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Chapter 4 Main Chapters Chapter 6

No Need For Escape

Ayeka says into a studio microphone, "Hello, and thank you for joining us for another chapter. I'm Ayeka Masaki Jurai, Princess of Jurai, and at Dragonwiles' behest, I have assented to be the disc jockey for this chapter. It is most meet to play a song that I happened to record some time ago. I hope that you enjoy it." The triumphal strains of "Ginga Ni Imasokari" begin to play after she hits a button.

Ayeka automatically looked herself over for wounds she hadn't yet noticed as she rematerialized aboard Ryu-Oh. She felt all too keenly the major wounds from the fight, but it wouldn't do to let any minor wounds go untreated. She asked the ship, "Ryu-Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking. I just asked you to handle the prisoners without thinking where we'd put them. Have you got a place that can restrain Ryoko?"

"Please don't worry, Ayeka," Ryu-Oh reassured her. "I'm not offended. Since I don't have a brig, I placed the prisoners in some of the animal cages. Ryoko's in that block of cages that haven't been used since the colony of T. axicentridae died twenty years ago. I can hold her indefinitely."

Ryoko put her hand over her midsection and regenerated it while she looked around the cage, bordered on all sides by many more empty cages. The walls were made of vines, and the floor was more like a field than an iron deck. She was entirely alone. Ryoko tried phasing through the floor but was blocked, through the walls and was blocked, through the ceiling and was blocked. She hovered near the root wall and tried to teleport out but could not. Ryoko snarled as she wiped some of her black blood off her waist. If only she had more gems, even the energy fields of a Juraian battleship couldn't stop her. "Tenchi," she whined, "why didn't you listen to me when I asked you to give me the gems! And when I explained it all so clearly! That Ayeka really is a horrifying alien!"

"Thank you, Ryu-oh," Ayeka said with relief. "Odd, isn't it. Could being sealed have weakened Ryoko this much?"

Ryu-oh demurred, "I suspect your brother had to weaken Ryoko substantially to imprison her in the first place. I recovered Tenchi from the human boy, and I found it had three gems set inside it corresponding to Ryoko's energy readings."

"It implies that Yosho took all of her power," Ayeka agreed, "but then how did she get free? Funaho should've been able to hold a weakened Ryoko just as easily as you. Are you sure Funaho didn't tell us anything else?"

"No, Ayeka. Neither have I been able to sense Funaho anywhere on the planet, though I can detect occasional sensor ghosts. I can't imagine why she would be running at storming levels powerful enough to hide from me," Ryu-Oh said impatiently.

Ayeka shook her head. "I'll have to use Tenchi to detect Funaho," she decided. "Before I do, can you check it for malfunction? If the security field is malfunctioning, I won't risk using it."

Ryu-oh was certain. "It's working perfectly well, Ayeka. You're wondering how the humans were able to handle it, but I think it's clear. Those humans must have the royal blood of Jurai in them."

"You don't mean-" Ayeka put her hand to her mouth in surprise.

"If Yosho had enough time for that, he probably survived the fight with Ryoko. Given his predicted lifespan, I think your brother must still be there on Earth," Ryu-Oh said with confidence.

Ayeka smiled. "Thank you, Ryu-Oh. It is good reason to hope. In fact, I'm more certain now than ever before. Something is still wrong though, and I can't work out what it is. Please return to orbit and increment our storming level."

"Of course, Ayeka," Ryu-Oh agreed. "Does your head hurt badly?" Ayeka shook her head, feeling only a slight twinge. "I always did say you had a hard head," Ryu-Oh commented, "but you'd still better rest now. Besides, I know how the bedbot gets on your nerves."

"The bedbot?" Ayeka asked, then groaned as she saw it approach and tell her, "Princess Ayeka, it's time for bed." Ayeka gritted her teeth. "You could've given me more warning instead of thinking up a cute nickname for it," she complained. Ryu-Oh protested good-humoredly, "Your mother locked me out of it, so I can only watch it visually. I only have so many sensor nodes; I can't watch the prisoners and your sister and the planet-"

The bedbot was now bobbing up and down, then side to side, in an overexaggerated soothing pattern. "Princess Ayeka, it's time for bed," it repeated. "Very well," Ayeka sighed, "very well. Please wake me early tomorrow."

