Warning, Story Key & Disclaimer: All of which are all located in Chapter One, the prologue. If you continue to read past this point you are assumed to understand what this story may contain in the way of offensive or inappropriate content.
*PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO POST A REVIEW*
(After you read the chapter of course.)
!REQUEST FROM THE AUTHOR!
If, while reading this, you notice half-finished or incomplete sentences, grammar in need of correction, spelling boo-boos, or things that just don't make sense, feel at liberty to send me a 'Private Messages' so that I might right them. I am humanoid, thus I make gaffes. In fact, that very sentence doubtless contains some! So… I request your aid in being less humanoid. (You can send me 'Private Messages' via my profile.) If all these mistakes offend your sensibilities, feel free to offer up your services as a beta reader.
Author Notes/Commentaries Are Located Someplace After The Stuff You've Come Here To Read
– Muthia –
– Part II –
"It's The Way My Life Goes."
"I'd Be Sitting In The Most Boring Place On Earth And Somehow Trouble Would Find Me."
"Probably Another Curse Being Pop's Son Got Me."
"With Britanny, Gina, And Brianna In My Life, Things Are Different."
"Oh Shit Still Happens."
"Only I'm Not Always The One It's After."
"Of Course Nine Times Out Of Ten I Still End Up In The Thick Things."
"Ok, Ninety Nine Times Out Of A Hundred."
"But I'm Ok With It."
"But That Hundredth Time, When I Get To Sit Back And Watch…"
"Let's Just Say I Get Why Some People Found My Life Amusing."
-#-#-#-#- Deep Beneath The China Sea -#-#-#-#-
Displaying her flexibility among several tripwires, one leg and arm up at a thirty-five up angle, body bent backwards, head impossibly near her grounded knee, Ranma groaned upon hearing Brianna's warning cry. One that reached her ears even as the lycanthropoid appeared in the entryway thanks to her werecheetah granted speed. To Ranma's dismay, her warning shout of "Don't!" came too late, exiting her lips as the spotted-haired blond slid to a halt in the worst spot possible after zipping through the many trap triggers she'd carefully navigated.
Ignoring the danger her actions would invariable produce, Ranma flung herself towards the spotted-blond hoping to catch the lycanthropoid before she fell along with the now collapsing section of stone beneath her feet.
This was due to the blonde going upwards rather than down, her body disappearing through what was previously the solid stone of the ceiling with a :-:Plunksplish:-: noise.
She had no time to either question Brianna's sudden defiance of gravity, or curse her luck, for the tripwires the two of them had set off let loose their flurry of darts, stones, spears, high-velocity metal balls, and spurts of acid. Contorting her body in near impossible ways she avoiding being burnt, skewered, shiskabob'd, and punctured along with being dropped away into the darkness as parts of the room fell away.
"Why didn't you catch her?!" Ranma heard a mechanical voice berate her for failing to rescue its creator as she rolled to her feet near the entrance tunnel.
Sighing she looked down to see Squeaky sidling up the tunnel Brianna had come.
"The better question is why you weren't with her when she vanished into the ceiling you stupid machine," Ranma responded turning away from the little machine to survey the mayhem the released traps had created noting a small sliver of light coming from a section of loose stones on the opposite side.
"Hello, I wasn't constructed for speed!" the Peebo dubbed Squeaky answered whilst rolling around to be in front of Ranma. "And even if I was, can you say 'werecheetah DNA'! Can you say 'ZOOOOOOM ZIIIIIIP' gone?"
"And it's not like it's my fault she didn't dodge all those traps that YOU left for her to trip over…"
With a growl, Ranma drove her fist into the wall cratering the rock for a good foot and a half around the impact point.
Hearing the little machine utter an "EEP!" she frowned at seeing the Peebo inching away from her and into the room, its metal body hugging closer to the floor shivering in an approximation of fear.
"Shesh. I was just letting out a little steam so stop cowering."
"I…I'm not afraid of…of you." Squeaky stuttered mechanically. "Th…the…them however…"
Ranma tensed her body than totally relaxed, an act her father would have recognized as her preparing for either fight or flight.
"Great… Let me guess… the 'Incoming' Brianna screamed about is right behind me?"
The sentient bomb performed a good approximation of a nod.
Gazing over her shoulder the currently female aquatranssexual was unsurprised to see three of the trifurcated-mouthed beasts nearly upon her, bits of heated drool dripping from their tooth-filled maws.
"I don't have time for this," the nimble anything goes fractioned groused stepping back just far enough to avoid the first ones toothy lunge.
"Go find some other chew toy," Ranma commanded, her left fist coming down upon the creatures head with enough force to buckle its front legs leaving the beast ass and tail up.
Uncaring of its fallen comrade the second beast clawed its way over it to try to take a bite out of Ranma only to miss when the red-head jumped up uttering "I said go find another chew toy" before coming down on the beasts head feet first cratering the floor much like her fist had done to the wall.
"'Cause I'm not on the menu," Ranma growled stepping off the second beast upon feeling heat coming through her neoprene slippers she back-fisted the side of the third beasts head snapping it sideways.
Without missing a beat, she followed it up with a left hook to it's now exposed flank while kicking the second of the creatures as it pulled its head off the floor, both blows sending their recipients away. The one on the floor went flying back down the hall where it slammed into two more of the beasts, the other slid along the wall into the room its path taking it through several tripwires resulting in the beast becoming something of a pincushion.
When a fourth beast charged into the room to try to munch on her arm, she snapped up the little Peebo and lodged it in the creature's trifurcated maw saying, "Now little Squeaky here on the other hand…"
Immediately the Peebo began screaming "OW OW OW HOT! GET ME OUT! GET ME OUT NOW!" while the beast began frantically shaking its head to-and-fro seeking to dislodge the machine.
"Like you can feel pain," Ranma quipped stepping around to the beasts' side, left leg going up than down dropping upon the beasts neck with sufficient force to pop Squeaky out of the things mouth launching the angry Peebo across the room on its back much like a flat rock over water.
Following along behind her impromptu missile, Ranma scooped the machine into her arms making sure to trigger one of the traps thus dropping a slab of rock upon the closing beasts crushing two. The third escaped death but not wounding leaving behind a bit of its ear as it tore free with a yowl.
Feeling no more remorse for ending a few of the beasts lives than she'd have over killing any animal stupid enough to hunt her Ranma hightailed across the room to slam into and through the section of stone where she'd seen the bit of light shining through. Finding herself in a slanted passageway leading upwards Ranma went about ten feet up it, then stopped, a smirk playing on her face.
Taking one careful step forward she turned around and waited for one of the beasts to enter the hall. When one did she said, "I'd turn back if I were you."
When it started to lunge towards her, Ranma casually plinked the wire at her feet triggering the trap that dropped a several ton slab of rock on the beast.
ooO Twenty Minutes & Several Trap Filled Tunnels Later… Ooo
"You threw me into that things mouth! Its slobber could've melted my casing!" The little Peebo, who was scuttling along the wall at head level, vocalized loudly.
"But it didn't," a smirking Ranma shot back.
"That's beside the point! The point is the things slobber is as hot as molten lava!"
"Don't see why you're still harping on that, after all, doin' it gave me the time to get away."
"Why didn't you just punch it instead?"
Ranma looked at her now healed hands. "Because those things are hot 'n' getting hotter 'n I for one don't feel like burning myself."
"So melting me is the better choice?"
"Been called that before," Ranma said after letting out a snigger. "Used to think it was term of endearment I heard it so much." Her voice lost all humor as she finished saying, "Now I know better".
Squeaky stopped, turned, and lifted its body so it was slightly canted to one side in an approximation of a head tilt. "You're a weird human you know that."
Silence reigned for all of one point seven seconds.
"And you didn't have to skip me across that you know."
"It was fun."
"Yup, and if the room had been bigger I bet I could've gotten three more skips out of you," the redhead snickered.
"Three more?! You didn't even need to throw me; I offered to hit the stupid switch to shut off the traps for you!"
"Why're you complaining about me helping you do it then?"
"Because you threw me!"
"You should be thanking me."
"And why should I do that oh brilliant one?"
"Because I hit it on the back-skip so you wouldn't need to roll back." Ranma replied with obvious pride.
"Gee, that makes it aaaaaaaall better... I should be happy you skipped me across the room hard enough to almost dent my casing just so I wouldn't have to make my way back... WHEN I WOULDN'T HAVE HAD TO SINCE WE WERE GOING THAT WAY YOU JERK!"
A brief silence reigned before the mobile bomb asked, "What about using me to absorb those electrical attacks from those statues?"
"Recharged your batteries didn't it."
"Did you know it would recharge my batteries?" Squeaky inquired loudly. "NO! You could've shorted me out!"
"Thankfully I'm designed to resist a wide range of current, but those things blew three of my resistors before I could regulate it! I could've been destroyed!"
"Isn't that sorta like when you blow up?"
"Well, yeah… but that's different! That's me blowing me up, not you doing it!"
Ranma shrugged, sprung lightly over the plate-triggered traps on the slick obsidian floor of the hall landing some twenty feet from her starting point to roll under a scything blade that would've taken her head from her shoulders.
"HEY! WAIT UP!" The little machine further defied gravity by moving across the wall until it reached Ranma to yell, "Why didn't you wait?"
