Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma or Tenchi Muyo. This is a non-profit work of fanfiction meant only for entertainment.

Falling for a Princess
by Lerris Smith

-«Karna»-

The team was now discussing the results of their latest observation mission. They had to be careful as there were dozens of people out looking for them. They had found out a few things though, limited as they were with only Ayeka having partial knowledge of the language. It was similar to a language she knew, but certainly not the same.

"I wonder what father was thinking? Taking control of worlds with existing populations is forbidden in the constitution."

Nabiki shrugged. "Isn't it obvious?" Her tone was laced with sarcasm as she continued, "I suspect that detail was overlooked when the resources of this planet were counted."

"So it's about money?" added the chef.

"No, it's always about power." added an oddly somber Amazon.

"I fear Shampoo-san is correct. There are many other reasons given, but power is always there somewhere. My tutor made very sure I learned that. It's possible those crystals are needed to build new warships. New ships would help insure loyalty and peace throughout the empire."

Nabiki smirked. "Yep, the only real question is what they do with that power. Do they try to act for the majority of the peoples best interests or just for their own goals? Given that they are violating their own rules it doesn't seem a good sign."

A male Ranma said, "The thing I don't understand is how Ayeka was found. Saran knew exactly where she was."

Ayeka said sadly, "I very much fear it may be one of father's schemes."

"Wait sugar. Your own father arranged for you to be kidnapped?"

Ayeka said softly. "It could be a test. Saran is many things, but he is not one I truly need to fear."

Nabiki asked, "Wait. Aren't you concerned he would, well force you to marry him and well insure he had an heir?"

"It is complicated. The greatest risk is he would use all of you to persuade me, but even that has limits. He has that much respect for our traditions, and, well, the last time someone tried to force a member of the royal house Tsunami was most unhappy."

"What happened?" asked a curious Shampoo.

"You have to understand, for the most part our goddess leaves us be, but there are lines you do not cross. Tsunami can take back what she has given."

Ranma said, "She must have took back their Jurai power. Then they must of..." He finished with, "How long?"

Ayeka said softly, "She did not just remove the power from one person. She removed it from one hundred. One hundred of the worst Jurian nobles lost access to what makes us daughters and sons of a goddess. They took weeks to die. I saw the recordings. It was as if they were tortured for weeks before finally being allowed to die."

"Good," said Shampoo sharply.

"Agreed," echoed Ukyo and Nabiki.

"I just hope she never has reason to be mad at me," whispered Ranma.

Ayeka smiled a small smile. "Well, just wait till you meet my mother."

Ranma paled. "Perhaps we could go native?" he suggested.

Nabiki laughed, followed closely by Ukyo and a bit later by Shampoo.

Nabiki asked, "So if this is a setup, what was his goal, and do we attempt to follow it?"

"Father cares for the empire. He has worked for nearly a thousand years for its preservation. Even so, the nobles continue to plot. Should he weaken, there are many who wish to take his place. If he indirectly sent me here, it was not as a punishment. It must somehow be important to the Empire. It may also be a test, but I'm not sure if it is one we dare fail. I know he was most angry at my half brother for hiding all that time on Earth and refusing to take his place in the Empire. Despite all his power, the number of people he can truly trust is not as large as one might think."

Shampoo said, "You think he has decided to make sure you do your job?"

"Yes," she said.

"Great Grandmother has threatened to do the same. She worries about the council and their offspring destroying the tribe from within. I was surprised she gave me as much time as she did with Ranma, but then I think she saw in Ranma something that the tribe needed."

"What was that?" asked Ranma in confusion.

Shampoo smiled. "A male that showed that males can be strong."

"I knew you were smarter than you were letting on, but why the act?"

"I did not wish to return. The act was fun. It was also a test. A test for you. A test you failed."

Nabiki said, "He did not see deeply enough. Well, to be fair, neither did I, and I'm good at spotting deception."

Shampoo smiled a catty smile.

"So what now?" Ukyo asked. "Do we just take over? That would seem to be doing what you just said was against the rules. Besides, how could we even do it?"

"No," Ayeka said. "We do not, yet if our understanding is correct we also cannot let the empire easily lose this resource."

"So what?" Ranma asked. "We help kick these guys out of here, and hope they don't come back with reinforcements, then somehow get them to let us rule, or at least get some agreement?"

"Not quite," Ayeka said. "Outright battle will not win this. Saran controls too many forces and we are too few. If we openly attack him, beyond what we did to escape, then the gloves come off. He will have to respond in kind. The forces he has landed here are only the tip of what he can call upon. Sure, I might be able to get father to lend us forces, but then it throws Jurai into civil war, which we must avoid."

"So," Nabiki said slyly, "We have to make him want to leave. Sounds fun."

"Where do we start?" asked Ukyo.

Ranma asked, "Does he need this done soon?"

"Father will not care if it is tomorrow or twenty years from now, as long as I am not harmed. Should you wish to abandon this, I believe I could get a message to Tsunami, who will make sure Father comes to get us, or at least the rest of you."

Ranma said, "I'll stay."

Ukyo looked uncertain. Shampoo said, "I cannot be gone twenty years. Grandmother would never forgive me. I am here for now, though I'd like to get a message to Great Grandmother."

Ayeka said, "Washu-san will probably come when she is able. I know she was building a new ship, but I don't know how long that will take. She could easily get messages to your families or take you back."

Ranma said, "So, for now, how about we get far from here and spend some time training? I know we need to get rid of him, but wouldn't just getting out of his sight help? I can't imagine he wants to hear your father ask where you are and not have an answer."

Nabiki grinned a predatory grin. "Now your learning! Sometimes doing nothing does make a problem go away, if it is the right sort of nothing."

"That could work," said Ayeka thoughtfully.

Ukyo suggested, "We could sneak aboard one of the cargo transports."

Shampoo said, "We need to learn the local language. Perhaps someplace remote? If we go to a major city, news of us might get back here."

They had a plan, but first they needed a destination.

-«FfaP»-

They found their destination in a town called Salidar. It was on a different continent near half way around the world from where they landed. It took them ten days to reach the area, sneaking from one transport to the next once Ayeka was able to figure out where they were going. The most worrying thing was what they heard about demons roaming the countryside. They hadn't seen any yet, but they remained cautious.

Still, it was hoped that it would be difficult for Saren or his people to track them here, since they themselves had not actually picked this as their final destination until recently. During their trip, Ayeka had began the process of trying to teach them what she had figured out of the local language. Thankfully, Ayeka's ability had also improved significantly over the time.

