A Horse for the Force

Okay, bad title I know, but I couldn't stop myself.

I need to apologize to those who have already read this story! When I looked at the time-line, I had a date I wanted to use as a target for Ranma's introduction into the Star Wars universe. I also wanted Ranma to be somewhere between the ages of Obi-Wan and Anakin, as well as others like Shaak Ti. However, not only was the date I wanted the year before Phantom Menace rather than the ten I thought, I was judging Obi-Wan by his looks in those comics as well. Did you know he's 24 by the time of Phantom Menace? And Padme is 14? Um… a ruling queen at that age... suddenly her incredible level of naiveté makes so much more sense. Oh, and Anakin is around 11 during PM.

So I was forced to head back and make some changes, removing the age reduction and changing a lot of things after that to make up for it. The combat between Dooku and Ranma is very different, though the changes start well before that.

Prologue: A Horse Breaks Its Bridle

Leaping through the early evening two nights after the Wedding Massacre, Ranma found himself still angry about the whole thing, which was rather odd for him frankly, but something no one else could possibly blame him for. Having a cure that close and having it snatched away from him had hurt, almost as much as eating Akane's cooking. So much so Ranma had decided to take yesterday and hunt down Happosai.

What Happosai had told him though and proved by pointing out Pantyhose Taro and Rouge, made Ranma wince even now. How did all of us miss that? You can't cure one spring with another, they just merge! Unless you nullify the first one somehow. The Phoenix tribe seems to be able to, but I'm not 'xactly their most popular person, now am I?

That thought was a grim one. It'd taken them several weeks to move through China after his battle against Saffron, and Ranma still couldn't get over the fact that he had almost killed someone. He would have too, if not for Saffron's regeneration into an egg. As a martial artist Ranma knew that eventually he might be called upon to take someone's life in defense of someone else, but he had not been prepared for the reality of it.

If only Dr. Tofu was still around, he thought to himself shaking his head as he thought about the older man who had helped him think his way through several problems since he had arrived in Nerima. About six months before the Phoenix people first appeared Dr. Tofu had moved away. Not disappeared, just moved away. Since then Ranma had found out for himself (he couldn't afford Nabiki's prices) that the doctor had gotten married. Ranma supposed that the doc's old lady had gotten fed up with him not settling down and arranged matters herself, something Ranma was all-too-familiar with when dealing with his own parents.

Thank Hachiman mom didn't have any outstanding marriage contracts fer a daughter. With the way she'd been at me about acting girly when I'm a girl, she might be just as quick to force that on me as oyaji is in tryin' ta get me ta marry Akane. Still without Dr. Tofu around, I lost the only person around here I can speak to about serious matters.

Ranma had gotten into the habit of going to the doctor a few months after he first arrived, and so long as Kasumi wasn't around Tofu was a source of good advice, when he decided to give any, and a willing ear most of the other times. He'd also given Ranma a lot of medical books, some of which he'd even tried to read, and some of which had actually helped him advance his ki healing massively. That was why he didn't have brain damage after all the hits to the head he'd taken since arriving in Nerima.

He couldn't talk to Hiroshi or Daisuke about anything serious. They were a good source for information on normal things, most of which Ranma labeled under the title 'boring' in his mind. It was a gigantic file, almost as large as the file marked 'girl issues I don't want to touch with a ten foot pole'. But talking to them about serious matters like martial arts, marriages, fiancés and girls in general, that just wasn't going to happen. And of course I can't talk to anyone actually involved, the moment I do they try to twist it around to their advantage!

It had taken him a while to reach that conclusion, but Ranma had finally learned that he really couldn't trust anyone even indirectly involved in the crap that was his life. Nabiki was the most blatant, with Akane next in line. Several times Ranma had told Akane about learning some new maneuver, only to learn that Ryoga had somehow learned about it. Ranma didn't think she was doing it on purpose, but Akane just couldn't keep a secret to save her life.

His mother wouldn't keep secrets from his oyaji, and the less said about Genma's ability to keep anything secret the better. Soun too wouldn't keep a secret, and couldn't seem to talk about anything serious without turning into a blubbering mess anyway. And Kasumi, well Kasumi was a very good listener, but she also would not keep secrets from her family. She had also lost a lot of points from Ranma when she joined in with her sisters to make fun of his fear of furry devils. That had happened over a year ago, but it still stuck in Ranma's craw.

And as for his other two fiancés, talking to Shampoo was pretty much like talking to Akane only worse. The bubbly Amazon couldn't keep a secret to save her life and always tried to turn things to her advantage. Not as if I trust her anyway, with all the times she's used magic on me. Stupid Amazons, stupid laws. I know I've got Shampoo ta thank for Cologne bein' here, and without Cologne's training I wouldn't be nearly as good as I am, but still. I was wonderin' if continuin' to learn from her is worth the baggage months back, now it just don't seem worth it anymore. Of course, getting rid of them somehow is gonna be… tough.

Ukyo was actually the best listener among the three, and would only use what he told her to her advantage if it was about the whole contest between her, Akane and Shampoo for him. Better, she had even come by the day after the wedding to apologize, catching him before he went after Happosai and actually looking remorseful. I wonder if the others'll apologize? I doubt it, but it'd be nice.

By this point in his thoughts Ranma had crossed most of Nerima and reached the Tendo dojo. Leaping up onto one of the outer walls Ranma dropped down on the other side quickly. He moved as silently as he could, not wanting to deal with the Amazons or anyone else who could be watching the house. That was why he stopped by a small bush in a corner of the property, his hand lashing out faster than almost anyone in Nerima could follow, chopping into Sasuke's neck.

Before the little man could slump forward Ranma grabbed him and laid him down gently. Sorry dude, he thought to himself, I don't mind you spying on us most of the time, but I really don't wanta deal with either of your crazy charges tonight. Ranma actually approved of the little ninja's loyalty, not the people he was loyal to, but the loyalty itself was worth praising in his opinion.

That was why he thoughtfully pulled out a pad of paper and pencil, writing up a little note on it before sticking it on the unconscious ninja's chest. 'Find some new hidin' places, and don't just switch 'em up every other day, it's predictable. Check out the area near the eaves of the house and maybe underneath the porch, we just cleared it out o' spiders so its useable again.' Then Ranma ended it with a smiley face and a chibi version of himself holding up two fingers in a victory sign.

Chuckling quietly, he left the ninja there moving from shadow to shadow towards the Tendo house. Ranma could've used the Umisenken, but he had promised his father he wouldn't use either of the sealed techniques save in matters of life and death. And one thing that Ranma didn't do was break promises, at least not when they impacted what he saw as his personal honor or the Art.

Besides, he thought to himself grimly, as he was almost to the house, this is good stealth training, and my oyaji had a point, which he immediately proved in the worst way possible, but still, the techniques he created are too dangerous to let fall into the wrong hands.

He was about to jump up onto the windowsill of the guestroom that he and his father had shared for almost two years now when he heard voices. Pausing he cocked his head, wondering what Nabiki and Akane were talking about. The two of them almost never talked, especially since that incident where Nabiki had become his official fiancé for a time, so it was odd. Especially since Nabiki had a part in wrecking the wedding, not that I'll ever be able ta do anythin' to get back at her.

"I don't get it,Nabiki," Akane was saying as Ranma moved to stand underneath Nabiki's window. "It's not like you to make a plan like that and not make money off it. But there's no way those freaks and psychos paid you more than the damages to the dojo cost us." Despite the topic, Ranma was surprised to hear that Akane was almost calm sounding, not accusatory, simply questioning.

I know I've been away for a few days, but there's no way that Akane could've gotten over her anger that quickly. Not these days. Akane had begun to worry Ranma, the amount of anger-based ki that she had been using for years unconsciously had seriously started to affect her, though Ranma seemed to be the only one who noticed it. And he didn't have any idea how to convince her not to keep using it. Talking to any girls let alone Akane about anything like emotions or anything beyond schoolwork always seemed to end up with him getting bashed. Still however Akane has dealt with her anger she's got a point.

"Oh like you care." Nabiki scoffed, and Ranma heard movement up above him, as if Nabiki had moved in place or was doing something else, like those leg exercises she was always doing. "I know that you had your own plans Akane, but I had to scuttle the wedding quickly. One of my factors…"

"Oh call them spies, or enforcers or something, that's what they are aren't they?" Akane broke in, scoffing. "My sister the budding yakuza oyabun!" Again despite the words Akane sounded almost amused.

Nabiki's voice however was rather hard when she replied. "Since they're working in our favor sister, perhaps you should call them factors or agents rather than anything derogatory? They did just save our family of a debt of ¥170.5 billion."

Up above there was a sound of a body slamming into the floor as Akane possibly fell out of her chair, a sentiment that Ranma had no trouble understanding, since he had almost fallen forward to slam his head into the side of the house. He stopped himself just-in-time though, scowling angrily. Oh fuck-me-sideways oyaji, what've you got me into now?!

Above him Akane asked the same question and Nabiki replied. "There's a reason why Genma and Ranma never stayed in one place too long: debt collectors. The debt collectors know where they're living now, and a lot of them have banded together to call in the government. The government in turn is preparing an action against Genma, and anyone else with his family name."

"Worse, there are at least five more families around Osaka and two more in Korea he also apparently sold Ranma to. Most of them are willing to take a cash buyout, which is where that last seven billion yen came from."

Akane and the unseen Ranma were silent for a moment, considering the huge amount of money. Then Akane asked the question Ranma was privately wondering. "Why haven't you shared this with Daddy? Surely the news that the Genma sold off his son that many more times and the times we already know about plus the debt should cancel out the engagement right?"

Something is wrong, Ranma thought, frowning heavily now as he concentrated more on Akane's tone than the discussion. He didn't really care about money one way or the other, after so long on the road he could make do in the wild, or living off the land in cities easily enough. Besides, he had always loved to travel, and having an actual reason to run around made a lot of his father's actions when they were younger more understandable. Of course he also brought us here but… Ranma shrugged, all too used to Genma screwing him over. The future could take care of itself in Ranma's opinion.

But Akane's tone was bothering him. It was so lacking any kind of emotion when it was talking about their engagement. It actually hurt a little to hear her talking about it so… so detached like. What's going on here?

"You really think our father would listen to me? Father wouldn't listen to me even if I had the evidence in front of us, and I don't. In fact if one of my agents hadn't decided his loyalty to me counted more for his loyalty to the government, I wouldn't know about this now. He could be fired or even arrested for discussing a case like this with those involved. We need to wait until Ranma's 18, then instead of having a religious wedding we can have a formal change of name for Ranma, add him to the Tendo rolls and remove them from the Saotome, which will leave their family with all of the debts and leave us free and clear."

"Whatever, it's not like the marriage between our houses really matters beyond the whole honor thing Daddy's always harping on about. You know I was only going through with the marriage for the cure anyway, and not to get it for Ranma."

Down below Ranma's heart sank, but he didn't stop listening.

"Now that's cold sis." Nabiki said and there was actually a note of censure in her voice. "After all the times Ranma saved you, don't have any friendly feeling for him?"

"Have feelings for that freak, hell no! The freak revels in his female form, using it all the time to get treats, using it in some of those dumb ass martial arts contests. As if any of that shit mattered!" Akane said in reply, her voice getting louder with every word. All those so called martial artists aren't really ones, they just use tricks to make their styles seems unique! And that's not even talking about the way he's leading on Shampoo and Ukyo! The fucking pervert!"

Ranma's teeth clenched and his hands formed into fists. He was about to jump up onto their windowsill and retort angrily as he always did to Akane's accusations. He thought this was more of the same as always, her accusing him, never taking any of the blame for herself and always seeing him in a bad light. Yet in comparison to what had gone before it was almost a relief to hear Akane sound back to normal.

Then she went on, saying something that shattered Ranma's heart. "Besides, you know Ryoga and I have been going out for a few months now ever since that whole Pantyhose incident."

A heart breaking should make a noise, Ranma thought to himself in the corner of his mind where he could still think, slumping silently to his knees as his head came to rest against the wall of the Tendo place. She's been lying to me that long? No wonder she's been so much more violent ta me lately when Ryoga an' I fight! His hands remained clenched, and he had to stop himself from jumping up again to accuse the damn bitch.

"You know I never liked that." said Nabiki, and now her voice was cold, almost angry. "You leading on Ranma as you have, it makes you a damn hypocrite and worse. You're my sister, and I'm not willing to betray you or deal with the fallout if Ranma became truly angry at us, but why can't you simply transfer the engagement to me if you don't care?"

Nabiki went on in a much more normal tone, there even seemed to be a smile in it though Ranma couldn't see it. "I've always been interested in seeing if Ranma's stamina carried over into other things, and kissing a girl could be interesting. I can't experiment around here after all, it would ruin my rep, but if I was formally engaged to Ranma…"

"Because I won't lose to those bitches, that stupid cook who dresses like a boy or the bimbo gaijin! If I back down, it makes it seem as if I've acknowledged that they're better than me, that they're better than me at martial arts and as a woman! After so long listening to Ranma's jibes about my figure and everything else, I need all the assurances in that area I can get!" Akane retorted hotly, and Ranma could hear something straining as if Akane was pending an iron bar, something she had begun to do recently.

"Besides, you know that neither of them will fall for your tricks a second time."Akane went on, in a somewhat calmer tone. "Shampoo would just kill you, you couldn't fight back like I could."

Down below Ranma rolled his eyes, slowly coming back from the precipice of the fury Akane's betrayal had driven him to while he continued to listen. Akane then went on to rant about Shampoo, and Ranma's ki sense could actually feel the anger and rage from above him like a forest fire concentrated in one place. She really is using angry ki too much, it really is affecting her, but… well, it's not my problem anymore…

After several more moments of ranting Akane calmed down, and went on in a more normal tone. "And, don't talk to me about that perverted crap! Two girls together, that's just wrong! I don't how you're able to think about that! And besides, I doubt Ranma would even know what to do, not like Ryoga."

"Oh kami-sama," Nabiki said in a tone of revulsion. "Don't tell me what you two get up to, I don't want to know. How you can stand someone who turns into a little pig rather than a sexy as hell redhead is beyond me. And it's not perverted Akane, simply different."

But after a moment Nabiki went on more thoughtfully. "Still, it is odd that Ranma hasn't tried anything would with any of us. I know he's honorable and all, but I don't think I've ever even seen him physically react if you know what I mean. Not even when Shampoo glomps on him, and I'll admit that girl's body is better than most porn stars. And a lot of the times when his two perverted friends at school bring up girls and stuff he reacts as if he hadn't gone through puberty or something."

For some reason that stuck in Ranma's mind. Maybe it was because he was desperate for anything to grab onto at the moment, rather than the rage and grief he was feeling, but it did strike him as odd too. They'd had health class and he kinda knew what Nabiki was talking about, and Ranma knew his self-control wasn't that good, so why?

Ranma shook himself, pushing his body away from the wall as the two girls upstairs continued to talk, now moving onto less important subjects like schoolwork and where Nabiki was planning to go for college. Their closeness was surprising, but Ranma had other things to worry about. I need to talk to someone about this, someone I can get on my side on this, about everything they just said, and not just about Akane and Ryoga. That I'll deal with on my own.

For a moment Ranma thought about simply running, simply leaving Nerima and never coming back, but there were at least a few people here he cared about, and in particular one who might be able to help. I need to talk to mom, I just hope she listens.


Kasumi frowned, moving out onto the patio and looking around moving towards the back of the house for a moment. Looking around she frowned further, then shrugged. Her control of the house's Wa was not perfect, she routinely missed Sasuke's presence, and even occasionally missed Genma and Ranma so it wasn't unusual. With a shrug Kasumi went back inside, looking up into staircase she called out "Nabiki, Akane, dinner's ready."


Ranma cross the distance between Nerima and the district where his mom's house was still being repaired quickly, landing in front of it he was about to knock on the door when he paused. For some reason, a thought occurred to him: if Nabiki and Akane are so different when they're not around me, are they the only ones?

After the shocking revelations of the past hour or so, Ranma was in no frame of mind to chance anything. So instead of knocking on the door, he leapt up onto the roof landing lightly and then down into the small garden at the back.

"…And I still cannot believe that you were so stupid and thoughtless as to take part in ruining the wedding! You even went so far as aiding in the destruction of the only cure that could have returned our son to normal!"

Hearing that, Ranma winced. Knowing that his mother still had problems with his female form wasn't exactly surprising, but the vitriol in her voice was shocking. And it made him leery about trusting her as well, especially since she still carried around that damn contract and katana everywhere she went.

Inside his mother went on. "I've long been concerned about how that form affects our son's mind. Why hasn't he been manly with any of his fiancés? Surely choosing one of them shouldn't be that difficult."

"I don't know anything about that, dear." said Genma slowly, and Ranma actually smirked a little despite her his ongoing emotional roller coaster knowing how his father had to be walking on eggshells right now.

Looking inside quickly Ranma saw that the two of them were sitting at a table. Yes his mother did have the honor blade out, cleaning it while staring across at his father. Heh, serves oyaji right.

"But, it might not be that simple. It turns out that the Spring of Drowned Man water wouldn't've cured Ranma, or even me. Instead it would've merged with the existing curse. I would've become a panda man, and Ranma would've become…" The bald man shuddered a little. "Apparently the Grand Master actually knew that, and that was why he was so quick to drink the water rather than let it be used. It wasn't a totally uncaring act, whatever fun he had doing it."

Ranma scoffed outside shaking his head. Right, you only asked him about that after just like me. You were just as self-servin' in the battle at the wedding as anyone else oyaji. Still Ranma was actually relieved. His father wasn't acting any differently now than he would if Ranma was around.

"You mean our son is stuck with that body for the rest of his life?" His mother asked aghast. "That is most distressing. Especially given the fact that you vowed to make him a man among men. How can he fulfill his end of the agreement when he is stuck with that female form for the rest of his life? I warn you, one more step out of place from either of you, and I will not hesitate to enforce that pact."

Nodoka's voice had become colder while Ranma watched as her face had frozen at the news that his cure couldn't have worked. "Tomorrow we will discuss how best to educate our son in order to meet the honor obligations upon him, and to ward off any influence his female form has on them."

Ranma really wanted to blame that idea for the way his mother was acting, but she was so obsessed about manliness, and when he was in female form 'girliness', that he couldn't really say that was the case. She's just like all the others he thought to himself, using honor against me, not carin' about me as a person! Well, well screw her too! Gripped by sudden anger Ranma turned away, leaping out into the distance.

Behind him Genma moved far faster than his bulk would suggest, ripping the door to the garden nearly off its hinges. He stood there for a moment, staring out into the small garden looking around irritably. Behind him his wife asked "What is it?"

Genma frowned thoughtfully. "I could've sworn…" After a moment he shrugged and came back inside.


Ranma scowled as he raced back into Nerima, shaking his head. I can't trust mom, and I sure as hell can't trust dad, but who can I trust? I could go to Ukyo, but I don't think she could help me with this. There're too many honor obligations on me, too much coming at me all at once! I need to get away, need to talk to someone completely unconnected to everythin'! I need to find Dr. Tofu again. But Ukyo might be the only one who cares that I'm gone as in really cares rather than cares that his meal ticket, her toy, or cover or, umm….whatever Shampoo thinks of me as, is gone.