Without looking back, the aquatranssexual pointed back the way they came.
Wheeling around Squeaky easily spotted the four 'lava beasts', as she'd dubbed them, attempting unsuccessfully to navigate the booby-trapped hall. The Peebo cursed internally seeing how the traps were at best slowing them down.
"Ulp… maybe we should go faster?"
Plucking the machine from the wall and placing it on her head, Ranma sped up. When the Peebo complained about their pace not being fast enough she asked, "Maybe I should use you as a Frisbee again? Maybe set off a few traps behind us. I bet I could get a good back-skip again. If not… well…"
One look at Ranma's face was all Squeaky needed to calculate the odds of Ranma carrying out her threat.
Her smirk had the Peebo thinking about wasting its power in an effort to taser its human perch again.
"Tell me again, why is it you act all emotional instead of like a robot."
"For the fifth time, I'm an advanced A.I. prototype not a simple minded robot."
"Soooo, my subroutines include the ability to emulate certain emotions including confusion, anger, amusement, eagerness, annoyance, disappointment, anticipation, shame, surprise…"
"Fea… no… not fear. What gave you that notion?"
"How about that you've given me several head massages when you thought those things had us."
Ranma slowed as they came to a T in the hallway.
"A really bad one at that."
Looking down the hallway in both directions Ranma asked, "So rolling grenade… which way; left, or right?"
"I'm not a grenade, I have no pin or button for you to press to activate my explosives, for which I am very glad, and I'm not meant to be thrown!"
"Maybe, but you're pretty aerodynamic if you ask me."
"I didn't!" Squeaky stated strongly. "Now, as to which way we should go, my sensors indicate that going right will bring us closer to mommy."
Ranma went down the left hallway.
"I said right you doofus, that's left!"
"If you know, a fact I find circumspect given your intellect level, why did you go left?"
"Gut feeling," Ranma replied springing over a lava-filled pit that suddenly opened under her feet. "Besides, remember the last time I let you pick which way to go?"
"Um…. Nooooooooo." Squeaky replied with what was an attempt at a childlike statement of innocence but came out as more of a whine.
"Well I do. You raced off down what you were suuuuuure was the hallway that'd lead us to mommy." Ranma made quotes with her hands in the air when saying 'mommy'. "Stopping right on a floor plate that nearly brought the hallway's ceiling down on top of us!"
"That wasn't my fault! If you hadn't blown up the boulder that was rolling down it the tunnel would've been fine!"
"And who was the idiot that ran through the trip wire that triggered the damn boulder?"
"I don't know what you're talking about. Besides, it wasn't that big of a boulder, you could've survived being run over."
"Probably, but that doesn't mean I'd want to just let some rock roll over me. I'm done letting things rollover me, people or objects."
"One more time wouldn't have done any harm; it might've even made you smarter!"
"And you a hell of a lot flatter, I still can you ya know."
"You won't because you need me!"
"As a doorstop maybe." Ranma scoffed openly. "I know, next time I'll just throw you at the boulder instead of breakin' it. Maybe it'll stop when you're wedged between it and the wall. If not, well, I'll just blow it up anyway."
"Besides, one little exploding boulder wouldn't've done all that damage. It was a booby trap and you're the boob who triggered it," Ranma said a small smile on her lips. This was because she felt pleased at having successfully pulled off a perfect Bakusai Tenketsu.
After a moment of consideration Squeaky said, "Fine, I did trigger that trap, but anyone could've made that mistake".
"'Least you're willing to admit it was a mistake." Ranma said patting the machine gently, her neutral expression turning sour. "If Akane'd been here, she'd of been the one to set it off instead'a you, Pop's would've blamed me, Mr. Tendo would've followed pop's lead, Shampoo would've looked around for more boulders to roll over her. As for Ryoga, stupid pig would'a screamed how it was all my fault for letting little miss 'I have to prove I'm better than you' storming up the hallway first."
"Who's Akane and how would a bottle of shampoo look for a boulder?"
Ranma growled out, "They're no one, forget about it."
"Ok." Squeaky responded getting the hint that further inquiry was not the best option. "If you were going to pick left, why ask me?"
"Would you believe I wanted to make you feel useful?"
"Ok, how about ticking you off is the only amusement I've got at the moment?"
Squeaky emulated a growling sound, "You have no idea how much I wish I could explode on your head right now".
"Feel free." The redhead responded with a shrug. "It probably wouldn't be worse than a mallet and at least you'd finally shut up".
"You'd like that wouldn't you… well no way buster! Oh, and just so you know once we do find mommy I'm gonna her to reverse my no blowing you up order so I can show you just what I can do!"
"I can hardly wait," Ranma replied, her voice laden with sarcasm.
"I could still shock you you know."
"Didn't work last time," Ranma responded. "Like I'd complain if you ran out of power again."
The little Peebo grumbled incoherently for several seconds before saying "If I didn't think mommy would be upset at me for hurting you it would soooooooo be worth it".
"Mousse has hit me with tazers that had more juice. So did pop, I was twelve when a shopkeeper forced him to pay for a meal with one. Of course pop went back and stole the money he'd paid along with the Taser, which he included it as part of my training. Moron."
"According to my files having that done to you as a child is considered abuse; it also explains your lack of intellect as you must have fried most of your brain cells." The Peebo stated, then said, "Wait…a moose hit you with a Taser? You're just making that up. Moose don't even have hands to use Tasers. Next thing you'll claim is that it had other projectile weaponry that it used on you".
"Not a moose, Mousse, he's this blind nut-case from back home who's kinda after me because of ... wait… why am I tellin' you this?"
"To pass the time?"
"Ya got a point," Ranma said after a moment's consideration. "But I don't feel like thinkin' about the idiots I left back in Nerima so let's talk about something else. Anything else."
"Like why Brianna didn't program you with something useful, like a music player instead of laws on child abuse."
"Hey! Child abuse is bad, and I'm programmed to blow up bad people, so having that information is critical to my base function. Providing you with music is not! And I may not want to waste my power on trying to shock you again it wouldn't take much power to give you such a frizz!"
"And I could juggle you for a while."
Instead of replying, Squeaky pressed itself deeper into Ranma's red locks.
Amused at the peebo's actions, the redhead chuckled while pausing at the entryway of the room the hall they were traveling ended. Making note of every nook and cranny she could see she glanced over the roughly hewn stalactite dotted ceiling of the circular chamber; a clear deviation from the well-constructed tunnels and rooms they'd encountered so far. The chamber further deviated from the norm by having a roughly hewn floor dotted with rocky outcroppings between and around which a cobblestone path lead. By far, the most outstanding oddity of the room was the two-foot wide band of obsidian that ran around the rooms edge five feet from the floor. Into this bad she could see gold inlaid lettering.
Drawn by them, she walked the entire circumference of the chamber, the little Peebo yammering at her about her wasting time with little squiggles on the wall instead of back-tracking so they could find Brianna sooner.
"There not squiggles, their part history lesson and part instructions on how to shut down some kinda device, but it reads like a combination of a fortune cookie and furniture instructions."
The peebo's ocular devices rotated from looking at Ranma to the wall and back again before asking, "You can read that?"
"Why wouldn't I be able to read kanji?"
The Peebo took in the weird hieroglyphic-like symbols that ran around the room, "Um… it's not kanji."
"Yes it is."
"No it is not."
"Yes it is."
"No it is not."
"Look you oversized claymore, this is definitely kanji," Ranma said slapping the little machine.
From underneath the little machine a laser-light shot out to underline a few of the symbols.
"Ok smarty pants, what does it say?"
"They say 'Little Peebo's who don't keep their mouths shut get treated like a racquet ball.'."
"Ha ha… funny. Not."
"Was to me."
"They look more like a whale being eaten by a bucktoothed zebra riding a jet-ski to me." Squeaky stated, it's mechanical eyes zooming in and out. "Furthermore, I know that is not kanji as I have been programmed to translate over seventy seven languages, twelve of which are dead, four of which are imaginary."
"You're programmed with imaginary languages?"
"Yup, I am programmed to translate Tolkien Elvish and Dwarvish, Verdurian, and Klingon. Said programming also includes all variations of kanji. So when I say this writing is not Japanese kanji, I know what I am talking about."
Ranma ran a hand along some of the letters uttering a low "Whoa." at feeling some of the odd energy within herself being drawn out into the stone resulting in the writing lighting up slightly.
Repeating the act after the light had faded away, she frowned at finding no matter how hard she tried she could not prevent the energy from being drawn when she touched the stone.
"And in my experience… strange fading lights… not a good thing."
"Your experience," Ranma asked dryly.
"Yup! I have a section of my storage space dedicated to highlights of past explorations performed by my creator." Squeaky performed what passed as a nod. "Speaking of mommy, playing with the squiggles on the wall isn't getting us any closer to finding her so I say stop wasting time".
"Now git alooooooong little horsey." Squeaky intoned with a western drawl, her front wheels pulling at some strands of Ranma's hair like a reins.
Ranma heaved an exasperated sigh, "Stop calling me that."
The little Peebo found itself ricocheting off the far wall, three stalactites, and then the floor before shooting upwards into the hand Ranma was holding behind her back at the apex of a summersault.
