Ranma was awoken by the gentle shakes of Akane, as well as a teakettle of hot water. The now, once again male captain mumbled a bit before looking up at her, slight confusion on his face.
“What the hell happened to your uniform?”
Akane sighed, scowling slightly. “Whatever do you mean, Ranma?” she asked. “Our school uniform has not changed.”
Ranma blinked, suddenly remembering that he was not on the ship. He sat up quickly and looked around. Next to him, snoozing away, was his panda-father. Or at least this universe’s manifestation of him.
Ranma looked to the clock and glowered as Akane poked Ranma again.
“It’s still early,” Ranma complained.
“I know, but I was having a hard time sleeping,” Akane sighed, once again poking Ranma with her foot, finally causing him to get up. “I think it’s the fact that the building isn’t moving.”
“Ironic for Japan,” Ranma smirked.
Akane shook her head as Ranma looked to the wet futon, sniffing the water quickly; seemingly relieved that it seemed to be just water, then wandered to the closet to find some of his duplicate’s clothes to wear.
It took him a while of digging through the closet, searching for a school uniform, for him to remember that while in school he didn’t wear a uniform, thanks to both his curse and a letter from the family doctor, Dr. Tofu.
“How did I ever make it through the academy with such a lack of discipline?” Ranma quietly asked himself.
Ranma quickly got dressed and met up with Akane in the hallway. The pair then headed downstairs - the smell of a delicious, and presumably Kasumi cooked, breakfast wafting up the staircase.
The assumption proved correct as the pair made their way into the kitchen. Kasumi turned to them, quite surprised to see either of them out of bed this early.
“Ranma! Akane!” she smiled. “You two are up early!”
Akane smiled. Ranma, remembering back and recalling that the pair didn’t always get along, tried to do some acting.
“Yes, well, uh, the uncute one decided to drag me out of bed early,” he explained.
Akane, who apparently was able to slip into her Ranma abusing role far easier than Ranma could his Akane insulting role, turned and clocked Ranma with her mallet, sending him into the floorboards.
“Oh my,” Kasumi sighed, looking to Akane disapprovingly.
“What smells so good?” Nabiki asked, walking into the kitchen.
Nabiki looked down and noticed that she was standing on her battered - assumed - future brother-in-law.
“Oh, good morning Ranma. You’re up early,” she noted, stepping off him and moving towards the stove where she took in the smells from Kasumi’s stew.
Rei had very little time to get the several things done she wanted - scratch that - needed to get done. At least one of them was probably something that she shouldn’t, and both the Captain and Jitsia would probably scold her for, but she felt compelled to do it.
It had been eating at her for a while, and she really, really needed to know. She had to ask him.
Rei walked down the dimly lit corridors on deck 17 till she reached a small, nondescript sliding door. She hit the call button and after waiting for a second the door opened revealing a larger, brighter room.
In this room, there was an office near the main door, and another set of larger, sliding doors. Rei walked up to the security officer seated at the desk there.
“Ensign, I’d like to speak to Lt. Commander Ishran,” she stated, dryly.
The officer nodded and looked to his terminal. He bit his lip slightly before turning back to Rei. “I’m sorry Commander, but the prisoner has requested no visitors.”
“I’M NOT HERE TO FUCKING WISH HIM HAPPY BIRTHDAY,” Rei screamed, causing the two marines guarding the double doors into the main brig to jump slightly. Rei inhaled deeply a couple of times before putting her hand on the Ensign’s arm.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Please, I need to speak with him.”
The Ensign sighed, and despite knowing it was against protocol, motioned for another Marine who was in the office to come over to them.
“Will you please take Commander Hino back to D-2?”
The marine corporal, a blonde Bajoran woman, nodded.
“I’d like to speak to him alone,” Rei said.
The Ensign sighed. “I can break one rule for you, Commander. I can’t break two.”
Rei conceded and followed the marine into the holding area. The Sisko’s brig was far larger than most Starfleet ships. Designed to hold up to 50 people, it spent most of its time empty of prisoners, primarily used as the staging area for the ship’s marine forces.
It seemed far more ‘clean’ and ‘sterile’ than a jail should as well, in Rei’s opinion. It was well lit, the beds looked nice and comfy. In fact, Rei thought the only thing that made it look any different from sickbay was the force fields.
