Converging Series: A Crossover of Unexpected Dimensions.

Act 2

Touring





   What has happened so far:

   In an alternate reality where Ranma married Shampoo, their daughter had
somehow obtained a magic locket that allowed her to cross dimensions.  A
few accidents later, several of Ranma's 'children' from various realities
ended up in one reality, where Ranma was still a teen-age youth.  One
amongst them, Ryo Saotome (son of Ranma and Ukyou) managed to get a hold
of the locket before Cologne was about to do something devious with it. 
After his victory, he sent all the displaced sons and daughters of Ranma &
company to their proper realities, and then prepared to go home himself. 
   Something, however, went wrong.  He ended up in a bizarre version of
Tokyo in 2096 and accidentally dragged along Ratiko Hibiki and Childra
Jansen in his attempt to fix this mistake.  That attempt dragged him to
two other realities with amazing speed.  From them, he accidentally
brought Miyabi, daughter of Ranma and Akane, and Ishido, a mysterious
amnesiac hunted by a shadowy organisation.
   Finally, they stopped in a reality where Ranma & co. were still teens,
but had never met them before.  And now...


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                            Converging Series
                             Act II:  Touring

-----------------------------------------------------------------------


	She had a suspicion of the whos and hows of her little trip
through time.  Now, all Childra needed was to get... whatever it was... 
from the Saotome boy.  Imagine! No more applying to the Ministry, going
through their piles of paperwork, then waiting a year for an eight-hour
trip...  Instead, she'd have the power at her fingertips, to go to any
time she chose! She could see Alexandria in its prime, or witness
Pickett's charge at Gettysburg...  She could do anything! But she needed
an excuse to get her hands into Ryo's pants... 

	Hm... 

	Ryo shook his head tiredly. 
	"Excuse me... I need to be alone to sort things out. All these
'would-be's that I keep into jumping into, and all these half-siblings...
Shutaro, Miyabi..." He sighed.  "You'd think I'd be used to it by now,
but..."
	"Go ahead, big boy," said Childra. "Take all the time you need..." 
[Just be sure it's long enough for me to figure out how to get that 
time-travel thingie from you...]  Ryo left into an adjacent room. 
	Childra turned to Ishido, and smiled seductively. 
	"Looks like we're alone now, lobishomem*." She glanced back. "And
Ryo was kind enough to close the door behind him... I don't suppose you
have any plans for tonight?" Wink.
	*[This means, 'werewolf' in Portuguese.  Childra is a polyglot,
remember.]
	"But... I..." Ishido began to sweat. He obviously wasn't used to
this kind of... attention... The poor dear... "I don't know if I should, I
mean..."
	"I thought you couldn't REMEMBER if you had a girlfriend..." 
	"That's just it! I can't remember... I can barely remember WHO I
am, and..."  He shook his head and gave up. 
	"What? You're saying I'm not good enough for you?"  Ishido
straightened up.  Lovely boy. So chivalrous. 
	"No! Of course not! I mean..." He turned his face down to avoid
looking at Childra's eyes. This proved to be a mistake. Blushing, he
redirected his gaze to a nearby flower-pot.
	"Looks an awful lot like you're trying to avoid looking at me. Too
painful? Am I _that_ ugly?" Childra breathed in deeply.  This was even
more fun than going to the undergrad pub on a Thursday...
	"No! I... You're very pretty... You're beautiful, in fact..." 
	"Thank-you." Smile. 
	"But I... I'm just not ready yet... At least not until I get my
life back together again. Until I _know_ whose life it IS that I'm getting
back together again..." 
	"I see..." Oh, well... Another night with no fun.  She'd quite
forgotten how prudish they were a century ago.  Never mind. The harder the
hunt, the more delectable the banquet that followed.  "So, if we're not
going to...  be together, what do you propose to do for the evening?"
	"I need to take a walk... Clear things up... Think about what's
happened...  So many things have been going on at once, and they've
followed so closely on each other's heels, that I've barely been able to
take a breath, let alone try to make sense of it all." 
	"I understand. Wanna go now?" 
	"I need to be alone." Childra put on the cutest pout she could
come up with.
	"And what am _I_ supposed to do?" 
	"Well, you're a historian, aren't you? Look around! I mean,
Ranma's upstairs, and..." 
	"But _he's_ engaged to Akane." 
	"I MEANT, you could interview him. Or something." 
	"Oh." 
	"Anyway, there's plenty of people to talk to. You shouldn't have 
any trouble finding something to do.  As for me... Well, I just need to 
take a walk. Alone. OK?" 
	Childra nodded.  Ishido turned and left out the front door. 
 
                                  * * * * *
 
	Ryouga wandered through the streets of Nerima.  Nerima. He had
almost despaired of ever seeing it again, after that fateful afternoon
when he'd set out to buy a loaf of bread and a jug of milk at the corner
store, and his supernaturally bad sense of direction had made him take a
slight detour into Egypt...  One thing had led to another, and he had
wandered the continents, alone and desolate, for months.  Everywhere he
stopped, he'd ask, "Where is the Tendo dojo?" His question would usually
be greeted with confused or angry looks, since few people outside of Japan
spoke Japanese... That same linguistic barrier made it impossible to get
directions.  Anyone else would have given up, but Ryouga was used to this,
and thoughts of his beloved Akane held him steady in his purpose.  Today,
his perseverance bore its fruits, and he once more found himself in Tokyo. 
No more uncertainty, no more madness.  Now, he was back to the one place
that he could call 'home', and he would...
	"Great-gramps! Great-gramps!" Ryouga's meditation was interrupted
by the appearance of a young black-haired man, running towards him at full
speed.  That, in itself, was no cause for alarm. People ran towards (and
away from) him all the time.  However, this particular young man was
sopping wet, and wearing nothing but a red bandanna.
	"Do I... Know you?" he asked the stranger, trying to keep his eyes
on his face.  The boy nodded enthusiastically. 
	"I'm your great-grandson." Ryouga blinked.  He hadn't heard THAT
one before...
	"You're.... What?" 
	"Your great-grandson. Hibiki Ratiko.  I'm from the future, and I
need your help."
	"Riiiight..." There HAD to be a reasonable explanation for this. 
Ryouga tried to remember. Was there a psychiatric hospital nearby? This
was probably an escaped inmate...
	"You... You don't believe me?!?" This 'Ratiko' seemed genuinely
surprised.
	"You look about eighteen..." 
	"Twenty-two, actually." 
	"I'm sixteen.  How many sixteen-year-olds do you know with twenty-
two-year-old great-grandsons?"
	"I told you, I'm from the FUTURE!" Ordinarily, anyone who spoke to
Ryouga in that tone of voice would have become an umbrella shish-ka-bob,
but the 'eternal lost boy' was feeling benevolent after having found his
way back.  Besides, this could prove... entertaining... 
	"My great-grandson, you say?" 
	"Hai." Ryouga looked him over. 
	"Heh. I don't think so... Any descendant of MINE would be in MUCH
better shape.  Look at you!" He poked the sides of Ratiko's waist.  "Flab,
flab, and more flab! How DARE you call yourself a HIBIKI?"  The boy's face
fell from happiness into an anguished frown, while Ryouga tried to keep
from laughing. Might as well play it for all it was worth...
	"But... My study... I.. No time..." 
	"Speak up! Or can't you? My, my... A Hibiki who can't say what he
means? Ha!  Besides, my great-grandson, I'm sure, would be able to afford
some CLOTHES, and wouldn't be running around, wet and naked, with..."
Ryouga stopped.  Something was wrong. Something was VERY wrong.  His
would-be relative had started... Glowing...  "Er..." He pointed at the
bright aura surrounding Ratiko. "You're... uh..."
	"I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'RE DOING THIS TO ME!" Ryouga's world went
white.  When his vision recovered, he saw that all the concrete, grass and
trees for a radius of twenty metres had been charred.
	"What... What was THAT?" Ratiko smirked. 
	Ratiko looked at the ground with a reddened face, kicking up dust. 
	"Well... I... That kind of thing's been happening lately, whenever
I get angry or depressed; it used to be I'd just get a fever, but it's
been growing, and" 
	"Angry or depressed?" asked Ryouga. [Could it be some kind of
weird version of the Shishi Houkodan? Then...]
	"You really ARE my great-grandson..." he said quietly. "Only one
of my descendants could..." Realisation. "Wait. You say you have a bad
sense of direction?" Ratiko nodded.
	"Well, I don't need a plane ticket to go on a vacation to
Jamaica." Ryouga nodded solemnly.  He knew the feeling all too well. 
	"We need to talk," said Ryouga. 
	"Hai." said Ratiko. "I have a lot to say." 
	"But first, you'd better get dressed.  What happened to you?" 
	"Let's just say it involves Ranma and Jusenkyo." 
	"Jusenkyo? And... And RANMA?" Ryouga's eyes widened. "Why,
THAT..."
	"The clothes, great-gramps?" 
	"Oh." The lost boy took off his knapsack and pulled out a
duplicate to the outfit he was wearing.  Ratiko quickly put it on. 
	"Perfect fit!" he said. 
	"Now, tell me what Ranma did? Are you also cursed?" 
	"Hai.  It's a long story. We'll need a comfortable place to talk." 
Ryouga motioned to some benches a short way away, and the pair walked over
to them and sat down.
	"Well," started Ratiko, "It's like this..." 
 
 
                                  * * * * *
 
`"...and so, thanks to Saotome, my life has become a living HELL!"  Ratiko
broke down, sobbing, and was soon joined by his great- grandfather. 
	"Curse you, Ranma!" said the elder Hibiki, while tears gushed down
his cheeks. "Isn't it enough to torment ME? Must you also persecute my
PROGENY?!?" 
	"And that's not all... I have seen the inside of a POT!" 
	Ryouga blinked. 
	"What?" 
	"I have seen the inside of a POT!" 
	"That's what I thought you said." 
	"That crone, Shampoo, tried to steam me with wild mushrooms!" 
	"I didn't know she was a cannibal..."  Ratiko face-faulted. 
	"In my cursed form, great-gramps," he said. 
	"What? You TOO?!? Then Shampoo also..." Ryouga's tears evaporated
from the heat of his anger.  "Those two are in league against our family! 
Curse you, Ranma! Curse you, Shampoo!"
	"Curse you, Ranma and Shampoo!" they said together, shaking their
fists at the heavens.  Once again, Ratiko began to glow. 
	"Er... Great-grandson?" 
	"Yes?" 
	"I think you'd better... Calm down..." 
	"Huh?" 
	"You're glowing." 
	"Oh." The boy closed his eyes and relaxed, and the aura around him
dimmed into nothingness.
	"That reminds me... There's something I should teach you," said
Ryouga. 
	"What's that?" 
	"One of my special attacks, the 'Shishi Houkodan'.  You already
have the basics, but you can't control it..."
	"No kidding... You wouldn't BELIEVE what I had to pay the Church
of Kodachi after blowing up one of their rooms..." 
	Ryouga's eyes widened. 
	"CHURCH of... KODACHI?!?" 
	Ratiko sighed. 
	"Long story." 
	Ryouga nodded. 
	"This 2096 of yours sounds dangerous." 
	"It's been getting more so since that blasted jock came back to
life!" 
	"All the more reason why I should teach you the attack.  You
haven't learned any martial arts, and I won't allow one of my descendants
to run around defenceless, with Ranma on the loose!"
	"Thank-you, great-grandfather!" 
	"I will train you tonight.  A few hours should be enough. 
Tomorrow, I'll go to the dojo and spar with Saotome. He'll pay for what
he's done to us, I SWEAR!"
	"Where, exactly, will you fight with him, great-gramps?" 
	"Gomen?" 
	"I want to watch." 
	" It'll be in the dojo's garden.  There's plenty of places for you
to hide and watch, there."
	"Will you knock him unconscious?" 
	"Of course!" 
	Ratiko smiled to himself. This was good... It would be a cinch to
kill Ranma. Once great-gramps knocked him out, he'd simply use Childra's
machete to slit his throat... Hmm... There was still the matter of Akane's
suicide...  How could he get her to... Miyabi. Of course. If anything
could drive little Miss Tendo to suicide, it would be her own daughter
killing her fiance.  All he needed was some biological evidence to
plant... 
	 
                                  * * * * *
 
	Ryo fingered the locket. 
	"Sometimes I wish I could just..." He took it out of his pocket,
and raised his arm as if to throw it out into the street, but then thought
better of it and put it back.  "I still need it. I wish I didn't, but...
If I ever want to see Bell-Chan..." He sighed.
	Childra watched from behind a half-opened door. 
	[So THAT'S what's behind all this...] she thought. [How could such
a little object generate all that power?  Never mind... So long as it
works... Now, as how to get it from him. Let's see... Ishido's still on
that walk, Miyabi's upstairs, Deity knows WHERE Rat is... Probably
Europe... And I _still_ need an excuse to get my hands in Ryo's pants
pocket.] A smile crossed her lips. [He _is_ cute... A bit uptight, but
cute.]
	Childra opened the door fully, and cleared her throat. Ryo quickly
took his hands out of his pockets.
	"Who's there?" 
	"Just me, dear. Childra." 
	"Oh. Well, what is it?" 
	"Do I have to have a _reason_ for wanting to see you?" 
	"No... I suppose not...  I take it you're here to interrogate me
about my reality's history?"
	"No." 
	"Then... What? I would've thought you'd be off looking up all the
people you keep on telling us later became famous... The Kuno mansion's
just a little waise away, and then there's Nabiki, and..."
	"Screw them!" she said. 
	"ALREADY?!?!?" 
	Childra smiled.  He'd even set the mood for her. 
	"I didn't mean it that way, darling..." Then, in a silky voice,
"Otherwise, I would have said, 'Screw YOU'..." Wink.  Several hundred
capillaries in Ryo's nose suddenly burst at once.
	"Childra? What?  I..." 
	Before he could figure out what was going on, she pressed herself
against him and began to run her fingers up his leg. Ryo's eyes widened,
and after a little initial resistance, his muscles relaxed. Childra made a
mental note: [Gotta remember to do this sometime when I'm NOT trying to
steal a time-travel artefact from the lad.] Nimbly, she worked her way up
his thighs and to his waist, then put her hands into his pockets. He began
to protest, and she kissed him fully on the lips to silence him. By this
time, Ryo's eyes were halfway out of their sockets, and his skin was the
same shade of red as onna-Ranma's hair. [And now, for the artefact...] A
startled gasp from Ukyou's son. [Oops. Grabbed the wrong bulge.] She
searched some more, until... [Finally! Got it! Now, how am I going to...]
	"YOU HENTAI! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! HOW COULD ANYONE BE SO
PERVERTED?!?" 
	Miyabi appeared at the top of the stairs. 
	[Perfect timing.] Childra took the opportunity to disengage
herself. Locket in hand, of course. 
	"I guess it wasn't enough for you to grope ME! Seems you also have
to go after OLDER women...  Geeze... What a sick-o...  And to think that
I'd actually changed my mind about you..."
	Each of Miyabi's words struck Ryo like a knife.  He shrank back at
 them, and by the end was close to tears. 
	"Bell-Chan..." he muttered. "I'm so sorry... How could I ever..." 
	"And as for YOU..." Akane's daughter glared at Childra. "I haven't
seen a bigger SLUT in... AAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHH!"  Something flew through
the open window and ploughed through Miyabi's dress, tearing both the
cloth and her flesh.
	"Miyabi!" shouted Ryo, bounding up the stairs. 
	"What was THAT?" asked Childra. 
	"It looked like a bat..." said Ryo. 
	"A BAT?" 
	Ryo was too busy to answer.  He tore a strip of cloth from the
girl's damaged skirt and used it to bandage her leg.  Miyabi grit her
teeth, trying to ignore the pain.
	A brief knock, and then the front door opened. It was Ratiko. 
Apart from his habitual red bandanna, he was wearing a yellow blouse made
out of coarse cloth, fastened around his waist with a black sash, and
equally dark baggy pants.
	"So, anything exciting happen while I left you all alone?" he
asked.
	"Miyabi here's been hurt," said Childra. "She was attacked by a
bat. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you, RAT?"
	"Wasn't me! I've been out training with great-gramps!" 
	"Great-gramps?" No... It couldn't be... "You actually found Ryouga
Hibiki???" Ratiko pointed at the clothes he was wearing.  "Oh." Childra
started a quick mental calculation of the chances of two Hibikis bumping
into each other, but gave up when she reached 10^-32:1...
	"You say she was attacked by a BAT?" asked Ratiko. 
	"Hai," said Ryo, pausing for a minute from bandaging Miyabi's leg. 
	"You ARE kind, for a hentai," admitted Miyabi. 
	"Arigato, imouto." 
	Miyabi smiled. 
	"Some bats have rabies," said Ratiko. 
	"Huh?" asked Childra. 
	"Rabies.  Hydrophobia. Nasty disease; quite the killer, if not
detected early..."
	"Well, what should we do?" asked Ryo. 
	"Miyabi should have a blood test. Now." Ratiko said firmly. 
	"Just one problem, Rat. Doc Tofu's not here right now, and if
Kasumi's still with 'im, it wouldn't do any good, even if he were," said
Childra.  Everyone present shuddered at the thought of a love-drunk Tofu
handling a sharp needle.
	"No problem!" said Ratiko. "I _am_ a 3rd-year pre-med student..." 
	"YOU want to take the blood test?" asked Childra. Something was
very funny here, but she couldn't put her finger on exactly WHAT.
	"Yep.  Anything for a nice girl like Makimba." 
	"Miyabi." 
	"Whatever." 
	"Um... Rat?" asked Childra. "Have you ever actually DONE a blood
test before?" 
	"Well, not on a PERSON, no... But I've practised on THOUSANDS of
grapefruits!" Everyone face-faulted.  "Look.  We've got to do this NOW,
and I'm the only one available with the required knowledge. At worst,
it'll hurt for a minute or two.  What do you say?" 
	"All right. Go ahead," said Miyabi. 
	"Great!" 
	"Uh, Rat?" asked Childra. "Exactly WHERE are you going to get the
syringes and testing chemicals from?"
	"Oh, I have them right here!" he pulled a brown paper bag from
inside his blouse.
	"You carry _syringes_ around with you on a regular basis?" Childra 
raised an eyebrow. She wasn't sure she wanted to know... 
	"Well, er... uh... um..." Ratiko stammered. "You know how it is; 
being back in an uncivilised time, and all... You can never be too 
careful!" 
	"Uh-huh. Right..."  Curiouser and Curiouser, thought Childra. 
	"Hey! I don't want to DIE here of some weird antique disease! Of 
COURSE I'll keep a stock of basic medicines and tests for the nastier 
things!" 
	Self-preservation. Now, THAT sounded like the Reiraku SHE 
knew.  [Guess time travel must've knocked him up, so he's being more 
paranoid than usual... Figures.] 
	"Ratiko?" asked Ryo. "Aren't you supposed to test the ANIMAL, 
rather than the PERSON? I thought I'd heard that somewhere..."
	Ratiko began to sweat. Odd. Childra didn't think it was THAT 
hot... 
	"Oh, it hasn't been done that way in YEARS!" he said.  "The latest 
technique is to test the PERSON. Much faster, simpler, and cheaper if 
you use the right thing..." 
	"But, Rat, there ISN'T any rabies in 2096.  We wiped it out." 
	"All the more reason it hasn't been done that way in years, ne?" 
Childra face-faulted. 
	"Well, get ON with it!  While you guys are talking, this pervert's
getting a kick out of fondling my leg!" 
	"I am not..." Ryo began to protest, but was interrupted by a slap
from Akane's daughter.
	"I needed him out of the way, anyway," said Ratiko as he went up
the stairs.  He pulled out his syringe. "This might sting a bit." Miyabi
nodded.  With an alcohol pad, he wiped the general area of the wound, then
searched for a viable vein.  When he found one, he quickly pricked it with
the needle, eliciting only a slight gasp from Miyabi.  He plugged a test
tube into the back of the needle, and filled it with crimson blood, then
capped it off and withdrew the syringe, wiping the site once again with
alcohol. Childra blinked.
	"That actually looked... Professional..."
	Ratiko smiled. 
	"Told ya I'd practised." 
	"How long will the test take?" asked Ryo. 
	"Oh, just a few seconds, said Ratiko." I'll need to go to the
kitchen to do it.  Where is it?" Miyabi pointed in the right direction,
and Ratiko began to head off...
	"Just a sec, Rat. If this is urgent, I'd better go with you to
make sure you don't end up in Russia..."  She walked up to him and took
him by the hand.
 
