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Chapter 8 Main Chapters Chapter 10

No Need For Debris

Detective First Class Kiyone Makibi looked at the energy that her patrol ship Yagami was sensing from Earth's atmosphere. It almost looked like orbital combat had taken place. Some of the spectra could indicate explosions.

She heaved a sigh. All of the readings had taken place on the side of the planet opposite them, and were attenuated and refracted and reflected to near-uselessness. She could not tell with any certainty what had happened, and the spectra she was seeing could simply be advanced ship-to-ship communications beams.

Mihoshi, aboard Yukinojo, yawned at Kiyone through the communications channel. "Morning, Kiyone," she said through another yawn, then continued, "It's my shift now, you take some rest." Kiyone could hear her asking Yukinojo to make her some tea.

Kiyone stepped off the bridge of Yagami and forced herself to stop wondering what had happened. She'd probably never learn.

She allowed herself a sigh. Detectives weren't supposed to have to live with unsolved mysteries.

Tenchi woke up slowly. He tried to move, but the pain in his head convinced him to lie absolutely still. Opening his eyes, he found himself looking at the ceiling of his house's living room. He looked to the side, then along his body, and found himself laid out upon the sofa, with a futon laid atop him for a blanket. Looking to the other side, he saw Ryoko asleep on the wooden floor.

He was home, then, but how had he gotten here? All he could remember was being in a cage made out of tree roots, then, something had happened.

The room was dark, beginning only slowly to yield to dawn and gain color. Tenchi began to remember scrambled fragments of episodes. He shifted slightly and found that it hurt less. Now he could crane his head and look out the sliding glass doors at the dock and the lake. The lake looked oddly disturbed, with giant wood planks and trunks and branches sticking out at odd angles. He could see detritus thrown up from its bed, as happened when it briefly overflowed its banks during a nasty storm in the rainy season.

His breath stopped a moment as a creature he could describe only as a ten-legged lion padded softly along the dock, not two feet from the glass doors. The creature paused briefly and made a deep-throated snort, then continued its progress along the dock and out of sight of the glass doors.

The sun continued to rise, and Tenchi could now see strange spiral-shaped flying creatures flitting about, making a low-pitched parody of birdsong. On the far side of the lake, he was fairly certain he could see a pair of creatures that looked like a cross between a turtle and an octopus drinking from the water, making short, soft, wheezing trumpet sounds at each other.

Such sights helped explain the odd series of noises Tenchi had been hearing for a while. Where had all the animals come from, he wondered? He recalled animals like them in Sasami's zoo. He began to remember even more now- he had the sword, and he had gone somewhere; somehow Ryoko was involved.

Another hour passed, and he finally regained all his memory, realizing that he must have lost consciousness sometime in the wild descent to Earth. Tenchi was able to sit up, though it caused him a grunt of pain.

Ryoko turned slightly, rubbed her closed eyes with a finger, then looked blearily at the source of the noise. Her eyes grew large, and she leapt up and hugged him, crying in rapture, "Tenchi!"

The force of her affection pushed him back into the couch, and though it was springy, Tenchi almost screamed at the pain when the back of his head hit it. He managed a strangled gurgle instead. Ryoko instantly released him and anxiously looked at his face, pleading, "Tenchi, I'm so sorry, I didn't protect you like I should have. Where does it hurt?"

"My head," Tenchi ground out. He didn't feel comfortable discussing his own injuries. It seemed selfish, and he felt greater concern at the moment for his family. Aside from Ryoko, he had seen no one so far. "Where's Dad, and Grandpa?"

"They're fine," she explained to him, "they got up hours ago. Your grandpa said he'd do your chores for you."

Relieved, he now considered another question that bothered him, "Why am I on the couch instead of in my room?"

"That awful princess took it over!" Ryoko censured the absent Ayeka. "She stole your futon, so the couch was the only place left! I couldn't let you sleep on the floor, so I slept there!"

Tenchi looked at her bemused, saying, "But we've got four futons. I don't get it."