Then again, Rei wasn’t confined here. The look on Ishran’s face once Rei and the marine had taken the short walk to the cell made it quite clear that the comfortable bed and the adequate lighting was no substitute for freedom.
Rei backed up a bit and whispered to the young marine. “Please,” she said, her voice breaking slightly, “keep anything you hear to yourself.”
The enlisted woman was a bit confused by Rei’s request, as she knew that would be the case anyway, but nonetheless nodded. “Yes, Commander.”
Ishran looked up to Rei as she approached the force field. He eyed her, slight anger in his eyes.
“Why-” Rei started.
“Are you the one who made her have me arrested?” Ishran interrupted.
“Made her?!” Rei asked, shocked. “There was nothing to ‘make her’ do. You raped her.”
Ishran rolled his eyes and scoffed. “Jitsia invited me in, she never asked me to stop. Gras wanted it.”
“That thing was controlling her! She couldn’t stop you!”
Ishran quickly stood and ran to the edge of the cell, the force field zapping him slightly. The marine corporal instinctively raised her rifle slightly, however, lowered it as Ishran calmed down a bit before speaking.
“That ‘thing’ is a person too, just like you or I, with all the same rights as you and I,” he growled.
“But not Jitsia, huh?” Rei growled back.
“Gras gave her far more than she took,” Ishran scoffed.
Rei shook her head in frustration. “That thing hurt her so badly she nearly killed herself trying to cut it out.”
Ishran’s eyes went wide. “Is... is she okay?”
Rei rolled her eyes. “Who? Jitsia or Gras?”
Ishran stammered a bit before finally answering.
“We took the symbiont out of her. It will survive. Jitsia will be okay as well. Physically, at least,” Rei said, shaking her head.
Ishran dropped back to his seat. “What are they going to do with Gras?” he quietly asked. “They cannot survive long without a host...”
“I dunno,” Rei shrugged. “I suggested throwing it outside.”
Ishran glared at Rei.
“I assume that will be up to the authorities on Trill,” Rei continued, after allowing herself to be amused by Ishran’s dirty looks for a bit. “But I cannot imagine they will be placing it into another host. Not after what it and you did to Jitsia.”
“She said she would send for me,” Ishran growled, standing back up. “Deka’s final words, from Gras, were that her new host would call for me and we would be together. And she did. And we were.”
Rei eyed Ishran for a minute before shaking her head. “Maybe you should have just cut the worm out of him then because now you’re facing a court-martial and fifteen years in prison.”
Rei turned and walked away. Ishran returned to his chair, sighing, lost in thought.
“Thank you,” Jitsia smiled at the sickbay tech who had brought her some orange juice. The tech nodded, checked her vitals quickly, and wandered off.
Jitsia drank half the drink before setting it on the table next to her bed, which right now was in a semi-chair, upright position. She stared across sickbay and sighed. The young woman was bored to freaking death. There was literally nothing for her to do. All her friends were on missions, there was no television in the twenty-fourth century, apparently, and ever since Usagi had brought her the PADDs which contained her fan-fiction on it, Jitsia was now afraid of reading.
“Hi Commander,” a voice called to her.
Jitsia turned to see Lt. Pan walking over towards her bed.
“Lt. Pan!” she smiled, very happy to have another person - who wasn’t a doctor - to talk to. “How nice to see you!”
Pan nodded and set some flowers on the table next to her. “I heard you weren’t feeling well, so I wanted to check in on you.”
“That’s very sweet of you, thank you,” Jitsia said, reaching over and hugging him for a moment, before grimacing in pain.
“Are you okay?” Pan asked, taking a couple of steps back.
Jitsia pointed to her stomach. “I kind of hurt my midsection,” she sighed. “So, bending, reaching, stuff like that still hurts.”
“I see,” Pan said.
“Are *you* okay?” Jitsia asked, noticing that Pan seemed to be upset about something.
“Well,” Pan said, clearing his throat, “I haven’t seen him in a day, and I’ve heard a rumor that Lt. Commander Ishran is in the brig...” Pan trailed off as he sensed dark spirits behind him. He turned around to see a glowering Rei standing there, staring at him.