Salidar was, well, almost a ghost town. It had likely been prosperous once, but it now had more empty buildings than used ones. Most did not have electricity, though a few seemed to have their own generator that seemed to use one of those blue crystals.

"So how do we handle this?" asked Ukyo. "I assume we shouldn't just find an unoccupied building and take it over."

Shampoo said, "We must find an elder. If we intend to be here awhile, we cannot afford to make enemies."

Ranma said, "We'll I smelled food a few blocks back. It might be a place to start." Ayeka and Ukyo gave him a fond smile before Ukyo noticed Ayeka's. After that Ayeka's smile slipped. Shampoo and Nabiki looked on, each amused in their own ways. They didn't have much of the local currency, though they had acquired a small amount, mostly from selling blue crystals they ran across.

-«FfaP»-

They entered what turned out to be an old bar. It was nothing more than a simple log cabin, though it looked well cared for. Beyond the well polished bar stood an old woman with graying hair cleaning a glass with a white towel.

Ayeka walked up to the bar, with the others following. She knelt her head a few inches, not enough to show true deference, but to at least show respect. Her position would allow her to do no more than that.

The old woman looked on in curiosity. "What will ye be having strangers?"

"My name is Ayeka. These are my friends Ranma-san, Shampoo-san, and Ukyo-san. We apologize. We have little money. We have come to this place in the hopes of finding a place we can live and earn our keep."

"Really?" she asked skeptically. "You can to the back of beyond to look for work?"

"Yes," Ayeka insisted. "We did come to this place for that purpose."

"Perhaps ye did, though I suspect there is another reason." Ranma looked guilty. The woman noticed the look. "What can ye do?" asked the old woman.

"We are strong. We can clean. We can fight. Some of us can cook and fix things."

"Ye are cooks?" asked the old woman.

Ayeka's cheeks pinked. "No, I am sorry to say that is not one of my skills. Ukyo-san and Shampoo-san are talented chefs though."

"Are they? They don't speak much."

"I am sorry. They do not know the language well yet. I have been trying to teach them."

"There is only the one. Come to think of it, you have a rather strange accent."

Ayeka bowed her head slightly deeper, but said nothing.

"So, ye have your secrets. Well, ye wouldn't be the first that came to Salidar with secrets. Name is Nara. Bars been in my family since my father first built it. I certainly don't have work enough for four of ye, but I might have some work for one of ye, if ye really can cook."

Ayeka talked with Shampoo and Ukyo for a bit. Both agreed to do their best. After a bit of discussion they were led into her old kitchen. Ranma made himself useful cutting up firewood to feed the old stove while Ukyo and Shampoo worked.

Ukyo had something that greatly resembled okonomiyaki, while Shampoo made something that resembled a more traditional western pizza.

Nabiki asked, "I expected you to try to make ramen."

"I got sick of ramen months ago."

Nara looked over their dishes, and carefully tasted each one, before not so carefully continuing to eat both. She said, "Well, ye do have talent, though I doubt I could keep even one of you busy full time. Still, I know a guy who runs a restaurant. Come back tomorrow at about this time and I'll introduce you. Perhaps one of the others could deliver orders to my bar. Might be able to use an assistant here myself, though I can't pay much."

Ayeka said, "We thank you."

"Do you need a place to stay?" asked the old woman.

"Yes."

"Well at least you didn't just randomly claim a building like some. Come on, I know of one nearby. My friend used to own it."

"What happened to her?" asked Ayeka.

"She died. Oh don't look at me like that. She was old. Just be careful with her old place. I'd not like to see it disrespected."

"We will care for it as if it were our own."

She showed them to an old two story house, with a finished basement. Finished was a relative term. It showed signs of water infiltration and mold. The house had no electricity, though it did have running water. The house seemed to revolve around two large wood stoves, complete with cook tops.

Ranma talked with Ayeka softly after they were showed around. Ayeka then asked Nara, "Nara-san, Ranma-san is quite good at fixing things. Would it be okay if we fixed the place up a bit?"

"I can't give you any money beyond what you earn."

"We would not ask you to."

"Fine. Just take care of it okay? Cally did her best, but she was old. There was a bitterness in her voice. She may have accepted her friends death, but she clearly still had issues with it.

"We will. We promise."

-«FfaP»-

Nabiki said, "We can't sleep downstairs. Not with the mold. There is only the two bedrooms upstairs. I suppose we could use the upstairs living room, but it is going to be crowded."

Ranma said, "If everyone helps, we might be able to gut the basement tonight. We'd have to throw it all in the old garage, but at least we would get most of the mold out of the building. With that, and opening some windows it should at least help."

Ukyo said, "I'll look for some bleach and a spray bottle. Once it is gutted, we need to apply it to anything that may still have mold. It is unpleasant to smell, but necessary."

Nabiki asked, "So how do we fix the leak? Water must be getting in somewhere."

"Don't know," Ranma said. "Hopefully we will find it when we gut it. If we do, and I can get the right material, patching it shouldn't be hard. Either way, if we can get things cleaned up, I can sleep downstairs with a sleeping bag. It should be okay, as long as the window is open."

Ayeka hesitated. She looked at the others for several seconds before her resolved seemed to firm. She said, "I too will bring a sleeping bag down here."

Ranma said, "There is no need. You're a princess. You should not be sleeping on the floor. You should take the bed at least." Even as he said this, his hope that she would not echoed across the odd link they had.

"No," Ayeka said. "I will remain with you."

Nabiki, Ukyo, and Shampoo looked on. Shampoo gave a nod of understanding.

"Are you sure?" asked Ranma. "What if you get sick?"

Ayeka smiled. "You forget Ranma-san, we are now both of Jurai. While it is not impossible for us to get sick. It is difficult. It is best for us to stay down here. That will leave the two bedrooms for the other three. They can either share, or one can stay in the living room. It doesn't matter."

"Okay," Ranma said with a smile. "Let's get started. First, let's see if we can find any tools or anything. Who knows, maybe there is even some food that is edible."

They worked well into the night, first stripping the old carpet and the old tile underneath, before moving on to removing the bottom foot of the sheet rock like covering and the insulation immediately behind it. After that they scrubbed the floor, removing as much old residue as they could, before bleaching the whole bottom of the floor. There was a hairline crack in the concrete foundation that might have explained the water infiltration, or might not. They would have to watch it. They spent the evening with each taking a cold bath. There was soap and even a bottle of shampoo. They would have to gather firewood soon, but first they would need to get an ax.

-«FfaP»-

Tsunami stood before Azusa. She said, "You play a dangerous game."