Landing she let out a chuckle as she put the peebo back upon her head. "Colonel Canada, eat your heart out."
"WOULD YOU STOP DOING THAT?!" Squeaky yelled once regaining its gyroscopic orientation.
"When you stop giving me reasons to I'll think about it."
"Jerk, and its Captain America, you comic book philistine!"
"Like comics are art."
Squeaky made several noises that sounded like strangled noises of disbelief, all of which Ranma ignored while casually making her way about the edge of the room. While doing so she casually brushed the tips of her fingers along the symbols on the walls this time deliberately pushing the energy within her into the stone resulting in the writing remaining lit up rather than fading away as they'd previously done. Completing a second circle of the chamber committing the writings to memory, she took up a lotus position upon an outcropping of raised stone that stood in line with the tunnel through which they had entered.
Squeaky did not take Ranma's lack of action lightly. "What are you doing? We should be heading back down the tunnel and go right not wasting time with wall squiggles!"
"Not a good idea."
"And why not," Squeaky asked.
Ranma rolled her eyes at the machine. "Which would ya rather do; face a bunch of those things when we've got no room to move, like down in the hallway, or here, where we've got lots of space to avoid gettin' chunks bitten out of us?"
"I vote for option three, we not fight them at all."
"If it were an option, I would'a listed it."
"Oh. Well, if those are my only choices, here, definitely here."
Taking in a centering breath, eyes locked firmly upon the hallway keeping watch for the arrival of the beasts she knew would soon catch up with them; she pondered the mystery of the writing with little success.
Five minutes later when the first of the lava beasts made its way into the chamber Ranma's lips turned up in a smile all of her rivals knew to mean 'bring it on' than burst into action.
Holding Squeaky in place, she followed up her left foot that snapped the head of the lead creature back with a spin kick that tossed it aside where it hit the left wall of the corridor like a ragdoll before sliding to the floor, its previously red-veined body going grey in death.
The second of the beasts met a similar fate, slamming face first into the wall to the right.
The third Ranma allowed into the room keeping just out of range of the beasts snapping trifurcated jaws. Once she had it where she wanted it she dropped under the beasts head onto her back delivering a double kick upwards driving it into the ceiling where it spider-cracked the rock above. It fell atop the fourth of the creatures where they both received a welcoming blow from the currently prone martial artist that launched them down the hallway bowling into the next three leaving the group of them a tangle of growling and hissing limbs.
When Ranma got to her feet, she maneuvered herself to the center of the room and waited, a fact Squeaky commented on by exclaiming "WHY AREN'T WE MAKING A RUN FOR IT!"
"Why? How about we'd never make it past the ones behind these, that's why."
"Oh." Squeaky responded after zooming her vision in to see Ranma was right about there being more behind those struggling to untangle themselves from the pile blocking the chambers sole entryway.
"So… um… what's the plan? Gonna go all karate-happy on them?"
"Ain't got one, it wasn't karate, and no." Ranma finished by pointing at her slightly melted neoprene diving slippers. "These ain't gonna to last very long and I'd rather not be kickin' those things without somethin' to protect my feet from being cooked."
"I can see where that would be a problem."
"Say…" Ranma drawled out. "How much heat does it take to melt you?"
"I can survive to temperatures of…. whoa whoa whoa!" The panicky little Peebo started to try to back off of Ranma's head. "No way are you going to use me to smack those things around! Bad enough you let one drool on me!"
"Relax," Ranma hurled a larger bit of rubble down the hall splattering one of the creatures with the force and making the rest pull back. "I wasn't planning on it."
"Suuuuuuure you weren't."
Breaking off a piece of rock from one of the formations in the room the black-and-red headed martial artist threw it down the hall to hit one of the now standing beasts causing it to yelp and leap back into the jumble he'd created by kicking two of them down the hall at once. "I might have a way to make 'em last a bit longer."
"Anything sounds better than letting them eat us, so I say, as long as it does not involve me being used as a weapon or a shield, go for it."
Face scrunching up in concentration, Ranma called up her 'Body of Ice' technique making sure to let none of the new energy within her body slip into it out of distrust.
The struggling Peebo stopped moving. "Odd, I'm detecting a substantial drop in the local temperature… HEY… WHY ARE MY WHEELS ARE FREEZING?"
"Like I said." Ranma replied, the breath from her words forming little clouds. "I got an idea."
"You could've warned me" Squeaky grumbled petulantly.
"Where'd be the fun in that?"
"I seriously wish I could include an algorithm in my subroutines to hate you, you know that," Squeaky declared then warned. "They're coming".
After taking out seven more with large pieces of rubble Ranma allowed the beasts to pass into the room unhindered only to curse under her breath when they spread out around her instead of coming straight for her as they'd previously done.
Eyes alert, body loose and ready, Peebo on her head, she watched them mill around her, keeping to a distance of five feet. The same distance the hazy cloud of mist created by her 'Body of Ice' technique encompassed.
A tremor fluctuating its voice Squeaky commented, "I don't think they like the cold".
"Thank you Captain Oblivious."
Ranma jerked a thumb towards the milling beasts around them, more entering in behind the group closing in on her. "You want me to toss you out there with them?"
"Ok, I won't throw you at them."
"I'll throw you someplace else."
"Say whhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" Squeaky screamed out as it was thrown upwards and into one of the small tunnels dotting the ceiling above just as one of the beasts, one missing the tip of its ear, gave out a short burst of a hissing howl signaling the pack to attack.
A few minutes into the fight, Ranma was pleased with how things were going thanks to several welcome surprises her use of the 'Body of Ice' provided; uses beyond being able to strike without burning herself or her clothing. The first of these was how her blows inflicted a greater degree of damage as the creatures skin cooled and hardened form the cold of her attacks. They cracked where she hit them allowing her to either outright destroy them or to lock up their joints making them obstacles for the other beasts to get around in their efforts to overwhelm her with numbers. Secondly, they slowed if they remained too long inside her cold aura, their bodies hardening just as they did when she hit them just slower. The downside to this was that she couldn't take as much advantage she'd liked due to the beasts keeping her on the move. That and the body heat of their fellows undid this affect; a fact that the beast with the torn ear caught on to rather quickly given how it began directing the others to keep pushing her away from those taken out in such a fashion.
'Torn-ear', as Ranma came to think of their leader, even went so far as to snap at several of its fellows to force them into place. To her annoyance every time she tried to go after Torn-ear, it would duck back into the hall where she wouldn't be able to use her maneuverability against their numbers.
Given their seemingly endless number, Ranma turned her mind towards finding another way out, or at least somewhere she could hold them off one at a time instead of on-mass. Knowing pushing the mob to the doorway to hold them was not an option, and that she needed to keep her attention firmly on the fight, Ranma called out to her only ally.
"WHAT!" The Peebo yelled back from where Ranma has tossed the little machine.
"How about doin' something useful, like seeing if one of those tunnels up there go someplace!"
"And why should I?"
"Because I could use a way out," Ranma answered while barely avoiding a triple-team attack from three of the beasts at her back.
"Not my problem, jerk-face." Squeaky shot back snarkily. "I'm quite safe up here and enjoying watching you face almost certain doom."
Slipping around four more attacks Ranma disabled two more of her attackers, the last of which she grabbed by the tail to use as a bat at three others before the creatures tail snapped off due to turning cold and brittle. She then used the now solid stone tail to bash two of their heads in before it too broke.
"Bah, I could do this all day."
"Then you don't need me to find you a way out do you?"
"Just 'cause I can, don't mean I want to!"
"Fair enough." Squeaky agreed. "By the way, I have already scanned the tunnels and have full details on their sizes, depths, and headings."
"You were going to tell me that when?" Ranma growled out as she stepped into and passed the claws of the closest lava beast than out again just fast enough that two others did the job of hurting the creature with their own attacks.
"Probably after I'd recorded enough footage of your fight for a good blooper real, mommy'll love it."
Snatching of the clawed legs thrust in her direction Ranma snapped the now frozen limb off her attacker. "I am so going to hurt you."
"Sticks and stones won't break my circu…" Squeaky zipped a bit back into the tunnel in which it sat avoiding the makeshift spear Ranma'd made out of the limb she'd broken off. "HEY! What was that for?"
"What do you think it was for you damned machine! Now tell me which one of them leads someplace or I'll throw a whole one of these things up there!"
"You ain't the boss of me," the little machine replied working its way across the ceiling sticking to it thanks to its gravity wheels.
Stopping in front of one of the bigger tunnels the peebo called out "This one that goes up about fifty feet or so, beyond that my sensors can't read as there's some kind of interference".
"That'll do!" Ranma getting ready to leap up to where the peebo was only to roll sideways avoiding the rush of two of the beasts snapping jaws.
Squeaky's warning of "Lookout!" brought her attention to the torn-eared beasts' now gaping maw, a maw from which tongue of flame began to lick out. Before Ranma could react, the peebo fell upon the beasts head releasing a blinding discharge of electrical energy.
Her eyes clearing quicker than the creatures surrounding her Ranma delivered a double-leg kick to 'One-ear' which she used to propel her up to the lip of the tunnel Squeaky had pointed out.
It was a tight squeeze; but fortunately, it opened up a bit after about ten feet in. Feeling safe, she brought the little peebo out from under her arm where she'd tucked little machine after having scooped it up during her kick to 'Torn-ear'.
