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Chapter 16 Main Chapters Chapter 18

No Need For A Search Pattern

Mihoshi says brightly, "Hello, everyone, I'm Detective Mihoshi Kuramitsu, and I've been selected to be your DJ today! We'll be playing one of my favorite songs, 'Police Magic', because this is one of my favorite chapters ever! I hope that you like it too!"

Ayeka decided the search for her brother really did have to get started today, before anything else interrupted it. She'd finally been able to repay her hosts for their hospitality by aiding Tenchi yesterday. Ayeka still felt uncomfortable on a planet she'd never visited before, but the only way to end that feeling would be to get out and explore.

"I'd like to help you," Nobuyuki told her at breakfast that morning, "but I have to work all day. A smart young lady like you could probably find the library yourself, although all this must be new to you, and I'd like to have one of us help you."

"Why don't you go with Tenchi?" Katsuhito suggested. "He's still on summer vacation, he has some free time."

Tenchi frowned. It wasn't as though Tenchi particularly minded the idea. He was simply irritated by the fact that Grandpa neatly ruled himself out of the possible escorts, even though Grandpa also had nothing in particular to do today. It could be said that Tenchi had far more to do than Grandpa, because he still had to do all the homework he had planned to do yesterday, but wasn't able to because of being kidnapped.

Ayeka uncomfortably noted Tenchi's frown and said hesitantly, "I don't wish to impose on your hospitality any further."

"No, no," Tenchi said hurriedly, "I don't mind at all."

Ryoko did mind, but had an idea, and said nothing for the moment.

It was a long bus ride into town, and the bus stop itself was some distance from their house. Nobuyuki had already taken the car into town- the library was on the other side of town from his office, or he would've taken them.

That was why Tenchi found himself waiting with Ayeka at the bus stop.

Ayeka didn't appear to have expected this long a wait. "Lord Tenchi, I don't understand why the bus doesn't go by your house," she said in some confusion.

"I dunno. It just doesn't. Too far away from the road. We are way out in the boonies," he said resignedly.

"This is all very different from Jurai," Ayeka commented, and pondered a moment. "Being so remote, that does make your home very relaxing," Ayeka said wistfully.

"You really think so?" Tenchi asked, surprised. Tending fields full of vegetables tended to reduce the amount of relaxation that he experienced there. He liked the house, but there was always a lot of work there for him, and it took so long to get home from school.

"Oh yes," Ayeka agreed. "I've always had to live in the center of everything: the center of the city, and the center of attention. To finally find someplace where I know that I am not being watched constantly, or constantly surrounded by people, makes me feel incredibly free."

"I was thinking the opposite about my house," Tenchi admitted. "I had been thinking it was starting to finally feel lived in. We didn't use half of the rooms before now. Having people to fill it up is making me feel more relaxed."

They were silent a moment, then Tenchi asked, "What is the palace on Jurai like?"

"It's a giant, hollow tree," Ayeka explained. "It's laced with long, narrow corridors, like the veins of a tree. When you reach the top of it, and look out, you can see all of the city, and the ruins nearby, and all of the countryside for miles around."

"Wow," Tenchi nodded, impressed.

"Perhaps," Ayeka paused, "perhaps, one day, you will live there, Tenchi."

"What, me?" Tenchi pointed at himself.

"You are a descendant of Yosho," Ayeka said seriously. "According to some interpretations of Juraian law, you might have a stronger claim to the throne than myself or Sasami."

"I-but-but I don't want to get in your way! It's your right!" he sputtered. Clearly this thought hadn't yet occurred to him.

Ayeka had to let him off the hook, and said wryly, "There are, of course, many interpretations of Juraian law that agree with you."

The bus came just then, so Ayeka did not ask him at that time why he didn't want to become the king of Jurai.

When they reached the city library, Ayeka immediately began to delve into the origins of the 700 year-old legend of Yosho. As she had expected, not a lot of source material was found, but she did find, to her surprise and delight, an old manuscript claiming to be the genealogy of a clan that lived in the area about that time. Listed in there was a man outside the clan who had married into it, and his name was Yosho Masaki.