He asked quietly, "Is she safe?"

"She is well. They are adapting. It is even possible that they will choose to settle there. Has her kidnapping had the desired results yet?"

"I had hoped she would truly choose to lead, but establishing herself is a reasonable first step. As to the rest, Saran has not admitted to anything. I will give him a few more weeks to make mistakes, before the evidence of what happened is uncovered. It should give me the leverage I need to remove him from the planet and weaken his family in the council."

"And then what? Your daughter will have accomplished your task, if not quite as you intended."

"Her choosing to simply let Saran's actions doom him is a valid tactic, and better than most actually. Never get in the way when your enemies are stabbing themselves. Her true task is to bring the planet into the Empire the correct way. They must choose to be a part, not be forced. I would even accept them joining the Galactic Union. Joining either would insure that the resources on that planet are not used against Jurai. I am reasonably sure Saran is selling what they collect appropriately, but only reasonably so. The potential of those energy storage crystals to be used in resonance cascade bombs is too great to simply leave them on their own."

Tsunami said, "While I don't disagree about the planet. What about your daughter? Will you not have her picked up?"

"I humbly ask you to keep an eye on the situation. If she truly wishes to return, or any of them for that matter, I will send a ship. If any emergency occurs, I will go myself in the Throne. For now, I am more curious as to their plans."

"They have began to establish themselves in a small town and are learning the language. Two of the them are working as cooks. The others are doing odd jobs however they can. All of them are spending time improving their fighting skills. They are also fixing up the home they were given to live in. Right now, your daughter is sleeping on a sleeping bag in an old leaky, yet freshly cleaned basement."

Azusa's eyes widened at that. "I had not intended that she would have to live quite so poorly."

"The experience she gained from Ranma helped her let go of some of her pride. I tell you truly, right now she has my favor. That may change, and Tenchi is also not a bad choice, yet Ayeka may gain lessons in this that would serve her well in the future."

Azusa's eyes widened again for the second time. Azusa bowed deeply before his goddess and said simply, "I am yours to command."

"Your family continues to please me. The son shuns his legacy, and lives as a simple priest. The first daughter, seemed lacking for a time, but begins to overcome her pride. She truly begins to come into her own. The second daughter is dear to my heart. I will continue to hold her in my grace for as long as I can. The grandson has the potential to rule, yet does not truly understand people yet. Time will answer the questions we have, and we shall give them that time. I will ask my sister to stay her hand and let them be for a time, save for monitoring the situation. For the others, tell them nothing."

"What of my son? He is bored out of his mind here. It is not as if he is truly needed to teach Tenchi here. Others could as easily, and giving the effort the boy is putting in, I'm doubting he warrants my son's efforts. He currently plans to go find his sister. I have not told him exactly where she is, but he will no doubt find out on his own before long. Family can always find family given time."

"You son has always pleased me, even when he did not you. Rulers are necessary, but all good people need not rule. Let your son do as he wishes. It is possible he will be the key to Ranma coming into his new heritage, and perhaps even the key to Ayeka expanding her own. While it is possible that she may gain the temperament to rule, and it is even possible though not certain, that Ranma will gain the strength to be her consort, it is also required that she have strength on her own. Her strength now is adequate for a daughter of the emperor. It is not adequate to become the empress."

He mused, "It would be good to be able to retire. Perhaps I could even go on some of these trips my wives are always asking me to go on. You know, it is still a shame about my son's daughter. From what you told me she flared like the sun when she fought Kain. Had she had training, what she did would not have shortened her life so. It was a waste."

"I am sorry. As you know, I cannot easily fight at full power while Sasami is so closely tied to me. Doing so would kill her and like it or not, she is more goddess than human now, though such a very young one. In a thousand years she might be strong enough to survive on her own, but not yet."

"I could have fought him," he insisted.

"Fought yes. Won no. I could have perhaps gotten you there at the right time, but then it would have been you that died, leaving the Empire in chaos and leaving billions to suffer at the hands of those who covet your position. Sometimes all our choices are bad ones."

"Agreed."

-«FfaP»-

The group's food was an instant hit, allowing them to make money and properly fix up and equip their new house.

They began training each other in their respective martial skills, though Ranma continued to be unable access the Jurai power given to him, despite how many careful exercises Ayeka put him through. His focus was absolute, but it wasn't enough. Despite this setback, he got stronger and faster. It was not enough to match a ki adept, but it was, nevertheless a clear improvement.

Shampoo was out gathering firewood with Ukyo when Ukyo said, "I'm worried about Ranchan. We are all getting stronger, yet he still can't access this new power of his. Heck even Nabiki is picking up ki manipulation surprisingly quickly, but then I suspect she has kept in better shape than she ever let on."

Shampoo said, "I've saw Nabiki train when I first came back to Nerima as a cat. It was not a warriors training. It was more of what some of the men do back at home, but then even the men know they must be able to fight at need. With Ranma and us training her, she will become formidable."

After a moment she added in a teasing tone, "She might even beat you, if you are not careful."

"As if! Seriously, though, what do you think of Ranchan and this power? Is there any chance Ayeka is well, teaching it wrong?"

Shampoo said, "No, she is an exceedingly good teacher. That much I can tell. I rather think the problem lies in the student."

"Ranchan? Your kidding me. He is a great student."

"Is he?" asked Shampoo. "Ranma improves through training, but not nearly as much as when he is fighting for his life. He must somehow move past this."

"So we do what, attack him?"

"No. We grow stronger ourselves, including helping Nabiki and Ayeka grow stronger. Perhaps we have lost the men after Ayeka, or perhaps they will come. Perhaps these demons we have heard about will come. I do not know. We must be ready. If we fail, well Ranma may be able to finally break through his block if it is to save us, but he could just as easily be killed in the attempt."

"Nothing is every easy huh?"

"No, but if we work as hard as Ranma is, there will be few who dare challenge us."

"You got that right sugar."

-«FfaP»-

Yosho slipped onto the transport bound for Karna with little trouble. Sneaking out once they landed was little more. Competence did not seem an attribute that could be assigned to Saran's people. He had intended to head directly to Ayeka after he landed, but he sensed she was quite some distance away. It was tricky continuing to mask himself from her detection, while also being able to sense her, but he was a long master at the skill.

Logically, they must have gotten away from Saran, otherwise Saran wouldn't be in quite as precarious position as he evidently was at court. The fact that she felt so far away only supported that conclusion. Once his father revealed the intelligence that Ayeka had been with him, Saran had quietly stopped opposing nearly all of his father's positions, with the stated reason of personally investigating the manner, as if that idiot ever did anything personally.