"Princess Ayeka, it's time for-" the bedbot repeated. "I was talking to Ryu-Oh," Ayeka sighed. "Of course," Ryu-Oh agreed cheerily as Ayeka strode toward her quarters.

Tenchi looked around himself in some confusion. It had been morning, last he recalled, but it appeared to be night where he was. Had the fight lasted that long?

Come to think of it, wasn't this a spaceship? Why did it look more like some sort of weird jungle? Dark shadows stretched around him, and there was a horizon that reminded him of the forested horizon near his house when the sun had been down a few hours. Some faint light from the ceiling, which he realized after a moment came from stars, produced the shadows. Tenchi couldn't decide if the stars were real or some sort of movie projected on a ceiling. He could see well enough to know he was in a small hollow beneath massive tree roots. All around him, bizarre alien animals lay about in their own root cages, some buried further underground than him, some suspended eight feet above the ground.

"Aw great, what is this, a circus? I'd rather it be a zoo. Either way, it's still insulting!" Tenchi grumbled.

He advanced on the roots in front of him. There were many gaps between the roots, and he judged he could squeeze through. Tenchi was amazed when the two nearest roots swung together just before he stepped between them. He grabbed the roots and tried to pry them apart, but they were immobile. "Don't give me that," he insisted, "you just moved a second ago." Unable to budge them, he drew a gardening knife. He sighed, realizing the sword was gone, and tried to hack at the root with it.

"Why are you trying to prune roots?" a young female voice asked him.

"This isn't pruning, this is an escape attempt," Tenchi answered automatically, then looked up in surprise.

A girl was standing there before him, perhaps ten years of age, or a dozen. She was staring with amused curiosity at him through bright pink eyes. Her long blue hair was done up in two ponytails extending from the sides of her head and secured by small red orbs. On her forehead were two bright green triangles. She was wearing soft, light green robes, and on her shoulder perched a small white ferret creature, with eyes a few shades darker than hers. Its tail was draped across her neck and down her other shoulder.

"Oh no, now she's gone and started kidnapping children," Tenchi said with righteous anger. "That's awful!"

"I'm not a prisoner!" Sasami finally gave in and laughed at him. With a wry grimace, she said, "Ayeka would want me to introduce myself properly." She bowed grandly. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, sir. I am Princess Sasami Masaki Jurai." She stared at him with a small smile on her lips.

"Oh, uh, I'm Tenchi Masaki," Tenchi said, bowing awkwardly, and putting his hand behind his head when he straightened. "It's nice to meet you too." He asked with some trepidation, "So, you're an alien too?"

Sasami demurred and gestured at the other cages. "Well, in this area of the ship everyone's alien to everyone else. There are animals from all over the galaxy. This is where Ayeka lets me keep all of my pets." Seeing Tenchi frown at that, she added, "Of course you're not a pet or an animal, just a prisoner." She continued her original thought, "Ayeka is my older sister. You met her when she teleported down to Earth." Leaning forward slightly, she inquired, "Would you please tell me what happened down there? Ayeka hasn't told me what's been going on, which isn't like her."

Tenchi looked at her calculatingly and told her, "Your sister, she put up a brave fight against a terrible demoness named Ryoko."

"Ryoko's a space pirate, not a demoness," Sasami corrected him amusedly.

"Anyway," Tenchi continued, slightly nettled, "I didn't get to see a lot of it. I got captured by mistake. I'm certainly not any sort of pirate, I'm just an average ordinary Earthling. Would you please clear up this mistake and let me out?"

Sasami shrugged. "Maybe later. For now, let's play! All of the animals are asleep, and they don't know any Earth games anyway!" she suggested merrily, retrieving a small wooden key from her belt.

"All right," muttered Tenchi out of the side of his mouth. It was better than staying in the cage.