“Hey Rei,” Jitsia smiled.
“Sia,” she nodded, still looking at Pan.
“Yes, Lieutenant,” Jitsia sighed, “Commander Ishran has been relieved of his position and placed in the brig.”
Pan, despite fearing that he was going to be on the receiving end of Commander Hino’s fury, pushed onwards.
“Is that related to why you’re in here?”
“Lieutenant, I’m not sure that’s any of your business,” Rei stated.
Pan shook his head. “No ma’am,” he agreed. “The details are certainly not. I only ask though because I feel like I am partially responsible.”
Rei softened her glare slightly. Jitsia looked to Pan oddly as well. “What do you mean?” she asked.
Pan sighed. “I didn’t sense that he had any intention of harming you, Commander,” Pan said, looking sadly towards Jitsia, “but I could tell that he was a very disturbed man and was hiding something. We were doing everything we could to keep him away from you, and I was going to make my concerns known to you and to the Captain, but...” Pan lowered his head, “...I never got around to it.”
As a surprise to Pan, he felt both Jitsia’s hand on his, and Rei’s hand on his shoulder.
“Darrius,” Jitsia smiled. “It’s okay. Things are a lot more complicated than you understand. There’s not a lot that could be done, especially where we are now. I appreciate all you did to help me.”
Rei nodded. “If only my officers liked me that much.”
Pan smiled. He nodded to Jitsia, then to Rei, and walked off. Rei looked to Jitsia, chatted with her for a couple of minutes, then quickly kissed her.
“Hopefully last mission, then we can get the hell out of here,” Rei sighed. “Portal is only stable for another 48 hours or so.”
Jitsia nodded. “Good luck.”
Rei smiled, kissed her again, and turned to walk away.
“Oh, Rei?” Jitsia called.
“Hm?” Rei asked.
“Remember what you said yesterday?”
Rei pondered that. “Which thing?”
“If I wasn’t ready, it’s okay.”
Rei blushed slightly. “Yeah.”
“What if I am ready?”
Rei smiled as she walked back to Jitsia’s biobed. “That’s okay too.”
Jitsia grabbed the back of Rei’s head and pulled her down, so her ear was next to her mouth. “Don’t tell Gras, but I love you too.”
“It’ll be our secret,” Rei whispered back.
Ranma, Akane, and Nabiki all waved to Kasumi and walked out the door. Nabiki excused herself, as she needed to go deal with some business, and took off with a couple of her friends-slash-lackeys who were waiting outside of the gate. Ranma and Akane started to walk together in the general direction of the school.
“Do you remember how to get there?” Akane asked him.
“Not a clue,” Ranma shook his head, realizing that his previous pride in his memory was premature.
Akane sighed. “So, we’re lost already.”
Ranma again shook his head and pointed to his ear. “Gosnell?”
“Sixty meters down this street, then take a right,” Gosnell’s voice reported.
“Where’s he at?” Akane asked.
Ranma shrugged. “Beats me-” Ranma slowly turned and noticed Gosnell walking on the sidewalk, about ten meters behind him.
“Konichiwa!” Gosnell called to him, bowing slightly, before continuing.
Ranma sighed and continued walking. “One of the NSO teams is shadowing us as well. They are hopefully hidden better.”
“Aye, Captain,” Kio’s voice said over Ranma’s commlink. “No worries there.”
Ranma smiled to Akane.
“What if the Kunos don’t make their move today?” Akane asked.
Ranma grumbled. “We’ll have to figure something out then,” he admitted. “The portal closes tomorrow, and we need to be through it before that happens.”
A COUPLE OF HOURS EARLIER
Anthony yawned and rolled over, expecting to find Kio next to him. He groaned in displeasure when all he found was an empty bed. He slowly sat up and looked around. The room seemed empty.
“Kio?” he called.
Anthony dug around his clothes for his watch and checked it. 05:13. He hadn’t missed their operation time. That would be pretty embarrassing, and quite frankly a very dick move on Kio’s part in his opinion. He wandered around a bit, finally deciding to simply shower and start to get dressed.
After getting his pants and boots on, the door to the room opened and Kio walked in. She smiled at Anthony.
“Morning, Sunshine,” she called, tossing a white and red bag to him.
