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Chapter 6 Main Chapters Chapter 8

No Need For Orbital Combat

"This chapter," Sasami, Ayeka's younger sister, tells the audience, "I, Princess Sasami Masaki Jurai, will be your DJ. I stumbled across this one song on Earth that I think works well for this chapter. If you see it like I do, I mean." The combative strains of "I Can Do Anything Better Than You" begin to play.

There was no time to lose, so Ayeka burst out of her rooms, clad in her more everyday clothes and clasping Ryu-oh's key tightly. As she ran she said through gritted teeth, "Thanks very much for watching the prisoner, Ryu-oh. Sasami put you up to this, didn't she? I know how you think." Ayeka began to shout at this point, "You think it's funny when Sasami escapes the bedbot and sends it after me, and now you've gone and let a prisoner out to satisfy her whims!"

The frustrated Ryu-Oh replied, "Perhaps I find it slightly amusing when she sends the bedbot after you, but as I've told you for the past few months, she is somehow preventing me from informing you of her interferences with the systems. Sasami won't let me tell you when she tricks the bedbot into thinking it already put her to bed and it goes on to its next task of collecting you. In the same way, she wouldn't let me tell you about the Earthling's escape until you had already learned."

"Do her gag orders include the secret of her newfound power?" Ayeka raged.

"No, I simply don't know how she can do it!" Ryu-oh exclaimed. "It is as though I've experienced it before, but the contact is so brief that I can never identify it."

Ayeka snorted in annoyance and asked, "Where is the prisoner now?"

"Azaka and Kamadaki are still in pursuit," she replied, "but he's evading them. He still has the key, and is on my outer jungle perimeter."

Ayeka began to run faster. She hoped the human didn't know what was inside the jungle.

Tenchi dodged randomly, running somewhere, anywhere. He vaguely knew that he wanted to head for the deep jungle he saw ahead of him, because maybe he could lose the robot logs in the foliage. Tenchi was no longer sure where on the ship he was, or where he was going. All he could hear was the cadence of the robot logs behind him, "Here we come," and their occasional laser fire directed towards him.

He managed to enter the jungle and promptly tripped over a root in the darkness. The robot logs continued past him for some distance before they could stop and retrace their steps. By that time, Tenchi had crept on all fours away from them. The robots had to pick their way carefully through the trees in order to fit their wide girths and avoid getting their tripods caught in branches.

Light began to creep into the forest, but not sunlight. The light instead had a grey tint, as though a silver mirror were affixed in the heavens. Looking up, Tenchi saw the moon above him, reflecting light into the spaceship. It wasn't very big, but it was larger and clearer than he had ever seen it from the earth. The moon and the starfield beyond stared down on him through the transparent ceiling of Ryu-Oh, sending their alien, but warming, light to him from across the darkness of space.

Already crawling in the direction of the moon, Tenchi noticed an occupied root cage among the many empty cages before him. The moon was aligned above it, and Tenchi saw that Ryoko was inside. She was disconsolately hugging her knees to her chin. When she noticed Tenchi, she sprang up and rushed to the roots nearest him with a joyous cry of, "Tenchi!"

He urgently put a finger to his lips and hissed "Shhh!"

"Oh, I knew you weren't going to leave me here, Tenchi!" Ryoko said ecstatically.

"I didn't even know you were in this jungle!" Tenchi whispered, clambering closer. "Keep quiet or the robot logs will get me!"

"Don't worry about them," Ryoko whispered to humor him. "Just get the sword back."

Gawking at her, he forgot himself and asked loudly, "Is that sword all you ever think about?"

He had risen onto his knees and Ryoko could now see that he had placed the sword in his belt. "Good, you've already got it!" she clasped her hands. "You're really an amazing guy, Tenchi. Now you can let me out of this cage."

A few minutes ago, he wouldn't have considered such an idea. Tenchi still didn't know how far he could trust Ryoko. In this situation, though, he figured he had to take the chance. He still had no idea how to get back to Earth, and Ryoko might help him.

"But how can I get you out-" he began to say, when suddenly his key glowed and the root walls relaxed. Ryoko quickly stepped out of the cage. "I knew you could do it if you put your mind to it," she chuckled, then added, "We need to leave now." She scooped him up in an arm.

Sasami appeared in a shower of sparks. "I thought you'd come here! My sister's going to be really mad, but if you just come with me-" she scolded Tenchi. Ryoko absently scooped her up and teleported away.