	The Tendo kitchen was clean and well-kept, so there was no
difficulty in finding a clear spot where Rat could perform his test.  He
pulled out a few strips of pink paper from the brown bag, then uncorked
the test tube holding the blood, and immersed of the pieces in it.
	"Rat? Isn't that LITMUS PAPER?" 
	"Er... I didn't know you knew about medicine..." 
	"I don't, but I had to take Chem in my first year. I don't
remember much else, but I DO remember the labs, and THAT'S LITMUS PAPER." 
	"Of course it is! See?" He pulled a strip out. "Basic blue. 
Great. No rabies." 
	"Run that by me again?" 
	"Um... The rabies bug turns the blood acidic almost immediately...  
Normally, blood's a buffer, so it's pH is neutral to slightly basic.  If 
she'd gotten rabies, the paper would be red, not blue." 
	"I thought rabies tests took a long time and were rather 
expensive... How come YOU can do it so quickly?" Something was up, and 
Childra didn't like having the wool pulled over her eyes. 
	"Well...  I guess... Probably no one's ever thought of doing it 
before?" 
	"Rat; you're hiding something from me, and I don't like it. Spit 
it out." 
	"Hiding? I'm not hiding ANYTHING!" 
	Ryo called from the living room. 
	"Is everything all right in there?" 
	"Yep," answered Ratiko. "Just finished the test.  Be out in a 
minute." 
	Childra frowned. Rat wasn't going to tell her anything willingly; 
that much was clear.  She'd just have to ride it out and see what he let 
slip.  And he _would_ let it slip, eventually.  Men were careless that 
way. 
	"Well, then, I guess you're right."
	"I AM?!?" 
	"Yup.  Well, lad, let's get going.  They're waitin' for us
outside!" Ratiko looked very confused. Good.  He'd be off guard.  The
Hibiki picked up the medical miscellanea and stuffed it back into his
brown bag, then the pair exited back into the living room.
	"That was quick," said Ryo. "I suppose a hundred years from now
medicine must be a lot more effective..." 
	"Apparently..." said Childra, eyeing Ratiko suspiciously. 
	"Well, what were the results?" asked Miyabi anxiously. 
	"Good news," said Ratiko. "No rabies." 
	"That's great!" said Miyabi. 
	"We'd better get back to Dr. Tofu's so he can look at the leg,
though, and maybe confirm the test," said Ryo. Ratiko looked hurt. "It's
not that we don't trust you, Rat, but if she _does_ have rabies..." Ratiko
nodded.
	"You're SURE you want to see the doc with Kasumi around?" asked
Childra. 
	"Oh, Auntie Kasumi can do it herself, if she has to. She's quite 
the nurse!" said Miyabi.  Ratiko was looking jumpy. 
	"I, uh... Probably should go train..." he said. 
	"Train in WHAT?" asked Childra. 
	"Great-gramps taught me a few things that I want to practice..."
	"Such as?"
	"Well, there's some special attacks, and..." He paused. "Could I
borrow your machete?"  [More and more suspicious...] thought Childra. 
	"Why do you want it?"
	"Great-gramps is teaching me how to fence..."
	"Uncle Ryouga doesn't use a sword!" said Miyabi. 
	"Well, he's, er..." A pause. "He's teaching me with the umbrella, 
but thinks that I should use a sword, instead, since I'm not strong 
enough to really hurt anyone, otherwise."
	"I don't know about that," said Ryo. "In my experience, umbrellas 
can be quite dangerous..." 
	"That goes for long pointy objects in general," agreed Childra. 
	"Well? Could I borrow it? I'd give it back tomorrow afternoon..." 
	"I suppose... Just be sure not to point it at anyone, OK?" 
	"OK." 
	Childra reached behind her back and pulled out a machete with a 
carved wooden handle, then handed it to Ratiko.  Ryo blinked. 
	"That... Wasn't there before..." he said. Childra grinned. 
	"You haven't seen Akane use her mallet, have you, lad?" Ryo 
nodded.
	"Actually," he said, "I have." 
	"Well, then.  If she can stuff a two-foot wooden hammer in her 
leotards without making a noticeable bulge, I can put a machete in between 
my shirt and jacket." 
	"Point taken," acknowledged Ryo. 
	"Mum... In a LEOTARD?" asked Miyabi. 
	"Never mind. Long story." 
	"I'll be going now," said Ratiko.  "I want to start before it gets 
too dark." 
	"There's street lights all over town, Rat." 
	"I... I like the sunlight better. It's got a nicer spectrum." 
	"Exactly HOW hard did Ranma smash you against that tree?" 
	"I'll be... uh... um... Bye!" He dashed out the door. 
	"Strange boy," said Ryo. Childra and Miyabi nodded their 
agreement. 
 
                                  * * * * *
 
	Ratiko smiled to himself. So far, so good. He had the cloth
sample, the blood and the machete. Now all he needed was to hide these in
front of the dojo until Ryouga pounded Ranma unconscious the following
day...  He looked around. Not much.  A few bushes, some grass, a tree...
	The tree looked promising.  He examined it, and soon found a small
nook which would be perfect for his purposes.  Right now it was a bit
small, though.  Maybe if he worked at it with Childra's machete... 
	As luck would have it, just as Rat began the enlargement, Ishido
returned from his walk. The Hibiki quickly hid the weapon behind his back
and pushed the 'evidence' into an inconspicuous position with his foot.
	"So, Ishtar, how have you been?" he began to sweat quite visibly. 
	"My name is Ishido.  I think..." 
	"Ok, then, Ishido... Been having a nice time?" Anything to stop
him from noticing the samples...
	"Not really... I've tried to remember my past life, but whenever I
try to piece it together, all I get are fleeting glimpses, still
pictures... It's SO FRUSTRATING!" 
	"No luck, eh?" Rat took the opportunity to move the brown bag a
bit further back.
	"Well, not much...  There is _ONE_ person I remember more clearly
than others...  Unfortunately, he's not the kind of person I _want_ to
remember."
	"Do tell..." Until now, Ratiko hadn't realised how tiring it was
to hold a blade aloft... 
	"Even now, I don't remember much... Just that there's some sort of
violent maniac... Kind of a sado-psychopath... He's quite a bitter
character... Fights with an... Umbrella, I believe..." 
	"An umbrella?" Ratiko perked up. "Like Ryouga?" Ishido grinned. 
	"I wouldn't make that comparison to his face. When I left, he was
trying to KILL Ryouga."
	"WHAT?!?!?"  The machete clattered to the ground.  Ishido pointed
at it.
	"I think you just dropped a..." Before he could finish his
sentence, Ratiko rushed to him and shook him by the shoulders.
	"WE'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! YOU CAN'T LET THEM KILL
GREAT-GRAMPS! THEN I'LL... YOU CAN'T!!!"
	"Calm down!  It's in another timeline, remember? And I have NO
idea how to get back there (never mind the fact that I don't know if I
_want_ to go back...) No need to get so excited..." 
	"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, NO NEED?" Ratiko continued to shake Ishido. 
"DON'T YOU REALIZE THAT..." 
	Just then, Childra stepped out of the dojo, fingering something in 
her left pocket. 
	"Oh, good," she said. "You're still here.  I meant to ask you 
a..." 
	"CHILDRA! IT'S HORRIBLE!" Ratiko rushed to Childra and grabbed her
shoulders, which he then proceeded to shake. "RYOUGA'S GOING TO BE KILLED
BY SOME MANIAC, AND WE CAN'T STOP IT!"
	"Just a minute!" said Ishido. "It's one thing when you bother ME
like that, but to do that to Childra..."  He walked over to the pair, to
separate them.  He never made it.  There was a blue glow, and all three of
them disappeared.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

        Somewhere out there, there's a Ryo, Miyabi, Ratiko, Childra, and
Ishido that went on with their lives, never disrupted by temporal and
dimensional displacement, living normally (as normally as they could). 

        These weren't those people.

        In some realities out there, Ryouga was killed, during an epic
battle atop a bridge, and forever remembered and missed by his friends. 

        This was that kind of a reality.
        Well, it was supposed to be.
        Things change.

                                  * * * * *

        On a long-spanning concrete bridge over a waterway in Tokyo, two
figures faced off.  In the distance, storm-clouds were rolling in and the
sound of thunder from a distance echoed in.  At the ends of the bridge,
crowds watched expectantly.  Many of them were just observers, quite a few
of them were placing bets with Nabiki, and a few had personal interests. 
Ranma, Akane, and Ukyou looked on, hoping that Ryouga's adversary wasn't
as dangerous as he was rumoured to be. 
        Ryouga stood silently, waiting for his adversary to make the first
move.  Ryouga's mind, however wasn't silent.  He was still reeling, deep in
his mind, from when Akane and Ranma finally became an official couple...
and then there was Ukyou's good-luck kiss tugging at the edge of his mind
as well.  And then that... *brr* that kiss that Ranma-chan gave him...
The last few months had been strange already, and Ryouga had a bad feeling 
about today. 
        "Good day, Hibiki!"  Ryouga's adversary said some distance across 
from the bridge.  He was, at a glance, Gosunkugi. However, the better 
posture, menacing smirk, and psychotic tendencies quickly alerted anyone 
that this wasn't Nerima's resident wimp & wizard that they were dealing 
with.  He did a little salute with his own umbrella, an obsidian one of
European design, with a hook-end handle and an inch-long blade at the end. 

        Ryouga nodded cautiously and replied, "Muhoshin."

                                  * * * * *

        "CHILDRA! ITS HORRIBLE!" Ratiko rushed to Childra and grabbed her
shoulders, which he then proceeded to shake. "RYOUGA'S GOING TO BE KILLED
BY A MANIAC, AND WE CANT STOP IT!" 
        "Just a minute!" said Ishido. "It's one thing when you bother ME
like that, but to do that to Childra..."  He walked over to the pair, to
separate them.  He never made it.  There was a blue glow, and all three of
them disappeared. 
        For the four of them, the world suddenly became blurry. Ratiko,
Ishido and Childra were taken entirely by surprise.  Ratiko, however, had
an idea of where he wanted to go (he just didn't know that he was going to
go there).  He wanted to stop a psychopath from killing his
great-grandfather. 
        He assumed that this psychopath WOULD be successful in killing
his Great-grandfather... that is, unless he interfered. 

        As the old saying goes, you get what you ask for.

                                  * * * * *

        Ryouga winced and stepped back quickly, feeling the cut on his
face. He felt the rage building up inside him... being made a fool of in
front of Ranma, in front of Akane... in front of Ukyou!  HOW DARE HE! 
        "That's it.. TAKE THIS!"  Ryouga snapped his umbrella open and spun
it hard.  He charged at Muhoshin, swinging fast and furiously, his
umbrella whirling like a buzz-saw and sending sparks everywhere.  Muhoshin
dodged desperately and retreated a few steps. 
        And then saw a chance at an opening.  Ryouga swung his makeshift
buzz-saw-umbrella towards Muhoshin, but this time he didn't retreat.
Muhoshin rolled forward, _past_ the whirling edge of the umbrella, hooked
Ryouga's leg with his umbrella handle, pulled, knocking Ryouga off his
feet, and turned the umbrella's blade forward, towards Ryouga's heart.

        Meanwhile, Ryouga's ultra-heavy umbrella spun away, out of control. 

        Muhoshin grabbed Ryouga by the throat with one hand, and held his
umbrella with the other, ready to put an end to the lost boy's existence. 
Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light and he was blinded... 

        Childra blinked.  Her surroundings were suddenly very different. 
She was outside the Tendou doujou, and now she was apparently in the middle
of a bridge.  There seemed to be a crowd of people in the distance.  She
turned and looked at Ratiko straight in the eye, definitely annoyed. 
"Ratiko, look what you've done now," she said in a condescending voice.

        "What?"

        Muhoshin reflexively winced and shut his eyes as the flash of
light struck, and that proved to be his undoing.  Ryouga took advantage of
his hesitation and lunged forward with one hand, grabbing Muhoshin's
throat.  He kept Muhoshin's umbrella away with the other. 

        Ishido was alarmed.  "Not again," he muttered, looking around
nervously while Ratiko and Ishido were beginning to argue.  He was afraid
that he might've been brought back to his own reality... where _they_ were
after him. 
        "Whaddaya mean Look What You've Done Now?  How's it my fault?!?" 
yelled Ratiko.  "HOW THE HECK DID WE GET HERE ANYWAYS?"  Ratiko started to
glow just a little. 
        "Ah... Ratiko, calm down..."
        Ishido heard the sounds of battle nearby, and turned around...
        *WHAM*
        ... and got a titanium-weight umbrella in the skull.  Ishido
stumbled forward, severely dazed and bordering on unconscious. 

        Muhoshin was slowly loosing air, feeling his neck being crushed by
Ryouga's hand.  He crushed Ryouga's throat with his own hand, and it became
a race to see who would lose consciousness first. 

        "Ishido!"  Childra caught him as he fell.  "What happened to him?"
        Ratiko shrugged.
        Amazingly, they failed to notice the two individuals several yards
away trying to kill each other.  They might be excused because the two
people were at the moment on the floor and choking each other, but it was
still something a bit hard to miss. 

        Muhoshin was losing and he knew it.  Ryouga was turning just a
little blue, but he was ten seconds away from unconsciousness.  To his
surprise, Ryouga let go of his throat.  Unfortunately for him, Ryouga's fist
pounded into his body, sending a shock-wave of pain through his gut.  He
let go of Ryouga's throat and then tried to drive a finger into his eye.
Ryouga turned his head and Muhoshin missed, making a small hole in the
concrete instead.  He pulled his hand back again and punched down hard. 
This time he felt something snap under his fist.  Ryouga yelled in pain,
grabbed him by the shirt, and threw him away, _hard_.

        Childra tried to keep Ishido on his feet.  "Ishido!  Wake up!"
        "Wha... wazza..."  Ishido managed to stagger to his feet, but he
had an enormous headache and the world seemed to be in triplicate. 
"What... what was..."  Then there was The Sound. 
        The Sound was incredibly loud, really.  And also hard to explain.
Nothing quite expresses the sound of two skulls colliding.  Take two
coconuts and thump them together, hard. 

        It isn't quite the same, but it comes close.

        Childra gasped as Ishido's skull was suddenly impacted by someone
else's.  They both collapsed to the floor, looking incredibly dazed. "Oh
my."
        [Time to leave] she thought to herself.
        She was disturbed at how sensitive the artefact seemed to be.
Ratiko just came up in a panic and suddenly they phased into another
reality.  _That_ was not reassuring to her.  The locket seemed to be
wavering in sensitivity... as if it was somewhat unstable. But for now,
there were more pressing matters to address.  
        [Well] thought Childra [might as well go somewhere I'm familiar 
with first, and besides, lover-boy looks like he needs some medical 
attention.]

        Childra focused, hard.

        For Childra, Ratiko, and one very dazed Ryo Muhoshin, the world
became a blur.  It didn't matter to Ishido, he was unconscious. 

                                  * * * * *

        "Y'know, It still surprises me..." said Miyabi as she walked
through Nerima towards the Tendou home. 
        "What does?" asked Ryo. 
        "The way Uncle Tofu acts around Auntie Kasumi.  No matter how many
times I see it, it's just so weird." 
        "Doesn't he always act that way?" asked Kasumi. 
        "Um, actually, he's a lot different when you're not there," said
Miyabi.  "Less... hyper, I guess." 
        "That's what Akane always tells me," said Kasumi.
        Ryo laughed.  Visiting Doctor Tofu just reminded him of Bell-chan,
and he walked along in better spirits, feeling that maybe they'd get
everything sorted out tonight without incident.  Then he could go back to
her, and _never_ leave her again. 
         He dug into his pocket and felt...

         An empty space where the locket should have been.

         Ryo's eyes went wide with shock.
         "Oh HELL!"
         Miyabi backed away from Ryo, startled at his sudden outburst. 
"What the heck's wrong with you now?!"
         Ryo checked his other pocket, then his back pockets, then felt 
around his shirt.
         "It's gone!  Dammit!"
         It should be noted that Kasumi was perfectly calm during this
entire exchange. 
         "What's gone?"
         "THE LOCKET! DAMN!!"  He'd been able to be calm so far.  But
this... this was a giant step backwards.  He was angry at himself, mad as
hell.  Images of Bell-chan ran through his mind... years and realities
away. He clenched his fists angrily, feeling all the frustration of the
past several days surge back up.
        Before Miyabi could ask any further, Ryo blazed down the street as
fast as he could. 
        "Hey!  Wait up!"
        "Oh my."

                                  * * * * *

        The trees swayed in the breeze
        Something large flew across the sky.
        Deep in a forest, four people had recently appeared.

        Childra watched over Ishido and the new arrival with some concern. 
They hadn't stirred in a while. 
        "Just great, we picked up somebody extra," said Ratiko. 
        Muhoshin was conscious.  He'd been conscious for a while now, but
didn't bother moving.  He learned, long ago, that if you want to find out
what's really going on, faking unconsciousness makes people's tongues
relax a bit more (That and a savage beating). Thus far, he concluded three
things. One, that whoever he was in the company of wasn't familiar with
him at all.  Two, he wasn't a prisoner.  Three, he might be able to use
them.
	The situation he found himself in was unexpected and
unexplainable.  He _was_ in a duel against Hibiki, and doing quite well,
too.  Almost had him.  But now... now he was with a strange group of
people deep in some forest.  It didn't make sense.  The motive behind
these people was unknown, their fighting ability unknown, the possibility
of them being a threat to him was unknown.  TOO many unknowns.  Strange
things were afoot and he _hated_ that, especially when he wasn't the one
behind the strange things.  It brought out the paranoid in him.  He
_needed_ information or _else_.

        A nice start, he thought, would have been the matter of location.

        "Rat?" asked Childra.
        "Hm?"
        "Where the heck are we now?"
        "You're asking me?"
        "Oh.  I forgot who I was talking to."

        That answers that.

        "I wonder..." said Childra, "all of us that've been dragged around
have been connected to Ranma in one way or another..." 
        "And?" asked Ratiko. 
        "Wonder what this lad's story is... and why he has such an
interesting umbrella."  Childra held Muhoshin's umbrella, twirling it
idly. 
        "Well, he couldn't possibly be from my family," said Ratiko. 
"Hibikis aren't skinny and pale."
        [Hibiki?] wondered Muhoshin.  The only Hibiki he knew of was
Ryouga, and that did NOT sound like Ryouga.
        "Doesn't look like a relative of Ranma's either," said Childra. 
"Let's take stock of who we DO have so far..." 
        Muhoshin resisted smiling.  Playing dead worked too easy. 
        Childra wanted to keep Ratiko's mind busy.  She didn't want him to
figure out she had their means of transit just yet.  Best to toss in some
facts, shake and stir.
        "We've got... Ranma's son from a reality where he married
Ukyou..." 
        Ratiko frowned. 
        "And a daughter from where he married Akane..." 
        "Who cares about that jerk..." muttered Ratiko. 
        [Realities?] wondered Muhoshin.
        "Ah, all this jumping between realities is giving me a headache!" 
yelled Ratiko. 
        [Reality-jumping...]

        In the distance, a small speck appeared.

        "I wonder where we were, anyways..." said Childra.
        "I dunno... Ishido was just telling me about... some guy that was 
out to kill my great grand-dad."
        "Oh?  Out to kill Ryouga, hm?  Who?"
        "I don't remember the name."
        [Wait... this 'Ratiko'... _he_ is Ryouga's...?]

        In the distance, a small speck got larger, and a bit flatter...
        [No, I must've misheard that,] thought Muhoshin.
        "What's that?" asked Ratiko.
        "Heeey, I think..." said Childra.
        He was in the company of delusional maniacs, concluded Muhoshin.
        "HEY!"  Childra yelled, waving her arms around.
        "OVER HERE!  OVER HERE!" shouted Ratiko.
         [What are they...] Muhoshin couldn't help but peek... and was
stunned. 
        "Hey you guys, what're you doing out here?" asked a uniformed
person as he hovered nearby on something large, flat, and to Muhoshin's
mind, impossible.


