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Chapter 14 Main Chapters Chapter 16

No Need For A Showdown

Nagi sits stiffly in the studio. "I'm Nagi, and Ken-Ohki and I are the greatest bounty hunters of our time. The music I'll be playing is not owned by Dragonwiles, and is the music of the climactic final showdown in 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.' Naturally Dragonwiles doesn't own this movie either." Nagi pushes the button to play the music and leaves. As the tense music begins, Nagi says to Ken-Ohki, "Time for our big showdown." Ken-Ohki meows affirmatively as they leave the studio.

Ryoko didn't fall for very long. She could survive indefinitely in vacuum. The only thing that concerned her were the fierce winds of Venus. If she got blown off course, or if the green atmosphere hid Ken-Ohki from her sight, she might never find Tenchi again. She pitted her invisible thrust against the maelstrom of Venusian air and followed Ken-Ohki down.

As soon as Princess Ayeka's battle gear had sensed the transition from life-supporting atmosphere to the poisonous vapors of Venus, her shield network had switched into a special mode to retain good air in a small envelope extending only a few centimeters over her skin, maintaining proper atmospheric pressure and providing a small reserve of breathable air. Her armor locked into an airtight configuration. From her belt extended a vinelike hose with a mask upon it. It clamped upon her nose and mouth, providing her with breathable air produced by a tiny plant, stimulated by discrete pulses of energy. The mask grew in a manner that appeared organic but had been carefully choreographed, around and over her head, until it became a woody helmet, and it joined to the rest of her armor, making an airtight seal. She applied her Juraian power of flight and pressed forward, still surrounded by the shield network and the air inside it, as a precaution.

Nagi had constructed within the habitat a crude mockup of a stereotypical Wild West town. She now waited tensely on the rooftop of the general store, near the west end of the town. Ken-Ohki had intercepted an Earth television transmission some time ago, containing some Wild West television serials. Nagi wondered if there would ever be an opportunity to see more of these "Wild West" genre serials in the future. She had to admit that the setting, at least as the Earthling serial had portrayed it, did lend itself to a showdown. There were plenty of buildings and narrow alleyways- perfect for the sort of sniper ambush that she wanted to set up, and it should help her counter Ryoko's flying abilities as well.

Ken-Ohki, returned to his cabbit form, watched the skies intently from atop a water tower in the center of town. Nagi looked down the barrel of her gun and sighted Ryoko squarely as she phased inside the walls of the habitat.

Ayeka wondered why Nagi hadn't set any traps at the airlock to the habitat. Perhaps she hadn't anticipated needing any there. Ayeka stealthily proceeded on foot through the airlock and further into the habitat.

Outwardly, Nagi looked as calm as ever- inwardly, she was terrified. It was extremely dangerous to combine Ken-Ohki's full power with that of a ground-defense turret designed to destroy capital-class starships. It had taken weeks of work at a tech shop just to be certain that the turret wouldn't overload with all of that energy going through it. This was the highest-powered weapon that Nagi could bring to bear against Ryoko, and she was terrified that it wouldn't be powerful enough.

The gun she was holding was actually a targeting rod, incapable of shooting on its own. Instead, it relayed targeting information to the turret she had set up in the center of the habitat. The targeting rod she had disguised as a Winchester rifle, and the turret as the water tower for the steam locomotive.

Nagi pulled the trigger.

Ken-Ohki glowed red as he channeled his energies into the turret, and the tower gave off an incredibly massive beam of red energy, which reached Ryoko's position at the speed of light.

Nagi watched as Ryoko fell, aiming the gun so to get another shot at her. With this enemy, she had to be certain. It was kill or be killed. She found herself analyzing Ryoko's fall, trying to determine how much damage she had sustained, whether it had been her imagination or whether Ryoko had moved and so only been nicked by the beam, whether she was conscious or unconscious. Nagi could never recall being this frightened of an opponent in her life, but if the rest of the universe was to remain safe, this criminal had to be dealt with.

Tenchi struggled with the alien ropes holding him, but was making no progress. In keeping with the Western theme, Nagi had tied his hands and feet, gagged him with a red bandana, and transferred him to this pine board coffin in the undertaker's shop.