He landed on the roof of Ukyo's eatery, and was almost immediately challenged. "Halt varlet, who goes… oh, Ranma-sama, it's you. I do apologize, but might this humble one ask what you are doing here so late?"

Ranma looked around, only now realizing that it was actually the middle of the night by this point.

Then he turned back to Konatsu who had moved out from a shadow by a cooling fan, one hand delicately holding a kunai. As usual Konatsu was dressed as a female ninja, fishnet underthings, a pink ninja suit, and his long hair done up in an intricate style, held in place by a hairclip that could no doubt double as a weapon. The only guy around here that can match some of my skills, and he dresses more like a girl than any of my fiancé Akane should take tips if she's so worried about her own femininity.

That thought brought a scowl to Ranma's face as the memory of everything he'd learned came back to himagain, overriding his normal amusement and good humor at the Konatsu's cross-dressing. "Sorry…" he said a little shakily before he drew himself up. "Er, I mean I'm sorry I'm here so late." He went on in a more normal tone. "Didn't realize it was so late. Is Ukyo awake? I'd like ta talk to you two."

He knew Konatsu would listen in anyway, better to have him in front where Ranma knew where he was.

Ukyo had actually been asleep, but after Konatsu woke her up gently, was more than willing to hear what Ranma was there to say this late at night. She knew that her friendship with Ranma had taken a few hits lately, but deep down she still cared for him, though not romantically. She taken a good, hard look at herself lately and realized that the two of them just weren't compatible. Ukyo was ready and willing to settle down, head to college, get a good education and continue to run her small stall until she could move on to bigger and better things. But Ranma was the eternal wild child, and the idea of seeing him ready to settle down was just silly.

Besides, she wasn't blind, she knew why Konatsu hung around her and had taken to calling her his mistress. She was still uncertain of her own feelings towards the male kunoichi, but they did make a strangely decent pair. "So sugar, what brings you to my rooftop this evening?" She asked smirking even as she moved to cook them some okonomiyaki.

Ranma however held up a hand as she moved towards her kitchen. "Don't, I don't think I could keep anythin' down right now. So many things've hit me tonight, too much stuff I need ta deal with. I need to go, I need ta get out of Nerima. I don't think I'm gonna be coming back, and I figured you should know why."

"A moment please." said Konatsu sharply, holding up a hand. Konatsu delicately got to her his feet, moving with all the grace of a ballerina or a high-class acrobat and quickly disappeared to most normal people's senses, hurrying towards the door. A moment later he was back, brushing one out of place strand of hair back into his coif. "I needed to make certain that there were no listening devices or anyone trying to overhear us. One can never be too careful after all, and news like that…" The cross-dresser shrugged.

"I should've thought of that." Ranma said shaking his head. "I'm just too rattled right now."

"We're here to listen to you if it helps sugar, that's the least we can do." Ukyo said sitting back down next to him and taking his it gently. She winced a little when Ranma looked at her somewhat distrustfully and moved away slightly, but still smiled at him encouragingly. "Seriously, what's wrong?"

Ranma bluntly stated the most important part of what he had learned. "According to her, Akane and Ryoga have been going out for six months." Ukyo's eyes widened while Konatsu's narrowed in speculation but before either could say anything Ranma went on. "And that's just the tip of the iceberg."

The retelling took about forty minutes or so going by the clock, by the end of which both Ukyo and Konatsu were both looking angry, though most of the money matters had gone over Konatsu's head just like it had Ranma at the time he heard it. "That's some tale sugar." Ukyo said shaking her head. "Though it explains a lot. I was surprised that Akane's attitude towards you didn't change after the whole Phoenix Mountain thing, and the Seven Lucky Gods crap before that. After all…" she smiled whimsically. "What girl doesn't want her knight in shining armor to ride in on his white horse and rescue her?"

"Apparently one who's already got a prince in mind." Ranma laughed, now seeing some humor in it. "Of course her prince doesn't have a sense of direction, so in terms of savin' her, he's pretty useless."

His listeners laughed, though Ukyo was looking at him worriedly. Hiding his hurt under humor was what she'd expect from Ranma, but no one should be able to do that when they'd just had their heart ripped out. Ukyo might not have liked it, but she had always known that Akane was the one who'd been in the driver's seat in the race for Ranma's hand. To see him able to see any humor in this, well, it was just weird.

"Well anyway." Ranma said with a shrug. "I figured you two should know what's going on. I'd get out of dodge if I was you. The fallout of me leaving is going to be huge, and Akane and the others are going to look for someone to blame."

"I was planning to move away anyway sugar."Ukyo replied, coming back to the here and now. "I'd offer to go with you, but…"

Ranma shook his head quickly. "I need to be alone for this, there's more going on than just Akane and her… does the word cheating even apply since we weren't, y'know in an actual relationship?" Ukyo again frowned again at that, as did Kotatsu, but Ranma went on not noticing. "Well anyway, some of the other things that I overheard tonight have bothered me a lot, and I need a doctor's opinion on some of them."

Ukyo nodded her head, then reached across and brought Ranma into a hug, noticing that he stiffened a little and tried to shy away but she wouldn't let him for a moment. "I understand sugar, I hope whatever doc ya go to can help you get your head on straight, and whatever you do outside of that…" she shrugged. "I hope you find a place where you can be happy. I'm sorry that place wasn't with me." At that Ukyo pulled back smirking while she smacked Ranma on the shoulder. "But I can understand that you're still looking."

Ranma stared at her then nodded smiling and punched Ukyo in the shoulder before reaching across to shake hands with the cross-dressing ninja. A moment later Ranma was gone, and Ukyo turned to her other friend. "We got a busy night ahead of us sugar, so let's start packing. Once the news that Ranma's not going to come back from this gets around all hell's going to let loose, and I'd rather Cologne and Happosai in particular not come looking for us." Ukyo was willing to put herself and Konatsu up against most of Nerima's martial artists, but not the two grandmasters or Genma possibly, if he took the fight seriously.

"Shouldn't we go after Ranma-sama?" Konatsu asked. "I realize he wants to be alone, but is that really for the best?"

Ukyo shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe not, but it's him making that choice not us. Besides, both us've caused trouble for him in the past too, we might be sad about it, but that's in his mind somewhere as well. Maybe a clean slate is what he really needs." That thought was somewhat painful but Ukyo knew that Ranma really would want space from everything that reminded him of Nerima after something like this. "Come on honey, we've got packing to do."


It took Ranma two days to cross most of Japan down to Honshu where Dr. Tofu's new practice had opened. It was small and homely like his last one, and Ranma smiled. Tofu really did like that whole personable touch. Ranma couldn't really picture him working in a huge hospital with lots of other people. And Tofu also always opened his own door, which was a problem at the moment. Dr. Tofu blinked in shock looking at the young man before him. "Ranma, how, wha…UMmph!"

Dr. Tofu's head jerked back at the blow to his chin, and then he was lifted off his feet and dragged further into his practice before he could recover. "That was for leaving without saying goodbye to anyone, not even Kasumi!" Ranma said setting the doctor on his feet and closing the door. "The whole clean slate thing is appealin', but you don't have people chasing after you, ya could have at least left a message behind or something."

"Dear who's this?" Said a young woman, coming out from inside the offices. She was tall, taller even then Kasumi and had a rangy look like a former athlete who had only recently stopped exercising regularly. She had black hair down to her waist done up in a long ponytail, and moved somewhat gracefully, not martial artist gracefully but certainly athlete gracefully which matched her body's build.

On one finger however was a wedding ring, which caused Ranma's eyebrows to shoot up. "Damn doc, you really did get married, what the hell?"

"It's true." Tofu replied, wincing a little as he felt his jaw. "I suppose I deserved that, but there's more going on than you know. This is an old friend Keiko, don't worry, we'll just be talking for a bit."

"More than a bit doc, I didn't come here just ta smack ya one for leaving. Like I said, I understand now why someone would just run away, but my reasons are way larger than yours."

Tofu frowned thoughtfully motioning Ranma into his observation room. "Before you ask, the reason I didn't say goodbye even to Kasumi is because of what my old sensei found when I met up with him at a symposium about two months before I actually left Nerima. For one thing, my sensei pointed out rather bluntly that the difference in our ages isn't that all that much different from Akane and me."

At Ranma's shocked expression Tofu's laughed quietly. "I've known about her crush on me for quite some time Ranma, it was rather obvious after all. When that was pointed out to me, I realized how foolish it was chasing after a girl half my age. Then he found out that I have… well the technical terms are a bit above even your ki knowledge Ranma, but what it comes down to is that I am physically allergic to being near Kasumi."

"It was masked by my, um well you know how I acted around her, turns out my father had the same reaction to my mother, but he was able to control it over time. I never would have been able to, and I would have continued to be a major danger to anyone who came to me for medical attention during that time."

"Thereafter he introduced me to Keiko, his daughter, and the two of us hit it off. With her I was able to get over my 'love response' in a few weeks after falling for her, just like my dad did with my mother." Tofu paused for a moment, sighing. "I can't say I was happy about leaving Nerima behind without saying goodbye to Kasumi, but a clean break really was necessary."

"I guess I can understand." Ranma said with a shrug. "Whatever Doc, like I said I wasn't here just to smack you one, I need your help."

"I'm always willing to lend an ear Ranma," said cautiously. He was always leery of getting involved in Ranma's adventures, knowing what they could cost him.

Ranma related everything that he had discovered recently, watching as Dr. Tofu took it all in. After moment the doctor shook his head. "I would've never suspected that Akane would be so duplicitous, I definitely think that girl needs to see a psychologist. It says something about her that she was able to convince herself that her cheating on you and keeping it a secret was all your fault in the first place. And Nabiki not telling anyone about it, that is a pure enabler attitude."

"I think I need to see a psychologist too Doc, since I ain't nearly as angry as I should be about it." Ranma said with a shrug. "At first I was furious, and a little weepy I'll admit." He said, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. Even that small an admission of softer feelings came hard to Ranma.

"But not now. And on top o' that what Nabiki said bothered me. I mean you know how boys are supposed to, er, react to girls, I mean, um, physically?" Ranma said trailing off in embarrassment and looking away. "That um, that ain't ever happened ta me. And given the fact that Shampoo jumps on me every time, well Nabiki mentioned that it was kind of odd that it never did, and I wondered if there was something that could, you know be, wrong with me in that area…"

Looking at the embarrassed and almost scared young man in front of him Tofu frowned thoughtfully. He was almost inclined to ask about Ranma's female form reacting in an aroused manner to exterior stimuli, but he knew the youth had problems with his female form even now. Plus he'd probably kick me through a wall for suggesting it. "There are pressure points that could have that effect, but why would anyone have done that?"

"Doc I stopped askin' questions like that a long time ago. If there's some way Genma could screw me over, he'd find it. Anything that wasn't the Art was a waste of time, I mean I ain't exactly interested in that kind of thing either, that's one thing oyaji was right about: the Art bein' more important than that stuff. It's just if there's somethin' wrong with my body, I want it fixed."

Dr. Tofu frowned further. He always considered Ranma's single-minded nature odd, but combined with the other things Ranma had just mentioned and his other observations during his time in Nerima, it might be there was something odd about Ranma even beyond whatever had been done to make him not become sexually aroused. "All right Ranma lay down on the bed and we'll see what we can find. I never did do a full physical on you did I?"

Ranma shivered a little at the very idea, not exactly comfortable with the idea of anyone touching him at all. But this was why he'd come to Tofu. He knew he could trust the older man, at least as far as Tofu not using what he found against him was concerned.

The procedure took over an hour, as various injuries and odd reactions were noted, with Tofu pausing a moment and actually shaking his head a little in jealousy at one point, making a comment about being thankful his wife wasn't in the room. Then he actually blushed a little as he performed the same physical on Ranma's female body, a process that was even slower and much more cringe-inducing for both of them.

Finally Dr. Tofu stood back shaking his head thoughtfully and very grimly Ranma was worried to note. "Well Ranma, I have good news and bad news, which do you want first?"

"How's about the good news?"

"Well the good news is I do know what's wrong with you, and they're both relatively easy to fix. Putting them on you in the first place would've been much tougher, but fixing them is much easier."


"You have two closed ki points. The good news is that reopening them should have an almost immediate effect on the flow of your ki. I noticed that your ki flowed differently than most men, but I'd put it down to the training you went through, more fool me I suppose."

Dr. Tofu shook his head. He would castigate himself for years for not noticing this, and wondered why some of the other masters in Nerima haven't noticed. Deciding to think about that later he went on. "The first is the Youthful Mind point."

He pulled out his trusty Betty, which he had brought along from Nerima pointing at a point here and there on the back of her head, and then twisting it around to point at two points on her chest. "Those are the points that would've been hit to inflict the Youthful Mind on you. It's a technique developed in the distant past by samurai who wanted to start training their children very early in their development. It makes you more pliable, and hampers both emotions and higher-end thinking in favor of heightening your ability to learn things physically."

Tofu shook his head again ruefully. "I can't believe I didn't spot it, I thought you were just a regular martial artist with a case of ADHD when it came to anything else." Once again Tofu had to stop himself from slipping into self-recrimination. Instead he turned Betty around once again for so that her front was towards Ranma and touched three points down low right above his crotch region. "This is called the Imperial Favor technique. It kills off practically your entire libido."

"Libido?" Ranma asked, cocking his head. "What's that mean?"

"I think I have several books you need to read Ranma." Tofu replied, shaking his head quietly. "The Technique was developed in China during the period where the eunuchs began to take control of the Imperial bureaucracy, suffice it to say it helped them add new members to their numbers, but it certainly hasn't helped you. However…" Tofu frowned thoughtfully. "I can undo the Youthful Mind right now, the other one I want to do a little more research on the effects of undoing it before I do anything, and I have no idea what the points being on you together could have done."

"Mind if I do some exercises while you do, Doc?" Ranma asked getting up off the bed.

"Certainly, just don't break anything." Tofu left leaving Ranma to himself for few moments before coming back with a large tome. He sat down reading through the old looking text thoughtfully then looked up at Ranma, watching as the youth moved through some kind of kata with such speed and precision most Masters could not have matched it. That brought to mind Ranma's physical abilities, which Tofu knew for a fact was so far beyond human norm that it was almost unbelievable. In fact no one outside of Nerima and certain parts of China would believe it at all.

But in relation to undoing the Imperial Favor Technique that's not a good thing. "As I said, Ranma," Tofu spoke, getting the boy's attention. "I could undo the Youthful Mind point now. The effect of undoing it will be slow to build, and it won't affect the Imperial Favor technique, I wanted to make certain of that. But undoing the second, um undoing it might have…"Tofu groped for an example that wouldn't make the nervous young man in front of him bolt.

"It might make your ki go out of control." He said finally not wanting to try and explain what really might go out of control. The Imperial Favor technique had indeed been developed by the Imperial bureaucracy, but they hadn't actually been the ones to create it. It wasn't initially created to make the process of creating a eunuch easier, but to punish those accused of sexual deviancy. Yet it didn't actually kill the libido, instead it suppressed it.

"Picture a spring Ranma." Tofu went on, now not trying to lie or change the subject at all but not being completely truthful without actually touching on the subject matter. "You've been living your life with it wound up, pressed down as it were, as much is it could be. Once I release that point all that energy is going to come out. Especially since I think the Youthful mind is going to mess with your ability to handle your emotions somewhat. In fact, considering that, I'd recommend we wait on undoing that technique as well, just to be on the safe side."

"Cool!" Ranma said holding up both hands and making the victory sign, utterly ignoring everything Tofu said about his emotions, confident in his self control. "You mean I'll be an even better martial artist, faster, stronger and all that?"

"Yes I can honestly say that will be part of the side effects." Tofu said. "The main effect will be different, but after solving this issue, you'll be able to react normally to stimuli, and other things."

Ranma nodded, taking it at face value that Tofu meant his heightened ki would be the main point. "Still don't understand this libido thing doc, but if it makes me at least normal in one way I guess I'll jump on it."

"Good, but I'll need to prepare a room for you. After all, you wouldn't want to accidentally hurt anyone until you got control of it, would you?" Once again Tofu did not specify what it was, allowing Ranma to draw his own conclusion, which the younger man did nodding seriously. A little white lie won't hurt him. "In fact, while I find someplace to do this, I'll teach you how to release the points yourself."

Finding a safe place to do this took the rest of the day, and the room wasn't a room, but a former isolation-style jail cell. The area Dr. Tofu had set up his practice in wasn't quite run down, but it wasn't high-end either, and had several old buildings from World War 2, the jail being one of them. The walls were still solid, and with the help of a few of the locals Tofu was able to prepare one of the rooms for Ranma.

Watching the men work Ranma wondered why they were bringing in those magazines and laughing to themselves. Though the water, large portable light along with food supplies were also a little worrying. "Interestin' place doc, though I gotta ask why it wasn't torn down. And um, is there something ya should be telling me?"

"Oh, there was a plan for this place to be turned into a year-round haunted house, though it never went anywhere. As to your second question, I have no idea how long it will take you to get control of your ki Ranma." The doctor replied. "I'd rather you stay here until you're certain that you can jostle someone in a crowd without shattering every bone in his or her body."

"WHa-? Ranma gasped, looking at him aghast. "It's gonna be that bad, really?"

"Ranma, you routinely move faster than most people can see using that Amazon technique correct? Until you figure out how to control your ki, you might be moving even faster than that normally and not even notice it. And as you should know, speed has a mass all its own. And that doesn't even consider your ki itself going out of control."

"That would be bad." Ranma nodded his head seriously. Unlike most of the others in Nerima, Ranma had always taken the Art and the Code seriously. The idea of accidentally hurting someone accidently like that appalled him. "Though if I'm gonna be in here for so long, I would've preferred to have somthin' to say 'bout the reading material Doc. And what's in those brown bags anyway?"

"Graphic novels." Dr. Tofu said with 100% accuracy. "I thought you might like them especially after you're done undoing the Imperial Favor Technique. Now, show me that you've learned where the pressure points are so that we know there won't be any mistakes."

"Cool." Ranma said raising one finger to his forehead in a salute. "Hope there's some Naruto in there. I'm this close to figurin' out how to create my own version of a ki blade, like that lightnin' attack o' the One-Eyed Emo. Shapin' ki out of your body like that is really hard, but I think it's doable."

"That's nice Ranma." Dr. Tofu replied shaking his head. He honestly hoped that this wouldn't change Ranma so much, his single-minded attitude towards the Art was actually something Tofu admired. He just hoped that ability to concentrate and bring so much intelligence to bear would now spread to other areas of study. And whoever actually marries him will be very happy if it does, he thought to himself laughing quietly. Well, so long as they are bisexual at least.

Ranma nodded and did so gesturing to the different parts of his body he'd have to touch, looking a little uncomfortable at some of them down near his boy bits, while also explaining how hard he'd have to touch each of the pressure points. He was actually grateful that he'd be alone to do that, having someone else around for that part would be weird.

"I would recommend you remove the Youthful Mind point first Ranma, but that is up to you." Tofu said, moving towards the doorway. "Good luck." With that Tofu left, locking the heavy door behind him.