"Of course," Tenchi shook his head, "I'm sorry. I should've showed you the scroll we've got at the house! It starts with Yosho, it doesn't have the other members of the clan like this one does."

"That's quite all right. I'm glad I found this, so I can at least know the names of my in-laws," Ayeka said reassuringly. She traced her fingers along the various relations of Yosho's wife, then moved her finger down the page to the two generations of children descended from Yosho. Ayeka blinked rapidly and said softly, "I wish I had been able to meet them," then deliberately replaced the genealogy where it had been found.

Tenchi tried to think where they might find something else. The library was fairly good, but its collection from the thirteenth century A.D. was understandably limited.

Tenchi heard a noise and turned around behind him. He hoped it wasn't what it sounded like- yes, it was the noise Ryoko made when she teleported. She stood there now, looking at him and Ayeka. Tenchi was thankful that they were alone and no one had seen Ryoko teleport in.

"Hey, Tenchi, let's have some fun on the town!" she suggested.

"Ryoko, don't teleport in front of people!" Tenchi said nervously. "There's no telling what they might do!"

Ryoko shook her head, "Don't worry so much, Tenchi. You've been cooped up here long enough- come out and relax!"

"Lord Tenchi is assisting me at the moment, Ryoko," Ayeka said severely.

"Why are you even bothering with all of this?" Ryoko asked wonderingly as she put her hand on her hip. "I already know where he is. I could tell you right now."

"I've already told you that I don't care to hear about my brother from you, since you are the reason he had to leave Jurai in the first place!" Ayeka insisted as she balled her fists.

"You're a stubborn one," Ryoko smiled slyly. Ayeka snarled. Ryoko sighed, "It is a beautiful day, and I thought it'd be a shame if Tenchi were to waste it cooped up inside with books."

Tenchi put out an open hand, "Now look, I'm fine!"

Ayeka was about to say something, then laughed shortly and oddly. "Lord Tenchi," she said suddenly, "I do believe that we have learned all here that we can. I would appreciate it if you could help orient me in your hometown."

Ryoko looked daggers at her. "Are you lost already, princess? Summon your logs if you need someone to hold your hand. I bet you could find lots more in here about Yosho. Let's go, Tenchi."

Ayeka noted, "Ryoko, you've had seven centuries to become acquainted with this area, while I've only just arrived. I understand if you find it too boring to accompany Lord Tenchi and I." Ryoko now balled her fists.

Tenchi looked back and forth between them. He needed to figure out something fast, before the library got blown up.

"Now stop fighting, you two!" he spoke as he finally let his irritation burst out. "This is what we're going to do."

"I wanted to talk to you about Kiyone and Mihoshi", the Galactic Police commander said gravely through his leonine mouth.

Capt. Nobeyama used a handkerchief and napkined away the sweat drop that had appeared on his face just from mere mention of those names. "Yes, sir?" he said.

"Their most recent report indicates that they engaged Ken-ohki without backup, and as a result the cruiser Yagami had to be picked up and towed to our spacedock facilities."

"That's correct sir," sighed Capt. Nobeyama. He knew what had prompted this- the boss had been approving expenditures again. It wasn't cheap getting something of Yagami's class refitted.

The Wau dropped the expense report onto his desk after authorizing it and harrumphed, "I want to get straight to the meat of the matter. What has happened to Mihoshi these last few years?"

"I only wish I knew, sir," Capt. Nobeyama said mournfully.

The commander made a rumbling noise in the back of his throat and grumbled, "The Grand Marshal is always breathing down my neck, wanting to hear more grand exploits from her. I can't tell him the problems she's been having."

"Sir," Capt. Nobeyama said hopefully, "the idea you had, about counseling for Mihoshi?"