                                  * * * * *

        Ryo charged into the house, feeling angry, scared, and frustrated. 
"Where is it?  Where is it?  Damn!"  He tore through the house, searching
everywhere for it.  He searched through the kitchen, the living room,
under the Shogi board (which somehow didn't disturb Soun and Genma at
all), on the roof... 
        Miyabi followed in a little later with Kasumi, as Ryo was fishing
around in the pond, waist-deep in water, and definitely panic-stricken. 
        "Hey, what are you doing?" asked Miyabi. 
        "Where where where where where where where where..." 
        Miyabi did what she did when she first met him. 
        She hit him. 
        "SNAP OUT OF IT!" 
        Ryo was frozen in post-slap position.  The world was slowly coming
into focus again, in a rational and orderly fashion. 
        "I... thanks.  I needed that." 
        "Now what's wrong with you?" 
        "It's just..."  Ryo didn't want to tell her the whole truth 
just yet.  "It's... it's a locket that my fiancee gave me."
        "Oh."
        "It means a lot to me."
        "Really?  A gift from her or something?"
        "Or something..."
        "Need help finding it?"
        "Ah... no, that's okay."
        "Suit yourself, I'm gonna go talk to mum and dad."  As she said
the words, Soun and Genma were to the left and right of her. 
        "That's right, granddaughter, show your father his fate," said
Soun. 
        Genma nodded solemnly.  "Indeed."
        "Er... sure, granddad..."

                                  * * * * *

        "I don't believe it..." said Childra.
        "Amazing coincidence, isn't it?" asked Ratiko.  "Our own time and
only miles off course.  A-heheh." 
        "I was travelling with you.  Should've seen it coming."  Childra
smirked.  Imagine that, landing in the Deep Forest Preserve of the
university. 
        "You guys really should've been out there," the DFP ranger said. 
        "It was an accident, really," said Childra. 
        "Right.  Sure." 
        Childra shrugged.  "S'the truth, really." 
        "Just don't do it again." 
        Childra ignored him with a style all her own. 

        The Deep Forest Preserve (DFP) was a grand achievement of the
university, five square miles of deep thick forest outside of Tokyo. 
        No vehicles were allowed in the preserve, except for the
platform-like hover-mechs, which had specially built feet so as to not
trample the plants and wildlife too much, certainly less harmful than
tires.  The thing had enough capacity to carry several large crates (often
crates containing animals brought to the preserve) or a large crowd of
people.  For general purposes it hovered, unless it was needed for 
construction, pickup, or drop-off, in which case the arms and legs came 
into play.  Everyone agreed, a nearly flat surface with arms and legs 
looked somewhat goofy.  The general nickname of the things were 
'Table-Mechs'.
        The jungle itself was incredibly dense, with very few areas to
walk through.  If one tried a casual stroll there, the odds were strong
that that person would get lost.  The odds were lower, but still strong,
that one would be mauled by a wild animal as well.

        It was a very thorough recreation of the wilderness.

        The hover-mech cruised through the jungle, its engines emitting
a somewhat loud, low humming noise.  As they travelled across the forest 
in the hover-mech, Childra and Ratiko admired the scenery.  Ishido and
Muhoshin were settled down, on the floor of the mech.
        Ishido was STILL out cold.  Ryo had heard them say that this 
'Ishido' may have known him, and decided to take appropriate measures 
to buy himself some time to set up his story.
        Whenever nobody looked, he reached over and slammed Ishido's
skull into the floor.  He'd done this already at least... five, maybe
six times.  The loud thrum of the engines covered the clang of Ishido's 
skull meeting metal very well.  He hoped that nobody would notice
the small dent in the floor.
	Finally, he decided that it was time to set up his identity.  
	He'd put a lot of thought into it too. 
	Oh, this would be good.
	"Um, hello?" said a rather timid voice.
	Childra and Ratiko turned around, curious at this new voice. 
	"Er, excuse me?  What... what's going on?" 
	"Oh, you're awake.  Good," said Childra. 
	"Where... where am I?  What's going on?" Muhoshin felt he deserved
an award for best actor, as his manner and voice became more and more
panic-stricken and afraid.  A very Gosunkugi-ish performance indeed.
	"Calm down, take it easy..." said Childra. 

                                  * * * * *

        "Mum, hello?"  Miyabi knocked on Akane's door cautiously.  After
seeing her mother's earlier rant, she figured that it'd be best to be a
little careful around her at the moment.
        "Oh, um, Miyabi?  Come on in!"  Akane smiled nervously and looked
at her 'daughter' with a mix of fascination, denial, and curiosity.  She
was HER daughter.  No, she was HER and RANMA'S daughter.  And once she
started thinking along those lines she began to feel very uncomfortable.
Miyabi took a seat on the bed, while Akane stayed seated on her desk
chair.
        "I, ah, just wanted to hide from my grandfathers."  She smiled
and laughed nervously.  "Well, you know..."
        Akane laughed along with her daughter.  "Yeah, they can get, well,
over-enthusiastic sometimes."
        The laughter died down slowly, then the two just sat there,
nervously.  Miyabi wasn't sure what to do at all, with this being in the
past and all.  She never thought of her mother and father as being
_young_, not ever, but now there they were.  And it was so bizarre, yet
fascinating.  Akane had some questions of her own, but was afraid to ask
them.  Mainly because it had to do with her and Ranma.
        After another minute of unbearable silence, Akane made an attempt
at small talk.
        "So, ah, how's things in the future?"
        "Hm?  Oh, it's nice, I guess."
        "I guess me and Ranma are running the doujou now?"
        "Dad and you, yes."
        Akane blushed further, with the question in her mind nagging her
even more.
        "So... you have a brother?"
        "A few years younger."
        "Do you..."
        "We get along, I guess."  Miyabi neglected to mention the
occasional squabbles that they got into, but why worry mum now?
        "Oh, good.  That's good."
        Miyabi sighed.  She didn't know much about time travel, quantum,
and such, but she didn't like seeing her parents fighting like they were
doing now.
        "Miyabi."
        "Mum?"
        "Tell me... tell me about us.  Me and Ranma."
        Miyabi couldn't help but smile.  Things were looking up.
        "Yes indeed, granddaughter!  Enlighten your mother on the way
things should be!"
	Miyabi and Akane blinked.  Miyabi looked out to the window, where
Soun and Genma were looking in, and looking very happy as well.  Miyabi
turned a shade of red.  Was a simple talk with her mother too much to ask?

	"Grandfather no bakaaaaa!"  *WHAP*WHAP*  -splash-splash-

	"Oh, I'm so happy!" wailed Soun, filling the fish pond even more
with water.  The panda next to him merely growled in agreement. 

                                  * * * * *

        Evening faded into night, and night faded into morning.
        Ryo Saotome, bleary-eyed and exhausted, sat down, out in the doujou. 
He'd searched for hours on end, fighting against sleep.  
        [I HAVE TO find that locket.... have to... Bell-chan...]
        And for the first time in a long time, Ryo Saotome got some sleep.

                                  * * * * *

         "So... let me get this straight.  I'm," Muhoshin paused for
dramatic effect, "in the year 2096?" 
         "Yup," said Ratiko. 
         "And... I might not be in the same... reality?  Is that the 
term?"  Muhoshin blinked and quickly looked back and forth at Childra and
Ratiko.
         Childra nodded impatiently.
         "Right.  The same reality... that I was in before.  And that's
about it." 
         "That is, basically, it," said Childra. 
         Muhoshin blinked again.
         "Er... right." 
         The trio continued to glide across the jungle landscape at a
leisurely pace (Fast travelling wasn't allowed.  It wrecked the habitat),
enjoying the scenery.  Ratiko looked relaxed, now that he was back on home
turf.  Childra was inwardly smiling.  Not only had she gotten a hold of
the locket, she'd managed to use it properly.  Muhoshin was doing an award
winning performance as a nervous, shy, and confused person.  In fact, it
was rather Gosunkugi-ish. 
         It was a second later that Childra realised she didn't even know
this guy's name. 
         "Hey, cutey," she said. 
         "Cut that out!" yelled Ratiko. 
         "I'm not talking to _you_," said Childra, "at least, not this
time."  She winked and Ratiko developed an amazingly deep blush.  She got
up and walked over to Muhoshin, who was busy absentmindedly looking out at
the scenery.  Childra put her hand on his shoulder and said, "Hey there." 
        Muhoshin blinked.  There seemed to be... a woman's hand on his
shoulder.  He turned around and nearly ran into her body.  "Er... hi?" 
        "I don't think I've caught your name," she said, smiling in a
certain way that made most men's minds turn to more lusty directions.
        "Me?  Oh, ah..." 
        It was at this point that Ryo Muhoshin encountered a weakness he
didn't think he'd have to deal with. 
        Childra sat next to him.  "Don't be shy now..." 
        He never could deal with a flirtatious woman.  He could flirt AT
women just fine, throw out nice, somewhat Kunou-esque pickup lines, but
when they flirted back in normal daily situations... 
        "M-m-my name?"  He tugged his shirt nervously.  Don't lose it
now, he told himself, calm down, bring on the cover story.
        He took a deep breath.  "I... My name is Ryo Gosunkugi." 
        "Would you happen to be familiar with Ranma Saotome?" 
        "Oh, Uncle Ranma?  Yeah, why?" 
        "Uncle?" asked Ratiko. 
        "Ah... actually, that's what I always called him.  We're not, um,
really related."  Muhoshin was unnerved by the way that Childra was
looking at him, which was, in his mind, not a little on the sultry side. 
        "Oh?  Who's your parents?" 
        "Hikaru and Ukyou Gosunkugi." 
        Childra didn't have much reaction to that.  "Oh, that's nice." 
        Ratiko, on the other hand, wasn't feeling so good.  "Wait, your
mother... did she by any chance carry around a really large spatula?" 
        "Y-yeah, best okonomiyaki chef in town." 
        "It can't be... we've got to go back!" Ratiko yelled. 
"Something's gone wrong!" 
        Childra sighed, annoyed that Ratiko still hadn't gotten the
concept of ALTERNATE realities down yet.  "Calm down, Rat."  She 
nervously glanced at her pocket, afraid that the locket might be 
triggered again.
        "HOW CAN I CALM DOWN?!?!  Great-grand-dad didn't marry Ukyou!" 
        Childra felt the locket begin to glow warmly, then fade as Ratiko
calmed down.
        "Um, pardon?  Who's your great-grandfather?" asked Muhoshin,
rather timidly.
        "Ryouga Hibiki!" yelled Ratiko.
        "Well... actually... Ryouga did marry mum." 
        "What?  But wasn't your dad..." 
        "He, ah, died when I was young.  Ryouga's my step-dad." 
        "I suppose that explains this?" asked Childra, and tossed
Muhoshin's ebony umbrella to him. 
        "Yeah... He thought I oughta be able to defend myself." 
        "I noticed some initials on it, UWSMA, you mind if I ask what it 
means?  It seems familiar."
        "Ah, let's see... that was a school my step-dad used to be 
a part of.  Um, Unorthodox Weaponry School of... hm..."
        "Oh, Unorthodox Weaponry School of Martial Arts," said Childra.  
"I heard about them in some history notes."
        "Oh?  What'd you hear?"
        "They used to train the bodyguards of the royal families, 
hundreds of years ago, but for unknown reasons they faded away."
        "That's all?" asked Muhoshin, feeling a bit saddened.
        "That's it."
        Meanwhile, nearby, a Hibiki was thinking, hard. It was quite an 
effort.  Finally, the Hibiki gears stopped turning.
        "Hey!" said Ratiko.  Muhoshin pretended to be startled.  "Do you
have any brothers or sisters?" 
        "Well, mum is pregnant at the moment."
        Ratiko wasn't sure what to think of it.  On one hand, Ukyou didn't
marry Ryouga, at first.  But on the other hand, she did, and will have a
child by him.  So, he wondered, am I still going to exist if that happens? 
He wasn't sure at all. 

        Just then, Ishido started to move. 
        "Ow," he said, "what hit me..." 
        "Apparently, HE did," said Childra, smirking and pointing at 'Ryo
Gosunkugi'.  She had no idea exactly how correct she was.
        Ishido was in a world of pain.  Actually, that would be an
overstatement.  He was in a small city block of pain.  He opened his eyes,
and got flooded by brightness.  His skull throbbed with pain.
        "Ow," he said weakly. 
        "Still hurts?" asked Childra. 
        "I think this is how," said Ishido, pausing to wince, "a hangover
might feel." 
        "So... um, you're Ishido?" said Muhoshin. 
        "Yeah, this is Ishido," said Childra, getting up and sitting back
down by Ishido's side.  She ran her hand through his hair slowly. 
"Ishido, darling, we've got new company." 
        "Ow... another one?" 
        "Er... hi," said Muhoshin, timidly. 
        "No need to be scared, Gosling," said Childra in a playful and
teasing voice. 
        Deep inside, Ryo Muhoshin flared with anger.  Gosling?!  His eye
twitched briefly, but he managed to calm himself.  [I should have known
this alias would have it's drawbacks.]
        "Gosling?" asked Ishido, weakly.
        Muhoshin winced again. 
        "We picked up the son of Hikaru Gosunkugi and Ukyou Kuonji." 
        Ishido tried to get up and have a look at their newest travelling
companion, but his headache flared up as he tried to sit up. 
        "Shh, lie down, darling, I like you that way," teased Childra. 
        It was Ishido's turn to blush, just before he faded into
unconsciousness again. 

                                  * * * * *

        Ryo sat in the park bench, the sun's warmth on his face, and the 
breeze going by gently.  All was perfect today.  He was waiting for his 
Bell-chan.  They had a date today, a nice picnic in the park.
        "Ryo-kun!"
        Ryo looked, and there was Bell-chan in all her beauty, with a 
basket in hand and a warm smile on her face.
        "Bell-chan!"
        Ryo stood up and walked to her, and she walked to him.  He took 
her in his arms and kissed her, closing his eyes and holding them close.
        She slowly and reluctantly pushed away from the kiss, with his 
eyes still closed, and said, "Ooh, cutie, you're just ready to go right 
now, aren't you?"
        Something wasn't right.  Ryo opened his eyes.
        "Something wrong, darling?"  Childra wrapped her arms around him 
and moved in for another kiss.

        "NOOOOOOOOOO!"

        Ryo bolted upright, shaking badly.  It was just a dream, just a
dream.  Just a nightmare.  He shook his heed to clear the cobwebs.  [I love
BELL-CHAN... and nothing's going to stop me from coming back to her.]

        Meanwhile, outside, Ranma was waiting.  Actually, he was enjoying
the weather.  There's a difference.  Waiting is, for example, when one is
expecting someone to show up for a duel.  Enjoying the weather is what one
does when one realises that it is a Hibiki that one is waiting for, and
accepts that it may be a long wait. 
        Ryo walked outside, to his 'father'. 
        "Pop, can I ask you something?" 
        "Um, sure."  Ryo made Ranma a little uncomfortable and uncertain. 
On one hand, there's Miyabi, proof that Ranma might care enough about
Akane to... to... marry *her*.  And then there's Ryo, proof that Ranma 
might really belong with *Ucchan* after all. Any belief Ranma had in fate 
was tossed out the window.  He was thankful that no kids of his from 
Shampoo showed up, or... or worse yet, from him and Kodachi.  That, he 
figured, would just be too much.
        "Have you seen a small silver locket anywhere?" he asked desperately.
        "Locket?  Um, sorry, no." 
        "Oh."  Ryo looked downcast.  He started to look around the trees
and bushes, knowing that he'd never been there but just decided to look
anyways. 
        "I'll, um, keep an eye out for it, okay?" 
        "Thanks, pop," said Ryo, in a tired voice.
        Kasumi walked by, to Genma and Soun with a tray of refreshments. 

        "RANMAAAA!!!!!"

        Ranma sighed.
        Ryo looked around, spotting an enraged Ryouga Hibiki stomping
towards them. 
        "RANMA!  TODAY IS THE DAY I WILL DEFEAT YOU!!!"
        Ranma shifted into a ready position.  "Whenever you're ready,
pig-boy." 
        "DIE!!!"
        At this point, Ukyou Kuonji wandered in happily, looking forward
to spending a little time with her Ranchan. 
        "Hey, Ranchan, I-  oh, am I interrupting something?
        "Just me beatin' Ryouga.  Again." Ranma cracked his knuckles and 
the two martial artists went at it again.
        "Not today, Saotome!"
        "Oh, okay," said Ukyou, still in her cheery disposition, "I'll
just wait till you're finished."  She sat down on the porch next to Ryo,
who had suddenly started feeling depressed again.  There was his dad,
and there was his mom, and it didn't look like he loved her in this
reality either.
        Kasumi walked by again, this time with a tray of empty containers
that once held drinks and snacks. 
        "Oh, hi Kasumi," said Ukyou to Kasumi as she passed by.  "And
you," she said, looking at Ryo, "You a friend of Ranchan's?  I don't think
we've met." 
        "Um, I guess you might say that..." he answered. 
        "Would you like something to drink?" asked Kasumi, politely.
        "That's all right, Kasumi.  So, who's the guest?"
        "This is Ryo Saotome," said Kasumi.  
        Ryo was depressed beyond caring at the moment.  Sure, he thought,
go ahead and tell her.
        "Ryo Saotome?"  Ukyou had a careful look at him.  He _did_
resemble Ranchan quite a bit. 
        "I'm..."
        "He's Ranma's son," said Kasumi. 
        "Yeah, what she said," said Ryo flatly, sinking into Ryouga-like
depression, his mind still trying to figure out how he could have lost 
the locket.
        Ukyou was silent for a moment.  Then, she managed to blink.
        "Excuse me?"
        "Time travel," said Ryo, "long story." 
        "You're kidding, right?"
        "Does she," he said, indicating Kasumi, "kid around that much?"
        "Well... no."  Ukyou heard about Happousai's Nanban mirror.
Considering the madness that goes on regularly in the neighbourhood, she
easily accepted the concept of time travellers.
        "So... who's your mom?" she asked nervously.
        "Well," said Ryo, hesitating, "you."
        This gave Ukyou another reason to take a moment of silence.  She
looked at Ryo again.  She looked hard, and finally saw hints of Kuonji
lineage in his features as well.
        "You're...my..."  Ukyou was feeling a bit stunned.  Elation and joy
were shooting through her mind.  [Ranchan and I ARE going to be together!]
she thought happily.  She hugged Ryo happily, "this is great! When's the
wedding?  How many kids do we have?  Are we good parents to you?"

        "So, P-Chan, what're ya mad about THIS time?" asked Ranma. 
        "You have not only made my life hell, but YOU'VE RUINED THE LIFE
OF MY GREAT-GRANDSON!!!" 

        There was a notable pause in the action as Ryouga fumed and
everyone else (except Ryo, whose mind was shifting constantly from
angst, to depression, to trying to find out where that damn locket
went) looked at Ryouga as if he was insane.
        Ukyou glanced briefly at Ryouga.  [His kid time-travel too?] she 
wondered.
        Ranma thought he must've heard things wrong. 
        "Your WHAT?" asked Ranma. 
        "MY GREAT-GRANDSON!!!" 
        "So, who's Ryouga's great-grandson?" asked Ukyou cheerfully,
        This was a new one to Ryo, unless Ishido or Ratiko was... 
        "Ratiko Hibiki," said Ryouga through semi-clenched teeth, "whose 
life Ranma has also made a LIVING HELL!"
        "_What_ are you talking about, P-Chan?!"
        "SHUT UP RANMA!"
        "Ratiko.  Okaaay," said Ukyou.  "I asked this much already, might as
well find out," she muttered to herself.  "So who's Ratiko's 
great-grandmother?  Did Ryouga finally get together with Akane?"
        "Why, you are." said Kasumi in a rather sweet way.  Ukyou and Ryouga
reacted instantly and at the same time. 
        "WHAT?!" yelled Ukyou.  "WHY WOULD I EVER HAVE KIDS WITH THAT
IDIOT?!" 
        "NO WAY!  HIS GREAT-GRANDMOTHER IS AKANE!!" boomed Ryouga. 
        Ranma and Ryo, father and son, were both rather unsure of how to
approach the situation.  They both decided to shut up and let things
happen.  Besides, Ryo had more pressing matters on his mind.
        "Who the heck told you this?" demanded Ukyou. 
        "Well," said Kasumi, not fazed at all by Ukyou and Ryouga's loud
reactions, "Doctor Tofu told me that Ratiko told him, or was it Childra?
anyways, it was one of those two... I think, that told him that Ratiko's
great-grandparents were Ryouga and Ukyou."
        "Wait... Ratiko said this?!" said Ryouga. 
        Kasumi nodded. 
        Ryouga's world spun out of control and into a heap of shattered
glass.  "That means... that means I'm destined NOT to win Akane's heart? 
Why didn't Ratiko tell me?!" 
        Ukyou rubbed her chin in thought.  "Now wait a minute... I'm gonna
have children by Ranma AND Ryouga?  No way!"
        "Huh?" asked Ryouga.  "You and Ranma have a child together?!"
        "Yeah, him," said Ukyou, indicating Ryo.  In the back of her
mind, she knew that this conversation had lost any resemblance of a
normal one a long time ago, but she didn't care.  In Nerima, you either
roll with the punches, go mad, or somehow achieve a Kasumi-like inner 
peace.  Ukyou was one to roll with the punches.
        "RANMA YOU CAD!!!" roared Ryouga, "YOU SLEPT WITH MY WIFE!!!" 
        "What?!" yelled Ukyou.  "NOW JUST A SEC-"
        "HEY!" yelled Ranma, "FOR ALL I KNOW, -YOU- PROBABLY SLEPT WITH
-MY- WIFE!!!  YOU'RE ALREADY SLEEPING WITH MY FIANCEE!!!" 
        "THAT'S DIFFERENT!!!"
        "OH?  HOW SO?!"
        Ukyou didn't know how to take that... did Ranchan think that she
and Ryouga slept together already?!  Or... or maybe Ryouga finally got 
somewhere with Akane! 
        "Hi auntie Kasumi, hi dad, uncle Ryouga, aunt Ukyou," said Miyabi
as she walked by.
        Everyone but Kasumi paused again, their line of thought knocked 
off balance by the use of 'uncle' and 'aunt'.
        "Oh, hello Miyabi-chan!" said Kasumi.  "Going somewhere?"
        "Just gonna visit grandmother."  Miyabi walked calmly out the
door.  She felt that talking to dad was no use now, and she'd already
had a good talk with mum, so why not talk to grandmother?
        "Be back in time for dinner, okay?" reminded Kasumi.
        "Okay."

