"What do you have?" Nabiki enquired, staring out of the visual barrier that sat between her and the cold desolate vacuum of space. It was not so desolate, as she looked upon the horizon of the planet that they had called home for over a Earth decade. The searing white light of the primary sun bled powerfully into the blue and white hue of the planet's atmosphere, before it faded almost transition-less into the twilight, then ebon that surrounded it. It looked so peaceful, which greatly contrast with the conflict she knew to be happening in the southern polar region. Ranma and Tarou, she knew, couldn't possibly be ready for anything that could take on Kasumi, much less fell her, but even with them disregarding her orders, she still had hope and faith that Ranma, her dear Ranma and Tarou; two of those that she loved as any children she could bear, would find any sign of the sister she loved as much as their children and life itself, and hopefully lay any ghosts to rest that may remain.

Shampoo could see the emotionless expression her mentor wore, and heard it in her voice, but her intuition told her that Nabiki was greatly pained from this ordeal. She so emphasized responsibility and accounting for your own actions; decisions you made even in whole confidence undone by an uncanny and utterly improbable factor are yours to take responsibility for. Whoever would have expected Ranma capable of defeating her?

Shampoo now knew that even in the minutest chance, Nabiki should have planned for it. Nabiki silently bore the guilt of her folly. "The... the vessel was a piecemeal, various obsolete technology from several space faring civilizations before the Galactic Federation were used for it. From the construction, it wasn't meant for any return flight." Shampoo knew that this wasn't any particularly useful information, and was most likely something Nabiki surmised just in gleaming the ship when she and Kasumi identified it, but there were no identifying marks on it. It was just scrap thrown together that barely even flew in the first place.

"Scan the images again, I'll be with the three of you in a few minutes to see what we can figure out," Nabiki responded, her voice clipped as if cutting her temper off from leaping into it.

Shampoo bristled, taking the subtle barb towards her, Cologne's, and Nodoka's competence, "But we have looked over these many times, and-"

"ENOUGH!" Nabiki shouted, never turning from the window. Only her back becoming ram rod straight, and her hands clenching into fists so tight her fingernails threatened to break skin. Shampoo baulked at the thankfully rare show of temper, and noticed the room grew drastically colder.

"Enough..." the girl's mentor repeated in a quieter, calmer, and cold tone, "Shampoo, I understand we're all concerned and frustrated at this whole situation. I know you feel what you are doing is pointless. If I could, I would be down there, dragging both the whelps back by the scruffs of their necks. I-"

"Then why don't you?" Cologne enquired, coming to stand by Shampoo. There wasn't any accusations in her tone, it was simply a tone that spoke to represent that which was on the minds of all those who were concerned for Nabiki and Kasumi's successors.

"I..." Nabiki slumped her head, before reaching her hand up, and touching the dense energy field reinforced transparent material barrier, "I can't. I have to keep fai... I have to..."

"Kasumi is most likely gone if she had not contacted us by now," Cologne countered, showing a wisdom that often impressed Nabiki at times, "Keeping faith that she'll still-"

"No, I am aware of the situation, Cologne-chan," Nabiki cut the young woman off, turning her head slightly to the side to acknowledge them, "What I mean to say is that I have to keep here. I have to remain here. I am still responsible for the rest of you, even if I made a terrible decision."

"What do you mean?" Akane asked, finally stepping into the chamber. She had come in order to demand Nabiki let her go and get that numbskull rival and her rightful though idiotic field commander back herself, but quickly felt the current mood would not best benefit from her bravado.

Nabiki's head bowed the same time her fingertips slid down the transparent barrier, and her hands fell to her side, "I love her, she's my sister. All of you... couldn't understand what I will lose if... now that she's..."

Nabiki fell listlessly into the chair near her, and her right hand came to cover her eyes, feigning she was massaging her brows. Under her breath, she uttered, "Tarou, Ranma, I'm sorry, just please come back safe."