He shook his head, "The counseling department is booked solid for two years and can't look at Mihoshi's file. If something doesn't change soon," the commander leaned closer, "Mihoshi may cause an even bigger disaster on our watch. See what you can do."

Capt. Nobeyama left the commander's office greatly disturbed. What could he do? He couldn't convince Mihoshi to stop being insane.

Oh no, and now that light was flashing. The Juraian Intelligence officer assigned to the department was calling again. Capt. Nobeyama felt a burst of irritation. He'd already told him that there was no indication that the princesses were in the protected zone! It made sense that he was interested, but he simply didn't have the information his contact wanted. Besides, if he, or Mihoshi or Kiyone actually had information like that, would they really withhold it? The only conceivable reason would be if the detectives had been ordered not to say anything by the princesses themselves, which simply didn't make sense. That didn't stop the Juraian Intelligence officer's insinuations, threats, and veiled attempts to offer a bribe for even a scrap of information on where the princesses were.

With a sigh, Capt. Nobeyama carefully sat down in his chair, slowly wiped off more perspiration with his handkerchief, and tried to relax. He answered the call.

"Kiyone, I broke another-" Mihoshi croaked sadly, looking at the fragment of a cup in her hand.

"It'll be all right," Kiyone told her from the bridge of Yukinojo, "just try to be more careful." Kiyone wondered to herself why she had to always be the strong one. Mihoshi had broken her own cup and needed comfort. Kiyone was going to be without Yagami for at least three more weeks. Who was going to be strong for her?

Kiyone suddenly received a microburst from the perimeter warning net deployed around the zone. The net's sensors had detected an inbound spaceship whose description matched that of a getaway vessel used last month. The thieves had robbed one of the few banks in this region of space, and they were still being heavily pursued. They had maintained a sizable lead since their ship was a souped-up sports racer.

"Mihoshi! The warning net has spotted a criminal in the area!" Kiyone said through the intercom. Mihoshi responded, "Roger, on my way," with all trace of the lost little girl gone.

Kiyone began thinking to herself, wondering why they would be heading through this region of space, when suddenly she realized the answer. The special regulations of the protected zone forbid anyone from entering it without special permission from the royal family of Jurai. The robbers planned to use the protected zone as a shortcut to reach some hideout, traveling straight through it. In the meantime, all their pursuers would be forced to detour around the protected zone. The robbers would probably lose all pursuit.

Mihoshi reached the bridge, and Kiyone briefed her on the situation. The warning net, in the meantime, picked up the GP forces pursuing the robbers, and indicated that the GP force was beginning to detour around the protected zone.

Mihoshi said in a steely voice, "We'll just have to take them ourselves. I'll pilot Yukinojo, and you can use a mecha to launch a surprise attack on them." Kiyone blinked and nodded, and Mihoshi nodded back before turning to Yukinojo and ordering, "Yukinojo, plot an intercept course for the robbers' vessel."

Kiyone could feel herself smiling too. She didn't know how long it would last, but at least for a moment, the old Mihoshi was back: the brave and excellent police officer. Kiyone liked her this way.

Tenchi wondered just what he had been thinking. He hadn't had much time to come up with a good plan, but surely he could've done better than this. Tenchi's main goal had been to keep all of his alien houseguests quiet at least, and ideally unknown to the outside world. What he was doing now certainly wasn't accomplishing that.

"Really, Ryoko," Ayeka said archly, "you might try behaving with more dignity in public." Her arm was hooked around Tenchi's right arm, and her back was quite straight and stiff. Her pace was even and deliberate.

"Yeah, well you might try not poisoning Tenchi's mind by whispering lies in his ear," Ryoko fired back as she tugged on Tenchi's left arm. She kept her pace however she felt was best.

"What do you mean?" Ayeka asked angrily, and Ryoko replied, "I saw you whispering in his ear. Don't try to deny it."

"Now look, you two!" Tenchi said in annoyance as he slowed his gait, "we're trying to enjoy a nice walk in the park."