“Good morning,” he replied, looking to the bag. “Where’d you go?”
“I was hungry,” she explained, pointing to the bag. “I figured as long as we were here, might as well enjoy some ‘real’ food. The only place nearby that was open, though, was someplace called ‘McDonald’s’.”
Anthony opened his bag suspiciously. He pulled out a small sandwich in a yellow wrapper.
“It’s called an ‘Egg McMuffin’,” Kio explained, hopping onto the bed, and pulling out one of her own. “The picture looked good, so I thought you might like it.”
Anthony unwrapped the sandwich and looked at it. He acknowledged that it appeared edible and had things he liked on it. Egg, ham, cheese, English muffin. He noticed Kio was watching him, seemingly waiting for his reaction. He decided to give her one then.
Anthony took a huge bite of the sandwich and chewed it slowly, eating it in what he thought would be the sexiest way possible.
“Really?” Kio asked, laughing.
Anthony just smirked. “What did you get?”
“The same thing,” she said, opening her wrapper up. “I already ate one on the way back,” she admitted.
Anthony smiled and finished off his breakfast, as Kio ate her second sandwich. The pair then chatted a bit as Anthony finished dressing before getting ready to leave on their mission. However, before calling for transport, Anthony grabbed Kio’s arm.
“I meant what I said, by the way,” he said, blushing a bit.
Kio reached up and ran her hand across the top of his head. “I’m lucky, then,” she smiled. “I meant what I said too,” she smiled.
“Hm?” he asked.
“Delete that horrible program.”
Anthony nodded and laughed prior to the pair beaming away.
“Captain,” Anthony called to Ranma, “you have someone coming up on your six quickly.”
Ranma could hear the footsteps. They weren’t Kuno footsteps. He’d know those idiot’s sounds in any universe. This did seem familiar to him, however.
“RANMA!” Ryouga yelled.
Ranma groaned. “Oh lord.”
“Is that Captain Hibiki?” Anthony asked.
“No,” Ranma sighed. “Well, his duplicate, yes.”
“Oh,” Anthony replied. “Should I shoot him?”
Ranma took a few seconds to answer. “No.”
Akane looked to Ranma. “I had forgotten how mean you were to Ryouga,” she grumbled. Ranma just turned and glared at his wife.
“Just keep going, I’ll see what this knucklehead wants and catch up,” Ranma instructed her.
“You’re going to fight with him, aren’t you?” she asked as Ryouga ran full steam towards Ranma.
“Probably,” Ranma nodded. “He’s not one to talk.”
Akane just scoffed and walked off. Ryouga bolted up to Ranma. Ranma took up a fighting stance, fully expecting Ryouga to attack him, but instead, Ryouga simply skidded to a halt, slamming into a wall in the process.
Ranma turned and looked to the now plaster-covered pig-man with concern. “Are you alright?”
Ryouga quickly pulled himself out of the wall and grabbed Ranma. “Where’s Akane?”
“She’s on her way to school...”
Ryouga’s head and eyes darted around before he pulled Ranma aside. “Ranma, I saw the most horrific thing last night in Akane’s bedroom!”
“What were you doing in her bedroom?!” Ranma asked.
“She was sleeping with me-”
Ranma smashed Ryouga’s head into a nearby light pole. “WHAT?”
“WHAT THE HELL?!” Ryouga growled. “You know I don’t like living as P-Chan, but...”
“Ohhhhhh,” Ranma glowered, “the pig.”
Ryouga looked at Ranma oddly for a minute before shaking his head. “That’s not what’s important. What’s important is what I saw!”
Ranma glared at Ryouga. “And what exactly did you see?”
“I saw another Akane come in and make my Akane disappear!” Ryouga said, flailing his arms. “That sinister, replacement Akane then took my Akane’s spot!”
Ranma bit his lip. “No kidding,” he said, worriedly. He then looked around, down the street, around the corner, then back to Ryouga. “Stun him,” Ranma said.
“What?” Ryouga asked just prior to being hit by a blast from a faraway NSO rifle. Ranma pulled out one of his transporter tags and stuck it on Ryouga and beamed him to the safe house.
“Let the safe house team know that he’s going to need to have about eight hours of memory wiped,” Ranma sighed.