Ryu-Oh immediately sensed the action against her will, but this time was aware of the cause. "Ayeka," she communicated swiftly, "the human used the master key and forced me to release Ryoko!"

"Oh no," Ayeka breathed, "take me to her cage now!"

Ayeka found herself in the jungle alone when she rematerialized. "Ryoko's teleported away already! Where is she?"

Azaka and Kamadaki appeared beside her. "We haven't been able to locate her," Azaka told her, "but we think that Princess Sasami is with them."

Ryoko reappeared in on one of the plains with Tenchi and Sasami. Tenchi said in some surprise, "That felt kinda weird. Hey, wait, what are you doing here, Sasami?"

"You need to go back to the cage right now!" she said firmly. "If my sister's robots get you, I won't be able to stop them."

"No! That's crazy!" Tenchi protested. Sasami frowned and crossed her arms mutinously. Tenchi scowled back and replied, "What did I even do to you people? Your sister just kidnapped me off of Earth for no reason! Of course I want to escape!"

Growing impatient, Ryoko again reached for Tenchi's sword, but snatched her hand back as its security shield shocked her. She held her hand delicately while saying, "Of course you do, Tenchi, and I can help, but I'll need my gems back. With them, I can regenerate and summon Ryo-ohki, and then we'll get out of here. Simple!"

"Will you stop trying to steal the sword if I do?" Tenchi rolled his eyes at her.

"Ayeka was just trying to keep you safe from Ryoko!" Sasami told him. "You don't need to give Ryoko anything!" She saw that Tenchi's sword was glowing.

"Here those clowns are again," Ryoko muttered. She noted one of the robot logs in front of her, behind Tenchi. She guessed that the other was behind her from Tenchi's expression. Sasami stood to Tenchi's left, looking at Ryoko and Tenchi more than the logs.

"Sasami!" Ayeka exclaimed, appearing some distance to Tenchi's right, "I can't believe that you would do something like this."

Sheepishly, Sasami told her older sister, "I was curious, and lonely-"

"You still shouldn't have done it!" Ayeka shouted. She turned her head to face Tenchi. He noticed Ayeka was not wearing her war paint. "I'm sorry about your predicament," she told him, "and I certainly understand your desire to escape; I simply can't take the chance that you'll help Ryoko. I must ask that you answer me honestly, or else we must be enemies."

Ryoko waved a hand dismissively. "Don't be so formal, Princess, he's family! And his name is Tenchi."

Shooting a disapproving glance at Ryoko, Ayeka eventually managed a nod in Tenchi's direction. "As you can use the master key, that we are indeed related is the only logical conclusion. Please, Tenchi, tell me where Yosho is."

Tenchi shifted uncomfortably. "Yosho? The guy in the legend? Well, he died."

Ayeka leaned forward. "Are you certain?" she asked urgently.

"It is the way of things," Tenchi said uncomfortably. Ayeka's eyes brimmed with tears as she insisted, "No, no, you're lying to me!"

The ground lurched suddenly, and everyone except Ryoko was thrown to the ground. Ryoko hovered slightly in the air. Ayeka didn't need to ask what was happening- she could feel the key grow warm as Ryu-Oh told her in a panic, "Evasive maneuvers- too fast- it's Ryo-ohki!"

The deck wobbled again, but the dodge failed. Ryu-Oh screamed as a giant black spike pierced her hull and erupted from the ground near Ryoko and Tenchi. A stentorian voice called out from the black spike, "Meow meow meow!"

"Come on, Tenchi," Ryoko said, picking him up by the collar and dragging him to the spike and phasing them inside of it. Sasami got up and ran to Ayeka as the spike began to withdraw from Ryu-Oh's skin, causing her to wail again.

"Ryu-Oh," Ayeka said sadly, feeling sympathy for her poor spaceship. Ayeka began to grow very angry. "So Tenchi and Ryoko were working together," she fumed. "Ryu-Oh!" she commanded, drawing herself upright, "do not let them escape! Ramming speed!"

Ryoko examined her right wrist, where she had placed the transferred gem. "I can't believe you were so stingy, Tenchi! Only one of the three?"

"Yeah, only one," he agreed stubbornly, "you're plenty strong as it is." He looked around the dome-shaped room. There was only one obvious chair. The chair seemed to be made of wicker, oddly enough, and it was floating. Tenchi noticed there were many crystals floating in the room, and that the walls and ceiling were black.