"What were you thinking you stupid machine! Throwing yourself at that thing! You could'a been destroyed!" Ranma growled out without any real anger.
When the little machine failed to respond she shook it several times then sighed "Out of juice again… stupid machine."
"Don't think this means anything you stupid machine." Ranma declared, her expression alternating from annoyance to concerned while creating a makeshift sling from a towel she pulled from her weapon-space.
Placing Squeaky within, she slipped it around her neck then turned her attention towards her surroundings.
"Well, only one way to go and that's up."
Several minutes later, during which it had dawned upon her that she was able to see perfectly despite the darkness surrounding her, she came upon the end of the tunnel.
"Great, a dead end." She growled out punching the wall before her.
Hearing the hollow noise her punch made she smiled. "I guess it isn't as dead of an end as I thought."
Ranma tapping the wall again recreating the clearly hollow pitch her previous punch had made. "Yup, definitely an open chamber on the other side."
It took less than a minute to create a hole through which she could fit. A hole that turned out to be in the wall of the room beyond and from where she stood, she easily spied the riches taking up the massive chamber. that littered the floor.
The chambers golden tinted illumination brought a shine to the chambers stacks of bars of precious metals, overflowing urns containing gems and coins, statues made from various precious materials, along with the numerous items of antiquity.
"Kami… what pops or Nabiki'd give to get their hands on this …"
Fifteen minutes later, whistling happily to herself, Ranma pulled the twin doors to the treasure chamber closed behind her not a bit upset at leaving the majority of the treasure behind. Rather she thought about how pleased Gina would be with what she had been able to haul away, having selected artifacts over coins or bars of precious metals. That is not to say she did not take any; only about a fifth of what she had gathered was of that category. She would have taken more but as it was her weapon-space had filled quickly to the brim in a very short time thanks to her utilization of a full-body version of the Amaguriken.
Patting the door softly she turned to take in the small fifteen-by-fifteen foot room she found herself. A room from which the three passages headed away from; the central heading straight out, the other two heading off at angles, one slanting upwards, and the other down. After two steps towards the left most passage she frowned, eyes flitting to the middle one.
"Ok, I'm usually the go by the seat of my pants and trust my gut kinda guy, but this is ridiculous," Ranma complained aloud in response to the sudden urge to go down the middle one nagged her.
Another step towards the left increased the pull to go down the center.
'Definitely not normal.'
A step towards the central path left her feeling no sense of either right or wrong, another towards the right passage brought the previous feeling of wrongness back.
Not remotely trusting this odd instinct, Ranma breathed in deeply, eyes widening at feeling the now familiar sensation of her body shifting from human to hybrid form. The change complete, Brianna's scent, that of strawberries and apples with an underlying hint of something that reminded her of oil, filled her nostrils. Another sniff and she could tell it was coming from the direction of the central tunnel.
As quickly as her increased sense of smell came, it left again, her body going back to human form before she had a chance to take not of any details of her hybrid form as a female.
She tried to repeat the change with no results, not even trying to repeat her last few actions did anything more than frustrate her.
'Well gives me a better reason than whatever this feeling is to head down the middle path, kinda,' Ranma thought. 'And now I know I can change to hybrid form as a girl. Question still remains how I change at all.'
Knowing dwelling on it would do her little good, Ranma headed down the central hall getting about thirty feet in when she felt a sensation not unlike what she felt when her curse triggered. Knowing she hadn't changed back to a male she threw herself against the wall, hands gripping it, feet planted on a small lip allowing her to remain off the floor she cast her head back and forth seeking out the cause.
Cursing under her breath, she stepped away from the wall eying the two translucent sheets of energy that now obstructed her passage in either direction. Sheets of energy she instinctively knew were magical in nature.
"Great, just great, a stupid magical trap and I bumbled right into it."
Searching the walls and floor for any possible ways around the magical obstructions proved fruitless. Thinking to bypass it with a Bakusai Tenketsu, she found the stone of the passageway insusceptible. Even punching the wall at nearly full strength, an act of frustration, did nothing.
"Ok Ranma, looks like the only thing to do, is go through."
Words to action she dashed through the one in the direction she'd been heading stopping after she'd gotten ten feet away from it sliding into a crouch facing back the way she came. Mentally she counted the seconds, after fifteen she relaxed, starting to stand. At sixteen the ceiling entire tunnel behind her, from the translucent obstruction back, dropped to the floor, the rush of escaping air caused by the drop pushing her hair back.
She'd barely uttered "That was unexpected" when the floor beneath her dropped out, the ceiling dropping down preventing her from preventing her fall. For several seconds she did her best to slow her decent down the glass-like surface of the tunnel but in the end she succumbed to the power of gravity. She slid down the twisting slide-like tunnel for at least two minutes before it suddenly opened up into a large domed chamber. She touched down in a crouch, unharmed, than immediately rolled away going much farther than intended when the spot she landed on exploded in a bright ball of yellow light.
Rolling right spinning to face where the attack came from, left hand retrieving three knives from her weapon-space pushing cold charged ki into them, Ranma came up ready to take down whatever had attacked her. To her surprise, she found herself facing a chagrined Brianna who was trying to hide her tri-barreled weapon behind her back.
Her few chuckles turned into loud laughs which Britanny soon joined in on before rushing up to crush Ranma to her in a hug Shampoo would've said was wasted given the lycanthropoid failed to sneak in a respectable grope or two. However, the end of the hug would've placed the amorous amazon on a warpath if she'd seen how the Brianna caught Ranma's lips, pressing her own against the red-heads.
For Ranma, it was a surprise, and though her first reaction was shock, followed quickly by a desire to push the tall blond away, she fell victim to the sudden surge of carnal desire she felt for the girl in her arms. Brianna's very scent filled Ranma with a burning need, one not unlike that which she'd felt upon first encountering Britanny after her almost death and transformation back in Nerima.
To Ranma, this need was uncontrollable, and undeniable; which is why she deepened the kiss, arms going around Brianna pulling the lycanthropoid tightly against her in an impassioned embrace. An act Brianna mimicked while moaning into Ranma's mouth indicating her satisfaction.
Neither could tell anyone who asked how long had passed before they ceased their kiss, arms still around each other. Nor could they have said which of them had been the one to start with wandering their hands over the others form, or start grinding against the other.
"Bri…" Ranma whispered huskily, eyes ablaze with desire, the need to take the spotted-blond in her arms a palpable thing to the currently female martial artist.
"Ra…Ranma" Brianna uttered tremulously, then recaptured his lips with hers, the blondes hands grasping and scratching at Ranma's back pulling the slightly shorter aquatranssexual tighter against her. When the need for air overtook Brianna, she reluctantly pulled away from their kisses, smiling widely at how the black and red-haired martial artist tried to maintain the contact as long as she could by nibbling on her lips
Feeling Ranma's lips nuzzling her neck, the brief kisses the red-head placed there sending shivers down her spine, Brianna unthinkingly purred "Damn, sis said you were a good kisser, but damn a girl could get addicted to kisses like this!"
Instantly, she felt the red-head stiffen in her arms; Ranma's expression was troubled, the ardor of just a moment earlier dowsed as surely as she'd been splashed with a bucket of cold water.
Mentally uttering a 'Way to go moron' Brianna reluctantly allowed Ranma to pull away from her.
When the aquatranssexual refused to look her in the eye Brianna's face flashed with hurt.
The pig-tailed martial artist cut her off, "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Brianna uttered unemotionally trying to hide her hurt.
"You, me, we…"
"We made out, that's all," Brianna affirmed dismissingly while honestly wishing they hadn't stopped. 'Sure I'm into guys but holy catfish Ranma's got some serious kissing skills! And her hands… HER hands! Sure I've experimented a bit with Genn, what girl wouldn't with a gender-changing sex partner, but it never felt like that!'
"You let me be the one to worry about my sister, she'll understand," Brianna said dismissing her desire to voice the fact she had her sisters grudging permission to make passes at him as she was unsure how he would take that bit of information.
"I… we shouldn't of…"
"Of what, kissed?"
"And why the hell not," Brianna asked her eyes hardening. "I enjoyed it and from the way your nipples are trying to break through that swimsuit you did to so don't try to tell me you didn't!"
Ranma immediately crossed her arms over her chest and shouted, "That's not the point!"
"The point is you feel guilty," Brianna stated.
"Well get over it!" Brianna snapped getting in Ranma's face angrily. "It happened, and if I get my way it's gonna to happen again!"
Flatfooted by her sudden vehemence Ranma remained silent, an act Brianna took as acceptance. Stepping back to take several calming breaths enjoying the way Ranma's eyes flickered from her face to her bosom, Brianna went on, "Now's not the time for having this conversation so whatever you want to say bottle it."
"We, and I mean you, me, and Cheetah, will things once we're safely home." Brianna said seriously. "There's too much confusion that needs clearing up before someone gets hurt. But that's not for now, what is, is that we should be trying to find our lost little lambs, somethin' I've had no luck in doin', how about you? Any luck?"
"Wasn't tryin', finding you seemed more important." Ranma growled, her anger over Brianna's verbal assault making hers come out sounding sarcastic.