        That little interlude set off another Moment Of Silence.  Ranma
should have realised what Miyabi meant when she said she was visiting
grandmother... but the heat of the moment made Ranma pay more attention to
the more immediate threats of Ryouga and possibly an enraged Ukyou. 

        "Uncle Ryouga?" wondered Ryouga out loud.
        "Aunt Ukyou?" asked Ukyou.
        There was more silence.  Ranma wondered if he should run.
        "And, ah, who was that girl?" asked Ukyou. 
        "Miyabi?  That's Ranma and Akane's daughter." said Kasumi, 
sweetly (of course). 
        "Ranma..." said Ukyou. 
        "... and Akane's..." continued Ryouga. 
        "She's my daughter, so what?" asked Ranma, sounding a bit
insulted and defensive. 
        "RANCHAN, HOW COULD YOU?!?!?" 
        "RANMA, YOU WOMANIZER!!!" 
        [Insert violence here]

                                  * * * * *

        Ratiko, Childra, and 'Gosling' (as Childra had so affectionately
called him) hauled Ishido up the flight of stairs of their dorm and into
Childra's room. 
        "Mind if I just take a quick look around?" asked 'Ryo Gosunkugi'
        "Sure, just don't get lost, cutey." said Childra. 
        Muhoshin strongly resisted the compulsion to do a Hibiki joke.
        And with that, Ryo Muhoshin walked out the door. 
        Childra looked at Ishido with a little bit of lust and a lot of
playfulness.  "Hmm." 
        "Uh oh, what are you thinking?" asked Ratiko. 
        "Just a little something to... wake him up." 
        Childra tucked Ishido into bed, underneath the blankets, and then
she slid under the sheets with him.
        "HEY!  NOT IN FRONT OF ME!!!" yelled Ratiko. 

                                  * * * * *

        Ryo shook his head sadly and walked back into the house with
Kasumi as Ukyou and Ryouga proceeded to beat Ranma into the ground.  
All this business about sons and daughters and great grandsons... 
wait a minute... 
        "Kasumi?" 
        "Yes?" 
        "Have you seen Ratiko around?" 
        "No, sorry." 
        "Childra?" 
        "Um... no." 
        Ryo's mind flashed back to a moment with Childra, her hands all
over his... well... his lower regions... and in his _pocket_.
        Ryo turned red with anger, as all the pieces snapped into place,
and he knew with certainty where his locket was... or to be more exact,
who had his locket.

        "DAMN HER!!!"

                                  * * * * *

        Ishido woke up, yet again.  He'd been flickering in and out of
consciousness for a while now, through the hover-craft ride, and the
hover-cab ride, and the ridiculous climb up the staircase.  Finally, he
felt that he might be able to actually _stay_ conscious.  Strange images
were flickering in his mind...  Ryouga's umbrella, in his face... riding on
the hover-mech... Gosunkugi (or was it Ryo Muhoshin?  It couldn't be.)
riding with them in the hover-mech, talking with Childra nervously... 
        At the moment, it seemed that he was somewhere... soft.  A bed? 
The sheets seemed... silky.  He was under a very nice, soft blanket,
probably filled with goose down feathers, and the pillows weren't bad
either.  He inhaled and smelled the scent of exotic (perhaps erotic) body
oils. 
        [Oh boy] he thought. 
        He opened his eyes, very slowly, knowing this might be a mistake. 
        The first thing he saw was, of course, the ceiling. 
        "Hey there, darling." 
        _That_ voice was definitely female, and more importantly, next to
him.  Ishido turned his head.  What he saw, only inches away, was a
grinning Childra Jansen, covered up from the neck down by the blanket. 
For all he could guess, she might've been naked.  His mind was so panicked
that he wasn't sure if HE was naked too... 
        "Have a nice rest, cutie?" she asked. 
        He was unconscious, then he was in a woman's bed, between
the sheets.  This usually meant that something... interesting occurred. 
        And so, Ishido passed out. 
        Again. 
        "Hey, hot stuff, wake up," said Childra, gently patting him on the
cheek.  Ishido awoke again, and this time he steeled himself for what
might be some alarming developments. 
        "We're... in bed," he said, slowly. 
        "Yup!" replied Childra happily. 
        "W-we didn't..." he asked nervously. 
        "Not yet," she said whimsically, winking.
        "You're cruel, lady," said Ratiko from a chair nearby. 
        Ishido's eyes got wider than before (which was an amazing stunt)
and he sat upright.  "It's not what it looks like!" he yelled. 
        "Shame on you, Rat, you spoiled the mood."  Childra mock-pouted.
        Ishido realised he was out from under the blanket and quickly did
a self-check. 
        Step one:  Naked?
        He felt himself a bit and looked down.
        Answer:  No.
        Step two:  are my pants lowered in any way, or undone?
        He looked down lower.
        Answer:  No.
        No need to check further then.

                                  * * * * *

	Meanwhile, outside, Ryo Muhoshin was collecting his thoughts,
along with some fresh air.  The scene of the college, with all of the
futuristic architecture, those wonderful hover-crafts zooming by, and
these interesting things that weren't quite phone booths; they all made
him wonder how he could turn this to his advantage.  He twirled his
umbrella idly (he had a habit of doing that whenever he was happy, angry,
bored, thinking, or about to attack somebody) and sat in the front of the
dorm building, pondering his next move.
	Dimensional Travel!  Imagine the possibilities!  The grudge
against Ryouga was small-time compared to the importance of _this_.  He
could be rich beyond his wildest dreams!  More powerful than he'd ever
dared to hope!  Whatever the secret of crossing dimensions, he _wanted_
it.
	"It will be mine," he said quietly to himself, "oh yes, it will be
mine."
        And then he got that nagging sort of feeling.
	From around the corner, somebody was watching. 
	Without turning around, Muhoshin asked, "Who's there?" 
	A rather pale girl emerged from the corner, with waist-length
brown hair streaked with white, and somewhat large, black-lined eyes.  She
was wearing a red-and-black body-suit of some sort, covered by something
that looked like a streamlined university jacket.
	[She... she reminds me of someone,] thought Muhoshin.  He peered
at her, trying to think of _why_ she seemed familiar.

	Skeride stared at the man before her with a mix of curiosity,
wonder, and fear.  He _looked_ a lot like her great-grandfather...  Well,
like one of the many versions of her great-grandfather that she had
known... [Could it be...] Was he Great-grandfather Hikaru, returned from
the past (again)  to help her?  Was he here with a warning?  A threat? Her
ancestors - all of them - tended to avoid this Kunou-ruled reality unless
they had serious business.  She squinted, trying to make out small details
in his face with her lilac eyes. Had she even MET this particular
Gosunkugi before? 
	Time and reality travel, being what it was, made discussions about
past family members somewhat disorienting.  Add in a family that has
strong chronal magical talent, and it gets even worse.  Skeride had met a
large number of her ancestors, most of them being Great-grandfather
Hikaru, quite a few that were not, and one or two alternate versions of
herself.  Of course, this made the situation at hand extremely awkward from
a social greetings point of view. 
	"Um, Gosunkugi Hikaru?" Skeride asked quietly.  She didn't miss
the slight twitch in his frame as she uttered that name. 
	[I wonder why he did that...]

	"Not quite," sighed Muhoshin.  Figures. Even if he ran a hundred
years into the future, he wouldn't get away from that damned tag.  He
briefly considered killing off Gosunkugi, just to clear things up.  After
he went back home and eliminated Ryouga, of course. 

	The not-Hikaru began scowling, but caught himself and returned to
a calm, neutral mood.  Skeride approached him with cautiously narrowed
eyes.  If he wasn't her great-grandfather, then who was he? 
	A hint of dark circles around the eyes, a pale complexion, a very 
lean build. 
	He certainly LOOKED like a Gosunkugi. 
	But he'd felt her there... None of her relatives, from this or any
other alternity, was THAT perceptive.
	Skeride had to get to the bottom of this. 
	She took a deep breath, cleared her throat, and stepped out of the
shadows. 

	"You... whoever you are... How'd you know I was watching you?" she
asked, somewhat timidly.  "Most people can't find me when I want to stay
hidden."
	"I just knew, miss," he replied, grinning like a Cheshire cat. 
"And who might I have the pleasure of speaking to?"  He dropped the 'Ryo
Gosunkugi' act for the moment, mostly because he was sick of acting like a
snivelling coward, and partially because he wanted to have a little fun. 
	The girl blushed, not being used to being talked to in such a
polite manner.  She snapped out of her shyness and offered a handshake. 
"My name is Gosunkugi Skeride." 
	Muhoshin held back a smirk.  [Much like her ancestor, I suppose. 
What a coincidence that we should meet here.]
	"Nice to meet you."  Ryo took her hand. As they touched, Skeride's
eyes widened in obvious shock.  Quickly, she withdrew her hand. 
	"Who... What ARE you???" she asked tremulously.
	"Well, that...is complicated, considering who you are."  
Muhoshin smiled to himself.  Her reaction was fairly amusing to him.
	"You don't belong here."
	With that comment, he was a bit unsettled.
	"That... is true."
	Skeride frowned, then poked Ryo in his shoulders, knees and chest.
	"Pardon?" he asked, but was completely ignored.
	"Solid," the girl muttered to himself, "so he can't be a ghost... 
But then, what..."  She peered at him. "That AURA... I've never seen black
streaks in someone's aura before, not like that..."  She snapped out of
the trance she was in, and once again spoke to the man in front of her.
"What time are you from, and what is your business in this century?" she
asked firmly.
	Ryo raised an eyebrow in surprise.  The girl reads auras?  He
considered the possible trouble this girl may raise and frowned
internally. 
	He twirled his umbrella again, slowly. 
	"How did you know?" he asked. 
	"It shows in your aura," said Skeride. "I sense something odd, and
I'm fairly certain it's temporal distortion." She snorted. "Can't be sure,
of course, with all the BLACK in your pattern hindering my sight...  Now,
answer me."
	He smiled again, amused.  The lady was quite the commanding type
suddenly.  Oh my. 
	"No need to be alarmed," said Ryo in a hurt tone, "I'm just
here... accidentally.  Honest."  It WAS the truth, just not with details. 
	"Of course you are."  Skeride would normally be more cautious
about things, but she sensed that Childra was nearby, so if things got
ugly, she knew she'd have someone to call.  That didn't mean she wasn't
scared.  She was considerably frightened, feeling that taint of black in
him, and sensing a deep hatred of a Hibiki buried in his mind.  The only
Hibikis she knew were Ratiko and his family, so... Something bad was going
on.
	"Tell me who you are, mister." 
	Muhoshin sensed that she was turning things over in her head, and
decided to derail her train of thought with an answer.
	"Ryo Gosunkugi," he said, matter-of-factly. 
	"Gosunkugi?" she slammed her right fist into her left palm. "I
knew it! It IS time-travel!"  Ryo noted that Skeride seemed to have a
habit of talking to herself, regardless of who was present.  Tsk.  All the
easier to read, then.  Some people just aren't smart about certain
things... 
	"You're not a part of the Collective, are you?" asked Skeride,
narrowing her eyes even further.  If the Gosunkugi Collective had allowed
a Gosunkugi as... as TAINTED in soul as he was... something was wrong.
	Ryo tried to read that expression, and guessed that the collective
was NOT a good thing to be a part of.  "Collective?  What Collective?" 
	Skeride breathed a sigh of relief.  [Good, the Gosunkugi
Collective hasn't been corrupted.] "You're not one of them then, huh? 
Well, maybe the EH guys must've screwed up again... Or have they decided
to drag people in from alternate timelines on purpose? Hm..."
	Feigning surprise, Muhoshin interfered, "Oh?  How did you know
about the alternate dimensions?" 
	"Alternate HISTORIES, not DIMENSIONS."  She scowled with disgust. 
"You're certainly not a scientist, that much's for sure." 
	"I'll admit I don't read the dictionary all that often, but..." 
He spun his umbrella, then stopped it and put its metal point at the
Gos-girl's neck. "Perhaps you could enlighten me... HOW DID YOU KNOW?"  He
grinned a snake-like grin and brought his face closer to hers. 
	Large beads of sweat began to form on Skeride's pale forehead.
	"I... I told ya, it shows in the aura."  After a few quick
breaths, she composed herself and stopped trembling. It seemed like she
was focusing on something.... Someone... Whatever it was, it seemed to get
rid of her fear...  All of a sudden, she grinned, and brushed the umbrella
away.  Surprised, Ryo resumed sitting normally and eyed her with a look of
genuine curiosity. 
	"Besides," she hissed in a firm, snake-like voice. "I know my 
family tree, and you're not in it."  She looked at him closely.  "Thank
the gods for small blessings... Although... you definitely look related 
to me - much as I hate to admit it."
	"Not in your tree?  Oh well, nice to have meet you."
	It was. Rare was the time when one met such an... Interesting 
character.  Charming girl, firm-minded... Maybe another time... If he 
managed to learn the secret behind this kind of time-jump, he could 
return, and... But that was in the future [or the past?].
	"The pleasure is all yours," she answered bitterly.  There was no
way she was going to be friendly to anyone out to hurt her Ratiko... 
Skeride crossed her fingers behind her back, mainly for luck.  This man
was dangerous, but Childra was safe, and the wards on Rat hadn't set off
warning bells, so he must be all right...  Jansen was tough, and trained
to fight.  She could protect her darling if need be... 
	She MUST.
	"Miss, I simply do _not_ understand your hostility."
	"And I would like to know more of YOURS." Again, that venomous
tone. 
	"More... of mine?  I have NO idea what you're going on about."
	"Does the name 'Hibiki' mean anything to you?"
	[This girl was involved with that family?  All right then, Madam 
Gosunkugi...  You've just bought yourself another five minutes of life...]
	"Perhaps..." answered Muhoshin. "And to yourself? I don't suppose 
you..."
 
	"Gosling!  Get back here; we're gonna try something!"  yelled
Childra as she emerged from the front doors of the dorm.  Ryo couldn't
help but wince at his new-found nickname.  "Hey, I see you've met Nutkin!" 
	"Nutkin?" asked 'Gosling', sounding amused.
	"That's just what she calls me," said Skeride, smiling a bit 
nervously and waving at Childra.
	Could it be Jansen didn't know about... About... About this 
monster?
	"My, what are you two doing?" asked Childra.
	"Just talking," said Muhoshin, easing into his 'Ryo Gosunkugi'
persona once more.  He flashed a sly look at Skeride, who suddenly felt
uncomfortable. 
	"Yeah... talking," said Skeride.  She wanted to warn her, tell her
what she'd sensed, but it was too dangerous. That was no ordinary
umbrella, and this was no ordinary person... One false move when the
archaeologist was unprepared, and... 
	Let's just say her ghost-sight would get some use.
	Better to trust Childra to do what she had to when the time came.
At least, her wards assured her that nothing had gone seriously wrong - not 
YET...
	If she couldn't work from THAT side, though, maybe it was time to 
try something from the other end of the problem...
	"Well, come back up once you're done, okay?"  Childra went back
inside the doors.
	"Goodness, I really must be going..." said Muhoshin, snapping back out
of his 'Ryo Gosunkugi' mode once Childra disappeared.
	[Not so quickly, O evil relative of mine,] thought Skeride.
	She stepped towards him, her eyes two narrow slits.  This would
take some doing, but she THOUGHT she had it right... 
	"Just remember - lay a hand on Ratiko, and I KNOW that Childra 
will make sure you're unable to lay a hand on ANYTHING after that."
	This girl knew Ratiko? And she seemed to be emotionally attached 
to him... how very interesting.  
	"Is that so?"  asked Muhoshin.
	"That is so. And if SHE doesn't get to you, I..."
	"You...?"  He was looking at her expectantly, with a strong hint
of boredom.
	Nutkin closed her eyes, and the air around her began to glow
slightly, then gradually growing in intensity.  In a few seconds, her form
was surrounded by a coat of purple fire. 
	She opened her eyes.  
	[Lilac, just like that amnesiac's...] thought Ryo.  [Interesting... 
maybe there's a connection?  Maybe not.  Who knows.]
	"Or," she said, "I'll deal with you MYSELF."
	Muhoshin raised an eyebrow, duly impressed with the sudden display
of power that this girl showed.  His gut instinct however, was feeling
rather smug.  He still sensed the taint of fear on this descendant of
Gosunkugi. She wanted to make him THINK she was confident, but she hadn't
counted on his... Unusual sensory capabilities. 
	He decided to push things further, just for amusement.
	Muhoshin grinned and stepped back a bit, raising the curved handle
of his umbrella in a salute.  "We'll meet again," he said. 
	"You'd better hope we don't."
	"And... Miss?"
	Nutkin raised a questioning eyebrow, as Muhoshin grinned.
	"You're not the only one who can pull off a light-show."
	His umbrella handle flickered with ki energy, and Skeride stepped
back, alarmed. She felt a cold shiver down her spine as her latest spell,
which she used to find her way in the dark, dissolved around her.  In a
universe of infinite alternities, there were some pretty BAD
possibilities.  What if... What if he was a SUPER Gosunkugi... tainted by
evil?  His aura certainly reeked of malevolence, and that glow... THAT was
no fireworks display... It was ki; she could smell it. Pure spiritual
energy, powered by emotions... Dark ones, in his case...
	[Trouble.] 
	What if there was another _whole_ collective run by evil 
Gosunkugis?  
	What on earth WAS that man?
	[Deity...]
	"Be seeing you," he said, closing the doors.  Once this mess was
all sorted out, he thought, once he disposed of whoever needed to be
disposed of, and he had his hands on the secret of time travel, he might
try to see her again.  Quite the woman she turned out to be... Who'd have
ever thought Gos had it in him to generate such a descendant? It was
almost a pity to have had to treat her like that, but... Still, it's good
to put people in their place.

                                  * * * * *

        Ishido stared at Muhoshin as he entered the dorm.  Alarm bells 
went off in his mind.  He was skinny, pale, and was twirling an umbrella 
that had a blade at the tip of it.  This, he told himself, was NOT 
Gosunkugi. 
        "YOU!" he yelled. 
        "Me?" Muhoshin asked, timidly. 
        Ishido sprang forward and swung at Muhoshin, punching him in the
face, then the gut, and then flung him across the room.  Muhoshin landed
in a heap, making sure that he looked like he was more hurt than he
actually was. Stunt men would have been proud of his work.
        [When this charade is over] thought Muhoshin [he dies]. 
        Finally, Ratiko and Childra held him back. 
        "What the heck are you doing?!" yelled Childra
        "THAT'S HIM!  THAT'S THE PSYCHOPATH!" 
        "Ow," whined Muhoshin, weakly, "I'm huuuurt..." 
        "Does that look like a psychopath to you?!" she said, pointing to
a whining Muhoshin holding his face and stomach in pain. 
        "Yes it does!" 
        "Ishido!  Stop it!" yelled Ratiko.  "Does that SKINNY..." 
        Muhoshin paused. 
        "...no, SCRAWNY..." 
        Muhoshin tried not to fume. 
        "...little guy...." 
        This, he felt, was getting ridiculously insulting.  [He DIES
later, slowly and painfully]
        "... look like he could even hurt a fly?!  I don't think so!" 
        [He dies a DOG'S DEATH... entrails scattered....]
        "Besides, didn't you say yourself that your memory was hazy?" 
        "Well... yes..." 
        "Then," reasoned Childra, "might you not be mistaken about this?" 
        "But... then who is that guy?!" 
        "He's Ryo Gosunkugi, son of Ukyou and Hikaru Gosunkugi," said
Childra. 
        "And what about that umbrella?  Huh?" 
        "I'm..." started Muhoshin, rather Gosunkugi-ish. 
        "His dad died early and his mother remarried to Ryouga, who taught
him how to use an umbrella," said Childra in one long breath.  "Okay?" 
        Muhoshin nodded frantically.
        "Well... okay... maybe I am confused."  He looked at Muhoshin and
said, "Sorry about that."  In the back of his mind, Ishido still had his 
suspicions.
        "I-it's all right."  stammered 'Gosling'.  Ishido struck him
down.  Ishido struck HIM down.  He wouldn't let Ishido get away with
that.  [He Will Die]
        "There, see?" said Childra, stroking Ishido's hair.  "You really
shouldn't really be so paranoid, darling."
        Ishido blushed, rather badly too.