It was not really a good season for walking in the park, Tenchi thought to himself, far too hot, but that was exactly why he had picked it. As he had expected, they had the park all to themselves. The girls' alien hair and eye colors, and quarreling, ought to attract less attention out here.

Tenchi led them to the pool in the center. "The sun really sparkles off the water," he commented.

"Indeed," Ayeka agreed, and Ryoko nodded.

They looked at the dazzling sight, arm in arm, for a minute that seemed to become eternity.

"I know! Let's go swimming, Tenchi!" Ryoko suddenly exclaimed. She began to pull Tenchi and the interconnected Ayeka towards the water.

"Whoa! Wait a-" Tenchi protested, and Ayeka shrieked, "Absolutely not, I am simply not prepared for the occasion!"

"Whoops, whoa!" Mihoshi said in alarm.

"Mihoshi," Yukinojo cautioned her, "you've mixed up the lateral thrusters with the yaw control!"

"Right!" she said as she switched her hand position on the controls. Yukinojo shook as the robber's vessel attacked them.

Kiyone was using her mecha to attack the robber's vessel from outer space, flitting and firing. Only a bit longer and they could disable the vessel, if only Mihoshi kept her head. Kiyone wished that the competent Mihoshi had remained in place just a little longer.

Tenchi tried to pick himself up, complicated by the fact that his arms were still entangled in the arms of Ayeka and Ryoko. He, as well as Ayeka and Ryoko, had fallen face-down into the pool, and now they were soaked from head to toe. He coughed, trying to clear some water from his nose, and protested, "Ryoko, how could we possibly go swimming in this pool? Couldn't you see it's only a few inches deep?"

The water around Ayeka trembled with her rage as she said in a low voice, "Wonderful. Now we can all catch cold on the way home."

Ryoko lazily traced circles in the water by her head and said lazily, "It's summer. We'll dry off and be just fine. You should thank me for this chance to cool down in the middle of the day."

As Kiyone had expected, the robber's vessel didn't have any point-defense weaponry to shoot a target as small and maneuverable as she was. Unfortunately, she saw a combat mecha departing its airlock and heading for her. She fired upon it, and it fired back.

The other mecha was a much cheaper and lower-powered version, that much was obvious in their first exchange of fire. It therefore began to flee at high speed back to the airlock, but Kiyone blocked its retreat. The mecha then began to flee away from herself, and the robbers' vessel. Kiyone used her communications gear to tell Mihoshi, "Mihoshi, I'm going after the mecha!" Mihoshi replied, "Roger!"

Kiyone turned away from Yukinojo and the robber's main vessel and followed the enemy mecha as it fled. From its speed and light armament, she guessed that it was a racing model, like the ship. She looked at her enemy's course and realized that it was trying to reach Venus. Kiyone shook her head. The criminal wasn't going to be able to escape in there, not as long as she stayed on the trail.

Unbeknownst to Kiyone, Yukinojo was at that moment warning Mihoshi, "The enemy ship has lost its maneuvering power and is moving perilously close to Earth's atmosphere! We have to disable its engines now!"

"Uh, right, I'll just use the tractor beam to bring it in," Mihoshi agreed.

"No, we're out of range!" Yukinojo wailed.

Yukinojo was too late- it had to follow the orders of its commanding officer. Yukinojo's tractor beam lashed out at the enemy ship, and fell far short of it. The massive engines of the robbers' vessel propelled it inexorably and helplessly towards the Earth's atmosphere, at an angle far too shallow for safe entry. The robbers were probably trying frantically to correct course or shut down the engines, but Kiyone's earlier attack had destroyed the links between the bridge and the control systems.

"I'll get them this time!" Mihoshi determined as she ordered Yukinojo to put on a burst of speed.

"Roger, Officer Mihoshi," lamented Yukinojo, "we should reach them just before they are bounced off the atmosphere."

The engines on the robbers' vessel suddenly shut down. Mihoshi and Yukinojo would only definitively learn later that the vessel's fuel had been depleted by its evasive maneuvers earlier in the battle.