"Nice to know you care," Brianna hissed only to wince at how it mean-spirited she sounded and at how Ranma reacted by looking away guiltily.
"I lost the homing signal I was following when I got tossed up here, now something's interfering with it," the blond informed Ranma attempting to gloss over her faux pas. "Worse, I've had several run-ins with those damn lizard-dogs 'n' I'm down to a third of my ammo! Damn things don't go down easy."
The then checked the Force-Field Generator clipped to her belt.
"And I'm at nineteen-percent power on my Force-Field Generator, how's yours?"
"Don't know." Ranma answered her face unreadable, the martial artists doing her best to not only control her anger over being confronted by Brianna so directly and because she still hadn't fully repressed her sudden libidinous state.
"Oh that's right; I never showed you how to check its power levels. Here let me show you."
Pleased Ranma didn't shy away from her approach Brianna stooped to take a look at the readout on the device the Anything Goes martial artist was wearing at her hip.
"Ninety-Eight percent, that's good," Brianna said standing up. "Looks like you haven't run into many of them."
Ranma snorted. "Yeah I have."
"Wow, how did you manage to avoid them? I tried but the darn things tracked me down every time."
"I didn't, I fought them," Ranma told her. "Well most of them anyway, I did lose a few by dragging them through trapped hallways."
With a twitching eyebrow Brianna sing-songed, "Care to clue me in as to why your force-field generator is still at ninety-three percent than, hmmm…"
"'Cause I shut it off back when I was makin' my way through the traps. You know the ones you ran right through before vanishing into the ceiling."
"You did what?!"
"It got in my way when it kicked in when I set off a trap so I could see what it did."
"You set off a trap, on purpose?"
Ranma nodded. "Yeah, was going to catch the arrows it shot at me but the stupid shield blocked them."
"Going to catch them… don't you know you could've gotten hurrrrrrrr…"
The reason for her words stretching out was Ranma grabbing her around the waist to jump backwards across the chambers floor. She had no need to ask why given she could see one of the four-legged menaces drop from one of the many tunnels in the domed ceiling while a one already on the ground spewed gouts of fire across the spot they'd been standing in.
Brianna shouted, "Get out of the way" bringing her weapon to bear only to point it a bit to the left when the Anything Goes Martial artist stayed in her line of fire while advancing on the beasts. She yelled it again as the third one dropped to the floor joining the two advancing on Ranma.
Ranma had no more said, "I got this" when two things happened; the air around Ranma misted, and the foremost lava-beast lunged forward.
Brianna's word of warning died in her throat upon seeing Ranma do a little leap backwards keeping herself within arm's reach of the creature as she laid the palm of her hand on the creature's head, a head that instantly cooled and solidified dropping the lava-beast in its tracks.
The second one fared no better being knocked to the floor to receive a hammer fist to the back of its neck freezing it solid after Ranma kicked the remains of the first one at it catching it in the legs while leaping to claw Ranma's throat. A second later, it burst showering the floor around it with powdered rock.
The final one found its open jaw clogged when Ranma threw the head of the first one into it preventing fire from spewing forth. Comically, the creature's throat swelled up before exploding under the backpressure.
Stiffly walking over to the closest remains Brianna tapped the parts that had become solid with the barrel of her gun creating a :-:Thunk:-: sound.
"Holy Hannah, you flash-froze it!"
"Easy to do when I only gotta to deal with one at a time."
"Easy to do? Easy to do!" Brianna exclaimed.
"Yeah, when there's more than one, and they're too close to each other, the heats for me to do it."
"Ranma, putting aside no normal human could flash freeze something that's got molten rock for blood without a butt load of liquid nitrogen or by magic, and I'm pretty sure you're not a mage!"
Instead of answering Ranma just shrugged then went about looking for a way out of the room.
"Oh no… no way buster, it's explanation time!"
Casting a glance over her shoulder Ranma said, "Body of Ice."
Several seconds passed in which she waited for Ranma to elaborate. When she didn't, Brianna prompted her, "And that is?"
"A martial arts trick I picked up as part of a bigger technique."
"The Body of Ice wasn't meant to do things like that," Ranma jerked a thumb towards the rock formations that what were once lava beasts. "But I've improved on it."
With a rueful chuckle she added, "Well, I improved on an improvement I'd already come up with. Had to or get burned."
Seeing Brianna ready to pepper her with more questions Ranma went on.
"Just something I learned that allows me to control the temperature around my body, part of a bigger move I had to learn to beat the master of my school so I could get my strength back." Ranma continued in a lighter voice. "Tryin' to tell you how it works would be like you tryin' to tell me how that gun works beyond pointing it something 'n' pulling the trigger."
Brianna chuckled. "OK, for now, but you can bet your hunky rear-end I'm adding this to the growing list of things we're gonna chat about."
Thinking about their kiss Ranma turned a bit red.
"You are so cute when you're shy!" Brianna gushed then stepped in front of Ranma making sure to lock eyes with her. "I want you to know, I enjoyed it, our kisses, your hands on me, mine on you, the whole shebang 'n' I hope you did to, but I'm not gonna ask."
"I liked it enough that I wouldn't mind a heck of a lot more. As a girl or a guy," Brianna added.
Seeing a red-faced Ranma gaping at her in surprise the lycanthropoid laughed. When she finally recovered, it was the aquatranssexual turn to go for a subject change.
"So, which tunnel did you come in from?" a miffed Ranma asked, gesturing at the three passages out a frown forming on her face.
"That one," Brianna answered pointing over her shoulder.
Seeing Ranma stiffly walk in the direction she pointed, a glower on her face, Brianna quirked an eyebrow at her asking "Wow, why so grumpy all of a sudden?"
"I'm not grumpy." Ranma responded grumpily.
"That cute little scowl says otherwise. So give, what's got your panties in a bunch?"
"Yeah right, and I hate grenades." Brianna drawled out, her voice laden with sarcasm. "You know I'm getting pretty tired of the 'I'm going to suffer in silence' routine. If we're going to be friends, and I hope for more, you need to stop acting like a five year old and just say what's on your mind."
When Ranma slowly Ranma turned to face Brianna, the lycanthropoid was shocked at the shear anger shining from the red-heads eyes, a sharp contrast to her otherwise expressionless visage.
"Fine, you wanna know why, I'll tell you," Ranma asked rhetorically, her voice eerily soft.
"Maybe it's 'cause we're trapped miles from shore deep under the oceans floor so there's no just findin' a way out of here." the pig-tailed martial proposed, her language skills deteriorating in anger even as he voice rose.
"Maybe it's 'cause we've got livin' lava dogs tryin' ta crisp us."
"It might because I've run into a buncha magical traps that've tried ta fry me, boil me, electrocute me, freeze me, or make me flatter than rice-paper."
Brianna flinched back from Ranma, who was now in her face, the red-head's voice loud but not yet loud enough to be considered a yell.
"Maybe I'm just pissed off 'cause I'm not keepin' the promise I made ta Cheetah about being there for her! Instead I'm stuck runnin' around a kami-cursed trap-filled maze."
"Or maybe 'cause I'm pissed off 'cause your makin' light of what we just did when I feel guilty over havin' enjoyed makin' out with the sister of the sister of a girl I'm sorta involved with! I say sorta 'cause Cheetah won't give me a damn clue as to what kinda relationship we've got spouting off crap like 'she wants to be with me' but keeps askin' me how I feel about you 'n' Gina like she wants ta set me up one of you!"
When Ranma next spoke, her voice was again eerily soft, "And now I'm plain pissed at myself for havin' gone off on you when it's my fault I couldn't keep my damn feelin's in check."
"How… how do you feel about Britanny, Ranma?" Brianna queried timidly.
"I like her. I like her a lot. More than a lot. It's like nothin' I've ever felt before…" emotion thick in her voice Ranma trailed off, unwilling to admit to how her growing attraction to the leggy werecheetah scared her sometimes, or how the same feelings were building towards others among her new acquaintances.
"And me?" Brianna hesitantly inquired her voice barely above a whisper.
"I like ya too! I wouldn't of kissed ya back if I didn't! I'm not that kinda guy!" Ranma ranted loudly not seeing the look of relief crossing the blonds face.
"The thing is I hardly know Cheetah… or you… 'n' yet can't help feelin' the way I do!" the now pacing red-head growled out, her hands flinging up in the air in agitation.
"I'll admit to being the kinda guy who gets attached kinda quickly but what I've been feelin' for Cheetah, you, and even Gina…" Ranma leaned over to rip a large chunk of stone out of the floor, one she broke into several smaller pieces, pieces she threw machinegun-like into the room as punctuation to her next words, "It Just Doesn't Make Sense".
Brianna looked over in time to see a lava beast pop like a piñata sending molten rock in every direction undergoing perforation by no less than thirty small pieces of the floor.
"I like you too Ranma." The lycanthropoid said slipping her arms around her from behind in a comforting hug taking care to make no indecorous moves that might upset the shorter girl. "And I'm sure you've noticed I'm not the kind of girl to keep her emotions bottled up; at least not the romantic ones."
Despite herself, Ranma let out a snort of laugher that Brianna hugged her for.
"For you, I'll back off, but only until you 'n' I can have a good talk with my sisters. Get all this in the open so there are no more guilty feelings."