        Childra wanted to get them all together to try another reality 
jump, hopefully to bring 'Gosling' back.  Then they could start 
time-jumping to her heart's content.

        Ratiko's mind was churning a bit.
        Hibiki minds tend to do that when there's something nagging at 
the edge of their intelligence.  He'd been replaying the events of the 
last day and finally realised what it was.  Suddenly, he had a _very_ 
strong desire to go somewhere...

        "CHILDRA! WE'VE GOT TO GO BACK!!!" roared Ratiko.   
"Great-grandmother won't-"

        He didn't get to finish the statement, as the four of them 
disappeared in an azure blink of light
        Ratiko was wanting to go back to 1996 Nerima, fearing that Ryouga 
had NOT fallen in love with Ukyou.
        Ishido's constant fear of grand conspiracies was up and running 
again.
        Childra was taken entirely by surprise.
        And Ryo Muhoshin?  He was thinking of destruction.

                                  * * * * *

        Ryouga walked the streets with Nabiki, holding her hand for 
several reasons.  One reason was that he was still afraid that the 
Chronus organisation was still running rampant, despite the destruction 
of all the Chronus bases a few months back, and he was afraid they'd 
try to kidnap her.  Secondly, if he didn't hold her hand, he'd get lost.  
And the third reason was, simply, because he was in love with her.
        They'd had a day out, looking around malls, watching a movie, and 
actually relaxing for the first time in years.  Ryouga actually thought 
that his life might finally be normal again.
        As they walked home, Nabiki leaned on Ryouga's shoulder, snuggling 
somewhat.  "Nice day, wasn't it?" she asked.
        "Yeah."

        Just outside of the doujou, there was a flash of light, and four 
disoriented young people dropped to the ground.
        Childra realised what happened, and strongly resisted the urge to 
club Ratiko over the head.
        "We... we're back?" asked Ishido.
        "Looks like it," said Childra.
        "Well, there's the doujou, let's get back inside," said Ishido 
eagerly, feeling his paranoia nag at him.
        The four entered the gates, and all but Muhoshin went into the 
house.
        "Just wanna enjoy the weather a bit," he said.

        "Hello?  Anybody home?" yelled Ratiko.
        They looked around, and the place seemed to be empty.
        And different.
        Nobody could say exactly what, but there was something different 
about the place.

        Ryo Muhoshin, now alone, twirled his umbrella a bit, pondering 
his next move.  He wasn't sure what was causing the reality shifts.  If 
it was a person, he'd have to see about gaining their co-operation, by any 
means necessary.  If it was an object, well, things would be much easier.
        He did a few katas with his umbrella, slashing high, slashing 
low, and stabbing.  Then he heard the front gates open.

        Nabiki entered the gates, followed by Ryouga.
        Muhoshin turned and looked at them.
        He grinned.
        Ryouga pulled Nabiki behind him.  "Who the hell are you?!" he yelled.
        Muhoshin thought for a moment.  [Well, one Ryouga's as good as
another] he decided, and started to advance on Ryouga, grinning wickedly
and twirling his umbrella, which started to glow at both ends. 
        "En garde!"  Muhoshin charged at Ryouga, brandishing his umbrella
menacingly. 
        "Nabiki, get back!"
        "Ryouga, be careful!"
        "GUYVER!!!"
        What happened next was rather hard for Muhoshin to believe.

        Childra, Ishido, and Ratiko sat in the living room, watching 
television and wondering exactly _what_ was different here.
        "I've just got this feeling something's different," said Ishido.
        "Same here, kinda," said Childra.
        "A... nagging feeling, I guess," said Ratiko.
        Then they heard a yell and some frantic footsteps.
        Muhoshin dove in through the back porch, looking behind himself
and rather panic-stricken.  He scrambled to Childra put a hand on her 
shoulder, and said in a low but urgent tone, "We should leave, _now_."
        "What's-" she asked, but didn't get to finish as a figure stomped
into the room.
        "LEAVE US ALONE!!!" yelled the figure, covered in some strange sort
of alien armour.  He raised a hand and some very nasty blades popped out.
        Ryo Muhoshin's desire to leave at that moment became _very_ strong,
just leave to somewhere _safe_.
        In a flash of light, he and Childra vanished, leaving behind a
shimmering glow.  Alarmed at their departure, and at the armoured menace
whose chest suddenly opened to reveal something that looked like laser
cannons, Ishido and Ratiko dived into the shimmering light.
        Enraged that his foes disappeared, GuyverRyouga fired a massive
blast of energy into the shimmering portal as it disappeared.

                                  * * * * *

        "Well... the scenery is nice," mused 'Gosling'.
        "Can't say that the scenery is bad, no," agreed Childra.
        "I hate it," muttered Ratiko.  His shirt was singed, as if hit by 
an energy blast.
        "What's his problem?" asked Ishido.  The side of his hair was 
also singed a little.
        "He's got a slight water phobia," explained Childra.
        "Ah.  I see."
        Muhoshin filed that bit of information away in his memory for use 
at a later time.
        The four sat under the shade of a rather large tree, on an
apparently deserted island.  Further away, another tree was smoking,
apparently hit by a large energy blast.
        Childra sighed.  She liked this place.  "Well, as much as I hate
to say it, we can't stay here forever."
        "We can't?  I like it here," said Ishido.  After all, how could
_they_  (whoever they are, he didn't know) find him here?
        "I know, I know, and as much as I'd like to stay here with you," 
said Childra in a sultry voice, "well, maybe later, darling?"  She winked.
        Ishido laughed nervously and scratched the back of his head.
For once in his life, he was relaxed, knowing that nobody was out to kill
him out there.
        Childra was thinking of Ishido.
        Ratiko just wanted to get back to his great-grandfather.  Badly.
        Ryo was still mulling over (and worrying about) the possibilities
of an infinite universe... with infinite Ryougas... and infinite Ryos.

        The four of them disappeared in a flare of azure light.

        Moments later...

        "Hey skipper!  Look!  Footprints!"
        "Gosh, little buddy, you're right!  Let's have a look around."

                                  * * * * *

        This was Tokyo.
        A bustling, crowded town filled with skyscrapers on every block,
reducing the populace to scurrying ants below.  Everywhere one could look,
it was tall grey giants everywhere, with crowded alleys and streets below.
        In between two of the giants, behind a few barricades, in a dark 
alley, a bright light flickered, and four young people popped into 
existence.

        "Hey, did you see that?" asked Ken Ryouga Yagami.
        "See what?" wondered Adam Ryouga Akari.
        "Blue glow, from that alley."
        "Isn't that the area we're about to do some construction and
repairs on?" asked a Kasumi.  "Call crew four over here, it might be
those Ministry of Confusion thugs again."

        "Oh great, where are we now?" asked Ishido.
        Muhoshin whistled.  He saw a movie once, called 'Brazil', and 
this reminded him of it, very much so.  He loved it.  Tall, steel 
buildings that screamed of big business and industry.
        Ratiko looked around nervously.  Not because of the scenery, but
because the skies were overcast with dark rain-clouds. 
        "Well, we're definitely not back in Nerima," stated Childra.
        Then a pack of people walked into the alley.  They were in all in
grey uniforms, and most of them were quite irritable. 
        Ratiko was stunned. 
        Childra was speechless.
        Ishido's paranoia kicked in at full strength.
        Muhoshin was frozen in place.
        "Hey, what the hell are you guys doing here?" asked Ryouga.
        "This area is marked off for construction!" yelled another.
        "It's been a while since I trashed somebody," muttered yet another
Ryouga.  The pack of Ryougas muttered in agreement and approached with
definite hostile intentions.  When a Hibiki get upset, someone usually
gets hurt.  When a pack of Hibikis gets upset, someone is in trouble. 
These Hibikis were having a bad day already, and they weren't given a
chance to vent their frustrations. 
        Yet.
        "Childra," nervously asked Ratiko, "why is there an angry mob
of my great-grandfathers approaching us?"
        "Do you really expect me to know?" hissed Childra.
        [I'm in hell] thought Muhoshin.
        "Wait!" a rather feminine voice yelled.  "No fighting now, boys."
        "We don't need any more property damage," chimed in another one,
identical to the one before it.
        Two figures stepped through the hordes and stood between them and
the four.  They were apparently Kasumi.  Both of them.
        "Ka... Kasumi?" stuttered Ratiko.
        "Oh, this is too much for me," said Childra.
        Ishido was feeling incredibly at un-ease.  This was a rather 
unbelievable conspiracy in action.  Apparently, Ryougas and Kasumis have 
taken over the world.
        Muhoshin stared, as if mesmerised, at the two women that appeared.
        Childra glanced around at her companions to check on their mental
state.  Ratiko and Ishido were mentally reeling, but why did Gosling have
that... strange (almost sentimental) look on his face?  This wouldn't 
do.  There'd be nothing gained here and they were in trouble already.  
"We're leaving," she muttered, and concentrated, hard.
        "No... wait..." said Muhoshin, but he was already fading out of
that reality, along with the rest of them.

        "Teleportation?" asked a Ryouga.
        "I didn't know we had that technology."
        "We don't, but who knows, maybe the Ministry of Peace is up to 
something again."
        "But Kodachi isn't in charge of that bunch anymore."
        "Who knows, you just can't trust government."

                                  * * * * *

	It should be noted at this point that a Hibiki and a device that
can transport people to any place and any time is a navigational disaster
waiting to happen.  It's much like putting a magnet on a really sensitive
electronic device, or like putting a mallet to a compass.

	Either way, the results afterwards are bound to be messy.

                                  * * * * *

	LONDON, 1892

	It was one of those nights.  The kind of nights where families
hide away in their homes, the shady seek shelter in warm taverns, and the
street urchins pray they make it through the night.
	In one darkened, fog enclosed alley, a speck of blue light
flickered.  Suddenly, the light expanded into a huge sphere, then just as
suddenly disappeared, leaving four dazed youths.

	"Where the heck are we NOW?" grumbled Ratiko.

	Before anyone could ask, there was a shout, then whistles.  The
sound of footsteps rushing their way made the group panic.  Ishido's eyes
went wild.  "They're here!  They're after me again!"  Looking around in
panic, he bolted into the fog.  Childra cursed under her breath, racing
after him.  Before Ratiko could protest her departure, dim figures could
be seen marching into the alley from one side.  Muhoshin narrowed his
eyes, sensing an uncomfortable situation, and sprang up to the rooftops.
Ratiko, now alone, fled into the fog, panic running through him.

	Ratiko shambled through the fog and the cobblestone streets,
sometimes tripping on the somewhat damp street, but always scrambling ever
onward forwards, fearing he'd be lost and alone in this strange and very
unfriendly looking city.  "Childra!  Ishido!  Gos!  Wait!  WAIT FOR ME!"
Unfortunately for him, they seemed to be long gone, and now he was alone.
	Not quite alone.
	There were quite a few gaijin people around... dressed in really
old-fashioned clothing... and staring... at him.
	He turned to one person, grabbing him by the wrist, and asked,
"Excuse me, do you know how I can get to Japan?"  The person merely pushed
him away, seemingly alarmed, and screamed one of the few words Ratiko knew
in English...
	[POLICE!  POLICE!]
	Ratiko paled.  What did he do?  He didn't know, but he decided not
to stick around and find out.

                                  * * * * *

	He stood there, watching them go by in the daylight.  Watching
them go by unstopped in the daylight.  The Godless hell-spawned good for
nothing slutswhoresbitches that just paraded around.  How did it go how
did it go how did it go, the funny little rhyme he wrote some years back?

	Eight little whores, with no hope of heaven...

	Except this time there shall be more than eight.
	Oh yessss, old Boss oughta be thrilled now.
	Dear old Jack the lad is back.

                                  * * * * *

	'Gosling' strolled calmly through the streets, figuring out slowly
what was happening at the moment.  From the events in recent hours he knew
that he was a) time-travelling b) reality-skipping and c) lost. 

	As to his current situation he was obviously  a) in the barbarian
lands  b) with people that spoke English, a language he fortunately had
some practice with and  c) back quite a few years... perhaps the 1800s, he
guessed.  With that in mind, he knew that his current attire would be
passable for a while, at least.  White t-shirt, and black pants, both
loose, and some Italian shoes he had bought from an import store.  All he
needed was a jacket of some sort, and something to hide his face, since he
knew the barbarians were quite paranoid of foreigners in this day and age.

	But first... a drink.  He hadn't had any caffeine-tainted drinks
in a while and it was beginning to affect him.  Now where to find a
drink... ah, there was a quaint little bar right over there...

                                  * * * * *

	It was a quiet night in the tavern, except for the drunks.
	[But ye had nae right t'do that, Mark!] drunkenly bellowed one
man, lean, with round glasses and semi-long hair.
	[Shut your bloody trap, Nigel, I'll do as oy please!] bellowed
another, obviously 'Mark'.
	[But ye shoulda asked *hic* first!]
	Muhoshin sat in a corner, growing irritated by the ambience that
they were generating.  The six cups of caffeine he failed to get wasn't
helping him stay calm either (he didn't have any of the local currency). 
He glared at the offending drunk, the one named 'Mark', and also realised
something.  It seemed that his jacket probably would be a perfect fit... 
and that hat... and those glasses... 
	As Mark left the bar, unsteadily, Muhoshin walked after, whistling
a merry little tune and twirling his umbrella in a happy manner. 

	*THWACK*

	A few moments later, Muhoshin entered, wearing a dress shirt
instead of his t-shirt, with an old fashioned tie around the neck, and an
overcoat made of wool covering him from neck to ankle.  Atop his head was
a grey bowler hat.  His eyes were hidden by thick large circular
glasses.

	[Perfect.]
	[A... pitcher of tea, Miss?]

                                  * * * * *

	Ishido sat, dazed, confused, and scared, at the edge of an alley.
He had just gotten through running what felt like a hundred miles, with
THEM everywhere.  The programming and his conditioning had been keeping
him just fine so far, but he was finally near his limits.

	[Hey!  You!  Move along now!  Get going!]

	Ishido stared at the strange man with fright.  It was one of THEM
again, in a disguise this time!  They'd found him again!  But why were they
speaking in a language he didn't understand?
	"Get away from me!  Leave me alone!"
	The man pulled out a baton, menacingly.
	"I said, LEAVE ME ALONE!"  He focused his energies on his fist,
which began to glow with red flames.

	[Wot the bloody hell?!]

	"ROU-SOU-KEN!!!"  Ishido slammed the glowing fist into the man,
who was sent flying across the street.  People passing by began to scream
and point, and the sound of THEM blowing their whistles and screaming at
him returned.
	[Theyreaftermeagaintheyreaftermeagaintheyreaftermeagain]  The
thought buzzed in Ishido's brain over and over as he saw the figures
hidden in the fog chase him down constantly.  Wherever he went, WHENEVER
he went, it slowly dawned on him, there was _no_ escape.
	As he turned to an alley, he found much to his horror that it was
a dead end.  He turned around in time to see half a dozen figures in
uniform wielding batons.  They were yelling angrily in some language he
didn't understand.  He DID understand the way they were holding those
batons...
	[No!  THEY WON'T CATCH ME! NONONO!]
	Ishido raised his hands, a sphere of ki glowing and growing
between them, and bellowed, " ROU-SOU-DAN!"

                                  * * * * *

	Ratiko huffed and puffed, taking a rest from his nearly constant
running.  Everywhere he turned, every face he saw, it turned out to be a
hostile or frightened one.  What was wrong with these people?!?!
	Another problem edged into his mind.  Where, exactly, was he to
rest?  Nightfall was here already, and he knew he couldn't roam the
streets all night.  _Oh, Deity... HEEEEEELP!_ he screamed in his head.
Suddenly, a strange glow lit up a part of the night sky, and he heard
someone... yelling?  It didn't matter to him, though.... for in the
direction of the glow, he saw his salvation...
	And blinked.
	[I guess they really DO listen when you call on them...]

                                  * * * * *

	[The lain in Spain faus mainly in the prain] practised Muhoshin,
trying to get the British accent just right.  Cursing himself, he gave the
line another try...
	[The rain in Spain falls mainly in the prane.... plllane.] Ah,
much better indeed.  He ignored the strange looks people were giving him
as he strolled down some street he didn't know anything about.  Why he was
heading in that direction was another thing entirely.  That way lead to
the docks, he knew.  He could sense that certain peculiar humidity that
only a dock area could generate.  And where there's docks, there's people
from all corners of the earth.... maybe even a contingent from Japan. 
He'd settle for Chinese at the moment too.
	[A cupu tea.... cupu tea... cup of tea.... cup of tea]
	His instincts alerted him of something approaching fast, and he
looked around anxiously, seeing very little in the dark of the night and
the unrelenting fog.  But he heard footsteps...
	Suddenly, from out of the fog, a familiar figure streaked towards
him.  'Gosling' lowered his glasses and focused... and grinned. 
	[Ishido... you troublemaker you.  And the police right behind
you.]  He twirled his umbrella, bringing the curved handle up to the
front, and began concentrating his ki....

	Ishido turned the corner, with an army of THEM right behind him.
He blasted some of them down, but more and more of them came!  They just
wouldn't stop!  He ran as fast as he could down the street, when a nagging
feeling beyond the paranoia and fear he already had began to tug at him.
Something was wrong.  But he didn't have _time_ to check, THEY were right
behind him.  Just run, run, run away.  Can't stop can't stop can't stop.
	Suddenly, he felt something strike him at his legs, sending him
tumbling down.  A ki blast?  Looking around, dazed, he saw THEM piling up
on top of him, raining down a thousand blows with night-sticks before he
could get up and into a proper defensive position.  The programming
wouldn't kick in _WHY WON'T THE PROGRAMMING KICK IN?_ as he struggled to
crawl away from Them.  A few blows to the head later, he collapsed on the
floor, his fighting spirit exhausted.  He could do nothing more than watch
as they restrained him in handcuffs and dragged him away.

	Then, just before they tossed him into a wagon of some sort, he
saw it.  Odd hat, thick glasses, overcoat... it didn't hide WHO was under
there, to him.  A skinny young man with large eyes, twirling an umbrella
in one hand, waving good-bye with the other, and grinning like a jackal.
	"RYO!" he yelled, trying to find one last ounce of strength to get
over there and strike him down once and for all.  A few police baton
strikes later, he was beyond caring.

	Muhoshin sighed in satisfaction, a job well done.  Poor, poor
Ishido...  whoever the hell he was.  It was annoying already that he knew
enough to blow his cover.  If that Ishido was indeed a face from _his_
future, it must be quite an unpleasant one.
	Now... back to practice... some more conventional phrases.
	[Yew bloody arse hole.... Yew bloody arse hole... shut up, ye
wanker... shut up, ye wanker...]

                                  * * * * *

	It wasn't perfect, thought Ratiko, but it was at the very least a
very peaceful, quiet spot where he could get some much deserved rest.  At
the moment, he was actually a she.... a female fruit-bat, to be exact.
He'd crept into the old church, amazingly undetected, and eventually made
his way to the roof, where the bell tower was.  He heard that bats hung
around in bell towers, so he guessed that he'd be rather inconspicuous
there.  In the corner of the tower his gear was stashed, while he used a
little water that they left lying around in the church to transform.
	And so that's how he was at his current position, hanging upside
down, in a nice, peaceful, quiet bell tower.

	*DIIIIIING*DOOOOOONG*DIIIIIIING*DOOOOOOONG*

                                  * * * * *

	In a small, isolated alley, there was a man attending to his
business...  a most righteous business, if anyone asked him. 
	He cut, slowly, around the curves of her skin.  Cut, with a
surgeon's precision, peeling away the lies of her beauty until the REAL her
was shown.  The bloody, dirty, filthy bitchslutwhore.