He had brushed up as best he could on this particular language during the flight. Wandering quietly through the city and just listening revealed quite a bit. Most of it was simple anger at the foreigners stealing from them. It seemed Saran's people made no overt attempt at rule, save in a very small area. They were content to simply collect the energy storage crystals while paying a pittance of their true value. The people knew they were getting ripped off. That opened possibilities.

The military might Saran had assembled just outside of Karna meant that as far as the rest of the universe was concerned Saran's family was in control. Would their lack of overt control on the planet save them from an eventual charge of treason? He doubted it. Anyone with a brain could add. They were getting what they wanted. Why annoy the locals more? He supposed some of the ships might be played off as protecting his sister. Saran was arrogant enough to try at least.

The real question was how a noble of Jurai was remaining hidden. Admittedly his close relationship made it easier to sense her, but Saran was not completely incompetent, and he certainly had enough people looking. Tsunami had to be personally involved somehow, or possibly Washu. Either way, someone must be helping them hide. Ayeka was anything but stupid, but she was still of Jurai. They could be tracked for those with the training, and even if Ayeka too somehow had the discipline he had learned, Ranma, most certainly did not. Tsunami or Washu must be hiding their presence.

Taking a stab in the dark he said softly, "Washu. Show yourself." A portal appeared in front of him. He walked in.

-«FfaP»-

Yosho looked around the strange ship spotting the redhead. He turned back to the ship but was interrupted by Washu saying, "Not one word from you."

Yosho smiled, "I would never think to mention to all of the proper authorities that you are again mucking about with forbidden technology."

Washu shrugged. "Two of Ranma's former associates broke out of where I had them stored and inadvertently commanded the ship I was making to do an uncontrolled jump right from where it was being finished. It annihilated much of my ship building workshop. Thankfully I was nowhere near it. This was the best I could do on short notice."

"You are at least making a replacement? We barely got you the exemption for the cabbits and this is not a cabbit."

"Of course, though it will take some time. My subspace lab is pretty much out of raw material. It is actually fortunate that you caught me on one of my check ins. I'm spending most of my time mining raw materials."

"You are not concerned for them?"

"Not particularly, though it is something we should discuss, that is if you don't mind joining me for my next supply run?"

Warily Yosho said, "Of course."

"Computer. Engage gray protocol two. Bring the string drive to full power and jump us to mining location four hundred and seventy three."

Yosho felt himself being torn to pieces as Washu's new ship recklessly ignored the laws of physics. He could barely think as the ship hopped along the borders of reality itself as it sought its destination in the black. He managed to get out, "Why?"

Washu seemed to be calmly sipping a cup of tea. "Oh? That. I could not use anything resembling the conventional drive near the planet. Even cloaked, Saran's fleet would sense it, and well, this is better!"

"Not safe," he managed to get out.

"It is perfectly safe. I have a Mihoshi sensor on board. The drive won't engage if she is anywhere within the scanners range."

"What about your lab?"

"How was I supposed to know that their existed an entity that could use bio energy to punch out of a Mihoshi proof cell, one tiny hole at a time. I mean, the very concept is absurd, though come to think of it, I should probably add their signatures to the Mihoshi sensor array. One moment."

Yosho suddenly had a very bad feeling about this.

-«FfaP»-

Ranma was sitting and meditating in the yard while the others practiced. It was not a skill he had practiced often. It seemed to become increasingly important as the years passed. The power was there. He could feel it like the beat of his heart, yet it stubbornly refused to bend to his will. He was taking out of his meditation by the sound of people approaching. He looked up. It must be half the town. What the heck? There at the front was Nara. She walked up to Nabiki. The pair spoke often of late, sometimes for long hours. "We have a request."

Nabiki said, "We're listening."

"We know you are not from our world. Don't feign surprise. It didn't exactly take long to figure out. At first we thought you might be working for the bastards that kept buying up all of those crystals at a pittance. That his ships dot the sky is all that has kept us from complaining much. Trade with other words has never been precisely rare to us, but he is the first to do what he has done."

Ayeka said, "Saran kidnapped us. We escaped."

"That was one of our guesses. Don't worry, we won't turn ye in."

"Thank you," Ayeka replied.

"We came because ye mentioned that ye were fighters. From time to time packs of low level demons roam Karna."

Shampoo said, "We have heard of them."

Nara continued, "The bigger towns have fighters that specialize in driving them off. We just do the best we can. Not long ago our school was attacked by a band. Several of our best teachers were killed and nineteen of our children were taken."

"We will get them back," declared Ranma. The others all nodded their resolve.

"You do not want to negotiate a price first? I said they were usually low level, but some of these appeared to not be."

Ayeka asked, "What will they do to the children?"

Nara said grimly, "They are considered a delicacy. Likely at least one is already dead, and perhaps more than one."

Ranma said, "We don't care about money. Let's go. Talk on the way. Do any of you know where they might be?"

They began moving back towards the edge of town. It turned out that they did not know where they were, but their trail was easy enough to follow. They also did not leave the town alone. More than half of the townspeople followed, usually with simple rifles, though about a third had swords. Some even had simple woodsman axes.

As they were walking, Ranma took note of a youth, several years younger than him who had a very nice looking sword that he clearly had no clue how to use. The possibility of impaling himself was quite real. He walked up to him and said, "Hello."

"You probably think I should go home too."

"Yes," he said carefully.

"I'll show you. I'll show em all."

"Tell you what, you manage to scratch me with the blade and you can come. If I manage to take it from you, then you go home and I borrow the blade."

They all started to look at the pair. Some did not want to slow down. Ranma preempted any chance of discussion by saying, "Come at me."

The youth charged, clearly having no idea what he was doing. Ranma easily dodged and with a knife hand chop at the side of his hand, forced him to release the blade. Ranma then quickly picked it up before giving it several test swings. "Go home kid. If I can stop you that easily, then your better off going home." He raised his voice, "If anyone can't at least do better than that, then you really should just go home. You will only make our job more difficult."

Several reluctantly began whispering. Nara came up to Nabiki and said quietly, "Now, I'll do my part. Bringing this whole lot into a nest of demons would be stupid. Do any of you need weapons?"

Nabiki said quietly, "I'll probably stay back when the battle begins. I can fight, but I am not a fighter by trade. Perhaps if one that is leaving has a rifle..."

Nara nodded before she turned to the crowd. "The boy is right. We don't have time for this, so I want everyone to line up. Lan is the best of our fighters. If he says you leave, then you leave."

"What about the new people?" a red headed boy asked.

"Them too."