Nobuyuki entered the room. "Tenchi, you're awake!" he exclaimed, and, forgetting his usual shyness, hugged his son. "Hi, Dad," Tenchi greeted him warmly. Ryoko pouted slightly but was silent.

"Oh, you were talking about the futons," Nobuyuki said after a moment. "Last night I was washing the one, and of course we offered our clean three to the ladies. But Ryoko insisted that you have one. I guess she could've slept in Ayeka's, since Ayeka didn't come in at all last night."

Katsuhito entered the room, chiding his son-in-law, "I told you to go into town and buy more futons."

"A whole trip into town?" Nobuyuki rehashed their argument. "It would practically be morning by the time I got back!" He shrugged, breaking it off. "Never mind that, come get some breakfast, Ryoko, Tenchi."

Tenchi stood up slowly and walked carefully to the dining room, his father and grandfather before him, and Ryoko at his side. Mik ran in from the dining room and circled around Tenchi's feet, making him almost lose his balance when he tried not to trip over him. It climbed up his leg and onto his shoulder, startling Tenchi even more. Ryoko reached out to grab it, but it suddenly bounded off of him, onto Nobuyuki, who made an odd sound, and then off of him to the floor of the living room, under a couch.

Tenchi took a deep breath and entered the kitchen, where he was greeted by a cheery voice saying, "So you're OK! I'm so glad."

"Uh, thanks," Tenchi replied slowly, still feeling off balance.

Sasami looked haggard, but her voice was chipper. She was seated at the table very primly and properly, but her eyes sometimes lost focus from weariness.

Slowly, Tenchi sat where he usually did at the table, and Ryoko quickly sat next to him. His father and grandfather were seated at their usual places.

A few minutes after breakfast officially started, silence had settled over the table. Ryoko still looked hurt that Tenchi insisted she not feed him by hand.

Sasami bravely piped up, "I'd like to thank you all for this food, and letting us stay overnight, and for helping us unload everything."

"Unload everything?" Tenchi asked, then realized, "Then those are your animals, Sasami. What are they doing out there?"

Ryoko said grimly, "Let's start from the beginning. We crashed in your lake yesterday afternoon."

"We wha-" Tenchi exclaimed, but the sun had risen enough to make it clear that the odd branches sticking out of the lake were bits of Ryu-Oh.

"I brought you out of Ryo-Ohki," Ryoko continued, "and brought you here." Tenchi wondered, "But what about taking me to a hospital?"

"We didn't want to let you out of our sight," Katsuhito explained calmly. "No more alien abductions for you."

"So once you were on the couch, they helped us get our luggage and all the animals out of Ryu-Oh," Sasami explained, trying to remain cheerful though her eyes were obviously haunted.

"Say, where's your sister?" Nobuyuki asked. "Won't she want breakfast?"

She shook her head as she said, "No." She took another bite.

Tenchi didn't know what to say.

"Tenchi-" Ryoko began to speak, holding a morsel towards his mouth, but he insisted, "No," and continued to eat himself, despite occasional complaints from the back of his head.

The sliding glass door opened, and a manic Ayeka poked her head into the living room, trying not to drip on the floor. She begged hysterically, "Sasami, please, you have to help me! Come save her!"

"We all tried last night," Sasami sighed. "No one can lift Ryu-Oh out." Sasami clenched her fists and screwed her eyes shut, then released her fingers and opened her eyes, eating mechanically. Tenchi saw Ryu-Oh shift out of the window, and Ayeka made a frantic, strangled noise as she ran back to the lake. He wanted to help, but knew it was impossible.

Ryu-Oh's key grew hot, but Ayeka continued to heave at the strut nearest the shore, though unable to budge it. Ryu-Oh sank a little deeper, and simply communicated, "Ayeka, you have to stop now."

Ayeka shook her head violently, her long braids flailing, and wailed, "No, Ryu-Oh, I can't!"