At the moment, that mattered little. True to programming, Yukinojo had plotted an intercept course for the robbers' vessel assuming that it would continuously accelerate towards the Earth. Now Yukinojo passed the vessel, heading towards Earth. Yukinojo, following retargeting protocols, immediately began to apply braking thrust and came smoothly to a stop, relative to the other vessel.

Mihoshi punched the control for an inverse tractor beam, and Yukinojo fired a beam of energy that shoved the robber's vessel back. Now both vessels were in a stable orbit, continuously falling but never reaching the Earth.

Mihoshi had just enough time to say, "That was lucky," when the enemy vessel suddenly launched an energy beam at Yukinojo. Instinctively, she piloted Yukinojo through an evasive maneuver and returned fire. The robbers, now that they were safe, probably wanted to disable Yukinojo so they could escape to the planet's surface in shuttles.

The enemy fired at Yukinojo again, and again, and Mihoshi was forced to pull Yukinojo back a little bit with each assault. Again acting on the instincts that had served her so well in the past, she activated the tractor beam to draw the enemy vessel into an advantageous firing position.

Unfortunately, the enemy vessel chose that particular moment to fire again. Mihoshi, during her evasive manuever, didn't have time to turn off the tractor beam. As Yukinojo moved, the tractor beam tugged on the robber's vessel as well. Mihoshi's evasive maneuver took Yukinojo downwards and to the side. The robber's vessel, already slightly below Yukinojo, was therefore also drawn downwards and to the side. The robbers were drawn so low that they hit the atmosphere of Earth at high speed. They bounced off, as their angle of entry was too shallow, but the battle had weakened the vessel's structure, and it broke in half. With an agonizing slowness, the halves were drawn in by Earth's gravity, and burned up in the atmosphere.

Yukinojo had been forced so close to the atmosphere by the recent attacks that there was no time for a course correction before it slipped inside Earth's atmosphere and was buffeted by unpredictable winds.

Tenchi disentangled himself from Ayeka and Ryoko, clambered to his feet, and looked up. He noticed the jet trail in the sky, slowly drawing out across the clear blue expanse. He blinked. It almost looked like the jet trail was coming closer.

Ayeka clasped her key and rose. "Ryu-Oh and Funaho are detecting a spaceship making an uncontrolled descent," she said urgently. "It looks like Officer Mihoshi's vessel."

Tenchi's gaze flicked back to the sky. The jet trail was bouncing alarmingly now, and it was quite clearly coming closer.

"And here I was enjoying my bath," Ryoko grumped.

"Oh no, oh no!" Mihoshi panicked. "I didn't realize I was this close to the atmosphere, I'll try using this control, no this one, no, I'd better-" She punched buttons nearly at random.

Yukinojo would've helped her, but the ship's uncontrolled and increasingly rapid descent was defeating his guidance routines. Every time he would get a bearing, they would bounce again, and he'd lose it.

He chattered out a damage report, "Losing sections of hull plating."

"Tenchi, watch out!" Ryoko shouted, and pushed him down, rolling him over and ending up on top of him. Where he had just been standing, a small but red hot shard of metal was embedded into the ground.

Ayeka spared it a glance, wondering what would have happened if Ryoko hadn't seen that falling bit of hull in the air before it hit. Ayeka returned to watching the sky.

"Thanks, Ryoko," Tenchi told her uncertainly. He hadn't seen anything dangerous. He was lying on his stomach with Ryoko on top of him, and he craned his neck to see the sight of the huge, pink Yukinojo flying very, very low. Most of its hull had been heated extremely by its descent through the atmosphere, so it looked an even hotter pink than before. Sections of the hull plating had also been ripped off. There was very little time to observe all of this, as it flew a kilometer further in the next several seconds. It then crashed into the woods far outside town.