The key glowed, but Ryu-Oh insisted, "Sasami, I'm surprised at you! Your sister wants him locked up! He could be dangerous! Put your key away and go to-"

Sasami frowned and stubbornly stated, "I'll keep a good eye on him! I just want to play for a little while! I'm not a little girl anymore, I know when to go to bed!"

Ryu-Oh started to object again, but found herself instead relaxing the root walls until Tenchi could easily walk out. The spaceship knew without trying that she'd be unable to tell Ayeka about this development; Sasami had caused similar interferences with her functions, and those of the bedbot, before. Usually Sasami's persuasiveness was a good thing, Ryu-Oh thought sourly to herself, and amusing when she made the bedbot ignore her and proceed to round up Ayeka, but it could be very annoying and in this case, extremely dangerous.

A faint glow faded from Sasami's forehead symbol as Tenchi stepped out of the cage.

"Really," Tenchi commented, circling her, "you're an alien? You look so much like a human." Sasami nodded, commenting, "Yes, Juraians and humans look alike. Not all aliens do, though. Like him, for instance," she gestured at the ferret-like being on her shoulder.

"This is Mik," she introduced Tenchi to him. Tenchi stood in front of Sasami and nodded, "Mik? Oh. He's got very sleek fur." Sasami smiled shyly. Mik startled Tenchi by extending a half-meter-long tongue and licking him under the chin while hardly stirring from her shoulder.

"Would you please teach me an Earth game?" Sasami inquired.

Nobuyuki leaned back against the wall. "What on earth are we going to do now?" he wondered aloud. "When I thought of the challenges of parenting, alien abduction was not among them."

"Don't worry, he'll be back soon," Katsuhito reassured him, beginning to clear away dishes from breakfast. Nobuyuki gave him a hand.

"I wonder," Nobuyuki suggested, "just how many people saw that UFO. Not too many since we're out in the country. But those books about UFOs sell pretty well, don't they, even if only a few people see the UFO. When Tenchi gets back, maybe he could write a book about-"

"Don't be ridiculous," Katsuhito told him. His face took on a threatening appearance as he pronounced, "He'll come back looking totally normal, and seeming just the same as before, to all appearances the carefree boy we knew- except for the twenty-foot tentacle growing out of the small of his back!"

Nobuyuki made a small cry of fear, then laughed. "That was a good one! Now I'll make a scary story out of it! Ooh, they replace his brain with, er, squid!"

They both threw back their heads and laughed.

"I don't really see how anybody on Earth could rescue me," Tenchi thought to himself. "If I'm ever getting out of here, I've got to do it myself."

"Yay, I win again!" Sasami was jubilant as she held up her open hand.

"Wow, I should just quit while I'm ahead," Tenchi commented sarcastically.

"Please, one more time?" she begged, and he relented. "Paper, scissors, rock!" Sasami chanted as they shook their closed fists at each other. This time, her index and middle fingers were splayed to form scissors, but Tenchi's fist remained closed as he played rock, winning the match for him. Sasami pointed out, "See, you're doing fine!"

Tenchi commented wearily, "But you won a hundred and two games of the last hundred and fifty."

"That's true. Is there another Earth game we could play?" Sasami asked.

"You still don't want to try hide and go seek?" Tenchi brought this up hopefully.

Sasami shook her head. "I told Ryu-Oh I'd keep an eye on you," she reiterated. She had already explained that their spaceship was alive, but Tenchi still wasn't sure he understood. He'd have to make sure Ryu-oh wouldn't foil any escape attempts.

"We could play tag," Tenchi suggested on a sudden inspiration. "The whole point of the game is for the person who's it to stay as close as possible to the others. One of us will be it, and the person who's it has to tag the other person."

"Tag?" Sasami asked, uncertain of the word's application in this context.

"Just touch them lightly," Tenchi advised, "and then they're it. Then they chase you. What do you think?"

"You can never win- the game never stops," Sasami pointed out, slightly confused.

"Yeah, but we can stop whenever you feel like it," Tenchi said persuasively.

"Okay," Sasami agreed. "Would you like to be it first?"