Lan quickly looked them over, sending almost half back home, while keeping a few of the better weapons. When he came to the main group Ayeka was first.

"You are not a fighter," he said.

She looked at Ranma in inquiry. He nodded. Blue light flared around her as her clothes were swiftly replaced with her brown and white Jurian battle suit, complete with long black gloves and black tiger stripes on her face along with a very fierce look.

"Perhaps I was mistaken," he added quickly. Ayeka smiled at him.

Next up was Ranma who he just waved through. Shampoo and Ukyo also got waved through. He stopped at Nabiki. He said, "You are difficult to read."

"Good," she said.

He tossed an incredibly quick punch at her stomach. She twisted to the side and nailed him with a punch to his stomach before sweeping his legs out from under him. He got up and dusted himself off. "You'll do," he said.

Nabiki nodded, even as she looked through the weapons he had saved, picking up what appeared to be quite similar to a traditional Japanese tanto, as well as one of the better rifles. She asked, "Do you mind?"

He shrugged. "Not as long as you can use em."

"I am familiar enough with the blade. Is it possible to learn enough to at least fire the gun once with reasonable accuracy?"

"I think I can teach that much and perhaps a bit more. It is a fairly simple weapon."

"Good, let's get moving then." Ranma also borrowed a rifle, as well as half the spare ammo saying when asked that he knew enough to get by.

Nabiki said, "I thought you didn't like weapons Saotome?"

"Not like, does not mean that I am not familiar with them. I learned to use all the standard ones to a proficient level, including rifles. You had to know how to use them to defeat them."

Nabiki turned out to be a quick learner, managing to hit six of her targets in her dozen test shots. That wasn't bad, given that the targets Lan suggested were branches on trees some distance away.

-«FfaP»-

Two hours later they came to the demons' camp. It was Shampoo who saw it first, her vision just that much better than the rest. It was huge.

Shampoo said, "Perhaps a hundred. It is difficult to tell at this distance."

The villagers all looked scared but determined. Nabiki in particular looked grim, while Ayeka just looked determined.

Ranma asked, "Shampoo and Ukyo probably have the best bet of freeing the children, while we draw away the bulk of their forces." They pair nodded, though doubts were clear in their eyes.

Ranma said, "Ayeka, after we get the children to safety can you hold them off for a time?"

"I don't know. I will try, but there are so many of them."

Shampoo said grimly, "This is difficult. I could get in and out. I could even pull fighters out, but pulling out children is difficult." She pulled a rather lethal looking blade from out of nowhere.

Ranma said, "We will buy you the time you require. How long do you want to infiltrate?"

Ukyo looked up, also interested in that answer. Shampoo looked at her before saying, "Twenty minutes." Ukyo nodded to that.

"Go."

They blurred as they moved and were lost to all that had followed seconds later. Ranma said, "I hate this."

Ayeka put her arms around Ranma and held him close. Nabiki looked on, her face briefly reflecting a look of longing.

Lan said to everyone, "I'm going to do some recon. Follow, but slowly. We need to time it so we give those girls the time they need."

Ranma said, "I will come with you. I may not be as strong as I was, but I can do this."

Lan nodded as they set off.

They were several minutes away when Lan said softly, "So what is your story?"

"No time for that now. I'll hold my own."

"Of that I have little doubt."

As they approached Ranma said, "Good, the captives are near the back. How fast can these guns fire?"

"Once a second or so. They have nine rounds, plus one in the chamber. It takes about five seconds to change the clip."

"Any particular weak points?"

"Their heart is the same place everyones is."

Ranma said, "That works. Our first attack will be from a distance. Avoid the part of the camp which contains the children, but we might as well use the rifles before we have to get up and close. If we are really lucky, Shampoo and Ukyo can get the kids out and the demons will leave rather than fight."

"That won't happen," Lan said. "They always fight to the death."

"Great. Just great."

-«FfaP»-

They divided their targets up based on positions. The person on the left would take those directly in front of him and so on. In the first ten seconds, Ranma dropped eight before having to reload. Nabiki dropped four. The rest of them dropped around twenty or so and then all hell broke lose.

Ranma was slashing with the sword, killing an opponent with every slash even as Nabiki was doing as well on a smaller scale. Ayeka was directing her mini log drones. They were dashing around, electrocuting targets left and right, usually before they were about to impale someone.

They just kept coming. Ranma's slashes sped up, getting faster and faster, even as he got more and more tired. His muscles were burning. They were coming. There were too many. Ayeka was behind him. There were too many. Could not lose. Several of the bigger ones were converging on him. No, not on him. They wanted Ayeka. Why? It didn't matter. He could see their intent in their crazed gazes. He kept slashing, even as a mental clock started. Three seconds. Ayeka redirected her logs to her own defense. The electric shocks hit the troll like creatures, but had no effect. They seemed to be growing immune. Two seconds. He slashed again at the nearest only for his blade to break. One second. The creature raised its sword and something in him shattered even as he moved to take the hit, knowing it to be lethal. As he moved, Ayeka tried to shove him aside.

As they touched, the world turned solid blue as light exploded from both of them. Six blades of power formed in front of them, one of them instantly exploding outward and annihilating the monster that was about to kill them. It didn't stop there. It kept going, killing the next half dozen behind him.

Two of the blades were consumed. One went to create Ranma's battle armor, the other to enhance Ayeka's own. Ranma now wore a similar outfit with his own tiger stripes adorning his face. He shot his hands through two more blades, only for them to reform much like the nekoken once had, with energy claws bursting from his hands. Ayeka used the last, forming it into an elegant sword slightly over a meter long, even as she again directed her now strengthened log drones against the horde.

Ayeka snarled, "By my order as first princess of Jurai, I pronounce judgment. Execute them all! Let no monster who would eat children live to see another sunrise!"

With Ranma by her side they tore through the horde. Their armor now making them essentially invulnerable to such low level attacks. Even as they fought, Shampoo and Ukyo led the surviving children out, fighting the whole way.

-«FfaP»-

In orbit, Saran was sitting in his command chair when a tech said, "Omega level Jurain energy spike. Locating."

"What?" said Saran. "Surely Tsunami isn't personally down there fighting?"

"No, it is clearly below her level, yet also clearly above any known user, including the emperor, Yosho, and his grandson."

"So, Ayeka has come into her own. I would not have believed it. Omega level means what, five wings of the light hawk?"

"Six sir. Six is the closest we can estimate."

"Impossible. No person can control so much power. Even the vaunted Tenchi is supposed to be limited to three."

"It did appear to be one summoning. We cannot explain. Orders."