"Oh, my- I wonder if she's all right!" Tenchi said, standing up. Ryoko was forced to release her hold and get off of him. Tenchi ran for the woods, and Ayeka and Ryoko followed him.

Kiyone frowned. What could the criminal mecha's possible objective be? She used her own mecha's processing power and projected the criminal mecha's path. It appeared to be attempting a slingshot maneuver around Venus, one that would use its gravity as an accelerator. It seemed insane to attempt to travel interstellar distances in a mecha, even one with a superluminal drive like this robber possessed. Kiyone knew, however, that some species, with lifespans measured in centuries, were capable of living for years on the amount of food that could be stored in a mecha's small cargo pouches. As long as the robber husbanded energy wisely, the mecha's fuel cells might last long enough to reach an inhabited system. Doubtless this robber had stashed some loot in the mecha as well.

Now the question for Kiyone was how to stop the mecha. She'd only call in Mihoshi as backup; both because she was erratic, and because she really did trust Mihoshi with half of the mission, stopping the robbers' main vessel.

The enemy mecha was faster than Kiyone's, and her mecha had armor and weapons in place of an engine that could travel faster than light. Once the robber's mecha completed the slingshot maneuver, it would probably engage its superluminal drive and be too fast for Kiyone's mecha to catch up with. She had to stop it now. Kiyone armed her mecha's missiles, locked them on the enemy mecha, and fired two missiles.

The enemy mecha began evasive maneuvers. Kiyone fired with her beam weapons, even though the mecha was at the extreme edge of her range. This proved to be a wise decision. The fast and maneuverable racing mecha somehow managed to avoid both of the missiles, but one of Kiyone's shots connected with it, disabling an engine, and it began to slow down.

By this point, the enemy mecha had nearly reached Venus. Kiyone watched her opponent correct course and accelerate using the remaining engines. It was now on a perfect course for entering the Venusian atmosphere. Kiyone held her breath, hoping her homing missiles would be able to reorient and hit the mecha, but they were too late- the mecha was already inside the atmosphere. One of the missiles was at the wrong angle and bounced off. The other entered the atmosphere, but wasn't rated for reentry- its casing was melted and its warhead exploded prematurely.

Kiyone adjusted her own course and followed the enemy mecha into the posionous atmosphere of Venus. Her mecha, like the enemy's, was rated for reentry, and she watched as the plume of heat caused by her descent safely dissipated and she entered the skies of Venus.

The swirling clouds of sulphuric acid were a limited threat to her mecha and the enemy, but visibility was so low that she had to rely on sensor readings of her enemy. The winds buffeted and blew about her mecha, making it hard to keep control, let alone a course.

The enemy was trying to flee away, she saw. Missiles in these winds would probably be useless. She was blown off course for a moment, then another gust brought her just close enough. She fired her longest range beams at the enemy. They missed, as her enemy was shoved along by a puff of wind. The enemy fired back, but she was suddenly caught in a jetstream. It had saved her by pulling her back, but now it had grasped her mecha and was carrying her away.

With a grim set to her mouth and a few touches of the controls, Kiyone pulled her mecha above the jetstream. Freed from its grasp, she accelerated towards the mecha, but she could tell it was going to escape. The robber had decided it was worth expending the extra energy to be certain that she could never catch up. Kiyone could leave the atmosphere and follow it forever, but she'd never catch up to it in her mecha.

That was the moment when the tornado formed.

Tenchi slowed his pace only once he reached Yukinojo's crash site. There was a string of torn and devastated trees from where the spaceship had clipped them. Yukinojo's tail, about twice the size of Tenchi's house, had separated from the main spacecraft, lying slightly to the side where it had bounced and landed. The front of Yukinojo had taken most of the heat of reentry, melting it almost beyond recognition, and then caved in as it took most of the force of impact.

"Mihoshi, are you in there?" he called.

"Azaka, Kamadaki, search for survivors," Ayeka ordered as she came up behind him. The robots teleported to her location and immediately began to move around in the wreckage. Ayeka walked around the spacecraft, to be sure there was nothing she missed.