	But but but before he left her... he had to have a souvenir.

	And so he cut....

                                  * * * * *

	With a modest amount of tea and biscuits in him, Muhoshin's mood
was a little lighter.  Now that nourishment was out of the way, lodgings
for the night had to be attended to.... and that would cost more money.
And that, it seemed to him, would require another robbery.  He sighed,
disliking the task.  It was so... so petty.  Murder for hire was so much
more profitable, obviously.  Robbery was a gamble.  What if they had
nothing?  Then he committed a crime, possibly risking the punishments, but
getting no rewards at all.

	He had to pick his target _carefully_.

	He sprung to the rooftops, spying the empty streets below, waiting
for the perfect target.  Soon after, a young lady walked by.  No, no good.
They can scream fast, it attracts too much attention, and she doesn't look
well-to-do at all.  A drunkard walked by, but no, he looked poor as well.
Too bad, drunks made for easy prey.

	Ah... here's a fellow.  His clothes were fairly clean, and in good
shape as well.  He appeared to be a gentleman in his 30's perhaps, walking
with nervousness, clutching a bag of some sort.  Yes, much nervousness. 
May be a sign he's carrying a little too much money in his pockets... or
something more valuable. 

	Oh yes, this one would do.

	Muhoshin stalked his prey until he was walking along a row of
warehouses by the docks.  If worse came to worse, he could toss'em into
the river, but he hoped this would be a clean robbery.
	He leapt, snapping open his umbrella, and glided down a few feet
behind the unsuspecting target.  Snapping his umbrella shut, he quietly
stalked his target further, until he was within striking distance, then
snuck silently behind the man.
	He pressed the blade of the umbrella to his back.
	[Hands up.]
	The man froze.
	[Put your hands up. Give me your money.  Now.]
	With an alarming quickness, the stranger whirled around, away from
the umbrella blade, and lunged wildly with a long, wicked knife.  Muhoshin
frowned, not appreciating the uncooperativeness of the fellow, and
promptly slashed his arm, his knee, and his forehead in a few blazingly
quick strokes. No deadly cuts, but very incapacitating ones. 
	To his surprise, the man still did not cry for help.
	"Well, let's see what we have got, hm?" he said to himself,
calming the man down by kicking him in the back of the head.  The jacket
had a few items that looked like currency.  Good, good.  A pocket watch as
well, very nice.  Now about this doctor's bag... He opened it up, finding
some miscellaneous metal instruments... all bloody.  He wondered about
that briefly, then saw a jar.

	"Oh... now this is disgusting."

	The man blinked, groggily.  Then he felt panic.  WHO WAS THIS that
was handling his items?  His tools?  His weaponry of his holy crusade? HOW
DARE HE!
	Muhoshin stepped back in surprise as the map grabbed his knife
once more with the uninjured arm and swung at him.  Muhoshin fixed the
situation by slashing the other arm, then punted the fellow into the
river.  Would he drown?  would he swim?  Muhoshin didn't care.  Stupid
gaijins...

	And so, the glorious return of Jack The Ripper took an unexpected
turn, and ended with a gurgle, instead of a bang.

                                  * * * * *

	FROM THE NOTES OF INSPECTOR MACNAUGHTEN:

	The witness a Miss Elizabeth Marshall of about 35 years of age &
with family had described seeing upon the night of September 24, 1892,
was walking home late at night when she heard sounds of a struggle nearby
and a splash.  She had peered carefully and seen in darkness a man,
approximately five feet and six inches in height, wearing a cloth hat of
some sort, perhaps a bowler, dark overcoat, with large glasses.  He held
in hand a large knife of sorts and a jar.  Upon seeing the lady, the man
had 'sprung away, up over the rooftops'. (Spring-heeled Jack?)
	Upon further examination of the knife, it was covered in blood and
had quite many finger prints upon it.  The doctor's bag, found lying
nearby, also had many medical instruments, also bloody.  Upon the jar was
found a liver, preserved in wine.  Later that night, the body of a Miss
Irene Davenport was found in Wilmot Alley.  She was strangled and
dissected in methods which shall be covered in detail in the autopsy
report.  However, in general, the techniques were very much reminiscent of
a previous case that began in the year of 1888, and was presumed ended.

	Could the Ripper be back?

                                  * * * * *

	THE NEXT MORNING....

	Ratiko woke up in a rotten mood.  If one was to ask, he'd say
'woke up' would be an exaggeration.  Every hour, on the hour,
*DIIIING*DOOOONG*DIIIIING*DOOOONG* over and over and over.  His sleep was
ruined every hour, and what little rest that he did get wasn't nearly
enough.  When he closed his eyes, he heard BELLS BELLS BELLS.
	It wasn't so much that he woke up, as he gave up on passing out in
intervals.  He squeaked (tried to sigh) and made his way around the
church, looking for a possible source of hot water... 

                                  * * * * *

	Muhoshin woke up in a sour mood.  He felt ill after realising WHAT
was in that jar, and worse yet, he still didn't have enough money for
lodgings.  Paying with blood-stained currency would probbably NOT go well
with the natives.  And thus, he spent the night next to a chimney on the
roof. His back was sore, and the sight of the sun as the first thing in
the morning was not something he enjoyed. 
	He rose, stretching to get all those sore spots out of his back,
and gave himself a look-over, making sure no blood was on his clothing. He
had a bad feeling that he was now a murder suspect, and he didn't really
want that.
	{Oh well... let's see what we can find in the docks... perhaps a
passage to Japan?}

                                  * * * * *

	Ishido woke up in a sour mood.  He had recovered from last night's
beating, and the beating he took when they brought him to the building,
and the attempted beating his cell-mate (who was currently in a
bludgeon-induced sleep himself) had tried to give him...
	The reason he was annoyed was because THEY were back, yelling in
their foreign tongue that he didn't understand, prodding him up on his
feet... if his hands weren't bound, he knew he could beat them all.

	[Where's this one headed to, eh?]
	[Think he's goin' to the sanatorium, he is.]
	[Good.  Ye shoulda seen what the bloody bastard did last night.]
	[What, 'e bloody Jack the Ripper or something?]
	[No, he bloody blasted down a buncha fellas inna flash'o light.]
	[...]
	[Wot?]
	[Ye been drinkin' again, Tom.  Don't deny it.]

                                  * * * * *

	Ratiko wandered (for any Hibiki, there was no other way to travel)
through the alien town, feeling a hunch that he should follow his
instincts for once.  After a few minutes he found himself in a dock
amongst several large ships and a swarming crowd of people.  Amongst the
noises, he thought he recognised.... Chinese?
	He knew Chinese.
	Well... he knew Chinese better than English.
	What that meant was basically that he flunked Chinese with a
higher grade than what he flunked English with.  He approached one
gathering of people, all appearing to be from China, and asked... [excuse,
shoe nyah duck spring?]
	The Chinese stared at him like he was an idiot.
	[Maybe he's Japanese?] wondered one of them.
	[No, he's an idiot.]
	"Japanese!  I'm Japanese!" said Ratiko, jumping up and down
happily.
	[Well, I guess he's Japanese.]
	[He could be an idiot anyways.]
	[Oh well, let's see what he wants... I know a little Japanese.]
	"What you need?"
	Before he could say anything, Ratiko's stomach growled.
	"Oh, you want food?" the man guessed.  "You go beg for money.  It
done all the time."  And with that, they ignored him again.
	[What'd you tell him?]
	[He was hungry, I told him to beg.]
	[Man, that's cruel.  Ya think he's gonna do it?]

	[Moneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!  Want moneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!
Need moneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!  Give money, ne?]

	[God, that's pathetic.]

                                  * * * * *

	Muhoshin wrinkled his nose at the wretched smell of the docks.
The waters were absolutely filthy with pollution, and the smoke stacks
didn't help much either.  What he was looking for was a passage to Japan,
but where...

	[Moneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!]

	... where does one look...

	[Want moneeeeeeeeeeeey!]

	... for a passage...

	[Need moneeeeeeeeeeeeeey!]

	... to Japan?	

	[Give money, ne?]

	Muhoshin started cursing under his breath (in English, of course,
to fit in, with much 'bloody' and 'soddin' and 'wanker' talk used) and
wondered WHO on earth was making that ridiculous noise.  It was absolutely
pathetic, whatever it was.  As he snaked through the crowds, he saw who it
was...
	[Ratiko!] Muhoshin eyed the Hibiki with scorn.  What was this? 
Reduced to begging for money in the street?  THIS was the genetic heir to
his great and fearsome foe?  This must be a fluke!  Muhoshin edged his way
through the crowds, fighting for minutes through the swarming people,
trying to reach him, when Ratiko suddenly bolted into the buildings, and
was soon out of sight of him.  He found himself disoriented in a sea of
humanity...

	[How sickening, a Hibiki gets ME lost,] he thought scornfully.

                                  * * * * *

	"Childra!  Where've you been?!"
	"Tell you later, lad," mumbled Childra as the two of them squeezed
into a door-frame.  "Just be quiet or the police will get us!"
	"But-"
	"Shh!"  She slapped a hand over his mouth, stifling his brief cry
of pain, as two men dressed in police uniforms strolled by, walking with
what looked like a civilian in a brown long jacket, hat, and tobacco pipe,
and a more elderly gentleman in grey clothes.  She recognised them as
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, mainly because she'd had to deal with them
before. She didn't want to deal with them now. 
	[What's that?  You say the Ripper is back?] said Holmes, sounding
doubtful. 
	[Yes, Mr. Holmes.  A Miss Irene Davenport, down at Wilmot Alley.]
	[Witnesses?]
	[Yessir, we have a witness in custody right now.  Says she saw the
man with the murder weapon dash off.]
	[Hm... well, no use mulling over it until I see more facts] said
Holmes.  [Let's head to the station, shall we?  Now, Gregson, you were
saying?]
	[We've incarcerated a most peculiar individual last night.  I was
wondering if you could perhaps shed some light on his modus operandi?]
	[Oh?  Describe this fellow again?] asked Holmes.
	[He's an oriental fellow of some sort, dressed most raggedly.  One
of our men tried to arrest him for vagrancy when, and you shan't believe
this, the man began glowing red!  Quite a few witnesses testified to him
somehow creating a burst of light as well.  Perhaps he's a pyrotechnician
of some sort?]
	[A possibility, Gregson, a possibility - but only that. It is
a capital mistake to theorise in advance of the evidence,] replied 
Holmes.  [Where is he being held?  The station, I assume?  Or have 
you already moved him to the sanatorium?]
	[As a matter of fact... we were going to send him to the
sanatorium.  Seems he's out of his mind.  Just babbles, sneers, and
struggles to get out of his bonds.]
	[When will he be moved?] inquired Holmes.
	[Before nightfall, I should think.  Hopefully within the next two
hours.]
	[I think I shall have a talk with our little pyrotechnic 'friend'. 
Ah, there's our cab. To the station!]

	From their hideout in the alley, Childra and Ratiko peeked out
cautiously.
	"Are they gone?" asked Ratiko.
	"Yeah, they're gone."  Childra sighed wearily.  "Blast it all...
Ishido got himself caught."
	"What?!"
	"Those were police... they were talking about how they caught
Ishido.  Great.  Just great."
	"Well... what'll we do now?"
	Childra scowled.  "Gosh Rat, I don't know.  Rescue him, maybe?"

                                  * * * * *

	An hour later, Childra and Ratiko stood near the police
station, trying to stay inconspicuous.  They were both reading newspapers
and leaning against a wall a block away from the station, keeping an eye
out for any carriages that passed by.
	"Ratiko!" hissed Childra.
	"What?!"
	"You're holding your newspaper upside down!"
	"Oh."
	They waited, and watched, until finally they saw him.
	Ishido looked ragged.  It was obvious that they'd beaten him, but
somehow he seemed to have recovered, because he seemed fully alert and
awake.
	"Childra!" hissed Ratiko.
	"I see him, Rat."
	"What'll we do?"
	Childra worked out the problem in her head as Ishido was dragged,
in chains, into a wagon.
	"Ratiko."
	"What?"
	"Get ready to run."
	"What?!  Childra, what're you-"
	"We're going to hitch a ride.  Now c'mon, walk this way."

	The coach driver noticed something was wrong... it all started
when the people he was driving by pointed to the back of his wagon,
chattering and waving.  He thought perhaps the citizenry was on it's
moronic streak again and drove on...
	After a few more miles, he felt something at the back of his neck.
Something very solid.
	[Do NOT turn around] said a female voice, accented in German.
	[W-wot d'you wont?]
	[Drive.]
	[Um, where to, miss?]
	[Drive to... Blackfriars.]

	"Childra, where are we going to?"
	"Blackfriars.  It's a fairly quiet part of town.  We should be
able to hide there without trouble." 
	"Well... hope you're right.
	"Trust me."
	"And what about that Gosunkugi guy?" wondered Ratiko.
	Childra's face fell from one of confidence to one of fatigue.
"It's always SOMETHING!  I guess we'll have to find him."

                                  * * * * *

	Muhoshin peered from the rooftops, not pleased with the turn of
events thus far.  He guessed that his face would be on wanted posters soon
enough if that woman had a good enough look at him.  He should have
silenced her... should have... but no.  He wasn't an indiscriminate
killer... actually he wasn't a killer.  He could get rather mean, but he'd
never consciously made an attempt to kill anyone.  Just... severely impede
them.
	He couldn't stay here.
	There wouldn't be another Jackie Chan film made in... almost a
hundred years.
	The sound of hooves snapped him out of his contemplation, and he
gazed down, much like a vulture, to see what was about.  Then he smiled. 
"Oh, what's this what's this?" he crowed.  Below, he saw a carriage
approaching rapidly, with a rather nervous looking driver.  The reason he
was nervous was obvious... he had a rather large stick aimed at his skull. 
And who was holding that weapon?  Childra 'I'll call you Gosling' Jansen. 
My my my.  He sensed a profiteer's spirit in her, and so what else could
be in that carriage but some rather interesting loot?  He tossed off the
clothes that he 'borrowed', opened his umbrella and glided downward,
timing his descent juuuust right.... 

	"We're almost there," said Childra.
	"Hey, what's that?" wondered Ratiko.
	"What's what?" asked Childra.
	Ratiko pointed behind them and upwards, "what's tha*UGH*"
	Childra turned around, surprised to see Gosling land, his feet
right on Ratiko's face.  "Oh... um, sorry about that," he said timidly,
while fumbling to close his umbrella.  "Hi guys, what's going on?" 
	"We're making a getaway," said Childra.  "Where've you been?"
	"Well... kinda lost," he said sheepishly.
	"Hey, sure you're not part Hibiki by blood?" teased Childra.
'Gosling' grit his teeth, but tried to smile.  "Aheh, no."
	Muhoshin eyed the policeman... that, to him, was excess baggage...
something had to be done.
	"WHAT'S THAT!" he yelled, cowering in terror.
	Childra and Ratiko turned around.  In one smooth motion, Muhoshin
stepped forward and whapped the driver in the head, rendering him
unconscious and he quickly fell off and into the road.
	"What the-"  started Childra, watching the officer's body bounce
in the distance.
	"Um, guess he fell off," said Gosling, with a genuinely puzzled
look on his face.  "Who was that guy, anyone you know?"	
	"No... excess baggage, actually.  It's better that he left."

	A few minutes later, they rode into a very desolate part of town.
It seemed as if it should have been populated, but nobody was on the
streets.
	"Ah, good old Blackfriars, as empty as ever," said Childra.  "I
think we can stop here."  She brought the carriage to a stop, then walked
towards the back, followed by Childra, Ratiko, and 'Gosling'.
	"So, what've we got in the back?" asked Muhoshin happily.  "Gold?
Money?  Some interesting artefact?"
	Childra smashed the lock of the doors with her bo and swung open
the doors.  Going in carefully, she reached a hand forward.  "Hey, it's
okay, it's me, Childra."
	Suddenly, Gosling went a shade paler than usual.  [It CAN'T BE!
NO!]

	Ishido was waiting.
	This world, this city, this place, it was crawling EVERYWHERE with
THEM.  He could break out now, but THEY would be there.  They were ALWAYS
there.  No, he'd wait, bide his time, until he saw the wild open country,
THEN he'd break free.  Then, for some reason, the carriage stopped.
	He felt a moment of hope.  Could it be?  Could someone have
rescued him from THEM?  The doors opened slowly, and light poured in.  A
figure, feminine in shape, reached out a hand towards him.
	"It's okay, Ishido."
	No it wasn't.  THEY were out there.
	"It's me.  Childra."
	Childra?  The girl...
	"Come on, it's okay, you can trust me."
	He reached out, carefully, holding her hand.
	"Now come on, it's time to leave this place."
	Yes.  Leave.  That's good.
	He stepped out, holding her hand tight.

	'Gosling' watched nervously, as Ishido stepped out of the
carriage.  His stomach sunk quickly at that sight and feared that Ishido
might start acting up again.  That was the last thing he needed.
	Ishido stepped out, holding Childra's hand.  He squinted in the
sunlight, then looked around.  Finally, his gaze stopped on Muhoshin.
	"Aheh... h-hi." 'Gosling' smiled nervously and waved.
	Ishido stared at him with narrow eyes.
	"Ishido?  Hey, come on, it's only Gosling," comforted Childra.
That seemed to ease him, and he turned away from 'Gosling' at last.
	"Come on guys, let's see if our luck gets better," said Childra,
as they were all enveloped in cerulean flame....

                                  * * * * *

	Ryo Saotome sat in front of the television, fuming.  There was no
use searching Nerima.  She was GONE.  Damn her! That Childra was GONE, way
GONE, as in another reality entirely GONE.  Nope, no use pacing around the
neighbourhood.  Instead, he tried something he didn't do often:  lose
himself in the harmonic messages of the television. 
	It wasn't working.
	Nabiki was hogging the television, and at the moment she seemed to
be in a literary mood, watching a special on Sherlock Holmes.  Something
about sharpening of the mind, she said.  He blinked, wondering why they
were treating Holmes as if he was a real character.  He watched further...
and apparently Sherlock Holmes WAS real in this reality.... hm.  That was
neat.
	He surrendered to the fact that the channel would NOT change, and
watched. 
	//And so the case of the Rat of Sumatra...//
	_Rat_?!  Ratiko?!  No, couldn't be..._
	//was solved, with the hanging of Neville St.-Claire.  However,
modern criminologists believe that the true identity of Miss Kraussinger
was NOT that of St.-Claire, but of a third party, yet unidentified...//
	On the screen was an police sketch of a familiar looking girl,
blonde, short hair... 

	"CHILDRA!!!!!!!"

                                  * * * * *

	MEGATOKYO, AQUA CITY.  7:56pm

	In the waning hours of sunset within a dark alley, a flash of blue
light flared briefly, and four dazed individuals were left in its wake. 
They looked around, cautiously, then crept out of the alley slowly.
	"Looks modern... but abandoned," observed 'Gosling'.
	"He's right," said Ratiko, "there's streets and buildings
everywhere, but no signs of people.  Looks like they abandoned the place."
	Childra thought a moment.  Could they have ended up in Chernobyl?
It was the only case of abandoned city that she knew of.
	"I'm gonna g-go get a better view," said Muhoshin.  He ascended a
nearby fire escape slowly and cautiously, then stood at the top of a three
story building, gazing around.  "We're near civilisation," he called to
the others below, "because there's lots of light down that way, a-and I
see some of them flying."
	"How far from us?" asked Childra.
	"Um... maybe ten miles."
	Ten miles.... not a bad walk, but not a great walk, and everyone
knew that Ishido needed time to recover.  Rat probably did to, since he
seemed to be twitching every now and then and muttering something about
bells.  "Have a look inside that building, Gosling.  If it's clear, I
wanna take a rest in there."
	"Okay."
	"Be careful!" she called out.  "We'll be looking around at the
ground floors and working our way up."
	[Careful, right.  Call me Gosling some more and let's see who
needs to be careful.]

	Muhoshin made his way through a shattered window and entered. 
Through the dimness he could see rubble, bits of metal, newspapers... and
a light switch. 
	[We couldn't be so lucky,] mused Muhoshin as he cautiously reached
for the switch.  To his amazement, the lights turned on.  "Well, that's a
surprise," he muttered.  'Gosling' picked up a newspaper and read it,
trying to discern when and where they were now.
	"Megatokyo... 2034?"
	"Hey, Gosling, everything okay here?" asked Childra as she entered
the room with Ishido and Ratiko.  "Well, we've got electricity!"
	"H-hi, Childra.  Yeah, seems clear.  Have a look at this
newspaper."
	"Hm.... 2034?  Megatokyo?  Well... it's better than London.  We'll
see about getting some supplies in the morning.  For now, let's get some
rest."