"Sure," Tenchi rubbed his hands together. "OK, start running away now!" Sasami immediately flitted away, faster than Tenchi had expected. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," Tenchi muttered, but it was the only one he could come up with.

He followed Sasami at a run, out of the menagerie and onto a great field of grass. She ran in circles and in odd switching paths, to and fro in the artificial night of Ryu-Oh. Mik clung tenaciously to her shoulder as Tenchi pursued her, finally hitting a good stride and tagging her. "You're it!" he cried triumphantly.

She promptly reached back and tapped him on the arm. "You're it!" she told him, and ran away.

Tenchi now perceived another flaw in this selection of game. He remained still and called after her, "Hey, wait a minute! There's only two of us, we need different rules!" Sasami zoomed towards him, arms outstretched, and told him as she passed, "Oh, I did think that was odd." She turned back and ran past him again, commenting, "I guess this is usually for bigger groups of people."

"Yeah, just give me a few seconds to get away next time," Tenchi commented. He began the chase once more, and Sasami giggled and slipped away. As she ran, Tenchi found it hard to believe for a moment that he was aboard a ship. The illusion of being on a world very beautiful, like and unlike Earth, was too strong for a moment. He marveled at the care Ryu-Oh must've taken to assure that all the living things, the grass, the trees, Sasami and Ayeka, all these things were kept alive and happy in space.

He tagged her again, and this time she remained still and said, "I'll give you five seconds, OK?" Tenchi grinned and sped off. Sasami waited five seconds and began to chase him, as he dodged and weaved and used all of his experience on playgrounds and on the training ground with Grandfather to stay out of her reach, and she laughed with glee at the antics.

So far, the ploy had worked, Tenchi noted. Tag was giving him a chance to explore most of the ship, and he was now glad that he had been able to see its beauty as well as incorporate it into a mental map for escape plans. What confused him was how everything looked so natural. He couldn't see anything that looked like control boards or a cockpit or shuttlecraft or escape pods. There was insect life and the foreign trees and grass, and even a river some distance to the right, but he could see nothing that would help him to escape.

The one place that was different from the surroundings was a small, low dome made of some pale yellow stone. Tenchi ran inside it, with Sasami close behind, Mik still on her shoulder. Sasami didn't seem to mind their presence inside the building, instead she seemed to be laughing even more. "What's so funny?" Tenchi asked her between breaths as they continued running.

"You'll find out!" Sasami answered in the same manner.

Wondering what she meant, Tenchi ran through an open doorway into a dark room and stopped short with a strangled cry of surprise, which he immediately tried to muffle by placing his hand over his mouth. Sasami chuckled and tapped him on the back, making him flinch in surprise. "Tag," she whispered.

She must have known this was Ayeka's bedroom, Tenchi thought to himself, trying to breathe as quietly as possible. Ayeka was asleep on the large bed in the center of the room. He was about to steal away as quietly as he possibly could when Ayeka stirred in her sleep and muttered with deep concern, "Yosho."

The hackles on Tenchi's neck rose, and he swallowed hard. He didn't know why, it just felt uncanny for the name of his seven-centuries-dead ancestor to suddenly come from this alien woman's lips.

That was when Tenchi noticed that the sword Tenchi was next to the bed, on a nighttable which also had some sort of figurine of a man in a rich and unfamiliar set of clothes. The sword might come in handy for an escape, and he had some idea of what his grandfather would say if he came back without it. He tiptoed softly into the room.

Tugging on his sleeve, Sasami whispered, "What are you doing? You're it now! Let's keep playing!" Tenchi noted with some relief that she seemed to be entirely silent in her movements. It prompted him to wonder how often Sasami had snuck into her sister's room. Tenchi got as close to the table and bed as he dared, leaned over severely, and reached out for the sword.

"Stop that!" Sasami insisted, taking a more active stance by actually grabbing the wrist still by his side and pulling backwards. Tenchi bit back a cry of pain- that grip hurt- and he found himself pulled back unexpectedly. Sasami must be a lot stronger than she looks, he thought as his fingers, yanked back from the sword, accidentally knocked the figurine off the table.