"You and your sister are safe. We saved all the animals," Ryu-Oh said soothingly, "I was able to protect all of you. You've stayed up all night with me. There's nothing more that can be done." Her bulk shifted again with a groaning noise, but her voice still was calming, "If I could fly again, I would, Ayeka. We must face the truth that neither of us has the power to stop me from sinking into the lake. I've done everything in my power to slow my descent, but my wounds are too deep."

"This is my fault," Ayeka wept openly, "I should've listened to everyone. I shouldn't have asked you to do this!"

"It's just as much my fault," Ryu-Oh assured her, "I should've stopped when I could have. Ayeka, I forgive you. Will you forgive me for not being able to protect you and your sister, here on this planet?"

Ayeka nodded, too consumed by grief to respond otherwise. Ryu-Oh reminded her, "This isn't goodbye, Ayeka. I'll survive down here in the lake, and take root, like Funaho. I think Funaho is somewhere close. I can talk to her, when she finally decides to come out of hiding."

Ryu-Oh gasped, and what remained of her structure began to sink inside the lake. Ayeka covered her eyes with her hands and shed many tears, as the lake's waters began to rise and Ryu-Oh fell, until all that could be seen of her was a small, flutelike, wooden tip.

Katsuhito asked Sasami, "Are you all right, young lady?" and Tenchi's attention snapped away from the lake and to the girl. She was pale, her eyes unfocused, and she clasped her stomach as though ill. She looked up at Katsuhito, though she seemed to be looking through him, and said hoarsely, "I just need to rest." She got up, bowed, thanked Nobuyuki for the breakfast, and slowly trod up the stairs to the room set aside for her and Ayeka.

Nobuyuki checked his watch. "I'd better get off to work," he commented. "I'll pick up some more futons and food on the way home." He left the room, feeling awkward.

Ayeka paused in front of Azaka and Kamadaki outside. She murmured an inaudible command to them, and they obligingly fired a beam at the lower part of her dress, which had been wetted in her latest attempts to free Ryu-Oh. Now dry, she slunk indoors, sat at the table, and began to pick at the food at the place set for her.

Ayeka didn't feel like eating, but steeled herself to do it. This is the food, Ayeka reminded herself, that my gracious hosts made for me. It is my duty to respond to their courtesy, and strengthen myself so that I can perform my duties as a princess of Jurai. She realized a few moments later that she still hadn't actually eaten anything.

Tenchi had no idea what to say to anyone right now. Ryoko obviously had quite a bit to say; wrinkling her nose, she commented, "Do we not rate a good morning, great princess Ayeka?"

Ayeka lifted her head long enough to glare at Ryoko, then began to politely and furiously eat.

"You might at least thank them for the food. And for giving you someplace to put all of your junk. And for looking after your little sister!" Ryoko challenged.

"Why do you insist on plaguing me?" Ayeka moaned, placing a hand to her temple.

For some reason this seemed to set Ryoko off. Ryoko set her bowl down hard enough to make the whole table rattle, and she snapped, "Do you think you've got it bad, brat? Do you miss your spaceship? Are those emotions bad in your head? Some of us have it worse! You've only got your own guilt and suffering to live with! I can feel my precious Ryo-ohki dying down there in the lake, right now, right inside my head, and I couldn't escape that feeling even if I wanted to!"

Ayeka muttered, "That's disgusting," and devoured more food. She left the table, leaving some of her food behind, and plodded up the steps to the room she and Sasami used. Ryoko made a point of eating slowly and chewing with great relish.

Tenchi finished his meal and stood up. "I guess I'd better see how the fields are doing," he said uncomfortably.

"No, I'll do it," Katsuhito told him firmly, "you need to rest." He got up and leisurely walked outdoors. Tenchi shrugged and walked over to the couch. Truth be told, it would be nice to get some more rest- his head still hurt sometimes when he moved suddenly. He laid down, and Ryoko stood by his feet, looking at him worriedly.