Ranma frowned hearing the locks on the door. Doc must be really worried about my ki going out of control doin' all this ta isolate me. Hmmf, I'll show him, I bet my control is up to the task whatever happens. Still, best follow his advice about the order. With a confident smirk on his face Ranma raised his hands up to his head, tapping here and there on different points of his head, and then two more on his chest.

For a moment nothing happened and Ranma frowned, wondering if he had done something wrong in the order or the pressure needed. But after a second Ranma's teeth clamped down while his heart sped up as rage hit him, more rage than he had ever felt before, more sadness. It was as if that first moment where he learned about Akane's betrayal had come back to him multiplied a thousand times over.

A small trickle of emotions before had suddenly become a flood. Everything that he had learned back in Nerima as well as everything before that but which hadn't registered for long mixed with other things that had built up inside of him without Ranma even noticing. Ranma went mad, sobbing, screaming, shouting about Akane, about his mother, about his father, and not surprisingly the Kunos and Amazons.

Pounding the floor and the walls Ranma was completely out of control with rage and grief as it hit him all at once, his ki igniting and roiling off him as Tofu had warned him, though not actually believed would occur, rather more afraid of what would happen when Ranma's libido was awoken. Tofu had no idea how much ki Ranma had built up since Tofu had left Nerima, enough to challenge Herb, a dragon descendent. Now that ki was flaring out like a heat haze, burning the ground of the cell underneath Ranma.

How long that went on Ranma didn't know, but when he finished he wasn't in the cell he'd begun in, instead he was in one of the outer rooms of the former prison. He blearily looked through tear streaked eyes at the carnage of his trip through the former penitentiary, shattered walls, ripped out doors, hell even melted bars here and there, along with the floor looking as if it had been scorched.

Ranma chuckled a little weakly before leaning against the outer wall, which had shattered in a few places, around what looked like holes made by his fists marching through it. "Wow, I don't think anyone's going to want to use this place as a haunted house anymore. Not without a lot of redecoratin' and rebuildin'." He shook his head laughing while his voice echoed through the confines of the jail.

He shook his head, thankful the doc had gone to such lengths despite his initial arrogance about his control over his emotions. "Damn, I always looked down on the others fer always getttin' so angry all the time, particularly…" Ranma paused, shaking his head and not wanting to use her name lest he set himself off again. And that was only one of the techniques, what's going to happen when I release the other one?

Moving back through the wreckage of the jail Ranma sat in the center of the semi-bare room he had started in. For a moment he debated waiting to do the next one. He knew his emotions were all over the place, hell his hands were shaking, and the doc had told him not to rush the process. But after a moment Ranma's usual confidence came back to him, if somewhat limited. I'll hold on until my hands stop shakin' can't make a mistake in where I press or how strong after all.

How long Ranma meditated he didn't know, but it was dark out by the time his hands stopped shaking and he stopped feeling spikes of rage and sadness. Okay, let's do this! After centering himself for another moment Ranma began to touch the required pressure points, wincing a little at the pain of them. It was like pressing a sore black and blue mark that went right to the bone, which caused flares of pain to spread out nearby even while the ache at that point receded.

The last one in particular doubled Ranma over in agony as ki began to flow through his body in a way that it wasn't used to. "All right, that hurt! That hurt like nothing I can think of…" After a few moments the pain receded, and Ranma frowned. He could feel his ki was building up somewhat, but not nearly as much as he had feared given how Tofu had been going on about it.

There was a sense of something else building up too, but he couldn't what it was. "I don't see what doc was worried about this point fer, the first one gave me a hell of a lot more trouble…"

Then it hit him, and he looked down in pain as a part of him that had never responded to anything shot to attention. "Wh-what the hell!?" Then he groaned aloud as that something he couldn't identify roared through him. "GUHHHH, wha…."

Images of the girls he had known in his life began to go through his head. Things he hadn't noticed before really, or had simply thought were interesting in a mild sort of way. Now the mere memory of them made all his higher brain functions shut down.

For several hours Ranma lost himself again, his body demanding his full attention. Afterwards his pants were soaked as if he'd been hit by a super soaker. When he hesitantly touched his pants over his crotch he found them very sticky as well as simply wet. Worse there was a smell in the air, quickly dissipating but still noticeable that Ranma couldn't place.

Even as he watched though his crotch region began to twitch again, his penis once again showing signs of heretofore unknown life. For a moment Ranma was almost tempted to redo the pressure points, not having any idea how to deal with this. But he wasn't one to give up, and the feeling of his ki moving through his body told him that even trying would be a very bad idea indeed. Putting a dam up in front of a small stream was one thing, putting it up again after that stream had become the Chang Jiang at full flood was something else entirely.

"Er, maybe something to take my mind off it." Ranma thought, moving over to the bags of graphic novels. His mind however was replaying conversations he and his two friends had several times, where the two of them talked about girls to what he thought was excess. Huh, if this is what they have to go through, maybe they ain't as perverted as I thought. Now if I could only remember some of the terms they used…

By that point Ranma had reached the bags, and gratefully began to pull out a strange assortment. Some were medical texts, mostly about pressure points, ki, old style healing and other things of that nature, simple copies of older tomes that Tofu had tied up with a note, saying it was a Christmas present for not noticing the problems in Ranma's body before this. Ranma grinned then stuffed them all into his ki space for now, joining a few other books he already had in there that he had bought at some point thinking they might help him but never was able to muster enough interest in to actually read.

The second set looked at first like school books about human anatomy but there were others that had title which caused Ranma, with his slowly growing knowledge of this area of the human condition, to blush. "'Romance and You, the Do's and Don't of Dating', 'It's Perfectly Normal', 'How babies are made'? Umm…."

It was the last group of books however that caused Ranma's face to turn red. Though, he was astonished to note, that didn't take all of his bodies blood since his lower portion was still demanding most of it. These were indeed graphic novels, but of the adult kind. Some of them almost reminded Ranma of a few similar books that Ranma had seen Hiroshi and Daisuke bring to school, but they had never interested him before.

Now it was all he could do to tear his eyes away from the images. There was one of some older woman wearing only an apron, another was a school girl sucking on an ice cream bar, and then there was some girl his age in an extremely loose kimono wielding a blade. A few others showed images of various characters from different animes he had seen in situations that they would never be put in in the original.

He looked at the three small piles then muttered hesitantly, "Um, I suppose I should, um, kind of switch off maybe?" Messing up the books in a large pile, Ranma then closed his eyes and waved his finger over the pile, picking out the first book. Opening his eyes, he found he had picked up the 'It's Perfectly Normal' textbook. "Ugh, well, um, I suppose it would help, even if it looks boring…"

For the next hour or so Ranma worked his way through the book, with his own face showing his growing disgust and some interest as well. After the first chapter he took a break, checking out the graphic novel with the kimono-clad girl on it. After about twenty pages he threw it into the wall followed by a Moko Takabashi which incinerated it. "Gah, okay, I might not know what I like, but I sure as hell know what I don't! Blech!"

Throughout the night, Ranma did this, reading the book slowly and then switching to a manga after every chapter. At one point he hesitantly changed form into his female body, and was utterly astonished at how responsive his breasts became, though he was a little too leery to try anything below the belt.

It still felt amazing and Ranma spent an interminable amount of time playing with himself and figuring out what he liked and what he didn't, reaching what he had learned was called 'the clouds and rain' several times, before changing back and doing the same with his penis, or what the mangas called his dick.

But Ranma was surprised to note that when he 'came' as the mangas called it in his male body, it felt more intense than in his female form. Though the sensation didn't go on for as long, and didn't have those little aftershocks he felt when in his female body.

In male form he had far less of what the book called erogenous zones. His breasts and nipples were just there, which was really weird to Ranma, why would one form be so much more sensitive than the other? He found the answer to that out several chapters later, and the answer made him literally retch into one of the corners of the room thinking about Kuno or some of the other freaks out there that had hit on his female form doing that with him.

The thoughts about Kuno and the other assholes started the rage/grief cycle all over again, causing Ranma to back away from what he was doing and force himself into some of the most difficult katas in his repertoire to get his anger out. After that he was tired and ate something before falling asleep only to wake up a few hours later as dawn broke with drenched pants and sleeping bag again. Groaning he took some time to clean both his clothing and the bag before stuffing it back into his ki space, along with the rest of the food Tofu had left him. He hoped to be done this whole thing in the next few hours.

Once again Ranma spent some time reading through the book, surprising himself by actually understanding a lot of the things it talked on, and on how well he concentrated for so long on something that wasn't martial arts related. For some time he simply read the book rather than the mangas, having burned several of the doujinshis. The content of those disturbed him greatly. Then he switched off to Romance and You.

Several times he had to stop, dealing with spikes of anger and rage as he was forced to realize how badly they had all been screwing one another over. Yes, Akane was in the wrong going out with Ryoga and not telling anyone (and now with his heightened ability to concentrate on things, Ranma could actually think of a few moments which might have pointed to the fact, if anyone had noticed, least of all him) but Ranma had also been at fault with how he treated her.

With how I treated all of them, he thought morosely. Especially Akane and Ukyo. Shampoo'd be after me whatever she actually thought 'cause of those stupid laws of hers, but I shoulda never led Ukyo on like that. Akane was right about that damn it. But I wonder why nobody ever told me why name callin' and stuff like that wasn't good. They told me not ta do it, but never explained why! I mean, how was I supposed ta know? Genma always motivated me like that, hell name callin' was how he showed affection too!

Yet after what she had done to him, he couldn't find it in himself to really be sad about his not having treated Akane better. Especially since she sure as hell don't have the female equivalent o' the Imperial Favor point or the Youthful Mind point on her, or does she?

For a moment Ranma actually thought about that then shook his head, speaking aloud. "Nah, if she did, she wouldn't be datin' Pig-boy. She might be a bit repressed, and Kuno's crap might've made her paranoid, but that's still no excuse fer going behind my back." Ranma's teeth clenched at that and he hurriedly stood up, moving to go through one of his katas.

After that he went back to the book, blushing at parts and forced to relief some pressure a time or two despite his roiling feelings at the girls he had left behind in Nerima. Nabiki for some reason particularly made him have control issues. He could remember all too easily the number of times she had been doing leg exercises or something else in his presence, wearing those yoga pants of hers…

While Ranma, after reading the first few chapters of the second book knew it would never work between them, she was easily one of the sexier girls he'd meet. Shampoo and Kodachi, the other two girls that fell in that category, scared him more than they aroused him. Kodachi was just insane, and Shampoo, she had gone from hunting him down for several months in order to kill him to hunting him for marriage. While the change made sense to her, it sure as hell hadn't to him at the time, and while he understood it from her point of view now, it was still bizarre to him now more than a year later.

The sun was high in the sky by the time Ranma had finished all he wanted to read in that book. A lot of it he didn't care about, such as how to act in public, how girls should act with boys they like and shit like that, but some of it was actually really helpful. "Have to think about getting Doc some kind of present fer helping me with this stuff. It answered a lot more questions than I had when I showed up at his door."

Ranma sighed, then pulled out one of the bentos that Tofu had left for him, before going through another kata, still needing to deal with some of his anger, strangely enough fueled by the food. He remembered how the others had tried to poison him with Akane's food so many times despite knowing how bad it was. And he remembered how Kasumi would always make him and his father delicious food but never really helped him otherwise, even when it would help calm down the issues all around them.

He sighed sadly, realizing that he wasn't close to dealing with his emotional issues. He felt he was somewhat in control of the other thing, his libido, but the emotional thing was still getting him. Yet even his libido control or whatever might need some work as well before he trusted himself in public. It seemed to come on him suddenly so Ranma wasn't ready to leave the jail just yet.

That was unfortunate because the rest of the world was ready to force him to rejoin it. Ranma looked up in dismay as the walls all around the jail cell were blasted apart. In one of the holes stood his Genma, followed by Soun, Happosai and Nodoka, Ranma was dismayed to see. That group was high on the list of people who evoked the most feelings in him.

The other holes were actually a relief in some ways, not so much in others. In one of them stood the Amazons, all three of them. In another working together for now at least were Akane and Ryoga of all people. And in the last was the two Kunos having made two separate holes in the same wall.

"I'll have to thank you son-in-law, your self-control going out of whack as it did today allowed us to find you much quicker than I had anticipated even with Nabiki, narrowing down our search to this area of Kyoto. Your self-control is normally ironclad," Cologne cackled. "I wonder what happened to make you go out of control like that."

"Boy!" shouted Genma, "You've run long enough, it's time to return and marry Akane as honor demands!"

"Ranma!" bellowed Ryoga from the other broken wall with Akane next to him. "How dare you make Akane cry!"

"You will tell me where you have spirited my air pigtailed goddess foul sorcerer!" Said Kuno from where he had broken through a wall as well.

Ranma glared all around them then noticed Happosai staring at him in shock. The old master and the young prodigy stared at one another for a moment then Happy shook his head, moving back and away rapidly, leaving his two stupid apprentices to deal with this.

How the Grandmaster had figured out at least a little bit of what had happened to Ranma was beyond him at present, though given his skills in other areas it wasn't that surprising. What was surprising was that Cologne wasn't aware, but Ranma guessed that was simply because she wasn't using her ki sight or whatever her version of that technique was.

However Ranma put that minor mystery to the side for now, his lips peeling back in a grin that showed all his teeth. Without Happosai involved, this battle just became a lot easier especially since I'm in no mood to hold back!

"Assholes." Ranma said cracking his neck and rolling his shoulders. "You lot picked the wrong moment to mess with me. I'd suggest ya take yer boyfriend and leave Akane, unless you don't want yer secret boyfriend to actually be good for anythin' in that area for a few months."

While Ryoga blustered and moved forward angrily Akane was frozen in shock. "How did you … I mean I don't know what you're…"

"Oh don't bother," Ranma said laughing coldly as everyone else turned to stare at the two accused. Even the wanna-be-samurai stopped pontificating for a moment staring in shock at Akane and Ryoga. "I heard you and Nabiki talking Akane, about how you had to put off the wedding until you could figure out a way to not have to pay the ¥170.5 billion debt that that oyaji somehow built up?"

Now everyone was looking at Genma who blanched. "I-I don't know what you're…"

"Yeah, I know money matters go over your head oyaji. So how about the five families near Osaka that you sold me to, or apparently the two families in Korea? Do ya remember them? By Hachiman, you spout on and on about family honor. What family honor did you actually leave us!?" Ranma roared.

"Quiet boy!" Genma bellowed, getting back into form. "I did it all for you and for the Art, life is hard on the road!"

"The Art is the only thing you ever did right oyaji." Ranma said shaking his head and moving back slightly to the side, so he could keep all the possible combatants within his line of sight. "I'll admit you taught me to be better than anyone else, but after this is all over, ya'll should probably talk to about the pressure points he used on me and what they'd done long term."

That caused Cologne's eyes to widen, and Ranma could feel, (gods he could actually feel it, his ki sense was through the roof! WHY?) when she began to use her ki sight like Happosai might have had done before, though Ranma hadn't felt anything from him. Almost immediately Cologne backed away, her face pale. She was so shocked she almost fell off her staff.

Cologne opened her mouth, but whatever she was going to say was overridden by Kuno's haughty bellow. "Your small minded monetary concerns are not mine! You will release your hold on the pigtailed girl and you, you foul cur," he said, now pointing at Ryoga. "You have shown your true colors at last, ensorcelling the most glorious Akane as the pig-tailed knave hast done before. Release her from thy clutches, or prepare to face the justice of heaven!" In his hand he held a real katana for once.

Next to him Kodachi scoffed laughing her mad cackle as she stood there in the leotard that, despite himself made Ranma stare for a moment, though he thankfully did not react physically, her cackle saw to that. "HOHOHOHOHOHOHOHO! Brother dear, if you harm a hair on Ranma-sama's head, I will tie you up and feed you to Mr. Turtle! He's been looking peaky lately. As for your harlot, if Ranma-sama will agree to go out with me, I will deal with her as she should be dealt with, and the pigtailed girl as well should she show such stupidity as to show herself in front of me!"

Ranma's teeth ground together, irritation rising within him. Thankfully at that point Ryoga had enough and charged forward. "How dare you make those accusations Ranma, I'll kill you!"

"Bring it on Ryoga!" Ranma shouted back, leaping to meet him with a kick to the face that Ryoga only barely got his hands up in time to block. Even so the power of the kick threw him backwards. But Ryoga was a good enough martial artist to roll with it.

While fell backwards Ryoga's hands flashed from the front from guarding his face to the back of his head pulling off two of his bandannas. They quickly hardened it into weapons stronger than steel and he hurled them at Ranma.

But Ranma dodged them easily, smirking that arrogant grin that always irritated his opponents. "You're going to have to do better than that Piggy!"

"Ranma don't you dare pick on Ryoga!" Akane said getting over her shock at her and Ryoga's relationship being outed like this to charge forward, her mallet at the ready.

"I attack!" said Kuno, jumping forward with his own blade.

"Ranma, how dare you lead on Shampoo and get in the way of Akane and Ryoga's pure love!" Mousse shouted his hands suddenly full of knives.

"Aiyah, you come home with me now, airen, if kitchen destroyer and spatula girl not interested in you anymore, you and I now can live alone and no one be bothering us!" Shampoo said, entering the fight, though she aimed for Akane rather than moving after Ranma.

Genma grimly charged forward with his friend at his side. "You will come back and do the honorable thing boy!" He neglected to say what the honorable thing was in this case however. Despite not truly being able to control himself from reacting as he normally would, i.e. putting all the blame on Ranma, Genma had actually heard Ranma's accusation against Akane, and even more surprisingly he had seen the truth of them. But that wasn't enough to make him stop thinking about Ranma as his meal ticket.

Smirking Ranma dodged Akane's blow, jumping up to meet his father in midair. He batted his hands to either side before mule kicking the older man in the face using the momentum to springboard further into the air. Doing a role in midair Ranma blocked a throwing knife from Mousse then twirled, grabbing the end of the ribbonthat Kodachi had just shot at him for some reason, pulling it out of her hand easily.

Using the same technique that Ryoga had the ribbon quickly hardened into a long pole, which slammed into Mousse's head sending him sprawling to the ground. "If you want me to go back with you oyaji then you're going to have to take me by force!" he said, now standing on top of the ribbon/pole, balancing easily.

His mother had paused thoughtfully, staring at Akane coldly. When she spoke it was in a calm tone of voice as if the battle before her was simply background noise. "Obviously if Akane has chosen to cheat on my son in such a manner, then she is no longer in consideration to marry him. But the Tendo household has two other daughters, and certainly one of them might prove suitable. As for the other accusation, I would have to see proof of that before believing my husband could be so lacking in common sense and honor as to build up a debt of that size. Regardless Ranma, you will be coming home with us."

"I'm never returning to that place!" Ranma bellowed, punching out hard at the Kuno, catching him on the chin and smashing his head into the angle of one of Akane's mallet blows, which sent him flying through the ceiling of the increasingly abused jail. "Besides, I could never inflict my crazy life on Kasumi, as much as she coulda helped me I can't say I wouldn't've done the same if I wanted my life ta be normal. And as sexy as Nabiki is, she and I'd get on like oil and water!"