Actually, Tenchi realized, his fingers had slid through most of the figurine- it was some sort of 3D image- and he had knocked its solid base onto the floor. The hologram expanded to Tenchi's height, and Ayeka stirred. The man had long, black hair, and violet eyes. His outfit was so colorful and fine that Tenchi figured he had to be some sort of noble.

A voice began to speak while Tenchi watched, causing Tenchi's eyes to bulge and his fists to clasp in alarm. It said, "Replaying last message." The man's lips hadn't moved while the voice was speaking, but his whole appearance now altered, and a bit of background image appeared where there hadn't been any before. It was hard to tell what was behind the man, it was garishly lit in red and orange; the man was also in different clothes, dirty, blood on his face, and he was animated now, running, so his background was changing rapidly. The man's lips moved as a different voice spoke, his own presumably, "Dad, Funaho, Misaki, Ayeka, can you read me?"

Ayeka slowly sat up, and to Tenchi's horror the lights in the room began to slowly rise to normal intensity. Ayeka languorously turned to face Tenchi and the hologram. Then she screamed piercingly. Sasami, alarmed, dropped Tenchi's wrist and hid further behind Tenchi. Tenchi did the only thing he could think to do, grab the sword and run as fast as he could towards an open bay window in the room and keep running out of it and beyond it. Sasami, finding her cover gone, fled out of the door she had entered by while a gruff voice from the hologram exclaimed, "We all do. Yosho, the Souja has retreated. Where are you?" The man replied, "I'm almost to Funaho, father."

Ayeka demanded, "Azaka! Kamadaki!" The two suddenly teleported into the room beside her in a shower of sparks and saluted with their voices, "Yes, ma'am!"

At the same time, her voice issued from the hologram, stating, "Yosho wait, take me too!"

Screwing her face against that memory, Ayeka commanded, "Kill the Earthling intruder and get back my brother's sword!" The pair immediately issued out of the door, shouting over and over, "Here we come!"

The man in the hologram had scrambled into a door, and now was inside a large wooded region resembling the interior of Ryu-Oh. He said slowly, "Forgive me, Ayeka. It would be best if I did this alone. If I don't return, give my love to Sasami."

Ayeka strode angrily across the floor and turned off the hologram just as the gruff voice was saying, "I'll try to arrange some support-"

She carefully replaced the hologram on her nighttable, and prepared herself.

Next Chapter

Two redheaded robots, the size of a human hand, skip to the fore of the stage. One has a green coverall with a yellow letter "A" on it, and the other has a similar coverall bearing the letter "B."

"The next historical interlude," A proclaims, "is about Washu, the greatest scientist in the universe!"

B adds, "Washu is a genius!"

Kiyone points out from the audience, waving a moderately bulky pamphlet, "The program here says that it's mostly about Kagato and Yosho as young children, with bits about Washu and Dr. Clay."

A continues obliviously, "No one can compare to the brilliance of Washu!"

B declares, "There is no one who can invent things like Washu!"

The robots chorus, "The next chapter is No Need For Roots of Bitterness!" They high five each other as they append, "Washu is number one!"

Mihoshi walks up behind them and bends down. "Oh, they're so cute-" she says as she pokes A and B. Both promptly fall lifeless on their faces.

Kiyone puts a hand to her head as she asks, "Mihoshi, what did you touch?"

"Um, uh, their backs?" Mihoshi suggests nervously.

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."

"What are T. axicentridae, you may be asking? Imagine alien ants that're six feet tall and like to climb tree branches. Don't worry, they have very short lifespans. And yes, I made them up."

"Mik and the bedbot, on the other hand, really do exist in the OVA. I made up the name Mik, though, because I figured Sasami would get mad at me if I just kept referring to Mik as 'the alien ferret.' The bedbot is a nickname for that robot that Ryu-oh made up." He almost goes back to reading his book, but groans and admits, "All right, all right, I made Ryu-oh make up the nickname bedbot. Are you happy now?"

Chapter 4 Main Chapters Chapter 6