He supposed he ought to have been more impressed at her synthesizing equipment, which had made a life-sustaining habitat and a rough replica of a Western set on the planet Venus, or perhaps wondering how the massive equipment managed to get stored inside Ken-Ohki when he returned to cabbit form. Right now, however, he didn't care about that.

It was rather a shock to see Ayeka's battle-painted face only inches above his own as she crouched behind the coffin. She moved away for a moment, checking the rest of the building, which was fast since it was only one small room, then crouched by the coffin again. She carefully ungagged him, saying "Quietly," first, then lifted him up so she could sever the bonds behind his back with her sword.

Tenchi worked his mouth a moment, reveling in being free of the gag, then he asked quietly, "How did you find me without Nagi knowing?"

Ayeka nodded to her sword as she finished freeing him. "Ryu-Oh and Funaho told me where they sensed your key." Ayeka handed him his key, which she had found in a corner of the shop. Her eyes darted back and forth quickly, scanning the scene for any enemies, then told him, "Lord Tenchi, we need to leave quickly."

"Wait, where's Ryoko?" Tenchi asked, almost forgetting to be quiet. "Didn't she come too? And hey, wait a minute! How are we going to leave without a ship?"

"I'll ask the Galactic Police to extract us," she said tersely. "Lord Tenchi, I'd prefer to engage Nagi in a situation where she doesn't control the atmosphere. I checked the life support generator- it has power for only fifteen more minutes."

"Well, yeah, but, where is Ryoko?" Tenchi said again.

"We were seperated," Ayeka began, but Tenchi had already headed for the door. She followed hurriedly as he threw open the door. He gasped in shock as he saw the huge beam emanate from the water tower and strike a point on the ground outside the town. Running towards the tower, he was stopped by a powerful hand on his shoulder. Ayeka said fiercely in his ear, "If you want what we're doing for you to have any meaning, come with me to the airlock now! Ryoko can live in vacuum; we cannot!"

He nodded, though his mouth twisted in frustration, and he followed Ayeka as she ran stealthily and used her key to call Kiyone.

"Yukinojo," Kiyone ordered, "where's the next problem?"

The computer aboard Mihoshi's ship answered, "The dorsal shielding grid has been disabled. Please patch the interlink transmission guide."

Kiyone looked through the viewplate of her mecha, and used thrusterjets to propel herself towards the dorsal surface of Yukinojo. The mecha was relatively small, almost like a second skin, albeit a heavily armed and armored second skin. She had launched it from Yagami's bay a few minutes earlier to begin field repairs on Yukinojo, and had demanded that Mihoshi maintain position.

"Are you sure you don't need any help?" Mihoshi asked plaintively.

"No!" Kiyone shouted. "Just stay there!" There was a beeping sound, startling her. She realized it was a communication request. Calling up the live feed, she saw Princess Ayeka for a moment, though the picture bounced and wobbled and the background changed rapidly. She deduced that Ayeka was running.

"Detective Kiyone," Ayeka told her quickly, "please extract us from the airlock at coordinates I will be sending presently. Time is of the essence."

"We'll be sure to be there!" Mihoshi said with steely determination. Ayeka cringed as she heard that voice.

"Affirmative!" Kiyone answered, and didn't blame Princess Ayeka one bit for the unconvinced expression on her face as she signed off.

Kiyone considered the situation quickly. Yagami was in no condition to risk the descent. They'd have to use Yukinojo. She changed course from the dorsal surface to Yukinojo's hangar bay.

Nagi felt growing panic. She had ordered the tower to fire upon Ryoko as soon as she hit the ground, and she could've sworn that she had hit Ryoko, but there was no sign of her now. That could only mean-

Ken-Ohki flung himself forward at incredible speed, zooming from the water tower, taking the hit that Ryoko launched upon Nagi's back. Ryoko had phased through the ground when she fell, getting below the surface just before the beam struck. She had then phased up through the building Nagi had taken a position on and come out behind Nagi's back.

Ryoko's saber was blocked by Ken-Ohki's body, although he meowed in horrible pain. Falling to the ground, he lay still. Nagi rolled, dropped the fake rifle, and brought out her whip. With a single snap of the wrist, it had coiled around Ryoko and pinioned her arms to her side. Nagi could see that the hair on one side of Ryoko's head had been completely vaporized from the beam attack that hit her in midair, leaving an angry red scar on her scalp.