Ranma used Mousse's back as a springboard to leap over Shampoo who had turned to attack him when he said that. "Silly Airen not talk about other womens like that in front of Amazon wife!"

He landed directly behind her, grabbing her around the waist for a second and whispering in her ear. "Sorry Shampoo, you might've had a chance with me before if I hadn't had those pressure points on me, but there's been too much bad blood and too much damn magic between us."

Feeling daring and still riding the high of having his emotions and feelings and above all his released libido at that moment, he reached down and smacked her on the ass, causing her to squeak a little in a very un-Amazon manner before he leaped away from Mousse's enraged assault. He absently noted that the boy had actually thrown the kitchen sink at him that time. Oh, and several kitchen knives. "Did you ransack someone's kitchen Mousse?"

"How dare you treat Shampoo so?!"

Shampoo for her part seemed to be caught between outrage, some other emotion that Ranma had never seen on her face, and amusement. However she turned, twirling her maces meaningfully. "If Airen want touch Shampoo's rear, all need do is ask, but must take on date first!"

Ranma laughed, euphoric. Not about smacking Shampoo's ass, though the feel of it on his palm was something he knew he'd remember. No what was making him laugh was the fact that he was taking all of his opponents on, every one of his normal sparring partners, friends, enemies whatever the term really was for their dysfunctional group, in neutral! It was so easy! Those pressure points might've helped me learn when I was younger, but it's obvious they were holding me back now!

He knew he wasn't really in his right mind just yet. He hadn't had the time to really get to grips with his emotions completely, simply get them under control a bit, he knew there was a difference in the two. And whenever he looked over at Akane his grief and rage came back, though the rage was slowly receding into simply a dead sort of sadness coupled with a dark humor.

"My son," said his mother in a loud voice to carry over the din of battle. "It isn't very manly to ignore your mother!"

To everyone else there it was as if Ranma suddenly teleported in front of her. His eyes were still red-rimmed from his emotional roller coaster. Indeed, tears were still streaking down his face despite the manic snarl on his face while he confronted one of the people in his life he was most enraged at and feeling betrayed by. "Really? Then exactly, in a single sentence or less, explain what 'manly' is supposed to be! It seems ta change every day with whoever the hell you're talking to and your moods save for the perverted crap that makes it sound like your idea of manly is like a fucking hentai tentacle demon!"

"None of that!" His mother said, making the same mistake that her husband had in falling back into old routines. "I am your mother, you will obey me!"

"That sounds more like I'm supposed to be your slave rather than your son!" Ranma bellowed into her face, then back flipped up into the air to avoid Ryoga's furious charge, watching with a laugh as Ryoga slammed into his mother.

Mousse and Akane attacked him from behind while Shampoo was ensnarled by Kodachi's second ribbon. Dodging under some kind of pole-weapon seeking his head, Ranma angrily shattered Akane's mallet with a single finger. He stared furiously into Akane's shocked eyes for a moment. "I thought I loved you! Lucky me I think I was wrong, you cheating, lying shit! You and Nabiki are so alike it's not even funny!"

There was a bellow behind him as Genma extricated himself from the rubble of the wall that Ranma had thrown him into. "Boy, you will come back to Nerima with us!"

The battle went on from there, moving through and destroying more of the prison, until they broke out into what must have been the exercise area. Watching as the remaining combatant's chased out Ranma sighed sadly, a sudden realization hitting him. They'll never stop. They'll never stop coming after me. The Amazons can track and Genma ain't exactly a slouch in that area. They'll just keep following me rather than admit I don't want anything to do with them!

For a moment his eyes flicked over to where his mother was being helped along by Cologne, glaring angrily at Ryoga who had rejoined the battle without even making certain she was alright. I don't want ta have anything to do with any of them, users, abusers, deluded fools the lot! I'll be the first to admit I ain't perfect, I know I've got problems, but at least I'm starting to get over 'em. But none of these people'll ever let me go!

A sudden thought hit him. The Nanban mirror!

By this point his father and Ryoga were both on him again. But Ranma weaved between their blows, a snap kick lashing out before becoming over 500 similar kicks hammering into Ryoga's chest throwing him backwards into Mousse. The male Amazon had been trying to use Ryoga as cover for a moment to get in close with a pair of extremely large sabers of some kind.

Ranma was now moving faster. No longer coasting in neutral he dealt with his father brutally. Even so, Genma was a martial arts master. Say whatever you would about his morals, his ability to think things through, his personal courage and his general attitude towards women, he still was one of the finest martial artists living. He kept up with Ranma blow for blow for a time, but he didn't have the sheer endurance or the depths of ki that Ranma had.

He began to falter somewhat as the two dropped back to the ground and when they landed he made a mistake. Genma looked down wincing at his hands for just a second, and Ranma pounced.

"Moko Takabashi!" he bellowed, thrusting out his hands. Rather than a basketball sized ball of ki or even an ovoid with a similar circumference what came out of Ranma's hands was a wave of power, slamming into Genma and carrying him up backwards roaring in pain.

For just a moment everyone paused in shock and Ranma took advantage of it. Reaching into one of his ki pockets he quickly pulled out the shattered mirror, which he kept in a small specialized segment of his ki-space. The mirror had originally been a tool that Happosai had used to try and return to the past for some reason Ranma couldn't remember, but Cologne had said it was also able to travel in space as well. All the user had to do was cry on it, wishing to be somewhere else, and it would do the work.

Unfortunately, the mirror had been broken slightly when they went to the past after Happosai, and it had barely been able to work long enough to get them to back to their own time. Even so, Ranma had carefully gathered the pieces of the mirror, gluing it back together over time and keeping it safe in his ki space, which he had learned from observing Mousse a few weeks before that.

Ranma knew it was a long shot, but what else could he try to completely throw his oyaji and the Amazon's off his trail? Ranma thought he might have to force himself to cry or something, only to lift a hand to his face and wipe away a tear realizing with a jolt he had never stopped since confronting his mother. He stared hard at all of them, lingering most on Akane and his mother and said simply. "Take me somewhere, take me somewhere I can find acceptance, where I'm needed!"

The mirror began to glow, shaking in Ranma's hands as bits and pieces of it began to glow brighter than others and he winced as it somehow began to drain ki from him to power it. It was obviously on its last legs, and for a moment Ranma feared his desperate gamble wouldn't work despite feeling the drain.

But that wasn't his only problem because he had stayed in one place for too long. "Shi-Shi Hakoden!" Shouted Ryoga, having pushed himself to his feet again.

Like Ranma's earlier attack this wasn't a sphere of power but a wave, powered far more by Ryoga's depression than raw power in this vase. Even so Ranma couldn't dodge it, and the blast zoomed towards Ranma. Yet instead of hitting him it disappeared as if being sucked into a vacuum cleaner by the mirror, merging with the light coming from it. There was a sound of breaking glass, then a tearing noise, and suddenly Ranma was gone.

It was that simple, after the noise and the lights receded enough to let everyone see there wasn't anything there. The mirror was gone save for a few small fragments of glass falling from where Ranma had stood holding the mirror but they disappeared before they even landed on the cobblestones. There was no rubble, no hint that Ranma had ever been there. He was simply gone.

Cologne and happy looked at one another from where they were sitting on one of the nearby rooftops giving them a birds eye view of the battle. "That was odd," Cologne said blandly, though her face showed her shock. "I wouldn't have thought the old mirror had any power left to it."

"Do you know when was it made?" Happosai asked.

"Sometime during the Xia Dynasty, that's about all I know for certain. Why?"

"Sometimes those old magic devices are able to use ki as a secondary power source. In the early days there wasn't much of a difference between the two disciplines I've heard. Before even my time!" Happy cackled, shaking his head. "I think the wild horse has well and truly found a way to get out of the bridle."

"And that doesn't bother you?" Cologne asked cocking her head.

Happy smiled blandly around his pipe, holding out of the pouch of tobacco which Cologne took gratefully. "It bothers me somewhat I'll admit. He was the finest martial artist of his generation, and certainly the finest one my school's ever produced at such a young age! Still, it isn't as if Genma's without his good points, and there are a few other practitioners out there."

"And the fact that two of those practitioners are young and nubile girls has nothing to do with your attitude?"

"Of course not!" Happosai said with a laugh shaking his head. "I'll miss the boy, but after those pressure points were released…" He shook his head. "I couldn't control him, I simply couldn't have kept up with him for very long. I'm old and even with my ki-leaching technique I doubt I'd have the endurance to last long. The Boy had as much ki as Herb for Kami-sama's sake! I'm a letch but I'm not stupid. What about yourself? You've tried for even longer that I've been around Nerima to get him to pair up with your granddaughter, haven't you?"

"Yes but now I know at least part of the reason why our ploys never worked." Cologne said glaring down to where Genma was moving around rapidly, trying to pick up the trail while angrily shouting at the others. "Genma and I will have words about that, and given the events here, I doubt the Council will be angry with me. Especially if I have Genma's testimony however willing or no."

"Leave him in enough pieces for him to be useful to me my dear, and I won't get in your way."

Down below people were beginning to realize that Ranma was really gone, and they had no clue as to where he went. From Ryoga, Mousse and the returned Kuno there was jubilation though in Kuno's case it was tempered by the knowledge that the pigtailed girl might well be out of his reach as well. Kodachi was still unconscious elsewhere in the former prison.

For Akane there was anger, a lot of anger. She'd wanted to pound Ranma herself, his disappearing like this was a copout in her opinion. On the other hand, he was out of the way for good apparently. That meant she and Ryoga could come out into the open about the relationship and she wouldn't have to deal with the pervert's actions, or his freaky-ass friends. In other words, her life might actually return to normal.

She conveniently neglected to remember that Kuno had been bothering her long before Ranma had shown up. Or that a lot of the other craziness seems to revolve around an area itself rather than Ranma.

Shampoo however was looking crestfallen and angry. She turned to glare angrily at Genma and Akane, her maces gripped in her hands so hard their shafts almost warped in her grip. Mousse's glomping onto her however gave her another target. "With Ranma out of the way we can be free to act on our feelings for one another, my love! Now let us GAHHH!"

While Shampoo proceeded to make a very bloody mess of her would-be-paramour Nodoka slumped to the ground, staring at where Ranma had been in shock, rising horror and, far more powerful than either of those emotions, guilt. "What have I done, what have I done?"

Chapter 1: When in an Unknown Land…

Ranma groaned through parched and cracked lips, woken out of the deepest sleep he had ever had be the feeling of something nibbling on one of his fingers. "G-get off…" he muttered, trying to turn his head, but found that he felt as weak as a day-old puppy. Worse actually, Ranma couldn't remember a time when he was this weak, not even when that damn moxibustion weakness point had been used on him.

It took him several moments, but Ranma was finally able to open bleary eyes. Looking up he hoped that the mirror had done its work, and that he wouldn't see the Tendo house or anywhere else he recognized. And he certainly got that wish.

Instead of anything that looked human-like Ranma stared up into trees that weren't quite like any trees he'd never seen before. They looked shiny almost, and while their trunks looked like oaks, their leaves looked like pine, save for small flowers here and there which for some reason were on the portions of the branches pointing down toward the ground rather than the sky.

Here and there those trees gave way to even larger trees, ones that looks like baobab trees except their colors were all wrong. Rather than the normal sort of gray brown trunks they looked black and green, and they had vines hanging from their branches which seemed to sway gently in the wind.

Okaayy…. Ranma thought, wanting to pull at his pigtail for a moment, a habit he'd gotten into when he was thinking, but he was simply unable to get up the energy to so much as twitch his hand. Even so, his thoughts were still relatively clear. This is interesting. So where have I landed? Africa, South America? I'm pretty damn certain I've never seen any pictures of trees like this so some kind of rainforest is the best guess.

Slowly Ranma looked down to where he still felt something nibbling at one of his fingers. He grimaced slightly when he saw his hand, the hand he had been holding the mirror with. It was badly cut about, sliced here and there when the mirror shattered, slicing his hand badly though he also noticed that he wasn't holding any of the shards of the mirror itself any longer. Given his limited knowledge of magical devices Ranma decided that probably meant it had used all of its energies and simply disintegrated. It wasn't the strangest thing he had ever heard of after all.

Though the thing licking daintily at the blood on his hand... It was small, about the size of two of his fingers put together, and it looked like a cross between a mouse and a lizard. It had reptile eyes, but fur, a small mouth and six legs that looked like those of an iguana or something, but it had the tail of a squirrel. He slowly licked his dry lips and said softly. "You're the strangest little critter I've ever seen. And I've seen quite few strange things in my time."

His voice startled the little critter off, and it raced away. Ranma shrugged, making a note to bathe his hand in hot water to kill off any germs the little thing might've been carrying. Wearily he closed his eyes once more, trying to take stock of his body. He didn't feel any broken limbs or anything, which was a good sign, but he was so exhausted!

And he had absolutely no ki left to speak of, just barely enough to keep his body running. Still it worked, and I'm not about to complain. After a moment he began to concentrate, sending out his senses and trying to connect to the ambient chi in the world around him.

That was how he termed it anyway, ki was inner strength, chi was the ambient energy of the world. The difference between the two energy fields had been explained to him, but since he'd gotten both the Japanese and Chinese explanations, they had sort of jumbled together, leaving him only certain of the name both schools of thought used for the same energy field.

Ranma had thought up a technique after watching Happosai drain energy from girls underwear and girls themselves to do the same thing. Though it wasn't so much draining as simply connecting himself to the infinite loop of the energy all around him. It was not something he had ever attempted before but right now, he just needed at least a little to move around with.

And for some reason, I can't feel the little loop I set up to feed my ki space. The technique Mousse used and Ranma had learned drained a tiny, very tiny but constant trickle of power from the user, the cost of keeping it running increasing or decreasing by how large a ki space or how much organization you put into it as well as your skill with the basic technique.

Mousse had taken it to extremes, and actually poured far more of his ki into the technique than any of Ranma's other rivals actually had access to. Since he had found that out Ranma had always wondered how good the boy would become if he stopped pumping all that ki into what Ranma saw as a gimmick rather than a real skill, but now he'd never find out.

Ranma had never gone to that extreme of course. He kept two small ki spaces, one for magical items people had used on or around him in the past, and one for everything else. Neither were organized of course, since that would have taken more energy. But not even feeling the little bit of ki I put into it…that either means the technique failed for some reason and I didn't bring any of my shit with me, or… Ranma shook that thought off and began to concentrate, sending out his mind into the world around him.

His eyes opened wide however when what he had thought would be a trickle was instead a torrent. Holy crap! That should not have been that easy! It was as if the chi of the world was simply waiting for him to draw on it. That was just weird. Cautiously Ranma reopened the connection to his environment, trying to control the torrent as it flowed into him, re-filling only his physical energy. For just a moment, there was a sense of something, an emotion, but Ranma couldn't quite grasp it and it was gone before he could even say it was there with any certainty.

Moments later, a process that should've taken him several hours was finished and he stood up, cracking his neck and stretching his arms up above his head explosively. He had taken enough to get his body up and going, not enough to fill his ki reserves since that went against his beliefs. Take what you need and no more from nature, else it would harm the area around you. Though here that might not happen so quickly as it would back in Nerima. Where the hell am I?

He stared around him, taking in the trees and everything else around him much more clearly now, and noted that baobab trees he had noticed before seemed to have small spikes sticking out of their trunks and the vines that fell from their branches. Nasty. Somewhere nearby he heard what sounded like a wolf's howl except it hiccuped, sounding very odd indeed, and he could see or hear lots or tiny birds or other things moving about.

Nearer to where he had landed, Ranma could see a smallish impact point where he had been lying. Scattered widely around it however was the remains of what he had been holding in his ki space. "Fuucckkkk…."

Ranma really didn't like to think about what that said about how low his own reserves had gotten. His ki space had never failed him before, not even when he was fighting Saffron or Herb. If it had failed, then he might have literally been an inch away from dying. And if I came this close without that blast of Ryoga's helping me…

He laughed suddenly, scaring a few more birds and other critters away from having a rummage around his scattered junk. "Thank you Ryoga you asshole, you might've screwed me over way more than I ever did you, but that last attack of yers might've saved my life."

He looked down at himself wincing a little. His pants were ripped and he had a few tiny bruises from where things had imploded towards him when the ki space gave out, sending everything inside outward like an airtight bag bursting. His hand was badly cut about, and his chest too had some lacerations on it. Everywhere he looked any of his skin that had been exposed looked as if it had been badly wind or sunburned. His body also creaked and groaned in a way he was unused to, as if it had been put under great strain or perhaps pressure recently.

His stomach gurgled, reminding Ranma that regaining some physical energy wasn't quite the same thing as filling up his physical form. "First, I find something to eat, then I'll try ta figure out where I am. If the little critters here've already eaten all my emergency food I'm gonna be pissed, or more pissed than I am now." Ranma knew he still had to really deal with his anger and grief issues caused by the events in the past week.

Routing through the stuff he had kept in his ki space he quickly separated it into useful and not useful piles. The unusable pile was much larger than the usable one. Damn, he thought to himself shaking his head, I really build up a lot of junk didn't I? The unusable pile consisted of used towels, the fluffiest of which he grabbed, old videos he had seen a time or two, maps of places he had been with his father, several dozen weapons he'd 'confiscated' from Mousse, a few take away boxes of food that he never got around to eating from Shampoo's place which were well past their sell by date, and even a few from Ukyo's.

The usable pile was much smaller, but still contained a lot of the necessities. It consisted of four sets of underwear, one Chinese silk shirt, his old long-sleeved communist shirt and pants combo, one muscle-T, a dozen exercise bars which were actually still edible despite a few of them having been torn open. It also contained a few surprises: a tiny flashlight and a Walkman that actually worked for all that they had been banged up something fierce when his ki space had given out.

The best parts were a large backpack, the same one he'd used for years on the road with Genma, a first aid kit, an outdoor cooking kit, and a sleeping bag. Those last three he'd added to his ki space the moment he'd learned how to do it in the first place, and they had proven useful time and time again.

After gobbling down four of the energy bars, Ranma disinfected his hand with some of the rubbing alcohol from the first aid kit, then bandaged it lightly. With his ki healing the cuts would be gone within a few hours, or at least he hoped they would be. But he would still have to be careful about weird ass diseases in a place like this. It was true that he hadn't really been sick his entire life, but that didn't mean he was going to take any chances. Then after pulling on the muscle-T and a new pair of pants Ranma packed his backpack as well as he could.

That took him some time, since he didn't have the ki available right now to enlarge the backpack's interior. He ended up tying the sleeping bag to the top of the backpack, but had to leave the first aid's kit's box, stuffing its contents in here and there. By the time he was done the sun was right overhead, shining down into the forest or jungle. Looking at the unusable pile, which included the love-pill bracelet and a few other magical items, he decided to dig out a hole and bury the stuff. He really didn't know if there was anyone around here, but some of those items they were just too dangerous to leave lying around on the jungle floor.

With that done, Ranma hopped up from where he had been standing on the floor of the jungle up into the canopy quickly leaping up until he stood standing on top of one of the trees tops, staring around him. Once he reached the top of the tree he had to pause, gasping in breath for a moment. Then he looked around taking in the view with a faint smile on his face.