“Aye,” Anthony replied.
Ranma turned to catch back up with his wife. He realized that right now the worst thing that could happen is that they would end up having to spend another night here. If that were to happen, since Akane had seen him, he would have to have his Ryouga come down and pretend to be this world’s P-Chan.
Ranma, now more than ever, was determined to end this.
“Going out on delivery!” Shampoo told Cologne.
“And your goal is to get captured?” the old woman asked.
Shampoo nodded. “If Shampoo get captured, then ship can find where bad men hiding.”
Cologne hopped over to Shampoo and took her hand. “I am sorry I was so mean to you earlier.”
“It understandable,” Shampoo nodded. “Great-Grandmother only wish to protect,” she smiled. “Shampoo.”
“I am glad to see that you have become a great warrior in your world,” Cologne smiled.
Shampoo beamed a bit. “Shampoo have to overcome many weakness, but ability to defeat fear and doubt make Shampoo stronger,” she explained. Cologne nodded but sadly rubbed Shampoo’s left hand.
“Tell me child, have you taken Ranma Saotome as your groom?”
As she did before, Shampoo dodged the answer to the question. “Shampoo cannot discuss details like that-”
Cologne’s shaking of her head cut Shampoo off. “If you haven’t, just say no. It’s not me you are dishonoring, it’s my counterpart.”
Shampoo looked down at Cologne with a bit of disgust on her face. “Great-grandmother disappointed, but has accepted Ranma choice,” she sternly said, picking up the delivery. “If you care about Shampoo, maybe you should think two time about trying to force her into marriage with man who no love her.”
Before Cologne could say anything, Shampoo had taken the delivery, walked out the door, hopped onto Shampoo-2’s bicycle, and was pedaling off down the Nerima streets.
Ranma was now sprinting.
“The Kuno is running full steam at Commander Saotome,” Kio reported.
“I’m not reading a Kuno bio-sign from him,” Gosnell reported.
“That’s even worse,” Ranma mumbled.
“There’s a lot of people around the gate of the school, Captain,” Kio sighed. “If I shoot him, dozens will-” Kio cut herself off.
“Lieutenant?” Ranma asked, still sprinting.
“Uh, Commander Saotome just punched him onto the roof of the school,” Kio said, kind of shocked.
Ranma laughed. “Ah, memories.”
It took him a couple more minutes, but Ranma finally made it to the gate of the school. Akane was there waiting for him as the bell began to toll. Before the pair could walk in, however, black rose petals began to flutter around, causing Ranma to roll his eyes.
“RANMA! DARLING!” Kodachi-2 called as she bounded towards Ranma.
Akane sighed. Heavily.
“I’m going in-” she is cut off as Tatewaki-2 reappeared, holding a bouquet of roses.
“Ah, my dearest, Akane Tendo, for you have bested I, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, Tatewaki Kuno, age seventeen, and therefore earned both the privilege and the honor of my company. Yes, your beatings speak louder than your voice ever could. I shall date with you!”
Both Ranma and Akane sent Tatewaki-2 flying. Kodachi-2 watched her brother fly away before starting to turn back.
Ranma’s curse, usually neutralized thanks to being on the ship and not being around random water sources, managed to kick in as one of the school’s landscaping sprinklers kicked in, with a broken head, and sprayed right on him, changing him to Ranma-chan.
Kodachi-2 managed to turn right after his change to see a glowering Ranma-chan standing there where her darling Ranma used to be.
“WRETCHED PIG-TAILED GIRL!” she bellowed. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY LOVE?!”
Ranma-chan rolled her eyes and pointed to the school. “He went to class.”
“Lies!” Kodachi-2 screamed as she ripped off her dress and stripped down to her rhythmic gymnastics leotard. She quickly tied Ranma and Akane together with the ribbons before pulling out her katana.
“I shall end you now!” she grinned.
A beeping came from her purse. She looked down, pulled out her watch and looked at it, and gasped. “Drat! The home economics challenge is in fifteen minutes!” Kodachi-2 quickly put away her sword, grabbed her school uniform from off the ground and looked to a very pissed off, and still tied up Ranma-chan and Akane.
“I will finish you two off later,” she said, bounding away, rose petals fluttering.
