plannin'?"

"Indeed." He looked at our map of Tokyo. "Hand me that ruler and a felt-tip and I'll show you."

The items were handed over and after giving the map a brief scan, The Doctor proceeded to draw several lines on the map. Some were straight lines he drew using the ruler as a straightedge, and some were curving lines that arced across the map. Quite frequently the lines would intersect, and wherever they intersected, there was a Dalek dome.

"Now then, who can tell me what these are?"

We all looked at the map in confusion. I stared at it intently…something about the pattern was reminding me of something.

After a moment, The Doctor continued. "Alright. Different question. Does anyone here know what a 'Ley Line' is?"

More silence. I continued my stare-off with the map, racking my brain for why it felt familiar."

"Come on! Ley Lines, Dragon Lines, Nazca Lines…any of this sounding familiar?"

Finally, Dr. Tofu spoke up. "Aren't they supposed to be lines of spiritual or mystical power running through the world?"

The Doctor frowned. "Well, yes…and no. What they actually are-"

"They're ki pathways…only on a planetary scale."

The Doctor stared at me a moment in shock, before giving me an appraising look. "Yes. That's exactly right."

Dr. Tofu stared at the map a moment. "My…you're right, Ranma. I wonder why I didn't see that."

"It's 'cause you were lookin' at the whole map, Doc. I had to take th' map, erase everything but th' lines in my mind, and compare it ta stuff I'd seen before. It reminds me of th' moxibustion chart…the one we got from Happosai after he hit me with th' Ultimate Weakness Moxibustion. It showed all these ki lines and chakra points…and it looked a lot like this."

The Doctor again gave me another approving look. "Yes. Exactly right! 10 points to…no, never mind, a few years too early for that one. Shame, Rowling will probably never get to write here. If she's still alive, she'll be far too busy. She'd have just been finishing the rough draft about now."

He cleared his throat. "So, Ley Lines, as Ranma said, are like ki paths for the planet. And the parts where they intersect are like chakra points."

"So, the planet is alive?"

The Doctor looked at the farmhand who had asked this. "Well, of course it is! I'm surprised you'd ever think otherwise. Mind you, it's not life like you and me, or even life like plants and trees. But life nonetheless!"

Silence reigned after the Doctor's statement.

He tried again. "Look, you know about the human body, right? On your skin and in your body, there's millions of bacteria and microorganisms…tiny little creatures, all alive, and living in your body in a symbiotic relationship. Without them, you wouldn't be able to process certain foods, and would be more susceptible to viruses and diseases. They keep you alive, and you provide them with a place to live. A mutually equitable arrangement. The Earth is the same way. Only instead of microorganisms, it has you."

As interesting as this metaphysical conversation on planetary lifeforms was, I needed to bring The Doctor back to the point. "Doctor, you were talkin' 'bout th' planet's chakra points?"

"What? Oh. Yes. Sorry, I tend to ramble on a bit in my old age. Get a bit detracted, you know.

"Yes. These "chakra points" have gone by many names over the ages. Nexuses, nodes, focal,points, crossing points, intersections, and so on. While you can't see them, your people have been aware of them for the whole of human existence. Many ancient burial sites were placed on these locations, and thus many key centers of religion have been there. The Pyramids in Egypt, the Parthenon in Greece…the Vatican in Rome is on a big one. So is Temple Mount in Jerusalem. And Angkor Wat, as well.

"Here in Japan, we're on the Ring of Fire that stretches across the Pacific. There are major ley lines going along the ring as well as crisscrossing them through the Pacific. As a result, there are more leylines and focal points here than in any other country. All of your major shinto and buddhist temples are all built on them. And the city with the most? Right here. Tokyo. That's why the Daleks have based their operations here."

"So, what are they doin', 'xactly?"

The Doctor paused for a moment. "It's hard to describe. Most of you have played Final Fantasy VII, right?"

There was a long pause. Finally, Hiroshi spoke up. "Final Fantasy VI only came out last year."

The Doctor smacked his head. "1995…right. VII wouldn't be out until '97."

Daisuke spoke up. "My uncle worked at Square. He got me a reviewer copy of Chrono Trigger right before the plague hit."

Hiroshi looked at Daisuke accusingly. "You were holding out on me, man? I thought we were buddies!"

"I only got it about two days before the world went to hell! I didn't even get time to play it…much."

"Guys!" I shouted. "Ain't important now." I turned to the Doctor. "You were sayin'?"

The Doctor coughed a moment. "Yes, well." He turned to Daisuke. "Chrono Trigger. Good game, by the way. Very Enjoyable. Would have still been in video game top 20 lists decades after its creation. Anyway…" He said hastily, noticing the look I was giving him. Then paused.

A few moments passed. "Anyway?" I prompted.