"Well, at least I don't have to keep maintaining the imitation gem I made to tide me over," Ryoko sighed, releasing her disappointment with some difficulty. "And at least we're back together," she patted a nearby crystal fondly. "Meow!" the voice sounded inside the room.

The room shuddered with an impact, and Ryoko muttered, "What is she doing? She could've just let us continue our getaway." Ryoko wasn't touching anything, but Tenchi noticed some of the crystals flaring ominously. He asked, "So what's going on?"

"The dear little princesses are trying to ram us," Ryoko commented idly. A display formed in midair, and Tenchi could see red beams of energy streaking from their position to Ryu-Oh. He watched as small needlelike structures emerged from Ryu-Oh and fired upon them, and he could feel the ship turning and evading the shots. As they were doing so, Ryu-Oh attempted to ram them again.

Azaka and Kamadaki spoke for Ryu-Oh so that she could concentrate more fully on the battle. They informed Ayeka, "We are acting under the assumption that primary defenses will again be ineffective. Secondary defenses are barely blunting attacks."

"I know it's difficult," Ayeka stared at a screen showing Ryo-Ohki dodging them, "but we have to at least get to point blank range. Anything further apart and they'll be able to hit us and yet dodge our strikes."

"Ryoko-" Tenchi began to say, but she put a hand on his shoulder. "Tenchi, this isn't a good time, dear," she said without looking at him. "Why?" Tenchi was miffed, "you're not doing anything."

An offended meow broke out from Ryo-Ohki while Ryoko corrected him, "Just because it doesn't look like I'm doing anything doesn't mean I'm not doing anything. Ryo-Ohki and I are telepathically linked." She released his shoulder and leaned back in the chair.

"Ryo-Ohki is fast, right?" Tenchi continued doggedly. "Can we please just go home and forget about them?"

"She didn't forget about me after 700 years," Ryoko reminded him. "Besides, she's looking for Yosho. She's not going to leave anytime soon."

"But he's dead! How could he be alive after all that time!" Tenchi was incredulous.

"Look, I'll tell you later. Let me just bring them down now so they won't bother us anymore," Ryoko said maternally.

Tenchi was shocked, and exclaimed, "They're only girls!"

"'Only girls'," Ryoko grumped as she grabbed him and looked him in the eye. "Are you on their side?" She released him abruptly and returned to the fight.

"To think that one of Yosho's descendants would sink so low," Ayeka shook with anger, "as to lie to me about Yosho's location, and clamber aboard that heinous criminal battleship!"

Azaka and Kamadaki said nothing. The ship shook as Ryu-Oh managed to successfully ram Ryo-Ohki.

Ryo-Ohki's interior shook with the impact as well. "If you're going to ram me," Ryoko declared as the crystals began to shift configuration on the bridge, "then you'll have to face the consequences."

Jubilantly, Ryo-Ohki called, "Meow meow, meow!"

"Oh, no," Tenchi said softly.

Kamadaki noted with synthetic alarm, "Ryo-Ohki attached to us during the ramming and is forcing us into the atmosphere. We are continuing to accelerate."

"Push that criminal back!" Ayeka demanded, but Azaka informed her, "Ryu-Oh is already using all of her power to repel the close-range strikes."

Ayeka thought quickly. If the ships continued on their current trajectory, Ryu-Oh would burn up in the atmosphere during reentry.

"Rotate the ship," she ordered.

Ryoko swore and grabbed Tenchi's arm to keep him from falling as Ryu-Oh fired her engines and flipped the conjoined spacecraft so that Ryo-Ohki was facing towards the planet. They were still accelerating though the atmosphere. Now that Ryo-Ohki was on the bottom, it was taking buffets from the atmosphere and heating terribly fast. Ryo-Ohki mewed in distress.

"Back at you, Princess," Ryoko muttered, flipping the ships again to return Ryu-Oh to the bottom of the heap.

Azaka informed Princess Ayeka, "We may be able to disengage from Ryo-Ohki by concentrating our weapons fire and reversing our thrust."

"And let the monster woman escape?" Ayeka vetoed the plan. "Even for a moment, allowing her to go free is not acceptable."

"Princess Ayeka," Azaka begged, "please reconsider! If we wait much longer, we may never get free!"