"Reposition us over the target area. Find out what is going on."

"Moving the ship. In position in two minutes. Energy output remains constant at Omega level."

"Move faster!" he snarled.

Two minutes later the battle appeared on screen. The tech said, "It looks like the monsters the locals call demons. The battle is nearly over. I can now positively identify two Juraian energy signatures. The energy is coming from them. Sir, it is Ayeka-hime and the unknown male that was with her."

"Take us down. Assist in the cleanup and render aid."

"Sir?" the tech asked in confusion.

"Asuza will have my head on a platter if I leave her alone now! He may anyway. Move it. Damn it. Move! If she dies..."

"Right. Flank speed! Emergency decent! Emergency power to atmospheric shields!"

-«FfaP»-

They descended to utter carnage. Over half of the people from the village that fought were dead and many of the rest were headed that way. Of the nineteen children that were taken, only nine made it back alive. Two died in the escape. The other eight were less fortunate.

Ayeka and Ranma stood proud in full Jurian battle outfits as Saran came down the landing platform.

Saran said, "Princess. We came as soon as we saw the energy spike. We have been worried for you! How can we help?"

His forces were doing nothing while people were dying. Even with his previous orders they were waiting for his explicit word. She said crisply, "Why by helping of course! You have people with medical training. Move!"

He stepped back, clearly frightened. He then saw the look on her companion and stepped back further. He stumbled before saying, "You heard her. Help!"

"And once you are done," she said cooly, "You will take all these ships and resources and return them to their normal duties. As you can tell, I am in no need of rescue, so there is no need for you to remain."

"But hime, we err have important."

Ranma ghosted up behind him and onto the ramp, before casually using the energy blades extending from his hand to slice through the now empty ships ramp. It fell in two, crashing into the ground. He said, "Oh sorry, forgot I had those out."

Saran paled. He then looked back at the carnage, and then at the energy sword Ayeka was still wielding, and at the log drones that were still surrounding the area.

"Perhaps you are right," he said carefully.

"Thank you Lord Saran. The royal family appreciates your assistance." Her voice remained frosty, practically shouting the opposite.

Ayeka turned to Ranma. With a thought her energy blade dissipated and her aura dimmed to a more bearable level, though her battle armor remained. Ranma replicated the feat a few seconds later.

Ranma said, "I'll make sure they are all dead."

Ayeka nodded, even as she knelt beside a young woman who the medics from Saran's ship were rapidly working on. She gently took her hand and said, "Relax. The battle is won. The price is paid. Just rest."

-«FfaP»-

Lan stumbled beside Ranma. An obviously injured leg slowing him down, even as he helped check that all the demons were dead. He asked, "So what now for you guys?"

"I don't know," Ranma said quietly.

"You could stay you know. Sure we may not have liked Saran and his bunch, but you have easily proven yourselves."

Ranma said, "So just like that. We stay and go back to making pizza?"

Lan shrugged, "If you want." Ranma looked at him in surprise before Lan added, "Though I suspect people might be more interested in figuring out how to get a better deal on our exports. Perhaps you know someone," he hinted.

"I might at that."

-«FfaP»-

Yosho swore as they finally materialized back above Karna. Her experimental drive broke down, though thankfully without other more serious effects such as the destruction of a massive chunk of space time. Oh sure she blamed it on the idiots that stole her other ship causing interference in the drive, but space was big. It would be impossible for them to just randomly nearly collide. Space was too big for that. No she must have just made a mistake and not wanted to admit it, but he was danged if he would ever challenge her. Offending Washu's pride was dangerous.

Washu said puzzled, "All of Saran's ships are gone. Can you still sense Ayeka? I'm getting some readings, but they are odd."

"She is there, but changed. She was a beacon to my senses, with only occasional flares, usually when Ryoko annoyed her. Now she feels more like Tenchi does, save perhaps even stronger. There is also another. I assume it is Ranma. It is almost as if.."

"My sensors show that they are almost but not quite giving off one field of Juraian energy. I'm accessing the logs from the cloaked probes I left behind. You won't believe this. I'm not even quite sure how my sister did it, but somehow, the two of them together produced six light hawk wings. From what my recordings show they came very close to dying. You should get comfortable. The immediate crisis is over and I think we should both watch this. In fact, I'm encrypting this and sending it to her father. He should know."

Yosho could only watch and stare as the scene began to unfold.

A minute later he could only say, "I should have been here," even as we continued to watch.

When they were done Washu said. They are currently being broadcast on their terrestrial communications network.

-«FfaP»-

Ayeka, Ranma in male form, Shampoo, Ukyo, and Nabiki stepped into the door of the meeting hall. Nara and Lan were already there, as was the entire leading assembly of Karna. They were directed to seats near the front.

"This meeting of the Karna national assembly is called to order. These five outworlders were recently presented with our highest award for their service in defending Salidar, along with all of the townspeople that took part in the battle, including the one hundred and four that did not make it. By the time they arrived, the demon horde had already consumed eight of the children who had only been taken mere hours before. Two more were sadly lost in the rescue attempt. A total of nine survived. They did not just protect Salidar. The city of Tarisen is little more than ten miles from Salidar. Yes, Tarisen had credible defenses, but nothing remotely strong enough to stop that horde. Tarisen is home to a school with two hundred and four children. The guard has been doubled there. Those from Salidar have been moved there until we can ascertain if it is safe to return."

"That is, however, not why they are here today. Today they are here to address us about our exports. The Juraian family who had been purchasing our energy storage crystals has left at the direction of these outworlders. We are here to determine a path forward for the sale of our energy crystals. First to speak is the first princess of the royal house of Jurai. May I present to you her grace Ayeka Jurai."

She wore elegant clothing that looked much like her royal robes, save the faint sheen of power which told of their true origin. Ranma was similarly dressed, with the others wearing the best they could obtain on such short notice.

She said, "Greetings, people of Karna. I tell this one truth. Your future is your own to create. If you simply wish for people to buy your crystals, then I will speak for you to try to get you better terms. I have no doubt I will succeed at that. Should you wish for more, then that too can be discussed."

"What do you mean?" an elderly male councilor asked.

"There are three paths before you. You can continue on your own. We will no doubt remain interested in buying raw materials from you. With the profits from those materials you will be able to buy some materials from the galactic market, though some materials are restricted based on your current technology level."

"What?" a middled aged woman half shrieked. "You say you will treat us fairly, then deny us the things we might need?"