Ryoko flew upwards a short distance, looking at the huge gash in the treeline and the giant spaceship. "She's probably fine- looks like the autoeject worked." She indicated a large cavity near the top of the hull, where Yukinojo's bridge had rested before being shoved away to save its pilot from danger.

Tenchi looked around, saying "I wonder where she could've landed-" he broke off as he saw something in the nearby creek. He ran to it, and lifted it out with some effort- as he had thought, it was Mihoshi's waterlogged form. She had been lying facedown in the creek.

Ayeka joined him quickly, while Ryoko decided to maintain her aerial view. Ryoko could now see where Mihoshi's bridge had been ejected- a few hundred meters further ahead in the forest.

"She must've come back to check on her vessel," Ayeka murmured, bowing her head as she remembered how it felt when Ryu-Oh crashed only a few days ago.

Tenchi wiped away some of the fresh blood that was coming from a cut on her forehead. "It's a good thing we found her. A few more seconds and she might've drowned. We need to get her to a hospital, but, no, that's no good." Ayeka nodded. Mihoshi looked almost exactly like a human, but her ears were pointed and some details of the internal organs were probably different. There was no telling what would happen if anyone were to see her.

"You really want to help her?" Ryoko asked as she floated a bit lower.

"I think the answer is obvious," Ayeka said severely.

"You both do realize this was almost certainly her fault," Ryoko needled them. "And that she'll probably do things like this again and again until someone else gets hurt too?"

Tenchi was trying to staunch the bleeding on her head with his hand, but wasn't having much success, and he was worried about Mihoshi's continued unconsciousness. He snapped, "Don't play games, Ryoko! What are you trying to say?"

"Some people aren't worth saving," she said with a frank look and a neutral voice. "I know it."

"I can't believe that," Tenchi shook his head. "And when did I get to decide that she should die? I'm not making Nagi's mistake and making myself a judge." Tenchi used his shirt to staunch the bleeding on Mihoshi, and it seemed to have some effect, so he continued, "You told me that Mihoshi messed up your attempt to rescue me. I'm still going to try to save her. I've messed up a lot too, and people have always tried to save me."

Ryoko was quiet for a moment. Tenchi and Ayeka absorbed themselves in treating Mihoshi.

"I'll take her back to your house," Ryoko finally responded.

"What?" Tenchi looked up in surprise.

"It's the most logical place. You can take care of her there, where no other humans will be present to go into hysterics. And there'll be more bandages and stuff." Ryoko floated down further and took Mihoshi from their arms.

"I must say I never imagined I'd see you assisting the police," Ayeka said suspiciously, not trusting this sudden change of mind.

"Why don't you call back your logs already?" Ryoko said, gesturing dismissively at Azaka and Kamadaki, who were still combing the silent wreckage. Before Ayeka could reply, Ryoko teleported away.

"There are no other survivors, Princess Ayeka," Kamadaki reported just seconds after Ryoko left.

"I suppose Kiyone will be along eventually to find her," Ayeka nodded, not knowing that Yagami was out of commission. "We should go home."

"But the ship," he gestured at it. "Someone could find it."

The princess could only nod and say, "I'm afraid that's true. We'll just have to deal with it later. If we can deal with it at all."

The outcropping of Venusian rock had one small point on it that was very sharp. The Venusian tornado flung Kiyone's mecha with enough force that the thick armor at the thigh was pierced by that point, and the corrosive atmosphere of Venus began to seep into Kiyone's mecha. She yelled as the acid hit her leg, and took deep breaths, trying to internalize the pain, as the interior membrane of the mecha automatically responded and expanded, reestablishing the mecha's integrity. The pointed rock had splintered off, having been ripped off the mountain by the momentum of the mecha, and was shoved out by the membrane. Kiyone's mecha came to rest further down the mountain.