Feeling Ranma tense in her arms, Brianna held her a bit tighter, both in comfort and to prevent the red-head from pulling away. "It won't be so bad. Trust me."
Slowly Ranma relaxed, though the glower didn't complete fade from her face as she was now triply annoyed with herself; first for giving into her lust, secondly for giving into her anger, and lastly for openly admitting her feelings.
"I'm sorry I snapped."
Turning herself in the blonds arms, Ranma returned her embrace before gently but firmly withdrawing from it.
"Nah, it's all good." Brianna chirped. "'N' don't work yourself into a tizzy over all this. Just concentrate on getting out of her and leave arranging the talk with my sisters to me."
Ranma was about to say she should do that but changed her mind. "I'd, I'd appreciate that."
"Pish-posh. No biggie," Brianna dismissed.
"Now, let's you 'n' me get crackin' on finding them before they get into bigger trouble than they're no doubt are already in!" Brianna declared resolutely. Then more questioningly, she stated, "How we're going to accomplish that given my tracker isn't working and communications seem to be out is beyond me. I can't even call anything to me from hyperspace because the recall mechanism on it is on the fritz as well!"
"Maybe we could try finding what's blocking the signal and shut it off?"
"Good suggestion, but same problem," the blond responded. "With no parts to fix it, we're pretty much down to wandering around these tunnels looking for a bread-crumb."
"What I wouldn't give for even one of my Peebos! With parts from one of them I'd have my scanned fixed in a snap!" Brianna snapped the fingers on her left hand than added, "And while I'm wishing! I'd give just about anything for another force-field generator, several grenades, a bottle of hot water, and a new power pack for my gun!"
Seeing something coming at her the lycanthropoid found herself catching two items Ranma tossed in her direction; one was the shielding device she'd given the red-head, the other was, to her surprise, a Peebo in a makeshift sling.
"There you go, ya got two outta five."
The lycanthropoid looked down at the mobile bomb, a smile slowly crossing her face. "I could kiss you!"
Ranma took a step back warily. "Um…"
"Relax, I'll collect on it later sexy," Brianna teased. "Right now I've got to take this Peebo apart 'n' get my scanner working."
"Why not just recharge Squeaky," Ranma suggested. "Though if you make it so she can't nag me to death by turning off her voice you won't hear me complain. On the plus side, it'd save on power!"
"I named her."
"Oh, yeah, I remember now; Squeaky because of the one wheel that makes noise right?"
"Well, if her power and the one wheel are all that's wrong with her, this mechanical genius'll have her workin' in a jiffy!"
"Though a good idea on savin' power I can't disconnect the voice synthesizer," Brianna chuckled, her hands already at work on the little Peebo. "If I do, we'll have no way of communicating."
"Fine," Ranma huffed for show pretending to be put-upon, "if I gotta listen to the pest she might as well be doing somethin' useful. Just be careful with Squeaky, she's been through a lot".
Noting the obvious care in her companion's voice, Brianna glanced at Ranma out of the side of her eye, trying to envision what the two had experienced that could cause the red-head to develop an clear attachment to the Peebo in so short a time. Sure, she cared about her little A.I. bombs to the point of thinking giving her little bombs a bit more personality so they could think through problems in reaching their targets. In fact, Squeaky and a few others from the batch she'd brought with her were prototypes for just such a design. However, Ranma's concern had her speculating how the red-head had come to care about the machine, perhaps bonded with it. Then again, given how quickly Ranma had accepted to her and sisters she had a glimmering of an understanding, one that led her to believe correctly that the Anything Goes martial artist was one to do that, form attachments quickly. One thing was for sure; she planned to comb through the peebo's memory files and personality subroutines the moment she got home.
After dismissing the idea of jokingly asking Ranma if she wanted her collect on the supposed promised kiss now Brianna asked, "What about it?"
"You and I… we… um…"
"Did you know the way your nose crinkles up is soooo cute?"
Arms crossing over her chest Ranma shot her a glare before starting to stomp away. She'd gotten about ten feet before she stomped back.
"Look! I want to know why you kissed when I'm like this!" Ranma waved a hand gesturing towards herself.
Turning slightly away, her voice dropping significantly, Ranma asked, "Why did you kiss me when I'm a girl"?
Though she turned a bit red, she still didn't look nearly as embarrassed as Ranma did over asking the question.
Making sure to meet Ranma's eyes Brianna answered. "Let's just say I've dabbled a bit and leave it at that?"
Looking away from Ranma the lycanthropoid sighed at her obliviousness. "Look, while I prefer guys, hunky handsome guys. That said, you're not the first girl, er, female I've… um… kissed. OK?"
After a few seconds of silence, Brianna added, "I'm not ashamed of our kiss, 'n' neither should you be. Especially since you're a damn good kisser."
She heard Ranma mumble, "You're pretty good yourself".
"I heard that, 'n' thanks!" Brianna chirped.
Turning even redder Ranma turned around taking up a guarding position. "I'm gonna keep lookout for any more of those damn lava dogs while you fix Squeaky".
"Sounds good," responded the gun loving lycanthropoid. "Oh, and Ranma, I plan for our next lip lock to be while your male, m'kay?"
After taking a moment to enjoy Ranma's shy discomfort the lycanthropoid concentrated on doing as requested, fixing the Peebo, this took less than ten minutes to complete. To her dismay, it meant using up the rest of the power on her force-field emitter placing her in the position to need the one she'd given Ranma for her own defense.
Once the peebo came online Ranma and Brianna had to endure several minutes of Squeaky's surprising adulation at being reunited with her creator, followed by its severe condemnation of the Anything Goes martial artists actions for not having found her sooner. This of course touched off an argument between Ranma and the little machine, an argument she found amusing and enlightening as she learned more about Ranma listening to the two of them banter while following the peebo's working sensors towards the source of what was blocking the machine from finding her sisters. This sibling like bickering continued through traps, over cavernous obstacles, and even during attacks by lava-beasts with little pause. Her only contribution to their little spats was to play mediator leaving her feeling slightly jealous over how close the two seemed to have become in so short a time and at not having ever experienced such arguing with her own siblings.
"Now, let's get to finding the source of what's blocking me from using my gear!"
-#-#-#-#- With Gina, Britanny, & Ryan -#-#-#-#-
(Slightly An One Hour And A Half After Ranma & Brianna's Submarine Crashed)
Pulling herself out of the waters in which their sub was parked to gaze at the stone piping running up the walls, the twin stone carved computer consoles, and the automated lights that activated upon their entry Gina took off her glasses to clean them while saying "Hmmmm…. pretty advanced for a civilization that went missing four thousand years ago.".
"You sound surprised Gina." Ryan commented jumping from the waters to the shore beside her.
"She shouldn't be." A grumpy Britanny stated removing the snorkel from her mouth, then pulled herself out of the entry pools water to stand dripping on edge.
"'Cause this place looks like every other strange set of ruins we've traipsed around in. Ancient computer-like terminals made from stone and crystal, lighting from no obvious source, cleaner air then being out in the country, stone piping work that leads to no-place we can see… been there done that." Cheetah removed her goggles, shook her body to free it of more of the water. "Though the water entry tunnel is a nice change of pace."
"Give me a sandy deserter tunnel any day. Still… we made it so I guess congratulations are in order Gina, you found Muthia. Feel better?"
"I'll feel better after we find my Tiger." Britanny stated squeezing the last of the water out of her ponytail.
"I know I know… once I get my bearing's I'll get right on locating them." Gina sighed, her smile fading to a frown. "And just what do you mean by that Ryan?"
"I mean you've been in this 'slump' for a while."
"Slump?" Britanny asked.
Ryan answered, "She hasn't had a major discovery in a long while.".
"When Penny discovered Civ-Alpha before her, she got really depressed, and then when Laura found the foundations of the Babel Tower I swear she looked 'bout ready to cry! That's not counting the 'fits' she threw when Professor Kane beat her to the Ruins of Navik in Argentina by less than a minute… when Pee Wee 'n his bunch beat her to the ruins of Maragosa in India, then there was the Lost Shrine of Niamuji in Tangiers..."
"Well if Britanny'd hadn't of been in such a funk things would've gone a lot smoother!" Gina shot back hotly, regretting so upon seeing her sister wince. "Sorry sis."
"Nah. It's the truth." Brianna responded, the look on her face one of regret.
"Don't drop all the blame on Cheetah, your slump's been going on for two years 'n she's only been out of commission for what… nine months of that?" Ryan said unthinkingly, Gina's glare making him instantly regret opening his mouth in Britanny's defense.
"Well, I think this discovery is much greater than anything before found." Gina said gesticulating while moving towards one the stone control panels that lay beneath the giant ball-like metal structure that dominated the ceiling high above. "And this room is only the tip of the iceberg! The lost civilization of Muthia… we can only imagine the ancient mysteries waiting to be unlocked here."
"The only mystery I want answered is 'Where in the World is Ranma Saotome'."
"Me, I want to know what ancient treasure this place is hiding." Ryan eagerly voiced his avariciousness rubbing rubbing together.
While Britanny's joke earned her a chuckle from her sister Ryan's greedy comment garnered him a scowl.
"Right there is the problem!"
"What problem?" The two asked at the same time.
"I'm talking about all the pressure to find treasure when we go on these expeditions… it's no wonder I've lost my 'edge'."