                                  * * * * *

	GENOM TOWER.  4:30am

	"Are all the boomers in place?"
	"Yessir."
	"Observation cameras?"
	"They're ready to go."
	"Sensors?"
	"All functional."
	"All right then... let's not screw this up.  The old man's in a bad
mood already.  Fire'em up."

                                  * * * * *

	KNIGHT SABRE HQ.  4:35am

	Three figures sat in a darkened living room while a fourth stood
up next to a screen, flickering with data and details.
	"Now, we know that someone inside GENOM fled with a data disk
containing some incriminating evidence approximately twenty hours ago.  He
was brought to police custody a while later, but without the disk.  He
demanded to make a deal with the police.  An hour ago, he was killed."
	An image of a scrawny man, looking forever nervous appeared on the
screen.  "This was that man, Ken Fujisawa.  He was a part of the research
and development team looking into new forms of bio-mechanics.  We don't
know why he fled from GENOM, but the bottom line is that he did."
	"Lemme guess, we're after his disk?" asked one brown-haired
individual in biker gear.
	"That's right, Priss."
	"Any ideas where he hid it?" asked a red-haired girl in police
uniform.
	"I was about to get to that, Nene.  The police picked him up on
the outskirts of what's left of Aqua City.  There's still quite a few
abandoned buildings over there.  If it's a standard GENOM disk, it should
have a beacon that can be sensed when you get within 200 meters of it."
	"Anyone offering money for what's on that disk?" queried a girl
with short black hair and a headband.
	"No, Linna, at least not yet," said Sylia, "only the police, us,
and GENOM know about this.  But I'm sure that other parties will be
interested later... if we decide to sell it."  She looked at the clock,
frowning.  "Well, let's move out.  Best to search around while the city is
asleep." 
	"Well, we were sleeping too a few minutes ago," grumbled Priss." 

                                  * * * * *

	4:53am

	'Gosling' awoke, something nagging at his senses.  He looked
around the dark room to check on his 'travelling companions'.  Childra was
by the window, still asleep.  Ratiko was a few feet away, snoring.  And
Ishido...
	He tensed up.  Ishido was sitting up, next to Childra, as if
watching over her.  Unfortunately, the angle that Ishido was in made it
unclear whether or not his eyes were open.

	"ZZZZZzzz....."

	He breathed a sigh of relief.  Apparently, Ishido slept with his
eyes open.  Muhoshin stood up carefully and made his way to the stairs.
On the way there, he felt something underneath his feet that shone in the
darkness briefly.  Bending down, he picked it up and dusted it off.
	[A disk of some sort?]
	Pocketing the item, he made his way out into the darkness of the
night.  'Gosling' decided that a small walk was just the thing to relax
his nerves.

	Ishido moved.  He'd been awakened by the sound of movement,
and his years on the run made him an incredibly light sleeper.  He
looked around and noticed that 'Gosling' was gone.

	Of course, he was suspicious.

	MAYBE his head was messed up, MAYBE he was wrong, but he felt
strongly that 'Gosling' WAS in fact Ryo Muhoshin.  Making sure that his
possible enemy wasn't too near, Ishido crept out and tried to follow.  By
the time he stood on the street, however, 'Gosling' was long gone. 
	And then disaster struck.

                                  * * * * *

	Priss turned her motoslave thrusters on as six blue C-55 combat
boomers blazed in pursuit.  She dodged and fired, taking a few out, while
yelling in her microphone, "Shit! Sylia, I thought this was just gonna be
a simple look and find!  Somebody gimme a hand!" 
	//I've got my hands full too// replied Linna.
	//Somebody help!// screamed Nene.
	//Hold on Nene, I'm near you// replied Sylia.
	"Just great, now SOMEBODY HELP ME!" growled Priss.  Then, a blip
appeared on his screen.  "Guys!  I've got a trace on the disk!  I'm goin'
for it!" 
	//Be careful, Priss// warned Sylia.
	"Aren't I always?"
	//Priss, this is Linna.  I've got the signal too.  See you
there.//
	"Right, right, just get over there!"
	She zoomed by as a confused looking young man stood in front of an
abandoned building.  The boomers opened fire with their cannons... she
dodged left... and the building exploded.

                                  * * * * *

	**YOU THERE, STAY WHERE YOU ARE**
	Muhoshin froze as several spotlights suddenly snapped open and
aimed at him.  A few blocks away, the sounds of battle raging a few blocks
away.  He couldn't see exactly what had those spotlights on him, but it
was obviously humanoid, blue, and nearly ten feet tall. 
	**HAND OVER THE DISK**
	[Uh, oh.]
	"W-wait a-"  He spun his umbrella nervously.  That, he would think
later, might have been a bad idea.  Maybe it made them nervous?
	**OPEN FIRE**
	In the dark, he saw several red panels opening up, slowly glowing
brighter.  "Eh?"  He jumped up and over them, just as the panels flared
suddenly, and the wall where he stood before was reduced to rubble.  The
spotlights dimmed and his attackers were revealed.  Androids, big hulking
androids of some sort.  Not good.  He did a quick check on a few things
that were... holding him back.  No Childra in sight, no Ratiko, and no
Ishido.  Nothing to hold him back.
        Good.
	As he twisted in mid-air, he spun his umbrella, it's curved handle
beginning to glow a bright yellow.  "RYUGEKI-KEN!"  He whipped his
umbrella forward, and a boomerang-shaped wave of energy lashed out,
smashing one of the androids in the head.  It stumbled back and forth,
while the others advanced.  Muhoshin gave them all examining glances, and
grinned with glee at what he saw.  He turned his umbrella to it's bladed
point, laughing in the joy of finally being able to cut loose.

	[What is this that I see?  Well, well, well...]

	"BAKUSAI TEN-KETSU!!!"

                                  * * * * *

	Ishido ducked as the blasts of light raced towards him and smashed
into the building.  He leaped away to a nearby rooftop, then watched in
horror as the building crumbled and collapsed.
	"Childra..."
	She was still in there... the one that saved him.
	"CHILDRAAAAA!!!!!"
	With the rage searing through him, he felt it coming back.  His
programming, slowly taking over him.  Ishido's soul retreated to a small
corner of his mind, while something else moved in.  This time, he didn't
fight it.  As the boomers flew by, one of them paused, sensing an energy
build-up.  It stopped and turned, where it spotted a figure standing on a
rooftop, surrounded by a mysterious energy field of bright red.

                                  * * * * *

	From a Genom Tower control room, several eyes watched in amazement
as two un-armoured figures began cutting a path of destruction through the
ranks of boomers.  The door to the room opened suddenly, and a purple
haired lady with an aura of authority, Madigan, strode in, looking
agitated that she had to be awakened so early in the morning.
	"What's our status?" she snapped as she took the command seat. 
	"We've got the Knight Sabres in pursuit, 30 C-55 boomers deployed
to the site, and we've found the data disk," said one lackey.
	"And...?"
	"Well... it's in the possession of... well.. we can't explain it.
Have a look yourself, monitor 15."  Madigan looked at the screen, and
narrowed her eyes.  "Also something... well... like it... on monitor 23".

                                  * * * * *

	Muhoshin spun in the air gracefully, landing in a dramatic pose on
bent knee.  Behind him, two boomers slowly turned around.
	"Did I forget to say... bakusai ten-ketsu?"  A moment later, the
armoured plating on the robots exploded in a fury, spraying shrapnel,
liquid, and smoke everywhere.  When the explosions stopped, what was left
was two armour-less, shaking, sparking boomers, with their wiring and
mechanics fully exposed and a lot of it damaged by the explosions.
Muhoshin took a moment to thank the amazons whom he'd swiped the breaking
point technique from.  Without it, he knew he'd probably be dead at the
moment, or running.
	The almost armour-less androids stumbled forward unsteadily, and
he charged at them with glee, shouting "BANZAIIII!"  He launched himself
in the air, slashing, cutting numerous tubes on one, then spearing through
the head of the other with his umbrella.  He landed, again, in dramatic
fashion, as the two machines collapsed. 
	"Feh."
	As he turned away, he saw a figure in a blue armoured suit blaze
towards him, followed by four more androids.  The berzerker rage in him
identified them immediately as more targets to maul, and gave them a
predatorial glare.

                                  * * * * *

	Two armoured figures sprinted across the rooftops, with a pack of
boomers in hot pursuit.
	"Nene."
	"What?!"
	"On the count of three, jump high and aim for the one on the left.
I want to start making the odds a little more fair."
	"Right."
	"On three... one... two.. what the hell is that?!"
	The two Knight Sabres jumped high as a mauled smoking wreck of a
boomer was flung at them.  The smoking mechanical corpse smashed into the
pack of boomers, denting one of them and scattering the others into an
unorganised pack.  They all stared ahead, where a young man stood, looking
full of fury and glowing an eerie shade of red stood.  In one hand he held
a boomer arm.  The boomers all focused on him and began analysing a plan
of attack.  Nene and Sylia steered clear of both parties, as it became
clear by the way the boomers were behaving that they'd decided to focus on
the stranger instead.
	"Nene, what is that thing?!"
	"I... my scanners say he's just a human.  That's odd."
	With a growl, the stranger flung the arm at them.  They dodged to
the left and kept their distance, which caused him to turn his focus to
the four boomers, who the arm DID hit.  Two of them opened their
mouth-cannons while the other two took to the skies in a huge jump.  The
stranger merely stood there defiantly... and his glow became brighter.
	"Sylia, we've got to rescue that guy!" said Nene.
	"No, wait... something's strange here."
	The boomers opened fire with their cannons and two beams of energy
ploughed through the air.  The stranger held two arms up defensively, and a
a red shield emerged, deflecting the beams and sending it around him as if
it was water flowing by a rock.  He managed to hold his ground for a few
seconds, then was knocked off his feet and blown back several meters.  The
boomers made odd mechanical sounds, as if cheering in victory.  Then,
suddenly, the stranger stood up and charged at them, yelling like a wild
man.
	"He's... still alive?" marvelled Nene.  She checked her scanners
and found that the mystery figure was putting out incredible amounts of
energy of some sort.
	Sylia watched silently as Ishido charged on what appeared to be a
suicide run.  One boomer stepped forward and wound up a giant fist.  The
man brought his own back in an obvious attempt to trade punches.
	"He's crazy!" said Nene.
	"He should've been dead already," said Sylia.  "Stay back, I think
we're about to see something interesting.  And Nene, runs your scans on
him, every single one."

	With a battle cry of "ROU-SOU-KEN!" Ishido's fist flared with
bright red light, and for a brief moment... it looked like it took the
form of a giant wolf's paw.  His punch slammed into the boomer's fist,
shattering it.  As it staggered back, he held both hands in front of him,
the energy gathering in his two hands.  "RYO-SOU-DAN!" was heard as he
suddenly released a bolt of energy that punched through that first boomer
and one other.  Both collapsed in smoking heaps.  The other two took a
step back and analysed their opponent.  Meanwhile, Ishido's
'programming' buzzed a warning:  that shield took quite a lot of effort,
he'd have to end this, hopefully in the next thirty minutes.  His mind
formulated the next steps, and he continued... 

                                  * * * * *

	"Who ARE these people?!" yelled Madigan.  "What do the scanners
say?!"
	A nervous technician turned around in his seat.  "W-well... the
one with the data disk... is human."
	"That can't be!  The man jumps OVER boomers."
	"And his umbrella.. well... the fabric on it is interesting, but
everything else on it is ordinary metal."
	"Our sensors must be faulty!  You can't tell me you're not picking
up anything on the other one!!!"
	"W-well... he's also human."
	Madigan scowled.  "EXPLAIN THAT!" she yelled as the figure blasted
two boomers with a sudden flash of energy.
	"I... he... well, he generated a high amount of energy, but we
don't know HOW he did it... and we don't see any portable generators on
him.  That kind of energy should've burned HIM up."
	"This is too interesting to pass up.  Order the boomers to capture
them as well."

                                  * * * * *

	Priss turned around briefly to check on her pursuers, making sure
she had a good lead on them.  As she did that, the beeping of the data
disk tracker got her attention.  Apparently it was moving... towards her?
	"What the-"
	She turned around just in time to see a pale, skinny teen with a
maniacal grin leap up and nail her in the helmet with something that
was glowing.  Stunned, she fell to the floor, then felt herself getting
picked up.
	"Hey!  What the hell are you doing!?!"
	"Shh, you'll ruin my concentration," the figure said.  Before she
could reply, he flung her away, and right into one of the boomers.  She
got up slowly, but the boomer's head was caved in.  The three other
boomers ignored Priss and charged at the stranger, who showed absolutely
no signs of panic at all.
	"Priss!"
	"Hey, Linna, over here."
	"What happened to you?"  Linna helped Priss to her feet and looked
her over for any severe damage.
	"Dunno.  Some jerk hit me outta the air and flung me at him,"
she said, pointing to the wrecked boomer.  "Must be some rival corporation
boomer or somethin'.  If that's the case, let them slug it out, I'll just
pick off the survivors."
	Linna looked to where Priss was indicating, where she saw the
young man dance around the boomers, tapping them at points with the end of
his umbrella every now and then, followed by unexplainable and violent
explosions on the boomer's armour. She took an initial scan of him, and was
surprised. 
	"Priss, that guy's human."  That was Linna's first surprise.  The
second was that he was apparently dodging those boomer attacks with ease.
The third was when one of the boomers started to explode.  "He's human,
and he just destroyed a boomer, Priss.  That can't be right."
	"Your sensors are messed up."
	As they argued, another boomer shuddered as it exploded, leaving
in it's wake the raw skeleton of a boomer, with tubes mangled or leaking,
and mechanical muscles left unprotected.  The stranger slashed twice, his
blade flaring with some undetectable energy, and the boomer collapsed on
the floor, it's guts undone.

	//Priss?  Linna?  This is Sylia.  We've got a strange situation
down here.//
	"Oh?  Can't be stranger than ours," said Linna.
	//There's an ordinary human tearing down boomers here.//
	"Oh, you too?"
	"It can't be right," said Priss.  "No way."
	"What should we do?" asked Linna.
	//I don't know what on earth those things are... they look human,
but they're obviously something different.  Keep your distance, and see if
you can reason with it.  I'll do the same here.//
	"Okay," said Linna.  "Anything else?"
	//Where's that data disk?//
	"The humanoid thing's got it," said Linna.
	//Not good.  Be careful, you two.//
	"Of course," said Priss.
	"Priss, he just took down two more boomers..."
	Priss finally got to scanning the figure herself, as she muttered,
"Oh shit, my sensors say he's human."
	"... and he's throwing a piece of that boomer at us.  LOOK
OUT!" The pair opened fire and reduced the boomer to trash before it
reached them.  "Hey, where'd he go?" wondered Linna, before getting nailed
by a flying jump kick. 

	Muhoshin regarded these two with some interest.  They seemed to be
more promising in terms of entertainment value than those large, clumsy
monstrosities.  He looked their armour over, and yes, as with the rest of
the mechanised warriors around here, her (the robot seemed to be her,
given its *ahem* attributes) and her companion's metal surface had had
breaking points all over it.

	"All right, fight time!"  Priss cracked her knuckles and charged in
recklessly.  She'd faced down Largo before, and this kid didn't look like
any Largo.  And as for the sensor readings?  Sensors could always be
deceived.  This was Just Another Boomer.
	"Priss!  Wait!"  Linna chased after them as Priss pushed the
stranger back quickly.  Priss sent him retreating far with a thruster
assisted flying kick, followed by a quick series of punches, kicks, and
sweeps.  The umbrella-wielding stranger retreated quickly under the
barrage, dodging most attacks, getting flung back far by the ones that he
did block with his umbrella.  Priss began wondering why he didn't attack
when he suddenly jumped over her while she lashed out with a kick.  She
felt several light taps as he poked her repeatedly at lightning speed with
his umbrella in the outstretched leg, shoulder, then back.  She quickly
checked her leg... the blade didn't cut through.  Then she heard something
slowly cracking... 

	Linna caught up to them as they finally stopped battling across
the deserted city, just in time to see the stranger leap over Priss and
tap at her several times.  The stranger sprang several yards away,
landing in a ready stance, as Priss turned around slowly. 
	"Priss, you okay?"
	"What's with these cracks...AAAUGH!!"  Suddenly, the armour on
Priss's leg, shoulder, and back exploded violently.  Shards of armour
shattered her face-plate and cut through the power-suit mechanics
underneath.  The shock of the explosion slammed into her body and leg like
a direct hit from a boomer punch.  Priss collapsed, her systems failing.
	"PRISS!"
	"Ow...."  Her systems were still operational, but those explosions
were surprisingly painful, jarring her badly.  Priss tried to get up but
couldn't.
	Linna moved to a ready stance, eyeing her opponent warily.
Whoever that was, it was clear that he was far more dangerous than he
looked.  She would definitely have to avoid getting tapped by his
umbrella.
	He seemed to notice her stance and shifted into a more alert one
himself.  "Martial artist?" he queried.
	"Who are you?" she asked.
	He looked thoughtful for a moment, as if thinking of the right
answer, then said, "A tourist."
	"Who do you work for?" asked Linna, advancing slowly, noting her
opponent's stance.  Muy Thai... somewhat... although muy thai doesn't
normally involve weaponry.  Odd.
	"Work for?  Nobody.  And you?"
	"You don't need to know."
	The stranger smirked, twirling his umbrella idly.  "Fun city," he
muttered to no-one in particular.
	"I don't suppose you'd hand that disk over."
	The stranger blinked.  Absentmindedly, he fished out a disk from
his pocket.  "Is THIS why everyone is chasing me?"  He tossed it in the
air to Linna uncaringly.  "Now that that's out of the way..."  He began
twirling his umbrella at blurring speeds, the curved handle beginning to
glow.  Linna's sensors picked up an energy build-up and dodged sideways as
the stranger whipped his umbrella forward, yelling "RYUGEKI-KEN!"  A
streak of energy flashed out, past her, and slammed into an abandoned
building a few blocks away, creating a medium sized hole.
	She closed the distance between the two, swinging with kicks and
punches which he managed to dodge or block with his umbrella.  He struck
her a few times also, but her armour prevented it from being effective.
She charging up her knuckle-bomber, knowing that maybe it was excess
violence to use it on a human, but this wasn't a normal person at all. 
Her fist sailed through air as the man ducked it, reeling back, and tapped
her fist with his umbrella as he backed off.
	To her relief and his surprise, it didn't explode.
	"Tsk, missed," she heard him mutter.

	Muhoshin's thrill level rose further.  These seemed to be real
peapole underneath, not those strategically handicapped monstrosities. And
better yet, this one was a martial artist.  He wondered briefly what those
glowing ribbons were attached to that one's head, then found out
personally. 

                                  * * * * *

	Ishido attacked, his soul buried beneath heartless, cold, and
analytical programming that directed his every movement.  He saw the weak
areas in the boomer's structure, where he could strike with the most
effectiveness.  He channelled ki energy that would otherwise be nearly
impossible for him to summon up and used it to empower every blow he
struck.  His fists were raw from punching into steel but he tore through
the boomers in a matter of minutes, with only a bruise on the side coming
from the enemy.  However, he didn't notice those things.  The programming
ignored trivial things like pain.
	Right now it was assessing threats... like those two menacingly
armoured figures a few feet away.

	"Must be some sort of biological experiment," muttered Sylia.  "Or
maybe it's a boomer that emits false scan information, that could be it."
	"Um, Sylia, he's charging at us," Nene pointed out nervously.
The stranger was indeed descending on them, with an angry mask covering
the calculating thinking that was going on underneath.
	"I think he's beyond reasoning.  Nene, get ready to scramble."
	She was always ready to scramble, but it had to be said anyways.
	Sylia attempted to reason with the figure.  "Hello!  We're not
enemies, take it easy."  It didn't' help that there was a weapon barrel
attached to her arm.
	"ROU-SOU-DAN!"  A red energy burst surged towards them.  Sylia
managed to get slightly out of the way, but Nene took the brunt of the
blast, and was knocked unconscious after her suit flew back and hit a
wall.  Her suit survived the impact just fine, but her head hit the wall
hard enough to knock her out. 

                                  * * * * *

	Childra woke up, sore and very uncomfortable.  [Ow... what on
earth happened to me NOW?  And what's this on my...]  She noticed that it
was the ceiling that was so close to her face.  She looked around
slowly.
	"Rat?  You okay?"
	"Zzzzzz..."