Focusing her mind off the pain, Kiyone noticed that the robber's mecha was in similar straits- sucked into the tornado and flung out a few hundred meters downslope. She moved her mecha using its legs instead of its jets, not wanting to risk flight in these atmospheric conditions. Out of caution, she kept her weapons warmed up, but the situation was as she had surmised it from a distance. The robber's mecha, being a much lighter kind than hers, had been utterly destroyed, and she could see the robber had died before the corrosive atmosphere began to dissolve his mortal shell.

Kiyone reported this with her mecha's communication gear, and was stunned when there was no response. She ordered a diagnostic on her mecha. She took a sharp intake of breath- the communications gear was fine, but some of her control planes were damaged. She couldn't take off, and for some reason Mihoshi wasn't responding. Surely Mihoshi hadn't been-

There was no point in speculating. Neither Yukinojo's automatic systems nor Mihoshi was responding.

Kiyone walked a bit further afield, towards a nearby cave in the mountainside, then opened the cargo safe on her mecha, taking out the emergency survival habitat. She put together the habitat inside the cave, carefully setting up its life support systems. The habitat was a structure somewhere between a tent and a Quonset hut, but far more durable and rigid than either, and able to survive in even more unfriendly environments than this. It was designed to allow fifteen humanoids to survive for eight months, although the rations and facilities provided for such were blearily utilitarian.

She entered the habitat's airlock with her mecha. Once the airlock was pressurized, she climbed out of the mecha and inspected it physically. The communications gear was indeed intact, yet no one had responded to her call. She proceeded inside the habitat and treated her leg burns as best she could. As she did so, she gasped. Her last hope of timely rescue had been crushed.

Her Galactic Police cube had been damaged when the mecha was punctured and she was burned. It was the only device she had capable of sending out a long-range distress signal.

With a shiver, Kiyone looked around the habitat, wondering what to do with the time she probably faced before a Galactic Police expedition would be approved to enter the protected zone. Since headquarters had no way of knowing if she were alive or dead, it could be months. She wondered if they'd come before her rations ran out. Kiyone yawned with a sudden tiredness.

If Mihoshi had messed up and gotten Yukinojo destroyed, Kiyone thought with a listless anger, she'd never forgive her. Then Kiyone abruptly fell asleep.

Next Chapter

Mihoshi timidly walks up behind Kiyone on the stage and taps Kiyone on the shoulder. "So um, are you sure you're not going to forgive me?"

Kiyone sighs, "I guess I'll have to."

"You could be a little more enthusiastic about it," Mihoshi says sadly.

"Mihoshi," Kiyone puts a hand to her forehead, "just leave me alone for a little while."

"Uh, OK. I guess I have to," Mihoshi says, tiptoing away some distance, "because I have to do my duty and introduce the next chapter. OK. Well, uh, it looks like I'm going to be the newest resident at Tenchi's house, and for some reason that makes Ryoko and Ayeka mad. Gee, that's odd. They helped me so much when I was in trouble after Yukinojo crashed-"

"That's not the next chapter, Mihoshi," Yukinojo chides her, "that's the chapter after."

"Oh," says Mihoshi, chagrined. "Uh, yeah. Oooh, in the next chapter we meet Nagi for the first time- wait, we already met her. Anyhow, and we see the start of Space Pirate Ryoko's career. Wow, lots of neat stuff, and maybe a fight or two. So be sure to watch."

Continuity with Dragonwiles

Dragonwiles reposes in state in the library of his lair. Looking up from his book, he greets, "Welcome to this special segment, in which I give a few brief continuity notes."

"I totally made up alien species that can live for centuries on tiny amounts of food. That's the great thing about aliens, you can totally make up whatever properties you need for a story. And in this case, I even have a semiplausible explanation- these alien species have a natural lifespan of centuries, plus they can hibernate at will. Yes, I made that up too."

"To reiterate, that whole idea of alien species that can live centuries on small amounts of food was totally made up by me. So far as I know, it has no precedent in any Tenchi series.

Chapter 16 Main Chapters Chapter 18