Setting her backpack down Gina pulled out maps and spread them across the floor. "It used to be about the wonder of discovery! The thrill of finding the unknown and the joy of fulfilling my curiosity! The treasure never used to come first… I was doing it for fun… and that's why we're doing it my way this time!"
"Say what?" Ryan deadpanned.
"Didn't sis tell you? This trip is all about discovery, not treasure." Britanny said giving the redhead a lopsided smile.
"Oh that's right. You missed that meeting…" Britanny stated while posing with her left elbow in her right hand while tapping on her lip with a finger. "Now why was that?"
"Oh yeah… because you were in the regeneration tube… a tube my currently 'missing' Tiger put your egotistical rear into." She then turned her full attention upon her sister. "You know, the guy who's out there… alone… with Brianna… our sister… the self-appointed 'Nookie Queen of the East Coast'!"
"Egotistical?!" Ryan all but yelled. "Look whos…"
"I know Cheetah, but right now the best we can do is use these maps Ryan found…" Gina said, her hand over Ryan's mouth.
"Thou measnst my maps." A new voice stated from the pool. "Ryan didst snatcheth them from me!"
"T…Taur?" Ryan stated as they all turned in time to see a green haired male leap from the waters to stand, naked, muscly body turned away from them as he stood before the open hatch to their submarine.
"And if I doth not gettest my maps… I willeth get medieval on thee!" Taur turned his head slightly, his long ponytail of hair not moving enough for Gina's likes given how it blocked her view of his sharply unclothed rear. "Catchest thou my drift?"
"Ryan? You know this nudist?"
"Unfortunately." Ryan scowled. "That's Taur… one of my competitors. The little exhibitionist is clearly still holding a grudge that I beat him to the Riddle-Maps at the Great Wall of China."
Taur turned to face them, a flick of his head making his hair flip around to fall at just the right height to hide his goodies from a now drooling Gina. "Introductions are not necessary for I am familiar with each of thy histories."
"I am familiar with thee Ryan, treasure hunter, martial arts expert, thief."
Hands going to his hip Ryan responded, "Look, get some skivvies on will'ya. Yer gross'n out my girl!"
"He's just fine the way he is Ryan." A dreamy-eyed Gina sighed out; her eyes dropped to what was hidden by his sea-green locks. "Though he could use a bit of haircut."
"Gina Diggers." Taur announced with authority and obvious disdain. "Thy current ally. Scientist, Professor of Archeology" He turned his head enough that his hair moved out of the way for just a second before finishing with "and also thief.".
"Huh. You say something?" Gina asked wiping a bit of drool from the corner of her mouth as she continued to stare.
Britanny narrowed her eyes at the green haired male. "I'd give serious thought to how you intend to describe me if I'm next bub."
"And Britanny Diggers. Last of the Werecheetah Clan, Gina's adopted sister, bodyguard, and th-"
"FINISH THAT STATEMENT AND YOU'LL BE EATING THAT HAIR FOR A MONTH!"
Taking several steps forward, placing himself between the girls and his rival, body held sideways presenting as little of a target as he could, Ryan challenged the partial-shape-changer, "So what are you here for flasher-boy? Lookin' to settle up with me for beating you to the maps, or are you just here to tick off all my friends?"
"YES! There beith something I want from thee Ryan Talbot!" Taur challenged back, the lower portion of his form going from two legs to four as he became what some might call the mythical centaur. "GET THEE PREPARED TO RUMBLE!"
Shaking hands held mockingly before him Ryan called out, "Oooooo! Horsey mode. I'm sooooo scared."
"Enough with the testosterone fest!" Gina commanded moving towards the now half-horse humanoid. "There is no reason for a fight here, not when we can have extra help instead."
"Huh?" A confused Ryan blurted. "We don't need his help! This guy's a total Neo Maxi Zoom Dweebie not to mention a klutz!"
Ignoring her currently on the outs boyfriend Gina stepped up to the currently horse-bodied shape shifter. "We're not here for treasure, our interest here is purely scientific."
"Wha… what dust thou mean?"
Gina's face took on what her sisters knew to be her 'Teaching Face'. "Ahem. Muthia, one of the missing pieces of the puzzle… THE PUZZLE of humanity's history… NO! The world's history…"
"Crap, she's gonna give him 'THE SPEECH'." Britanny cursed loudly, crossed her arms over her chest, huffed, than glared at Ryan saying "I blame you.".
"Huh, why me?"
"'Cause your obviously not giving her enough nookie."
"Oh please, if you were giving it to her good she'd be to addle brained to give anyone 'The Speech' so man up and accept the blame!"
"Seriously? You're saying that this is my fault? That it's all because I'm not having enough sex with your sister?"
"Yes!" Britanny grabbed Ryan by his shirt and pulled him in so she could stare him down while waving her MP3 player in his face. "And if she gives him the extra-long version, I'm going to make you listen to one hour of music for every minute it delays us in finding my Tiger."
"What, going to torture me with country music?"
"No, worse. Country-Rap."
Hands held up in a gesture of surrender Ryan sweatdropped.
ooO An Hour Later Ooo
"…and so, you see…" Gina wound down after forty-five minutes of speech giving, her emotions still high given the way she slammed her fisted left hand into the open palm of her right. "…by seeking to learn about our past… unlocking its mysteries… we discover the wonder and the secrets of ourselves!"
"Tis… b-beautiful." Taur blubbered, his eyes running with tears. "I – I doth see the light!"
Behind them, Ryan scratched the back of his head, "I don't believe the jerk actually likes 'THE SPEECH'! When Gina first gave it to me I about passed out from boredom."
"Huh?" Britanny asked, her ears covered by the speakers of the headphones she put on so she could listen to her iPod instead of 'THE SPEECH'. "You say somethin'?"
"I said I can't believe that jerk liked 'THE SPEECH'."
Looking over to see tears of joy running down Taur's cheeks as he proclaimed his willingness to join her sisters cause, she smiled, "Awwwwww Gina made a new friend! You go sis!" than said to Ryan "Fifty nine minutes, I'll cut off the seconds, but you are going to accept your punishment. I'll even go easy on you, an hour a day".
"Awww come on!" Ryan whined.
"Nope, accept your punishment like a man."
The two argued about it for several minutes during which Taur had pronouncing his knowledge of ways to move deeper into the ruins in flowery detail. With that done, the three watched him turn from half-horse to half-spider, then ascend the walls.
Once he was out of sight Britanny looked back at her sister intending to once again remind her that they needed to get a move on in finding their wayward party members only to frown at seeing sister with a 'I'm not good enough anymore' look in her eyes.
"What's got ya down sis?"
"I'm not the first to discover Muthia."
Britanny frowned than smiled, "Maybe not, but at least you're the first human to discover it! That's gotta count for something right?"
"Right!" Ryan mimicked trying to sound reassuring but failing.
"Thanks, but second place is still second place, no matter how you try to spin it."
After a moment of silence Ryan asked, "Um… I hate to ask… but you weren't serious about that whole 'No Treasure thing' were you Gina?".
"Very!" Gina answered without hesitation. "This discovery is what's important! The rich history it will uncover, the secrets it holds that have not been shared with the world for ages, those are what are important. Not what we can plunder from it!"
Ryan looked like he wanted to argue but a single glare from his girlfriend shut him up.
"The only one who has any rights to claim any treasure, if they find it, is Ranma." Britanny said putting away her Walkman. "Right sis?"
"Say what?!" Ryan yelled. "Why the heck does that jerk deserve special treatment?"
"This is his first adventure with us, that's why." Gina answered.
"Yeah, she calls it 'The Noobie clause'.' Britanny added. "But I'm sure my Tiger will let her have first crack at anything historically important. He's a nice guy like that. And speaking of my missing Tiger…"
The 'THWUMP!' sound created by Zelda's arrival from above interrupted the conversation.
"Hello again Britanny… you know what time it is?" The bald woman cracked the knuckles on both her hands. "It's time to hand you your ass again little kitty!"
"Someone out there must like me." Was the last response Zelda expected from the werecheetah given how she'd acted the last few times they'd encountered each other; encounters that had gone completely Pee Wee's minion's way.
"Um… Zelda." Gina said warily, eyes flicking back and forth between the two, her worry growing at seeing her sister slowly stalking towards the green stretch suited female. "If I were you I'd beat a hasty retreat while I could."
"Run from little miss 'I lost my Boy-Toy?' Pfffttt." Zelda rolled her eyes. "I beat her flabby ass the last two times we met, and I've only gotten better since then." She then eyed Britanny from head to toe before saying "While she's clearly gained a few pounds."
Zelda ignored Britanny's warning growl.
"Plus, I've had a whole new round of reconstruction that's made me faster…" She threw several lighting fast kicks, the last of which she slammed into the floor that shattered stone. "…stronger, and hotter then I was before."
"You wish you looked as good as me baldy." Britanny drawled out, posing with one hand on her jutted out hip. "Everything you see is tout naturel unlike your overly muscle-bound mess of a physique."
"Keep telling yourself that kitty and someday you might believe it…or convince some guy it's true instead of driving him away like you did your last man."
To Gina, Ryan, and Zelda's astonishment Britanny laughed heartily at what they all thought was a barb the werecheetah would've lost her temper over.