“Ranma,” Akane groaned.
“Yeah?” Ranma-chan asked.
“Remind me never to agree to one of your ideas again,” she grumbled.
“Okay,” Ranma-chan nodded.
“I’m coming to untie you, Captain,” Gosnell called to Ranma over the commlink. “Or maybe not,” he quickly countered.
“What do you mean ‘or maybe not’?” Ranma-chan snarled.
“Transporter activity and two Kuno bio-signs, five meters from you.”
Ranma-chan turned her head as much as she could without whacking Akane before seeing Kodachi and Tatewaki walking towards them. Tatewaki grinned widely when he noticed the pair, tied up and sitting there, seemingly waiting for his arrival.
“Look, dear sister, someone left a gift for me!”
Kodachi glowered. “Where’s my gift?”
“Maybe he’s in the school?” Tatewaki shrugged. “Who cares?”
“I’ll go look,” Kodachi smiled. “We could use the kids anyway.”
“Uh,” Ranma-chan piped up, desperate to keep Kodachi from running around the school and assimilating the student body, “if you’re looking for Ranma, he’s in the mountains on a training trip right now and won’t be back till next week.”
Kodachi glared at Ranma-chan. “How do I know that you’re not lying to me?”
“Well,” Ranma-chan chuckled nervously, “I might lie to you, but I’d never lie to my...” Ranma-chan swallowed a bit of vomit as she said the next words, “...beloved Blue Thunder...”
Tatewaki glommed onto the two women as Kodachi scowled.
“Well, I can wait a week, I guess.”
Akane, who was now face to face with Ranma-chan thanks to Tatewaki’s glomp, gave her a strikingly disapproving stare. Ranma-chan simply grinned back.
The Kuno’s beamed back to their hive with Akane and Ranma-chan.
“Gosnell to Nighthawk,” Gosnell called from his semi-hidden position nearby. “The Captain and Commander Saotome have been abducted.”
“Copy,” Kaii replied. “I’ve managed to track their tags and have both them and Commander Shampoo in a single location.”
Gosnell smiled. It was up to the pros to do what they do now.
Shampoo wasn’t being shadowed. She was too mobile, and her routes and destinations were too unpredictable to have anyone trail her. Shampoo was totally on her own.
She didn’t really mind. She could totally take care of herself. It wasn’t that big of a deal. Though she would have liked a warning that someone was hiding in a pile of trash and was going to knock her off her bicycle.
She wasn’t hurt. She managed to flip off as the bike was falling and land on her feet. However, the ramen spilled. That was annoying.
The assimilated citizen that shoved her bike over, stood and attacked her. Shampoo easily fended off her attack and the assailant was quickly incapacitated. Shampoo got into her bag and pulled out a hypo with deassimilation nanites that reversed the Kunoazation and injected the person with it.
“See, I just would have killed them,” a voice called from behind a parked car.
Shampoo looked up to see George step out.
“I didn’t think you were actually ‘Shampoo’,” George said, walking towards her, kicking the now deassimilated citizen out of his way. “Don’t take this the wrong way, you’re still smoking, but you’re no sixteen-year-old.”
Shampoo glowered. “So, what? Now we battle to death?”
George shook his head. “No, not at all,” he said, pulling out a phaser and shooting Shampoo. Shampoo blinked a couple of times before starting to drop to her knees. The amazon stayed conscious but seemed to lose any control over her body. A frightening feeling.
“I want a Shampoo, and I will take you, no problem. Once I get into that head of yours, I’ll find the other one, then I’ll have two,” he smiled, walking over to Shampoo and placing his hand up to her neck. The assimilation tongs shot out and hit her neck but didn’t puncture the skin. Shampoo, despite being half stunned, nearly screamed.
“Yeah,” George nodded. “That would be the proper reaction.” The tongs moved back into his hand slowly, and George pulled Shampoo to her feet, throwing her arm around his shoulder.
“I’m kind of infatuated with you, and the last thing I want is for you to be driven to suicide by making you deal with what I deal with every day.” George ran his hand through Shampoo’s hair before smiling. “Don’t let anyone ever say I’m not compassionate.”
Shampoo’s eyes watched George as he activated his transporter and beamed himself and Shampoo back to the Kuno hive.