Fumbling for the rifle, Nagi watched as Ryoko burst her whip, a whip that had secured some of the strongest creatures from across the galaxy. Nagi leapt to her feet and punched Ryoko full in the face. There was no other option left. Nagi's strength topped that of most creatures in known space, and was capable of making even Ryoko stumble backwards a moment. Ryoko then levitated off the floor and grabbed Nagi around the neck with both hands. Nagi punched and battered Ryoko as best she could, but she was a creature that needed an atmosphere to survive, and Ryoko was rapidly depriving her of that. She could see the rage consuming Ryoko, boiling away in her mad eyes. As Nagi began to slip into unconsciousness, she noted idly that Ryoko's eyes looked rather like a cat's, and that must've been their natural shape all along.

Ryoko's grip loosened a little bit, and she asked throatily, "Where is Tenchi?"

Nagi recovered just enough to tell her, and found herself flying with Ryoko, through the buildings and to the undertaker's shop. Nagi tried to pry away Ryoko's hands, knowing the resistance was futile but that she had to attempt it. She paused as she saw Ryoko looking furiously at the empty coffin. For a moment, Nagi was certain her life was about to end.

"So he escaped," Ryoko said simply. Nagi looked back and to her astonishment saw Ryoko smiling. Ryoko released her and flew back out of reach. Nagi stared suspiciously at her, and Ryoko clarified, "Our business is done. You're a bounty hunter, but I'm not a criminal anymore. Tenchi's safe. There's no reason for me to kill you, or for you to hunt me anymore."

Nagi stared at her a moment, then nodded. "I suppose Tenchi was right." It was crazy, of course, she told herself. Ryoko was simply posturing. She wouldn't trust her until she and Ken-Ohki had left the system safely. But her eyes had changed. And she had let her live when no one was watching, and no one would have blamed her for killing her. Perhaps Yosho had been right not to kill her. Perhaps this was what he had intended. Could one good deed make up for Ryoko's lifetime of evil, though? Nagi didn't know, and she didn't intend to try to resolve the question right now. She'd consider the moral questions, and questions of how it would even be possible to kill Ryoko should it be necessary, at greater length on a later date.

Nagi knew one thing for certain. If Ryoko committed even one crime in the future, Nagi would see Ryoko brought to justice.

Kiyone burst through the door and leveled her GP-issue blaster at Nagi. "Bounty hunter Nagi, you're under arrest!"

Mihoshi pranced through the door behind her crying, "Wait for me, I haven't finished apprehending her accomplice!" She fumbled with the handcuffs, trying to fit them around the fiercely struggling Ken-Ohki, who bit her finger. "Ouch!" she yelped.

Tenchi ran through the door and yelled, "Ryoko!"

"Tenchi!" Ryoko cried happily, then hurriedly turned her head away from him. She ran her hand along her scalp and regrew her hair. Looking back, she saw Ayeka in battle gear beside him. Ryoko said saucily to Ayeka, "Well, brat, I'm glad to see you're in one piece. I thought your delicate skin would've been irritated by the acid in the air, and you'd go back home to Jurai."

"I expected to find Nagi in the coffin," Ayeka held up her nose. "But I suppose that was too much for you after seven centuries of deterioration."

"You are so wrong, Ayeka," Ryoko crossed her arms proudly, "I let her live."

Ayeka looked sharply at Nagi. Nagi was simply staring at Ryoko, and finally gave a single nod.

"You didn't slay her when you had the right?" Ayeka couldn't believe it.

"We both know there's enough blood on my hands already. There's only enough room in my heart for one hate now," Ryoko said steadily, but her gaze was faraway. "And only room for one love," she added, looking back at Tenchi.

Ayeka looked at Nagi, now handcuffed, and tried to ignore the odd sight of Ken-Ohki wriggling out of the grasp of both of the police officers. Then she spoke to Nagi, "I see Ryoko's given you a good beating from both of us." Nagi simply stared, not sure where this was going.

"There must be many criminals who need to be found," Ayeka informed her. "You're the best bounty hunter in known space, so I expect you and Ken-Ohki to find and return to the Galactic Police one hundred criminals by the time four Earth months have passed."

"Am I to understand this is a job?" Nagi asked.

"You are to consider it a commuted sentence," Ayeka said sternly. "If you fail to do this, I will have you executed for laying hands on a member of the Juraian royal family."