Ayeka remained perfectly poised. "We will not deny you things you actually need. Some technologies can be imported. Some cannot. In particular any that are related to weapons technology. At your current state of technological development, the defense of your planet is the duty of Jurai. Some might consider that an advantage, since you spend no resources on your own defense."

"Like that other guy defended us?"

"What Saran did was wrong and he will no doubt face trial for it. That he limited himself to implied threats may have a mitigating factor. Should you wish it, you may send representatives to the trial to express your point of view."

"We do wish it!" a balding somewhat obese guy said.

"That is your right. You may bring a total of ten representatives. I will contact Jurai as soon as I am able and relay the list. Now, if there are no more questions, I will explain your other options." She waited, half expecting more questions to be asked.

Finally after several seconds of silence she said, "Your second option is to apply for membership to join the Galactic Union. They will also restrict what you can buy, and what technologies are made available to you, though in time those restrictions will be eased, as you are integrated into the union. Many worlds join the union. Jurai and the Union actively cooperate on many aspects. A citizen in good standing in one can easily work or live in the other, though in the long term it is encouraged for you to transfer your citizenship to the planet where you spend the most time."

"How long?"

"The shortest time a planet has gone from your level of technology to a full member of the Union is, I believe, around a hundred years. If you want exact numbers, I will work to obtain them."

"One hundred years!" a redheaded woman exclaimed.

"Joining the Galactic Union is not required. You are of course welcome to research and develop that level of technology on your own. I would however estimate that you are at least one thousand years behind current technology levels, so it is certainly not the quicker path."

"And the third path?"

"You can apply to become a full member of the Jurai Empire. You are near the border of our space, but close enough to the Galactic Union that you can go either way. The time for you to reach current galactic technologies levels vary. The Galactic Union actively encourages its members to advance. It only limits the rate to try to avoid giving young societies the ability to destroy themselves before proper safeguards and such are in place. We also will limit your rate to that which is sustainable and reasonably safe. Unlikely the Galactic Union, we do not actively push member worlds to advance to a certain technological level, though we will help them if that is their choice. In fact, we would likely involved the Union for part of the work."

"How long would that take?" the same redheaded woman asked.

"As I said previously, the rate varies. I believe the last world took around one hundred and thirty years, though they could have probably advanced more quickly. Now, if you do choose to become actively aligned with Jurai there is something we can help with sooner, rather than later. First, I can ask for a supplementary support force to be sent. It would likely include doctors, teachers, and Jurai special forces. The special forces task would be purely to protect your people from threats like the demons. I'll tell you this bluntly, given what I have seen, I will likely recommend genocide. I know you have not had the resources to fully eliminate them. We do, though it may take time to mobilize enough resources."

The older balding guy said, "That would be a dream."

Ayeka said, "I would not see another child so lost, if it could be prevented. Regardless of your decision, it is likely that my father will agree to help with this, as likely will the Union."

The redheaded woman asked, "What about these soldiers? What else will they do?" The last was said accusingly.

"They would not normally get involved in policing your population. Baring insurrection, or gross violation of rights guaranteed by Jurai common law, that is generally your job." The redhead nodded absently. "One key advantage Jurai does give that the Union does not is we allow people from worlds that apply for membership to apply for training in more advanced sciences and in our defense forces from day one."

"After all that talk of limitations, your just going to teach anyone who asks anything?"

"I said apply, not that they would be accepted. Any potential candidate would undergo a battery of tests, including detailed psychological testing. I assure you that we are very careful. The teachers that would come would also be carefully selected. The process of joining either the Jurai Empire or the Galactic Union is very well known and ordered. Had I had access to my ship, I could.."

They were interrupted by a portal out of which Washu and Yosho walked. Washu said, "We just got here and were monitoring your situation." Another portal opened and a stack of small tablets appeared. Each tablet vanished before reappearing in front of the assembly members.

Washu said, "The tablets contain general galactic history as well as details about both the Union and the Juraian Empire. If you have no objection, I will create a few million and distribute them to your people."

"Washu-san," Ayeka said. Washu resisted the temptation to glare.

"Perhaps we should examine these first?" suggested an elderly councilman.

"So you can figure out how you can cheat us out of what is rightfully ours?" snarled another.

"Right," Washu said, "I'll program my ship to begin manufacturing them. They also have various other useful functions, that you might find use for, such as telecommunications features."

"How will everyone use these? Won't the batteries go dead or whatever they have? Do they require special chargers, or special power?"

Washu blinked, "I hadn't thought of that."

Ayeka sighed. "You included tech that is not remotely approved for this planet, didn't you?"

"Maybe?" said Washu carefully.

Ayeka said, "I'm afraid that we will need those back when you are done with them. They will be replaced with a more appropriate model, perhaps one that uses this planets particular crystals for power?"

"Easily done," said Washu. "Updating the parameters now."

"Just like that? You can design, create, produce a highly technical piece of technology."

Ayeka lied, "Such technology is not unheard of in the Empire, though it is very cutting edge." In truth Washu's technology was off any reasonable scale. If Jurai had anything to say about it, or for that matter the Galactic Union, then no one was getting that ever.

The elderly male councilor who first spoke said, "Please make sure our people get the appropriate version. These other devices will remain in this room until they are replaced. Now, I believe we all have a great deal of reading to do. Can we contact you if we have questions?"

Washu said, "These devices here and their replacements will be able to send us a message. Simply ask. The general use copies will not normally have that ability to reach us, though if many people support asking the same question, it will still get through."

"One more question," the man said. "If you could magically appear and make these things, then why were these others in one of our remotest cities doing odd jobs for basic needs?"

Ayeka again spoke. Yosho remained in the back and simply watched. She said, "I find this question a difficult one, yet it is also one you deserve answered. To tell you the truth, I don't fully know, though I suspect much." She looked over at Yosho and asked, "If my guesses are too far off the mark, then please stop me." He nodded.

"My best guess is my father took note of what was going here on Karna and did not like it. The Saran family is a powerful leading family on Jurai. Sure, my father could have started a civil war to put a stop to it, but that would have weakened Jurai, and that is something my father will not abide. Instead I believe he likely arranged to have the location of where I was staying leaked to Saran's family."

There were several gasps, but no motion from Yosho.

"Saran caught me and my friends off guard and kidnapped us, likely in an ill advised plan to court me and advance his own position. My friends here were likely in moderate danger from Saran and his people. Through them he might have exerted considerable pressure on me. That is all conjecture though. He may have done nothing. I do not know. We escaped shortly after landing."