Nowhere where Ranma looked could he see even a hint of civilization, which reinforced the Amazon jungle/Congo idea he supposed. Turning around 360° Ranma stared up behind where he had begun to look around, noticing that he was on the side of a huge mountain that was gradually heading up into the distant clouds. Ranma laughed somewhat crazily. "I've always enjoyed nature and livin' off the land, but this is a little ridiculous."

His smile widened into a grin when he pulled out the Walkman, taking one of the earbuds and sticking it into an ear. It had been a gift from Hiroshi, who was into American rock for some reason. One of the songs however was just too damn appropriate for the moment, and he put the headphones on his head as he began to move forward, one ear still uncovered so as to let him listen to the surrounding sounds while "Welcome to the jungle" began to blare.

Deciding to head further up the mountain in an effort to get a better idea of the lay of the land Ranma turned in that direction, making his usual good time through the canopy. He stopped at one point to fill up all his water bottle, which haven't had had any water into the last at a small stream marveling at the clear water and the small fishes that actually thankfully looked like normal fishes is of a type he hadn't seen swimming around in it.

After that he took to the canopy once more, heading further up the mountain as the day wore on. As he moved through the canopy on autopilot his thoughts were elsewhere. His emotions thankfully had settled down from the roller coaster they had been, the challenge of his local environment having driven out his anger and grief at his fiancée cheating on him and his mother reacting as she did. For the most part anyway, Ranma knew it would come back when he settled down for the evening, but right now he could set it aside to concentrate on the major issue at hand.

His ki was flowing better, stronger and faster. Even with the local chi being so easy to access and so powerful, regaining enough energy to move around easily should've taken him far longer than it did. It was as if his ability to regenerate ki had been heightened tremendously. But there was something else there too, the chi carried things to him, connected in a way to the material world that was so beyond his understanding it was insane. So beyond his comprehension Ranma refused to allow the chi to interact with his ki reservoir, cautious of it and the effect his brief spurt of hate had on it.

Ranma paused suddenly, feeling eyes upon him, not human eyes but animal, though what had warned him he couldn't say. Before he could figure out where the feeling was coming from, several large apelike creatures bounded towards Ranma from the trees surrounding the one he had stopped at. Like the little creature that had been nibbling on his fingers they looked like a cross between a mammal and a lizard. They had long lizard like claws coming out of their paws, but bodies that looked like a monkeys', and faces that looked sort of like a lemur yet with a mouth full of large fangs.

They all roared some kind of challenge, charging at him from all sides. Ranma frowned, looking around for an escape route then decided to hell with it, and charged to meet the ones coming at him from the front, leaping into the air which seemed to startle them. He slapped one hand down using it as a springboard to flip himself over the two coming at him from the front, his other hand lashing out with a punch that caught one of the beasts in the side of the head mid-leap, sending it tumbling down to the floor of the jungle below with a startled squeak, though not doing much other damage, as weak as Ranma was at the moment.

Landing on the next tree over Ranma chance to glance around him. He then noticed down below what looked like small family units hurrying away on the lower bows. There even seemed to be a few very crude huts scattered around on the lower boughs. "Oh."

Now knowing why they were attacking him Ranma decided to simply run off, quickly racing through the trees. Noticing that a few of the hunters or guards were still chasing him Ranma frowned and sped up further, going as fast through the canopy as his weakened state would allow. With that he left them behind quickly, though he had to stop and rest for a few hours afterward. Geez, is this how normal people feel all the time? I need to find a place to stop and start working on building up my strength and reserves.

After his rest Ranma reoriented himself to move up the mountain again, now not letting himself be lost in his thoughts as he took in the surrounding with much more seriousness. Doing so he noticed several animals on the floor of the jungle. There were a few varieties of small critters that scattered here and there as he moved through the canopy and one large herbivore of some kind that looks like an armored rhinoceros the size of an elephant and with an elephant's trunk.

Just in case it proved intelligent Ranma waved at the thing, but it placidly kept on eating from the leaves of one of the baobab trees. It's prehensile nose was able to reach into the spikes of the tree to pull out the small flowers that were everywhere on it, unmindful of the vines that were trying ineffectually to grab or choke it. Ranma made a note of the tree's action too, and steered well clear of the possibly carnivorous trees.

Ranma kept on going through the day, moving higher up the mountain, but never leaving the jungle behind or breaking out into any other kind of terrain. Soon it was almost dark out, and he frowned pausing on one of the more normal looking trees to stare around him looking down into the canopy in particular to check to see if there were any of the monkey lizards around. Thankfully there didn't seem to be, and he found a particularly large branch to lay out on for the evening.

He decided not to use his sleeping bag, afraid that if he got too comfortable hit tried to move in his sleep and roll off the limb. Instead Ranma leaned his backpack against the trunk using the sleeping bag as a pillow and tried to get to sleep with the unfamiliar noises of the jungle all around him. He desperately needed it.

His dreams were disjointed affairs, very odd ones in very different ways. Some were simply memories: the fight back on Earth, his battle with Saffron, his fiancée's words and his mother's recriminations. All that he had suspected he would be hit by once he closed his eyes. One of his dreams however was very disturbing, almost as much as the pit which he'd been tossed into to learn the neko-ken.

The dream didn't really have much in the way of imagery, it was mostly a feeling. A feeling of darkness pressing in, a shadow over the sun blocking out all light but it wasn't as if there was one source of light but thousands, all of them very weak individually. Even when they were brought together they were still very weak, far too weak to break through the shroud of darkness. There was malevolence in that shroud a lurking evil, a desire for destruction, revenge and above all power.

It tried to push in on a few extremely bright lights, which had burned some of it away. One by one they failed, leaving only one light burning away against the shroud. Somehow, Ranma didn't know how, but he knew that light was supposed to represent him.

That dream-realization woke Ranma up, staring around him in the dark of the jungle making certain that someone wasn't really searching for him. The sounds of the jungle had obviously changed in the night, but there was no other indication of danger. After staring out around him he fell back to sleep, and the feeling of the shroud was gone as if the presence behind it had moved on unable to find him.

The other dreams he'd almost expected but not quite, their tone if not their content. Given the night before, Ranma knew he'd probably be dealing with the male equivalent of wet dreams which his friends called whack-dreams for some reason. But the content of these dreams was well off what he had thought.

He had thought he would dream about a few of his fiancés. Yet the next morning he woke up after vague dreams and not so vague imaginings focused on a few of the other girls in his life.

His imaginings featured Hinako-sensei, who despite her need to drain ki to retain her real age had a very nice, tight body, with all the muscle of a trained dancer and, as his friends always made certain to point out, huge knockers. There was also one about Kasumi which made him feel guilty for a very different reason than the one he had about Hinako, and for some reason a few dreams Minako and Makoto from the Sailor Moon anime, which was Kasumi's favorite anime. Nabiki too featured prominently in his imaginings though those always ended the moment she opened her mouth afterward, invariably demanding money or something else to keep quiet about it.

Akane didn't feature in a single imagined scenario, not that first night or any other. She did appear in a few memories-turned dreams, but they never ended well. Ukyo and Kodachi didn't show up at all, but Shampoo did rather frequently, though more often than not in the imaginings side of things rather than memories-turned dreams side.

Coming fully awake that first day in his new environs, Ranma groaned finding that his pants had become drenched once again. "Note to self," he murmured as he pulled his pants and underwear off quickly exchanging them for a clean pair. "Need ta get this under control 'fore I find some civilization."

Over the next few days Ranma slowed his progress during the day, taking longer breaks to deal with his thoughts and emotions now being free from the Youthful Mind technique. He destroyed several large boulders that were sticking out of the jungle canopy, ranting and raging but eventually getting over his issues with all those he had left behind.

It was actually rather therapeutic, allowing Ranma to work through even more issues than he had thought he had, not just with Akane and his family but everyone he'd dealt with. He even was able to figure out, at least a little with the help of the romance book, how a lot of the problems had been his own fault. Though Ranma would never admit it aloud a lot of the stuff in Nerima had become so bad because Ranma himself didn't care enough to put in the effort to try and really find solutions, simply coasting along, not caring about anything but learning new techniques.

Devoting his entire life to the Art like Genma had shown him had hampered his ability to deal with other people, yet even so Ranma should have been able to notice that things tended to get worse when he responded in a Genma-approved fashion or ignored things in the hopes they went away. I really fucked up by the numbers sometimes didn't I? Still don't have any idea how I could've gotten Shampoo off my back and still gotten Cologne ta train me. But I might've, well, I guess, I kinda did lead Ukyo on at first.

And looking back on it it's pretty obvious that always pointing out how my female body was better than hers, or that she might have issues with bein' seen with a girl half the time, especially since she always thought I was a pervert. Ranma tried not to think of Akane's name, since that seemed to be a trigger for some of his anger issues. But damnit, she did the same thing, not just with Ryoga but with that guy from the monster zone too. Why the fuck could she be nice to them right after meetin' 'em, and not me after she learned o' my curse?

During these episodes he noticed that his emotions were actually upsetting the local chi, making it simmer and crackle as if it had taken on the rage and grief of his emotions. It was a very weird effect, as if the chi was actually emotional ki, but it was easy enough to deal with. He knew the hazards of using emotional ki like Akane or Ryoga did, and cutting himself off from the ambient chi allowed him to ignore its feedback effect on his own emotions. It was just one more mystery to add to the list Ranma had been building up since arriving wherever the hell he was right now.

Two weeks passed, and Ranma had finally gotten rid of all of his anger issues, returning to his normal laid back self, though there was a lot more going on under the surface than had been the case back in Nerima. Every night after his normal katas he would read one of the medical books that Dr. Tofu had. He didn't understand a lot of them, but he was getting there slowly, especially on the alternative medicine stuff, moxibustion, pressure points and other such.

However his ki reservoir was only slowly refilling itself thanks to his distrust of the local chi, and having prioritized sending his ki to aid his healing. His aches and pains were mostly gone, but the skin issue had only begun to clear. Ranma wasn't certain why that was, he was simply happy his skin had begun to turn back to normal. But Ranma had run out of emergency bars about ten days after he arrived wherever he was, making his ability to replenish his ki much slower.

He was beginning to think of trying out some of the local animals to see if any of them were not poisonous (always better to assume they are and be surprised when you're wrong) when he at last broke out of the jungle at last, coming to what looked like the outside of a huge caldera. He had seen it coming, which was why he knew it was a caldera in the first place, but the rock face was almost sheer, with few handholds.

Ranma was about to turn away and find another direction to head thinking that the view he would get from up there wouldn't be worth the effort of climbing when he heard a dull roar in the distance. Much louder than any animal could've produced, the noise was coming from almost directly overhead. Frowning Ranma retraced his steps jumping back further into the jungle and stopping on one of the highest trees in the area to stare up into the sky.

From there he saw silhouettes barely visible moving through the upper atmosphere. They soon resolved themselves quickly into several large shapes, which seemed to gleam dully in the light of the sun.

They kept on coming down, moving towards the interior of the caldera, resolving themselves further into five large ships of some kind, though four of them resembled one another, while the fifth was larger and seemed less maneuverable. They all looked about as aerodynamic as bricks though, which made Ranma wonder how the hell they were still flying at all, and then it suddenly clicked on him. "Weird ass trees that no one's ever seen or taken photos of, even weirder animals that look like a cross between mammals and lizards, and now flying ships that look a lot as if they should crash the instant they try ta lift off. Toto, I don't think I'm in Kansas anymore..."

Despite the thought that he had somehow landed on an alien world Ranma almost sighed in relief, knowing now that he had been right to head up the mountainside. After all, ships like that wouldn't be simply touching down randomly. There had to be something there, some city or other.

Ranma eyes narrowed when he saw lights began to blossom moving from the ships down towards the ground and other, far fewer lights from the ground up. Ranma hadn't read that much science fiction books, but he had read a few graphic novels. Those had to be weapons of some kind, and that couldn't be good. A second later and Ranma began to hear faint booms in the distance.

Frowning heavily and wondering what the hell was going on Ranma moved toward the caldera again, jumping up it in a way that would've made the monkey-lizards green with envy. Quickly he was on top of the caldera's edge, staring around. The edge was a natural cliff face about forty feet up from the center of it, but Ranma easily jumped down and made his way towards what looked like a smallish town of some kind which was possibly six miles or so deeper inside the collapsed top of the volcano.

The area between him and the town was covered with small orange and red bushes of some kind he hadn't seen yet, but not enough camouflage in the light of day to let him close without someone seeing him. Frowning Ranma paused, concentrating and pulling the Umi-Sen-Ken technique around him before racing forward, still using cover as much as he could just in case.

The largest ship had landed in the center of the town, which Ranma could now tell seemed to be a kind of shanty or mining town of some kind. Despite the oddities of the buildings, much more rounded and octagonal than square as they would be back on Earth, there was something about them that screamed that the they weren't really permanent dwellings for the most part. There just seemed something lopsided or ramshackle to them. He had seen the like in China several times, though what the heck they were here for he didn't know.

Four of the ships continued to circle over the town, their weapons blasting out with concussive force occasionally. Thanks to this overhead coverage by the time Ranma had reached the town most of the action was over. The attackers were in the process of looting the town, smashing into flimsy doorways to grab up anything they could find.

However Ranma was surprised to note that it didn't seem to be materials of any kind that the attackers were really here for. Rather they seemed to be searching for the people. Everywhere Ranma looked the pirates were driving the people of the town towards where their ships had touched down on the outskirts at what looked like some kind of landing pad.

As Ranma drew near enough to make out details on the people in the town and those attacking it Ranma paused in consternation then shook his head slightly kneeling down behind a piece of debris from some kind of hover car or something that had slammed into the ground here, killing its driver. Of course, as if I needed any more proof that I'm not on Earth any longer. Stupid stinking magical devices, well I asked to be someplace else, and I definitely got that!

None of the people he could see, either the attackers or the town's inhabitants were human. A few looked like they had evolved from something relatively close to humanity, the only physical differences being in their coloration and the size of their eyes, though their hair was much more uniform looking in texture than . After all very few humans had naturally light pink or dark purple colored skin in his opinion, and blue was an almost unknown color in most human circles as well.

These were outnumbered by others however that were more obviously not human. There were several dozen individuals that had somewhat long necks and very small heads without a hint of hair on them, along with another race that looked almost exactly like one of the Christian devils, complete with horns. Others looked almost like, and Ranma shuddered when he looked at them, furry demons from hell only crossed with some kind of werewolf.

Still others, and these seemed to make up a large number of the attackers, looked like the orcs from old-fashioned fantasy novels. Another race had orange scales or skin and three eyes, one on a prehensile stalk in the center of their foreheads. They were as obese looking as the orcs, but this type of alien seemed to be the ones in charge. The six of these aliens Ranma could see were giving out orders to the orcs.

They too seemed to be taking orders over what Ranma assumed were radios on their heads. They paused to listen before shouting orders at the others who were forcing the majority of the townsfolk towards the two waiting ships at gunpoint. Ranma was astonished to also note that some of the orc-like creatures were using huge pikes or halberds of some kind. Their ends seemed to shake a little in place, which was also odd.

Ranma took it all in at a glance, his tactical mind which had allowed him to be adaptable in so many martial arts contests coming to the fore here aided by the Youthful Mind having been removed. The orcs seem to outnumber the other races, but most of them use those halberd things rather than what I guess are lasers or similar. And every group of them is commanded by one of the orange skinned ones.

As he watched one of the orcs brought his halberd around to slice into the back of one of the long-necked creatures, who had been moving much slower than his fellows and seemed stooped, possibly with age. As the old alien collapsed to the ground from the blow Ranma grimaced angrily, his hands flexing with a desire to rush out and attack the bastards.

Here and there he could see other bodies dotting the landscape of the town, including what looked like a clump of some other kind of alien, smaller of stature from what he could see from here. He wondered idly why that race had been weeded out from the others and executed like that, but frankly he didn't care about the reasons, only the fact that these bastards seemed more than willing to kill.

Ranma had been taught many things by Genma. A lot of it had proven false, and Genma didn't follow even a third of what he preached. But some things had stuck with Ranma, even now when he could fully understand how Genma had screwed him over. His love for the Art, his desire to be the best he could be was one area. The other was the Code of the martial artist. At its simplest form the Code stated that all life was precious, and that the strong should protect the weak.

But the darker aspect of the Code was if you were prepared to take a life, then you were also prepared to lose yours. These people had shown themselves utterly ruthless, willing to deal out death to anyone who didn't seem to be strong enough or whatever other criteria they had in choosing who they would be taking with them.

Ranma therefore had to be willing to match them. He wasn't happy about it, but he knew he had to be prepared to take their lives here. Or else he might not be the only one paying the price for his hesitation.

Moving forward Ranma was careful not to bang into anything that could make a noise, and always steered clear of the guards who looked like orcs, fearing that if they had a better sense of smell than humans they might be able to smell him. The Silent Thief technique tricked the mind into ignoring the individual, but Ranma had never tried it against anyone who had a better than average sense of smell, not even animals. He also hoped none of the aliens had some kind of sonar, since he didn't think the Silent Thief would stand up against that.

Nearer the ship Ranma scowled angrily watching the women being separated from the men. Several more men were gunned down after protesting that and Ranma's teeth ground together audibly despite his best efforts to control himself. After his 'health education' over the last few days he could all too easily figure out the reason behind separating the womenfolk.

But the womenfolk aren't gonna be as guarded once they're taken onboard the ship. Ranma didn't want to start a fight out here, not with all the civilians around and not without knowing what kind of weapons those ships could turn on him. But inside I'll be able ta keep things close. And I don't care what race they are, I don't even care if my ki is so freakin' low I probably can't pull off much ki attacks, if I can get in close I'll slaughter them.

With that rather grim thought Ranma ducked back around what looked like some kind of control tower for a moment. Coming out of the Umi-Sen-Ken for just a second he reached into his now redone ki space and pulled out a bottle of water he'd warmed at a spring a few hours back. Here goes nothing he thought pouring the water over his head, being careful to not get her shirt wet. She then pulled on a large and face concealing cloak from one of the nearest dead bodies before moving out quickly, crossing the distance between the control tower and the last group of females being loaded onto one of the two ships.

Just as Ranma had hoped the inside of the ship was a sign of some confusion. It was a large hangar bay of some kind but it was overcrowded at the moment with the incoming prisoners and their guards. This allowed Ranma to squeeze into the center of a group of the women before coming out of the Umi-Sen-Ken.

Because they had felt her before actually seeing her, none of the females around her, which represented several of the races he had seen, noticed him or gave him a second glance. One or two of them did a double take staring at Ranma's red hair then down at her bust but they were too busy with their own fears and concerns to really bother looking too closely at the redhead.

All around him there were barked orders, and Ranma grunted irritably. Great I should've thought of that, can't understand a word they're sayin'. Ranma knew he had a decent ear for languages, he'd been able to pick up Putonghua over the last few years thanks to Cologne and even Shampoo occasionally helping, though mostly to get close to him and try to seduce Ranma with her body. He'd learned English easily enough on the road, and could speak a smattering of Chosŏnmal, tiếng Việt, and even quite a bit of Lhasa Tibetan, all of which he'd learned passing through those countries with Genma.