"Princess Ayeka," Kiyone looked at her askance, "she is to be released under these conditions?"

"As a member of Jurai's royal family, I have the power to sentence criminals on our property," Ayeka nodded. "Release her."

Everything in Kiyone wanted to scream that this was a miscarriage of justice, but she knew Ayeka was within her rights. She released Nagi, and mentally sighed in relief when Nagi simply flexed her fingers.

"As a show of good faith," Nagi said slowly, "I'll disassemble this facility. Your fellows won't find anything suspicious on the planet," she assured Tenchi.

"What I said was true, wasn't it?" Tenchi replied evenly.

"It was," Nagi agreed. "But the balance of what I said was true too." She looked around the room and added, "We won't impose on you any longer." Ken-Ohki hopped out of Mihoshi's hands and followed her to the door. He'd managed to regenerate his exterior to prevent further blood loss, and he'd kept up the fight against Mihoshi and Kiyone out of stubbornness, but Nagi knew he'd need more time to recover fully from Ryoko's wound. Like her, Nagi knew, he was extremely mistrustful of Ryoko and Ryo-Ohki. Neither Nagi nor Ken-Ohki were content to let such dangerous criminals escape justice for long.

"Thanks for dropping us off," Tenchi said gratefully to Kiyone as he, Azaka, Kamadaki, Sasami, Ayeka, and Ryoko stood on the path leading to the Masaki residence. After a short delay for more repairs to Yagami, Kiyone had taken them back to Earth, leaving Mihoshi and Yukinojo to monitor the dismantling of Nagi's Western facsimile.

"It wasn't a problem," she assured him. "I hope you realize that Nagi is not representative of all the citizens of the galaxy."

"Don't worry, I understand," Tenchi assured her. "Are you sure you won't come inside?"

"No, I should really go back and help Mihoshi," Kiyone said regretfully.

"Thank you for helping everyone!" Sasami told her.

"You're quite welcome. We're here when you need us," Kiyone bowed in response and headed back to Yagami.

"It sure is good to be home," Tenchi commented.

"I should go call your father back," Sasami remembered, "he was really worried about you."

"What?" Tenchi exclaimed. "Dad found out?"

"He called up while you were all on Venus and he wanted to talk to you," Sasami explained.

Tenchi gulped. His father loved him, and probably had been really concerned for him, but now that he was safe, he was certain he'd never stop hearing about how wonderful it was that he was meeting so many women nowadays.

"And your grandfather was really worried too," Sasami added.

Katsuhito chose that moment to appear on the deck. "Tenchi," he called out to him, "what's this I hear about your getting kidnapped? I think that you need more training. Let's get to work."

"Oh no," Tenchi groaned.

Several hours later, Mihoshi sheepishly bowed and wailed out an apology to Kiyone, "I'm so sorry Kiyone! I know how much Yagami means to you, and I know it was my fault it got hurt so badly! I was trying to make it right but I made it worse!"

Kiyone sighed and stepped across the threshold of the airlock into Yukinojo. She didn't have the energy to be sad or angry about Mihoshi disabling Yagami while trying to fix it, against her specific requests. She also didn't want to hold a grudge against her partner for what had happened, so she said, "It's all right, Mihoshi. Let's just concentrate on towing Yagami out of the protected zone so that the GP can take it to a dock."

"I guess the good thing," Mihoshi tried to stop sniffling, "is that we don't have to worry about Nagi anymore since she's gone, and you're going to live here on Yukinojo with me, so we'll get to see a lot more of each other. We'll be together every day!"

"Yes," Kiyone agreed wearily. "Every day."

Next Chapter

Ryoko shakes her head, "I thought Nagi was the one getting punished. Why'd you do that to poor Kiyone?"

Dragonwiles harrumphs. "Tenchi's safe and you had plenty of screen time. I don't want to hear anything that resembles a complaint."

Washu takes her place on stage and says, "Now it comes time for the height of tragedy in our story. The events of seven centuries will be set into motion with one action."

Ayeka mutters, "Why did everything have to go wrong like that?"

Dragonwiles shrugs scaly shoulders, "I'm just an author. I can't answer that sort of question."

"The next chapter," Washu and Ryoko say together, "is No Need For Ultimate Control."

Chapter 14 Main Chapters Chapter 16