Tenchi paused in the midst of rearranging the futon over himself, and tried to reassure her, "No, really, I feel much better. Besides," he commented in a small voice, "it sounds like you and Ayeka have bigger problems." Ryoko snorted, but he closed his eyes and lay still.

Yukinojo verified, "Super-interstellar hotline open, conference call mode selected. Your passwords have been verified."

Kiyone and Mihoshi submitted their written reports, then prepared to report verbally to their immediate superior. Kiyone felt energized after her rest period, but she worried about her partner. Mihoshi looked bright and energetic, but that often preceded her worst acts of forgetfulness.

Capt. Nobeyama appeared on the holographic screens of both Yukinojo and Yagami, and addressed them, "Detective Mihoshi, Detective Kiyone, I'm glad to see you're well."

"Captain, good evening," Kiyone nodded, standing from her seat on the bridge of Yagami. Mihoshi stood in Yukinojo's control capsule, brightly waved, and said, "Hi, Captain!"

He had grown used to these odd mannerisms Mihoshi had begun developing over the past few years- some of them- and only blinked at her as he continued, "Sorry about my delay responding to your signal- I was just going over your last report. How is the protected zone?"

Kiyone reported, "Quiet, sir; no trouble." Inside her head, Kiyone was more inclined to equate the protected zone to a graveyard. No one was allowed in the area, and there were few inhabited planets close to the borders, so galactic shipping simply never passed through here. There were no cases to solve, and no task forces or other officers to lead, other than Mihoshi. The protected zone was as still as a graveyard, and it was like a graveyard for her career.

Mihoshi had only, "Yeah!" to add.

"Good work," he told them. "Please keep a sharp watch. The Princesses of Jurai are expected to pass by within the next few days. Please don't let them be attacked by criminals," he nearly begged.

"Affirmative sir," the detectives affirmed in chorus, saluting simultaneously.

"Goodbye," Capt. Nobeyama returned the salute and cut the transmission. Kiyone sat down, relieved that Mihoshi had the sense not to mention the presence of the princesses in the system. Princess Ayeka had ordered them not to communicate news of her presence to anyone. It was odd that she hadn't left the system yet, but she doubtless had her reasons.

Kiyone had never expected to worry about divided loyalties between her superior officer and the command of a princess, or the precarious mental state of her partner, at this point in her life. It hadn't been too many years since she and Mihoshi had graduated from the Academy, but Kiyone had still expected they'd be further up the career ladder than they were. Rankling in her consciousness was the knowledge that not long ago, they had been shooting stars, expected to do great things for the Galactic Police.

Now they were here. It could've been worse. They were in a position that required great trust, and the highest moral character. Despite those good points, the protected zone was where officers were put to pasture. She had sensed Capt. Nobeyama's happiness a few years back when he announced that the officers who had been patrolling the protected zone for decades were retiring and they could take their place. He hadn't said it aloud, but it was obvious that here Mihoshi's peculiarities would cause very little trouble for anyone except Kiyone.

"Mihoshi," Kiyone suggested, "why don't you come over to Yagami? We can catch up, talk a little while."

Sometimes, when Mihoshi was in company, she began to revert back to her old self, before she had begun to think and act peculiarly. Kiyone had once thought that this posting, far less stressful than their last one, and some conversation, would return Mihoshi to that previous, hardworking, ordinary person. Now Kiyone was beginning to wonder if perhaps the previous Mihoshi was actually the false one. Maybe the expectations of being a scion of the Kuramitsu family forced Mihoshi to act like an ordinary person for the first part of her life. When the pressures of the job and of life came, all that facade was stripped away, revealing the real Mihoshi; exuberant, sometimes talented, but far too often causing trouble by being annoying, being disorganized, and being completely unhelpful despite her helpfulness.

Kiyone desperately hoped that wasn't the real Mihoshi.

"Okay!" Mihoshi told Kiyone. "Yukinojo," Mihoshi requested of her ship's computer, "please start the docking sequence."