But even so learning a new language would take time, and he'd need a reference point of some kind too, and reading it would be even worse. Think of that later, Ranma ordered his own brain. Now is not the time, and a battle isn't the place to start learning shit like that. I'll let my fists do my talking for a bit first.

Soon enough Ranma and the rest of the female prisoners were being hustled along one corridor, while the men that had already been brought into the ship were being herded in the opposite direction. The attackers didn't seem to care about segregating them by race, instead separating them by good or bad looking, which seemed to follow the human idea despite the alien's own body types.

They were lead to the end of the corridor, where there was a single door leading into a large holding area. The floor was littered from the refuse of what Ranma assumed had been its last inhabitants, as well as dozens of very cheap looking, ratty blankets tossed here and there.

As Ranma was hustled in through the doorway one of the guards grabbed her shoulder, then a hand was pulling at her hair as one of the orange skinned aliens talked to one of his fellows in seeming excited tones. Up close Ranma could tell that they were most definitely meat-eaters, all of their teeth came to points despite missing several of them here and there, and their skin was definitely scales rather than skin.

"Look at this one, wonder what a base-type human is doing out here, and check out the chest on her! How much you want to bet she's a slut that took up with one of the miners? Well, are you a good whore girl?"

Luckily for both the guards and Ranma's plan, Ranma didn't understand a word of what was called Galactic Standard, nor did he do anything other than grabbing her hair. If he had and given Ranma's nightmares about men in general touching his/her female form, she might not have been able to control herself. Instead Ranma simply glared at the guard then stamped on his foot before moving inside. Having carefully gouged the strength of the stamp of course, he didn't want to shatter the asshole's foot after all, not yet.

While the guard hopped up on one foot for a second yelling at her angrily and waving his gun the other one laughed. "We're not supposed to shoot any of the pretty ones, and she's one of the prettiest of the lot. You know the boss'll want to sample her personally before they start breaking her, and he'll take any damage you cause her out on your hide."

"I hope by the time he's done she's not as pretty anymore! That hurt!"

"You can be such a crechling." said the second one shaking his head irritably. "Come on, there's four more that can be put in this room before we start going through the next group."

Soon enough the door to Ranma's prison closed, and he moved over to it rapidly, putting his ear against the door. The last slave who'd been pushed in was one of the odd catlike looking females, and she looked at him quizzically. "What are you doing? You don't think there's going to actually be any chance of us escaping, do you? I wouldn't bother even dreaming about that. These bastards seem to be old hands at slave-taking."

The redheaded young woman she was addressing waved one hand as if almost shooing her off, but the cat-woman stepped towards her, reaching out to grasp her shoulder. "Listen, I saw you stamp on that one guard's foot, get it out of your system now. Later on if you do that to any of them they'll probably shoot you, and might shoot lots of us as well in reprisal. It depends on how valuable we are to them." She spat the word valuable then cocked her head when the redhead flinched a little under her touch.

Ranma hesitantly pushed the older woman's hand off her shoulder, thankful beyond words that it was a hand rather than a paw, given that the woman's semi-catlike appearance was already freaking her out that would've been a little too much right now. Looking around Ranma once more took stock of the women around her.

All of them were youngish, and all of them ranged from good-looking to downright gorgeous. Those humans that simply had different color schemes were exotic and immensely attractive, making Ranma happy he wasn't in his male form since he doubted he could have kept from reacting to them despite their current situation. Even in his female body Ranma could feel herself react to them, but thankfully not as noticeably.

That didn't even consider one of the alien females in particular. She looked almost human in appearance, her body that of an extremely fit dancer, though her breasts were larger than the equivalent would be on a human woman. She was bald, but had two long head tentacles falling down her back, tied with some leather bands. As Ranma watched their ends seemed to twitch in what he thought was some kind of nervous reaction. She was also wearing what looked like underwear of some kind, putting her body much more on display than the others, which caused Ranma to flush slightly and look away hurriedly lest her reaction(s) start to become visible through her shirt.

Turning back to her interlocutor Ranma shrugged, a faint blush still on her face. "Wish I could understand ya, but I can't." He said aloud watching as the furry-demon woman's eyes widened in surprise that he wasn't speaking the same language.

"What language is that? I've never heard that before. Why aren't you speaking Galactic Standard?"

Ranma frowned, trying to figure out a way to start the process of learning a new language without anything in common. A moment later however all their attention was diverted as a low throbbing sound went through the deck below them. Then there was a warning blare from a speaker overhead, and the thrum increased dramatically. Ranma felt the moment the ship lifted off, then some kind of artificial gravity kicked in as the ship powered away from the town and up into the atmosphere and space beyond.

The next few hours actually passed uneventfully, either because their new owners were busy about the ship, or because they wanted the girls to have time enough to realize the depths of their helplessness. They might think time in here'll make us more pliable or somethin' Ranma thought to herself shaking her head. Sure as hell wouldn't work on me, but its working on some of these other girls.

Indeed Ranma could tell that a lot of the women around them who had seemed to be trying to keep their courage going were now down on their knees or were leaning against the bulkheads, their eyes vacant. Several of them were openly crying. There were a few exceptions though, including the one with the two long head tentacles. She seemed more resigned than anything.

Ranma frowned, concentrating on her face, which was not an easy task given his newfound hormones and the woman's clothing, trying to figure out what she was seeing there. His/her ability to read expressions wasn't the best, but if human facial expressions carried over, it looked as if the green-skinned girl was used to feeling helpless, or as if this kind of thing was nothing new to her.

Not good. I am definitely not getting a nice fuzzy feeling from this new galaxy, universe, dimension or wherever the hell I am now. Great…I coulda at least tried ta just run first, made my decision when I had a clear head, but no! I had to be fuckin' dramatic! Would it've been so hard having 'em follow me around for the rest of my life on earth?

Yes, yes it would. Ranma decided a moment later shaking her head with a small smirk. Besides, once I get outta here, I'll have a whole galaxy to explore! Just think of the number of marital art styles out there!

Then she shook herself. Come on Ranma, ya need to think of a plan. You can either breakout and cause some havoc, sneak out an' look fer a specific target, or wait and see who's first to come and sample the goods. The redheads' lips formed into a small snarl at the thought, but she went on, her thoughts a little cold now, though not quite on the level of the Soul of Ice. She had not been able to enter that technique's mental state since undoing the Youthful Mind, which she had mixed feelings about.

The first few will obviously be the officers, rank having its privileges an' all, so that could be a way to cut the head off the snake. That wasn't really a viable plan however since Ranma had no idea if the leader had competent underlings, or if it would be the real leader at all rather than one of his favored underlings or whoever was in charge of breaking the slaves. He also couldn't take them hostage, the attackers, slavers or whatever they were had far more hostages then he would in that sort of situation. And I can't pump 'em for information because I don't understand what they're sayin'. So breaking out it is.

Ranma moved back to the door, testing it for a moment and looking at its hinges before looking out the grate that would allow a guard to look inside. One of the two orange-scaled aliens was out there, possibly the same one that had pulled her hair earlier. Then she looked around, making certain there weren't any video cameras or anything in the hold their work. There was one up top on a swivel mount, but it seemed to be stuck in position, banging back and forth in a small arc rather than rotating the entire way. Shoddy maintenance, possibly the only good sign I've seen so far.

Thankfully Ranma hadn't noticed any other video cameras out in the corridor either. Good. With that in mind Ranma looked at the lock on the door then shrugged. It was an electronic one, and there didn't seem to be any way to input anything into it on this side of the door. Still, that doesn't mean I can't break it somehow. Either it'll break and open, or break and stay shut. Either way works for me. I can get out another way though the door would be much quieter.

The portion of the lock on this side of the door had only a small panel to it, but Ranma was able to pull it out of the rest of the door, using her nails to remove the small bolts. He paused a moment looking at the bolts in amusement. An entirely different world with so many different alien races, and bolts still look the same. That's actually kind of cool when I think about it.

By this time a few of the other slaves who were more aware of their surroundings at this point were noticing what she was doing, and a few were already moving come to whisper urgently at her but Ranma again couldn't understand them. "Stop it you fool! If you make trouble for them don't you see they'll take it out on all of us not just you! I won't have my child…."

"Oh hush, if she's got some kind of plan, maybe she'll succeed, it's worth a try." Said another voice.

"Better to live a slave than to die and have our body ejected into hyperspace!" Said another voice.

"I've got a younger brother aboard this ship, and I'll do whatever I can to get him out of here." Said a fourth hotly, her voice a near snarl.

Ranma ignored them all which was quite easy considering their voices were simply background noise. When he reached into his ki space to pull out his bottle of water again however all of them looked on in shock. "What?" One stammered, "Howl?"

Hearing the shock in the voices around her Ranma looked back at them winking at the one who had stammered, one of the good looking human-type aliens with the odd skin colors. She then dumped the water into the electronics of the door, which immediately caused sparks and a fritzing sound. To Ranma's surprise the door opened rather than simply stayed shut, and the orange-scaled alien on the other side turned his three eyes widening while one hand fell to the gun at his hip.

Before that hand could finish its journey however Ranma had him by the throat with one hand and the other gripping his gun hand hard. She broke his wrist with a single twitch of her hand while the other hand crushed the alien's trachea stopping him from being able to scream. The last thing the aliens saw was two bright blue eyes staring into his.

Ranma shuddered, before reflexively throwing the dead alien into the prison cell behind him as she realized she just killed for the first time. Ranma hugged herself for a moment then shook her head angrily. Enough, I'll worry about that later, we've got more important things to concentrate on now. Quickly moving back into the cell she forced the door closed through brute strength, a feat that had many of the girls whispering though Ranma found it ridiculously easy. The door wasn't very thick after all.

Then Ranma moved over to the dead body, plucking out the alien's blaster. Holding it up in her hand she waved her other hand around at the crowd of women who were now much more aware of their surroundings. Half of them had been woken up by the sound of the door opening, and now all of the women in the cell were looking on, their faces showing the full gamut of emotions from horrified and worried to hope.

One of them, one of the long-necked ones came forward, taking the gun from her. Ranma motioned to the doorway and then stood as if standing guard to show what she wanted the aliens do and the alien nodded in reply. "I don't know why you can't seem to speak Galactic Standard, or even where you came from really. I don't think I ever saw you around town. But if you think we have a chance of breaking out of here, I'm all for helping."

Ranma nodded with a smile, not able to pick out many of the words though she thought she'd figured out which word meant 'you' in that speech. Then she knocked on the door twice in quick succession then paused then knocked three more times in a slow beat. She stared at the guard earnestly, then did it again before nodding as she opened the door and left.

Once in the corridor Ranma covered herself once more in the Umi-Sen-Ken as she moved down the corridor, very grateful that there were no other guards or surveillance equipment here. It looked as if only the pretty girls and women were worth putting a permanent guard on. She quickly found the hangar bay they had been brought in by, which was teeming with work being done on what looked like some kind of equipment or other.

That stuff looks like mining robots or something. So is this some kind of rival mining group, or pure slavers that're gonna put the miners to work for 'em? I read stories about how people would get all, what was it, fuedin' and a'fightin', if someone was trying to work their claim in the American Old West, and in Japanese history the same sort of thing happened between feudal lords. But in space? If you can get ta other planets, what the hell could be worth so much that you'd want to round up your competitors like this?

Shrugging that minor mystery off Ranma continued to move around, making a mental map of the ship. The corridors were uniform, and were all about 15 feet tall, probably to accommodate the height of different aliens though only the long-necked ones that were among the prisoners needed it on the ship right now. There were elevators here and there, and when Ranma entered one he saw that there were at least four levels or as many as six in most of them, though two of them in the direct center of the ship had seven.

It must have been the ships nights time because Ranma didn't run into that many aliens, only a few walking the corridors here and there and some in what was obviously a cafeteria which he entered with the help of one of the aliens coming out at just the time he reached the doorway. Squeezing between the orc and the wall had been difficult without touching them, but Ranma had done it, not that she got anything out of the effort.

He'd hoped that some of the alien's food would at least look like something he could try, but that was not the case. Ranma wasn't willing to try 'nameless meat soup', especially not 'nameless meat soup' cooked for aliens that look so much like orcs. Still, he was able to steal some hot water to change back to his male body at least. While parts of his mind was busy making a map of the ship and making notes of the two alien types cataloging what could possibly be weak points and other things like that the rest of Ranma's mind was trying to come up with a plan of action.

Problem one, while a lot of the miners look the type that'll be good in a fight, the pirates or whatever seem ta be better equipped, and they might have more numbers. Problem two, would the miners know how to work this ship if we could take it over? And problem three, this ship was one of five, and those four other ships were guard ships. That might mean they've got better weapons and armor than this one. And I got no idea what their reactions would be if this ship started to break away or whatever.

Ranma had just decided to see if he could find an armory of some kind when he began to notice that the area he was now in, which was on the fourth floor of the ship near the center of it, looked much better kept up in the rest of the ship. Officer's country? He was at the outside of the ship as well rather than the center, which was proven when he walked down the corridor and noticed that it actually had small portholes allowing someone to look out into space. The view though stopped his feet for a moment.

It wasn't stars, it wasn't even just blank darkness. Instead there were uncounted billions of lines of color, all mixing up in a way to make the greatest rainbow ever imagined look tame in comparison. After only a second of staring Ranma had to turn away, his eyes watering. Holy fuck, what the hell?

A stray thought or memory struck him of a book that Nabiki had red once, a science fiction book, something about the way ships traveled. Hyperspace? For a moment Ranma stood there trying to remember what Nabiki had said about it, but then a small evil little smile appeared on his face. I wonder what would happen if this ship suddenly lost its hyperdrive or whatever you call it…


It took Ranma another thirty minutes to find what he hoped was the engine room. It was a large room at the back of the ship encompassing four, maybe even five stories of the ship and was filled with computers, pipes, what looked like some kind of generator and a lot of other junk that Ranma didn't understand the purpose of. That's alright though, Ranma thought to himself cheerfully. I don't have to understand what it does ta break it.

Any normal space-fairer who had the ability to hear Ranma's thoughts at that moment would've been horrified. Messing around with hyperdrive engines was not recommended at the best of times, there were few more horrifying ways for a spacer to die than for his ship to disintegrate around him in hyperspace, or just to go off course. While many of the main hyperspace lanes were so because they were clear of obstacles, those lanes didn't extend to the sides, above or below very far. So if you came out of hyperspace in the wrong place you could find yourself coming out into the center of a star, already in the grips of a black hole, or bouncing off the edge of some other gravity well.

Ranma didn't know any of that, of course. All he was interested in was the idea that maybe messing with the engines would drop them out of hyperspace into realspace, while the rest of the ships in the convoy or whatever kept on going.

From his perch up on top of one of the large pipes, Ranma looked around, clinging there with ease, out of the Umi-Sen-Ken for now. He couldn't use his ki sense when in the Umi-Sen-Ken very well for some reason. Now however he could sense seven aliens all around the room. They radiated to his senses somewhat oddly, but Ranma put that down to the fact that they were aliens rather than anything else.

He noticed that three of the aliens were of a new type he hadn't seen before. They looked like menial labor and were being treated almost like slaves by the orange scaled aliens too, though they didn't seem to have collars or anything on them. They were squat somewhat ungainly creature that would only come up to his chest if that. They seemed to walk on all fours for preference, with long back legs and somewhat shorter forelegs with three large fingers on the front hands, but with very dexterous toes.

One of the orange-scaled aliens seemed to be in charge here. He wasn't really doing much, simply sitting in one of the chairs at a console with his feet up and some kind of magazine open in his hands. Curious Ranma jumped down entering the Umi-Sen-Ken in midair to land lightly behind the alien. He stared over the aliens shoulder at the magazine before blushing hotly, moving away quickly while shaking his head. Should've expected that, porn magazines exist even in space, what a revelation, not!

He very carefully ignored how good looking the white skinned alien on the page had looked, or how enticing certain… parts had been, needing to concentrate on the here and now. And besides, remember Ranma you're a boy again, ya can't go perving on girls like that.

Frowning thoughtfully Ranma simply looked around the engine room trying to decide what the weakest point was and what could most easily be broken before realizing that he had really no idea. Shrugging, he grinned. When in doubt blow stuff up. First though, let's see if I can find the armory.

That was actually quite easy. The armory was at the center of the ship on the other side from the hangar bay. They were connected by a short corridor moving sideways across the ship which Ranma had bypassed because he had seen what looked like some kind of heavy gun turret stuck in the ceiling set on a pintle mount. It wasn't moving thankfully, which Ranma put down to either shoddy maintenance or someone trying to save a little bit of energy or something.

The armory wasn't as impressive as Ranma had hoped. None of the orc's pikes were here, which made Ranma think that maybe they were personal weapons. But there were a hundred plus blasters there, large two handed weapons that Ranma supposed were the sci-fi equivalent of rifles. There was also a camera on a working swivel scanning the room, which made Ranma curse.

While the Umi-Sen-Ken covered him and anything he was touching, he couldn't hide the fact that a weapon had disappeared if he picked it up. The 'not interesting' or 'not my problem' field of the Umi-Sen-Ken could not match up against something like that. Maybe if somethin; else was happening in the room ta trick their minds into concentratin' on, but as it is, no.

Frowning thoughtfully Ranma made his way out of the room, bypassing several of the orc types who were walking the corridor grunting occasionally and pushing one another by leaping up and sticking to the ceiling for a moment. Scared Spider maneuver, one o' the most useful martial arts techniques I've ever learned Ranma thought to himself rather happily. Akane had laughed at him when he had decided to create that technique after reading a few American comic books about a hero named Spiderman. But it certainly came in handy.

Ranma leapt down after the two orcs had passed, racing down the corridor in a hurry now. He had to finish this tonight, he couldn't let the night cycle of the ship pass him by. Nor was he willing to try this against at some later date, not if it meant leaving the slaves, in particular the women, in their captors' hands.

I've been lucky so far that none of these bastards have tried to go and 'sample the goods'. If they had, an alarm would've already been raised, and I would've faced a tough choice. That choice would have been to fall back and help protect the women giving up his primary advantages, his mobility and ability to stay hidden, or leave them to their own devices with only a single gun to protect them.

Soon after that, Ranma came upon where the male prisoners on the ship had been imprisoned. It was a smaller area then the ones devoted to the females, and guarded by not one orange-scaled alien but two orcs directly outside the doorway carrying those weird pikes of theirs. Luckily there wasn't any kind of camera or whatever watching the doorway. The two orcs were leaning against the wall on either side of the doorway, which allowed Ranma to move between them to stare through the bars of the cell into the interior, though he had to stand on his tiptoes to do it.

Here again he ran into a problem. There was some kind of recorder set in the ceiling of the room, and this one was moving around just like the one in the armory. That definitely limited his options.

Frowning thoughtfully, Ranma moved away from the door again, staring at the two aliens on guard, both of whom were asleep slumping against the walls. It was tempting to start the party here, but Ranma decided against it. No, best to give the crew something else to concentrate on before I raid the weapons locker, then come back here.

With that in mind and knowing he was running out of time Ranma raced back to the engine room, nearly colliding with two of the orange-scaled aliens as they moved down the corridor. However he reached the engine room without further incident then looked around trying to figure out what to break and how to do it.