Ryu-Oh had been trying to suppress her pain during the fight so Ayeka wouldn't worry, but the hull warming caused her to gasp involuntarily. She again flipped the vessels so Ryo-Ohki was on the bottom. Ryo-Ohki promptly tried to reverse the situation.

Kamadaki pointed out, "We cannot prevent Ryo-Ohki from turning our combined craft. If we disengage, we may be able to defeat her in atmospheric combat."

"I'm not letting go until that monster woman dies!" Ayeka screamed. "She'll pay for what she did to Jurai!"

"Sister, please!" Sasami begged, and Ayeka remembered for the first time in minutes that Sasami had been standing there since the fight began. Ayeka shook her head and returned her attention to the screen.

"Ryoko, this is crazy!" Tenchi shouted as he tried to keep his balance. Ryu-Oh and Ryo-Ohki were vying for the right to tip each other. The bridge would first sway one way, then the other, as the two vessels struggled.

"Put my Tenchi in a cage, will you!" Ryoko shook her fist at the screen showing a picture of Ryu-Oh, "I'll roast you for that, Ayeka!"

To her astonishment, Ayeka's face appeared on another screen. Ryoko turned around to see Tenchi's key glowing. "What are you doing!" Ryoko screamed.

"I knew somehow they used these keys to talk to the ships," Tenchi said stubbornly. He had realized that his thoughts, combined with the key, enabled him to order around Juraian equipment, and had ordered Ryu-Oh to open a communications channel to Ryo-ohki. Tenchi spoke firmly to Ryoko and Ayeka, "Now listen, both of you. Fight all you want, but keep it up in space, and let me off! If you keep going like this, you're going to crash into the Earth and hurt somebody else!"

"Your cheap tricks are repulsive, Ryoko!" Ayeka shouted at Ryoko over the communications link.

"Your arrogance is unbelievable, Princess!" Ryoko retorted.

Tenchi had never before felt so angry or so afraid in his life as he bellowed, "Will both of you just stop!"

At that moment, both ships began suddenly to wobble, faster than before.

"What's happening? Stop it at once, Ayeka!" Ryoko demanded, a sudden fear etched on her face as she learned what Ryo-Ohki saw of the situation.

"Release us this instant!" Ayeka shrieked as Azaka and Kamadaki told her what Ryo-Ohki had told Ryoko: "The winds and shockwaves from our descent are pushing us out of control- we can't-"

The spaceships suddenly began to gyrate, faster and faster. Tenchi was thrown against the wall of Ryo-Ohki's bridge. Ryoko screamed his name and clutched him to herself, wrapping him in a ball and trying to hover in the middle of Ryo-Ohki so he wouldn't hit any more walls. Blood ran down the back of his head, and his muscles were limp. Ryo-Ohki meowed frantically.

Ayeka was flipped bodily into the ceiling of Ryu-Oh, but before she hit it, a small network of tiny logs materialized in front of her and cushioned her impact. She proceeded to ricochet several more times while Azaka and Kamadaki extended a shield around Sasami. Azaka, Kamadaki, and Sasami were also being flung against the walls. Ryu-Oh enveloped Sasami's animals in cocoons of branches and roots to protect them, and tried desperately to extend similar cocoons on long branches to the princesses.

It was impossible to tell who was screaming, for everything that had a voice and was conscious was screaming at the top of its lungs.

Next Chapter

A metallic lever extends a robotic face towards the audience. It has a domed head, large, perfectly circular eyes with large black pupils, but no nose or mouth. As it begins to speak, the dome on the top of its head moves up and down, "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My designation is Yukinojo. I am the computer of the Galaxy Police frigate for Detective First Class Mihoshi Kuramitsu."

"That last chapter was undoubtedly exciting," Yukinojo comments, "I have no doubt. Under other circumstances, my programming would allow me to tell you if the Author cruelly killed off any characters. Unfortunately, Dragonwiles threatened to melt my circuits if I informed you of such a thing."

Yukinojo continues, "Since I already live in daily fear of Mihoshi doing exactly that, and I have no reason to increase its likelihood, I shall not divulge such information. That being the case, I will recommend that you read the next chapter, which contains classified information from the file of galactic supercriminal Kagato."

"I could recite to you many statistics presently known about Kagato, of course," Yukinojo adds, "but I am constrained from divulging such information to anyone but a Galactic Police officer."

"The next chapter," he concludes, "is No Need For Favored Sons of Jurai."

Chapter 6 Main Chapters Chapter 8