"Look, this isn't easy, okay!" The Doctor snapped. "I'm a bit out of practice with this whole 'explaining things' business. I had the perfect analogy set up with Final Fantasy VII, even had the right culture and everything. Only I can't use it because it's two years too early and no one would get it! So now I have to figure out how to describe a Metaplanetary Power Sink in laymen's terms to a bunch of martial artists and farmers in a city that isn't exactly known for it's high intelligence scores!"

Calming himself, The Doctor took a deep breath that trailed into a wheezing cough. "It's like I was saying about focal points. They're areas where the ki pools in the earth, where it gets closest to the surface. So, the Daleks build a dome there, and-"

Suddenly what The Doctor was trying to say hit me like a tonne of bricks. "It's a geo-tap! But for ki! A ki-tap!"

The Doctor just stared at me a moment, jaw hanging. Finally, he managed to say "What?"

I started to sweat...my sudden confidence that I had guessed correctly gone. "Well, this bunker…it's powered by a mini version of one 'a those geoterrible power thingies…just big enough ta power th' bunker. It sucks th' heat outta th' ground and uses it ta heat water ta power th' generator. And that's what th' Daleks are doin', but with ki. They're essentially takin' a big straw and stickin' it into the ground and suckin' out all th' ki. Probably usin' it ta power somethin'. Somethin' big."

Ukyo looked at me. "Ranchan, are you sure you've been getting enough sleep? That sounds crazy."

The Doctor piped up. "No, that's right! He's got it exactly right!" He gave me another one of his appraising looks. "You are certainly impressing me tonight, Saotome Ranma. Everything I read about you didn't do you justice."

He turned to the others. "Ranma's right. The Daleks are doing precisely that. Only they aren't powering anything…not yet. Not until they've got enough for their plan. At the moment, they're only collecting it, and transferring it to the main dome via inductance for storage. Then, once they have enough, and the time is right, they convert the whole lot into siderions and punch a hole through the dimensional barrier into another universe…or as I suspect, multiple universes."

"What's 'inductance'? And what's a 'siderion'?"

"Inductance means they're transferring the power wirelessly. A trick I suspect they stole from the Silurians. As for siderions, they're a particle, capable of bridging two sidereal universes for a brief period of time. We didn't even know they existed until a few months ago. Technically they don't have a name, but since I needed one "siderions" will do. Unfortunately, it was the Daleks that discovered them first, and found that one of the easiest ways to produce siderions was to bottle massive amounts of ki and put it under pressure. Fortunately for me, I discovered that Artron Energy could also be used to produce siderions with a bit of jiggery pokery.

"Where is th' Dalek main base, anyway?" I asked.

The Doctor said nothing, then pointed to a location on the map. When I saw it, I groaned. I should have known.

Tokyo Tower. The Daleks had built a gigantic dome over the site. Most of the domes were around the size of a city block, but this one was easily three times that, and it was at least as tall as the tower itself had been. We had thought that the Daleks had taken it the area for the broadcast access, but when the dome went up, we were surprised.

After a moment, The Doctor continued. "The problem is, that while converting planetary ki to siderions is easy, the conversion rate itself is terrible. The Daleks' homeworld, Skaro, had suffered a global thermonuclear war milenna ago. The result was that while not quite dead, the amount of ki the planet had remaining was very little, thus I believe the Dalek's only had enough of it to send them here, to this universe's Skaro. It drained their planet dry to do so. But Earth is abundant with life. They'll be able to open dozens of portals to other universes' Earths and go through. But in doing so, they'll drain Earth, just like they did Skaro. By the time the Daleks' leave, Earth won't have enough ki left to sustain itself."

There was a long pause as the room digested this information. Finally, after a minute or so, I asked "How long would we have?"

The Doctor shook his head. "A few weeks. Maybe a couple of months on the outside. After that, the Earth's ki runs out, it's electromagnetic field collapses, its core cools, and it becomes simply another dead rock orbiting a sun. And the human race goes extinct."

No one spoke again for a few minutes. The Doctor just looked sadly at the map of Tokyo. He had just basically told us we were all going to die.

Looking at the group I saw their reactions. Kasumi, her "cheerful oblivious" mode destroyed by the Dalek invasion, looked about ready to cry. Ryouga had a faint green aura about him, a sign of his depression. Everyone else look downcast, subdued.

No! I raged at myself internally. I will not let everything end this way! Not after everything we've done, all the hell we went through! There HAS to be a way to win!

"I ain't gonna let that happen." I said to the room before turning back to The Doctor. "How do we save the planet?"

The Doctor said nothing, continuing to look down at the map.

"Doctor! How do we stop the Daleks!"

For a moment, The Doctor did nothing. Then, slowly, his hand moved...pointing back at the Tokyo Tower. When he spoke, his words froze my blood. "There's only one thing we can do. We launch a direct assault on the Dalek's main headquarters, and reverse the energy flow."


Next Chapter: Assault