                                  * * * * *

	[Looks like it's just me... and this thing.] Sylia pulled out her
blade and circled her adversary warily.  The stranger's visage became more
apparent to her now that they were up close and circling.  His eyes shone
of violet, and his mouth sported small fang-like teeth that added to the
menace that his presence radiated.  He charged forward, alight in a red
aura, lashing out with a blur of kicks and punches.  To her surprise,
Sylia felt the blows _through_ the armour as she desperately wheeled back
and blocked what she could.  She lashed out with a few punches of her own,
but Ishido dodged them, caught her arm, and struck at her elbow with a
fiery fist, causing her to yell in pain as she felt her joint overextend. 
She activated her thrusters and tried to fly away, but he grabbed her by
the leg and slung her into a nearby building.  As she got up unsteadily,
he began to glow brighter again, brighter than he did before.  By the time
she did notice, it was too late.

	"Tooboe-rou TOKKAN-SEN!!!"  A gigantic and very solid-looking beam
of red burst from the stranger.  It slammed into Sylia, sending her
through several buildings before she finally came to a stop.  Her sensors
were all fried, armour cracked and totally gone in some places, and her
suit was flashing eminent failure warnings.  She didn't feel so great
either, with the shock of the impact nearly paralysing her.
	"Nene... Priss.... Linna... help..."

                                  * * * * *

	"Great, just great.  I take a brief nap, the building collapses on
us, and Gosling and Lobis go missing on me."  Childra sighed, dragging
Ratiko out of the ruins.  "Wake up already, you idiot."
	Childra took a moment to slap Ratiko mercilessly until he woke up,
then led him by the hand as they went in search of the rest of their
'team'.

                                  * * * * *

	Ishido advanced on his enemy, his programming reminding him that
they would surely show no mercy, and thus he must show no mercy.  Besides
which, he didn't have enough energy to go on much further.  His adversary
must die, as soon as possible.  A block away, a ruined armoured suit was
shambling to it's feet, occasionally falling to one knee.  Ishido charged
his ki once more, intending to release a final attack on his foe. 
	Behind, and unnoticed by him, a red hardsuit unsteadily rose,
shaking its head.

	"Ishido?"

	The voice was barely audible amongst the crackling of the flames
around him, but he somehow heard it above all else.
	It was _her_ voice.
	Suddenly, the programming scrambled to the darkest corners of his
mind, and he slumped, feeling the pain of that one bruise on his side. 
Wincing, he looked to her direction.  "Childra!  I... I thought you
were*UGH*"  Ishido found himself airborne, with an incredibly sore jaw. 

	Childra sighed, watching her fellow traveller fly across the
skyline. "Great.  C'mon, Rat. He went this way..." 

	The stranger went flying high, as the now recovered Nene slammed
an uppercut right into him.  Nene was surprised, since she thought that
kind of punch should've taken his head off.  For now, he was gone... and
she had to tend to Sylia.
	"Priss?  Linna?  Hello?"
	//I'm a LITTLE busy, Nene!// shot back Linna

                                  * * * * *

	Linna smiled in satisfaction, seeing fear in his opponent's
eyes for the first time.  Apparently that ribbon attack that slashed
through a nearby lamp post like butter also left a deep impression in his
mind.
	The two sparred back and forth, neither getting the upper hand.
Linna was wary of that mysterious attack that shattered Priss's armour so
easily, and her opponent was reluctant to get near the ribbons, even when
they weren't charged.
	Feeling frustrated at his lack of progress, Muhoshin stabbed
forward repeatedly, causing his armoured foe to stagger back quickly.  He
kept up the attack, not wanting to give her a chance to use those ribbons.
	Linna retreated quickly, dodging or deflecting the umbrella stabs.
Jumping back, she turned on her helmet ribbons once more and spun around,
forcing him to back off.
	They were back where they started.  Even.
	Linna decided to mount an offence of her own and began with
twirling around once more, causing her ribbons to whip out.  He was forced
to retreat and she followed with a quick series of kicks and punches.  He
seemed to be distracted, looking side to side occasionally, while
retreating, then sprung backwards several yards.  Linna hesitated as he
stood there.  Then he waved his hand, taunting her to come near.  "Oy, not
bad for a woman."
	Linna charged at him, letting her whips clear the way first.  He
jumped back again, but this time tapped the ground.  She turned to face
him again when suddenly the ground beneath her exploded, sending concrete,
metal, and flames into the skies.  Linna was struck with surprising force,
and flung into an adjacent building.

	Muhoshin stared in surprise at the destruction he'd caused.  "A
breaking point and a gas main. Lucky hit," he said with amusement. 
'Gosling' advanced on his adversary, feeling more confident since it
seemed she was shocked badly and struggling to get up.  It was obvious she
was weakened by that blast.  He took a step forward, then kicked the suit
a few feet away. 

	It was then that his brain was rattled. 

	Linna looked up, too dazed to stand, as her enemy approached.  The
suit was still functional, but the explosion had shaken her.  Her foe
approached, smiling.  His smile reminded her of a hyena, for some reason. 
That's all that she could think of.  His smile looks like a hyena's.  What
a stupid thing, she thought, to think of now.  _STAND UP, DAMMIT!_ She
found the strength to get up slightly, then got kicked away several feet. 
Then she heard the sound of something really solid hitting something else
really solid.  She looked up carefully, and saw that her enemy seemed to
have been hit in the head by, literally, someone else's head.

	Ishido's head flashed with pain, again, as he landed on something
hard.  Then he felt whatever he landed on collapse to the floor.  Since he
wasn't in great shape either, Ishido joined him there.

	Childra and Ratiko ran up to the unconscious pair quickly,
noticing that Ishido apparently made a few enemies while wandering around.
As she reached them, they became encased in blue flames.  A woman in armour
nearby managed to stutter, "H-hey... who are you guys?"

	"Don't worry, we're just leaving," said Childra with a smile.
	And then they were gone.

                                  * * * * *

	The next day, 73 people named Ishido that were living in the
Megatokyo area were mysteriously kidnapped.

	The data disk that the mysterious stranger had given to Linna was
ruined.  Apparently, he'd stepped on it too harshly.

	And finally, an elderly man living in Osaka, Ishido Tamachi, had
an odd feeling that something strange had just happened, and he missed it. 
Feeling no regrets, he spent the rest of the day with his family.

                                  * * * * *

	It appeared to be a vast junkyard of some sort.  Concrete bits,
chunks of buildings, ruined cars, and all sorts of rubble were strewn for
as far as the eye could see, which wasn't that far since it also seemed
that they were in a rather large pit of sorts.  Not exactly a pit, more
like a low area in the land.

	"Tetsuuuuooooooooo......"

	Four figures sat on the hood of a relatively undamaged car (it was
still in one piece, much better than most of the other cars in the area)
and took this moment to rest.
	Childra, sitting on the trunk of the car, snuggled next to Ishido,
who was putting an ice-pack-ish object on his head.  "Feeling any better,
darling?"  She wondered.
	Ishido mumbled briefly.  His knuckles felt like they were scraped
over sandpaper, he had a nagging bruise on one side, and his headache was
throbbing.

	"Kaneeeeeeedaaaaaaaaa......"

	Ishido blinked.  He thought he heard something.
	A few feet away, sitting on the roof of the car, 'Gosling' was
lying down with a ice-pack-like thing on his head as well.  "T-thanks for
the medical s-supplies, Childra-san."
	"Be prepared, that's my motto," she mumbled.  With a frown, she
yanked on a rope.  A few feet away, Ratiko clutched at his throat and
stumbled back a few feet.  "Don't get lost NOW, Rat.  That's the LAST
thing I need."

	A blue light shot from the heavens into the ground, somewhere in
the background.  Nobody noticed.

	"Don't you think that's a bit extreme?" asked Ishido.
	"You obviously aren't familiar enough with Hibikis," she replied,
giving the rope another tug.
	Gosling watched with a hint of a smile on his lips.  Internally,
he was tempted to ask her if he could give that rope a few good tugs too.
Hibiki on a leash, what WILL they think of next?

	"Tetsuoooooooooooooo......"

	Muhoshin blinked.  He thought he heard something.
	"Any idea where we are?" asked Ratiko.
	"Looks like a gigantic scrap heap," observed Childra.
	"Doesn't look familiar to me," said Ishido.  Gosling nodded in
agreement.
	"Say... you guys hear something?" wondered Muhoshin.

	"Kaneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa...."

	"Hm?" mumbled Childra.  The four of them looked around, trying to
focus with their ears.

	"Tetsuoooooooooooooooooooooooooooo....."

	"There it is again," said 'Gosling'.
	"Yeah, I hear it too," said Ratiko.
	"Shh!" hissed Childra.

	-bzzzzt- *WHAM*

	They turned around just in time to see a streaking light of blue,
followed by a cloud of dust rising in the distance.
	"Uh oh," mumbled Muhoshin.
	"Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" asked Ratiko.
	"Not good," mumbled Childra, eyeing the skies warily.
	"Hey, there's someone... some guy on a motorcycle, waaay over
there.  You see him?" Ishido pointed to a faraway distance, where a red
motorcycle was zooming across the land.

	Suddenly, a large bolt of blue descended, crashing into the earth.
The motorcycle sped away rapidly, and it's driver looked like it was
aiming a rather large gun.
	"Goddammit, fight fair!!!  Tetsuo you asshole!!"

	"Not good," said Ratiko.
	"What?  What was that?!" said Ishido.
	"Orbital satellite," said Childra.  "Not good."
	"Um... the guy in the bike is headed this way," said Gosling
nervously.  "And, ah, that really big beam is following him."
	"Okay, NOT good at all, we're leaving."  Childra pulled them close
together.  A moment and a flash of light later, they were gone....

                                  * * * * *

	A small group of girls and a cat were strolling casually down a
Tokyo sidewalk.  It was a fairly quiet day, and they hadn't had a chance
to be together to relax in a while.  They talked (and argued )of school,
and of boys, and of miscellaneous other things that 14-year-old schoolgirls
usually reminisce (and bicker) about.
	Suddenly, one of them stopped.
	"Something wrong, Rei?"
	"I sense something... evil," she said, "and it's nearby."
	"You think we'd better... um... get into our work clothes?"
	"I think so."

	MEANWHILE, NEARBY...

	"Where in the world are we now?" moaned Ratiko.
	"Worlds," said Childra.
	"What?"
	"Worlds.  Where in the worlds are we now, that's how to phrase
it," she said.
	"Why?"
	"We're dealing with multiple realities, Rat.  Therefore..." she
noticed Ratiko's gaze glazing over into a sort of numb expression.  "Oh,
never mind."

	At the moment, though, it was pretty clear _where_ in general they
were.  The large billboards in kanji were a pretty important clue.  The
manhole cover nearby and the inscription on it pretty much solidified the
matter.

	"Ratiko... you idiot.  Have a look around," said Childra.
	"Oh, aheheh... Tokyo.  Sorry, it was a reflex question."
	They were indeed in Tokyo.  The only question left was WHICH Tokyo
they were in.
	"So... which Tokyo are we in now," mumbled Ratiko.
	"I don't know, Rat.  Let's just wander around for a bit?"
suggested Childra.  The others agreed, and they strolled down the walkways, 
generally relaxed.

	At this point, an interesting chain of events took place, and had
they the time to analyse it, everyone would have realised that there were
two definite sources to blame for it.  One being Ratiko, the other being a
talking cat.
	Ratiko was to blame, mostly for being an idiot with a bad memory
and a tendency to over-react.
	The cat was to blame simply because cats don't talk.  This one
shouldn't have, not in public anyways.

	As the four reality wanderers turned around a corner, they nearly
ran into a group of five young girls in rather colourful sailor suits, and
a white cat.  Both parties nearly collided violently with each other.
	"Oh, 'scuse us," said Ratiko.
	"Okay," said the cat.
	Ratiko blinked.

	This was that particular moment.

	Following Hibiki Logic, this wasn't quite right.
	1) Cats didn't talk
	2) Therefore, that wasn't a cat

	However, there was one recent exception to that rule.
	1) He knew Shampoo
	2) Shampoo turned into a cat
	3) Shampoo talked
	4) Therefore, cats do talk

	That logic circuit led to the next great deduction:
	1) The cat talked
	2) Therefore, the cat is Shampoo
	3) Thanks to Shampoo, he'd seen the inside of a POT!
	4) Must kill Shampoo

	"SHAMPOO!" growled Ratiko.  Everyone else looked at him as if he
was an idiot.  "Now you shall pay!" he bellowed, pointing angrily at the
cat.  His ki-energy immediately began to skyrocket to dangerous levels,
forming a black aura around him, while his fellow travellers paled at the 
thought of a Hibiki going nuclear. 
	The five girls, however, seemed reaffirmed in their belief that
this was the source of their trouble, and that the three accompanying him
must be henchmen of some sort.
	Sailor Venus took the initiative, yelling "VENUS LOVE ME CHAIN!"
Naturally, this caught Childra's attention, particularly the bits about
'love' and 'chain'.  Before she could make any more suggestions on the
matter, she and the other three were suddenly wrapped up in some sort of
mystical chains.  Ratiko lost his concentration and his ki diffused.  He
looked around, very confused at what was happening.
	"You have threatened our friend, and for that, in the name of the Moon, 
I will pu-"
	"Sailor Moon..." The girl in the blue sailor fuku tapped the one
with meatballs on the shoulder.
	"Hey! You're interrupting my speech!"
	"They're... All tied up now."
	"Oh."

	The five Sailor Suit-clad girls blinked, cocked their heads every
now and then, and looked at their captives, unsure of what to make of them.
	"Alright!" yelled Moon, "Who are you and what's your business here?"
	Rei rolled her eyes.
	"Sailor Moon, I think they're PROBABLY from the Dark Kingdom."
	"Couldn't be," answered Usagi.
	"Why not?"
	"They're not good-looking enough.  I mean, look at the scrawny one 
over there!" she pointed at 'Gosling'.  If he IS from the Dark Kingdom,
he'd have to be 'Concrete-that-got-left-out-in-the-rain-before-it-was-
ready-ite..."
	"Point taken," agreed Rei. "But, if they're not from the Negaverse,"
she narrowed her eyes and looked at them. "Who are they?"
	"Ah... tourists?" meekly offered Muhoshin.  He didn't like this
situation at all, captured by, of all things, pre-pubescent magical girls.
He also didn't like the way a certain raven-haired one was glaring at him.

	The girls took a moment to confer with themselves, as it seemed
that their captives were going nowhere.  That, and this just didn't seem
to be the way things worked out normally.  There was clearly something not
quite right about this.

	"So, the guy in the bandanna is the bad guy, right Rei?"
	"Actually... the one I'm sensing is that one."
	"Which one?"
	Rei pointed.
	"What, the skinny one?"
	"He looks like he's scared to hell!"
	"You must be making a mistake."
	"That's what I'm thinking myself..."
	"Okay, one of us oughta talk to one of them.  After all, they were
about to blast Artemis."
	"Good point."

	Meanwhile, the four wanderers were in different states of mind.
Ishido's programming was flickering at the edge of his mind, threatening
to take over if things got worse.  Ratiko was staring at legs, five pairs
of them, and how they utterly failed to be covered by the very short
skirts worn by the girls.  Childra was looking at the same thing, and the
chains were only helping to... heat up... her mood.
	"Um, excuse me?" asked Childra, hoping to get the matter
straightened out soon.

	"That girl's calling us."
	"Um, which one of us should go?"
	"Jeez, why are you guys so timid about this?  I'll go!" roared a
particularly tall one with brown hair.  She strode up confidently to
Childra.  "So, who are you people?" she asked. 
	"Jansen, Childra Jansen.  Nice to meet you, Miss...?"
	"You can call me Sailor Jupiter."
	"Sailor Jupiter, hm?"  Childra's smile became a little more wide
as she moved a little suggestively against the chains and gave Sailor
Jupiter a look-over.  She leaned forwards and whispered, "You know, you
remind me of my old girlfriend."
	Sailor Jupiter stepped back, aghast.  The other sailor scouts
started talking amongst themselves while Sailor Jupiter struggled to get
back in stride and on top of the situation.  "Hey!  I, er, I'm n-not like,
uh, I don't..."
	Childra leaned forward again and whispered, "Bring your friend
with the chains and we can have some fun."  -wink-  The chains were
turning her on to an amazing degree.  She hadn't felt this way in a while.
	Jupiter blushed further and backed away, her face in a somewhat
mortified expression.  Meanwhile, the sailor scouts were having a quick
conference on the inaccuracy of Sailor Mars's ability to sense evil.

	"But I'm telling you it's the skinny one!"
	"No way, absolutely no way."

	At this point, Muhoshin was hearing snippets of the debate, and
decided that it was time to leave before things got ugly.  Fortunately, he
knew just who to talk to about it...

	"Um, Miss Jansen?" he said nervously.  "I, ah, really think we
should leave now."
	"Leave?  But I haven't had my fun yet?"
	"But... but... I wanna leave!"
	"I don't like being chained like this either," muttered Ishido.
	Ratiko's mind nearly blank, except for those legs... thus the
prevailing attitude of the four persons nearest to the locket was one for
staying, two for leaving, and one just thinking of hentai things along the
lines of legs.

	And with a sudden burst of azure flame, they were gone.

                                  * * * * *


        Once again, there were four figures sitting under the shade of a
tree, on a small tropical deserted island.  They were looking very much
more tired and weary than before.  Nearby, the remains of a fairly large
boat were scattered on the beach.  On it's side, the letters 'innow' were
barely visible.
	Muhoshin stared at Ratiko, somewhat surprised.  He'd never seen
anyone with a ki-blast like _that_.  This might be a problem.
        "*cough* Well, Ratiko, nice work on the *cough* boat," said
Childra.
        "Just had to *cough* work out some frustration."
        The four of them wheezed and coughed in near-silence for a while...
        "How many *cough* times have we 'travelled'?" asked Ratiko.
        "Lost count," wearily said Ishido.
        "That last one," wheezed Ratiko, "was too much."
        "My lungs still hurt," said Ishido, "what was that place?  The air
*cough* over there was terrible."
        "And police in tanks too," said Ishido, "looked like somebody 
took over Japan and declared martial law."
        "Quit complaining, you two," said Childra, also tired.
        "Almost as bad as that other place... what did the locals call it?" 
asked Ratiko.
        "Megatokyo," said Ishido.
        "Yeah, that."

        There was a lull in conversation.

        "Wonder what was with that other place," said Ratiko.
        "What other place?" asked Childra.
        "Well, in the middle of the city there was this space ship stuck
on top of a skyscraper."
        Childra shrugged.  "Who knows?"
        They spent a few more moments relaxing in the shade.

	"It'll be a cold day in hell," said Childra slowly, "before I ever
go near that place with those tentacles again."
	The three others nodded solemnly.  It wasn't a pretty sight, that
place.
        "Okay, look," said Childra, "the problem here is that we've been
kinda distracted.  This time, clear your minds, okay?"
        Ishido and Ratiko mumbled in agreement.  Muhoshin raised an
eyebrow. With that statement, Childra clearly implied that she knew what
was going on.  Apparently, the other two were too tired to notice. He
deeply suspected Childra of either (a) having the power to time/reality
skip or (b) in possession of a device that could do so.  The possibilities
of what one could do with such a device... 
        Amazingly, the other two didn't pick up on this.  Muhoshin 
noticed that too, and immediately assumed that they might be somewhat 
dull-witted.
        "Okay, everybody, clear your minds, okay?  Don't think of
anything." 
        The boys fell silent as Childra reached into her pocket and
concentrated. 
        [Something important in her pocket?] thought Muhoshin. 
        A second later, they flickered out of existence. 

        Keep in mind, they're travelling with a Hibiki. and that often
produces mixed results.  Many times, a Hibiki won't get -anywhere- near
where they wanted to go.  But sometimes, just every now and then, a Hibiki
manages to get lucky. 

                                  * * * * *

        The world resolved around the four slowly, into something
recognisable... 
        They were on a street, a fairly normal looking street, in a fairly
peaceful looking neighbourhood. 
        "I think... this might be it," said Ishido. 
        Ratiko looked around.  "Looks kinda like it." 
        Muhoshin remained silent.  There wasn't anything he wanted to say,
really. 
        "Well," said Childra, "let's find the Tendou Douj-" 

        "CHILDRA!!!" 

        All four turned around. 
        As it turned out, the Tendou doujou was right behind them.
        And so was an incredibly angry Ryo Saotome.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
                                END ACT II
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

'GuyverRyouga' was from Mark Latus's fanfic _GuyverRyouga_
'Ministry of Confusion' by Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Used with permission from the authors.