"After we escaped we decided that since we could not simply leave the planet, our best bet was to make ourselves scarce, so the search parties Saran would send would not find us. It also had the advantage of likely destabilizing Saran's position before the royal court, since news of the kidnapping was bound to leak. That position also was to the advantage to Karna, since it increased the chance he could be removed and allow you to gain a better market for your goods. As for my brother here and Washu, well I assume my brother found out while he was on Jurai and made his way here. He does not currently have his own ship, so it may have taken him some time. Washu was in the same area we were when we were kidnapped. Unfortunately, she was in the process of repairing her ship so she also could not leave right away. I assume they met up not long ago. Finally, we were actually happily living in Salidar when we heard of the demon attack and you know the rest."

"So it is all a game to you?" the redheaded woman asked.

"No, it is hardly a game. I could have probably used my own power to get a message to my father, but then I suspect he already knew. Besides, what would that have accomplished? He would have made sure we were collected, and not much else would have changed. He could have tried to charge Saran with a crime, but what he was doing here on Karna was not quite enough to easily do that, though again, your testimony might change that. He could have risked civil war by acting against a noble house without due process, but again, that would weaken Jurai. Instead I believe he indirectly sent me to settle the situation. My friends and I have done so. You can now choose your own future."

"Won't you telling us all that make life harder for your family?" asked the old man.

Ayeka laughed before catching herself and resuming her poised posture, though not without blushing faintly, obviously embarrassed by her lack of decorum. She said, "Jurai politics are never a pretty thing, but then neither are Union politics. The Emperor's actions were reasonable, since, ultimately he was only sending his envoy to deal with the problem, of which we have done. Saran will find it difficult to attack my position, since the truth of the kidnapping is not going anywhere. Ultimately the Emperor's enemies will now be more wary, thus allowing him the resources he needs to continue to excel at his job. It will also make it easier for him to justify sending the forces to eliminate the demons."

"It seems we definitely have a great deal of reading to do. I do have one more question though. Who would represent us, if we were to join either the Juraian Empire or the Galactic Union."

"You would choose your own representative. In either case that representative would work through a more senior member of either the Galactic Union or in the case of Jurai, a member of the royal court to make sure you are represented. Should you wish it, I could be that representative, though I will warn you, you would be the first world I would represent. I also have no intention of staying on Jurai all the time, or even most of the time. When I am not there, your representative would be assigned to another member of the court by me."

The old man asked, "If you are not going home, then where will you go?"

"As I said, we were happy here. I don't know if that will work now that we are known. We may go back to where we were. I don't know. I will have to talk with my friends."

"You would be welcome to stay."

"I thank you for your offer."

"We bid you a good day and if there is anything you need, just let us know."

Washu said, "Ayeka did make one incorrect guess. I was able to get here before Yosho. I saw that they were basically happy, so I did not interfere. I also had a great deal of material that I needed to mine for my own purposes, so I could not stay. I left behind small hidden probes to monitor the situation, as well as to inform me if my help was required. They were focused on Ayeka and her friends."

The assembly looked a bit confused as to why she was giving that explanation until she said, "The tablets also contain a complete recording of the battle they fought."

Yosho voice was soft, yet it reached the farthest corners of the room, "My sister very nearly died in that battle. They all very nearly died. They lived only by the grace of the goddess and their own stubborn will to survive. Much will be expected of them in the coming days. You could do far worse than to be represented by my sister in those days, but the choice is yours."

Washu opened a portal and they stepped through.

Shampoo said in a false cutesy voice, "Nice ship. You make one for Shampoo?"

Yosho said, "Nice try, but she will be dismantling this one very soon."

Ayeka said, "Agreed. This is obviously grey tech."

In a little girl's voice Washu said, "You wouldn't take away my shiny new space ship, would you?"

"Given that there is a chance that this technology will destabilize space-time itself, Yes," said Ayeka. To her brother she asked, "Should we contact Jurai and get them to send a ship? That way Washu could safely take this apart without actually moving it again."

Washu said, "Um, about that, you see this ship is holding several planets worth of raw materials in several deep subspace layers, so I, um need to at least take it back to my lab, since you can't just unload that much material anywhere."

Ranma looked worried, as did the others, not that any of them knew the seriousness of the situation.

Yosho asked, "What is the risk of one more trip compared to the alternative?"

"Minimal. In fact, it is much safer just to head back to Earth now. I suppose we could go to Jurai too. I'm sure there is still a subspace entrance to my lab buried there somewhere."

Ayeka paled before half shouting, "Your lab. The lab with what is likely the most dangerous machines and materials in several universes is linked to Jurai! Are you insane? Earth was bad enough, but at least it was for a good cause."

"You worry too much. Only the upper level has a link. The other levels are in entirely different dimensions. The truly dangerous stuff is so many levels deep that a super nova could happen without anyone noticing!"

Yosho said, "Okay, if that is true, then how exactly did that other ship break out?"

Washu scratched the back of her head. "The ship wasn't especially dangerous, save to idiots who launched it before it was done. This means it wasn't kept with the really dangerous stuff. I'm not insane. I keep prototype technologies and such far away from other dangerous things, and those things far away from each other. Admittedly I should have specified that the Mihoshi proof cell was linked to an entirely separate subspace layer, but how was I supposed to know that the idiot could use bio energy to drill through it? As for the rest, the string drive was able to pierce the remaining barriers. It's what makes the drive so great! This one is even better! It should be able to go anywhere!"

Yosho rubbed his temples. "Let me get this straight. You design incredible technologies for keeping dangerous substances and machines apart and then you design a machine that will completely ignore those technologies. Is anyone else seeing a problem here?"

"I see a problem here," said Ayeka in a clipped voice.

"Wait a second," Ranma said. "You said someone used bio-energy to punch through your cell. Who was that?"

"Um, I might have made Ryoga and Akane think they killed you. Don't look at me like that. The hit he gave to my clone would have killed you. After that I locked them up, in the hopes they would see the error of their ways, but um, they broke out and somehow ran off with the ship I was making."

"Let me get this straight. A ship, that can go anywhere, including the worst possible places and Ryoga and Akane are on it."

Nabiki said dryly, "Well, the Earth is doomed."

"Oh come on," Washu said, "He can't be that bad."

Ukyo said, "Um, actually, if there is one talent both Ryoga and Akane had it is showing up at the wrong place at the worst time. It was kind of legendary."

"Well," Ranma said, "We will just have to find them."

One week later, after Washu had unloaded all her raw material to her subspace lab, they got word that Karna wished to join the Jurai Empire.

-«FfaP»-

Author's Note: And that is a wrap, at least for now. I considered following them on their search to find Ryoga and Akane, but, that would almost be another story in itself.