"Hey, Tarou," Ranma ventured, as if he wasn't expecting his partner to still be there.

"Yeah, Ranma?"

The redheaded space hunter almost let out a sigh of relief, "Do you think we'll be able to avoid those things?" Ranma didn't get a response, "Tarou?"

"Uh, yeah, you won't see another one of those things as long as we're careful."

"You don't sound confident about that."

"Ranma..." Silence reigned for several moments, and Ranma was about to scoff at his field commander's cowardly lack of a reply, "Ranma, I'm not going to lie to you, there are lots of those things, and they're big. Getting around them will not be the easiest thing you can do. I'm sorry if that's not what you want to hear."

"No, that's exactly what I wanted to hear," Ranma responded, feeling a little better as she cautiously strode through the corridor with her arm canon at ready.

"Ranma? Have you lost your mind? You nearly didn't survive that last fight!"

"No, I mean I wanted to hear you be straight with me. I can't do this if I thought I was going to end up losing trust in you."

"You CAN always come back, Ranma," Tarou stated in a clipped voice, obviously angry that Ranma was questioning his integrity and competence, "The path back is the clearest one."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like... what's that?" Ranma already trained her weapon on the direction the low humming was originating from. Ignoring the urges for caution from Tarou, the space hunter crept towards the entrance to the adjacent tunnel. she found it to be shallow, with some sort of mounted cannon like device aimed at the dead end.

"Wow," Tarou stated, sounding impressed, "This thing looks old, REALLY old. Probably older than that ship we were checking out. I think this thing is running off of the ambient geothermal energy."

"I guess that's cool," Ranma responded, not understanding the point nor the interest Tarou had in it, "but what is it?"

"How should I know? Put your hand on it and we'll sub-scan it."

Ranma did as she was told and feeling the light waves of energy pulse from her hand in rhythmic waves for several moments, "That enough?"

"It is. The computer's theorizing about the components right now, and... hmm, nice. Ranma, about two centimeters in the bottom left of the back of it, there's a button to shut off the generator. This thing's been running for ages, and is still going!"

"Yeah, yeah, wonder of technology, now why did you want me to turn it off?" Ranma asked, noticing it now stopped emanating the humming.

"The top of the back is detachable, and you'll find two cylindrical components that will pop out a bit, take those and insert them into the side slot of your cannon, I'm already manually reconfiguring the physical makeup of your cannon to accept them."

"Got you," Ranma affirmed, following Tarou's instructions. As soon as she inserted them into her weapon, she felt her cannon reconfigure itself and adapt to the new hardware addition. "What did I just do?"

"You just added a sub-sonic drill to your weaponry. Your cannon's pulse lasers now also vibrate at a harmony capable of burrowing through the rock around you in short bursts. It would take a while to actually shoot a hole through the rock with it, though. I figured it might come in handy at some point."

"Alright, that is pretty cool," Ranma commented, studying her cannon, before she heard Tarou chuckling, "What's so funny?"

"Remember Nabiki telling us about all the weapons Samus-sama used to find during her missions?"

"Uh, yeah?"

"I told you how utterly ridiculous it was that she would conveniently always find just what she needed at the right time? As if the space pirates were truly stupid enough to just leave potential to massively destructive weaponry around for anyone to play with?"

Ranma didn't quite get the significance of Tarou's little anecdote, before she glanced back down at her own weapon, "Heh... heh heh, I guess this is pretty convenient, huh?"


"Hey, Tarou," Ranma paused, before continuing, "You're pretty good at this, you know?"

"Well, I was trained by the best to be the best, after all."

Ranma snorted, "That's the one thing that always irked me about you, that cocky attitude."

"Look who's talking, mister or miss 'Akane is just runner up in training'."

"Eh, it was true, wasn't it?"

"Let's just get going so we can be heroes before Nabiki comes for us."

"Right, right, I'm going already!" Ranma began to jog down the corridor, unaware of the figure that observed her, curious like a predator that had discovered an unusual prey.