Finally he decided on a series of large pipes and energy runs coming out of the generator and into the wall directly behind it. Several of them looked rusted, and Ranma figured that was a good indicator that maybe this was a natural weakness of the engine. With that in mind, Ranma leapt up onto the top most pipe staring down at it then came out of the Umi-Sen-Ken. He paused for a moment, then blasted straight down with a ki shot. "Moko Takabasha."

The Fierce Lion's Roar's blue sphere cut through the pipe cleanly, and immediately some kind of extremely cold liquid began to gush out, some of it splashing on Ranma and causing him/her to change forms. But the big surprise happened when the ki blast bore through the bottom of the pipe and then into the energy runs. The explosion picked Ranma up and threw her up into the air to slam her back into the ceiling of the engine room, throwing shrapnel and everything else every which way.

Even though Ranma had been ready for something to happen the explosion caught him/her by surprise. She grimaced as several bits of shrapnel cut into her skin here and there while she raised her arms to protect her face. One in particular nicked the redhead's side, causing her to wince irritably, but Ranma could feel her ki healing already going to work. Ranma continued to cling to the ceiling, pulling the Umi-Sen-Ken technique around him again.

Below her the aliens began to scramble around in a panic. "What in the universe just happened?! Why did we lose containment?" The one in charge threw aside his porn magazine, rushing over to stare up at the damage before turning quickly to slam his palm down on a large flat area on the side of the generator. Another panel popped up next to it after a bare flicker of an instant, and his other hand shot out to slam a large red button. "Emergency shutdown!"

The hum of the generator, which after Ranma's bit of sabotage had become more of a high-pitched whine, suddenly stopped. Alarms began to blare now, and from some kind of intercom a voice began to shout angrily. "What the hell is going on down there?! We're still six hours out from our destination, why did we come out of hyperspace, and why are the alarms blaring!?"

While the three-eyed alien that had apparently hit the emergency stop tried to explain matters into the intercom to whoever was on the other end, the other aliens grabbed up some emergency gear and began to deal with the fire that Ranma had caused. He winced guiltily however as he noticed that one of the menial aliens had been hit by a bit of the shrapnel. It wasn't badly hurt, but it was noticeably limping, one of its back legs cut in a few places near its foot.

One of the other orange-scaled aliens was down, holding his gut where a piece of shrapnel had embedded itself. But seeing as he was part of a slaving group and obviously there by his own choice unlike the menials, Ranma wasn't prepared to waste any sympathy on him.

Quickly Ranma made his way over to the hatchway into the engine room, then from there made his way along the ceiling using the Scared Spider technique until she was by the armory. She waited there as several dozen of the orange skinned aliens raced down the corridor towards the engine room shouting to one another. Ranma noticed that none of the orcs seemed to have been roused to help deal with the crisis, which was another sign that maybe they were simply dumb muscle.

She opened the door to the weapons locker immediately coming out of the Umi-Sen-Ken to fire a Moko Takabashi at the camera, destroying it before racing into the room and gathering up as many of the weapons as he could stuffing them into his ki space before racing back out. She then paused, firing off another ki blast destroying the heavy gun in the corridor moving across the ship just in case.

With that done Ranma raced along not caring that she slammed unseen into one of the orange-scaled aliens, sending it tumbling with a squawk of surprise to the corridor floor. Ranma was out of sight down the corridor before the alien could do more than shout in shock.

Ranma swiftly came to the holding area for the male prisoners. Dropping out of the Umi-Sen-Ken as he was moving forward she noticed that the two orcs were now awake and grumbling to one another, shifting uneasily on their feet as the alarm continued to blare and the voice shouted through the intercoms. Neither orc had time to bring their pikes down to bear on him before Ranma jumped up, her fists lashing out to either side. Ranma's punches slammed into the orc's noses at far faster speeds than most humans (or aliens) could hit, throwing them backwards against the walls with their faces smashed in, dead or unconscious.

With that done Ranma moved forward two steps to the jail's door. Grabbing the bars of the door's small viewing flap, Ranma ripped the door off its hinges, tossing it behind him down the corridor.

Inside the male prisoners had woken when the alarm went off and were milling about uncertainly. Several of them near the doorway trying to hear what was going on before Ranma had ripped the door off its hinges. Now they all stared at Ranma in shock. "Does anyone know who this girl is?" asked one of the more alien looking miners, a huge slow moving creature, that had long hair and tusks, looking around at the others. "And… um, where did the door go?"

"Noooo… I'd remember those… I mean her…" said one of the human-looking aliens, leering at the redheads breasts.

Ranma didn't notice the man's look, instead staring all around at the miners. She smirked at them then waved her hands, as if she was a magician about to perform a conjuring trick. Then without further ado Ranma began to pull out weapons from her ki space to exclamations of shocked surprise. "Hey all, hope you like know how to use these."

One of the miners, another young male from the race that most looked like humans with odd skin colors, in this case light purple, moved forward hesitantly picking up one of the guns. Inspecting it, he nodded at the girl who seemingly had some kind of weird power to hide things. "Who cares who she is, or what the hell she's doing." he said turning to the others with a fierce grin "For my part, I'm suddenly feeling a lot more confident now without ships overhead threatening to bombard us into wreckage. How about it, who's ready to skrog these kriffers up!?"

He was answered with a roar as the miners all moved forward quickly grabbing up weapons.

Ranma nodded her head rapidly. "I'll show you where the girls are being kept, we don't want these bastards to be able to take them hostage against you all." None of them seems to understand and Ranma rolled her eyes before pointing down the corridor then at herself. The blank looks continued even while some of the miners began to move rather uneasily around her, one of them stopping to put some laser rounds into the orc's heads.

Shuddering a little at that Ranma made motions to her breasts. Then she pointed at the prisoners before pointing back down the corridor. "I think she wants to show us where the rest of the women are." Said one of the older prisoners. "Is that it?"

Ranma looked at him blankly then did the same motions again, saying aloud. "I can't understand you, but the women are that way, that way? God I'm sounding like an American tourist just speaking loudly and clearly in Enlgish, as if that'll help. Ughh…" Ranma shook his head before turning and moving off.

"I think that's it!" Said another miner, one of the aliens with longer necks. "Those of you with family go with her and guard the women. The rest of us let's raise some hell!"

A moment later Ranma was gratified to notice that several dozen of the male miners were following her. The redhead raced across the hangar bay, stopping halfway to knock out several of the orc aliens that had gathered there, possibly as a first response in trying to retain control of the prisoners. Ranma barreled into them like a bowling ball hitting ninepins, scattering the orcs easily their best efforts to hack at her with their pikes. They might be strong in comparison to most aliens but they've got nothing on a martial artist, she thought to himself grimly.

Leaping up Ranma dodged a pike that an orc tried to hack at her with, grabbing the orc by the head and flipping over it. Using it as a handstand, she kicked out at two others before twisting its neck with an audible 'Crack'. Ranma winced in revulsion at having killed again, almost automatically reaching mentally for the Soul of Ice, but she fought the instinctual reaction off. That kind of thing could get to be a habit, and Ranma wasn't willing to fall into it.

Ranma raced on, coming upon two of the orange scaled aliens about to head down the corridor towards where the women were being kept. Attacking them from behind, Ranma slammed their heads together before they even knew she was there, tossing them to the side before racing on. Arriving at the door into the women's cell Ranma did the knock he had shown them before he left.

The women must've been on edge already from the sirens and the shouts through the intercom because the door was opened a second after Ranma finished the special knock. Over a dozen of them stared out at her then over Ranma's head towards the running men. The men in turn shouted gleefully when they saw wives, daughters or more often than not simply significant others. Some of them stopped at the other two doors on this corridor, opening it to reunite with the women who hadn't made the cut to be among the best looking bunch, and there were shouts of joy all around.

While the families were reunited Ranma grabbed two of the younger, tougher looking miners that had followed him. They looked at one another in shock as the girl carried them back towards the start of the corridor, their feet not even touching the ground like they were small packs of food. Once there, Ranma pointed down at the floor and then at them emphatically. "Hold here, guard here, understand?"

"I think she's trying to tell us to guard this position. " said one of them to the other, shrugging his shoulders. " It's a good idea too, since this is the only entrance to the women's areas."

"I wonder why she can't speak Galactic Standard." said the second looking at the redheaded human girl. "And where the hell she came from. Coffec was right, she's damn memorable for such a short thing. Plus there weren't any true humans among us except for old man Dufty, and he was gunned down before we boarded the ship."

"Worry about that later, if it's really something to worry about at all considering this crap we've found ourselves in." The first man muttered, going to one knee and siting along the top of his blaster rifle down the corridor at one of the orcs Ranma had knocked around in the hangar bay. A second later blaster bolts raced down, catching the orc in the chest and face. He nodded at the young girl, who nodded back then raced off leaving them behind to their surprise, having thought that she would stay with the other women now that the men were armed and moving around the ship.

They watched astonished as the redhead leaped over two more orcs entering the corridor, kicking out to their heads as she went. The two orcs flew to the sides, slamming with enough force to shatter some of their bones against the sides of the corridor despite their layers of fat. "I'm not certain what race she is, but with strength like that, I don't think she's fully human whatever she looks like."

"You think?" The other miner scoffed. "I don't kriffing care what she is or where she came from! Whatever she is, we owe our lives to her. I just hope that the kriffing retrofitted corvettes keep right on going. We can't take those gunboats." The miners had figured out that they had fallen out of hyperspace, but had no idea why and no idea if the gunboats had kept on going or not.

The rest of the battle against the slavers was actually anti-climactic. Miners were a belligerent sort at the best of times and all of them were used to looking after themselves. Moreover the ship's crew was actually much smaller than Ranma had thought. The men alone among the prisoners outnumbered them two to one. And the orcs were useless at range, which meant the miners could cut them down with relative ease so long as they saw the orcs coming, even on the ship. They seemed to be able to absorb a lot of blaster bolts, but not enough to make a difference when the miners had their blasters on full auto.

Realizing this Ranma took the time to hit up the commissary in search of hot water. The redhead poured water over her head transforming into his male form with a sigh of relief. Then he joined the battle occurring elsewhere on the ship.


Jedi Master Dooku sighed staring at a screen of text in his room on the Consular class cruiser that was carrying him to yet another interminable peacekeeping mission. While he would never say it aloud, Dooku felt that his diplomatic skills were not the match of his martial ones and he would much rather deal with a straightforward problem than endless discussion. Though he supposed as a Guardian that should have been a given, but even Guardians could not turn away from diplomatic missions.

That didn't even consider the fact that he felt that the Jedi Order should not be called upon as mere diplomats of the Republic. If politicians can't solve the problems that they themselves are creating, then what good are they? The Jedi Order is meant to serve the Light side of the Force. Not the law, not the Senate, but justice and the rights of the common sentient being. When did we become part of the corruption?

Dooku knew that some of his thoughts were fueled by simple grief. The death of his latest padawan on a mission she shouldn't have even been a part of and which the Jedi Order should never have been called to deal with in his opinion had hardened his thoughts against the current course of the order. The Jedi Order was created to defend others, not to serve a corrupt government. We serve the Light side of the Force, of balance, justice and peace. We are not a police force nor are we diplomats, simple voices of the government, of those in power. Laws matter yes, but only if the people who made them actually follow them, and it must be the people or their peers in the senate that bring them to task if they do not. A fact my current mission is an excellent example of, yet here I am, a Jedi Guardian on a diplomatic mission.

The Gran Protectorate had originally been a simple colony of the Gran on the planet Malastare. The Gran were originally a peaceful race from the planet Kinyen. But due to a series of social issues the colonists leaving had caused, the colonies had become isolated from the rest of their people. This changed the Gran on Malastare very much for the worse. Their society became much looser, much more corrupt and violent without the ability to interact with their fellows.

Worse, they oppressed Malastare's native population, the dug, creating a slave race. Though thanks to the dug not having a senator and the Gran of Malastare being very influential thanks to the planets resources and position in the galaxy, the label 'slave' had yet to stick, since of course the Republic did not allow slavery. The Gran were merely aiding and defending the dug, not exploiting them, not at all.

If there was one thing that irritated Dooku, it was dealing with two-faced politicians. He'd met the Gran senator several times, and he was one of the most two-faced of an already two-faced lot.

Recently, the Protectorate had begun to send privateer wolf packs into the systems around Malastare, taking over anything they could, wiping out a few small mining operations and, rumors stated, enslaving some of their populations to be sold to the Hutts in the Outer Rim. That was why a Guardian like Dooku had been chosen for this mission. But instead of searching for evidence as he had wished, Dooku was being sent to simply warn the governor of the Protectorate that such acts were not allowed and to clamp down on the 'pirate activities' around his system. The evidence that the acts were actually government-backed had been tossed out as inconclusive, and the Jedi council had gone along with things rather than make waves.

And that right there is the point isn't it? The Jedi Order doesn't want to change the status quo, turning a blind eye to the growing corruption and abuse of power in the Senate and even on a planet by planet basis. We have simply become a tool of the Republic, not the people we were meant to serve. We have become too staid, too certain, we no longer grow, and we follow the Senates orders like good little lap dogs!

With a sigh Dooku turned the screen off, leaning back as he closed his eyes, centering even so, he could not throw off the direction his thoughts were taking.

I know there are voices in the Senate that try to act against the corruption, but they too are part of the system, and the system itself marginalizes such voices. I can see the Republic crumbling slowly but surely into warring interest groups, corporations and guilds. And the Jedi and our abilities go to the group with the highest number of representatives in the Senate!

Is the only recourse for me to search out the Sith? For all their use of the Dark Sid and their evil deeds, they continued to change, to adapt and to grow. And they sometimes forced the Jedi, and the galaxy as a whole, to do the same. It was only after they were vanquished that the Jedi pruned themselves back in fear of the temptations of the Dark Side. We need to expand again, to start to grow if we wish to change the Republic as a whole.

Just then something niggled at the Jedi Master's senses, causing Dooku to come out of his thoughts with a start. What… some kind of odd ripple in the Force, but what, and where? For a moment he stretched out his senses, feeling through the force around him out into space. After a moment he found it, small and at the edge of his senses yet so odd, so strange, so new!

It was very hard to put it into words, but it was as if the Force itself was, was almost giggling at a joke, specifically a joke at someone's expense? That was the impression he got from the force ripple, which was simply bizarre! The Force should never be able to feel like that, it wasn't a living thing after all. Yet after a few moments, there were other ripples, the Force not so much laughing now but joyful, surging in a way that Dooku had never felt or even read about.

Swiftly coming out of his meditation Dooku moved over to his room's intercom speaking crisply into it. "Captain Rocol, please take us out of hyperspace now. I realize that we are not yet at our destination, but something has come up. The moment we exit hyperspace do a full system scan. Something unusual is going on nearby, and I wish to know what."

It was readily apparent the moment the moment the cruiser left hyperspace that Dooku had a grasp of the understatement. This was part of the Hydian Way, but in this area there shouldn't have been any ships stopped going from up one place to the other. This system was a nothing system, a brown dwarf with only a single tiny planet at the outskirts of its gravitational field, a luckless capture from some neighboring star system at one point in its past with no exploitable resources.

However, now this system held not only the Consular class-cruiser but another ship. It was a freighter of Gran design ship of a classification that was three times heavier than the Jedi cruiser, though not as heavily armored. "It's a retrofitted heavy hauler master, the kind used to move large groups of people in not a lot of comfort, master Jedi." said the captain, Michael Rocol, when Dooku arrived on the bridge. "Our sensor readings indicate that it dropped out of hyperspace due to some kind of malfunction in its hyperdrive."

"Correct me if I'm wrong Captain but wouldn't that sort of malfunction have completely destroyed their hyperdrive?" Said Dooku smiling slightly at the younger man, a Corellian by his accent. The Corellia system was home to quite a few of the crew members on Jedi cruisers, despite having a somewhat more independent streak when it came to Republic politics than most. Corellia as a whole was known to produce incredibly gifted sailors and pilots, along with rogues, smugglers, and any other kind of spacer imaginable.

"Most hyperdrives have an emergency cutoff switch my Lord. If you're very lucky or very good at your job you can possibly survive a malfunction of the core." Michael's tone seemed to indicate which he thought it had been in this case. Scuttlebutt had done its work, and everyone in the small crew of seven knew about Dooku's mission. Corellians as a whole were death on slavery, whatever its official label, and the captain's disdain for the Garn of Malastare was palpable.

"Could it have been sabotaged?" Dooku asked.

"Possibly if you knew what you were doing sir." The younger man replied. "Or, as I said before, get incredibly lucky."

"Are they radioing any kind of distress signal?"

"No my Lord, we're getting readings signifying a lot of inter-ship chatter, but nothing we can pick up from this range."

"Bring us in closer captain, but keep the shields up just in case." Dooku ordered. The captain nodded, and the ship immediately began to move forward. By that point the captain had pulled up the ships registry. It was a Garm Protectorate ship owned by the government under the name that translated into common asPower's Delights.

Soon enough they were alongside the other ship and the communications specialist easily broke the inter-ship communications protocols. After listening to the garbled reports the man, a Mon Calimari, began to chuckle in the wet hacking way of his people. "It seems as if the ship is having internal problems, a 'slave' revolt. They even call them 'slaves' on their inter-ship transmissions."

Dooku smiled somewhat evilly. "Methinks my upcoming meeting with the Protectorate's governor has just become much simpler."

"There is some talk about a young human man or woman starting the trouble, but it is so garbled and laced with what is clearly attempts to cover their own rear quadrants that I can't say anything more than that I'm afraid. But it does appear as if the so-called slaves, all former miners, are wining." The Mon Calimari male, whose name was Ocko, shrugged his shoulders in one of those human gestures that had jumped to practically every species in the Republic which had shoulders.

"Do you think we could access the docking bay remotely?" By that Dooku meant it if they would be able to access the other ships computer to turn on the magnetic field that would keep in the air while simultaneously opening the docking bays doors for them to enter.

"We should be able to do it sir. Most ships' hangars can be remote accessed on a reserve frequency in case of onboard disasters, but it will take several minutes to set up. And after we'll have to pilot in ourselves." The captain reported.

"Of course." Dooku smiled faintly. "In that case captain, bring us in closer, and send the signal when ready. I believe I need to investigate this personally."

Is this the Force's response to my question? Is whatever over there going to help answer my questions about my path and about the Order as a whole? For the first time in several years Dooku found himself faced with a mystery, a mystery of the Force and he was surprised to find that he was actually eager to solve it whatever the outcome might be.


The slavers had soon realized that the battle was a hopeless one. Outnumbered, and thanks to Ranma stealing every weapon in their armory, outgunned the only two places on the ship that were still under the slaver's control was the bridge and the captain's quarters directly adjacent to it. The corridor that led to the bridge was guarded by four gun emplacements stuck on the walls that ran off independent power sources, and the miners had no wish to tangle with them.

However the bridge was now cut off from communications, sensors, even power, thanks to a few of the miners slicing into the bulkheads and cutting out routers for the ship's internal energy. Every other part of the ship had been overrun by the miners. Though Ranma didn't know it, the bridge crew couldn't even self-destruct the ship now, not with the miners in command of the engine room and the damage they and Ranma had done already.