Tenchi was surprised to wake up- he hadn't meant to fall asleep, he had meant to get up and do some work in the fields, or at least indoors. The shadows of early evening were falling, though- he had slept through the whole day. Mentally he shrugged- probably he had needed that sleep, after what he'd been through. It still rankled him to have wasted the entire day.

Ryoko was hovering in the air nearby, and turned towards him. "Oh, good, you're up," she noted, "I was just about to wake you for dinner." Tenchi felt a surge of embarrassment as his stomach growled, but Ryoko just smiled and sank slowly to the floor.

For the evening meal, there were present Katsuhito, Nobuyuki, Ryoko, Tenchi, and Sasami. Nobuyuki asked Sasami in concern, "Are you sure your sister doesn't want to come eat?"

"No, she says she's not hungry," Sasami reported sadly.

"Oh," Nobuyuki began to feel embarrassed.

Placing a determined and cheerful look on her face, Sasami leaned forward and asked him, "Please, sir, will you let me help you with the breakfast tomorrow?"

Nobuyuki's embarrassment grew even further. "First your sister, and now you? My cooking isn't that bad, is it?"

Sasami sat back abruptly, eyes wide and face reddening. "I didn't mean it like that," she explained nervously, "I just wanted to help you, since you've done so much to help us."

Nobuyuki assured her, placing one hand behind his head and waving the other dismissively, "Oh, don't worry about it! Most of this stuff I bought prepared anyway, I didn't actually make it. I'd be grateful for your help! So, are you a good cook?"

Sasami's face was still red as she allowed shyly, "My mom says I am. I'm still practicing, though, because I want to get even better!"

"Indeed," Katsuhito agreed sagely as he quaffed a drink. "Your mother has raised you well."

Sasami was now so embarrassed that she had to look down, but she was smiling.

Tenchi once again studiously ignored the tidbit Ryoko was trying to feed him, but she wasn't about to give up after only fourteen attempts.

After a little while, Sasami gathered up the courage to inquire, "Why don't any of you cook very much?"

Nobuyuki adjusted his glasses and looked confused. "I'd have thought that was obvious," he told her.

"It's because," Katsuhito told her solemnly, "of our stereotypes and our slavish adherence to gender roles."

"Huh?" exclaimed the bewildered Nobuyuki. "That's not it at all! It's just that our talents lie in other directions, that's why!"

Tenchi sighed and kept eating his food, ignoring the twentieth morsel Ryoko held before his mouth.

Next Chapter

Capt. Nobeyama looks around him at the stage- confused, for only moments ago he was working steadily at his desk. In fact, he had been transported in a seated position, but there was no chair on the stage, so he had fallen over.

Standing up, he says irritably, "What's going on? Look, I have a lot of reports to read through-"

Dragonwiles passes him a copy of the script for the next chapter preview.

"Oh, thank you-" the captain begins to say, then breaks off, "Wait, this isn't the report I was reading!"

"Just read it so we can move on," Dragonwiles growls gutturally.

Capt. Nobeyama reads it confusedly, "In the next chapter, we learn about how Washu and Kagato came to work together to create-" He gasps, and turns in shock to Dragonwiles, saying in amazement, "This is classified information! How did you manage to get a hold of it!"

"I'm a storyteller, not a hacker!" Dragonwiles protests. "Keep reading the script, we're almost done!"

Capt. Nobeyama keeps the sheets close to his body so no one can see them, and asks, "Has the audience been cleared for this? I can't release this information without authorization!"

"That's very true, and I admire your scrupulousness," Dragonwiles says with patient impatience, "but that only applies in the story. Here we're talking directly to the audience, and- oh never mind, we've taken too long already. You're authorized to tell them the next chapter's title!"

"All right," Capt. Nobeyama agrees with only a slight grudge, "the next chapter is No Need For Escaping Ivory Towers."

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 the ten-legged lion, and other alien pets in this story. But I thought they'd be cool."

Chapter 8 Main Chapters Chapter 10