"Stryyp left you… Stryyp left you… broken record much?" Britanny said with a smile that quickly twisted into a snarl "Least I can say I had someone who cared for me what can you say?" than back to a normal happy smile. "Besides, I am soooooo over him. I've got myself a new guy and he's five times the man Stryyp ever was."
"Sure he's a bit young… too damn shy… and waaaaaay overly secretive, but what girl doesn't like a bit of mystery in their man. Plus, young guys recover sooooo fast if you know what I mean."
Ryan's mumbled "T.M.I. Cheetah" went ignored by all.
"Sure he's missing right now… but that's because you idiots tried to sink us!"
"And where is this new beau of yours?" Zelda asked despite herself.
"I'm sure he's trying to find me just like 'WE' should be trying to find him." Britanny shot a brief glare at her sister. "That or running away from Brianna's grabby hands…"
"You don't even have that." Britanny smiled cattily at Zelda. "Why? 'Cause you're a self-absorbed mindless minion to a bratty megalomaniac who treats you like his private guinea pig."
Zelda gave a half-nod half-shrug.
"You're also a controlling little witch who thinks her shit doesn't stink 'n I bet every date you've been on has ended with you driving the guy off with your incessant need to be the center of attention. Least I had a guy who stuck around me for a while, while no guy in his right mind would stick around for a second date with you!"
Zelda's cry of "I'M GONNA RIP OFF YOUR TAIL AND STRANGLE YOU WITH IT YOU BITCH!" accompanied her fist attack, one that Britanny didn't dodge but rather caught with her own.
Holding Zelda's hands firmly in her own the werecheetah brought her face right up to Zelda's. "I hope your medical insurance is up to date Zeldy 'cause this werecheetahs gotta gaggle of pent up anger just itching to get out, and you just nominated yourself as the recipient."
"Bring it on, fur-ass!" Zelda screamed while failing to head-butt Britanny who was just too fast.
"You're just jealous of the tail." Britanny responded, knee coming up to deliver fifteen knee strikes in a second to Zelda's stomach; blows that would've sent the woman hurling backwards if Britanny hadn't of been keeping a firm lock on the bald woman's hands. She followed it up by tossing Zelda adversary over her shoulder into the floor cracking several stones.
Curling up her body towards her head Zelda avoided having the werecheetah's foot planted in her stomach, she however failed to avoid having the air driven out of her by a belly punch upon completing a kip-up.
Withdrawing her hand from Zelda's stomach Britanny raised it and her other one up then brought them down open handed boxing the bald woman's ears. "Hear no evil!"
She then grabbed Zelda by the back of the head pulling her to her feet so she could deliver a classic Three Stooges poke to her wide-open tear-filled eyes. "See no evil."
She finished up with a right hook to the bald woman's jaw sending her spinning like a top for several feet before she fell over backwards unmoving. "Speak no evil!"
Her opponent down, Britanny brought up a finger to her tongue making is if to lick the tip, bent over with her legs straight while on her toes of her left foot with her right on her thigh, and brought her she'd licked to her rear making a "Tssssssssss" sound.
"Just great. Now sis has got a pose!" Gina said rolling her eyes. "Now listen you two. We didn't come here to kick flabby booties!"
"Nor are we here for monetary gain!" She added looking at Ryan. "We're here to uncover the secrets of this lost civilization in the name of archeology."
Striking a pose, one harm held in the air, Gina declared, "We're here to shake the proverbial pillars of science!"
The sudden trembling of the floor following the blonds words was accompanied by a large - RUMBLE – as cracks zigzagged across the floor.
Gina had time for a declaration of "I DIDN'T DO IT!" before the floor broke into chunks that tilted randomly forcing Ryan, Britanny, and Gina to scramble for footing as they began to fall.
Fortunately, they were saved from falling into whatever chasm lay below by Taur, who used the tentacles of his now octopus-like lower body to lift them to safety even as the small tear-drop shaped bit of rock with a podium he grasped to defied gravity by moving upwards.
The three offered their thanks to the shape-changer than Gina gasped "Wait! Oh no! Zelda! She… We didn't save her!"
"Worry not Gina Diggers." A muffled male voice stated from close to her right. "We take care of our own."
Tuning her head she spied Daishi standing upon the podium on another bit of gravity defying rock, an unconscious Zelda in his arms.
"So anyone have any idea what's going on?" Britanny asked dusting herself off as they continued to rise upwards at a steady pace.
His head turned upwards Daishi responded, "Ask him."
All eyes going up the group could easily make out the form of a copper colored rock like being with six arms floating down towards them as they went up.
As the neared each other the form moved, all six of its arms coming together, palms pressed against each other. It spoke, welcoming them as to competing factions seeking to claim the treasures of Mu as countless had attempted throughout the eons. It went on to inform them that they would compete in a contest of riddles than became far less serious, it's tone fading from deadly serious to that of a game show host; the sudden appearance of a large-stand microphone appearing in one of its hands completing the image.
After explaining the rules, which sounded just like playing a game of jeopardy (whose subjects included Ancient Egyptian Bowling Champions, Universal Oddities, Assassins of 350 B.C. to 10 A.D., and Tuna Biology – which changed Britanny's mind about playing) where they only had to answer five of the riddles. That is until Ryan scoffed and the six-armed host corrected himself saying five hundred questions earning the redhead death glares from his teammates.
It selected Daishi to go first resulting in them being stomped, given he selected a topic he knew a great deal about, Assassins. Upon reaching four hundred and ninety of the riddles completed, the host offered the ninja a chance to spend his points giving him a look at what prizes he could choose through a Crystal of Sight that floated away from one of the walls at the beings command. None of the contestants noticed the slight tick the host had above its left eye as it panned from an empty section of the chamber near the rooms' twin doors to the side still covered in riches.
Ryan stole control of the category by hitting the buzzer before Daishi then answering the question correctly much to Gina and Britanny's surprise. This surprise, and his being praised, faded after he let it be known he'd been able to answer because their host had it writing on the back of the cue-card he was holding. From there it was Britanny's turn to shine by selecting the topic 'Tuna Biology'. Neither Daishi nor Zelda, who had awoken half way through the ninjas winning streak, had a chance of beating her speed at hitting the buzzer as she answered question after question correctly earning them the win.
The host then offered them a choice, the riches of Muthia, or, what was inside a small one foot by one foot gray box with a question mark on the side.
To Ryan and Britanny's amazement, and disappointment, Gina chose the box, in which they found a dusty iron pot that vaguely resembled a miniature cauldron with stumpy legs that did little more than keep it from rolling over.
"NOW can we go find my Tiger!" an angry Britanny bellowed at her sister, the blonds hair billowing backwards from the air pressure.
"Um, sure." Gina replied brushing her hair back into place with one hand, the other pulling out the tracker she'd been using earlier to locate them.
What she saw on it made her blink.
"Well what do you know… I've got G-text's, I must'a missed the chime while we were playing 'Genie Jeopardy'."
"Great! Khan says the light gates are working again so getting out of here will be a snap!" Gina exclaimed.
"Looks like Brianna sent me a G-text too."
Britanny snagged the device out of her sister's hands before she could read what their lycanthropoid sister had sent. A moment later, the werecheetah crushed the device with a growl.
"HEY! Those things are expensive to replace you know!"
Her sister's response was to gently, but firmly, lift her up by her shoulders until they were eye-to-eye than say, "Sis, if you value every piece of gadgetry you've got, or are ever going to have, you'll pull out that light-gate thingie 'n' get us home, pronto."
"Because that's where my Tiger is."
"Wait, they're back in Atlanta?" Ryan asked, unfazed when Britanny narrowed her eyes at him and nodded.
"That's great! But it doesn't explain you destroyed my PDA!"
"Gina, get us home, now." Britanny uttered thickly, her stony expression a contrast to clear worry in her eyes. "Ranma's hurt."
(In Alphabetical Order)
To All Those Who Posted A Review (negative or positive) for this story as well to those who helped me correct mistakes in previous chapters by sending me them in private messages.
-#-#-#-#- Chapter Notes & Author Commentary -#-#-#-#-
Once again, I thank you for reading this story and I do hope you enjoyed this chapter as much as I had in writing it. If you did, please leave a review. Now on with the author commentary:
Based on a comment from one of my readers, I decided to separate the action in this chapter by characters, Ranma first, than what was happening with everyone else. Usually I try to keep them in time sequence but I figured I would try it this way for a change. Feel free to give me feedback on this, or anything else related to this story.
Why so long between Chapters? Would you believe I simply could not come up with how to make a part of this chapter work? I'm still not happy with the interaction between Brianna and Ranma while they were lost… nor do I feel I portrayed Ranma's growing connection to Squeaky. Also, I am uncertain how I want magic to work in my story.
On the subject of Magic, I admit to a lack of knowledge of how magic in GD works (despite having read the book/comics produced about the subject – specifically universal foci and such). What I do know of it does not mesh well with how ki works in the Ranma-verse. To this end, I am taking some writers-liberties with this topic, if you do not like how I am presenting it please refrain from making any rants/complaints, as they will be summarily ignored (Constructive criticisms are welcome though – just not direct attacks – as are comments on how to improve things so the story retains cohesiveness).
– Posted November 26th, 2015 –