The last battle came when a dozen orcs and three of the orange scaled aliens gathered in the docking bay before trying to push down the corridor towards the women's side to take them hostage against the rest of the miners. But they ran into the miners that were on guard duty as well as Ranma, who had come back after he realized that the miners had the rest of the battle well in hand.

Well that and he began to be irritated when all of the miners in the engine room had begun to shout at him the moment they saw what he had done to the engine. One of the weird little aliens had apparently seen him on the pipe before he fired off his Moko Takabashi. Ranma didn't understand a word of what they were shouting, but it certainly didn't sound like compliments.

After the battle Ranma escorted the single girls and the families out from that area and into the docking bay, trying to ignore the looks he was getting from a few of them, including the green-skinned one with the head tentacles. From there they began to spread out, going through the cargo stacked there looking for anything they could use. For a moment Ranma was at a loss as to what to do with himself. After all, he still couldn't understand what anyone else was saying, he didn't have any technical knowledge of the ship to help the women and men here or anywhere else on the ship.

He wasn't the only one who seemed to at a loss as to what to do though. The green skinned woman with the head tentacles was looking rather lost as well. Yet every time he looked in her direction, the alien woman was looking at him, her head cocked to one side as if she was trying to work out a puzzle. Ranma saw her face firm for a moment, then twitched when she began to move toward him.

Just then some kind of announcement went on over the ships broadcast system. "Warning incoming shuttle, warning incoming shuttle."

Ranma felt some one's hand land on his shoulder and was pulled back towards one of the walls. Looking up he noticed it was one of the women, thankfully not one of the ones that looks like a human crossed with a furry devil. She said something to him, but Ranma shrugged incomprehension and the woman sighed before nudging him into position against the wall.

Moments later Ranma watched in shock and as the outer bay doors opened, but none of the air was sucked out into space. I thought that space was a vacuum,ain't it supposed to suck stuff out? Ranma's thoughts paused as he noticed some kind of blue shimmering screen covering the bay doors, spreading from one edge of the opening to the other. Some kind of shield to keep in the air? That is so cool!

Slowly a ship came into view coming from what Ranma estimated was the front of the slaving vessel, moving along its side until it was right outside the docking area. Then the main engine cutoff and smaller ventral thrusters began to fire, pushing it sideways into the hangar Bay. Then those too cut off, and something else on its bottom began to allow it to hover in place slowly coming to a rest on the floor of the hangar bay. As soon as the new ship was inside the hangar bay the doors began to close.

The moment they closed the door alongside the new ship's side opened, and Ranma stared seeing the first human he had seen since coming to this galaxy or whatever. He was a tall man, extremely tall in fact, and he looked elderly, just out of middle-aged or so, but fit, limber and wide-shouldered. His hair was going gray where it was cropped short on his head, and his aquiline features were stern yet inquisitive as he looked around. He was garbed simply, and he didn't seem to have any visible blasters on him or anything of that nature. On his waist he carried a long slim cylinder of some kind with a slightly hooked end to it, but if it was a weapon it was a type Ranma hadn't seen yet.

Yet even without a visible weapon, Ranma knew this man would be dangerous. He moved with all the confidence of a martial arts master, and his body was in complete and total control as he moved forward lightly on his feet. Ranma couldn't tell what kind of style he practiced, he wasn't close enough to see any of the telltale clues in the man's eyes or body language for that, but the confidence the man carried himself was the tried and tested sort.

And Ranma ki sense was telling him that the man had a major reservoir to him. But for some reason it was also entirely connected to the chi all around them. So much so that Ranma could barely tell where one ended and the other began.

While Ranma was making these observations the man was doing the same looking all around him, taking in everything. As he moved forward a few of the miners moved forward to talk to him. They were interrupted however as one of the women rushed forward shouting angrily.

Dooku had taken in what had obviously occurred here in a glance, a ship crewed by Garn and Gamorreans had for some reason taken several dozen miners of various races captive. Yet they had seemingly bitten off more than they could chew in some fashion, which matched with what his crewmen had taken from the internal ship coms.

While his eyes were flicking here and there a delegation of what were obviously miners walked towards him. At the same time Dooku began to expand his senses outward, trying to pin down the disturbance in the Force he had sensed. He had barely begun and had already gotten a sense of the individual he was here to see being nearby when his concentration was interrupted. "You, Jedi! Child kidnappers!"

One of the women, a by her looks had raced forward, pushing aside two miners who tried to stop her, and was now in Dooku's face, pushing at him and shouting angrily in his face. "My son, where is my son! You took him, you took him away! His father should never have let you do it, my baby!"

Dooku winced internally. This wasn't the first time he had met someone who had a child that had been taken up into the order, but it was never easy to deal with. Medical hospitals the galaxy over routinely checked babies and toddlers for force potential and if the potential was high enough to warrant interest the order routinely sent a Jedi to look into it. If true, the same Jedi would convince the parents to give the child up. He knew that in his own case that had been a very uphill battle given his age, but for the most part the parents were happy to send the child to where they would get training in their unique abilities. Or at least that was what everyone was told. Dooku had never been sent on such a mission, so didn't know the truth of it.

"Madam, I…" Dooku began.

His calm words however were interrupted by the woman actually pushing him physically. "Where is my son?!"

Frowning Dooku held up a hand waving it briefly as he sent out a pulse of Force into the woman's mind trying to calm her down. The next second however he was forced to dodge backward as a foot flashed through where his head had recently been.

Ranma glared at the old man, pushing the woman back behind him, fists clenched. Ranma didn't know what he had been doing, but Ranma had seen the old man send out his ki to interact with the woman somehow via his ki sense. It almost looked like some of the healing techniques that Dr. Tofu had used in the past, but not quite, having something in common with Hinako's ability to drain someone's energy of someone else as well.

Whatever the case, even if it might have been more along the lines of Tofu's rather than Hinako's technique, Ranma was unwilling to let him complete it. "I don't know what you're doing to her, but where I come from you have to ask for permission to do something like that."

It was him! Dooku stared at the young man in front of him. He looked possibly eighteen, maybe younger, and he stood like a warrior, his body tensed, ready for anything. But that wasn't the reason Dooku was staring at him, no that was what his Force sense was telling him. The boy was a fountain of the Living Force, more Force power then Dooku had seen in anyone before, save perhaps Yoda and some of the other Masters of the order. It was wild and untamed, yet it all came from him, and not from his connection to the Force around him!

The young man dropped into what Dooku easily recognized as a unarmed combat stance. Reflexively Dooku began to use Force Control, trying to calm the youth down as he had tried the woman, only to break off in surprise as the boy rocketed forward faster than anyone not Force-assisted should've been able to do. He blocked a punch that would've impacted his chin, wincing in pain at the strength, calling on the Force quickly to reinforce his body then ducked to one side to get away from a kick and punch combo before the young man landed, kicking out to try to sweep Dooku off his feet. Dooku jumped over the kick, thrusting out with one hand in a Force Push to send his opponent away hoping that he would calm down.

Ranma grunted as the wave of almost invisible ki slammed into them. But he kept his footing, rushing forward.

"Calmly young man, please I come in peace!" Dooku barked then watched in surprise as the young man made no sign of having understood his words. A bare second later Dooku was forced to dodge several different punches and kicks moving faster and with greater accuracy that few non-Force users could've kept up with. Dooku jumped away, putting more distance between him and the young man, activating his lightsaber so automatically he didn't even think about it first.

Unfortunately rather than backing off the young man took Dooku's activating the weapon as a further challenge. He grinned and kept on coming, seemingly without any recognition of what the lightsaber meant. Though that was interesting, Dooku had to concentrate on the here and now.

The young man was fast Dooku thought, moving his head fractionally to dodge a kick. His free hand reached out to grab attacker's arm, but he was already out of the way of the grab, his hand chopping out so fast that Dooku barely pulled his own arm back in time, only his battle precognition allowing him to do so. Very fast! And I am no master of unarmed combat.

Dooku had long looked down his aquiline nose on unarmed combat, thinking it brutish and inelegant in comparison to lightsaber combat. Still, there are ways about that. He jumped back, Force pushing the pigtailed youth away from him for a moment, having to fight his own instincts as his blood rose at the bare challenge the young man posed. Somehow the Force was telling him that this fight needed to happen, the young man was simply too combative to listen until he was beaten down a bit.

Somewhat like the Mandalorians in that aspect. He mused, while flicking his thumb on the setting control of his lightsaber for a moment. Dooku was about to lower its settings when the young man was on him again. He dodged several kicks and punches, reposting so automatically he couldn't stop himself. Dooku then watched astonished as the young man dodged, his fist flashing out to almost catch Dooku in the throat. The young man doesn't have any kind of survival instinct! Or simply doesn't understand what a lightsaber can do!

Dooku swayed to one side, now taking part of the battle in earnest, his sword flashing here there and everywhere. Unfortunately his Makashi, his favored style, was a from based entirely towards lightsaber duels rather than towards an unarmed combatant. Some of the parry's and swings in particular had to be regulated, changed to allow him to face his current opponent's unarmed style rather than use the actions of his opponent's lightsaber against him in a variety of ways, particular changing the momentum of his own blows.

The Jedi master's surprises did not stop there. They continued when Dooku thrust swirly at the youth's chest, pulling back just enough so that the blow wouldn't penetrate, instead only burning away a bit of the young man's clothing. But the young man blocked it before Dooku could pull back! And instead of the young man's hand either being cored through or at the very least burned badly, he simply batted it aside, with a hand was glowing with blue gold with Force Energy, though the energy faded quickly at the point of impact.

Dooku's eyes widened at that sight but he backpedaled quickly deterring or blocking the young man's assault automatically with his blade, while trying to make sense of what he just saw. Calling upon the Living Force like that, actually bending the Force around you enough to make it visible, I've never heard of anything like that except possibly Sith Lightning. Wasn't there another kind of lightning, something Light based? Dooku wondered. He'd never gone into that area of research unfortunately, but even so this was something else entirely.

Still, if this mystery youth can do that, it means I no longer have to hold back so much. With a small smirk on his face Dooku stopped falling back, his blade swinging much more purposefully as he now began to push the young man back in turn.

Ranma grinned, matching the old man blow for blow, dodging what assaults he could. I've got a major speed advantage over him, and I'd bet strength too. But that powersword of his, damn that thing ate through my ki shielding technique like nothing else! That was a technique Ranma had developed after fighting Saffron, a sort of extension of the body strengthening technique. Instead of keeping your ki flowing in your skin, which was easy and became automatic after the Bakutsai Tenketsu training, you covered your skin with it, creating a sort of cushion. It was hard as hell, but was the start of shape manipulation, an area Ranma was anxious to get into. But that blade, it nearly cut through my ki even in that bare second of contact!

Even strangers he's somehow anticipating all of my own attacks! That's damn amazing, since I know I don't have any tells. Could he be reading my mind just enough to keep ahead of me somehow? Whatever he tried to do to that woman was centered on her mind… Damn, I don't have any defense against that kind of thing, time to switch styles.

With that in mind Ranma began to modify his style. He added more wildness to it, some uncontrolled movements here and there. He also opened up some holes in his own defense, thinking to lure the old man into a trap.

Dooku didn't fall for it, though his eyes did widen appreciatively at the young man's attempts. But then he frowned as one punch got through his own defense, impacting his upper arm with numbing force even though it was a glancing blow. Strong too, and adaptable, able to use more than one style at will, a sign of a true master. I wonder where he learned how to fight, some of his moves look similar to the Echani style, but also perhaps the Palawa, but the totality is something I've never seen before.

Yet he isn't the only one who can change styles. With that Dooku changed to Ataru. This was the lightsaber form favored by his master, Yoda, which was centered on acrobatics and mobility. Dooku used a Force Jump to get above the young man, slicing downward quickly as he twirled in the air, before righting himself right before he landed, coming back quickly, moving and jinking from side to side.

Ranma laughed wildly, matching the old man still. So he knows more than one style too. Well I can adapt! With that thought he began to utilize more kicks and the occasional attempt at a false grapple into his assault, which caught the old man off-balance slightly.

A kick caught the old man in the shin rather than the stomach Dooku thought the youth was aiming for, causing him to stumble slightly. But even so he used that stumble to roll, bringing his lightsaber around in an arc that would've bisected Ranma if he hadn't jumped away quickly. Swiftly Dooku pressed his advantage, reaching out with the Force.

As Ranma was in midair he felt himself being buffeted by something, some kind of ki technique from the old man, not quite the same as the first one he'd tried. Instead of pushing this one grabbed Ranma, flinging him further down the cargo bay. Before he could right himself Ranma slammed into one of the crates there with enough force to leave a dent in its side. But Ranma flipped himself up over it, grabbing it by the top and hurling the large crate at the old man.

Somewhat astonished at his opponent's strength Dooku raced forward, his lightsaber out. Slicing through the container entirely he jumped up into the air to meet the young man, who had leapt into the air after his projectile. Dooku used some of the small white boxes that the crate had contained, jumping here and there and meeting the young man punch for slash.

He also used the force to grab at the small white boxes, attacking Ranma from every angle he could. He also tried to move them out from underneath the youth's feet as he used them to stay in the air. Yet even so as the battle continued Dooku was amazed at how good the young man was in midair, seemingly able to change direction and move with an ease that was astonishing despite this interference.

Seeing a chance Ranma suddenly grinned, and instead of blocking or trying to get out of the way of a blow from the old man's weird powersword grabbed the blade of it his fist in blue and gold ki. The ki shield began to dissolve swiftly from whatever power was in the thing almost faster than Ranma could renew it, but he was undaunted. His other hand disappeared into the speed assault of the Katchu Tenshin Amiguriken.

With his battle precognition screaming danger Dooku swiftly turned his lightsaber off, the blade disappearing from his opponent's grip. He quickly activated it once more allowing him to block a few of the punches the young man was throwing so fast he couldn't follow the movement. But several of them got through, the young man was so blindingly fast! The Jedi Master's own reflexes couldn't keep up despite his battle precognition.

One blow smacked him in the ribs, and he felt something give way, despite his Force assisted durability, a technique most Guardians learned first developed by the old Force Warriors sect. Even so his lightsaber bit into the young man's thigh, though not nearly as far as Dooku had thought it would. Another blow caught Dooku's shoulder, and he could feel his shoulder break. Wincing Dooku Force Grabbed the young man again, flinging him away as hard as possible knowing the young man was now much more durable than his being human suggested.

Ranma grimaced as he slammed back first into another crate of a different variety, smashing through its side with a splash. The container had obviously been some kind of water tub, and Ranma groaned as he felt the change happen.

Across from him Dooku gaped, his lightsaber turning off as he stared at the young redheaded woman who had just been a young black haired man. And for just a moment there he had felt the Force shiver a little in that odd amused laugh sort of feeling. "What," he gaped "What just happened?"

Dooku wasn't the only one staring astonished at the young man-turned girl. Many of the miners hadn't made the connection between the buxom redhead and the young man who had suddenly appeared to aid their bid for freedom. Some of the women had suspicions, but no one had figured it out, the most anyone had thought was they were siblings, and since the ship was so large, not seeing them together didn't really register to anyone. After all, the idea someone could change gender on the drop of a hat like that was so bizarre it would never occur to anyone.

Now that they saw it however, many of them began to mutter amongst themselves. While male Ranma had been in the doghouse for his destruction of the hyperdrive, female Ranma was lauded as the one to really start the ball rolling in their escape. The women were smiling at seeing the young woman who had rescued them, and the green-skinned girl with the head tentacles in particular was staring at her avidly.

Ranma pushed herself out of the container, wringing out her shirt in such a way that caused almost every male within the hanger to blush, smirk appreciatively, or outright leer before being smacked upside their heads by nearby women. Finished with his shirt as much as he could, Ranma stared across at the old man who that was now staring at him/her, obviously not ready to continue the fight. "What, never seen a cursed person before?" Ranma laughed. That had been the best fight she'd had in ages.

Even if that powersword was able to get through my body's natural toughness, she thought wincing a little as her injured leg took some of her weight after she stepped out of the ruined crate. She grinned suddenly, wondering if this form would give her an advantage if the fight continued. Heh, even the guys who knew about my curse never wanted ta fight me in this form when I was wearin' t-shirts. She shuddered, and not from the cold. Um, on second thought, nah. Ergh, let's not go there. The idea of any guy touchin' me is just… brrrr, and the idea of 'em leerin' at me ain't much better.

The fight had taken only about 5 to 10 minutes, during which all of the miners and their families had watched in astonishment then for some in amusement. Now seeing their savior and realizing her and the young man who'd destroyed the engines were one and the same, one of one of them made to stand forward. "Master Jedi, the young woman, she doesn't seem to understand Galactic Standard or any other language that we know, but he was the one that helped free us! He, she, um, whichever, showed very strange powers doing so. We thought he was a Jedi youth of some kind." The man then went on somewhat querulously. "Though we have no idea about his odd changing gender at the touch of water thing."

"I don't know what he is." said Dooku calmly, letting none of his pain show. "Other than a rambunctious young man who enjoys fighting a little too much for even my tastes." Watching the youth he could tell that the young man had listened, and was now looking between the miners and the woman who had accosted Dooku about her son in confusion.

For his part Ranma really was confused. He had thought that the old man was some kind of detective or something, the miners were very respectful of him, and seemed to think he was on their side. But then the woman had charged forward and gotten into his face. Even then Ranma wouldn't have attacked him but the old man had tried to do something to her and then Ranma when he interrupted the attempt. Now though the miners had calmed the woman down and were still talking in respectful tones to the old man. Who, now that they had paused their battler seemed in no hurry to resume it.

After a moment Ranma sighed, holding up her hands and sitting down in a lotus position staring at the old man. Her intent was clear, and the old man smiled back at her. Ranma was both relieved and confused when the older man kept his eyes on Ranma's face, not even glancing down at her chest in the nearly see-through t-shirt she was wearing.

Dooku actually chuckled a little, having watched the young man/woman whichever, regain control of herself. Deciding to address him as male until proven otherwise, he said, "Your attempt to defend that woman from what you might have seen as an attack was admirable young man, as is your self-control and combat abilities." Wincing slightly Dooku pulled a nearby crate toward him with the Force and then sat on top of it, taking up the same position as the redhead, his hands held up in token of peace.

After the redhead nodded at him and lowered her arms, Dooku tapped his communicator to send a message to the captain of his ship. "Captain, I believe we have a protocol droid aboard. Could you send it out please? I have a task for it." then looked back up at Ranma, who was still watching him intently. "I believe young man, that when we are able to the two of us will have much to discuss."

End chapter

As you can see, this is close to where Dooku fell in with Palpatine, but not quite. His initial reasons for searching out the Sith was his concern on the way the Jedi were becoming mere tools of the corrupt Senate. Now it's questionable if he ever will fall to the Sith, though he still has a Bleeping ton of reservations about the Jedi Order. Ranma will understand that, and what he thinks of their Code is unprintable. This story is more comedy and combat based, with some world building and romance thrown in. The main girl will be Shaak Ti, who Ranma would meet in a traditional Ranma way, and maybe two others. Possibly not as well, and possibly not Aayla, as much as I love her looks and some of her character, I am going to be pairing her with Harry in my other SW cross, so having her in both might not happen.